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The Siege of Acre of 1799 was an unsuccessful French siege of the Ottoman-defended, walled city of Acre (now Akko in modern Israel) and was the turning point of Napoleon's invasion of Egypt and Syria. It was Napoleon`s first strategic defeat as three years previously he had been tactically defeated at the Second Battle of Bassano.
A siege is a military blockade of a city, or fortress, with the intent of conquering by attrition, or a well-prepared assault. This derives from Latin: sedere, lit. 'to sit'. Siege warfare is a form of constant, low-intensity conflict characterized by one party holding a strong, static, defensive position. Consequently, an opportunity for negotiation between combatants is not uncommon, as proximity and fluctuating advantage can encourage diplomacy. The art of conducting and resisting sieges is called siege warfare, siegecraft, or poliorcetics.
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.
Acre, known to locals as Akko or Akka, is a city in the coastal plain region of the Northern District of Israel.
Acre was a site of significant strategic importance due to its commanding position on the route between Egypt and Syria. Bonaparte wanted to capture it following his invasion of Egypt. He hoped to incite a Syrian rebellion against the Ottomans and threaten British rule in India. After the Siege of Jaffa, which was followed by two days and nights of massacre and rape by the French forces, the defenders of the citadel were even more fierce.
Egypt, officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a country spanning the northeast corner of Africa and southwest corner of Asia by a land bridge formed by the Sinai Peninsula. Egypt is a Mediterranean country bordered by the Gaza Strip and Israel to the northeast, the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea to the east, Sudan to the south, and Libya to the west. Across the Gulf of Aqaba lies Jordan, across the Red Sea lies Saudi Arabia, and across the Mediterranean lie Greece, Turkey and Cyprus, although none share a land border with Egypt.
The Siege of Jaffa was fought from 3 to 7 March 1799 between France and the Ottoman Empire. The French were led by Napoleon Bonaparte, and they captured the city.
The French attempted to lay siege on 20 March using only their infantry. Napoleon believed the city would capitulate quickly to him.In correspondence with one of his subordinate officers he voiced his conviction that a mere two weeks would be necessary to capture the linchpin of his conquest of the Holy Land before marching on to Jerusalem.
Infantry is the branch of an army that engages in military combat on foot, distinguished from cavalry, artillery, and tank forces. Also known as foot soldiers, infantry traditionally relies on moving by foot between combats as well, but may also use mounts, military vehicles, or other transport. Infantry make up a large portion of all armed forces in most nations, and typically bear the largest brunt in warfare, as measured by casualties, deprivation, or physical and psychological stress.
Jerusalem is a city in the Middle East, located on a plateau in the Judaean Mountains between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea. It is one of the oldest cities in the world, and is considered holy to the three major Abrahamic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority claim Jerusalem as their capital, as Israel maintains its primary governmental institutions there and the State of Palestine ultimately foresees it as its seat of power; however, neither claim is widely recognized internationally.
However, the troops of the capable Jezzar Pasha, refusing to surrender, withstood the siege for one and a half months. Haim Farhi, al-Jazzar's Jewish adviser and right-hand man, played a key role in the city's defense, directly supervising the battle against the siege. After Napoleon's earlier conquest of Jaffa, rampaging French troops had savagely sacked the conquered city, and thousands of Albanian prisoners of war were massacred on the sea-shore,prior to the French move further northwards. These facts were well known to the townspeople and defending troops (many of them Albanians) in Acre, and the prospect is likely to have stiffened their resistance.
Haim Farhi, was an adviser to the governors of the Galilee in the days of the Ottoman Empire. Among the Jews he was known as Hakham Haim, because of his Talmudic learning.
The Albanians are an ethnic group native to the Balkan Peninsula and are identified by a common Albanian ancestry, culture, history and language. They primarily live in Albania, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia as well as in Croatia, Greece and Italy. They also constitute a diaspora with several communities established in the Americas, Europe and Oceania.
A Royal Navy flotilla under Commodore Sidney Smith helped to reinforce the Ottoman defences and supplied the city with additional cannon manned by sailors and marines. Smith used his command of the sea to capture the French siege artillery being sent by a flotilla of gunboats from Egypt and to bombard the coastal road from Jaffa.An artillery expert from the fleet, Antoine Le Picard de Phélippeaux, then redeployed against Napoleon's forces the artillery pieces which the British had intercepted.
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.
A fleet or naval fleet is a large formation of warships, which is controlled by one leader and the largest formation in any navy. A fleet at sea is the direct equivalent of an army on land.
Commodore is a naval rank used in many navies that is superior to a navy captain, but below a rear admiral. Non-English-speaking nations often use the rank of flotilla admiral, counter admiral, or senior captain as an equivalent, although counter admiral may also correspond to rear admiral.
Smith anchored the line-of-battle ships Tigre and Theseus so their broadsides could assist the defence. The gunboats, which were of shallower draft, could come in closer, and together they helped repel repeated French assaults.
