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Captain A. T. MAHAN, D. C. L., LL. D., 

United States Navy, 














Captaix a. T. MAHAN, D. C. L., LL. D., 

(Jiiftcd States Nart/. 







1 1 


Cnp,/rh//il, 1S9S, 
V, V A. T. M A II A N. 

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Janibrvsitg Press : 

John Wilson am> Shx, Cambhidcic, IT.S. A. 



Decisive Influence of Control of the Water in the American Revolution — The Lake 
Campaign of 1776 — Attack upon Charleston, S. C. — Combined Military and Naval 
Operations about New York and Pliiladelphia, 1776-1778 — Howe and d'Estaing, 
1778 — Battle of Usbant, July, 1778 — Barrington at St. Lucia, December, 177S 
— Byron off^ Grenada, July, 1779 — Franco-Spanish Fleet in the Channel, 1779 — 
Rodney and Langara. January, 1780 — Rodney at Gibraltar, and in the West 
Indies, 1780 — Combined Naval and Military Operations in Southern States, 
1779-1781 — Arbuthnot and des Touches off the Chesapeake, March, 1781 — Hood 
and de Grasse off Martinique, April, 1781 — Graves and de Grasse off the Chesa- 
peake, September, 1781, and Capitulation of Yorktown — Relief of Gibraltar, and 
Allied Fleet in the Channel, 1781 — H.yde Parker's Action with the Dutch Fleet, 
August, 1781 — Kempenfelt and de Guichen, December, 1781 — Hood and de 
Grasse at St. Kitts, January, 1782 — Rodney's Victory over de Grasse, April, 
1782 — Howe's Relief of Gibraltar, October, 1782 — Military and Naval Operations 
in India, '1778-178.3 — Suffren's Campaign in India, and Actions with Johnstone 
and Hughes, 1781-1783. 


USHANT. 177S. 

{From an original lent bif Citpl. H. S. H, Prince Louis 
0/ Ball'enherg, E. X.) 

T the time when hostihties 
began between Great 
Britain and her American 
Colonies, the fact was realised 
generally, being evident to 
reason and taught by experi- 
ence, that control of the water, 
both ocean and inland, would 
have a j^reponderant effect 
upon the contest. It was clear to reason, for there was a long 
seaboard with numerous interior navigable watercoA^jgQS, and at the 
same time scanty and indifferent communications by land. Critical 
portions of the territory involved were yet an unimi^roved wilderness. 
Experience, the rude but efficient schoolmaster of that large portion 
of mankind which gains knowledge only by hard knocks, had con- 
firmed through the preceding French wars the inferences of the 
thoughtful. Therefore, conscious of the great superiority of the 

* Copyright, ISOS, By A. T. Mahan. 
VOL. in. — 23 

354 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1775. 

British Navy, which, however, had not then attained the unchal- 
lenged supremacy of a later day, the American leaders early sought 
the alliance of the Bourbon kingdoms, the liereditarj^ enemies of 
Great Britain. There alone could be found the counterpoise to a 
power which, if unchecked, must ultimately prevail. 

Nearly three years elapsed before the Colonists accomplished this 
object, by giving a demonstration of their strength in the enforced 
surrender of Burgoyne's army at Saratoga. This event has merited 
the epithet " decisive," because, and only because, it decided the in- 
tervention of France. It may be affirmed, with little hesitation, that 
it was at once the result of naval force, and the cause tliat naval 
force, entering further into the contest, transformed it from a local 
to a universal war, and assured the indei^endence of the Colonies. 
That the Americans were strong enough to impose the capitula- 
tion of Saratoga, was due to the invaluable year of delay, secured 
to them by their little navy on Lake Champlain, created by the 
indomitable energy, and handled with the indt)mitable courage, of 
tlie traitor, Benedict Arnold. That the war spread from America 
to Europe, from the English Channel to the Baltic, from the Bay 
of Biscay to the Mediterranean, from the West Indies to the JNIissis- 
sippi, and ultimately involved the waters of the remote peninsula of 
Hindostan, is traceable, through Saratoga, to the rude flotilla which 
in 1776 anticijaated its enemy in the possession of Lake Chamjjlain. 
The events which thus culminated merit therefore a clearer under- 
standing, and a fuller treatment, than their intrinsic importance and 
petty scale would justify otherwise. 

In 1775, only fifteen years had elapsed since the expulsion of the 
French from the North American continent. The concentration of 
their powei', during its continuance, in the valley of the St. Law- 
rence, had given direction to the local conflict, and liad impressed 
upon men's minds the importance of Lake Champlain, of its tribu- 
tary Lake George, and of the Hudson River, as forming a consecu- 
tive, though not continuous, water line of communications from the 
St. Lawrence to New York. The strength of Canada against attack 
by land lay in its remoteness, in the wilderness to be traversed be- 
fore it was reached, and in the strength of the line of the St. Law- 
rence, with the fortified posts of Montreal and Quebec on its northern 
bank. The wilderness, it is true, interposed its passive resistance to 
attacks from Canada, as well as to attacks upon it ; but when it had 
been traversed, there were to the southward no such strong natural 




positions confronting the assail- 
ant. Attacks from tlie soutli 
fell upon the front, or at best 
upon the flank, of the line of 
the St. Lawrence. Attacks from 
Canada took New York and its 
dependencies in the rear. 

These elements of natural 
strength, in the military con- 
ditions of the North, were im- 
pressed upon the minds of the 
Americans by the prolonged re- 
sistance of Canada to the greatly 
superior numbers of the British 
Colonists in the previous wars. 
Regarded, therefore, as a base 
for attacks, of a kind with which 
they were painfully familiar, but 
to be undergone now under 
disadvantages of numbers and 
power never before experienced, 
it was desirable to gain posses- 
sion of the St. Lawrence and its 
posts before they were strength- 
ened and garrisoned. At this 
outset of hostilities, the Ameri- 
can insurgents, knowing clearly 
their own minds, possessed the 
advantage of the initiative over 
the British government, which 
still hesitated to use against 
those whom it styled rebels the 
preventive measures it would 
have taken at once against a 
recognised enemy. 

Lender these circumstances, 
in May, 1775, a body of two hun- 
dred and seventy Americans, led 
by Ethan Allen and Benedict 
Arnold, seized the posts of Ti- 




356 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 17C2-1783. [1775. 

conderoga and Crown Point, which were inadequately garrisoned. 
These are on the upjoer waters of Lake Chaniplain, where it is less 
than a third of a mile wide ; Ticonderoga being on a peninsula 
formed by the lake and the inlet from Lake George, Crown Point 
on a promontory twelve miles lower down. They were recognised 
positions of importance, and advanced posts of the British in pre- 
vious wars. A schooner being found there, Arnold, who had been 
a seaman, embarked in her and hurried to the foot of the lake.' 
The wind failed him when still thirty miles from St. John's, another 
fortified post on the lower narrows, where the lake gradually tapers 
down to the Richelieu River, its outlet to the St. La\Arence. Unable 
to advance otherwise, Arnold took to his boats with thirty men, pulled 
throughout the night, and at six o'clock on the following morning 
surprised the post, in which were only a sergeant and a dozen men. 
He reaped the rewards of celerity. The prisoners informed him that 
a considerable body of troops was exi^ected from Canada, on its way 
to Ticonderoga ; and this force in fact reached St. John's on the 
next daj'. When it arrived, Arnold was gone, having can-ied off a 
sloop which he found there and destroyed everything else that could 
float. By such trifling means two active officers had secured the 
temporary control of the lake and of its southern approaches. There 
being no roads, the British, debarred from the water line, Avere unable 
to a(.hance. Sir Guy Carleton, Governor and Commander-in-Chief in 
Canada, strengthened the works at St. John's, and built a schooner ; 
but his force was inadequate to meet that of the Americans. 

The seizure of the two posts, being an act of offensive war, was 
not at once pleasing to the American Congress, which still clung 
to the hope of reconciliation ; but events were marching rapidly, 
and ere summer was over the invasion of Canada was ordered. On 
September 4th, General Montgomery, appointed to that enterprise, 
embarked at Crown Point with two thousand men, and soon after- 
wards appeared before St. John's, which, after prolonged operations, 
capitulated on the 3rd of November. On the 13th Montgomery en- 
tered Montreal, and thence pressed down the St. La^\•rence to Points 
aux Trembles, twenty miles above Quebec. There he joined Arnold, 
who in the month of October had crossed the northern wilderness, 
between the head waters of the Kennebec River and the St. Law- 
rence. On the way he had endured immense privations, losing five 
hundred men of the twelve hundred \\\i\\ whom he started : and 
upon arriving opposite Quebec, on the 10th of November, three 


days had been unavoidably spent in collecting boats to pass the 
river. Crossing on the night of the 13th, this adventuroiis soldier 
and his little command climbed the Heiglits of Abraham by the 
same path that had served Wolfe so well sixteen years before. 
With characteristic audacity he summoned the place. The demand 
of course was refused ; but that Carleton did not fall at once upon . 
the little band of seven hundred that bearded him shows by how 
feeble a tenure Great Britain then held Canada. Immediately after 
the junction Montgomery advanced on Quebec, where he appeared 
on the 5th of December. Winter having already begun, and neither 
his numbers nor his equipments being adequate to regular siege 
operations, he very properly decided to try the des^Jerate chance of 
an assault upon the strongest fortress in America. This was made 
on the night of December 31st, 1775. Whatever possibility of suc- 
cess there may have been, vanished with the death of Montgomery, 
who fell at the head of his men. 

The American army retired three miles up the river, went into 
winter-quarters, and established a land blockade of Quebec, which 
was cut off from the sea by the ice. "For five montlis," wrote 
Carleton to the Secretary for War, on the 14th of May, 1776, " this 
town has been closely invested by the rebels." From this unpleasant 
position it was relieved on the 6th of May, when signals were ex- 
changed between it and the Surprise, the advance ship of a squacbon 
under Captain Charles Douglas,^ which had sailed from England on 
the 11th of March. Arriving off the mouth of the St. Lawrence, 
on the morning of April 12th, Douglas found ice extending ueai-ly 
twenty miles to sea, and packed too closely to achnit of working 
through it by dexterous steering. The urgency of the case not ad- 
mitting delay, he ran his ship, the Isis, 50, with a speed of five knots, 
against a large piece of ice about ten or twelve feet thick, to test the 
effect. The ice, probably softened by salt water and salt air, went 
to pieces. " Encouraged by this experiment," continues Douglas, 
somewhat magnificently, " we thought it an enterprise worthj' an 
English ship of the line in our King and country's sacred cause, and 
an effort due to the gallant defenders of Quebec, to make the attempt 
of pressing her by force of sail, through the thick, broad, and closely 
connected fields of ice, to which we saw no bounds towards the west- 
ern part of our horizon. Before night (when blowing a snow-storm, 

1 Father of the late Sir Howard Douglas. He died a Rear-Admiral and 
Baronet in 1789. 

358 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1776. 

we brought-to, or rather stopped), we had penetrated about eight 
leagues into it, describing our path all the way with bits of the 
sheathing of the ship's bottom, and sometimes pieces of the cutwater, 
but none of the oak plank ; and it was pleasant enough at times, 
when we stuck fast, to see Lord Petersham exercising his troops on 
the crusted surface of that fluid through which the ship had so 
recently sailed." It took nine daj'S of this work to reach Anticosti 
Island, after which the ice seems to have given no more trouble ; 
but further delay was occasioned by fogs, calms, and head winds. 

Upon the arrival of the ships of war the Americans at once 
retreated. During the winter, though reinforcements must have 
been received from time to time, they had wasted from exposure, 
and from small-pox, which ravaged the camp. On tlie 1st of May 
the returns showed nineteen hundred men present, of whom only a 
thousand were fit for duty. There were then on hand but three 
days' provisions, and none other nearer than St. John's. The in- 
habitants would of course render no further assistance to the Ameri- 
cans after the ships arrived. The Navy had again decided the fate 
of Canada, and was soon also to determine that of Lake Champlain. 

When two hundred troops had landed from the ships, Carleton 
marched out, " to see," he said, " what these mighty boasters were 
about." The sneer was unworthy a man of his generous character, 
for the boasters had endured much for faint chances of success ; and 
the smallness of the reinforcement which encouraged him to act 
shows either an extreme prudence on his part, or the narrow margin 
by which Quebec escaped. He found the eneni}' busy with ^^repara- 
tions for retreat, and vipon his appearance they abandoned their 
camp. Their forces on the two sides of tlie river being now sei^a- 
rated by the enemy's shipping, the Americans retired first to Sorel, 
where the Richelieu enters the St. Lawrence, and thence continued 
to fall back by gradual stages. It was not until June 15th that 
Arnold quitted Montreal ; and at the end of June the united force 
was still on the Canadian side of the present border line. On the 3rd 
of July it reached Crown Point, in a pitiable state from small-pox 
and destitution. 

Both parties began at once to prepare for a contest upon Lake 
Champlain. The Americans, small as their flotilla was, still kept the 
superiority obtained for them by Arnold's promptitude a year before. 
On the 25th of June the American General Schuyler, commanding 
the Noi-thern Department, wrote : " We have happily such a naval 

1776.] TEE LAKE CAMPAIGN. 359 

superiority on Lake Champlain, that I have a confident hope the 
enemy will not appear upon it this campaign, especially as our force 
is increasing by the addition of gondolas, two nearly finished. Arnold, 
however," — whose technical knowledge caused him to be intrusted 
with the naval preparations, — " says that 300 carpenters should be 
employed and a large number of gondolas, row-galleys, etc., be built, 
twenty or thirty at least. There is great difliculty in getting the 
carfDcnters needed." Arnold's ideas were indeed on a scale worthy 
of the momentous issues at stake. " To augment our navy on the 
lake appears to me of the utmost importance. There is water be- 
tween Crown Point and Pointe au Fer for vessels of the largest size. 
I am of opinion that row-galleys are the best construction and cheap- 
est for this lake. Perhaps it may be well to have one frigate of 36 
guns. She may carry 18-pounders on the Lake, and be superior to 
any vessel that can be built or floated from St. John's." 

Unfortunately for the Americans, their resources in men and 
means were far inferior to those of their opponents, who were able 
eventually to carry out, though on a somewhat smaller scale, Arnold's 
idea of a sailing ship, strictly so called, of force as yet unknown in 
inland waters. Such a ship, aided as she was by two consorts of 
somewhat similar character, dominated the Lake as soon as she was 
afloat, reversing all the conditions. To place and equip her, however, 
required time, invaluable time, during which Arnold's two schooners 
exercised control. " If we could have begun our expedition four 
weeks earlier," wrote Baron Riedesel, the commander of the German 
contingent with Carleton, after examining the American position at 
Ticonderoga, " I am satisfied that everything would have been ended 
this year (1776) ; but, not having shelter nor other necessary things, 
we were unable to remain at the other [southern] end of Champlain." 
So delay favours the defence, and changes issues. What would have 
been the effect upon the American cause if, simultaneously with the 
loss of New York, August 20th-September 15th, had come the news 
that Ticonderoga, whose repute for strength stood high, had also 
fallen ? Nor was this all ; for in that event, the plan which was 
wrecked in 1777 by Sir William Howe's ill-conceived expedition to 
the Chesapeake, would doubtless have been carried out in 1776. In 
a contemporary English paper occurs the following significant item : 
" London, September 26th, 1776. Advices have been received here 
from Canada, dated August 12th, that General Burgoyne's army has 
found it impracticable to get across the lakes this season. The naval 

360 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1776. 

force of the Piovincials is too great for them to contend with at 
present. They must build larger vessels for this purpose, and these 
cannot be ready before next summer. The design was ^ that the two 
armies commanded by Generals Howe and Burgoyne should co- 
operate ; that they should both be on the Hudson River at the same 
time ; that they should join about Albany, and thereby cut off all 
communication between the northern and southern Colonies." ^ 

As Arnold's more ambitious scheme could not be realised, he had- 
to content himself with gondolas and galleys, for the force he was 
to command as well as to build. The precise difference between the 
two kinds of rowing vessels thus distinguished by name, the writer 
has not been able to ascertain. The gondola was a flat^bottomed boat, 
and inferior in nautical qualities — speed, handiness, and seaworthi- 
ness — to the galleys, which probably were keeled. The latter cer- 
tainly carried sails, and may have been capable of beating to windward. 
Arnold preferred them, and stopped the building of gondolas. " The 
galleys," he wrote, " are quick moving, which will give us a great 
advantage in tlie open lake." The complements of the galleys were 
eighty men, of the gondolas forty-five ; from which, and from their 
batteries, it may be inferred that the latter were between one third 
and one half the size of tiie former. The armaments of the two were 
alike in character, but those of the gondolas much lighter. American 
accounts agree with Captain Douglas's report of one galley captured 
by the British. In the bows, an 18 and a 12-pounder ; in the stern, 
2 nines ; in broadside, from 4 to 6 sixes. There is in this a some- 
what droll reminder of the disputed merits of bow, stern, and 
broadside fire, in a modern iron-clad ; and the practical conclusion 
is much the same. The gondolas had one 12-pounder and 2 sixes. 
All the vessels of both parties carried a number of swivel guns. 

Amid the many diihculties whicli lack of resources imposed ujion 
all American undertakings, Ai-nold succeeded in getting afloat with 
three schooners, a sloop, and five gondolas, on the 20th of August. 
He cruised at the upper end of Champlain till the 1st of September, 
when he moved rapidly north, and on tlie 3rd anchored in the lower 
narrows, twenty-five miles above St. John's, stretching his line from 
shore to shore. Scouts had kept him informed of the progress of 
the British naval preparations, so that he knew that there was no 
immediate danger; while an advanced position, maintained with a 
bold front, would certainly prevent reconnoissances by water, and 

^ Author's italics. ^ Remembrancer, iv. 291. 

1770.] THE LAKE CAMPAIGN. 361 

possibly might impose somewhat upon the enemy. The latter, how- 
ever, erected batteries on each side of the anchorage, compelling 
Arnold to fall back to the broader Lake. He then had soundinors 
taken about Valcour Island, and between it and the western shore ; 
that being the position in which he intended to make a stand. He 
retired thither on tlie 2ord of September. 

The British on tlieir side had contended with no less obstacles 
than their adversaries, though of a somewhat different character. 
To get carpenters and materials to build, and seamen to man, were 
the cliief difficulties of the Americans, the necessities of the sea- 
board conceding but partially the demands made upon it ; Ijut their 
vessels were built upon the shores of the Lake, and launched into 
navigable waters. A large fleet of transports and ships of war in 
the St. Lawrence supplied the British witli adequate resources, which 
were utilised judiciously and energetically by Captain Douglas ; but 
to get these to the Lake was a long and arduous task. A great 
part of the Richelieu River was shoal, and obstructed by rapids. 
The point where Lake navigation began was at St. John's, to which 
the nearest approach, b}' a hundred-ton schooner, from the St. Law- 
rence, was Chambly, ten miles below. Flat-boats and long-boats 
could be dragged up stream, but vessels of any size had to be trans- 
ported by land ; and the engineers found the roadbed too soft in 
places to bear the weight of a hundred tons. Under Douglas's direc- 
tions, the planking and frames of two schooners were taken down 
at Chambly, and carried round by road to St. John's, where they 
were again put together. At Quebec he found building a new hull, 
of one hundred and eighty tons. This he took apart nearly to the 
keel, shipping the fi-ames in thirty long-boats, which the ti'ansport 
captains consented to surrender, together with their carpenters, for 
service on the Lake. Drafts from the ships of war, and volunteers 
from the transports, furnished a body of seven hundred seamen for 
the same employment, — a force to which the Americans could op- 
pose nothing equal, commanded as it was by regular naval officers. 
The largest vessel was ship-rigged, and had a battery of eighteen 
12-pounders ; she was called the Inflexible, and was commanded by 
Lieutenant John Schanck. The two schooners, Maria, Lieutenant 
Stai-ke, and Carhton, Lieutenant James Richard Dacres, carried re- 
spectively fourteen and twelve 6-poruiders. These were the backbone 
of the British flotilla. There were also a radeau, the TJmnderer, and 
a large gondola, the Loijal Co7ivert, hoth heavily armed; but, being 

362 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1776. 

equally heavy of movement, they do not appear to have played any im- 
portant part. Besides these, when the expedition started, there were 
twenty gunboats, each carrying one fieldpiece, from twenty-fours to 
9-poundei's ; or, in some cases, howitzers.^ 

" By all these means," wrote Douglas on July 21st, " our acquir- 
ing an absolute dominion over Lake Champlain is not doubted of." 
The expectation was perfectly sound. With a working breeze, the 
Inflcxihh alone could sweep the Lake clear of all that floated on it. 
But the element of time remained. From the day of this writing 
till that on which he saw the Inflexible leave St. John's, October 
4th, was over ten weeks ; and it was not until the 9th that Carleton 
was ready to advance with the squadron. By that time the Ameri- 
can troops at the head of the Lake had increased to eight or ten 
thousand. The British land force is reported ^ as thirteen thousand, 
of which six thousand were in garrison at St. John's and else- 

Arnold's last reinforcements reached him at Valcour on the Gth 
of October. On that day, and in the action of the 11th, he had with 
him all the American vessels on the Lake, except one schooner and 
one galley. His force, thus, was two schooners and a sloop, broad- 
side vessels, besides four galleys and eight gondolas, which may be 
assumed reasonably to have depended on their bow guns ; there, at 
least, was their heaviest fire. Thus reckoned, his flotilla, disjiosed to 
the best advantage, could bring into action at one time, 2 eighteens, 
13 twelves, 1 nine, 2 sixes, 12 fours, and 2 2-pounders, indeiiendent 
of swivels ; total, 32 guns, out of eighty-four that were mounted in 
fifteen vessels. To this the British had to oppose, in three broadside 
vessels, 9 twelves and 13 sixes, and in twenty gunboats, 20 other 
brass guns, " from twenty-fours to nines, some with howitzers ; " ^ 
total, 42 guns. In this statement the radeau and gondola have not 
been included, because of their unmanageableness. Included as 
broadside vessels, they would raise the British armament — by 3 
twenty-fours, 3 twelves, 4 nines, and a howitzer — to a total of 53 
guns. Actually, they could be brought into action only under ex- 
ceptional circumstances, and are more projjerly omitted. 

1 The radeau had six 24-]iounders, six 12's, and two howitzers; the gondola, 
seven 9-poiinders. The particulars of armament are from Douglas's letters. 

^ By American reports. Beatson gives the force sent out, in the spring of 1776, 
as 13,357. (' Mil. and Nav. Memoirs,' vi. 44.) 

' Douglas's letters. 

1776.] THE LAKE CAMPAIGN. 363 

These minutise are necessary for the proper appreciation of what 
Captain Douglas justly called "a momentous event." It was a strife 
of pigmies for the prize of a continent, and the leaders are entitled 
to full credit both for their antecedent energy and for their dispo- 
sitions in the contest ; not least the unhappy man who, having done 
so much to save his country, afterwards blasted his name by a trea- 
son unsurpassed in modern war. Energy and audacity had so far 
preserved the Lake to the Americans; Arnold determined to have 
one more try of the chances. He did not know the full force of 
the enemy, but he expected that " it would be very formidable, if 
not equal to ours." ^ The season, however, was so near its end that 
a severe check would equal a defeat, and would postpone Carleton's 
further advance to the next spring. Besides, what was the worth of 
such a force as the American, such a flotilla, under the guns of Ticon- 
deroga, the Lake being lost? It was eminently a case for taking 
chances, even if the detachment should be sacrificed, as it was. 

Arnold's original pm-pose had been to fight under way ; and it 
was from this point of view that he valued the galleys, because of 
their mobility. It is uncertain when he first learned of the rig and 
battery of the Inflexible ; ^ but a good look-out was kept, and the 
British squadron was sighted from Valcour when it quitted the nar- 
rows. It may have been seen even earlier ; for Carleton had been 
informed, erroneously, that the Americans were near Grand Island, 
which led him to incline to that side, and so open out Valcour 
sooner. The British anchored for the night of October 10th, be- 
tween Grand and Long^ Islantls. Getting under way next morning, 
they stood up the Lake with a strong north-east wind, keeping along 
Grand Island, upon which their attention doubtless was fastened by 
the intelligence which thej^ had received ; but it was a singular negli- 
gence thus to run to leeward with a fair wind, without thorough 
scouting on both hands. The consequence was that the American 
flotilla was not discovered until Valcour Island, which is from one 
hundred and twenty to one hundred and eighty feet high through- 
out its two miles of length, was so far passed that the attack had 
to be made from the south, — from leeward. 

1 Douglas thought that the appearance of the Inflexible was a complete surprise; 
but Arnold had been informed that a third vessel, larger than the schooners, was 
being set up. With a man of his character, it is impossible to be sure, from his 
letters to his superior, how much he knew, or what he withheld. 

^ Now called North Hero. 

364 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. Tl776. 

When the British were first made out, Arnokrs second in com- 
mand, Waterbury, urged that in view of the enemy's superiority the 
flotilla should get under way at once, and fight them " on a retreat 
in the main Lake ; " the harbor being disadvantageous " to fight a 
number so much superior, and the enemy being able to surround us 
on every side, we lying between an island and the main." With 
sounder judgment, Arnold decided to hold on. A retreat before 
square-rigged sailing vessels having a fair wind, by a heterogeneous 
force like his own, of unequal speeds and batteries, could result 
only in disaster. Concerted fire and successful escape were alike 
improbable ; and besides, escape, if feasible, was but throwing up the 
game. Better trust to a steady, well-ordered position, developing 
the utmost fire. If the enemy discovered him, and came in by the 
northern entrance, there was a five-foot knoll in mid-channel which 
might fetch the biggest of them up; if, as proved to be the case, 
the island should be passed, and the attack should be made from 
leeward, it probably would be partial and in disorder, as also hap- 
pened. The correctness of Arnold's decision not to chance a retreat 
was shown in the retreat of two days later. 

Valcour is on the west side of the Lake, about three quarters 
of a mile from the main ; but a peninsula projecting from the island 
at mid-length narrows this interval to a half-mile. From the ac- 
counts, it is clear that the American flotilla lay south of this penin- 
sula. Arnold had, therefore, a reasonable hope that it might be 
passed undetected. Writing to Gates, the commander-in-chief at 
Ticonderoga, he said : " There is a good harbor, and if tlie enemy 
venture up the Lake it will be impossible for them to take advan- 
tage of our situation. If we succeed in our attack uj^on them, it 
will be impossible for any to escape. If we are w"orsted, our retreat 
is ojien and free. In case of wind, which generally blows fresh at 
this season, our craft will make good weather, while theire cannot 
keeiD the Lake." It is apparent from this, written three weeks be- 
fore the battle, that lie then was not expecting a force materially 
different from liis own. Later, he describes his position as being 
" in a small bay on the west side of the island, as near together as 
possible, and in such a form that few vessels can attack us at the 
same time, and those will be exposed to the fire of the whole 
fleet." Though he unfortunately gives no details, he evidently had 
sound tactical ideas. The formation of the anchored vessels is de- 
scribed by the British officers as a half-moon. 

1776.] THE LAKE CA31PAIGN. 365 

When the British discovered the enemy, they hauled up for 
them. Arnold ordered one of his schooners, the Eotjal Savarje, and 
the four galleys, to get under wa}-; the two other schooners and 
the eight gondolas remaining at their anchors. The Royal Savage, 
dropping to leeward, — by bad management, Arnold sa3-s, — came, 
apparently unsupported, under the distant fire of the Inflexihle, as 
she drew under the lee of Valcour at 11 a.:m., followed by the 
Carldon, and at greater distance by the Maria and the gunboats. 
Three shots from the ship's 12-poimders struck the Royal Savage, 
which then ran ashore on the southern point of the island. The 
InflexiUe, followed closely by the Carleton, continued on, but fired 
only occasionally ; showing that Arnold was keeping his galleys in 
hand, at long bowls, — as small vessels with one eighteen should be 
kept, when confronted with a broadside of nine guns. Between 
the island and the main the north-east wind doubtless drew more 
uortherlv, ad\'erse to the ships' approach ; but, a flaw oiT the cliffs 
taking the fore and aft sails of the Carleton, slie fetched " nearly into 
the middle of the rebel half-moon, where Lieutenant J. R. Dacres in- 
trepidly anchored with a spring on her cable." The Maria, on board 
which was Carleton, together with Commander Thomas Pringle, 
commanding the flotilla, was to leeward when the chase began, and 
could not get into close action that day. By this time, seventeen 
of the twenty gunboats had come up, and, after silencing the Royal 
Savage, pulled up to within point-blank range of the American flotilla. 
" The cannonade was tremendous," wrote Baron Kiedesel. Lieutenant 
Edward Longcroft, of the radeau Thunderer, not being able to get his 
raft into action, went with a boat's crew on board the Royal Savage, 
and for a time turned her guns upon her former friends ; but the fire 
of the latter forced iiim again to abandon her ; and it seemed so likelj- 
that she might be retaken that she was set on fire by Lieutenant 
Starke of the Maria, when already " two rebel boats were ver}- near 
her. She soon after blew up." The American guns converging on 
the Carleton in her central position, she suffered severely. Her com- 
mander, Lieutenant Dacres, was knocked senseless ; another officer 
lost an arm; only Mr. Edward Pellew, afterwards Lord Exmouth, 
remained fit for duty. The spring being shot away, she swung bows 
on to the enemy, and her fire was thus silenced. Captain Pringle 
signalled to her to withdraw ; but she was unable to obey. To pay 
her head off the right way, Pellew himself had to get out on the 
bowsprit under a heavy fire of musketrj-, to bear the jib over to 

366 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1776. 

windward ; but to make sail seems to have been impossible. Two 
artillery boats were sent to her assistance, " which towed her off 
through a very thick fire, until out of farther reach, much to the 
honour of Mr. John Curling and Mr. Patrick Carnegy, master's mate 
and midshipman of the Isis, who conducted them ; and of Mr. 
Edward Pellew, mate of the Blonde, who threw the tow-rope from 
the Carletons bowsprit." ^ This service on board the Carldon stai'ted 
Pellew on his road to fortune ; but, singularly enough, the lieutenancy 
promised him in consequence, by both the First Lord and Lord Howe, 
was delayed by the fact that he stayed at the front, instead of going 
to the rear, where he would have been " within their jurisdiction." ^ 
The Carleton had two feet of water in the hold, and had lost eight 
killed and six wounded, — about half her crew, — when she anchored 
out of fire. In this small Ijut stirring business, the Americans, in 
addition to the Boijal Savage, had lost one gondola. Besides the 
injuries to the Carleton, a British artillery boat, commanded by a 
German lieutenant, was sunk. Towards evening the Inflexible got 
within point-blank shot of the Americans, " when five broadsides," 
wrote Douglas, " silenced their whole line." One fresh ship, with 
scantling for sea-going, and a concentrated battery, has an unques- 
tioned advantage over a dozen light-built craft, carrying one or two 
guns each, and already several hours engaged. 

At nightfall the Inflexible dropped out of range, and the British 
squadron ancliored in line of battle across the southern end of the 
passage between the island and the main ; some vessels were ex- 
tended also to the eastward, into the open Lake. "The best part 
of my intelligence," wrote Burgoyne next day from St. John's, to 
Douglas at Quebec, " is that our whole fleet was formed in line 
above the enemy, and consequently they must have surrendered tliis 
morning, or given us battle on our own terms. The Lidians and 
light troojjs are abreast with the fleet ; they cannot, therefore, escape 
by land." The British squadron sharing this confidence, a proper 
look-out was not kept. The American leader immediately held a 
conference with his officers, and decided to attempt a retreat, " which 
was done with such secrecy," wi'ites Waterbur3> " that we went 
through them entirely undiscovered." The movement began at 
7 P.M., a galley leading, the gondolas and schooners following, and 
Arnold and his second bringing up the rear in the two heaviest gal- 
leys. This delicate operation was favoured by a heavy fog, which 

1 Douglas's letter. ^ Sandwich to Pellew. 

1776.] THE LAKE CAMPAIGN. 367 

did not clear till next morning at eight. As the Americans stole 
by, they could not see any of the hostile ships. By daylight they 
were out of sight of the Britisli. Riedesel, speaking of tliis event, 
says, " The sliips ancliored, secure of the enemy, who stole off 
during tlie niglit, and sailing round the left wing, aided by a 
favourable wind, escaped under darkness." The astonisliment next 
morning, he continues, was great, as was Carleton's rage. The lat- 
ter started to pursue in such a hurry that he forgot to leave orders 
for the troops which had been landed ; but, failing to discover the 
fugitives, he returned and remained at Valcour till niglitfall, when 
scouts brought word that the enemy were at Schuyler's Island, eight 
miles above. 

The retreat of the Americans had been embarrassed by their 
injuries, and by the wind coming out aliead. They were oljliged to 
anchor on the 12tli to repair damages, both hulls and sails having 
suffered severely. Arnold took the precaution to write to Crown 
Point for bateaux, to tow in case of a southerly wind ; but time was 
not allowed for these to arrive. Two gondolas had to be sunk on 
account of their injuries, making three of that class so far lost. The 
retreat was resumed at 2 p.m., but the breeze was fresh from the 
southward, and the gondolas made very little way. At evening the 
British chased again. That niglat the wind moderated, and at day- 
break the American flotilla was twenty-eight miles from Crown 
Point, — fourteen from Valcour, — having still five miles' start. 
Later, however, by Arnold's report, " the wind again breezed up to 
the southward, so that we gained very little either by beating or row- 
ing. At the same time the enemy took a fresh breeze from north- 
east, and, by the time we liad reached Split Rock, were alongside of 
us." The galleys of Arnold and Waterbury, the Congress and the 
Washington, had throughout kept in the rear, and now received the 
brunt of tire attack, made liy the Inflexible and tlie two schooners, 
which had entirely distanced their sluggish consorts. Tliis fight was 
in the upper narrows, where tlie Lake is from one to three miles 
wide ; and it lasted, by Arnold's report, for five glasses (two hours 
and a half),^ the Americans continually retreating, until about ten 
miles from Crown Point. There, the Wasliingfon ha-\-ing struck 
some time before, and final escape being impossible, Arnold ran his 
own galley and four gondolas ashore in a small creek on the east 
side ; pulling to windward, with the cool judgment that had marked 
^ Beatson, ' Nav. and ilil. Memoirs,' says two hours. 

368 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1702-1783. [1776. 

all his conduct, so that the enemy could not follow him — except in 
small boats witli which he could deal. There he set his vessels on 
fire, and stood Ijy them until assured that they would blow up with 
their flags fl3'ing. He then retreated to Crown Point through the 
woods, " despite the savages ; " a jihrase which concludes tliis singu- 
lar aquatic contest with a quaint touch of local colour. 

In three days of fighting and retreating the Americans had lost 
one schooner, two galleys, and seven gondolas, — in all, ten vessels' 
out of fifteen. The killed and wounded amounted to over eighty, 
twenty odd of whom were in Arnold's galley. The original force, 
numbering seven hundred, had been decimated. Considering its raw 
material and the recency of its organisation, words can searcelj' exag- 
gerate the heroism of the resistance, which undoubtedly depended 
chiefly upon the personal military qualities of the leader. The Brit- 
ish loss in killed and wounded did not exceed forty. 

The little American navy on Ghamplain was wiped out ; Ijut 
never had ixwy force, big or small, lived to better purpose or died 
more gloriously ; for it had saved the Lake for that j'ear. Whatever 
deductions may be made for blunders, and for circumstances of ever}- 
character, which made the British campaign of 1777 abortive and 
disastrous, and so led directly to the American alliance witli France 
in 1778, the delay, with all that it involved, was obtained by the 
Lake campaign of 1776. On October 15th, two days after Arnold's 
final defeat, Carleton dated a letter to Douglas from before Crown 
Point, whence the American garrison was withdrawn. A week later 
Riedesel arrived, and wrote that, " were our whole army here it 
would be an easy matter to drive the enemy from their entrench- 
ments," at Ticonderoga, and — as has been quoted already — four 
weeks sooner would have insured its fall. It is but a coincidence 
that just four weeks had been required to set up the Inflexible at St. 
John's ; but it tyj^ifies the whole storj*. Save for Arnold's flotilla, 
the two British schooners would have settled the business. " Upon 
the whole. Sir," wrote Douglas, in his final letter from Quebec before 
sailing for England, " I scruple not to say, that had not General Car- 
leton authorised me to take the extraordinary measure of sending up 
the Inflexible from Quebec, things could not this year have been 
brought to so glorious a conclusion on Lake Champlain." Douglas 
further showed the importance attached to this success by men of 
that day, by sending a special message to the British ambassador at 
Madrid, " presuming that the early knowledge of this great event 

1776.] THE LAKE CAMPAIGN. 369 

in the southern parts of Europe may he of advantage to His Majes- 
ty's service." That the opinion of the government was similar may 
be inferred from the numerous rewards bestowed. Carleton was 
made a Knight of tlie Bath, and Douglas a baronet. 

In no case where the British and the Americans have met upon 
the water, has a serious charge of personal misconduct been proved 
against any individual ; and the gallantry shown upon occasion by 
both sides upon Lake Champlain in 1776, is evident from the fore- 
going narrative. With regard to the direction of movements, — the 
skill of the two leaders, — the same equal credit cannot be assigned. 
It was a very serious blunder, on October 11th, to run to leeward, 
passing a concealed enemy, undetected, upon waters so perfectly well 
known as those of Champlain were ; it having been the scene of fre- 
quent British operations in previous wars. Owing to this, " the 
Maria, because of her distant situation (from which the Inflexible 
and Carleton had chased by signal) when the rebels were first dis- 
covered, and baffling winds, could not get into close action." ^ For 
the same reason the Inflexible could not support the Carleton. The 
Americans, in the aggregate distinctly inferior, were thus permitted 
a concentration of superior force upon part of their enemies. It is 
needless to enlarge upon the mortifying incident of Arnold's escape 
that evening. To liken small things to great, — always profitable 
in military analysis, — it resembled Hood's slipping away from de 
Grasse at St. Kitts. 

In conduct and courage, Arnold's behaviour was excellent through- 
out. Without enlarging upon the energy which created the flotilla, 
and the breadth of view which suggested preparations that he could 
not enforce, admiration is due to his recognition of the fact — im- 
plicit in deed, if unexpressed in word — that the one use of the 
navy was to contest the control of the water ; to impose delay, even 
if it could not secure ultimate victory. No words could say more 
clearly than do his actions that, under the existing conditions, the 
navy was useless, except as it contributed to that end ; valueless, if 
buried in port. Upon this rests the merit of his bold advance into 
the lower narrows ; upon this his choice of the strong defensive 
position of Valcour ; upon this his refusal to retreat, as urged by 
Waterbury, when the full force of the enemy was disclosed, — a 

1 Douglas's letters. The sentence is awkward, but carefully compared with the 
copy in the author's hands. Douglas says, of the details he gives, that " they have 
been collected with the most scrupulous circumspection." 
VOL III — 24 

370 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 17G2-1783. [1776. 

decision justified, or ratlier, illustrated, by the advantages which the 
accidents of the day threw into his hands. His personal gallantry 
was conspicuous there as at all times of his life. " His countrymen," 
said a generous enemy of that day, " chiefly gloried in tlie dangerous 
attention which he paid to a nice point of honour, in keeping his flag 
flying, and not quitting his galley till she was in flames, lest the 
enemy should have boarded, and struck it." It is not the least of 
the injuries done to his nation in after years, that he should have 
silenced this boast and effaced this glorious record b}^ so black an 

With the destruction of the flotilla ends the naval story of the 
Lakes during the War of the American Revolution. Satisfied that 
it was too late to pi'oceed against Ticonderoga tliat year, Carleton 
withdrew to St. -John's and went into winter-quarters. The follow- 
ing year the enterprise was resumed under General Burgoyne ; but 
Sir William Howe, instead of co-operating by an advance up the 
Hudson, which was the plan of 1776, carried his army to Chesapeake 
Bay, to act thence against Philadelphia. Burgoyne took Ticonde- 
roga and forced his way as far as Saratoga, sixty miles from Ticon- 
deroga and thirty from Albany, where Howe should have met him. 
Tliere he was brought to a stand by the army whicli tlie jVmericans 
had collected, found himself unable to advance or to retreat, and was 
forced to lay down his arms on October 17th, 1777. The garrisons left 
by him at Ticonderoga and Crown Point retired to Canada, and the 
posts were re-occupied by the Americans. No further contest took 
place on the Lake, though the British vessels remained in control of 
it, and showed themselves from time to time up to 1781. With the 
outbreak of war between Great Britain and France, in 1778, the scene 
of interest shifted to salt water, and there remained till the end. 

The opening conflict between Great Britain and her North Ameri- 
can Colonies teaches clearly the necessity, too rarely recognised in 
practice, that when a state has decided to use force, the force pro- 
vided should be adequate from tlie first. It is l)etter to be much too 
strong than a little too weak. Seeing the evident temper of the 
Massachusetts Colonists, force would be needed to execute the Boston 
Port Bill and its companion measures of 1774; for the Port Bill 
especially, naval force. The supplies for 1775 granted only 18,000 
seamen, — 2,000 less than for the previous year. For 1770, 28,000 
seamen were voted, and the total appropriations rose from £5,556,000 


to £10,154,000 ; but it was then too late. Boston was evacuated by 
the British army, 8,000 strong, on the 17th of March, 177G ; but 
already, for more than half a year, the spreading spirit of revolt in 
the thirteen Colonies had been encouraged by the siglit of the British 
army cooped up in the town, suffering from want of necessaries, Avhile 
the colonial army blockading it was able to maintain its position, 
because ships laden with stores for the one were captured, and the 
cargoes diverted to the use of the other. To secure free and ample 
communications for one's self, and to interrupt those of the opponent, 
are among- the first requirements of war. To carry out the measures 
of the British government a naval force was needed, wliich should not 
only protect the approach of its own transports to Boston Bay, but 
should prevent access to all coast ports whence supplies could be 
carried to the blockading army. So far from this, the squadron was 
not equal, in either number or quality, to the work to be done about 
Boston ; and it was not until October, 1775, that the Admiral was 
authorised to capture colonial merchant vessels, wliich therefore went 
and came unmolested, outside of Boston, carrying often provisions 
which found their way to Washington's army. 

After evacuating Boston, General Howe retired to Halifax, there 
to await the coming of reinforcements, both military and naval, and 
of his brother Vice-Admiral Lord Howe, appointed to command the 
North American Station. General Howe was commander-in-chief of 
the forces throughout the territory extending from Nova Scotia to 
West Florida ; from Halifax to Pensacola. The first operation of 
the campaign was to be the reduction of New York. 

The British government, liowever, had several objects in view, 
and permitted itself to be distracted from the single-minded prosecu- 
tion of one great undertaking to other subsidiary, and not always 
concentric, operations. Whether the control of the line of the Hud- 
sou and Lake Champlain ought to have been sought through opera- 
tions beginning at both ends, is open to argument ; the facts tliat the 
Americans were back in Crown Point in the beginning of Jul}', and 
that Carletou's 13,000 men got no farther than St. John's that year, 
suggest that the greater part of the latter force \\ould have been 
better employed in New York and New Jersey than about Cham- 
plain. However tliat may be, the diversion of a third body, respect- 
able in point of numbers, to the Carolinas, is scai'cely to be defended 
on military grounds. The government was induced to it by tlie 
expectation of local support from royalists. That there were con- 

372 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-17S3. [1776. 

siderable numbers of these in both Colonies is certain ; but while 
military operations must take account of political conditions, the 
latter should not be allowed to overbalance elementary principles 
of the military art. It is said that General Howe disapiDroved of 
this ex-centric movement. 

The force destined for the Southern coasts assembled at Cork 
towards the end of 1775, and sailed thence in January, 1776. The 
troops were commanded by Lord Cornwallis, the squadron by Nel- 
son's early patron. Commodore Sir Peter Parker, whose broad pen- 
nant was hoisted on board the Bristol, 50, Captain John Morris. 
After a boisterous passage, the expedition arrived in May off Cape 
Fear in North Carolina, where it was joined by 2,000 men under Sir 
Henry Clinton, Cornwallis's senior, whom Howe had detached to the 
southward in January, by the government's orders. Upon his appear- 
ance, the royalists in North Carolina had risen, headed hy the lius- 
band of Flora Macdonald, whose name thirty years before liad been 
associated romantically with the escaiie of the young Pretender, but 
who had afterwards emigrated to America. The rising, however, 
had been put down, and Clinton had not thought it expedient to try 
a serious invasion, in face of the large force assembled to resist him. 
Upon Parkei-'s coming, it was decided to make an attempt upon 
Charleston, South Carolina. The fleet therefore sailed from Cajie 
Fear on the 1st of June, and on the 4th anchored off Charleston Bar. 

C'harleston Harbour opens between two of the Sea-Islands which 
fringe the coasts of South Carolina and Georgia. On the north is 
Sullivan's Island, on the south James Island. The bar of the main 
entrance was not abreast the mouth of the port, but some distance 
south of it. Inside the bar, the channel turned to the northward, 
and thence led near Sullivan's Island, the southern end of whieii 
was therefore chosen as the site of tlie rude fort hastily thrown up 
to meet this attack, and afterwards called Fort Moultrie, from the 
name of the commander. From these conditions, a southerly ^^'ind 
was needed to bring ships into action. After sounding and buoying 
the bar, the transports and frigates crossed on the 7th and anchored 
inside ; but as it was necessary to remove some of the BristoFs guns, 
she could not follow until the 10th. On the 9th Clinton had landed 
in pei'son with five hundred men, and by the 15th all the troops had 
disembarked upon Long Island, next north of Sullivan's. It was 
understood that the inlet between the two was fordable, allowing the 
troops to co-operate with the naval attack, by diversion or otherwise ; 


but this proved to be a mistake. The passage was seven feet deep 
at low water, and there were no means for crossing ; consequently a 
small American detachment in tlie scrub wood of the island was suf- 
ficient to check any movement in that quarter. The fighting there- 
fore was confined to the cannonading of the fort by the ships. 

Circumstances not fully explained caused the attack to be fixed 
for the 23rd ; an inopportune delay, during which the Americans 
were strengthening their still very imperfect defences. On the 23rd 
the wind was unfavourable. On the 25th the Experivient, 50, Cap- 
tain Alexander Scott, arrived, crossed the bar, and, after taking in 
her guns again, was ready to join in the assault. On the 27th, at 
10 A.M., the ships got under way with a south-east breeze, but this 
shifted soon afterwards to north-west, and they had to anchor again, 
about a mile nearer to Sullivan's Island. On the following day the 
wind served, and the attack was made. 

In i^lan. Fort Moultrie was square, with a bastion at each angle. 
In construction, the sides were palmetto logs, dovetailed and bolted 
together, laid in parallel rows, sixteen feet apart, and the interspace 
filled with sand. At the time of the engagement, the south and west 
fronts were finished ; the other fronts were only seven feet high, but 
surmounted by thick planks, to be tenable against escalade. Thiify- 
one guns were in place, eighteen and nine pounders, of which twenty- 
one were on the south face, commanding the channel. Within was 
a traverse running east and west, protecting the gunners from shots 
from the rear ; but there was no such cover against enfilading fire, 
in case an enemy's ship passed the fort and anchored above it. " The 
general opinion before the action," Moultrie says, "and especially 
among sailors, was that two frigates would be sufficient to knock the 
town about our ears, notwithstanding our batteries." Parker may 
have shared this impression, and it may account for his leisure- 
liness. When the action began, the garrison had but twenty-eight 
rounds for twenty-six cannon, but this deficiency was unknown to 
the British. 

Parker's plan was that tlie two 50's, Bristol and Experiment, and 
two 28-gun frigates, the Aetive, Captain William Williams, and the 
Solcbai/, Captain Thomas Symonds, accompanied by a bomb-vessel, the 
Thvncler, 8, Captain James Reid, should engage the main front; 
while two frigates of the same class, the Actccon, Captain Christopher 
Atkins, and the Syren, Captain Christopher Furneaux, with a 20-gun 
corvette, the Sphinx, Captain Anthony Hunt, should pass the fort. 

374 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1VS3. [1776. 

anclioring to the westward, up-cliannel, to jirotect the heavy vessels 
against fire-ships, as well as to eiitilade the main battery. The order 
to weigh was given at 10.30 a.m., when the flood-tide had fairly 
made ; and at 11.15 the Active, Bristol, and Experiment, anchored in 
line ahead, in the order named, the Active to the eastward. The 
Solebay lay outside the others, abreast the interval between the 50's. 
The ships seem to have taken their places skilfully and without con- 
fusion, and their fire, which opened at once, was rapid, well-sustained, 
and well-directed ; but their disioositiou suffered under the radical 
defect that, whether from actual lack of water, or only from fear of 
grounding, they were too far from the works to use grape effectively. 
The sides of ships being much weaker than those of shore works, 
while their guns were much more numerous, the secret of success 
was to get near enough to beat down the hostile fire by a multitude 
of projectiles. The bomb-vessel Thunder anchored ahead, and out- 
side, of the Active, south-east by south from the east liastion of the 
engaged front. Her shells, though well aimed, were ineffective. 
" Most of them fell within the fort," Moultrie rejDorted, " but we had 
a morass in the middle, wlaich swallowed them instantly, and tliose 
that fell in the sand were immediately buried." During the action, 
the mortar bed broke, disabling the i)iece. 

Owing to the scarcity of powder, the garrison had positive orders 
not to engage at ranges exceeding four hundred yards. Four or five 
shots were thrown at the Active, while still under sail, but with this 
exception the fort kept silence until the ships anchoi'ed, at a distance 
estimated by the Americans to be 350 yards. The word was then 
passed along the platform, " Mind the Commodore ; mind the two 
50-gun ships," — an order which was strictly obeyed, as the losses 
show. The protection of the work proved to be almost perfect, — a 
fact which doubtless contributed to the coolness and precision of fire 
vitally essential with such deficient resources. The texture of the 
palmetto wood suffered the balls to sink smoothly into it without 
splintering, so that the facing of the work held well. At times, 
when three or four broadsides struck together, the merlons shook so 
that IMoultrie feared they would come bodily in ; but they withstood, 
and the small loss inflicted was chiefly through the embrasures. The 
flagstaff M'as shot away, falling outside into the ditch, but a young 
sergeant, named Jasper, distinguished himself by jumping after it, 
fetching back and rehoisting the colours under a heavy fire. 

In the squadron an equal gallantry was shown under circum- 




376 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1776. 

stances which made severe demands upon endurance. Whatever 
Parker's estimate of the woith of the defences, no trace of vain-con- 
fidence appears in his dispositions, wliich were tliorough and careful, 
as the execution of the main attaclv was skilful and vigorous. But 
the ships' companies had expected an easy victoiy, and tliey found 
themselves confronted with a resistance and a punishment as severe 
as were endured by the leaders at Trafalgar, and far more prolonged. 
Such conditions impose upon men's tenacity the additional test of 
surprise and discomfiture. The Experiment, though very small for 
a ship of the line, lost 23 killed and 56 wounded, out of a total prob- 
ably not much exceeding 300, while the Bristol, having the spring 
shot away, swung with her head to the southward and her stern to 
the fort, undergoing for a long time a raking fire to which she could 
make little reply. Three several attempts to replace the spring 
were made by Mr. -Tames Saumarez, — afterwards the distinguished 
admiral, then a midshipman, — before tlie ship was relieved from this 
grave disadvantage. Her loss was 40 killed and 71 wounded ; not a 
man escaping of those stationed on the quarter-deck at the beginning 
of the action. Among the injured was the Commodore himself, 
whose cool heroism must liave been singularly conspicuous, from the 
notice it attracted in a service where such bearing was not rare. At 
one time wlien the quarter-deck was cleared and he stood alone upon 
the i^onp-ladder, Saumarez suggested to him to come down ; Ijut he 
replied, smiling, "■ You want to get rid of me, do you ? " and refused 
to move. The captain of the ship, John Morris, was mortally 
wounded. With commendable modesty Parker only reported him- 
self as slightly bruised ; but deserters stated that for some daj-s he 
needed tlie assistance of two men to walk, and that his trousers had 
been torn off him by shot or splinters. The loss in the other ships 
was only one killed, 14 wounded. The Americans had 37 killed and 

The three vessels assigned to enfilade the main front of tlie fort 
did not get into position. They ran on the middle ground, owing, 
Parker reported, to the ignorance of the pilots. Two had fouled 
each other before striking. Having taken the bottom on a rising 
tide, two floated in a few hours, and retreated ; but the third, the 
Actceon, 28, sticking fast, was set on fire and abandoned by her offi- 
cers. Before she blew up, the Americans boarded her, securing her 
colours, bell, and some other trophies. " Had these ships effected 
their purpose," Moultrie reported, " they would have driven us from 
our guns." 





378 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1776. 

The main division held its ground until long after nightfall, 
firing much of the time, but stopping at intervals. After two hours 
it had been noted that the fort rejilied very slowly, which was attril> 
uted to its being overborne, instead of to the real cause, the neces- 
sity for sparing ammunition. For the same reason it was entirely 
silent from 3.30 P.JI. to G, when fire was resumed from only two or 
tliree guns, whence Parker surmised that the rest had been dis- 
mounted. The Americans were restrained throughout the engage- , 
ment by the fear of exhausting entirely their scanty store. 

"About 9 P.M.," Parker reported, "being very dark, great part 
of our ammunition expended, the people fatigued, the tide of ebb 
almost done, no prospect from the eastward (that is, from the army), 
and no possibility of our being of any fiu-ther service, I ordered the 
ships to withdraw to their former moorings." Besides the casualties 
among the crew, and severe damage to the hidl, the Bristol's main- 
mast, with nine cannon-balls in it, had to be shortened, while the 
mizzen-mast was condemned. The loss of the frigates was imma- 
terial, owing to the garrison's neglecting them. 

The fiffht in Charleston Harbour, the first serious contest in 
which ships took part in this war, resembles generically the battle of 
Bunker's Hill, with which the regular land warfare had opened a 
year before. Both illustrate the difiiculty and danger of a front 
attack, without cover, upon a fortified position, and the advantage 
conferred even upon untrained men, if naturally cool, resolute, and 
intelligent, not only by the protection of a work, but also, it may be 
urged, by the recognition of a tangible line up to which to hold, and 
to abandon which means defeat, dishoiiour, and disaster. It is much 
for untried men to recognise in their surroundings something which 
gives the unity of a common purpose, and thus the coherence which 
discipline imparts. Although there was in Parker's dispositions 
nothing open to serious criticism, — nothing that can be ascribed to 
undervaluing his opponent, — and although, also, he had good reason 
to expect froiu the army active co-operation which he did not get, it 
is probable that he was very much surprised, not only at the tenacity 
of the Americans' resistance, but at the efficacy of their fu-e. He 
felt, doubtless, the traditional and natural distrust — and, for the 
most part, the justified distrust — with which experience and prac- 
tice regard inexperience. Some seamen of American birth, who had 
been serving in the Bristol, deserted after the fight. Her crew, 
they reported, said, " We were told the Yankees would not stand 


two fires, but we never saw better fellows ; " and when the fire of 
the fort slackened and some cried, " They have done fighting," others 
replied, " By God, we are glad of it, for we never had such a drub- 
bing in our lives." " All the common men of the fleet spoke loudly 
in i^raise of the garrison," — a note of admiration so frequent in 
generous enemies that we may be assured that it was eclioed on the 
quarter-deck also. They could afford it well, for beyond tlie natural 
mortification of defeat, there was no stain upon their own record, no 
flinching under the severity of their losses, although a number of 
their own men were comparatively raw, volunteers from the trans- 
ports, whose cre\\'s had come forward almost as one man when they 
knew that the complements of the ships were short tlirough sickness. 
Burke, a friend to both sides, was justified in saying that " never did 
British valour shine more conspicuously, nor did our ships in an 
engagement of the same nature experience so serious an encounter." 
There were several death-vacancies for lieutenants ; and, as the battle 
of Lake Champlain gave Pellew his first commission, so did that of 
Charleston Harbour give his to Saumarez, who was made lieutenant 
of the Bristol by Parker. Two years later, when the ship had gone 
to Jamaica, he was followed on her quarter-deck by Nelson and Col- 
lingwood, who also received promotion in her from the same hand. 

The attack on Fort Moultrie was not resumed. After necessary 
repairs, the ships of war with tlie troops went to New York, where 
they arrived on the 4th of August, and took jjart in the ojjerations 
for the reduction of that place under the direction of the two Howes. 

