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no longer follow. The commonest prudence prescribed the sacri-
fice of this vessel. De Grasse, without taking counsel of any one,
tacked about, returned to disengage the lagging ship, and sent
her to Guadeloupe. This insane movement rendered battle with
twenty-eight ships against thirty-eight inevitable.

April 12, at seven in the morning, the firing was opened along
the whole line. The French displayed a steadfast courage, and
maintained the conflict without marked disadvantage till about
noon. Rodney at length succeeded, by the superiority of his
manoeuvring, in breaking their line and gaining the wind. From
that time the disorder was irretrievable. Each French ship could do
nothing but to make a desperate defence in the position where it
had been thrown by the chances of battle and the sea. Several
ships of Bougainville's squadron, moreover, which had fallen to
the leeward, found it almost impossible to share the last efforts
of their companions in arms. Numbers prevailed. The skilful

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424 LOUIS XVL 1783L

major-general of the French fleets, Du Pavilion, and the intrepid
La Glochetterie, who had gloriously opened this war by the en-
gagement of the BeUe Poide^ were struck dead, with many other
choice men. Three ships of seventy-four and one of sixty-four
guns were taken, after having lost almos.t all their officers and
the greater part of their crews. Bougainville saved a fiftli sliip,
ready to succumb ; but no one, despite generous efforts, could
succeed in effectively succoring De Grasse, who, in the magnifi-
cent ship of one hundred and ten guns, the Ville de Parish fought
furiously until night against four English ships, which overpow-
ered him with their combined fire. Finally, at six in the evening,
a fifth adversary came up to finish the French admiral, — Admiral
Hood. The imprudent and unfortunate De Grasse at length
struck his flag. He had fought nearly twelve hours, and had on
the deck of his vessel only three men not wounded, of whom he
had the misfortune to be one. He had shown himself, in this
fatal campaign, the bravest of soldiers, and the most incapable
of leaders.

Night put an end to the battle. While the enemy, who had
suffered greatly, was forming again in line, and repairing his in-
juries, the main body of the French fleet gained the open sea,
and reached San Domingo; but the two sixty-four-gun ships,
which had put in at Guadeloupe, having sailed again without
hearing of the engagement, fell among Hood's squadron, and
swelled the success of the English.

This victory was very consoling to British self-love, and the
only naval action in this war, the results of which had been
wholly decisive. It was, however, only a defensive victory. Ja-
maica was saved ; but, far from the French or the Spanish West
Indies falling a prey to the conquerors, the English did not even
consider themselves able to undertake to recapture their islands
conquered by the French. The trophies of their triumph escaped
them. One of the ships taken, the CSsar^ blew up, the night
after the battle, with its crew and the English who held her. The
French flag-ship, the ViUe de PatiSy and another vessel sent from
the West Indies to England, were sunk in a tempest with two
English ships which accompanied them. A fourth of our ships
which had been captured by the English was sunk by two French
frigates ; a fifth shortly after foundered at sea. Little remained
to the victors of their trophies except the captive admiral, whom

1 This was the ship presented to Louis XV., in 1762, hy the municipal corporation
of Paris.

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1781*1782. THE FREKCH IN AMERICA. 425

tbej sent to London. The British people gave a veritable ovation
to the vanquished mariner, whose valor they extolled with proud
generosity in order at the same time to extol their own glory.
De Grasse did not sufficiently comprehend the true meaning of
the acclamations which were lavished upon him, and lent him-
self to them with puerile vanity, ill sustaining the dignity of mis-
fortune. Public opinion in France became so much the more
severe to him.*

The national feeling had borne these reverses with firmness.
The repetition was witnessed of the great uprising which had
been manifested among us after the last maritime disasters of the
Seven- Years' War. Large subscriptions were opened in corpora-
tions and among private individuals for the purpose of repairing
the losses of our navy. The municipal corps of Paris set the
example by offering a ship of the line to the King. It is affirmed
that the subscriptions amounted to a sum sufficient for the con-
struction of fourteen ships." The attitude of the French navy
in America corresponded to the energetic manifestations of the
nation. Far from being disheartened, it made several offensive
expeditions. Captain la Peyrouse, afterwards so celebrated for
his great voyage and his tragical and mysterious end, detached
with a smadl squadron, destroyed the English settlements on
Hudson's Bay, the eiitrep8t of the peltry trade.' Another detach-
ment took possession of Turk Islands ; islets full of rich salt-works
at the soutli-eastern extremity of the Archipelago of the Bahamas.
The Spaniards, on their side, took the Bahama Islands.

