French Revolutionary Wars: Campaigns of 1798

From Academic Kids

1798 was a relatively quiet period in the French Revolutionary Wars. The major continental powers in the First coalition had made peace with France, leaving France dominant in Europe with only a slow naval war with Great Britain to worry about. The leaders of the Directory in Paris feared Napoleon Bonaparte's popularity after his victories in Italy, so they were relieved when he proposed to depart France and mount an expedition to Egypt to gain further glory.

At this time, Egypt was a province of the Ottoman Empire, but Napoleon viewed it as a way to threaten British dominance in the Mediterranean Sea and threaten the British position in India, and to gain prestige for revolutionary arms.

Napoleon raised a large army including scientists and cultural experts, and sailed from Toulon on May 19. Stopping to capture Malta on June 12, he landed near Alexandria on June 1 and took the city. Napoleon's army proceeded to march against the Mameluke armies in Cairo, and met them at the Battle of the Pyramids on July 21. Facing a huge army, Napoleon organized his army into squares and used his artillery to disperse the Mameluke attacks. The Mameluke army retreated into Syria, leaving Napoleon dominant in Egypt.

However, the British were threatened by this move, and admiral Horatio Nelson rushed to the coast of Egypt. There, he came upon the French fleet at anchor and systematically destroyed it in the Battle of the Nile. Without a fleet, Napoleon's army was trapped in Egypt, and the majority would never return to France.

Napoleon consolidated his base in Egypt for the remainder of the year. However, the local population in Cairo, encouraged by the battle of the Nile and annoyed by various taxes and impositions by the French, revolted in October, killing many of the French but eventually being suppressed. Damage to mosques sustained during this revolt embittered the Egyptian population against the French.

Meanwhile, the French also invaded Switzerland at the invitation of French-speaking factions in Vaud, seizing Bern and establishing the Helvetian Republic on the French model. In August and September, an invasion of Ireland by France was aborted due to weather. French troops occupied Rome, deposing the Pope's secular rule and establishing a republic.

By the end of the year, the European powers, having recovered from their previous defeats and emboldened by Napoleon's absence, organized a new Second Coalition. The only military activity before the end of the year was in Italy, where Naples captured Rome in November but was driven out by the end of the year.

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