Alexandria expedition of 1807

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Alexandria expedition of 1807
Part of Napoleonic Wars and campaigns of Muhammad Ali of Egypt
Fraser in Rosetta.jpg
Battle of Rosetta 1807

Ottoman-Egyptian victory

Flag of the United Kingdom.svg United Kingdom

Flag of the Ottoman Empire.svg  Ottoman Empire

Commanders and leaders
General Alexander Mackenzie-Fraser
Captain Benjamin Hallowell
Muhammad Ali
Umar Makram
6,000 regulars Unknown
Casualties and losses
900 + Unknown

The Alexandria expedition of 1807 or Fraser expedition (Arabic : حملة فريزر) was an operation by the Royal Navy and the British Army during the Anglo-Turkish War (1807–1809) of the Napoleonic Wars to capture Alexandria in Egypt with the purpose of securing a base of operations against the Ottoman Empire in the Mediterranean Sea. It was a part of a larger strategy against the Ottoman-French alliance of the Ottoman Sultan Selim III. [1] It resulted in the occupation of Alexandria from 18 March to 25 September 1807. [2] The people of Alexandria, being disaffected towards Muhammad Ali, opened the gates of the city to the British forces, allowing for one of the easiest conquests of a city by the British forces during the Napoleonic Wars. However, due to lack of supplies, and inconclusive operations against the Egyptian forces, the Expedition was forced to embark the transports again, and leave Alexandria, not having reached any specific goals towards influencing the Ottoman Empire's improving relations with France.

Royal Navy Maritime warfare branch of the United Kingdoms military

The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare force. Although warships were used by the English kings from the early medieval period, the first major maritime engagements were fought in the Hundred Years' War against the Kingdom of France. The modern Royal Navy traces its origins to the early 16th century; the oldest of the UK's armed services, it is known as the Senior Service.

British Army land warfare branch of the British Armed Forces of the United Kingdom

The British Army is the principal land warfare force of the United Kingdom, a part of British Armed Forces. As of 2018, the British Army comprises just over 81,500 trained regular (full-time) personnel and just over 27,000 trained reserve (part-time) personnel.

Napoleonic Wars Series of early 19th century European wars

The Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) were a series of major conflicts pitting the French Empire and its allies, led by Napoleon I, against a fluctuating array of European powers formed into various coalitions, financed and usually led by the United Kingdom. The wars stemmed from the unresolved disputes associated with the French Revolution and its resultant conflict. The wars are often categorised into five conflicts, each termed after the coalition that fought Napoleon: the Third Coalition (1805), the Fourth (1806–07), the Fifth (1809), the Sixth (1813), and the Seventh (1815).


The Expedition commences

The Expedition began in mid-February 1807 when a force of British troops deployed in Calabria and Sicily was ordered by General Fox in Messina [3] to embark on transports with a mission rumoured to be destined for Constantinople while John Thomas Duckworth, appointed second in command of the Mediterranean Fleet, sailed for Constantinople, but he failed to provide effective support for Dmitry Senyavin's Imperial Russian Navy in the Dardanelles Operation. After departure from Constantinople, as an Admiral of the White Squadron [4] he was to rendezvous with the transports in Aboukir Bay. However, by 17 March the fleet of transports with nearly 6,000 British troops embarked on board approached off Alexandria under the command of General Alexander Mackenzie-Fraser. [5]

Calabria Region of Italy

Calabria, known in antiquity as Bruttium, is a region in Southern Italy.

Sicily Island in the Mediterranean and region of Italy

Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and one of the 20 regions of Italy. It is one of the five Italian autonomous regions, in Southern Italy along with surrounding minor islands, officially referred to as Regione Siciliana.

Messina Comune in Sicily, Italy

Messina is the capital of the Italian Metropolitan City of Messina. It is the third largest city on the island of Sicily, and the 13th largest city in Italy, with a population of more than 231,000 inhabitants in the city proper and about 650,000 in the Metropolitan City. It is located near the northeast corner of Sicily, at the Strait of Messina, opposite Villa San Giovanni on the mainland, and has close ties with Reggio Calabria. According to Eurostat the FUA of the metropolitan area of Messina has, in 2014, 277,584 inhabitants.

Occupation of Alexandria

View of Pompey's Pillar with Alexandria in the background in c.1850 View of Pompey's Pillar with Alexandria in the background in c.1850.jpg
View of Pompey's Pillar with Alexandria in the background in c.1850

The appearance of the British transports off Alexandria was unexpected, and 20 March HMS Tigre was able to take two Ottoman frigates, Uri Bahar (40 guns) and Uri Nasard (34 guns), and the corvette Fara Numa (16 guns) on 20 March. [6] [Note 1] HMS Apollo, with nineteen other transports, had separated from the main force on 7 March. They did not participate during the initial landings.