Our allies faithfully kept their engagements. The proposals
of the new English ministry, which reached the United States
simultaneously with the news of the defeat of Admiral de Grasse,
were unhesitatingly rejected by Congress ; and all the assemblies
of the Thirteen States declared any one an enemy of his country
who should propose to negotiate without the cooperation of
France.^ The English, nevertheless, evacuated Savannah and
Charleston to concentrate at New York.

Holland bad likewise rejected the offers of a separate treaty

1 Hiat. de la demihre guerre^ t UL pp. 217-244; Hial.dea troubUtde I'Atn^rique an-
glaise, t IV. pp. 61-71 ; L. Ga^rin, Hisi. maritime, t. II. pp. 517-526; Adolpbiu,
Reign of George III., book xliii.

s Hist, de la demihe guerre, t. III. p. 246.

' He had the hamanity to spare a gtorehoase filled with provisionB, in order that
the English, who had fled into the woods, might find something on their retora on
which to subsist. — Hist, de la demi^re guerre, t III. p. 422.

4 Hist, dee UxnMa de I'AmOrique anglaite, t. IV. p 76.
VOL. n. 54

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426 LOUIS XVL 1782.

which England had addressed to her through the medium cf
Russia, unfaithful to the armed neutrality.

In Europe, the operations displayed activity, this year, at a
single point alone. Minorca once reconquered, the court of Spain
had but one thought, — at any price to recover Gibraltar, whieh,
blockaded for three years, had been several times revictualled,
but which, nevertheless, was reduced to painful extremities. Tie
wisest course seemed to be to complete the blockade, and to profit
by the superiority of the combined fleets to attempt to prevent
any new assistance. The Spaniards lost patience. Their first
siege works had been destroyed by a vigorous sortie of the garri-
son (November, 1781) : they reestablished and increased tliem.
An attack by main force upon the impregnable rock of Gibraltar
was resolved on. Two French princes, the Count d'Artois and
the Duke de Bourbon, hastened to witness this great spectacle.
On the land side, an immense battery of more than two hundred
pieces of artillery was stretched across the whole peninsula. On
the side of the sea, ten floating batteries, — large ships razeed, pro-
tected with enormous pieces of wood, covered with cork and green
hides, and furnished within with tanks of water, — carrying one
hundred and fifty guns and mortars, were to be supported by a
flotilla of gunboats and by the great Franco-Spanish fleet.

The fleet, commanded by the aged Cordova, and numbering
forty-five ships of the line, arrived September 12, having captured
on its way a large English convoy destined for Canada and New-
foundland. The next day, a deluge of fire inundated Gibraltar.
The straits resounded, for a whole day and night, with a tempest
of artillery, which carried dismay even among the inhabitants of
Morocco. The storm passed in vain. On the land side, the
myriads of projectiles, hurled by the assailants, uselessly struck
the hollow rocks in which the enemy's cannon were concealed.
On the side of the sea, the attack was badly concerted. The
anchorage had been imperfectly reconnoitred : part of the float-
ing batteries ran aground ; the rest were injudiciously posted.
The means invented to protect them from the red-hpt shot were
found inadequate. They were turned, some by the enemy, the
rest by their crews, obliged to abandon them under the fire of the
English, which drowned the greater part of these unfortunates,
Tlie fleet had been prevented by the sea from participating in the

After this unhappy engagement, the blockade w^ resumed;
but the sea still favored the English. In consequence of a tern-

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pest which had injured and dispersed the combined fleet, Admiral
Howe, who had arrived from England with thirty-four ships of
. the line, succeeded in crossing the straits, and revictualling Gib-
raltar anew. The Franco-Spanish fleet was unable to overtake
him until he had recrossed the straits. The vanguard of the
confederates, commanded by La Motte-Piquet, warmly cannonaded
and injured the English rearguard ; but Admiral Howe avoided a
general engagement, and regained the British waters (October

The year 1782, which had begun so badly for the English, had
become relatively fortunate for them ; as, in the state of their
affairs, they were fortunate in being able to defend themselves
successfully, and in ceasing to lose. This year had cost the Span-
iards and French great losses of men and matSriel^ fifteen ships
of the line and four frigates .: the Englisj^i had lost only four sliips
and six frigates.