The occupation of New York Harbour, and the capture of the 
city were the most conspicuous British successes of the summer and 
fall of 1776. "While Parker and Clinton were meeting with defeat 
at Charleston, and Arnold was liuriying the preparation of his flotilla 
on Champlain, the two brothers. General Howe and the Admiral, 
were arriving in New York Bay, invested not only with the powers 
proper to the commanders of great fleets and armies, but also with 
authority as peace commissioners, to negotiate an amicable aiTange- 
ment with the revolted Colonies. 

General Howe had awaited for some time at Halifax the arrival 
of the expected reinforcements, but wearying at last he sailed thence 
on the 10th of June, 1776, with the army then in hand. On the 
2.5th he himself reached Sandy Hook, the entrance to New York 
Bay, having preceded the transports in a frigate. On the 29th, the 

380 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1776. 

clay after Parker's repulse at Fort Moultrie, the troops arrived ; and 
on July 3rd, the date on which the Americans, retreating from Can- 
ada, reached Crown Point, tlie British landed on Staten Island, which 
is on the west side of the lower Bay. On the 12tli of July the £(ti/le, 
64, came in, carrying the flag of Acbniral Lord Howe. This officer 
was much esteemed by the Americans for Ids own personal qualities, 
and for liis attitude towards them in the present dispute, as well as 
for the memory of his brother, who had endeared himself greatly to 
them in the campaign of 1758, when he had fallen near Lake Cham- 
plain ; but the decisive step of declaring their independence had 
been taken already, on July 4th, eight days before the Admiral's 
arrival. A month was spent in fruitless attempts to negotiate with 
the new government, without recognising any official character in its 
representatives. During that time, however, while abstaining from 
decisive operations, cruisers were kept at sea to intercept American 
traders, and the Admiral, immediately upon arriving, sent four ves- 
sels of war twenty-five miles up the Hudson River, as far as Tarry- 
town. This squadron was commanded by Hyde Parker, afterwards, 
in 1801, Nelson's commander-in-chief at Copenhagen. The service 
was performed under a tremendous cannonade from all the batteries 
on both shores, from the lower Bay to far above the citj-, but the ships 
could not be stopped. Towards the middle of August it was evident 
that the Americans would not accept any terms in the power of the 
Howes to offer, and it became necessary to attempt coercion by arms. 
In the reduction of New York in 1776, the part played by the 
British Navy, owing to the nature of the campaign in general and of 
the enemy's force in particular, was of that inconspicuous character 
which obscures the fact that without the Navy the operations could 
not have been undertaken at all, and that the Navy played to them 
the part of the base of operations and line of communications. Like 
the foundations of a building, these lie outside the range of super- 
ficial attention, and therefore are less generally appreciated than the 
brilliant fighting that goes on at the front, to the maintenance of 
which they are indispensable. Consequently, whatever of interest 
may attach to any, or to all, of the minor affairs, which in the aggre- 
gate constitute the action of the naval force in such circumstances, 
the historian of the major operations is confined perforce to indi- 
cating the broad general effect of naval power upon tlie issue. This 
will be done best by tracing in outline the scene of action, the com- 
bined movements, and the Navy's influence in both. 



382 IIAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1776. 

The liarbour of New York divides into two parts — the upper 
and lower Bays — connected by a passage called the Narrows, between 
Long and Staten Islands, upon the latter of which the British troops 
were encamped. Long Island, which forms the eastern shore of the 
Narrows, extends to the east-north-east a hundred and ten miles, 
enclosing between itself and the continent a broad slieet of water 
called Long Island Sound, that reaches nearly to Narragansett Bay. 
The latter, being a fine anchorage, entered also into the present plan 
of operations, as an essential feature in a coastwise maritime cam- 
paign. Long Island Sound and the upper Bay of New York are 
connected by a passage, known as the East River, eight or ten miles 
in length, and at that time nearly a mile wide ^ abreast the city of 
New York. At the point where the East River joins New York Ba}-, 
the Hudson River, an estuary there nearly two miles wide, also enters 
from the north, — a circumstance which has procured for it the alter- 
native name of the North River. Near their confluence, and half a 
mile below the town, is Governors Island, centrally situated to com- 
mand the entrances to both. Between the East and North rivers, 
with their general directions from north and east-north-east, is em- 
braced a long strip of land gradually narrowing to the southward. 
The end of this peninsula, as it would otherwise be, is converted 
into an island, of a mean length of about eight miles, by the Harlem 
River, — a narrow and partially navigable stream connecting the East 
and North rivers. To the southern extreme of this island, called 
Manhattan, the city of New York was then confined. 

As both the East and North rivers were navigable for large 
ships, the former throughout, the latter for over a hundred miles 
above its mouth, it was evident that control of the water must 
play a lai-ge part in warlike operations thi-oughout the district 
described. With the limited force at Washington's disposal, he had 
been unable to push the defences of the city as far to the front as 
was desirable. The lower Bay was held by the British Navy, and 
Staten Island had been abandoned, necessarily, without resistance, 
thus surrendering the strong defensive position of the Narrows. 
The lines were contracted thus to the immediate neighboiu-hood of 
New York itself. Small detached works skirted the shores of Man- 
hattan Island, and a line of redoubts extended across it, following 
the course of a small stream which then partly divided it, a mile 
from the southern end. Governor's Island was also occupied as an 
1 At the present day reduced by reclaimed land. 


outpost. Of more intrinsic strength, but not at first concerned, 
strong works had been thrown up on either side of the North River, 
upon commanding heights eight miles above New York, to dispute 
the passage of ships. 

The crucial weakness in this scheme of defence was that the 
shore of Long Island opposite the city was much higher than that 
of Manhattan. If this height were seized, the city, and all below it, 
became untenable. Here, therefore, was the key of the position and 
the chief station for the American troops. For its protection a line 
of works was thrown up, the flanks of which rested upon Wallabout 
Bay and Gowanus Cove, two indentations in the shores of Long 
Island. These Washington manned with 9,000 of the 18,000 men 
under his command. By the arrival of three divisions of Hessian 
troops, Howe's army now numbered over 34,000 men, to which 
Clinton brought 3,000 more from before Charleston. ^ 

On the 22nd of August the British crossed from Staten Island to 
Gravesend Bay, on the Long Island shore of the Narrows. The 
Navj' covered the landing, and the transportation of the troops was 
under the charge of Conmiodore William Hotham, who, nineteen 
years later, was Nelson's commander-in-chief in the ilediterranean. 
By noon 15,000 men and forty field-guns had been carried over and 
placed on shore. The force of the Americans permitted little oppo- 
sition to the British advance ; but General Howe was cautious and 
easy-going, and it was not till the 27th that the army, now increased 
to 25,000, was fairly in front of the American lines, having killed, 
wounded, and taken about 1,500 men. Hoping that Howe would be 
tempted to storm the position, Washington replaced these with 2,000 
drawn from his meagre numbers ; but his opponent held back his 
troops, who were eager for tlie assault. The Americans now stood 
with their backs to a swift river, nearly a mile wide, with only a 
feeble line of works interposing between them and an enemy more 
than double their number. 

On the morning of the 27th, Sir Peter Parker, with a 64, two 
50's, and two frigates, attempted to work up to New York, with a 
view of supporting the left flank of the army ; but the wind came 
out from the north, and, the ebb-tide making, the ships got no nearer 
than three miles from the city. Fortimately for the Americans, they 
either could not or would not go farther on the following two days. 

1 Beatson's 'Military and Naval Memoirs,' vi. 44, give 34,614 as the strength of 
Howe's arniv. Clinton's division is not inchided in this. vi. 45. 

384 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1776. 

After dark of the 28th, Howe broke gi'ound for regular approaches. 
Washington, seeing this, and kiiowing that there could be but one 
result to a siege under his condition of inferiority, resolved to with- 
draw. During the night of the 29th ten thousand men silently 
quitted their positions, embarked, and crossed to Manhattan Island, 
carrying with them all their belongings, arms, and ammunition. The 
enemy's trenches were but six hundred yards distant, yet no suspicion 
was aroused, nor did a single deserter give treacherous warning., 
The night was clear and moonlit, although a heavy fog towards day- 
break prolonged the jjeriod of secrecy which shrouded the retreat. 
When the fog rose, the last detachment was discovered crossing, but 
a few ineffectual cannon shot at it were the only haiassment experi- 
enced in the course of this rapid and dexterous retirement. The 
garrison of Governor's Island was withdra\vn at the same time. 

The unmolested use of the water, and the nautical skill of the 
fishermen who composed one of the American regiments, were essen- 
tial to this escape ; for admirable as the movement was in conception 
and execution, no word less strong than escape applies to it. By it 
Washington rescued over half his army from sure destruction, and, 
not improbably, the cause of his people from immediate collapse. 
An opportunity thus seized implies necessarily an opportunity lost on 
the other side. For that failure both army and Navy must bear their 
share of the blame. It is obvious that when an enemy is cornered, 
his line of retreat should be watched. This was the business of both 
commanders-in-chief, the execution of it being primarily the duty of 
the Navy, as retreat from the American position could be only by 
water. It was a simple question of look-out, of detection, of molesta- 
tion by that means ; not of arresting the retreat. To the latter, sail- 
ing ships were inadequate, for they could not have remained at anchor 
under the gims of Manhattan Island, either by day or night ; but a 
few boats with muffled oars coidd have watched, could have given tlie 
alarm, precipitating a British attack, and such a movement inter- 
rupted in mid-course brings irretrievable disaster. 

Wasliington now withdrew the bulk of his army to the line of 
the Harlem. On his right, south of that river and commanding the 
Hudson, was a fort called \)y his name ; opposite to it on the Jersey 
shore was Fort Lee. A garrison of four thousand men occupied 
New York. After amusing himself with some further peace nego- 
tiations, Howe determined to possess the city. As a diversion from 
the main effort, and to cover the crossing of the troops, two detach- 


ments of ships were ordered to pass the batteries on the Hudson and 
East rivers. This was done on the 13th and the 15th of September, 
the North River division commanded by Captain Francis Banks, the 
East River by Captain Hj-de Parker. The hitter suffered severely, 
especially in spars and rigging ; ^ but the success of both, following 
upon that of Hyde Parker a few weeks earlier, in his expedition to 
Tarrytown, confirmed Washington in the opinion which he expressed 
five years later to de Grasse, that batteries alone could not stop ships 
having a fair wind. This is now a commonplace of naval warfare. 
On the 15th Howe's armj- crossed under cover of Parkers ships, 
Hothara again superintending the boat work. The garrison of New 
York slipped along the west shore of the island and joined the main 
body on the Harlem ; favoured again, apparently, in this flank move- 
ment a mile from the enemy's front, by Howe's inertness, and fond- 
ness for a good meal, to which a shrewd American woman invited 
him at the critical moment. 

Despite these various losses of position, important as they were, 
the American army continued to elude the British general, who 
apparently did not hold A^ery strongly the opinion that the most 
decisive factor in war is the enemy's organised force. As control of 
the valley of the Hudson, in connection with Lake Champlain, was, 
very properlj% the chief oliject of the British government, Howe's 
next aim was to loosen 'Washington's grip on the peninsula north of 
the Harlem. The position seeming to him too strong for a front 
attack, he decided to strike for its left flank and rear by way of Long 
Island Sound. In this, which involved the passage of the tortuous 
and dangerous channel called Hell Gate, with its swift conflicting 
currents, the Navy again bore an essential part. The movement 
began on October 12th, the day after Arnold was defeated at ^'al- 
cour. So far as its leading object went it was successful, Washington 
feeling obliged to let go the line of the Harlem, and change front to 
the left. As the result of the various movements and encounters of 
the two armies, he fell back across the Hudson into New Jersey, 
ordering the evacuation of Fort Washington, and deciding to rest his 
control of the Hudson Valley upon West Point, fifty miles above 
New York, a position of peculiar natural strength, on the west bank 
of the river. To these decisions he was compelled by his inferiority 
in numbers, and also by the very isolated and hazardous situation 
in which he was operating, between two navigable waters, abso- 

1 Admiial James's Journal, p. 30. (Navy Records Society.) 
VOL. III. — 25 

386 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [177C. 

lutely controlled by the enemy's sliippiug. This conclusion was 
further forced upon him by another successful passage before the 
guns of Forts Washington and Lee by Hyde Parker, with three 
ships, the Phcenix, 44, Roebuck, 44, and Tartar, 28, on the 9th of 
October. On this occasion the vessels, two of which were frigates 
of the heaviest class, suffered very severely, losing nine killed and 
eighteen wounded ; Ijut the menace to the communications of the 
Americans, whose supplies came mostly from the west of the Hud- 
son, could not be disregarded. 

It was early in November that Washington crossed into New 
Jersey with five thousand men ; and soon afterwards he directed the 
remainder of his force to follow. At that momei^t the blunder of 
one subordinate, and the disobedience of another, brought upon lura 
two serious blows. Fort Washington not lieing evacuated when 
ordered, Howe carried it by storm, captming not only it but its 
garrison of 2,700 men, a very heavy loss to the Americans. On the 
other hand, the most explicit orders failed to bring the officer left 
in command on the east of the Hudson to rejoin the commander- 
in-chief. This criminal perverseness left Washington with only 6,000 
men in New Jersey, 7,000 being in New York. Under these condi- 
tions nothing remained but to put the Delaware also between himself 
and the enemy. He therefore retreated rapidly through New Jersey, 
and on the 8th of December crossed into Pennsylvania with an army 
reduced to 3,000 by expiry of enlistments. The detachment be3"ond 
the Hudson, diminishing daily 1)}' the same cause, gradually worked 
its way to him, its commander luckily being captured on the road. 
At the time it joined, a few battalions also arrived from Ticonderoga, 
released b)- Carleton's retirement to the foot of Champlain. Wash- 
ington's force on the west bank of the Delaware was thus increased 
to 6,000 men. 

In this series of operations, extending from August 22nd to De- 
cember 14th, when Howe went into winter-quarters in New Jersey, 
the British had met with no serious mishaps, beyond the inevitable 
losses luidergone by tlie assailants of well-chosen j^ositions. Never- 
theless, having in view the superiority of numbers, of equipment, and 
of discipline, and the command of the water, the mere existence of 
the enemy's army as an organised body, its mere escape, deprives the 
campaign of the claim to be considered successful. The red ribbon 
of the Bath probably never was earned more cheapl}' than by Sir 
William Howe that year. Had he displayed anything like the energy 


of his two elder brothers, Washington, with all his vigilance, firmness, 
and enterprise, could scarcely have brought off the force, vastly 
diminished but still a living organism, around which American resists 
ance again crystallised and hardened. As it was, within a month he 
took the offensive, and recovered a great part of New Jersej-. 

Whatever verdict may be passed upon the merit of the military 
conduct of affairs, there is no doubt of the value, or of the unflag- 
ging energy, of the naval support given. General Howe alludes to it 
frequently, both in general and specifically ; while the Admiral sums 
up his always guarded and often cumbrous expressions of opinion in 
these words: "It is incuinl)ent upon me to represent to your Lord- 
ships, and I cannot too pointedly express, the unabating perseverance 
and alacrity Avith which the several classes of officers and seamen 
have supported a long attendance and unusual degree of fatigue, 
consequent of these different movements of the army." 

The final achievement of the campaign, and a very important 
one, was the occupation of Rhode Island and Narragansett Bay by a 
combined expedition, which left New York on the 1st of December, 
and on the 8th landed at Newport without opposition. The naval 
force, consisting of five 50-gun ships, — the Chatham (broad pennant). 
Captain Toby Caulfield ; Preston (CowwwoAovq W. Hotham), Captain 
Samuel Uppleby; C('h<m?7'o», Captain Richard Brathwaite; Rcn.ouii, 
Captain Francis Banks ; and Experiment, Captain James Wallace, 
and eight smaller vessels, — was commanded by Sir Peter Parker ; the 
troops, seven thousand in number, by Lieutenant-General Sir Henry 
Clinton. The immediate effect was to close a haven of privateers, 
which centred in great numbers around an anchorage that flanked 
the route of all vessels bound from Europe to New York. The pos- 
session of the bay facilitated tlie control of the neighbouring waters 
by British ships of war, besides giving them a base, central for coast- 
wise operations, and independent of tidal considerations for entrance 
or exit. The j)osition was abandoned somewhat precipitatelj- three 
years later, and Rodney then deplored its loss in the following 
terms : " The evacuating Rhode Island was the most fatal measure 
that could possibly have been adopted. It gave up the best and 
noblest harbour in America, capaljle of containing the whole Nav}- of 
Britain, and where they could in all seasons lie in perfect security ; 
and from whence squadrons, in forty-eight hours, could blockade the 
three capital cities of America ; namely, Boston, New York, and 

388 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1777. 

At the end of 1776 began the series of British reverses wliich 
characterised the year 1777, and made it the decisive period of the 
war, because of the effect thus produced upon general public opinion 
abroad, and especially upon the governments of France and Sjjain. 
On the 20th of December, Howe, announcing to the Ministry that 
he had gone into winter-quarters, wrote : " The chain, I own, is 
rather too extensive, but I was induced to occupy Burlington to 
cover the county of Monmouth ; and trusting to tlie loyalty of the 
inhabitants, and the strength of the corps placed in the advanced 
posts, I conclude the trooj^s will be in perfect security." Of this 
unwarranted security Washington took prompt advantage. On 
Cln-istmas night a sudden descent, in a blinding snow-storm, upon 
a British outpost at Trenton, swept off a thousand prisonei's ; and 
although for the moment the American leader again retired behind 
the Delaware, it was but to resume the offensive four daj-s later. 
Cornwallis, who was in New York on the point of sailing for Eng- 
land, hurried back to the front, but in vain. A series of quick and 
well-directed movements recovered the State of New Jersey ; and by 
the 5th of January the American headquarters, and main body of the 
army, were established at Morristown in the Jersey hills, the left 
resting upon the Hudson, thus recovering touch with, the strategic 
centre of interest. This menacing position of the Americans, upon 
the flank of the line of communications from New York to the Dela- 
ware, compelled Howe to contract abruptly the lines he had extended 
so lightly ; and the campaign he was forced thus reluctantly to reopen 
closed under a gloom of retreat and disaster, wliich profoundly and 
justly impressed not only the opinion of the public, but that of mili- 
tary critics as well. " Of all the great conquests ^^^hich his Majesty's 
troops had made in the Jersies," writes Beatson, " Brunswick and 
Amboy were the only two places of any note which the}- retained ; 
and however brilliant their successes had been in the beginning of 
the campaign, they reaped little advantage from them when the 
winter advanced, aiid the contiguity of so vigilant an enemy forced 
them to perform the severest duty." With deliberate or unconscious 
humour he then immediately concludes the chronicle of the year 
with this announcement : " His Majesty was so well pleased with 
the abilities and activity which General Howe had disjilayed this 
campaign, that on the 25th of October he conferred upon him the 
Most Honourable Order of the Bath." 


The leading purpose of the British government in the campaign 
of 1777 was the same as that with which it had begun in 1776, — the 
control of the line of the Hudson and Lake Champlain, to be mastered 
by two exjjeditions, one starting from each end, and both working 
towards a common centre at Albau}-, near the head of navigation of 
the River. Preliminary ditticulties had been cleared away in the 
previous year, by the destruction of the American flotilla on the Lake, 
and by the reduction of New York. To both these objects the Navy 
had contributed conspicuously. It remained to complete the work 
by resuming the advance from the two bases of o^jerations secured. 
In 1777 the fortifications on the Hudson were inadequate to stop the 
progress of a combined naval and militaiy expedition, as was sho^vn 
in the course of the campaign. 

The northern enterprise was intrusted to General Burgoyne. The 
impossibility of creating a naval force able to contend with that put 
afloat by Carleton had prevented the Americans from further building. 
Burgoyne therefore crossed the Lake without opposition to Ticon- 
deroga, before which he appeared on the 2nd of July. A position 
commanding the works was discovered, and this the Americans had 
neglected to occupy. It being seized, and a battery established, the 
fort had to be evacuated. The retreat being made by water, the British 
Lake Navy, under Captain Skefifington Lutwidge, with whom Nelson 
had served a few years before in the Arctic seas, had a conspicuous 
part in the pursuit ; severing the boom blockading the river, and join- 
ing impetuously in an attack upon the floating material, the flat-boat 
transports, and the few relics of Arnold's flotilla which had escaped 
the destruction of tlie previous year. This affair took jDlace on the 
6th of July. From that time forward the progress of the army was 
mainly by land. The Navy, liowever, found occupation upon Lake 
George, where Burgoyne established a ddpot of supplies, although he 
did not utilise its waterway for the march of the army. A party of 
seamen under Edward Pellew, still a midshipman, accompanied the 
advance, and shared the misfortunes of the expedition. It is told 
that Burgoyne used afterwards to chaff the young naval officer with 
being the cause of their disaster, because he and his men, by rebuild- 
ing a bridge at a critical moment, had made it possible to cross the 
Hudson. Impeded in its progress by immense difficulties, both 
natural and imposed by the enemy, the army took twenty days to 
make twenty miles. On the 30th of July it reached Fort Edward, 
forty miles from Albany, and there w^as compelled to stay till the 
middle of September. 

390 MAJOR OPERATIUXS. 1762-1783. [1777. 

Owing to neglect at the War Office, the peremptory orders to Sir 
William Howe, to move up the Hudson and make a junction with 
Burgoyne, were not sent forward. Consequently, Howe, acting upon 
the discretionary powers which he possessed already, and swayed 
b}' political reasons into which it is not necessary to enter, determined 
to renew his attempt upon Philadelphia. A tentative advance into 
New Jersey, and the consequent manoeuvres of Washington, satisfied 
him that the enterprise by this route was too hazardous. He therefore 
embarked 14,000 men, leaving 8,000 with Sir Henry Clinton to hold 
New York and make divei'sions in favour of Burg'03aie ; and on the 
23rd of July sailed from Sandy Hook, escorted by five 64-gun ships, 
a 50, and ten smaller vessels, under Lord Howe's immediate command. 
Tlie entire expedition numbered about 280 sail. Elaborate pains were 
taken to deceive Washington as to the destination of the armament; 
but little was needed to prevent a competent soldier from supposing 
a design so contrary to sound military principle, having regard to 
Burgoyne's movements and to the well-understood general purpose 
of the British ministry. "Howe's in a manner abandoning Burgoyne 
is so unaccountable a matter," wrote the American general, "that 
till I am fully assured of it, I cannot help casting my eyes continuall}^ 
behind me." He suspected an intention to return upon New York. 

On the 31st of July, just as Burgoyne reached Fort Edward, where 
he stuck fast for six weeks, Howe's armament was off the Capes of 
the Delaware. The prevailing summer wind on the American coast 
is south-south-west, fair for ascending the river ; but information was 
received that the enemy had obstructed the channel, which, for some 
distance below Philadelphia, lends itself to such defences. Therefore, 
although the free navigation of the river, to the sea, was essential to 
maintaining a position at Philadelphia, — for trial had shown that the 
whole army could not assure communications by land with New York, 
the other sea base, — Howe decided to prosecute his enterprise by way 
of the Chesai)eake, the ascent of which, under all the conditions, could 
not be seriously impeded. A fortnight more was consumed in contend- 
ing against the south-west winds and calms, before the fleet anchored 
on the 15th of August within the Capes of the Chesapeake ; and yet 
another week passed before the head of the Bay was reached. On the 
25th the troops landed. Washington, though so long in doubt, was 
on hand to dispute the road, but in inferior force ; and Howe had no 
great difficulty in fighting his way to Philadelphia, which was occupied 
on the 2Gth of September. A week earlier Burgoyne had reached 


Stillwater, on the west bank of the Hudson, the utmost point of his 
progress, where he was still twenty miles from Albany. Three weeks 
later, surrounded by overwhelming numbers, he was forced to capitu- 
late at Saratoga, whither he had retreated. 

Lord Howe held on at the head of the Chesapeake until satisfied 
that his brother no longer needed him. On the 14th of September he 
started down the Bay with the squadron and convoy, sending ahead to 
the Delaware a small division, under Captain Andrew Snape Hamond, 
to aid the army, if necessary. The winds holding southerly, ten days 
were required to get to sea ; and outside further delay was caused by 
very heavy weather. The Admiral there quitted the convoy and 
hastened up river. On the 6th of October he was off Chester, ten 
miles below Philadelphia. Hamond had alread}' been at work for a 
week, clearing away obstructions, of which there were two lines, both 
commanded by batteries on the farther, or Jersey, shore of the Dela- 
ware. The lower battery had been carried by troops ; and when 
Howe arrived, Hamond, though meeting lively opposition from the 
American galleys and fire-rafts, had freed the channel for large ships 
to approach the upper obstructions. These were defended not only 
by a work at Red Bank on the Jersey shore, but also, on the other 
side of the stream, by a fort called P^ort Mifflin, on Mud Island.^ 
As the channel at this point, for a distance of half a mile, was only 
two hundred yards wide, and troops could not reach the island, 
the position was very strong, and it detained the British for six 
weeks. Fort Mifflin was supported by two floating batteries and a 
number of galleys. The latter not only fought, offensively and 
defensively, but maintained the supplies and ammunition of the 

On the 22nd of October, a concerted attack, by the army on the 
works at Red Bank, and by the Navy on Fort Mifflin, resulted dis- 
astrously. The former was repulsed with considerable loss, the 
officer commanding being killed. The squadron, consisting of a 
64, the Augusta, Captain Francis Reynolds, later Earl of Ducie, 
three frigates, and a sloop, the Merlin, 16, Commander Samuel 
Reeve, went into action with ]\[ud Island at the same time ; but, 
the channel having shifted, owing possibly to the obstructions, the 
Augusta and the sloop grounded, and could not be floated that 
day. On the 23rd the Americans concentrated upon the two their 
batteries, galleys, and fire-rafts ; but, in the midst of the preparations 
- Sometimes called Fort Island ; it was just below the mouth of the Schuj'lkill. 

392 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1777. 

for lightening her, the Augusta took fire and blew up. The Merli7i 
was then set on fire and abandoned. 

So long as this obstacle remained, all supplies for the army had to 
be carried by boats to the shore, and transported considerable dis- 
tances by land. As direct attacks had proved unavailing, more 
deliberate measures were adopted. The army built batteries, and the 
Navy sent ashore guns to mount in them ; but the decisive blow to 
Mud Island was given by a small armed ship, the Vvjilant., 20, 
Lieutenant Hugli Globerry Christian, which was successfully 
piloted through a channel on the west side of the river, and 
reached the rear of the work, towing with her a floating battery 
■nith three 24-pounders. This was on the 15tli of November. That 
same nisht the Americans abandoned Fort ilifflin. Their loss, 
Beatson says, amounted to near 400 killed and wounded; that of 
the British to 43. If this be correct, it should have established 
the invincibility of men who under such prodigious disparity of 
suffering could maintain their position so tenaciously. After the 
loss of Mud Island, Red Bank could not be held to advantage, 
and it was evacuated on the 21st, when an attack was imminent. 
The American vessels retreated up the river; but they were cor- 
nered, and of course ultimately were destroyed. The obstructions 
were thus removed, and the British communications by the line 
of the Delaware were established. 

Wliile these things were passing, Howe's triumph was marred 
by the news of Burgoyne's surrender on the 17th of October^ 
For this he could not but feel that the home government must 
consider him largely responsible ; for in the Chesapeake, too late 
to retrieve his false step, he had received a letter from the Minister, 
saying that, whatever else he undertook, support to Burgoyne was 
the great object to be kept in view. 

Diu-ing the operations round Philadelphia, Sir Henry Clinton 
in New York had done enough to show what strong probabilities 
of success would have attended an advance up the Hudson, by the 
20,000 men whom Howe could have taken with him. Starting 
on the 3rd of October with 3,000 troops, accompanied by a small 
naval division of frigates, Clinton in a week had reached West 
Point, fifty miles up the river. The American fortifications along 
the way were captured, defences levelled, stores and shipping burned ; 
while an insignificant detachment, with the light vessels, went 
fifty miles further up, and there destroyed more military stores 



without encountering any resistance worth mentioning. Certainly, 
had Howe taken the same line of operations, he would have had 
to reckon with Washington's ten thousand men which confronted 
him on the march to Philadelphia ; but his flank would have been 
covered, up to Albany, by a navigable stream, on either side of 
wliich he could operate by that flying bridge which the presence 
and control of tlie Navy continually constituted. Save the fortifi- 
cations, which Clinton easily carried, there was no threat to his com- 
munications or to his flank, such as the hill country of New Jersey 
had offered and Washington had skilfully utilised. 

The campaign of 1777 thus ended for the British with a conspicu- 
ous disaster, and with an apparent success which was as disastrous 
as a failure. At its close they held Narragansett Bay, the city and 
harbour of New York, and the city of Philadelphia. The first was 
an admirable naval base, especially for sailing ships, for the reasons 
given by Rodne}-. The second was then, as it is now, the greatest 
military position on the Atlantic coast of the United States ; and 
although the two could not communicate by land, they did support 
each other as naval stations in a war essentially dependent upon 
maritime power. Pliiladelphia served no purpose but to divide and 
distract British enterprise. Absolutely dependent for maintenance 
upon the sea, the forces in it and in New York could not co-operate ; 
they could not even unite except bj' sea. When Clinton relieved 
Howe as commander-in-chief, though less than a hundred miles away 
by land, he had to take a voyage of over two hundred miles, half of 
it up a difficult river, to reach his station ; and troops were trans- 
ferred by the same tedious process. In consequence of these condi- 
tions, the place had to be abandoned the instant that war with 
France made control of the sea even doubtful. The British held 
it for less than nine months. 

During 1777 a number of raids were made by combined British 
land and sea forces, for the purpose of destroying American depots 
and other resources. Taken together, such operations are subsidiary 
to, and aid, the great object of interrupting or harassing the commu- 
nications of an enemy. In so far, they have a standing place among 
the major operations of war ; but taken singly they cannot be so 
reckoned, and the fact, therefore, is simply noted, without going into 
details. It may be remarked, however, that in them, although the 
scale was smaller, the Navy played the same part that it no^v does in 
the many expeditions and small wars undertaken by Great Britain in 

394 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-17S3. [1778. 

various parts of the \xov\d ; the same that it did in the Peninsular 
War. The land force depended upon the water, and the water was 
controlled by the Navy. 

The events of 1777 satisfied the French government that the 
Americans had strength and skill sufficient seriously to embarrass 
Great Britain, and that the moment, therefore, was opportune for 
taking steps whicli scarcely could fail to cause war. On the 6th of 
February, 1778, France concluded with the United States an open 
treaty of amity and commerce ; and at the same time a second secret 
treaty, acknowledging the independence of the late Colonies, and 
contracting with them a defensive alliance. On the 13th of March, 
the French Ambassador in London communicated tlie open treaty to 
the British government, with the remark that " the United States 
were in full possession of the independence proclaimed by their 
declaration of July 4th, 1776." Great Britain at once recalled her 
Ambassador, and both countries prepared for war, although no decla- 
ration was issued. On the 13th of Ajiril, a French fleet of twelve 
ships of the line and five frigates, under the command of the Count 
d'Estaing,' sailed from Toulon for the American coast. It was 
destined to Delaware Bay, hoping to intercept Howe's squadron. 
D'Estaing was directed to begin hostilities when fortj' leagues west 
of Gibraltar. 

The British ministry was not insensible of the danger, the im- 
minence of which had been felt during the previous year ; but it 
had not got ready betimes, owing possibly to confident expectations 
of success from the campaign of 1777. The ships, in point of num- 
bers and equipment, were not as far forwaixl as the Admiralty had 
represented ; and difficulty, amounting for the moment to impos- 
sibility, was experienced in manning them. The vessels of the 
Channel fleet had to be robbed of both crews and stores to compose 
a proper reinforcement for America. Moreover, the destination of 
the Toulon squadi'on was unknown, the French government having 
given out that it was bound to Brest, where over twenty other shijis 
of the line were in an advanced state of preparation. Not until the 
5th of June, when d'Estaing was already eight weeks out, was cer- 
tain news brought by a frigate, which had watched his fleet after it 

1 Charles H., Comte d'Estaing. Born, 1729. Served in India under Lally ToUen- 
dal, 1758. After having been taken prisoner at Madras in 1759, exchanged into the 
navy. Commanded in North America, 1778-80. Guillotined, 1794. 


1778.] BYRON'S FLEET. 395 

had passed Gibraltar, and which had accompanied it into the Atlantic 
ninety leagues west of the Straits. The reinforcement for America 
was then permitted to depart. On the 9th of June, thirteen ships of 
the line sailed for New York under the command of Vice-Admiral 
the Hon. John Byron.i 

These delays occasioned a singular and striking illustration of 
the ill effects upon commerce of inadequate preparation for manning 
the fleet. A considerable number of West India ships, with stores 
absolutely necessary for the preservation of the islands, waited at 
Portsmouth for convoy for upwards of three months, while the 
whole fleet, of eighty sail, was detained for five weeks after it had 
assembled ; " and, although the wind came fair on the 19th of May, 
it did not sail till the 26th, owing to the convoying ships, the Boijne 
and the Ruhy, not being ready." Forty-five owners and masters 
signed a letter to the Admiralty, stating these facts. " The convoy," 
they said, "was appointed to sail April 10th." Many ships had 
been ready as early as February. "Is not this shameful usage, my 
Lords, thus to deceive the public in general ? There are two hun- 
dred ships loaded with provisions, etc., waiting at Spithead these 
three months. The average expense of each ship amounts to £150 
monthly, so that the expense of the whole West India fleet since 
February amounts to £90,000." 

The West Indies before the war had depended chiefly upon their 
fellow Colonies on the American continent for provisions, as well as 

1 List of the fleet sent to North America under Vice- Admiral Byron : — 

, (Vice-Admiral the Hon. J. Byron (B.). 
( Captain William Blair, 
^j 5 Rear-Admiral Hyde Parker (B.). 

I Captain Henry Francis Evans. 
„, 5 Commodore John Evans. 
\ Captain Anthony Parrey. 
Captain Edmnnd Affleck. 
Captain Geoi'ge Bowyer. 
Captain Thomas Graves. 
Captain Timothy Edwards. 
Captain George Balfour. 
Captain Stephen Colby. 
Captain Thomas Wilkinson. 
Captain Francis Samuel Drake. 
Captain John Wheelock. 
Captain Thomas Collingwood. 
Captain Hugh Robinson. 

Beatson, vi. 106 (corrected). W. L. C. 

Princess Royal 


Royal Oak 





























foi' other prime necessaries. Not only were these cut off as an inci- 
dent of the war, entailing great embarrassment and suffering, which 
elicited vehement appeals from the planter community to the home 
government, but the American privateers preyed heavily upon the 
commerce of the islands, whose industries were thus smitten root 
and branch, import and export. In 1776, salt food for ■\\'hites and 
negroes had risen from 50 to 100 per cent, and corn, the chief sup- 
port of the slaves, — the labouring class, — by 400 per cent. At the . 
same time sugar had fallen from 25 to 40 per cent in price, rum over 
37 per cent. The words " starvation " and '• famine " were freely 
used in these representations, which were repeated in 1778. Insur- 
ance rose to 23 per cent ; and this, with actual losses by capture,^ 
and by cessation of American trade, with consequent fall of prices, 
was estimated to give a total loss of £Q'6 upon every £100 earned 
before the war. Yet, with all this, the outward West India fleet 
in 1778 waited six weeks, April lOth-May 2Gth, for convoy. Imme- 
diately after it got away, a rigorous embargo was laid upon all ship- 
ping in British ports, that their crews might be impressed to man the 
Channel fleet. Market-boats, even, were not allowed to pass be- 
tween Portsmouth and tlie Isle of Wight. 

Three days after Byron had sailed, Admiral the Hon. Augustus 
Keppel also put to sea with twenty-one ships of the line, to cruise 
off Brest. His instructions were to prevent the junction of the 

^ The Secretarj' of Lloyd's, for the purposes of this Avork, has been so good as to 
cause to be specially compiled a summary of the losses and captures during the period 
1775-1783. This, so far as it deals with merchantmen and privateers, gives the fol- 
lowing results. 










Re-taken or 


Re-taken or 


Re-taken or 


Re-taken or 

177.T . . 


1776 . . 






1777 . . 









1778 . . 









1779 . . 









1780 . . 









1781 . . 









1782 . . 









1783 . . 









iDcludlug those re-taken or ransomed. 

W. L. C. 


Toulon and Brest divisions, attacking either that he might meet. 
On the 17th of June, two Frencli frigates were sighted. In order 
that they might not report his force or liis movements, the Britisli 
Admiral sent two of his own frigates, with the request that they 
would speak him. One, the Belle Poule, 36, refused ; and an engage- 
ment followed between her and the British ship, the Arethusa, 32, 
Captain Samuel Marshall.^ Although Loth Keppel's and d'Estaing's 
orders prescribed acts of hostility, no formal war jet existed. The 
King of France subsequently declared that this occurrence fixed 
the date of the war's bearinning. 

Byron had a very tempestuous passage, with adverse winds, by 
which his vessels were scattered and damasred. On the 18th of 
August, sixty-seven days from Plj-mouth, the flagship arrived off the 
south coast of Long Island, ninety miles east of New York, without 
one of the fleet in company. There twelve ships were seen at anchor 
to leeward (north), nine or ten miles distant, having jury masts, and 
showing other signs of disability. The British vessel approached 
near enough to recognise them as French. They were d'Estaing"s 
squadron, crippled by a very heavy gale, in which Howe's force had 
also suffered, though to a less extent. As he was alone, and ignorant 
of existing conditions, Byron thought it inexpedient to continue on 
for either New York or Narragansett Bay. The wind being south- 
erly, he steered for Halifax, which he reached August 26th. Some 
of his ships also entered there. A very few had already succeeded 
in joining Howe in New York, being fortunate enough to escape the 

So far as help from England went. Lord Howe would have been 
crushed long before this. He owed his safety partly to his own celer- 
ity, partly to tlie delays of his opponent. Early in May he received 
advices from home, which convinced him that a sudden and rapid 
abandonment of Philadelphia and of Delaware Bay might become 
necessary. He therefore concentrated his ships of tlie line from New 
York and Narragansett at the mouth of the Bay, while the transports 
embarked all stores, except those needed for a fortnight's supply of 
the army in a hostile country. The threatening contingency of a 
superior enemy's appearing off the coast might, and did, make it 
imperative not to risk the troops at sea, but to choose instead the 
alternative of a ninety-mile march through New Jersey, which a year 
before had been rejected as too hazardous for an even larger force. 
^ For an account of the single-ship actions of the -war, see Chap. XXXII. 

398 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1778. 

Thus prepared, no time was lost when the evacuation became neces- 
sary. Sir William Howe, who had been relieved on the 24tli of May 
by Sir Henry Clinton, escaped the humiliation of giving up his 
dearly bought conquest. On the 18th of June the British troops, 
12,000 in number, were ferried across the Delaware, under the super- 
vision of the Navy, and Ijegan their hazarilous march to New York. 
The next day the transports began to move down the river ; but, 
owing to the difficult navigation, head winds, and calms, they did not 
get to sea until the 28th of June. On the 8th of July, ten daj^s too 
late, d'Estaing anchored in the mouth of the Delaware. " Had a 
passage of even ordinary length taken place," wrote Washington, 
" Lord Howe with the British ships of war and all the transports in 
the river Delaware must inevitably have fallen ; and Sir Henry 
Clinton nuist have had better luck than is commonly dispensed to 
men of his profession under sucli circumstances, if he and his ti'oops 
had not shared at least the fate of Burgoyne." 

Had Howe's fleet been intercepted, there would have been no 
naval defence for New York ; the French fleet would have sur- 
mounted the difficulties of the harbour bar at its ease ; and Clinton, 
caught between it and the American army, must have surrendered. 
Howe's arrival obviated this immediate danger ; but much still 
needed to be done, or the end would be postponed only, not averted. 
A fair wind carried the fleet and the whole convoy from tlie Dela- 
ware to Sandy Hook in forty-eight hours. On the morning of the 
29th, as Howe was approaching his port, he spoke a packet from 
England, whicli not onl}- brought definite news of d'Estaiug's sailing, 
but also reported that she herself had fallen in with him to the south- 
ward, not very far from the American coast, and had been chased by 
his ships. His appearance off New York, therefore, was imminent. 

Howe's measures were prompt and thorough, as became his great 
reputation. To watch for d'Estaing's approach, a body of cruisers 
was despatched, numerous enough for some to bring fi-equeut word 
of his movements, while others kept touch ■\\ith him. The sliips at 
New York were ordered down to Sandy Hook, where the defence of 
the entrance was to be made. Clinton, who had been hard pressed 
by Washington throughout his march, arrived on tlie 30tli of June — 
the day after Howe himself — on the heights of Navesink, on the sea- 
coast, just south of Sandy Hook. During the previous winter the 
sea had made a breach between the heights and the Hook, convert- 
ing the latter into an island. Across this inlet the Navy thi-ew a 


bridge of boats, by Avhich the army on the 5th of July passed to the 
Hook, and thence was conveyed to the city. 

On the same day the French fleet was sighted off the coast of 
Virginia by a cruiser, wliich reached Howe on the 7tli ; and two days 
later another brought word that the enemy had anchored on the 8th 
off the Delaware. There d'Estaing again tarried for two days, which 
were diligently improved by the British Admiral, who at the same 
time sent off despatches to warn Byron, of whose coming he now had 
heard. Despite all his energ}', his preparations still were far from 
complete, when on the morning of the 11th a third vessel arrived, 
announcing that the French were approaching. That evening they 
anchored outside, four miles south of Sandy Hook. Howe, who 
during all those days was indefatigable, not only in planning but also 
in personal supervision of details, hastened at once to place his ves- 
sels according to the disposition which he had determined, and which 
he had carefully explained to his captains, thus insuring an intel- 
ligent co-operation on their part. 

The narrow arm of land called Sandy Hook projects in a nor- 
therly direction from the New Jersey coast, and covers the lower bay 
of Xew York on the south side. The main ship-channel, then as 
now, ran nearly east and west, at right angles to the Hook and close 
to its northern end. Beyond the channel, to the north, there was no 
solid ground for fortification within the cannon range of that day. 
Therefore such guns as could be mounted on shore, five in number, 
were placed in battery at the end of the Hook. These formed the 
right flank of the defence, which was continued thence to the west- 
ward by a line of seven ships, skirting the southern edge of the 
channel. As the approach of the French, if they attacked, must be 
with an easterly wind and a rising tide, the ships were placed with 
tliat expectation; and in sucli wise that, riding with their heads to 
the eastward, each successive one, from van to rear, lay a little out- 
side — north — of her next ahead. The object of this indented for- 
mation Avas that each ship might bring her broadside to bear east, and 
yet fire clear of those to the east of her. In order to effect this con- 
centration of all the batteries in an easterly direction, which would 
rake the approach of the enemj-, a spring was run from the outer, or 
port quarter of every ship, except the leader. ^ These springs were 

1 The leader, the Leviathan, Commaiitler Joseph Tathwell, was excepted, evidently 
because she lay under the Hook, and her guns could not bear down channel. She 
was not a fighting ship of the squadron, but an armed storeship, although originally 

400 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1778. 

not taken to the bow cable or anchor, as was often done, but to 
anchors of their own, placed broad off the port boAvs. If, then, the 
enemy attacked, the ships, by simply keeping fast the springs and 
veering the cables, would swing with their broadsides to the east. If 
the enemy, which had no Ijow fii-e, siu'vived his punishment, and suc- 
ceeded ill advancing abreast the line, it was necessary only to keep 
fast the cables and let go the springs ; the ships would swing head 
again to the east, and the broadsides would once more bear across 
the channel, instead of along it. These careful arrangements were 
subject, of course, to the mischance of shot cutting away cables or 
springs ; but this was more than offset by the probable injury to 
the enemy's sjjars and rigging, before he could use his batteries at all. 
Such was the main defence arranged b}' Howe ; with which New 
York stood or fell. In the line were five sixty-fours, one fifty, and 
an armed storeship. An advanced line, of one fifty with two smaller 
vessels, was placed just inside the bar — two or three miles outside 
the Hook — to rake the enemy as he crossed, retiring as he ap- 
proached ; and four galleys, forming a second line, were also stationed 
for the same jiurpose, across the channel, abreast of the Hook. The 
retreat of these was secure into the shoal water, where they could not 
be followed. One sixty-four and some frigates were held as a reserve, 
inside tlie main line, to act as occasion might require. The total 
available force was, six sixtj'-fours,^ tlu-ee fifties, and six frigates. D'Es- 
taing's fleet, in detail, consisted of one ninety-gun ship, one eighty, 
six seventy-fours, three sixty-fours, and one fifty. Great as was this 
discrepancy between the opponents, it was counterbalanced largely 
by Howe's skilful dispositions, which his enemy could not circum- 

a ship of war, and therefore by lier thickness of side better fitted for defence than an 
ordinary merchant vessel. PLicing her seems to have Ijeen an afterthought, to close 
the gap in the line, and prevent even the possibility of the enemy's ships turning in 
there and doubling on the van. Thus Howe avoided the fatal oversight made by 
Erueys twenty years later, in Aboukir Bay. 

^ These were : — 

^ Vice- Admiral Lord Howe (R.). 
Eagle 64 ^ Captain Henry Duncan (1st). 

(Captain Roger Curtis (2nd). 
™ . , . fi4 5 Commodore John Elliot. 

i Captain Anthony James Pye Molloy. 
Captain George Ourry. 
Captain Walter Griffith. 
Captain George Keppel. 
CaiHain Richard Onslow. 

W. L. C. 







St. Albans 


1778.] HOWE AND D'ESTAINO. 401 

vent. If the latter once got alongside, there was little hope for the 
British ; but it was impossible to evade the primary necessity of 
undergoing a raking fire, without reply, from the extreme range of 
their cannon up to the moment of closing. The stake, however, was 
great, and the apparent odds stirred to the Irottom the fighting blood 
of the British seamen. The ships of war being short-handed, Howe 
called for volunteers from the transports. Such numbers came forward 
that the agents of the vessels scarcely could keep a watch on board ; 
and many whose names were not on the lists concealed themselves in 
the boats which carried their companions to the fighting ships. The 
masters and mates of merchantmen in the harbour in like manner 
offered their services, taking their stations at the guns. Others 
cruised off the coast in small boats, to warn off approaching vessels ; 
many of which nevertheless fell into the enemy's hands. 

Meanwhile d'Estaing was in communication with Washington, 
one of whose aides-de-camp visited his flagship. A number of New 
York pilots also were sent. When these learned the draught of the 
heavier French ships, they declared that it was impossible to take 
them in ; that there was on the bar only twenty-three feet at high- 
water. Had that been really the case, Howe would not have needed 
to make the preparations for defence that were visible to thousands 
of eyes on sea and on shore ; but d'Estaing, though personally brave 
as a lion, was timid in his profession, which he had entered very late 
and without serving in the lower grades. The assurances of the 
pilots were accepted after an examination by a lieutenant of the 
flagship, who could find notliing deeper than twenty-two feet.' For- 
tune's favours are thrown away, as though in mockery, on the incom- 
petent or the irresolute. On the 22nd of July a fresh north-east 
wind concurred with a spring tide to give the highest possible water 
on the bar. 

" At eight o'clock," wrote an eye-witness in the British fleet, "d'Estaing with 
all his squadron appeared under way. He kept working to windward, as if to gain 
a proper position for crossing the bar by the time the tide should serve. The wind 
could not be more favourable for such a design ; it blew from the exact point from 
which he could attack us to the greatest advantage. The spring tides wei'e at the 
highest, and that afternoon thirty feet on the bar. We consequently expected the 
hottest day that had ever been fought between the two nations. On our side all 
was at stake. Had the men-of-war been defeated, the fleet of transports and 

^ A letter to the Admiralty, dated October 8th, 1779, from Viee-Admiral Marriot 
Arbuthnot, then commander-in-chief at New York, states that " at spring tides there 
is generally thirty feet of water on the bar at high water." 
VOL. HI, — 26 

402 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1778. 

victuallers must have been destroyed, and the army, of course, have fallen witli us. 
D'Estaing, however, had not spirit equal to the risk ; at three o'clock we saw him 
bear off to the southward, and in a few hours he was out of sight." 

Four days later, Howe, reporting these occurrences, wrote : " The 
weather having been favourable the last three days for forcing en- 
trance to this port, I conclude the French commander has desisted." 
It is clear that the experienced British admiral did not recognise the 
impossibility of success for the enemy. 

After the demonstration of the 22nd, d'Estaing stood to the 
southward, with the wind at east. The British advice-boats brought 
back word that they had kept company with him as far south as the 
Capes of the Delaware, and there had left him ninety miles from 
land. When their departure freed him from observation, he turned, 
and made for Narragansett Bay, an attack on which, in supjDort of an 
American land force, had been concerted between him and Washing- 
ton. On the 29th he anchored three miles south of Rhode Island, 
and there awaited a suitable moment for forcing the entrance. 

Narragansett Bay contains several islands. The two largest, 
near the sea, are Rhode Island and Conanicut, the latter being the 
more westerly. Their general direction, as that of the Bay itself, 
is north and south ; and by theni the entrance is divided into three 
passages. Of these, the eastern, called Seakonnet, is not navigable 
above Rhode Island. The central, which is the main channel, is 
joined by the western above Conanicut, and thus the two lead to the 
upper Bay. The town of Newjiort is on the west side of Rhode 
Island, four miles from the main entrance. 

On the 30th of July, the day after the French fleet had arrived, 
two of its ships of the line, under command of the afterwards cele- 
brated Suffren, went up the western cliannel, anchoring within it 
near the south end of Conanicut. One of them, as she passed, was 
hulled twice by the British batteries. At the same time, two frig- 
ates and a corvette entered Seakonnet ; whereupon the British 
abandoned and burned a sloop of war, the Kingfisher, 16, and some 
galleys there stationed. Tlie British general, Sir Robert Pigot, now 
withdrew his detachments from Conanicut, disabling the guns, and 
concentrated the bulk of his force in the southern part of Rhode 
Island and about Newport. Goat Island, which covers the inner 
harbour of the town, was still occupied, the main channel being 
commanded bj' its batteries, as well as by those to the north and 
south of it upon Rhode Island. On the 5th of August, Suffren's 



two ships got under way, sailed tlirough the western passage, and 
anchored in the main channel, north of Conanicut; their former 
positions being taken by two other ships of the line.^ The senior 
British naval ofticer. Captain John Brisbane, seeing retreat cut off 
in both directions, now destroyed those ships of war^ which could 
not enter the inner harbour, sinking two between Goat and Rhode 
Islands, to prevent any enemy passing there. Five transports also 
were sunk north of Goat Island, between it and Coaster's Harbour, 
to protect the inside anchorage in that direction. These preliminaiy 
operations thus cost the British five frigates and two sloojis, besides 
some galleys. Guns and ammunition taken from them went to 
increase the defences ; and their officers and crews, over a thoiTsaud 
in laumber, served in the fortifications. 

On the 8th of August the eight remaining French ships of the 
line ran the batteries on Rhode and Goat Islands, anchoring above 
the latter, between it and Conanicut, and were I'ejoined there by 
the four previously detached to the western passage. Ten thousand 
American troops having by this time crossed from the mainland to 
the northern part of Rhode Island, d'Estaing immediately landed 
four thousand soldiers and seamen from the fleet upon Conanicut, 
for a preliminai'y organisation ; after which thej^ also were to pass to 
Rhode Island and join in the operations. For the moment, there- 
fore, the British garrison, numbering probably six thousand men,^ 
Avas hemmed in by vastly superior forces, by laud and by water. 
Its embarrassment, however, did not last long. On the following 
morning Lord Howe appeared, and anchored off Point Judith, seven 
miles from the entrance to the Bay, and twelve from the position 
then occupied by the French fleet. He brought a stronger force 
than he had been able to gather for the defence of New York, having 
now one seventy-four, seven sixty-fours, and five fifties, besides 
several smaller vessels ; but he still was greatly inferior to his 
opponent, by any rational mode of naval reckoning. 

Howe's energies in New York had not been confined to prepara- 
tions for resisting the entrance of the enemy, nor did they cease 
with the latter's departure. When he first arrived there from Phila- 

1 These four ships were among the smallest of the fleet, being one 74, two 64's, 
and a 50. D'Estaing very properly reserved his heaviest ships to force the main 

2 Flora, 32 ; Jnno, 32 ; Larh, 32 ; Orpheus, 32 ; Fakon, 16. 

* I have not been able to find an exact statement of the number ; Beatson gives 
eight regiments, with a reinforcement of five battalions. 

404 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1778. 

delphia, he had hastened to get his ships read}^ for sea, a pre- 
occupation which somewhat, but not unduly, dehiyed their taking 
their positions at Sandy Hook. Two, for instance, had been at the 
watering-jihice when the approach of the French was signalled. 
Owing to this diligence, no time was lost by his fault when the new 
destination of the enemy was made known to him, on the 28th or 
29th of July, by the arrival of the HaisonnaUe, 64,^ Captain Thomas 
Fitzherbert, from Halifax. This shijj narrowly escaped the Frencli 
fleet, having passed it on the evening of the 27th, steering for Rhode 
Island. The Beiww)u 50, Captain George Dawson (Act'g), which on 
the 26th had reached New York from the West Indies, had a 
similar close shave, having passed unnoticed tlu'ough the rear of the 
enemy the night before. Besides these two, Howe was joined also 
by the Centurion, 50, Captain Richard Brathwaite, from Halifax, 
and by the Cornwall, 74, Captain Timothy Edwards ; the latter, 
which crossed the bar on the 30th, being the first of Byron's fleet to 
reach New York. The three others belonged to Howe's own 
squadron. For the two Halifax ships which helped to make this 
most welcome reinforcement, the Admiral was indebted to the dili- 
gence of the officer there commanding, who hurried them away as 
soon as he learned of d'Estaing's appearance on the coast. The 
opportuneness of their arrival attracted notice. " Had they appeared 
a few days sooner," says a contemporary narrative, " either they 
must have been prevented from forming a junction with our squad- 
ron, and forced again to sea, or we should have had the mortifica- 
tion to see them increase the triumph of our enemy." 

On the 1st of August, forty-eight hours after the Cornwall had 
come in from a stormy passage of fiftj'-two days, the squacb'on was 
ready for sea, and Howe attempted to sail ; but the wind hauled foul 
immediately after the signal to weigh had been made. It did not 
become fair at the hour of high water, when alone heavy shij^s could 
cross the bar, until the morning of the 6th. " Rhode Island was of 
such importance," says the narrator already quoted, " and the fate of 
so large a iwrtion of the British army as formed the r/arrison ivas of 
such infinite consequence to the general cause, that it was imagined the 
Admiral would not lose a moment in making some attempt for their 
relief." He had learned of the detachments made from the French 
fleet, and hoped that some advantage might be taken of this division. 

* It may be interesting to recall that tliis was the ship on the books of which 
Nelson's name first was borne in the navv, in 1771. 

1778.] HOWE AND D'ESTAING. 405 

In short, he went, as was proper and incumbent on him in such 
critical circumstances, to take a great risk, in hope of a favourable 
chance offering. On the 9th, as before stated, he anchored off Point 
Judith, and opened communications with the garrison, from wliicli 
he learned the events that had so far occurred, and also that the 
enemy was well provided with craft of all kinds to make a descent 
upon any part of the Island. 

As de Grasse at Yorktown, when rumour announced the ap- 
proach of a British fleet, was deterred only by the most urgent appeals 
of Washington from abandoning his control of the Chesapeake, 
essential to the capture of Cornwallis, so now d'Estaing, in Narra- 
gansett Bay, was unwilling to keej) his place, in face of Howe's 
greatly inferior squadron.^ The influence exerted upon these two 
admirals by the mere approach of a hostile fleet, when decisive 
advantages depended upon their holding their groimd, may be 
cited plausibly in support of the most extreme view of the effect of 
a " fleet in being ; " but the instances also, when the conditions are 
analysed, will suggest the question : Is such effect always legitimate, 
inherent in the existence of the fleet itself, or does it not depend 
often upon the characteristics of the man affected? The contem- 
porary British narrative of these events in Narragansett Bay, after 
reciting the various obstacles and the inferiority of the British 
squadron, says : " The most skilful officers were therefore of opinion 
that the Vice-Admiral could not risk an attack ; and it appears by 
his Lordship's public letter that this was also his own opinion: 
under such circumstances, he judged it was impracticable to aft'ord 
the General any essential relief." In both these instances, the 
admirals concerned were impelled to sacrifice the almost certain 
capture, not of a mere position, but of a decisive part of the enemy's 
organised forces, by tlie mere contingency of action, the moral effect, 
of a fleet greatly inferior to their own, and which in neither case 
would have attacked, as things stood. What does this prove ? 

