18-19 June, the French fleet left Malta and marched to the shores of North Africa. On board the flagship life was in full swing: the commander of the expedition, as usual, worked from early morning. Scientists, researchers, officers gathered in his cabin for lunch. After dinner, lively debates and discussions took place. Napoleon almost always suggested topics: these were questions of religion, political structure, the structure of the planet, etc. 30 June showed the shores of Africa. 2 July at Marabou, near Alexandria, the army hastily, but in perfect order, was landed. Immediately the troops came out and after a few hours were at Alexandria. The French entered the city. The French fleet, under the command of Admiral Bruisce d'Egalle, remained near Alexandria, having received the order of the commander-in-chief to find a passage deep enough for the battleships to the harbor of the city, where they would be safe from a possible attack by the British fleet.
The most dangerous in the campaign - a long journey across the sea, left behind. For more than forty days the French armada was at sea, she passed it from west to east and from north to south, but never met the British. On land, Napoleon and his soldiers were not afraid of anything; they felt that they were an army of victors. Where were the English? Has the “insidious Albin” been deceived by the rather simple misinformation resorted to by the French government and its agents?
In fact, the French fleet saved a chain of accidents. Napoleon was really born under a lucky star. Nelson was sent strong reinforcements from 11 of the battleships (under his command was a squad of 3 battleships, 2 frigates and 1 corvette) and an order from Admiral Jervis to follow the French everywhere in the Mediterranean and even in the Black Sea.
17 May Nelson was already close to Toulon and learned about the composition of the French fleet. However, on the day of the release of the French fleet a strong storm broke out, the ships of Nelson, including the flagship, were badly battered, which caused the admiral to retreat to Sardinia. The English frigates, who had lost sight of the flagship, decided that heavy damage forced him to seek refuge in some English port, stopped reconnaissance and went in search of him. The French flotilla came out on May 19 and, with a fair wind, approached Corsica, where 2 half-brigade of General Vobois landed on the ships.
Nelson fixed the damage for several days and May 31 approached Toulon, where he learned about the departure of the French expedition. But having lost frigates, the British command could not collect any information even about the direction the enemy had gone. In addition, there was a calm, Nelson lost a few more days. On June 5, Nelson’s squad found a reconnaissance brig sent forward by Captain Trowbridge, who led a squadron of battleships, and on June 11 the admiral became the head of a strong fleet of 14 battleships. Hoping to find the enemy fleet, Nelson drew up an attack plan: two 2 divisions on the 5 battleships were to attack the forces of the French admiral Bruisse (the 13 battleships, the 6 frigates), and the 3 division from the 4 ships, under the command of Trowbridge, was to be destroyed. transports.
Nelson, not knowing about the direction of the movement of the French fleet, searched the Italian coast. He visited the island of Elba, June 17 approached Naples, where the English envoy Hamilton suggested that Napoleon could go to Malta. 20 June, the British fleet passed the Strait of Messina, where Nelson learned of the capture of Malta by Napoleon. 21 June Nelson was only 22 miles from the French fleet, but he wasn’t aware of this and went southwest. Napoleon continued to carry. June 22 from a passing commercial vessel, Nelson found out that the enemy had already left Malta and was heading east. This confirmed the admiral's thought that the enemy was heading towards Egypt. Nelson rushed in pursuit, wanting to overtake and destroy the hated enemy.
The fate of the campaign to Egypt hung in the balance, but happiness again came to the French commander to help. Nelson had only warships, and he swept across the sea at such a speed that he overtook the much more sluggish French armada, north of Crete. In addition, Nelson had no frigates, and he could not conduct a full-fledged reconnaissance. 24 June Nelson overtook the French fleet and 28 June approached Alexandria, but the raid was empty, nobody knew about the French and did not expect them to appear. Nelson considered that the French, while he was off the coast of Africa, were storming Sicily, entrusted to his defense, or went to Constantinople. The British squadron rushed off again, and the French 2 July landed troops at Alexandria. The French did not manage to avoid the battle at sea, but only to delay its beginning. It was clear that the British would soon return.
