1703 – English expedition against Guadeloupe

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Hierarchical Path: War of the Spanish Succession (Main Page) >> Campaigns >> 1703 – English expedition against Guadeloupe

The campaign lasted from January to May 1703


In the second half of 1702, England and the Dutch Republic considered to launch an amphibious expedition against Spanish coastal colonies (Havana and Cartagena among others) in South America during the campaign of 1703. This amphibious force would be placed under the command of Peterborough and would assemble in the West Indies before sailing to South America.


Already, at the end of September 1702, a small squadron under Commodore Hovenden Walker was detached from Rooke's fleet which had undertaken the Siege of Cádiz.

Poor weather conditions made it impossible to Walker's squadron to water at Madeira. It was then forced to sail to Cape Verde.

On 24 October, Walker's squadron finally arrived at Cape Verde.

Meanwhile, the design of the Allies against South America had become known. Furthermore, delays in its execution seriously compromised Peterborough's chances of success.

On 5 December, Commodore Hovenden Walker arrived in Barbados at the head of 6 English warships and 10 transports carrying 2,500 foot for the planned invasion of the French islands of the West Indies.

Walker detached the Expedition (70) to escort 6 merchantmen from Barbados.

In January 1703, an English advisory body on naval affairs recommended to redirect the expedition against French colonies in the West Indies. Peterborough resigned command of the expedition.

While sojourning in Barbados, the amphibious force suffered heavy losses (25%).

In February, Walker's amphibious force sailed for Antigua where it arrived in the first days of March with only 1,000 foot fit for duty out of an original strength of 2,500. However, Walker's small fleet also transported 2,000 foot who were initially stationed in Barbados. There, these troops effected a junction with Governor-General Christopher Codrington's forces consisting of 14 coys.

On 16 March, the united forces of Codrington and Walker sailed from Antigua. More precisely, these forces consisted of:

  • 8 warships
  • 1 frigate
    • Maidstone (24)
  • 1 auxiliary
    • James and Sarah (??)
  • 18 armed merchantmen
  • 17 smaller ships
  • 4,000 foot
    • approx. 1,000 foot previously stationed at Antigua
      • regular foot (12 coys, including Thomas Whetham's Foot)
      • unidentified independent companies (2 coys)
    • approx. 1,000 foot fit for duty from the original 2,500 foot accompanying Walker
    • approx. 2,000 foot previously stationed in Barbados

On 18 March, most of the fleet had reached the Island of Marie-Galante.

On 19 March, the English fleet sailed for the French Island of Guadeloupe. Later in the morning, it was spotted from Guadeloupe and the governor of the island, Charles Auger, was informed. Immediately, Auger and his second, Hémon Coinard de La Malmaison assembled 1,400 militia. The English fleet rounded the southern tip of Guadeloupe and sailed for Basseterre, its capital. Around noon, the English warships advanced against Fort La Madeleine at the mouth of the Baillif River while transports sailed northwards.

On 21 March around 3:00 p.m., Walker managed to land some 450 men near Bouillante but they were soon forced to re-embark.

On 22 March, an English frigate (probably the Maidstone) accidentally came within range of the guns of Fort de Lorge and lost 37 men before being rescued.

On 23 March before daybreak, 4,000 English foot landed in three locations: the cove of Gros François, Val-de-l'Orge and the inlet of Vieux Habitants. At Val-de-l'Orge and at Vieux Habitants they met virtually no resistance. However, the had to fight for two hours before finally gaining a foothold. Auger's forces then retreated to the positions along the left bank of the Rivières des Pères. The English made themselves master of Baillif to the north of Basseterre.

On the night of 23 to 24 March, the English drove back the French troops holding the lines of defence along the Rivières des Pères. The French retired in good order to the left bank of the Galion River.

On 24 March, the English made themselves master of Basseterre. The same day, de Machault, the new governor-general arrived at Martinique. He immediately started to assemble a relief force to come to the rescue of Guadeloupe.

The English then made preparations for the siege of Fort Saint-Charles which was defended by de La Malmaison

On 2 April, an English battery of 11 guns opened on Fort Saint-Charles.

On 3 April, a French reinforcement of 820 men (2 marine coys, 4 militia coys and 6 buccaneer coys) led by Lieutenant-General Jean Gabaret arrived from Martinique aboard 3 warships and 12 other ships. They disembarked at Sainte-Marie to the north of Capesterre. They then joined the garrison of Fort Saint-Charles. As senior officer, Gabaret assumed overall command of French troops.

On the morning of 6 April, the French launched an attack against Codrington's positions but were forced to retire.

On 14 April before daybreak, the French evacuated Fort Saint-Charles, blowing its magazines.

On 16 April, the English occupied Fort Saint-Charles.

On 27 April, several English ships made an unsuccessful attempt against Trois-Rivières at the southern tip of the island.

Codrington then fell ill and returned to Nevis Island while his force remained in Guadeloupe, suffering from disease and from lack of supplies.

On 5 May, the English finally decided to abandon their enterprise against Guadeloupe. Gradually, 2,277 men re-embarked.

On 18 May, the English set Basseterre and Saint-François afire before sailing away.

By the Summer, 8 British infantry regiments were stationed in the West Indies.

List of British regiments in the West Indies in the Summer of 1703
Ventris Columbine's Foot

John Livesay's Foot
Thomas Erle's Foot
Thomas Handasyde's Foot

Thomas Whetham's Foot

Earl of Donegall's Foot
Charlemont's Foot
Lord George Hamilton's Foot


During this expedition, the English caused huge damage to the region of Basseterre but inflicted only minor losses to the French forces (27 killed, 50 wounded).

Walker then redirected his attention on the French settlements of Newfoundland but, in September, he abandoned his design.


Cannon, Richard: Historical Record of the Twelfth, or the East Suffolk, Regiment of Foot, London, 1848, p. 18

Lacour, M. A.: Histoire de la Guadeloupe, Tome I – 1635 à 1789, Basseterre, 1855, pp. 202-206

Lyons, Adam: The 1711 Expedition to Quebec, London: Bloomsbury, 2013, pp. 52-55

Marley, David F.: Wars of the Americas – A Chronology of Armed Conflicts in the New World 1492 to the Present, Santa Barbara, 1998, pp. 224-225

Royal IrishWar of the Spanish Succession - Inniskillings attack French on Guadeloupe

Satsuma, Shinsuke: Britain and Colonail Maritime War in the Early Eighteenth Century, Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2013, pp. 107-110