Battle of the Saintes

The French flagship, the Ville de Paris on the right, in action against HMS Barfleur
The French flagship, the Ville de Paris on the right, in action against HMS Barfleur

Historical Context

With a long-standing historical rivalry against the British it was only natural that the French would join the side of the Americans during the American Revolutionary War. (They would, of course, experience their own egalitarian revolutionary upheavals only a few years later.)

To aid the cause the French had planned to invade the highly profitable British colony of Jamaica, which was itself more profitable than the Thirteen Colonies in revolt. The French Navy also planned to defeat the British squadron at New York and capture the Windward Islands.

These plans were destroyed by the British destruction of the French fleet at the Battle of the Saintes, near the West Indies. During the battle the British navy 'broke through' the French line, throwing them into chaos and causing a rout. French commander Comte De Grasse was captured by Admiral George Rodney but was released to France in 1784, where he demanded a court-martial that acquitted him of responsibility for France's loss.

In total the British lost nearly 300 men, and France somewhere around 2-3,000.

Painting Info


Artist: Thomas Whitcombe
Location painted: Dominica, West Indies

Related Events

  • 1782-04-12 Battle at Les Saintes: British fleet under Admiral George Rodney defeats the French fleet under Comte de Grasse off Dominica in the West Indies. Prevents a planned French and Spanish invasion of Jamaica.

Historical Paintings