Napoleon in Egypt
Egypt at this time, de jure, was the possession of the Ottoman sultans, but in fact they were melted by the military caste-estate of the Mamluks, Mamelukes (Arabic— “white slaves, slaves”). These were by origin the Turkic and Caucasian warriors who constituted the guard of the last Egyptian rulers from the Ayyubid dynasty (1171 — 1250). The number of horse guards at different times ranged from 9 to 24 thousand horsemen. In 1250, the Mamluks overthrew the last Sultan of the Ayyubid dynasty of Turan Shah and seized power in the country. The Mamluks controlled the best lands, the main government positions and all profitable enterprises. The Mamluk Beys paid some tribute to the Ottoman Sultan, recognized his supremacy, but practically did not depend on Constantinople. The Arabs, the main population of Egypt, were engaged in trade (among them were large merchants associated with international trade), crafts, agriculture, fishing, caravan services, etc. The most oppressed and inferior social group were the Copts-Christians, the remnants of the pre-Arab population of the region.
Bonaparte, after a minor skirmish, occupied Alexandria, this vast and then quite rich city. Here he pretended that he was fighting not with the Ottomans, on the contrary, he had deep peace and friendship with Turkey, and the French came to free the local population from oppression from the Mamluks. Bonaparte already on July 2 addressed the Egyptian people with an appeal. In it, he said that the Bei, who dominate Egypt, insult the French nation and subject it to merchants (merchants) and the time for revenge has come. He promised to punish the "usurpers" and said that he respects God, his prophets and the Koran. The French commander urged the Egyptians to trust the French, to unite with them, to throw off the yoke of the Mamluks and create a new, more equitable order.
The first actions of Napoleon showed how carefully he thought over the military and political details of the Egyptian operation. Many future activities of Napoleon and his associates in Egypt were also noted with that rationality and efficiency. But Napoleon, preparing for the campaign in Egypt, seriously miscalculated in the field of the psychology of the local population. In Egypt, like Italy, he hoped to find the masses of a disadvantaged, oppressed and dissatisfied population, which would become his social basis for conquering and retaining the region. However, Napoleon miscalculated. A slaughtered and impoverished population was present, but it was at such a low level of development that it didn’t matter to anyone who dominated the country - Mamelukes, Ottomans or Europeans. The question was in the military power of the new conquerors and the ability to retain the seized territory. All appeals to fight the feudal lords-beys simply did not reach the consciousness of the population, the fellahs were not yet able to perceive them.
As a result, Napoleon was in Egypt without social support, in the end, this destroyed all the plans of the French commander. In its strategic plans 35-th. the French army was to be the core, the vanguard of the great army of liberation, into which the inhabitants of Egypt, Syria, Persia, India, the Balkans would join. The great march on the East should have led to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the influence of the British in the region. In Egypt, the population was indifferent to his calls. Reforms of anti-feudal order did not give him the support of the local population. The narrow nature of the operation could not lead to the realization of the grandiose plans for the transformation of the East conceived by Napoleon. Napoleon's army could smash the enemy and capture large territories, but the problem was in retaining the conquered. The French were removed from their bases and under the rule of the British fleet at sea, sooner or later they were doomed to defeat.
Antoine-Jean Gros. The Battle of the Pyramids (1810).
Bonaparte did not linger in Alexandria, a strong 10-thousand was left in the city. garrison under Kleber. On the night of July 4, the French avant-garde (4,6-thousand Deze division) advanced towards Cairo. Of the two roads: through Rosetta and further up the Nile River and through the Damangur (Damakur) desert, connected by Romagna, the French commander-in-chief chose the last, shorter path. Behind the advance guard, the divisions of Bon, Rainier and Menou moved. The latter took command of the district of Rosetta, in the Rosetta itself was left 1-thousand. garrison. At the same time, the division of General Dugas (formerly Kleber) traveled through Abukir to Rosetta, so that she should proceed from there to Romagna, accompanied by a flotilla of light vessels carrying ammunition and provisions along the Nile. July 9 from Alexandria departed with the headquarters and Bonaparte himself. Before that, he ordered Admiral Bruece, who was heading for Abukir, not to linger there, and move to Corfu or enter the port of Alexandria.
Crossing the desert was very hard. The soldiers suffered from the scorching rays of the African sun, the difficulties of moving through the hot sands of the desert, and the lack of water. Local residents, who were told that the infidels want to turn everyone into slaves, left their squalid villages. Often the wells were spoiled. The scourge of the army was dysentery. Mamelukes occasionally disturbed the French army with their raids. Napoleon was in a hurry, he knew that the enemy had to be smashed before the flood of the Nile, since during the flood the whole area in Cairo would be a swamp, which would extremely complicate the task of destroying the main enemy forces. The commander wanted to break the resistance of the enemy in one general battle.
