The Battle of the Saintes (known to the French as the Bataille de la Dominique), or Battle of Dominica, was an important naval battle in the Caribbean between the British and the French that took place 9 April 1782 – 12 April 1782, during the American Revolutionary War.The British fleet under Admiral Sir George Rodney defeated a French fleet under the Comte de Grasse, forcing the French and Spanish to abandon a planned invasion of Jamaica.
The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), also known as the American War of Independence, was an 18th-century war between Great Britain and its Thirteen Colonies which declared independence as the United States of America.
The Kingdom of Great Britain, officially called simply Great Britain, was a sovereign state in western Europe from 1 May 1707 to 31 December 1800. The state came into being following the Treaty of Union in 1706, ratified by the Acts of Union 1707, which united the kingdoms of England and Scotland to form a single kingdom encompassing the whole island of Great Britain and its outlying islands, with the exception of the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. The unitary state was governed by a single parliament and government that was based in Westminster. The former kingdoms had been in personal union since James VI of Scotland became King of England and King of Ireland in 1603 following the death of Elizabeth I, bringing about the "Union of the Crowns". After the accession of George I to the throne of Great Britain in 1714, the kingdom was in a personal union with the Electorate of Hanover.
France, officially the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.3 million. France, a sovereign state, is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.
The battle is named after the Saintes (or Saints), a group of islands between Guadeloupe and Dominica in the West Indies. The French fleet had the year before blockaded the British Army at Chesapeake Bay during the Siege of Yorktown and supported the eventual American victory in their revolution.
The Îles des Saintes, also known as Les Saintes is a group of small islands in the archipelago of Guadeloupe, an overseas department of France. It is part of the Canton of Trois-Rivières and is divided into two communes: Terre-de-Haut and Terre-de-Bas. It is in the arrondissement of Basse-Terre and also in Guadeloupe's 4th constituency.
Guadeloupe is an overseas region of France in the Caribbean. It consists of six inhabited islands, Basse-Terre, Grande-Terre, Marie-Galante, La Désirade, and the Îles des Saintes, as well as many uninhabited islands and outcroppings.
Dominica, officially the Commonwealth of Dominica, is an island country in the West Indies. The capital, Roseau, is located on the western side of the island. It is part of the Windward Islands in the Lesser Antilles archipelago in the Caribbean Sea. The island is located near Guadeloupe to the northwest and Martinique to the south-southeast. Its area is 750 km2 (290 sq mi), and the highest point is Morne Diablotins, at 1,447 m (4,747 ft) in elevation. The population was 71,293 at the 2011 census. The Commonwealth of Dominica is one of the Caribbean's few republics.
The French suffered heavy casualties at the Saintes and many were taken prisoner, including the admiral, Comte de Grasse. Four French ships of the line were captured (including the flagship) and one was destroyed. Rodney was credited with pioneering the tactic of "breaking the line" in the battle, though this is disputed.
A flagship is a vessel used by the commanding officer of a group of naval ships, characteristically a flag officer entitled by custom to fly a distinguishing flag. Used more loosely, it is the lead ship in a fleet of vessels, typically the first, largest, fastest, most heavily armed, or best known.
In October 1781, Admiral Comte de Grasse, commander of the French fleet in the West Indies; Francisco Saavedra de Sangronis, General Bureau for the Spanish Indies; and Bernardo de Gálvez, court representative and aide to the Spanish Governor of Louisiana, developed a plan against British forces. The strategic objectives of the Franco-Spanish military forces in the West Indies in this plan were:
Francisco Saavedra de Sangronis was a Spanish government official and soldier whose work in Cuba during the American Revolutionary War laid the foundations for the defeat of British forces in Florida and at Yorktown.
