Battle of Ushant (1782)
The Third Battle of Ushant or the Action of 20–21 April 1782 was a naval battle fought during the American War of Independence, between a French naval fleet of three ships of the line protecting a convoy and two British Royal naval ships of the line off Ushant, a French island at the mouth of the English Channel off the north-westernmost point of France. This was the third battle that occurred in this region during the course of the war.
Intelligence had been received that the French were detaching a fleet from Brest destined to be for the East Indies to supply the Bali de Suffren's fleet in his campaign to recapture French possessions taken by the British in support of Admiral Edward Hughes. Vice-Admiral Samuel Barrington, was sent out with a fleet consisting of twelve fail of the line and three frigates in hopes of falling in with them sailing on the 5th April from Portsmouth.
On the 20th being to the North East of Ushant the frigate HMS Artois under Captain John Macbride sent a signal after discovering the French fleet. Barrington then made the signal for the 84-gun ship HMS Foudroyant in the lead under Captain John Jervis with other ships, in chase of the French fleet.
The French convoy comprised nineteen transports and the 64-gun Actionnaire armed en flûte bound from Brest to the Île-de-France This was escorted by the 74-gun Protecteur and Pégase, and the frigates Indiscrète and Andromaque. At sunset the Foudroyant had got far ahead of her consorts, and near enough to the French ships and made them out to be a convoy. The squadron soon afterwards separated and the largest ship the 1,778 tons Pégase which the Foudroyant was pursuing, also bore up.
Broadsides from the Foudroyant caused signifcant damage and after engaging about three-quarters of an hour, the Foudroyant boarded the Pégase, and compelled her commander Chevalier de Sillans to surrender. Out of a crew of 700 men, she had upwards of 100 killed and wounded while the rest had surrendered. Only two or three men were wounded in the Foudroyant including Jervis himself. With other ships arriving up, the Pégase was taken possession of; on board the British sailors found a great deal of carnage and the ship was materially damaged in her masts and yards. Her mizzen mast and fore topmast sell overboard soon aster the action.
In the morning of the 21st some of the squadron again joined company and with the disabled state of the Pegase and the continuation of a strong gale with heavy seas induced Captain Jervis to the signal for immediate assistance. The 90 gun HMS Queen, captained by Frederick Maitland, signaled to assist the ship.
As soon as the weather permitted Jervis moved the prisoners by nine o clock in the evening of the 22nd; he had taken a hundred on board the Queen and put an officer and men into the Pegase in addition to those formerly sent by Jervis. Captain Maitland ordered the Pegase and a cutter that was in company make their way to England and immediately sail towards the rest of the convoy, which he came up with in sight of a chase after fourteen hours. Queen engaged the ship protecting the convoy fired at her with a broadside which was returned only with one gun and struck her colours. Maitland immediately took possession and found her to be the Actionnaire a French ship of sixty four guns armed en flûte and commanded by Captain de Querengal a Knight of the Order of Saint Louis. She had on board two hundred and sixty seamen and five hundred and fifty soldiers of whom nine were killed and twenty wounded, with most being captured.
At this time there were over one thousand one hundred prisoners on board the Queen and Maitland attempted to chase the French ship Protecteur of seventy four guns but decided to help in taking the rest of the convoy.
Twelve of the convoy were taken four of them by a frigate HMS Prudente commanded by Lord Charles FitzGerald. Jervis meanwhile also captured four transports: Fidelité (178 troops and stores), Belonne (147 troops and stores), Lionne (180 troops and stores), and Duc de Chartres (stores and arms).[Note 1]
Nearly half of the French convoy was captured causing severe financial losses to the French treasury; on the Actionnaire eleven chests of Dutch silver were on board, a large quantity of naval and ordnance stores, provisions, wine and rum. There were also lower masts for four seventy-fours, with sails and rigging complete besides her own masts, which were intended for the recently captured HMS Hannibal off Sumatra renamed (Petit Annibal). The capture of half the convoy in a addition was a huge blow to the Bali de Suffren. The British loss was minimal with only a total of five men were wounded and moderate damage to the their ships.
The Pégase there had been severe damage particularly in her masts and yards. Her mizzen mast and fore topmast sell overboard foon aster the action was used in the Royal Navy and commissioned as the third rate HMS Pegase. She served as a prison ship from 1799, and was used in this role until 1815 when she was broken up.
Lord Charles FitzGerald in HMS Prudente who being on his return to Spithead with his prizes son after fought a cutter off Cape Clear to which he gave chance pursuit of thirty six hours most of the time within gun he came up with and took her. She was called Le Marquis de Castries and was a French privateer pierced for twenty guns but mounting only eighteen six pounders.
- Mahan, p. 187
- Beatson, Robert (1804). Naval and Military Memoirs of Great Britain: From the Year 1727, to the Present Time - Vol 5. New York Public Library: J. Strachan & P. Hill, Edinburgh. pp. 657–59. Retrieved 22 June 2014.
- Charnock. Biographia Navalis. p. 561.
- Campbell. Naval History of Great Britain. p. 279.
- Roche, p.20
- Roche, p.41
- Tucker. Vol. 1, p.76
- The London Gazette: . 23 April 1782.
- Demerliac (1996), p.164, #1525.
- Demerliac (1996), p.166, #1556.
- Winfield p. 68
- The London Gazette: . 1782-28-05. Retrieved 22 June 2014.
- Allen, Joseph, Battles of the British navy, Volume 2. London, H. G. Bohn, 1852
- Demerliac, Alain (1996) La Marine De Louis XVI: Nomenclature Des Navires Français De 1774 À 1792. (Nice: Éditions OMEGA). ISBN 2-906381-23-3
- Lavery, Brian The Ship of the Line – Volume 1: The development of the battlefleet 1650–1850. Conway Maritime Press, 2003. ISBN 0-85177-252-8.
- Roche, Jean-Michel (2005). Dictionnaire des bâtiments de la flotte de guerre française de Colbert à nos jours 1. Group Retozel-Maury Millau. ISBN 978-2-9525917-0-6. OCLC 165892922.
- Mahan, Alfred Thayer (2010). Sea Power and the American Revolution: 1775-1783. Fireship Press. ISBN 9781935585176.
- Winfield, Rif, British Warships of the Age of Sail 1714–1792: Design, Construction, Careers and Fates, Seaforth, 2007, ISBN 1-86176-295-X
- Tucker, Jedediah Stephens (1844). Admiral the Right Hon The Earl of St Vincent GCB &C. Memoirs 1. Richard Bentley, New Burlington Street. OCLC 6083815.