Immediately upoir Howe's appearance, the French seamen who 
had landed the day before on Conanicut were recalled to their ships. 
The next morning, at 7 A.M., the wind came out strong at north- 
east, which is exceptional at that season. D'Estaing at once put to 
sea, cutting the cables in his haste. In two hours he was outside, 

> Troude attributes tl'Estaing's sortie to a sense of the insecurity of his position ; 
Lapeyrouse Bonfils, to a desire for contest. Chevalier dwells upon the exposure 
of the situation. 




steering for the enemy. Howe, of course, retired at once ; Lis 
inferiority ^ did not permit an engagement except on his own terms. 
To insure these, he needed the weather-gage, the offensive position 
of that day, which he expected, by keeping south, to gain, when the 
usual wind from that quarter slioukl set in. The French Admiral 
had the same object, hoping to crush his agile opponent ; and, as the 
sea breeze did not make that day, lie succeeded in keeping the 
advantage with which he had started, despite Howe's skill. At 
nightfall, and during the night, both fleets steered to the southward, 

' Howe's fleet consisted of : 





/ Vice-Adm. Lord Howe (R.). 
} Ca\A. Henry Duncan (1st). 
( C.ipt. Eoger Curtis {2nd). 







j Cora. John Elliot. 

1 Ciipt. Anthony James Tye JluUoy. 

Preston . . . 



j Com. William Hotham. 
j Ca])t. .Samuel Uppleby 




Capt. Timothy Edwards. 

Nonsuch . . . 



Capt. AValter Griffith. 




Capt. Thomas Fitzherliert. 

Somerset . . . 



Capt. Geoi'ge Ourry. 

Si. Albans . . 



Capt. Richard Onslow. 

Ardent . . . 



Capt. fieorge Kcppel. 




Capt. Richard P.rathwaite. 

Experiment . . 



Capt. Sir James AVallace. 

Isis .... 



Capt. John Rayner. 

Renovm . . . 



Capt. George Dawson (.\ct'g). 

Plianix . . . 



Capt. Hyde Parker (2). 

Roebuck . ■ ■ 



Capt. .Andrew Snape Hamond. 

Venus . . . 



Capt. William Peere AVilliams. 

Richmond . . 



Capt. John Lewis Gidoin. 

Pearl .... 



Capt. John Linzee. 

Apollo . . . 



Capt. Philemon Pownall. 

Sphinx . . . 



Capt. Alexandoi- Grxme. 

Nautilus . . 



Com. John Beclicr. 

Vigilant (a. s.) 



Com. Hugh Clolierry Christian. 

Siromholo (f. s.) 


Com. Peter Apliii. 

Sulphur (f. s.) . . 


Com. James AVatt. 

Volcano (f. s.) . 


Com. AVilliam Henry King O'Hara. 

Thunder (bnib.) 



Com. James Gamliier (2). 

Carcass (bmlj.) . 



Lieut. Edward Edwards. (Act'g). 

Philadelphia * . 

Lieut. Paterson. 

Hussar * . . 

Lieut. Sir James Barclay, Bart. 

Ferret* . . . 

Lieut. Edward (?) O'Bryen. 

Cornu-allis * 

Lieut. Spry. 


1778.] HOJFJi AND D'ESTAING. 407 

on the port tack, with the wind variable at east. At daybreak of 
the 11th tbey occupied nearly the same relative positions, — the 
French north-east to north from the British, but somewhat more 
distant than the night before, having apparent^ kept closer to the 
wind, which by this had steadied at east-north-east. (See Plan : aa, 

Howe now shifted his flag from the Eagle, 64, to the Aiwllo, 32, 
and placed himself between the two fleets, the better to decide the 
movements of his own. Finding it impossible to gain the weather- 
gage, and unwilling, probably, to be drawn too far from Rhode 
Island, he formed his line on the other tack, heads to the northward. 


^-»»o»-.«. »-»=.» 


' ' • j'/' 



"''-w'^'' '. 



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V ^ 

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"a ^jx>/fa 







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A 'S^ 





5f 1 --^ 

■ ^f( 

V -^■'^ 

Manoeuvres of Howe and 


b ^i '. 

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f/i£.-\/C^ . 

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The French continued on the port tack, under short canvas, heading 
to the southward and eastward, so that their bearing changed from 
east-north-east — directly to windward — at 6 A.JI., to south-south-east 
at 4 P.M., which would be nearly astern of the British. (See Plan : 
bb, bb.) At this time their van was estimated by Howe to be two 
or three miles from the British rear, and, according to his reading of 

408 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1778. 

their manoeuvres, d'Estaing began to form his line for the same tack 
as the British, with a view of "engaging the British squadron to 
leeward," whereby he would obtain over it the advantage of using 
the lower-deck guns, the wind and sea having become much heavier. 
As the French admiral, in this new chsposition, had put his heaviest 
ships in the van, and his line was nearly in the wake of the British, 
Howe inferred an attack upon his rear. (See Plan : bb.) He there- 
fore ordered his heaviest ship, the Cornwall 74, to go there from the 
centre, exchanging places with the Centurion, 50, and at the same 
time signalled the fleet to close to the centre, — a detail worth remem- 
bering in view of Rodney's frustrated manojuvre of April 17th, 1780. 
It now remained simply to await firmly the moment when the 
French should have covered the intervening groiuid, and brought 
to action so much of liis rear as d'Estaing saw fit to engage ; the 
conditions of the sea favouring the speed of the bulkier ships that 
composed the hostile fleet. The latter, however, soon abandoned 
the attempt, and " Ijore away to the southward, apparently from the 
state of the weather, which, by the wind freshening much, with 
frequent rain, was now rendered very unfavourable for engaging." 
It may be added that the hour was very late for beginning an 
action. At sundown the British were under close-reefed topsails, 
and the sea such that Howe was unable to return to the Eagle. 

The wind now increased to great violence, and a severe storm 
raged on the coast until the evening of the 13th, throwing the two 
fleets into confusion, scattering the ships, and causing numerous 
disasters. The Apollo lost her foremast, and sprung the mainmast, 
on the night of the 12th. The next day only two ships of the line and 
three smaller vessels were in sight of the Admiral. The latter, 
when tlie weather moderated, went on board the Phoenix, 44, and 
thence to the Centurion, 50, with which he " proceeded to the south- 
ward, and on the 15th discovered ten sail of the French squad- 
ron, some at anchor in the sea, about twenty-five leagues east from 
Cape May." ^ Leaving there the Centurion, to direct to New York 
any of Byron's ships that might come on the coast, he departed 
thither himself also, and on the evening of the 17th rejoined the 
squadron off Sandy Hook, the appointed rendezvous. Many injuries 
had been received by the various ships, but they were mostly of a 
minor character; and on the 22nd the fleet again put to sea in 
search of the enemy. 

' At the mouth of Delaware Bay. 

1778.] HOWE AND D'ESTAING. 409 

The French had suiferecl much more severely. The flagship 
Laiujucdoc, 90, had carried away her bowsprit, all her lower masts 
followed it overboard, and her tiller also was broken, rendering the 
rudder unserviceable. The Marscillais, 74, lost her foremast and 
bowsprit. In the dispersal of the two fleets that followed the gale, 
each of these crippled vessels, on the evening of the 13th, encoun- 
tered singly a British 50-gun ship ; the Languedoc being attacked by 
the Renown, Captain George Dawson (Act'g), and the Marseillais by 
the Preston, Commodore W. Hotham, Captain Samuel Uppleby. 
The conditions in each instance were chstinctly favourable to the 
smaller combatant; but both unfortunately withdrew at nightfall, 
making the mistake of postponing to the morrow a chance which 
they had no certainty would exist after to-daj-. When morning 
dawned, other French ships appeared, and the opportunitj- passed away. 
The Isis, 50, Captain John Rayner, also was chased and overtake!! 
by the Cesar, 74. In the action which ensued, the French ship's 
wheel was shot away, and she retired ; — two other British vessels, 
one of the line, being in sight. The latter are not mentioned in the 
British accounts, and both sides claimed the advantage in this drawn 
action. The French captain lost an arm. 

After making temporary repairs, at the anchorage where Howe 
saw them on the loth of August, the French fleet had jjroceeded 
again towards Newport. It was in the course of this passage that 
they were seen by Bj-ron's flagship ^ on the 18th, to the southward 
of Long Island. The Experiment, 50, Captain Sir James Wallace, 
which Howe had sent to reconnoitre Narragansett Bay, was chased 
by them into Long Island Sound, and only reached New York by 
the East River ; being the fii-st ship of the line or 50-gun ship that 
ever passed through Hell Gate. On the 20th d'Estaing communi- 
cated with General Sullivan, the commander of the American land 
forces on Rhode Island ; but it was only to tell him that in his own 
opinion, and in that of a council of war, the condition of the squad- 
ron necessitated going to Boston to refit. Whatever may be thought 
of the proiM'iety of this decision, its seriousness can be best under- 
stood fi'om the report sent by Pigot to Howe. " The rebels had 
advanced their batteries within fifteen hundred yards of the British 
works. He was under no apprehensions from any of their attempts 
in front ; but, should the French fleet come in, it would make an 
alarming change. Troops might be landed and advanced in his 

1 Ante, p. 397. 

410 MAJOR OPERATION'S. 1702-1783. [1778. 

rear ; and in that case he couki not answer for the consequences." 
Disregarding Sullivan's entreaties that he would remain, d'Estaing 
sailed next day for Boston, and reached it on August ■28th. On the 
31st the indefatigable Howe came in sight; but the French had 
worked actively in the three daj-s. Forty-nine guns, 18 and 24- 
pounders, witli six mortars, were already in position covering the 
anchorage ; and " the French squadron, far from fearing an attack, 
desired it eagerly." ^ The withdrawal of the fleet was followed by 
that of the American troops before Newport. 

Howe had quitted New York the instant he heard of d'Estaing's 
reappearance off Rhode Island. He took with him the same numl^er 
of vessels as before, — thirteen of the line, — the Monmouth, (U, 
Captain Thomas CoUingwood, of Byron's squadron, having arrived 
and taken the place of the Isis, crippled in her late action. Before 
reaching Newport, he learned that the French had started for Boston. 
He hoped that they wovdd find it necessary to go outside George's 
Bank, and that he might intercept them by following the shorter 
road inside. In this he was disappointed, as has been seen, and the 
enemj-'s position was now too strong for attack. The French retreat 
to Boston closed the naval campaign of 1778 in North American 

The inability or unwillingness of d'Estaing to renew the enter- 
prise against Rliode Island accords the indisputable triumpli in tliis 
campaign to Howe, — an honor he must share, and doubtless gladly 
would have shared, with his supporters in general. That the British 
fleet, for the most part two 3-ears from home, in a countrj- without 
dockyards, should have been able to take the sea within ten days 
after the gale, while their opponents, just from France, yet with three 
months' sea practice, were so damaged that the_v had to abandon tlie 
field and all the splendid prospects of Rhode Island, — as they already 
had allowed to slip the chance at New York, — shows a decisive 
superiority in the officers and crews of the former. The incontest- 
able merits of the rank and file, however, must not be permitted to 
divert attention from the great qualities of the leader, but for 
which the best material would have been unavailing. The condi- 
tions were such as to elicit to the utmost Howe's strongest qualities, 
— firnuiess, endurance, uninterrupted pereistence rather than celerity, 
great professional skill, ripened by constant reflection and ready at 
an instant's call. Not brilliant, perhaps, but absolutely clear, and 
1 Chevalier : ' Marine Frangaise,' 1778. 


with mind replete with expedients to meet every probable con- 
tingency, Howe exhibited an equable, unflagging energy, which was 
his greatest characteristic, and which eminently fitted him for the 
task of checkmating an enemy's every move — for a purely defensive 
campaign. He was always on jiand and always ready ; for he never 
wearied, and he knew his business. To great combinations he was 
perhaps unequal. At all events, such are not associated with his 
name. The distant scene he did not see ; but step by step he saw 
his way with absolute precision, and followed it with unhesitating 
resolution. With a force inferior throughout, to have saved, in one 
campaign, the British fleet, New York, and Rhode Island, with the 
entire British armj-, which was divided between those two stations 
and dependent upon the sea, is an achievement unsurpassed in the 
annals of naval defensive warfare. 

Howe's squadron had been constituted in 1776 with reference to 
the colonial struggle only, and to shallow water, and therefore was 
composed, very properly, of cruisers, and of ships of the line of the 
smaller classes ; there being several fifties, and nothing larger than 
a sixty-four. When war with France threatened, the Ministrj-, hav- 
ing long warning, committed an unpardonable fault in allowing such 
a force to be confronted by one so superior as that wliich sailed from 
Toulon, in April, 1778. This should have been stopped on its way, 
or, failing that, its arrival in America should have been preceded 
by a British reinforcement. As it was, the government was saved 
from a tremendous disaster only by the efficiency of its Admiral. As 
is not too uncommon, gratitude was swamped by the instinct of self- 
preservation from the national wrath, excited by this, and )jy other 
simultaneous evidences of neglect. An attemjit was made to dis- 
parage Howe's conduct, and to prove that his force was even supe- 
rior to that of the French, by adding together the guns in all his 
ships, disregarding their classes, or by combining groups of his small 
vessels against d'Estaing's larger units. The instrument of the 
attack was a naval officer, of some rank but slender professional 
credit, who at this most opportune moment underwent a political 
conversion, which earned him emploj-ment on the one hand, and the 
charge of apostasy on the other. For this kind of professional arith- 
metic, Howe felt and expressed just and utter contempt. Two and 
two make fom- in a primer, but in the field they may make three, or 
they may make five. Not to speak of the greater defensive power 
of heavy ships, nor of the concentration of their fire, the unit}- of 

412 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. " [1778. 

direction under one captain possesses here also that importance 
which has caused unity of command and of effort to be recognised 
as the prime element in military efficiency, from the greatest things 
to the smallest. Taken together, the three elements — greater defen- 
sive power, concentration of fire, and unity of direction — constitute 
a decisive and permanent argument in favour of big sliips, in Howe's 
days as in our own. Doubtless, now, as then, there is a limit ; most 
arguments can be puslied to an ahsurdum, intellectual or practical. 
To draw a line is alwaj-s liard ; but, if we cannot tell just where tlie 
line lias been passed, we can recognise that one sliip is mucli too big, 
while another certainly is not ; and between the two we can make 
an approximation to an exact result. 

On liis return to New York on September 11th, Howe found there 
Rear-Admiral Hyde Parker ^ with six ships of the line of Byron's 
squadron. Considering liis task now accomplished, Howe decided 
to return to England, in virtue of a permission granted some time 
before at his own request. Tlie duty against tlie Americans, lately 
his fellow-countrymen, had been always distasteful to him, although 
he did not absolutely refuse to undertake it, as did Admiral Keppel. 
The entrance of France into tlie quarrel, and the coming of d'Estaing, 
refreshed the spirits of the veteran, who moreover scorned to 
abandon his command in the face of sucli odds. Now, with the 
British positions secure, and superiority of force insured for tlie time 
being, he gladly turned over his charge and sailed for home, burn- 
ins: against the Admiraltv with a wrath common to most of the 
distinguished seamen of tliat war. He was not employed afloat again 
until a change of Ministry took place, in 1782. 

During the same two months that saw the contest between 
d'Estaing and Howe in America, the only encounter between nearly 
equal fleets in 1778 took place in European waters. Admiral the 
Hon. Augustus Keppel, having returned to Spithead after the affair 
between the Belle Poule and the Arethusa, again put to sea on the 
9th of July, with a force now increased to thirty ships of the line. 
He had been mortified by the necessity of avoicUng action, and of 
even retiring into port, with the inadequate numbers before under 

' Later Yice-Ailiniral Sir Hyde Parker, Bart., who perished in the Cato in 1783. 
He was father of that Admiral Sir Hyde Parker, who, in 1801, was Nelson's com- 
mander-in-chief at Copenhagen, and who in 1778 commanded the Plmnix, 44, in 
Howe's fleet. 


his command, and his mind was fixed now to compel an engagement, 
if he met the French. 

The Brest fleet also put to sea, the day before Keppel, under the 
command of Admiral tlie Comte d'Orvilliers. It contained thirty- 
two ships of the line. Of these, three — a sixty-four, a sixty, and a 
fifty — were not considered fit for the line of battle, which was thus 
reduced to twenty-nine sail, carrying 2,098 guns. To these the 
British opposed an aggregate of 2,278 ; but comparison by this means 
only is very rough. Not only the sizes of the guns, but the classes 
and weight of the vessels need to be considered. In the particular 
instance the matter is of little importance ; the action being inde- 
cisive, and credit depending u2;)on manceuvres rather than upon 

The French admiral was hampered by vacillating instructions, 
reflections of the unstable impulses which swayed the Ministry. 
Whatever his personal wishes, lie felt that he must avoid action, 
unless under very favourable circumstances. At the moment of 
sailing he wrote : " Since you leave me free to continue my cruise, I 
will not bring the fleet back to Brest, uidess by positive orders, until 
I have fulfilled the month at sea mentioned in my instructions, and 
known to all the captains. Till then I will not fly before Admiral 
Keppel, whatever his strength ; only, if I know him to be too 
superior, I will avoid a disproportionate action as well as I can ; but 
if the enemy really seeks to force it, it will be very hard to shun." 
These words explain his conduct throughout the next few days. 

On the afternoon of July 23rd the two fleets sighted each othei', 
about a hundred miles west of Ushant, the French being then to 
leeward. Towards sunset, the latter were standing south-west, with 
the wind at west-north-west, and bore nortlveast from the British, 
who were lying-to, heatls to the northward. The latter remaining 
nearly motionless throughout the night, and the \vind shifting, 
d'Orvilliers availed himself of the conditions to press to windward, 
and in the morning was found to bear north-west from his opponent.'- 
Their relative positions satisfied for the moment both admirals ; 
for Keppel found himself interposed between Brest and the French, 
while d'Orvilliers, though surrendering the advantage of open 
retreat to his port, had made it possible, by getting the weather-gage, 
to fulfil his i^romise to keep the sea and yet to avoid action. Two of 

1 Testimony of Captains Hood, Robinson, and Macbride, and of Rear-Admiral 
Campbell, captain of the fleet to Keppel. 

414 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 17G2-17S3. [1778. 

his ships, however, the Due dc Boiirfjogne, 80, aucl a seventy-four, 
were still to leeward, not only of their own main body, but also of 
the British. Keppel sent chasers after them, for the expressed pur- 
pose of compelling d'Orvilliers to action in their support,^ and it was 
believed by the British that tliey were forced to return to Brest, to 
avoid being cut off. They certainly quitted their fleet, which was 
thus reduced to twenty-seven effective sail. From this time until 
Jidy 27th the wind continued to the westward, and the wariness of 
the French admiral liaffled all Keppel's efforts to get within range. 
The latter, having no doubts as to what was expected of him, pur- 
sued vigorously, watching his chance. 

On the morning of the 27th the two fleets were from six to ten 
miles apart, wind west>south-^^■est, both on the port tack, steering 
north-west, the French dead to windward. Tlie latter were in line 
ahead, the British in bow-and-quarter line ; that is, nearly abreast 
each other, but so ranged that, if they went about together, they 
should have been in line ahead. Both fleets were irregularly formed, 
the British especially so ; for Keppel rightly considered tliut he 
would not accomplish his purpose, if he were pedantic concerning 
the order of his going. He had therefore signalled a " General 
Chase," which, by permitting much individual freedom of movement, 
facilitated the progress of the whole. At daylight, the division com- 
manded by Sir Hugh Palliser — • the right wing, as then heading — 
had dropped astern ; and at 5.30 A. ii. the signal was made to seven 
of its fastest sailers to chase to windward, the object being so to 
place them, relatively to the main bodj-, as to support the latter, if 
an opportunity for action should offer. 

At 9 A. M. the French admiral, wishing to approach the enemy 
and to see more clearly, ordered his fleet to wear in succession, — to 
countermarch. As the van ships went round under this signal, they 
had to steer off the wind, parallel to their former line, on which 
those following them still were, until they reached the rear sliip, 
when they could again haul to the wind. Tins caused a loss of 
ground to leeward, but not more than d'Orvilliers could afford, as 
things stood. Just after he had fairly committed himself to the 
manoeuvre, the wind hauled to the southward two points,^ which 
favoured the British, allowing them to head more nearly towards the 
enemy. Keppel therefore continued on the port tack, until all the 
French were on tlie starboard, and at 10.15, being nearly in their 

^ See note on preceding page. - Twentj'-two degrees. 





List of the British and French Fleets in the action off Ushant, July 27tli, 1778, chiefly 
from Beatson, vi. 129-132, and Guerin, v. 24, 25 ; corrected from the Navy List, the Gazette 
dc France, the dispatches of d'Orvilliers to Sartine (Aroh. de la JLarine), and the Proceedings 
of the C. M., 7 Jan. to 11 Feb., 1779, and April 12 to May 5, 1779. — W. L. C. 









Capt. Joshua Rowley. 

( Lieut. -Gen. Comte Duchaf- 



Capt. Sir John Hamilton, Bart. 



! fault. 



Capt. Phillips Cosby. 

( Capt. Baron de Kermadec. 

\ Exeter. 


Capt. John Neale PleydeU Nott. 

Due de Bourgogne. 


Vicomte de Rochechouart (chef 



Capt. William Brereton. 



/ Vice-Admiral Sir Robert Har- 



Capt. de Beauues (chef d'esc. ). 

> . Queen. 


! land (R.). 



Capt. de Reals. 

( Capt. Isaac Prescott. 



Capt. d'Aubenton. 



Capt. Sir John Lockliart Ross, 

Dauphin Royal. 


Capt. de Nieuil. 




Capt. d'.\mblimont. 



Capt. Joseph Pej-ton (1). 



Capt. de Tremigon (1). 



Capt. the Hon. Keith Stewart. 



Capt. de la Grandiere. 

Stirling Castle. 


Capt. Sir Charles Douglas, Bart. 

Saint Michel. 


Capt. Mithon de Genouilli. 
Capt. de Trobriand. 


74 Capt. Lord Mulgrave. 

Lieut.-Geu. Comte d'Orvil- 


74 Capt. the Hon. Robert Boyle 




Capt. Duplessis Perseault. 



Capt. Richard Edwards (2). 

Ville de Paris. 


Comte de Guichen (chef d'esc). 



Capt. the Hon, John Leveson 



Capt. Hector (chef d'esc). 




Capt. de Vaudreuil. 



Capt. John Macbride. 

Magn ifique. 


Capt. de Brach. 


Adm. the Hon. .\. Keppel ( B). 



Capt. Thomas d'Orves. 


Rear-Admiral John Campbell 



Capt. Cillart de Suville. 




■ (Ut Capt.). 

Capt. Jonathan Faulkner (1) 
>■ (2nd). 


04 1 Capt. de Bot-Deru. 



04 |Capt. dcs Touches. 


G4 |Capt. deProissi. 



Capt. John Jervis. 

Prince George. 


Capt. Sir John Lindsay, K. B. 



Capt. Robert Kingsmill. 



Capt. Sir Richard Bickerton, 

Capt. Michael Clements. 




G4 Capt. Mark Robinson (1). 

( Lieut-Genl. Due de Chartres. 


74 1 Capt. the Hon. Fredk. Lewis 

Saint Esprit. 


! Capt. La Motte-Picquet (1st). 


t Capt. de Mouperoux. 



Capt. Alexander Arthur Hood. 



Capt. de Grasse-Tilli (chef d'esc. ) 

( Vice-Admiral Sir Hugh Palli- 


74 Capt. de Monteil (chef d'esc). 




j ser (B). 


74 Capt. de Bciuniier. 


( Capt. John Bazely (1). 


74 'Capt. de la Porte- Vezins. 

Bi Ocean. 

90 Capt. John Laforey. 



Capt. de la Cardonnie. 


04 Capt. Lord Longford. 



Capt. de Bricqueville. 



Capt. Samuel Grauston Goodall. 



Capt. de I'Archantel. 



Capt. John Carter Allen. 



Capt. de Soulanges. 



Capt. Robert Digby. 


04 Capt. de Ligoudes. 
.10 |Capt. de Turpin. 



Capt. Samuel Marshall. 





Capt. Evelyn Sutton. 





Capt. Sir WiUiam Bumaby, Bt. 



Capt. de la Clocheterie. 



Capt. the Hon. Tlios. Windsor. 




.i ndromeda. 


Capt. Henry Bryne. 



Capt. Comte de Kersalnt (2). 




Capt. Robert Biggs. 




Pluto (f. 8.). 


Com. James Bradby (1). 




Vulcan (f. 8.) 


Com. Lloyd. 




Alert (cutter). 


Com. William George Fairfax. 







Capt. de la Perouse. 

416 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [177S. 

wake, he ordered liis own ships to tack together. At this moment a 
thick rain-squall came up, concealing the fleets one from another for 
three quarters of an hour. With the squall the wind shifted back, 
favouring the British on this tack, as it had on the other, and en- 
ahling them to lay up for the enemj^'s rear. When the weather cleared, 
at 11, the French were seen to have gone about again, and were still 
in the confusion of a partly executed manceuvre. Tlieir admiral had 
doubtless recognised, from the change of wind, and from the direction 
of the enemy when last visible, that an encounter could not be 
avoided. If he continued on the starboard tack, the van of the 
pursuing enemy, whose resolve to force battle could not be misun- 
derstood, would overtake his rear ships, engaging as many of them 
as he might choose. By resuming the port tack, the heads of the 
columns would meet, and the fleets pass in opposite directions, on 
equal terms as regarded position. Therefore he had ordered his 
ships to go about, all at the same time ; thus forming column again 
rapidly, but reversing the order so that the rear became the van. 

Keppel so far had made no signal for the line of battle, nor did 
he now. Recognising from the four days' chase that his enemy was 
avoiding action, he judged correctly that he should force it, even at 
some risk. It was not the time for a drill-master, nor a parade. 
Besides, thanks to the morning signal for the leewardly ships to 
chase, these, forming the rear of the disorderly column in which he 
was advancing, were now well to windward, able therefore to suj)- 
port their comrades, if needful, as well as to attack the enem}-. In 
short, practically the whole force was coming into action, although 
jnuch less regularly than might have been desired. What was to 
follow was a rough-and-ready fight, but it was all that could be had, 
and better than nothing. Keppel therefore simply made the signal 
for battle, and that just as the firing began. The collision was so 
sudden that the ships at first had not their colours flying. 

The French also, although their manu-uvres had been more 
methodical, were in some confusion. It is not given to a body of 
thirty ships, of varying qualities, to attain perfection of movement 
in a fortnight of sea practice. The change of wind had precipitated 
an action, which one admiral had been seeking, and the other shun- 
ning ; but each had to meet it with such shift as he could. The 
British being close-hauled, the French, advancing on a parallel line, 
were four points ^ off the wind. Most of their ships, therefore, could 

1 Fortv-five desrees. 


have gone clear to windward of their opponents, but the fact that 
the latter could reach some of the leaders compelled the others to 
support them. As d'Orvilliers had said, it was hard to avoid an 
enemy resolute to fight. The leading three French vessels ^ hauled 
their wind, in obedience to the admiral's signal to form the line of 
battle, which means a close-hauled line. The effect of this was to 
draw them gradually away from the British, and, if imitated by their 
followers, to render the affair a mere touch at a single point — inde- 
cisive. The fourth French ship began the action, opening fire soon 
after eleven. The vessels of the opjjosiug fleets surged bj- under 
short canvas, firing as opportunity offered, but necessarily much 
handicapped by smoke, which prevented the clear sight of an enemy, 
and caused anxiety lest an unseen friend might receive a broadside. 
" The distance between the Formidahlc, 90, and the Egmont, 74, was 
so short," testified Captain John Laforey, whose three-decker, the 
Ocean, 90, was abreast and outside this interval, " that it was with 
difficulty I could keep betwixt them to engage, without firing upon 
them, and I was once very near on board the Egmont." The Furmid- 
ahle, Palliser's flagship, kept her mizzen topsail aback mucli of the 
time, to deaden her waj^, to make room for the Ocean, and to allow 
the ships behind her to close. " At a quarter past one," testified 
Captain Maitland of the Elizahcth, 74, " we were very close behind 
the Formidahle, and a midshiiDman upon the poop called out that there 
was a ship coming on board on the weather bow. I put the helm 
up, . . . and found, when the smoke cleared away, I was shot up 
under the Formidable s lee. She was then engaged with the two 
last ships in the French fleet, and, as I could not fire at them witliout 
firing through the ForJiiidaUe, I was obliged to shoot on."^ Captain 
Bazely, of the Formidahle, says of the same incident, "The Formid- 
ahle did at the time of action bear uj) to one of the enemy's ships, to 
avoid being aboard of her, whose jib boom nearly touched the main 
topsail weather leech of the Formidahle. I thought we could not 
avoid being on board." 

Contrary to the usual result, the loss of the rear division, in 
killed and wounded, was heaviest, nearlj- equalling the aggregate of 

^ Chevalier says, p. 89, " The English passed out of range " of these ships. As 
these ships had the wind, they had the choice of range, barring signals from their 
own admiral. In trutli, they were obeying his order. 

- This evidence of the captains of the Ocean awA. the Elizabeth contradicts Palliser's 
charge that his ship was not adequately supported. 
VOL. III. — 27 




the other two.' This was due to the morning signal to chase to 
windward, which brought these ships closer than their leaders. As 
soon as the British van, ten ships, had passed the French rear, its 
commander, Vice-Admiral Sir Robert Harland, anticipating Keppel's 
wishes, signalled it to go about and follow the enemy (Fig. 1, V). 
As the French column was running free, these ships, when about, 
fetched to windward of its wake. As the Victorij tlrew out of the 
fire, at 1 p.m., Keppel made a similar signal, and attempted to wear. 

(From Ridleifs engraving, after the portrait by G. Eomney.) 

the injuries to his rigging not permitting tacking ; but caution was 
needed in manoeuvring across the bows of the following ships, and it 
was not till 2 p.:m., that the Victory was about on the other tack, 
heading aftei^ the French. At this time, 2 p.m., just before or just 
after wearing, the signal for battle was hauled down, and that for 

1 It was actually quite equal, but this was due to an accidental explosion on 
board the Formidable. 


the line of battle was hoisted. The object of the latter was to 
re-form the order, and the first was discontinued, partly because no 
longer needed, claiefly that it niiglit not seem to contradict the urgent 
call for a re-formation.^ 

At this time six or seven of Harland's division were on the 
weather bow of the Victory, to windward (westward), but a little 
ahead, and standing like her after tlie French ; all on tlie port tack 
(Fig. 1). None of the centre division succeeded in joining the flag- 
ship at once (Fig. 1, C). At 2.30 Palliser's ship, the Formidable, 



Battue of Ushamt 

27'->/^tv /7-7». e30P/^ 

Fie 1. 


* R ,' 

° = <=> 

Off Of 

a 0^ ^ 








> % SJr.^^ \ 



on the starboard tack passed her to leeward, the last of the fleet 
apparently out of action (Fig. 1, R). A half-hour after this the 
Victory had been joined by three of the centre, which were following 
her in close order, the van remaining in tlie same relative position. 
Astern of these two groups were a number of other ships in various 
degrees of confusion, — some going about, some trying to come up, 

^ Naval officers will observe the strong analogy to the speculative naval tactics of 
to-day, ^ a charge through (or by), and a re-formation afterwards. 

420 MA JOB OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1778. 

others comjiletely disabled. Esijecially, there was in the south-south- 
east, therefore well to leeward, a cluster of four or five British vessels, 
evidently temporarily incajiable of manoeuvring. 

This was the situation which met tlie eye of the French admiral, 
scanning the field as the smoke drove away. The disorder of the 
British, which originated in the general chase, had increased through 
the hurry of the manoeuvres succeeding the squall, and culminated 
in the conditions just described. It was an inevitable result of a 
military exigency confronted by a fleet only recently equipped. 
The French, starting from a better formation, had come out in better 
shape. But, after all, it seems difficult ^^holly to remedy the dis- 
advantage of a policy essentially defensive ; and d'Orvilliers' next 
order, though well conceived, was resultless. At 1 P.M. ^ he sig- 
nalled his fleet to wear in succession, and form the line of battle on 
the starboard tack (Fig. 1, F). This signal was not seen by the 
leading ship, which should have begun the movement. The junior 
Frencli admiral, in the fourth ship from the van, at length went 
about, and spoke the Bretagne, to know A\liat was the commander- 
in-chief's desire. D'Orvilliers explained that he wished to pass along 
the enemy's fleet from end to end, to leeward, because in its dis- 
ordered state there was a fair promise of advantage, and by going 
to leeward — presenting his weather side to the enemy — he could 
use the weather lower-deck guns, whereas, in the then state of the 
sea, the lee ports could not be opened. Tlius explained, the move- 
ment was executed, but the favourable moment had passed. It was 
not till 2.30 that the manoeuvre was evident to the British. 

As soon as Keppel recognised his opponent's intention, he wore 
the Victory again, a few minutes after 3 p.m., and stood slowly 
down, on the starboard tack off the wind, towards his crii^pled ships 
in the south-south-east, keeping aloft the signal for the line of battle, 
which commanded every manageable ship to get to her station (Fig. 
2, C). As this deliberate movement was away from the enemy, Palli- 
ser tried afterwards to fix upon it the stigma of flight, — a preposter- 
ous extravagancy. Harland put his division about at once and joined 
the Admiral. On this tack his station was ahead of the Vietory, but 
in consequence of a message from Keppel he fell in behind her, to 
cover the rear until Palliser's division could repair damage and take 
their places. At 4 p.m. Harland's division was in tlie line. Palli- 
ser's ships, as tliey completed refitting, ranged themselves in rear 
' Chevalier. Probably later by the other times used in this account. 




of the FoTinidaUe, their captains considering, as they testified, tliat 
they took station from their divisional commander, and not from 
the sliip of the commander-in-cliief. There was formed thus, on the 
weather quarter of the Victory, and a mile or two distant, a separate 
line of ships, constituting on this tack the proper rear of the fleet, 
and dependent for initiative on Palliser's flagship (Fig. 2, R). At 
5 P.Ji. Keppel sent word by a frigate to Palliser to hasten into 
the line, as he was only waiting for him to renew the action, the 


Battle: or Ushant *•** 

Fig. II. 

^mM.f*c^ O ^»jff^AG^c o.^ S>»r-r^i.£. f<9 ^£EWA/t^ 

o^ 3/f'r/s^ 

S^iT-/9^ ^* rojf/tr/A/C i.^Al£. n> MftO^^ttO 

\ ^'*^i..t*f0 9 £)t*^tS/Of^ ^%ffJ.5/<VC r^O^ /?S./t/i TV fT-J 

' ' 



» SAifii 

— J 


French now having completed their manoeuvre. They had not at- 
tacked, as they might have done, but had drawn up under the lee 
of the British, their van abreast tlie latter's centre. At the same 
time Harhand was directed to move to his proper position in the van, 
which he at once did (Fig. 2, V). Palliser made no movement, and 
Keppel with extraordinary — if not culpable — forbearance, refrained 
from summoning the rear ships into line by their individual pennants. 
This he at last did about 7 P.M., signalling specifically to each of tlie 
vessels then grouped with Palliser (except the Formidable), to leave 

422 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1778. 

the latter and take their posts in the line. This was accordingly 
done, but it was thought then to be too late to renew the action. 
At daylight the next morning, only three French sliips were in sight 
from the decks ; but the main body could be seen in the south-east 
from some of the mastheads, and was thought to be from fifteen to 
twenty miles distant. 

Though absolutely indecisive, tliis was a pretty smart skirmish ; 
the British loss being 133 killed and 373 wounded, that of the 
French 161 killed and 513 wounded. The general result would 
appear to indicate that the French, in accordance with their usual 
policy, had filed to cri2:)ple their enemy's spars and rigging, the 
motive-power. This would be consistent Avith d'Orvilliers' avowed 
purpose of avoiding action except under favourable circumstances. 
As the smoke thickened and confusion increased, the fleets had got 
closer together, and, whatever the intention, many shot found their 
way to the British hulls. Nevertheless, as the returns show, the 
French hit were to the British neaily as 7 to 5. On the other hand, 
it is certain that the manoeuvring power of the French after the 
action was greater than that of the British. 

Both sides claimed the advantage. This was simply a point of 
honour, or of credit, for material advantage accrued to neither. 
Keppel had succeeded in forcing d'Orvilliers to action against his 
will ; d'Orvilliers, by a well-judged evolution, had retained a superi- 
ority of manojuvring power after the engagement. Had his next 
signal been promptly obej^ed, he might have passed again by the 
British fleet, in fairly good order, before it re-formed, and concen- 
trated his fire on the more leewardly of its vessels. Even imder the 
delay, it was distinctl}^ in his power to renew the fight ; and that 
he did not do so forfeits all claim to victoiy. Not to speak of 
the better condition of the French ships, Keppel, by running off 
the wind, had given his opponent full opportunity to reach his fleet 
and to attack. Instead of so doing, d'Orvilliers drew up under the 
British lee, out of range, and offered battle ; a gallant defiance, but 
to a crii^pled foe. 

Time was thus given to the British to refit their ships sufficiently 
to bear down again. This the French admiral should not have per- 
mitted. He should have attacked promi^tly, or else have retreated ; 
to windward, or to leeward, as seemed most expedient. Under the 
conditions, it was not good generalship to give the enemy time, and 
to await his pleasure. Keppel, on the other hand, being granted 


this chance, should have renewed the fight ; and here arose the con- 
troversy which set all England by the ears, and may be said to have 
immortalised this otherwise trivial incident. Palliser's division was 
to windward from 4 to 7 p.m., while the signals were flying to form 
line of battle, and to bear down in the Admiral's wake ; and Kej^pel 
alleged that, had these been obeyed by 6 p.m., he would have re- 
newed the battle, having still over two hours of daylight. It has 
been stated already that, besides the signals, a frigate brought Palli- 
ser word that the Admiral was waiting only for him. 

The immediate dispute is of slight present interest, except as an 
historical link in the fighting development of the British Navj- ; and 
onl}' this historical significance justifies more than a passing mention. 
In 1778 men's minds were still full of Byng's execution in 1757, and 
of the Mathews and Lestock affair in 1744, which had materially in- 
fluenced Bj-ng's action off Minorca. Keppel repeatedly spoke of him- 
self as on trial for his life ; and lie liad been a member of Byng's 
court-martial. The gist of the charges against him, preferred by 
Palliser, was that he attacked in the first instance without properly 
forming his line, for which Mathews had been cashiered ; and, sec- 
ondly, that by not renewing the action after the first pass-b}^ and by 
wearing away from the French fleet, he had not done his utmost to 
" take, sink, burn, and destroy " — the latter, the chaige on which 
Byng was shot. Keppel, besides his justifying reasons for his course 
in general, alleged and proved his full intention to attack again, had 
not Palliser failed to come into line, a delinquency the same as that 
of Lestock, which caused ^Mathews's ruin. 

In other words, men's minds were breaking away from, hnt had 
not thrown off completely, the tyranny of the Order of Battle, — one 
of the worst of tyrannies, because founded on truth. Absolute error, 
like a whole lie, is open to sj^eedy detection ; half-truths are trouble- 
some. The Order of Battle was an admirable servant and a most 
objectionable despot. Mathews, in despair over a recalcitrant second, 
cast off the yoke, engaged with part of liis force, was ill supported, 
and cashiered ; Lestock escaping. Byng, considering this, and being 
a pedant by nature, would not break his line ; the enemy slipped 
awa}-, Minorca surrendered, and he was shot. In Keppel's court- 
martial, twenty-eight out of tlie thirty captains who had been in 
the line were summoned as witnesses. Most oi them swore that if 
Keppel had chased in line of battle that day, there could have been 
no action, and the majority of them cordially approved; but there 

424 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1778. 

was evidently an undercurrent still of dissent, and especially in the 
rear ships, where there had been some of the straggling inevitable in 
such movements, and whose commanders therefore had uncomfortable 
experience of the lack of mutual support, which the line of battle was 
meant to insure. 

Another indication of still surviving pedantry was the obligation 
felt in the rear ships to take post behind their own admiral, and to 
remain there when the signals for the line of battle, and to bear down 
in tlic admiral's wake, were flying. Thus Palliser's own inaction, to 
whatever cause due, paralysed the six or eight sail with him ; but it 
appears to the writer that Keppel was seriously remiss in not sum- 
moning those ships by their own pennants, as soon as he began to 
distrust the purposes of the Vice-Admiral, instead of delaying doing 
so till 7 V. M., as he did. It is a curious picture presented to us by 
the evidence. The Commander-in-C'liief, with his staff and the cap- 
tain of the shij), fretting and fuming on the Victor u's quarter-deck ; 
the signals flying which have been mentioned ; Harland's division 
getting into line ahead ; and four points on the weather quarter, only 
two miles distant, so that " every gun and port could be counted," a 
group of seven or eight sail, among them the flag of the third in com- 
mand, apparently indifferent spectators. The Fonnidahle's only sign 
of disability was the foretopsail unbent for four hours, — a delay which, 
being unexplained, rather increased than relieved suspicion, rife tlien 
throughout the Navy. Palliser was a Tory, and had left the Board 
of Admiralty to take his command. Keppel was so strong a Whig 
that he would not serve against the Americans ; and he evidently 
feared that he was to be betrayed to his ruin. 

Palliser's defence rested upon tlu-ee principal points : (1), that the 
signal for the line of battle was not seen on board the Formidable ; 
(2), that the signal to get into the Admiral's wake was repeated by 
himself ; (3), that his foremast was wounded, and, moreover, found to 
be in such bad condition that he feared to carry sail on it. As re- 
gards the first, the signal was seen on board the Ocean, next astern 
of and " not far from " ' the Formidable ; for the second, the Admiral 
should have been informed of a disability liy which a single shij) was 
neutralising a di\'ision. Tlie frigate that brought KepiJel's message 
could have carried back this. Thirdly, the most damaging feature to 
Palliser's case was that he asserted that, after coming out from under 
fire, he wore at once towards the enemy ; afterwards he wore back 
^ Evkleuce uf Captain John Laforey, of the Ocean. 


again. A ship that thus wore twice before three o'clock, might have 
displayed zeal and efficiency enough to run two miles, off the wind,^ 
at five, to support a fight. Deliberate treachery is impossible. To the 
wi'iter the Vice-Admiral's behaviour seems that of a man in a sulk, 
who will do only that which he can find no excuses for neglecting. 
In such cases of sailing close, men generally slip over the line into 
grievous wrong. 

Keppel was cleared of all the charges preferred against liim ; the 
accuser had not thought best to embody among them the delaj' to 
recall the ships which he himself was detaining. Against Palliser 
no specific charge was preferred, but the Admiralty directed a gen- 
eral inquiry into his course on the 27th of July. The court foimd 
his conduct " in many instances highly exemplary and meritorious," 
— he had fought well, — " but reprehensible in not having acquainted 
the Commander-in-Chief of his distress, which he might have done 
either by the Fox, or other means which he had in liis power." 
Public opinion running strongly for Keppel, his acquittal was cele- 
brated with bonfires and illuminations in London; the mob got 
drunk, smashed the windows of Palliser's friends, wrecked Palliser's 
own house, and came near to killing Palliser himself. The Admiralty, 
in 1780, made him Governor of Greenwich Hospital. 

On the 28tli of July, the British and French being no longer in 
sight of each other, Keppel, considering his fleet too injured aloft to 
cruise near the French coast, kept away for Plymouth, where he 
arrived on the 31st. Before putting to sea again, he provided against 
a recurrence of the misdemeanour of the 27th by a general order, that 
'• in future the Line is always to be taken from the Centre." Had 
this been in force before, Palliser's captains woidd have taken station 
by the Commander-in-Chief, and the Formidable would have been left 
to windward by herself. At the same time Howe was closing liis 
squadron upon the centre in America ; and Rodney, two years later, 
experienced the ill-effects of distance taken from the next ahead, when 
the leading ship of a fleet disregarded an order. 

Although privately censuring Palliser's conduct, the Commander- 
in-Chief made no official complaint, and it was not until the matter got 
into the papers, through the talk of the fleet, that the difficulty began 
which resulted in the trial of both officers, early in the following year. 

> " 1 do not recollect how many points I went from the wind ; I must have bore 
down a pretty large course." Testimony of Captain J. Laforey, of the Ocean, on this 

426 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1778. 

After this, Keppel, being dissatisfied with the Adrairaltj^'s treatment, 
intimated his wish to give up the command. The order to strike his 
flag was dated ^larch 18tli, 1779. He was not employed afloat again, 
hut upon the change of administration in 1782 he became First Lord 
of the Admiralty, and so remained, with a brief intermission, until 
December, 1783. 

It is perhaps necessary to mention that both British and French 
asserted, and assert to this day, that the other party abandoned the 
field. ^ The point is too trivial, in the author's opinion, to warrant 
further cUscussion of an episode whose historical interest is very 
slight, though its professional lessons are valuable. The British case 
has the advantage — ■ through the courts-martial — of the sworn testi- 
mony of twenty to thirty captains, who agreed that the British kejit 
on the same tack under short sail throughout the night, and that 
in the morning only three French ships were visible. As far as 
known to the author, the French contention rests only on the usual 

Conditions of weather exerted great influence upon the time and 
place of hostilities during the maritime war of 1778, the opening 
scenes of which, in Europe and in North America, have just been 
narrated. In European seas it was realised that naval enterprises by 
fleets, requiring evolutions by masses of large vessels, were possil)le 
only in summer. Winter gales scattered ships and impeded ma- 
noeuvres. The same consideration prevailed to limit activity in North 
American waters to the summer; and complementary to this was the 
fact that in the West Indies hurricanes of excessive violence occurred 
from July to October. The practice therefore was to transfer effort 
from one quarter to the other in the Western Hemisphere, according 
to the season. 

In the recent treaty with the United States, the King of France 
had formally renounced all claim to acquire for himself any part of 
the American continent then in possession of Great Britain. On the 
other hand, he had reserved the express right to conquer any of her 
islands south of Bermuda. The West Indies were then, in the value 
of their products, the richest commercial region on the globe ; and 

' "During the nigbt (of tlie 27th) Admiral Keppel kept away (fit route) for 
Portsmouth." Chevalier, ' Marine Francjaise,' ]). 90. Paris, 1877. Oddl}' enougli, he 
adds that " on the evening of the 28th the French squadron, carried eastward by the 
currents, sighted Ushant." 




France wished not only to increase her already large possessions 
there, but also to establish more solidly her political and military 


In September, 1778, the British Island of Dominica was seized by 
an expedition from the adjacent French colony of Martinique. The 
affair was a surprise, and possesses no special military interest ; but 
it is instructive to observe that Great Britain was unprepared, in the 
West Indies as elsewhere, when the war began. A change had been 

[From the lithograph by Ridley, after the portrait by J. S. Copley, R. A.) 

made shortly before in the command of the Leeward Islands Station, 
as it was called, which extended from Antigua southward over the 
Lesser Antilles with headquarters at Barbados. Rear-Admiral the 
Hon. Samuel Barrington, the new-comer, leaving home before war 
had been declared, had orders not to quit Barbados till further 
instructions should arrive. These had not reached him when he 
learned of the loss of Dominica. The French had received their 

428 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1778. 

orders on the 17th of August. The blow was intrinsically somewhat 
serious, so far as tlie mere capture of a position can be, for the forti- 
fications were strong, though they had been inadequately garrisoned. 
It is a mistake to build works and not man them, for their fall trans- 
fers to the enemy strength which he otherwise would need time to 
create. To the French the conquest was useful beyond its commer- 
cial value, because it closed a gap in their possessions. They now 
held four consecutive islands, from north to south, Guadeloupe, 
Dominica, Martinique, and St. Lucia. 

Barrington had two ships of the line, his flagship, the Prince of 
Wales, 74, Captain Benjamin Hill, and the Botjnc, 70, Captain Herbert 
Sawyer, which, had he been cruising, would probably have deterred 
the French. Upon receiving the news, he" put to sea, going as far as 
Antigua ; but he did not ventm-e to stay away because his expected 
instructions had not come yet, and, like Keppel, lie feared an ungener- 
ous construction of his actions. He remained in Barbados, patiently 
watching for an opportunity to act. 

The departure of Howe and the approach of winter determined 
the transference of British troops and ships to the Leeward Islands. 
Reinforcements had given tlie British fleet a numerical superiority, 
which for the time imposed a check upon d'Estaing; but Byron, 
proverbially unlucky in weather, was driven crippled to Newport, 
leaving the French free to quit Boston. The difficulty of provision- 
ing so large a force as twelve ships of the line at first threatened to 
prevent the movement, supplies being then extremely scarce in the 
port ; but at the critical moment American privateers brought in large 
numbers oi prizes, laden with provisions from Europe for the British 
army. Thus d'Estaing was enabled to sail for ^Martinique on the 4th 
of November. On the same day there left New York for Barbados 
a British squadron, ^ — 2 sixty-fours, 3 fifties, and three smaller craft, 
— under the command of Commodore William Hotham, convoying 
.5,000 troops for service in the West Indies. 

, r, , en ( Cuuiinodore William Hotham. 

1 Preston 50 -^ . 

(Captain baiiiUL'l Uppleby. 

Captain Richard Onslow. 

Captain AValtei- Griffith. 

Captain John Rayner. 

Captain Richard Brathwaite. 

Captain James Ferguson. 

Captain Alexander Graeme. 

Commander Edward Edwards. 

Beatson, vi. 116. — W. L. C. 

St. Alhans 












Carcass (bomb) 



Being bound for nearly the same point, the two hostile bodies 
steered parallel courses, each ignoi-aut of the other's nearness. In 
the latitude of Bermuda both suffered from a violent gale, but the 
French most; the flagship Lamjucdoc losing her main and mizzen 
topmasts. On the 25th of November one ^ of Hotham's convoy fell 
into the hands of d'Estaing, who then first learned of the British 
sailing. Doubtful whether their destination was Barbados or 
Antigua, — their two chief stations, — he decided for the latter. 
Arriving off it on the 6th of December, he cruised for fortj'-eight 
hours, and then bore away for Fort Koyal, Martinique, the principal 
French d^pot in the West Indies, where he anchored on the 9th. On 
the 10th Ilotham joined Barrington at Barbados. 

Barrington knew already what he wanted to do, and therefore 
lost not a moment in deliberation. The troops were kept on board, 
Hotham's convoy arrangements being left as they were ; and on the 
morning of December 12th the entire force sailed again, the main 
change being in the chief command, and in the addition of Barrington's 
two ships of the line. In the afternoon of the 13th the shipping 
anchored in the Grand Cul de Sac, an inlet on the west side of St. 
Lucia, which is seventy miles east-north-east from Barbados. Part 
of the troops landed at once, and seized the batteries and heights 
on the north side of the bay. The remainder were put on shore the 
next morning. The French forces were inadequate to defend their 
works ; but it is to be observed that they were driven with unremit^ 
ting energy, and that to this promptness the British owed their 
ability to hold the position. 

Three miles north of the Cul de Sac is a bay then called the 
Car^nage ; now Port Castries. At its northern extremity is a pre- 
cipitous promontor}-. La Vigie, then fortified, upon the tenure of 
which depended not only control of that anchorage, but also access 
to the rear of the works which commanded the Cul de Sac. If 
those works fell, the squadron must abandon its position and put to 
sea, where d'Estaing's fleet would be in waiting. On the other hand, 
if the squadron were crushed at its anchors, the troops were isolated 
and must ultimately capitulate. Therefore La Vigie and the squad- 
ron were the two kej's to the situation, and the loss of either would 
be decisive. 

By the evening of the 14th the British held the shore line from 
La Vigie to the southern point of the Cul de Sac, as well as Morne 
1 The French accounts say three. 




Fortune (Fort Charlotte), the capital of the island. The feeble 
French garrison retired to the interior, leaving its guns unspiked, 
and its ammunition and stoi'es luitouched, — another instance of the 
danger of works turning to one's own disadvantage. It was Bar- 
rington's purjjose now to remove the transports to the Car^nage, as 
a more commodious harbour, probably also better defended ; but he 
was prevented by the arrival of d'Estaing that afternoon. " Just as 
all the important stations were secured, the French colours struck. 


and General Grant's headquarters established at the Governor's 
house, the Ariadne frigate came in sight with the signal abroad for 
the approach of an enemj-." ' The French fleet was seen soon after- 
wards from the heights above the squadron. 

The British had gained much so far by celerity, but they still 
spared no time to take breath. The night was passed by the soldiers 
in strengthening their positions, and by the Rear-Admiral in rectify- 
ing his order to meet the expected attack. The transports, between 
1 Beatson : ' Military and Naval Memoirs,' iv. 390. 


fifty and sixty in number, were warped inside the ships of war, and 
the hxtter were most carefully disposed across the mouth of the bay. 
At the northern .(windward) end was placed the Isis, 50, Captain 
John Rayner, well under the point to prevent anj'thing from passing 
round her ; but for further security she was supported by three 
frigates ; the Venus, 36, Captain William Peere Williams, the Ariadne, 
20, Captain Thomas Pringle, and the Aurora, 28, Captain James 
Cumming, anchored abreast of the interval between her and the shore. 
From the Isis the line extended to the southward, inclining slightly 
outward; the Prince of Wales, 74, Barrington's flagship, taking the 
southern flank, as the most exposed position. Between her and the 
Isis were five other ships, — the Boync, 70, Nonsuch, 64, St. Allans, 64, 
Preston, 50, and Centurion, 50. The works left by the French at the 
north and south points of the bay may have been used to support 
the flanks, but Barrington in his report does not say so. 

D'Estaing had twelve ships of the line, and was able to land, two 
days after this, 7,000 troojjs. With such a superiority it is evident 
that, had he arrived twenty-four hours sooner, the British would 
have been stopped in the midst of their operation. To gain time, 
Barrington had sought to prevent intelligence reaching Fort Royal, 
less than fifty miles distant, by sending cruisers in advance of his 
squadron, to cover the ai^proaches to St. Lucia ; but, despite his care, 
d'Estaing had the news on the 14th. He sailed at once, and, as has 
been said, was off St. Lucia that evening. At daybreak of the 15th 
he stood in for the Car^nage; but when he came within range, 
a lively cannonade told him that the enemy were already in posses- 
sion. He decided therefore to attack the squadron, and at 11.30 
the French passed along it from north to south, firing, but without 
effect. A second attempt was made in the afternoon, directed upon 
the lee flank, but it was equally unavailing. The British had three 
men killed ; the French loss is not given, but is said to have been 
slight. It is stated that the sea breeze did not penetrate far enough 
into the bay, that day, to admit closing. This frequently happens, 
but it does not alter the fact that the squadron was the proper point 
of attack, and that, especially in the winter season, an opportunity 
to close must offer soon. D'Estaing, governed probably by the sol- 
dierly bias he more than once betrayed, decided now to assault the 
works on shore. Anchoring in a small bay north of the Car^nage, 
he landed seven thousand men, and on the 18th attempted to storm 
the British lines at La Vigie. The neck of land connecting the 

432 MAJOR OPH RATIONS. 1762-1783. [1778,1779. 

promontory with the island is very flat, and the French therefore 
laboured under great disadvantage from the commanding position of 
their enemy. It was a repetition of Bunker Hill, and of many other 
ill-judged and precipitate attacks. After three gallant hut ineffectual 
charges, led by d'Estaing in person, the assailants retired, with the 
loss of 41 officers and 800 rank and file, killed and wounded. 

D'Estaing re-embarked his men, and stood ready again to attack 
Barrington, a frigate being stationed off the Cul de Sac, to give 
notice when the wind should serve. On the 24th she signalled, and 
the fleet weighed ; but Barrington, who had taken a very great risk 
for an adequate object, ran no unnecessary risks through presump- 
tion. He luxd emi^loyed his respite to warp the ships of war farther 
in, where the breeze reached less certainly, and where narrower 
waters gave better supjjort to the flanks. He had strengthened the 
latter also by new works, in which he had placed heavy guns 
from the ships, manned by seamen. For these or other reasons 
d'Estaing did not attack. On the 29th he quitted tlie island, and 
on the 30th the French governor, the Chev. de Micoud, formally 

This achievement of Barrington, and of Major-General James 
Grant, who was associated with him, was greeted at the time with an 
applause which will be echoed by the military judgment of a later 
age. There is a particular pleasm'e in finding the willingness to 
incur a great danger, conjoined with a care that chances nothing 
against which the utmost diligence and skill can i^rovide. The 
celerity, forethought, wariness, and daring of the Hon. Samuel 
Barrington have inscribed upon the records of the British Navy a 
success whose distinction should be measured, not by the greatness 
of the scale, but by the perfection of the workmanship, and bj' the 
energy of the execution in the face of great odds. 

