Battle of Martinique (1780)

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Battle of Martinique
Part of The American Revolutionary War
Combat de la Dominique 17 Avril 1780 Rossel de Cercy 1736 1804.jpg
Combat de la Dominique, 17 Avril 1780, by
Auguste Louis de Rossel de Cercy (1736–1804)
Date17 April 1780
Location
Result Indecisive [1] [2] [3]
Belligerents
Union flag 1606 (Kings Colors).svg  Great Britain Royal Standard of the King of France.svg  France
Commanders and leaders
Sir George Rodney Comte de Guichen
Strength
20 ships of the line 23 ships of the line
Casualties and losses
120 killed
354 wounded
222 killed
537 wounded

The Battle of Martinique, also known as the Combat de la Dominique, took place on 17 April 1780 during the American Revolutionary War in the West Indies between the British Royal Navy and the French Navy.

Contents

Origins

In March 1780, the French chief commander for the West Indies and North America, Charles Henri Hector d'Estaing, was succeeded by Comte de Guichen. Together with François Claude Amour, marquis de Bouillé, de Guichen planned a combined attack on a British West Indies Island. On 13 April Guichen sailed from Martinique with a fleet of 23 ships of the line and 3,000 troops. The newly arrived British commander based in St. Lucia, George Brydges Rodney, was notified immediately of the French departure, and gave chase with 20 ships of the line. On 16 April, his sentinels spotted de Guichen westward of Martinique. [4]

Battle

The fleets began manoeuvring for the advantage of the weather gage on the morning of 17 April. By 8:45, Rodney had reached a position to the windward of de Guichen, in a relatively close formation. To escape the danger to his rear, de Guichen ordered his line to wear and sail to the north, stringing out the line in the process. This forced Rodney to go through another series of manoeuvres to regain his position, which he did by late morning. At this point, he hoped to engage the rear and centre of de Guichen's elongated line, concentrating his power to maximize damage there before de Guichen's van could join the action. The signal that Rodney issued was for each ship to engage the appropriate ship it was paired with according to the disposition of the two fleets. He issued this signal with the understanding that his captains would execute it in the context of signals given earlier in the day that the enemy's rear was the target of the attack. [5]

Unfortunately for the British, Robert Carkett (the commander of the lead ship HMS Stirling Castle) either misunderstood the signal or had forgotten the earlier one, and moved ahead to engage de Guichen's van; he was followed by the rest of Rodney's fleet, and the two lines ended up engaging ship to ship. [4]

View of the battle by Thomas Luny. Bataille de la Martinique en 1780 vue par le peintre Thomas Luny.jpg
View of the battle by Thomas Luny.

Thanks to the orderly fashion in which de Guichen's subordinate squadron-commanders dealt with the crisis, especially the third-in-command Comte de Grasse's rapid closing-up of the battle-line, de Guichen managed to extricate himself from a difficult situation and instead turn a narrow defeat to a drawn battle, although his and Marquis de Bouillé's objective to attack and seize Jamaica was thwarted. [5]

During the battle, both Rodney's Sandwich passed through the French line of ships, and was heavily engaged by the Couronne , Triomphant, and Fendant, for the next hour and a half before the French ship sdisengaged. [4]

Aftermath

Alfred Thayer Mahan wrote, "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." [4]

David Hannay, the author of the biography on the Comte de Guichen in the 11th edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica, stated that Guichen had shown himself very skillful in handling a fleet throughout the campaign, and although there was no marked success, he had at least prevented the British admiral from doing any harm to the French islands in the Antilles. [5]

On 15 May, both fleets encountered each other again, and again on 19 May. Both encounters were indecisive, with the French returning to Fort Royal, and the British to St. Lucia and Barbados. On 5 July, De Guichen departed Fort Royal, and ignoring entreaties to join Lafayette on the continent, departed for Europe on 16 Aug. Rodney, assuming de Guichen had headed for the continent before the hurricane season started, sailed for South Carolina, before arriving Sandy Hook on 14 September. On 16 November, Rodney returned to the West Indies. [4]

