Article fait par :Charles Janier
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From the conquest of Algeria to the birth of the « Armée d’Afrique »
( 1830 – 1857 )
Translation Charles JANIER
French Version HERE
On the threshold of XXIth century there are a lot of north-africans who want by fair foul to cross the mediterranean sea up to the north. They try to achieve their dream for an eldorado in Europe and most of them specifically in France. This is one of the distant consequences of the french intervention at Algiers in 1830. The migratory crowd has changed its direction when more than 150 years ago the Algiers expedition brought the french troops landing south of the mediterra- nean sea on Sidi Ferruch beach.This operation was the prelude to a 132 years common life during which have been realized several remarkable accomplishments such as the set up of the magnificent Armée d’Afrique.In order to understand the prestige of this brillant Armée d’Afrique we intend to:
Explain why and how was launched the Algiers expedition during the summer of year 1830
before to go into all the details of the birth and the first exploits of this exceptional cohort which was the Armée d’Afrique on the 30 first years of its life, more precisely from 1830 to 1857.
The Algiers Expedition causes
The distant causes
In the XIXth century, and for a long time, the Mediterranean sea was a sea almost forbidden to the seaborne and very dangerous because it was infested with barbary pirates.These pirates had their base on the algerian coast and more specifically in the harbour of Algiers of which history has retained the name of its most famous buccaners, the Barnarossa. Their ships, light and fast, went hunting the heavy tradeships which ventured into the Mediterranean sea. They swiped their freight and their crew in order to make them slaves and, concerning the ladies, to populate their harems.In order to put a stop to this sea insecurity, several european nations launched cleaning expeditions. Such as english, danish, spanish and even american. These expeditions had an aspect more punitive than coercive, except the spanish ones which had set up for several centuries trading harbours on the coast, of which Oran was the most active
Worried about the possible positions established in the Mediterranean sea by the british already installed at Gibraltar, at Malta and in Ionian Islands, Napoleon the 1rst thought about an expedition against Algiers which will remember the one that he had launched against Egypt (1798-1800). That way France could get an important control of the Mediterranean sea.In 1808 he choosed and sent to Algeria Major Boutin from the Engineers who showed himself a good informant whose reconnaissance mission has been accomplished in three months. He wrote a report perfect and very full that Napoleon had no time to exploit. It is this report which was at the heart of the 1830 expedition twenty years later.
Direct causes of the french intervention
King Charles X (1824 1830) the last king of France
After 1789 revolution and the 1rst Empire France is once again governed by monarchy. It’s the Restauration : Louis XVIII from 1814 to 1824 whom Charles X succeeds to in 1824. North coast of Africa has been under turkish domination since XVIth century and Algiers is governed by a Dey, subject to the turkish sultan of Constantinople by an homage purely nominal. This status is called the “Regency”. Algiers Dey since 1824 is asking to France for the payment of a due debt that french government had contracted in 1795 with an algerian tradefirm for corn supplying. As the new king of France doesn’t react, the Dey rounds on his consul, Mr Deval, that he pushes aside with his fan during an audience in april 1827. French government sends immediately six warships in front of Algiers, but hesitates to get more involved for fear of England and Russia reactions.
In 1829 Charles X names as prime minister Jules de Polignac, an ultra. In order to strenghen his authority faced with an opposition more and more virulent, this new prime minister decides to intervene in Algiers.
The Algiers expedition process (may-july 1830) :
Charles X approves on february 1830 the plan of the Regency attack which has been developped from the Major Boutin report of 1808. The Lieutenat-General, count De Bourmont, minister of war is named as the commander-in-chief of the expeditionnary army. Vice-Admiral, baron Duperré, takes the fleet command.
From march to may 1830 are concentrated in Toulon 37.000 men, 4.000 horses and a considerable artillery and armaments equipment. This army stocks are also very important. The fleet is composed with more than 600 warships of which 96 war sailing ships and 7 new staemships. These ones have just been fitted out and will do a good turn by giving a useful and efficacious ship to shore link.
