François Joseph Paul de Grasse
|François Joseph Paul de Grasse|
|Nickname(s)||Comte de Grasse|
13 September 1722|
Le Bar-sur-Loup, Provence, France
|Died||11 January 1788
Tilly, Île-de-France, France
|Buried||Church of Saint-Roch, Paris|
|Allegiance|| Order of Saint John (1734–1741)
Kingdom of France (1741–1784)
|Years of service||1734–1784|
|Rank||Lieutenant général des armées navales|
François Joseph Paul de Grasse (September 13, 1722 – January 11, 1788) was a French admiral, also known as the Comte de Grasse. He is best known for his command of the French fleet at the Battle of the Chesapeake, which led directly to the British surrender at Yorktown in the American Revolutionary War.
British Admiral Rodney defeated and captured de Grasse the next year, at the Battle of the Saintes in the Caribbean. De Grasse was widely criticised for his loss in that battle. On his return to France, he demanded a court martial; it acquitted him of fault in his defeat.
François-Joseph de Grasse was born and raised at Bar-sur-Loup in south-eastern France, the last child of Francois de Grasse Rouville, Marquis de Grasse. He earned his title and supported his Provençal family.
Marriage and family
De Grasse married Antoinette Rosalie Accaron in 1764, and they had six children who survived to adulthood, among them his son Alexandre Francois Auguste de Grasse. He inherited the title and had a career in the French army. His younger brother Maxime became a Knight of Malta and died in 1773. They had four sisters: Amélie Rosalie Maxime, Adelaide, Mélanie Veronique Maxime, and Silvie de Grasse. Silvie married Francis de Pau in Charleston, South Carolina, and had a family with him in New York City.
After Antoinette died young, de Grasse married again, to Catherine Pien, widow of M. de Villeneuve. She also died before him and lastly, he married Marie Delphine Lazare de Cibon.
In addition, during his times in India, de Grasse is believed to have fathered a mixed-race, French-Indian boy with an Indian woman in Calcutta. The boy, born about 1780, was known as Azar Le Guen. De Grasse brought his natural son back to Paris with him for his education and formally adopted him, naming him George de Grasse. After his father's death, the young man went to the United States by 1799, where he settled in New York City. He worked for a time for Aaron Burr, likely meeting him through a connection of his father's. Burr gave him two lots of land. He married and educated his three children: son John van Salee de Grasse became a respected physician in Boston and served as a surgeon during the American Civil War.
At the age of eleven (1734), de Grasse entered the Order of Saint John as a page of the Grand Master. He served as an ensign on the galleys in wars against the Turks and the Moors. In 1740 at the age of 17, he entered the French Navy.
Following Britain's victory over the French in the Seven Years War, de Grasse helped rebuild the French navy in the years after the Treaty of Paris (1763). He was intermittently stationed in Calcutta (now Kolkata), India, from the 1760s to 1781.
American War of Independence
In 1775, the American War of Independence broke out when American colonists rebelled against British rule. France supplied the colonists with covert aid, but remained officially neutral until 1778. The Treaty of Alliance (1778) established the Franco-American alliance and France entered the war on behalf of the rebels and against Great Britain.
In 1779, he joined the fleet of Count d'Estaing in the Caribbean and distinguished himself in the battles of Dominica and Saint Lucia during 1780[clarification needed] and of Tobago during 1781. He contributed to the capture of Grenada and took part in the three actions fought by Guichen against Admiral Rodney in the Battle of Martinique (1780).
De Grasse came to the aid of Washington and Rochambeau's Expédition Particulière, setting sail with 3,000 men from Saint-Domingue. De Grasse landed the 3,000 French reinforcements in Virginia, and immediately afterward decisively defeated the British fleet in the Battle of the Chesapeake in September 1781. He drew away the British forces and blockaded the coast until Lord Cornwallis surrendered, ensuring the independence of the United States of America.
Battle of the Saintes
De Grasse returned to the Caribbean, where he was less fortunate and was defeated at the Battle of St. Kitts by Admiral Hood. Shortly afterward, in April 1782, he was defeated and taken prisoner by Admiral Rodney at the Battle of the Saintes. He was taken to London, and while there briefly took part in the negotiations that laid the foundations for the Peace of Paris (1783), which brought the war to an end.
He returned to France and published a Mémoire justificatif. In 1784, he was acquitted by a court-martial.
His son Alexandre Francois Auguste de Grasse published a Notice biographique sur l'amiral comte de Grasse d'après les documents inédits in 1840.
Memorials and honors
- A monument was installed to commemorate Admiral de Grasse and the sailors who helped the United States achieve its independence from the British Crown at the Cape Henry Memorial, Joint Expeditionary Base East, Virginia Beach, Virginia. It is maintained by the Colonial National Historical Park of the National Park Service.
