24 July 1799
The First Battle of Aboukir was a decisive victory for the French and secured France's occupation of Eqypt. In June 1798 Napoleon's army departed France to conquer Egypt, then a province of the Ottoman Empire. Eluding the Royal Navy en route, Napoleon achieved important victories at the Battle of Chobrakit and the Battle of the Pyramids. However, the Battle of the Nile saw the French navy routed and its fleet sunk by the Royal Navy under Horatio Nelson. After the Ottoman Empire declared war on France in September 1798 and facing an Anglo-Turkish alliance, Napoleon decided the strike first and marched his armies into Palestine to confront the Ottomans in Syria. However, after unsuccessfully laying siege to Acre (now Akko in modern Israel) from March to May 1799, Napoleon retreated to Egypt. By this stage his force was considerably weakened, particularly by bubonic plague, though his defeat of the first Ottoman army of Syria at Mt. Tubor on 16 April allowed him to march into Cairo triumphant on 14 June. One month later, on 14 July, the second Ottoman army landed at Aboukir, transported south from Acre by an Anglo-Turkish fleet. Inexplicably, the Ottoman force under Mustafa Pasha decided the dig in, giving Joachim Murat, the French commander at Alexandria, time to call for Napoleon's reinforcements from Cairo. The French recognized the weakness in the Ottoman strategy, that if they could be routed from their two defensive lines, they would have nowhere to hide. Consequently, Napoleon launched a cavalry charge at the centre and both flanks of the line, quickly overrunning the first. The second proved more difficult and the French briefly retreated. The Ottoman forces then exposed themselves when they left the safety of the line to attack the wounded on the battlefield. When they were overrun by French cavalry, they were literally forced into the sea where thousands of Ottoman soldiers died trying to swim to the British fleet 2 miles off shore. The Battle of Aboukir is remembered for securing the French occupation of Eqypt and increasing General Napoleon's popular standing in France, greatly assisting him mount his coup d'etat in November before declaring himself emporer of France. The battle is also remembered for being one of the few battles in history where opposing commanders met in personal combat. Murat's charge across the second Ottoman line was so fast that he found himself face to face with the Ottoman commander. Mustapha fired a single pistol shot at Murat striking him in the jaw, before Murat sliced off two of Mustapha's fingers. Both men survived the encounter, Murat subsequently marrying Napoleon's daughter and receiving various titles and awards from the French emporer, while Mustapha briefly reigned as sultan of the Ottoman empire.