Defence of Acre

15th March 1799 - 20th May 1799
Part of : The French Revolutionary Wars (1793 - 1802)
Previous action : Capture of the Forte 28.2.1799 - 1.3.1799
Next action : Telegraph vs Hirondelle 18.3.1799


Great Britain

Ship NameCommanderNotes
Tigre (74) William Sidney Smith (1764-1840), William Sidney Smith (1764-1840)

Notes on Action


On the 8th, the Theseus was despatched to Acre, the Tigre remaining for a time to watch Alexandria, but presently following, and anchoring in the bay on March 15th. Measures were at once taken, in conjunction with Achmet Djezzar, the Pasha, to strengthen the very inadequate defences of the town. On the 17th the Theseus was sent to reconnoitre to the southward. That morning the French advanced guard was seen marching along the sea-side; and its passage over the little river Kerdanneh was effectively checked by the Tigre 's launch under the orders of Lieut. John Bushby, the result being that the French had to make a detour. Owing to the fire from the ships, they were also prevented from investing those defences of the town which lay nearest to the coast, and which happened to be the weakest, and were obliged to concentrate their forces to the north-east. On the 18th Sir Sidney had the good fortune, after a three hours' chase, to capture the little flotilla [Foudre, 8, Dangereuse, 6, Negresse, 6, Marie Rose, 4, Deux Freres, 4, and Dame de Grace, 4.] which had left Damietta with the guns, ammunition and siege equipage of the French army, and to recapture the Torride, which, on her passage from Alexandria, had been taken that morning by the enemy. Both the prizes and the guns proved most useful for the defence of Acre.

The siege lasted until May 20th. In the course of it, a British attempt upon some French lighters in the port of Haifa was repulsed on March 21st; a French mine was most gallantly seized and destroyed on April 7th by Lieut. John Westley Wright, R.N., and Major John Douglas, of the Marines; Perree's squadron, leaving Alexandria, landed guns at Jaffa, and these, forwarded by land, reached the besiegers on April 27th; many attempts to storm the town were repulsed; the defenders, on May 7th, received reinforcements of troops from Khodes; in a new assault many of the enemy were deliberately allowed to enter the place in order that they might more surely be destroyed; the Syrian chiefs were persuaded to harass Bonaparte's communications; a successful sortie was made on May 19th; twice assassins attempted Sir Sidney's life; and at last a treacherous assault, delivered while a flag of truce was flying, was victoriously repulsed. In consequence, the siege was raised on the night of May 20th, the enemy leaving behind him 23 siege guns, minus their carriages, and regaining El Arich on June 2nd, having suffered enormous loss. The British, apart from the Turkish, loss in the fighting was not very serious, as it amounted to but 22 killed, 66 wounded, 4 drowned, and 82 taken prisoners; but a lamentable catastrophe, caused on May 14th by a mishap to some shells in the Theseus, added 40 killed and drowned and 47 wounded to the total. By this accident the gallant Captain Ralph Willett Miller, and Midshipmen Charles James Webb and James Morrison Bigges Forbes, perished. The ship herself narrowly escaped destruction. Among the officers killed by the enemy were Captain David Wilmot, of the Alliance, and Major of Marines Thomas Oldfield. At the time of the accident to the Theseus, she had just begun to chase Rear-Admiral Perree's squadron off Caesarea. In consequence of it, the enemy escaped.

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