Battle of the Saintes

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Battle of the Saintes
Part of the American War of Independence
The battle of the Saints 12 avril 1782.jpg
The Battle of the Saintes, 12 April 1782: surrender of the Ville de Paris by Thomas Whitcombe, painted 1783, shows Hood's HMS Barfleur, centre, attacking the French flagship Ville de Paris, right.
Date9 April 1782 – 12 April 1782
LocationOff Dominica, West Indies
ResultDecisive British victory[1]
Belligerents
 Great Britain France
Commanders and leaders
Kingdom of Great Britain Sir George RodneyKingdom of France Comte de Grasse  (POW)
Strength
36 ships of the line33 ships of the line
Casualties and losses
243 dead,
816 wounded
4 ships of the line captured,
1 destroyed
2,000 dead or wounded,
5,000 captured
 
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Battle of the Saintes
Part of the American War of Independence
The battle of the Saints 12 avril 1782.jpg
The Battle of the Saintes, 12 April 1782: surrender of the Ville de Paris by Thomas Whitcombe, painted 1783, shows Hood's HMS Barfleur, centre, attacking the French flagship Ville de Paris, right.
Date9 April 1782 – 12 April 1782
LocationOff Dominica, West Indies
ResultDecisive British victory[1]
Belligerents
 Great Britain France
Commanders and leaders
Kingdom of Great Britain Sir George RodneyKingdom of France Comte de Grasse  (POW)
Strength
36 ships of the line33 ships of the line
Casualties and losses
243 dead,
816 wounded
4 ships of the line captured,
1 destroyed
2,000 dead or wounded,
5,000 captured

The Battle of the Saintes (known to the French as the Bataille de la Dominique, or Battle of Dominica) took place over 4 days, 9 April 1782 – 12 April 1782, during the American War of Independence, and was a victory of a British fleet under Admiral Sir George Rodney over a French fleet under the Comte de Grasse forcing the French and Spanish to abandon a planned invasion of Jamaica.

The battle is named after the Saintes (or Saints), a group of islands between Guadeloupe and Dominica in the West Indies. The French fleet defeated here by the Royal Navy was the same French fleet that had blockaded the British Army during the Siege of Yorktown. The British are sometimes credited with pioneering the tactic of "breaking the line" in the battle, though this is disputed.[citation needed]

Origins[edit]

On 7 April 1782, the Comte de 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 consisting of 12 ships of the line and 15,000 troops for the purpose of capturing the British island of Jamaica. He was pursued by Rodney with 36 ships of the line.

On 9 April 1782, De Grasse sent his convoy into Guadeloupe, escorted by two fifty-gun ships (Fier and Experiment). There was an initial inconclusive clash during which the French got the better of the van division of the British fleet that had become separated from the centre and rear divisions. Two French ships of the line were damaged.

Battle[edit]

On 12 April, De Grasse bore up with his fleet to protect a dismasted ship (Zélé'', 74 guns) that was being chased by four British ships as he made for Guadeloupe. Rodney recalled his chasing ships and made the signal for line of battle. As the French line passed down the British line, a sudden shift of wind let Rodney's flagship Formidable and several other ships, including the Duke and the Bedford, break through the French line, raking the ships as they did so. The resultant confusion in the French line and the severe damage to several of the French ships including De Grasse's flagship Ville de Paris, of 104 guns, led eventually to De Grasse’s surrender and the retreat of many of his ships in disorder. This action split the French battle line into two. A general chase ensued. In all, four French ships were captured and one, César, blew up after she was taken.

A 1785 engraving of de Grasse surrendering to Rodney.

The British lost 243 killed and 816 wounded, and two captains out of 36 were killed. The French loss in killed and wounded has never been stated, but of captains alone, six were killed out of 30. It is estimated that the French loss may have been as much as 2,000. More than 5,000 French soldiers and sailors were captured. The large number shows what a considerable force the French were willing to put ashore with the invasion of Jamaica. Of the Ville de Paris' crew, over 400 were killed and more than 700 were wounded. The magazine aboard the César exploded, killing over 400 French and 50 British sailors.

Aftermath[edit]

The battle frustrated French and Spanish hopes of capturing Jamaica from the British. Rodney 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.