French ship <i>Tigre</i> (1793)

Tigre was a 74-gun ship of the line of the French Navy.

HMS <i>Apollo</i> (1805)

HMS Apollo, the fifth ship of the Royal Navy to be named for the Greek god Apollo, was a fifth-rate frigate of the Lively class, carrying 38 guns, launched in 1805 and broken up in 1856.

The city garrison at this time consisted of Albanian troops, which the French Consul-General Bernandino Drovetti attempted to force to repel the British landing west of the city. [6] [Note 2] Despite the high surf, almost 700 troops with five field guns, along with 56 seamen, commanded by Lieutenant James Boxer, were able to disembark without opposition near the ravine that runs from Lake Mareotis to the sea. [11] These troops breached the palisaded entrenchments at eight in the evening on 18 March. It was fortunate for the attackers that they did not face serious resistance because the lines stretching from Fort des Baines to Lake Mareotis included eight guns in three batteries, and thirteen guns in the fort on the right flank. [6] British casualties were light; however the Pompey Gate (also known as the Pompey's Pillar), was barricaded and defended by about 1,000 troops and armed volunteers, forcing British troops to set up camp to the south. Two detachments were sent to occupy Aboukir Castle, and the "Cut", Qaitbay Citadel, a castle in Alexandria between lakes Maadia and Mareotis. The detachments's mission was to prevent Ottoman reinforcements reaching the city. The next day, 20 March, the rest of the transports appeared off Alexandria, and an Arab messenger was sent with an offer of capitulation that was accepted by the city authorities. Sir John Thomas Duckworth appeared on 22 March, [6] off Alexandria in his flagship HMS Royal George, [12] with a part of his squadron, [11] further bolstering the confidence of the British troops.

Barricade object or structure that creates a barrier or obstacle to control, block passage or force the flow of traffic in a desired direction

Barricade, from the French barrique (barrel), is any object or structure that creates a barrier or obstacle to control, block passage or force the flow of traffic in the desired direction. Adopted as a military term, a barricade denotes any improvised field fortification, such as on city streets during urban warfare.

Abu Qir Place in Alexandria Governorate, Egypt

Abu Qir, formerly also spelled Abukir or Aboukir, is a town on the Mediterranean coast of Egypt, near the ruins of ancient Canopus and 23 kilometers (14 mi) northeast of Alexandria by rail. It is located on Abu Qir Peninsula, with Abu Qir Bay to the east.

Citadel of Qaitbay building in Egypt

The Citadel of Qaitbay is a 15th-century defensive fortress located on the Mediterranean sea coast, in Alexandria, Egypt. It was established in 1477 AD by Sultan Al-Ashraf Sayf al-Din Qa'it Bay. The Citadel is situated on the eastern side of the northern tip of Pharos Island at the mouth of the Eastern Harbour.

On the occupation of the city, Fraser and his staff first heard of the death of Muhammad Bey al-Alfi, upon whose co-operation they had founded their hopes of further success; and messengers were immediately despatched to his successor and other local Beys, inviting them to Alexandria. The British Resident, Major Missett, with support from Duckworth, was able to convince General Mackenzie-Fraser of the importance of occupying Rosetta (Reshee'd) and Rahmanieh (Er-Rahhma'nee'yeh) to secure supplies for Alexandria because they controlled the canal, by which supplies were brought to the city via the Nile. [13]

Bey” is a Turkish title for chieftain, traditionally applied to the leaders or rulers of various sized areas in the Ottoman Empire. The feminine equivalent title was Begum. The regions or provinces where "beys" ruled or which they administered were called beylik, roughly meaning "khanate", "emirate" or "principality" in the first case and "province" or "governorate" in the second.

A resident, or in full resident minister, is a government official required to take up permanent residence in another country. A representative of his government, he officially has diplomatic functions which are often seen as a form of indirect rule.

Rosetta City in Beheira governorate, Egypt

Rosetta is a port city of the Nile Delta, located 65 km (40 mi) east of Alexandria, in Egypt's Beheira governorate.

Front view of Qaitbay Citadel Qaitbay 0005.JPG
Front view of Qaitbay Citadel

Attempts to supply the expedition

Omar Makram Omar makram.jpg
Omar Makram

1500 troops of the 31st Foot and the Chasseurs Britanniques were detached, accompanied by a section of Royal Artillery, under Major-General Patrick Wauchope [14] and Brigadier-General the Honorable Robert Meade, [15] on a mission to secure the Abourmandur Heights (the heights of Caffarille and Cretin), outside the city. [16] The force entered Rosetta without encountering any opposition, but as soon as they had dispersed among the narrow streets, the garrison opened fire on them from the latticed windows and the roofs of the houses. They retreated on Aboukir and Alexandria, after taking heavy losses: of General Wauchope, three other officers, and 185 men were killed, and General Meade, nineteen other officers, and 281 men were wounded. [17] The heads of the British slain were fixed on stakes on the sides of the road crossing the Ezbekia in Cairo. [18] [19]

31st (Huntingdonshire) Regiment of Foot

The 31st (Huntingdonshire) Regiment of Foot was an infantry regiment of the British Army, raised in 1702. Under the Childers Reforms it amalgamated with the 70th (Surrey) Regiment of Foot to form the East Surrey Regiment in 1881.

