Battle of Fort Royal

29th April 1781 - 30th April 1781
Part of : The American War of Independence (1775/04/19 - 1784/01/14)
Previous action : Battle of Porto Praya 16th April 1781
Next action : Santa Leocadia vs Canada 2nd May 1781


Great Britain

British squadron, Samuel Hood

This fleet was doing the Fort Royal port blockade.

Ship NameGunsCommanderNotes
Barfleur 98John KnightFleet Flagship Rear-Admiral Samuel Hood
Gibraltar 80Charles KnatchbullSquadron Flagship Rear-Admiral Francis Samuel Drake
Torbay 74John Lewis Gidoin
Alfred 74William Bayne
Alcide 74Charles Thompson
Invincible 74Richard Hussey Bickerton
Monarch 74Francis Reynolds
Terrible 74James Ferguson
Ajax 74John Symons
Resolution 74Lord Robert Manners
Montagu 74George Bowen
Centaur 74John Neale Pleydell Nott
Shrewsbury 74Mark Robinson
Princessa 70Sir Thomas Rich
Intrepid 64Anthony James Pye Molloy
Belliqueux 64James Brine
Prince William 64Stair Douglas
Lizard 28Edmund Dod

Royaume de France

Escadre française, Chevalier François-Joseph Paul de Grasse (Comte de Grasse)

20 ships of the line

Ship NameGunsCommanderNotes
Ville de Paris 104 VelleonFleet Flagship
L'Auguste 84Pierre Joseph CastellanSquadron Flagship
Le Saint Esprit 80Joseph Bernard Chabert
La Languedoc 90 Argelos
Pluton 74 François Hector d'Albert (Chevalier )
Sceptre 74Chevalier Louis-Philippe de Rigaud (Comte de Vaudreuil)
Le César 74Jean Charles Régis Coriolis d'Espinouse
Le Souverain 74Lord Jean-Baptiste de Glandevès du Castellet (Baron de Glandevès)
Le Northumberland 74 de Briqueville (Marquis )
Le Diadème 74Louis Augustin Montecerc
Magnanime 74 Le Bègue (Comte )
Le Zélé 74Balthazar Gras-Préville
Marseillais 74 Henri-César Masjastre (Marquis de Castellane Masjastre)
Bourgogne 74 Charles Charitte (Comte de Charitte)
Scipion 74 Pierre Antoine de Clavel (Comte )
Le Hector 74Laurent-Emanuel Renaud d'Aleins
Hercule 74Jean Baptiste Turpin du Breuil
Glorieux 74 d'Escards (Vicomte )
Le Citoyen 74 Alexandre de Thy (Comte d'Ethy)
Vaillant 64 Charles-René Bernard de Marigny (Chevalier )
La Médée 32 de Girardin (Chevalier )
L'Aigrette 30 de Traversay
Diligente 26 de Mortemart (Vicomte )
Alerte 18 de Chabons
Le Pandour 14 de Grasse-Limermont
Blockaded ships

4 ships of the line

Ship NameGunsCommanderNotes
La Victoire 74Joseph François Auguste Jules d'Albert de Saint-HippolyteSquadron Flagship
Caton 64 de Framond (Comte )
Refléchi 64Jean François Emmanuel Brune de Boades
La Solitaire 64 Cicé-Champion (Comte de Cicé-Champion)
Supply Convoy

120 ships carrying 3200 troops to West Indies under Marquis de Bouillé command

Ship NameGunsCommanderNotes

Notes on Action


In March 1781, a large French fleet under the command of Comte de Grasse left the port of Brest. Most of this fleet was destined for the West Indies; of the 26 ships of the line, one was sent to North America, and five, under the command of the Bailli de Suffren, were destined for India. The remaining twenty arrived off Martinique on April 28. Before passing to the lee (western) side of the island, de Grasse anchored the fleet and sent someone ashore for news. He learned that a British fleet of 17 ships of the line under Samuel Hood was blockading Fort Royal, preventing the four French ships in anchored there from leaving.

Hood was under orders from the fleet's station commander, Admiral George Brydges Rodney, to maintain the blockade of the port on the lee side, in spite of his protestations that this would put him at a disadvantage in any action involving an arriving fleet. While he was disadvantaged by the position and his inferior strength, all of his ships had coppered bottoms (improving their performance), and he was not burdened with the responsibility of escorting a convoy.

Description of the actionEWIKI
De Grasse ordered is fleet to prepare for action on the morning of April 29, and sailed for Fort Royal with the convoy ships hugging the coast, and the armed ships in battle line. Hood's fleet was spotted around 8 am, slowly bearing toward them, but de Grasse held the weather gage. At about 9:20, Hood was joined by the Prince William, a 64-gun ship that had been at St. Lucia. The two fleets then continued to maneuver for advantage, but Hood's leeward position meant he was unable prevent de Grasse from bringing the convoy to harbor, and the junction of de Grasse's fleet with the four blockaded ships. Around 11 de Grasse's van began firing at long range, with no effect. By 12:30 the fleets were aligned, but de Grasse refused to take advantage of the weather gage to close with Hood, in spite of Hood's efforts to bring the French to him. The fleets then exchanged cannonades and broadsides for the next hour, but at the long range, the damage incurred was modest. The four British ships on the southern end of the line suffered the most damage, since they were targeted by eight French ships. Hood finally drew away toward St. Lucia.

Hood dispatched the Russell, which had been holed below the waterline to St. Eustatius for repairs, and to bring news of the action to Admiral Rodney. Hood spent the next day in fruitless attempts to gain the windward, and eventually made sail to the north. He met Rodney on May 11 between St. Kitts and Antigua, the latter having left St. Eustatius on May 5.

Reports of French casualties vary considerably, from as few as 74 killed and wounded to more than 250.


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