Sea-battle with Abukir

The sea-battle with Abukir, contemporary painting of Luny Thomas
sea-battle with Abukir
conflict Egyptian expedition Napoléons
date 1./2. August 1798
place before the coast of Abukir, Egypt
result strategic English victory
France England
of commanders
François Paul Brueys d'Aigalliers Horatio Nelson
of 13 liners
4 frigates
of 15 liners
of losses
over 5.000 dead ones
of 11 liners and
2 frigates sunk
208 dead ones
677 wounded
Battles of the Egyptian expedition
with the pyramids - Abukir

the sea-battle with Abukir was one of the militarily crucial battles in the framework that Coalition wars against Napoleon. She found at the 1. and 2. August 1798 before the coast northeast from Abukir, an Egyptian port about 15 km from Alexandria, instead of. A British war fleet under the command of admiral Nelson destroyed from Comte the Brueys kommandierteFrench fleet, which had brought before the expedition army to Napoleons to Egypt, in a surprise attack nearly completely.

With this victory the British secured their naval supremacy in the Mediterranean, which had apparently been lost in the course of the 1790er years. The meaning of the battle becomes therefore in thatmilitary navigation history only with the victory of the Japanese over the Russian fleet in the battle of Tsushima compared.

Table of contents


strategic situation since beginning of the coalition war

after the execution king of Ludwig XVI. 1793 had nearly all monarchies of Europe, under it Great Britain, Spain, Portugal and most German and Italian States of, France the war explain. The high moral of the revolution troops and the fate young field gentlemen Napoleon provided however for continuous military successes of the Frenchmen.

1795 was occupied and controlled the Netherlands by the French army. Prussiaand Spain closed in the same year a peace treaty with France. Under French pressure Spain explained the war in August 1796 Great Britain even. Thus the Spanish ports at the Atlantic coast and in the Mediterranean for the Royal Navy were no longer accessible. 1797 had finally Austria afterseveral defeats with France peace close. Great Britain was thereby 1798 the only influential European country, which was still in the war with the French republic. Among its allied ones ranked only Portugal, the little influential kingdom of Neapel Sicilies and the island Malta. Russia held backitself neutrally.

British warships were since approx. 1650 continuously been in the Mediterranean area present. In October 1796 Great Britain took its warships off however from there, since the British government feared increasingly a direct attack of France. To the protection against a French invasion a part that patrouillierte Royal Navy in the channel. A further part crossed before the French Marinebasen Brest and Roche away as well as before the Spanish Cádiz, in order to be able to intercept a running out French fleet in time. The remaining parts of the Royal Navy protected either the ports of the colonies in overseas orthe merchant fleets.

Except Gibraltar which was located at the strait to the Mediterranean Great Britain 1798 did not have naval bases in the Mediterranean area.

Napoleon's plan

see also the major item Egyptian expedition

to board of directors of France, had - how from the British government fears - an invasion of Great Britainconsidered. Napoleon against it was too risky this; he considered instead to weaken the competitive British great power and planned to threaten India militarily and move trade with the east to interrupt. This would have Great Britain continued as great power endangered. As the first step in addition should under osmanischem Influence standing Egypt to be occupied. From there out it wanted to drive the British out from all attainable possessions and to create a marching-up basis for a campaign against India.

This plan convinced Charles de Talleyrand, the minister of foreign affairs at that time of the board of directors. Because an occupation of Egypt appeared easily tooachieve: It was governed by a osmanischen governor, who had however no Turkish garrisons. Resistance was expected only by approximately 10,000 Mamelucken. Their military strength lay in the Kavallerie, which had still military meaning at that time in relation to the artillery equipped with cannons hardly.One could set up a troop sufficient for this expedition, without weakening of France military operational readiness level in Europe lastingly.

After initial hesitating board of directors approved of Napoleon plan and assigned it to accomplish its plan to cross besides the land tightness from Sues to, around a French dominance in thatTo reach region at the Red Sea, and in accordance with the ideals the French revolution „the lot of humans in Egypt to improve “.

the French preparations

the preparations of the expedition were distributed on Toulon , Marseille , Genova , Korsika and Civitavecchia and forwardseverything of Napoleons' chief of staff Louis Berthier organizes. Toulon functioned as home port for the war fleet, which should protect the transport of the French expedition army over the Mediterranean. Trading vessels were not allowed to leave Toulon and surrounding ports any longer and were konfisziert, so that rapidly sufficient 280 cargo boats stood ready.They carried 28,200 men infantry, engineers and Kanoniere as well as 2,800 men Kavallerie, 1,230 horses with 60 field and 40 FE storage cannons. 13 liners, four frigates and some gunboats under the supreme command of François Paul Brueys D'Aigalliers accompanied this fleet.

