Battle of Sadras

17th February 1782
Part of : The American War of Independence (1775/04/19 - 1784/01/14)
Previous action : Battle of Saint Kitts 25th January 1782 - 26th January 1782
Next action : Success vs Santa Catalina 16th March 1782


Great Britain

British Battle Line, Sir Edward Hughes
Ship NameGunsCommanderNotes
Eagle 64Ambrose Reddall
Monmouth 64James Alms
Worcester 64George Talbot
Burford 68Peter Rainier
Superb 74William StevensFleet Flagship CO Killed
Hero 74Charles Wood
Isis 50Thomas Lumley
Monarca 68John Gell
Exeter 64Henry ReynoldsSquadron Flagship 10 killed, 45 wounded
Not in the Line
Ship NameGunsCommanderNotes
Seahorse 24Robert Montagu
Manilla 10William Robinson

Royaume de France

French Battle Line, Pierre-Andre de Suffren
Ship NameGunsCommanderNotes
Sévère 64 
La Pourvoyeuse 38 
Vengeur 64 
Fine 32 
Le Brillant 64 
La Bellone 32de Piervert
Le Flamand 56 
L'Annibal 74 
Sylphide 12 
Héros 74 Squadron Flagship
L'Orient 74 
L'Artesien 64 
Le Sphinx 64 
Ajax 64de Bouvet
Petit Hannibal 50 
Le Bizarre 64 

Notes on Action

Descriptoin of the actionTRN3

At daylight the British saw the French squadron twelve miles east (A, A) and its transports nine miles south-west (c). Hughes chased the latter and took six. Suffren pursued, but could not overtake before sunset, and both fleets steered south-east during the night. Next morning there were light north-north-east airs, and the French were six miles north-east of the British (B, B). The latter formed line on the port tack (a), heading to seaward; Hughes hoping that thus the usual sea-breeze would find him to windward. The breeze, however, did not make as expected; and, as the north-east puffs were bringing the enemy down, he kept off before the wind (b) to gain time for his ships to close their intervals, which were too great. At 4 P.M. the: near approach of the French compelled him to form line again, on the port tack, heading easterly.

The rear ship, Exeter, 64, was left separated, out of due support from those ahead (C). Suffren, leading one section of his fleet in person, passed to windward of the British line, from the rear, as far as Hughes's flagship, which was fifth from the van. There he stopped, and kept at half cannon-shot, to prevent the four van ships from tacking to relieve their consorts. It was his intention that the second half of his fleet should attack the other side of the English (D), but only two of them did so, engaging to leeward the extreme rear (C). The result was, to use Hughes's own words, that " the enemy brought eight of their best ships to the attack of five of ours."

It will be noted with interest that these were exactly the numbers engaged in the first act of the battle of the Nile. The Exeter (like the Guerrier at the Nile) received the fresh broadsides of the first five of the enemy, and then remained in close action on both sides, assailed by two, and at last by three, opponents, two fifties, and one sixty-four. When the third approached, the master of the ship asked Commodore Richard King, whose broad pennant flew at her masthead, " What is to be done ? " "There is nothing to be done," replied King, "but to fight her till she sinks." Her loss, 10 killed and 45 wounded, was not creditable under the circumstances to the French gunnery, which had been poor also at Porto Praya.

At 6 P.M. the wind shifted to south-east, throwing all on the other tack, and enabling the British van to come into action. Darkness now approaching, Suffren hauled off and anchored at Pondicherry. Hughes went on to Trincomale to refit. The British loss had been 32 killed, among whom were Captain William Stevens of the flagship, and Captain Henry Reynolds, of the Exeter, and 83 wounded. The French had 30 killed; the number of their wounded is put by Professor Laughton at 100.


TRN3 The Royal Navy : a history from the earliest times to the present Vol IIIWilliam Laid ClowesDigital Book
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