Order of battle

British fleet

Admiral Rodney's fleet [6]
DivisionShipGunsCommanderCasualtiesNotes
KilledWoundedTotal
Van
Stirling Castle 64Captain Robert Carkett
Ajax 74Captain Samuel Uvedale
Elizabeth 74Captain Frederick Maitland
Princess Royal 90Rear-Admiral Hyde Parker
Captain Harry Harmood
Albion 74Captain George Bowyer
Terrible 74Captain John Leigh Douglas
Trident 64Captain Anthony James Pye Molloy
Greyhound 28Captain Archibald Dickson Frigate
Centre
Grafton 74Commodore Thomas Collingwood
Captain Thomas Newnham
Yarmouth 64Captain Nathaniel Bateman
Cornwall 74Captain Timothy Edwards
Sandwich 90Admiral Sir George Rodney
Captain Walter Young
Suffolk 74Captain Hugh Cloberry Christian
Boyne 70Captain Charles Cotton
Vigilant 64Captain Sir George Home
Venus 36Captain James Ferguson Repeating ship
Pegasus 28Captain John Bazely Frigate
Deal Castle 20Captain William Fooks Frigate
Rear
Vengeance 74Commodore William Hotham
Captain John Holloway
Medway 60Captain William Affleck
Montagu 74Captain John Houlton
Conqueror 74Rear-Admiral Joshua Rowley
Captain Thomas Watson
Intrepid 64Captain Henry St John  
Magnificent 74Captain John Elphinstone
Centurion 50Captain Richard Braithwaite To assist the rear "in case of need"
Andromeda 28Captain Henry Byrne Frigate

French fleet

Admiral Guichen's fleet [7]
DivisionShipGunsCommanderCasualtiesNotes
KilledWoundedTotal
Escadre bleue et blanche
Destin 74 Captain François-Louis du Maitz de Goimpy
Vengeur 64 Captain Jean-Georges du Croiset de Retz [8]
Saint Michel 60Captain the Chevalier d'Aymar
Pluton 74 Captain Joseph Léon de La Marthonie [9]
Triomphant 80 Chef d'Escadre Hippolyte de Sade de Vaudronne
Captain Charles-René de Gras-Préville
Flag
Souverain 74 Captain Jean-Baptiste de Glandevès du Castellet
Solitaire 64 Captain Louis-Toussaint Champion de Cicé
Citoyen 74 Captain Armand-Claude Poute de Nieuil [10]
Escadre blanche
Caton 64 Captain Georges-François de Framond
Victoire 74 Captain Joseph François Auguste Jules d'Albert de Saint-Hippolyte
Fendant 74 Chef d'Escadre Louis-Philippe de Rigaud, Marquis de Vaudreuil
Couronne 80 Lieutenant-General Luc Urbain de Bouëxic, comte de Guichen
Captain Pierre-Louis François Buor de La Charoulière [11]
Fleet flagship
Palmier 74 Captain François-Aymar de Monteil
Indien 64 Captain Jean-François de la Cour de Balleroy [12]
Actionnaire 64 Captain Jean-François Gilart de Larchantel [13]
Escadre bleue
Intrépide 74 Captain Louis Guillaume de Parscau du Plessix
Triton 64 Captain the Chevalier de Boades
Magnifique 74 Captain François-Louis de Brach [14]
Robuste 74 Chef d'Escadre François Joseph Paul de Grasse Squadron flagship
Sphinx 74 Captain Claude-René Pâris de Soulanges [15]
Artésien 64 Captain Antoine de Thomassin de Peynier [16]
Hercule 74 Captain Claude-François Renart d'Amblimont

Sources and references

Notes

    Citations

    1. Jaques p.639
    2. Sweetman p.146
    3. Botta p.57
    4. 1 2 3 4 5 Mahan, A.T. (1969). The Major Operations of the Navies in the War of American Independence. New York: Greenwood Press. pp. 115, 128–150.
    5. 1 2 3 Hannay 1911, p. 686.
    6. Trew (2006), pp. 185–186.
    7. Troude (1867), p. 71.
    8. Contenson (1934), p. 167.
    9. Rouxel, Jean-Christophe. "Joseph Léon de La MARTHONIE". Parcours de vie dans la Royale. Retrieved 18 May 2020.
    10. Contenson (1934), p. 235.
    11. Taillemite (1982), p. 51.
    12. Contenson (1934), p. 135.
    13. Naval History Division (2013), p. 925.
    14. Naval History Division (2013), p. 877.
    15. Naval History Division (2013), p. 978.
    16. Contenson (1934), p. 243.

    References

    Attribution

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