To 19. May left thatfirst part of the expedition army the port of Toulon. To 21. May followed from Genova a fleet of 72 ships. To 28. 22 ships pushed May in addition, to 30 from Korsika. May further 56 ships, which were out started of Civita Vecchia.Thus the French expedition army was complete and took course toward Sicilies. Already to 5. June orbited it the south point of Sardinien.

Nelsons search for the French fleet

the unknown goal

the British government knew that itselfFrench troops in close proximity to Toulon, Marseille and Genova collected and a large fleet for its transport were made available. The goal of these renewed French efforts of war was it however to in the middle of April not clearly: One assumed a planned attack on the kingdom of Neapel,in addition, on Sicilies or Portugal, did not exclude an attack on Ireland as preparation of an invasion of the British island.

The order, which received admiral Nelson from the British admiralty, called these four possible goals and read: <ref> Warner, S. 148< /ref>

You have with your squadronto determine in each only possible way, for which the strong forces… in Toulon, Marseille and Genova are certain.

Nelson was permitted expressly a pursuit to the French fleet in the entire Mediterranean area and in the black sea, should turn out this as their goal.

For April British pulledGovernment circles increasingly also Egypt as a goal of the French expedition army in consideration. But until this consideration Nelson could have reached, was these to 8. May already from its home port Gibraltar run out. Messages had to be brought by ship and by riding messengers and needed from London afterGibraltar several weeks, in order to reach their receiver.

selling of the storm

Horatio Nelson, representation 19. Century

Nelson and the fleet kommandierte by it were to 20. May 70 nautical miles south of Toulon and thus in an ideal position, around thoseto intercept with an unknown goal running out French Armada. To 21. May came the British squadron however into a heavy storm, which drove above all the ships off far of its position toward the rocky coast of Korsika and damaged the flagship HMS Vanguard heavily. The three Frigates, which accompanied Nelson at this time, lost completely the contact to the remaining squadron. Instead of looking in the far Mediterranean area for the French Armada, Nelson decided after the repair of its flagship to return to its starting position before Toulon. Owing to an intercepted French trading vessel was Nelson over it informs that general Napoleon Armada to 19. May Toulon had left. Before Toulon Nelson hoped however to unite with the ships of its fleet driven off by the storm again. As in 18. Century usually, he to the ship commanders instructions had given, should have done the squadron apartare torn. They should cross south of Toulon approximately at height of the 42sten degree of latitude and return to Gibraltar, if they should not meet within 10 days the HMS Vanguard there. It actually succeeded itself in this way Nelson, up to 7. June with thatto combine largest part of its squadron again and meet also with the ships, it his superior Earl St. Vincent for reinforcement sent. The three frigates driven off far by the storm did not only meet with the squadron.

stop in Neapel

Nelson hadnow decide, in which part of Mediterranean it should look for the French fleet. From an intercepted Tunisian warship Nelson knew that the French fleet had been seen south to the point of Sicilies eastward segelnd. Nelson rejected therefore Portugal and Ireland as a possible goalthe French expedition army and decided, with his fleet after Neapel to sails. For this decision several reasons spoke. At the neapolitanischen yard William Hamilton served for 34 years as British Ambassadors and had long-range contacts. It had possibly information about further sighting, already detailedthe French fleet. In addition the prime minister of the kingdom of Neapel, Sir John Acton, British descent and its homeland was still probably deliberate. Admiral Nelson hoped that he would receive also new provisions in the port from Neapel.

To 17. June anchored Nelsons fleet inthe proximity of the port of Neapel. It kept there not only provisions, but from Hamilton also the information actual that the French fleet segelte toward Malta. Hamilton did not communicate however that one assumed that the French fleet from there out toward Egyptfar sails became. Although Hamilton recorded this possibility in reports to the British government, possibly was it the conviction that it this had been passed on as conscious French disinformation.

