Admiral Jean-Baptiste-Emmanuel PerréeNaval officer who commanded the flotilla on the Nile and was killed while trying to supply Malta
Born: December 19, 1761
Place of Birth: Saint-Valery-sur-Somme, Somme, France
Died: February 18, 1800
Cause of Death: Mortally wounded
Place of Death: Malta, Malta
Arc de Triomphe: PERRÉE on the south pillar
Having first set sail in 1773, Jean-Baptiste-Emmanuel Perrée spent much of his life at sea. He served as a helmsman and pilot over the years and in 1793 he was promoted to ensign of vessel. The next year Perrée was promoted to lieutenant of vessel and then in 1794 he was again promoted, this time to captain of vessel. As a revolutionary captain, Perrée set sail from Toulon and crossed the Mediterranean, heading for Tunisia. Over the course of his journeys on the Mediterranean, he and his ship took a British frigate, two British corvettes, and 25 merchant ships before they returned to Toulon.
In 1798 Captain Perrée was designated to take part in the expedition to Egypt and he held a command under Admiral Brueys. After they arrived in Egypt, Perrée was ordered to follow the army along the Nile with a flotilla. Leading this flotilla, he distinguished himself in the fighting at Chebreiss that July and General Bonaparte gave him a sabre of honor. Since he was following the army, he missed the disastrous Battle of the Nile that lost most of the French fleet. That November Perrée was promoted to rear admiral and then the following year he was ordered to transport the siege equipment to the sieges of Jaffa and Acre. In June of 1799 Admiral Perrée made the decision to return to France with his ships. As they neared Toulon, a British fleet attacked them and the French were overpowered and taken prisoner. Perrée was exchanged almost immediately and he returned to Toulon.
In February of 1800 Perrée was ordered to command a small convoy of ships to supply Malta. Perrée sailed out on the vessel Généreux, but as the fleet arrived in sight of Malta, they were attacked by a British fleet under Admiral Nelson. When the French fleet attempted to flee, it was clear they could not all escape, so Perrée ordered his ship to turn and accept combat to give the others time to flee. In the fighting that followed, Perrée was hit and blinded in the left eye, and not long after a ball crushed his right thigh, mortally wounding him. Généreux finally surrendered and Perrée had given his life, but many of the French ships of his convoy managed to escape due to his sacrifice.
Updated January 2017
© Nathan D. Jensen