Battle of the Pyramids

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Battle of the Pyramids
Part of the Campaign in Egypt and Syria of the French Revolutionary Wars
Louis-Francois Baron Lejeune 001.jpg
The Battle of the Pyramids, Louis-François, Baron Lejeune, 1808
Date21 July 1798
Location
30°5′N31°12′E / 30.083°N 31.200°E / 30.083; 31.200 Coordinates: 30°5′N31°12′E / 30.083°N 31.200°E / 30.083; 31.200
Result Decisive French Victory
Belligerents
Flag of France (1794-1815).svg  France

Flag of the Ottoman Empire (also used in Egypt).svg Ottoman Empire

Commanders and leaders
Napoleon Bonaparte Murad Bey
Ibrahim Bey
Strength
20,000 total
3,000 cavalry
17,000 infantry
42 cannons [1] [2]
25,000 total [3]
Casualties and losses
29 dead, 260 wounded [3] 20,000 Mamelukes from Napoleon's own records [3] or uncertain from other sources
Several thousand peasants dead or wounded
Egypt relief location map.jpg
Red pog.svg
Location within Egypt

The Battle of the Pyramids, also known as the Battle of Embabeh, was a major engagement fought on 21st July 1798 during the French Invasion of Egypt. The French army, under Napoleon Bonaparte, scored a decisive victory against the forces of the local Mamluk rulers, wiping out almost the entire Egyptian army. It was the battle where Napoleon employed one of his significant contributions to military tactics, the divisional square. Actually a rectangle, the deployment of the French brigades into these massive formations repeatedly threw back multiple cavalry charges by the Egyptians.

French campaign in Egypt and Syria military conflict

The French Campaign in Egypt and Syria (1798–1801) was Napoleon Bonaparte's campaign in the Ottoman territories of Egypt and Syria, proclaimed to defend French trade interests, weaken Britain's access to British India, and to establish scientific enterprise in the region. It was the primary purpose of the Mediterranean campaign of 1798, a series of naval engagements that included the capture of Malta.

France Republic with mainland in Europe and numerous oversea territories

France, officially the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.3 million. France, a sovereign state, is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.

Mamluk Muslim slave soldiers

Mamluk is an Arabic designation for slaves. The term is most commonly used to refer to slave soldiers and Muslim rulers of slave origin.

Contents

The victory effectively sealed the French conquest of Egypt as Murad Bey salvaged the remnants of his army, chaotically fleeing to Upper Egypt. French casualties amounted to roughly 300, but Egyptian casualties soared into the thousands. Napoleon entered Cairo after the battle and created a new local administration under his supervision.

Murad Bey Egyptian noble

Murad Bey Mohammed was an Egyptian Mamluk chieftain (Bey), cavalry commander and joint ruler of Egypt with Ibrahim Bey. He is often remembered as being a cruel and extortionate ruler, but an energetic courageous fighter.

Upper Egypt strip of land on the Nile valley between Nubia and Lower Egypt

Upper Egypt is the strip of land on both sides of the Nile that extends between Nubia and downriver (northwards) to Lower Egypt.

Cairo City in Egypt

Cairo is the capital of Egypt. The city's metropolitan area is one of the largest in Africa, the largest in the Middle East, and the 15th-largest in the world, and is associated with ancient Egypt, as the famous Giza pyramid complex and the ancient city of Memphis are located in its geographical area. Located near the Nile Delta, modern Cairo was founded in 969 CE by the Fatimid dynasty, but the land composing the present-day city was the site of ancient national capitals whose remnants remain visible in parts of Old Cairo. Cairo has long been a centre of the region's political and cultural life, and is titled "the city of a thousand minarets" for its preponderance of Islamic architecture. Cairo is considered a World City with a "Beta +" classification according to GaWC.

The battle exposed the fundamental military and political decline of the Ottoman Empire throughout the past century, especially compared to the rising power of Napoleon's France. Napoleon named the battle after the Egyptian pyramids because they were faintly visible on the horizon when the battle took place.

Ottoman Empire Former empire in Asia, Europe and Africa

The Ottoman Empire, also historically known in Western Europe as the Turkish Empire or simply Turkey, was a state that controlled much of Southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa between the 14th and early 20th centuries. It was founded at the end of the 13th century in northwestern Anatolia in the town of Söğüt by the Oghuz Turkish tribal leader Osman I. After 1354, the Ottomans crossed into Europe, and with the conquest of the Balkans, the Ottoman beylik was transformed into a transcontinental empire. The Ottomans ended the Byzantine Empire with the 1453 conquest of Constantinople by Mehmed the Conqueror.

Egyptian pyramids ancient pyramid-shaped masonry structures located in Egypt

The Egyptian pyramids are ancient pyramid-shaped masonry structures located in Egypt. As of November 2008, sources cite either 118 or 138 as the number of identified Egyptian pyramids. Most were built as tombs for the country's pharaohs and their consorts during the Old and Middle Kingdom periods.