347 merchant ships are mobilized in Marseille as well as cattle ships, ballast ships and specific lighters.
All this armada is qualified to carry personnel and equipment which it has been created for, but it has no capacity for navigation by squadrons. Warships and merchant ships go back to the Empire. They are wooden and sailing. The uncontested master of manoeuvre is the wind. Its direction and its strengh are the greater elements of the expedition success or failure.
A favourable wind, impatiently waited, appears on may 25, 1830. It changed from west to north-west ands allows the army and its convoy to cast off. In may 27 the fleet puts into port in the Balearic Islands. The weather turns bad and the fleet loosens.
In may 29th the weather gets better and the fleet heads fot the coast of Africa. Unfortunately in may 31 the sea becomes swelling and makes the landing impossible. All the ships go back to Balearic Islands. It’s only in june 10 in the morning that the weighing is possible from the Balearci Islands to Algiers. In june 13th the fleet is filling off along the african coasts and drops anchors in Sidi Ferruch bay situated 25 km west from Algiers
Landing of Sidi Ferruch 13/06/1830
In june 14th the landing begins. Personnel and equipment are on land at the end of the day. No reaction appears from the Regency. In june 19th , when the encampment is well installed in Sidi Ferruch, a decisive battle is given in Staouëli which is bombarded by the french fleet which disorganizes the Dey’s best troops which take flight. This defeat causes consternation and panic in Algiers. Ten days later all combat components are finally discharged and gathered. In june 29th the General-in-chief De Bourmont decides to attack Algiers.In july 3rd and 4th the fleet opens fire on Algiers forts. In july 4 the ground forces blast Fort l’Empereur. At 2 hours pm july 4th Algiers’ Dey sues for peace. It is admitted in july 5th, 1830. Algiers surrenders without any condition. At the same time Oran and Titteri provinces’ beys submit. “23 days were enough, said Bourmont, for a state destruction the existence of whih was making Europe tired since three centuries”.
The french policy about development of Algeria :
In France a great part of the opinion has been unfavourable from the outset to the Algiers expedition. They are afraid that this operation withdraws assets and manpower indispensable for the nation equipment and defence, and that it gives offence to England. All this din takes place during a political crisis which generates july 1830 revolution. Charles X gives up his seat to Louis-Philippe proclaimed king of the french on august 7, 1830. Louis-Philippe makes a new government which will hesitate during several years between the ideas of a complete conquest of the country in which french troops have landed, or its restrictive occupation, even its complete evacuation. A court of inquiry decided however that Algiers occupation should be held for the purpose of prestige. Is launched the conquest of this whole north africa area to the west and to the east of Algiers and small posts are built in order to demonstrate the french presence. Limited occupation but which supposes the neutrality of the nomadic and mountain tribes.Well in the province of Oran the tribes are proclaiming as Emir a young chief, deeply moslem, in order to drive the infidels away their territory. His name is Abd-El-Kader. He attacks a french detachment in 1835. France is touched and sends against him a supporter of the total conquest, marshall Clauzel.
So, depending on the opinion which is surpassing in the parliament, french troops strengh in Algeria are increasing or decreasing. At each time the army is changing its chief of staff and the colony its governor. During ten years follow one another Clauzel, Berthezène, Rovigo, Clauzel for a second time, Damrémont, Valée. Each of these chiefs of staff has got his own ideas of which the main consists systematically in taking the opposite of what had been done by his predecessor.
Eveything will change in january 1840 when the governor commits himself thoroughly into the Africa war and appeals to general Bugeaud. Yet this general made himself conspicuous on several occasions as the opponent of colonisation. And that was how, at the begining, as the general commanding the sector of Oran province he had signed with Abd-El-Kader a treaty, “Tafna convention”, which recognized to the Emir sovereignty over the whole Regency except the harbours and coastal cities.