Tigre was a 74-gun ship of the line of the French Navy.
HMS Theseus was a 74-gun third-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy.
On 16 April a Turkish relief force was fought off at the Mount Tabor. By early May, replacement French siege artillery had arrived overland and a breach was forced in the defences. At the culmination of the assault, the besieging forces managed to make a breach in the walls.
However, after suffering many casualties to open this entry-point, Napoleon's soldiers found, on trying to penetrate the city, that Farhi and DePhelipoux had, in the meantime, built a second wall, several feet deeper within the city where al-Jazzar's garden was. Discovery of this new construction convinced Napoleon and his men that the probability of their taking the city was minimal. Moreover, after the assault was again repelled, Turkish reinforcements from Rhodes were able to land.
Having underestimated the stubborn attitude of the defending forces combined with a British blockade of French supply harbours and harsh weather conditions, Napoleon's forces were left hungry, cold and damp. Plague had struck the French camp as a result of the desperate condition of the men, and had by now led to the deaths of about 2,000 soldiers.
Throughout the siege, both Napoleon and Jezzar sought in vain the assistance of the Shihab leader, Bashir—ruler of much of present-day Lebanon. Bashir remained neutral. As things turned out, it was the French side which suffered most from the attitude of Bashir, whose intervention on their side might have turned the balance.
Finally, the siege was raised. Napoleon Bonaparte retreated two months later on 21 May after a failed final assault on 10 May, and withdrew to Egypt.
In 1805, Napoleon asserted that if he had:
been able to take Acre [in 1799], I would have put on a turban, I would have made my soldiers wear big Turkish trousers, and I would have exposed them to battle only in case of extreme necessity. I would have made them into a Sacred Battalion--my Immortals. I would have finished the war against the Turks with Arabic, Greek, and Armenian troops. Instead of a battle in Moravia, I would have won a Battle of Issus, I would have made myself emperor of the East, and I would have returned to Paris by way of Constantinople.
The allusions from Classical Antiquity included in the speech are to the Sacred Band of Thebes and the Persian Immortals—elite units of, respectively, the city state of Thebes and the Achaemenid Kings of Persia; and to the Battle of Issus where Alexander the Great decisively defeated the latter. (In fact, though Acre was not conquered, Napoleon's Imperial Guard did come to be informally called "The Immortals.")
Some hold that a statement attributed to Napoleon during the war, according to which he promised to return the land to the Jews if he were to succeed in his conquest of Palestine, was meant to capture Farhi’s, a Syrian Jew, attention and betray his master by switching his support to the French. Whether this is true or not, Farhi defended the city with the rest of the Turks.
However, Napoleon never showed any particular interest in winning over the Jews during his campaign,though the account of Las Cases in "Mémorial de Sainte Hélène" about Napoleon's military campaign records that a rumour among Syrian Jews had it that after Napoleon took Acre, he would go to Jerusalem and restore Solomon's temple and decrees were passed in favour of Jews (and Coptic Christians and women) in French-controlled Egypt. Whatever Napoleon's actual intentions, these stories and rumors are considered to be among the earliest harbingers of what would become the Zionist Movement.
In present-day Acre, the hill on which Napoleon set his camp, south-east of the city walls of Acre, is still known as "Napoleon's Hill" (גבעת נפוליון). Acre also has a Napoleon Bonaparte Street (רחוב נפוליון בונפרטה), the only Israeli city with such a street name.
Among the Arab population of the Old City of Acre, the knowledge of their forebears having successfully withstood the barrage of such a world-famous conqueror is a source of civic pride and local patriotism. In a folk tale current among Acre Arabs, Napoleon, upon lifting the siege of Acre, let a cannon shoot his hat into the city "so that at least part of him would enter into Acre".
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The Third Crusade (1189–1192) was an attempt by the leaders of the three most powerful states of Western Christianity to reconquer the Holy Land following the capture of Jerusalem by the Ayyubid sultan, Saladin, in 1187. It was largely successful, recapturing the important cities of Acre and Jaffa, and reversing most of Saladin's conquests, but it failed to recapture Jerusalem, which was the major aim of the Crusade and its religious focus.
The French Revolutionary Wars were a series of sweeping military conflicts lasting from 1792 until 1802 and resulting from the French Revolution. They pitted the French Republic against Great Britain, Austria and several other monarchies. They are divided in two periods: the War of the First Coalition (1792–97) and the War of the Second Coalition (1798–1802). Initially confined to Europe, the fighting gradually assumed a global dimension. After a decade of constant warfare and aggressive diplomacy, France had conquered a wide array of territories, from the Italian Peninsula and the Low Countries in Europe to the Louisiana Territory in North America. French success in these conflicts ensured the spread of revolutionary principles over much of Europe.
Admiral Sir William Sidney Smith, GCB, GCTE, KmstkSO, FRS was a British naval officer. Serving in the American and French revolutionary wars, he later rose to the rank of admiral. Napoleon Bonaparte, reminiscing later in his life, said of him: "That man made me miss my destiny".
