THE FRENCH CAMPAIGN IN EGYPT

THEFRENCH CAMPAIGN IN EGYPT 1798-1801 PartI - HtstorlcalIntrodsctlon by StephenEde-Borrett freezing theircoatsonlyto Iind themselves The reasonsbehind...
Author: Rodger Osborne
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THEFRENCH CAMPAIGN IN EGYPT 1798-1801 PartI - HtstorlcalIntrodsctlon by StephenEde-Borrett freezing theircoatsonlyto Iind themselves The reasonsbehindthe Frenchattackon Egypt in 1798are sun.Manydiscarded various,complex,and not all of a mililary nature. at night. The Army was unusedto the exlremesof a desert wasseen climate. Bonapafte,heroof thevictoriousItaliancampaigns, On July 13th at Shebreketthe Frenchhad their first real by the Directorsin Parisasa rival andthusto gethim out of the way (andEgypt waspretty far out of the way!) seemedlike a encounterwiththe Mamelukes'.The Frenchdeployedinto six goodidea.Coupledwith thiswasthe hopethat if Turkeycould great squares,six men deep with guns at the comers.The be Dersuaded to enterthe waron the Frenchsidethenit would Mamelukeswere braveif not lacticallyadeptand launcheda takepressureoff the Frencharmiesby divertingAust an and seriesof headlongcavalrychargesstraightat the French.The Russiantrcopsto theTurkishfronl- Thesereasons alliedtothe result was almost a foregoneconclusion,the attackswere French"dream"ofa MiddleEastemEmpire,(whichwentback completely broken by disciplined musketry and eventuallythe wereforcedtoretirefromthefield.TheFren€hhad to rhe Middle Ages- even Louis XIV had contemplated an Mamelukes invasion of Egypt) was sufficient to persuadethe Paris lost thirty men, Mamelukelossesare unknown. on towardsCairoandreachedthe Nile on plans. Bonapartepressed Covemmentto give its blessingto Bonaparte's SincetheTreatyofCampo-FormiotheveteranArmy ofltaly July 21st and here in the shadow of the Pyramidsthe had beenidle andit wasfrom thisArmy that the Army of the Mamelukeshad massedtheir army. The best estimatesput the Mamelukesat around 6-8000 Orientwaschosen'. wasBonaparte,with Berthieras cavalryand, perhaps,40,000foot. Theselatter mostly the The Commander-in-Chief Egyptianfellaheen. hisChiefof Staffand his brother,Louis,andstepson,Eugene semi-feudal Beforethe battlebeganBonaparteis allegedto havegiven de Beauhamais, as his Aides. The Generalsof Divisionwere "Soldiels, forty c€nturiesof hhtory Vaubois, D'Hilliers, Desaix, Kl6ber, Menou, Reynier and the speechwith its famous or not it Dugua.The Generalsof BrigadeincludedLannes,Davoutand look downon you" content.whether thisis anecdotal Murat and amongstthe Colonels were Marmont, Junot, probably expressesBonaparte's feelings for there can have Bessidresand Lefebvre-Desnouettes. Truly this was a be€n fewer more spectacularbackdropsfor a battle than the Pyramidsof Giza. NapoleonicArmy in the making. Again Frenchtacticsweresimple- the Divisionsformed huge Bonapa(earrivedin Toulonon May 9th andwhenthe fleet andawaitedtheMamelukeondaught.The Mamelukes sailedon May 19th it comprised15 Shipsof the Line, 15 squares Frigates,7 Corvettes,30 asso(edsmalllightly'armedvessels, obligedthe invadersand lalnched,asat Shebreket,a seriesof and some400 transportscarrying betweenthirty'six and forty massedcavalrychargesstraightat the Frenchsquares.The however,wasin horses- infantry were left within their hastily thrown-up defencesand thousandmen.The greatestshortage, only 1230wereembarked,and of these700werereservedfor ignored. the experienced Frenchinfantrykepttheirnerve