The Nile

1 August 1798

Naval Art of Paul Deacon
British order of battle
French order of battle

Having unsuccessfully tried to catch the French fleet on its way to Egypt, Britain's Admiral Nelson finally got within cannon shot at Aboukir Bay.

Nelson had 13 ships under his command, four fewer than Admiral Brueys d'Aigalliers, who felt protected by land batteries and rocks.

As soon as he saw the French Nelson set to them, but first his vessels had to brave fire from the battery placed on Aboukir Island.

Having got past those guns, the British then exploited poor positioning by Brueys d'Aigalliers, who had allowed too much room at the head of his line, and sailed down the unmanned shore-side of the first French ships, pummeling them with little fear of return fire.

Other arriving vessels also took advantage of similar gaps in the French line and even the mighty 120-gun L'Orient was in desperate trouble. It had forced the nearly sinking Bellerophon out of the battle but, at 10pm, the French flagship exploded after being set upon by a pack of British ships.

The Nile was a stunning victory for Nelson with only four enemy vessels escaping.


Courage and determination have never been more impressively characterised than those of Aristide Aubert Dupetit-Thouars, captain of the Tonnant, during the Battle of the Nile. Thouars had his right arm shot away, then the left and finally one of his legs was taken off by a cannonball. Refusing to give up command, he insisted on being put in a tub of bran that was on deck and led his men until he collapsed from blood loss. One of his final orders was to nail the Tricolour to the mast so it could not taken down in surrender.

Letter from Napoleon Bonaparte to Admiral Breuys' widow



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