Order of battle at the Battle of Tory Island

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The Battle of Tory Island, (also known as the Battle of Donegal, Battle of Lough Swilly and Warren's Action) was a naval action fought on 12 October 1798 off the north coast of Ireland. The battle contested an attempted French invasion of Donegal in support of the Irish Rebellion of 1798, with a French squadron under Jean-Baptiste-François Bompart facing a hastily assembled Royal Navy blockade squadron under Sir John Borlase Warren. Bompart's force had been dispatched from Brest the month before with orders to reinforce a French army under Jean Humbert which had landed two months earlier.[1]

Unbeknown to Bompart's force, Humbert's army and the rebellion as a whole had been defeated by the British Army a week before Bompart departed France. Bompart's squadron too was woefully understrength consisting of only a single ship of the line and eight frigates carrying 3,000 men.[2] This small force faced a large proportion of the British Channel Fleet, which was prepared for a second invasion attempt after Humbert's army had landed unopposed in August. As a result, Bompart's force was spotted just a few hours after he left Brest and he was then chased into the Atlantic Ocean by several British frigates which followed him for a week until he was able to lose them in heavy weather. This weather persisted throughout the campaign, causing significant damage to both sides in a series of storms.[3]

The delay caused by the pursuit of Bompart by the frigates under George Countess allowed the British to dispatch a more substantial squadron under Warren to the Donegal coast. Thus when Bompart arrived in the lee of Tory Island, he soon found himself threatened on all sides by a superior British force. Despite the damage his ships had suffered in the heavy weather conditions, Bompart attempted to escape but was swiftly run down and defeated in battle, his flagship and four frigates being captured and towed into Lough Swilly.[4] Among the prisoners seized on board the flagship was Theobald Wolfe Tone, leader of the United Irishmen, whose capture and subsequent death signified the end of the rebellion.[5] Over the next week, the scattered French survivors desperately attempted to reach the safety of French harbours in the face of a dozens of British warships cruising along their homeward route. Only three made it, three others being hunted down and captured, one just a few miles from the entrance to Brest.[6] The French never again attempted an invasion of Ireland.

Action of 12 October 1798[edit]

Commodore Warren's squadron
Ship Rate Guns Commander Casualties Notes
Killed Wounded Total
HMS Robust Third rate 74 Captain Edward Thornbrough 11 38 49 Badly damaged.
HMS Magnanime Fifth rate 44 Captain The Hon. Michael de Courcy 0 7 7 Damaged.
HMS Ethalion Fifth rate 38 Captain George Countess 1 4 5
HMS Amelia Fifth rate 38 Captain The Hon. Charles Herbert 0 0 0
HMS Melampus Fifth rate 36 Captain The Hon. Graham Moore 0 1 1
HMS Canada Third rate 74 Commodore Sir John Borlase Warren 1 0 1
HMS Foudroyant Third rate 80 Captain Sir Thomas Byard 0 9 9
HMS Anson Fifth rate 44 Captain Philip Charles Durham 2 13 15 Badly damaged by weather conditions.
Total casualties: 15 killed, 72 wounded, 87 total
Commodore Bompart's Squadron
Sémillante Fifth rate 36 Captain Martin-Antoine Lacouture 0 0 0 Returned to Brest.
Romaine Fifth rate 40 Captain Mathieu-Charles Bergevin 0 3 3 Returned to Brest.
Bellone Fifth rate 36 Captain Louis-Léon Jacob 20 45 65 Badly damaged and captured. Purchased for the Royal Navy as HMS Proserpine but never saw active service.
Immortalité Fifth rate 40 Captain Jean-François Legrand 0 0 0 Escaped, captured on 20 October.
Loire Fifth rate 44 Captain Adrien-Joseph Segond 10 24 34 Escaped, captured on 18 October.
Hoche Third rate 74 Commodore Jean-Baptiste-François Bompart
Captain Desiré-Marie Maistral
270 Badly damaged and captured. Commissioned in the Royal Navy as HMS Donegal.
Coquille Fifth rate 36 Captain Léonore Deperonne 18 31 49 Captured. Accidentally exploded at Hamoaze claiming 13 lives.
Embuscade Fifth rate 34 Captain Nicolas Clément de la Roncière 15 26 41 Captured. Commissioned in the Royal Navy as HMS Ambuscade.
Résolue Fifth rate 36 Captain Jean-Pierre Bargeau 0 5 5 Escaped, captured on 14 October.
Biche Schooner 8 Lieutenant Jean-Marie-Pierre Labastard 0 0 0 Detached from the battleline and not engaged in the action. Returned to Brest undamaged.
Total casualties: 460[7]
Source: James, pp. 124–132, Clowes pp. 344–351