Prelude

In July 1798 Napoleon was marching from Alexandria toward Cairo after invading and capturing the former. He met the forces of the ruling Mamluks nine miles (15 kilometres) from the Pyramids and only four miles (six kilometres) from Cairo. The Mamluk forces were commanded by two Georgian mamluks, Murad Bey and Ibrahim Bey, and had powerful and highly developed cavalry. This fight was known as The Battle of Chobrakit.

Georgians Caucasian ethnic group that are indigenous to Georgia

The Georgians or Kartvelians are a nation and indigenous Caucasian ethnic group native to Georgia. Large Georgian communities are also present throughout Russia, Turkey, Greece, Iran, Ukraine, United States, and throughout the European Union.

Ibrahim Bey (Mamluk)

Ibrahim Bey was a Mamluk chieftain and regent of Egypt.

Cavalry soldiers or warriors fighting from horseback

Cavalry or horsemen are soldiers or warriors who fight mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the most mobile of the combat arms. An individual soldier in the cavalry is known by a number of designations such as cavalryman, horseman, dragoon, or trooper. The designation of cavalry was not usually given to any military forces that used other animals, such as camels, mules or elephants. Infantry who moved on horseback, but dismounted to fight on foot, were known in the 17th and early 18th centuries as dragoons, a class of mounted infantry which later evolved into cavalry proper while retaining their historic title.

Napoleon realized that the only Egyptian troops of any worth on the battlefield were the cavalry. He exhorted his troops, saying, "Forward! Remember that from those monuments yonder 40 centuries look down upon you." [4] [5]

Battle

Napoleon ordered an advance on Murad's army with each of the five divisions of his army organized into hollow rectangles with cavalry and baggage at the center and cannon at the corners.

A map of the battle. Battle of the Pyramids map.jpg
A map of the battle.
The Battle of the Pyramids, Francois-Louis-Joseph Watteau, 1798-1799 Francois-Louis-Joseph Watteau 001.jpg
The Battle of the Pyramids, François-Louis-Joseph Watteau, 1798-1799

The French divisions advanced south in echelon, with the right flank leading and the left flank protected by the Nile. From right to left, Napoleon posted the divisions of Louis Charles Antoine Desaix, Jean-Louis-Ébénézer Reynier, Charles-François-Joseph Dugua, Honoré Vial and Louis André Bon. In addition, Desaix sent a small detachment to occupy the nearby village of Biktil, just to the west.

Murad anchored his right flank on the Nile at the village of Embabeh, which was fortified and held with infantry and some ancient cannons. His Mamluk cavalry deployed on the desert flank. Ibrahim, with a second army, watched helplessly from the east bank of the Nile, unable to intervene. Chandler asserts that Napoleon's 25,000-strong army outnumbered Murad's 6,000 Mamluks and 15,000 infantry.

At about 15:30, the Mamluk cavalry hurled itself at the French without warning. The divisional squares of Desaix, Reynier and Dugua held firm and repelled the horsemen with point-blank musket and artillery fire. Unable to make an impression on the French formations, some of the frustrated Mamluks rode off to attack Desaix's detached force. This was also a failure.

Meanwhile, nearer the river, Bon's division deployed into attack columns and charged Embabeh. Breaking into the village, the French routed the garrison. Trapped against the river, many of the Mamluks and infantry tried to swim to safety, and hundreds drowned.

Napoleon reported a loss of 29 killed and 260 wounded. Murad's losses were far heavier, perhaps as many as 3,000 of the irreplaceable Mamluk cavalry and unknown numbers of infantry. Murad escaped to Upper Egypt, where he carried on an active guerilla campaign before being run to earth by Desaix in late 1799.

Aftermath

Upon the news of the defeat of their legendary cavalry, the waiting Mamluk armies in Cairo dispersed to Syria to reorganize. The Battle of the Pyramids signalled the beginning of the end of seven centuries of Mamluk rule in Egypt. Despite this auspicious beginning, Admiral Horatio Nelson's victory in the Battle of the Nile ten days later ended Napoleon's hopes for a conquest of the Middle East.

Francois-Andre Vincent's Battle of the Pyramids, July 21, 1798. Battle of the Pyramids, July 21, 1798 MET 150804.jpg
François-André Vincent's Battle of the Pyramids, July 21, 1798.

The battle was depicted by François-André Vincent in a sketch. [6]

Engulfed by the west bank portion of the city of Cairo, nothing remains of the battlefield today.

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References

  1. Smith The Greenhill Napoleonic Wars Data Book. Greenhill Books, 1998. p. 140
  2. Connelly. Blundering to Glory: Napoleon’s Military Campaigns. Rowman & Littlefield Pub., 2006. 3rd ed. p.50.
  3. 1 2 3 Nakoula El-Turk. Histoire de l'expédition des français en Égypte. M. Desgrandes Aîné.
  4. The Campaigns of Napoleon, Volume 1, By David G. Chandler; page 224
  5. Eugène de Beauharnais, Mémoires et Correspondance Politique et Militaire du Prince Eugène de Beauharnais, tome premier, p. 41, Michel Lévy Frères, Paris (1858)
  6. "Battle of the Pyramids, July 21, 1798". The MET. Retrieved 2018-08-31.

Further reading