The Bombardement of Algiers, 1819
A total of 25 warships and 55 armed sloops with a firepower of almost one thousand cannons devastate today‘s Algerian capital on 27 August 1816. The escalation between the British and Ottomans was preceded by a long conflict: since the 17th century, the „barbarian states“ have had European merchant ships captured in order to enslave the crew or have them ransomed. When a massacre took place in Bona in 1816, in which the British vice-consul was murdered by Ottoman soldiers, the British government commissioned Admiral Ed- ward Pellew (1757-1833) to end the enslavement of the Christians by any means necessary. Pellew‘s fleet joins forces with Dutch ships in Gibraltar. On the morning of 27 August, the Anglo-Dutch fleet reaches Algiers and addresses a demand to Omar Agha (1773-1817) to agree to the abolition of slavery of Christians and their extradition within three hours. The ruler responds to the ultimatum with cannon fire, whereupon Pellew gives the order to attack. After six hours of shelling, the enemy fleet, the fortress artillery and half the city, including its supplies, are destroyed. The following day, Omar agrees to the demands. Pellew threatens Tunis and Tripoli with the same fate, whereupon the Christians there are also released.
Thomas Luny immerses the battle in a nightscene in which the flames of the burning city illuminate the fleet. Algiers‘ resistance can be seen on the ships; the sails are riddled with artillery fire. Amidst the gloomy atmosphere, the rescued slaves are brought to the ships on the lifeboats. In one of the boats, the painter stages himself in front of an easel as if he had experienced the event himself.