Battle of the Nile, 1798

Orient explodes during the Battle of the Nile, 1 August, 1798. Original painting by George Arnald, in the collection of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.

Location Aboukir Bay, Nile River, Egypt

In an effort to undermine British power indirectly, Napoleon proposed an invasion of Egypt in 1797. It was believed that the British would be unable to respond, due to withdrawing their Mediterranean fleet in the face of war with Spain, and commitments elsewhere. However, as the French squadron lay in Aboukir Bay in the Nile River on 1 August, 1798, Admiral Horatio Nelson showed up. There were thirteen French ships of the line and four frigates anchored along the shore, in what would normally have been a solid defensive position. However this was Nelson. He also had thirteen ships of the line, but only a fourth-rater and a sloop for support. In a night attack, Nelson's force attacked from both sides of the anchored French line, engaging the enemy with two British ships on each Frenchman, aside from the flagship Orient, which had three. The British worked their way down the French line, dominating the engagement. Orient blew up when fires reached her magazine. In the end, only two french frigates and two ships of the line escaped. Two more of each were destroyed, and nine ships of the line were captured. Between 2,000 and 5,000 Frenchmen became casualties, with over 1,000 of them from Orient. British casualties were comparatively light, with only 218 killed, and another 677 wounded, including Nelson, who was wounded in the head. The victory restored domination in the Mediterranean to the Royal Navy, and ensured the ultimate defeat of Napoleon's Egyptian campaign. Nelson was also made a Baron, and became well known throughout Europe.