« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
soldiers glows forth in all its lustre. Stand by one of the small tents and observe the head of the mess; crabs, tortoises, water snakes, all sorts of nameless, though not tasteless animals, which experience has taught may be eaten without danger, are brought to him. Or perhaps they come with their canteens filled with bullock's blood. Boiled thick over the fire, and then allowed to cool, this bullock's blood forms at last a sort of black paste. Spread out on a biscuit with a few grains of salt, it makes a tolerable article of food for a famished stomach. The oxen and sheep of the enemy, however, are to be preferred, and our soldiers were all eagerness to come up with the Kabyles, that they might make a few captures, and the numerous traces discovered by us in a westerly direction, afforded good hope of success. All the information obtained from the Arabs, concurred in fact, in pointing out Ouar Senis as the place where the tribes were assembled. This information was correct. On the 18th of May, shortly after crossing the Oued Foddha, and entering a defile, we perceived a number of Arab horsemen, and on emerging upon the broad plateau from which rises the mountain with its rocky crest, we beheld the enemy.
We arrived from the east in a parallel direction with the southern side of the crest. Before us, stretched a vast plateau, covered with trees and verdure, vines, houses, and gardens. On the west, the plateau was bounded by a lofty mountain of a sugar-loaf shape, separated by the rocky crest of a gorge serving as a road. This plateau terminated suddenly towards the south, in a ravine, forming the bed of a river. The length of the crest was about fifteen hundred metres, the summit being formed of jagged rocks, and its sides rising, at a considerable height, like a perpendicular wall above the last declivities. The entire mountain rose to a height of about six hundred feet above the plateau. Pines and a variety of other trees spread along the abrupt declivities, as far as the base of the perpendicular wall, increasing in height in two opposite directions, a circumstance which rendered it probable that there were two passages by which the heights might be reached. Nothing could be more beautiful than this plateau-a perfect oasis standing out in two directions in all its freshness. against a rampart of grey rocks; while, on the left, the eye lost itself amidst an endless range of hills, and the blue horizon of Tiaret. On arriving, we saw Sidi-Embarek's horsemen retreating towards the south, and a large number
of Kabyles running off along the wooded slopes; but from the summit of the rock itself, confused sounds, the smothered murmur of a moving crowd, reached us, and at intervals prolonged shouts. From time to time some of the Kabyles showed themselves; and, singularly enough, the outlines of horsemen perched upon apparently inaccessible heights stood out against the blue sky.
The twenty-five horse, our only cavalry, were immediately despatched in the direction of the gorge, and the chasseurs d'Orleans, forming the vanguard for that day, threw aside their knapsacks, and ran to support the little platoon of cavalry. Two other companies swept the slopes with their bayonets, while the remainder of the column established themselves in bivouac in the gardens. The attack was immediately organized. Lieutenant-Colonel Forey, of the 58th regiment of the line, with the 6th battalion of chasseurs, and several companies of his own regiment, was to attempt an escalade from the eastern point, where a passage appeared practicable. Two battalions of the 58th, with Colonel Illens, were to form a storming party, taking advantage of a ravine, situated two-thirds of the way up the ridge. It was about one o'clock, and a bright sun made the weapons glitter and the rocks sparkle. The troops, pleased at the prospect of an encounter, hastened to their posts, paying no heed to the prolonged shouts and threatening gestures of the Arabs, who were descending towards us. Ready to mount on horseback and betake himself whithersoever his presence should be requisite, the General posted himself in the centre beneath some huge trees, giving his orders with his habitual clearness and precision. We were standing near him, gazing on the magnificent panorama before us, when, on the right, we heard firing, mingled with the imposing sound of the charge. The effect of the drums, when thus beating, seems to impart new vigour to the spirit-an ardour unfelt before. The General was at that instant giving his last instructions to Colonel Illens, who was about to attempt an escalade. A few seconds afterwards, the company of chasseurs, which we had seen in possession of the pine wood, exchanging shots with the Kabyles, and avoiding as well as they could the masses of rock which they rolled down upon them, proceeded to join the battalion headed by Captain Soumain, who had been terribly bruised by an ox thrown down at a critical moment by the defenders of the mountain in the absence of any stone. The firing became more brisk in the east, the charge continued
beating, and the General was about to proceed thither, when the soldiers on guard at the advanced posts, brought a black horseman before him, one of Sidi-Embarek's regulars, who came with news of the capture of the Gruala by the Duc d'Aumale. Scarcely two hours had elapsed since Sidi-Embarek was apprised of the loss of his goods and of his entire family. The horseman immediately jumping on his horse, had lost no time in profiting by the fortunate circumstance to secure a good reception among us. As yet no details had reached; but from this man's account, we could judge of the boldness of the attack, and of the decision displayed by the young General. The news spread immediately, redoubling the ardour of the troops, who were anxious that the enterprise in which they were engaged, should likewise terminate successfully.
At this moment we had betaken ourselves to the eastern point, near the chasseurs d'Orleans. On reaching the foot of the rock with a part of the battalion (the remainder had been sent at first to the ravine, where Colonel Illens and the 58th had just replaced them), Lieutenant-Colonel Forey, in command of the chasseurs, ordered them to sling their carbines. “Our work,” said he, “is to scale these heights, and briskly too;