The Battle of Abukir was a battle in which Napoleon Bonaparte defeated Seid Mustafa Pasha's Ottoman army on July 25, 1799, during the French campaign in Egypt. It is considered the first pitched battle with this name, as there already was a naval battle on August 1, 1798. No sooner had the French forces returned from a campaign to Syria, than the Ottoman forces were transported to Egypt by Sidney Smith's British fleet to put an end to French rule in Egypt.
The Eyalet of Sidon was an eyalet of the Ottoman Empire. In the 19th century, the eyalet extended from the border with Egypt to the Bay of Kesrouan, including parts of modern Israel, Palestine and Lebanon.
Bashir Shihab II was a Lebanese emir who ruled Lebanon in the first half of the 19th century. Born in a family who had converted from Sunni Islam, the religion of previous Shihabi Emirs, he was the only Maronite ruler of the Emirate of Mount Lebanon.
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.
Ahmad Pasha al-Jazzar was the Acre-based Ottoman governor of Sidon from 1776 until his death in 1804. During this period, he also simultaneously served four terms as the governor of Damascus, a total of nine years.
Jean Louis Ebénézer Reynier rose in rank to become a French army general officer during the French Revolutionary Wars. He led a division under Napoleon Bonaparte in the French Campaign in Egypt and Syria. During the Napoleonic Wars he continued to hold important combat commands, eventually leading an army corps during the Peninsular War in 1810-1811 and during the War of the Sixth Coalition in 1812-1813.
Elzéar Auguste Cousin de Dommartin became a French general during the French Revolutionary Wars, fought in Italy under Napoleon Bonaparte, and commanded the artillery division of the Armée d'Orient during the French invasion of Egypt in 1798.
The el-Jazzar Mosque, also known as the White Mosque, is located on el-Jazzar Street inside the walls of the old city of Acre, overlooking the eastern Mediterranean Sea, and is named after the Ottoman Bosnian governor Ahmad Pasha el-Jazzar.
Muhammad (Mehmet) Abu Nabbut Agha was the governor of Jaffa and Gaza in the early 19th century on behalf of the Ottoman Empire, from 1807 to 1818, as well as the governor of Thessaloniki from 1819 to 1827 during the Greek War of Independence.
Jean-Toussaint Arrighi de Casanova, duc de Padova, was a French diplomat and soldier of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. In the late 1840s, Arrighi was also involved in politics and was elected Deputy and then Senator in the French Parliament. He was a cousin-in-law of Napoleon I of France.
This timeline represents major events in the region of Palestine, which at different times during human habitation included a diverse number of people, cultures, religions and nations while being a part of several major empires and an important trade link between Europe and North African coast in the west and Asia and India in the East.
Louis-Edmond Antoine le Picard de Phélippeaux (1767–1799), mainly referred to as Antoine de Phélippeaux, was a French émigré best known for defeating Napoleon Bonaparte in an effort to defend Egypt. In 1783, Louis Phélippeaux met Napoleon Bonaparte at the École Militaire in Paris where the two young men became lifelong enemies. Phélippeaux was also an enemy of the state to France, due to his loyalty to the Ancien Régime and his participation in many anti-revolutionary movements. Previously a French military officer, Phélippeaux immigrated to Great Britain in 1791 during the French Revolution. He served in the Army of Condé and fought against the French Republic. Fighting against Napoleon in a battle in Acre, Phélippeaux died from fever in May 1799.
Sulayman Pasha al-Adil was the Ottoman governor of Sidon Eyalet between 1805 and 1819, ruling from his Acre headquarters. He also simultaneously served as governor of Damascus Eyalet between 1810 and 1812. He was a mamluk of his predecessor, Jazzar Pasha. His rule was associated with decentralization, a reduction of Acre's military, and limits to his predecessors' cotton monopoly. Moreover, he oversaw a policy of non-interference with his deputy governors, such as Muhammad Abu-Nabbut and Mustafa Agha Barbar, and diplomacy with the autonomous sheikhs of the various Levantine regions where he held authority, including Emir Bashir Shihab II and Musa Bey Tuqan. He exercised control over his domain largely through depending on the loyalty of his deputies, who also had been mamluks of Jazzar. In effect, Sulayman Pasha presided over the world's last functioning mamluk system.
Abdullah Pasha ibn Ali was the Ottoman governor (wali) of Sidon Eyalet between May 1820 and May 1832, with a nine-month interruption in 1822–23. Like his predecessors Jazzar Pasha and Sulayman Pasha, Abdullah Pasha ruled from the port city of Acre. During his reign, all of Palestine and the Syrian coastline came under his jurisdiction. Among his major military victories was his survival of an imperial-backed siege of Acre in 1822 instigated by the Farhi family in retaliation for Abdullah's execution of his mentor Haim Farhi, the suppression of revolts in Mount Lebanon and Jerusalem in 1824 and 1826, respectively, and the 1831 capture of the Sanur fortress.