In London against it one was meanwhile sure itself that the French fleet on the way afterEgypt was. The scientists, who participated on invitation Napoleon in the Egyptian expedition, had shown themselves as the leaky place, which betrayed the goal of the French fleet. Thus for example the Mineraloge De Dolmineu at the Göttinger reported scientist De Luc that one for the expeditionBooks concerning Egypt, Persia and India collect. It also communicated to it that it was also a goal of the expedition to interrupt the trade between India and Great Britain. De Luc was however not only a professor of the University of Goettingen but also member of the yard state of the British queen Charlotte, the wife by George III.. The reduced communication possibilities 18. Century did not permit it however to make Nelson this information available in time.

decision for Alexandria

to 18. June put Nelsons down fleet with Malta as a goal into Neapel.Nelson did not know at the time that the French Armada there already to 9. June arrived, and Malta had combatless resulted the French troops. To 19. June, only one day, after Nelson put down into Neapel, put down also Napoleons' fleet again from Malta.

Nelsonreceived from the defeat of Malta to 22. June, when the British fleet intercepted a Brigg, which of the rising up USA - which today's Dubrovnik - came and about the case was informed by Malta already. The captain of the Brigg indicated however, Napoleon would have Malta already to16. June leave. This wrong information led to it that Nelson underestimated during the next weeks, in like large proximity it already to the French Armada was.

Das Mittelmeer - Nelsons Herausforderung lag darin herauszufinden, was das Ziel der französischen Armada war
The Mediterranean - Nelsons challenge lay in it to find out, what the goal of the French Armada was

Nelson had to now decide, whicha further goal the French fleet would take. An attack on Portugal and Spain was impossible; in addition the fleet Napoleon was too far east in the Mediterranean. Conceivable goals of a fleet putting down from Malta could be however Sicilies or the black sea - also Egypt offereditself from here as a goal on. For a consultation with its commanders Nelson decided to look for the French fleet before Alexandria. Decisive for the decision, toward Alexandria to sails, wind conditions and the proximity were to Sicilies. Nelson was sure itself thatmessages over an attack of the Frenchmen on Sicilies would have already reached it, these would have taken place.

Wind conditions stood for Nelson favorably; during the next six days it put back every now and then up to 150 nautical miles within 24 hours. Military historians assume that Nelson already to 22.June only a distance from 30 nautical miles to the French fleet had and at it at the following night vorbeisegelte. In the logs of the British fleet it is actually noted that one discovered the masts of four ships, which one a little later than four on the horizonFrigates identified. Although some the British commanders the discovered four frigates segelnden as clear sign of one in the proximity large Armada regarded, Nelson gave the instruction to pursue this not further but with greatest possible speed further toward Alexandrien to sails. This decision Nelsons, thoseon lack of understanding with its commanders and also from today's viewpoint is with difficulty comprehensible, is probably to the missing frigates into Nelsons fleet met to be due. Without these fast ships was not Nelson in a the position, a sufficient clearing-up to be operated.

To 28. June reached the BritishThe quick port of Alexandria - by the French fleet however nothing was to be seen.Thomas Hardy put on with the Mutine in the port and returned with bad messages. The commander of the osmanischen fortress had explained that he would have seen so far no French fleetand that France would not be in the war with the osmanischen realm. According to the customary law at that time the commander of the British fleet permitted to supply itself with drinking water. It however also requested it to leave the port within 24 hours again. Nelson came to thatConviction a wrong decision to have met. It left its fleet toward Antalya further sails. Later the French fleet put on only 24 hours east of Alexandrien and entered the first French troops Egyptian soil a little later.

search in the eastern Mediterranean area

to 4.July reached Nelsons fleet the coast of Antalya, segelte from there from further toward the south point of Crete. To 20. July it had reached again Sicilies. From Syrakus Nelson would send three letters to its wife, at William Hamilton and at itsSet forward admiral Lord pc. Vincent. In all three letters the frustration of the futile search for the French fleet sounds through. Its wife it wrote:

I was so far not able to find the French fleet but it will not be able to say anybody that it towas appropriate for attempt lacking. (zit. n. Keegan, S. 59)

Both opposite Hamilton and and his superior Earl St. Vincent opposite deplored it that it was missing to its fleet at frigates, which could have served due to their speed as investigation ships.