On July 9, the French reached Damakura and the next day made their way to Romagna. 13 July the French broke the Mamluks at the village of Shebrais. Here, the French commanders used against the brave enemy cavalry to build in a square - each division lined up in a square, on the flanks of which was artillery, and the horsemen and carts inside. The Mamluks retreated to Cairo.
Battle of the pyramids
When the minarets of Cairo were already visible in the distance, in front of the French 20-thousand An army appeared Mameluke cavalry. 20 July 1798, the French army reached the village of Vardan, here the commander gave the troops a two-day rest. The soldiers had to eat a little and tidy themselves up. At the end of the second day, reconnaissance reported that the Mamluk army under the command of Murad Bey and Ibrahim Bey was preparing for a battle at the camp near the village of Imbaba. Napoleon began to prepare the army for the general battle. The French troops, having made the 12 hour march, saw the pyramids.
The Turkish-Egyptian army of Murad and Ibrahim occupied a position that adjoined the Nile with the right wing and the pyramids with the left. On the right flank, the fortified position was occupied by the Janissaries and foot militias with 40 cannons; in the center were the best forces of Egypt - the cavalry corps of the Mamelukes, noble Arabs, on the left flank - the Arab Bedouins. Part of the Turkish-Egyptian army under the command of Ibrahim was on the east bank of the Nile. The river itself was closed around 300 ships. Watch the battle and gathered the inhabitants of Cairo. The exact number of the Turkish-Egyptian army is unknown. Kircheisen reports on 6 thousand Mamelukes and 15 thousand Egyptian infantry. Napoleon in his memoirs talks about 50 thousand polnichische Turks, Arabs, Mamelukes. Thousands of people in 60, including 10 thousand Mameluke horsemen and 20-24 thousand janissaries, are also reported. In addition, it is obvious that only part of the Turkish-Egyptian army participated in the battle. Apparently, the number of the army of Murad was approximately equal to the French, or slightly exceeded it. Much of the Egyptian army did not participate in the battle at all.
Before the battle, Napoleon addressed the soldiers with a speech in which he uttered his famous phrase: “Soldiers, forty centuries stories they look at you! ”Apparently, the soldiers played a significant role in the high morale of the soldiers in the hope of a quick rest in Cairo. The army was divided into 5 quads. Napoleon's headquarters conducted reconnaissance and quickly found out the enemy’s weak points: the main Mameluk camp at Imbaby (Embaheh) was poorly fortified, the artillery was immobile, the enemy infantry could not support the cavalry, so Napoleon did not attach much importance to the enemy infantry. It was necessary first of all to crush the Mameluke cavalry in the center.
Around 15: 30 Murad Bey launched a massive cavalry attack. The advanced divisions Rainier and Deze were surrounded by masses of enemy cavalry, which was led by Murad Bey himself. Mameliukov began to mow rifle artillery fire. The resilient French infantry did not panic and did not flinch in the face of the fierce enemy cavalry. Those individual riders who were able to break through to the very square, died under the blows of bayonets. One squad of Mamelukes, having suffered huge losses, was able to break through the defense of Deze and break into a square, but he was quickly surrounded and killed. For a while, the Mamelukes circled around inaccessible squares, but then, unable to withstand the deadly fire, they retreated. Murad with a part of the detachment retreated to the pyramids of Giza, the other Mamelukes went to the fortified camp.
Simultaneously, the divisions of Bon, Dugu, and Rampon repulsed the attack of the enemy cavalry from the camp from Imbaba. The cavalry retreated to the Nile, in the waters of which many found their doom. Then the enemy camp was captured. The Egyptian infantry from the camp at Imbaba, realizing that the battle was lost, abandoned the camp and began using improvised means and swimming it to the other side of the Nile. Murad’s attempts to break through to the camp were repelled. The Bedouins, standing on the left flank and practically not participating in the battle, hid in the desert. Closer to the night, Murad also retreated, ordering the burning of the ships on the Nile.
It was a complete victory. The Turkish-Egyptian army, according to Napoleon, lost up to 10 thousand people (many of them drowned trying to escape). The losses of the French army were minor - 29 soldiers killed, 260 injured. The Muslim clergy, after the victory of Napoleon, surrendered Cairo without a fight. 24 July 1798, Napoleon entered the Egyptian capital. Murad Bey with 3-thousand detachment retreated to Upper Egypt, where he continued to fight with the French. Ibrahim with a thousand horsemen retreated to Syria.
To be continued ...