One of Lord Horatio Nelson's greatest victories, and one that sealed the fate of Napoleon Bonaparte by effectively isolating his army in Egypt, the Battle of the Nile took place on August 1st, 1798 near Alexandria, Egypt between the Royal Navy and Napeoleon's fleet.

    The fleet comprised thirteen ships of the line, eight frigates, two Venetian 64s, eight Venetian frigates, eight corvettes and four hundred transports carrying 36,000 troops. Vice-Admiral Brueys, the commander, was on board the flagship, L'Orient. (1)

The French fleet left from Toulon on May 19th, having made plans to invade Egypt to constrict the British trade routes and their possession of India. The fleet easily captured the islands of Malta and Gozo. On June 18th, they set sail for Alexandria. Before Nelson tracked them down, Napoleon had landed in Alexandria, taken the town, then headed toward Cairo, winning the Battle of the Pyramids. The doomed fleet was ordered to a defensive position in Aboukir Bay (This battle is sometimes refered to the Battle of Aboukir Bay).

Meanwhile, the British government got word that a large French expedition was leaving from Toulon, and ordered the commander of the British Fleet to dispatch ships under Lord Nelson to go after them. They ran into a few obstacles: Nelson's ship was demasted in a storm and they had to wait for more ships. The ships arrived on June 7, bringing the total number of ships of the line in the fleet to fourteen. The French army eluded Nelson for a time-- though Nelson correctly guessed that the French were headed toward Alexandria, he found the port of Alexandria empty, and had to re-up in Sicily before spotting the fleet in Aboukir Bay.

Though the French had the obvious advantage of firepower, the defensive position chosen in the bay was a poor one. Also, the French ships were anchored, giving the Royal Navy the tactical advantage. Fighting ensued, and the climax of the battle occurred at around 10 PM when the French flagship, L'Orient, exploded.

    Captain Miller of HMS Theseus wrote:

    "L'Orient caught fire on the poop, when the heavy cannonade from all the Alexander's and part of Swiftsure's guns became so furious that she was soon in a blaze, displaying a most grand and awful spectacle, such as formerly would have drawn tears down the victor's cheeks, but now pity was stifled as it rose by the remembrance of the numerous and horrid atrocities their unprincipled and bloodthirsty nation had and were committing; and when she blew up, about 11 o'clock, though I endeavoured to stop the momentary cheer of the ship's company, my heart scarce felt a single pang for their fate." (3)


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