The Battle of the Nile was fought in Aboukir Bay, about 15 miles west of Alexandria, on 1 August 1798. Nelson, having spent most of the summer cruising the eastern Mediterranean looking for Admiral Brueys' Toulon fleet, finally came upon it as it lay at anchor in Aboukir Bay following the disembarkation of the army with which Napoleon was to conquer Egypt. Brueys had chosen a strong position in a well-protected anchorage although Nelson had the advantage of surprise. More significantly, it was already six o'clock in the evening when Nelson sighted the French and, with only two hours of daylight remaining, Brueys was confident that any attack would have to be postponed until the next day, by which time his own fleet would be ready. Nelson, with typical daring, amazed both his own captains as well as the French by ordering his ships into the Bay where they engaged the enemy in a spirited action which lasted most of the night. The decisive moment came just after 10 o'clock when the French flagship, the huge 120-gun L'Orient, blew up with a tremendous explosion and, when dawn broke, the French annihilation became apparent with nine of their badly damaged ships captured and another four completely destroyed. It was a glorious victory for Nelson, one of the greatest in British naval history, and the one which brought him to the pinnacle of his career.
Dodd's view of the aftermath of the battle, which was also engraved and published as an aquatint (see Christie's Maritime catalogue, 5 November 1998, lot 300), shows a somewhat stylised scene of Nelson's flagship Vanguard passing between the wreck of the sinking frigate Serieuse and the burning hulk of the L'Orient.