Expedition of the Col des Beni Aïcha

The Expedition of the Col des Beni Aïcha in May 1837, during the French conquest of Algeria, pitted the troupes coloniales under Colonel Maximilien Joseph Schauenburg against the troops of Beni Aïcha of the Igawawen.[1][2]

Expedition of the Col des Beni Aïcha (1837)
Part of the French conquest of Algeria
Col de Ténia.jpg
Meraldene valley in Thenia
Date17 May – 19 May 1837
Location36°43′29″N 3°33′25″E / 36.7246254°N 3.5568208°E / 36.7246254; 3.5568208
Result French victory

Emirate of Mascara

 French Empire
Commanders and leaders
Emir Abdelkader
Libya Cheikh Ali Boushaki
Libya Cheikh Ben Zamoum
France Damrémont
France Schauenburg
France Perrégaux
France La Torré
France Lixières
2,000 warriors 3,000 infantrymen

Historical ContextEdit

This expedition was started in May 1837 from Algiers to the city of Constantine via the mountain range of Khachna in Kabylia.[3]

This military reaction came after the signing of the Treaty of Tafna between General Thomas Robert Bugeaud with Emir Abdelkader in Orania [fr].[4]

The treaty effectively recognized the control of the Emirate of Abdelkader over a large part of the interior area of what is now Algeria.[5]

Emir Abdekader exploited this treaty to assert his power over the tribes throughout the interior of the country, building new towns far from French control with a rigorous administration.[6]

He worked especially in Kabylia and elsewhere to raise the Muslim population under French control to resist by both peaceful and military means their possession.[7][8]

He wanted to control the road route passing through the main rivers connecting Algiers to Constantine, in this case Oued Réghaïa [ar], Oued Boudouaou [ar], Oued Corso [ar], Oued Boumerdès [ar], Oued Meraldene and Oued Isser.[9]

This desire of Emir Abdelkader to face the French again, even after signing the treaty, led him to claim under this pact all the territory east of Oued Boudouaou [ar] among the Kabyles of Beni Aïcha and which in fact included the main road between Algiers and Constantine.[10]

Raid on ReghaïaEdit

The Emir Abdelkader organized on 8 May 1837 the attack in the region of Réghaïa on the farm named Mercier, installed in an agricultural concession adjoining the border of the Emirate of Abdelkader and consisting of the Oued Boudouaou also nicknamed Oued Keddara, and this, was to impose his yoke and reign on the edge of his state declared by the Treaty of Tafna.[11]

The Emir knew that his allies in the Kabyle tribes of Khachna and Issers could mobilize up to six thousand (6000) men on foot and up to eight hundred (800) cavalry in the field to harass the French establishments beyond the current Boudouaou.[3]

This is how the Emir, when he organized the attack on Réghaïa and the looting of French colonial farms, was guaranteed to have safe shelter with the marabouts of the Beni Aïcha, whose villages overlook Oued Meraldene and Oued Isser.[12]

General Damrémont was taken aback in Algiers when he learned that the eastern suburbs of the Casbah of Algiers were in turmoil under the blows of untimely attacks by rebels affiliated with Emir Abdelkader.[13]

The general then ordered Colonel Maximilien Joseph Schauenburg to prepare an expedition by land and sea to attack the relief and shelter of Emir Abdelkader among the Beni Aïcha to dislodge this nebula made up of dozens of villages which were stationed not far from Algiers.[14]

Colonel Schauenburg was already stationed in Réghaïa as the head of the cavaliers of the 1st African Hunter Regiment [fr] to protect and guard the agricultural farms that had been looted at the start of hostilities in the spring of 1837.[15]

Intrusion among the Beni AïchaEdit

General Damrémont ordered Colonel Schauenburg to march at night with his military column from Réghaïa towards the Meraldene ravine to surprise the insurgents in their sleep, while General Alexandre Charles Perrégaux was instructed to lead a maritime embarkation starting from the Port of Algiers [fr] and which was to land on the shore of the current Zemmouri El Bahri in the place of the Port of Zemmouri [ar].[16]

The strategy that followed consisted having General Pérregaux disembark from his boat with about a thousand infantry and cannon on the shore of the Beni Aïcha in order to ambush and wait for the Kabyle rebels fleeing the battle of Colonel Schauenburg to the north of Meraldene ravine by rising through the villages of Boukhanfar and Talamali, in order to decimate and annihilate them.[17]