In the next days caughtNelsons fleet however before the Greek coast several trading vessels off. Questionings of the crews resulted in a more exact picture of the French fleet movements of the last four weeks and in the case of Nelson consolidated themselves the certainty that the French fleet had to be somewhere before the coast of Syria - oneArea, which covered the range of today's Israel and Lebanon after understanding at that time also. To 29. July again left its fleet to Nelson toward Alexandrien sails. At the 1. August reached one a second time the port of Alexandrien. In the port as to 30 was.June no French ships, a post could see again however from its lookout on the Goliath mast points eastward. Its sifting of the post was confirmed a little later on the Zealous.

initial position

the Abukir bay

Napoleon, itself with itsArmy meanwhile in the Egyptian inland found, François Paul Brueys D'Aigalliers the instruction had given to anchor the French fleet in the proximity of the Egyptian coast. The Marabout bay, at which the French troops accreted, had proven as unsuitable anchorage and of Alexandria port would have ofa hostile fleet to be simply blocked can. Brueys decided to anchor the fleet in the Abukir bay. It was the conviction the fact that here the British fleet an attack - which probable Brueys considered - was almost impossible.

The Abukir bay extends in oneSemi-circle over width of 16 miles, of cape Abukir up to the Rosettamündung of the Nile. Where the antique city Kanopus lay, was the village at that time Abukir. The coast drops here slowly into the Mediterranean. Therefore the French fleet 3 hadMiles seewärts to be embodied. The only natural protection consisted of the small Abukir island and unites rock and sand banks.

The French fleet was embodied in a line to coast. Such a list transformed the fleet into a long stretched swimming coastal battery, those from the Abukir islandout ran. The land tightness between the Abukir island and the mainland considered Brueys due to insufficient sea charts impassable. In addition it was the conviction that it would have anchored its ships so closely at the coast that warships behind its line would not find a sufficient maneuvering area.

Work on []

Took part ships

Frenchman Cannons captain
Le Guerrier 74 Jean François Trullet
Le Spartiate 74 Maurice Emeriau
L'Aquilon 74 Thévenard †
Le Peuple Souverain 74 Raccord
Le Franklin 80 Armand Simon Marie de Blanquet you Chayla
L'Orient (flagship) 120 Comte Brueys †; Louis de Casabianca
Le Tonnant 84 Aristide Aubert Dupetit Thouars
L'Heureux 74 Etienne
Le Timoléon 74 Trullet
Le Mercure 74 Cambon
Le Guillaume Tell 80 Pierre de Villeneuve
Le Généreux 74 LeJoille
La Sérieuse 36 Martin
L'Artermise 36 Estandlet
La Justice 40 Villeneuve
Le Conquérant 74 Jean Dalbarade
La DIANE 48 Denis Decrès
Englishman Cannons captain
HMS Goliath 74 Thomas Foley
HMS Zealous 74 Samuel Hood
HMS Orion 74 James Saumarez
HMS Theseus 74 Ralph Willett Miller
HMS Audacious 74 Davidge Gould
HMS Vanguard (flagship) 74 Horatio Nelson; Edward Berry
HMS Minotaur 74 Thomas's Louis
HMS Defence 74 John Strutt Peyton
HMS Majestic 74 George Blagdon Westcott
HMS Leander 50 Charles Thompson
HMS Culloden 74 Thomas Troubridge
HMS Swiftsure 74 Benjamin hello-wave Carew
HMS Mutine 18 Thomas Hardy
HMS Alexander 74 Alexander ball
HMS Bellerophon 74 Henry Darby

the battle

Foleys decision

process of the battle; the British ships are drawn in in red, the French in blue

as the Heureux in the early afternoon of the 1. August 1798 the Zealous sighted, was Brueys not further concerned. Itlet set recall signals for the work commands, because went half of its crews daily ashore, in order to dig either wells or procure provisions. Over 4000 their ships reached and had men no longer the battle from country to watch.

The British squadron hadmeanwhile the standing instruction that no time for the preparation should be given to an opponent lying before anchors; despite the time of day immediately the attack began. At 15 o'clock was go-eaten the signal “clear to combat”. Around 17:30 clock the British ships from northwest stood coming into keel Kiel querab of the Abukir island. The battle began briefly after 18 o'clock, when the daylight already diminished.