If France had made so rash concessions in the province of Oran, it’s because it needed peace in this western area in order to rectify the failure of 1836 on east part in front of Constantine by marshall Clauzel. Reinforced by the troops coming from west a second expedition finally resulted in the taking of Constantine on october 13th 1837
Abd-El-Kader takes advantage of this peace which has been going on for two and half years by trying to create a true sate and to fit a 10.000 men army.
On october 14th 1839 the french war secretary decides that : “ the country occupied by the french in north of Africa will be hereafter named Algeria”. And, to proove that the french are able to move in Algeria wherever they want in spite of Emir’s threats, on october 28th 1839 marshall Valée, commander in chief, takes off duke of Orléans, king of France’s eldest son, for an inspection travel from Algiers to Constantine through the Portes de Fer. Abd-El-Kader declares that this expedition is contrary to Tafna Treaty. He proclaims the Holy War and attacks in november 1839 the farms that courageous french settlers had founded in Mitidja.
Abd el Kader (1808 1883)
General Bugeaud, named commander in chief and general governor on january 1rst 1840, will undertake to systematic conquest of Algeria, recognized as necessary by the government which sends him up to 100.000 men.
He begins by occupying the main cities inland. He creates for the Africa war new tactics and strategy. He gives up on the blockhaus system and the small posts where soldiers were decimated by illnesses, inaction and boredom. He replaces them by the system of mobile columns which spread their influence on the whole country and can race their opponents. These mobile columns have another mission which consists to charm the natives in their perceptible interests : harvesting, planting, villages, cattle, silos... He organizes his conquest by building roads, bridges, dams, villages and health centers. He seizes widely the lands undeveloped by the tribes in order to establish there a small settlement of soldiers when these ones are released from their military liability.
In may 1843, at Taguin in Medea region, 60 km south of Algiers, duke d’Aumale, king Louis-Philippe’s fourth son, succeeds in seizing the smala of Abd-El-Kader. This one takes refuge in Morocco and wins the alliance of this country sultan. Rear-admiral De Joinville comes and bombards Tanger, and Bugeaud (who has just been named marshall on july 31th 1843) defeated the moroccan troops on the Isly River close to the border between Algeria and Morocco in august 1844. Morocco sultan at that moment gives up in supporting Abd-El-Kader.After this Morocco campain the fight between Abd-El-Kader and Bugeaud changes its turn. Abd-El-Kader has become only a ringleader who is acting by doing surprise attacks. He is still trying to take profit of several revolts, but Bugeaud stops him and extends the french domination as far as Sahara by a lot of flying columns, mobile and light Abd-El-Kader achieves only one success,always on the border between Algeria and Morocco, at Sidi Brahim on september 23-25, 1845 where quantity crushes bravery.Bugeaud undertakes in 1845 to conquest Kabylia. Eighteen columns are set up which conduct a real manhunt against Emir Abd-El-Kader, on more than 700 leagues, from Sahara to Djurjura, and come to an end by forcing him to take refuge once again in Morocco.
In march 1847, angry because he could not carry his point and because he was at issue with the Chamber, marshall Bugeaud asks to be discharged from his office. He is replaced by duke d’Aumale, king Louis-Philippe’s fourth son, named as the new general governor of Algeria. He is the authority whom Abd-El-Kader on december 23, 1847, surrenders to because he had been given a bad reception by the Morocco sultan.
Kabylia expeditions from 1850 to 1857 finish putting the country (and this up to its mountain massives the most inaccessible) under the authority of France.
All these conquests have been possible only with a strong army, composed with trained soldiers. But the permanent needs in reinforcement of the troops to be engaged, and climatic conditions difficult to be withstood by european soldiers, have forced the command to appeal more and more to natives who are called “indigènes”. We must say that a lot of them ask France for drafting them in its troops in order to fight against the turkish neglignce and atrocities. This new strengh and the inevitable adaptation to the country geography and customs have generated a specific army, the Armée d’Afrique.
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