The Egyptian army has been raised to a level with that of the best troops in Europe.
According to an authentic statement published in 1831, the Egyptian army is composed of a general staff; of infantry, including artillery; and of cavalry. Ibrahim Pasha is commander-in-chief of the army; and the sons or relations of the pasha are the only lieutenant-generals with the title of pasha. Each brigade of infantry or cavalry has its general. Two regiments compose a brigade, and the regiments of guards are each commanded by general officers. The total number of the latter, therefore, is fifteen, with rank quivalent to that of major-general. The artillery has two generals with the title of Bey, one of whom is the director, and has the inspection of founderies, laboratories, workshops, arms, and the like. The infantry is composed of a regiment of guards and fourteen regiments of the line, each consisting of four battalions of a thousand men; thus making a total of fifty-six thousand. The artillery, with the train, consists of one regiment of six thousand men, and the engineers of two battalions of six hundred each, besides a company of artificers two hundred strong, and a company of gendarmerie of the same force. The cavalry, which has only been formed since 1828, is by no means equal to the infantry. It is composed of a regiment of guards, of four squadrons, each consisting of four troops, into which Turks only are admitted, and eight regiments of the line, forming four brigades, making, with supernumeraries, four thousand five hundred men and horses. The total strength of the Egyptian army is therefore 67,600 infantry, and 4500 cavalry.*
[*Military men will no doubt remark the great disproportion between the infantry and cavalry of the Egyptian army; but it ought to be kept in view that we only speak here of the regular army, and not of the whole forces which Mehemmed Ali has at his disposal; and that, moreover, the battalions of infantry had been ten years in line ere the model squadron of cavalry began to be organized. When the cavalry was formed, Captain Thurlet of the 13th regiment of French chasseurs, happening to be in Egypt, was charged with its organization; but as this was a task beyond his ability to execute, the Marquis de Livron was commissioned to engage three chefs d'escadrons to complete the instruction of the brigades, and accordingly sent out Deschales, Petit, and Toucheboeuf Clairemont, who are now the only superior officers attached to the cavalry. The subaltern officers were taken from the infantry, from the schools, and from the counting houses of Alexandria, where a number of discharged military men, whom the ...Restoration of 1815 had forced to quit France, were employed as clerks. The horses of the cavalry are in general excellent, and they are classed in squadrons according to their shades of colour.]
This army is recruited by a stern system of impressment, the most arbitrary and iniquitous which can well be conceived; yet, excepting at the moment of its operation, it is scarcely felt as an evil. Once with the regiment, the young soldiers soon become reconciled to their new mode of life; they acquire a taste for the service, and speedily forget, in the enjoyment of the comforts provided for them, the violence which tore them from their miserable homes. They are excellently clothed, have abundance of wholesome food, and even exercise a sort of superiority over theircountrymen. A soldier is a kind of authority; he in fact makes the law; and the people tremble before an uniform. Hence in this army, thus recruited by violence, there are scarcely any desertions. Besides, the Arabs, of whom it is principally composed, are intelligent, observing, inquisitive, brave; they love the service, both for its immediate advantages, and also because promotion from the lowest to the highest ranks is thrown open to all; they feel that they are men, and already begin to lay aside that fanaticism which at first opposed the most formidable obstacle to the success of the viceroy's plans. The only danger to which Mehemmed is exposed appears to consist in the tendency of such elements to too great a transition, and in the formation of opinions incompatible withthe existence of even an enlightened despotism. But whilst the reins of discipline are held by a steady and vigorous hand, there will be little ground for alarm on this score; though any undue relaxation would, in all probability, be productive of the greatest misfortunes. The chief hazard to Mehemmed's system arises from this, that it is so closely connected with, and dependent upon his personal character. But he may leave a successor worthy of his talents.” ** ** [De l'Egypte et de son Organisation Militaire.” Bulletin des Sciences Milit. 10 (1831): 270.]
