Admiral François-Paul Brueys d'AigalliersFrench admiral commanding the navy of the expedition to Egypt who was killed at the Battle of the Nile
Born: February 11, 1753
Place of Birth: Uzès, Gard, France
Died: August 1, 1798
Cause of Death: Killed in action
Place of Death: Abukir Bay, Egypt
Arc de Triomphe: BRUEYS on the south pillar
Spending much of his career at sea, François-Paul Brueys d'Aigalliers volunteered to join the French navy at a young age. In 1766 he served in the Levant and then two years later in 1768 he became a garde de la marine at Toulon. In 1770 he set sail again, taking part in an expedition to Tunisia. Brueys next returned to the Levant before being sent to Saint-Domingue where he fell ill. In 1773 he returned to France and then during the following years he spent much of his time in the Levant again. Brueys received a promotion to ensign of vessel in 1777 and then three years later he received a promotion to lieutenant of vessel.
In 1780 Brueys joined the squadron of the Count de Guichen which ultimately fell under the orders of the Count de Grasse and took part in the American Revolutionary War. Serving on the ship Zélé, Brueys took part in the victories over British Admiral Rodney on April 17th, May 15th, and May 19th of 1780. The next year he fought against Admiral Hood near Fort-de-France and then that September he fought Admiral Graves at the entrance to Chesapeake Bay. Continuing to serve in the Americas, in 1782 Brueys fought at Saint-Christophe against Admiral Hood on January 25th and 27th and then later that year he joined the frigate Vestale and helped to escort a convoy from Martinique to France. After the conclusion of the American Revolutionary War, Brueys was named a Knight of Saint Louis.
In 1784 Brueys was given command of the sloop Chien de Chasse and sent to the Antilles. He finally returned to France in 1787 but he was then sent back to the Americas commanding the sloop Coureur. With the onset of the French Revolution, Brueys was given command of the corvette Poulette and sent again to the Levant and the Adriatic Sea. In January of 1792 he was promoted to captain of vessel and he went on to take part in expeditions to Nice, Oneglia, and Cagliari under Admiral Truguet. In May of 1793 the authorities of Toulon arrested Brueys and he resigned his command.
Almost a year after the end of the Reign of Terror, in June of 1795 the Committee of Public Safety reintegrated Brueys as a captain in the French Navy. The next year he was promoted to rear admiral and given command of the French navy in the Adriatic Sea, and he commanded them from his flagship Guillaume-Tell. During his time in this command Brueys transported French troops to the Ionian Isles leading to their successful capture for the French. Afterwards, he was promoted to vice admiral in April of 1798.
Admiral Brueys was next named commander of the navy in the Mediterranean. He was placed in charge of the naval operations of the expedition to Egypt and he led the fleet from Toulon aboard his flagship Orient. As the fleet crossed the Mediterranean, they successfully dodged British Admiral Nelson's fleet and stopped at Malta so the island could be seized for the French. Continuing onward, they again evaded Nelson's fleet and made their way to Alexandria where the French troops were successfully disembarked to gain a foothold on land.
Knowing that the British fleet was out there somewhere, Brueys anchored his ships in Abukir Bay and took up a defensive position. However, when Admiral Nelson's fleet finally did arrive in the evening of August 1st, many of Brueys men were ashore and not on their ships. Brueys did not expect to be attacked so late in the day, but Nelson aggressively launched into an attack, beginning the Battle of the Nile, also known as the Battle of Abukir Bay. As the ships of each fleet began to engage in battle, Brueys' flagship Orient became engaged with the British ship HMS Bellerophon. Almost immediately Brueys was lightly wounded in the face and hand by flying debris, but Orient proceeded to best Bellerophon in combat. However, around eight that night a cannonball hit Brueys and nearly tore him in two. He refused to be taken below deck and he died within fifteen minutes. Not long thereafter, a large fire broke out on Orient and was not contained, and eventually the ship exploded in a massive fireball.
Updated January 2017
© Nathan D. Jensen