Battle of the Nile
Overview
 
The Battle of the Nile (also known as the Battle of Aboukir Bay, in French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

 as the Bataille d'Aboukir or in Egyptian Arabic
Egyptian Arabic
Egyptian Arabic is the language spoken by contemporary Egyptians.It is more commonly known locally as the Egyptian colloquial language or Egyptian dialect ....

 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
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 from 1–3 August 1798. The battle was the climax of a naval campaign
Mediterranean campaign of 1798
The Mediterranean campaign of 1798 was a series of major naval operations surrounding a French expeditionary force sent to Egypt under Napoleon Bonaparte during the French Revolutionary Wars. The French Republic sought to capture Egypt as the first stage in an effort to threaten British India, and...

 that had ranged across the Mediterranean during the previous three months, as a large French convoy sailed from Toulon
Toulon
Toulon is a town in southern France and a large military harbor on the Mediterranean coast, with a major French naval base. Located in the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur region, Toulon is the capital of the Var department in the former province of Provence....

 to Alexandria
Alexandria
Alexandria is the second-largest city of Egypt, with a population of 4.1 million, extending about along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north central part of the country; it is also the largest city lying directly on the Mediterranean coast. It is Egypt's largest seaport, serving...

, carrying an expeditionary force under General Napoleon Bonaparte.
Encyclopedia
The Battle of the Nile (also known as the Battle of Aboukir Bay, in French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

 as the Bataille d'Aboukir or in Egyptian Arabic
Egyptian Arabic
Egyptian Arabic is the language spoken by contemporary Egyptians.It is more commonly known locally as the Egyptian colloquial language or Egyptian dialect ....

 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
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 from 1–3 August 1798. The battle was the climax of a naval campaign
Mediterranean campaign of 1798
The Mediterranean campaign of 1798 was a series of major naval operations surrounding a French expeditionary force sent to Egypt under Napoleon Bonaparte during the French Revolutionary Wars. The French Republic sought to capture Egypt as the first stage in an effort to threaten British India, and...

 that had ranged across the Mediterranean during the previous three months, as a large French convoy sailed from Toulon
Toulon
Toulon is a town in southern France and a large military harbor on the Mediterranean coast, with a major French naval base. Located in the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur region, Toulon is the capital of the Var department in the former province of Provence....

 to Alexandria
Alexandria
Alexandria is the second-largest city of Egypt, with a population of 4.1 million, extending about along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north central part of the country; it is also the largest city lying directly on the Mediterranean coast. It is Egypt's largest seaport, serving...

, 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 whose ultimate aim was to drive Britain out of the French Revolutionary Wars
French Revolutionary Wars
The French Revolutionary Wars were a series of major conflicts, from 1792 until 1802, fought between the French Revolutionary government and several European states...

. 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
Tagus
The Tagus is the longest river on the Iberian Peninsula. It is long, in Spain, along the border between Portugal and Spain and in Portugal, where it empties into the Atlantic Ocean at Lisbon. It drains an area of . The Tagus is highly utilized for most of its course...

, 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
Malta
Malta , officially known as the Republic of Malta , is a Southern European country consisting of an archipelago situated in the centre of the Mediterranean, south of Sicily, east of Tunisia and north of Libya, with Gibraltar to the west and Alexandria to the east.Malta covers just over in...

 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 (32.2 km) northeast of Alexandria, in a formation that its commander, Vice-Admiral François-Paul Brueys D'Aigalliers
François-Paul Brueys d'Aigalliers
Vice-Admiral François-Paul Brueys d'Aigalliers, Comte de Brueys was the French commander in the Battle of the Nile, in which the French Revolutionary Navy was defeated by Royal Navy forces under Admiral Horatio Nelson. The British victory helped to ensure their naval supremacy throughout the...

, believed established a formidable defensive position. When Nelson's fleet arrived off Egypt on 1 August and discovered Brueys's 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
French ship Orient (1791)
The Dauphin-Royal was an Océan class 118-gun ship of the line of the French Navy.During the French Revolution, she was renamed Sans-Culotte in September 1792, and eventually Orient in May 1795....

 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 frigate
Frigate
A frigate is any of several types of warship, the term having been used for ships of various sizes and roles over the last few centuries.In the 17th century, the term was used for any warship built for speed and maneuverability, the description often used being "frigate-built"...

s escaped, from a total of 17 ships engaged.

The battle reversed the strategic situation in the Mediterranean, and allowed the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 to assume a dominant position which it would retain for the rest of the war. It also encouraged other European countries to turn against France, and was a factor in the outbreak of the War of the Second Coalition
War of the Second Coalition
The "Second Coalition" was the second attempt by European monarchs, led by the Habsburg Monarchy of Austria and the Russian Empire, to contain or eliminate Revolutionary France. They formed a new alliance and attempted to roll back France's previous military conquests...

. Bonaparte's army was trapped in Egypt, and Royal Navy dominance off the Syrian coast contributed significantly to its defeat at the Siege of Acre
Siege of Acre (1799)
The Siege of Acre of 1799 was an unsuccessful French siege of the Ottoman-defended, walled city of Acre and was the turning point of Napoleon's invasion of Egypt and Syria.-Background:...

 in 1799, which preceded Bonaparte's return to Europe. Nelson, who had been wounded in the battle, was proclaimed a hero across Europe and was subsequently made Baron Nelson. His captains were also highly praised, and would go on to form the nucleus of the legendary Nelsonic Band of Brothers. The battle has remained prominent in the popular consciousness, with perhaps the best-known representation being Felicia Hemans
Felicia Hemans
-Ancestry:Felicia Heman's paternal grandfather was George Browne of Passage, co. Cork, Ireland; her maternal grandparents were Elizabeth Haydock Wagner of Lancashire and Benedict Paul Wagner , wine importer at 9 Wolstenholme Square, Liverpool. Family legend gave the Wagners a Venetian origin;...

's 1826 poem Casabianca
Casabianca (poem)
Casabianca is a poem by British poet Felicia Dorothea Hemans, first published in the New Monthly Magazine for August 1826.The poem opens:-History:...

.

Background

Following Napoleon Bonaparte's victories over the Austrian Empire
Austrian Empire
The Austrian Empire was a modern era successor empire, which was centered on what is today's Austria and which officially lasted from 1804 to 1867. It was followed by the Empire of Austria-Hungary, whose proclamation was a diplomatic move that elevated Hungary's status within the Austrian Empire...

 in Northern Italy–helping to secure France victory in the War of the First Coalition in 1797–Great Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

 remained the only major European power still at war with the French Republic. The French Directory
French Directory
The Directory was a body of five Directors that held executive power in France following the Convention and preceding the Consulate...

 investigated a number of strategic options to counter British opposition, including projected invasions of Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

 and Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

, and the expansion of the French Navy
French Navy
The French Navy, officially the Marine nationale and often called La Royale is the maritime arm of the French military. It includes a full range of fighting vessels, from patrol boats to a nuclear powered aircraft carrier and 10 nuclear-powered submarines, four of which are capable of launching...

 to challenge the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 at sea. Despite significant efforts, British control of Northern European waters rendered these ambitions impractical in the short term, and the Royal Navy remained firmly in control of the Atlantic Ocean
Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's oceanic divisions. With a total area of about , it covers approximately 20% of the Earth's surface and about 26% of its water surface area...

. However, the French Navy was dominant in the Mediterranean Sea
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

, following the withdrawal of the British fleet after the outbreak of war between Britain and Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 in 1796. This allowed Bonaparte to propose an invasion of Egypt as an alternative to confronting Britain directly, believing that the British would be too distracted by an imminent Irish uprising
Irish Rebellion of 1798
The Irish Rebellion of 1798 , also known as the United Irishmen Rebellion , was an uprising in 1798, lasting several months, against British rule in Ireland...

 to intervene in the Mediterranean.

Bonaparte believed that by establishing a permanent presence in Egypt (nominally part of the neutral Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

) the French would obtain a staging point for future operations against British India, possibly in conjunction with the anglophobic Tippoo Sultan of Seringapatam, that might successfully drive the British out of the war. The campaign would sever the chain of communication that connected Britain with India, an essential part of her Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

 whose trade links generated the wealth Britain required to prosecute the war successfully. The French Directory agreed with Bonaparte's plans, although a major factor in their decision was a desire to see the politically ambitious Bonaparte and the fiercely loyal veterans of his Italian campaigns as far from France as possible. During the spring of 1798, Bonaparte assembled over 35,000 soldiers in Mediterranean France and Italy and developed a powerful fleet at Toulon
Toulon
Toulon is a town in southern France and a large military harbor on the Mediterranean coast, with a major French naval base. Located in the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur region, Toulon is the capital of the Var department in the former province of Provence....

; he also formed the Commission des Sciences et des Arts, a body of scientists and engineers intended to establish the French colony in Egypt. The destination of the expedition was kept top secret; most of the army's officers did not know of its target, and Bonaparte himself did not publicly reveal his goal until the first stage of the expedition was complete.

Mediterranean campaign

Bonaparte's armada sailed from Toulon on 19 May 1798, making rapid progress through the Ligurian Sea
Ligurian Sea
The Ligurian Sea is an arm of the Mediterranean Sea, between the Italian Riviera and the island of Corsica. The sea is probably named after the ancient Ligures people.-Geography:...

 and collecting more ships at Genoa
Genoa
Genoa |Ligurian]] Zena ; Latin and, archaically, English Genua) is a city and an important seaport in northern Italy, the capital of the Province of Genoa and of the region of Liguria....

 before sailing southwards along the Sardinia
Sardinia
Sardinia is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea . It is an autonomous region of Italy, and the nearest land masses are the French island of Corsica, the Italian Peninsula, Sicily, Tunisia and the Spanish Balearic Islands.The name Sardinia is from the pre-Roman noun *sard[],...

n coast, passing Sicily
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

 on 7 June. On 9 June the fleet arrived off Malta
Malta
Malta , officially known as the Republic of Malta , is a Southern European country consisting of an archipelago situated in the centre of the Mediterranean, south of Sicily, east of Tunisia and north of Libya, with Gibraltar to the west and Alexandria to the east.Malta covers just over in...

, then under the ownership of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, ruled by Grand Master Ferdinand von Hompesch zu Bolheim
Ferdinand von Hompesch zu Bolheim
Ferdinand von Hompesch zu Bolheim was the 71st Prince and Grand Master of the Order of Malta, the first German to be elected to the office....

. Bonaparte demanded that his fleet be permitted entry to the fortified harbour of Valetta, and when the demand was refused the French general responded by ordering a large scale invasion of the Maltese Islands, overrunning the defenders after 24 hours of skirmishing. The Knights formally surrendered on 12 June and, in exchange for substantial financial compensation, handed the islands and all of their resources over to Bonaparte, including the extensive property of the Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 on Malta. Within a week Bonaparte had resupplied his ships, and on 19 June his fleet departed for Alexandria
Alexandria
Alexandria is the second-largest city of Egypt, with a population of 4.1 million, extending about along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north central part of the country; it is also the largest city lying directly on the Mediterranean coast. It is Egypt's largest seaport, serving...

 in the direction of Crete
Crete
Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and one of the thirteen administrative regions of Greece. It forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece while retaining its own local cultural traits...

, leaving 4,000 men at Valetta under General Claude-Henri Vaubois
Claude-Henri Belgrand de Vaubois
Claude-Henri Belgrand de Vaubois was a French general during the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. On 20 August 1808 he was created Comte de Belgrand de Vaubois...

 to ensure French control of the islands.

