Battle of Rio de Janeiro

Last updated
Battle of Rio de Janeiro
Part of the War of the Spanish Succession
L'entree de l'escadre de Duguay-Trouin a Rio en 1711.jpg
Sketch of the battle by Duguay-Trouin
Date12–22 September 1711
Result French victory
Flag Portugal (1707).svg Portuguese Empire Royal Standard of the King of France.svg  France
Commanders and leaders
Gaspar da Costa
Francisco de Moraes de Castro
René Duguay-Trouin
3,000 soldiers
4,000 militia [1]
4 ships of the line [2]
3,800+ men
7 ships of the line, 11 other ships [2]
Casualties and losses
300+ [1]

The Battle of Rio de Janeiro was a raid in September 1711 on the port of Rio de Janeiro in the War of Spanish Succession by a French squadron under René Duguay-Trouin. The Portuguese defenders, including the city's governor and an admiral of the fleet anchored there, were unable to put up effective resistance in spite of numerical advantages.


Four Portuguese ships of the line were lost, and the city had to pay a ransom to avoid destruction of its defences.


There were multiple reasons for the French to plan an attack on Rio de Janeiro. Firstly, the commander Duguay-Trouin had a personal reason: he was almost bankrupt. The second reason was political. The War of the Spanish Succession had not gone well for France. After the defeat in the Battle of Malplaquet, the enemy was on French soil and French morale was low. A military success was urgently needed. The third reason was a question of honour. The previous year another buccaneer, Jean-François Duclerc had attempted an attack on Rio, but this expedition had ended in disaster; Duclerc and 600 of his soldiers were captured and held in unacceptable conditions. The Portuguese refused to exchange these prisoners as was stipulated in a Franco-Portuguese treaty from 1707; furthermore, Duclerc was killed in prison under mysterious circumstances in May 1711. The French wanted to liberate these prisoners, and possibly conquer some Brazilian territory.


In December 1710 Louis XIV approved Duguay-Trouin's plan and provided him with a fleet of 17 ships, carrying in total 738 cannons and 6,139 men. The French treasury could not finance the armament of the squadron and therefore Duguay-Trouin had to search private financiers in Saint Malo and on the Royal Court; he received significant support from the Count of Toulouse.

Finally the ships could be prepared and to fool the British Navy, allied to the Portuguese, the ships were prepared in different harbours, left at different times, and reassembled at sea off La Rochelle on June 9, 1711. British intelligence, however, were aware of Duguay-Trouin's goal, and had dispatched a packet to warn the Portuguese, both in Portugal and at Rio. They also dispatched a fleet under John Leake to blockade Duguay-Trouin before he sailed from Brest; they arrived two days too late. [2]

The battle

In spite of the British warning, the French appearance in Rio's harbour on 12 September was a surprise. The British news, when it arrived in August, had led Governor Francisco de Moraes de Castro to call out his militia and increase preparedness, and rumours of sails off Cabo Frio in early September had again raised the alert. However, on 11 September the governor ordered the militia to stand down, just as Duguay-Trouin was preparing his approach to the harbour. [3] The commander of Le Lys, Courserac, led the squadron directly in the Bay of Rio, between the forts lining the harbour entry, and straight at seven Portuguese warships that were anchored there. The Portuguese fleet commander, admiral Gaspar da Costa, could do nothing but cut the cables in hopes of getting his ships moving. Three of battleships grounded and were destroyed by the Portuguese to prevent their capture; the fourth was taken by the French and burned. Fire from the forts, undermanned after the order to stand down, did some damage to the French fleet, inflicting 300 casualties before the ships passed out of range. [1]

After 3 days of bombardments, the French landed 3,700 men to attack the city. The governor of Rio, Castro-Morais, had fortified the city after French attacks in previous years, but very feebly commanded the defense, which buckled under the French bombardment. After a council on 21 September in which Moraes ordered the city's defenders to hold the line, militia began deserting that night, after which there began a general flight from the city that included the governor. Under the disorganised circumstances, the French prisoners from Duclerc's expedition broke out of prison.


