Battle of Cape Henry

16th March 1781
Part of : The American War of Independence (1775/04/19 - 1784/01/14)
Previous action : Cerberus vs Grana 25th February 1781
Next action : Action of 1781-04-14 14th April 1781


Great Britain

British Battle Line
Ship NameGunsCommanderNotes
America (64) 64Samuel Thompson
Guadeloupe (28) 28Hugh Robinson
Bedford (74) 74Edmund Affleck
Pearl (32) 32George Montagu
Adamant (50) 50Gideon Johnstone
Iris (28) 32George Dawson
London (90) 90David GravesFleet Flagship 3 wounded
Medea (28) 28Henry Duncan
Royal Oak (74) 74Isaac Coffin3 wounded
Prudent (64) 64Thomas Burnett7 killed 24 wounded
Europe (64) 64Smith Child8 killed 19 wounded
Robust (74) 74Philips Cosby15 killed, 21 wounded,

Royaume de France

French Battle Line
Ship NameGunsCommanderNotes
Le Neptune (74) 74 Charles Sochet (Seigneur Des Touches)Squadron Flagship
Le Duc de Bourgogne (80) 80Chevalier Nicolas Louis de Durfort (Baron de Durfort)
Le Conquérant (74) 74Charles-Marie de La Grandière
Provence (64) 64Louis-André-Joseph de Lombard
L'Ardent (64) 64Chevalier Charles de Bernard de Marigny
Le Jason (64) 64Chevalier Jean-Isaac Chadeau de la Clocheterie
L'Eveillé (64) 64Armand Le Gardeur de Tilly
Le Romulus (44) 44 Jacques-Aimes Le Saige (Chevalier de la Villebrune)
La Hermione (32) 32Chevalier Louis René Levassor de La Touche
Gentille (32) 32 de Maingand
Ship NameGunsCommanderNotes
Fantasque (64) 38 de Vaudoré armed en flûte



Previous comments on this page

Posted by Brian Stephens on Sunday 11th of May 2014 18:38

The Gentleman's magazine. v.51 part -
The orders forwarded, the Vice-Admiral set sail, and on the 16th came up with the enemy, Cape Henry bearing S.W. by W. distant about 14 leagues, wind W. and the weather hazy. At a quarter after eight A.M. the wind veered to N.W. and gave the enemy the weather gage. The enemy were seen maneuvering to form their line. At 35 minutes after eight the British line was completely formed, and close hauled on the starboard tack. At 20 min. after nine the Vice-Adm. formed his line ahead at two cable lengths asunder, the weather being equally. At a quarter after ten he made the signal for the squadron to attack, the headmost and weathermost first to gain the wind of the enemy. At a quarter after 11 the headmost of the French line tacked; but one of them missing stays the rest wore and formed the line on the starboard tack. At 40 min. after 11 the vice-adm reformed his line at 1 cable's length. At twelve, there being prospect of reaching the enemy, the whole line tacked, the van first, and the leading ship continuing to lead on the other tack. At half after one the enemy, apprehensive of the danger of engaging to windward in a high sea, wore and formed their line to leeward. At two, the van of the British wore, and in a few minutes the Robust, which led the fleet, was warmly engaged with the van of the enemy. The ships in the vam and center of the line were all engaged by half past two, and by three the French line broke; their ships soon after began to ware, and to form their line again, with their heads to the ocean. At 20 min. after three the British ware and stood after them; but the Robust, Prudent, and Europe, which were the headmost ships, and received the whole of the enemy's fire at their rigging, as they bore down were so entirely disabled, and the London's main top-sail yard being carried away (the two first unmanageable, lying with their heads from the enemy), as to be incapable of pursuit, and rendering the advantage we had gained decisive. At half after four the haze came on so thick as entirely to intercept the sight of the enemy. At seven the British fleet brought-too, to put the disabled ships in a condition to intercept the enemy, if they should attempt to get back into the Chesapeake. The next morning they made sail (the Robust followed by the American, and the Prudent by the Adamant, and anchored three leagues to the eastward of Cape Charles. The evening by the whole squadron anchored in Lynn-haven Bay

Return of the killed and wounded in action:
Robust 15 killed, 21 wounded,
Europe 8 killed 19 wounded
Prudent 7 killed 24 wounded
Royal Oak 3 wounded; London 3 wounded; Adamant nil; Redford nil; Amderica 3 wounded.
Hon. Lieut. Lyttelton, of the Robust, killed; Master of the America wounded.
List of French Ships
Neptune (coppered) 84 guns
Burgogne (coppered) 84 guns
Conquerant 74 guns
Provence 64 guns
Ardent 64 guns
Jason 64 guns
Eveille (coppered) 64 guns
Romulus 40 guns.

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