The battle has caused controversy ever since, for three reasons:

Had a chief worthy Britain commanded our fleet,
Twenty-five good French ships had been laid at our feet.
[2]

Order of battle[edit]

Britain[edit]

Admiral Sir George Rodney's fleet
Van
ShipRateGunsCommanderCasualtiesNotes
KilledWoundedTotal
HMS Royal OakThird rate74Captain Thomas Burnett
8
30
38
HMS AlfredThird rate74Captain William Bayne  
12
40
52
Bayne killed on 9 April
HMS MontaguThird rate74Captain George Bowen
14
29
43
HMS YarmouthThird rate64Captain Anthony Parrey
14
33
47
HMS ValiantThird rate74Captain Samuel Granston Goodall
10
28
38
HMS BarfleurSecond rate98Rear-Admiral Sir Samuel Hood
Captain John Knight
10
37
47
Flagship of van
HMS MonarchThird rate74Captain Francis Reynolds
16
33
49
HMS WarriorThird rate74Captain Sir James Wallace
5
21
26
HMS BelliqueuxThird rate64Captain Andrew Sutherland
4
10
14
HMS CentaurThird rate74Captain John Nicholson Inglefield
?
?
?
No casualty returns made
HMS MagnificentThird rate74Captain Robert Linzee
6
11
17
HMS Prince WilliamThird rate64Captain George Wilkinson
0
0
0
Centre
HMS BedfordThird rate74Commodore Edmund Affleck
Captain Thomas Graves
0
17
17
HMS AjaxThird rate74Captain Nicholas Charrington
9
40
49
HMS RepulseThird rate64Captain Thomas Dumaresq
3
11
14
HMS CanadaThird rate74Captain William Cornwallis
12
23
35
HMS St AlbansThird rate64Captain Charles Inglis
0
6
6
HMS NamurSecond rate90Captain Robert Fanshawe
6
25
31
HMS FormidableSecond rate98Admiral Sir George Rodney
Captain Sir Charles Douglas
2nd Captain Charles Symons
15
39
53
Flagship of centre
HMS DukeSecond rate90Captain Alan Gardner
13
60
73
HMS AgamemnonThird rate64Captain Benjamin Caldwell
15
23
38
HMS ResolutionThird rate74Captain Lord Robert Manners
4
34
38
HMS ProtheeThird rate64Captain Charles Buckner
5
25
30
HMS HerculesThird rate74Captain Henry Savage
6
19
25
Captain Savage wounded
HMS AmericaThird rate64Captain Samuel Thompson
1
1
2
Rear
HMS RussellThird rate74Captain James Saumarez
10
29
39
HMS FameThird rate74Captain Robert Barbor
3
12
15
HMS AnsonThird rate64Captain William Blair  
3
13
16
HMS TorbayThird rate74Captain John Lewis Gidoin
10
25
35
HMS Prince GeorgeSecond rate98Captain James Williams
9
24
33
HMS PrincessaThird rate70Rear-Admiral Francis Samuel Drake
Captain Charles Knatchbull
3
22
25
Flagship of rear
HMS ConquerorThird rate74Captain George Balfour
7
23
30
HMS NonsuchThird rate64Captain William Truscott
3
3
6
HMS AlcideThird rate74Captain Charles Thompson
?
?
?
No casualty returns made
HMS ArrogantThird rate74Captain Samuel Pitchford Cornish
0
0
0
HMS MarlboroughThird rate74Captain Taylor Penny
3
16
19
Total recorded casualties: 239 killed, 762 wounded (casualties for two ships unknown)
Source: The London Gazette, 12 December 1782.[3]

France[edit]

Admiral the Comte de Grasse's fleet
ShipGunsCommanderFate
Ardent64de Gouzilloncaptured
Auguste80de Castellan
Chef d'escadre Louis Antoine de Bougainville
van flag
Bourgogne74
Brave74
César74captured, but burnt
Citoyen74
Conquérant74
Couronne80Claude Mithon de Genouilly
Dauphin Royal70Pierre, comte de Roquefeuil
Destin74
Diadème74
Duc de Bourgogne80
Éveillé64
Glorieux74captured
Hector74captured
Hercule74Jean Isaac Chadeau de la Clocheterie
Languedoc80
Magnanime74
Magnifique74
Marseillais74
Neptune74
Northumberland74
Palmier74
Pluton74
Réfléchi64
RichemondfrigateMontemart
Sceptre74
Scipion74
Souverain74
Triomphant80Jean-François Du Cheyron  
Ville de Paris104François Joseph Paul de Grassecaptured

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Black, Jeremy (1999). Warfare in the Eighteenth Century. London: Cassell. p. 141. ISBN 978-0-304-35245-6. 
  2. ^ Leyland, John (1899). Dispatches and letters relating to the blockade of Brest, 1803-1805. Printed for the Navy Records Society. p. xx. 
  3. ^ The London Gazette: no. 12396. pp. 3–4. 1782-10-12. Retrieved 2010-04-08.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 15°47′N 61°36′W / 15.783°N 61.600°W / 15.783; -61.600