Action of 13 October 1798[edit]

Ship Rate Guns Commander Casualties Notes
Killed Wounded Total
HMS Melampus Fifth rate 36 Captain The Hon. Graham Moore 0 0 0
Résolue Fifth rate 36 Captain Jean-Pierre Bargeau 10 Several - Captured. Purchased for the Royal Navy as HMS Resolue but never saw active service.
Source: James, pp. 135–136, Clowes pp. 344–351

Flight of Loire, 15–18 October 1798[edit]

Ship Rate Guns Commander Casualties Notes
Killed Wounded Total
HMS Mermaid Fifth rate 32 Captain James Newman Newman 4 13 17 Badly damaged.
HMS Kangaroo Brig 18 Commander Edward Brace 0 0 0
HMS Anson Fifth rate 44 Captain Philip Charles Durham 2 13 15
Total casualties: 6 killed, 26 wounded, 32 total
Loire Fifth rate 40 Captain Adrien-Joseph Segond 46 71 117 Badly damaged and captured. Commissioned in the Royal Navy as HMS Loire.
Total casualties: 46 killed, 71 wounded, 117 total
Source: James, pp. 137–141, Clowes pp. 344–351

Action of 20 October 1798[edit]

Ship Rate Guns Commander Casualties Notes
Killed Wounded Total
HMS Fisgard Fifth rate 38 Captain Thomas Byam Martin 10 26 36 Badly damaged.
Immortalité Fifth rate 36 Captain Jean-François Legrand   54 61 115 Badly damaged and captured. Commissioned in the Royal Navy as HMS Immortalite.
Sources: James, pp. 142–143; Henderson, p. 77, Clowes pp. 344–351

Savary's retreat, 28–30 October 1798[edit]

Captain Saumarez's squadron
Ship Rate Guns Commander Casualties Notes
Killed Wounded Total
HMS Caesar Third rate 80 Captain Sir James Saumarez 0 0 0 Damaged by weather conditions, retired from the chase on 28 October.
HMS Terrible Third rate 74 Captain Sir Richard Bickerton 0 0 0
HMS Melpomene Fifth rate 38 Captain Sir Charles Hamilton 0 0 0
Commodore Savary's Squadron
Concorde Frigate 40 Commodore Daniel Savary
Captain André Papin
0 0 0
Franchise Frigate 44 Captain Jean-Louis Guillotin-Gonthière 0 0 0
Médée Frigate 32 Captain Jean-Daniel Coudin 0 0 0
Vénus Corvette 28 Captain André Senez 0 0 0
Source: James, pp. 145–147

References[edit]

Key[edit]

  • A † symbol indicates that the officer was killed during the action or subsequently died of wounds received.
  • The ships are ordered in the sequence in which they formed up for battle.

Specific[edit]

  1. ^ Henderson, p. 76
  2. ^ Brooks, p. 625
  3. ^ James, p. 126
  4. ^ Gardiner, p. 114
  5. ^ Tone, (Theobald) Wolfe, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Marianne Elliott, Retrieved 6 March 2008
  6. ^ James, p. 135
  7. ^ As the casualties from Hoste were not broken down to distinguish between killed and wounded in the dispatches immediately following the battle, only an overall casualty total is available for the French squadron.

General[edit]

  • Brooks, Richard (1959). Battlefields of Britain & Ireland. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 0-304-36333-2. 
  • Clowes, William Laird (1997) [1900]. The Royal Navy, A History from the Earliest Times to 1900, Volume IV. Chatham Publishing. ISBN 1-86176-013-2. 
  • Editor: Gardiner, Robert (2001) [reprint of 1996]. "The Channel and Ireland". Nelson Against Napoleon. Caxton Editions. ISBN 1-86176-026-4. 
  • Henderson CBE, James (1994) [reprint of 1970]. The Frigates. Leo Cooper. ISBN 0-85052-432-6. 
  • James, William (2002) [reprint of 1827]. The Naval History of Great Britain, Volume 2, 1797-1799. Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-906-9.