Foley, which kommandierte the Goliath, considered differently than the French admiral Brueys the land tightness between the Abukir island and the mainland coast maneuverable. It possibly possessed oneFrench Atlas, that was only twenty years old and which indicated depths in the bay. Also that the French fleet had been able to embody the ships in a long line before the coast suggested Foley that behind the FrenchLine the water still another sufficient depth had, in order to maneuver its ship there. Foleys courageous and fast decision to break through the French line inward was exactly the initiative, which expected Nelson of its commanders; it determined the whole process of the battle. The Goliaththe British ships Zealous, Audacios , Orion and Theseus followed, while the remainder of the fleet in keel Kiel from lake attacked, which doubled the force of the attack.

Nelson described late lord Howe its tactics:

„By I the Vorhut and the center of theOpponent attacked, and because the wind blew exact toward its line, I could emphasize any strength opposite few ships. “ (zit. n. Warner, S. 152)

Thus for example the Guerrier , which was at the point of the French line, became successively ofthe Goliath, the Zealous, the Audacious, the Orion and the Theseus under bombardment taken and were combat unfit within shortness.

explosion of L' Orient

the French flagship L'Orient explodes at the 1. August 1798 at 22 o'clock, contemporary painting of Arnald George

Owing to Foleys decision to steer its ship between the coast and the French line received the front French ships from two sides bombardment. Similarly as the French Guerrier was also the Aquilon, which damages Peuple Souverain and the Spartiate very fast strongly. The weapon-strongestFrench ships - under it the French flagship L'Orient - were however in the center of the French line. The British Bellerophon suffered heavy damage, when she positioned herself opposite this ship, lost two of its three masts and drove off in the process of the battle seewärts. Approximately22 o'clock took however the British ships Swiftsure and Alexander L' Orient under bombardment, on whose deck soon fire broke out. The captain of the Swiftsure arranged purposeful shots into the flames, in order to obstruct the fire-fighting operationses of the French crew. The French admiral Brueys, that itselfon this ship found, was wounded at this time already heavy, persisted however to remain at deck. It was met a little later by a shot, which killed it.

The fire on L' Orient, spreading further, let an explosion of the ammunition camp fear. Mostthe British and French commanders, whose ships were in direct proximity, decided to heave its anchors and to bring their ships into a larger distance to L' Orient. The French ships Heureux and Mercure stranded in consequence its at the mainland coast. A little laterexploded L' Orient; Ship and corpse parts were scattered by the force of the explosion a nautical mile far in the bay and the noise of the explosion were in nine nautical miles far remove lying Alexandria to hear. It was the crucial turning point of the battle. Firstsix ships of the French line were in British hand;Heureux and Mercure fired still their cannons, were however not maneuverable.

Villeneuve on board the Guillaume Tell decided in view of the hopeless situation of the French fleet to the escape and could together with the Généreuxand escape from the frigates Justice and DIANE after Korfu. The meanwhile mastless Tonnant and Timoléon set its fight offering no prospects into the afternoon 2. August away; afterwards the Tonnant gave up ; the crew of the Timoléon against it set their ship in fire and ruderte inthe ship's boats ashore, in order to escape from the capture.


the victims

of Brueys' thirteen liners and four frigates had been lost to eleven liners and two frigates. Brueys themselves as well as sieved further French commanders were please, more than 5000French sailors were either dead or were missed - more than 1,000 sailors had come alone with the explosion of L' Orient to death. The destruction of the French fleet was so completely that it is compared occasionally with the devastating defeat, that the Japanese navy thatRussian in the battle of Tsushima 1905 prepared.

The Englishmen deplored altogether 208 dead ones and 677 wounded. In the British squadron each ship had taken to heavy damage: Culloden had run in the process of the battle due to and the Bellerophon and the Majestic its masts had lost.All British ships could be repaired however again.

The high number of victims, whom this battle demanded, is to be attributed above all to the fact that the ships with the broadside anchored to each other and fired one on the other from largest proximity. Sea-battles, which on open ocean was led, had due tothe higher maneuverability of usually fewer victims to consequence.

effects for France and Great Britain

the French plan of an advance to India with the defeat in the sea-battle with Abukir had failed; it was simultaneous the first larger setback Napoleon. The BritishSupremacy to sea was guaranteed against it for the remainder of the coalition wars. With the battle of Trafalgar seven years later, with the Nelson over a French-Spanish fleet, became finally secured for more than one century this triumphed.

