Battle of Mount Tabor (1799)

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Battle of Mount Tabor
Part of the French Campaign in Egypt and Syria of the French Revolutionary Wars
La Bataille du mont Tabor, en Syrie, le 27 germinal an VI by Louis François Lejeune Salon de 1804.jpg
Battle of Mount Tabor by Louis-François Lejeune (not an eye-witness)[1]
Date16 April 1799
Result French victory
French First Republic First French Republic Ottoman Empire
Commanders and leaders
French First Republic Jean Baptiste Kléber
French First Republic Napoleon Bonaparte
Abdullah Pasha al-Azm
4,000[2] (at the end, after Bonaparte's 2,500 men arrival)[3] 35,000[3]
Casualties and losses
2 killed
60 wounded[4]
6,000 killed
500 captured[5]
Location of battle, as given on map by Pierre Jacotin, 1826

The Battle of Mount Tabor, also known as the Skirmish of Mount Tabor, was an engagement between French forces under Jean Baptiste Kléber, aided in the second part of the battle by reinforcements lead by General Bonaparte, which defeated an Ottoman force led by Abdullah Pasha al-Azm of Damascus[dubious ] on 16 April 1799.[6] Napoleon Bonaparte was besieging Acre, the Ottoman governor of Damascus sent an army to relieve the siege, and Kléber sought to intercept it. [7]


By April, Napoleon had become worried about his strategic situation and the possible presence of large Ottoman forces in the vicinity. This resulted in more supervision of his subordinate and detailed instructions, which Kléber chaffed at.[7] While in Nazareth, Kléber received news that a large Ottoman force was encamped near Mount Tabor, and saw a chance to make a name for himself. After taking the precaution to write to Napoleon of his intentions (but too late for Napoleon to respond), Kléber took his division of 2,000 men in the hopes of launching a daring night raid on the Ottoman camp. His plan was to march around the northern side of Mount Tabor to surprise the Ottoman forces at 2 AM.[8]


Kléber had badly estimated how long the march would take, and did not reach the plain below Mount Tabor until 6 AM, by which time the sun had risen. The Ottoman forces, consisting of 10,000 infantry and 25,000 cavalry, spotted Kléber, who realised that his best bet was to form two infantry squares to defend against attack, then hopefully retreat during the night. However as the day wore on, it became clear to both Kléber and the Ottomans that his position could not last, as Kléber's men were running out of ammunition, thirsty and starving. [6]

Just when all seemed to be lost, some of his soldiers claimed to have seen bayonents advancing from the north. Kléber tried to verify their report by climbing to a vantage point and using his telescope, but saw nothing. Desperate, Kléber prepared to abandon his artillery and wounded, and attempt a breakout, every man for himself. However, Kléber's men had not been mistaken: Napoleon was marching to their aid with 2,000 men. When Kléber had looked, Napoleon's forces had marched behind head-high wild wheat, which made them invisible from the battlefield. [9]

Napoleon found himself between the Ottomans and their camp. He ordered a part of his force to form square and march up on an enbankment, which made them visible to both the Ottomans and the French under Kléber, coordinated with a salvo from his artillery to announce his prescence. The Ottoman forces were briefly distracted by this, but were soon reassured by the sight of their advancing Mamluk cavalry and Nablus tribesmen. Seeing that the Ottomans would stand their ground, Napoleon sent three of his squares to march out, inbetween the Ottomans and their camp. Simultaneously, he sent 300 men into the camp, with orders to set fire to all the tents, and make a show of seizing supplies and camels. Upon seeing the destruction of their belongings and Napoleon's squares blocking the way to save their camp, the Ottomans felt cut off and began to retreat.[9]

Kléber saw his chance, and ordered his men to charge,[9] which supported by the soldiers under Napoleon transformed the Ottoman retreat into a general rout. Ottoman cavalry headed for the mountains in the south, while their infantry scattered toward the Jourdan River. Recent rains had risen the water of the river and made its banks into a quagmire, and this poor timing resulted in thousands of casualties for the retreating Ottoman infantry. [10]


Overall Kléber's casualties were, according to his own account, two dead and seventeen wounded, but had Napoleon arrived just an hour later, his casualties would have been far more serious. On the other hand, the Ottomans, although estimates can not be relied upon, had lost a large proportion of their overall force. This victory not only ended any major threat of the Pasha's army lifting the siege of Acre, but the surviving Ottoman land forces were scattered and did not reform before Napoleon was forced to lift the siege the following month.


  1. ^ Bonnet Saint-Georges, Bénédicte (2012). "The Napoleonic Wars. Louis François Lejeune, General and Painter. Exhibition. Château Versailles, 14 February-13 May 2012. Curator: Valérie Bajou, author of Les Guerres de Napoléon. Louis François Lejeune, general et peintre, Editions Hazan, 2012, ISBN: 9782754106023". La Tribune de l'Art. Retrieved 10 May 2020. He did not travel to Egypt either, nor to Syria but represented the battles of the Pyramids (1798), of Mount Tabor (1799), and the second battle of Aboukir Bay (1799).... Lejeune analyzes, breaks down and details the maneuvers with an aerial perspective which gives the illusion of continuing beyond the canvas, much like the principle of a panorama.
  2. ^ Charles River Editors (2018). Napoleon in Egypt: The History and Legacy of the French Campaign in Egypt and Syria. Charles River Editors. ISBN 978-1718863620.
  3. ^ a b Smith, D. p.151
  4. ^ Bonaparte et l'Égypte: feu et lumières p117
  5. ^ Bonaparte et l'Égypte: feu et lumières p117
  6. ^ a b Strathern, p. 350
  7. ^ a b Strathern, p. 349
  8. ^ Strathern, p. 349-350
  9. ^ a b c Strathern, p. 351
  10. ^ Strathern, p. 352


  • Smith, D. The Greenhill Napoleonic Wars Data Book. Greenhill Books, 1998.
  • Strathern, Paul. Napoleon in Egypt. Random House, 2007.

Further reading[edit]

  • Heege, Robert (July 2014). "Napoleon's Dramatic Rescue". Military Heritage Magazine.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 32°36′44.81″N 35°19′35.85″E / 32.6124472°N 35.3266250°E / 32.6124472; 35.3266250