60640: Egyptian Campaign (El Hammed)

Cogadh na Tuirc, the "Turkish War", was the local Lewis term for the Egyptian Campaign of 1807. On 22 April 1807 at El Hammed, Lt Col Peter Macleod leading the British met a huge Ottoman army, led by Muhammed Ali, in Egypt. The 700 British included two companies of the 78th Highlanders, including many Uigeachs who had been recruited to the Saighdearan Mac a’Mhinisteir. They were outnumbered 20 to 1 and fought grimly but Lt Col Macleod and most of the officers were killed, and they had no choice but to surrender.

The British fought their way back to Alexandria where they stayed all summer, but prisoners had been taken at El Hammed and Rosetta. Eventually General Fraser offered to evacuate Egypt, providing the prisoners were returned to him, although this condition was not met. On 23 September the troops set sail for Sicily. The blind and wounded were sent home to Britain in the spring of 1808.

500 British prisoners had been sold into slavery in Cairo after El Hammed. Some were eventually freed. John Macaulay, Crowlista, was said to have been a slave in Egypt for seven years.

One of the old soldiers, Murdo Macleod of Crowlista, who was blinded at Rosetta, wrote verse, of which the following survives:

Aig el Hamed bhruchd na naimhdean oirnn mar muit lan,

‘S gur iomadh gille uasal bha mar uan air a’phlat

At El Hamed the enemy poured on us like a tide

And many a noble lad as like a lamb on a bed of straw.

Other veterans fo the campaign were Norman Morrison, Kneep, and Kenneth Macleod, Calbost.

Some of the survivors went on to other battles, not returning to Lewis until 1817. Medals for the campaign were issued, finally, in 1847, to any soldiers who were still living and who applied for them. Kenneth Macleod had died in 1837 and missed out; Calum Gobha of Enaclete got his just before he emigrated, as an old man, to Canada.

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Historical Event
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