Nelson became for its victory in the battleAbukir into the British nobility raised. The eastIndian company, which was informed by Nelson about the exit of the battle, by sending one of its officers from Alexandrien to India, showed it opposite their gratitude by a gift of 10.000 Pound. Numerous honours provedit also the kingdom of Neapel Sicilies, whose queen Maria Karolina - a sister of the executed French queen Marie Antoinettes - was a decided Gegnerin of the French republic.

For the career of Napoleon Bonaparte remained the devastating French defeat by Abukir almost without consequences. It becameposed by the triumph of the successful Egyptian expedition in the shade.


one represented to art, literature

, monuments the sea-battle with Abukir repeated by British naval painters. Paintings of Arnald George and Luny Thomas show the battle into the dramaticMoments, in which the French ships stood in flames.

A literary monument found the sea-battle also in Felicia Hemans poemto Casabianca “that many British parodierten particularly because of its first, frequently line „The boy stood on the burning cover “admit are. It describesthe death only of the twelve-year-old boy of son of Louis de Casabianca, who did on the franzsösischem flagship kommandiertem of its father „L' Orient “service and during the explosion of the ship died.

A monument that of the sea-battle of Abukir is to remind, is inthe proximity of Stonehenge. It consists of a multiplicity of small Birkenhaine, which are called „Nile Clumps “. After local legend represent everyone the Birkenhaine a ship of the French and British fleet. Cultivation is on Emma hard, the later loved one of admiral Nelsonsto lead back its. She makes friends herself after Nelsons death with the Marquess OF Queensbury, a local large basic owner and convinced her together with Thomas Hardy to plant this unusual monument. Not all Birkenhaine stand more. Most are today on country of the Stonehenge Historic Landscapethat belongs to the British national Trust. At present plans exist to cultivate, some this Birkenhaine again.


1998 and 1999 were again discovered wrecks of the French fleet by the underwater archaeologist Franck Goddio. In the year 2000 Paolo Gallo, an Italian archaeologist founda burial place on one today as „Nelsons island “designated isle in the Abukir bay. The grave contains the remnants of sea-men and officers; also the remnants of 3 female skeletons as well as two infants are in the grave. The British archaeologist nod Slope could prove thatsome in the grave the Bestatteten dead one of the sea-battle with Abukir were; other dead one are to be due to an expedition from the year 1801. It is safe that two of the female dead ones as well as the deceased of infants died in the year 1801. For the third female skeleton is thisnot surely. This has one in connection with a report at the sea-battle of Abukir of sailor taken part, who mentions among other things that Mrs. Munition from the ammunition camps brought to the cannons, led to extensive speculations across to what extent also women on the British warships 18.Century served.

To 18. The dead ones a military honour funeral found in the grave received April 2005 by the crew of the British ship HMS Chatham, which was at this time in Egyptian waters.


  • John Keegan: Intelligence in was. Knowledge OFthe enemy from Napoleon ton of aluminium-Qaeda, Pimlico, London 2004. ISBN 0-7126-6650-8 (English)
Keegan is concerned in this military-historical book in detail with to which information Nelson was during pursuit Napoleon at the disposal and affected like these the respective decisions.
  • Brian Lavery: Nelson and the Nile- The Naval was against Bonaparte 1798, Caxton Publishing Group, London, 2003 ISBN 1-84068-5225 (engl)
  • olive Warner: Large sea-battles, Ariel publishing house, Frankfurt/Main 1963
  • Friedrich William Pohl: Lord Nelson - a triumph course by Europe. Charcoal burner publishing house company, Hamburg 2000, ISBN 3-7822-0799-8
  • Jann M. Joke: Horatio Nelson - triumph and Tragik of a sea-hero. Charcoal burner publishing house company, Hamburg 2005, ISBN 3-7822-0925-7
  • Carola Oman: Nelson. Naval of institutes press, Annapolis, the USA 1996, ISBN 1-55-750618-3 (English)
  • Tom Pocock: Horatio Nelson. Pimlico, London 1994, ISBN 0-7126-6123-9 (English)

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