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 Revolutionary War, 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 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 sail of the line and three frigates in hopes of falling in with them, sailing on 5 April from Portsmouth.
On 20 April, the fleet was northeast of Ushant when 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, to give chase to 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 They were escorted by the 74-gun Protecteur and Pégase, and the frigates Indiscrète and Andromaque. At sunset 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-ton Pégase which Foudroyant was pursuing, also bore up.
Broadsides from Foudroyant caused significant damage and after engaging about three-quarters of an hour, Foudroyant boarded 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 Foudroyant including Jervis himself. With other ships arriving up, 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 after the action.
In the morning of the 21st some of the squadron again joined company and with the disabled state of Pégase 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 Queen and put an officer and men into Pégase in addition to those formerly sent by Jervis. Captain Maitland ordered Pégase 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 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 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 the 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 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 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 their ships.
Pégase though had been severely damaged, 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, soon after he came upon 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.
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