Capture of Martinique

28th January 1809 - 24th February 1809
Part of : The Napoleonic Wars (1803 - 1815)
Previous action : Capture of the Vengeur 24.1.1809
Next action : Action of 1809-02-08 8.2.1809


United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland

British Ships, Alexander Inglis Cochrane (1758-1832)
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Neptune (98) Charles DilkesFleet Flagship
Pompee (80) Edward Pelham Brenton (1774-1839)
Belleisle (74) Edward Woolcombe
Captain (74) Hugh Pigot (1775-1857), James Athol Wood (1756-1829)
York (74) Robert Barton, Alexander Wilmot Schomberg (1775-1850)
Intrepid (64) Warwick Lake, Christopher John Williams Nesham
Ulysses (20) Christopher John Williams Nesham, Edward Woolcombe
Acasta (40) Philip Beaver (1766-1813)
Ethalion (38) William Charles Fahie (1763-1833), Thomas John Cochrane (1789-1872)
Penelope (36) John Dick
Pique (36)  
Circe (32) Charles Kerr
Cleopatra (32) Samuel John Pechell
Eurydice (24) James Bradshaw
Surinam (18)  
Cherub (18) George Ravenshaw, Thomas Tudor Tucker
Star (16) Francis Augustus Collier (1785-1849)
Stork (16) George Le Geyt
Amaranthe (16) George Pringle (1778-1834)
Wolverine (16) John Simpson
Fawn (16)  
Hazard (16) Hugh Cameron (d.1809)
Demerara (16) William Dowers
Port D'Espagne (14)  
Superieure (14) Humphrey Fleming Senhouse (1781-1841), William Ferrie
Liberty (14) John Codd
Eclair (12) George James Evelyn
Haughty (12)  
Swinger (12) Thomas Bourdon Fellows, William Winlack
Bacchus (10)  
Express (6) William Dowers, William Malone
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Gloire (38) James Carthew
Aeolus (32) William Fitzroy (1782-1857)
Fawn (18) Michael de Courcy (d.1813), George Alfred Crofton
Pultusk (18) George Pringle (1778-1834)
Belette (16) George Sanders
Forester (16) John Richards
Frolic (16) Thomas Whinyates
Pelorus (16) Thomas Huskisson
Recruit (16) Charles John Napier (1786-1860)
Ringdove (16) George Andrews (1778-1840), Humphrey Fleming Senhouse (1781-1841)
Snap (16) James Pattison Stewart
Goree (16) Joseph Spear (d.1837)
Bacchus (12) Samuel Malbon, Charles Dayman Jermy
Mosambique (10) James Atkins (1777-?)
Subtle (10) Charles Browne (d.1812)
Cuttle (4) Thomas Bury, Thomas Bury

Notes on Action


In the summer of 1808 it had become known to the British ministry that Martinique was in want both of provisions and of troops; and preparations had been subsequently begun at Barbados for taking advantage of the distress of the most important of the French West-Indian possessions, which was at the time governed by Vice-Admiral Villaret-Joyeuse, the officer who had been defeated by Lord Howe in 1794. These preparations were completed by the end of January, 1809, when the naval force, together with a fleet of transports, having on board about 10,000 troops under Lieutenant-General Beckwith, assembled at Carlisle Bay. The expedition sailed on January 28th, and arrived on the 30th off Martinique, which was garrisoned by about 2400 effective regulars, and 2500 militia, and which mounted in its various batteries about 290 guns. In the harbour of Fort Royal lay the Amphitrite, 40, which had left Cherbourg on November 12th, 1808; at St. Pierre lay the Diligente, 18; and at Marin lay the Carnation, 18, which had been taken by the Palinure from the British on October 3rd, 1808.

Early on January 30th, about 3000 men, commanded by Major-General Frederick Maitland, were landed without opposition at Pointe Sainte Luce, under the superintendence of Captain Fahie; and 600 men, under Major Henderson, were put ashore at Cape Solomon. Upon the appearance of the former in Marin Bay, the French destroyed the Carnation. In the meanwhile, nearly 6500 men, commanded by Lieut.-General Sir George Prevost, were landed on the north side of the island, at Baie Robert, under the direction of Captain Beaver. These, also, were unopposed, the militia assembled near the landing-places retiring before them, and going to their homes.

On February 1st and 2nd, the advancing British army gained successes against the French regulars, the main body of whom then fell back on Fort Desaix. Major Henderson possessed himself of a fort or battery on Pointe Salomon; and on February 4th, Pigeon Island surrendered after it had been heavily bombarded for twelve hours. The fall of this post was largely due to the exertions of a body of seamen employed ashore under Captain Cockburn; and the capture of its little garrison of 136 men was owing to retreat having been cut off by the Molus, Cleopatra, and Recruit, which had pushed up to the head of Fort Royal Bay, and which, by their appearance there, induced the French to burn the Amphitrite and other vessels in harbour. When Sir Alexander Cochrane, with the squadron, afterwards stood into the bay, the enemy on that side of the island concentrated themselves in Fort Desaix, the investment of which was then begun. Cas des Navires was occupied on February 8th; St. Pierre and the Diligente surrendered on the 9th; and Fort Royal itself was taken possession of on the 10th.

On the 19th the bombardment of Fort Desaix was opened, and until noon on the 23rd it continued without cessation. After a fruitless parley it was recommenced, and continued until 9 A.M. on the 24th, when white flags were hoisted. In the course of that day, the place, and the whole colony, formally surrendered by capitulation. In the acquisition of Pigeon Island the Navy lost two seamen killed; in the siege of Fort Desaix it lost six killed and nineteen wounded. The seamen who served on shore were, as usual, of the greatest use in getting heavy guns and mortars into position on commanding heights, and in helping to man the batteries. For mismanagement of the defence, Vice-Admiral Villaret-Joyeuse and some other officers were broken by a court which tried them in Paris in December, 1809.

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