While Bonaparte was sailing to Malta, the Royal Navy re-entered the Mediterranean for the first time in over a year. Alarmed by reports of French preparations on the Mediterranean coast, Lord Spencer
George Spencer, 2nd Earl Spencer
George John Spencer, 2nd Earl Spencer KG PC FRS FSA , styled Viscount Althorp from 1765 to 1783, was a British Whig politician...

 at the Admiralty
Admiralty
The Admiralty was formerly the authority in the Kingdom of England, and later in the United Kingdom, responsible for the command of the Royal Navy...

 sent a message to Vice-Admiral Earl St. Vincent
John Jervis, 1st Earl of St Vincent
Admiral of the Fleet John Jervis, 1st Earl of St Vincent GCB, PC was an admiral in the Royal Navy and Member of Parliament in the United Kingdom...

, commander of the Mediterranean Fleet based in the Tagus River, to despatch a squadron to investigate. This squadron, consisting of three ships of the line and three frigates, was entrusted to Rear-Admiral Sir Horatio Nelson. Nelson was a highly experienced officer who had been blinded in one eye during fighting in Corsica
Corsica
Corsica is an island in the Mediterranean Sea. It is located west of Italy, southeast of the French mainland, and north of the island of Sardinia....

 in 1794 and subsequently commended for his capture of two Spanish ships of the line at the Battle of Cape St. Vincent
Battle of Cape St. Vincent (1797)
In the Battle of Cape St Vincent a British fleet under Admiral Sir John Jervis defeated a larger Spanish fleet under Admiral Don José de Córdoba near Cape St. Vincent, Portugal.-Origins:...

 in February 1797. However in July 1797 he had lost an arm at the Battle of Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Battle of Santa Cruz de Tenerife (1797)
The Battle of Santa Cruz de Tenerife was an amphibious assault by the Royal Navy on the Spanish port city of Santa Cruz de Tenerife in the Canary Islands. Launched by Rear-Admiral Horatio Nelson on 22 July 1797, the assault was heavily defeated, and on 25 July the remains of the landing party ...

 and had been forced to return to Britain to recuperate. Returning to the fleet at the Tagus in late April 1798, he was ordered to collect the squadron stationed at Gibraltar
Gibraltar
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of , it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region...

 and sail for the Ligurian Sea. On 21 May, as Nelson's squadron approached Toulon, it was struck by a fierce gale and Nelson's flagship HMS Vanguard
HMS Vanguard (1787)
HMS Vanguard was a 74-gun third-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, launched on 6 March 1787 at Deptford. She was the sixth vessel to bear the name....

 lost its topmasts and was almost wrecked on the Corsican coast. The remainder of the squadron was scattered; the ships of the line sheltered at San Pietro Island
San Pietro Island
San Pietro Island is an island approximately 7 km off the South western Coast of Sardinia, Italy, facing the Sulcis peninsula. With 51 km² it is the sixth largest island of Italy by area. The approximately 6,000 inhabitants are mostly concentrated in the fishing town of Carloforte, the...

 off Sardinia, while the frigates were blown to the west and failed to return.

On 7 June, following hasty repairs to his flagship, Nelson was joined off Toulon by a fleet of ten ships of the line and a fourth rate ship. The fleet was under the command of Captain Thomas Troubridge
Sir Thomas Troubridge, 1st Baronet
Sir Thomas Troubridge, 1st Baronet was a British naval commander and politician.Troubridge was educated at St Paul's School, London. He entered the Royal Navy in 1773 and, together with Nelson, served in the East Indies in the frigate Seahorse. In 1785 he returned to England in the Sultan as...

, and had been sent by Earl St. Vincent to reinforce Nelson with orders that he was to pursue and intercept the Toulon convoy. Although he now had enough ships to challenge the French fleet, Nelson suffered two great disadvantages: he had no intelligence regarding the destination of the French, and no frigates to scout ahead of his force. Striking southwards in the hope of collecting information about French movements, Nelson's ships stopped at Elba
Elba
Elba is a Mediterranean island in Tuscany, Italy, from the coastal town of Piombino. The largest island of the Tuscan Archipelago, Elba is also part of the National Park of the Tuscan Archipelago and the third largest island in Italy after Sicily and Sardinia...

 and Naples
Naples
Naples is a city in Southern Italy, situated on the country's west coast by the Gulf of Naples. Lying between two notable volcanic regions, Mount Vesuvius and the Phlegraean Fields, it is the capital of the region of Campania and of the province of Naples...

, where the British ambassador Sir William Hamilton
William Hamilton (diplomat)
Sir William Hamilton KB, PC, FRS was a Scottish diplomat, antiquarian, archaeologist and vulcanologist. After a short period as a Member of Parliament, he served as British Ambassador to the Kingdom of Naples from 1764 to 1800...

 reported that the French fleet had passed Sicily in the direction of Malta. Despite pleas from Nelson and Hamilton, King Ferdinand of Naples
Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies
Ferdinand I reigned variously over Naples, Sicily, and the Two Sicilies from 1759 until his death. He was the third son of King Charles III of Spain by his wife Maria Amalia of Saxony. On 10 August 1759, Charles succeeded his elder brother, Ferdinand VI, as King Charles III of Spain...

 refused to lend his frigates to the British fleet, fearing French reprisals. On 22 June, Nelson encountered a brig sailing from Ragusa
Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik is a Croatian city on the Adriatic Sea coast, positioned at the terminal end of the Isthmus of Dubrovnik. It is one of the most prominent tourist destinations on the Adriatic, a seaport and the centre of Dubrovnik-Neretva county. Its total population is 42,641...

 and was told that the French had sailed eastwards from Malta on 16 June. After conferring with his captains, the admiral decided that the French target must be Egypt and set off in pursuit. Incorrectly believing the French to be five days ahead rather than two, Nelson insisted on a direct route to Alexandria without deviation.

On the evening of 22 June, Nelson's fleet passed the French in the darkness, overtaking the slow invasion convoy without realising how close they were to their target. Making rapid time on a direct route, Nelson reached Alexandria on 28 June and discovered that the French were not there. After a meeting with the suspicious Ottoman commander Sayyid Muhammad Kurayyim, Nelson ordered the British fleet northwards, reaching the coast of Anatolia
Anatolia
Anatolia is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey...

 on 4 July and turning westwards back towards Sicily. Nelson had missed the French by less than a day, the scouts of the French fleet arriving off Alexandria in the evening of 29 June. Concerned by his close encounter with Nelson, Bonaparte ordered an immediate invasion, his troops coming ashore in a poorly managed amphibious operation in which at least 20 drowned. Marching along the coast, the French army stormed Alexandria and captured the city, before Bonaparte led the main force of his army inland. He instructed his naval commander, Vice-Admiral François-Paul Brueys D'Aigalliers
François-Paul Brueys d'Aigalliers
Vice-Admiral François-Paul Brueys d'Aigalliers, Comte de Brueys was the French commander in the Battle of the Nile, in which the French Revolutionary Navy was defeated by Royal Navy forces under Admiral Horatio Nelson. The British victory helped to ensure their naval supremacy throughout the...

, to anchor in Alexandria harbour, but naval surveyors reported that the channel into the harbour was too shallow and narrow for the larger ships of the French fleet. As a result, an alternative anchorage was selected at Aboukir Bay, 20 miles (32.2 km) northeast of Alexandria.

Nelson's fleet reached Syracuse on Sicily on 19 July and took on essential supplies. There the admiral wrote letters describing the events of the previous months: "It is an old saying, 'the Devil's children have the Devil's luck.' I cannot find, or at this moment learn, beyond vague conjecture where the French Fleet are gone to. All my ill fortune, hitherto, has proceeded from want of frigates." By 24 July his fleet was resupplied and, having determined that the French must be somewhere in the Eastern Mediterranean, Nelson sailed again in the direction of Morea
Morea
The Morea was the name of the Peloponnese peninsula in southern Greece during the Middle Ages and the early modern period. It also referred to a Byzantine province in the region, known as the Despotate of Morea.-Origins of the name:...

. On 28 July at Coron
Koroni
Koroni or Coroni is a town and a former municipality in Messenia, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Pylos-Nestoras, of which it is a municipal unit. Known as Corone by the Venetians and Ottomans, the town of Koroni Koroni or Coroni is a...

, intelligence was finally obtained describing the French attack on Egypt and Nelson turned south across the Mediterranean. His scouts, HMS Alexander
HMS Alexander (1778)
HMS Alexander was a Royal Navy 74-gun third-rate. This ship of the line was launched at Deptford on 8 October 1778. During her career she was captured by the French, and later recaptured by the British. She fought at the Nile in 1798, and was broken up in 1819...

 and HMS Swiftsure
HMS Swiftsure (1787)
HMS Swiftsure was a 74-gun third rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy. She spent most of her career serving with the British, except for a brief period when she was captured by the French during the Napoleonic Wars...

, discovered the French transport fleet at Alexandria on the afternoon of 1 August.

Aboukir Bay

When Alexandria harbour proved inadequate for his fleet, Brueys had gathered his captains and discussed their options. Bonaparte had ordered the fleet to anchor in Aboukir Bay, a shallow and exposed anchorage, but had supplemented the orders with the suggestion that if Aboukir Bay was too dangerous Brueys could sail north to Corfu
Corfu
Corfu is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea. It is the second largest of the Ionian Islands, and, including its small satellite islands, forms the edge of the northwestern frontier of Greece. The island is part of the Corfu regional unit, and is administered as a single municipality. The...

, leaving only the transports and a handful of lighter warships at Alexandria. Brueys refused, in the belief that his squadron could provide essential support to the French army on shore, and called his captains aboard his 120-gun flagship Orient
French ship Orient (1791)
The Dauphin-Royal was an Océan class 118-gun ship of the line of the French Navy.During the French Revolution, she was renamed Sans-Culotte in September 1792, and eventually Orient in May 1795....

 to discuss their response should Nelson discover the fleet in its anchorage. Despite vocal opposition from Contre-Admiral Armand Blanquet, who insisted that the fleet would be best able to respond in open water, the rest of the captains agreed that anchoring in a line of battle
Line of battle
In naval warfare, the line of battle is a tactic in which the ships of the fleet form a line end to end. A primitive form had been used by the Portuguese under Vasco Da Gama in 1502 near Malabar against a Muslim fleet.,Maarten Tromp used it in the Action of 18 September 1639 while its first use in...

 inside the bay presented the strongest tactic for confronting Nelson. It is possible that Bonaparte envisaged Aboukir Bay as a temporary anchorage: on 27 July he expressed the expectation that Brueys had already transferred his ships to Alexandria and three days later issued orders for the fleet to make for Corfu in preparation for naval operations against the Ottoman territories in the Balkans, although the courier carrying the instructions was intercepted and killed by Bedouin
Bedouin
The Bedouin are a part of a predominantly desert-dwelling Arab ethnic group traditionally divided into tribes or clans, known in Arabic as ..-Etymology:...

 partisans
Irregular military
Irregular military refers to any non-standard military. Being defined by exclusion, there is significant variance in what comes under the term. It can refer to the type of military organization, or to the type of tactics used....

.