St. Lucia remained in the hands of the British throughout the 
war. It was an important acquisition, because at its north-west 
extremity was a good and defensible anchorage, Gros Ilet Bay, only 
thirtj' miles from Fort Royal. In it the British fleet could lie, 
when desirable to close-watch the enemy, yet not be worried for its 
safety when away ; for it was but an outpost, not a base of opera- 
tions, as Fort Royal was. It was thus used continuallj% and from 
it Rodney issued for his great victory in April, 1782. 

During the first six months of 1779 no important incident 
occurred in the West Indies. On the 6th of January, Vice-Admiral 




the Hon. John Byron, with ten ships of tlie line from Narrao-ansett 
Bay, reached St. Lucia, and relieved Barrington of the chief com- 
mand. Both the British and tlie French fleets were reinforced in 
the course of the spring, but the relative strength remained nearly 
as before, until the 27th of June, when the arrival of a division 
from Brest made the French numbers somewhat superior. 

{From a lithograph by H. R. Cook, after the portrait by J. Northcote, R. A.) 

Shortly before this, Byron had Ijeen constrained by one of the 
commercial exigencies that constantly embarrassed the military . 
action of the British admirals. A large convoy of trading ships, 
bound to England, was collecting at St. Kitts, and he thought 
necessary to accompany it part of the homeward way, until well 
clear of the enemy's West India cruisers. For this pui'pose he left 
St. Lucia early in June. As soon as the coast was clear, d'Estaing, 
informed of his object, sent a small combined ex2iedition against 
St. Vincent, which was surrendered on the 18th of the month. On 
the 30th the French admiral himself quitted Fort Royal ^^-ith his 

VOL III. — 28 




whole fleet, — twenty-five ships of the hne and several frigates, — 
directing his course for the British Island of Grenada, before which 
he anchored on the 2nd of July. With commendable promptitude, 
he landed liis troops that evening, and on the 4th the island capitu- 
lated. Except as represented by one small armed sloop, the York, 
12, Lieutenant Daniel Dobr^e, which was taken, the British Navy- 
had no part in this transaction. Thirty richly laden merchant ships 
were captured in the port. 

At daybreak of July 6th, Byron appeared with twenty-one sail of 
the line, one frigate,^ and a convoy of twenty-eight vessels, carrying 
troops and equipments. He had returned to St. Lucia on the 1st, 
and there had heard of the loss of St. Vincent, with a rumour that 
the French had gone against Grenada. He consequently had put 
to sea on the 3rd, with the force mentioned. 

1 List of the Britisli Fleet in the action off Grenada, July 6th, 1779. 
Beatson, vi. 160 (corrected). — W. L. C. 













SiiffoK- .... 



\ Eear-Adm. Josliua Rowley. ) 
/ Capt. Hugh Clobevry Chiistiun. ) 


Boyiie .... 



Cajjt. Herbert S:i\vyer. 



Eoyal Oak . . . 



Capt. Thomas Fitzherbert. 



Prince of Wales . 



\ Vice-Adniiral the Hon. .Smijuel Baningtou. ) 
( Capt. Beiijaniiii Hill. S 






Ciipt. ,lohn Elphinstone. 



Trident .... 



Capt. Anthony James I've JluUoy. 



Medwuy . . . 



Capt. William Affleck. 



Fame .... 



Capt. John Bateliart. 



Nonsuch . . . 



Cajit. Walter Griffitli. 



Sultan .... 



Capt. Alan Gardner. 



Princess Royal 



j Viee-Adni. the Hon. John Byron. / 
( Capt. William Blair. " i 



Albion .... 



Capt. George Bowyer. 



StirUnij Castle 



Capt. Eobert Carkett. 



Elizabeth . . . 



Capt. William Truscott. 



Yartnonth . 



Capt. Kathaiuel 15atenian. 






Capt. the Hon William Cornwallis. 



Viijilanl . . . 



Capt. Sir Digby Dent, Kt. 



Conqueror . . . 



j Rear-Ailm. Hyde Parker (1). 
( Capt. Harry Harmood. 



Cornwall . . . 



Capt. Tiniotliy Edwards. 



Monmouth . . . 



Capt. Robert Fanshawe. 



Grafton .... 



Capt. Thomas Collingwnod. 



Ariadne . . . 



Capt. Tliomas Pringle. 



1779.] SYROK OFF GRENADA. 435 

The British approach was reported to d'Estaing during the night 
of the 5tli. Most of his fleet was then lying at anchor off George- 
town, at tlae south-west of the island ; some vessels, wliich had Ijeen 
under Avaj^ on look-out duty, had fallen to leeward.^ At -4 A.Jt. the 
French began to lift their anchors, with ordei'S to form line of battle 
on the starboard tack, in order of speed; that is, as rapidly as 
possible without regard to usual stations. When daylight had fully 
made, the British fleet was seen standing down from the northward, 
close inshore, on the port tack, with the Avind free at north-east by 
east. It was not in order, as is evident from the fact that the ships 
nearest the enemy, and therefore first to close, ought to have been 
in the rear on the then tack. For this condition there is no evident 
excuse ; for a fleet having a convoy necessarily proceeds so slowly 
that the war-ships can keep reasonable order for mutual support. 
Moreover, irregularities that are permissible in case of emergency, 
or when no enemy can be encountered suddenly, cease to be so 
when the probability of an imminent meeting exists. The worst 
results of the day are to be attributed to this fault. Being short of 
frigates, Byron assigned three ships of the line (a), under Rear- 
Admiral Rowley, to the convoy, wliich of course was on the off hand 
from the enemy, and somewhat in the rear. It was understood, 
however, that these would be called into the line, if needful. 

When the French were first perceived by Byi-on, their line was 
forming; the long thin column lengthening out gradually to the 
north-north-west, from the confused cluster '^ still to be seen at the 
anchorage (A). Hoping to profit by their disorder, he signalled " a 
general chase in that quarter,^ as well as for Rear-Admiral Rowley 
to leave the convoy; and as not more than fourteen or fifteen of 
the enemy's ships appeared to be in line, the signal was made for 
the sliips to engage, and form as they could get up^ * It is clear 
from this not only that the shipis were not in order, but also that 

1 To the westward. These islands lie in the trade-winds, which are constant in 
general direction from north-east. 

^ Admiral Keppel, in his evidence before the Palliser Court, gave an interesting 
description of a similar scene, altliough the present writer is persuaded that he was 
narrating things as they seemed, rather than — as at Grenada — as they were. " The 
French were forming their line exactly in the manner M. Conflans did when 
attacked by Admiral Ilawke." (Keppel had been in that action.) " It is a manner 
peculiar to themselves, and to those who do not understand it, it appears like con- 
fusion ; they draw out ship by ship from a cluster." 

* That is, towards the ships at anchor, — the enemy's rear as matters then were. 

* Byron's Report. The italics are the author's. 




they were to form under fire. Three ships, the Sultan, 74, the 
Prince of Wales, 74, and the Boyne, 70, in the order named, — the 
second carrying the flag of Barrington, now a Vice-Admiral, — were 
well ahead of the fleet (b). The direction prescribed for the attack, 
that of the clustered ships in the French rear, carried the British 



Byron's Action off Cbcnada i 



6 """^t/iy-.- /P'/'S> J 


r/f£A/cM c:^ 2S Jf*/f^. ^ ^ tll\ 


3fr/Yjs*i ^ 2/3M/fS. >Nk: 




t%\ / ^ 


a' .- 

1 ' 

■•••■■.., ....-<;■. \ « 

• ; 

A ■ 

\ -. 

'^ 1 

( - 










down on a south-south-west, or south by west, coiu'se ; and as the 
enemy's van and centre were drawing out to the north-north-west, 
the two lines at that time resembled the legs of a " V," the point of 
which was the anchorage off Georgetown. Barrington's three 
ships therefore neared the French order gradually, and had to 
receive its fire for some time before they could reply, unless, by 
liauling to the wind, they diverged from the set course. This, and 
their isolation, made their loss very heavy. When they reached the 
rear of the French, the latter's column was tolerably formed, and 
Barrington's ships wore in succession, — just as Harland's had 
done in Keppel's action, — to follow on the other tack. In doing 
this, the Sultan kept away under the stern of the enemy's rearmost 


sliip, to rake her ; to avoid which the hitter bore up. The Sultan 
thus lost time and ground, and Barrington took the lead, standing 
along the French line, from rear to van, and to windward. 

Meanwhile, the forming of the enemy had revealed to B3-ron for 
the first time, and to liis dismay, that he had been deceived in tliink- 
ing the French force inferior to his own. "However, the general 
chase was continued, and the signal made for close engagement." ^ 
The remainder of the ships stood down on the port tack, as the first 
three had done, and wore in the wake of tlie latter, whom they fol- 
lowed ; but before reaching the point of wearing, tliree ships (c), 
"the Grafton, 74, the Cornwall, 74, and the Lion, 64, hapjyening to he 
to leeivard,^ sustained the fire of the enemy's whole line, as it passed 
on the starboard tack." It seems clear that, having had the wind, 
during the night and now, and being in search of an enemy, it should 
not have " happened " that any ships should have been so far to lee- 
ward as to be unsupported. Captain Thomas White, R.N., writing 
as an advocate of Byron, says,^ " while the van was wearing . . . the 
sternmost ships were coming up under Rear- Admiral Hyde Parker. 
. . . Among these ships, the Corniaall and Zion, from being nearer 
the enemy than those about them (for the rear division had not then 
formed into line), drew upon themselves almost the whole of the 
enemy's fire." No words can show more clearly the disastrous, pre- 
cipitate disorder in which this attack was conducted. The Grafton, 
White says, was similarly situated. In consequence, these three were 
so crippled, besides a tremendous loss in men, that they dropped far 
to leeward and astern on the other tack. 

When the British ships in general had got round, and were in 
line ahead on the starboard tack, — the same as the French, — ran- 
ging from rear to van of the enemy (B), Byron signalled for the eight 
leading ships to close together, for mutual support, and to engage 
close. This, which should have been done — not with finikin preci- 
sion, but with military adequacy — before engaging, was less easy 
now, in the din of battle and with crippled ships. A quick-eyed 
subordinate, however, did something to remedy the error of his chief. 
Rear-Admiral Rowley had been left considerably astern, having to 
make up the distance between the convoy and the fleet. As he fol- 
lowed the latter, he saw Barrington's three ships unduly separated, 
and doubtless visibly much mauled. Instead, therefore, of blindly 

1 Byron's Report. Author's italics. 

* ' Naval Researches.' London, 1830. p. 22. 

438 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1779. 

following his leader, he cut straight across (a a') to the head of the 
column to support the van, — an act almost absolutely identical with 
that which won Nelson renown at Cape St. Vincent. In this he was 
followed by the Monmouth, 64, the brilliancy of whose bearing was so 
conspicuous to the two fleets that it is said the French officers after 
the battle toasted " the little black ship." She and the Suffolk, 74, 
Rowley's flagship, also suffered severely in this gallant feat. 

It was imperative with Byron now to keep his van well up with 
the enemy, lest he should uncover the convoy, broad on the weather 
bow of the two fleets. " They seemed much inclined to cut off the 
convoy, and had it much in their power by means of their large 
frigates, independent of ships of the line." ^ On the other hand, the 
Corn-wall, Grafton, and Lion, though the}' got their heads round, could 
not keep up with the fleet (c'), and were di-opping also to leeward — 
towards the enemy. At noon, or soon after, d'Estaing bore up with 
the body of his force to join some of his vessels that had fallen to 
leeward. Byron very properly — under his conditions of inferiority 
— kept his wind ; and the separation of the two fleets, thus produced, 
caused firing to cease at 1 p.m. 

Tlie enemies were now ranged on parallel lines, some distance 
apart ; still on the starboard tack, heading north-north-west. Between 
the two, but far astern, the Cormvall, Grafton, Lion, and a fourth 
British ship, the Fame, were toiling along, greatly crippled. At 3 P.M., 
the French, now in good order, tacked together, which caused them 
to head towards these disabled vessels. Byron at once imitated the 
movement, and the eyes of all in the two fleets anxiously watched 
the result. Captain Cornwallis of the Lion, measuring the situation 
accurately, saw that, if he continued ahead, he would be in the midst 
of the French by the time he got abreast them. Having only his 
foremast standing, he put his helm up, and stood broad off before 
the wind (c"), across the enemy's bows, for Jamaica. He was not 
pursued. The other three, unable to tack and afraid to wear, which 
would put them also in the enemy's power, stood on, passed to wind- 
ward of the latter, receiving several broadsides, and so escaped to the 
northward. The Monmouth was equally maltreated ; in fact, she had 
not been able to tack to the southward with the fleet. Continuing 
north (a'), she was now much separated. D'Estaing afterwards re- 
formed his fleet on its leewardmost ship (BC). 

Byron's action off Grenada was the most disastrous, viewed as an 
1 Byron's Report. 

1779.] BYRON'S DISASTER. 439 

isolated event, that the British Navy had encountered since Beachy 
Head, in 1690. That the Cornwall., Grafton, and Lion were not cap- 
tured was due simply to the strained and cautious inaptitude of the 
French admiral. This Byi-on virtually admitted. "To my great 
surprise no ship of the enemy was detached after the Lion. The 
Grafton and Cormoall might have been weatliered by the French, if 
they had kept their wind, . . . but they persevered so strictly in de- 
clining every chance of close action that they contented themselves 
with firing upon these shijis when passing barely within gunshot, 
and suffered them to rejoin the squatb'on, without one effort to cut 
them off." Suffren,! who led the French on the starboard tack, and 
whose ship, the Fantasque, 64, lost 22 killed and 43 wounded, wrote : 
" Had our admiral's seamanship equalled his courage, we would not 
have allowed four dismasted ships to escape."' That the Momnouth 
and Fame could also have been secured is extremely probable ; and 
had Byron, in order to save them, borne down to renew the action, 
the disaster might have become a catastrophe. 

That nothing resulted to the French from their great advantage is 
a matter for French naval history, not for British. It is otherwise as 
regards the causes of such a grave calamity, when twentj- ships met 
twenty-four,^ — a sensible but not overwhelming superiority. These 
facts have been shown sufficiently. Byron's disaster was due to attack- 
ing with needless precipitation, and in needless disorder. He had the 
weather-gage, it was early morning, and the east wind, already a 
working breeze, must freshen as the day advanced. The French were 
tied to their new conquest, which they could not abandon without 
humiliation, not to sjieak of their troojas ashore ; but even had they 
wished to retreat, they could not have done so before a general chase, 
unless prepared to sacrifice their slower ships. If twenty-four ships 
could reconcile themselves to running from twenty, it was scarcely 
possible but that the fastest of these would overtake the slowest of 
those. There were time for fighting, an opportunity for forcing action 

1 Pierre A. de Snffren de Saint Tropez, a Bailli of the Order of Knights of Malta. 
Born 1726. Present at two naval actions before he was twenty. Participated in 
1750 in the attack on Port Mahon, and in 1759 in the action off Lagos. Chef 
d'escadre in 1779. Dispatched to the East Indies. Fought a British squadron in 
the Bay of Praya, arid a succession of brilliant actions with Sir Edward Hughes. 
Vice-Admiral, 1783. Killed in a duel, 1788. One of the greatest of French naval 
officers. — W. L. C. 

"^ Troude says that one French seventy-four, having touched in leaving port, was 

4-10 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1779. 

wliich could not be evaded, and time also for the British to form in 
reasonable order. 

It is important to consider this, because, while Keppel must be 
approved for attacking in partial disorder, Byron must be blamed for 
attacking in utter disorder. Kejapel had to snatch opportunity from 
an unwilling foe. Having himself the lee-gage, he could not pick and 
choose, nor yet manoeuvre ; yet he brought his fleet into action, giving 
mutual support throughout nearly, if not quite, the whole line. What 
Byron did has been set forth ; the sting is that his bungling tactics can 
find no extenuation in any urgency of the case. 

Tlie loss of the two fleets, as given by the authorities of either 
nation, were: British, 183 killed, 346 wounded; French, 190 killed, 
759 wounded. Of the British total, 126 killed and 285 wounded, or 
two tliirds, fell to the two groups of three ships each, which by the 
Vice-Admiral's mismanagement were successively exposed to be cut 
up in detail by the concentrated fire of the enemy. The British loss 
in spars and sails — in motive-power — also exceeded greatly that of 
the French. 

After the action d'Estaing returned quietly to Grenada. Byron 
went to St. Kitts to refit ; but repairs were most thfficult, owing to the 
dearth of stores in wliich the Admiralty had left the West Indies. 
With all the skill of the seamen of that day in making good damages, 
the ships remained long unserviceable, causing great apjirehension for 
the other islands. This state of things d'Estaing left unimproved, 
as he had his advantage in the battle. He did, indeed, parade his 
superior force before Byron's fleet as it lay at anchor ; but, beyond 
the humiliation naturally felt by a Navy which prided itself on ruling 
the sea, no further injury was done. 

In August Byi-on sailed for England. Vice-Admiral Barrington 
had already gone home, wounded. The station therefore was left in 
command of Rear-Admiral Uyde Parker (1), and so remained until 
the following March, when Admiral Sir George Brydges Rodney, 
K. B., arrived as Commander-in-Chief on the Leeward Islands Station. 
The North American Station was given to Vice-Admiral ]\Iarriot 
Arbuthnot, who had under him a half-dozen ships of the line, with 
headquarters at New York. His command was generally indepen- 
dent of Rodney's, but the latter had no hesitation in going to New 
York on emergency and taking charge there ; in doing which he had 
the approval of the Admiralty. 

Tlie approach of winter in 1778 had determined the cessation of 


operations, both naval and military, in the nortliern part of the Amei-i- 
can continent, and had led to the transfer of 5,000 troops to the West 
Indies, ali'eady noted. At the same time, an unjustifiable extension 
of British effort, having regard to the disposable means, was undertaken 
in the Southern States of Georgia and South Carolina. On the 2Tth 
of November a small detachment of troops under Lieutenant-Colonel 
Arcliibald Campbell, sailed from Sandy Hook, convoyed by a division 

{From a lithograph by H. R, Cook^ after the portrait by Rising.) 

of frigates commanded by Captain Hyde Parker (2),^ in the Phcenix, 
44. It entered tlie Savannah River four weeks later, and soon after- 
wards occupied the city of the same name. Simultaneously with this, 
by Clinton's orders, General Prevost moved from Florida, then a 
British colony, with all the men he could spare from the defence of 
St. Augustine. Upon his arrival in Savannali, he took command of 
the whole force thus assembled. 

1 Sir Hyde Parker, Kt. Born, 1739. Captain, 1763. Rear-Admiral, 1793. Vioe- 
Aflmiral, 1794. Admiral, 1799. Died, 1S07. Nelson's chief at Copenhagen, in 1801. 

442 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1779. 

These operations, which during 1779 extended as far as the 
neighbourhood of Charleston, depended upon the control of the 
water, and are a conspicuous example of misapplication of power to 
the point of ultimate self-destruction. They were in 1778-79 essen- 
tiall}' of a minor character, especially the maritime part, and will 
therefore be dismissed with the remark that the Navy, by small ves- 
sels, accompanied every movement in a country cut up in all direc- 
tions by water-coiu-ses, large and small. " The defence of this 
province," wrote Parker, " must greatly depend on the naval force 
upon the different inland creeks. I am therefore forming some gal- 
leys covered from musketiy, which I believe will have a good effect." 
These were precursors of the " tin-clads " of the American Civil War, 
a century later. Not even an armoured ship is a new thing under 
the sun. 

In the Southern States, from Georgia to Virginia, the part of the 
Navy from first to last was subsidiarj-, though important. It is there- 
fore unnecessary to go into details, but most necessary to note that 
here, by misdirection of effort and abuse of means, was initiated the 
fatal movement which henceforth divided the small British army in 
North America into two sections, wholly out of mutual support. 
Here was reproduced on a larger, and therefore more fatal, scale, 
Howe's error of 1777. This led directl}-, by the inevitable logic of 
a false position, to Cornwallis's march through North Carolina 
into Virginia, to Yorktown in 1781, and to the signal demonstra- 
tion of sea power off Chesapeake Bay, which accomplished with a 
crash the independence of the United States. No hostile strategist 
could have severed the British army more liopelessly than did 
the British government; no fate could have been more inexorable 
than was its own perverse will. Tlie personal alienation and 
official quarrel between Sir Henry Clinton and Lord Cornwallis, 
their divided counsels and divergent action, were but the natural 
result, and the reflection, of a situation essentially self-contradictory 
and exasperating. 

As the hurricane season of 1779 advanced, d'Estaing, who had 
orders to bring back to France the ships of the line with which he 
had sailed from Toulon in 1778, resolved to go first upon the Ameri- 
can coast, off South Carolina or Georgia. Arriving with his whole 
fleet at the mouth of the Savannah, August 31st, he decided to 
attempt to wrest the city of Savannah from the British. This would 
have been of real service to the latter, had it nipped in the bud 


their ex-centric undertaking ; l)ut, after three weelcs of opened trenches, 
an assault upon tlie place failed. D'Estaiug then sailed for Europe 
with the ships designated to accompany him, the others returning to 
the West Indies in t\vo squadrons, under De Grasse and La Motte- 
Picquet. Though fruitless in its main object, this entei-prise of 
d'Estaing had the important indirect effect of causing the Britisli to 
abandon Narragansett Bay. Upon the news of his appearance, Sir 
Henry Clinton had felt that, witli his greatly diminished army, he 
could not hold both Rhode Island and New York. He therefore 
ordered tlie evacuation of the former, thus surrendering, to use again 
Rodney's words, " the best and noblest harbour in America." The 
following summer it was occupied in force by the French. 

D'Estaing was succeeded in the chief command, in the West 
Indies and North America, by Rear-Admiral de Guichen,i who ar- 
rived on the station in March, 1780, almost at the same moment as 

In June, 1779, the maritime situation of Great Britain had be- 
come much more serious by S^Daiu's declaring war. At the same 
moment that d'Estaing M-ith twenty-five ships of tlie line had con- 
fronted BjTon's twenty-one, the Channel fleet of forty sail had seen 
gathering against it a host of sixty-six. Of this great number thirty- 
six were Spanish. 

The open declaration of Sjjain had been jireceded by a secret alli- 
ance with France, signed on the 12th of April. Fearing that the 
British government would take betimes the reasonable and proper 
step of blockading the Brest fleet of thirty with the Channel forty, 
thus assuming a central position with reference to its enemies and 
anticipating the policy of Lord St. Vincent, the French Ministry 
hurried its ships to sea on the 4th of June ; Admiral d'Orvilliers, 
Keppel's opponent, still in command. His oi'ders were to cruise off 
the island of Cizarga, where the Spaniards were to join. On the 
11th he was at his station, but not till the 23rd of July did the bulk 
of the Spanish force appear. During this time, the French, insuffi- 
ciently equipped from the first, owing to the haste of their departure, 
were consuming provisions and water, not to speak of wasting pleas- 
ant summer weather. Their ships also were ravaged by an epidemic 

1 Louis Urbain de Bouenic, Conite de Guichen. Born, 1712. Entered the navy, 
1730. Commanded the lUustre with success in North America in 1756. Second in 
command in the action off Ushant in 1778. Thrice fought Rodney in the West Indies 
in 1780. Fought Kempenfelt off the Azores in 1781. Died, 1790. — W. L. C. 




fever. Upon the junction, d'Orvilliers found that the Spaniards had 
not been furnished with the French system of signals, although by 
the treaty the French admiral was to be in chief command. The 
rectification of this oversight caused further delay, but on the 11th 
of August the combined fleet sighted Usiiant, and on the 14th was 
off the Lizard. On the 16th it appeared before Plymouth, and there 
on the 17th captured the Ardent, 64, Caj)tain Pliilip Boteler. 

{From the lithograph bi/ If. i2. Cook, after the portrait by G. Romney.) 

Thirty-five ships of the Channel fleet had gone to sea on the 
16th of June, and were now cruising outside, under the command 
of Admiral Sir Charles Hardy (2).i His station was from ten to 

1 Admiral Sir Charles Hartly (2), Kt. Son of Vice- Admiral Sir Charles Hardy 
(1), who died in 1744. Born about 1716. Entered the Navy, 17.31. Lieutenant, 
1737. Coniniandcr, 1741. Captain, 1741. Knighted, and Governor of New York, 
1755. Rear-Admiral, 1756. Employed under Boscawen and Hawke. Vice-Admiral, 
1762. Admiral, 1770. Governor of Greenwich Hospital, 1771. Commander-in- 
Chief in the Channel, 1779. Died, 1780. — W. L. C. 


twenty leagues south-west of Scilly ; consequently he had not been 
seen by the enem}', who from Ushant had stood up the Channel. 
The allies, however, now nearly double tlie numbers of the British, 
were between them and their ports, — a seiious situation doubtless, 
but by no means desperate ; not so dangerous for sailing ships as it 
probably will be for steamers to have an enemy between them and 
their coal. 

The alarm in England was very great, and especially in the south. 
On the 9th of July a royal proclamation had commanded all horses 
and cattle to be driven from the coasts, in case of invasion. Booms 
had been placed across the entrance to Plymouth Harbour, and orders 
were sent from the Admiralty to sink vessels across the harbour's 
mouth. Many who had the means withdrew into the interior, which 
increased the panic. Great merchant fleets were then on the sea, 
homeward bound. If d'Orvilliers were gone to cruise in the ap- 
proaches to the Channel, instead of to the Spanish coast, these might 
be taken ; and for some time his whereabouts were unknown. As it 
was, the Jamaica convoy, over two hundred sail, got in a few days 
before the allies appeared, and the Leeward Islands fleet had similar 
good fortune. Eight homeward bound East Indiamen were less 
luck}^, but, being warned of their danger, took refuge in the Shannon, 
and there remained till the trouljle blew over. On the other hand, 
the stock market stood firm. Nevertheless, it was justly felt that 
such a state of things as a vastly superior hostile fleet in the Channel 
should not have been. " What a humiliating state is our country 
reduced to ! " wrote Jervis, M'ho was with the fleet, to his sister ; but 
he added that he laughed at the idea of invasion. 

The French had placed a force of fifty thousand men at Le Havre 
and St. Malo, and collected four hundred vessels for their transport. 
Their plans were not certainly known, but enough had transpired to 
cause reasonable anxiety ; and the crisis, on its face, was very serious. 
Not their own preparations, but the inefficiency of their enemies, in 
counsel and in preparation, saved the British Islands from invasion. 
What the results of this would have been is another question, — a 
question of land warfare. The original scheme of the French Min- 
istr}' was to seize the Isle of Wight, seciu-ing Spithead as an anchor- 
age for the fleet, and to prosecute their enterprise from this near and 
reasonably secure base. Referring to this first project, d'Orvilliers 
wrote : " We will seek the enemy at St. Helen's, and then, if I find 
that roadstead unoccupied, or make myself master of it, I will send 

446 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1779. 

word to Marshal De Yaux, at Le Havre, and inform him of the 
measures I will take to insure his passage, which [measures] will 
depend upon the position of the English main fleet [d^pendront 
des forces supdrieures des Anglais]. That is to say, I myself will 
lead the combined fleet on that side, to contain the enemy, and 
I will send, on the other side, a light squadron, witli a sufficient 
number of ships of the line and frigates ; or I will propose to M. de 
Cordova to take this latter station, in order that the passage of the 
army may be free and sure. I assume that then, either by the 
engagement I shall have fought with the enemy, or hy their retreat 
into their ports, I shall be certain of their situation and of the success 
of the operation." ^ It will be observed that d'Orvilliers, accounted 
then and now one of the best officers of his day in the French navy, 
takes here into full account the British " fleet in being." ^ The main 
body of the allies, fifty ships, was to hold this in check, while a 
smaller force — Cordova had command of a special " squadron of 
observation," of sixteen ships of the line — was to convoy the 

These projects all fell to pieces before a strong east wind, and a 
change of mind in the French government. On the IGth of August, 
before Plymouth, d'Orvilliers was notified that not the Isle of 
"Wight, but the coast of Cornwall, near Falmouth, was to be the scene 
of landing. The effect of this was to deprive the huge fleet of any 
anchorage, — a resource necessary even to steamers, and far more 
to sailing vessels aiming to remain in a position. As a point to 
begin shore operations, too, as well as to sustain them, such a remote 
corner of the countr}- to be invaded was absurd. D'Orvilliers duly 
represented all this, but could not stay where he was long enough to 
get a reply. An easterly gale came on, which blew hard for several 
days and di-ove the allies out of the Channel. On the 25th of August 
word was received that the British fleet was near Scilly. A council 
of war was then held, which decided that, in view of the terrible 
increase of disease in the shipping, and of the shortness of provisions, 
it was expedient not to re-enter the Channel, but to seek the enemy, 
and bring him to battle. This was done. On the 29th Hardy was 
sighted, being then on his return up Channel. "With the disparity 
of force he could not but avoid action, and the allies were unable to 

1 Chevalier, ' Marine FranQaise,' 1778. p. 165. Author's italics. 

2 But it was not uierel}' a " fleet in being." It was also, in all senses, a " potential 
fleet." — W. L. C. 


compel it. On the 3rd of September he reached Spithead. D'Or- 
villiers soon afterwards received orders to return to Brest, and on 
the 14th the combined fleet anchored there. 

The criticism to be passed on the conduct of this summer cam- 
paign by the British Ministry is twofokl. In the first place, it was 
not ready, accorchng to the reasonable standard of the day, which 
recognised in the probable co-operation of the two Boui'bon king- 
doms, France and Spain, the measure of the minimum naval force 
permissible to Great Britain. Secondly, the entrance of Spain into the 
war had been foreseen months before. For the inferior force, therefore, 
it was essential to prevent a junction, — to take an interior position. 
The Channel fleet ought to have been off Brest before the French 
sailed. After they were gone, there was still fair ground for the 
contention of the Opposition, that they should have been followed, 
and attacked, off the coast of Spain. During the six weeks they 
waited there, they were inferior to Hardy's force. Allowance here 
must be made, however, for the inability of a representative govern- 
ment to disregard popular outcry, and uncover the main approach to 
its own ports. This, indeed, does but magnify the error made in not 
watching Brest betimes, for a fleet before Brest covered also the 

With regard to the objects of the war in which they had become 
partners, the views of France and Spain accorded in but one point, — ■ 
the desirability of injuring Great Britain. Each had its own special 
aim for its own advantage. This necessarily introduced divergence 
of effort; but France, having first embarked in the contest and then 
sought the aid of an ally, the particular objects of the latter naturally 
obtained from the beginning a certain precedence. Until near the 
close of the war, it may be said that the clrief ambitions of France 
were in the West Indies ; those of Spain, in Europe, — to regain 
Minorca and Gibraltar. 

In this way Gibraltar became a leading factor in the contest, and 
affected, directly or indirectly, the major operations throughout the 
world, by the amount of force absorbed in attacking and preserving 
it. After the futile effort in the Channel, in 1779, Spain recalled 
her vessels from Brest. "The project of a descent upon England 
was abandoned provisionally. To blockade Gibraltar, to have in 
America and Asia force sufficient to hold the British in check, 
and to take the offensive in the West Indies, — such," -mrote the 
French government to its ambassador in Macbid, " was the plan of 

448 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1780. 

campaign adopted for 1780." Immediately upon tlie declaration of 
war, intercourse between Gibraltar and the Spanish mainland was 
stopped ; and soon afterwards a blockade by sea was instituted, 
fifteen cruisers being stationed at the entrance of the Bay, where 
they seized and sent into Spanish ports all vessels, neutral or British, 
bound to the Rock. This blockade was effectively supported from 
Cadiz, but a Spanish force of some ships of the line and many small 
vessels also maintained it more directly from Algeciras, on the opposite i 
side of the Bay of Gibraltar. The British INIediterranean squadron, 
then consisting only of one 60-gun ship, tlu-ee frigates, and a sloop, 
was wholly unable to afford relief. At the close of the year 1779, 
flour was fourteen guineas the barrel, and other provisions in propor- 
tion. It became therefore imminently necessary to thi'ow in supplies 
of all kinds, as well as to reinforce the garrison. To this service 
Rodney was assigned ; and with it he began the brilliant career, the 
chief scene of which was to be in the West Indies. 

Rodney was appointed to command the Leeward Islands Station 
on the 1st of October, 1779. He was to be accompanied there imme- 
diately by only four or five ships of the line ; but advantage was 
taken of his sailing, to place under the charge of an officer of his 
approved reputation a great force, composed of his small division 
and a large fraction of the Channel fleet, to convoy supplies and 
reinforcements to Gibraltar and INIinorca. On the 29th of December 
the whole body, after many delays in getting down Channel, put to 
sea from Plymouth : twenty-two ships of the line, fourteen frigates 
and smaller vessels, besides a huge collection of storeships, victuallers, 
ordnance vessels, troop-ships, and merchantmen, — the " trade " for 
the West Indies and Portugal. 

On the 7th of January, a hundred leagues west of Cape Finisterre, 
the West India ships parted, under convoy of a ship of the line and 
three frigates. At daylight on the 8th, twenty-two sail were seen to 
the north-east, the scpiadron apparently having passed them in the 
night. Chase was at once given, and the whole were taken in a few 
hours. Seven ^ were ships of war, chiefly frigates ; the remainder 
merchant vessels, laden -ndth naval stores and provisions for tlie 
Spanish fleet at Cadiz. The provision ships, twelve in number, were 
diverted at once to the relief of Gibraltar, under charge of the Span- 

1 Guipuscoana, 64 (added to the Royal Navj' as Prince IVillicmi); San Carlos, 
32; San Rafael, 30; San Bruno, 26; Santa Teresa, 24; San Fermin, 16; SanVincente, 
14. Steel's ' Navy List ': Beatson, vi. 233. — W. L. C. 


ish sixty-four, which had been one of their convoy before capture, 
and had now received a British crew. Continuing on, intelligence 
was received from time to time Ijy passing vessels that a Spanish 
squadron was cruising off Cape St. Vincent. Thus forewarned, orders 
were given to all captains to be prepared for battle as the Cape was 
neared. On the IGth it was passed, and at 1 p.m. sails in the south- 
east were signalled. These were a Spanish squadron of eleven ships 
of the line, and two 26-gun frigates. Rodney at once bore down for 
them under a press of canvas, making signal for the line abreast. 
Seeing, however, that the enemy was trying to form line of battle 
on the starboard tack, which with a westerly wind was with heads to 
the southward, towards Cadiz, a hundi'ed miles to the south-east, he 
changed the orders to a " General Chase," the ships to engage as 
they came up ; " to leeward," so as to get between the enemy and 
his post, and " in rotation," by which probably was meant that the 
leading British vessel should attack the sternmost of the Spaniards, 
and that her followers should pass her to leeward, successively en- 
gaging from the enemy's rear towards the van. 

At 4 P.M. the signal for battle was made, and a few minutes 
later the four headmost of the pursuers got into action. At 4.40 
one of the Sjjanish ships, the Santo Domingo, 70, blew up with all on 
board, and at 6 another stiaick. By this hour, it being January, 
darkness had set in. A niglit action therefore followed, which 
lasted until 2 a.m., when the headmost of the enemy surrendered, 
and all firing ceased. Of the eleven hostile ships of the line, only 
four escaped. Besides the one blown up, six were taken. These 
were the Fcnix, 80, flag of the Spanish Admiral, Don Juan de Lau- 
gara, the Monarca, 70, the Frincesa, 70, the Diligente, 70, the Son 
Julian, 70, and the San Eugenio, 70. The two latter drove ashore 
and were lost.^ The remaining four were brought into Gibraltar, 
and were ultimately added to the Navy. All retained their old 
names, save the Fenix, which was re-named Gibraltar. " The 
weather dui-ing the night," by Rodney's report, " was at times very 
tempestuous, with a great sea. It continued very bad weather the 
next da}^ when the Royal George, 100, Prince George, 90, Sandwich, 
90 (Rodne\-'s flagship), and several other ships were in great danger, 
and under the necessity of making sail to avoid the shoals of San 
Lucar, nor did they get into deep water till the next morning." 

' Rodney's Report. Chevalier says that one of them was retaken by her crew 
and carried into Cadiz. 
VOL. III. — 29 

450 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1780. 

It was in this clanger from a lee shore, which was deliberately 
though promptly incurred, that the distinction of this action of 
llodney's consists. The enemy's squadron, being only eleven shijis 
of the line, was but lialf the force of the British, and it was taken 
by surprise ; which, to be sure, is no excuse for a body of war-ships 
in war-time. Caught unawares, the Spaniards took to flight too 
late. It was Rodney's merit, and no slight one under the conditions 
of weather and navigation, that they were not permitted to retrieve 
their mistake. His action left nothing to be desired in resolution 
or readiness. It is true that Rodney discussed the matter with his 
flag-captain, Walter Young, and that rumour attributed the merit 
of the decision to the latter; but this sort of detraction is of too 
common occurrence to affect opinion. Sir Gilbert Blane, Physician 
to the Fleet, gives the following accoimt : " When it was close 
upon sunset, it became a question whether the chase should be con- 
tinued. After some discussion between the Admiral and Captain, 
at which I was present, tlie Admiral being confined with the gout, 
it was decided to persist in the same course, with the signal to 
engage to leeward." Rodney at that time was nearly sixty-two, 
and a constant martyr to gout in both feet and hands. 

The two successes by the way imparted a slightly triumphal 
character to the welcome of the Admiral by the garrison, then sorely 
in need of some good news. The arrival of much-needed supplies 
from home was itself a matter of rejoicing ; but it was more inspirit- 
ing still to see following in the train of the friendly fleet five hostile 
ships of the line, one of them bearing the flag of a Commander-in- 
Chief, and to hear that, besides tliese, three more had been sunk or 
destroyed. The exultation in England was even greater, and es- 
pecially at the Adjniralty, which was labouring under the just 
indignation of the people for the unpreparedness of the Navy. 
"You have taken more line-of-battle ships," wrote the First Lord 
to Rodney, " than had been captured in any one action in either of 
the two last preceding wars." 

It should be remembered, too, as an element in the triumph, that 
this advantage over an exposed detachment had been snatched, as 
it were, in the teeth of a main fleet superior to Rodney's own ; for 
twenty Spanish and four French ships of the line, under Admiral de 
Cordova, were lying then in Cadiz Bay. During the eighteen days 
when the British remained in and near the Straits, no attemjjt was 
made by Cordova to take revenge for the disaster, or to reap the 


benefit of superior force. The inaction was clue, probably, to the 
poor condition of the Spanish ships in point of eificiencj- and equip- 
ment, and largely to their having uncoppered bottoms. This ele- 
ment of inferiority in the Spanish navy should be kept in mind as 
a factor in the general war, although Spanish fleets did not come 
much into battle. A French Commodore, then with the Spanish 
fleet in Ferrol, wrote as follows : " Their ships all sail so badly that 
they can neither ovei'take an enem}- nor escape from one. The 
GJoricux is a bad sailer in the French nav}-, but better than the 
best among the Spaniards." He adds: "The vessels of Langara's 
squadron were surprised at immense distances one from the other. 
Thus they always sail, and their negligence and security on this 
point are incredible." 

On aj)proaching Gibraltar, the continuance of bad weather, and 
the strong easterly current of the Straits, set many of Rodney's 
ships and convoy to leeward, to the back of the Rock, and it was 
not till the 26tli that the flagship herself anchored. The storeships 
for Minorca were sent on at once, under charge of three coppered 
ships of the line. The practice of coppering, though then fully 
adopted, had not yet extended to all vessels. As an element of 
speed, it was an important factor on an occasion like this, when 
time pressed to get to the West Indies ; as it also was in an engage- 
ment. The action on the 16th had been opened bj- the coppered 
ships of the line, which first overtook the retreating enemy and 
brought his rear to battle. In the French navy at the time, Suffi'en 
was urging the adoption upon an apparently reluctant Minister. 
It would seem to have been moi-e general among the British, going 
far to compensate for the otherwise inferior qualities of their shijDS. 
"The Spanish men-of-war we have taken," wrote Rodney to his 
wife concerning these prizes, " are much superior to ours." It may 
be remembered that Nelson, tliirteen years later, said the same. 
"I perceive you cry out loudly for coppered ships," wrote the First 
Lord to Rodney after this action ; " and I am therefore determined 
to stop your mouth. You shall have cojjper enough." 

Upon the return of the ships from Minorca, Rodney put to sea 
again on the 13th of February, for the West Indies. The detach- 
ment from the Channel fleet accompanied him three days' sail on his 
way, and then parted for England with the prizes. On this return 
voyage it fell in with fifteen French supply vessels, convoyed by two 
sixty-fours, bound for the He de France, in the Indian Ocean. One 

452 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [ivso. 

of the ships of war, the Protce, and three of the storeshijjs were taken. 
Though trivial, the incident illustrates the effect of operations in 
Evirope upon war in India. It may be mentioned here as indicative 
of the government's dilemmas, that Rodney Avas censured for hav- 
ing left one ship of the line at the Rock. " It has given us the 
trouble and risk of sending a frigate on purpose to order her home 
immediately ; and if you will look into your original instructions, you 
will find tliat there was no point more strongly guarded against than 
that of your leaving any line-of-battle ship behind j'ou." These 
words clearly show the exigency and peril of the general situation, 
owing to the inadequate development of the naval force as compared 
with its foes. Such isolated ships ran the gauntlet of the fleets flank- 
ing their routes in Cadiz, Ferrol, and Brest. 

When Rodney arrived at St. Lucia with his four shii^s of the line, 
on the 27th of March, lie found there a force of sixteen others, com- 
posed in about equal proportions of ships that had left England with 
Byron in the summer of 1778, and of a reinforcement brought by 
Rear-Admiral Rowley in the spring of 1779. 

During the temporary command of Rear-Admiral Hj-de Parker, 
a smart affair had taken place between a detachment of the squadron 
and one from the French division, under La Motte-Picquet, then 
lying in Fort Royal. 

On the 18th of December, 1779, between 8 and 9 A.M., the British 
look-out ship, the Preston, 50, between Martinique and St. Lucia, 
made signal for a fleet to windward, which proved to be a body of 
French supply ships, twenty-six in number, under con\oy of a frigate. 
Both the British and the French squadrons were in disarraj', sails 
unbent, ships on the heel or partially disarmed, crews ashore for 
wood and water. In both, signals flew at once for certain ships to 
get under wa}', and in both the orders were executed with a rapidity 
gratifying to the two commanders, who also went out in person. 
The British, however, were outside first, with five sail of the line 
and a 50-gun ship. Nine of the merchant vessels were captured 
by them, and four forced ashore. The French Rear-Admiral had 
by this time got out of Fort Royal with three ships of the line, — the 
Annibal, 74, Vengcur, 64, and Bcjlerhi, 64, — and, being to windward, 
covered the entrance of the remainder of tlie convoj\ As the two 
hostile divisions were now near each other, with a fine working 
breeze, the British tried to beat up to the enemy ; the Conqueror, 74, 
Captain Walter Griffith, being ahead and to windward of her consorts. 


Coming within range at 5, firing began between her and the French 
flagship, Aiinihal, 74, and subsequently between her and all the three 
vessels of the enemy. Towards smiset, the Albion, 74, had got close 
up with the Conqueror, and the other ships were within distant range ; 
" but as they had worked not only well within the dangers of the 
shoals of the bay (Fort Royal), but within reach of the batteries, I 
called them off by night signal at a quarter before seven." ^ In this 
chivalrous skirmish, — for it was little more, although the injury 
to the French in the loss of the convoy was notable, — Parker was 
equally delighted with liis own squadron and with his enemy. " The 
steadiness and coolness with which on every tack the Conqueror 
received the fire of these three sliips, and returned her own, work- 
ing his ship with as nuich exactness as if he had been turning into 
Spithead, and on every board gaining on the enemy, gave me infi- 
nite pleasure. It was with inexpressible concern," he added, " that 
I heard that Captain Walter Griffith, of the Conqueror, was killed by 
the last broadside." ^ Having occasion, a few days later, to exchange 
a flag of truce with the French Rear-Adrairal, he wrote to him : 
" The conduct of your Excellency in the affair of the 18th of this 
month fully justifies the reputation which you enjoy among as, and 
I assure you that I could not witness without envy the skill 3-ou 
showed on that occasion. Our enmity is transient, depending upon 
our masters ; but your merit has stamped upon my heart the greatest 
admiration for yourself." This was the officer who was commonly 
known in his time as "Vinegar" Parker; but these letters show 
that the epithet fitted the rind rather than the kernel. 

Shortly after de Guichen took command, he arranged with the 
Marquis de BouilM, Governor of jMartinique, to make a combined 
attack upon some one of the British West India Islands. For this 
purpose 3,000 troops were embarked in the fleet, which sailed on the 
night of the 13th of April, 1780, intending first to accompany a 
convoy for Santo Domingo, until it was safely out of reach of the 
British. Rodney, who was informed at once of the French departure, 
put to sea in chase with all his ships, twenty of the line, two of which 
were of 90 guns, and on the 16th came in sight of the enemy to lee- 
ward of Martinique, beating up against the north-east trade- winds, 
and intending to pass through the channel between that island and 
Dominica. " A general chase to the north-west followed, and at five 

' Parker's Report. 




in the evening we plainly discovered that the}' consisted of twenty- 
three sail of the line, and one fifty-gun sliip." ^ 

As it fell dark Rodney formed his line of battle,^ standing still 
to the north-west, therefore on the starboard tack ; and he was atten- 
tive to keep to windward of the enemj-, whom his frigates watched 
diligently during the night. " Their manrjeuvres," he -^Tote, " indi- 
cated a wish to avoid battle," and he therefore was careful to conn- 

1 Rodney's Report. The French authorities give their line of battle as twenty- 
two ships of the line. There was no 90-gun ship among them — no three-decker; 
but there were two of 80 guns, of which also the British had none. 

2 British line of battle on April 17th, 1780. The Stirling Castle to lead with 
the starboard, and tlie Magnificent with the larboard tacks on board. From Beatson, 
vi., 217, 218, with additions and corrections. — W. L. C. 











Stirling Castle . . 



Capt. Robert Carkett. 






Capt. Samuel Uvedale. 




Elizabeth .... 



Capt. Hon. FreJk. Lewis Maitland. 



Princess Eoyal . . 



j Rear-Admival Hyde Parker (E). ) 
( Capt. Harry Harmood. ' 






Capt. George Bowyer. 



Terrible .... 



Capt. John Douglas. 



Trident .... 



Capt. Anthony James Pye MoUoy. 



Greyhound, 28 . 

Capt. William Dickson. 



Grafton .... 



( Comniod. Thomas Collingwood. / 
( Capt. Thomas Mewnham. ) 



Yarmouth . . . 



Capt. Nathaniel Bateman. 



Cornwall .... 



Capt. Timothy Edwards. 




Sandwich .... 



Adm. Sir George Brydges Rodney (W). 1 
Capt. Walter Young. ) 




Suffolk .... 



Capt. Abraham Crespin. 







Capt. Charles Cotton. 



Vigilant .... 



Capt. Sir George Home, Bart. 



Venus, 3B . . 

Capt. John Fergusson. 



Pegasus, 28 . . 

Capt. John Bazely (1). 



Deal Castle, 24 

Capt. William Fooks. 



Vengeance. . . ■ 



( Commod. AVilliam Hotham. 
( Capt. John HoUoway. 



Mcdwny .... 



Capt. William .\fflcck. 



Montagu, .... 



Capt. John Houlton. 




Conqueror .... 



J Rear-Admiral Joshua Rowley (R). 
( Capt. Thomas Watson. 



Intrepid .... 



Capt. the Hon. Henry St. John. 



Magnificent . . . 



Capt. John Elphinston?. 



Andromeda, 28 

Capt. Henry Bryne. 



Ccnturinn,* 50 

Capt. Richard Bratliwaite. 



* To assist the Rear in case of need. 




teract them. At daylight of the 17th, they were seen forming line 
of battle, on the port tack, four or five leagues to leeward, — that is, 
to the westward. The wind being east, or east by north, the French 
would be heading south-south-east (Fig. 1, aa). The British order 
now was rectified by signal from the irregularities of darkness, 
the shijDS being directed to keej) two cables' ^ lengths apart, and 
steering as before to the northward and westward (a). At 7 a.ji., 

« RoDNtV AND De.CuiCHE.1 

i- I C 1 , 




considering this line too extended, the Admiral closed the intervals 
to one cable. The two fleets thus were passing on nearly parallel 
lines, but in opposite directions, which tended to bring the whole 
force of Rodney, whose line was better and more compact than the 
enemy's, abreast the latter's rear, upon which he intended to concen- 
trate. At 8 A.M. he made general signal that this was his purpose ; 
and at 8.30, to execute it, he signalled for the ships to form line 
abreast, bearing from each other south by east and nortli by west, 
and stood down at once upon the enemy (Fig. 1, bb). The object 
1 A cable was then assumed to have a length of 120 fathoms, — 720 feet. 

456 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1780. 

of the British being evident, cle Guichen made his fleet wear together 
to the starboard tack (bb). The French rear thus became the van, 
and their former van, which was stretched too far for prompt assists 
ance to the threatened rear, now headed to support it. 

Rodney, baulked in his first spring, hauled at once to the wind 
on the port tack (Fig. 1, cc), again contrary to the French, standing 
thus once more along their line, for their new rear. The intervals 
were opened out again to two cables. The fleets thus were passing 
once more on parallel lines, each having reversed its order ; but the 
British still retained the advantage, on whatever course, that they 
were much more compact than the French, whose line, by Rodney's 
estimate, extended four leagues in length. i Tlie wariness of the two 
combatants, both trained in the school of the eighteenth century, with 
its reverence for the line of battle, will aj^pear to the careful reader. 
Rochiey, although struggling through this clirysalis stage to the later 
vigour, and seriously bent on a deadly blow, still was constrained 
by the traditions of watchful fencing. Nor was liis caution extrava- 
gant; conditions did not justify yet the apparent recklessness of 
Nelson's tactics. " The different movements of the enemy," he wrote, 
" obliged me to be very attentive, and watch every opi^ortunity that 
offered of attacking them to advantage." 

The two fleets continued to stand on opposite parallel courses — 
the French north by west, the British south by east — until the flag- 
ship Sandwich, 90, was abreast the Couronnc, 80, the flagship of de 
Guichen. Then, at 10.10 a.m., the signal was made to wear together, 
forming on the same tack as the enemy. There being some delay in 
execution, tliis had to be repeated, and further enforced by the pen- 
nant of the Stirlinr/ Castle, which, as the rear ship, should begin the 
evolution. At half-jDast ten, apparently, the fleet was about (Fig. 2, 
aa), for an order was then given for rectifying the line, still at two 
cables. At 11 a.ji. the Admiral made the signal to prepare for 
battle, "to convince the whole fleet I was determined to bring the 
enemy to an engagement," ^ and to this succeeded shortly the order 
to alter the course to port (bb), towards the enemy.^ Why he 
thought that any of the fleet should have required sucli assurance 

1 A properly formed line of twenty ships, at two cables' interval, would be about 
five miles long. Rodne}' seems to have been satisfied that this was about the con- 
dition of his fleet at this moment. 

* Rodney's Report. 

^ Testimony of the signal officer at the court-martial on Captain Bateman. 



cannot certainly be said. Possibly, although he had so recently 
joined, he had already detected the ill-will, or the slackness, of which 
he afterwards complained; possibly he feared that the wariness of 
his tactics might lead men to believe that he did not mean to exceed 
the lukewarm and indecisive action of days scarce yet passed away, 
wlrich had led Suffren to stigmatise tactics as a mere veil, behind 
which timidity thinks to hide its nakedness. 


■ ^1 


/ ; ' ■' /' : ; '; \ '. "^ \ \ \ '• ', • '. ", \ 

'""\ s 



\ K 



^ __^l! 


At 11.50 A.M. the decisive signal was made "for every ship to 
bear down, and steer for her opposite in the enemy's line, agreeable 
to the 21st article of the Additional Fighting Instructions." Five 
minutes later, when the ships, presumably, had altered their coiu'se 
for the enemy, the signal for battle was made, followed by the mes- 
sage that the Admiral's intention was to engage closely ; he expect- 
ing, natui-ally, that every ship would follow the example he purposed 
to set. The captain of the leading ship, upon whose action depended 
that of those near her, iinfortunately understood the Admiral's signal 
to mean that he was to attack the enemy's leader, not the ship oppo- 

458 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1780. 

site to him at the moment of bearing away. This shija, therefore, 
diverged markedly from the Admiral's course, drawing after him 
many of the van. A few minutes before 1 p.ii., one of the headmost 
ships began to engage at long range ; but it was not till some time 
after 1 p.ji. that the Sandwich, having received several broadsides, 
came into close action with the second vessel astern from the French 
Admiral, the Adionnaire, 64. The latter was soon beat out of the 
line by the superiority of the Sandwich's battery, and the same lot 
befell the ship astern of her, — probably the Intrepidc, 74, — which 
came up to close the gap. Towards 2.30 p.ji., the Sandwich, either 
by her own efforts to close, or by her immediate opponents' keeping 
away, was found to be to leeward of the enemy's line, the Couronne 
being on her weather bow. The fact was pointed out by Kodney to 
the captain of the ship, Walter Young, who was then in the lee 
gangway. Young, going over to look for himself, saw that it was 
so, and that the Yarmouth, 64, had hauled off to windward, whei-e 
she lay with her main and mizzen topsails aback. Signals were then 
made to her, and to the Cornwall, 74, to come to closer engagement, 
they both being on the weather bow of the flagship. 

De Guichen, recognising this state of affairs, then or a little later, 
attributed it to the deliberate purpose of the British Admiral to 
break his line. It does not appear that Rodney so intended. His 
tactical idea was to concentrate his whole fleet on the French rear 
and centre, but there is no indication that he now aimed at breaking 
the line. De Guichen so construing it, however, gave the signal to 
wear together. The effect of this, in any event, would have been 
to carry his fleet somewhat to leeward ; but with shijis more or less 
crippled, taking therefore greater room to manoeuvre, and with the 
exigency of re-forming the line upon them, the tendency was exag- 
gerated. The movement which the French called wearing together 
was therefore differently interpreted by Rodney. " The action in 
the centre continued till 4.15 P. Ji., when M. de Guichen, in the 
Couronne, the Triomphant, and the. Fciulant, after engaging the 
Sandwich for an hour and a half, bore away. The superiority of fire 
from the Sandwich, and the gallant behaviour of the officers and 
men, enabled her to sustain so unequal a combat ; though before 
attacked by them, she had beat three ships out of their line of 
battle, had entirely broke it, and was to leeward of the French 
Admiral." Possibly the French accounts, if they were not so very 
meagre, might dispute this prowess of the flagship ; but tliere can be 


no doubt that Rodney had set an example, which, had it been followed 
by all, would have made this engagement memorable, if not decisive. 
He reported that the captains, with very few exceptions, had not 
placed their ships properly (cc). The Sandivich had eighty shot in 
her hull, had lost her foremast and mainyard, and had fired 3,288 
rounds, an average of 73 to each gun of the broadside engaged. 
Three of her hits being below the water line, she was kept afloat with 
difficulty during the next twenty-four hours. With the wearing of 
the French the battle ceased. 

