Depart for Gibraltar - Oppressive Heat - Robbers - Arrive at Larache - Affray of some English Sailors - Letter from the Governor to Lord Collingwood.

Larache, August I, 1806.

I was perfectly right in my conjectures, that you would hear no more from me at Mequinez. Having succeeded in curing the patients under my care, and no disease of any consequence prevailing in the country, I thought it a favourable opportunity to request permission of the Emperor to return to Gibraltar; and having obtained it, I set off for this place.

On my way hither, I experienced the most dreadful inconvenience from the heat of the weather; it was oppressive in the extreme, and I was constantly annoyed with the sight of dead horses, mules, asses, cows, &c. that had perished on the road, from excessive heat and want of water. The rivers which I had observed on my way to Mequinez, and the waters of which I had so much relished, I now found completely dried up. We also suffered considerably from the want of fresh water, for that we had brought with us in bags became so hot, that nothing but the most dire necessity could have compelled us to make use of it; fortunately we now and then met with fields full of fine water-melons, of a most exquisite flavour: we sought them with the greatest avidity, and obtained relief from the excessive thirst with which we were oppressed. We were obliged to make very short stages, and to halt every hour under the shade of some tall trees, to recover ourselves.

I have had two or three most unpleasant encounters (on my way from Mequinez) with robbers. In the first I ran the risk of my life. It was the sixth day after we left Mequinez, as I was loitering considerably in the rear of my party, I was accosted by a common Moor on horseback, who, after surveying me from head to foot, asked for a pinch of snuff, which I gave him; then spying the gold chain of my watch, he attempted to seize it; but I prevented him by spurring my horse and galloping off to join my guard: the fellow fired his piece, which fortunately missed, and gave me an opportunity of returning the compliment, and of wounding him; when perceiving my guard coming at full speed to my assistance, wounded as he was, he made off across the fields, and was soon out of sight. This event (which, had I been in other circumstances, would have had no weight with me) I frankly confess so much agitated my spirits, already exhausted by the intense heat and intolerable thirst under which I suffered, that I found myself unable to proceed much further. At a little distance was a forest, and to the shade of that we determined to repair for the rest of the day, provided we could find a convenient spot to pitch our tents upon. We reached it about nine o'clock in the morning: I was assisted to dismount, and stretching myself on the burnt grass, under a clump of olive-trees, I desired my men to look about for a place to erect our tents. After a few minutes absence, they returned with the joyful intelligence, that they had met with a fine spring of water, and near it a sufficient space for our tents. This might indeed be called resuscitation to our drooping spirits. I arose with more alertness than I thought possible, and followed my men to this delightful spot. My wine was expended, and we were therefore glad of a glass of spirits and water, which completely recovered us; and we were enabled to enjoy a good dinner, which my Jew servant prepared.

We encamped, on this spot, for the night also; and from the occurrence of the morning, I thought it highly expedient to take every measure to prevent a repetition. I therefore ordered two or three fires to be kindled round our tents, and placed several sentinels about, to watch if any one approached. Having made these arrangements, and given strict orders to the serjeant to be on the alert, I repaired to rest; but there certainly was some spell, to prevent my enjoying what I stood so much in need of, a sound sleep. I had retired, but a very short time, to my tent, when I was suddenly roused by an alarm of The robbers! the robbers! The ruffians had contrived to slip in so privately, that, unperceived, they carried off one of my trunks, and were in the act of mounting two of my mules, when they were detected. They instantly made off with the trunk and mules. The confusion among my people was much greater than was necessary, and some time was lost in useless upbraidings.

I went out with the intention of calling the serjeant to a severe account, when I was informed that he had just gone in pursuit with six others. Those that remained kept vigilant watch with me the rest of the night. At break of day our party returned. They soon came up with the robbers, who, finding themselves so closely pursued, and likely to be overtaken, relinquished their booty to facilitate their escape. I had the satisfaction therefore to recover my trunk and mules. The serjeant employed the whole of his rhetorical abilities to give weight to the affair. I soon perceived that his account was much exaggerated, and immediately comprehended that his drift was to obtain a reward from me. I did not disappoint him, but ordered an extra allowance of rum to him and the rest of the party. As you may suppose, I was very anxious to quit a place where I had been made so uneasy, I ordered the tents to be struck; and, after riding five hours, we halted near a village, upon a pleasant hill about thirty miles from Larache, where we were abundantly supplied with provisions by the Cadi. From this place we had a most delightful prospect of the Atlantic Ocean to our left, and, to the right and front, an extensive forest and an immense plain of corn-fields and meadows. We set forward again at daybreak; and by pursuing our journey in the afternoon, for it was utterly impossible to travel in the middle of the day, we reached this city (Larache) late in the evening.

After breakfast next morning, as I was going up to the Castle to pay my devoirs to the worthy Governor, my attention was arrested by a great riot in the street. Perceiving four of our sailors likely to become the victims of an enraged multitude, I hastened to their relief. I found that the disturbance was occasioned by their imprudence in attempting to inspect the face of a Moorish woman. They belonged to a Gibraltar privateer, which had just arrived at this port to take in refreshment. Having drank too much aguardiente they imagined themselves in the streets of Gibraltar. I found no great difficulty in prevailing on the mob not to injure them, and in ensuring them a safe conduct back to their vessel. I recommended the commander of the privateer to put to sea without loss of time. The Governor not only forgave the offence, but sent plenty of fresh provisions on board for the ship's company just as the vessel was getting under way.

Commanders of armed vessels putting into a port of these states should not, on any account, suffer their men to go on shore, as they are very apt to ridicule the Moors, who are a set of people not to be trifled with. To prevent, therefore, any unpleasant occurrences, that may tend to lessen the high opinion which the Moors in general entertain of the English, and in order to defeat the views of the French party, which are incessantly directed towards forming dangerous cabals against the interest of the British nation, some effectual means ought to be applied. The Moors are very fickle, and their predilection may be converted into hatred, which is exactly the point the French aim at, to the great detriment of our fleet stationed in those seas, but particularly to the garrison of Gibraltar, and would ultimately involve us in an unprofitable war.

His Excellency has written to Lord Collingwood, to request a vessel to convey me to Gibraltar; he has very handsomely given me a copy of the letter he sent, which I inclose for your perusal.

"Larache, July 27th, 1806.


"His Imperial Majesty has been pleased to bestow on Dr. Buffa many presents, consisting of horses, mules, &c. &c. and entertains a great regard for him on account of the good he has done in Barbary; my Royal Master has also been graciously pleased to give him a letter to the King of England, intreating that the Doctor be permitted to attend the Emperor occasionally, and to reside for the future, for that service, at Tangiers or Gibraltar.

"In compliance with His Imperial Majesty's wishes, I have now most earnestly to request that your Lordship will be pleased to order Dr. Buffa a sure conveyance to the garrison of Gibraltar, and one of His Majesty's transports to receive the presents given to him, as a reward for his merit, and for his good and steady conduct during his stay with us. The Doctor carries with him the good wishes of all the Moors attached to my Royal Master; and I have the honour to assure your Lordship, that he has daily exerted himself with me, and lately with His Imperial Majesty, for the service of his King, and for that of his fellow-subjects at Gibraltar. On this account alone I hope your Lordship will, as soon as possible, afford him an opportunity to join his family, at Gibraltar, in safety.

"I have the honour to be,

"My Lord,

"Your Lordship's

"Friend and servant,



Governor of Larache, &c. &c. &c.

To the Right Hon. Lord Collingwood, Admiral and Commander in Chief, &c. &c. &c.