1757-10-21 - Combat of Cap-François
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Draw (both forces claimed victory)
Prelude to the Battle
During 1757, commodore John Moore relieved rear-admiral Thomas Frankland on the Leeward Islands' station. His mission was to protect trade in this part of the West Indies. On the Jamaica station, rear-admiral Thomas Cotes was in command, and was not less successful.
In the autumn, learning that the French were assembling a convoy for Europe at Cap-François (actual Cap-Haïtien), Cotes sent the Augusta (60), Edinburgh (64) and Dreadnought (60) to cruise off that place to intercept it.
Meanwhile, Kersaint arrived from Africa with a small French squadron to escort the convoy. Cotes believed that this squadron would be little, if at all, superior to that under captain Arthur Forrest of the Augusta. But Kersaint was reinforced at Cap-François, and had in consequence a considerably more powerful command than the British officer.
Description of Events
On October 21, Kersaint issued forth, hoping by his very appearance in such force to drive Forrest away. The latter, upon the French being signalled, summoned the British 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."
Forrest then made the signal to bear down and engage the enemy. The French had 7 vessels to the British 3. Captain Suckling took the van, captain Forrest the centre, and captain Langdon the rear.
The action began at about 3:20 PM, and continued very briskly until about 6:00 PM when the British or French ships finally disengaged (British and French accounts of this combat differ on this topic).
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 British reported the French losses to have exceeded 500 in killed and wounded.
Forrest had to bear up for Jamaica, in order to get his ships refitted. Meanwhile, Kersaint repaired his ships rapidly. On November 12, he picked up his convoy and sailed for France. Whoever had won the combat, the British had failed to intercept the French convoy.
At the very end of his voyage, Kersaint met with a severe storm, in which the Opiniâtre (64), Greenwich (50), and Outarde (44) drove ashore and were wrecked.
Order of Battle
British Order of Battle
Commander-in-chief: captain Arthur Forrest
Summary: 3 ships of the line
- Augusta (60), captain Arthur Forrest
- Dreadnought (60), captain Maurice Suckling
- Edinburgh (64), captain William Langdon
French Order of Battle
Commander-in-chief: captain Guy-François Kersaint
Summary: 4 ships of the line and 3 frigates
- Ships of the line
- Intrépide (74), flagship of Kersaint
- Sceptre (74), captain Cleveau
- Opiniâtre (64), captain Moliau
- Greenwich (50), captain Foucault
This article incorporates texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:
- Clowes, Wm. Laird, The Royal Navy – A History from the Earliest Time to the Present, Vol. III, Sampson Low, Marston and Company, London: 1898, pp. 164-166
Castex, Jean-Claude, Dictionnaire des batailles terrestres franco-anglaises de la Guerre de Sept Ans, Presse de l'université Laval, Québec: 2006, pp. 42-45
Rodger, N. A. M.: The Command of the Ocean – A Naval History of Britain, 1649–1815, p. 273