[1798] - Battle of the Nile; Nelson victorious over the French

The Battle of the Nile was fought between the British and French fleets at Aboukir Bay off the Egyptian coast from 1 to 3 August 1798. On 20 May Napoleon had sailed from Toulon at the head of a large expeditionary force that sought to seize Egypt as a colony and then go on to threaten British rule in India. After capturing Malta on 12 June, he sailed for Egypt with a British fleet under the command of Rear-Admiral Horatio Nelson in pursuit. The French fleet reached the Egyptian coast on 1 July and the city of Alexandria was taken the following day. As Napoleon began his march on Cairo, Nelson searched in vain for the French fleet. Finally, on 29 July, Nelson received reliable information and sailed for Aboukir Bay, 20 miles to the northeast of Alexandria. When he arrived on 1 August and saw the formation of the French fleet he ordered an immediate attack. He thus took the French by surprise, attacking them at speed in the centre of their ranks, contrary to orthodox naval practice at the time. The leading French ships were compelled to surrender and, at around 10 p.m., the flagship with the French commander Vice-Admiral François-Paul Brueys D’Aigalliers on board exploded. As dawn broke the next morning the extent of the British victory became apparent. Although most of the British ships were damaged, none had been lost. In contrast, the French fleet had been decimated. Consequently, Admiral Villeneuve signalled a retreat on one of the most convincing naval victories ever seen. Nelson’s victory established his reputation as a naval commander. Furthermore, it enabled the Royal Navy to dominate the Mediterranean for the rest of the war, and left Napoleon’s forces isolated in Egypt.

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