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Honour - The Saints 1782


Date - 12-April
Type - Fleet or Squadron Actions
Conflict - American War of Independence; 1775-83

 
Description The action took place near a group of islands called 'The Saints' in the Channel between Guadeloupe and Dominica in the West Indies.

A British fleet of 36 ships-of-the-line under Admiral Sir George Rodney engaged a French fleet of 32 ships-of-the-line under Vice-Admiral the Compte de Grasse.

The battle began about 0700hrs with each fleet forming the traditional battle line and passing slowly on opposite courses, engaging each opposing ship as it came within range.

At 0915hrs the wind veered 4 points and gaps developed in the French line.

Rodney in HMS Formidable followed by HMS Duke and HMS Bedford sailed through the breaks in the French line. At the rear of the British line, Admiral Sir Samuel Hood did the same and was followed by all 12 ships of his division. This was a revolutionary tactic and allowed the British to gain the weather gage.

The French tried to re-form their line but lost Glorieux, Cesar and Hector, who all struck their colours Later Ardent was also captured and the French flagship Ville de Paris surrounded, by 1830hrs she had been captured with the loss of at least 400 of her crew.

De Vendreuil took command of the remainder of the French fleet, established order and led them away.

The British pursued but soon gave up the chase. Despite gaining a substantial victory there was some criticism of Hood for not pursuing the French with more vigour, which could have caused more French ships to be captured. However British dominance of the West Indies was still established.

The British lot no ships and casualties were about 1,000. The French lost 5 ships, over 2,000 killed and wounded and many more taken prisoner.

A notable feature of the battle was the way the French line had been broken. This introduced a new tactic into the 'Fighting Instructions'; of sailing into and through a gap in the opposing line-of-battle; carronading the enemy ships on each side of the gap as they were passed; and later forcing the enemy to simultaneously engage on both sides.

 

 
 
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This page last edited - 17 August, 2012.

Copyright Ian M King, except where otherwise indicated.