Months passed away and the Arab tribes who had submitted began to feel the pressure of French domination and to resent the supercilious conduct of French officials.
Continuing Abd-el-Kader and France’s Conquest of Algeria,
our selection from a Hero Patriots of the Nineteenth Century by Edgar Sanderson published in 1891. The selection is presented in seven easy 5 minute installments. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
Previously in Abd-el-Kader and France’s Conquest of Algeria
Time: 1844 – 1845
The Beni-Amers, the men whose four thousand sabers had waved in exultation around the young leader of the Djehad; the men whose splendid courage had opened before him the path of glory and of empire, had gone over to the French. Abd-el-Kader resolved to attack them. Suddenly descending upon them he swept through their encampments, slew numbers, and carried off a great booty. A French battalion stationed among them vainly strove to arrest his progress. An Arab chief, one of his old followers, boldly singled him out, rode up, and fired at him point-blank. The ball missed, and Abd-el-Kader shot the traitor dead with his pistol.
The Sultan knew that all was lost unless he could obtain external aid. The smala was now reduced to his own deira, a bare thousand souls, wandering about in miserable fashion. After another desperate engagement with Lamoriciere during which the Arab women cheered on the warriors, and Abd-el-Kader and his men fighting in the presence of their wives and children performed new prodigies of valor, he succeeded in safely establishing the noncombatants on the territory of Morocco.
Bugeaud, now become a marshal, wrote to his Government declaring that all serious warfare was finished. In the summer of 1844, the violation of Abderrahman’s territory by French troops under Lamoriciere and Bedeau led to some warfare, in which the Moroccan troops were twice defeated. The people of the country were strongly in favor of Abd-el-Kader; and when their Sultan, after a French bombardment of Tangiers and Mogador, made a treaty with France by which the Algerian hero was “placed beyond the pale of the law throughout the Empire of Morocco, as well as in Algeria,” and was to be “pursued by main force by the Moroccans on their own territory,” the Moorish population was filled with resentment. Letters reached Abd-el-Kader from Fez, the capital, dictated and signed by the first grandees in the State, both civil and military, and from the commercial classes, inviting him to ascend the throne of his ancestors. Had he been a mere adventurer or usurper he might have lived henceforth, and died, Emperor of Morocco. But his whole soul was patriotically bent on one object, the freedom and independence of Algeria. He disdained to wear a borrowed crown. As he afterward declared, “His religion forbade him to injure a sovereign chosen and appointed by God.”
During the year 1844 the Sultan had made a rapid incursion into the Tell, everywhere appealing to the tribes; but he found the national spirit overawed by the presence of French detachments in all directions, and he returned to his deira in despondent spirit. He now received appeals from some of his devoted caliphs to undertake a fresh campaign, especially from the loyal and chivalrous Ben Salem, who dwelt in the gorges of the Djur jura Mountains. To him Abd-el-Kader replied, promising to come “as soon as affairs in the west were settled.”
Months passed away and the Arab tribes who had submitted began to feel the pressure of French domination and to resent the supercilious conduct of French officials. In the spring of 1845 their former Sultan reappeared. He swept down into the valley of the Tafna and routed and cut to pieces a French detachment. In this action the lower part of his right ear was carried away by a musket-ball, the only wound which he ever received. Another detachment of six hundred men laid down their arms without firing a shot. Some stir was made among the Arabs by these successes, and the French commanders took alarm. Lamoriciere, Cavaignac, and Bedeau wrote pressing letters for reinforcements, and urged the return of Bugeaud. The most formidable foe of Abd-el-Kader reached the scene of action in October, 1845, bringing fresh forces, and in a week he took the field at the head of a hundred twenty thousand men. This fact is the highest eulogy that can be accorded to the military prowess of a man who so long defied the power of France.
The end of the great career was rapidly coming. After another vain appeal to the Moorish ruler even Abd-el-Kader felt that all was lost. A French writer in the Biographie Generale truly declares:
The greatness of the man was strikingly displayed in the very hour of his downfall. Destitute of resources, surrounded by foes, at open enmity with the Emperor of Morocco, wandering like a hunted lion, with hardly any comrade but his horse, no shelter except his tent, Abd-el-Kader still inspired a terror which forced his enemies to keep a great army on foot in Algeria for protection against possible attacks at his hand.”
In his deira, at this time, all was despondency and grief. His own brothers had abandoned him. Ben Salem, the faithful, long-tried, devoted friend and follower, was a voluntary prisoner in the French camp. Abd-el-Kader’s whole force was fewer than two thousand men, but among these were twelve hundred horsemen, the flower of the Algerian cavalry. Most of them had been his inseparable comrades, partakers in all his hardships and dangers, throughout his career. During a short period of rest he summoned them daily around him and aroused new enthusiasm among the bronzed veterans by his eloquent words.
On December 9, 1847, the deira was stationed on Moorish territory, at Agueddin, on the left bank of the Melouia. It comprised in all about five thousand souls. The next day news arrived that a great Moorish host under the Sultan’s two sons was only three hours’ march away.
We want to take this site to the next level but we need money to do that. Please contribute directly by signing up at https://www.patreon.com/history