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The tract of country known by the name of Ouar Senis, extends over a length of about fifteen leagues between the valley of the Cheliff, to the north, and the lesser desert, to the south. It presents a vast assemblage of mountains, rising in succession upwards to the rocky crest in the centre, and forming a perfect network of precipices, ravines, and gigantic peaks, fifteen hundred metres in length; overlooking, from a height of six hundred feet, the plateau in which it stands, and protected by precipitous sides, this rocky crest, running east and west, is accessible only by paths, which at the utmost are practicable only to goats; and on the latter side, beyond a gorge which serves as a road, rises a rocky peak, with a dome-shaped top, loftier still than the indented crest. It is easy to conceive the difficulty of traversing a country in which narrow paths, overhung by a succession of peaks, and thickly-wooded plateaux, wind round the mountain sides, of only sufficient width for one man. These dangerous tracts are, inhabited by wild and warlike Kabyles, sprung from the old Ber-ber stock, which has always retained the spirit of resistance against all established power; the Beni Eyndels, the Beni-bouDouans, the Beni Rhalias, the Beni-bou-Atabs, the Beni-bou-Kanous, the Beni-bou-Chaibs, &c., tribes governed by republican forms, paying obedience only to a djemâa, elected by the whole people, always torn with internal dissensions, though united against a common foe. These tribes had already been encountered by our soldiers. The first time was at the Oued Foddha, of glorious memory. Subsequently in the month of November, 1842, they were forced to submit to our columns a second time, marching through the territory; but their submission was not of long duration, and at the appearance of Abd-elKader towards the month of January, 1843, they again took up arms. Sidi-Embarek was at that time in Ouar Senis with his regular battalions, using his endeavours to kindle the spirit of resistance among the mountaineers.
Three columns were to act in this country under the command of Changarnier. Each had its precise instructions, and the general rendez
vous was fixed at the Medina of the Beni-bou-Douans, a Kabyle village, or rather large burgh, in the midst of the mountains. As for us, we were bound for the Cathedral, as the soldiers called the rocky ridge and its dome-shaped peak, in company with the troops commanded by the General himself.
On the 10th of May, with a splendid sun above us, light of heart and full of spirits, we emerged through the gates of Milianah, and descended the narrow path leading in a westerly direction to the valley of the Cheliff. One hundred and fifty horses accompanied us, for it was intended to attempt on the following day the surprise of a Kabyle village on the right bank, where Beikani and his family, the most considerable among the important tribe of the Beni Menacers, was reported to have sought refuge. No sooner had we entered the valley than the trumpets sounded a halt, to give time for the column to take close order. When all were collected into a body, we proceeded on our march. We were on friendly ground, over which the eye stretched to a wide distance. Accordingly, though the soldiers' muskets were loaded, we marched in security, the General at the head, followed by the cavalry, then the infantry, preceded by a company of sappers and miners, with mules carrying their implements.
This company was ordered to go on at its own pace, without troubling themselves about the cavalry or the General either. Behind them came a party of infantry; then the mountain artillery, with their small pieces carried by sturdy mules ; the field hospital, with its red flag; lastly the baggage of the various troops, pack-horses, mules and asses, under the superintendence of non-commissioned officers, and followed by a numerous body of infantry, closing the rear, with a number of mules at the extreme end carrying litters, in case of illness or accidents. From time to time, the officers of the General made sure that the column was advancing in due order; and at the end of every hour, the chief of the staff commanded a halt. The infantry were then allowed ten minutes to rest themselves from the fearful weight of their baggage, augmented by the addition of eight days' provisions. On long marches, there is a halt of an hour and a half midway on the journey; and the soldiers eat their coffee, or rather their coffee soup. I can employ no other term to designate the cans filled with coffee and broken biscuit, from which each helps himself in turn. Such is the usual order of march with the troops in Africa.
Thus did we proceed along the valley of the
Cheliff, amidst splendid corn fields, smoking and chatting, laughing and singing, or silent and thoughtful, according as our mood was sad or joyous; fortunately, however, sadness was not much in our line. We were talking about everything and everyone, illustrious names and glories unrecorded, adventures in love and war, when at last, and it was no more than just, horses came in. for their turn. We all declared unanimously that the deepest respect was due to those speechless heroes, who have so often contributed to the glory of their masters, when M. de Carazon Latour began to sing us the following lamentation sung by the soldiers over a horse of General Changarnier, which was killed in battle. The illustrious animal in question could certainly have had nothing to envy in the lot of Marlborough, the celebrated ditty on whom has furnished the burthen of this bivouacing song:
Le pauvre Max (1) est mort !
Le pauvre Max est mort,
* This Max was a large German horse, a great favourite with the soldiers. It had been often wounded, and the General was on its back when he received the shot in the wood of Olives, near the bill of Mouzaia, in 1841.