The City of New York, usually called either New York City (NYC) or simply New York (NY), is the most populous city in the United States. With an estimated 2018 population of 8,398,748 distributed over a land area of about 302.6 square miles (784 km2), New York is also the most densely populated major city in the United States. Located at the southern tip of the state of New York, the city is the center of the New York metropolitan area, the largest metropolitan area in the world by urban landmass and one of the world's most populous megacities, with an estimated 20,320,876 people in its 2017 Metropolitan Statistical Area and 23,876,155 residents in its Combined Statistical Area. A global power city, New York City has been described as the cultural, financial, and media capital of the world, and exerts a significant impact upon commerce, entertainment, research, technology, education, politics, tourism, art, fashion, and sports. The city's fast pace has inspired the term New York minute. Home to the headquarters of the United Nations, New York is an important center for international diplomacy.
The Windward Islands, also known as the Islands of Barlovento, are the southern, generally larger islands of the Lesser Antilles, within the West Indies. They lie south of the Leeward Islands, approximately between latitudes 10° and 16° N and longitudes 60° and 62° W. As a group they start from Dominica and reach southward to the north of Trinidad and Tobago and west of Barbados.
This plan became known as the "De Grasse – Saavedra Convention". The first objective was essentially met by the surrender of the British army under General Cornwallis at the Siege of Yorktown in September 1781. Grasse and his fleet played a decisive part in that victory, after which they returned to the Caribbean. On arrival in Saint Domingue in November 1781, the admiral was notified to proceed with a plan for the conquest of Jamaica.
Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis KG, PC, styled Viscount Brome between 1753 and 1762 and known as The Earl Cornwallis between 1762 and 1792, was a British Army general and official. In the United States and the United Kingdom he is best remembered as one of the leading British generals in the American War of Independence. His surrender in 1781 to a combined American and French force at the Siege of Yorktown ended significant hostilities in North America. He also served as a civil and military governor in Ireland and India; in both places he brought about significant changes, including the Act of Union in Ireland, and the Cornwallis Code and the Permanent Settlement in India.
The Siege of Yorktown, also known as the Battle of Yorktown, the Surrender at Yorktown, German Battle or the Siege of Little York, ending on October 19, 1781, at Yorktown, Virginia, was a decisive victory by a combined force of American Continental Army troops led by General George Washington and French Army troops led by the Comte de Rochambeau over a British Army commanded by British peer and Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis. The culmination of the Yorktown campaign, the siege proved to be the last major land battle of the American Revolutionary War in the North American theater, as the surrender by Cornwallis, and the capture of both him and his army, prompted the British government to negotiate an end to the conflict. The battle boosted faltering American morale and revived French enthusiasm for the war, as well as undermining popular support for the conflict in Great Britain.
The Battle of the Chesapeake, also known as the Battle of the Virginia Capes or simply the Battle of the Capes, was a crucial naval battle in the American Revolutionary War that took place near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay on 5 September 1781. The combatants were a British fleet led by Rear Admiral Sir Thomas Graves and a French fleet led by Rear Admiral Francois Joseph Paul, the Comte de Grasse. The battle was strategically decisive, in that it prevented the Royal Navy from reinforcing or evacuating the besieged forces of Lieutenant General Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia. The French were able to achieve control of the sea lanes against the British and provided the Franco-American army with siege artillery and French reinforcements. These proved decisive in the Siege of Yorktown, effectively securing independence for the Thirteen Colonies.
Jamaica was the largest and most profitable British island in the Caribbean, mainly because of sugar; it was more valuable to the British economy than all of the thirteen American colonies. King George III wrote to Lord Sandwich, saying that he would risk protecting Britain's important Caribbean islands at the risk of Britain herself, and this was the strategy implemented in 1779.Sugar made up 20% of all British imports and was worth five times as much as tobacco. The French and Spanish were fighting to take over Jamaica in order to expel the British from the West Indies, and to strike a massive blow against the British economy. The courts at Paris and Madrid perceived the invasion of Jamaica as an alternative to the Spanish and French attempts to take Gibraltar, which for two years had been a costly disaster.
While Grasse waited for reinforcements to undertake the Jamaica campaign, he captured St. Kitts in February 1782. The rest of the Windward Islands - Antigua, St Lucia, and Barbados - still remained under British control. Admiral George Rodney arrived in the Caribbean theater the following month, bringing reinforcements. These included seventeen ships of the line and gave the British a slight numerical advantage.