Aboukir Bay is a coastal indentation 16 nautical miles (29.6 km) across, stretching from the village of Abu Qir
Abu Qir
Abū Qīr is a village on the Mediterranean coast of Egypt, northeast of Alexandria by rail, containing a castle used as a state prison by Muhammad Ali of Egypt....

 in the west to the town of Rosetta
Rosetta
Rosetta is a port city on the Mediterranean coast of Egypt. It is located east of Alexandria, in Beheira governorate. It was founded around AD 800....

 to the east, where one of the mouths of the River Nile empties into the Mediterranean. In 1798 the bay was protected at its western end by extensive rocky shoals, which ran 3 miles (4.8 km) into the bay from a promontory
Promontory
Promontory may refer to:*Promontory, a prominent mass of land which overlooks lower lying land or a body of water*Promontory, Utah, the location where the United States first Transcontinental Railroad was completed...

 guarded by Aboukir Castle. The shoals were also protected by a small fort situated on an island
Nelson's Island
Nelson's Island is an island located in Abū Qīr Bay, off the coast of Alexandria, Egypt. It is a local site for picnics and recreation, and is the location of a group of British graves dating from the Napoleonic Wars. It was named after Horatio Nelson the famous British Admiral.In 2000, Italian...

 among the rocks. The fort was garrisoned by French soldiers and armed with at least four cannon and two heavy mortars
Mortar (weapon)
A mortar is an indirect fire weapon that fires explosive projectiles known as bombs at low velocities, short ranges, and high-arcing ballistic trajectories. It is typically muzzle-loading and has a barrel length less than 15 times its caliber....

. Brueys had augmented the fort with his bomb vessels and gunboats, which were anchored among the rocks to the west of the island in a position to give support to the head of the French line. Further shoals ran unevenly to the south of the island and extended across the bay in a rough semicircle approximately 1650 yards (1,508.8 m) from the shore. These shoals were too shallow to permit passage of larger warships, and so Brueys ordered his thirteen ships of the line to form up in a line of battle following the northeastern edge of the shoals to the south of the island, a position that allowed the ships to disembark supplies from their port side while covering the landings with their starboard batteries. Orders were issued for each ship to attach strong cables to the bow and stern of their neighbours, which would effectively turn the line into a long battery forming a theoretically impregnable barrier. A second inner line of four frigates was positioned approximately 350 yards (320 m) west of the main line, roughly halfway between the line and the shoal. The van of the French line was led by Guerrier
French ship Guerrier (1754)
The Guerrier was a Magnifique class 74-gun ship of the line of the French Navy.She took part in the Battle of Minorca and in the Battle of Lagos...

, positioned 2400 yards (2,194.6 m) southeast of Aboukir Island and about 1000 yards (914.4 m) from the edge of the shoals that surrounded the island. The line then stretched southeast with the centre bowed seawards away from the shoal. The French ships were spaced at intervals of 160 yards (146.3 m) and the whole line was 2850 yards (2,606 m) long, with the flagship Orient at the centre and two large 80-gun ships anchored either side. The rear division of the line was under the command of Contre-Admiral Pierre-Charles Villeneuve
Pierre-Charles Villeneuve
Pierre-Charles-Jean-Baptiste-Silvestre de Villeneuve was a French naval officer during the Napoleonic Wars. He was in command of the French and Spanish fleets defeated by Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar....

 in Guillaume Tell.

In deploying his ships in this way, Brueys hoped that the British would be forced by the shoals to attack his strong centre and rear, allowing his van to use the prevailing northeasterly wind to counterattack the British once they were engaged. However, he had made a serious misjudgement: there was enough room between Guerrier and the shoal for an enemy ship to cut across the head of the French line, allowing the unsupported vanguard to be caught in a crossfire by two divisions of enemy ships. Brueys' dispositions had a second significant flaw: the 160 yard gaps between ships were large enough for a British ship to push through and break the French line. Furthermore, not all of his captains had followed his orders to attach cables to their neighbour's bow and stern, which would have prevented such a manoeuvre. The problem was exacerbated by the orders to only anchor at the bow, which allowed the ships to swing with the wind and widened the gaps. It also created areas within the French line that were not covered by the broadside of any ship. British vessels could anchor in those spaces and engage the French without reply. In addition, the deployment of his fleet prevented the rear from effectively supporting the van due to the prevailing winds.

A more pressing problem for Brueys was a lack of food and water for the fleet: Bonaparte had unloaded almost all of the provisions carried aboard and no supplies were reaching the ships from the shore. To remedy this, Brueys sent foraging parties of 25 men from each ship along the coast to requisition food, dig wells and collect water. However, constant attacks by Bedouin partisans required each party to be escorted by heavily armed guards; hence, up to a third of the fleet's sailors were away from their ships at any one time. Brueys wrote a letter describing the situation to Minister of Marine Étienne Eustache Bruix
Étienne Eustache Bruix
Étienne Eustache Bruix was a French sailor.-Life:From a distinguished family originating from Béarn, he embarked as a volunteer on a slaving vessel commanded by captain Jean-François Landolphe...

, reporting that "Our crews are weak, both in number and quality. Our rigging, in general, out of repair, and I am sure it requires no little courage to undertake the management of a fleet furnished with such tools."

Nelson's arrival

Although initially disappointed that the main French fleet was not at Alexandria, Nelson knew from the presence of the transports that they must be nearby. At 14:00 on 1 August, lookouts on HMS Zealous
HMS Zealous (1785)
HMS Zealous was a 74-gun third rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, built by Barnard of Deptford and launched on 25 June 1785.She served in a number of battles of the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars, notably the Battle of the Nile, where she engaged the French ship Guerrier,...

 reported the French anchored in Aboukir Bay, its signal lieutenant just beating the lieutenant on HMS Goliath
HMS Goliath (1781)
HMS Goliath was a 74-gun third rate ship of the line in the Royal Navy. She was launched on 19 October 1781 at Deptford Dockyard. She was present at the Battle of Cape St Vincent, Battle of the Nile, and Battle of Copenhagen. She was broken up in 1815....

 with the signal, but inaccurately describing 16 French ships of the line instead of 13. At the same time, French lookouts on Heureux
French ship Heureux (1783)
The Heureux was a Centaure class 74-gun ship of the line of the French Navy.She cruised in the Mediterranean in 1794 and 1795.Under Captain Jean-Pierre Etienne, she took part in the Expedition to Egypt, and in the Battle of the Nile. The first ship to spot the British fleet on 1 August, Heureux...

, the ninth ship in the French line, sighted the British fleet approximately 9 nautical miles (16.7 km) off the mouth of Aboukir Bay. The French initially reported just 11 British ships, as Swiftsure and Alexander were still returning from their scouting operations at Alexandria, and so were 3 nautical miles (5.6 km) to the west of the main fleet, out of sight. Troubridge's ship HMS Culloden
HMS Culloden (1783)
HMS Culloden was a 74-gun third rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, launched on 16 June 1783 at Rotherhithe. She took part in some of the most famous battles of the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars....

 was also some distance from the main body, towing a captured merchant ship. At the sight of the French, Troubridge abandoned the vessel and made strenuous efforts to rejoin Nelson. Due to the need for so many sailors to work onshore, Brueys had not deployed any of his lighter warships as scouts, which left him unable to swiftly react to the sudden appearance of the British. As his ships readied for action, Brueys ordered his captains to gather for a conference on Orient and hastily recalled his shore parties, although most had still not returned by the start of the battle. To replace them, large numbers of men were taken out of the frigates and distributed among the ships of the line. Brueys also hoped to lure the British fleet onto the shoals at Aboukir Island, sending the brigs Alerte and Railleur to act as decoys in the shallow waters. By 16:00, Alexander and Swiftsure were also in sight, although some distance from the main British fleet, and Brueys gave orders to abandon the plan to remain at anchor and instead for his line to set sails, although Blanquet protested the order on the grounds that there were not enough men aboard the French ships to both sail the ships and man the guns. Nelson then gave orders for his leading ships to slow down in order to allow the British fleet to approach in a more organised formation. Convinced by this that rather than risk an evening battle in confined waters, the British were planning to wait for the following day, Brueys rescinded his earlier order to sail. Brueys may have been hoping that the delay would allow him to slip past the British during the night and thus follow Bonaparte's orders not to engage the British fleet directly if it could be avoided.

Nelson ordered the fleet to slow down at 16:00 to allow his ships to rig "springs" on their anchor cables, a system of attaching the bow anchor that increased stability and allowed his ships to swing their broadside
Broadside
A broadside is the side of a ship; the battery of cannon on one side of a warship; or their simultaneous fire in naval warfare.-Age of Sail:...

s to face an enemy while stationary. It also increased maneuverability and therefore reduced the risk of coming under raking fire
Raking fire
In naval warfare, raking fire is fire directed parallel to the long axis of an enemy ship. Although each shot is directed against a smaller target profile than by shooting broadside and thus more likely to miss the target ship to one side or the other, an individual cannon shot that hits will pass...

. Nelson's plan, shaped through discussion with his senior captains during the return voyage to Alexandria, was to advance on the French and pass down the seaward side of the van and centre of the French line, so that each French ship would face two British ships and the massive Orient would be fighting against three. The direction of the wind meant that the French rear division would be unable to easily join the battle and would be cut off from the front portions of the line. To ensure that in the smoke and confusion of a night battle his ships would not accidentally open fire on one another, Nelson ordered that each ship prepare four horizontal lights at the head of their mizenmast and also to hoist an illuminated White Ensign
White Ensign
The White Ensign or St George's Ensign is an ensign flown on British Royal Navy ships and shore establishments. It consists of a red St George's Cross on a white field with the Union Flag in the upper canton....

, which was different enough from the French tricolour that it would not be mistaken in poor visibility, reducing the risk that British ships might fire on one another in the darkness. As his ship was readied for battle, Nelson held a final dinner with Vanguard's officers, announcing as he rose: "Before this time tomorrow I shall have gained a peerage
Peerage
The Peerage is a legal system of largely hereditary titles in the United Kingdom, which constitute the ranks of British nobility and is part of the British honours system...

 or Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey
The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, popularly known as Westminster Abbey, is a large, mainly Gothic church, in the City of Westminster, London, United Kingdom, located just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English,...

," in reference to the rewards of victory or the traditional burial place of British military heroes.
Shortly after the French order to set sails was abandoned, the British fleet began rapidly approaching once more and Brueys, now expecting to come under attack on that night, ordered each of his ships to also place springs on their anchor cables and prepare for action. The Alerte was sent ahead, passing close to the leading British ships and then steering sharply to the west over the shoal in the hope that the ships of the line might follow and become grounded. None of Nelson's captains fell for the ruse and the British fleet continued undeterred. At 17:30, Nelson hailed one of his two leading ships, HMS Zealous under Captain Samuel Hood, which had been racing Goliath to be the first to fire on the French. The admiral ordered Hood to establish the safest course into the harbour; the British had no charts of the depth or shape of the bay except a rough sketch map Swiftsure had obtained from a merchant captain, an inaccurate British atlas on Zealous, and a 35-year old French map aboard Goliath. Hood replied that he would take careful soundings as he advanced to test the depth of the water, and that "If you will allow the honour of leading you into battle, I will keep the lead going." Shortly afterwards, Nelson paused to speak with the brig HMS Mutine
HMS Mutine (1797)
HMS Mutine was a French 16-gun corvette launched in 1794 at Honfleur.The Royal Navy captured her from the French in May 1797 at the Battle of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Mutine was sold in 1803.-French service:...