Duguay-Trouin, who had been preparing to storm the city, was alerted to the flight of the defenders by the arrival of one of Duclerc's men. Over the next few days, the French gained control of all of the bay's strong points, but the city's gold supply eluded him. Warned that reinforcements from São Paulo under command of António de Albuquerque were on their way, he threatened Moraes with the destruction of the city's defences if a ransom was not paid, which Moraes agreed to do. When the French left the city, it was with loot of estimated at 4 million pounds, including a shipment of African slaves, which Duguay-Trouin later sold in Cayenne.

Two ships sank after a storm near the Azores. "One with considerable treasure aboard". [4] The fleet arrived back unmolested in Brest in February 1712. The expedition was a military success for the French, and a financial success for its investors. The French Navy had proven it was still capable to strike at large distances.

This action would trouble Franco-Portuguese relations for many years to come.[ citation needed ]


  1. 1 2 3 Boxer, p. 96
  2. 1 2 3 Boxer, p. 94
  3. Boxer, p. 95
  4. Pillaging the Empire: Global Piracy on the High Seas, 1500-1750 Por Kris E Lane, Kris Lane, Robert M. Levine


Coordinates: 22°54′35″S43°10′35″W / 22.9098°S 43.1763°W / -22.9098; -43.1763

Related Research Articles

Battle of Fuzhou

The Battle of Fuzhou, or Battle of Foochow, also known as the Battle of the Pagoda Anchorage, was the opening engagement of the 16-month Sino-French War. The battle was fought on 23 August 1884 off the Pagoda Anchorage in Mawei (馬尾) harbour, 15 kilometres to the southeast of the city of Fuzhou (Foochow). During the battle Admiral Amédée Courbet's Far East Squadron virtually destroyed the Fujian Fleet, one of China's four regional fleets.

France Antarctique

France Antarctique was a French colony south of the Equator, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which existed between 1555 and 1567, and had control over the coast from Rio de Janeiro to Cabo Frio. The colony quickly became a haven for the Huguenots, and was ultimately destroyed by the Portuguese in 1567.

René Duguay-Trouin

René Trouin, Sieur du Gué, usually called René Duguay-Trouin, was a famous Breton corsair of Saint-Malo. He had a brilliant privateering and naval career and eventually became "Lieutenant-General of the Naval Armies of the King", and a Commander in the Order of Saint-Louis. Ten ships of the French Navy were named in his honour.

Battle at The Lizard

The naval Battle of the Lizard took place on 21 October 1707 during the War of the Spanish Succession near Lizard Point, Cornwall between two French squadrons under René Duguay-Trouin and Claude de Forbin and an English convoy protected by a squadron under Commodore Richard Edwards.

HMS <i>Elephant</i> (1786) 74-gun Royal Navy ship of the line

HMS Elephant was a 74-gun third-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy. She was built by George Parsons in Bursledon, Hampshire, and launched on 24 August 1786.

HMS <i>Implacable</i> (1805)

HMS Implacable was a 74-gun third-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy. She was originally the French Navy's Téméraire-class ship of the line Duguay-Trouin, launched in 1800.

Battle of Cape Ortegal battle

The Battle of Cape Ortegal was the final action of the Trafalgar campaign, and was fought between a squadron of the Royal Navy and a remnant of the fleet that had been defeated earlier at the Battle of Trafalgar. It took place on 4 November 1805 off Cape Ortegal, in north-west Spain and saw Captain Sir Richard Strachan defeat and capture a French squadron under Rear-Admiral Pierre Dumanoir le Pelley. It is sometimes referred to as Strachan's Action.

Jean-François Duclerc was a French privateer, and appointed Knight of the Order of Saint-Louis.

Hubert de Brienne, Comte de Conflans was a French naval commander.