On 7 April 1782, Grasse set out from Martinique with 35 ships of the line, including two 50-gun ships and a large convoy of more than 100 cargo ships, to meet with a Spanish fleet of 12 ships of the line. In addition, Grasse was to rendezvous with 15,000 troops at Saint Domingue, who were earmarked for the conquest and intended to land on Jamaica's north coast.Rodney, on learning of this, sailed from St Lucia in pursuit with 36 ships of the line the following day.
The British hulls by this time had been given copper sheathing to protect them from marine growth and fouling, as well as salt water corrosion. This dramatically improved speed and sailing performance as a whole in good wind.
On 9 April 1782, the copper-hulled British fleet soon caught up with the French, who were surprised by their speed. [ clarification needed ]. But eight ships of their vanguard under Rear-Admiral Samuel Hood moved against Grasse's retreating ships and waged a fight. After an inconclusive encounter in which both sides suffered damage, Grasse soon realized that the main British fleet would soon be upon them. He broke off the engagement to return to protect the merchant convoy.Admiral de Grasse ordered the French convoy to head into Guadeloupe for repair, forcing him to escort two fifty-gun ships (Fier and Experiment), and placing his fleet in line of battle in order to cover the retreat. The British fleet became separated from the centre and rear divisions
In the following days the two fleets faced each other parallel but both sides kept their distance as they repaired their ships.
On 12 April, the French were sighted a short distance away, as the two fleets maneuvered between the northern end of Dominica and the Saintes. A French straggler, Zélé (74 guns), was spotted and was chased by four British ships as De Grasse made for Guadeloupe. He bore up with his fleet to protect the ship which led him to Guadeloupe[ clarification needed ] and at the same time Rodney recalled his chasing ships and made the signal for line of battle.
Rear-Admiral Hood's van division were still making repairs from the action three days earlier, so he directed his rear division, under Rear Admiral Francis S. Drake, to take the lead. At 7:40, HMS Marlborough, under Captain Taylor Penny, led the British line and opened battle when he approached the centre of the French line. Having remained parallel with the French, the ships of Drake's division passed the remaining length of de Grasse's line and the two sides exchanged broadsides, a typical naval engagement of this time.
As the battle progressed, the strong winds of the previous day and night began to temper and became more variable. As the French line passed down the British line, the sudden shift of wind let Rodney's flagship HMS Formidable and several other ships, including HMS Duke and HMS Bedford, sail toward the French line.
At 8 am, Formidable opened fire and engaged the French centre. As she slowed, she duelled with de Grasse's flagship, Ville de Paris of 104 guns. The rest of the ships soon followed, raking the French as they did so, causing high casualties amongst the soldiers and sailors. Russell, cleared the end of the French fleet and hauled wind; while his ships had taken some damage, they had inflicted a severe battering on the French.Around 9 am, Drake's rearmost ship, HMS
Within an hour, the wind had shifted to the south, forcing the French line to separate and bear to the west, as it could not hold its course into the wind. This allowed the British to use their guns on both sides of their ships without any fear of return fire from the front and rear of the French ships they were passing between. The effect was greater with the use of carronades, with which the British had just equipped nearly half their fleet; this relatively new short-range weapon was quicker to reload and more of them could be carried. Glorieux was the first victim; virtually a sitting duck, she was quickly pounded and dismasted by intense fire. In the confusion, four French ships began milling around; Formidable turned to starboard and brought her port guns to bear on them.As a result, Formidable sailed through the French line, blasting her way through; this piercing was followed by five other British ships.
