Invasion of Guadeloupe (1759)
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|Invasion of Guadeloupe|
|Part of Seven Years' War|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Nadau du Treil
Maximin de Bompart
The British expedition against Guadeloupe was a military action from January to May 1759, as part of the Seven Years' War. A large British force had arrived in the West Indies, intending to seize French possessions. After a six-month-long battle to capture Guadeloupe they finally received the formal surrender of the island, just days before a large French relief force arrived under Admiral Maximin de Bompart.
To divert French troops from Germany, William Pitt decided the British should attack France wherever they could.
British troops were sent on diversionary attacks on the French coast, at St. Malo and Cherbourg. An expedition to western Africa captured the French slaving station at Senegal. In North America, a force was dispatched to take Louisbourg and Quebec.
For 1759, Pitt directed attention to the West Indies, specifically Martinique and Guadeloupe.
Major-General Peregrine Hopson, who had been Governor at Nova Scotia before the outbreak of war, was appointed to the chief command, and Colonel John Barrington, a junior officer, was selected to be his second.
On 12 November 1758, the transports, escorted by 8 ships of the line under Commodore Hughes, got under way and sailed with a fair wind to the west.
On 3 January 1759, the British expedition reached Barbados where Commodore John Moore was waiting with two more ships of the line to join it and to take command of the fleet. The total expeditionary force numbered some 6,800 men.
Attempt against Martinique
The primary target of the attack was Martinique. Hopson landed his troops near Fort Royal and fought a battle against the French, leaving 100 British dead or wounded. The terrain ahead was judged so difficult, that it was decided to re-embark the troops immediately. a second landing was considered at Saint-Pierre but the defenses were so formidable that Hopson decided to abandon the attack on Martinique and to proceed to Guadeloupe.
Attack against Guadeloupe
The fleet sailed to Basse-Terre and on 22 January opened fire on the town, reducing it to a heap of blackened ruins. At dawn on 24 January, the British troops were landed, and moved land inwards for some 5 km, until they met a strong French position in a rugged, mountainous terrain.
By that time the men on the sick list numbered 1,500, or fully a quarter of the force. Hopson's health was failing rapidly too and he remained inactive. Even the representations of Barrington could not stimulate him to further action. On 27 February, Hopson died, leaving the command to devolve to Barrington. The British expeditionary force was by now on the brink of destruction. More than 600 invalids had been sent to Antigua, and another 1,600 men were on the sick list. The remainder were succumbing so fast that sufficient men could hardly be found to do the daily duty.
Meanwhile, John Moore, being fortunately independent of Hopson in respect of naval operations, had sent ships round to Fort Louis. They speedily battered the fort into surrender and installed a garrison of 300 Highlanders and Marines.
Barrington quickly put an end to the fatal period of inaction. He attacked from 3 sides and forced the French governor Nadau du Treil to capitulate on 1 May 1759.
The island had been conquered, but the climate had not and it took its revenge. By the close of the 7 months that remained of the year 1759 nearly 800 officers and men of the garrison had found their graves in Guadeloupe. The island was given back to France after the Treaty of Paris (1763), in return for France dropping its claim to Canada.
- McLynn p.109
- Anderson, Fred. Crucible of War: Faber and Faber, 2000
- McLynn, Frank. 1759: The Year Britain Became Master of the World. Pimlico, 2005
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- This article was originally based on material from , which is licensed under the GFDL.