, whose commander Lieutenant Thomas Hardy had seized some maritime pilots from a small Alexandrine vessel. As Vanguard came to a stop, the following ships slowed. This caused a gap to open up between Zealous and Goliath and the rest of the fleet. To counter this effect, Nelson ordered HMS Theseus
HMS Theseus (1786)
HMS Theseus was a 74-gun third-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy.One of the eight Culloden class ships designed by Thomas Slade, she was built at Perry, Blackwall Yard, London and launched on 25 September 1786.-Service:...

 under Captain Ralph Miller
Ralph Willett Miller
Ralph Willett Miller was an officer of the Royal Navy. He served during the American Revolutionary and the French Revolutionary Wars, eventually rising to the rank of Captain...

 to pass his flagship and join Zealous and Goliath in the vanguard. By 18:00, the British fleet was again under full sail, Vanguard sixth in the line of ten ships as Culloden trailed behind to the north, and Alexander and Swiftsure hastened to catch up to the west. Following the rapid change from a loose formation to a rigid line of battle both fleets raised their colours; each British ship added additional Union Flag
Union Flag
The Union Flag, also known as the Union Jack, is the flag of the United Kingdom. It retains an official or semi-official status in some Commonwealth Realms; for example, it is known as the Royal Union Flag in Canada. It is also used as an official flag in some of the smaller British overseas...

s in its rigging in case its main flag was shot away. At 18:20, as Goliath and Zealous rapidly bore down on them, the leading French ships Guerrier and Conquérant
French ship Conquérant (1747)
The Conquérant was a Citoyen class 74-gun ship of the line of the French Navy.She took part in the Battle of the Nile, where she was armed with only 18- and 12-pounders, and crewed by a mere 400 men, under captain Dalbarade. Second ship in the vanguard of her line, Conquérant sustained fire from...

opened fire.

Battle of the Nile

Ten minutes after the French opened fire Goliath, ignoring fire from the fort to starboard and from Guerrier to port, most of which was too high to trouble the ship, crossed the head of the French line. Captain Thomas Foley had noticed as he approached that there was an unexpected gap between Guerrier and the shallow water of the shoal. On his own initiative, Foley decided to exploit this tactical error and changed his angle of approach to sail through the gap. As the bow of Guerrier came within range, Goliath opened fire, inflicting severe damage with a double-shotted raking broadside as the British ship turned to port and passed down the unprepared port side of Guerrier, and Foley's Royal Marines
Royal Marines
The Corps of Her Majesty's Royal Marines, commonly just referred to as the Royal Marines , are the marine corps and amphibious infantry of the United Kingdom and, along with the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary, form the Naval Service...

 and a company of Austrian grenadiers joined the attack, firing their muskets. Foley had intended to anchor alongside the French ship and engage it closely, but his anchor took too long to descend and his ship passed Guerrier entirely. Goliath eventually stopped close to the bow of Conquérant, opening fire on the new opponent and using the unengaged starboard guns to exchange occasional shots with the frigate Sérieuse
French frigate Sérieuse (1779)
The Sérieuse was a Magicienne class frigate of the French Navy.In 1781, she ferried soldiers after the Invasion of Minorca.She was at Toulon when the British captured the city...

 and bomb vessel Hercule which were anchored inshore of the battle line. Foley's attack was followed by Hood in Zealous, who also crossed the French line and successfully anchored next to Guerrier in the space Foley had intended, engaging the lead ship's bow from close range. Within five minutes Guerrier's foremast had fallen, to cheers from the crews of the approaching British ships. The French captains had been taken by surprise by the speed of the British advance, and were still aboard Orient in conference with the admiral when the firing started. Hastily launching their boats, they returned to their vessels. Captain Jean-François-Timothée Trullet of Guerrier shouted orders from his barge for his men to return fire on Zealous.

The third British ship into action was HMS Orion
HMS Orion (1787)
HMS Orion was a 74-gun third rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, launched at Deptford on 1 June 1787 to the design of the , by William Bately...

 under Captain Sir James Saumarez
James Saumarez, 1st Baron de Saumarez
Admiral James Saumarez, 1st Baron de Saumarez , GCB was an admiral of the British Royal Navy, notable for his victory at the Battle of Algeciras.-Early life:...

, which rounded the engagement at the head of the battle line and passed between the French main line and the frigates that lay closer inshore. As he did so, the frigate Sérieuse opened fire on Orion, wounding two men. The convention in naval warfare of the time was that ships of the line did not attack frigates when there were ships of equal size to engage, but in firing first French Captain Claude-Jean Martin
Claude-Jean Martin
- Biography :Born to a family of sailors, Martin joined the French Royal Navy in 1767. he served in the Mediterranean against Barbary pirates.He later served as a pilot aboard the Fantasque, taking part in the campaigns of Admiral d'Estaing in the American War of Independence...

 had negated the rule and Saumarez waited until the frigate was at close range before replying. Orion needed just one broadside to reduce the frigate to a wreck, and Martin's disabled ship drifted away over the shoal. During the delay caused by this detour, two other British ships joined the battle: Theseus, which had been disguised as a first-rate
First-rate
First rate was the designation used by the Royal Navy for its largest ships of the line. While the size and establishment of guns and men changed over the 250 years that the rating system held sway, from the early years of the eighteenth century the first rates comprised those ships mounting 100...

 ship, followed Foley's track across Guerrier's bow. Miller steered his ship through the middle of the melee between the anchored British and French ships until he encountered the third French ship Spartiate. Anchoring to port, Miller's ship opened fire at close range. HMS Audacious
HMS Audacious (1785)
HMS Audacious was a 74-gun third rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, launched on 23 July 1785 at Rotherhithe. She was the first ship to bear the name....

 under Captain Davidge Gould
Davidge Gould
Sir Davidge Gould GCB was an officer of the Royal Navy. He served during the American Revolutionary, French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars, eventually rising to the rank of Admiral...

 crossed the French line between Guerrier and Conquérant, anchoring between the ships and raking them both. Orion then rejoined the action further south than intended, firing on the fifth French ship Peuple Souverain and Admiral Blanquet's flagship Franklin.

The next three British ships, Vanguard in the lead followed by HMS Minotaur
HMS Minotaur (1793)
HMS Minotaur was a 74-gun third-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, launched on 6 November 1793 at Woolwich. She was named after the mythological bull-headed monster of Crete.-Career:...

 and HMS Defence
HMS Defence (1763)
HMS Defence was a 74-gun third-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, launched on 31 March 1763 at Plymouth Dockyard. She was one of the most famous ships of the period, taking part in several of the most important naval battles of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars...

, remained in line of battle formation and anchored on the starboard side of the French line at 18:40. Nelson focused his flagship's fire on Spartiate, while Captain Thomas Louis
Thomas Louis
Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Louis, 1st Baronet was an officer of the British Royal Navy who served in three wars and saw numerous actions, notably as one of Horatio Nelson's "Band of Brothers" in the Mediterranean in 1798 who commanded ships at the Battle of the Nile...

 in Minotaur attacked the unengaged Aquilon
French ship Aquilon (1789)
The Aquilon was a Téméraire class 74-gun ship of the line of the French Navy.She served off Italy under Brueys, and took part in the Battle of the Nile, where she fought HMS Vanguard, HMS Minotaur and HMS Theseus. She was captured and recommissioned in the Royal Navy as HMS Aboukir.- External links...

and Captain John Peyton in Defence joined the attack on Peuple Souverain. With the French vanguard now heavily outnumbered, the following British ships HMS Bellerophon
HMS Bellerophon (1786)
The first HMS Bellerophon of the Royal Navy was a 74-gun third-rate ship of the line launched on 6 October 1786 at Frindsbury on the River Medway, near Chatham. She was built at the shipyard of Edward Greaves to the specifications of the Arrogant, designed by Sir Thomas Slade in 1758, the lead ship...

 and HMS Majestic
HMS Majestic (1785)
HMS Majestic was a 74-gun third rate ship of the line launched on 11 December 1785 at Deptford. She fought at the Battle of the Nile, where she engaged the French ships Tonnant and Heureux, helping to force their surrenders...

 passed by the melee and advanced on the so far unengaged French centre. Both ships were soon fighting enemies much more powerful than themselves and began to take severe damage: Captain Henry Darby
Henry D'Esterre Darby
Admiral Sir Henry D'Esterre Darby, KCB, was an officer in the Royal Navy. He was the second son of Jonathan Darby IV Esq., of Leap Castle, in King's County, Ireland. He was the nephew of Vice Admiral George Darby...

 on Bellerophon missed his intended anchor near Franklin and instead found his ship underneath the main battery of the French flagship, while Captain George Blagdon Westcott
George Blagdon Westcott
George Blagdon Westcott was an officer of the Royal Navy. He served during the American Revolutionary and the French Revolutionary Wars, eventually rising to the rank of Captain...

 on Majestic also missed his station and almost collided with Heureux, coming under heavy fire from Tonnant
HMS Tonnant (1792)
Tonnant was an 80-gun ship of the line of the French Navy and lead ship of the Tonnant class. Admiral Nelson captured her at Aboukir Bay on 1 August 1798. The Royal Navy then took her into service...

. Unable to stop in time, Westcott's jib boom
Jib
A jib is a triangular staysail set ahead of the foremast of a sailing vessel. Its tack is fixed to the bowsprit, to the bow, or to the deck between the bowsprit and the foremost mast...

 became entangled with Tonnant's shroud
Shroud (sailing)
On a sailboat, the shrouds are pieces of standing rigging which hold the mast up from side to side. There is frequently more than one shroud on each side of the boat....

. The French suffered too: Admiral Brueys on Orient was severely wounded in the face and hand by flying debris during the opening exchange of fire with Bellerophon. The final ship of the British line, Culloden under Troubridge, sailed too close to Aboukir Island in the growing darkness and became stuck fast on the shoal. Despite strenuous efforts from the Culloden's boats, the brig Mutine and the 50-gun HMS Leander
HMS Leander (1780)
HMS Leander was a Portland-class 50-gun fourth rate of the Royal Navy, launched at Chatham on 1 July 1780. She served on the West Coast of Africa, West Indies, and the Halifax station. During the French Revolutionary Wars she participated in the Battle of the Nile before a French ship captured her....

 under Captain Thomas Thompson
Sir Thomas Thompson, 1st Baronet
Sir Thomas Boulden Thompson, 1st Baronet GCB was an officer of the Royal Navy. He served during the American Revolutionary, French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, eventually rising to the rank of Vice-Admiral...

, the ship of the line could not be moved, and the waves drove Culloden further onto the shoal, inflicting severe damage to the ship's hull.

Surrender of the French van

At 19:00 the identifying lights in the mizenmasts of the British fleet were lit. By this time, Guerrier had been completely dismasted and heavily battered. Zealous by contrast was barely touched: Hood had situated Zealous outside the arc of most of the French ship's broadside and in any case Guerrier was not prepared for an engagement on both sides simultaneously, with its port guns blocked by stores. Although their ship was a wreck, the crew of Guerrier refused to surrender, continuing to fire the few functional guns whenever possible despite heavy answering fire from Zealous. In addition to his cannon fire, Hood called up his Marines and ordered them to fire volleys of musket shot at the deck of the French ship, driving the crew out of sight but still failing to secure the surrender from Captain Trullet. It was not until 21:00, when Hood sent a small boat to Guerrier with a boarding party, that the French ship finally surrendered. Conquérant was defeated more rapidly, after heavy broadsides from passing British ships and the close attentions of Audacious and Goliath brought down all three masts before 19:00. With his ship immobile and badly damaged, the mortally wounded Captain Etienne Dalbarade struck his colours and a boarding party seized control. Unlike Zealous, these British ships suffered relatively severe damage in the engagement; Goliath lost most of its rigging, suffered damage to all three masts and received over 60 casualties. With his opponents defeated, Captain Gould on Audacious used the spring on his cable to transfer fire to Spartiate, the next French ship in line. To the west of the battle the battered Serieusé sank over the shoal. Its masts protruded from the water as survivors scrambled into boats and rowed for the shore.

