Battle of the Nile

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Egypt-Syria Campaign, 1798–1801

French Revolutionary Wars

Coordinates: 31°20′N 30°07′E / 31.333°N 30.117°E / 31.333; 30.117

The Battle of the Nile (also known as the Battle of Aboukir Bay, in French as the Bataille d'Aboukir or in Egyptian Arabic as معركة أبي قير البحرية) was a major naval battle fought between British and French fleets at Aboukir Bay on the Mediterranean coast of Egypt from 1–3 August 1798. The battle was the climax of a naval campaign that had ranged across the Mediterranean during the previous three months, as a large French convoy sailed from Toulon to Alexandria, carrying an expeditionary force under General Napoleon Bonaparte. The French were defeated by the British forces led by Rear-Admiral Sir Horatio Nelson.

Bonaparte had sought to invade Egypt, as the first step in a campaign against British India, in an effort to drive Britain out of the French Revolutionary Wars. As Bonaparte's fleet crossed the Mediterranean, it was pursued by a British force under Rear-Admiral Horatio Nelson, sent from the British fleet in the Tagus, to establish the purpose of the French expedition and defeat it. For more than two months, Nelson chased the French, on several occasions only missing them by a matter of hours. Bonaparte, aware of Nelson's pursuit, enforced absolute secrecy about his destination and was able to capture Malta and then land in Egypt without interception by the British force.

With the French army ashore, the fleet anchored in Aboukir Bay, a station 20 miles (32 km) northeast of Alexandria, in a formation that its commander, Vice-Admiral François-Paul Brueys D'Aigalliers, believed created a formidable defensive position. When Nelson's fleet arrived off Egypt on 1 August and discovered Brueys' dispositions, he ordered an immediate attack, and his ships advanced on the French line. As they approached, they split into two divisions, one of which cut across the head of the line and passed between the anchored French and the shore while the other engaged the seaward side of the French fleet. Trapped in a crossfire, the leading French ships were battered into surrender during a fierce three-hour battle, while the centre was able to successfully repel the initial British attack. As British reinforcements arrived, the centre came under renewed assault, and at 22:00 the French flagship Orient exploded. With Brueys dead and his van and centre defeated, the rear division of the French fleet attempted to break out of the bay, but ultimately only two ships of the line and two frigates escaped, from a total of 17 ships engaged.

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