Thursday, April 12, 2012

Battle of the Saintes: The Turning of the Tide!

Today marks the British victory known as the Battle of the Saintes, off Dominica, April 12th, 1782, with Sir George Rodney (shown at left) in command of the thirty-five ships-of-the-line, defeating the French Comte de Grasse, who had thirty-three ships. The action ruined French prestige with Rodney taking five of their ships, and sinking one after eleven hours of battle. Tactics played the major factor, with a lucky shift of wind that broke the French line. The battle actually took place over 4 days, forcing the French to abandon their planned invasion of Jamaica, which was strategically placed as a point of blockade action against America. Remember, the French had sided with the Colonists.

There was some controversy regarding the action. An unusual maneuver by the British ships, never before attempted in a major battle, allowed for the French defeat. They never recovered thereafter. The credit for the maneuver was fought over among supporters of particular British naval officers. The exact truth will probably never be determined, though a thorough examination of the evidence available strongly favors that of Rodney’s captain-of-the-fleet, Sir Charles Douglas.

Below is a print of the Comte de Grasse relinquishing his sword to Rodney. Ahhh, the honor of it all!

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