The transfer of Audacious's broadside to Spartiate meant that Captain Maurice-Julien Emeriau now faced three opponents. Within minutes all three of his ship's masts had fallen, but the battle around Spartiate continued until 21:00, when the badly wounded Emeriau ordered his colours struck. Although Spartiate was outnumbered, it had been supported by the next in line Aquilon, which uniquely of the French van squadron was fighting only one opponent, Minotaur. Captain Antoine René Thévenard
Antoine René Thévenard
Antoine René Thévenard was a French Navy officer. His name is written "Henri-Alexandre Thévenard" in some English source.- Biography :...

 used the spring on his anchor cable to angle his broadside into a raking position across the bow of Nelson's flagship, which consequently suffered over 100 casualties, including the admiral. At approximately 20:30, Nelson was struck over his blinded right eye by an iron splinter fired in a langrage shot from Spartiate. The wound caused a flap of skin to fall across his face, rendering him temporarily completely blind. Nelson collapsed into the arms of Captain Edward Berry
Edward Berry
Rear Admiral Sir Edward Berry, 1st Baronet, KCB was an officer in Britain's Royal Navy primarily known for his role as flag captain of Rear Admiral Horatio Nelson's ship HMS Vanguard at the Battle of the Nile, prior to his knighthood in 1798...

 and was carried below. Certain that his wound was fatal, he cried out "I am killed, remember me to my wife", and called for his chaplain Stephen Comyn
Stephen George Comyn
Stephen George Comyn was an English naval chaplain who served with Lord Nelson at the Battle of the Nile and Battle of Copenhagen. He was a close friend of Nelson and is said to have been his favourite chaplain. -Early life:...

. The wound was immediately inspected by Vanguard's surgeon Michael Jefferson, who informed the admiral that it was a simple flesh wound and stitched the skin together. Nelson subsequently ignored Jefferson's instructions to remain inactive, returning to the quarterdeck shortly before the explosion on Orient to oversee the closing stages of the battle. Although Thévenard's manoeuvre was successful, it placed his own bow under Minotaurs guns and by 21:25 the French ship was dismasted and battered, Captain Thévenard killed and his junior officers forced to surrender. With his opponent defeated, Captain Thomas Louis
Thomas Louis
Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Louis, 1st Baronet was an officer of the British Royal Navy who served in three wars and saw numerous actions, notably as one of Horatio Nelson's "Band of Brothers" in the Mediterranean in 1798 who commanded ships at the Battle of the Nile...

 then took Minotaur south to join the attack on Franklin.
The fifth French ship, Peuple Souverain, was attacked from either side by Defence and Orion and rapidly lost the fore and main masts. Aboard the Orion, a wooden block was smashed off one of the ship's masts, killing two men before wounding Captain Saumarez in the thigh. On Peuple Souverain, Captain Pierre-Paul Raccord was badly wounded and ordered his ship's anchor cable cut in an effort to escape the bombardment. Peuple Souverain drifted south towards the flagship Orient, which mistakenly opened fire on the darkened vessel. Orion and Defence were unable to immediately pursue, as Defence had lost its fore topmast and Orion was narrowly missed by an improvised fireship that drifted through the battle. The origin of this vessel, an abandoned and burning ship's boat laden with highly flammable material, is uncertain but it may have been launched from Guerrier as the battle began. Peuple Souverain anchored not far from Orient, but took no further part in the fighting. The wrecked ship surrendered during the night. Franklin remained in combat, but Blanquet had suffered a severe head wound and Captain Gillet had been carried below unconscious with severe wounds. Shortly afterwards, a fire broke out on the quarterdeck after an arms locker exploded, which was eventually extinguished with difficulty by the crew.

To the south, Bellerophon was in serious trouble as the huge broadside of Orient pounded the ship. At 19:50 the mizenmast and mainmast both collapsed and fires broke out simultaneously at several points. Although the blazes were extinguished, the ship had suffered over 200 casualties. Captain Darby recognised that his position was untenable and ordered the anchor cables cut at 20:20. The battered ship drifted away from the battle under continued fire from Tonnant as the foremast collapsed as well. Orient had also suffered significant damage and Admiral Brueys had been struck in the midriff by a cannonball that almost cut him in half. Admiral Brueys died fifteen minutes later, remaining on deck and refusing to be carried below by his men. Orient's captain Luc-Julien-Joseph Casabianca
Luc-Julien-Joseph Casabianca
See Casabianca for other meaningsLuc-Julien-Joseph Casabianca was a French Navy officer.- Career :...

 was also wounded, struck in the face by flying debris and knocked unconscious, while his ten-year old son had a leg torn off by a cannonball as he stood beside his father. The most-southerly British ship, Majestic, had become briefly entangled with the 80-gun Tonnant, and in the resulting battle, suffered heavy casualties. Among the dead was Captain George Blagdon Westcott
George Blagdon Westcott
George Blagdon Westcott was an officer of the Royal Navy. He served during the American Revolutionary and the French Revolutionary Wars, eventually rising to the rank of Captain...

, who was killed by French musket fire. Lieutenant Robert Cuthbert assumed command and successfully disentangled his ship, allowing the badly damaged Majestic to drift further southwards so that by 20:30 it was stationed between Tonnant and the next in line Heureux, engaging both. To support the centre, Captain Thompson of Leander abandoned the futile efforts to drag the stranded Culloden off the shoal and sailed down the embattled French line, entering the gap created by the drifting Peuple Souverain and opening a fierce raking fire on Franklin and Orient.

While the battle raged in the bay, the two straggling British ships made strenuous efforts to join the engagement, focusing on the flashes of gunfire in the darkness. Warned away from the Aboukir shoals by the grounded Culloden, Captain Benjamin Hallowell in Swiftsure passed the melee at the head of the line and aimed his ship at the French centre. Shortly after 20:00, a dismasted hulk was spotted drifting in front of Swiftsure and Hallowell initially ordered his men to fire before rescinding the order, concerned for the identity of the strange vessel. Hailing the battered ship, Hallowell received the reply "Bellerophon, going out of action disabled." Relieved that he had not accidentally attacked one of his own ships in the darkness, Hallowell pulled up between Orient and Franklin and opened fire on them both. Alexander, the final unengaged British ship that had followed Swiftsure, pulled up close to Tonnant, which had begun to drift away from the embattled French flagship. Captain Alexander Ball then joined the attack on Orient.

Destruction of Orient

At 21:00, a fire was observed on the lower decks of the Orient. Identifying the danger this posed to the French flagship, Captain Hallowell directed his gun crews to fire their cannon directly into the blaze. Sustained British cannon fire spread the flames throughout the ship's stern, and prevented all efforts to extinguish it. Within minutes the flames had ascended the rigging and set the vast sails alight. The nearest British ships, Swiftsure, Alexander and Orion, all stopped firing, closed their gunports and began edging away from the blazing ship in anticipation of the detonation of the enormous ammunition supplies stored on board. In addition, fire parties were taken away from the guns and soaked the sails and decks in seawater to help contain any resulting blazes. Likewise the French ships Tonnant, Heureux and Mercure
French ship Mercure (1783)
The Mercure was a 74-gun Séduisant-class ship of the line of the French Navy.She took part in the Battle of the Nile under Captain Cambon. She fought against HMS Majestic and was captured by HMS Alexander. Damaged beyond repair and aground, she was burnt.-See also:*List of ships captured in the...

all cut their anchor cables and drifted southwards away from the blazing ship. At 22:00 the fire reached the magazines
Magazine (artillery)
Magazine is the name for an item or place within which ammunition is stored. It is taken from the Arabic word "makahazin" meaning "warehouse".-Ammunition storage areas:...

 and the Orient was almost completely destroyed by a massive explosion. The concussion of the blast alone was sufficient to rip open the seams of the nearest ships, and flaming wreckage landed in a huge circle, much of it flying directly over the surrounding ships into the sea beyond. Swiftsure, Alexander and Franklin were all set alight by falling wreckage although in each case teams of sailors with water buckets succeeded in extinguishing the flames, despite a secondary explosion on Franklin.
It has never been firmly established how the fire on Orient broke out, but one common account is that jars of oil and paint had been left on the poop deck
Poop deck
In naval architecture, a poop deck is a deck that forms the roof of a cabin built in the rear, or "aft", part of the superstructure of a ship.The name originates from the French word for stern, la poupe, from Latin puppis...

, rather than properly stowed away after paintwork on the ship's hull had been completed shortly before the battle. Burning wadding
Wadding
Wadding is a disc of material used in guns to seal gas behind a projectile or to separate powder from shot.Wadding can be crucial to a gun's efficiency, since any gas that leaks past a projectile as it is being fired is wasted. A harder or more carefully designed item which serves this purpose is...

 from one of the British ships is believed to have floated onto the poop deck and ignited the paint. The fire rapidly spread through the admiral's cabin and into a ready magazine that stored carcass
Carcass (projectile)
A carcass was an early form of incendiary bomb or shell, intended to set targets on fire. It comprised an external casing, usually of cast iron, filled with a highly flammable mixture, and having three to five holes through which the burning filling could blaze outward...

 ammunition that was designed to burn more fiercely in water than in air. Conversely, Fleet Captain Honoré Ganteaume later reported the cause as an explosion on the quarterdeck, preceded by a series of minor fires on the main deck among the ship's boats. Whatever its origin, the fire spread rapidly though the ship's rigging, unchecked by the fire pumps aboard which had been smashed by British shot. A second blaze then began at the bow, trapping hundreds of sailors in the ship's waist. Subsequent archaeological investigation found debris scattered over 500 metres (546.8 yd) of seabed and evidence that the ship was wracked by two huge explosions one after the other. Although hundreds of men dived into the sea to escape the flames, fewer than 100 survived the blast: approximately 70 survivors were picked up by British boats, including the wounded staff officer Léonard-Bernard Motard
Léonard-Bernard Motard
Léonard-Bernard Motard was a French naval officer and eventually contre-amiral.Motard enlisted in the French Navy in 1786. He was promoted to ensign in 1791, to lieutenant in 1793, and to capitaine de frégate in 1797...

. Very few others, including Ganteaume, managed to reach the shore on rafts. The remainder of the crew, numbering over a thousand men, were killed, including Captain Luc-Julien-Joseph Casabianca
Luc-Julien-Joseph Casabianca
See Casabianca for other meaningsLuc-Julien-Joseph Casabianca was a French Navy officer.- Career :...

 and his twelve year old son Giocante.

For ten minutes after the explosion there was no firing; sailors from both sides were either too shocked by the blast or desperately extinguishing fires aboard their own ships to continue the fight. During the lull, Nelson gave orders that boats be sent to pull survivors from the water around the remains of Orient. At 22:10, Franklin restarted the engagement by firing on Swiftsure. Isolated and battered, Blanquet's ship was soon dismasted and the admiral, suffering a severe head wound, was forced to surrender by the combined firepower of Swiftsure and Defence. More than half of Franklin's crew had been killed or wounded. By 24:00 only Tonnant remained engaged, as Commodore Aristide Aubert Du Petit Thouars
Aristide Aubert Du Petit Thouars
Aristide Aubert Du Petit Thouars was a French naval officer, and a hero of the Battle of Aboukir, where he died....

 continued his fight with Majestic and fired on Swiftsure when the British ship moved within range. By 03:00, after more than three hours of close quarter combat, Majestic had lost its main and mizzen masts while Tonnant was a dismasted hulk. Although Captain Du Petit Thouars had lost both legs and an arm he remained in command, insisting on having the tricolour nailed to the mast to prevent it from being struck and giving orders from his position propped up on deck in a bucket of wheat. Under his guidance, the battered Tonnant gradually drifted southwards away from the action to join the southern division under Villeneuve. Throughout the engagement the French rear had kept up an arbitrary fire on the battling ships ahead. The only noticeable effect was the smashing of Timoléon
French ship Commerce de Bordeaux (1785)
The Commerce de Bordeaux was a Téméraire class 74-gun ship of the line of the French Navy.Renamed Timoléon in February 1794, she took part in the Battle of the Nile under captain Louis-Léonce Trullet. In the confusion of the battle, her rudder was damaged by misdirected fire from the neighbouring...

s rudder by misdirected fire from the neighbouring Généreux.