The great ministry, the successor of Lord North, did not profit
by this partial change of fortune. This cabinet, so rich in celebri-
ties, had been dissolved in less than four months, on- account of
personal questions. Fox, Burke, and Sheridan had quitted the
.ministry, and, by one of those singular combinations which are
not infrequent in a parliamentary government, had coalesced with
their former enemy. Lord North, against Lord Shelburne and the
other ministers in office, among whom the younger William Pitt
had just taken his place ; a man of iron head and heart, an old
politician at twenty-three, and as strong in will, of better sus-
tained ability in public affairs, and less magnanimous, than his

The successes in the West Indies and at Gibraltar did not suf-
fice to reassure England, or to impose silence on the desire for
peace which had been energetically manifested for some time within
her limits. It was known that a colossal Franco-Spanish expedi-
tion was in preparation for the beginning of 1783 : none knew
whither it would be directed ; and, this time, the star of Rodney
might pale. A single defeat would have been irreparable. Mean-
while, the conquests in India, which promised to replace the
empire lost by England in America, were seriously endangered.
The genius of France, which had withdrawn with Dupleix from
these rich countries, returned thither in a menacing manner with

In the interval in the American War caused by tlie peace of
1763, the British rule in India, despite a partial reverse from Hy-

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428 LOUIS XVI. 1 779-1 78L

der All, had assumed enormous proportions. The English East-
India Company, the master of Bengal and the maritime Circars in
its own name, as the feudatory of the imperial phantom of Delhi
and the Subahdar of the Deccan, and the master of the Oamatic
in the name of the nabob, its proteg^, or rather its slave, reigned
despotically over all the eastern coast : it ruled the centre of Upper
Hindostan, by turning to its advantage the lasl; relics of the
authority of the Great Mogul, and the centre of the peninsula, by
substituting its influence for that formerly exercised by Bussi
over the Subahdar of the Deccan ; and had, lastly, strongly estab-
lished itself on the western coast. But two adversaries of impor-
tance remained to it : in the west and the centre, the empire of
the Mahrattas, — a revival of ancient India amidst the dissolution
of the Great Mogul monarchy, the feudalism of the Eshatriyas
(the military caste), governed by a council of Brahmins ; and, i&
the south, the warlike monarchy of Mysore, improvised by the
Mussulman, Hyder Ali.

At the beginning of 1779, an Anglo-Indian army, which had
moved upo& Poonah, the capital of the Mahrattas, was hemmed
in, and forced to capitulate. At this signal, the aged Hyder All,
at peace with the English for the last ten years, took up arms
anew, allied himself with the Mahrattas and the Subahdar of the
Deccan, and fell upon the Oarnatic. A few hundred French
adventurers, the relics of the renowned bands of Bussi, joyfully
marched against the English under the banners of the Sultan of
Mysore. After incidents which we need not recount (September
9, 1780), half of the English army was destroyed in the forests (rf
Conjeveram . Almost all of the vast nabobship of the Carnatic, with
its capital, Arcot, fell into the power of Hyder Ali. In the course
of the following year (1781), a great rebellion broke out in the
holy city of the Brahmins, Benares, against the tyrants of the
Ganges. The atrocious government of Warren Hastings had driv-
en these peaceful tribes to extremities.* Had a French expedition
lauded at this moment on the coast of Coromandel, the English
power would have been annihilated in the Carnatic and the Gip-
cars, and greatly encroached upon everywhere else.

1 Under Lord Clive, millions of men had perished bj a great famine* not caased,
bat aggravated, b j the barbarous cupidity of English speculators. Specious efforts have
been made to justify Lord Clive personally ; but it is impossible to find excuses for
Hastings, though many historians treat him with inexplicable indulgence. His politi-
cal genius was incontestable ; but his morality was that of a leader of robbers. — See
inHhc Hist, de la fondation de V Empire anglaise dans I'Inde, by M. Barchou do Fenhoen
(t III. liv. ix.), the hideous stories of women and old men tortured in order to wnsi
from them their treasures I

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1779-1782. INDIA. — HYDER ALL 429

