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Napoleon - The Quest For Egypt

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From Wikipedia

Napoleon

The Egyptian Campaign

(1798 - 1801)
was Napoleon Bonaparte's unsuccessful campaign in Egypt and Syria to protect French trade interests and undermine Britain's access to India. Despite several victories and an expedition into Syria, Napoleon and his Armée d'Orient were eventually forced to withdraw by local hostility, British naval power, Turkish elite new infantry units (Nizam-ı Cedid) and politics in Paris.

In August 1797, Napoleon Bonaparte proposed a military expedition to seize Egypt, then a province of the Ottoman Empire, in a letter to the Directory, seeking to protect French trade interests and undermine Britain's access to India. Bonaparte wished to establish a French presence in the Middle East, with the ultimate dream of linking with a Muslim enemy of the British in India, Tippoo Sahib. Napoleon assured to the Directoire that "as soon as he had conquered Egypt, he will establish relations with the Indian princes and, together with them, attack the English in their possessions." According to a 13 February 1798 report by Talleyrand: "Having occupied and fortified Egypt, we shall send a force of 15,000 men from Suez to India, to join the forces of Tipu-Sahib and drive away the English." The Directory agreed to the plan in March 1798. Though troubled by the enterprise's scope and cost, they readily agreed to the plan in order to remove the popular general from the center of power.

At the beginning of the campaign, Napoleon's expedition seized Malta from the Knights of Saint John on June 9 and then landed successfully at Alexandria on July 1, eluding, for the time being, detection by the Royal Navy.

After landing on the coast of Egypt, Napoleon's force of 25,000 fought off a force of about 21,000 Mamelukes in the Battle of the Pyramids (appr. 40,000 Mameluk soldiers stayed away from the battle) approximately nine miles (15 km) from the pyramids. He defeated the Mamluk cavalry using a larger version of the common infantry square, with cannons and supplies safely on the inside. In all 300 French and approximately 6,000 Egyptians were killed.

While the battle on land was a resounding victory for the French, the British navy managed to compensate at sea. The ships that had dropped off Napoleon and his army had sailed back to France, but a fleet of ships of the line that had come with them stayed and supported the army along the coast. On August 1, the British fleet found these battleships anchored in a strong defensive position in the Bay of Abukir. The French believed that they were open to attack only on one side, the other side being protected by the shore. However, during the Battle of the Nile the arriving British fleet under Horatio Nelson managed to slip half of their ships in between the land and the French line, thus attacking from both sides. All but two of the French vessels were captured or destroyed. Napoleon became land-bound. His goal of strengthening the French position in the Mediterranean Sea was thus frustrated, but his army nonetheless succeeded in consolidating power in Egypt, although it faced repeated nationalist uprisings.

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