Table Summary of Movements of French Naval Fleets During the War for American Independence.

Objective of this webpage is to illustrate the strategic mobility and scale of global deployments of the French Royal Navy throughout the American War for Independence.
Data shown is based upon ‘Annex XVI' from La vie aventureuse et mouvementée de Charles Henri comte d'Estaing (edition Jacques Michel, 1976), by Jacques Michel (Capitaine de Vaisseau, du Service Historique de la Marine), and some references in Jacques Michel Verge-Franceschi's, La Marine française au XVIIIe siècle,(éditions SEDES, Paris 1998).
This chart and webpage are under development.
YEAR UNITED STATES ANTILLES EUROPE INDIA
1778
D'ESTAING  
 
D. 13 April from Toulon.
A. 6 July at Delaware.
(proceeded to New York, Newport, Boston)
D. 4 November from Boston
D'ESTAING
 
 
 
 
 
 
A. 9 December at Martinique (WI).
Loss of St. Lucia, 13 Dec.
D'ORVILLIERS

Battle of Ushant [Ouessant] (23 July).

 
1779
D'ESTAING
 
 
 
 
 
 
A. 1 Sep before Savannah.
Siege of Savannah.
Failure of siege 13 Oct.
D. 27 Oct.
Returned to France in December.
D'ESTAING
 
Capture of St. Vincent.
Capture of Grenada (3 Jul).
Battle of Grenada (6 Jul).

D. 25 Jul from Windward Islands (WI).

D'ORVILLIERS
with a Spanish fleet under CORDOVA

Planned invasion of England by a combined Franco-Spanish fleet of 66 ships.
Campaign abandoned and force returned to Brest 19 Sep.

 
1780
TERNAY
Transported Rochambeau's Expeditionary Corps of 5,000 men from France to North America. Remained 'on station' at Rhode Island with squadron of 7 ships.

D. 2 May departed Brest.

A. 12 Jul at Newport (RI).

DESTOUCHES
Replaced the deceased Ternay (15 Dec).
GUICHEN

D. 3 Feb from Brest.

A. 22 Mar at Martinique (WI)
Three battles against Rodney (17 Apr, 15 and 19 May).

D. August, from Martinique with a convoy for Cadiz (Sp).

A. 23 Oct at Cadiz.

CORDOVA
with & subordinate
de BAUSSET
Protecting convoys.
9 Aug, seized British convoy of 60 ships.

D'ESTAING
Commanded the Franco-Spanish force at Cadiz, departing 23 Sep.

 
 
D. 7 November from Cadiz (with GUICHEN and the convoy).
A. 3 Jan 1781 at Brest.

D'ESTIENNE D'ORVES
1781
MONTEIL
Participated with Spanish fleet at siege of Pensacola (April). Returned to WI.

BARRAS
Assumed command in May of French squadron at Newport (RI), previoulsy under Destouches.

 

DE GRASSE
A. 29 Aug in the Chesapeake Bay.

Junction with BARRAS.
Capture of Yorktown, 19 Oct.

D. 4 November, departed the Chesapeake (with Barras).

MONTEIL
In command of WI French fleet after Guichen's departed.

DE GRASSE
D.22 Mar, from Brest.

A. End of April, at Martinique.
2 Jun captured Tabago.

D. 5 Jul departed Martinique.

A. 25 Nov at Martinique.
26 Nov, capture of St. Eustatius by BOUILLE.

GUICHEN

Under orders of
CORDOVA
from Jun to Oct.

Crusing at large the coasts of France and Spain.

Landed allies at Minorica.

Patroling the Atlantic.

D'ESTIENNE D'ORVES

SUFFREN departed Brest (the same time as DE GRASSE) en route to join d'Orves in India:

En route, SUFFREN engaged British squadron in the Cape Verde Islands;
continued to on around the Cape (Capetown),
and to Ile de France [Mauratius].

1782  
 
 

 

 

A. 9 Aug at Boston.

D. 24 Dec.

 

13 Feb, capture of St. Christophe.  

 

DE GRASSE

Battle of the Saints, 12 Apr.
De Grasse made prisoner.  