The Chasseurs Britanniques was a battalion-sized corps of foreign volunteers, who fought for Great Britain during the Napoleonic Wars. The regiment was formed from the remnants of the Prince of Condé's Army after it was disbanded in 1800. The regiment entered British service in 1800 and continued to fight for Great Britain until 1814, when it was disbanded after Napoleon's first abdication and exile to Elba.

Royal Artillery artillery arm of the British Army

The Royal Regiment of Artillery, commonly referred to as the Royal Artillery (RA) and colloquially known as "The Gunners", is the artillery arm of the British Army. The Royal Regiment of Artillery comprises thirteen Regular Army regiments, King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery and five Army Reserve regiments.

Manoeuvring against Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali, meanwhile, was conducting an expedition against the Beys in Upper Egypt (he later defeated them near Assiut) when he heard of the arrival of the British. In great alarm lest the beys should join them, especially as they were far north of his position, he immediately sent messengers to his rivals. Ali promised to comply with all the Beys demands if they should join in expelling the invaders; this proposal being agreed to, both armies marched towards Cairo on opposite sides of the river.

Occupation of Rosetta

Alexander Mackenzie Fraser Alexander Mackenzie Fraser.jpg
Alexander Mackenzie Fraser

The possession of Rosetta being deemed indispensable, Brigadier-General Sir William Stewart and Colonel Oswald were despatched there with 2500 men. However, a deputy of Muhammad Ali of Egypt, Umar Makram, had begun to rally the local population and bring troops from Cairo in the attempt to slow the British advance towards the capital. They fought a running battle for fifteen days against superior Turkish forces, including a thirteen-day cannonade of the town without effect. [18] On 20 April news arrived from the advanced guard at Al Hamed of the arrival of 50-60 large vessels with reinforcements to join the besieged by Nile, [17] and General Stewart was compelled to retreat. [20] A dragoon was despatched to Lieutenant-Colonel Macleod, commanding at Al Hamed, ordering him to fall back as well, [18] but the messenger was unable to reach the British position. On 21 April, the advanced guard, numbering 733 and comprising a detachment of the 31st, two companies of the 78th, one of the 35th, and De Roll's Regiment, with a picquet of dragoons, was surrounded. [18] the survivors, who had expended all their ammunition, became prisoners of war. [21] General Stewart regained Alexandria with the remainder of his force, having lost over 900 men, killed, wounded and missing. [17] Hundreds of British heads were exposed on stakes in Cairo, and the prisoners were marched between these mutilated remains. [18] However, this time the British prisoners were well treated, and officers were given quarters in the Citadel. [21]

Siege of Alexandria

The defeat at Rosetta forced Mackenzie-Fraser to reconsider his position, and British troops were ordered to reoccupy Alexandria which was soon besieged by the Arab and Mamluk troops from Cairo. [20] Using his feigned good will as a pretext, Muhammad Ali then offered the British the freedom to receive supplies from Duckworth's transports as well as a grain trade agreement with an added assurances of security for any trade routes to India in return for recognition of his independence from the Ottoman Empire. The grain agreement was accepted, and supplies continued to be delivered to the British troops in Alexandria. However, formal recognition of independence was not given by the British Government, which had no intention of seeing the Ottoman Empire dismantled at this time. [20]

Departure from Alexandria

Colonel Dravetti, now advising Muhammad Ali in Cairo, was able to persuade the dictator to release the British prisoners as a good will gesture, sparing them the usual fate of becoming slaves to their captors. [19] In September, when no further use could be gained from occupation of Alexandria, General Mackenzie-Fraser was permitted to surrender the city [1] and withdraw to Sicily on the 25th. [17]

Expedition Order of Battle

See also


  1. The Royal Navy commissioned Uri Nasard and Fara Numa circa January 1808, and disposed of all three in 1809. Uri Bahar had twenty-eight 18-pounder guns on her upper deck, and six 8-pounder guns and six 18-pounder carronades on her QD and Fc. [7] Captain George Hony (or Honey) took command of Uri Nasard. She was armed with twenty-six 12-pounder guns on her upper deck, and eight 6-pounders (QD/Fc). [8] Commander Samuel Fowell became captain of Fara Numa. [9]
  2. Drovetti was a Piedmontese colonel who had served in the Egyptian campaign with Napoleon. [10]
  3. Hollowell was the naval commander of the expedition. [22]

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