Battle of Sadras

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Battle of Sadras
Part of the American Revolutionary War
Detail from a 1794 map showing southern India.
Sadras is south of Madras on the east coast.
Date17 February 1782
Bay of Bengal, off the coast from present-day Kalpakkam

12°31′24.23″N 80°10′36.66″E / 12.5233972°N 80.1768500°E / 12.5233972; 80.1768500Coordinates: 12°31′24.23″N 80°10′36.66″E / 12.5233972°N 80.1768500°E / 12.5233972; 80.1768500
Result French victory[1][2][3]
 Great Britain  France
Commanders and leaders
Sir Edward Hughes Bailli de Suffren
9 ships of the line 11 ships of the line
Casualties and losses
32 killed, 83 wounded 30 killed, about 100 wounded

The Battle of Sadras was the first of five largely indecisive naval battles fought between a British fleet (under Admiral Sir Edward Hughes) and a French fleet (under the Bailli de Suffren) off the east coast of India during the Anglo-French War. Fought on 17 February 1782 near present-day Kalpakkam, the battle was tactically indecisive, but the British fleet suffered the most damage. Under Suffren's protection, French troop transports were able to land at Porto Novo.


France had entered the American Revolutionary War in 1778, and Britain declared war on the Dutch Republic in late 1780 after the Dutch refused to stop trading with the French and the Americans. The British had rapidly gained control over most French and Dutch outposts in India when news of these events reached India, spawning the Second Anglo-Mysore War in the process.

The French admiral Bailli de Suffren was dispatched for military assistance to French colonies in India, leading a fleet of five ships of the line, seven transports, and a corvette to escort transports from Brest in March 1781. Suffren was involved in a happenstance battle with a British fleet at Porto Praya in the Cape Verde Islands in April. In October, he left reinforcement troops at the Dutch-controlled Cape of Good Hope to assist with colonial defense. Suffren added some ships to his fleet and sailed on to Île de France, arriving at Port Louis in December.

After further additions at Port Louis, Suffren's fleet sailed for India under the command of the elderly Navy Brigadier General Thomas d'Orves, accompanying transports carrying nearly 3,000 men under the command of the Comte du Chemin. D'Orves died in February 1782, shortly before the fleet arrived off the Indian coast, and Suffren once again took command.

Suffren first sailed for Madras, hoping to surprise the British stronghold there. Encountering the fleet of Hughes anchored in Madras on 15 February 1782, Suffren turned south. He intended to land troops at Porto Novo, march up the coast and recapture French and Dutch holdings on the way. Hughes raised anchor and sailed after Suffren.


Suffren was hampered with protecting his troop convoys from Hughes, whose goal he presumed was to prevent the troops from landing. Detaching one corvette to protect the convoy and detailing another to watch the British fleet, Suffren attempted to draw Hughes away. However, under cover of night Hughes managed to slip between Suffren's squadron and the convoys. The signal was raised on the morning of 17 February, and Suffren gave chase to force battle.

French Admiral the Bailli de Suffren

When the fleets closed for action around 15:30, some of Suffren's ships had not properly formed the line of battle. Only five of the French ships engaged at first. Of the remaining six, only two joined the action later, with the other four apparently violating Suffren's orders and hanging back. Suffren, leading in Héros, exchanged a broadside with Exeter before targeting Hughes' flagship Superb. The battle lasted for over three hours, with Exeter sustaining the worst damage. She was very nearly sunk, but two French ships were recalled (for reasons unknown) before they could finish her off. Superb also suffered significant damage. The battle came to end with the onset of night.


Suffren summoned his captains for council and chastised those that had chosen to stay out of the battle before following the troop convoy to Porto Novo. There the French army had landed, and Suffren met with the Mysorean ruler Hyder Ali to plan strategy. After making repairs, Suffren set off to find Hughes again. The French and Mysorean forces captured Cuddalore, just north of Porto Novo, on 4 April.

Hughes sailed for Trincomalee, where he made repairs.

The rival fleets[edit]

British (Hughes) Sadras
17 Feb 1782
12 Apr 1782
6 Jul 1782
3 Sep 1782
20 Jun 1783
Superb, 74 X (flag) X (flag) X (flag) X X (flag)
Hero 74 X X X X X
Monarca 68 X X X X X
Burford 64 X X X X X
Eagle 64 X X X X X
Exeter 64 X X X X X
Monmouth 64 X X X X X
Worcester 64 X X X X X
Isis 50 X X X X X
Seahorse 24
Sultan 74 X X X
Magnanime 64 X? X X X
Sceptre 64 X X
Gibraltar 80 X
Cumberland 74 X
Defence 74 X
Africa 64 X
Inflexible 64 X
Bristol 50 X
Vernon 22
French (Suffren) Sadras
17 Feb 1782
12 Apr 1782
6 Jul 1782
3 Sep 1782
20 Jun 1783
Héros, 74 X X X (flag) X (flag) X
Annibal, 74 X X X X X
Orient, 74, X X X X
Ajax, 64 X X X X
Artésien, 64 X X X X X
Brillant, 64 X X X X
Sévère, 64 X? X X X X
Sphinx, 64 X X X X X
Vengeur, 64 X? X X X X
Flamand X X X X X
Hannibal, 50 (also known as "Petit Hannibal") X? X X X X
Fendant, 74 X
Pourvoyante (?) 40 X
Fine 40 X X
Bellone 40 X
Subtile 24 X
Cléopâtre 36 X
? (fireship) X


  1. ^ Malleson, p. 24
  2. ^ de Meuron (1982), p. 53
  3. ^ Castex (2004), pp. 340-44

External links[edit]


  • Castex, Jean-Claude (2004). Dictionnaire des batailles navales franco-anglaises. Presses Université Laval. ISBN 978-2-7637-8061-0.
  • de Meuron, Guy (1982). Le Régiment Meuron, 1781-1816. Editions d'En bas. ISBN 978-2-8290-0028-7.
  • Killion, Howard R (1972), The Suffren Expedition: French Operations in India during the War of American Independence [Duke U. Ph.D. dissertation]
  • Malleson, George Bruce (1884). Final French Struggles in India and on the Indian Seas. W.H. Allen.