Morning

As the sun rose at 04:00 on 2 August, firing broke out once again between the French southern division of Guillaume Tell, Tonnant, Généreux and Timoléon and the battered Alexander and Majestic. Although briefly outmatched, the British ships were soon joined by Goliath and Theseus. As Captain Miller manoeuvred his ship into position, Theseus briefly came under fire from the frigate Artémise
French frigate Artémise (1794)
The Artémise was a Magicienne class frigate of the French Navy.She was under construction as Aurore in Toulon when the British seized the city...

. Miller turned his ship towards Artémise, but Captain Pierre-Jean Standelet struck his flag and ordered his men to abandon the frigate. Miller sent a boat under Lieutenant William Hoste
William Hoste
Captain Sir William Hoste, 1st Baronet KCB RN , Royal Navy captain, was the son of Dixon Hoste, rector of Godwick and Tittleshall in Norfolk...

 to take possession of the empty vessel, but Standelet had set fire to his ship as he left and Artémise blew up shortly afterwards. The surviving French ships of the line, covering their retreat with gunfire, gradually pulled to the east away from the shore at 06:00. Zealous pursued, and was able to prevent the frigate Justice
French frigate Justice (1794)
The Justice was a Virginie class frigate of the French Navy, originally built and completed as Courageuse in 1794, but renamed Justice in April 1795....

from boarding Bellerophon, which was anchored at the southern point of the bay undergoing hasty repairs.

Two other French ships still flew the tricolour, but neither was in a position to either retreat or fight. When Heureux and Mercure had cut their anchor cables to escape the exploding Orient, their crews had panicked and neither captain (both of whom were wounded) had managed to regain control of their ship. As a result, both vessels had drifted onto the shoal. Stranded and defenceless, the ships were attacked by Alexander, Goliath, Theseus and Leander and both surrendered within minutes. The distractions provided by Heureux, Mercure and Justice allowed Villeneuve to bring most of the surviving French ships to the mouth of the bay at 11:00. However the dismasted Tonnant, Commodore Du Petit Thouars now dead from his wounds and thrown overboard at his own request, was unable to make the required speed and was driven ashore by its crew, while Timoléon was too far south to escape with Villeneuve and in attempting to join the survivors had also grounded on the shoal. The force of the impact dislodged the ship's foremast. The remaining French vessels: the ships of the line Guillaume Tell and Généreux and the frigates Justice and Diane
French frigate Diane (1796)
The Diane was a 38-gun frigate of the French Navy.She took part in the Battle of the Nile, managing to escape to Malta with the Justice....

, formed up and stood out to sea, pursued by Zealous. Despite strenuous efforts, Captain Hood's isolated ship came under heavy fire and was unable to cut off the trailing Justice as the French survivors escaped seawards.

For the remainder of 2 August Nelson's ships made improvised repairs and boarded and consolidated their prizes. Culloden especially required assistance: having finally dragged his ship off the shoal at 02:00, Troubridge found that he had lost his rudder and was taking on over 120 long tons (122 MT) of water an hour. Emergency repairs to the hull and fashioning a replacement rudder from a spare topmast took most of the next two days. On the morning of 3 August, Nelson sent Theseus and Leander to force the surrender of the grounded Tonnant and Timoléon. The Tonnant, its decks crowded with 1,600 survivors from other French vessels, surrendered as the British ships approached while Timoléon was set on fire by her remaining crew who then escaped to the shore in small boats. Timoléon exploded shortly after midday, the eleventh and final French ship of the line destroyed or captured during the battle.

Aftermath

British casualties in the battle were recorded with some accuracy in the immediate aftermath as 218 killed and approximately 677 wounded, although the number of wounded who subsequently died is not known. The ships that suffered most were Bellerophon with 201 casualties and Majestic with 193, while other than Culloden the lightest loss was on Zealous, which had one man killed and seven wounded. The casualty list includes Captain Westcott, five lieutenants and ten junior officers among the dead and Admiral Nelson, Captains Saumarez, Ball and Darby and six lieutenants wounded. Other than Culloden, the only British ships seriously damaged in their hulls were Bellerophon, Majestic and Vanguard, while Bellerophon and Majestic were the only ships to lose masts: Majestic the main and mizzen and Bellerophon all three. French casualties are harder to calculate but were significantly higher. Estimates of French losses range from 2,000 to 5,000, with a suggested median point of 3,500 which includes over a thousand captured wounded and nearly 2,000 killed, half of which died on Orient. In addition to Admiral Brueys killed and Admiral Blanquet wounded, four captains died and seven others were seriously wounded. The French ships suffered severe damage: two ships of the line and two frigates were destroyed (as well as a bomb vessel scuttled by its crew), and three other captured ships were too battered to ever sail again. Of the remaining prizes, only three were ever sufficiently repaired for frontline service.

For weeks after the battle, bodies washed up along the Egyptian coast, decaying slowly in the intense dry heat.

Nelson, who on surveying the bay on the morning of 2 August said "Victory is not a name strong enough for such a scene", remained at anchor in Aboukir Bay for the next two weeks, preoccupied with recovering from his wound, writing dispatches and assessing the military situation in Egypt using documents captured on board one of the prizes. Nelson's head wound was recorded as being "three inches long", with "the cranium exposed for one inch". He suffered pain from the injury for the rest of his life and was badly scarred, styling his hair to disguise it as much as possible. As their commander recovered, his men stripped the wrecks of useful supplies and made repairs to their ships and prizes. Throughout the week, Aboukir Bay was surrounded by bonfires, lit by Bedouin tribesmen in celebration of the British victory. On 5 August, Leander was despatched to Cadiz
Cádiz
Cadiz is a city and port in southwestern Spain. It is the capital of the homonymous province, one of eight which make up the autonomous community of Andalusia....

 with messages for Earl St. Vincent carried by Captain Edward Berry. Over the next few days all but 200 of the captured prisoners were landed on shore under strict terms of parole
Parole
Parole may have different meanings depending on the field and judiciary system. All of the meanings originated from the French parole . Following its use in late-resurrected Anglo-French chivalric practice, the term became associated with the release of prisoners based on prisoners giving their...

, although Bonaparte later ordered them to be formed into an infantry unit and added to his army. On 8 August the fleet's boats stormed Aboukir Island, which surrendered without a fight. The landing party removed four of the guns and destroyed the rest along with the fort they were mounted in, renaming the island "Nelson's Island".

On 10 August Nelson sent Lieutenant Thomas Duval from Zealous with messages to the government in India. Duval travelled across the Middle East overland via Aleppo
Aleppo
Aleppo is the largest city in Syria and the capital of Aleppo Governorate, the most populous Syrian governorate. With an official population of 2,301,570 , expanding to over 2.5 million in the metropolitan area, it is also one of the largest cities in the Levant...

 and took a ship from Basra
Basra
Basra is the capital of Basra Governorate, in southern Iraq near Kuwait and Iran. It had an estimated population of two million as of 2009...

 to Bombay, acquainting Governor-General of India
Governor-General of India
The Governor-General of India was the head of the British administration in India, and later, after Indian independence, the representative of the monarch and de facto head of state. The office was created in 1773, with the title of Governor-General of the Presidency of Fort William...

 Viscount Wellesley
Richard Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley
Richard Colley Wesley, later Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley, KG, PC, PC , styled Viscount Wellesley from birth until 1781, was an Anglo-Irish politician and colonial administrator....

 with the situation in Egypt. On 12 August the frigates HMS Emerald under Captain Thomas Moutray Waller, HMS Alcmene
HMS Alcmene (1794)
HMS Alcmene was a 32-gun Alcmene-class fifth rate of the Royal Navy. This frigate served during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars under the command of several notable officers. Alcmene was active in several theatres of the war, spending most of her time cruising in search of enemy...

 under Captain George Johnstone Hope
George Johnstone Hope
Rear-Admiral Sir George Johnstone Hope, KCB was a British naval officer, who served with distinction in the Royal Navy throughout the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, including service at the Battle of Trafalgar...

 and HMS Bonne Citoyenne under Captain Robert Retalick arrived off Alexandria. Initially the frigate squadron was mistaken for French warships and chased away by Swiftsure, returning the following day once the error had been realised. The same day as the frigates arrived, Mutine was sent to Britain with despatches under the command of Lieutenant Thomas Bladen Capel
Thomas Bladen Capel
Admiral Sir Thomas Bladen Capel GCB RN was an officer in the British Royal Navy whose distinguished service in the French Revolutionary War, the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812 earned him rapid promotion and great acclaim both in and out of the Navy...

, who had replaced Hardy after the latter's promotion to captain of Vanguard. On 14 August, Nelson sent Orion, Majestic, Bellerophon, Minotaur, Defence, Audacious, Theseus, Franklin, Tonnant, Aquilon, Conquérant, Peuple Souverain and Spartiate to sea under the command of Saumarez. Many ships had only jury masts and it took a full day for the convoy to reach the mouth of the bay, finally sailing into open water on 15 August. On 16 August the grounded prize Heureux was set on fire and destroyed as no longer fit for service and on 18 August Guerrier and Mercure were also burnt. On 19 August, Nelson sailed for Naples with Vanguard, Culloden and Alexander, leaving Hood in command of Zealous, Goliath, Swiftsure and the recently joined frigates to watch over French activities at Alexandria.

The first message to reach Bonaparte regarding the disaster that had overtaken his fleet arrived on 14 August at his camp on the road between Salahieh and Cairo
Cairo
Cairo , is the capital of Egypt and the largest city in the Arab world and Africa, and the 16th largest metropolitan area in the world. Nicknamed "The City of a Thousand Minarets" for its preponderance of Islamic architecture, Cairo has long been a centre of the region's political and cultural life...

. The messenger was a staff officer sent by the Governor of Alexandria General Jean Baptiste Kléber
Jean Baptiste Kléber
Jean Baptiste Kléber was a French general during the French Revolutionary Wars. His military career started in Habsburg service, but his plebeian ancestry hindered his opportunities...

, and the report had been hastily written by Admiral Ganteaume, who had subsequently rejoined Villeneuve's ships at sea. One account reports that when he was handed the message, Bonaparte read it without emotion before calling the messenger to him and demanding further details. When the messenger had finished, the French general reportedly announced "Nous n'avons plus de flotte: eh bien. Il faut rester en ces contrées, ou en sortir grands comme les anciens" ("We no longer have a fleet: well, we must either remain in this country or quit it as great as the ancients"). Another story, as told by the general's secretary Bourienne
Louis Antoine Fauvelet de Bourrienne
Louis Antoine Fauvelet de Bourrienne , French diplomat, was born at Sens.He was educated at the military school of Brienne in Champagne along with Napoleon Bonaparte; and although the solitary habits of the latter made intimacy difficult, the two youths seem to have been on friendly terms...

 claims that Bonaparte was almost overcome by the news and exclaimed "Unfortunate Brueys, what have you done!" Bonaparte later placed much the blame for the defeat on the wounded Admiral Blanquet, falsely accusing him of surrendering Franklin while his ship was undamaged. Protestations from Ganteaume and Minister Étienne Eustache Bruix later reduced the degree of criticism Blanquet faced, but he never again served in a command capacity. Bonaparte's most immediate concern however was with his own officers, who began to question the wisdom of the entire expedition. Inviting his most senior officers to dinner, Bonaparte asked them how they were. When they replied that they were "marvellous", Bonaparte responded that it was just as well, since he would have them shot if they continued "fostering mutinies and preaching revolt." To quell any uprising among the native inhabitants, Egyptians overheard discussing the battle were threatened with having their tongues cut out.

