Napoleon's Egyptian Campaign (3)

1798 to 1801

Map of Campaign

In a pressure cooker situation, Bonaparte and his officers debated for almost a week over the fate of those who broke their bond and finally decided they would be executed. Some 4500 men were killed.

Plague again broke out in the army and again Bonaparte showed great bravery in attending the sick and dying.

Advancing to Acre, he then discovered that his army's large-calibre siege guns had been captured by a British naval officer, Sir William Sidney Smith, and the delays at El Arish and Jaffa had allowed his enemies to fully prepare the strong fortress before him to withstand an assault.

On 28 March, Bonaparte launched an assault that succeeded in getting inside the walls, but a counterattack by Djezzar Pasha threw them out again.

A man with no mercy, Djezzar - "the Butcher" as he was known - then proceeded to slaughter hundreds of Christian prisoners inside the city.

Bonaparte now found himself tied to a difficult siege and with enemy forces encircling his small army.

Sending out strong detachments under generals Junot, Murat and Kleber, Bonaparte knew he was in some trouble.

On 5 April, Junot beat off an attack near Nazareth and when Kleber was sent to reinforce him, he found his own 1500 troops facing 35,000 men under the Pasha of Damascus.

The resulting battle of Mt Tabor was one of the great episodes in the annals of the French army, with Kleber holding the enemy off for 10 hours. The arrival of Bonaparte with a division of reinforcements threw the Turks into chaos and they fled.

The victory at Mt Tabor did not help with the siege at Acre, which dragged on into May.

The nearest Bonaparte came to capturing the city was on 8 May when General Jean Lannes led a heroic assault that penetrated the walls, only to discover that a second line of defences made going any further impossible. Lannes was almost killed in the day-long attack, the eighth unsuccessful one launched, and it forced Bonaparte to finally accept that his visions of capturing Syria would not succeed.

Returning to Cairo in early June, Bonaparte then made secret plans to return to France.

He still had one more battle to be fought in Egypt, however, and at Aboukir where Mustapha Pasha's 15,000 men faced Bonaparte's 10,000. The battle was decided when General Joachim Murat led the French cavalry against the enemy commander and captured him.

On 22 August, Bonaparte sailed for France with his closest friends and supporters. Behind him he left his French army, under Kleber, he sailed for his home.


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