July 23, 1799
Nelson Rejoices at the Raising of the Siege of Acre - and Napoleon's Fleeing
Conquerors love Acre. A cherished destination since 701 BCE, when Sanacherib, King of Assyria, first stormed the port, Acre subsequently surrendered to the Greeks, Romans, Persians, Arabs, Crusaders, Egyptians, Turks and, in modern memory, the British too. A large Jewish population, in place since Roman times, lived in the city, and kept summer homes there, as well. Beautiful, and strategically located on the trade route between Egypt and Syria, everyone wanted Acre. Napoleon Bonaparte, having conquered Egypt, saw it as the gateway to conquering the entire Holy Land. "I anticipate that the city will fall within two weeks,” he predicted, “and then we shall march directly to Jerusalem.” To this end, he besieged the city in March 1799 and, probably in the hope of influencing the city’s Jewish inhabitants, drew up a proclamation declaring a Jewish State in Palestine. But Napoleon did not count on the stubbornness of the defending forces, or the British blockade of French lines, or the harsh weather conditions, or the plague which struck his camp. By the end of May, he canceled his plans to invade Jerusalem and lifted the siege – and sailed away immediately. Here Nelson, the Rear Admiral of the Red Fleet, relates the thrilling news to the Rear Admiral of the White:
...Bonaparte was shot in the leg. 4 gen'l, 85 officers & 4000 men have been killed. The siege is raised & the French are dying with disease. Thank God, thank God, so finish all villains. They are frightened at Constantinople, believe the French fleet may go to them. God bless you…
Napoleon’s first defeat had come at the hands of Nelson and the British Navy, at Alexandria; at Acre, they handed him his second.
Autograph Letter Signed, 1 page, quarto, no place, July 23, 1799. To Rear Admiral Sir John Thomas Duckworth.