The bad weather which suddenly occurred on the Bay of Algiers [fr] threw away this well-established plan because General Pérregaux was held up by the stormy storm and could not get his boat out of the harbor of the port of Algiers.[18]

Despite the bad weather that had fallen in the middle of May 1837 on Mitidja and Kabylia, Colonel Schauenburg left on the night of 17 May 1837 from his camp in Réghaïa to descend towards the ravine of Oued Boudouaou on which he had assembled a military column of two thousand men to attack the Beni Aïcha.[19]

This military column was composed of two battalions of the 2nd light infantry regiment [fr], a battalion of the 48th infantry regiment [fr], two hundred cavalry hunters of the 1st African Hunter Regiment [fr], regular spahis, one hundred irregular spahis, and two pieces of mountain infantry.[20]

Colonel Schauenburg was held back with his thousands of soldiers by rain and wind in his sustained night march before reaching the Meraldene ravine only at eight in the morning of the next day 18 May 1837, where groups of Kabyles awaited him to counter it and to hinder its advance in Kabylia if it managed to cross the bed of Oued Isser.[21]

Under the command of Cheikh Ali Boushaki, the hundreds of Kabyles perched on the villages of Meraldene, Gueddara, Soumâa, Djenah and Beni Arab among others began to run and enter into an altercation with the French, and thus a whole first battalion of the 2nd light infantry regiment [fr] was launched on the regrouping of the Algerian resistance fighters to quickly seize the important position of the Col des Beni Aïcha, and which would cost dearly to the French if this seizure was delayed and remained under the control of the allies of Emir Abdelkader.[22]

As the Kabyles were driven back towards the descent of the villages of Baloul and Tebabkha near the course of Oued Isser on the long defile of the eastern flank of the Khachna massif, the other villages folded up on the heights and entered in line in the confrontation with the regiment infantry which then suffered some human losses in its ranks.[23]

A chase then began between the Kabyle insurgents and the French soldiers to take control of this unique opening between Mitidja and Kabylia, since a large reinforcement came running from Laazib Zamoum to reinforce the Beni Aïcha in their brave resistance on an ancestral land which was favorable and advantageous to them on all levels.[24]

Ben Zamoum counterattackEdit

After the soldiers of Colonel Schauenburg's military column were scattered near Oued Isser during the day of 18 May 1837, an order was given to them to gather their elongated ranks into a reformed group.[25]

Cheikh Ben Zamoum then came from the Iflissen Lebhar [fr] region with about two thousand (2,000) Algerians to stop Colonel Schauenburg's advance towards his territory if the Beni Aïcha region failed in blocking the advance of the French invaders.[26]

The plain of Issers, which opened up to the French, saw the arrival of contingents from Iflissen Lebhar [fr] to stop the 2nd light infantry regiment in its dangerous advance.[27]

But the French prevented this attack of the Kabyle by knocking them down and frightening them vigorously, then the infantry and spahis moved towards the northern shore while deploying skirmishers in the distance on the sides of the mountains to protect them from the pursuit and the stalking Algerians.[28]

Schauenburg ordered to quickly drive out the surprised populations with their herds to accost them on the beach of Oued Merdja where no disembarkation had taken place because of the showers and hail, and this is how the Kabyle men and animals arrived at escape from the trap and the bee-eater that had been given to them.[29]

Turning backEdit

The expeditionary operation of 1837 against the Beni Aïcha was missed by Colonel Schauenburg because of the lack of time and the determination of the Kabyles to defend their families, their villages and their land, and with the backing of the insurgents of the Beni Aïcha by their brothers of Iflissen arriving from Laazib Zamoum.[30]

Schauenburg realized that a longer stay in the country of the Beni Aïcha insurgents would attract him, without good possible result since Kabyles reinforcements and forces was greater than the strength of his military column, hence his announced and planned defeat.[31]

This colonel brought back the next day 19 May 1837 by a very strong march his expeditionary force towards his initial camp between Boudouaou and Réghaïa.[3]


See alsoEdit

External linksEdit


  • Armand-Gabriel Rozey (1840). Cris de conscience de l'Algérie. Paris: Rousseau, Libraire. p. 342-343.


