The weather was still very heavy, and a nasty sea was running; nevertheless our leaders decided to land an advanced party at once. This party, which included the light company of the 35th, numbered a thousand men, under command of Colonel John Oswald of the 35th.
We effected a landing without serious opposition, and next morning carried the western lines and forts, driving out the Turks and taking several guns. Meanwhile the castle of Aboukir having surrendered, the remainder of the transports stood in and anchored in the bay. Seeing that we meant business, the Governor of Alexandria capitulated on the 21st March, and we took possession of the city, harbour, and fortresses.
Thus far success had attended our arms; but we were now to meet with the first of those reverses which culminated in the disaster of El Hamet.
Our naval force having been augmented by the arrival of Sir John Duckworth's squadron from the Dardanelles, it was decided to attack Rosetta. On the 26th March, Major-General Wauchope, with the 31st and Chasseurs Britanniques, marched against Rosetta, and occupied the heights of Abourmandour, which command that town. Rosetta is situated some five miles from a branch of the Nile, in a beautiful district covered with date, pomegranate, banana, and other trees. The town is surrounded by a low wall, and its streets are very narrow—in fact, mere lanes and alleys.
On the 28th, Wauchope entered Rosetta at the head of the 31st Regiment. Not a soul was astir, not a sound was heard, as our troops wended their way through the streets towards the market-place in the centre of the town; but they had barely got half-way when the death-like silence was broken by a furious fusillade. From the windows and roof of every house a deadly fire was poured upon them. Cooped up in the narrow streets, unable to return the hidden enemy's fire, our gallant fellows fell fast.