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The Battle of the Saints, 12 April 1782. By 1782, and towards the end of the War of American Independence the chief aspiration of the French in the West Indies was the capture of Jamaica. Sailing from Fort Royal, Martinique under the Comte de Grasse, their fleet was first engaged by the British West Indies Fleet under Admiral Sir George Brydges Rodney off Dominica on 9 April, and more conclusively off the group of islets to the north called the Saints on the 12 April. Rodney's victory proved a counterbalance to the loss of the British colonies in America, allowing Britain to secure superiority over the French in the Caribbean at the ensuing Treaty of Versailles which ended the war in 1783. As the opposing battle lines engaged on parallel courses, a slight change of wind enabled Rodney to sail through the French line and throw it into disorder. A general chase ensued and the French flagship, 'Ville de Paris', 104-guns, surrendered to Rear-Admiral Sir Samuel Hood in ‘Barfleur’.
This painting shows the British fleet breaking the French line. In the centre background, Rodney, in the ‘Formidable’ has broken through followed by the ‘Namur’, ‘St Albans and the ‘Canada’. In the left foreground the ‘Duke’ is moving up to break the line and engaging two French ships. To the left of her is the ‘Agamemnon’ also engaging two French ships to starboard and in the extreme left is the stern of another British ship half out of the picture. The stern of the ‘Ville de Paris’ starboard quarter view can be seen in the right background under the bow of the ‘Canada’. In the extreme right astern of the ‘Canada’ three more British ships ‘Ajax’, ‘Repulse’ and ‘Bedford’ are about to break the French line. Beyond them are other units of the French fleet, starboard quarter view. The prominence in this painting of the ‘Duke’ shown in the act of breaking the French line suggests that the artist may have painted it for her captain Alan Gardner.
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The Battle of the Saints, 12 April 1782 | Nicholas Pocock | 18th Century
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