  1. ^ Trumelet, Corneille (February 27, 1887). "Une page de l'histoire de la colonisation algerienne: Bou-Farik". A. Jourdan – via Google Books.
  2. ^ Berbrugger, A. (Louis Adrien) (February 27, 1857). "Les époques militaires de la Grande Kabilie". Alger : Bastide – via Internet Archive.
  3. ^ a b c Orléans, Ferdinand-Philippe-Louis-Charles-Henri; Paris, Louis-Philippe-Albert d'Orléans; Chartres, Robert Philippe Louis Eugène Ferdinand d'Orléans (February 27, 1870). "Campagnes de l'armée d'Afrique, 1835-1839". Paris M. Lévy – via Internet Archive.
  4. ^ Galibert, Léon (February 27, 1843). "Histoire de l'Algérie, ancienne et moderne, depuis les premiers établissements de Carthaginois jusques et y compris les dernières campagnes du Général Bugeaud. Avec une introduction sur les divers systèmes de colonisation qui ont précédé la conquète française". Paris Furne – via Internet Archive.
  5. ^ "L'armée d'Afrique depuis la conquête d'Alger". Jouvet. February 27, 1888 – via Internet Archive.
  6. ^ Rozey, A. G. (February 27, 1840). "Cris de conscience de l'Algérie". [Paris Impr. A. Gratiot, en vente chez Mlle Voizel [etc.]] – via Internet Archive.
  7. ^ Wagner, Moritz (1855). "The Tricolor on the Atlas: Or, Algeria and the French Conquest".
  8. ^ "Die Geschichte unserer Tage, oder Chronik der neuesten Zeit". 1840.
  9. ^ Orléans, Ferdinand-Philippe d' (1870). "Campagnes de l'armée d'Afrique, 1835-1839".
  10. ^ "Campagnes de l'armée d'Afrique, 1835-1839". 1870.
  11. ^ Berbrugger, Adrien (1857). "Les époques militaires de la Grande Kabilie".
  12. ^ Moritz Wagner, D. (1841). "Reisen in der Regentschaft Algier".
  13. ^ Wagner, Moritz (1841). "Reisen in der Regentschaft Algier in den Jahren 1836, 1837 und 1838".
  14. ^ "Allgemeine Zeitung". 1837.
  15. ^ "L'Algérie ancienne et moderne, etc. Vignettes par Raffet et Rouargue frères". 1844.
  16. ^ "Correspondance du général Damrémont, gouverneur général des possessions françaises dans le nord de l'Afrique (1837) Pub". 1927.
  17. ^ "The tricolor on the atals". 1855.
  18. ^ Schuster, Georg H. (1842). "Correspondance militaire, ou recueil de modèles, pièces et actes authentiques relatifs au service militaire: ... Avec un vocabulaire militaire français - allemand".
  19. ^ "Gazzetta privilegiata di Bologna". 1837.
  20. ^ "Compleḿent de l'Encycloped́ie moderne: Dictionnaire abreǵe ́ des sciences, des lettres, des arts, de l'industrie, de l'agriculture et du commerce". 1863.
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  22. ^ "Campagnes de l'arme'e d'Afrique 1835-1839 par le Duc d'Orle'ans, publie' par ses fils, avec un portrait de l'auteur et une carte de l'Alge'rie". 1870.
  23. ^ Galibert, Léon (1843). "Histoire de l'Algérie ancienne et moderne: Depuis les premiers établissements des carthaginois".
  24. ^ "Geschichte der Kriege in Algier". Theile. February 27, 1861 – via Google Books.
  25. ^ D'Orléans.), Ferdinand-Philippe d' Orléans (Duc (February 27, 1870). "Campagnes de l'armée d'Afrique: 1835-1839". M. Lévy – via Google Books.
  26. ^ "Gazette van Gend". By Jan Meyer. February 27, 1837 – via Google Books.
  27. ^ Galibert, Léon (February 27, 1846). "L Algérie ancienne et moderne: depuis les temps les plus reculés jusqu'à nos jours comprenant le bombardement de Tanger, la prise de Mogador, la bataille d'Isly et le glorieux combat de Djemma-Gazouat". Furne et Cie. – via Google Books.
  28. ^ "Complément de l'encyclopédie moderne dictionnaire abrègè des sciences, des lettres, des arts de l'industrie, de l'agriculture et du commerce publié par mm. Firmin Didot Frères: 7. [Jaquier - Législatif, Corps-]". Firmin Didot Frères, Fils et C.ie. February 27, 1858 – via Google Books.
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  31. ^ Galibert, Léon (February 27, 1843). "Histoire de l'Algérie ancienne et moderne depuis les premiers établissements des Carthaginois jusques et y compris les dernières campagnes du général Bugeaud: Avec une introduction sur les divers systèmes de colonisation qui ont précédé la conquête française". Furne et Cie – via Google Books.