Reaction

Nelson's first set of dispatches were captured when Leander was intercepted and defeated by Généreux in a fierce engagement off the western shore of Crete on 18 August 1798
Action of 18 August 1798
The Action of 18 August 1798 was a minor naval engagement of the French Revolutionary Wars, fought between the British fourth rate ship HMS Leander and the French ship of the line Généreux...

. As a result, reports of the battle did not reach Britain until Capel arrived in Mutine on 2 October, entering the Admiralty at 11:15 and personally delivering the news to Lord Spencer, who collapsed unconscious when he heard the report. Although Nelson had previously been castigated in the press for failing to intercept the French fleet, rumours of the battle had begun to arrive in Britain from the continent in late September and the news Capel brought was greeted with celebrations right across the country. Within four days Nelson had been elevated to Baron Nelson of the Nile and Burnham Thorpe, a title with which he was privately dissatisfied, believing his actions deserved better reward. King George III
George III of the United Kingdom
George III was King of Great Britain and King of Ireland from 25 October 1760 until the union of these two countries on 1 January 1801, after which he was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland until his death...

 addressed the Houses of Parliament
Parliament of Great Britain
The Parliament of Great Britain was formed in 1707 following the ratification of the Acts of Union by both the Parliament of England and Parliament of Scotland...

 on 20 November with the words:
Saumarez's convoy of prizes stopped first at Malta, where Saumarez provided assistance to a rebellion on the island among the Maltese population
Maltese people
The Maltese are an ethnic group indigenous to the Southern European nation of Malta, and identified with the Maltese language. Malta is an island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea...

. It then sailed to Gibraltar, where Peuple Souverain was deemed too badly damaged for the Atlantic voyage to Britain and was converted to a guardship under the name of HMS Guerrier. The remaining prizes underwent basic repairs and then sailed for Britain, eventually arriving at Plymouth
Plymouth
Plymouth is a city and unitary authority area on the coast of Devon, England, about south-west of London. It is built between the mouths of the rivers Plym to the east and Tamar to the west, where they join Plymouth Sound...

. Their age and battered state meant that neither Conquérant nor Aquilon were considered fit for active service in the Royal Navy and both were subsequently hulked, although they had been bought into the service for £20,000 (the equivalent of £ as of ) each as HMS Conquerant and HMS Aboukir to provide a financial reward to the crews that had captured them. Similar sums were also paid out for Guerrier, Mercure, Heureux and Peuple Souverain, while the other captured ships were worth considerably more. Built of Adriatic oak
Oak
An oak is a tree or shrub in the genus Quercus , of which about 600 species exist. "Oak" may also appear in the names of species in related genera, notably Lithocarpus...

, Tonnant had been built in 1792 and Franklin and Spartiate were less than a year old. Tonnant and Spartiate, both of which later fought at the Battle of Trafalgar
Battle of Trafalgar
The Battle of Trafalgar was a sea battle fought between the British Royal Navy and the combined fleets of the French Navy and Spanish Navy, during the War of the Third Coalition of the Napoleonic Wars ....

, joined the Royal Navy under their old names while Franklin, considered to be "the finest two-decked ship in the world", was renamed HMS Canopus.

Additional awards were presented to the British fleet: Nelson was awarded £2,000 (£ as of ) a year for life by the Parliament of Great Britain and £1,000 per annum by the Parliament of Ireland
Parliament of Ireland
The Parliament of Ireland was a legislature that existed in Dublin from 1297 until 1800. In its early mediaeval period during the Lordship of Ireland it consisted of either two or three chambers: the House of Commons, elected by a very restricted suffrage, the House of Lords in which the lords...

, although the latter was inadvertently discontinued after the Act of Union
Act of Union 1800
The Acts of Union 1800 describe two complementary Acts, namely:* the Union with Ireland Act 1800 , an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain, and...

 dissolved the Irish Parliament. Both parliaments gave unanimous votes of thanks, each captain who served in the battle was presented with a specially minted gold medal and the first lieutenant of every ship engaged in the battle was promoted to commander. Although initially excluded and even though they did not directly participate in the engagement, Troubridge and his men were given equal shares in the awards after Nelson personally interceded for the crew of the stranded Culloden. The Honourable East India Company presented Nelson with £10,000 (£ as of ) in recognition of the benefit his action had on their holdings and similar awards were made by the cities of London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, Liverpool
Liverpool
Liverpool is a city and metropolitan borough of Merseyside, England, along the eastern side of the Mersey Estuary. It was founded as a borough in 1207 and was granted city status in 1880...

 and other municipal and corporate bodies. From his own captains, Nelson was presented with a sword and a portrait as "proof of their esteem". Nelson publicly encouraged this close bond with his officers and on 29 September 1798 described them as "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers", echoing William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

's play Henry V
Henry V (play)
Henry V is a history play by William Shakespeare, believed to be written in approximately 1599. Its full titles are The Cronicle History of Henry the Fifth and The Life of Henry the Fifth...

. From this grew the notion of the Nelsonic Band of Brothers, a cadre of high-quality naval officers that served with Nelson for the remainder of his life. Nearly five decades later the battle was among the actions recognised by a clasp attached to the Naval General Service Medal, awarded upon application to all British participants still living in 1847.

Other rewards were bestowed by foreign states, particularly the Ottoman Emperor Selim III
Selim III
Selim III was the reform-minded Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1789 to 1807. The Janissaries eventually deposed and imprisoned him, and placed his cousin Mustafa on the throne as Mustafa IV...

, who made Nelson the first Knight Commander of the newly created Order of the Crescent
Order of the Crescent
The Imperial Order of the Crescent was a chivalric order of the Ottoman Empire. It was instituted in 1799 by Sultan Selim III when he wished to reward Horatio Nelson, an Anglican Christian, for his victory at the Battle of the Nile...

, presented him with a diamond aigrette
Aigrette
The term aigrette refers to the tufted crest or head-plumes of the egret, used for adorning a woman's headdress. The word may also identify any similar ornament, in gems. Aigrettes, studded with diamonds and rubies, decorated the turbans of Ottoman sultans or the ceremonial chamfron of their horses...

, a diamond studded Rose, a sable fur and numerous other valuable presents. Tsar Paul I of Russia
Paul I of Russia
Paul I was the Emperor of Russia between 1796 and 1801. He also was the 72nd Prince and Grand Master of the Order of Malta .-Childhood:...

 sent, among other rewards, a gold box studded with diamonds and similar gifts in silver arrived from other European rulers. On his return to Naples, Nelson was greeted with a triumphal procession led by King Ferdinand IV and Sir William Hamilton and was introduced for only the third time to Sir William's wife Emma, Lady Hamilton
Emma, Lady Hamilton
Emma, Lady Hamilton is best remembered as the mistress of Lord Nelson and as the muse of George Romney. She was born Amy Lyon in Ness near Neston, Cheshire, England, the daughter of a blacksmith, Henry Lyon, who died when she was two months old...

, who fainted violently at the meeting, and apparently took several weeks to recover from her injuries. Lauded as a hero by the Neapolitan court, Nelson was later to dabble in Neapolitan politics and become the Duke of Bronté, actions for which he was criticised by his superiors and his reputation suffered. British general John Moore, who met Nelson in Naples at this time, described him as "covered with stars, medals and ribbons, more like a Prince of Opera than the Conqueror of the Nile."

Rumours of a battle first appeared in the French press as early as 7 August, although credible reports did not arrive until 26 August, and even these claimed that Nelson was dead and Bonaparte a British prisoner. When the news became certain, the French press insisted that the defeat was the result both of an overwhelmingly large British force and unspecified "traitors." Among the anti-government journals in France, the defeat was blamed on the incompetence of the French Directory and on supposed lingering Royalist sentiments in the Navy. Villeneuve came under scathing attack on his return to France for his failure to support Brueys during the battle. In his defence, he pleaded that the wind had been against him and that Brueys had not issued orders for him to counterattack the British fleet. Writing many years later, Bonaparte commented that if the French Navy had adopted the same tactical principles as the British:
By contrast, the British press were jubilant; many newspapers sought to portray the battle as a victory for Britain over anarchy, and the success was used to attack the supposedly pro-republican Whig politicians Charles James Fox
Charles James Fox
Charles James Fox PC , styled The Honourable from 1762, was a prominent British Whig statesman whose parliamentary career spanned thirty-eight years of the late 18th and early 19th centuries and who was particularly noted for being the arch-rival of William Pitt the Younger...

 and Richard Brinsley Sheridan
Richard Brinsley Sheridan
Richard Brinsley Butler Sheridan was an Irish-born playwright and poet and long-term owner of the London Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. For thirty-two years he was also a Whig Member of the British House of Commons for Stafford , Westminster and Ilchester...

.

There has been extensive historiographical debate over the comparative strengths of the fleets, although they were ostensibly evenly matched in size, each containing 13 ships of the line. However the loss of Culloden, the relative sizes of Orient and Leander and the participation in the action by two of the French frigates and several smaller vessels, as well as the theoretical strength of the French position, leads most historians to the conclusion that the French were marginally more powerful. This is accentuated by the weight of broadside of several of the French ships: Spartiate, Franklin, Orient, Tonnant and Guillaume Tell were each significantly larger than any individual British ship in the battle. However the French ships were hampered by their inadequate deployment, reduced crews and the failure of the rear division under Villeneuve to meaningfully participate, all of which contributed to their defeat.

Effects

The Battle of the Nile has been called "arguably, the most decisive naval engagement of the great age of sail", and "the most splendid and glorious success which the British Navy gained." Historian and novelist C. S. Forester
C. S. Forester
Cecil Scott "C.S." Forester was the pen name of Cecil Louis Troughton Smith , an English novelist who rose to fame with tales of naval warfare. His most notable works were the 11-book Horatio Hornblower series, depicting a Royal Navy officer during the Napoleonic era, and The African Queen...

, writing in 1929, compared the Nile to the great naval actions in history and concluded that "it still only stands rivalled by Tsu-Shima
Battle of Tsushima
The Battle of Tsushima , commonly known as the “Sea of Japan Naval Battle” in Japan and the “Battle of Tsushima Strait”, was the major naval battle fought between Russia and Japan during the Russo-Japanese War...

 as an example of the annihilation of one fleet by another of approximately equal material force". The effect on the strategic situation in the Mediterranean was immediate, reversing the balance of the conflict and giving the British control at sea that they maintained for the remainder of the war. The destruction of the French Mediterranean fleet allowed the Royal Navy to return to the sea in force, as British squadrons set up blockade
Blockade
A blockade is an effort to cut off food, supplies, war material or communications from a particular area by force, either in part or totally. A blockade should not be confused with an embargo or sanctions, which are legal barriers to trade, and is distinct from a siege in that a blockade is usually...

s off French and allied ports. In particular, British ships cut Malta off from France, aided by the rebellion among the native Maltese population that forced the French garrison to retreat to Valetta and shut the gates. The ensuing Siege of Malta lasted for two years before the defenders were finally starved into surrender. In 1799, British ships harassed Bonaparte's army as it marched east and north through Palestine
Palestine
Palestine is a conventional name, among others, used to describe the geographic region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and various adjoining lands....