VAUDREUIL

Assumed command of French feet.
D. July for Boston.
4 Feb British garrison surrendered to the Duc de Crillon at Minorica.

 

 

GUICHEN
Under orders of CORDOVA

Combined fleet in the Manche from Jun to July.

Returned to Cadiz 5 Sep.

Attack upon Gibraltar failed 13 Sep.
British admiral Howe forced allied blockade and delivered aid to the fortress.

Indecisive battle fought off Cape Spartel (20 Sep).

D'ESTAING
A. Cadiz 20 Nov.
Prepared a large allied expedition to go to Jamaica (WI).
SUFFREN
9 Feb, replaced deceased d'Estienne d'Orves.

A. 16 Feb.
Conducted many battles in the area of Madras.

D. 15 Oct. Brief winter stay in Sumatra.

1783 20 Janaury, preliminary talks on a peace agreement began.

3 September, Peace Treaty signed at Versailles.

   
SUFFREN

D. Beginning in January, engaged in many battles, the last fought 20 Jun.

 

Working Bibliography
In English
The War at Sea: France and the American Revolution: A Bibliography.
Published by US Naval History Division, Washington, DC; 1976. A forty-eight page booklet that has sections on: ‘General Works', ‘Bibliographies', ‘French Assistance to American Privateers and the Continental Navy', and ‘The French Fleet in North American Waters' (sub sections: ‘New York, Rhode Island, Boston, Savannah, 1778-1779', ‘Rhode Island, 1780-1781', and ‘Yorktown, 1781'. [US Government Printing Office].
A History of the French Navy from Its Beginnings to the Present Day.
Ernest H. Jenkins. (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1973).
Navies and the American Revolution, 1775-1783.
Robert Gardner, editor, (Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 1996).
The Major Operations of the Navies in the War of American Independence.
Alfred T. Mahan, (Boston: Little, Brown, 1913; various reprints).
The British Navy in Adversity : A Study in the War of American Independence.
W. M. James, (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1926).
The Other Armada: The Franco-Spanish Attempt to Invade Britain in 1779.
A. T. Patterson, (United Kingdom: Manchester Univ. Press, 1960).
Storm over Savannah: The Story of Count d'Estaing and the Siege of the Town in 1779.
A. A. Lawrence, (Athens, Ga.: Univ. of Georgia Press, 1951).

In French

La Marine militaire de la France sous le règne de Louis XVI.
Georges Lacour-Gayet, (Paris: Honoré Champion, 1905).
La Guerre incompris, ou, La Victoire volée: Bataille de Chesapeake, 1781.
François Caron, (Vincennes, France: Service historique de la Marine, [1989]).
La Chronique maritime de la France d'Ancien Régime 1492-1792.
Michel Vergé-Franceschi,, éditions SEDES, Paris 1999. [Primarily a chronology of events and developments for 1775 to 1783.]
La Marine française au XVIIIe siècle.
Michel Vergé-Franceschi, (éditions SEDES, Paris 1998). [Primarily an organizational and administrative study.]
Le commerce colonial atlantique et la guerre d'Indépendance des Etats-Unis d'Amérique a été publié aux Etats-Unis.
Patrick Villiers, (Arno-Press, New-York, 1977). [The Atlantic colonial trade and the war of Independence of the United States of America]
Marine royale, convois et corsaires de Louis XIV à Louis XVI.
Patrick Villiers, (Lille, 1992; 2002 re print by University Presses, North, Lille.). [Royal Navy, convoys and corsairs of Louis XIV to Louis XVI]
La vie aventureuse et mouvementée de Charles Henri comte d'Estaing.
Jacques Michel (edition Jacques Michel, 1976).

LINKS to Related Webpages
Comment:
The purpose of the various fleet descriptions will be to identify the vessels under the command of the respective French commanders during specific, major operations of the war.
Page posted 5 May 2002 as a draft for review and comment. Revised 28 August 2010, but remains a 'working document'.