With a view to the consolidation of his military reforms, the viceroy has established a number of schools and colleges, the principal of which we shall now briefly advert to. The school of the staff is at Kaukeh. It contains an indeterminate number of pupils, and is provided with professors of mathematics, fortification, and design; branches which, however, are as yet but indifferently taught. A cavalry school has been organized at Ghizeh, in the palace of Murad Bey, and is under the orders of a French cavalry officer named Varrin. It contains a hundred pupils, who, therto no great progress has been made in any of these branches. At Bouzah-a-Bel there is a school of surgery, the object of which is to supply the regiments with surgeons. The pupils show address and good will; but their teachers allege that, when left to themselves, they be come good for nothing. This school is under the direc tion of Dr Clot of Marseilles, a man of great merit and undoubted knowledge. A school of pharmacy has also been opened at the same place, under the superinten dence of an Italian named Alexandri. The school of ve terinary surgery is likewise established at Bouzah-a-Bel, and is under the management of a Frenchman named Hamont, an élève of the school of Alfort, and a man of merit. Besides these, there was a school of military music at Kaukeh, for training regimental bands; but, in 1829, Ibrahim Pasha ordered it to be suppressed, probably from motives of economy; and the only establishment of the kind at present in existence is a school of trumpeters, in the camp of Soliman-Bey, where a hundred pupils are trained according to the French mode.
The pay, appointments, and clothing of the Egyptian army are not only equal, but in several respects superior, to those of any army in Europe. The monthly pay of a general, or, to speak more correctly, the pay from one moon to another, is £120 besides rations; that of a colonel is £90, that of a lieutenant-colonel £30, that of a captain £10, and that of a lieutenant £3, exclusively of rations. A general receives fifteen rations a day, a com mon soldier one, and the intermediate grades in propor tion to their relative positions in the scale of rank. The pay of the non-commissioned officers is likewise ample: and that of the common soldier is eighteen piasters a month, besides his daily rations and his clothing. The ration is composed of bread, rice, oil, butter, beans, salt, and meat, and is served out twice a week.
The clothing of the army is excellent, and the dress of the officers superb. The uniform of the generals, as well as that of the Turkish officers, is scarlet embroidered with gold; all the difference consisting in the quantity and richness of the embroideries. The distinctive marks of military rank are crescents and stars. Those of a lieutenant-general are crescents enriched with diamonds, in the middle of which are placed three stars, also in diamonds; those of a brigadier-general are the same crescents with two stars only; those of a colonel are the same crescents with only one diamond star; those of a lieutenant-colonel are two crescents in gold with a star in diamonds; those of a major are two crescents with stars in gold; those of a captain two crescents and stars in silver; and those of lieutenants and sub-lieutenants a crescent in silver. These decorations are placed on both breasts, and have a very brilliant effect. On occasions of ceremony, the superior officers also wear scarlet pelisses, fastened with two large clasps of gold set with emeralds. The loins are begirt by a sash; and the Turkish papooshes have given way to a less voluminous and more convenient nether habiliment, which is made fast under the knees, and fitted close to the legs.
In point of arms and equipment the infantry, cavalry, artillery, and engineers resemble the corresponding branches of the French service, upon which, indeed, the whole has been modelled; and the same observation applies to the mode in which the troops are disposed, whether in can tonments or in camps. Nor are the men any longer liable to arbitrary punishments. Every soldier charged with a breach of military discipline must be tried before he can be bastinadoed, and some other penalty less degrading, as confinement, degradation, or hard labour, is generally inflicted. Officers, again, when accused of a dereliction of duty, are placed under arrest; and the question of their guilt or innocence is commonly left to the deter mination of a court-martial. By these wise provisions the moral character of the Egyptian army has been raised to a level with that of the best troops in Europe; and its devotion (as already stated) has been further secured by the impartiality with which promotion is be stowed, and by the highest grades of the service being thrown open to the ambition of the humblest soldier in the ranks." [8.502-04]
“Egypt.” The Encylopædia Britanica or Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and General Literature. Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black: 1842. VIII, 458-560. Hathi Trust Digital Library online version of a copy in the University of Chicago Library. Web. 13 August 2020.
Last modified 13 August 2020