Predictably the useof the Staff! On June9th the fleetanivedoff Malta.Therewasnextto no and mo*ed down the Mamelukeattacks,iust as the British resistanceand in thrce daysthe Frenchhad occupiedthe whole wereto do to the Frenchcavalryal Waterloo17 yearslater. Eventually the Mamelukes were forced to break off their island. General Vaubois was aDDointedGovernor and a garrisonwasinstalled'.D'Hilliers_was sentbackto Pariswith action - it seemsdoubtful if the Maneluke infantry had even MuradBeyledhalfofthe Mamelukearmysouth beenengaged. the capturedtrophies. whilst Ibrahim Bey, who had spentmuchof the battleon the the Fren€h Naval Commander, then Admiral Brueys, bank of the Nile - the east,took his to intercept wrong(or at leastsaJest) skiltullyevadedthe British squadrondespatched towardsSinai. by noneotherthanHoratioNelson)andsix forcessouth-west him (commanded French casualtieswere less than five hundred (Mameluke weeks later on June 30th the fleet anchored safely off casualtiesare again unknown) and by nightfall they were in of Cairo.Bonapartehad haltedonly long enoughto On 2ndJulythe DivisionsofBon, Menou,andKleberledthe possesion assaultashoreand immediatelystormedthe City's somewhat fight the battle and bury his few dead. ln Cairo Bonapa(e now set about organizing a form of out of datedefen€es. Within twenty-fourhoursthe entireCity for the Egt?tian people- whetherthey wanted self-government wasunderFrenchcontrol. Bonapanespent a few days restinghis men after their Meanwhile,but outsidethe scopeof thisarticle,Nelsonhad undoubtablyuncomfortablevoyageand it was thus not until July 8th that the Army moved out towardsCairo. Kl6ber atlastfoundtheFrenchfleetat anchorinAboukirBay,and,ina remainedasGovernorof Alexandria,theFrenchbasefor much daring attack, known as th€ Battle of the Nile, comPletely with destroyedit - and with it Bonaparte'scommunications of the restof the campaign. It now becameapparentthat the Army was totally unpre parcd for the Egypriansummer- they were still in their In mid-August the Turks declaredwar on France.The whole andbicornes, French stmtegy was falling apart. There was a revolt in Cairo Europeanuniformsof heavywoolwith bearskins neitherof which offeredany protectionagainstthe Egyptian whichBonaDarte.no doubt with memodesof the Padsmob,

suppressed btoodily. Menou'spositionwashopeless, but he heldout for aslongas with onlyAlexandrialeft under Desaixhad beendespatched into UpperEgypt in punuit of hewasableuntil in September, MuradBey.Followingthe courseofthe Nile, the mainarterial Frenchcontrol, the Army capitulatedwholesale-The terms routeof Egypt, DesaixpursuedMurad Bey as far as the first w€reg€nerous(whichmay demonstrate how muchof a threat cataractsupportedby a flotilla of gunboats.The Mameluke theFrenchstill represented) and,althoughall horsesweretobe wereto be transported commander hadleamt from histwo battlesagainstthe French handedover,the menandtheirweapons howeverand retusedto fight a third, contentinghimselfwith back to France,along with the rno(al remainsof General hit-and-runtacticsand a guerillawar. Kl6ber. (Although militarily for Francethe expeditionhad beena Ibrahim Bey had by now reached Palestineand, after and recruitinghisarmyfrom locallypurchased slaves,(whoproved completefailure the great number of archaeologists to be goodsoldiers!)Bonapartefollowedin January1799.By scientists whoaccompanied Bonapartecontributedenormously now the French were also leaming and had water-bottles