, and played a crucial part in Bonaparte's defeat at the Siege of Acre
Siege of Acre (1799)
The Siege of Acre of 1799 was an unsuccessful French siege of the Ottoman-defended, walled city of Acre and was the turning point of Napoleon's invasion of Egypt and Syria.-Background:...

, when the barges carrying the siege train were captured and the French storming parties were bombarded by British ships anchored offshore. It was during one of these latter engagements that Captain Miller of Theseus was killed in an ammunition explosion. The defeat at Acre forced Bonaparte to retreat to Egypt and effectively ended his efforts to carve an empire in the Middle East. The French general returned to France without his army late in the year, leaving Kléber in command of Egypt.

The Ottomans, with whom Bonaparte had hoped to conduct an alliance once his control of Egypt was complete, were encouraged by the Battle of the Nile to go to war with France. This led to a series of campaigns that slowly sapped the strength from the French army trapped in Egypt. Also encouraged by the British victory were the Austrian Empire
Austrian Empire
The Austrian Empire was a modern era successor empire, which was centered on what is today's Austria and which officially lasted from 1804 to 1867. It was followed by the Empire of Austria-Hungary, whose proclamation was a diplomatic move that elevated Hungary's status within the Austrian Empire...

 and the Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

, both of whom were mustering armies as part of a Second Coalition, which declared war on France in 1799. With the Mediterranean undefended, a Russian fleet entered the Ionian Sea
Ionian Sea
The Ionian Sea , is an arm of the Mediterranean Sea, south of the Adriatic Sea. It is bounded by southern Italy including Calabria, Sicily and the Salento peninsula to the west, southern Albania to the north, and a large number of Greek islands, including Corfu, Zante, Kephalonia, Ithaka, and...

, while Austrian armies recaptured much of the Italian territory lost to Bonaparte in the previous war. Without their best general and his veterans, the French suffered a series of defeats and it was not until Bonaparte returned to become First Consul that France once again held a position of strength on mainland Europe. In 1801 the demoralised remains of the French army in Egypt were defeated by a British Expeditionary Force; the Royal Navy used their dominance in the Mediterranean to invade Egypt without the fear of ambush while anchored off the Egyptian coast.

In spite of the overwhelming British victory in the climactic battle, the campaign has sometimes been considered a strategic success for France. Historian Edward Ingram
Edward Ingram (historian)
Edward Ingram, PhD is a prominent Anglo-Canadian historian of the British Empire, long-time former editor of the International History Review, and emeritus professor at Simon Fraser University...

 has noted that if Nelson had successfully intercepted Bonaparte at sea as ordered, the ensuing battle could have annihilated both the French fleet and the transports. As it was, Bonaparte was free to continue the war in the Middle East and later to return to Europe personally unscathed. The potential of a successful engagement at sea to change the course of history is underscored by the list of French army officers carried aboard the convoy who later formed the core of the generals and marshals under Emperor Napoleon. In addition to Bonaparte himself, Louis Alexandre Berthier
Louis Alexandre Berthier
Louis Alexandre Berthier, 1st Prince de Wagram, 1st Duc de Valangin, 1st Sovereign Prince de Neuchâtel , was a Marshal of France, Vice-Constable of France beginning in 1808, and Chief of Staff under Napoleon.-Early life:Alexandre was born at Versailles to Lieutenant-Colonel Jean Baptiste Berthier ,...

, Auguste de Marmont, Jean Lannes
Jean Lannes
Jean Lannes, 1st Duc de Montebello, was a Marshal of France. He was one of Napoleon's most daring and talented generals. Napoleon once commented on Lannes: "I found him a pygmy and left him a giant"...

, Joachim Murat
Joachim Murat
Joachim-Napoléon Murat , Marshal of France and Grand Admiral or Admiral of France, 1st Prince Murat, was Grand Duke of Berg from 1806 to 1808 and then King of Naples from 1808 to 1815...

, Louis Desaix, Jean Reynier
Jean Reynier
Jean Louis Ebénézer Reynier rose in rank to become a French army general officer during the French Revolutionary Wars. He led a division under Napoleon Bonaparte in the French Campaign in Egypt and Syria...

, Antoine-François Andréossy
Antoine-François Andréossy
Antoine-François, comte Andréossy was a French general and diplomat of noble origin and Italian descent.-Biography:...

, Jean-Andoche Junot
Jean-Andoche Junot
Jean-Andoche Junot, 1st Duke of Abrantès was a French general during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.-Early life:...

, Louis-Nicolas Davout and Dumas
Guillaume Mathieu, comte Dumas
Guillaume Mathieu, comte Dumas was a French general.-Biography:Born in Montpellier, France of a noble family, he joined the French army in 1773 and entered upon active service in 1780, as aide-de-camp to Rochambeau in the American Revolutionary War. He had a share in all the principal engagements...

 were all passengers on the cramped Mediterranean crossing
Mediterranean campaign of 1798
The Mediterranean campaign of 1798 was a series of major naval operations surrounding a French expeditionary force sent to Egypt under Napoleon Bonaparte during the French Revolutionary Wars. The French Republic sought to capture Egypt as the first stage in an effort to threaten British India, and...

.

Legacy

The Battle of the Nile remains one of the Royal Navy's most famous victories, and has remained prominent in the British popular imagination, sustained by its depiction in a large number of cartoons, paintings, poems and plays. One of the best known poems about the battle is Casabianca
Casabianca (poem)
Casabianca is a poem by British poet Felicia Dorothea Hemans, first published in the New Monthly Magazine for August 1826.The poem opens:-History:...

, which was written by Felicia Dorothea Hemans in 1826 and describes a fictional account of the death of Captain Casabianca's son on Orient. Monuments were raised, including Cleopatra's Needle
Cleopatra's Needle
Cleopatra's Needle is the popular name for each of three Ancient Egyptian obelisks re-erected in London, Paris, and New York City during the nineteenth century. The London and New York ones are a pair, while the Paris one comes from a different original site where its twin remains...

 in London. The monument was given by Muhammad Ali of Egypt
Muhammad Ali of Egypt
Muhammad Ali Pasha al-Mas'ud ibn Agha was a commander in the Ottoman army, who became Wāli, and self-declared Khedive of Egypt and Sudan...

 in 1819 in recognition of the battle of 1798 and the campaign of 1801 but not erected on the Victoria Embankment
Victoria Embankment
The Victoria Embankment is part of the Thames Embankment, a road and river walk along the north bank of the River Thames in London. Victoria Embankment extends from the City of Westminster into the City of London.-Construction:...

 until 1878. Another memorial, the Nile Clumps
Nile Clumps
The Nile Clumps are a series of tree clumps near Amesbury on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, England, purportedly planted to commemorate the Battle of the Nile.-Background:...

 near Amesbury
Amesbury
Amesbury is a town and civil parish in Wiltshire, England. It is most famous for the prehistoric monument of Stonehenge which is in its parish, and for the discovery of the Amesbury Archer—dubbed the King of Stonehenge in the press—in 2002...

, are stands of beech
Beech
Beech is a genus of ten species of deciduous trees in the family Fagaceae, native to temperate Europe, Asia and North America.-Habit:...

 trees purportedly planted by Lord Queensbury
Charles Douglas, 6th Marquess of Queensberry
Charles Douglas, 6th Marquess of Queensberry, KT was a Scottish peer.Douglas was the first son and heir of Sir William Douglas, Bt, and his wife, Grace, née Johnstone. He inherited his father's baronetcy in 1783...

 at the bequest of Lady Hamilton and Thomas Hardy after Nelson's death. The trees form a plan of the battle; each clump represents the position of a British or French ship. A similar arboreal memorial is thought to have been planted near Alnwick
Alnwick
Alnwick is a small market town in north Northumberland, England. The town's population was just over 8000 at the time of the 2001 census and Alnwick's district population was 31,029....

 by Nelson's agent Alexander Davison
Alexander Davison
Alexander Davison was an English businessman, born on 2 April 1750 in Lanton, Northumberland, England and who died in 1829 in Brighton, England. He was a contemporary and close friend of Admiral Lord Nelson....

. In the Royal Navy the battle has been commemorated by the ship names HMS Aboukir
HMS Aboukir
Four ships of the Royal Navy have borne the name HMS Aboukir, after Abu Qir Bay, the site of the Battle of the Nile:*HMS Aboukir was a 74-gun third-rate ship of the line, formerly the French ship Aquilon. She was captured by the British at the Battle of the Nile in 1798 and broken up in 1802...

 and HMS Nile
HMS Nile
Three ships of the Royal Navy have borne the name HMS Nile, after the Battle of the Nile in 1798: was a 12-gun cutter purchased in 1806. She was sold in 1810, but was rejected by the purchaser and subsequently broken up in 1811. was a 92-gun second rate ship of the line launched in 1839...

 and in 1998 the 200th anniversary of the battle was commemorated by a visit to Aboukir Bay by the modern frigate HMS Somerset
HMS Somerset (F82)
HMS Somerset is a Type 23 frigate of the Royal Navy.Somerset is the eleventh of the class to join the fleet since 1989. She was built by Yarrow Shipbuilders Ltd on the River Clyde, in Scotland and was launched in June 1994 by Lady Elspeth Layard, wife of then 2nd Sea Lord Admiral and...

, whose crew laid wreaths in memory of those who lost their lives in the battle.

Although Nelson's biographer Ernle Bradford
Ernle Bradford
Ernle D. S. Bradford was a noted 20th century British historian specializing in the Mediterranean world and naval topics. A keen yachtsman himself, Bradford spent almost 30 years sailing the Mediterranean, and many of his books are set there. His book, The Journeying Moon describes some of these...

 assumed in 1977 that the remains of Orient "are almost certainly unrecoverable", the first archaeological investigation into the battle began in 1983, when a French survey team under Jacques Dumas discovered the wreck of the French flagship. The work was later taken over by Franck Goddio
Franck Goddio
Franck Goddio is a French underwater archaeologist. After studying at the École Nationale de la Statistique et de l'Administration Économique in Paris, from which he holds a degree in mathematics and statistics, Franck Goddio held key positions as advisor for national and international...

, who led a major project to explore the bay in 1998. He found that material was scattered over an area 500 metres (546.8 yd) in diameter, and in addition to military and nautical equipment recovered a large number of gold and silver coins from countries across the Mediterranean, some from the seventeenth century. It is likely that these were part of the treasure taken from Malta that was lost in the explosion aboard Orient. In 2000, an excavation focusing on ancient ruins on Nelson's Island under Italian archaeologist Paolo Gallo uncovered a number of graves that date from the battle, as well as others buried there during the 1801 invasion. These graves, which included a woman and three children, were relocated in 2005 to a cemetery at Shatby in Alexandria. The reburial was attended by sailors from the modern frigate HMS Chatham
HMS Chatham (F87)
HMS Chatham was a Batch 3 Type 22 frigate of the British Royal Navy. She has the rare honour of a motto in English; Up and at 'em, being the rallying cry of the Medway town football and rugby teams. The motto has subsequently been translated back into Latin as Surge et vince...

 and a band from the Egyptian Navy, as well as a descendant of the only identified burial, Commander James Russell.
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