Sartine and Montbarrei did not send a single soldier to India !
Sartine despatched to the Isle of France, from 1779 to 1780, five
ships of the line, one of which was taken on the way. It was
absurd to send ships without land forces. The commodore who
commanded at the Isle of France might nevertheless have acted
in the Indian seas, where the English had at first but two ships,
and numbered but six at the close of 1779 ; but this commodore
was that same Tronjoli who had shamefully abandoned the valor-
ous Bellecombe in Pondicherry. He did not even show himself
on the coasts of India; and in 1780 departed, intrusting the
command to Captain d'Orves, a brave man, but ill, and worn out
in mind and body. It seemed as if ofiicers and ships unfit for
service were expressly chosen for India. M. d'Orves did not
appear on the coast of Ooromandel until February, 1781. The
English squadron was at Malabar. Hyder Ali hastened to the
coast to concert with the French. Any enterprise might have
been undertaken. The English army had evacuated Pondicherry
to retire to St. David, where it was shut in by Hyder Ali ; and
Madras was uncovered, guarded only by five hundred invalids.
D'Orves refused either to operate with his squadron, or to land
the men of bis vessels to reenforce the French auxiliaries of
Hyder Ali, and returned to the Isle of France.^ Hyder Ali, aban-
doned, valiantly continued the strife, and fought three battles in
as many months with the English, who had received considerable
assistance from Bengal (July-September, 1781). Three times he
was constrained to yield the field of battle to European discipline ;
but the enemy was never able either to take from him his artil-
lery, or to prevent him from reorganizing and maintaining him-
self in the Garnatic.

The English had more fruitful successes elsewhere. From
November, 1781, to January, 1782, they took possession of Nega-
patam and some other Dutch settlements on the coast of Ooro-
mandel ; then of Trincomalee, the best part of the Dutch island
of Ceylon. The Mahrattas, meanwhile, were in full negotiation
with the Supreme Council of Calcutta, which ofifered them an ad-
vantageous peace ; and Hyder Ali himself, no longer counting on
the French, was disposed to treat ; when a man at length arrived
in these waters, determined to employ all the powers of his heroic

^ Mim, MSS, du vioomte de Souillac, in the aichivea of the marine, quoted bj Ch.
Cunat ; Hist, du baiUi de Suffren, p. 86, 1852. M. de Sooillac was the Oovernor of
the Isle of Franco.

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430 LOras XVL 1781-

genius to prevent the English power from strengthening itself, —
the Bailli de Sufpben.*

The new minister Castries, more resolute than enlightened,
had not seen soon enough the necessity of repairing lost time by
sending land forces to India ; but he had at least the good sense
to listen to D'Estaing in the choice of the leader of the naval
forces which he despatched to the East. The brave admiral ur-
gently recommended one of his former captains, in whom he had
discerned the material for a great army commander. Suffren was
placed at the head of five ships of the line,^ commissioned to
protect against the English the important Dutch colony at the
Cape of Good Hope ; then to operate in the waters of India. Au
English squadron of five ships of the line, three frigates, ten ves-
sels of the East-India Company, etc., set out for the same desti-
nation. The possession of the Cape was the goal of the race ;
and the English vessels, all of which were copper-bottomed, were
better sailers than ours. SuflFren encountered the enemy at the
Cape Yerd Islands ; audaciously attacked him in the Portuguese
roadstead of Porto Praya (in the Island of Santiago), April 16,
1781; threw the English expedition into confusion; arrived be-
fore it ; put the Cape of Good Hope in a state of defence ; left
some soldiers there; repaired to the Isle of France; persuaded
his superior. Commodore d'Orves, to endeavor to repair the de-
plorable retreat of the preceding February ; and set out with him
for India, carrying the best part of the garrison of the Isle of
France, nearly three thousand soldiers, whom the zealous Govern-
or Souillac intrusted to him without orders from the ministry.

Tiie squadron began its career in the waters of India by the
capture of a fifty-gun ship. The winds protected from the
French the six ships of Admiral Hughes, who took refuge in
the roadstead of Madras, where he was joined by three of the ships
which Suffren had encountered at Porto Praya, then bravely
issued forth to offer battle. The English had nine ships against
twelve, but in a much better condition than ours. Suffren had
the chief command. D'Orves had just died on board ; thus nobly
expiating the faults due to the weakening of disease. Had Suf-
fren been well seconded, the English squadron would probably
have been destroyed ; but the lack of energy or the ill-will of part

1 He had been called the commaader, then the bailli, on account of his saooossive
rank in the Order of Malta.

> Wichont frigates ; an onpaidonable ciror in the ministry. An armj withoat light
troops I