In the advantage offered by the enemy, whose order was too greatly 
extended, and in his own plan of attack, Rodney always considered 
this action of April 17th, 1780, to have been the great opportunity of 
his life ; and his wrath was bitter against those by whose misconduct 
he conceived it had been frustrated. " The French admiral, Avho 
appeared to me to be a brave and gallant officer, had the honour to be 
nobly supported during the whole action. It is with concern inex- 
pressible, mixed with indignation, that the duty I owe my sovereign 
and my country obliges me to acquaint yom- Lordships that during the 
action between the French fleet, on the 17th inst., and his Majesty's, 
the British flag was not properly supported." Divided as the Navy 
then was into factions, with their hands at each other's throats or at 
the throat of the Admiralty, the latter thought it more discreet to 
suppress this paragraph, allowing to appear only the negative stigma 
of the encomium upon the French officers, unaccompanied by any on 
his own. Rodney, however, did not conceal his feelings in public or 
private letters ; and the censure found its way to the ears of those 
concerned. Subsequentljr, three months after the action, in a public 
letter, he bore testimony to the excellent conduct of five captains, 
Walter Young of the flagship, George Bowyer of the Albion, John 
Douglas of the Terrible, John Houlton of the Montagu, and A. J. P. 
Molloy ^ of the Trident. " To them I have given certificates, under 
my hand," " free and unsolicited." Beyond these, " no considera- 
tion in life would induce " him to go ; and the two junior flag-officers 
were implicitly condemned in the words, " to inattention to signals, 
both in the van and rear divisions, is to be attributed the loss of that 
glorious ojiportunity (perhaps never to be recovered) of terminating 
the naval contest in these seas." These junior admirals were Hyde 

> Singularly enough, this officer was afterwards conrt-martiallecl for misbehaviour, 
on the 1st of June, 1794, of precisely the same character as that from all share in 
which Rodney now cleared him. 

460 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1780. 

Parker and Rowley ; the latter the same who had behaved, not only 
so gallantly, but with such unusual initiative, in Byron's engagement. 
A singular incident in this case led him to a like independence of 
action, which displeased Rodney. The Montagu, of his division, when 
closing the French line, wore against the helm, and could only be 
brought into action on the wrong (port) tack. Immediately upon 
this, part of the French rear also wore, and Rowley followed them of 
his o^vn motion. Being called to account by Rodney, he stated the 
facts, justifying the act by the order that "the greatest impression 
was to be made on the enemy's rear." Both parties soon wore back. 

Hyde Parker went home in a rage a few weeks later. The certifi- 
cates of Bowyer and Douglas, certainly, and probably of MoUoy, all 
of his division, bore the stinging words that these officers " meant 
well, and would have done their duty had they been permitted." It 
is stated that tlieir ships, which were the rear of the van, were going 
down to engage close, following Rodney's example, when Parker 
made them a signal to keei^ the line. If this be so, as Parker's 
courage was beyond all doubt, it was simply a recurrence of the old 
superstition of the line, aggravated by a misunderstanding of Rodney's 
later signals. These must be discussed, for the whole incident is part 
of the history of the British Navy, far more important than many an 
indecisive though bloody encounter. 

One of the captains more exj^ressly blamed, Carkett of the Stir- 
ling Castle, wrote to Rodney that he understood that his name had 
been mentioned, unfavourably of course, in the public letter. Rod- 
ney's reply makes perfectly apparent the point at issue, liis own plan, 
the ideas running in his head as he made his successive signals, the 
misconceptions of the juniors, and the consequent fiasco. It must be 
said, however, that, granting the facts as they seem certainly to have 
occurred, no misunderstanding, no technical verbal allegation, can 
justify a military stupidity so great as that of which he conijjlained. 
There are occasions in which not only is literal disobedience iiermis- 
sible, but literal obedience, flying in the face of the evident conditions, 
becomes a crime. 

At 6.4.5 in the morning, Rodney had made a general signal of his 
purpose to attack the enemy's rear. Tliis, having been understood 
and answered, was hauled down ; all juniors had been acquainted 
with a general purpose, to which the subsequent manoeuvres were to 
lead. How he meant to carry out his intention was evidenced by 
the consecutive course of action while on that tack, — the starboard; 


when the time oame, the fleet bore up together, in line abreast, stand- 
ing for tlie French rear. This attempt, being ballced then by de 
Guichen's wearing, was renewed two hours hiter; only in place of 
the signal to form line abreast, was made one to alter the course to 
port, — towards the enemj'. As this followed immediately ujDon that 
to prepare for battle, it indicates, abnost beyond question, that Kodney 
wished, for reasons of the moment, to run down at first in a slanting 
direction, — not in line abreast, as before, — ships taking course and 
interval from the flagship. Later again, at 11.50, the signal was 
made, "agreeable to the 21st Article of the Additional Figlitiug 
Instructions, for eveiy ship to steer for her opposite in the enemy's 
line ; " and here the trouble began. Rodney meant the ship opposite 
when the signal was hauled down. He had steered slanting, till he 
had gained as nearly as possible the position he wanted, probably till 
within long range ; then it was desirable to cover the remaining 
ground as rapidly and orderly as possible, for which purpose the ship 
then abreast gave each of his fleet its convenient point of direction. 
He conceived that his signalled purpose to attack the enemy's rear, 
never having been altered, remained imperative ; and further, that 
the signal for two cables' length interval should govern all shijjs, and 
would tie them to him, and to his movements, in the centre. Carkett 
construed " opposite " to mean opposite in numerical order, British 
van ship against French van sliip, wherever the latter was. Rodney 
states — in his letter to Carkett — that the French van amis then two 
leagues away. " You led to the van ship, notwithstanding you had 
answered n\y signals signifying that it was my intention to attack the 
enemy's rear ; which signal I had never altered. . . . Your leading in 
the manner you did, induced others to follow so bad an example : and 
thereby, forgetting that the signal for the line was only at two cables' 
length distance from each other, the van division was led by you to 
more than two leagues' distance from the centre division, which was 
thereby not properly supported." ^ 

1 The words in Rodney's public letter, suppressed at the time by the Admiralty, 
agree with these, but are even more explicit. " I cannot conclude this letter with- 
out acquainting their Lordships that had Captain Carkett, who led the van. properly 
obeyed my signal for attacking the enemy, and agreeable to the 21st Article of tlie 
Additional Fighting Instructions, bore down instantly to the ship at that time 
abreast of him, instead of leading as he did to the vaTi ship, the action had com- 
menced much sooner, and the fleet engaged in a more compact manner. . . ." This 
clearly implies that the Additional Fighting Instructions prescribed the direction 
which Rodney expected Carkett to take. If these Additional Instructions are to be 
found, their testimony would be interesting. 

462 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1780. 

Carkett was the oldest captain in the fleet, his post commission 
being dated March 12th, 1758. How far he may have been excus- 
able in construing as he thd Fighting Instructions, which originated 
in the inane conception tliat tlie supreme duty of a Commander-in- 
Chief was to oppose ship to sliip, and that a fleet action was only an 
agglomeration of naval duels, is not very material, though histori- 
cally interesting. There certainly was that in the past history of 
the British Navy which extenuated the offence of a man who must 
have then been well on in middle life. But since the Fighting 
Instructions had been first issued, there had been the courts-martial, 
also instructive, on ^Mathews, Lestock, Byng, Keppel, and Palliser, 
all of which turned more or less on the constraint of the line of 
battle, and the duty of supporting ships engaged, — above all, an 
engaged Commander-in-Chief. Rodney perhaps underestimated the 
weight of the Fighting Instructions upon a dull man ; but he was 
justified in claiming that his previous signals, and the prescription of 
distance, created at the least a conflict of orders, a doubt, to which 
there should have been but one solution, namely : to support the ships 
engaged, and to close down upon the enemy, as near as possible to 
the Commander-in-Chief. And in moments of actual perplexity such 
will always 1)6 the truth. It is like marching towards the sound of 
guns, or, to use Nelson's words, "/w case signals cannot be understood, 
no captain can do very wrong if he places his ship alongside that of 
an enemy." The " In Case," however, needs also to be kept in mind ; 
anil that it was Nelson who said it. Utterances of to-day, like 
utterances of all time, show how few are the men who can hold both 
sides of a truth firmly, without exaggeration or defect. Judicial 
impartiality can be had, and positive convictions too; but their 
combination is rare. A two-sided man is apt also to be double- 

The loss of men in this sharp encounter was : British, killed, 120, 
wounded, 354;' French, killed, 222, wounded, 537.2 This gives 
three French hit for every two British, from which, and from the 
much greater damage received aloft by the latter, it may be inferred 
that both followed their usual custom of aiming, the British at 

' Among the killed was Captain the Hon. Henry St. John, of the Intrepid. 
Anions the wounded were Captains John Houlton, of the Montagu, and Thomas 
Newnham, of the Grafton. — W. L. C. 

" Lapeyronse Bonfils, ' Histoire de la Marine Fran^aise,' iii. 132. Chevalier gives 
much smaller numbers, but the former has particularised the ships. 


the hull, the French at the spars. To the latter conduced also the 
lee-gage, which the French had. The British, as the attacking party, 
suffered likewise a raking ±ii-e as they bore down. 

Rodney repaired damages at sea, and pursued, taking care to 
keep between Martinique and the French. The latter going into 
Guadeloupe, he reconnoitred them there under the batteries, and 
then took his station off Fort Royal. " The only chance of bringing 
them ■ to action," he wrote to the Admiralty on the 26th of April, 
" was to be off that port before them, where the fleet now is, in 
daily expectation of their arrival." The French represent that he 
avoided them, but as they assert that they came out best on the 
17th, and yet admit that he appeared off Guadeloupe, the claim is 
not tenable. Rodney here showed thorough tenacity of purpose. 
De Guichen's orders were " to keep the sea, so far as the foi'ce 
maintained by England in the Windward Islands would permit, 
without too far compromising the fleet intrusted to him." ^ With 
such instructions, he naturally and consistently shrunk from decisive 
engagement. After landing his wounded and refitting in Guade- 
loupe, he again put to sea, with the intention of proceeding to St. 
Lucia, resuming against that island the i^roject which both he and 
De Bouille continuously entertained. The latter and liis troops 
remained with the fleet. 

Rodney meantime had felt compelled to return momentarily to 
St. Lucia. " The fleet continued before Fort Royal till the condi- 
tion of many of the ships under my command, and the lee currents,^ 
rendered it necessary to anchor in Choque Bay, St. Lucie, in order 
to put the wounded and sick men on shore, and to water and retit 
the fleet, frigates ha\'ing been detached both to leeward and to 
windward of every island, in order to gain intelligence of the motions 
of the enemy, and timely notice of their approach towards Martinique, 
the only place they could refit at in these seas." In this last clause 
is seen the strategic idea of the British Admiral : the French must 
come back to Martinique. 

From the vigilance of his frigates it resulted, that when the 
look-outs of de Guicheu, who passed to windward of jNIartinique on 
the 7th of Maj-, came in sight of Gros Ilet on the 9th, it was simply 
to find the British getting under way to meet the enemy. During 
the five following days both fleets were engaged in constant move- 

1 Chevalier, ' Marine Frangaise,' 1778, p. 185. 

- A lee current is one that sets with the wind, in this case the traJe-wind. 

464 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1780. 

ments, upon the character of which the writers of each nation put 
diffeient constructions. Both are agreed, however, that tlie French 
were to windward throughout, except for a brief hour on the loth, 
when a fleeting change of wind gave the British that advantage, 
only to lose it soon again. They at once used it to force action. 
As the windward position carries the power to attack, and as the 
French were twenty-three to the British twenty, it is probahly not a 
strained inference to say that the latter were chasing to windward, 
and the former avoicUng action, in favour, perhaps, of that ulterior 
motive, the conquest of St. Lucia, for which they had sailed. Rod- 
ney states in his letter that, when the two fleets parted on the 20th 
of May, they were forty leagues to windward of ^Martinique, in 
sight of which they had been on the 10th. 

Dm-ing these days de Guichen, whose fleet sailed the better, 
according to Rodney, and certainly sufficiently well to preserve the 
advantage of the wind, bore down more than once, generally in the 
afternoon, when the breeze is steadiest, to within distant range of 
the British. Upon this movement, the French base the statement 
that the British Admiral was avoiding an encounter; it is equally 
open to the interpretation that he would not throw awa}- ammunition 
until sure of effective distance. Both admirals showed much skill 
and mastery of their profession, great wariness also, and quickness 
of eye ; but it is wholly untenable to claim that a fleet having the 
weather-gage for five days, in the trade- winds, was unable to bring 
its enemy to action, especially when it is admitted that the latter 
struck the instant the wind permitted him to close. 

On the afternoon of May 15th, about the usual hour, Rodney 
" made a great deal of sail upon the wind." The French, inferring 
that he was trying to get off, which he meant them to do, approached 
somewhat closer than on the previous days. Their van shij) had 
come within long range, abieast the centre of the British, who were 
on the port tack standing to the south-south-east, with the wind at 
east (a, a). Here the breeze suddenly hauled to south-south-east. 
The heads of all the ships in both fleets Avere thus knocked off to 
south-west, on the port tack, but the shift left the British lear, wliich 
on that tack led the fleet, to windward of the French van. Rodney's 
signal flew at once, to tack in succession and keep the wind of the 
enemy; the latter, TUiwilling to yield the advantage, wore all together, 
hauling to the wind on the starlward tack, and, to use Rodney's 
words, "fled with a crowd of sail" (a', a'). 




The British fleet tacking in succession after their leaders, the 
immediate result was that both were now standing on the starboard 
tack, — to the eastward, — the British having a slight advantage of 
the wind, but well abaft the beam of the French (b, b). The result, 
had the wind held, would have been a trial of speed and weatherli- 
ness. " His Majesty's fleet," wrote Rodney, " by this manoeuvre had 
gained the wind, and would have forced the enemy to battle, had it 
not at once changed six points when near the enemy, and enabled 




/Sr^A^^-y. /T80 

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1 1 1 1 1 ■ ^^ m y 

' ■ ' ■ i ■ ft «' 



them to recover that advantage." When the wind thus shifted again, 
de Guichen tacked his ships together and stood across the bo^^•s of 
the advancing British (c, c). The leader of the latter struck the 
enemy's line behind the centre, and ran along to leeward, the British 
van exchanging a close cannonade with the enemy's rear. Such an 
engagement, two lines passing on opposite tacks, is usually indeci- 
sive, even when the entire fleets are engaged, as at Ushant; but 
where, as in this case, the engagement is but partial, the result is 
naturally less. The enemy's van and centre, having passed the head 

VOL. III. — 30 

466 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-17S3. [1780. 

of the British, diverged at that point farther and fartlier from the 
track of tlie on-coming ships, which, from the centre rearwards, did 
not fire. " As the enemy were under a press of sail, none but the 
van of our fleet could come in for any part of the action without 
wasting his Majesty's powder and shot, the enemy wantonly expend- 
ing theirs at such a distance as to have no effect." Here again the 
French were evidently taking the chance of disabling the distant 
enemy in liis spars. The British loss in the action of jNIay 15th was 
21 killed and 100 wounded. 

The fleets continued their respective movements, each acting as 
before, until the 19th,i when another encounter took place, of exactly 
the same character as the last, although without the same prelimi- 
nary manoeuvring. The British on that occasion lost 47 killed and 
113 wounded. The result was equall}^ indecisive, tactically consid- 
ered ; but both by this time had exhausted their staying powers. 
The French, having been absent from jMartinique since the 13th of 
April, had now but six days' provisions.^ Rocbiey found the C'on- 
qtieror, Cornwall, and Boijne so shattered that he sent them before 
the wind to St. Lucia, while he himself with the rest of the fleet 
stood for Barbados, where he arrived on tlie 22nd. The French 
anchored on the same day at Fort Roj-al. " The English," says 
Chevalier, "stood on upon the starboard tack, to the southward, 
after the action of the 19th, and the next day were not to be seen." 
" The enemy," reported Rocbiey, " stood to the northward with all 
the sail they could jjossibly press, and were out of sight the 21st 
inst. The condition of his Majesty's ships was such as not to allow 
a longer pursuit." 

By their dexterity and vigilance each of the two admirals had 
thwarted the othei's aims. Rodney, l)y a pronounced, if cautious, 
offensive effort, had absolutely prevented the " idterior object " of the 
French, which he clearly understood to be St. Lucia. De Guichen 
had been successful in avoiding decisive action, and he had momen- 
tarily so crippled a few of the Biitish sliips that the fleet must await 
their repairs before again taking the sea. The tactical gain was liis, 
the strategic victory rested with his opponent ; but that his ships also 
had been much maltreated is shown by the fact that half a dozen 

' Previous to which date the Triumph, 74, Captain Philip Afilecl<, and the Pres- 
ton, 50, Captain William Truscott, had joined Rodney. In the action of the 19th, 
Captain Thomas Watson, of the Conqueror, was mortally wounded. — W. L. C. 

• Chevalier, p. 91. 


could not put to sea tlii-ee weeks later. The French admiral broke 
down under the strain, to which was added the grief of losing a son, 
killed in the recent engagements. He asked for his recall. " The 
command of so lai-ge a fleet," he wrote, " is infinitely beyond my 
capacity in all respects. My health cannot endure such continual 
fatigue and anxiety." Certainly tliis seems a tacit testimony to 
Rodney's skill, persistence, and offensive purjjose. The latter wrote 
to his wife : " For fourteen days and nights the fleets were so near 
each other that neither officers nor men could be said to sleep. Noth- 
ing but the goodness of the weather and climate would have enabled 
us to endure so continual a fatigue. Had it been in Europe, half the 
people must have sunk under it. For my part, it did me good." 

Rodney stated also in his liome letters that the action of his sub- 
ordinates in the last affairs had been efficient; but he gave them 
little credit for it. " As I had given public notice to all my captains, 
etc., that I expected implicit obedience to every signal made, under 
the certain penalty of being instantly superseded, it had an admi- 
rable effect, as they were all convinced, after their late gross behaviour, 
that they had nothing to expect at my hands but instant punishment 
to those who neglected their duty. My eye on them had more dread 
than the enemy's fire, and they knew it woiild be fatal. No regard 
was paid to rank : admirals as well as captains, if out of their sta- 
tion, were instantly reprimanded by signals, or messages sent by 
frigates ; and, in spite of themselves, I taught them to be, what they 
had never been before, — officers.''' It will be noticed that these 
words convey an implication of cowardice as well as of disaffection, 
and hint not obscurely at Byng's fate. Rodney told his officers also 
that he would sliift his flag into a frigate, if necessary, to watch them 
better. It is by no means necessaiy to accept these gross aspersions 
as significant of anytliing worse than the suspiciousness prevalent 
throughout the Navy, ti-aceable ultimately to a corrupt administra- 
tion of the Admiralty. The latter, like the government of 1756, 
was open to censure through political maladministration ; every one 
feared that blame would be shifted on to him, as it had been on to 
Bj-ng, — who deserved it ; and not only so, but that blame would be 
pushed on to ruin, as in liis case. The Nav)- was honeycombed with 
distrust, falling little short of panic. In this state of apprehension 
and doubt, the tradition of the line of battle, resting upon men who 
did not stop to study facts or anal3"se impressions, and who had seen 
officers censured, cashiered, and shot, for errors of judgment or of 

468 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1780. 

action, naturally produced hesitations and misunderstandings. An 
order of battle is a good thing, necessary to insure mutual supi^ort 
and to develop a jDlan. The error of the century, not then exploded, 
was to observe it in the letter rather than in the spirit ; to regard the 
order as an end rather than a means ; and to seek in it not merely 
eiSciency, which admits broad construction in positions, but 2:)reeise- 
ness, which is as narrowing as a brace of handcuffs. Rodnej^ himself, 
Tory though he was, found fault with the administration. With all 
his severity and hauteur, he did not lose sight of justice, as is shown 
by a sentence in his letter to Carkett. " Could I have imagined your 
conduct and inattention to signals had proceeded from anything but 
error in judgment, I had certainly superseded you, but (rod forbid I 
should do so for error in judgment only," - — again an allusion, not 
obscure, to Byng's fate. 

In Barbados, Rodney received certain information that a Span- 
ish squadron of twelve ships of the line, with a large convoy of 
10,000 troops, had sailed from Cadiz on April 28th for the West 
Indies. The vessel bringing the news had fallen in with them on 
the way. Rodney spread a line of frigates " to windward, from Bar- 
bados to Barbuda," to obtain timely warning, and with the fleet put 
to sea on the 7th of June, to cruise to the eastward of Martinique to 
intercept the enemy. The latter had been discovered on the 5th by a 
frigate, fifty- leagues east of the island, steering for it ; but the Spanish 
admiral, seeing that he would be reported, changed his course, and 
passed north of Guadeloupe. On the 9th he was joined in that neigh- 
bourhood by de Guichen, who was able to bring with him only fifteen 
sail, — a fact which sho\\s that he had suffered in the late brushes quite 
as severely as Rodney, who had with him seventeen of his twenty. 

Having evaded the British, the allies anchored at Fort Royal; 
but the Spanish admiral absolutely refused to join in any undertak- 
ing against the enemy's fleet or possessions. Not only so, but he 
insisted on being accompanied to leeward. The Spanish squadron 
was ravaged by an epidemic, due to unsanitaiy conditions of the 
ships and the uncleanliness of the crews, and the disease was com- 
municated to their allies. De Guichen had already orders to leave 
the Windward Islands when winter approached. He decided now 
to anticipate that time, and on the 5th of July sailed from Fort 
Royal with the Spaniards. Having accompanied the latter to the 
east end of Cul)a. he went to Cap Frangois, in Haiti, then a princi- 
pal French station. The Spaniards continued on to Havana. 


At Cap Francois, de Guichen found urgent entreaties from the 
French iSIinister to the United States, and from Lafaj^ette, to carry 
his fleet to the continent, where the clear-sighted genius of Wash- 
ington had recognised already that the issue of the contest depended 
upon the navies. The French admiral declined to comply, as con- 
trary to his instructions, and on the 16th of August sailed for Europe, 
with nineteen sail of the line, leaving ten at Cap Frantjois. Sealed 
orders, opened at sea, directed him to proceed to Cadiz, where he 
anchored on the 24tli of October. His arrival raised the allied force 
there assembled to fifty-one sail of the line, besides the ninety- 
five sugar and coffee ships which he had convoyed from Haiti. 
It is significant of the weakness of Great Britain then in the 
Mediterranean, that these extremely valuable merchant ships were 
sent on to Toulon, only five ships of the line accompanying them 
past Gibraltar. The French government had feared to trust them 
to Brest, even with de Guichen's nineteen sail. 

The allied operations in the Windward Islands for the season 
of 1780 had thus ended in nothing, notwithstanding an incontest- 
able inferiority of the British to the French alone, of whicli Rodney 
strongly complained. It was, however, contrary to the intentions 
of the Admiralty that things so happened. Orders had been sent to 
Vice-Admiral Harriot Arbuthnot, at New York, to detach ships 
to Rodney ; but the vessel carrying them was driven by A\eather 
to the Bahamas, and her captain neglected to notify Arbuthnot 
of his whereabouts, or of his dispatches. A detachment of five 
ships of the line under Commodore the Hon. Robert Boyle Walsing- 
ham was detained three months in England, wind-bound. They 
consequently did not join till July 12th. The dispositions at once 
made by Rodney afford a very good illustration of the kind of duties 
that a British Admiral had then to discharge. He detailed five 
ships of the line to remain mth Hotham at St. Lucia, for the protec- 
tion of the Windward Islands. On the 17th, taking with him a large 
merchant convo}-, he put to sea with the fleet for St. Kitts, where 
the Leeward Islands " trade " was collecting for England. On the 
way he received precise information as to the route and force of the 
Franco-Spanish fleet under de Guichen, of the sickness on board 
it, and of the dissension between the allies. From St. Kitts the 
July " trade " was sent home with two ships of the line. Three 
others, he vsrote to the Admiralty, would accompany the September 
fleet, " and the remainder of the ships on this station, which are in 

470 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1780. 

want of great rej^air and are not copper-bottomed, shall proceed with 
them, or with the convoy wliicli their Lordships have been pleased 
to order shall sail from hence in October next." If these arrived 
before winter, he argued, they would be available by spring as a 
reinforcement for the Channel fleet, and would enable the Admiralty 
to send him an equivalent number for the winter work on his 

As de Guichen had taken from Martinique to Cap Francois the 
whole French homeward merchant fleet, and as the height of the 
hurricane season was near, Rodney reasoned that but a small French 
force would remain in Haiti, and consequently that Jamaica would 
not require all the British fleet to save it from any possible attack. 
He therefore sent thither ten sail of the line, notifying Vice-Admiral 
Sir Peter Parker that they were not merely to defend the island, 
but to enable him to send home its great trade in reasonable 

These things being done by July 31st, considering that the allies 
had practically abandoned all enterprises in the West Indies for 
that year, and that a hurricane might at any moment overtake the 
fleet at its anchors, possibly making for it a lee shore, Rodney went 
to sea, to cruise off Barbuda. His mind, however, was inclined 
already to go to the continent, whither he reasoned, correctly but 
mistakenly, that the greater part of de Gnichen's fleet would go, 
as it should. His purpose was confirmed by information from an 
American vessel that a French squadron of seven ships of the line, 
convoying 6,000 troops, had anchored in Narragansett Bay on the 
12th of July. He started at once for the coast of South Carolina, 
where he communicated with the army in Charleston, and thence, 
" sweeping the southern coast of America," anchored with fourteen 
ships of the line at Sandy Hook, on the 14th of September, unex- 
pected and unwelcome to friends and foes alike. 

Vice-Admiral Arbuthnot, being junior to Rodney, showed plainly 
and with insubordination his wrath at this intrusion into his com- 
mand, which superseded his authority and divided the prize-money of 
a lucrative station. This, however, was a detail. To Washington, 
Rodnej-'s coming was a death-blow to the hojies raised by the arrival 
of the French division at Newport, which he had expected to see 
reinforced by de Guichen. Actually, the departure of the latter 
made immaterial Rodney's appearance on the scene ; but this Wash- 
ington did not know then. As it was, Rodney's force joined to 


Arbutlmot's constituted a fleet of over twenty sail of the line, before 
which, vigorously used, there can be little doubt that the French 
squadron in Ne\vport must have fallen. But Rodney, though he 
had sliown great energy in the West Indies, and unusual resolution 
in quitting his own station for a more remote service, was sixty-two, 
and suffered from gout. " The sudden change of climate makes it 
necessary for me to go on shore for some short time," he wrote ; and 
although he added that his illness was " not of such a nature as shall 
cause one moment's delay in his Majesty's service," he probably lost 
a chance at Rhode Island. He did not overlook the matter, it is 
true, but he decided upon the information of Arbuthnot and Sir 
Henry Clinton, and did not inspect the ground himself. Nothing 
of consequence came of his visit; and on the 16th of November 
he sailed again for the West Indies, taking with liim only nine 
sail of the line. 

The arrival of de Ternay's seven ships at Newport was more 
than offset by a British reinforcement of six shijDS of the line under 
Rear-Admiral Thomas Graves (1),^ which entered New York on July 
13th, — only one day later. Arbutlmot's force was thus raised to ten 
of the line, one of which was of 98 guns. After Rodney had come 
and gone, the French division was watched by cruisers, resting upon 
Gardiner's Ba}-, — a commodious anchorage at the east end of Long 
Island, between thirty and forty miles from Rhode Island. When a 
movement of the enemy was apprehended, the squadron assembled 
there, but nothing of consequence occurred during the remainder of 
the year. 

The year 1780 had been one of great discouragement to the 
Americans, but the injury, except as the lapse of time taxed their 
sta3ang power, was more superficial than real. The successes of the 
British in the Southern States, though undeniable, and seemingly 
substantial, were involving them ever more deeply in a ruinously 
ex-centric movement. They need here only to be summarised, as 
steps in the process leading to the catastrophe of Yorktown, — a dis- 
aster Avhich, as Washington said, exemplified naval rather tlian 
military power. 

The failure of d'Estaing's attack upon Savannah in the autumn 
of 1779 had left that place in the possession of the British as a base 

I Thomas, Lord Graves. Born, 1725. Commander, 1754. Captain, 1755. Eear- 
Admiral, 1779. Vice-Admiral, 1787. Admiral, 1794. Raised to an Irish peerage 
for his share in the victory of the Glorious First of June. Died, 1802. — W. L. C. 

472 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1780. 

for further advances in Soutli Carolina and Georgia ; lasting success 
in which was expected from the numbers of royalists in those States. 
When the departure of the French fleet was ascertained, Sir Henry- 
Clinton put to sea from New York in December, 1779, for tlie Savan- 
nali River, escorted by Vice-Admiral Arbuthnot. The details of the 
operations, which were leisurely and methodical, will not be given 
here ; for, although the Navy took an active part in tliem, they 
scarcely can be considered of major importance. On the 12th of 
May, 1780, the city of Charleston cajiitulated, between six and seven 
thousand prisoners being taken. Clinton then retm-ned to New 
York, leaving Lord Cornwallis in command in the south. The 
latter proposed to remain quiet during the hot months ; but the 
activity of the American partisan troops i^revented this, and in July 
the approach of a small, but relatively formidable force, under Gen- 
eral Gates, compelled him to take the field. On the 16th of August 
the two little armies met at Camden, and the Americans, who were 
much the more numerous, but largely irregulars, were routed deci- 
sively. This news reached General Washington in the north nearly 
at the same moment that the treason of Benedict Arnold became 
known. Althougli tlie objects of his treachery were frusti-ated, tlie 
sorrowful words, "Whom now can we trust? " show the deep gloom 
which for the moment shadowed the constant mind of the American 
Commander-in-Chief. It was just at this period, too, that Eodney 

Cornwallis, not content witli his late success, decided to push on 
into North Carolina. Thus doing, he separated himself from his 
naval base in Charleston, comnumication with which by land he had 
not force to maintain, and could only recover effective toucli Avith 
the sea in Chesapeake Bay. This conclusion was not apparent from 
the first. In North Carolina, the British general, who had expected 
substantial sujjport by the inhabitants, failed to secure it, and found 
himself instead in a very difficult and wild countrj', confronted by 
General Greene, the second in ability of all tlie American leaders. 
Harassed and baffled, he was compelled to order supplies to be sent by 
sea to Wilmington, North Carolina, an out-of-tlie-way and inferior 
port, to which he turned aside, arriving exhausted on tlie 7th of April, 
1781. The question as to his future course remained to be settled. 
To return to Charleston by sea was in his power, but to do so would 
be an open confession of failure, — that he could not retiu-n through 
the country by which he had come. To support him in his distress 


by a diversion, Sir Henry Clinton had sent two successive detach- 
ments to ravage the valley of the Jaines River in Virginia. These 
were still there, under the command of General Phillips ; and Corn- 
wallis, in the circumstances, could see manj^ reasons that thither was 
the very scene to carry the British operations. On the 25th of April, 
1781, he left Wilmington, and a month later joined the division at 
Petersburg, Virginia, then commanded by Benedict Arnold ; Phillips 
having died. There, in touch now with his fate, we must leave him 
for the moment. 

To complete the naval transactions of 1780, it is necessary to 
mention briefly two incidents, trivial in themselves, but significant, 
not only as associated with the greater movements of the campaign, 
but as indicative of the naval policy of the states which were at 
war. The two, though not otherwise connected, have a certain 
unity of interest, in that the same British officer commanded on both 

It will be remembered that in Byron's action off Grenada, in 
July, 1779, the 64-gun ship Lion received such injuries that hei- com- 
mander. Captain the Hon. William Cornwallis, had been compelled 
to run down before the trade-winds to Jamaica, in order to save her 
from capture. Since that time she had remained there, as one of the 
squadron of Vice-Admiral Sir Peter Parker. In March, 1780, still 
commanded by Captain Cornwallis, she was making an ordinary 
service cruise off the north side of Haiti, having in company the 
Bristol, 50, Captain Toby Caulfield, and the Janus, 44, Captain 
Bonpvier Glover. On the 20th of March, off Monte Christi, a num- 
ber of sail were sighted to the eastward, which proved to be a French 
convoy, on its way from Martinique to Cap Francois, protected by 
La Motte-Picquet's squadron of 2 seventy -fours, 1 sixty-four, 1 fifty, 
and a frigate. The French merchant ships were ordered to crowd 
sail for their port, while the men-of-war chased to the north-west. 
La Motte-Picquet's flagship, the Amiihal, 74, got within range at 
5 P.M., when a distant cannonade began, which lasted till past mid- 
night, and was resumed on the following morning. From it the 
Janus was the chief sufferer, losing her mizzen topmast and fore- 
topgallant mast. It falling nearly calm, the Bristol and Lion got out 
their boats and towed to her support. The two other French ships 
of the line got up during the forenoon of the 21st, so that the action 
that afternoon, though desultory, might be called general. 

The two opposing commodores differ in their expressed opinions 

474 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1780. 

as to the power of the French to make the affair more decisive. 
Some of La Motte-Picquet"s kiiiguage seems to show that he felt the 
responsibility of his position. " The Janus, being smaller and more 
easily worked, lay upon our quarter and under our stern, where she 
did considerable damage. A little breeze springing up enabled us 
(the Annihal') to stand towards our own ships, which did everj'thing 
possible to come up and cover us, without which we should have 
been surrounded^ It is easy to see in such an expression the reflection 
of the commands of the French Cabinet, to economise the ships. This 
was still more evident in La Motte-Picquet's action next day. On 
the morning of the 22nd, " at daylight we were within one and a half 
cannon-shot, breeze fresh at east-north-east, and I expected to overtake 
the British squadron in an hour, when we perceived four ships in 
chase of us. At 6.30 a.m. three were seen to be men-of-war. This 
sui^eriority of force compelled me to desist, and to make signal to 
haul our wind for Cajj Francois." These three new-comers were 
the Euhjj, 64, and two frigates, the Pomona, 28, and Niger, 32. The 
comparison of forces, therefore, would be : French, 2 seventy-fours, 
1 sixty-four, 1 fifty, and 1 frigate, opposed to, British, 2 sixty-fours, 
1 fifty, and 3 frigates. La Motte-Picquet evidently did not wait 
to ascertain the size of the approaching ships. His courage was 
beyond all dispute, and, as Hyde Parker had said, he was among the 
most distinguished of French ofiScers ; but, like his comrades, he was 
dominated by the faulty theory of his government. 

The cajitain of the Janus died a natural death during the encoun- 
ter. It may be interesting to note that the ship was given to Nelson, 
who was recalled for that purpose from the San Juan expedition. 
His health, liowever, prevented this command from being more than 
nominal, and not long afterwards he returned to England with Corn- 
wallis, in the Lion. 

Three months later, Cornwallis was sent by Parker to accompany 
a body of merchant ships for England as far as the neighbourhood of 
Bermuda. This duty being fulfilled, he was returning towards his 
station, having with him 2 seventy-fours, 2 sixty-fours, and 1 fifty,^ 
when, on the morning of Jmie 20, a number of sail were seen from 

Captain the Hon. William Cornwallis. 

Captain Alan Gardner. 

Captain Sir Jolm Hamilton, Bart. 

Captain John Cowling. 

Captain Toby Caulfield. 

Captain John Brown. 
















north-east to east ; the squadron then steering east, with the wind at 
south-south-east. The strangers were a body of Frencli transports, 
carrying the 6,000 troops destined for Rhode Island, and convoyed 
by a division of seven ships of the line — 1 eighty, 2 seventy-fours, 
and 4 sixty-fours — under the command of Commodore de Ternay. 
Two of the ships of war were with the convoy, the remainder very 
properly to windward. The latter therefore stood on, across the bows 
of the British, to rejoin their consorts (aa), and then all hauled their 


wind to the south-west, standing in column towards the enemy. 
Cornwallis on his part had kej^t on to reconnoitre the force opposed 
to liira (a) ; but one of his ships, the Ruhy, 64, was so far to leeward 
that the enemy, by keeping near the wind, could pass between her and 
him (b, b, b'). She therefore went about and steered south-west, on 
the port tack, close to the wind. The Frencli, who were already head- 
ing the same way, were thus brought on her weather quarter in chase. 
Cornwallis then wore his division, formed line of battle on the same 
tact as the others, and edged down towards the Ruly (c). If the 




French now kept their wind, either the Hubij (c') must be cut off, or 
CornwaUis, to save her, must fight the large odds against him. De 
Ternay, however, did not keep his wind (c). " The enemy," wrote 
CornwaUis, " kept edging off and forming line, thougli within gun- 
shot. At 5.30 P.M., seeing we had pushed the Frencli ships to lee- 
ward sufficiently to enable the Buhi/, on our lee bow, to join us, I 
made the signal to tack." As the British squadron went about to 


(From tfw lithograph by Kidlej/j after the portrait by D. Gardner, painted in 1775, when CornwaUis teas a 

Post-Captain, cet. 31.) 

stand east again, the French, heading west-south-west, hoisted their 
colours and opened fire in passing. The Ruhy kept on till she 
fetched the wake of the British column, when she too tacked. The 
French then tacked also, in succession, and the two columns stood on 
for awhile in parallel lines, exchanging shots at long range, the British 
to windward. CornwaUis very properly declined further engagement 
with so superior a force. He liad already done much in saving a ship 
so greatly exposed. 


The account above followed is that of the British commander, but 
it does not differ in essentials from the French, whose captains were 
greatly incensed at the cautious action of their chief. A French com- 
missairc in the squadi'on, who afterwards published his journal, tells 
that de Ternay a few days later asked the captain of one of the ships 
what English admiral he thought they had engaged, and received the 
reply, " We have lost our opportunity of finding out." He gives also 
many details of the talk that went on in the ships, which need not be 
repeated. Chevalier points out correctly, however, that de Ternay 
had to consider that an equal or even a superior force might be en- 
countered as Narragansett Bay was approached, and that he should 
not risk crippling his squadron for such a contingency. The charge 
of 6,000 troops, under the then conditions, was no light responsibility, 
and at the least must silence off-hand criticism now. Comment upon 
his action does not belong to British naval history, to which the firm- 
ness and seamanship of Captain Cornwallis added a lasting glory. 
It may be noted that fifteen years later, in the French Revolution, 
the same officer, then a Vice-Admiral, again distinguished himself by 
his bearing in face of great odds, bringing five ships safe oS, out of 
the jaws of a dozen. It illustrates how luck seems in many cases to 
characterise a man's personalit}-, much as temperament does. Corn- 
wallis, familiarly known as " Billy Blue " to the seamen of his day, 
never won a victory, nor had a chance of winning one ; but in com- 
mand both of ships and of divisions, he repeatedly distinguished him- 
self by successfully facing odds which he could not overcome. 

The year was uneventful also in European waters, after Rodney's 
relief of Gibraltar in .lanuary. The detachment of the Channel 
Fleet which accompanied him on that mission returned safely to 
England. The " Grand Fleet," as it still was styled occasionally, 
cruised at sea from June 8th to August 1 8th, an imposing force of 
thirty-one ships of the line, eleven of them three-deckers of 90 guns 
and upwards. Admiral Francis Geary was then Commander-in-Chief, 
but, his health failing, and Barrington refusing to take the position, 
through professed distrust of himself and actual distrust of the 
Admiralty, Vice-Admiral George Darby succeeded to it, and held it 
during the year 1781. 

The most notable maritime event in 1780 in Europe was the cap- 
ture on August 9th of a large British convoy, two or three hundred 
miles west of Cape St. Vincent, by the allied fleets from Cadiz. As 
out of sixty-three sail only eight escaped, and as of those taken six- 

478 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1780. 

teen were carrying troops and supplies necessary for the West India 
garrisons, such a disaster claims mention among the greater opera- 
tions of war, the success of which it could not fail to influence. 
Captain John iloutray, the officer commanding the convoy, was 
brought to trial and dismissed his ship ; but there were not wanting 
those who charged the misadventure to the Admiralty, and saw in 
the captain a victim. It was the greatest single blow that British 
commerce had received in war during the memory of men then 
living, and " a general inclination prevailed to lay the blame upon 
some individual, who might be punished according to the magnitude 
of the object, rather than in proportion to his demerit." ^ 

During the year 1780 was formed the League of the Baltic 
Powers, known historically as the Armed Neutrality, to exact from 
Great Britain the concession of certain points thought essential to 
neutral interests. The accession of Holland to this combination, 
together with other motives of dissatisfaction, caused Great Britain 
to declare war against the United Provinces on the 20th of Decem- 
ber. Orders were at once sent to the East and West Indies to seize 
Dutch possessions and ships, but these did not issue in action until 
the follomng year. 

Towards the end of 1780 the French Government, dissatisfied 
with the lack of results from the immense combined force assembled 
in Cadiz during the summer months, decided to recall its ships, and 
to refit them during the winter for the more extensive and aggressive 
movements planned for the campaign of 1781. D'Estaing was sent 
from France for the purpose ; and under his command thirtj^-eiglit 
ships of the line, in which were included those brought by de Guichen 
from the West Indies, sailed on the 7th of November for Brest. 
Extraordinary as it may seem, this fleet did not reach its jjort until 
the 3rd of January, 1781. 

Rodney, returning to the West Indies from New York, reached 
Barbados on December 6th, 1780. There he seems first to have 
learned of the disastrous effects of the great October hurricanes of 
that year. Not only had several ships — among them two of the 
line — been wrecked, with the loss of almost all on board, but the 
greater part of the survivors had been dismasted, wholly or in part, 
as well as injured in the hull. There were in the West Indies no 
docking facilities ; under-water damage could be repaired only by 
careening or heaving-down. Furthermore, as Barbados, St. Lucia, and 

1 Beatson, 'Military and Naval Memoirs.' 


Jamaica, all had been swept, their supplies were mainly destroyed.^ 
Antigua, it is true, had escaped, the hurricane passing south of St. 
Kitts; but Rodney wi'ote home that no stores for refitting were 
obtainable in the Caribbee Islands. He was hoping then that Sir 
Peter Parker might supply his needs in part ; for wlien writing from 
St. Lucia on December 10th, two months after the storm, he still was 
ignorant that the Jamaica Station had suffered to tlie full as severely 
as the eastern islands. The fact shows not merely the ordinary slow- 
ness of communications in those days, but also the paralysis that fell 
upon all movements in consequence of that great chsaster. " The 
most beautiful island in the world," he said of Barbados, " has the 
a^jpearance of a countr}' laid waste by fire and sword." 

Hearing that the fortifications at St. Vincent had been almost 
destroyed by the hurricane, Rodney, in combination with General 
Vaughan, commanding the troops on the station, made an attempt to 
reconquer the island, landing there on December 15th ; but the intel- 
ligence proved erroneous, and the fleet returned to St. Lucia. " I have 
only nine sail of the line now with me capable of going to sea," wrote 
the Admiral on the 22nd, " and not one of them has spare rigging or 
sails." In the course of January he was joined by a division of eight 
ships of the line from England, under the command of Rear-Admiral 
Sir Samuel Hood. These, with four others refitted during that 
month, not improbably from stores brought in Hood's convoy of 
over a hundred sail, raised the disposable force to twenty-one ships 
of the line : 2 nineties, 1 eighty, 15 seventy-fours, and 3 sixty-fours. 

* List of H. M. ships lost in the hurriciine in the West Indies in October, 1780, 
with the names of tlieir commanders, such of the latter as perished being indicated 
with an asterisk (*). Chiefly from Steel's ' Kavy List.' — W. L. C. 

Ships. Guns. Commanders. 

( Com. the Hon. R. B. Walsingliam.* 
( Capt. Eob«rt Boyle Nicholas.* 

Capt. Robert Carkett.* 

Capt. Sir Hyde Parker (2). 

Capt. Samuel Upplebj'.* 

Capt. Thomas Lloyd.* 

Capt. Henry Bryne.* 

Capt. James Hawkins (afterwards Whitshed). 

Capt. Samuel Hood Walker.* 

Com. John Auriol Drummoud.* 

Cora. Ralph Milbanke. 

Com. James Johnstone.* 

Lieut. Francis Wooldridge. 




Stirling Castle 










Deal Castle 




Beaver's Prise 













On the 27th of January, an express arrived from England, direct- 
ing the seizure of the Dutch possessions in tlie Caribbean, and 
specifying, as first to be attacked, St. Eustatius and St. Martin, t\\-o 
small islands Ij'ing witliin tifty miles north of the British St. Kitts. 
St. Eustatius, a rocky patch six miles in length by three in l^readth, 
had been conspicuous, since the war began, as a great trade centre, 
where supplies of all kinds were gathered under the protection of its 
neutral flag, to be cUstributed afterwards in the belligerent islands 
and the Nortli American continent. The British, owing to their 
extensive commerce and maritime aptitudes, derived from such an 
intermediary much less benefit than their enemies ; and the island 
had been jealously regarded by Rodney for some time. He asserted 
that wlien de Guichen's fleet could not regain Fort Royal, because of 
its injuries received in the action of April 17th, it was refitted to meet 
him by mechanics and materials sent from St. Eustatius. On the other 
hand, when cordage was to be bought for the British vessels after the 
hurricanes of 1780, the merchants of the island, he said, alleged that 
there was none there ; althougli, when he took the island soon after- 
wards, many hundred tons were found that had been long in stock. 

Rodney and Vaughan moved promptly. Three days after their 
orders arrived, they sailed for St. Eustatius. There being in Fort 
Royal four French ships of the line, six British were left to check 

{From nn original Iriit by Capt. 11. S. H. Prince Louis of Battenberg^ R. N.) 

them, and on the 3rd of February the fleet reached its destination. A 
peremptory summons from the commander of a dozen ships of the 
line secured immediate submission. Over a hundred and fifty mer- 
chant ships were taken ; and a convoy of thirty sail, which had left 
the island two days before, was pursued and brought back. The 
merchandise found was valued at over £3,000,000. The neighbour- 
ing islands of St. Martin and Saba were seized also at this time. 


Rodney's imagination, as is sho\vn in his letters, was gi-eatly im- 
pressed by tlie magnitude of the prize and by the defenceless condi- 
tion of his capture. He alleged these as the motives for stajdng in 
person at St. Eustatius, to settle the complicated tangle of neutral 
and belligerent rights in the property involved, and to provide against 
the enemy's again possessing himself of a place now so equipped for 
transactions harmful to Great Britain. The storehouses and con- 
veniences provided for the particular traffic, if not properly guarded, 
were like fortifications insufficiently garrisoned. If they passed into 
the hands of the enemy, they became sources of injury. The illicit 
traffic could start again at once in full force, with means which else- 
where would have first to be created. There were a mile and a half 
of storehouses in the lower town, he said, and at the least he must 
leave these roofless, if not wholly demolished. 

For such reasons he remained at St. Eustatius throughout Feb- 
ruary, March, and April. The amount of money involved, and the 
arbitrary methods pursued by him and by Vaughan, gave rise to 
much scandal, which was not diminished by the King's relinquishing 
all the booty to the captors, nor by the lattei's' professed disinterest- 
edness. Men thought they did protest too much. Meanwhile, other 
matters arose to claim attention. A week after the capture, a vessel 
arrived from the Bay of Biscay announcing that eight or ten French 
sail of the line, with a large convoy, had been seen on the 31st of 
December steering for the West Indies. Rodney at once detached 
Sir Samuel Hood with eleven ships of the line, directing him to 
take also under his command the six left before Fort Royal, and to 
cruise with them to windward of Martinique, to intercept the force 
reported. Hood sailed February 12th. The particular intelligence 
proved afterwards to be false, but Hood was continued on this duty. 
A month later he was ordered to move from the windward to the lee- 
ward side of the island, and to blockade Fort Royal closely. Against 
this change he remonstrated, and the event showed him to be right ; 
but Rodney insisted, saying that from his experience he knew that a 
fleet could remain off Fort Royal for months without dropping to lee- 
ward, and that there ships detached to St. Lucia, for water and 
refreshments, could rejoin before an enemy's fleet, discovered to 
windward, could come up. Hood thought the Admiral's object was 
merely to shelter his own doings at St. Eustatius ; and he considered 
the blockade of Fort Royal to be futile, if no descent upon the island 
were intended. "It would doubtless have been fortunate for the 

VOL. III. — 31 

482 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1781. 

public," he remarked afterwards, " had Sir George been with his 
fleet, as I am confident he would have been to windward instead of 
to leeward, when de Givisse made his approach." 

The jDreparations of the French in Brest were completed towards the 
end of March, and on the 22nd of that month Rear-Admiral de Grasse 
sailed, having a large convoy under the protection of twenty-six shijjs 
of the line. A week later six of the latter parted company, five under 
Suffreu for the East Indies, and one for North America. The remain- 
ing twenty continued their course for Martinique, which was sighted 
on the 28th of April. Before sunset, Hood's squadi-on also was dis- 
covered to leeward of the island, as ordered by Rodney to cruise, and 
off the southern point, — Pointe des Salines. De Grasse then hove-to 
for the night, but sent an officer ashore both to give and to obtain intel- 
ligence, and to reach an understanding for concerted action next day. 

The French fleet consisted of one shij) of 110 guns, 3 eighties, 15 

seventy-foiu's, and 1 sixty-four, in all 20 of the line, besides tlu'ee 

armed eji fidte, which need not be taken into account, although they 

served to cover the convoy. Besides these there were the four in 

Fort Royal, 1 seventy-four and 3 sixty-fours, whose junction with the 

approaching enemy it was one of Hood's objects to prevent. The force 

of the British was 1 ninety, 1 eighty, 12 seventj'-fours, 1 seventj', and 

2 sixty-fours: total, 17.' Thus both in numbers and in rates of ships 

1 List of the fleet under Rear-Adiuiral Sir S. Hood, Bart., on April 29tb, 1781. 
Chiefly from Beatson, vi. 264, and Steel's ' Navy List.' This includes the 64-gun 
ship, wliiuh joined from St. Lucia at 9.20 a.m. — W. L. C. 

Alfred 74 Captain William Bayue. 

Belliquextx 64 Captain James Biine. 

Alcidr. 74 Captain Charles Thompson. 

Invincible 74 Captain Sir Richard Biekcrton, Bart. 

Monarch 74 Captain Francis Reynolds (later F. R. lloreton). 

_ „ „„ I Rear-Adnnral Sir Samuel Hood, Bai't. {Bl. 

Barflciir 90 J .,,,..,,„, 

■^ ( Captain John Knight (2). 

Terrible 74 Captain James Ferguson. 

Princesct 70 Captain Sir Thomas Rich, Bart. 

Ajax 74 Captain John Synious. 

liesolution 74 Captain Lord Robert Manners. 

Montagu 74 Captain John Houlton. 

„., „ „„ I Rear-Admiral Francis Samuel Drake (B). 

Gibraltar ^0 j 

( Captain Charles Knatchbull. 

Centaur 74 Captain John Neale Pleydell Nott. 

Russell 74 Captain .\ndrew Sutherland. 

Prince William 64 Captain Stair Douglas (1). 

Torbay 74 Captain John Lewis Gidoin. 

Intrepid 64 Captain Anthony James Pye Jtolloy. 

Shrewsbury 74 Captain JIark Robinson (1). 

Lizard, 28, as repeater. Pocahontas, 14, as repeater. 




Hood was inferior to the main body alone of tlie French ; but he had 
the advantage of shijjs all coppered, owing to Rodney's insistence 
with the Admiralty. He also had no convoy to worry him; but he 
was to leeward. 

Early in the morning of the 29th, de Grasse advanced to round 
the southern point of the island, which was the usual course for sail- 
Hood was too far to leeward to intercept this movement, 

ing ships 


for wliich he was blamed by Rodney, who claimed that the night had 
not been properly utilised by beating to windward of Pointe des 
Salines. 1 Hood, on the other hand, said in a private letter : " I never 
once lost sight of getting to windward, but it was totally impossible. 
. . . Had I fortunately been there, I must have brought the enemy 
to close action upon more equal terms, or they must have given up 

^ Rodney said that Hood " lay-to " for the night. This is antecedently incredible 
of an officer of Hood's character, and is expressly contradicted by Captain Sutherland 
of the Russell. " At 6 P.M. (of the 28tli) our fleet tacked to the north, and ke})t mov- 
ing across the bay (Fort Royal) for the right {sic), in line of battle." Ekins, ' Xaval 
Battles,' p. 136. The word " right " is evidently a misprint for " night." Rodney's 
criticisms seem to the author captious throughout. 

484 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1781. 

their transports, trade, etc." Hood's subsequent career places it be- 
yond doubt ttiat had lie been to windward there would have been a 
severe action, whatever the result ; but it is not possible to decide 
positively between his statement and Rodney's, as to where the fault 
of being to leeward lay. The writer believes that Hood would have 
been to windward, if iu any way possible. It must be added that the 
British had no word that so great a force was coming. On this fioint 
Hood and Rodney are agreed. 

Under the conditions, the French passed without difficulty round 
Pointe des Salines, the transports hugging the coast, and the ships of 
war being outside and to leeward of them. Thus they headed up to 
the northward for Fort Royal Bay (Cul de Sac Royal), Hood standing 
to the soutliward until after 10, and being joined at 9.20 by a sixty- 
four (which is counted in the list above) from St. Lucia, making his 
force eighteen. At 10.35 the British tacked together to the north- 
ward. The two fleets were now steering the same way, the French 
van abreast of the Biitish centre. At 11 the French opened their fire, 
to which no reply was made then. At 11.20, the British van being 
close in with the shore to the northward of the Bay, Hood tacked 
again together, and the enemy, seeing his convoj^ secure, wore, also 
together, which brought the two lines nearer, heading south. At this 
time the four French ships in the Bay got under way and easily joined 
the rear of their fleet, it having the weather-gage. The French were 
thus 2-t to 18. As their shot were passing over the British, the latter 
now began to reply. At noon Hood, finding that he could not close 
the enemy, shortened sail to topsails and hove-to, hoping by this defi- 
ance to bring them down to him. At 12.30 the French admiral was 
abreast of the British flagship, and the action became general, but at 
too long range. " Never, I believe," wrote Hood, " was more powder 
and shot thrown away in one day before." The French continuing 
to stand on, Hood filled his sails again at 1 p.m., as their van had 
stretched beyond his. 

As the leading ships, heading south, opened the channel between 
St. Lucia and Martinique, they got the breeze fresher, which caused 
them to draw away from the centre. Hood, therefore, at 1.34 made 
the signal for a close order, and immediately afterwards ceased Irring, 
finding not one in ten of the enemy's shot to reach. The engage- 
ment, however, continued somewhat longer between the southern 
ships, where, by the account of Captain Sutherland, who was in that 
part of the line, four of the British were attacked very smartly by 




486 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1702-1783. [1781. 

eight of the French. The Centaur, Russell, Intrepid, and Shreivshury 
appear to have been the ships that suffered most heavily, either in 
hull, spars, or crews. They were all in the van on the southern tack. 
The Bussell, having several shot between wind and water, was with 
diihculty kept afloat, the water rising over the platform of tlie maga- 
zine. Hood sent her off at nightfall to St. Eustatius, where she 
arrived on the 4th of May, bringing Rodney the first news of the 
action, and of the numbers of the French reinforcement. During the 
80th Hood held his ground, still endeavouring to get to windward 
of the enemj' ; but failing in that attempt, and finding two of his 
squadron much disabled, he decided at smaset to bear away to the 
northward, because to the southward the westerlj' currents set so 
strong that the crippled ships could not regain St. Lucia. On the 
11th of May, between St. Kitts and Antigua, he joined Rodney, who, 
after hurried repairs to the Russell, had left St. Eustatius on the 5th, 
with that ship, the Sanchvich, and the Triumijli. 

It is somewhat difficult to criticise positively the conduct of Hood 
and of de Grasse in this affair. It is clear that Hood on the first day 
seriously sought action, though his force was but three-fourths that 
of his foe. He tried first to take the offensive, and, failing that, to 
induce his enemy to attack frankly and decisively. Troude is doubt- 
less correct in saying that it was ojitional with de Grasse to bring on 
a general engagement ; and the writer finds himself in agreement also 
with another French authority, Captain Chevalier, that " Count de 
Grasse seems to have been too much preoccupied with the safety of 
his convoy on the 29th, Admiral Hood having shown himself much 
less circumspect on that day than he was on the next. Notwithstand- 
ing our numerical superiority. Count de Grasse kept near the land 
until all the convoy were safe." He represents Hood as fencing 
cautiously on the following day, keeping on the field, but avoiding a 
decisive encounter. This differs somewhat from the version of Hood 
himself, who mentions signalling a general chase to windward at 12.30 
P. M. of the 30th. The two statements are not irreconcilable. Hood, 
having coppered ships, had the speed of the French, whose vessels, 
being partly coppered and partly not, sailed unevenly. The British 
commander consequently could afford to take risks, and he therefore 
played with the enemy, watching for a chance. Hood was an officer 
of exceptional capacity, much in advance of his time. He thoroughly 
understood a watching game, and that an opportunity might offer to 
seize an advantage over part of the enemy, if the eagerness of pursuit, 


or any mishap, caused the French to sei^arate. From any dilemma 
that ensued, the reserve of sjjeed gave him a power of witlicb-awal, in 
relying upon wliich he was right. The present writer adopts here also 
Chevalier's conclusion : " Admiral Hood evidently had the very wreat 
advantage over his enemy of commanding a squadron of coppered 
ships. Nevertheless, homage is due to liis skill and to the contidence 
shown Ijy him in his captains. If son;e of his ships had dropped 
behind through injuries received, he would have had to sacrifice them, 
or to fight a superior force." This means that Hood, for an adequate 
gain ran a great risk ; that he thoroughly understood both the advan- 
tages and the disadvantages of his situation ; and that he acted not 
only with great skill, but warily and boldly, — a rare combination. 
The British loss in this affair was 39 killed, including Captain Nott, 
of the Centaur, and 162 wounded. The French loss is given by Cheva- 
lier as 18 killed and 56 wounded; by Beatson, as 119 killed and 150 

Rodney, having collected his fleet, proceeded south, and on the 18th 
of May put into Barbados for water. Much anxiety had been felt at 
first for St. Lucia, which Hood's retreat had uncovered. As was 
feared, the French had attacked it at once, their fleet, with the excei> 
tion of one or two ships, going there, and 1,200 troops landing at Gros 
Ilet Bay; but the batteries on Pigeon Island, which Rodney had 
erected and manned, kept them at arms' length. The works elsewhere 
being found too strong, the attemi^t was abandoned. 