At the same time, Commodore Edmund Affleck, to the south, also immediately capitalized on the opportunity and led the rearmost of the British ships through the French line, inflicting significant damage. The French tried to restore order; around 1:30 pm, Admiral de Grasse signalled line on the port tack, but this was not fulfilled; he was soon battling Hood's 90-gun HMS Barfleur. Centaur. Hector, a complete dismasted wreck, struck her flag after having battled HMS Canada and HMS Alcide. Ardent soon followed, being taken by the rest of the British centre.With their formation shattered and many of their ships severely damaged, the French fell away to the southwest in small groups. Rodney attempted to redeploy and make repairs before pursuing the French. By 2 pm, the wind had freshened and a general chase ensued. As the British pressed south, they took possession of Glorieux and caught up with the French rear at around 3 pm. In succession, Rodney's ships isolated the other three ships. César, which was soon totally dismasted and in flames, was captured by HMS
At 4 pm, de Grasse with Ville de Paris, alone and being battered by Barfleur, with little support and suffering huge losses in men, made another attempt to signal the fleet and gave the order "to build the line on the starboard tack", but again this was not done.By this time, most of the French fleet, apart from those ships that were surrounded, had retreated. Louis Antoine de Bougainville, who commanded Auguste, succeeded in rallying eight ships of his own division.
Finally, the isolated Ville de Paris, being overwhelmed and suffering terrible losses, eventually struck her colours, signalling surrender.Hood took the surrender; the boarding crew, which included the British fleet surgeon Gilbert Blane, were horrified at the carnage; Remarkably Admiral de Grasse appeared not to have a scratch on him, while every one of his officers had either been killed or wounded. Rodney boarded soon after, and Hood presented Grasse to him. With his surrender, the battle had effectively ended, except for a few long-range desultory shots and the retreat of many of the French ships in disorder. With a fire out of control, the magazine aboard the César exploded, killing more than 400 French and 50 British sailors, although many men jumped overboard trying to avoid the disaster.
The Comte de Vaudreuil in Sceptre, learning of Grasse's fate, assumed command of the scattered French naval fleet. On 13 April, he had ten ships with him and sailed toward Cap-Français.
The British lost 243 killed and 816 wounded, and two captains of 36 were killed. The total French casualties have never been stated, but six captains out of 30 were killed. It is estimated that the French may have lost as many as 3,000 men. More than 5,000 French soldiers and sailors were captured. In addition to several French ships captured, others were severely damaged. ' crew alone, over 400 were killed and more than 700 were wounded – more than the casualties of the entire British fleet.The high number of men demonstrates the considerable force the French committed to achieve the invasion of Jamaica. Of the Ville de Paris
On 17 April, Hood was sent in pursuit of the French, and promptly captured two 64-gun ships of the line (Jason and Caton) and two smaller warships in the Battle of the Mona Passage on 19 April.
Soon after the defeat, the French fleet reached Cap Francois in several waves; the main contingent, under Vaudreuil, arrived on 25 April; Marseillois, along with Hercule, Pluton and Éveillé, arrived on 11 May.
In May, all French ships from the battle arrived from Martinique, then numbering twenty-six ships, and were soon joined by twelve Spanish ships. Disease took a hold of the French forces, in particular the soldiers, of whom thousands died. The allies hesitated, and indecision soon led to the abandonment of the attack on Jamaica.
The battle has been controversial, for three reasons:
Had a chief worthy Britain commanded our fleet,
Twenty-five good French ships had been laid at our feet.
France and Spain's plan to invade Jamaica was ruined, and it remained a British colony with no further threat, as indeed were Barbados, St Lucia and Antigua.Rodney was feted a hero on his return; he presented the Comte De Grasse as his prisoner personally to the King. He was created a peer with £2,000 a year settled on the title in perpetuity for this victory. Hood was elevated to the peerage as well, while Drake and Affleck were made baronets.
Following the Franco-American victory at Yorktown the previous year, and the change of Government in England, peace negotiations among Britain, the American colonies, France, and Spain had begun in early 1782. The Battle of the Saintes transferred the strategic initiative to the British. The most likely next military action would be an attack on the French sugar islands. The French were consequently inclined to ameliorate their terms. Britain's dominance at sea was reasserted. The Americans realized they were unlikely to have much French support in the future. Richard Howe gained relief of the Siege of Gibraltar by defeating the huge Franco-Spanish assault; the siege was lifted in February 1783.Initial articles of peace were signed in July, with a full treaty following in September 1783.
