March 8

This Day in History

General Interest

Mar 8, 1801:

Anglo-Ottoman force takes Abukir Bay

During the Napoleonic Wars, combined British and Ottoman forces successfully establish a foothold in French-occupied Egypt at Abukir Bay. In taking the strategic naval port, some 1,100 British soldiers perished, including Sir Ralph Abercromby, the commander of the amphibious operation.

In the summer of 1798, French General Napoleon Bonaparte and his Army of the Orient landed at Abukir, an Egyptian bay between Alexandria and the Rosetta mouth of the Nile. Napoleon intended Egypt to serve as a launching point for his attacks on British interests in India. His army won a brilliant victory over Egyptian forces at the Battle of the Pyramids in July, but in September, British Admiral Horatio Nelson destroyed the French fleet in Abukir Bay and left Napoleon's forces trapped in Egypt.

The Ottoman Empire, of which Egypt was a province, subsequently allied itself with Great Britain and declared war on France. In July 1799, the French repulsed Ottoman forces attempting to land at Abukir.

Later that year, Napoleon abandoned his army, evaded the British Royal Navy blockade, and traveled back to France to join in a coup against the French revolutionary government. While Napoleon assumed the leadership of France and set about defending the country against a coalition of European powers, his Army of the Orient struggled to hold on to Egypt. In March 1801, an Anglo-Turkish force successfully landed at Abukir Bay, and in September Napoleon lost Malta to the British, compelling him to restore Egypt to the Ottoman Empire in 1802.

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