At the same time, two ships of tlie line and 1,300 troops had sailed 
from Alartinique against Tobago. When de Grasse returned from the 
failure at St. Lucia, he learned that the British were at sea, apparently 
bound for Barbados. Alarmed for his detachment before Tobago, he 
again sailed with the fleet for that island on the 25th of May, accom- 
panied by 3,000 more troops. Rodney learned at Barbados of tlie 
attempt on Tobago, and on the 29th dispatched a squadron of six sail 
of the line, under Rear-Admiral Francis Samuel Drake, to supjiort 
the defence. On the following day he heard that the French main 
fleet had been seen to windward of St. Lucia, steering south, evi- 
dently for Tobago. On the 30th also Drake and de Grasse encountered 
one another off the latter island, the Fi-ench being to leeward, nearest 
the land. Drake necessarily retired, and on the morning of June 3rd 
was again off Barbados, whereujion Rodney at once sailed for Tobago 
with the whole fleet. On the 4th tlie island was sighted, and next 
morning information was received that it had capitulated on the 2nd. 

488 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1781. 

The two fleets returning north were in presence of one another on 
the 9th ; but no engagement took place. Rodney, who was to wind- 
ward, having twenty sail to twenty-three,^ was unwilling to attack 
unless he could get a clear sea. The strength of the currents, he 
said, would thi'ow liis fleet too far to leeward, in case of reverse, into 
the foul ground between St. Vincent and Grenada, thus exposing 
Barbados, which had not recovered sufficiently from the hurricane 
to stand alone. He put into Barbados, and de Grasse went to Mar- 
tinique to prepare the expedition to the American continent, Avhich 
resulted in the suirender of Cornwallis. On the 5th of July he sailed 
from Fort Royal, taking with him the " trade " for France, and on 
the 26th anchored with it at Cap Fran9ois, where he found a division 
of four ships of the line which had been left the year before by 
de Guichen. There also was a frigate, which had left Boston on 
the 20th of June, and by which he received dispatches from Wash- 
ington, and from Rochambeau, the general commanding the French 
troops in America. These acquainted him with the state of affairs 
on the continent, and requested that the fleet should come to either 
the Chesapeake or New York, to strike a decisive blow at the British 
power in one quarter or the other. 

It is expedient here to resume the thread of events on the con- 

It has been said that, to support the operations of Cornwallis in 
the Carolinas, Clinton had begun a series of diversions in the valley 
of the James River. The first detachment so sent, under General 
Leslie, had been transferred speedily to South Carolina, to meet the 
exigencies of Cornwallis's campaign. The second, of 1,G00 troops 
under Benedict Arnold, left New York at the end of December, and 
began its work on the banks of the James at the end of January, 1781. 
It advanced to Richmond, nearly a hiandred miles from the sea, wast- 
ing the countiy round about, and finding no opposition adequate to 
check its freedom of movement. Returning down stream, on the 
20th it occupied Portsmouth, south of the James River, near the sea, 
and valuable as a naval station. 

Washington urged Commodore des Touches, who by de Ternay's 

death had been left in command of the French squadi'on at Newport, 

to interrupt these proceedings, by chspatching a strong detachment 

to Chesapeake Bay ; and he asked Rochambeau also to let some troops 

1 One French ship had left the fleet, disabled. 


accompany the naval division, to support the scanty force which he 
himself could spare to Virginia. It happened, however, that a gale 
of wind just then had inflicted severe injury upon Arbutlinot's squad- 
ron, three of which had gone to sea from Gardiner's Bay upon a report 
that three French ships of the line had left Newport to meet an ex- 
pected convoy. One seventy-four, the Bedford, was wholly dismasted ; 
another, the CiUloden, Captain George Balfour, drove asliore on Long 
Island, and was wrecked. The French ships had returned to port the 
day before the gale, but the incident indisposed des Touches to risk 
his vessels at sea at that time. He sent only a sixty-four, with two 
frigates. These left Newport on February 9th, and entered the 
Chesapeake, but were unable to reach the British vessels, which, being 
smaller, withdrew up the Elizabeth River. Arbuthnot, hearing of this 
expedition, sent orders to some frigates off Charleston to go to the 
scene. The French division, when leaving the Bay, met one of these, 
the Romulus, 44, Captain George Gay ton, off the Capes, captured hei-, and 
returned to Xe^vport on February 25th. On the 8th of March, Arnold 
reported to Clinton that the Chesapeake was clear of French vessels. 

On the same day Arbuthnot also was writing to Clinton, from 
Gardiner's Bay, that the French were evidentl}- preparing to quit 
Newport. His utmost diligence had failed as yet to repair entirely 
the damage done his squadron by the storm, but on the 9th it was 
ready for sea. On the evening of the 8th the French had sailed. 
On the 10th Arbtithnot knew it, and, having taken tlie precaution to 
move down to the entrance of the bay, he was able to follow at once. 
On the 13th he spoke a vessel which had seen the enemy and gave 
him their course. Favoured by a strong north-west wind, and his 
ships being coppered, he outstripped the French, only three of which 
had copper on them. At 6 A.M. of the 16th the latter were reported 
by a frigate to be astern — to the north-east — about a league distant, 
a thick haze preventing the British from seeing them even at that dis- 
tance (A A).^ Cape Henry, the southern point of the entrance to the 
Chesapeake, then bore south-west by west, distant forty miles. The 
wind as stated b}- Arbuthnot was west ; by the French, south-west. 

The British admiral at once went about, steering in the direction 
reported, and the opposing squadrons soon sighted one another. 
The British l)eing between them and their port, the French hauled 
to the wind, which shifted between 8 and 9 to north by west, putting 
them to windward. Some preliminary manoeuvres then followed, both 
' Reference is to Mabaii's " Influence of Sea Power Upon History," Plate XII. 

490 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1781. 

parties seeking the weather-gage. The weather remained thick and 
squally, often intercepting the view ; and the wind continued to shift 
until towards noon, when it settled at north-east. The better sailing, 
or the better seamanship, of tlie British had enabled them to gain so 
far upon their opponents that at 1 p.m. they were laying nearly up in 
their wake, on the port tack, overhauling them ; both squadrons in 
line of battle, heading east-south-east, the French bearing from their 
pursuers east by south, — one point on the weather bow (B B).^ The 
wind was rising with squalls, so that the ships lay over well to their 
canvas, and the sea was getting big. 

As the enemy now was threatening his rear, and had the sj^eed to 
overtake, des Touches felt it necessaiy to resort to tlie usual parry to 
such a thrust, by wearing his squadron and passing on the other tack. 
This could be done together, reversing the order, or in succession; 
depending much upon the distance of the enemy. Having room 
enough, des Touches chose the latter, but, as fighting was inevitable, 
he decided also to utilise the manoeuvre by surrendering the weather- 
gage, and passing to leeward. The advantage of this course was that, 
with the existing sea and wind, and the inclination of the ships, the 
party that had the opponent on his weather side could open the lower- 
deck ports and use those guns. There was thus a great increase of 
battery power, for the lower guns were the heaviest. Des Touches 
accordingly put his helm up, his line passing in succession to tlie 
southward (e), across the head of the advancing British column, and 
then hauling up so as to run parallel to the latter, to leeward, with 
the wind four points free. 

Arbulhnot accepted the position offered, stood on as he was until 
nearly abreast of the French, and at 2 p.m. made the signal to wear. 
It does not appear certainly how this was executed ; but from the 
expression in the official report, "the van of the squadron wore in 
the line,'' and from the fact that the ships which led in the attack 
were those which were leading on the port tack, — the tack before 
the signal was made, — it seems likely that the movement was made 
in succession (a). The whole squadron then stood down, but with 
the customary result. The ships in the van and centre were all 
engaged by 2.30, so Arbuthnot states ; but the brunt of the action 
had already fallen upon the three leading vessels, which got the first 
raking fire, and, as is also usual, came to closer action than those 
which followed them (C). They therefore not only lost most heavily 

1 Reference is to Mahan's " Influence of Sea Power Upon History," Plate XII. 




in men, but also were so damaged aloft as to be crippled. The British 
Vice-Admiral, keeping the signal for the line flying, and not hoisting 
that for close action, appears to have caused a movement of indecision 
in the squadron, — an evidence again of the hold which the line then 
still had upon men's minds. Of this des Touches cleverly availed 
himself, by ordering his ships to wear in succession. The French 
column filed by the three disabled British vessels (d), gave them their 
broadsides one by one, and then hauled off to the eastward, quitting 


the field (D). Arbuthnot made signal to wear in pursuit, but the 
Robust and Prudent, two of the van ships, were now wholly un- 
manageable from the concentration of fire upon them caused by des 
Touches's last movement ; and the maintopsail yard of the London, 
the only British three-decker, had been shot away. The chase there- 
fore was abandoned, and the squadron put into Chesapeake Bay, for 
which the wind was fair (D). The French returned to Newport. The 
respective losses in men were : British, 30 killed, 73 wounded ; French, 
72 kiUed, 112 wounded. 




Both sides had eight ships, besides smaller craft, in this encounter. 
From the table ^ given below it is evident that the advantage in force 
was distinctly with the British. For this i-eason, probablj', the action 
was considered particulaiiy discreditable by contemporaries, and the 
more so because several vessels did not engage closely, — a fault laid to 
the Vice-Admiral's failure to make the signal for close action, hauling 
down that for the line. This criticism is interesting, for it indicates 
how men's minds were changing ; and it shows also that Arbuthnot 
had not changed, but still lived in the middle of the century. The 
French commodore cUsplayed very considerable tactical skill ; his 
squadron was handled neatly, quickly, and with precision. With 
inferior force he carried off a decided advantage by sheer intelligence 
and good management. Unluckily, he failed in resolution to pursue 
his advantage. Had he persisted, he doubtless could have controlled 
the Chesapeake. 

His neglect to do so was justiiied by Commodore de Barras, who 
on the 10th of May arrived in Newport from France to commaiid the 
squadron. This officer, after pointing out the indisputable tactical 
success, continued thus : — 

" As to the advantage which the English obtained, in fulfilling their object, 
that is a necessary consequence of their superiority, and, still more, of their purely 
defensive attitude. It is a principle in war that one should risk' much to defeiul one's 
own positions, and ver;/ Hide to attack those of the enemy. M. des Touclies, whose 
object was purely offensive, could and should, when the enemy opposed to him 

^ List of the British and French squadrons in the action of March ICtb, 1781. 
The British list gives Avbuthnot's line of battle ; the America to lead with the star- 
board, and the Robust with tlie larboard tacks on board. Beatson, vi. 273 (corrected). 
— W. L. C. 








America . . 


Capt. Samuel Tliompson. 

* Neptune . . . . 


\ M. des Touches. 

Bedford . . 


Capt. Ednunid Affleck. 

1 Capt. de Medina. 

Adamant. . 


Capt. Gideon Johnstone. 

*Duc de Bourgogne . 


Capt. Baron de Durfort. 

London . 


{ Rear-Adin. Thomas Graves (2), (R). 
( Capt. David Graves. 

Conquerant . . . 


Capt. de la Grandiere. 

Provence . . . . 


Capt. Lambart. 

Itoijiil Oak . 


( Vice-Adm. Marriot Arbuthnot. 



Capt. de Marigny. 

\ Capt. William Swiney. 



Capt. de la Clocheterie. 

Prudent . . 


Capt. Thomas Burnett. 



Capt. de Tilly. 

Europe . . 


Capt. Smith Child. 

^Rojnuiu.i . . . . 


Capt. de ViUebrune. 

liobusl . . 


Capt. Phillips Cosby. 

Fbioates : — 

Frigates : — 

Guadalupe . 


Capt. Hugh Robinson. 

Hermione .... 


Capt. de la Touche. 

Pearl . . . 


Capt. George Montagu. 

Gentille .... 


Iri.^ . . . 


Capt. George Dawson. 

Fantasqne (en flflte) 


Capt. de Vaudor^. 

Medea . . 


Capt. Henry Duncan (1). 

* These ships were coppered. 

t Late British. Though only a 44-guu ship, she was a two-decker. 


superior forces, renounce a project which could no longer succeed, unless, contrary 
to all probability, it ended not only in beating, but also in destroying entirely, that 
superior squadi'on." 

This exaltation of the defensive above the offensive, this despair- 
ing view of probabilities, this aversion from risks, go far to explain 
the French want of success in this war. No matter how badly the 
enemy was thrashed, unless he were entirely destroyed, he was still a 
fleet " in being," a paralysing factor. 

The retreat of des Touches and the coming of Arbuthnot restored 
to the British the command of Chesapeake Bay. Clinton, as soon as 
he knew that the two squadrons had sailed, had sent off a reinforce- 
ment of 2,000 troops for Arnold, under General Phillips. These 
arrived on March 26th in Lynnhaven Bay, and thence proceeded at 
once to Portsmouth, Virginia. It is unnecessary to speak of the 
various operations of this land force. On the 9th of May, in conse- 
quence of letters received from Cornwallis, it moved to Petersburg. 
There on the 13th Phillips died, the command reverting momentarily 
to Arnold. On the 20th Cornwallis joined, and Arnold soon after 
returned to New York. 

Cornwallis now had with him about 7,000 troops, including the 
garrison at Portsmouth ; but a serious difference of opinion existed 
between him and Clinton, the Commander-in-Chief. The latter had 
begun the conquest of South Carolina, and he did not welcome the 
conclusion of his lieutenant that the conquest could not be main- 
tained, away from the seaboard, unless Virginia also were subdued : 
for from the latter, a rich and populous region, men and supplies 
supported the American cause in the south. Cornwallis had tested 
the asserted strength of the Royalists in the Carolinas, and had found 
it wanting. Offensive operations in Virginia were what he wislied ; 
but Clinton did not approve this project, nor feel that he could spare 
troops enough for the purpose. Between October, 1780, and June, 
1781, he said, 7,724 effectives had been sent from New York to 
the Chesapeake ; and he could not understand the failure to cut off 
the greatly inferior force of the enemy in Virginia. This at least did 
not indicate probable success for a renewed offensive. The garrison 
of New York was now short of 11,000, and could not be chminished 
further, as he was tlireatened with a siege. In short, the British 
position in America had become essentially false, by the concurring 
effect of insufficient force and ex-centric — double — ojjerations. Sent 
to conquer, their numbers now were so divided that they could barely 

494 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1781. 

maintain the defensive. Comwallis therefore was ordered to occupy 
a defensive position, which should control an anchorage for ships of 
the line, and to strengthen himself in it. After some discussion, 
which revealed furtlier disagreement, he jDlaced liimself at Yorktown, 
on the peninsula formed by the James and York rivers. Portsmouth 
was evacuated, the gai'rison reaching Yorktown on the 22nd of August. 
Cornwallis's force was then 7,000 troops ; and there were with him 
besides about a thousand seamen, belonging to some half-dozen small 
vessels, which had been sliut up in the York by the coming of the 
French fleet. 

On the 2nd of July Arbuthnot sailed for England, leaving the 
command at New York to Rear-Admiral Thomas Graves (2). The 
latter on the same day wrote to Rodney, by the brig Active, that inter- 
cepted dispatches of the enemy had revealed that a large division 
from the West Indies was to arrive on the American coast during 
the summer, to co-operate with the force alread}- in Newport. Rodney, 
on the other hand, dispatched to New York on the 7th the Swallow 
sloop, 16, with word that, if he sent reinforcements from the West 
Indies, they would be ordered to make the Capes of the Chesapeake, and 
to coast thence to New York. He asked, therefore, that cruisers with 
information might be stationed along that route. T\^o daj's later, 
having then certain news that de Grasse had sailed for Cap Francois, 
he sent the intelligence to Vice-Admiral Sir Peter Parker at Jamaica, 
and gave Rear-Admiral Sir Samuel Hood jjreparatory orders to com- 
mand a reinffircement destined for the continent. This, however, was 
limited in numbers to fifteen sail of the line, Rodney being misled by 
his intelligence, which gave fourteen ships as the size of the French 
division having the same destination, and wluch reported that de Grasse 
himself would convoy the trade from Cap Francois to France. On the 
24th instructions were issued for Hood to proceed on this duty. He 
was first to convoy the Jamaica trade as far as the passage between Cuba 
and Haiti, and thence to make the utmost speed to the Chesapeake. 
A false report, of French ships reaching Martinique from Europe, 
slightly delayed this movement. The convoy was dispatched to 
Jamaica with two ships of the line, which Sir Peter Parker was 
directed to send at once to America, and requested to reinforce 
with others from his own squadron. Hood was detained until the 
report could be verified. On the 1st of August Rodney sailed for 
J^ngland on leave of absence. On the 10th Hood left Antigua 
with fourteen ships of the line, direct for the Capes. He had 


already received, on the 3rd, Graves's letter by the Active, which 
he sent back on the 6th with his answer and with a notification 
of his speedy departure. 

The Siuallow and the Active should have reached Graves before 
Hood; but neither got to him at all. The Swallow, Comman- 
der Thomas Wells, arrived safely in New York on the 27th of 
Jul}- ; but Graves had sailed with all his squatb'on on the 21st, for 
Boston Bay, hoping there to intercept an expected convoy from 
France, concerning which a special caution had been sent him by the 
Admiralty. The sloop was at once sent on by the senior naval 
officer, but was attacked by hostile vessels, forced ashore on 
Long Island, and lost. The Active was captured before she reached 
New York. Graves, in hajjpy ignorance of the momentous crisis 
approaching, continued cruising until the 16th of August, when 
he returned to Sandy Hook. There he found the duplicates of 
the S'walloiv's letters, but they only notified him of the course a 
reinforcement would take, not that Hood had started. On August 
2.5th the latter, being then off the Chesapeake, sent duplicates of 
the Active's dispatches, but these preceded by little his own arrival 
on the 28th. That evening news was received in New York that 
de Barras had sailed from Newport on the 25th, with his whole 
division. Hood anchored outside the Hook, where Graves, who 
was the senior officer, undertook to join him at once. On the 31st 
five sail of the line and a fifty-gun ship, all that could be got 
ready in time, crossed the bar, and the entire body of nineteen 
ships of the line started at once for the Chesapeake, whither it 
was now understood that both the French fleet and the united 
armies of Washington and Rochambeau were hurrying. 

Count de Grasse upon liis arrival at Cap Frangois had found 
that many things must be done before he could sail for the con- 
tinent. Measures needed to be taken for the security of Haiti; 
and a large sum of money, with a considerable reinforcement of 
troops, was required to insure the success of the projected operation, 
for which but a short time was allowed, as it was now August and 
he must be again in the West Indies in October. It was not the 
least among the fortunate concurrences for the American cause at 
that moment, that de Grasse, whose military capacitj^ was not con- 
spicuous, showed then a remarkable energ}^ politic tact, and breadth 
of view. He decided to take with him eveiy ship he could command, 
postponing the sailing of the convoys ; and by dexterous arrangement 

496 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1702-1783. [1781. 

with the Spaniards he contrived to secure both the funds required 
and an efficient corps of 3,300 French troops, without stripping 
Haiti too closely. On the 5th of August he left Cap Frangois, with 
twenty-eight ships of the line, taking the route tlirough the Old 
Bahama Channel,^ and anchored in Lynnhaven Bay, just within the 
entrance of the Chesapeake, on the 30th, the day before Graves sailed 
from New York for the same place. The troops were landed iustantlj^ 
on the south side of the James River, and soon reached La Fayette, 
who commanded the forces so far opposed to Cornwallis, which were 
thus raised to 8,000 men. At the same time Washington, having 
thrown Clinton off his guard, was crossing the Delaware on his way 
south, with 6,000 regular troops, 2,000 American and 4,000 French, 
to join La Fayette. French cruisers took position in the James River, 
to prevent Cornwallis from crossing, and escaping to the southward 
into Carolina. Others were sent to close the mouth of the York. 
By these detachments the main fleet was reduced to twenty-four sail 
of the line. 

On the 5th of September, at 8 a.m., the French look-out frigate, 
cruising outside Cape Henry, made the signal for a fleet steering for 
the Bay. It was hoped at first that this was de Barras's squadron 
from Newport, known to be on its way, but it was soon evident from 
the numbers that it must be an enemy. The forces now about to be 
opi)Osed, nineteen British sail of the line to twenty-four French, were 
constituted as follows: British, 2 ninety-eights (three-deckers); 12 
seventy-fours, 1 seventy, 4 sixty-fours, besides frigates ; ^ French, 1 
one hundred and four (three-decker),'* 3 eighties, 17 seventy-foiu's, 
3 sixty-fours. 

The mouth of the Chesapeake is about ten miles wide, from Cape 
Charles on the north to Cape Henry on the south. The main chan- 
nel is between the latter and a shoal, three miles to the northward, 
called the Middle Ground. The British fleet, when the French were 
first seen from it, was steering south-west for the entrance, under 
foresails and topgallant sails, and it so continued, forming line as it 
approached. The wind was north-north-east. At noon the ebb-tide 
made, and the French began to get under waj^, but many of their 
ships had to make several tacks to clear Cape Henry. Their line was 

1 Along the north coast of Cuba, between it and the Bahama Banks. 
^ See note on opposite page. 

' The Ville de Paris, to which Troude attributes 104 guns. She was considered 
the biggest and finest ship of her day. 




consequently late in forming, and was by no means regular or closed 
as they got outside. 

At 1 P.M. Graves made the signal to form on an east and west line, 
which would be the closehauled line heading out to sea, on the other 
tack from that on wliich his fleet still was. At 2 p.m. the French van, 
three miles distant by estimate, bore south from the London, Graves's 
flagship, and was therefore abreast of the centre of the British line. 
As the British van came near the Middle Ground, at 2.13 p.m., the 
ships wore together. This put them on the same tack as the French, 
Hood's division, which had been leading, being now the rear in the 
reversed order ; and the fleet brought-to, in order to allow the centre 

Note. — British line of battle in the action of Sept. 5, 1781. Mainly from Beatson, 
vi. 284 ; corrected by Steel's ' Navy List ' of the period, and from MS. notes by Henry 
Wise Harvey in Ed's, edition of Sohomberg, iv. 377, 378. The Alfred was to lead 
with the starboard, and the Shreicsbunj with the larboard tacks on board. — W. L. C. 










Santa Margaritta, 36 . 

Richmond, 32 . . . 





Boyal Oak 



Solebay, 28 . . . . 

Nymphc, 36 ... . 

Adamant, 50 . . . 







Salamander (f. s. ) . 

Sibyl, 28 

Fortunec, 40 . . . . 

VOL, III. —32 










Capt. William Bayne. 

Capt. James Brine. 

Capt. Charles Saxton. 
( Rear- Admiral Sir Samuel Hood (B). 
( Capt. Alexander Hood. 

Capt. Francis Reynolds (later Lord Ducie). 

Capt. John Nicholson Inglefield. 

Capt. Elliot Salter. 

Capt. Charles Hudson. 

Capt. Samuel Thompson. 

Capt. Lord Robeit Jlauners. 

Capt. Thomas Grave.s (3). 

Rear-Admiral Thomas Graves (2), (R). 

Capt. David Graves. 

Capt. John Plummer Ardesoif. 

Capt. George Bowen (1). 

Capt. Smith Cldld. 

Capt. Charles Holmes Everitt (later Calmady). 

Capt. John Ford. 

Capt. Gideon Johnstone. 

Capt. Hon. William Clement Finch. 

Capt. Nicholas Charrington. 

! Rear- Admiral Francis Samuel Drake (B). 
Capt. Charles Knatchbull. 
Capt. Charles Thompson. 
Capt. Anthony James Pye MoUoy. 
Capt. Mark Robinson (1). 
Commander Edward Bowater. 
Capt. Lord Charles Fitzgerald (?). 
Capt. Hufjh Cloherry Christian. 




of the enemy to come abreast of the centre of the British (a a). The 
two lines now were nearly parallel, but the British, being five shijis 
fewer, naturally did not extend so far as the rear of the French, which 
in fact was not yet clear of the Cape. At 2.30 Graves made the 
signal for the van ship (the Shreivsburi/), to lead more to starboard — 
towards the enemy. As each ship in succession would take her course 
to follow the leadei', the effect of this was to put the British on a line 

C R Av e: s 


DE Cra 5 s e: 

C f-^ C&i'R F'S ^ M £. ^ ^ y. 

» ••» >>>..L..>.»».*..B 




o-p».^- c>r>^>c>c?- - 

o a 

o t^Ooc^ooooooorj^oo 




inclined to that of the enemy, the van nearest, and as the signal was 
renewed three quarters of an hour later, — at 3.17, — this angle became 
still more marked (bb).^ This was the original and enduring cause 
of a lamentable failure, by which seven of the rear sliips, in an inferior 
force undertaking to attack, never came into battle at all. At 3.84 
the van was ordered again to keep still more towards the enemy. 

At 8.46 the signal was made for ships to close to one cable, fol- 
lowed almost immediately by that to bear do^vn and engage the 

1 This reproduced the blunder of Byng, between whose action and the one now 
under discussion tliere is a maiked resembhince. 


enemj', — the signal for the Une still flying. Graves's flagship, which 
was hove-to, filled and bore down. Under the conditions, the van 
sliips of coiu'se got first luider fire, and the action gradually extended 
from them to tlie twelfth in the order, two ships astern of tlie London. 
According to the log of the latter, at 4.11 the signal for the line 
ahead was hauled down, that it might not interfere with that for close 
action, but at 4.22 it was rehoisted, " the ships not being sufficiently 
extended." The meaning of tliis expression may be inferred from 
Beatson's accoimt : — 

" The London, by taking the lead, had advanced farther towards the enemy 
than some of the ships stationed immediately ahead of her in the line of battle ; 
and upon Inffing up, to bring her broadside to bear, they having done the same 
thing, her second ahead was brought nearly upon her weather beam. The other 
ships ahead of her were likewise too much crowded together." 

As the ship on the London'' s weather beam could not fiie upon the 
enemy unless she drew aliead, this condition probably accounts for 
the flagship being again liove-to, while fu-ing, as Hood says that she 
was. Readers will remember a similar incident occurring with Byng"s 
flagship. The signal for the line was hauled down again at 4.27, by 
the London''s log, that for close action being up, and repeated at 5.20, 
when Hood at last bore down with his division, but the French ships 
bearing up also, he did not near them. Firing ceased shortly after 
sunset. The loss of the British was 90 killed, 246 wounded ; that of 
the French is given only in round numbers, as about 200 killed and 

Hood's statement introduces certain important qualifications into 
the above account : — 

" Our centre began to engage at the same time as the van, at four, but at a 
most improper distance, and our rear, being barel^y within random shot, did not tire 
while the signal for the line was flying. The London had the signal for close action 
flying, as well as the signal for the line ahead at half a cable was under her topsails, 
with the main topsail to the mast,i though the enemy's ships were pushing on." 

As showing the improper distance at wliich the London brought-to 
to fire, lie says : — 

" The second ship astern of her (of the London) received but trifling damage, 
and the third astern of her received no damage at all, which most clearly proves 
[at] how much too gi-eat a distance was the centre division engaged." 

The day after the action Hood made a memorandum of his criti- 
cisms upon it, which has been published. The gist of this is as 

1 /. c, she had stopped. 

500 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1781. 

follows. As the French stood out, their line was not regular or con- 
nected. The van was much separated from the centre and rear, and 
it appears also, from the Frencli narratives, that it Avas to A\-indward 
of the rest of the fleet. From these causes it was much exposed to 
be attacked unsupported. There was, by Hood's estimate, " a full 
horn- and a half to have engaged it before any of the rear could have 
come up." The line of battle on the }iort tack, with the then wind, 
Avas east and west, and Graves had first ranged his fleet on it, as the 
French were doing ,• but afterwards, owing to his method of approach, 
by the van bearing down and the other ships following in its wake, the 
two lines, instead of being parallel, formed an angle, the British 
centre and rear being much more distant from the enemy than the 
van was. This alone would cause the ships to come into battle suc- 
cessively instead of together, a fault of itself ; but the Commander- 
in-Chief, according to Hood, committed the further mistake that he 
kept the signal for the line of battle flying initil 5.30 p.m., near to 
sunset. The line of battle at any moment ran, of course, from the 
van ship through that of the Commander-in-Chief ; those two points 
determined it for all in the rear, where Hood was. Hence the latter's 
criticism, which is marked by much acerljity towards his superior, but 
does not betray any consciousness that he himself needed any justifica- 
tion for his division not having taken part. 

" Had the centre gone to the support of the van, and the signal for the line 
beau hauled down, or the Commander-in-Chief had set the example of close .Tction, 
even with the signal for the line flying, the van of the enemy must have been cut 
to pieces, and the rear division of the British fleet would have been opposed to 
those ships the centre division fired at, and at the proper distance for engaging, or 
the Kear-Admiral who commanded it ' would liave a great deal to answer for." ^ 

So much for the tactical failure of that day. The question remained 
what next was to be done. Graves contemplated renewing the 
action, but early in the night was informed that several of the van 

' Hood himself. 

2 Concerning the crucial fact of the signal for the line of battle being kept flying 
continuously until .5.30 P.ll., upon which there is a direct contradiction between Hood 
and tlie log of the London, it is necessary to give the statement of Captain Thomas 
White, who was present in the action in one of the rear ships. " If the London's log, 
or the log of any other individual ship in the fleet, confirm this statement," (that 
Hood was dilatory in obeying the order for close action), " I shall be induced to fancy 
that what I that day saw and heard was a mere chimera of the brain, and that what 
I believed to be the signal for the line was not a union jack, but an ignis fatuus con- 
jured up to mock me." AVhite and Hood also agree that the signal for the line was 
rehoistedat 6.30. (White : ' Naval Researches,' London, 1830.) 


ships were too crippled to permit this. He held his ground, liow- 
ever, in sight of the French, until dark on the 9th, when they were 
seen for the last time. They were then under a cloud of sail, and 
on the morning of the 10th liad disappeared. From their actions 
during tliis interval. Hood had inferred that de Grasse meant to get 
back into the Chesapeake without further fighting; and lie implies 
that he advised Graves to anticipate the enemy in so doing. Though 
some ships were crippled aloft, the British batteries were practically 
intact, nor had men enough been disabled to prevent any gun in 
the fleet from being fought. Could but a single working day 
be gained in taking up an anchorage, a defensive order could be 
assumed, practically impregnable to the enemy, covering Cornwallis, 
and not impossibly intercepting the French ships left in the Bay. In 
the case of many men such comment might be dismissed as the idle 
talk of tlie captious fault-finder, always to the fore in life ; but in the 
case of Hood it must be received with deference, for, but a few 
months later, when confronted with greater odds, he liimself did the 
very thing he here recommended, for an object less vital than the 
relief of Cornwallis. Having regard to the character of de Grasse, it 
is reasonable to believe that, if he had found the British fleet thus 
drawn up at anchor in Chesapeake Bay, as he found Hood at St. 
Kitts in the following January, he would have waited off the 
entrance for de Barras, and then have gone to sea, leaving Washington 
and Rochambeau to look at Cornwallis slipping out of their grasp. 

On the 10th of September Graves decided to burn the Terrible, 74, 
which had been kept afloat with difficulty since the action. This 
done, the fleet stood towards the Chesapeake, a frigate going ahead 
to reconnoitre. On the 13th, at G a.m.. Graves wrote to Hood that 
the look-outs reported the French at anchor above the Horse Shoe 
(shoal) in the Chesapeake, and desired his opinit)n what to do with 
the fleet. To this Hood sent the comforting reply that it was no 
more than what he had expected, as the press of sail the (French) 
fleet carried on the 9th, and on the night of the 8th, made it very 
clear to him what de Grasse 's intentions were. He "Avould be very 
glad to send an opinion, but he really knows not what to say in the 
truly lamentable state [to which] we have brought ourselves."' On 
the 10th de Barras had reached the Bay, where he was joined by de 
Grasse on the 11th, so that there were then present thirtj'-six French 
ships of the line. Graves, therefore, returned to New York, reach- 
1 ' Letters of Lord Hood." N. R. S., p. 35. 

502 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-17S3. [1781. 

ing Saudy Hook on the lOtli. On the 14th Wasliington had arrived 
before Yorktown, where he took the chief command j and the armies 
closed in upon Cornwallis hy hxnd as the French fleets had done 
ah'eady by water. On the 19th of October the British force was 
compelled to surrender, 7,247 troops and 840 seamen laying Aoww 
their arms. During the siege the latter had served in the works, 
the batteries of which were largely composed of ships' guns. 

After Graves's return to New York, Rear-Admiral the Hon. Robert 
Digby arrived from England on the 24th of Sejitember, to take com- 
mand of the station in Arbuthnot's place. He brought with him 
three ships of the line ; and the two which Sir Peter Parker had been 
ordered by Rodney to send on at once had also reached the port. It 
was decided by the land and sea officers concerned to attempt the 
relief of Cornwallis, and that it was expedient for Graves to remain 
in command until after this expedition. He could not start, how- 
ever, until the 18th of October, by which time Cornwallis's fate was 
decided. Gi'aves then departed for Jamaica to supersede Sir Peter 
Parker. On the 11th of November Hood sailed from Sandy Hook 
with eighteen ships of the line, and on the Sth of December anchored 
at Barl)ados. On the 5th of Novendjer de Grasse also quitted the 
continent with his whole fleet, and returned to the West Indies. 

In Europe, during the year 1781, the two leading questions which 
dominated the action of the belligerents were the protection, or 
destruction, of commerce, and the attack and defence of Gibraltar. 
The British Channel Fleet was much inferior to the aggregate sea 
forces of France and Spain in the waters of Europe ; and the Dutch 
navy also was now hostile. The French government represented to 
its allies that by concentrating their squadrons near the entrance of 
the Channel they would control the situation in every point of view; 
but the Spaniards, intent upon Gibraltar, declined to withdraw their 
fleet from Cadiz until late in the summer, while the French persisted 
in keeping their own at Brest. The Channel Fleet was decisively 
superior to the lattei', and inferior to the Spaniards in numbers 

No relief having been given Giliraltar since Rodne}- had left it in 
February, 1780, the question of supplying the fortress became press- 
ing. For this puqjose, twenty-eight ships of the line, under Vice- 
Admiral George Darby, sailed from St. Helen's on the 13th of March, 
1781, with a large convoy. Off Cork a number of victuallers joined. 


and the whole body then proceeded for Gibraltar, accompanied by 
five ships of the line which were destined for the East Indies, as well 
as by the West India and American "trade." These several attach- 
ments parted from time to time on the way, and on tlie 11th of A^iril 
the main expedition sighted Cape Spartel. No attempt to intercept 
it was made by the great Spanish fleet in Cadiz ; and on the 12th of 
April, at noon, the convoy anchored in the Bay of Gibraltar. That 
night thirteen sail of transports, under the charge of two frigates, 
slipped out and made their way to Minorca. The ships of war 
remained under way, cruising in the Bay and Gut of Gibraltar. 

. As the convoy entered, the besiegers opened a tremendous can- 
nonade, which was ineffectual, however, to stop the landing of the 
stores. More annoyance was caused by a flotilla of gunlwats, specially 
built for this siege, the peculiar fighting power of which lay in one 
26-pounder, whose great length gave a range superior to the bat- 
teries of ships of the line. Being moved by oars as well as by sails, 
these little vessels could choose their own distance in light airs and 
calms, and were used so actively to harass the transports at anchor 
that Darby was obliged to cover them with three ships of the line. 
These proved powerless effectually to injure the gunboats ; but, while 
the latter caused great annoyance and petty injury, they did not 
hinder the unloading nor even greatly delay it. The experience 
illustrates again the unlikelihood that great results can be obtained by 
petty means, or that massed force, force concentrated, can be effect- 
ually counteracted either by cheap and ingenious expedients, or by 
the co-operative exertions of many small independent units. " They 
were onl}' capable of producing trouble and vexation. So far were 
they from preventing the succours from being thrown into the gar- 
rison, or from burning the convoy, that the only damage of any 
consequence that they did to the shipping was the wounding of the 
mizen-mast of the Nonsuch so much that it required to be shifted. "^ 
On the 19th of April — in one week — the revictualling was com- 
pleted, and the expedition started back for England. The fleet 
anchored at Spithead on the 22nd of May. 

"While Darby was returning. La Motte Picquet had gone to sea 
from Brest with six ships of the line and some frigates to cruise in 
the approaches to the CHiannel. There, on the 2nd of May, he fell 
in with the convoy returning from the West Indies with the spoils of 
St. Eustatius. The ships of war for the most part escaped, but La 
1 Beatson : ' Military and Naval Memoirs,' v. 347. 

504 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1781. 

Motte Picquet carried twenty-two out of thirty merchant ships into 
Brest before he could be intercepted, although a detachment of eight 
sail sent by Darby got close upon his heels. 

After a long refit, Darby put to sea again, about the 1st of 
August, to cover the approach of the large convoys then expected to 
arrive. Being greatly delayed by head winds, he had got no further 
than the Lizard, when news was brought him that the Franco-Sj^anish 
grand fleet, of forty-nine ships of the line, was cruising near the 
Scilly Isles. Having himself but thirty of the line, he put into 
Torbay on the 24th of August, and moored his squadron across the 
entrance to the Bay. 

This appearance of the allies was a surprise to the British aiithori- 
ties, who saw thus unexpectedly renewed the invasion of the Channel 
made in 1779. Spain, mortified justly by her failure even to molest 
the intrusion of succours into Gibraltar, had thought to retrieve her. 
honour by an attack upon iNIinorca, for which she asked the co-opera- 
tion of France. De Guichen was sent in July with nineteen ships of 
the line ; and the combined fleets, under the chief command of the 
Spanish admiral Don Luis de Cordova, convoj^ed the troops into the 
Mediterranean beyond the reach of Gibraltar cruisers. Returning 
thence into the Atlantic, de Cordova directed his course for the 
Channel, keeping far out to sea to conceal his movements. But 
though thus successful in reaching his ground unheralded, he made 
no attempt to profit by the advantage .gained. The question of 
attacking Darby at his anchors was discussed in a council of war, at 
which de Guichen strongly advocated the measure : but a majority of 
votes decided that Great Britain would be less hurt by ruining lier 
fleet than by intercepting the expected convoys. Even for the lat- 
ter purpose, however, de Cordova could not wait. On the 5th of 
September he informed de Guichen that he was at liberty to return 
to Brest; and he himself went back to Cadiz with thirty-nine ships, 
nine of which were French. "This cruise of the combined fleet," 
says Chevalier, "diminished the consideration of France and Spain. 
These two powers had made a great display of force, without jaroduc- 
ing the slightest result." It may be mentioned here that Minorca, 
after a six months' siege, capitulated in Februar}-, 1782. 

While Darby was beating down Channel in the early days of 
August, Vice-Admiral Hyde Parker (1), lately Rodney's second in 
command in the West Indies, was returning from the Baltic to Eng- 
land convoying a large merchant fleet. On the 5th of August, at 




daylight, a Dutch squadron, also with a convoy, was discovered in 
the south-west, near the Doggersbank. Heading as the two enemies 
then were, their courses must shortly intersect. Parker, therefore, 
ordered his convoy to steer to tlie westward for England, while he 
himself bore down for the enemy. The Dutch Rear-Admiral, Johan 
Arnold Zoutman, on the contrary, kept the merchant vessels with 
him, under his lee, but drew out the ships of war from among them, 
to form his order on the side towards the enemy. Each opponent 
put seven sail into the line.' The British vessels, besides being of 
such different rates, were chiefly very old ships, ^ dragged out from 
Rotteu Row to meet the pressing emergency caused by the greatly 
superior forces ■\\hich were in coalition against Great Britain. 
Owing to the decayed condition of some of them, their batteries 

1 Fleets engaged in the action off the Doggersbank, Aug 

list 5th, 1781. 









Is THE Line : — 

Berwick. . . . 


Capt. John Fergusson. 

Erfprim .... 


Capt. A. Braak. 

Dolphin .... 


Capt. WiUiam Blair. 

Admiraal Generaal 


Capt. van Kinsbergen. 

Buffnlo .... 


Capt. WiUiam Truscott. 



Capt. A. C. Staering. 


1 V.Adm. Hyde Parker (1) 

Bdlavier .... 


Capt. W. J. Bentinck. 

Princfss Amelia . 


1 Capt. George Robertsou. 
Capt. John Macartney.* 

.idmiraal de Ruijter 


( Rear-Adm. Zoutman. 
1 Capt. Staringh. 

Prrsfon .... 


Capt. Alexander Grieme. 

Admiraal Pitt Heijn 


Capt. W. van Braam. 

Bknj'auant . . 

C4'Capt. Richard Bratbwaite. 1 

Holland .... 


Capt. S. Dedel. 

Frigates with the 

Fleet : — 

Surprise (cutter). 


Lieut. P. Rivett. 

Briloilll .... 

3G Capt. Haringcarapel Decker. 

Cleopatra . , . 

32 Capt. George Murray. 1 

Dolphijn .... 

24 Capt. Mulder. 

Latona . ... . 


Capt. Sir Hyde Parker (2). 

.ijiix (cutter) . . 

20, Capt. Grave van Welderen. 

Belle Poiile . . 


Capt. Philip Patton. 

Eensgfzindheit . . 

36 Capt. Bouritius. 

Artois .... 


Capt. John M.acbride. 


AmpMlrile . . . 

36 Capt. Wiertz. 

36 Capt. van Woensel. 

With the Convoy : — 

Iphigenia . . . 


Capt. Charles Hope. 

Medemblik . . . 


Capt. van Rijneveld. 

Tartar .... 


Capt. Robert Sutton. 



Capt. Grave van Regteren. 

Cahot .... 


Com. Henry Cromwell. 

Sjiinii .... 


Com. Stutzer. 



Com. James Vashon. 

Zwalutv .... 


Com. Butger. 

Leiih (armed ship). 

20; Com, Peter Rothe. 

Bust/ (cutter) . . 

14 Lieut. William Furnivall. 

Sprightly (cutter) 

14 Lieut. J. B. Swau. 

* Killed. 

The vessels in the two lines are given above in the respective orders of battle. 
The British list is founded on one in Beatson, vi. 315, compared with the 'Na\'y 
Lists' of 1781, the dispatches, etc. The Dutch list is founded on a MS. of Capt. 
Count van Bylandt, compared with the dispatches, and with the plan and particulars 
in De Jonge, iv. 508-5fil. The gun-power of each ship is taken from official papers, 
British and Dutch. —W. L. C. 

■ The Bienfaisant had been captured in 1758, and the Buffalo in 1748; and the 
Princess Amelia and Preston were both built in 1757. 

506 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1781. 

had been lightened, to the detriment of their fighting power. The 
two seventy-tours, liowuver, were good and new ships. The Dolphin 
also was new. It is in-obable that tlie Dutch vessels, after a huio- 
peace, were not much better than their antagonists. In fact, each 
squadron was a scratch lot, in the worst sense of the phrase. The 
conduct of the affair by the two admirals, even to the very intensity 
of their puguaciousness, contributes a tinge of the comic to the 
history of a desperately fought action. 

The breeze was fresh at northeast, and the sea smooth. The 
Dutch, being to leeward, awaited attack, forming line on the port 
tack, heading south-east by east, a point off the wind, under topsails 
and foresails, a cable's length apart. There is little room to doubt 
that an adversary who thus holds his ground means to make a 
stand-up fight, but Parker, although the sun of a midsununer day 
had scarcely risen, thought advisable to order a general chase. Of 
course, no ship spared her canvas to this, while the worse sailers had 
to set their studding-sails to keep up; and the handling of the sails 
took the men oft' from the preparations for Imttle. Parker, who doubt- 
less was still sore over Rodney's censure of the year before, and who 
moreover had incurred the Admiralty's rebuke, for apparent hesita- 
tion to attack the enemy's islands while temporarily in connnand in 
the West Indies, was determined now to show the fight that was in 
him. " It is related that, upon being informed of the force of the 
Dutch squadron in the morning, he replied (pulling up his breeches), 
' It matters little what their force is ; we must fight them if they are 
double the number.'" At G.IO a.m. the signal was made for line 
abreast, the ships running down nearly before the wind. Tliis of 
course introduced more regularity, the leading shijis taking in their 
lighter sails to permit the others to reach their places ; but tlie pace 
still was rapid. At 6.45 the order was closed to one cable, and at 
7.56 the signal for battle was Jioisted. It is said that at that moment 
the 80-gun ship was still securing a studdingsail-boom, which indi- 
cates how closely action trod on the heels of preparation. 

The Dutch admiral was as deliberate as Parker was headlong. 
An English witness writes: — 

" Tliey appeared to be in great order; and their hammocks, quarter-cloths, etc., 
were spread in as nice order as if for show in harbour. Their marines also were 
well drawn up, and stood with their muskets shouldered, with all the regularity 
and exactness of a review. Their politeness ought to be remembered by every man 
in our line : for, as if certain of what happened, we came down almost end-on upon 
their broadsides; yet did not the Dutch admiral fire a gun, or make the signal to 


engage, till the red flag was at the ForlltwJe's masthead, and lier shot finding their 
way into his ship. This was a niananivre wliich Admiral Zutmaii should not be 
•warmly thanked for by their High Mightinesses ; as he had it in his power to have 
done infinite mischief to our Heet, coming down in that unofficer-like manner. 
Having suffered Admiral Parker to place himself as he pleased, he calmly waited 
till the signal was hoisted on board the Fortitude, and at the same time we saw the 
signal going up on board Admiral Zutman's ship." 

The British, thus imiuolested, ruuiided-to just to windward of 
the enemy. A pilot who was on board their leading ship was for 
some reason told to assist in lading her close to her opponent. " By- 
close," he asked, "doj'ou mean about a ship's breadth?" "Not a 
gun was fired on either side," says the official British report, "until 
within the distance of half musket-shot." Parker, whom an on-looker 
describes as full of life and spirits, here made a mistake, of a routine 
character, which somewhat dislocated his order. It was a matter of 
tradition for flagship to seek flagship, just as it was to signal a 
general chase, and to bear down together, each ship for its opposite, 
well extended with the enemy. Now Parker, as was usual, was in 
the centre of his line, the fourth ship ; but Zoutman was for some 
reason in the fifth. Parker therefore placed his fourth by the enemy's 
fifth. In consequence, the rear British ship overlapped the enemy, 
and for a time had no opponent; while the second and third found 
themselves engaged with three of the Dutch. At 8 a.m. the signal 
for the line was hauled down, and that for close action hoisted, — thus 
avoiding a mistake often made. 

All the vessels were soon satisfactorily and hotly at work, and the 
action continued with varying phases till 11.35 a.m. The leading 
two ships in both orders got well to leeward of the lines, and the 
British vessels had to tack to regain their places to windward. 
Towards the middle of the engagement the Dutch convoy bore away 
for the Texel, as the British had steered for England before it began ; 
the difference being that the voyage was abandoned by one, and com- 
pleted by the other. At eleven o'clock Parker made sail, and passed 
with the flagship between the enemy and the Buffalo, his next ahead 
and third in the British order; the three rear ships following close in 
his wake, in obedience to the signal for line ahead, which had been 
rehoisted at 10.43.' A heavy cannonade attended this evolution, the 

1 Sir John Ross, in his ' Life of Saumarez,' who was a lieutenant in the flagship, 
says that the flagship only passed ahead of the Buffalo, and that the rear ships closed 
upon the latter. The versimi in the te.\t rests upon the detailed and circumstantial 
statement of another lieutenant of the squadron, in Ekins's • Naval Battles.' As Ekins 

508 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1781. 

Dutch fighting gloriously to the last. When it was completed, the 
British fleet wore and the action ceased. '" I made an effort to form 
the line, in order to renew the action,"' wrote Parker in his report, 
" but found it impracticable. The enemy appeared to be in as bad a 
condition. Both squadrons lay-to a considerable time near each 
other, when the Dutch, with their convoy, bore away for the Texel. 
We were not in a condition to follow them." 

This was a most satisfactory exhibition of valour, and a most 
unsatisfactory battle; magnificent, but not war. Except as regards 
the sailings of the convoys, tlie status quo remained much as before, 
although one of the Dutch sliips sank next day ; yet the British loss, 
KM killed and 339 wounded, was nearly as great as in Keppel's 
action, where thirty ships fought on each side, or in Rodney's of 
April 17th, 1780, where the British had twenty sail; greater than with 
Graves off the Chesapeake, and, in proportion, fully equal to the 
sanguinary conflicts between Suffren and Hughes in the East Indies. 
The Dutch loss is reported as 142 killed, 403 wounded. Both sides 
aimed at the hull, as is shown by the injuries ; for though much harm 
was done aloft, few spars were wholly shot away. The Bitffalo, a 
small ship, had 39 shot through and through her, and a very great 
nuniljer jiierced between wind and water; in the British van ship as 
many as 14, another proof that the Dutch fired low. 

With the rudimentary notions of manceuvring evinced, it is not 
surprising that Parker was found an unsatisfactory second by an 
enlightened tactician like Rodney. The Vice-Adniiral, however, 
laid his unsuccess to the indifferent quality of his shiiDS. George III. 
visited the squadron after the action, but Parker was not open to 
compliments. "I wish your Majesty better sliips and j-ounger 
officers," he said. "For m3'self, I am now too old for service." No 
rewards were given, and it is asserted that Parker made no secret 
that none would be accepted, if offered, at the hands of the then 
Admiralt}'. He voiced the protest of the Navy and the nation against 
the mal-administration of the peace days, which had left the country 
unprepared for war. The gallant veteran was ordered soon after- 
wards to command in the East Indies. He sailed for his station in 
the Cato, and was never heard of again. 

Though unfruitful in substantial results, Parker's action merits 
commemoration, for, after all, even where skill does its utmost, 

also was present as a midshipman, this gives, as it were, the confirmation of two 




staunchness such as his shows the soixnd constitution of a military 

The year 1781 closed with an incident more decisive in character 
than most of the events that occurred in European waters during its 
course ; one also which transfers the interest, by natural transition, 
again to the West Indies. The French government had felt through- 
out the summer the necessity of sending de Grasse reinforcements 
both of ships and of supplies, but the transports and material of war 
needed could not be collected until December. As the British prob- 
ably woiild attempt to intercept a convoy upon which the next cam- 
paign so much depended, Rear-Admiral de Ciuichen was ordered to 
accompany it clear of the Bay of Biscay, with twelve ships of the 
line, and then to go to Cadiz. Five ships of the line destined to de 
Grasse, and two going to the East Indies, raised to nineteen the total 
force with which de Guichen left Brest on the 10th of December. On 
the afternoon of the 12th, the French being then one hundred and 
fifty miles to the southward and westward of Ushant, with a south- 
east wind, the weather, which had been thick and squally, suddenly 
cleared and showed sails to windward. These were twelve ships of 
the line, one 50, and some frigates,^ under Rear-Admiral Richard 
Kempenfelt (B), who had left England on the 2nd of the month, to 
cruise in wait for this expedition. The French numbers should have 
been amply sufficient to frustrate any attack, but de Guichen, ordi- 
narily a careful officer, had allowed his fleet to be to leeward and 
ahead pf the convoy. The latter scattered in every direction, as the 
British swooped down upon it, but all could not escape; and the 
French ships of war remained helpless spectators, while the victims 
were hauling down their flags right and left. Night coming on, 

1 Fleet under Rear-Admiral Richard Kempenfelt, December, 1781. From Beat- 
sou, vi. .317, checked by Steel's 'Navy List' of Dec. 31st, 1781. — W. L. C. 








( Rear-Adm. Richard Kempenfelt (B). 

Courageux . 

Capt. Hon. Chaa. Phipps(Actg.). 

Victory . 


1 Capt. Henry Cromwell. 

Agamemnon . 

64 Capt. Benjamin Caldwell. 

I Commod. John Elliot. 
1 Capt. Thom.a3 Boston. 

Medwag . . 

CO Capt. Harry Harmood. 

Edgar . . 


Renown . . 

50 Capt. Jolm Henry. 


lOO'Capt. James Bra.iby (1 ). 

Frigates, etc. 

Duke . . 

98 Capt. Sir Walter Stirling, Kt. 

Queen . . 

98 Capt. Hon. Fredk. Lewis Maitland. 

Arellinsa . . 


Capt. Sir Richard Pearson, Kt. 

Union . . 

90, Capt. John Dalrj-mple. 

Monsienr . 


Capt. Hon. Seymour Finch. 

Ocean . . 

90 Capt. George Ourry. 

Prudente . . 


Capt. Hon. William Waldegrave. 


74 Com. Thomas Farnham (Actg.). 

Tartar . . . 


Capt. Robert Manners Sutton. 

Valiant . 

74 Capt. Saranel Grauston Goodall. 

Tiaiplione (f. s.) 


Com. James Saumarez. 

510 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1702-1783. [1782. 

some prizes could not be secured, but Kempenfelt carried off fifteen, 
laden with military and naval stores of great money value and greater 
military importance. A few days later a violent storm dispersed and 
shattered the remainder of the French body. Two ships of the line 
only, the Triomphant, 84, and Brave, 74, and five transports, could 
pursue their way to the West Indies. The rest went back to Brest. 

Kempenfelt, before returning to England, sent off express to 
Hood in the West Indies the fireship Tisiphone, 8, Commander James 
Saumarez,^^ — afterwards the distinguished admiral, — with news of the 
French apjjroach. Saumarez, having been first to Barbados, joined 
Hood on the ^iJlst of Januar}-, 1782, in Basse Terre Roads, on the lee 
side of St. Kitts. The camimign for the year 1782 had opened 
already with an attack upon that island by the French army and 
navy; and the enemy's fleet was even then cruising close at hand to 
leeward, between St. Kitts and Nevis. 

The original intention of de Grasse and de Bouill(^ had been to 
ca})turc Barbados, the most important of the Eastern x\ntilles still 
remaining to the British; but the heavy trade-winds, which in those 
days made a winter passage to Avindward so long and dreary a beat, 
twice drove him back to port. "The whole French fleet," wrote 
Hood, " appeared off St. Lucia on the 17th of last month, endeavour- 
ing to get to windward, and having carried away many topmasts and 
j-ards in struggling against very scpially wcatlier, returned to Fort 
Royal Bay on the 23rd, and on the 28th came out again witii forty 
transports, manoeuvring as before." On the 2nd of January it dis- 
appeared from St. Lucia, and, after a short stay at Martinique, pro- 
ceeded on the Sth to St. Kitts, anchoring in Basse Terre Ruads on 
the 11th. The British garrison retired to Brimstone Hill, a forti- 
fied position at the north-west of the island, while the inhabitants 
surrendered the government to the French, pledging tliemselves to 
neutrality. Tlie adjacent island of Nevis capitulated on the same 
terms cm the 20th. 

On the 14th of the month an express sent bj' General Sliirley, 
governor of St. Kitts, informed Hood that a great fleet approaching 
had been seen from the heights of Nevis on the 10th. The Rear- 

' JatiK's Sauiiiiirez, Lord di' Siiiiuuircz, G. C. B. Born, 1757. CouiMiaiKk'r, 1781. 
Captain, 1782. Captain ol' L'ussdl in Rodney's action, 1782. Knightml for capture 
of frigate Reunion, 179.3. Captain of Orion in Bridport's action, at St. Vincent, and 
at the Nile (when lie waa second in command). Eear-Admiral and Baronet, 1801. 
Defeated French and Spaniards off Algeciras, July I2th, 1801. Vice-Adniiral, 1805. 
Vice-Admiral of England and a peer, 1831. Died, 1836. 