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1782. SUFFREN. 431

of the captains, dissatisfied at seeing themselves commanded by
a junior officer, rendered the victory indecisive (February 17,
1782). • These internal jealousies were the disgrace and the
6coui*ge of our navy. The English, liowever, seemed to ac-
knowledge themselves conquered by abandoning the field of
battle ; and Suffren achieved his end by preventing Hyder Ali
from treating with the enemy ,^ and landing at Porto Novo the
troops designed to cooperate with the Mussulman hero; ^fler
which he returned to the coast of Ceylon in search of the English
squadron, which had been reenforced by two ships. On the same
day that De Grasse was conquered and taken in the West Indies
(April 12, 1782), Sufiren fought a second and terrible battle with
Edward Hughes. The misconduct of two ships prevented him
from obtaining a complete success, and a storm separated the
squadrons. The English avoided a new engagement. Meanwhile
SuflFren received orders from the ministry to return to tlie Isle of
France. His withdrawal would have destroyed the brilliant moral
effect of his exploits. He generously disobeyed, although he had
neither a harbor for shelter nor rigging for repairs, and scarcely
any munitions or money. His genius, and the passionate devotion
of the sailors, utter strangers to the unworthy calculations of
certain of their leaders, supplied the place of every thing.

It was not, however, with a view to a shameful abandonment
that the ministry had desired to recall Suffren to the Isle of
France, but in order to concentrate an imposing force on this island,
chosen as the point of attack. The ministry had resolved on a
course, which, three years sooner, would have been productive of
immense results : it despatched to India a man whose name still
fascinated the imaginations of all, and who might have been worth
an army, — the faithful companion of Dupleix, Bussi-Castelnau.
Bussi, appointed commander-in-chief, arrived at the Isle of France,
May 31, 1782; and stopped there to wait for the reenforce-
meuts promised by the cabinet of Versailles. The measures
adopted, however, were unfortunate or imprudent: two impor-
tant convoys, too feebly escorted, were captured on quitting the
Channel, or driven back into the French ports (December, 1781-
April, 1782). Bussi, ill, and a prey to impatience and anxiety,
provisionally sent to Suffren all that was at his disposal, — two
ships, a frigate, and some soldiers.

8uffiren had just had a third encounter with Admiral Hughes.

A On the daj after the naral engagement (Febmary IS), Tippoo Saib, the son of
Hyder Ali, destroyed an Anglo-Indian corps in Tanjore.

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As badly seconded on the land as on the sea, he had vainly urged
the commander of the land forces to recapture the key of the
beautiful territory of Tanjore, Negapatam, wrested by the Eng-
lish from Holland. This commander chose, instead, to take poB-
session of St. David, a place badly situated, and offering nothing
but a simple open roadstead ; and SufFren resolved to attack Nega-
patam himself, witli the cooperation of Hyder Ali. It was neces-
sary, first, to defeat the English squadron which covered this
place. Sufiren vigorously attacked it, with eleven ships against
eleven better equipped ; for the captain of the twelfth French ship,
slightly damaged, shamefully deserted tlie line of battle. Another
captain, whose ship of sixty-four guns was engaged with an Eng-
lish seventy-four, struck his flag ; upon which two of those officiers
blevsy^ disdained by the vanity of the oflBcers of the Great Corps*
rushed to their cowardly commander, forced him to hoist his flag
anew, ordered the fire to continue, and saved the ship. The
ignominy of this captain was fully effaced by the heroism of
Cuverville, who sustained, with a fifty-gun ship, the terrible fire
of two ships of seventy-four and sixty-four guns, and, himself
cut to pieces, disabled the stronger of his enemies. As to Suf-
fren, he was worthy of himself: no more need be said. He was
found everywhere, by turns attacking the enemy, or covering our
ships in peril. Part of the English squadron gave way, and
Hughes retired ; but he regained the anchorage of Negapatam,
and Sufiren was not sufficiently a victor to efiect his project
(July 6, 1782). He indemnified himself by the recapture of the
other Dutch settlement, Trincomalee ; and at last conquered an
excellent harbor, the possession of which wholly changed the
position of the two parties in these waters (August 25-31).
Edward Hughes arrived too late to succor it : he found, on com-
ing in sight of the lost Trincomalee, only a fourtli battle (Sep-
tember 3). Three French ships of the line, two of fifty and
forty guns, and three transports, attacked twelve ships of the
line and six transports. The same mistakes, or rather the same

Online LibraryHenri MartinMartin's history of France. The decline of the French monarchy → online text (page 49 of 71)