1st Battle of Negapatam

25th June 1746
Part of : First Carnatic War (1746 - 1748)

 

Great Britain

 
British Squadron, Edward Peyton
Ship NameGunsCommanderNotes
Medway (60) 60 Fleet Flagship
Preston (50) 50Lord George Carnegie (6th Earl Northesk)
Winchester (50) 50Thomas Bertie
Harwich (50) 50Philip Carteret
Medway Prize (30) 30Thomas Griffin
Lively (20) 24Nathaniel Stephens
 

Allied (Royaume de France & )

 
French Squadron, Bertrand François Mahé (Comte de La Bourdonnais)
Ship NameGunsCommanderNotes
Le Bourbon (56) 56 
Le Phenix (54) 54 
Le Duc d'Orleans (46) 46 
Le Neptune (40) 40 
Le Saint Louis (40) 40 
Le Lys (34) 34 
L'Insulaire (30) 30 
L'Achille (70) 70 Fleet Flagship
 

Notes on Action


DescriptionTRN3
Commodore Curtis Barnet, who had gone to Madras in the beginning of 1746, would have been a worthy opponent even for so great a man as La Bourdonnais; and he was preparing to take active measures against the French, when, on April 29th, he died. His successor, Commodore Edward Peyton, was apparently a less energetic and capable officer. He was cruising between Fort St. David and Negapatam when, on June 25th, he sighted the French squadron. M. La Bourdoinais, though conscious that his ships in strength of armament and in discipline were very inferior to the British, decided to utilise the only superiority which he possessed, the superiority in men, and to attempt to board. During the earlier part of the day there was little breeze; and Peyton, who probably grasped the idea of the French admiral, kept as near the wind as possible, so that the two fleets were unable to come to close action. Not until four in the afternoon did they begin to engage; and even then the firing was maintained at such a distance that little damage was done to either side. Peyton might have annihilated his foe had he ventured sufficiently close to take full advantage of the stouter scantling of his ships, and of the heavier guns which they carried. But he did not attack with dash; and at dusk the action ceased, the British having lost fourteen men killed and forty-six wounded, and the enemy twenty-seven killed and fifty-three wounded. The British vessel which suffered chiefly was the Medway's Prize. On the other side, the Insulaire was so badly mauled that, immediately after the action, La Bourdomiais had to order her away to repair. Peyton's behaviour gave great umbrage to the East India Company; but no one ever brought any specific charge against the commodore. Commodore Thomas Griffin afterwards superseded him, put him under arrest, and sent him home; but the matter went no further.

Sources

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

Previous comments on this page

Posted by Albert Parker on Tuesday 13th of August 2013 16:59

As with other squadrons, the French used articles with the names of all of their ships. When they were listing the ship named for the Greek hero Achilles as l'Achille, they would list the one built on the island of Île de France as l'Insulaire and the one named for the mythical Egyptian bird as le Phénix. Or, in a list, they could leave off all of the articles. Although educated Englishmen used to know some French along with their Latin and Greek, English naval historians never seem to have understood the use of articles with French ship names. (At the time of Bourdonnais' campaign, British government officials were expected to be able to understand intercepted French dispatches in the original; it was something of a scandal that the pre-war prime minister, Sir Robert Walpole, had to rely on translations of French-language information.)


Posted by Albert Parker on Tuesday 13th of August 2013 16:48

I have found gun assignments for at least some of Bourdonnais’ ships in 15 different English and French accounts of his 1746 campaign. Only two pair agree, so there are 13 different distributions in the literature! That found in Léon Guérin, Histoire maritime de la France, vol. IV, and in William Laird Clowes, The Royal Navy, vol. III, (certainly from Guérin) agrees with Bourdonnais’ own summary in his Mémoires historiques (edited and published by his nephew in 1827). A French army artillery officer serving with Bourdonnais Comte de Rostaing, also recorded a list that comes within 2 guns of Guérin’s total but differs for two ships. The guns assigned by Guérin, with Rostaing’s assignment in parentheses if different, were as follows: Achille, 60; Bourbon, 36; Duc d’Orleans, 26; Insulaire, 28 (24); Lys, 34; Neptune, 34; Renommée, 28 (30); St. Louis, 30. Bourdonnais’ gun counts are subject to the usual enemy exaggeration as well as to confusion between number of gunports and the number of guns actually carried when he met Peyton for the first time. Beyond that, Bourdonnais obtained additional ordnance from Dupleix at Pondichery, and therefore his ships had more guns when he met Peyton again on August 7/18, 1746. What Dupleix “loaned” to Bourdonnais is known (in terms of number of pieces by caliber) but not their distribution among Bourdonnais’ ships.


Posted by Albert Parker on Tuesday 13th of August 2013 03:38

I don't know whether Preston's commanding officer was ever a knight, but by 1746 he had succeeded to the Earldom of Northesk (his father had died in 1741) and was known as Captain Earl of Northesk or Captain Northesk. I've never seen a reference to him as "Captain Sir George Carnegie."


Posted by Albert Parker on Tuesday 13th of August 2013 03:37

The commanding officers of the French ships were as follows:
Bourbon--de Selle; Phénix--Jean-Jacques de La Chaise; Neptune--de la Porte Barré; St. Louis--Pellau; Achille--Étienne Lobry; Lys: Louis Béart-Du Dezert; Duc d'Orleans--Léon de Champlais; Renommée--Gâtinais. All were officers of the Compagnie des Indes Orientales, although some might also have had auxiliary rank in the royal navy, as La Bourdonnais did (he was a capitaine de frégate). I might be able to provide more complete names in the book I am working on, but I won't get to the Indian Ocean campaign until 2014 at the earliest.


Posted by Albert Parker on Tuesday 13th of August 2013 03:29

I don't know whether the commanding officer of Preston was ever a knight, but by 1746 he had succeeded to the Earldom of Northesk (his father had died in 1741) and was known as Captain Earl of Northesk or Captain Northesk. I've never seen a reference to him as "Captain Sir George Carnegie."

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