Admiral at once put to sea, though short of bread and flour, which 
couhl not be had, and with the material of his ships in wretclied 
condition, "^^'hen the President joins," he wrote the Admiralty, "I 
shall be twenty-two strong, with which I beg you will assure their 
Lordships I will seek and give battle to the Count de Grassc, be his 
numbers as they may." On the 16th a s\\i^ reached him with word 
that the French fleet had invested St. Kitts. On the 21st Hood 
anchored at Antigua for repairs and supjjlies, indis[)ensable for keep- 
ing the sea in the operations which he contemplated, the duration of 
which could not be foreseen. About a thousand troops also were 
embarked, which, with the Marines that could be spared from the 
squadron, would give a landing force of 2,400 men. 

St. Kitts being less than iifty miles from iVntigua, Hooil doubt- 
less now got accurate information of the enemy's dispositions, and 
could form a defuiite, well-matured plan. This seems to have been 
carefully imparted to all his captains, as was the practice of Nelson, 
who was the pupil of Hood, if of any one. "At 9.1.5 a.m. the Ad- 
miral made the signal for all flag-officers," says the log of the 
Canada ; "and at 4 p.m. the Admirals and Commodore made the sig- 
nals for all captains of their divisions." At 5 P.M. of the same day, 
January 23rd, the fleet weighed and stood over for Nevis, roiuid the 
southern point of which Basse Terre must be appi'oached; for, the 
channel between the two islands being impracticable for ships of 
the line, they virtually were one, and, their common a.xis lying 
north-west and south-east, the trade-wind is fair only when coming 
from the south. 

Basse Terre, where de Grasse then was, is about fifteen miles from 
the south point of Nevis. The roadstead lies east and west, and the 
Fi-ench fleet, then twenty-four of the line and two fifties, were 
anchored without attention to order, three or four deep, the eastern 
ships so placed that an enemy coming from the southward could 
reach them with the prevailing wind, against which the western ships 
could not beat up quickly to their support. Tiiis being so, we are 
told that Hood, starting shortly before sunset witii a, I'aii-, ami pinli- 
ably fresh wind, from a point only sixty miles distant, hoped to come 
upon the French by surprise at early daybreak, to attiick the weather 
ships, and from them to pass along the line so far as might seem 
expedient. His colunni, thus passing in its entirety by a certain 
exposed fraction of the enemy, the latter would bo cut up in detail by 
the concentration upon it. The British then, wearing to the south- 

512 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1782. 

ward, would haul their wind, tack, and again stand up to the assault, 
if the enemy continued to await it. 

This reasonable ex2:)ectation, and skilful conception, was thwarted 
by a collision, during the night, between a frigate, the Nymphe, 36, 
and the leading ship of the line, the Alfred, 74. The repairs to the 
latter delayed the fleet, the ai^proach of which was discovered b}- 
daylight. De Grasse therefore put to sea. He imagined Hood's 
purpose was to tlirow succours into Brimstone Hill; and moreover 
the position of the enemy now was between him and the four ships 
of the line momentarily expected from Martinique, one of which 
joined him on the same day. The French were all under way by 
sunset, standing to the southward under easy sail, towards the British, 
who had rounded the south point of Nevis at 1 p.ji. Towards dark. 
Hood went about and stood also to the southward, seemingly in 

During the following night the British tacked several times, to 
keep their position to windward. At daylight of January 25th, the 
two fleets were to the westward of Nevis ; the British near the island, 
the French abreast, but several miles to leeward. Foiled in his first 
spring by an unexpected accident, Hood had not relinquished his 
enterprise, and now proi^osed to seize the anchorage quitted by the 
French, so establishing himself there, — as he had jDroposed to Graves 
to do in the Chesapeake, — that he could not Ije dislodged. For such 
a defensive position St. Kitts oft'ered special advantages. The 
anchorage was on a narrow ledge, dropj^ing precipitately to very deep 
water; and it was jiossible so to jDlace the ships that the enemy could 
not easily anchor near them. 

At 5.30 A.M. of the 25th Hood made the signal to form line of 
battle-' on the starboard tack, at one cable interval.^ It is mentioned 
in the log of the Canada, 74, Captain the Hon. William Cornwallis, 
that that ship brought-to in her station, fourth from the rear, at 7 
o'clock. By 10 o'clock the line was formed, and the ships hove-to 
in it. At 10.45 the signal was made to fill [to go ahead], the van 
ships to carry the same sail as the Admiral, ■ — topsails and foresails, 
— followed, just before noon, by the order to prepare to anchor, with 
springs on the cables. The French, who were steering south, on the 

' See note on opposite page. 

- The times and general movements are put together from Hood's Journal and 
the Log of the Canada, published by the Navy Records Society. ' Letters of Lord 
Hood,' pp. 64, 86. 




port tack, while the British were hove-to, went about as soon as the 
latter filled, and stood towards them in bow and quarter line. 

At noon the British fleet was running along close under the high 
land of Nevis ; so close that the Solebay, 28, Captain Charles Holmes 
Everitt, one of the frigates inshore of the line, grounded and was 
wrecked. No signals were needed, except to correct irregularities in 
the order, for the captains knew what they were to do. The French 
were approaching steadily, but inevitably dropping astern with refer- 
ence to the point of the enemy's line for which they were heading. 
At 2 P.M. de Grasse's flagship, the Ville de Paris, fired several shot 
at the British rear, which alone she could reach, while his left wing 
was nearing the Barjleur, Hood's flagship, and the vessels astern of 
her, which opened their fire at 2.30. Hood, trusting to his captains, 
disregarded this threat to the rear half of his force. Signals flew for 
the van to crowd sail and take its anchorage, and at 3.30 p.m. the 
leading ships began to anchor in line ahead, covered as they did so 
by the broadsides of the rear and the rear centre. Upon the latter 
the French were now keeping up a smart fire. Between the Canada 
and her next astern, the Priideiii, 64, — which was a dull sailer, — 
there was a considerable interval. Towards it the French admiral 
pressed, aiming to cut off the three rear vessels ; but Cornwallis threw 

Note. — List cif the fleet under Rear- Admiral Sir Samuel Hood, Bart., on Jan. 25th, 
1782. (Intended line of battle a.s the fleet stood in. It was slightly modihed by 
accidental circumstances ; and on the 26th the ships were anchored in the order indi- 
cated by the nural)ers prefi.xed to them, the Bedford being nearest to Ba.sse Terre.) 








4. SI. Albans . 

Capt. Charles Inglis. 

•H. Alfred . . 

Capt. 'William Bayne. 

5. Alcide . . . 

74 Capt. Charles Thompson. 

Pegasus, 28 

Capt. John Stanhope. 

7. Intrepid . . 

C4 Capt. Anthony Jas. Pye MoUoy. 

Farlunee, 40 

Capt. Hugh Cloberry Christian. 

8. Tnrbay . . 

74 (^apt. Jolin Lewis Gidoiu. 

Lizard, 28 

Capt. Edmund Dod. 

/ Rear-Admiral Francis Samuel 
70-^ Drake (B). 

I Capt. Charles KnatchbuU. 

Champion, 24 

Capt. Thomas West. 

9. Princesa . . 

Coniert, 32 

Capt. Henry Harvey. 

Triton, 28 . 

Capt. John M'Lauriu. 

10. Prince George 

98 Capt. James WiUiams. 

2. Russell . . 


Capt. Hon. HeuryEdwyu Stan- 

n.Ajax . . . 

74 Capt. Nicholas Charrington. 


Eurydke, 24 

Capt. George Wilson. 

19. Re.'tolution . 

74 Capt. Lord Robert Manners. 

12. Prince Will!,,,,, 

64'Capt. George Wilkinson. 

1. BcilJ',jrd . . 

"4 1 Commod. Edmund Affleck. 

13. Sf,i-e!f,sl>i,ri/ . 

74, Capt. John Knight. 

1 Capt. Thomas Graves (3). 

14. In,'iucibte . 

74'Capt. Charles Saxton. 

21. Canada . . 

'i'4 Capt. Hon. William Cornwallis. 

/ Rear-Adm. Sir Samuel Hood, 

20. Prudent . . 

'>4 (?apt. Andrew Barkley. 

15. Barjleur . . 


{ Bart. (R). 

3. Montagu . . 

74 Capt. George Boweu (1). 

V Capt. Alexander Hood. 

6. America . . 


('apt. Samuel Thompson. 

16. Mfmarch . , 


Capt. Francis Reynolds. 

Sib,,l,2S . 

Capt. John Rodney (?). 

18. Selliqueux . 

G4!Capt. Lord Cranstoun. 

Solebay, 28 

Capt. Charles Holmes Everitt. 

17. Centaur . . 

74|Capt. Joim Nicholson Inglefield. 

From a list in Schomberg, iv. 396, as corrected in MS. l)y Henry Wise Harvey ; 
checked by Steel's ' Navy List' of Dec. 31st, 1781, and March 31st, 1782, and com- 
pared with dispatches, etc. — W. L. C. 
VOL. III. — 33 




everything aback and closed down upon his consort, — a stirring 
deed in which he was imitated by the Besolution and Bedford, 74's, 
immediately ahead of him. De Grasse was thus foiled, but so nar- 
rowly, that an officer, looking from one of the ships which had 
anchored, asserted that for a moment he could perceive the Ville de 
Paris'' s jib inside the British line. As the rear of the latter pushed 
on to its place, it cleared the broadsides of the now anchored van and 
centre, and these opened upon the enemy, a great part of whom were 


J ^ 


=5j^ 1 







* < 






I — c 








Hood and de Crasse 


SSr" ^^^"""/FSE. 




Fic. 1 . 

3 ', 
* 1 



_... II 


strung out behind the Piritish column, without opponents as yet, but 
hastening up to get their share of the action. The Barfleur, which 
anchored at 4.03, opened fire again at 4.40 p.m. Thus, as the 
Canada and her few companions, who bore the brunt of the day, 
were shortening sail and rounding-to, still under a hot cannonade, 
the batteries of their predecessors were ringing out their welcome, 
and at the same time covering their movements by giving the enemy 
much else to think aboTit. The Canada, fetching up near the tail 
of the column, and letting go in a hurry, ran out two cables on end, 




and found upon sounding that she had dropped her anchor in a hun- 
dred and fifty fathoms of water. The French column stood on, off 
soundings, though close to, firing as it passed, and then, wearing to 
the southward in succession, stood out of action on the port tack, its 
ineffectual broadsides adding to the grandeur and excitement of the 
scene, and swelling the glory of Hood's successful daring, of which 
it is difficult to speak too highly. The captain of the Resolution, 
Lord Robert Manners, writing a week later, passed upon this achieve- 





Hood and de Crasse 


ment a verdict, which posterity will confirm. " The taking posses- 
sion of this road was well judged, well conducted, and well executed, 
though indeed the French had an oi^portunity — M'hich they missed 
— of bringing our rear to a very severe account. The van and centre 
divisions brought to an anchor under the fire of the rear, which was 
engaged with the enemy's centre (Fig. 1); and then the centre, being 
at an anchor and properly placed, covered us while we anchored 
(Fig. 2), making, I think, the most masterly manoeuvre I ever saw." 
Whether regard be had to the thoughtful preparation, the craft}' 

516 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1782. 

management of the fleet antecedent to the final, the calculated 
audacity of the latter, or the firm and sagacious tactical liandling 
from the first moment to the last, Nelson himself never did a more 
brilliant deed than this of Hood's. ^ All firing ceased at 5.30. 

Naturally, an order taken up under such conditions needed some 
rectifying before further battle. As the proper stationing of the fleet 
depended in great measure upon the position of the van ship, Hood 
had put a local pilot on board her; but when the action ceased, he 
found that she was not as close to the shore as he had intended. 
The rear, on the other hand, was natural!}' in the most disorder, o^-ing 
to the circumstances attending its anchorage. Three ships from the 
rear were consequeirtly directed to place themselves ahead of the van, 
closing the interval, while others sliifted their berths, according to 
specific directions. The order as finally assumed was as follows. 
The van ship was anchored so close to the shore that it was impossible 
to pass within her, or, with the prevailing wind, even to reach her, 
because of a point and shoal just outside, covering her position. 
From her the line extended in a west-north-west direction to the 
fifteenth ship, — ■ the Barfl.cur, 98, Hood's flagship, — when it turned 
to north, the last six ships being on a north and south line. These 
six, with their broadsides turned to the westward, prevented a 
■column passing from south to north, the only wa}' one could pass, 
from enfilading the main line with impunit}'. The latter coveied 
with its guns the approach from the south. 

At daylight on the following morning, January 26th, the ships 
began changing their places, the French being then seven or eight 
miles distant in the south-south-east. At 7 a.m. they were seen to 
be approaching in line of battle, under a press of sail, heading for 
the British van. The Canada, which had begun at 5 a.m. to tackle 
her 200-odd fathoms of cable, was obliged to cut, whereby " we lost 
the small bower anchor and two caliles with one 8-inch and one 9-inch 
hawsers, which were Ijent for springs." The ship had to work to 
windward to close with the fleet, and was therefore ordered by the 
Rear-Admiral to keep engaging under way, until 10.50, when a mes- 
sage was sent her to anchor in support of the rear. The action 
began between 8.30 and 9 a.m., the leading French ship heading for 
the British van, seemingly with the view of passing round and inside 
it. Against this attempt Hood's precautions probably were suffi- 

1 Illustrations of other phases of this battle can be found in Mahau's 'Influence 
of Sea Power upon History,' pp. 470, 472. 




cient; but as the enemy's vessel approached, the wind headed her, so 
that she could only fetch the third ship. The latter, with the vessels 
ahead and astern, sprung their batteries upon her. " The crash occa- 
sioned by their destructive broadsides was so tremendous on Ijoard 
her that whole pieces of plank were seen flying from her off side, 
ere she could escape the cool concentrated fire of her determined 
adversaries."! She put her helm up, and ran along outside the 
British line, receiving the first fire of each successive ship. Her 


\ f 


Hood's Order of Battue 

^T JJfl/IZt/O/f AT 3- K I TT S 


movement was imitated by her followers, some keeping off sooner, 
some later; but de Grasse in his flagship not only came close, but 
pointed his after yards to tlie wind,- to move the slower. As he 
ported his lielm when leaving the Barflem\ this brought these sails 
aback, keeping him a still longer time before the British ships thrown 
to the rear. " In this he was supported by those ships which were 
astern, or immediately ahead of him. During this short but tre- 

1 White : ' Naval Researches.' 

2 Sharp up by the starboard braces, the wind bein^ on the starboard quarter. 

518 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1782. 

mendous conflict in that part of the fiekl of battle, nothing whatever 
could be seen of them for upwards of twenty minutes, save de 
Grasse's white flag at the main-topgallant masthead of the Villc de 
Paris, gracefully floating above the immense volumes of smoke that 
enveloped them, or the pennants of those ships which were occa- 
sionally perceptible, when an increase of breeze would waft away the 

Though most gallantly done, no such routine manoeuvre as thits 
could shake Hood's solidly assumed position. The attempt was 
repeated in the afternoon, but more feebly, and upon the centre and 
rear only. Tliis also was ineffectual ; and Hood was left in triumph- 
ant jDossession of the field. The losses in the se^^'eral affairs of the 
two days had been: British, 72 killed, 244 wounded; French, 107 
killed, 207 wounded. Thenceforth the French fleet continued cruis- 
ing to leeward of the island, approaching almost daily, frequently 
threatening attack, and occasionally exchanging distant shots; but 
no serious encounter took place. Interest was centred on Brimstone 
Hill, where alone on the island the British flag still flew. De Grasse 
awaited its surrender, flattering himself that the British would be 
forced then to put to sea, and that his fleet, increased by successive 
arrivals to thirty-two of the line, would then find an ojjportunity 
to crush the man who had outwitted and out-manoeuvred him on 
January 25th and 26th. In this hope he was deceived by his o\\n 
inaptness and his adversary's readiness. Hood was unable to succour 
Brimstone Hill, for want of troops; the P'rench having landed 6,000 
men, against which the British 2,400 could effect nothing, either 
alone or in co-operation with the garrison, which was but 1,200 
strong. The work capitulated on the 13th of February. De Grasse, 
who had neglected to keep his ships pi-ovisioned, went next day to 
Nevis and anchored there to empty the storeships. That evening 
Hood called his captains on board, explained his intentions, had tliem 
set their watches by his, and at 11 p.m. the cables were cut one by 
one, lights being left on the buoys, and the fleet silently decanijied, 
jiassing round the north end of St. Kitts, and so towards Antigua. 
When De Grasse opened his eyes next morning, the British were 
no longer to be seen. " Nothing could have been more fortunately 
executed," wrote Lord Robert Manners, "as not one accident hap- 
pened from it. Taking the whole in one light, though not successful 
in the point we aimed at, nevertheless it was well conducted, and 
1 White : ' Naval Researches.' 


has given the enemy a pretty severe check ; and if you give him half 
the credit the enemy does, Sir Samuel Hood will stand very high in 
the public estimation." 

Hood's intention had been to return to Barbados; but on the 
25th of February he was joined, to windward of Antigua, by Admiral 
Sir George Rodney, who had arrived from England a week earlier, 
bringing with him twelve ships of the line. The new Commander-in- 
Chief endeavoured to cut off de Grasse from Martinique, but the 
French fleet got in there on the 26th. Rodney consequently went to 
St. Lucia, to refit Hood's ships, and to prepare for the coming cam- 
paign, in which it was understood that the conquest of Jamaica was 
to be the first object of the allies. An important condition to their 
success was the arrival of a great convoy, known to be on its way 
from Brest to repair the losses which Kempenfelt's raid and subse- 
quent bad weather had inflicted in December. Hood suggested to 
Rodney to halve the fleet, which then numbered thirty-six of the 
line, letting one part cruise north of Dominica, between that island 
and Deseada, while the other guarded the southern ajiproach, between 
Martinique and St. Lucia. Rodney, however, was unwilling to do 
this, and adopted a half-measure, — Hood's division being stationed 
to windward of the north end of ftLartinique, reaching only as far 
north as the latitude of Dominica, while the centre and rear were 
abreast of the centre and south of Martinique ; all in mutual touch 
by intermediate vessels. It would seem — reading between the lines 
— that Hood tried to stretch his cruising ground northwards, in 
pursuance of his own ideas, but Rodney recalled him. The French 
convoy consequently passed north of Deseada, convoyed by two ships 
of the line, and on the 20th of March reached Martinique safely. 
De Grasse's force was thus raised to thirty-five of the line, including 
two fifty-gun ships, as against the British thirty-six. At the end of 
the month Rodney returned to St. Lucia, and there remained at 
anchor, vigilantly watching the French fleet in Fort Royal by means 
of a chain of frigates. 

The problem now immediately confronting de Grasse — the first 
step to the conquest of Jamaica — was extremely difficult. It was to 
convoy to Cap Francois the supply vessels essential to his enterprise, 
besides the merchant fleet bound for France; making in all one 
hundred and fifty unarmed ships to be protected by his thirty-five sail 
of the line, in face of the British thirty-six. The trade-wind being 
fair, he purposed to skirt the inner edge of the Caribbean Sea; by 




which means he would keep close to a succession of friendly ports, 
wherein the convoy niiglit find refuge in case of need. 

With this plan the French annauient put to sea on the 8th of 
April, 1782. The fact being reported promptly to Rodney, by noon 
his whole fleet ^ was clear of its anchorage and in pursuit. Then was 
evident the vital importance of IJanington'.s conquest of St. Lucia; 
for, had the Britisli been at Barbados, the most probable alternative, 
the Frencli moveincut not only would have hvvw longer unknown, 
but pursuit would have started from a hundred miles distant, instead 
of thirty. IT tlic British had met this disadvantage by cruising before 
Marlini([U(', they would have encountered the dilFicult}' of keeping 
tlicir slii|is supplied with water and other necessaries, which St. Lueia 
afforded. Ill liulh, without, in ;uiy degree minimising the faults of 
tiie Idser, or the merits of tlie winner, in the exciting week that fol- 

1 Bi'itish fleet uiuler Admiral Sir George Brydges Rotliiey, and line of battle on 
Ain-il 12tli, 1782. Kroiii lists in Reatson, vi. .'524, and Kchoniber^' (revised in MS. 
of If. W. llarvcy), iv. :Ji)!) ; coniiiared with dispatelies and with Steel's ' Navy Lists.' 

— w. I.. (;. 







ItomI f^aJt . . . 


Capt. Tliomns Itui-iiett. 

lir.ialution . . . 


Cnpt. Lord Robert Manners. J 

Alfml .... 


Cnpt. William li.iyiw.t 

I>mlh- .... 


Capt. Chnrlub Buckner, 

MflutllfJH .... 


Capt. Ooorno Boweu (1). 

Ili'irulcs .... 


Capt. Hi'nry Savnge. 

Yitrmi.iilli . . . 


Ciipt. Anthony Pjirrey. 

.liiicfifa .... 


Cftpt. Samuel Thompson. 

Vtiliinit .... 


Capt. Sannu'l OraUHtun Good- 

Forttinl'f,* 40 

Cai>t.HuKli01oberry Christian. 


Entlymitm, 44 . 

Capt. K.iwani Tyrrol Smith. 

/ Iloai'-Adniiral Sir Samuel 

/•7om, 3(i . . . 

Capt. Saiinu'l Marshall. 

Barficitr .... 


{ Hood, Bart. (B). 
' Capt. ,Iohn Knifiht. 

Comrrl.^ 3'2 . . 

Capt. Ht'nry Harvoy. 

.■iliirin. ;t'2 . . 

Capt. ('harles Cotton. 

Monai-ch .... 


('apt. Frant'iH Keynolds. 

Ani/ntuKtrfie, 32 

Cnpt. GoorjfO Anson Byron. 

Wnrrwr .... 


("apt. Sir JainoH Wallace, Kt. 

Silijil, 2S . . . 

Capt. .Inlin Itodnt'y. 

Bt'Hiiim-ur . . . 


('apt. Andrew Sntherland. 

Pr;/n.';u,i,* '28. . 

Ca|tt. John Stanhope. 

Ct'Hiaur .... 


Capt. John Nieholsou Ingle- 

Alerl, 14 . . . 
S(ilaman<ler»(t. 8.), 

Com. James Vaehon. ■ 

Nfifinljhrnf . . . 


Capt. Robert Linzeo. 


Com. Richard Lncas. 1 

Prinee WiUi'tm . 


Capt. Oeorpe Wilkinson. 

Itii.i.vll .... 


Capt. .TamoR Ranniaroz. 1 

XijiuplK',^ 'M\ 

Cnpt. ,Iohn Ford. 

I'riiilnit* . . . 

S4]Capt. Andrew Barkley. | 

ijziiril,* 'J8 . . 

Cnpt. Kdmund Dod. 



Capt. Robert Biirhor. 

f^liinti/iintf, U'l . 

Capt. Thomas West. 



Capt. William Hliiir, § 

y.rhm* U! . . 

Com. .Tohn Bonrchier. 

Tovixnj .... 


Capt. John Lewis Gidoin. 

Bedford .... 


1 Connnod. Ednuind Affleck. 

Prince George . . 


Capt. James Williams. 

1 Capt. Thomas Graves (li). 

1 Rear-Adni. Francis Samuel 



Capt. Nicholas Charrington. 

Prince.ta .... 


[ Drake (It). 

'^Capt. Cliarles Knatchbull. 

lirpiils,- .... 


('apt Thomas Diimarosq. 

Cini'it/ii .... 


Capt. H.iii. Wm. Cormvallis. 

Conqueror . . , 


Capt. George Bulfour. 

SI. Alliuns . . . 


('apt. Charles luRlis. 

Xon.\ue/i .... 


Capt. William Truscott. 

Namur .... 


Capt. Robert Kanshawe (1). 
J Adui, Sir fleorjjo Brydges 


.Xrrogant . , . 



Capt. ('harles Thompson. 
Capt. Sam, I'itchford Cornish. 

J^Ofitiiilnt'lf- . 


1 Rodney (W). 

Marlborough . . 


Capt. Taylor I'onny. 

Capt. Sirt'has. DouKlaa(lat) 

fioiilo ,V()Hl'C(I,»3G 

Capt. John Linzeo. 

Capt. John Symons (2nd). 

Trilon, 28 . . . 

(■^apt. John M'Lanrin. 



Capt. Alan Gardner. 

Eurydiee, 24 

Capt. Georpo WiImoh. 

Agamemnon . . 


Capt. Benjamin Caldwell. 

llrrmnlur,* IG . 
7»".v/(f. ».),»8. 

Com. Geo. AiiK'u.stn.s Keppel. 
Com. Jolin AylnuT. 

* These vessels were not in the action. 
t Killed ou April Uth. 

X Mortally wounded ou April 12tb. 
§ Killed on April Vlt\\. 


lowed, the opening sitiiation may be said to have represented on either 
side an accumulation of neglects or of successes, which at the moment 
of their occurrence may have seemed individually trivial. De Grasse 
was tremendously handicapped from the outset by the errors of his 
predecessors and of himself. That the British had St. Lucia as their 
outpost was due not only to Harrington's diligence, but also to 
d'Estaing's slackness and [irofessional timiditj'; and it may bo ques- 
tioned wliether de Grasse himself had shown a proper understanding 
of strategic conditions, when he neglected that island in favour of 
Tobago and St. Kitts. Certainly, Hood had feared for it greatly the 
year before. That the convoy was there to embarrass his movements, 
may not have been the fault of the French admiral; but it was 
greatly and entirely his fault that, of the thirty-six ships pursuing 
him, twenty-one represented a force that he could have crushed in 
detail a few weeks before, — not to mention the similar failure of 
April, 1781. 

Large bodies of ships commonly will move less rapidly than small. 
By 2.30 P.M. of the day of starting, Rodney's look-outs had sighted 
the French fleet; and before sundown it could he seen from the 
mastheads of the main body. At G next nifirning, the 9th, the 
enemy, both fleet and convoy, was visible from the deck of the Barjleur, 
the flagship of Hood's division, then in the van. The French bore 
north-east, distant four to twelve miles, and extending from abreast 
of the centre of Dominica nortliwards towards Guadeloupe. The 
British therefore had gained much during the night, and were now 
off Dominica, to leeward of the enemy's rear, which was becalmed 
under the land (b). Some fourteen or fifteen of the French van, 
having oj)ened out the channel between Dominica and Guadeloupe, 
felt afresh trade-wind, against which they were beating; and their 
numlaer was gradually increased as individual ships, utilising the 
catspaws, stole clear of the high land of Dominica (b). Hood's 
division in like manner, first among the British, got the breeze, and, 
with eight ships, the commander of the van stood north in order of 
battle. To the north-west of him were two French vessels, separated 
from their consorts and threatened to be cut off(i). These stood 
boldly down and crossed the head of Hood's column; one passing so 
close to the leading ship, the Alfred, that the latter had to bear up 
to let her pass. Rodney had hoisted a signal to engage at 6.38 a.m., 
but had hauled it do^vn almost immediately, and Hood would not fire 
without orders. These ships therefore rejoined the main body un- 



harmed. At 8.30 the French hoisted their colours, and shortly after- 
wards their whole fleet tacked and stood south, opposite to Hood. 

De Grasse now had recognised that he could not escape action, if 
the convoy kept company. He therefore directed the two fifty-gun 
ships. Experiment and Sagittaire, to accompany it into Guadeloupe, 
where it arrived safely that day ; and he decided that the fleet should 
I)ly to windward through the channel between Dominica and 
Guadeloupe, nearly midway in which lies a group of small islands 

l,/:^ S^/A/r£3 

Af/t./f /£ 

C A L/> A/TH 

Position.!. S-^S.AM. 


called The Saintes, — a name at times given to the battle of April 
12th. By this course he hoped not only to lead the enemy away 
from the convoy, but also to throw off pursuit through his superior 
speed, and so to accomiDlish his mission unharmed. The French 
ships, larger, deeper, and with better lines than their opponents, were 
naturally better sailei-s, and it may be inferred that even copi^ering 
had not entirely overcome this original disadvantage of the British. 

At the very moment of l)eginning his new policy, however, a 
subtle temptation assailed de Grasse irresistibly, in the exposed posi- 




tion of Hood's column ; ;intl he met it, not by a frank and hearty 
acceptance of a great opportunity, but b}' a half-measure. Hood 
thoroughly crushed, the British fleet became hoj^elessly inferior to 
the French; Hood damaged, and it became somewhat inferior: pos- 
sibly it would be deterred from further pursuit. De Grasse decided 
for this second course, and ordered half his fleet to attack. This 
oiDcration was carried out under the orders of the Marquis de 
Vaudreuil, the second in connnand. The ships engaged in it bore 


Po s I -r I o N II /2 M 


do^vn from the windward, attacked Hood's rear shijjs, stood along on 
the weather side of his column at long range, and, having passed 
ahead, tacked in succession and formed again in tlie rear, whence 
they repeated the same mananivre (Position I.). Thus a procession 
of fifteen ships kept jjassing by eight, describing a continuous curve 
of elliptical form. They were able to do this because Hood was 
condemned to a low speed, lest he should draw too far away from the 
British centre (a) and rear (c"), still becalmed under I")oniinica. The 
French, having choice of distance, kept at long gunshot, because they 

52-1 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1782. 

were deficient in carronades, of which the British liad many. These 
guns, of short range hut large calibre, were thus rendered useless. 
Could they have come into jslay, the French rigging and sails would 
have suffered severely. This first engagement lasted, by Hood's log, 
from 9.48 to 10.25 a.m. It was resumed in stronger force at 14 
minutes past noon, and continued till 1.45 p.m. (Position II.), when 
firing ceased for that day; Rodney hauling down the signal for battle 

{From an original kindly lent by Capt. li. S. H. Prince Louis 0/ Buttenberg^ R. X.) 

at 2. Between tlie two affairs, which were identical in general 
character. Hood's column was reinforced, and great part of the 
British centre also got into action with some of the French main 
body, though at long range only. "Except the two rear ships," 
wrote Rodney to Hood that night, " the others fired at such a distance 
that I returned none." 

The injuries to tlie British shijis engaged were not such as to com- 
pel them to leave the fleet. The Boi/al Oak lost her main topmast, 
and that of the Warriur fell two days later, not imjirobably from 
wounds ; but in these was nothing that the ready hands of seamen 
could not repair so as to continue the chase. Rodney therefore con- 
tented himself with reversing the order, putting Hood in the rear, 
whereby he was able to refit, and yet follow fast enough not to be out 
of supporting distance. One of the French ships, the Caton, 64, was 
so injured that de Grasse detached her into Guadeloupe. It must be 
remembered that a crippled ship in a chased fleet not only embar- 
rasses movement, but may compromise the whole body, if the latter 
delay to protect it ; whereas the chaser keeps between his lame birds 
and the enemy. 

During the night of the Oth the British lay-to for repairs. The 
next morning they resumed the pursuit, turning to windward after 


the enemy, but upon the wliole losing throughout the 10th and the 
11th. At daylight of the 10th the French, by the logs of Hood and 
Cornwallis, were "from four to five leagues distant," "just in sight 
from the deck." During that night, however, the Zclr, 7-i, had 
collided with the Jason, 64; and the latter was injured so far as to 
be compelled to follow the Caton into Guadeloupe. At sunset of 
that day Rodney signalled a general chase to windward, the effect of 
which was to enable each ship to do her best according to her cap- 
tain's judgment during the dark hours. Nevertheless, on the morn- 
ing of the 11th the French seem again to have gained; for Hood, 
who, it will be remembered, was now in the rear, notes that at 
10 A.M. twenty-two French sail (not all the fleet) could be counted 
from the masthead/ Cornwallis, further to windward, could count 
thirty-three. Troude, a French authority, says that at that time 
nearly all the French had doubled The Saintes, and it looked as 
though de Grasse might succeed in throwing off his pursuer. Un- 
luckily, two ships, the Magnanime, 74, and the ZHc, 74, the latter 
of which had lost her main topmast, were several miles to leeward 
of the French main hody. It was necessary to delay, or to dro[) 
those vessels. Again, trivial circumstances conspired to further a 
great disaster, and de Grasse bore down to cover the crippled ships ; 
losing so much of his hard-won ground, and entailing a further mis- 
fortune that night. Rodney hung doggedly on, relying on the 
chapter of accidents, as one who knows that all things come to him 
who endures. To be sure, thei-e was not much else he could do; 
yet he deserves credit for unremitting industry and pluck. During 
the afternoon, the signals noted in the logs — to call in all cruisers 
and for the fleet to close — attest mutely the movement of de Grasse 
in bearing down. 

During the night, at 2 a.m. of April 12th, the Zcle and de 
Grasse's flagship, the Ville de Paris, 110, crossing on opposite tacks, 
came into collision. The former lost both foremast and bowsprit. It 
has been stated by John Paul Jones, who served on board the French 
fleet a few months later, that this accident was due to the deficiency 
of watch-officers in the French navy ; the deck of the ZeU being in 
charge of a young ensign, instead of an experienced lieutenant. It 
was necessary to rid the fleet of the ZcU at once, or an action could 
not be avoided ; so a frigate was summoned to tow her, and the two 
were left to make their way to Guadeloupe, while the others resumed 
the beat to windward. At 5 a.m. she and the frigate were again 




under way, steering for Guadeloupe, to the north-west, and making 
from five to six miles an hour (a) ; but in the interval they had been 
nearly motionless, and consequently when day broke at 5.30 they 
were only two leagues from the Barfleur., which, still flagship of the 
British rear, was then standing south on the port tack. The body 
of the French was at about the same distance as on the previous 
evening, — ten to fifteen miles, — but the Ville dc Paris not more 
than eight (A). Just before 6 a.m. Rodney signalled Hood, who was 

Rodney and de:.Cra»se.. 



nearest, to chase the ZeU(&); and four of the rearmost ships of the 
line were detached for that purpose (b). De Grasse, seeing this, 
signalled his vessels at 6 a.m. to close the flagship, making all sail; 
and he himself bore down (c) on the port tack, bvit running free, to 
frighten away Rodney's chasers. The British Admiral kept them 
out until 7 o'clock, by which time de Grasse was fairly committed to 
his false step. All cruisers were then called in, and the line was 
closed to one cable. Within an hour were heard the opening guns of 


the great battle, since known by the names of the 12th of April, or 
of The Saintes, and, in the French navy, of Dominica. 

Tlie British appear to have been standing to the south on tlie port 
tack at daylight; but, soon after sending out the chasers, Rodney 
had ordered the line of bearing (from ship to ship) to be north- 
north-east to south-south-west, evidently in preparation for a close- 
hauled line of battle on the starboard tack, heading northerly, to an 

Rodney and de: Grasse: 


east wind. Somewhat unusually, the wind that morning held at 
south-east for some time, enabling the British to lie up as high as 
east-north-east on tlie starboard tack, on which they were when the 
battle joined; and this circumstance doubtless led to the annulling 
of the signal for the line of bearing, half an hour after it was made, 
and the substitution for it of the line of battle ahead at one cable. 
It is to be inferred that Rodney's first purpose -^vas to tack together, 
thus restoring Hood to the van, his natural station ; but the accident 
of the wind holding to the southward placed the actual van — regu- 




larly the rear — most to windward, and rendered it expedient to tack 
in succession, preserving to the full the opportunity which chance had 
extended for reaching the enemy. In the engagement, therefore, 
Hood commanded in the rear, and Rear- Admiral Drake in the van. 
The wind with the French seems to have been more to the eastward 
than with the British, — not an unusual circumstance in the neigh- 
boui'hood of land. 

R O D M e: V AND OE Crasse 
/2 '" W*.>?/^ . /7S2 



As Rodney, notwithstanding his liaste, had formed line from time 
to time during the past three days, liis fleet was now in good order, 
and his signals were chiefly confined to keeping it closed. The 
French, on the other hand, were greatly scattered when their com- 
mander-in-chief, in an impulse of hast}', unbalanced judgment, 
abandoned liis previous cautious policy and hurried them into action. 
Some of them were over ten miles to windward of tlie flagship. 
Though they crowded sail to rejoin her, there was not time enough 
for all to take their stations properlj', between daylight and 8 a.m., 
when the firing began. " Our line of battle was formed under the 




fire of musketry, "1 wrote the ^Marquis de Vaudreiiil,^ the second in 
command, who, being in the rear of the fleet on this occasion, and 
consequently among the last to be engaged, had excellent opportunity 
for observation. At the beginning it was in de Grasse's power to 
postpone action, until the order should be formed, by holding his 
wind under short canvas ; while the mere sight of his vessels hurry- 
ing down for action would have compelled Rodney to call in the 
ships chasing the Zele, whose rescue was the sole motive of the 


RoDNEV A rs D de: Crasse 

/2 '" x^^*/^ /yS^ 


SmO-^s^ ^ f»eL/\/c/-f O 











French manoeuvre. Instead of this, the flagship) kept off the wind ; 
which precipitated the collision, while at the same time delaying the 
preparations needed to sustain it. To this de Grasse added another 
fault by forming on the port tack, the contrary to that on which the 
British were, and standing towards Dominica. The effect of this 
was to bring his ships into the calms and baffling winds which cling 
to the shore-line, thus depriving them of their 2>ower of manoiuvre. 

' Probably not over one or two bviixlreil yi"''!''- 

"^ His brother, the Conite de Vaudreuil, was also with the fleet, as chef d'escadre, 
in the Sceptre, 74. 

VOL. III. — 34 

630 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1V83. [1782. 

His object probably was to confine tlie engagement to a mere pass-by 
on opposite tacks, by wliich in all previous instances the French Iiad 
thwarted the decisive action that Rodney sought. Nevertheless, the 
blunder was evident at once to French eyes. "What evil genius has 
inspired the admiral?" exclaimed du Pavilion, Vaudreuil's flag- 
captain, who was esteemed one of the best tacticians in France, and 
who fell in the battle. 

As the two lines drew near to one another, standing, the one south, 
and the other east-north-east, the wind shifted back to the east- 
ward, allowing the French to head higher, to south-south-east, and 
knocking the British off to north-north-east (B). The head of the 
French column thus passed out of gunshot, across the bows of 
Rodney's leading vessel, the Marlhorougli, which came within range 
when abreast of the eighth ship. The first shots were fired by the 
Brave, 74, ninth in the French line, at 8 a.m. The British captain 
then put his helm up and ran slowly along, north-north-west, under 
the lee of the French, towards their rear. The rest of the fleet 
followed in his wake. The battle thus assumed the form of passing 
in opposite directions on parallel lines ; except that the French shijjs, 
as they successively cleared the point where the British colunni 
struck their line, would draw out of fire, their course diverging 
thenceforth from that of the British approach. The effect of this 
would be that the British rear, when it reached that point, would be 
fresh, and with that advantage encounter the F'rench rear, which had 
received already the fire of the British van and centre. To obviate 
this, by bringing his own van into action, de Grasse signalled the 
van ships to lead south-south-west, parallel with the British north- 
north-east (B, a). The engagement thus became general all along the 
lines ; but it is probable that the French van was never well formed. 
Its commander, at all events, reached his post after the commander 
of the rear did his.^ 

At five minutes past eight, Rodney made a general signal for 
close action, followed immediately by another for the leading ships to 
head one point to starboard — towards the enemy — which indicates 
that he was not satisfied with the distance first taken by the Marl- 
borough. The Formidable, his flagship, eighteenth in the column, 
began to fire at 8.23;^ but the Barjlcur, Hood's flagship, which was 

1 The position, in the French order, of the ships taken in the battle, is shown by 
the crosses in Figures B, C, D. 

* Canada's log, 8.15 ; reduced to Hood's times, which are generally followed. 


thirty-fii-st, not till 9.25. This difference iu time is to be accounted 
for chieflj' by the light airs near Dominica, contrasted vA\h. the fresh 
trades in the open channel to the northward, which the leading 
British vessels felt before their rear. De Grasse now, too late, had 
realised the disastrous effect which this would have upon his fleet. 
If he escaped all else, his ships, baffled by calms and catspaws while 
the British had a breeze, must lose the weather-gage, and with it 
the liope of evading pursuit, hitherto his chief preoccupation. Twice 
he signalled to wear, — first, all together, then in succession, — but, 
although the signals were seen, they could not be obeyed with the 
enemy close under the lee. "The French fleet," comments Chevalier 
justly, " had freedom of movement no longer. A fleet cannot wear 
with an enemy's fleet within musket-range to leeward." 

The movement therefore continued as described, the opposing 
ships slowly "sliding by" each other until about 9.15, when the 
wind suddenly shifted to south-east again. The necessity of keeping 
the sails full forced the bows of each French vessel towards the 
enemy, destroying the order in column, and throwing the fleet into 
echelon, or, as the phj-ase then was, into bow and quarter line(C). 
The British, on the contrary, were free either to hold their course or 
to head towards the enemy. Rodnej-'s flagship (C, a) luffed, and 
led through the French line just astern of the Glorieux, 74, which 
was the nineteenth in their order. She was followed by five ships ; 
and her next ahead also, the Duke (d), seeing her chief's movement, 
imitated it, breaking through the line astern of the twenty-third 
French. The Glorieux, on the starljoard hand of Rodney's little 
column, received its successive broadsides. Her main and mizzen 
masts went overboard at 9.28, when the Canada, third astern of 
the Formidable, had just passed her; and a few moments later her 
foremast and bowsprit fell. At 9.33 the Canada was to windward 
of the French line. The Formidable was using both broadsides as 
she broke through the enemy's order. On her port hand, between 
her and the Buke, were four French ships huddled together (c), one 
of which had paid off the wrong way ; that is, after the shift of wind 
took her aback, her sails had filled on the opposite tack from that of 
the rest of her fleet. ^ These four, receiving the repeated broadsides, 
at close quarters, of the Formidable, Duke, and Namur, and having 
undergone besides the fire of the British van, were very severely 
mauled. While these things were happening, the Bedford, the sixth 
1 This mishap occurred to three French vessels. 

532 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1782. 

astern of the Formidahle, perhaps unable to see her next ahead in the 
smoke, had lutt'ed independently (b), and was followed Ij}- the twelve 
rearmost British ships, whom she led through the French order astern 
of the Cesar, 74, twelfth from the van. This ship and her next 
ahead, the Hector; 74, suffered as did the Glorieux. The Barfleur, 
which was in the centre of this column of thirteen, opened fire at 
9.2.5. At 10.45 she "ceased firing, having passed the enem3''s van 
ships ; " that is, she was well on the weather side of the French fleet.. 
Some of the rearmost of Hood's division, however, were still engaged 
at noon ; but probably all were then to windward of the enemy. 

The British ships ahead of the Duke, the van and part of tlie 
centre, in all sixteen sail, had continued to stand to the northward. 
At the time Rodney broke the line, several of them must have passed 
beyond the French rear, and out of action. One, the America, the 
twelfth from the van, wore without signals, to pursue the enemy, and 
her example was followed at once by the ship next ahead, the JlusscU. 
No signal following, the America again wore and followed her leaders, 
l)ut the Russell continued as she was, now to windward of the French ; 
by which she was able to take a conspicuous share in the closing 
scenes. At 11.33 Rodney signalled the van to tack, but the delay of 
an hour or more had given the Russell a start towards the enemy 
which could not be overcome. 

The effect of these several occurrences had been to transfer the 
weather-gage, the position for attack, to the British from the French, 
and to divide the latter also into three groups, widely sejDarated and 
disordered (D). In the centre was the flagship Villc de Paris with 
five ships (c). To windward of her, and two miles distant, was the 
van, of some dozen vessels (v). The rear was four miles awa}^ to 
leeward (r). To restore the order, and to connect the fleet again, it 
was decided to re-form on the leewardmost ships; and several signals 
to this effect were made by de Grasse. They received but imperfect 
execution. The manageable vessels succeeded easily enough in run- 
ning before the wind to leeward, Ijut, when there, exactitude of posi- 
tion and of movement was unattainable to sliips in various degrees 
of disability, with light and baffling side airs. The French were 
never again in order after the wind shifted and the line was broken; 
but the movement to leeward left the dismasted Glorieux, Hector, 
and Char, motionless between the hostile lines. 

It has been remarked, disparagingly, that the British fleet also was 
divided into three by the manoeuvre of breaking the line. This is 


true; but the advantage remained witli it incontestably, in two 
respects. By favour of the wind, each of tlie three groups had been 
able to maintain its general formation in line or column, instead of 
being thrown entirely out, as the French were ; and passing thus in 
column along the Glorieux, Hector, and Cesar, they wrought upon 
these three ships a concentration of injury which had no parallel 
among the British vessels. The French in fact had lost three ships, 
as well as the wind. To these certain disadvantages is probably to 
be added a demoralisation among the French crews, from the nuich 
heavier losses resultant upon the British practice of firing at the hull. 
An officer present in the action told Sir John Ross ^ afterwards that 
the French fired very high throughout; and he cited in illustration 
that the three trucks ^ of the Princesa were shot away. Sir Gilbert 
Blane, who, though Physician to the Fleet, obtained permission to 
be on deck throughout the action, wrote ten days after it, " I can 
aver from my own observation that the French fire slackens as we 
approach, and is totally silent when we are close alongside." It is 
needless to say that a marked superiority of fire will silence that of 
the bravest enemy ; and the practice of aiming at the spars and sails, 
however suited for frustrating an approach, substantially conceded 
that superiority upon which the issue of decisive battle depends. As 
illustrative of this result, the British loss will be stated here. It was 
but 243 killed and 816 wounded ^ in a fleet of thirty-six sail. The 
highest in any one ship was that of the Duh:, 73 killed and wounded. 
No certain account, or even ver}^ probable estimate, of the French 
loss has ever been given. None is cited by French authorities. Sir 
Gilbert Blane, who was favourably placed for information, reckoned 
that of the Ville de Paris alone to be 300. There being 5,400 troops 
distributed among the vessels of the fleet, the casualties would be 
proportionately more numerous; but, even allowing for this, there 
can be no doubt that the loss of the French, to use Chevalier's words, 
" was certainly much more considerable " than that reported by the 
British. Six post-captains* out of thirty were killed, against two^ 
British out of thirty-six. 

' Ross: 'Life of Sauniarez.' 

' Circular pieces of wood which cap the top of the masts. 

' Beatson, vi. 324, 325. Beatson's additions are sliglitly incorrect. 

* Captain de La Clocheterie, of tlie Hercule ; Captain de Saint-Cesaire, of the 
Northumberland ; Captain de La Vicomtd, of the Hector; Captain Bernard de ^^a^igny, 
of the Cesar ; Captain Comte d'Escars, of the Glorieux; and Captain du Pavilion, of 
the Triortvphant. Rapport du Marquis de Vaudreuil. — W. L. C. 

6 Captain 'Williani Blair, of the Atison ; and Captain Lord Robert Manners,— 

634 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1782. 

Rodney did not make adequate use of the great opportunitj-, 
which accident rather than design had given him at noon of April 
12th. He did allow a certain liberty of raana?uvre, by discontinuing 
the order for the line of battle; but the signal for close action, hoisted 
at 1 P.M., was hauled down a half-hour later. Hood, who realised the 
conditions plainly visible, as well as the reasonable inferences there- 
from, wished the order given for a general chase, which would have 
applied the spur of emulation to every captain present, without sur-- 
rendering the hold that particular signals afford upon indiscreet 
movements. He bitterly censured the Admiral's failure to issue this 
command. Had it been done, he said : — 

" I am very confident we should have had twenty sail of the enemy's ships 
before dark. Instead of that, he pursued only under his topsails (sometimes his 
foresail was set and at others his mizzen topsail aback) the gi-eatest part of the 
afternoon, though the flijlng enemy had all the sail set their very shattered state 
would allow." 

To make signal for a general chase was beyond the competence of 
a junior admiral ; but Hood did what he could, by repeated signals to 
individual ships of his own division to make more sail, by setting all 
he could on the Barflcur, and by getting out his boats to tow her 
head round. Sir Gilbert Blane unintentionally gives a similar 
impression of laxity. 

" After cutting the French line, tlie action during the rest of the day was par- 
tial and desultory, the enemy never being able to form, and several of the [our] 
ships being obliged to lie by and repair theii- damages. As the signal for the line 
was now hauled down, every ship annoyed the enemy as then- respective comman- 
ders judged best." 

For this indolent abandonment of the captains to their own devices, 
the correctest remedy was, as Hood indicated, the order for a general 
chase, supplemented by a watchful supervision, which should check 
the over-rash and stimulate the over-cautious. If Hood's account of 
the sail carried by Rodney be correct, the Commander-in-Chief did 
not even set the best example. In this languid pursuit, the three 
crippled French ships were overhauled, and of course had to strike ; 
and a fourth, the Ardent, 64, was taken, owing to her indifferent 
sailing. Towards sunset the flagship Ville de Paris, 110, ^ the finest 
ship of war afloat, having been valiantly defended against a host of 

who, though mortally wounded, survived for some days, — of the Resolution. But 
Captain William Bayne, of the Alfred, had fallen in the action of April 9th. 

1 She is thus rated in the British Navy Lists published between the time of her 
capture and the receipt of news of her loss ; but she seems to have carried 120 guns. 


enemies tliroiighoiit great part of the afternoon, and having expended 
all her ammunition, lianled down her colours. The two British 
vessels then immediately engaged with her were the Russell and the 
Barjleur, Hood's flagship, to the latter of which she formally sur- 
rendered; the exact moment, noted in Hood's journal, being 
6.29 P.M. 

At 6.45 Rodney made the signal for the fleet to bring-to (form 
line and stop) on the port tack, and he remained lying-to during the 
night, while the French continued to retreat under the orders of the 
]\Iarquis de Vaudreuil, who b}- de Grasse's capture had become com- 
mander-in-chief. For this easy-going deliberation also Hood had 
strong words of condemnation. 

" Why he should bring tlie fleet to because the ViUe de Paris -was taken, I can- 
not reconcile. He did not pursue under easy sail, so as never to have lost sight of 
the enemy in the night, which would clearly and most undoubtedly have enabled 
him to have taken almost every ship the next day. . . . Had I had the honour of 
commanding his Majesty's noble fleet on the 12th, I may, without nmch imputa- 
tion of vanity, say the flag of England should now have graced the sterns of 
upwards of twenty sail of the enemy's ships of the line." 

Such criticisms by those not responsible are to be received gen- 
erally with caution; but Hood was, in thought and in deed, a man 
so much above the common that these cannot be dismissed lightly. 
His opinion is known to have been shared by Sir Charles Douglas, 
Rodney's Captain of the Fleet ; ^ and their conclusion is supported by 
the inferences to be drawn from Rodney's own assumptions as to the 
condition of the French, contrasted with the known facts. The 
enemy, he wrote, in assigning his reasons for not pursuing, "went 
off in a close connected body," and might have defeated, by rotation, 
the ships that had come up with them." "The enemy who went off 
in a body of twenty-six ships of the line,^ might, by ordering two or 
three of their best sailing ships or frigates to have shown lights at 
times, and by changing their course, have induced the British fleet 
to have followed them, while the main of their fleet, by hiding their 
lisrhts, miofht have hauled their wind, and have been far to windward 
by daylight, and intercepted the captured ships, and the most crippled 
ships of the English;" and he adds that the Windward Islands even 
might have been endangered. That such action was in a remote 
degree possible to a well-conditioned fleet may be guardedly con- 

1 See letter of Sir Howard Douglas, son to Sir Charles ; ' United Service Journal,' 
1834, Part II., p. 97. 

2 Author's italics ; Mundy : ' Life of Rodney,' ii. 248. 

536 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1782. 

ceded ; but it was wildly improbable to a fleet staggering under such 
a blow as the day had seen, which had changed its commander just 
as dark came on, and was widely scattered and disordered up to the 
moment when signals by flags became invisible. 

The facts, however, were utterly at vaiiance with these ingenious 
suppositions. Instead of being connected, as Rodney represents, de 
Vaudreuil had with him next morning but ten ships ; and no others 
during the whole of the 13th. He made sail for Cap Francois, and 
was joined on the way by five more, so that at no time were there 
upwards of fifteen ' French ships of the line together, prior to his 
arrival at that port on April 25th. He there found four others of 
the fleet. The tale of twenty-five survivors, from the thirty engaged 
on April 12th, was completed by six which had gone to Curasao, and 
which did not rejoin until May. So much for the close connected 
body of the French. It is clear, therefore, that Rodney's reasons 
illustrate the frame of mind against which Napoleon used to caution 
his generals as " making to themselves a picture " of possibilities ; and 
that his conclusion at best was based upon the ruinous idea, which a 
vivid imagination or slothful temper is prone to present to itself, that 
war may be made decisive without ninning risks. That Jamaica even 
was saved was not due to this fine, but indecisive action, but to the 
hesitation of the allies. When de Vaudreuil reached Cap Francois, 
he found there the French convoy safely arrived from Guadeloupe, 
and also a body of fifteen Spanish ships of the line. The troops 
available for the descent upon Jamaica were from fifteen to twenty 
thousand. Well might Hood write: "Had Sir George Rodney's 
judgment, after the enemy had been so totally put to flight, borne any 
proportion to the high courage, zeal and exertion, so very manifestly 
shown by every captain, all difficulty would now have been at an 
end. We might have done just as we pleased, instead of being at 
this hour upon the defensive." 

The allies, however, though superior in numbers, did not ventirre 
to assume the offensive. After the battle, Rodney remained near 
Guadeloupe until the 17th of April, refitting, and searching the 
neighl)ouring islands, in case the French fleet might have entered 
some one of them. For most of this time the British were becalmed, 
but Hood remarks that there had been wind enough to get twenty 
leagues to the westward ; and there more wind probably would have 

1 Troude. Chevalier says sixteen, differing with Troude as to the whereabouts 
of the Brave. 


been found. On the 17th Hood was detached in pursuit with ten sail 
of the line ; and a day or two later Koduey himself started for Jamaica. 
Left to his own discretion, Hood pushed for the Mona Passage, 
between Puerto Rico and Santo Domingo, carrying studding-sails 
below and aloft in his haste. At daybreak of the 19tli he sighted the 
west end of Puerto Rico ; and soon afterwards a small French squad- 
ron was seen. A general chase resulted in the capture of the Jason 
and Caton., sixty-fours, which had parted from their fleet before tlie 
battle and were on their way to Cap Francois. A frigate, the 
Aimable, 32, and a sloop, the Ceres, 18, also were taken. In report- 
ing this affair to Rodney, Hood got a thrust into liis superior. " It 
is a very mortifying circumstance to relate to you, Sir, that the 
French fleet whicli you put to flight on the 12th went through the 
Mona Channel on the 18th, only the day before I was in it." A 
further proof of tlie utility of pursuit, here hinted at, is to be found 
in the fact that Rodney, starting six days later than de Vaudreuil, 
reached Jamaica April 28th, only three days after the French got 
into Cap Francois. He had therefore gained three days in a fort- 
night's run. What might not have been done by an untiring chase ! 
But a remark recorded by Hood summed up the frame of mind which 
dominated Rodney: "I lamented to Sir George on the 13th that . . . 
he did not continue to pursue so as to keep siglit of the enemy all 
night, to which he only answered, ' Come, we have done very hand- 
somely as it is. ' " 

Rodney stayed at Jamaica until the 10th of July, when Admiral 
Hugh Pigot arrived from England to supersede him. This change 
was consequent uj)on the fall of Lord North's ministry, in the 
previous ]March, and had been decided before the news of the victory 
could reach England. Rodney sailed for home from Port Royal on 
the 22nd of July; and with his departure the war in the West Indies 
and North America may be said to have ended. Pigot started almost 
immediately for New York, and remained in North American waters 
until the end of October, wlien he returned to Barbados, first having 
detached Hood with thirteen ships of the line from the main fleet, to 
cruise off Cap Fran9ois. It is of interest to note that at this time 
Hood took with him from New York the frigate AJhemarlc, 28, tlien 
commanded by Nelson, who had been serving on the North American 
station. These various movements were dictated by those of the 
enemy, either actually made or supposed to be in contemplation ; for 
it was an inevitable part of the ill-effects of Rodney's most imperfect 

538 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1TC2-17S3. [1782. 

success, that the British fleet was thenceforth on the defensive purely, 
with all the perplexities of him Avho waits upon the initiative of an 
opponent. Nothing came of them all, however, for the war now 
was but lingering in its death stupor. The defeat of de Grasse, 
partial though it was; the abandonment of the enterprise upon 
Jamaica; the failure of the attack upon Gibraltar; and the success 
of Howe in re-victualling that fortress, — these had taken all heart 
out of the French and Spaniards ; while the numerical superiority of 
the allies, inefficiently though it had been used heretofore, weighed 
heavily upon the imagination of the British Government, which now 
had abandoned all hope of subduing its American Colonies. Upon 
the conclusion of peace, in 1783, Pigot and Hood returned to Eng- 
land, leaving the Leeward Islands' Station under the command of 
Rear-Admiral Sir Richard Hughes, Bart., (2)' an officer remembered 
by histoiy only through Nelson's refusing to obej' his orders not to 
enforce the Navigation Acts, in 1785. 

