Forrest's Action

Battle of Cap-Français

21st October 1757
Fought at : Cap‑Français - Saint-Domingue
Part of : Seven Years' War (1756/05/17 - 1763/02/10)
Previous action : Southampton vs L'Emeraude 21.9.1757
Next action : Unicorn vs Hermione 2.11.1757


Great Britain

British Squadron, Arthur Forrest (c.1716-1770)
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Augusta (60) Arthur Forrest (c.1716-1770)Fleet Flagship 9 dead, 29 Wounded
Dreadnought (60) Maurice Suckling (1726-1778)9 killed, 30 Wounded
Edinburgh (64) William Langdon (1711-1785)5 killed, 30 wounded

Royaume de France

French Squadron, Chevalier Guy-François de Coëtnempren (Comte de Kersaint) (1703-1759)
Ship NameCommanderNotes
L'Intrépide (74) Chevalier Guy-François de Coëtnempren (Comte de Kersaint) (1703-1759)Fleet Flagship
Le Sceptre (74) Clavel
L'Opiniatre (64) Mollieu
Greenwich (50) Foucault
French Ships not in the Line
Ship NameCommanderNotes
La Sauvage (32) Antoine de Marges de Saint-Victoret (1712-1788)
La Licorne (32)  
L'Outarde (18)  

Notes on Action

Description of the ActionTRN3

On October 21st, de Kersaint issued forth [from Cape Francois], hoping by his very appearance in such force to drive Forrest away. The latter, upon the French being signalled, summoned his brother captains on board the Augusta, and, when they met him on his quarterdeck, said, "Well, gentlemen, you see they are come out to engage us." Upon which Captain Suckling answered, " I think it would be a pity to disappoint them." Captain Langdon was of the same opinion. "Very well," replied Captain Forrest; "go on board your ships again"; and he at once made the signal to bear down and engage the enemy.

The French had seven vessels to the British three. Captain Suckling took the van, Captain Forrest the centre, and Captain Langdon the rear. The action began at about 3.20 P.M., and continued very briskly for two hours and a half, when the French commodore ordered one of his frigates to come and tow him out of the line. Others of his squadron soon followed his example; and eventually the French made off. The British ships were all much cut up aloft. The Augusta lost 9 killed and 29 wounded; the Dreadnought, 9 killed and 30 wounded; and the Edinburgh, 5 killed and 30 wounded.

The loss of the French is said to have exceeded 500 in killed and wounded. Few pluckier or more creditable actions have ever been fought; and it is worth noting that among the British captains, all of whom greatly distinguished themselves, one, Maurice Suckling, was a maternal uncle of Lord Nelson, and Nelson's earliest patron. Forrest had to bear up for Jamaica, in order to get his ships refitted. De Kersaint, in the meantime, picked up his convoy and sailed for France. But, at the very end of his voyage, he met with a severe storm, in which the Opinlcltre, Greenwich, and Outarde drove ashore and were wrecked.

Mistaken identity
Clowe's identifies the Outarde as a 44 gun vessel, the only French vessel of that name I can identify is the 18 gun Flute listed here, which was transfered to the Compagne des Indes in 1760. This vessel is listed in the "Histoire Maritime de France" as a flute present at the action

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Posted by Brian Stephens on Saturday 26th of April 2014 21:25

More - There is a more particular account of this affair in the Jamaica paper which says; That the Dreadnought getting on the Intrepid's bow kept the helm hard a starboard to rake her; or, if proceeded, to fall on board in the most advantageous situation possible; but she chose to bear up, and continued doing so the whole action till she fell back disabled. By thus bearing short upon her own ship those astern were thrown into disorder, which they never thoroughly recovered, and when the Intrepid ?? and was relieved by the Opiniatre, the Greenwich, still in confusion , got on board her, while the Septre pressing on those, the whole heap were furiously pelted by the Augusta and Edinburgh, especially the Intrepide who the lay muzzled in a shattered condition with a signal out for relief. The Outarde, before this, had gotten into action, and played very briskly upon the Edinburgh with her whole broadside, both upper and lower deckers. Capt. Forrest, perceiving the shattered condition of of all his ships (the masts, sails, boats and rigging, being mostly useless, thought proper to withdraw, lest the loss of a lower mast should leave any of them at the mercy of the frigates. Never was a battle so furious than the beginning; in two minutes there was not a rope or sail whole in either ship. The French use a shot which we neglect, called langridge, which is very destructive in cutting the rigging. The Augusta had 9 men killed, and 29 wounded, the Dreadnought 9 men killed and 30 wounded; and the Edinburgh five killed and 30 wounded.

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