As a result of the battle, naval warfare changed along the tactical lines employed. The British used these tactics again in the all-important Battle of Trafalgar, where Admiral Horatio Nelson defeated Napoleon’s fleet using similar tactics.
|Admiral Sir George Rodney's fleet|
|HMS Royal Oak||Third rate||74||Captain Thomas Burnett|
|HMS Alfred||Third rate||74||Captain William Bayne †|
|Bayne killed on 9 April|
|HMS Montagu||Third rate||74||Captain George Bowen|
|HMS Yarmouth||Third rate||64||Captain Anthony Parrey|
|HMS Valiant||Third rate||74||Captain Samuel Granston Goodall|
|HMS Barfleur||Second rate||98||Rear-Admiral Sir Samuel Hood |
Captain John Knight
|Flagship of van|
|HMS Monarch||Third rate||74||Captain Francis Reynolds|
|HMS Warrior||Third rate||74||Captain Sir James Wallace|
|HMS Belliqueux||Third rate||64||Captain Andrew Sutherland (mariner)|
|HMS Centaur||Third rate||74||Captain John Nicholson Inglefield|
|No casualty returns made|
|HMS Magnificent||Third rate||74||Captain Robert Linzee|
|HMS Prince William||Third rate||64||Captain George Wilkinson|
|HMS Bedford||Third rate||74||Commodore Edmund Affleck |
Captain Thomas Graves
|HMS Ajax||Third rate||74||Captain Nicholas Charrington|
|HMS Repulse||Third rate||64||Captain Thomas Dumaresq|
|HMS Canada||Third rate||74||Captain William Cornwallis|
|HMS St Albans||Third rate||64||Captain Charles Inglis|
|HMS Namur||Second rate||90||Captain Robert Fanshawe|
|HMS Formidable||Second rate||98||Admiral Sir George Rodney |
Captain Sir Charles Douglas
2nd Captain Charles Symons
|Flagship of centre|
|HMS Duke||Second rate||98||Captain Alan Gardner|
|HMS Agamemnon||Third rate||64||Captain Benjamin Caldwell|
|HMS Resolution||Third rate||74||Captain Lord Robert Manners|
|HMS Prothee||Third rate||64||Captain Charles Buckner|
|HMS Hercules||Third rate||74||Captain Henry Savage|
|Captain Savage wounded|
|HMS America||Third rate||64||Captain Samuel Thompson|
|HMS Russell||Third rate||74||Captain James Saumarez|
|HMS Fame||Third rate||74||Captain Robert Barbor|
|HMS Anson||Third rate||64||Captain William Blair †|
|HMS Torbay||Third rate||74||Captain John Lewis Gidoin|
|HMS Prince George||Second rate||98||Captain James Williams|
|HMS Princessa||Third rate||70||Rear-Admiral Francis Samuel Drake |
Captain Charles Knatchbull
|Flagship of rear|
|HMS Conqueror||Third rate||74||Captain George Balfour|
|HMS Nonsuch||Third rate||64||Captain William Truscott|
|HMS Alcide||Third rate||74||Captain Charles Thompson|
|No casualty returns made|
|HMS Arrogant||Third rate||74||Captain Samuel Pitchford Cornish|
|HMS Marlborough||Third rate||74||Captain Taylor Penny|
|Total recorded casualties: 239 killed, 762 wounded (casualties for two ships unknown)|
|Source: The London Gazette , 12 December 1782.|
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|Admiral the Comte de Grasse's fleet|
Chef d'escadre Louis Antoine de Bougainville
|César||74||captured, but destroyed|
|Couronne||80||Claude Mithon de Genouilly|
|Dauphin Royal||70||Pierre, comte de Roquefeuil|
|Duc de Bourgogne||80|
|Hercule||74||Jean Isaac Chadeau de la Clocheterie|
|Sceptre||74||Marquis de Vaudreuil|
|Triomphant||80||Jean-François Du Cheyron †|
|Ville de Paris||104||François Joseph Paul de Grasse||captured|
The Battle of the Saintes is the subject of the title track on No Grave But the Sea, the 2017 album by the Scottish "pirate metal " band Alestorm. The lyrics mention De Grasse, the British ships HMS Duke and Bedford, and the tactic of "breaking the line."
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