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Some few years ago, I spent twelve months
in the colony of Algeria. The reasons that
took me to that somewhat out-of-the-way
place were, first a disinclination to return to
India (where the cavalry regiment in which I
held a commission was stationed) before my
furlough had expired ; and secondly, a wish
to see  something of the manner in which
our neighbours took the field against their
enemies the Bedouins. Happening to spend
a few weeks at a sea-bathing place on
the east coast of France, I formed some
acquaintances among the officers of a
regiment which had just returned from Algiers,
and the accounts those gentlemen gave me of
their adventures, determined me to visit
northern Africa. To return to London;
to obtain leave from the Horse Guards to
proceed to my destination; to pack up a suit
or two of uniform, and furnish myself with
the necessary passport and letters of credit,
occupied no more than a fortnight. In six
weeks from the day when the idea of going to
Algiers had first entered my head, I found
myself walking about the streets of Constantine,
having already paid a flying visit to Phillipville,
and the capital of the colony. I wanted
to see how the French troops took the field,
what amount of baggage their generals
allowed to accompany the columns in a
campaign, and in what manner their soldiers,
officers, and superior commanders, overcame
those difficulties which I knew from
experience were inseparable from active warfare.

There are for ever military expeditions
being sent against refractory Arab tribes,
and one of these was on the point of
starting from Constantine into the far
interior, shortly after my arrival at that
place. The officer who was to proceed in
command of the party, was a Lieutenant-
General to whom I had brought a letter of
introduction, and I had no sooner
expressed a wish to accompany the detachment,
than he met me more than half-way,
and insisted upon my being his guest as long
as I remained with the troops in the field.
The expedition was expected to be absent
from Constantine about six months, and the
commander warned me that when once we
got a certain distance from the comparatively
settled districts, there would in all
probability be no chance of my returning to
the colony until the troops should come back,
since, without a strong guard and great
precaution, it was impossible to pass through
certain tracts of country, which were invested
by marauding Arabs.

The precise objects or intentions of the
campaign I never could exactly make out;
nor, indeed, did I much care to know.
Various officers belonging to the detachment,
endeavoured to impress upon me a detailed
account of the rascalities and disloyalties
of certain chiefs, against whom we were
about to move; but I never could get a
clear idea of the affair. It was enough for
me to know that the first gentleman into
whose neighbourhood we were going was a
certain Beni-something; who, with some
hundreds of armed followers, had been
plundering certain well-behaved tribes that
were protected by the French authorities,
and who paid their tribute regularly to the
lawful officials of the Empire. This badly-
behaved person lived, as I was informed,
at a distance of sixty leaguesone hundred
and eighteen milesfrom the furthermost
French outpost, and the latter half of the
journey was across the branch of a desert,
where water was only procurable in small
quantities. The strength of the small brigade
was about two thousand five hundred
men. Of these, six hundred were
infantry of the line, three hundred
belonged to the now celebrated corps of
Zouaves, four hundred were hussars who but
a few months before had been doing duty
in Paris, and three hundred were Chasseurs
d'Afrique. In addition to this force, we had
some two hundred Spahis, or native cavalry,
under the command of French officers, and as
many more men belonging to those admirably
organised and most useful corps, the Equipage
Militaires (transit corps), the Corps d'Ouvriers
(works corps), and the Ambulance. Of
artillery we had some dozen or so of light
field-pieces; for in these expeditions against
the Arab tribes, the French commanders
trust almost entirely to infantry and cavalry;
the enemy generally keeping at too great a
distance from big guns to make any sort of
projectile that can be used from them (except
shells) of little avail.

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