to the studyof Eglpt's ancientpast and gaveus the Rosetta "issued"and had adoptedcottonuniformsand a lightweight Stone.) helmetwith neckcoverr. The invasionwentwell. By the endof Februarythe Turkish ORDERSOF BATTLE OF fon at El Arish hadfall€nto the French- all survivorsof the THE FRENCH ARMY garrisonwere put to the sword, in an attemptto cow other Turkishgarrisons into submisson. Gaza fell threedayslaterand The Army of the Ori€nt, Jurc 3{hh 1798. on March4th the FrencharmywasbeforeJaffa.Threedaysof Commanderin Chief: GeneralNapoleonBonapane bombardment andan assaultandthistowntoo fell-BonaDarte's Chiefof Staff:Generalof DivisionBerthier communiquero rhe Direclory giv€s 1200of rhe garrironas Commandero{ Engineers:CeneralCafarelli-Dufalga executedafter the storm. Command€r ot Anille'y. CeneralDommanil The next objectivewas Acre, but here a British squadron under Sir SidneySmith aided the defence.This stiffening, Headquners: coupledwith the lossofthe sieg€train, capturedby the British Mounted Guides5(3 troops 120 men), commandedby fleet, wasenoughto keepout the French. Bessiares The SiegeofAcre lasted62 daysandincluded40assaults and Foot Guides(3 coys- 300men?),commandedby Bessieres 26 salliesby the garrison.Eventuallyon l4th May with a Foot Artillery (888men) Turkish relief Army approachingit was abandonedand the HorseArtillery (485men) Army retreatedto Egypt. Sappers(776men) ln Egypt neanwhilean Anglo-Russian fleet was landinga Miners(192men) TurkishArmy of 18,000 nen underMustaphaPasha. TheTurks Balloonists(25 men) stormedtheFort at Aboukiranddroveout Marmont\ sarrison. Ensineers(164men) Inexplicablv Musrapha rhendid nolhingbut warLfor rh; French NavalLesion'(3 bns c.3000men) counter-attack. He did not wait long-on July 25thBonaparte attackedwith 12,000men. Murat led a massedcavlarycharge Adyafted currd:General of Divhion Desaix whichsmashed throughtheTurkishdefences andhe personally Brigadiers:Belliard& Frianl capturedMustaphaPasha.The subsequentinfantry assault 6lst Deni-Bngadede Bataille( 3 bns- 1800men) threw rhe Turks back into the seawith heavylosses. 88thDemi-Brigadede Bataille( 3 bns- 1500men) Seeingthew tingon thewallBonapartedecidedat thispoint 2lst Demi'BrigadeL€gare(3 bns- 2000men) that therewasno moreGlory in Egyptandreturnedto France with his"Slaff'. Kl€berassumed commandofthe Armyofthe Right Wing: Generalof DivisionReynier Orient. On 9th O€tober1799BonaDarte wasbackin France. Brigadie^:Damas& Verdier The Army ofthe Orientwasnow in an unenviableposition, 9th Derni-Brigade de Bataille(3 bns- 1509men) althoughsomesupplieswere beingshippedin (whentheycould 85thDemFBrigade de Baraille(J bns- 1720men) run the RoyalNavyblockadeof France)by directorderof Fint Mahesetrgron' (2 bns- 1500men) ConsulBonaparte. On March 7th 1800 Kl€ber, with 12,000men, defeated Cenlre:Generalof DivisionKtdber anotherMameluke/Turkish Arny of 70.000menar Heliopolis; Brigadiers:Lann€s& Lanusse but Kl€ber hinself was assassinated in Cairo shorrly after- 25thDemiBrigadede Bataille(3 bns- 1530m€n) Command of the army devolved onto Menou, a good 75thDemiBrigadede Bataille(3bns- 1700men) admjnistratorbut an incompetentfield commander. 2nd Demi-BrigadeL€gare(3 bns- 1368men) On March 4th, however,a British army under Sir Ralph Abercrombyhadstormedashoreat AboukirBay,albeitagainst Left Wing: Generalof DivisionMenou stiff oppositionfrom the Frenchgarlisonthere,and wasnow Brigadiers:Vial & Mireur firmlyemplaced in Eglpr andin KIeber