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Battle of the Saintes
The Battle of the Saintes was a victory of a British fleet under Admiral Sir George Rodney over a French fleet under the Comte de Grasse in the American War of Independence. The battle took place over four days, starting on 9 April 1782 and ending on 12 April 1782.
The battle is named after the Saintes (or Saints), a group of islands between Guadeloupe and Dominica in the West Indies. In 1782 the Comte de Grasse set out from Martinique with 30 ships of the line and a large convoy to capture the British island of Jamaica. He was pursued by Rodney with 36 ships of the line. There was an initial inconclusive clash on 9 April 1782, during which the French got the better of the van division of the British fleet which had become separated from the centre and rear divisions, followed by a decisive battle three days latter.
On the 12th, De Grasse bore up with his fleet to protect a dismasted ship that was being chased by four British ships as she made for Guadaloupe. Rodney recalled his chasing ships and made the signal for line of battle. As the French line passed down the British line, a sudden shift of wind let Rodney’s flagship Formidable and several other ships break through the French line, raking the ships as they did so. The resultant confusion in the French line and the severe damage to several of the French ships including De Grasse's flagship Ville de Paris, 104, led eventually to De Grasse’s surrender and the retreat of many of his ships in disorder. A general chase ensued. In all, four French ships were captured and one, César blew up after she was taken
The battle is famous for the tactic of "breaking the line", in which the British ships passed though a gap in the French line, engaging the enemy from leeward and throwing them into disorder. There is some controversy about whether the tactic was Rodney's or that of his rear-admiral Sir Samuel Hood, and whether it was deliberate, but it was devastastingly effective and the battle ended French and Spanish hopes of capturing Jamaica from the British. A similar tactic was used by Nelson 23 years later in the Battle of Trafalgar.
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