Battle of Providien

12th April 1782
Part of : The American War of Independence (1775/04/19 - 1784/01/14)
Previous action : Action off Dominique 9th April 1782
Next action : Battle of the Mona Passage 19th April 1782


Great Britain

British Battle Line, Sir Edward Hughes
Ship NameGunsCommanderNotes
Exeter (64) 64Charles HughesSquadron Flagship
Hero (74) 74Charles Wood
Isis (50) 50Thomas Lumley
Burford (68) 68Peter Rainier
Monarca (68) 68John Gell
Superb (74) 74Dunbar MaclellanFleet Flagship 59 killed, 96 wounded
Monmouth (64) 64James Alms45 killed, 102 wounded
Worcester (64) 64George Talbot
Eagle (64) 64Ambrose Reddall
Sultan (74) 74 
Magnanime (64) 64Charles Wolseley
Not in line
Ship NameGunsCommanderNotes
Seahorse (24) 24Robert Montagu
Combustion (8) 8Henry Newcome

Royaume de France

French Battle Line, Pierre-Andre de Suffren
Ship NameGunsCommanderNotes
Vengeur (64) 64 
L'Artesien (64) 64 
Petit Hannibal (50) 50 
Le Sphinx (64) 64 22 killed, 74 wounded
Héros (74) 74 Fleet Flagship
L'Orient (80) 74 
Le Brillant (64) 64 
Sévère (64) 64 
L'Annibal (74) 74 
Ajax (64) 64de Bouvet
Le Flamand (56) 56 
Le Bizarre (64) 64 
Not in line
Ship NameGunsCommanderNotes
La Pourvoyeuse (38) 38 
Fine (32) 32 
La Bellone (32) 32de Piervert

Notes on Action

Description of the actionTRN3

Next morning, April 12th, finding that the enemy could overtake his rear ships, he formed line on the starboard tack at two cables' intervals, heading to the westward, towards the coast of Ceylon, wind north by east, and the French dead to windward (A, A). Suffren drew up his line on the same tack, parallel to the British (a), and at 11 A.M. gave the signal to steer west-south- west all together; his vessels going down in a slanting direction, each steering for one of the enemy. Having twelve ships to eleven, the twelfth was ordered to place herself on the off side of the rear British, which would thus have two antagonists.

In such simultaneous approach it commonly occurred that the attacking line ceased to be parallel with the foe's, its van becoming nearer and rear more distant. So it was here. Further, the British opening fire as soon as the leading French were within range, the latter at once hauled up to reply. Suffren, in the centre, wishing closest action, signalled them to keep away again, and himself bore down wrathfully upon Hughes to within pistol-shot; in which he was supported closely by his next ahead and the two next astern. The rear of the French, though engaged, remained too far distant

Their line, therefore, resembled a curve, the middle of which four or five ships was tangent to the British centre (B). At this point the heat of the attack fell upon Hughes's flagship, the Superb, 74 (C, d), and her next ahead, the Monmouth, 64 (c). Suffren's ship, the Heros, having much of her rigging cut, could not shorten sail, shot by the Superb, and brought up abreast the Monmouth. The latter, already hotly engaged by one of her own class, and losing her main and rnizzen masts in this unequal new contest, was forced at 3 P.M. to bear up out of the line. The place of the Heros alongside the Superb was taken by the Orient, 74, supported by the Brillant, 64; and when the Monmouth kept off, the attack of these two ships was reinforced by the half-dozen stern chasers of the Heros, which had drifted into the British line, and now fired into the Superb's bows. The conflict between these five ships, two British and three French, was one of the bloodiest in naval annals; the loss of the Superb, 59 killed and 9ti wounded, and of the Monmouth, 45 killed and 102 wounded, equalling that of the much larger vessels that bore the flags of Nelson and Collingwood at Trafalgar. The loss of the three French was 52 killed and 142 wounded; but to this should be added properly that of the Sphinx, 64, the Monmouth' 's first adversary: 22 killed and 74 wounded. At 3.40 P.M., fearing that if he continued steering west he would get entangled with the shore, Hughes wore his ships, forming line on the port tack. The French also wore, and Suffren hoped to secure the Monmouth, which was left between the two lines; but the quickness of a British captain, Hawker, of the Hero, ran a tow-rope to her in time, and she was thus dragged out of danger. At 5.40 Hughes anchored, and Suffren did the same at 8 p. M. The total British loss in men on this occasion was 137 killed and 430 wounded; that of the French 137 killed and 357 wounded.


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

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