The change in the Ministry, besides occasioning the recall of 
Rodney, drew Lord Howe out of his long retirement, to command the 
Channel Fleet. He hoisted his flag on the 20th of April, 1782, on 
board the Victory, 100. Owing to the various directions in which 
the efforts of Great Britain had to be made, either to defend her own 
interests or to crush the movements of the many enemies now com- 
bined against her, the operations of the fleet were for some months 
carried on by detached squadrons, — in the North Sea, in the Bay of 
Biscay, and at the entrance of the Channel; Howe having under 
him several distinguished subordinates, at the head of whom, in 
professional reputation, were Vice-Admiral the Hon. Samuel Bar- 
rington and Rear-Admiral Richard Kemi^enfelt. In the North Sea, 
the Dutch were kept in their ports : and a convoy of near 400 mer- 
chant ships from the Baltic reached England unmolested. In the 
Bay of Biscay, Barrington, having with him twelve of the line, dis- 
covered and chased a convoy laden with stores for the fleet in the 
East Indies. One of the ships of the line accompanying it, the 
Pigase, 74, surrendered, after a night action of three hours with 
the Foudroyant, 80, Captain John Jervis,^ afterwards Earl St. 

* Son of Captain Sir Ricliard Hughes, Bart. (1), who was for many years Com- 
missioner at Portsmouth, and who died in 1782. The younger officer died a full 
Admiral in 1812. 

* Who was made a K. B. ior this service. 

1782.] HOWE IN THE CHANNEL. 539 

Vincent. Of nineteen transports, thirteen, one of which, the Action- 
naire, was a 64-g'un ship armed enjfiitc,^ were talcen; a weighty hlow 
to the great Suffren, whose chief difficulty in India was inadequate 
material of war, and especially of spars, of which the Actionnaire 
carried an outfit for four ships of the line. After Barrington's 
return, Kempenfelt made a similar hut uneventful cruise of a month 
in the Bay. 

Howe himself went first to the North Sea in the month of May. 
Having there held the Dutch in check during a critical moment, 
he was directed next to go to the entrance of the Channel, leaving 
only a division in the Downs. Information had Ijeen received that 
an allied fleet of thirty-two ships of the line, five only of which were 
French, had sailed from Cadiz earlj- in June, to cruise between 
Ushant and Scilly. It was expected that they would he joined there 
by a reinforcement from Brest, and by the Dutch squadron in the 
Texel, making a total of about fifty of the line, under the command 
of the Spanish Admiral, Don Luis de Cordova. The Dutch did not 
appear, owing probably to Howe's demonstration befoi-e their ports; 
but eight ships from Brest raised the allied fleet to forty. To opjjose 
these Howe sailed on the 2nd of July with twenty-two sail, of which 
eight were three-deckers. Before his return, on the 7th of August, 
he was joined by eight others; mostlj-, however, sixty-fours. With 
this inferioritj^ of numbers the British Admiral could expect onl}- to 
act on the defensive, unless some specially favouraljle opportunity 
should offer. The matter of most immediate concern was the arrival 
of the Jamaica convoy, then daily expected ; with which, it may be 
mentioned, de Grasse also was returning to England, a prisoner of 
war on board the Sandivich. 

On its voyage north, the combined fleet captured on June 2.5th 
eighteen ships of a British convoy bound for Canada. A few da3-s 
later it was fixed in the chops of the Channel, covering the ground 
from Ushant to Scilly. On the evening of Jul}' 7th it was sighted 
off Scilly by Howe, who then had with him twenty-five sail. The 
allies prepared for action; but the British Admiral, possessing a 
thorough knowledge of the neighbouring coasts, either in his own 
person or in some of his officers, led the fleet by night through the 
passage between Scilly and Land's End. On the following morning 
he was no more to be seen, and the enemy, ignorant of the manner 

1 That is, wdth a great part of her guns dismounted, and below as cargo. 

540 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1702-1783. [1782. 

of his evasion, was tlirown wholly off his track.' A strong gale of 
wind afterwards forcing the allies to the southward, both convoy and 
fleet slipped hy successfully, and again reached England. 

Howe was ordered now to prepare to throw reinforcements and 
supplies into Gibraltar, which had not received relief since Darby's 
visit, in April, 1781. For this urgent and critical service it was 
determined to concentrate the whole Channel Fleet at Spithead, 
where also the trans] )orts and supply -shi^is were directed to rendezr 
vous. It was while tliiis assembling for the relief of Giliraltar that 
there occurred the celebrated incident of the Royal George^ a 100-gun 
ship, while being heeled for under-water repairs, oversetting and 
sinking at her anchors, carrying down with her Kear-Adniiral 
Kempenfelt and about 900 souls, including many women and cliil- 
dren. This was on the 29th of August, 1782. On the 11th of 
September the expedition started, 183 sail in all; thirty-four being 
ships of the line, with a dozen smaller cruisers, the rest luiarmed 
vessels. Of the latter, 31 were destined for Gibraltar, the remainder 
being trading ships for different parts of the world. With so exten- 
sive a charge, the danger to which had been emjjhasised by numerous 
captures from convoys during the war, Howe's jjrogress was slow. 
It is told that shortly before reaching Cape Finisterre, but after a 
violent gale of wind, the full tally of 18-3 sail was counted. After 
passing Finisterre, the several " trades " probably parted from the 
grand fleet. 

On the 8th of October, off Cape St. Vincent, a frigate, the 
Lntona, 38, was sent ahead for information. It was known that a 
great combined force of ships of war lay in Algeciras Bay, — ojjposite 
Gibraltar, — and that an attack upon the works was in contempla- 
tion; but much might have happened meantime. Mucli, in fact, 
had happened. A violent gale of wind on the 10th of September 
had driven some of the allied fleet from their niooiings, one vessel, 
the San Miguel, 72, being forced under the batteries of Gibraltar, 
where she had to surrender; but there still remained the formidable 
number of 48 ships of the line, anchored oidy foxu' miles from the point 
which the relief ships must reach. This was the problem which 
Howe had to solve. More important still, though of less bearing 

* Chevalier, lollowiiif,' La Motte-Picquet's report, ascribes Ilowe's escape to greater 
speed. ('Mar. Fran, en 1778': p. .3.35.) It must be noted that Howe's object was 
not merely to esca]ie, up Channel, by better sailing', but to get to tlie westward, p«s' 
the allies, a feat impracticable save by a stratagem such as is mentioned. 

1782.] HOWE AT GIBRALTAR. 641 

upon his mission, was the cheering news bronglit hy tlie frigate, 
when she rejoined on the 10th, timt the h^ng-intended attack liad 
been made on the 13th of September, and liad been repelled gloriously 
and decisively. The heavily protected Spanish floating batteries, 
from which success had been expected confidently, one and all had 
been set on fire and destroyed. If Howe could introduce his suc- 
cours, the fortress was saved. 

The admiral at once summoned his subordinate officers, gave 
them full and particular instructions for the momentous undertaking, 
and issued at the same time, to the masters of the supply-ships, 
precise information as to local conditions of wind and currents at 
Gibraltar, to enable them more surely to reach their anchorage. On 
the 11th of October, being now close to its destination, the fleet 
bore up for the Straits, which it entered at noon with a fair westerly 
wind. The convoy went first, — sailing before the wind it was thus 
to leeward of the fleet, in a position to be d(^fcnded, — and the ships 
of war followed at some distance in three divisions, one of which was 
led by Howe himself. At 6 P.M. the supply-ships were off the 
mouth of the Bay, with a wind fair for the mole; but, through 
neglect of the instructions given, all but four missed the entrance, 
and were swept to the eastward of the Krtck, whither the fleet of 
course had to follow them. 

On the 13th the combined fleets came out, being induced to quit 
their commanding position at Algeciras by fears for two of tlieir 
number, which shortly before had Ijeen driven to the eastward. 
During the forenoon of the same day the British were off the Spanish 
coast, fifty miles east of Gibraltar. At suaset the allies were seen 
approaching, and Howe formed his fleet, but sent the suppl3'-ships to 
anchor at the Zaffarine Islands, on the coast of Baibary, to await 
events. Next morning the enemy was close to land, but visible only 
from the mastheads; the British apparently having headed south 
during the night. On the 15th the wind came to the eastward, fair 
for Gibraltar, towards wliicli all the British Ijegan cautiously to 
move. By the evening of the 16th, eighteen of the convoy were 
safe at the mole ; and on the 18tli all had arrived, Ijesides a fireship 
with 1,500 barrels of powder, sent in by the Admiral uj^on the govern- 
or's requisition. Throughout this critical time, the combined fleets 
seem to have been out of sight. Either intentionally or carelessly, 
they had got to the eastward and there remained ; having rallied their 
separated ships, but allowed Gibraltar to be replenished for a year. 

542 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 176-2-1783. [1782. 

On the morning of the 19th they appeared in tlie nortli-east, but the 
relief was then accomj)lislied and Howe put out to sea. He was 
not willing to fight in mid-Straits, embari-assed by currents and the 
land ; but when outside he brought-to, to allow the enemy to attack 
if they would, they having the weather-gage. On the following day, 
the 20th, towards sunset they bore down, and a partial engagement 
ensued; but it was wholly indecisive, and next day was not renewed. 
The British loss was 68 killed and 208 wounded; that of the allies 
60 killed and 320 wounded. On the 14th of November the fleet 
regained Spithead. 

The services rendered to his country by Howe on this occasion 
were eminently characteristic of the sj^ecial qualities of that great 
officer, in whom was illustrated to the highest degree the solid 
strengtli attainable by a man not brilliant, but most able, who gives 
himself heart and soul to professional acquirement. In him, pro- 
found and extensive professional knowledge, which is not inborn 
but gained, was joined to great natural staying powers ; and the com- 
bination eminently fitted him for the part we liave seen him play in 
Delaware Baj-, at New York, before Rhode Island, in the Channel, 
and now at Gibraltar. The utmost of skill, the utmost of patience, 
the utmost of persistence, such had Howe ; and having these, he was 
particidarly apt for the defensive operations, upon the conduct of 
which chiefly must rest his well-deserved renown. 

A true and noble tribute has been paid by a French oificer to this 
relief of Gibraltar : ^ — 

" Tlie qualities displayed by Lord Howe during this short campaign rose to 
the full lieight of the mission which he had to fulfil. This operation, one of the 
finest in the AVar of American Independence, merits a praise equal to that of a 
victory. If the English fleet was favoured by circumstances, — and it is rare that 
in such enterpi'ises one can succeed without the aid of fortune, — it was above all 
the Commander-in-Chief's quickness of perception, the accuracy of his judgment, 
and the rapidity of his decisions, that assured success." 

To this well-weighed, yet lofty praise of the Admiral, the same 
writer has added words that the British Navy may remember long 
with j)ride, as sealing the record of this war, of which the relief of 
Gibraltar marked the close in European and American waters. After 
according credit to the Admiralty for the uniform high speed of the 
British vessels, and to Howe for his comprehension and use of this 
advantage. Captain Chevalier goes on : — 

' Chevalier : ' Mar. Fran. d;ms la Guerre de 1778,' p. 358. 


" Finally, if we may judge by the results, the Commander-in-Chief of the Eng- 
lish fleet could not but think himself most happy in his captains. There were 
neither separations, nor collisions, nor casualties ; and there occurred none of those 
events, so frequent in the experiences of a squadron, which often oblige admirals 
to take a course wholly contrary to the end they have in view. In contemplation 
of this unvexed navigation of Admiral Howe, it is impossible not to recall the 
unhappy incidents which from the 9th to the 12th of April befell the squadron of 
the Count de Grasse. ... If it is just to admit that Lord Howe displayed the 
highest talent, it should be added that he had in his hands excellent instruments." 

To quote another French writer: "Quantity disappeared before 

The operations in India, both naval and military, stand by them- 
selves, without direct influence upon transactions elsewhere, and 
unaffected also by these, except in so far as necessary succours were 
intercepted sometimes in European waters. The cause of this isola- 
tion was the distance of India from Europe ; from four to six months 
being reqviired by a fleet for the voyage. 

Certain intelligence of the war between Great Britain and France 
reached Calcutta July 7th, 1778. On the same day the Governor- 
General ordered immediate preparations to attack Pondicherry, the 
principal seaport of the French. The army arrived before the place 
on the 8th of August, and on the same day Commodore Sir Edward 
Vernon 1 anchored in the roads to blockade by sea. A French 
squadron, under Captain Tronjoly, soon after appearing in the offing, 
Vernon gave chase, and on the 10th an action ensued. The forces 
engaged were about equal, the French, if anything, slightly superior; 
a sixty-gun ship and four smaller vessels being on each side. As 
the French then went into Pondicherry, the immediate advantage 
may be conceded to them; but, Vernon returning on the 20th, 
Tronjoly soon after quitted the roads, and returned to the lie de 
France.^ From that day the British squadron blockaded closely, and 
on the 17th of October Pondicherry capitulated. 

1 British Squadron in the East Indies under Commodore Sir Edward Vernon, Kt., 

in 1778. 

„. o,^ ( Commodore Sir Edward Vernon. 

Eipon 60 i_ „..,,, 

( Capt. Beiijannn Marlow. 

Asia 54 Capt. George Vandeput. 

Coventry 28 Capt. John Alexander Panton. 

Seahorse 24 Commander Alexander M'Coy. 

Corinoranl .... 18 Commander William Owen.* 

* AVlio, being killed by accident, was succeeded by Commander Charles Morice Pole., 

— W. L. C. 

" Now Mauritius. 








AND Ceylon. 

00 So O ' '«0 ^OO 30Q 



L ^' 

"art cal 


.(^XP'^pALJTYfr.M OftficDftO 

L Trtn c omale 

/"■ ^« C^t i 

V C E.Y l_ O M 



On the 7th of March, 1779, Rear-Adrairal Sir Edward Hughes, 
K. B., sailed for the East Indies with a small squadron. i The 
French also sent out occasional ships; hut in 1779 and 1780 these 
went no further than the He de France, their naval station in the 
Indian Ocean. Hughes's force remained unopposed during those 
years. Tlie period was critical, for the British were at war with 
Hyder Ali, Sultan of Mysore, and with the Mahrattas; and all 
depended upon command of the sea. In Januaiy, 1781, when 
Hughes was wintering at Bombay, the French squadron under Conite 
d'Orves appeared off the Coromandel coast, but, despite Hyder All's 
entreaties, it refused to co-oiierate with him. The different spirit 
of the two commanders may be illustrated from contemporary 

" We have advices from Fort St. George of a French squadron which appeared 
oif that place on January 25, 26, and 27, consisting of 1 seventy-four, 4 sixty-fours, 
and 2 fifties. They proceeded south without making any attempt on five Indiamen 
then in the roads, with a number of vessels laden with grain and provisions ; the 
destroying of which might have been easily accomplished, and would have been 
severely felt." 

" On December 8th, off Mangalore," ' writes Hughes, " I saw two ships, a 
large snow, three ketches, and many smaller vessels at anchor in the road with 
Hyder's flag flying; and, standing close, found them vessels of force and all armed 
for war. I anchored as close as possible, sent in all armed boats, under cover of 
three smaller ships of war, which anchored in four fathoms water, close to the 
enemy's ships. In two hours took and burned the two ships, one of 28 and one of 
26 guns, and took or destroyed all the others, save one which, by throwing every- 
thing overboard, escaped over the bar into the port. Lost 1 lieutenant and 10 men 
killed, 2 lieutenants and 51 wounded." 

D'Orves returned to the He de France. 

When war with Holland began, the British government decided 
to attempt the capture of the Cape of Good Hope. For that object a 
squadron of 1 seventy-four, 1 sixty-four, and 3 fifties, with numerous 
smaller vessels, under Commodore George Johnstone, convoying a 

^ Squadron which, under Rear-Admiral Sir Edward Hughes, K. B. (B), sailed 
for India from St. Helens in 1779. — W. L. C. 

Rear-Admiral Sir Edward Hughes, K. B. 

Superb 74 

C.-ipt. Robert Simonton. 

Excler 64 Capt. Richai'd King. 

Eagle 64 Caiit. Ambrose Reddall. 

Biirford 64 Capt. Peter Rainier (1). 

Worcester .... 64 Capt. George Talbot. 

Belleisle 64 Capt. John Brooks. 

Nymph 14 CominanJcr John Blankett. 

^ On the Malabar — western — coast. 

VOL. III. — 35 




considerable body of troops, sailed from England on the 13th of 
March, 1781, in comi:)any with the Channel fleet under Vice-Adniiral 
George Darby, then on its way to relieve Gibraltar. The French 
government, having timely notice of the expedition, undertook to 
frustrate it; detailing for that purpose a division of 2 seventj'-fours, 
and 3 sixty-fours, under the since celebrated Suffren.^ These ships 
left Brest on the 22nd of March, with the fleet of de Grasse. They 
also carried some battalions of troops. 

Oia April 11th the British squadron reached Porto Praya, Cape 
de Verde Islands. This bay is open to the southward, extending 
from east to west about a mile and a half, and is Avithin the limits 
of the north-east trade-winds. Although aware that a French division 
was on his track, and conscious, by the admissions of his report, that 
protection could not be expected from the neutrality of the place, 
Johnstone permitted his vessels to anchor without reference to 
attack. His own flagship, the Romney, 50, was so surrounded by 
others that she could fire only with great caution through intervals. 
On the 16th of April, at 9.30 a. Jr., the Ms, 50, which was the 
outermost of the British squadron, signalled eleven sail in the 
north-east. Fifteen hundred persons were then ashore engaged in 
watering, fishing, embarking cattle, and amusing themselves. The 
strangers were Suffren's division. The meeting was not expected by 

1 Squadrons under Commodore George Jolmstone and M. de Suffren in tlie 
action in Porto Praya, on April 16th, 1781. 











Romney . . . 

( Commod. George Jolmstone. 

TJcros .... 

M. le Bailli de Suffren. 

t Capt. Roddara Home. 

Annihnl . . . 


Capt. de Trimigou, Senr.J; 

Hero .... 


Capt. James Hawker. 

Artesien . . . 


Capt. de Cardaillac.t 

Monmontft . . 


Capt. James Alms (1). 

Svkini . . . . 


Capt. du Cliilleau. 

Jupiter . . . 


Capt. Thomas Pasley. 

Vengeur . . , 


Capt. de Forbiu. 



Capt. Kvelyn Sutton. 

Diana .... 


Capt. Sir William Clialoner Buru- 
aby, Bart. 

Jason .... 


Capt. James Pigott. 

Active .... 


Capt. Thomas Mackenzie. 

S.attle.make . . 


Commander Peter Clements. 

Porto .... 


Commander the Hon. Thomas 

Charles Lumley. 

* Armed ships. 1 

■he Eoyal Charlotte was hired. 

Infernal (f. s.) . 


Commander Henry d'Esterre Darby. 

t Armed transpor 


Terror (bomb) . 


Commander Charles Wood. 

X KUled. 

Tapngeiir (cutter) 


Lieut. Philip d'Auvergne. 

San Carlos * . . 


Commander John Boyle. 

Pondichen'y t . 


Lieut. Thomas Saunders Grove. 

Royal Charlotte * 


Commander Thomas Stanhope Ben- 

and ten East Iiuliai 

ten, each of 26 guns. [ 

W. L. C. 




the French commander, whose object in entering was simply to 
complete the water of the ships ; hut he determined at once to attack, 
and hauled round the east point of the hay in column, the two 
seventy-fours at the head, his own ship, the Hcros, leading with the 
signal for battle (line ah). He luffed to the wind, and anchored five 
hundred feet from the starboard beam of the British Hero, 74 (f), 
whence he at once opened fire from both broadsides. His next 
astern, the Annibal (b), brought up immediately ahead of him, but 


Porto Praya . 


so close that the Heros had to veer cable and drop asteni (a), which 
brought her on the beam of the Monmouth, 64.^ The captain of the 
Annibi-d had thought the order for battle merely precaiitionary, and 
had not cleared for action. He was therefore taken unawares, and 
his ship did no service proportionate to her force. The third French 
vessel (c) reached her station, but her captain was struck dead just 

1 I infer, from the accounts, that the Monmouth was well east of the Hero, that 
the French had passed her first, and that the He'ros was now on her port heani ; but 
this point is not certain. 

548 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1781. 

when about to anchor, and in the confusion the anchor was not let 
go. The ship drifted foul of a British East Indiaman, which she 
carried out to sea (c' c") The two remaining French (d, e) simply 
cannonaded as they passed across the bay's mouth, failing through 
mishap or awkwardness to reach an effective position. 

The attack thus became a mere rough and tumble, in which the 
two seventj'-fours alone sustained the French side. After three 
quarters of an hour, Suffren, seeing that the attempt had failed, 
slipped his cable and put to sea. The Annibal followed, but she had 
been so damaged that all her masts went overboard ; fortunately, not 
until her head was pointed out of the harbour. Johnstone, thus 
luckily escaping the consequences of his neglect, now called his cap- 
tains together to learn the condition of their ships, and then ordered 
them to cut their cables and pursue. All obeyed except Cajitain 
.Sutton of the Isis, who represented that the spars and rigging of his 
ship could not bear sail at once. Johnstone then ordered him to 
come out anyhow, which he did, and his fore topmast shortly went 
overboard. The disability of this ship so weighed upon the Commo- 
dore that his pursuit was exceedingly sluggish; and, the Annibal 
having got a bit of canvas on a jury foremast, the French kept draw- 
ing him away to leeward. Night, therefore, was falling as he came 
near them ; the Isis and Monmouth were two or three miles astern ; 
the sea was increasing; if he got much further to leeward, he could 
not get back; he had forgotten to appoint a rendezvous where the 
convoy might rejoin; a night action, he considered, M'as not to be 
thought of. Yet, if he let the enemy go, they might anticipate him 
at the Cape. In short, Johnstone underwent the " anguish " of an 
undecided man in a "cruel situation, "^ and of course decided to run 
no risks. He returned therefore to Porto Praya, put the captain of 
the Isis under arrest, and remained in poit for a fortnight. Suffren 
hurried on to the Cape, got there first, landed his troops, and secured 
the colony against attack. Johnstone arrived in the neighbourhood 
some time later, and, finding himself anticipated, turned aside to 
Saldanha Bay, where he captured five Dutch East Indiamen. He 
then sent the Hero, 3Ionmouth, and Isis, on to India, to reinforce 
Hughes, and himself went back to England. 

No accusation of misbehaviour lies against anj- of the British 
subordinates in this affair of Porto Praya. The captain of the Isis 
was brought to a court-martial, and honourably acquitted of all the 
^ Expressions in Johnstone's Report. 


charges. The discredit of the surprise was not redeemed by any 
exhibition of intelligence, energy, or professional capacity, on the 
part of the officer in charge. It has been said that he never had 
commanded a post-ship ^ before he was intrusted with this very 
important mission, and it is reasonably sure that his selection for it 
was due to attacks made by him upon the professional conduct of 
Keppel and Howe, when those admirals were at variance with the 
administration. His preposterous mismanagement, therefore, was 
probably not wholly bitter to the Navy at large. In the Biitish ships 
of war, the entire loss in men, as reported, was only 9 killed, 47 
wounded. Several casualties from chance shots occurred on board 
the convoy, bringing up the total to 36 killed and 130 wounded.^ 
The French admit 105 killed and 204 wounded, all but 19 being in 
the Hcros and Annihal. Although precipitated by Suffren, the affair 
clearly was as great a surprise to his squadron as to the British. 
Therefore, the latter, being already at anchor and more numerous 
as engaged, had a distinct advantage; to which also contributed 
musketry fire from the transports. Nevertheless, the result cannot 
be deemed creditable to the French captains or gunnery. 

Suffren remained in the neighbourhood of the Cape for two 
months. Then, having seen the colony secure, independent of his 
squadron, he departed for the He de France, arriving there October 
25th. On the 17th of December the whole French force, under the 
command of d'Orves, sailed for the Coromandel coast. On the way 
the British 50-gun ship Hannibal, Captain Alexander Christie, was 
taken. On the 9th of February, 1782, Comte d'Orves died, and 
Suffren found himself at the head of twelve ships of the line : 3 
seventy-fours, 7 sixty-fours, and 2 fifties. ^ On the 15th Hughes's 
fleet was sighted, under the guns of Madras. It numbered nine of 
the line: 2 seventy-fours, 1 sixty-eight, 5 sixty-fours, and 1 fifty. 
Suffren stood south towards Pondicherry, which had passed into the 
power of Hyder Ali. After nightfall Hughes got under way, and 

1 Charnock, however, says that in 1762, immediately after receiving his post- 
commission, he commanded in succession the Hind, 20, and the Wager, 20. Moreover, 
before his appointment to the expedition of 1781, he had been Commodore on the 
Lisbon Station. But he had spent comparatively little time at sea as a captain. — 
W. L. C. 

2 Details are in Schomberg, iv. .385. — W. L. C. 

« One being the captured British Hannibal, 50, which was commissioned by Cap- 
tain Morard de Galles, retaining the Englisli form of the name, Hannibal, to distinguish 
her from the Annihal, 74, already in the .squadron. 




also steered south. He feared for Trincomale, in Cejdon, recently 
a Dutch port, which the British had captured on the 5th of January. 
It was a valuable naval station, and as j-et most imperfectly defended. 
At daylight the British saw the French squadron ^ twelve miles 
east (A, A) and its transports nine miles soiith-west (c). Hughes 
chased the latter and took six. Suffren pursued, but could not over- 
take before sunset, and botli fleets steered south-east during the night. 
Next morning there were light north-north-east airs, and the French 
were six miles north-east of the British (B, B). The latter formed 
line on the port tack (a), heading to seaward; Hughes hoping that 
thus the usual sea-breeze would find him to windward. The lireeze, 
however, did not make as expected; and, as the north-east puffs were 
bringing the enemy down, he kept off before the wind (b) to gain 
time for his ships to close their intervals, which were too great. At 
4 P.M. the near approach of the French comi^elled him to form line 
again, on the port tack, heading easterl3^ The rear ship, Exeter, 64, 
was left separated, out of due support from those ahead (C). Suffren, 
leading one section of his fleet in person, passed to windward of the 

^ British am 

[ French Squadrons in the action off Sadras 

, Feb. 17th, 1782. 













Eagle .... 

Capt. Ambrose Reddall. 

Severe .... 

Capt. de Villeneuve-CiUart. 

Monmouth . . 


Capt. J.ames Abus (1). 

Venfjenr . . . 


Capt. de Forbin. 

^yoTcester . . 


Capt. George Talbot. 

Brillanl . . . 


Capt. de St. Felix. 

Burford . . . 


Capt. Peter Rainier (1). 

Flamand . . , 


Capt. de Cuverville. 

Vice-Aduiiral Sir Edward 

Aitiulial . . . 


Capt. du Tromelin. 

Superb .... 


Hughes, K. B. (B). 
C-lpt. William Steveos. 

Heros .... 


( M. de Suffren, Chef d'Esc. 
t Capt. de Moissac. 

Hero .... 


Capt. Charles Wood. 

Orient .... 


Capt. de Lapalliere. 



Capt. the Hon. Thos. Chas. 

Artesien . . . 


Capt. Bid^ de Maurville. 


Sphinx .... 


Capt. du Chilleau. 

Monarca . . . 


Capt. John Gell. 

Ajax .... 


Capt. Bouvet. 

Ezeler .... 


i Commod. Richard King. 
1 Capt. Henry Reynolds. 

Hannibal . . . 


Capt. Morard dc Galles. 

Bizarre . . . 


Capt. de Lalaudelle. 

Seahorse . . 


Capt. Robert Montagu. 

Pourroyeuse , . 


Capt. de Beaulieu. 

Manilla . . 


Lieut. William Robinson. 

Fine .... 


Capt. Perrier de Salvert. 

Beilone . . . 


Capt. de Ruj-ter. 

Subtile. . . . 


Capt . de Galif et. 

Si/lphide . . . 


Diligent . . . 


The British list is founded upon that in Beatson, vi. 298, Steel's ' Navy List ' 
(1782), and dispatches; the French list, on Trublet : 'Hist, de la Campagne de 
rinde' (1801); 'Relation Detaillde,' etc. (1783); Chevalier: 'Hist, de la Mar. 
Frang.' and Cunat : ' Hist, du Bailli de Suffren.' But some of these contradict the 
others. From some it would appear that the Pourvoyeuse was also in the line. — 
W. L. C. 




British line, from the rear, as far as Hughes's flagship, whicli was 
fifth from the van. There he stopped, and kept at half cannon-shot, 
to prevent the four van ships from tacking to relieve their consorts. 
It was his intention that the second half of his fleet should attack the 
other side of the English (D), but only two of them did so, engag- 
ing to leeward the extreme rear (C). The result was, to use 
Hughes's own words, that "the enemy brouglit eight of their best 
ships to the attack of five of ours." It will be noted with interest 





/P' '" rka "^ /7S2 

^K^ C /V CM O /2 SX/^-> 

\ \ 

P ^0 
000 c 
^0 00 

^ ^ ^^-v 




that these were exactly the numbers engaged in the first act of the 
battle of the Nile. The Exeter (like the Guerrier at the Nile) 
received the fresh l:)roadsides of the first five of the enemy, and then 
remained in close action on both sides, assailed by two, and at last liy 
three, opponents, — • two fifties, and one sixty-four. When the third 
approached, the master of the ship asked Commodore Richard King, 
whose broad pennant flew at her masthead, " What is to be done ? " 
"There is nothing to be done," replied King, "but to fight her till 
she sinks." Her loss, 10 killed and 45 wounded, was not creditable 




under the circumstances to the French gunnery, which had been 
poor also at Porto Praya. At 6 p.m. the wind shifted to south-east, 
throwing all on the other tack, and enabling the British van to come 
into action. Darkness now approaching, Suffren hauled off and 
anchored at Pondicherry. Hughes went on to Trincomale to refit. 
The British loss had been -32 killed, among whom were Captain 
William Stevens of the flagship, and Captain Henry Reynolds, of the 
Exder, and 83 wounded. The French had 30 killed ; the number of 
their wounded is put by Professor Laughton at 100. 

On the 12th of March Hughes returned to Madras, and towards 
the end of the month sailed again for Trincomale, carrying reinforce- 
ments and supplies. On the 30th he was joined at sea bj' the Sultan, 
74, and the Magnanime, 64, just from England. Suffren had 
remained on the coast from reasons of policy, to encourage Hyder 
Ali in his leaning to the French; but, after landing a contingent of 
troops on the 22nd of March, to assist at the siege of the British port 
of Cuddalore, he put to sea on the 23rd, and went south, hoping to 
intercept the Sultan and Magnanime off the south end of Ceylon. 
On the 9th of April he sighted the British fleet to the south and west 
of him. Hughes, attaching the first importance to the strengthening 
of Trincomale, had resolved neither to seek nor to shun action. He 
therefore continued his course, light northerly airs prevailing, until 
the 11th, when, being about fifty miles to the north-east of his port, he 
bore away for it. Next morning, April 12th, finding that the enemy 
could overtake his rear ships, he formed line on the starboard tack,' 

1 Line of battle of the squadron under Vice-Admiral Sir Edward Hughes, K. B., 
in the action oif Providian, on April 12th, 1782. 

S Coramodore Richard King. 
I Capt. Charles Hughes. 

Capt. James Hawker. 

Capt. the Hon. Thos. Chas. Lumley. 

Capt. Peter Rainier (1). 

Capt. John Cell. 
( Vice-Adniiral Sir Edward Hughes, K.B. (B). 
I Capt. the Hon. Dunbar Maclellan (Actg.). 

Capt. James Alms (1). 

Capt. George Talbot. 

Capt. Ambrose Reddall. 

Capt. James Watt. 

Capt. Charles Wolseley. 

Capt. Robert Montagu. 

Commander Henry Newcome. 

The above is taken, the spelling of names being corrected, from Beatson, vi. 298 ; 
but the order of the line was slightly modified at the last moment. — W. L. C. 

























Combustion (f . s. ) 



at two cables' intervals, heading to the westward, towards the coast 
of Ceylon, wind north by east, and the French dead to windward 
(A, A). Suffren drew up his line on the same tack, parallel to 
the British (a), and at 11 a.m. gave the signal to steer west-south- 
west all together; his vessels going down in a slanting direction, 
each steering for one of the enemy. Having twelve ships to eleven, 
the twelfth was ordered to place herself on the off side of the rear 
British, which would thus have two antagonists. 






In such simultaneous approach it commonlj' occurred that the 
attacking line ceased to be parallel with the foe's, its van becoming 
nearer and rear more distant. So it was here. Further, the British 
opening fire as soon as the leading French were within range, the 
latter at once hauled up to reply. Suffren, in the centre, wishing 
closest action, signalled them to keep away again, and himself bore 
down wrathfuUy upon Hughes to within pistol-shot; in which he 
was supported closely by his next ahead and the two next astern. 
The rear of the French, though engaged, remained too far distant 

554 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1702-1783. [1782. 

Their line, therefore, resembled a curve, the middle of which — four 
or five ships — was tangent to the British centre (B). At this |)oint 
the heat of the attack fell upon Hughes"s flagship, the Superb, 74 
(C, d), and her next ahead, the Monmouth, 64 (c). Suffren's ship, 
the Heros, having much of her rigging cut, could not shorten sail, 
shot l:)y the Superb, and brought up abreast the Monmouth. The 
latter, already hot!}' engaged by one of her own class, and losing her 
main and mizzen masts in this unequal new contest, was forced at 3 
P.M. to bear up out of the line. The place of the Heros alongside 
the Superb was taken by the Orient, 74, supported by the Brillant, 
64; and when the Monmouth kept off, the attack of these two ships 
was reinforced b}' the half-dozen stern chasers of the Heros, which 
had drifted into the British line, and now fired into the Superh's 
bows. The conflict between these five ships, two British and three 
French, was one of the bloodiest in naval annals ; the loss of the 
Superb, 59 killed and 96 wounded, and of the Monmouth, 45 killed 
and 102 wounded, equalling that of the much larger vessels that 
bore the flags of Nelson and Collingwood at Trafalgar. The loss of 
the three French was 52 killed and 142 wounded ; but to this should 
be added properl}' that of the Sphinx, 64, the Monmouth^ s first adver- 
sary: 22 killed and 74 wounded. At 3.40 p.m., fearing that if he 
continued steering west he would get entangled with the shore, 
Hughes wore his sliips, forming line on the port tack. The French 
also wore, and Suffren hoped to secure the Mojvmouth, which M-as left 
between the two lines; but the quickness of a British captain. 
Hawker, of the Hero, ran a tow-rope to her in time, and she was 
thus dragged out of danger. At 5.40 Hughes anchored, and Suffren 
did the same at 8 p. M. The total British loss in men on this occasion 
was 137 killed and 430 wounded ; that of the French 137 killed and 
357 wounded. 

The exhausted enemies remained at anchor in the open sea, two 
miles apart, for a week, repairing. On the 19th of April the Fi-ench 
got under way and made a demonstration before the British, inviting 
battle, yet not attacking; but the condition of the Monmouth forbade 
Hughes from moving. Suffren therefore departed to Batacalo, in 
Ceylon, south of Trincomale, where he covered his own convoys from 
Europe, and flanked the approach of his adversary's. Hughes, on 
the 22nd of April, got into Trincomale, where he remained till June 
23rd. He then went to Negapatam, formerly a Dutch possession, 
but then held by the British. There he learned that Suffren, who 




raeanwliile had captured several British transports, was a few miles 
north of him, at Cuddalore, which had surrendered to Hyder Ali on 
April 4th. On the 5th of July, at 1 p.m., the French squadron 
appeared. At 3 p.m. Hughes put to sea, and stood south during 
the night to gain the wind, — the south-west monsoon now blowing. 
Next morning, at daylight, the French were seen at anchor, 
seven or eight miles to leeward. At 6 a.m. they began to get under 
way. One of their sixty-fours, the AJax, had lost her main and 


Po ^/ -riors/ X ^ 

Posntor^s JI &ia9 g i 'y' 


mizzen topmasts in a violent squall on the previous afternoon, and 
was not in the line. There wei'e therefore eleven ships on each side. 
The action, known as that of Negapatam, began shortly before 11, 
when both fleets were on the starboard tack, heading south-south-east, 
wind south-west. The British being to windward, Hughes ordered 
his fleet to bear up together to the attack, exactly as Suffren had 
done on the 12th of April. As commonly happened, the rear got 
less close than the vaii (Position I.). The fourth shi]i in the French 

556 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1782. 

order (a), losing her mainmast early, dropped to leeward of the line 
(a'), and astern of her place (a")- At half -past noon the wind flew 
suddenly to south-south-east, — the sea-breeze, — taking the ships a 
little on the port bow. ]\Iost of them, on both sides, paid off from 
the enemy, the British to starboard, the French to port; but between 
the main lines, which were in the momentary confusion consequent 
upon such an incident, were left six ships — tour British and two 
French — that had turned the other way (Position II.). These were 
the Burford, Sultan (s), Worcester., and Eagle, fourth, fifth, eighth, 
and tenth, in the British order ; and the Severe (b), third in the 
French, with the dismasted Brillant, towards the rear of the fight (a). 
Under these conditions, the Severe, 64, underwent a short but close 
action with the Sultan, 74 ; and with two other British ships, accord- 
ing to the re^jort of the Scvere's captain. The remainder of the 
incident shall be given in the hitter's own Avords. 

"Seeing the French squadron drawing off, — for all the ships except the 
Brillant liad fallen ofi on the other tack, — Captain de Cillart thought it useless to 
prolong his defence, and had the flag hauled down. The sliips engaged with him 
immediately ceased their fire, and the one on the starboard side moved away. At 
this moment the Severe fell off to starboard, and her sails filled. Captain de CiUart 
then ordered the fire to be resumed by his lower-deck guns, the only ones which 
remained manned, and he rejoined his squadron " (Position III.). 

When the Severe's flag came down, Suft'ren was approaching with 
his flagship. The Saltan wore to rejoin her fleet, and Avas raked by 
the Sevh-e in so doing (Position TIL). The Brilhoit, whose main- 
mast had been shot away in conflict with either the Sultan or the 
Bv.rford, both much heavier ships, had at this later phase of the fight 
fallen under the guns of the Worcester and the Eagle. Her captain, 
de Saint-Fdlix, was one of the most resolute of Suffren's officers. 
She was rescued by the flagship, but she had lost 47 killed and 136 
wounded, — an almost incredible slaughter, being over a third of the 
usual complement of a sixty-four; and Suffren's ships were under- 

These spirited episodes, and the fact that his four separated ships 
were approaching the enemy, and being approached by them, caused 
Hughes to give the orders to wear, and for a general chase ; the flag 
for the line being hauled down. Two of his fleet, however, made 
signals of disability; so he annulled the orders, and at 1.30 formed 
on the port tack, recalling the engaged vessels. Both squadrons 
now stood in shore, and anchored at about 6 p.m.; the British near 


Negapatam, the French some ten miles north. The loss in the action 
had been: British, 77 killed, 233 wounded; French, 178 killed, 601 
wounded. Among the slain was Captain the Hon. Dunbar Maclellan 
of Hughes's flagship. 

On the following day Suffren sailed for Cuddalore. There he 
received word that two ships of the line — the Illustre, 74, and St. 
Michel, 60, with a convoy of supplies and 600 ti-oops — were to be 
expected shortly at Pointe de Galle, then a Dutch port, on the south- 
west side of Ceylon. It was essential to cover these, and on the 18tli 
he was ready for sea ; but the necessity of an interview with Hyder 
Ali delayed him until the 1st of August, when he started for 
Batacalo. On the 9th he arrived there, and on the 21st the reinforce- 
ment joined him. Within forty-eight hours the supplj^-ships were 
cleared, and the squadron sailed again with the object of taking 
Trincomale. On the 25th he was off the port, and, the ojaeration being 
energetically pushed, the place capitulated on the 31st of August. 

It is difficult to resist the impression that greater energy on 
Hughes's part might have brought him up in time to prevent this 
mishap. He reached Madras only on July 20th, a fortnight after the 
late action ; and he did not sail thence until the 20th of August, 
notwithstanding that he apprehended an attempt upon Trincomale. 
Hence, Avhen he arrived there on the 2nd of September, not only had 
it passed into the hands of the enemy, but Suffren had re-embarked 
already the men and the guns that had been landed from his fleet. 
When Hughes's approach was signalled, all preparations for sea were 
hastened, and the following morning, at da3'break, the French came 
out. Hughes had been joined since the last action by the Sceptre, 
64, Captain Samuel Graves, so that the respective forces in the action 
fought off Trincomale on September 3rd were twelve of the line to 
fourteen, viz. : British, 3 seventy-fours, 1 seventy, 1 sixt3'-eight, 6 
sixty-fours, 1 fifty; French, 4 seventy-fours, 7 sixty-fours, 1 sixtj-, 
2 fifties. Suffren had also put into the line a 36-gun ship, the 

AVhile the French were getting inider way, the British fleet was 
standing towards the entrance, closehauled on the starboard tack, a 
fresh south-west monsoon blowing. When Hughes made out the 
hostile flags on the works, he kept away four points,^ and steered 
east-south-east, still in column, under short canvas. Suffren i:)ursued, 

1 Previously the British East Indianian, Elizabeth. 

2 Fortv-five defrrees. 

558 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-178:3. [1782. 

being to windward yet astern, with his fleet on a line of bearing; 
that is, the line on which the sliips were ranged was not the same as 
the course which they were steering. Tliis formation, wherein the 
advance is o))Hque to tlie front, is very difficult to maintain. Wish- 
ing to make the action, whatever the immediate event, decisive in 
results, by drawing the French well to leeward of the port, Hughes, 
who was a thorough seaman and had good cajjtains, plajed with his 
eager enem3^ "He kept avoiding me without taking flight," wrote ■ 
Suffren; "or rather, he fled in good order, regulating his canvas by 
his worst sailers ; and, keeping off by degrees, he steered from first 
to last ten or twelve different courses." Hughes, on his part, while 
Xierfectly clear as to his own object, was somewhat perplexed by the 
seeming indecision of an adversary A^hose fighting purpose he knew 
by experience. "Sometimes they edged down," he wrote; "some- 
times they In-ought-to ; in no regular order, as if undetermined what 
to do." These apparent vacillations were due to the difficulty of 
maintaining the line of bearing, which was to be the line of battle; 
and this difficulty was the greater, l)ecause Hughes was continually 
altering his course and Suffren's ships Avere of unequal speed. 

At length, at 2 p.m., being then twenty-five miles south-east of 
the port, the French drew near enough to bear down. That this 
movement might be carried out with precision, and all the vessels 
come into action together, Suffren caused his fleet to haul to the 
wind, on the starboard tack, to rectify the order. This also being 
done poorly and slowly, he lost patience; and at 2.30, to spur on 
the laggard ships, he gave the signal to attack, specifying pistol- 
range (A). Even this not sufficing to fetch the delinquents promptly 
into line Avith the flag-ship, the latter fired a gun to enforce obedi- 
ence. Her own side being still turned toAvards the British, as she 
waited, the report Avas taken by the men below to be the signal 
for opening fire, and her whole broadside AA'as discharged. This 
example Avas foUoAved by the other ships, so that the engagement, 
instead of being close, was begun at half cannon-shot. 

Owing to his measured and deliberate retreat, Hughes had liis 
fleet noAV in thoroughly good shape, well aligned and closed-up. The 
French, starting from a poor formation to perform a diflicult evolu- 
tion, under fire, engaged in utter disorder (B). Seven ships, round- 
ing-to too soon and fore-reaching, formed a confused group, much to 
Avindward and somcAvhat ahead of the enemj-"s \'an. Imperfectly 
deployed, their fire could not be adequately developed. In the 




rear a somewhat similar condition existed. Suffren, expecting the 
bulk of his line to tight tlie Uritish to windward, had directed 
the Vcngewr, G4, and the C'oiisolaatc, 36, to double to leeward on the 
extreme rear; but they, finding that the weather sides of the enemy 
were not occupied, feared to go to leeward, lest they should be cut 
off. They attacked the rear British ship, the Worcester., 64:, Captain 
Charles Wood, to windward; but the Monmouth, 64, Captain .James 
Alms (1), dropping down to her support, and the VeiKjeur catching 




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fire in the mizzen top, they were compelled to haul off. Only Suffren's 
own ship, the Hiros, 74 (a), and her next astern, the Illicstre, 74, 
came at once to close action with the British centre ; Ijut suljsequently 
the Ajax, 64, succeeding in clearing herself from the snarl in 
the rear, took station ahead of the Hrros. Ui^on these three fell the 
brunt of the fight. They not only received the broadsides of the 
ships immediatel}' opposed to them, but, the wind having now become 
light yet free, the British vessels ahead and astern, by luffing or 

560 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [1782. 

keeping off, played also upon them. "The enemy formed a semi- 
circle around us," wrote Suffren's chief of staff, "and raked us ahead 
and astern, as the ship came up and fell off witli the helm to lee- 
ward." The two seventy-fours were crushed under this fire. Both 
lost their main and mizzen masts in the course of the day, and the 
foretopmast of the flagship also fell. The Ajax arriving later, and 
proljably drawing less attention, had only a topmast shot away. 

The British total of killed and wounded was very evenly dis7 
tributed throughout the fleet. Only the rear ship lost an important 
spar, — the main topmast. It was vipon her, as already mentioned, 
and upon the two leading ships, the Exeter and Ids, that fell the 
heaviest fire, proportionately, of the French. From the position of 
the seven van ships of the latter, such fire as they could make must 
needs be upon the extreme British van, and the Exeter was forced to 
leave the line. The loss of the French that day was 82 killed and 
255 wounded; of which 64 killed and 178 wounded belonged to the 
.Heros, Illustre, and Ajax. The British had 51 killed and 283 
wounded; the greatest number of casualties in one ship being 56. 
Singularly enough, in such a small list of deaths, three were com- 
manding officers: Captains James Watt, of the Sultan, Charles 
Wood of the Worcester, and the Hon. Thomas Charles Lumley of the 

At 5.30 P.M. the wind shifted suddenly from south-west to east- 
south-east (C). The British wore together, formed on the other tack, 
and continued the fight. It was during this final act, and at 6 p.m., 
that the maiiunast of the French flagship came down. The van 
ships of the French had towed their heads round with boats before 
4, in order to come to the support of the centre, in obedience to a 
signal from Suffren ; but the light airs and calms had retarded them. 
With the shift they approached, and passed in column between their 
crippled vessels and the enemy. This manoeuvre, and the failure of 
daylight, brought the battle to an end. According to Hughes's 
reiDort, several of his fleet " were making much water from shot-holes 
so very low down in the bottom as not to be come at to be effectually 
stopped; and the whole had suffered severely in their masts and 
rigging." Trincomale being in the enemy's possession, and the east 
coast of Ceylon an unsafe anchorage now, at the change of the 
monsoon, he felt compelled to return to jNIadras, where he anchored 
on the 9th of the month. Suffren regained Trincomale on the 7tli 
of September, but tlie Orient, 74, running ashore at the entrance 


and being lost, he remained outside until the 17th, saving material 
from the wreck. 

The break-up of the south-west monsoon, then at hand, is apt to 
be accompanied by violent hurricanes, and is succeeded bj- the iiortii- 
east monsoon, during which the east coast, of the peninsula and of 
Ceylon, is a lee shore, with heavy surf. Naval oijerations, there- 
fore, were suspended for the winter. During that season Trincoiuale 
is the ouly secure port. Deprived of it, Hughes determined to 
go to Bombaj', and fcir that purpose left jMadras on the ITtli of 
October. Four days later a reinforcement of five ships of the line 
arrived from England, under Commodore Sir Richard IJickerton, Bart., 
Avho followed the Commander-in-Chief at once to the west coast. In 
the course of December the entire British force was united at IJombay. 

In Trincomale Suffren had a good anchorage; but the insuffi- 
ciency of its resources, with other military considerations, decided 
him to winter at Acheen, at the west end of Sumatra. He arrived 
there on the 2nd of November, having first paid a visit to Cuddalore, 
where the Bizarre, 64, was wrecked by carelessness. On the 20th of 
December he left Acheen for the Coromandel coast, having sliortened 
his stay to the eastward for reasons of policy. On the 8tli of 
Januar}', 1783, he was off Ganjam, on the Orissa coast, and thence 
reached Trincomale again on the 2-3rd of February. There he was 
joined on the lOtli of ^Nlarch by three ships of the line from Europe : 2 
seventy-fours and 1 sixty-four. Under their convoy came General de 
Bussy, with 2,500 troops, who were at once dispatched to Cuddalore. 

On the 10th of Ajjril Vice-Admiral Hughes, returning from 
Bombay, passed Trincomale on the way to jMadras. The various 
maritime occurrences since the battle of September 3rd had reversed 
the naval odds, and Hughes now had eighteen ships of the line, one 
of which was an eighty, opposed to fifteen under Suffren. Another 
important event in the affairs of India was the death of H3'der Ali, 
on the 7th of December, 1782. Although his j^olicy was continued 
b)^ his son, the blow to the French was seriotis. Under all the con- 
ditions, the British authorities were emboldened to attempt tlie 
reduction of Cuddalore. The army destined to this enterprise 
marched from Madras, passed round Cuddalore, and encamped south 
of it by the shore. The supply-ships and lighter cruisers anchored 
near, while the fleet cruised to the southward, where, being to wind- 
ward, for the south-west monsoon had then set in, it covered the 

operations against disturbance from tlie sea. 
VOL III — na 

662 MAJOR OPERATIONS. 1762-1783. [17S3. 

Towards the lieginning of June the investment of the place was 
complete Ijy land and by water. Intelligence of this state of things 
was hrouglit on the 10th of June to Suffren, who by Bussy's direc- 
tion was keeping his inferior fleet in Triucomale until its services 
should be absolutely indispensable. Immediately upon receiving 
the news he left port, and on the 13th sighted the British fleet, then 
at anchor off Porto Novo, a little south of Cuddalore. Upon his 
apinoach Huglies moved off, and anchored again five miles from the 
besieged place. For the next two days the French were baffled by 
the winds; but on the 17th, the soiith-west monsoon resumed, and 
Suffren again drew near. The British Vice-Admiral, not caring to 
accept action at anchor, got under way, and from that time till the 
20th remained outside, trying to obtain the weather-gage, in which 
he was frustrated by the variableness of the winds. IMeanwhile 
Suffren had anchored near the town, connnunicated with the general, 
and, being very short of men at the guns, had embarked 1,200 troops 
for his expected battle ; for it was evident that the issue of the siege 
would turn upon the control of the sea. On the 18th he -weighed 
again, and the two fleets manoeuvred for the advantage, with light 
baffling airs, the British furthest from shore. 

On the 20th of June, the wind hcilding at west with unexpected 
constancy, Hughes decided to accept the attack which Suffren evi- 
dently intended. The latter, being distinctly inferior in force, — lif- 
teen to eighteen, — contemplated probably an action that sliould be 
decisive only as regarded the fate of Cuddalore ; that is, one which, 
while not resulting in the capture or destruction of ships, should 
compel his opponent to leave the neighbourhood to repair damages. 
The British formed line on the port tack, heading to the northward. 
Suffren ranged his fleet in the same manner, parallel to the enemy, 
and was careful to see the order exact before bearing down. ^ When 
the signal to attack was given, the French kept away together, and 
brought-to again on the weather beam of the British, just within 
linint-blank range. The action lasted from shortly after 4 P.M. to 
nearly 7, and was general throughout both lines; but, as always 
experienced, the rears were less engaged than the centres and vans. 
No ship was taken; no very important spars seem to have been shot 
away. The loss of the British was 99 killed, 431 wounded; of the 
French, 102 killed, 386 wounded. 

As the ships' heads were north, the course of the action carried 
' See note on next page. 




them in that direction. Snffren anchored next morning twenty-five 
miles north of Cuddalore. There he was sighted on the 22nd by- 
Hughes, who had remained lying-to the day after the fight. The 
British Vice-Admiral reported several- ships much disabled, a great 
number of his men — 1,121 — down with scurvy, and the water of the 
fleet very short. He tlierefore thought it necessary to go to Madras, 
where he anchored on the 2otli. Snffren regained Cuddalore on the 
afternoon of the 23rd. His return and Hughes's departure com- 
pletely changed the military situation. The supply-ships, upon 
which the British scheme of operations depended, had been forced 
to take flight when Suffren first approached, and of course could not 
come back now. "My mind is on tlie rack without a moment's rest 
since the departure of the fleet," wrote the commanding general on the 
25th, " considering the character of M. de Suffren, and the infinite su- 
periority on the part of the French now tliat we are left to ourselves." 
The battle of .Tune 20tli, 17So, off Cuddalore, was the last of the 
maritime war of 1778. It was fought, actually, exactly five months 

Note. — List of the British and French fleets in the action off CndJalore, on 
June 20th, 1783: — 











CnmherlamI . . 


Capt. William Allen. 

Her OS .... 


Monmouth . . 


Capt. James Alms (1). 

Fenilavt . . . 


Bristol .... 


Capt. James Biirney. 

Anniljat . . . 


Hero .... 


\ Commod. Rirhard King. 

Illustre . . . 


1 Capt. Tiieopliiliis Jones. 

Argonautc . . 


Eagle .... 


Capt. William Clark. 

Vengeur . . . 


Matinanime . . 


Capt. Thomas Mackenzie. 

Sphivr . . . 


Seeptre . . . 


Capt. Samuel Graves. 

Artesien . . . 


Bttrford . . , 


Cipt. Peter Rainier (I). 

Ajar .... 


Monnrca . . . 


Capt. John Cell. 

Serere. . . . 


/Vice-Admiral SirEdward Hughes, 
\ K. B. (B). 
V Capt. Henry Newcome. 

Srillnnt . . . 


Superb .... 


Hardi .... 


SI. Michel . . 


Sullmi .... 


Capt. Andrew Mitchell. 

FlaniantI . . . 


Africa .... 


Capt. Robert M'Douall. 

Hannib„l. . . 


Worcester . . . 


Capt. Cliarles Hughes. 

.■Ipollon . . 


Exeter .... 


Capt. Joliu Samuel Smith. 

Clenpaire . 


InJIerible . . . 


Capt- the Hon. John Whitmore 

( Commodore Sir RicharJ Bicker- 



Gibraltar . . . 


j ton, Bart. 

( Capt. Thomas Hicks. 



Capt. Christopher Halliday. 
Capt. Thomas Newnham. 

Defence . . . 


Juno . . . 


Capt. James Montagu. 

Medea . . 


Capt. Erasmus Gower. 

Seahorse . . 


yy. L. c. 




after the preliminaries of peace had been signed. ^ Although the rela- 
tive force of the two fleets remained unchanged, it was a French vic- 
tory, both tactically and strategically: tactically, because the inferior 
fleet held its ground, and remained in possession of the field : strate- 
gically, because it decided the object immediately at stake, the fate 
of Cuddalore, and with it, momentarily at least, the issue of the 
camjDaign. It was, however, the triumph of one commander-in-chief 
over another; of the greater man over the lesser. Hughes's reasons 
for quitting the field involve tlie admission of his opponent's greater 
skill. "Short of water," — with eighteen ships to fifteen that should 
not have happened ; " injury to spars, " — that resulted from the action ; 
" 1, 121 men short, " — Suffren had embarked just that number — 1, 200 
— because Hughes let him communicate ^\■ith the port without fight- 
ing. This is not the place, nor is there room, for enlargement iijion 
the merits of Suffren ; upon the difficulties he surmounted, and the 
genius he showed. He was a great sea-captain, Hughes was not; 
and with poorer instruments, both in men and ships, the former over- 
came the latter. 

On the 29th of June a British frigate, the Medea, bearing a flag of 
truce, reached Cuddalore. She brought well-authenticated intelli- 
gence of the conclusion of peace ; and hostilities ceased by common 

1 January 20, 1783. 

W 56 



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