Monday, July 16, 2012

Napoleon in Egypt: Battle of the Nile (1798)

In 1798, the strongest navy in the Mediterranean Sea belonged to England. At that time, rulers in England were at war with rulers in France. Happily for rulers in England, Horatio Nelson was the best leader in the English Navy and better than any leader in the French Navy.

On August 1, 1798, Nelson, with 15 warships under his command, found Napoleon’s 17 warships anchored in Aboukir Bay about 12 miles (20 km) northeast of Alexandria, Egypt. He ordered an immediate attack. At 22:00 the most important French ship, the Orient, exploded. British sailors destroyed four French warships and captured nine. Only four French warships escaped. During the battle, over 900 British sailors were killed or wounded, but as many as 5,000 French sailors were killed or wounded and as many as 4,000 were taken prisoner.

This fight was later called the Battle of the Nile. Because of this strong victory, the English navy took control of the entire Mediterranean Sea. French rulers then lost the help of rulers of other countries. These other rulers decided that being friends with rulers in England was smarter. In Egypt, Napoleon lost his ability to get fresh soldiers, and fresh supplies for his soldiers, by sea from France.

On July 21, 1798, Napoleon’s soldiers had won the Battle of the Pyramids. With that victory, Napoleon had gained control of the Egyptian capital of Cairo. Only 11 days later, Napoleon’s sailors had lost the Battle of the Nile. With that defeat, he had lost his ability to keep control of Cairo.

Napoleon's soldiers were doomed. How many of them would die, and how many Egyptian men, women, and children would likewise suffer and die, before Napoleon admitted defeat? No one knew.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven Farsaci. All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.