- A statue of Admiral de Grasse stands at the riverwalk landing located in Yorktown, Virginia.
- A statue of Admiral de Grasse is in the Place de la Tour of Le Bar-sur-Loup, the village where he was born and grew up.
- Sometime between 1829–1839, Heman Allen, a former U.S. Representative and Ambassador to Chile, named the Grasse Mount estate in Burlington, Vermont after de Grasse.
- A. Kingsley Macomber, an American resident of France since the end of World War I, commissioned the monument of Admiral de Grasse at the Trocadero Palace in Paris in 1931. 
- The Grasse River, which flows through St. Lawrence County, New York, and the hamlet of Degrasse in the township of Russell, New York, are named for him.
- De Grasse was the name of two medium-sized French Line passenger ships, one built in 1924 in Scotland, and the other formally the 1956-built Bergensfjord of Norwegian America Lines, which was introduced in 1971. The first ship was famous world-wide, serving the transatlantic route; it later was used by the Allies as a troop ship in World War II. Refitted, she was the first French Liner to inaugurate service after the war's end. After being supplanted by newer ships in the company, the liner was sold in 1952 to Canadian Pacific Lines as an emergency replacement for their fire-damaged Empress of Canada for the busy Coronation Year season. It was sold again in 1956 to Grimaldi-Siosa Lines and then to another firm who modernized her further and renamed her Venezuela. After grounding near Cannes in 1962, she was scrapped later in the year.
- The second De Grasse served the Le Havre–Southampton–West Indies service with little success, as ships were being replaced by the airlines. West Indies cruises, plus assignments to the Baltic, Mediterranean, and North Africa, also suffered mixed profits. She was sold off in 1973. After service under a short string of new Israeli and Greek owners, and, after two fires in 1977 and 1980, was scrapped in Greece.
Other vessel names
The French Navy has had two vessels named in his honour:
The United States Navy has had three vessels named in his honour:
- USS Comte de Grasse (DD-974), a large multi-role destroyer of the Spruance class. (commissioned 1978, decommissioned 1998).
- USS De Grasse (AP-164/AK-223), a Crater-class cargo ship used during World War II (1943–1946).
- USS De Grasse (ID-1217), a yacht used in 1918.
- "The Operations of the French Fleet Under the Count de Grasse in 1781-2: As ... - Google Books". Books.google.com. Retrieved 2017-01-15.
- Notice%20biographique%20sur%20l'amiral%20comte%20de%20Grasse%20d'apr%C3%A8s%20les%20documents%20in%C3%A9dits.&f=false John Gilmary Shea, The Operations of the French Fleet Under the Count de Grasse in 1781-2: As Described in Two Contemporaneous Journals, Bradford Club, 1864, pp. 22-23
- P. Kanakamedala, "George DeGrasse a South Asian in Early African America", in India in the American Imaginary, 1780s–1880s, ed. by Anupama Arora & Rajender Kaur; Springer, 2017, pp. 228-243
- Stewart (2008), p.95.
- "François-Joseph-Paul Grasse". newadvent.org. Retrieved 19 May 2015.
- Francois Joseph Paul de Grasse at Find a Grave
- Burridge, Pauline E. (December 3, 1930). "Glimpses of Grasse Mount, Part II". Vermont Alumni Weekly, Vol. X, No. 10.
- "Herbert Hoover: Message to Dedication Ceremonies for a Monument of Admiral Comte de Grasse at the Trocadero Palace in Paris, France". Presidency.ucsb.edu. 1931-05-04. Retrieved 2017-01-15.
- William H. Miller Jr., Picture History of the French Line, Dover Publishing, 1997.
- Lacour-Gayet, Georges, La Marine militaire de la France sous le règne de Louis XV (Paris, 1902).
- Lewis, Charles Lee. Admiral de Grasse and American independence. Arno Press, 1980.
- Stewart, William (2009) Admirals of the World: A Biographical Dictionary, 1500 to the Present. (McFarland). ISBN 9780786482887
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Grasse, François Joseph Paul, Comte de". Encyclopædia Britannica. 12 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 369.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to François Joseph Paul de Grasse.|
- Catholic Encyclopedia article
- 1782 Caricature of De Grasse, Admiral Rodney and King George III by James Gillray
- Spanish and Latin American assistance to de Grasse in the Yorktown Campaign
- National Park Service, Cape Henry, Yorktown, VA: Admiral Comte de Grasse Memorial
- William Cowper's poem, "The Colubriad", refers to De Grasse's queue of flatterers while the admiral was a prisoner in London