From drawings by Octavien Dalvimart (d'Alvimart), engraved by F.H. Clark



Mameluke of Egypt from the NYPL

The Mamelukes, who till very lately formed the military force of Egypt, were said not to exceed twelve thousand men, and were slaves imported from Circassia and Mingrelia. They were carefully instructed in every exercise of strength and agility, and usually repayed the kindness of their masters, the Beys, with the warmest gratitude and most valiant services.
The Mamelukes being trained from their infancy to military exercises, displayed in them uncommon skill. The javelin aimed with precision, was never known but to strike the mark. "The well-tempered blade of Damascus," says Sonnini, "is by them wielded with astonishing dexterity, and in their hands proves a most dreadful weapon." He often observed them try these weapons in the following manner :—A large cushion stuffed with feathers or materials equally soft and flexible, was placed about the height of a man, in such a manner, that the slightest touch would cause it to fall, which they would divide with a single stroke of the sabre, whilst passing it on horseback at full speed. Such astonishing expertness joined to most excellent horsemanship, would, were they acquainted with European tactics, render them invincible; but formidable, as they individually appeared, their prowess became of little effect when opposed to the collective weight of a charge in squadron. Their horses possessed, in an eminent degree, the qualities most useful to man, inexhaustible strength, prodigious speed and inconceivable temperance, to which may be added the most perfect symmetry of form. The dress constantly worn by the inferior Mamelukes, was a pair of large crimson drawers of thick Venetian cloth attached to slippers of red leather, and a greenish cap of a peculiar form, fancifully decorated with a turban. Their usual arms were a pair of pistols, a dagger, and a sabre; but when engaged in battle, they were furnished with a brace of horse pistols and a battle axe. They also wore an open helmet and a suit of armour, consisting of interwoven links of steel, under their dress.

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