On This Day in Napoleonic History – 19 May 1798

5Napoleon embarks on his Egyptian campaign

Napoleon’s armada left Toulon for Alexandria in fine weather and was joined by fleets from Marseille, Corsica, Genoa and Civitavecchia. With 280 ships, including 13 ships of the line, it was the largest fleet ever to sail the Mediterranean. L’Orient that carried Napoleon was the biggest warship afloat.

‘Have a good bed prepared for me,’ Napoleon, who was a bad sailor, told the Vice-Admiral FranΓ§ois-Paul Brueys d’Aigalliers before setting sail, ‘as of for a man who will be ill the whole duration of the voyage.’

Admiral Nelson was on the lookout for this gigantic armada. The two fleets passed within 20 miles of each other on the night of June 22nd near Crete. Overall, on the way to Egypt the French were able to evade Nelson three times. The fourth time they wouldn’t be so fortunate.

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