General Louis-André Bon, 1758-99

General Louis-André Bon rose from the ranks after the French Revolution, and was on the verge of making his name during Napoleon's expedition to Egypt before he was killed during the failed attack on Acre.

Bon served as a private soldier in the Royal Army between 1776 and 1784. In 1792, after the Revolution he returned to the army and was elected lieutenant-colonel. He fought on the Spanish frontier in 1794 and took part in the battles of Figueras and San Lorenzo.

He reached the rank of general of brigade in 1795, and took part in Napoleon's first campaign in Italy. He was wounded at the battle of Arcola (15-17 November 1796), and was promoted to command a division in 1797.

In 1798 Bon was chosen to command a division during Napoleon's invasion of Egypt. He was part of the force that sailed from Toulon

Bon's division took part in the initial French landings near Alexandria, and the capture of that city, where his division captured the Rosetta Gate. The French then split into two columns - one that advanced along the coast to Rosetta and then up the Nile and another that advanced cross-country. Bon's troops advanced with the cross-country column. The two forces then united to march up the Nile towards Cairo. Bon's division fought at the Action of Shubra Khit (13 July 1798), where the Mameluke cavalry suffered heavy losses attacking French infantry squadrons. Bon performed well at the Battle of the Pyramids. Bon's unit was deployed on the French left at the battle, nearest to the Nile. He and Vial had the task of storming the fortifications of Embabeh, on the bank of the Nile opposite Cairo. His first attack failed after the French were hit by artillery fire from within the village, but he was able to rally his men. A second attack, in several columns of assault supported by small squares, captured the village and forced the Mameluke garrison to attempt to retreat up the Nile. Marmont managed to get some troops in the path of the retreating Mamelukes, and they were force to attempt to escape across the Nile. At least 1,000 men drowned and another 600 were shot.

On 21 October 1798 a revolt broke out in Cairo. General Dupuy, commander of the garrison, was killed, and General Bon had to take command. He put artillery in the streets and fired the alarm guns, summoning Napoleon back to the city.

By the start of 1799 it was clear that the French in Egypt were about to be attacked by two Ottoman armies, one coming by sea and one coming on land via Palestine and the Sinai. Napoleon decided to take the initiative, and in early February a large part of his army advanced across the Sinai. Bon's division formed part of this army.

Napoleon's first major setback on land came at Acre, where he was unable to overcome the garrison of the city. Napoleon arrived outside Acre on 18 March 1799, a few days after Sir Sydney Smith arrived in the city to help rally the defence. The Ottoman garrison held out despite a series of French assaults. By the start of March Napoleon was getting desperate, and between 1 and 10 May he ordered five assaults on the city. On 10 May 1799, during the final assault on the city Bon was mortally wounded in the attempt to storm the breach in the walls. Soon afterwards Napoleon was forced to abandon the siege and ordered a retreat back into Egypt.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (12 January 2016), General Louis-André Bon, 1758-99 ,

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