HMS <i>Kingston</i> (1697)

HMS Kingston was a 60-gun fourth-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, built by Frame in Hull and launched on 13 March 1697. She had an eventful career, taking part in numerous engagements.

First Cevallos expedition

The First Cevallos expedition was a series military actions between September 1762 and April 1763, by Spanish colonial forces led by Don Pedro Antonio de Cevallos, Governor of Buenos Aires, against Portuguese colonial forces in the Banda Oriental area on the aftermath of the failed Spanish and French Invasion of Portugal, as part of the Seven Years' War.

Far East Squadron

The French Far East Squadron was an exceptional naval grouping created for the duration of the Sino-French War.

Lefebvres Charles Town expedition

Lefebvre's Charles Town expedition was a combined French and Spanish attempt under Captain Jacques Lefebvre to capture the capital of the English Province of Carolina, Charles Town, during Queen Anne's War.

The 1710 Battle of Rio de Janeiro was a failed raid by a French privateering fleet on the Portuguese colonial city of Rio de Janeiro in August 1710, during the War of the Spanish Succession. The raid was a complete failure; its commander, Jean-François Duclerc, and more than 600 men were captured. French anger over the Portuguese failure to properly hold, release, or exchange the prisoners contributed to a second, successful raid, the following year.

The Action of 5 May 1794 was a minor naval engagement fought in the Indian Ocean during the French Revolutionary Wars. A British squadron had been blockading the French island of Isle de France since early in the year, and early on 5 May discovered two ships approaching their position. As the strange vessels came closer, they were recognised as the French frigate Duguay Trouin, which had been captured from the East India Company the year before, and a small brig. Making use of a favourable wind, the British squadron gave chase to the new arrivals, which fled. The chase was short, as Duguay Trouin was a poor sailor with many of the crew sick and unable to report for duty. The British frigate HMS Orpheus was the first to arrive, and soon completely disabled the French frigate, successfully raking the wallowing ship. After an hour and twenty minutes the French captain surrendered, Captain Henry Newcome of Orpheus taking over the captured ship and bringing his prize back to port in India.

Recapture of Bahia

The recapture of Bahia was a Spanish-Portuguese military expedition in 1625 to retake the city of Salvador da Bahia in Brazil from the forces of the Dutch West India Company (WIC).

Blockade of Saint-Domingue naval campaign fought during the first months of the Napoleonic Wars

The Blockade of Saint-Domingue was a naval campaign fought during the first months of the Napoleonic Wars in which a series of British Royal Navy squadrons blockaded the French-held ports of Cap Français and Môle-Saint-Nicolas on the borthern coast of the French colony of Saint-Domingue, soon to become Haiti, after the conclusion of the Haitian Revolution on 1 January 1804. In the summer of 1803, when war broke out between the United Kingdom and the French Consulate, Saint-Domingue had been almost completely overrun by Haitian forces commanded by Jean-Jacques Dessalines. In the north of the country, the French forces were isolated in the two large ports of Cap Français and Môle-Saint-Nicolas and a few smaller settlements, all supplied by a French naval force based primarily at Cap Français.

Pierre-Louis Lhermite was a French sea captain and rear admiral.

Princess Royal, launched in 1786, was an East Indiaman. She made two complete trips to India for the British East India Company (EIC) and was on her third trip, this one to China, when French privateers or warships captured her on 27 September 1793. The French Navy took her into service in the Indian Ocean as a 34-gun frigate under the name Duguay Trouin. The Royal Navy recaptured her and she returned to British merchant service. In 1797 she performed one more voyage for the EIC. She received a letter of marque in July 1798 but was captured in October 1799 off the coast of Sumatra.

Brillant was a 64-gun ship of the line of the French Navy. She was first classified as a Second-rank ship, and later reclassified as a Third-rank. She was built between 1689 and 1690 at Le Havre, under supervision by engineer Étienne Salicon. She served until 1719, and took part in the Nine Years' War (1688–1697) and the War of Spanish Succession (1702–1714).