Flotilla: The Patuxent Naval Campaign in the War of 1812

Donald G. Shomette, Flotilla: The Patuxent Naval Campaign in the War of 1812, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009. 520 pp., illustrations, maps, line drawings.

Review by Andrew Lambert
King’s College, London

Originally published in 1981 a revised and enlarged edition of this essential volume will be a major contribution to the bicentenary literature of the War of 1812. From his initial search for the archaeology of an abandoned gunboat flotilla in the shallows of the Patuxent River Donald Shomette has become the historian of Commodore Joshua Barney and his mosquito force.

By 1813 the war with Britain , essayed so lightly only a year earlier, had turned sour. Humiliating defeats on the Canadian border had been temporarily assuaged by stunning naval successes, but as Royal Navy forces on the coast steadily built up Americans came to recognise the reality of taking on the Leviathan of the deep. Although the British were fighting for their very existence against Napoleon they were determined to defend Canada , and the oceanic commerce that funded their war. They had no desire to wage war with America , and had no plans to re-conquer the old colonies. They wanted to secure peace with minimum effort. With the Army tied up in Spain they were unable to provide a significant military force, relying on the Royal Navy to translate sea control into effect on land, to shift from naval to maritime strategy.

With small, agile forces the British would practise intelligence-led warfare, relying on an uncontrolled American print media, and the willingness of many men to take the King’s gold. Already well informed of the bitter sectional divisions between Republican and Federalist politics the British carefully chose targets that would influence the administration. The rich tidewater region of Chesapeake Bay, close to the new national capitol, and the main privateer base at Baltimore , produced the export crops of the very men who had voted for war. By striking here the British hoped to take the pressure off the Canadian frontier. The destruction of public and private buildings in the Canadian towns of York and Dover provided an occasion for punitive measures.

In the summer of 1813, with the Royal Navy running riot along the Maryland tidewater, Barney, a Revolutionary war hero, and a successful privateer skipper, proposed building a flotilla of shallow draft gunboats, 50 or 75 feet long, to exploit local knowledge and challenge the British in areas where heavy sailing ships could not operate. The U.S. Flotilla Service was created to operate these craft, with Barney in command. In 1814 Barney and his men, less than a thousand all told, would be the only effective forces placed between the British and the civilians of the area. When the British landed local gentlemen tried to save their estates, but militia units generally ran away, as did many the slaves. Many former slaves joined the British as ‘Colonial Marines’, proving themselves good soldiers, and local experts. By contrast to the part-time soldiers Barney’s Flotilla attacked the enemy, and when cornered put up a hard fight. Much of the credit must go to Barney, a resourceful, brave and professional leader. The actions of the Flotilla, and of the flotillamen ashore at Bladensburg provided a heroic contrast to the endemic ineptitude of their military counterparts.

Making all allowance for the professed subject, the real hero of this book is Rear Admiral Sir George Cockburn. A protégé of the immortal Nelson, and a veteran of twenty years of war at sea and on the littoral, Cockburn combined vast experience with an incisive intellect and a brilliant grasp of the higher direction of war. Without a single soldier his 1814 campaign ripped aside the tissue thin veil of American defence, exposing the Government, capital and army to humiliation. Lacking the resources to tackle the major ports, Baltimore , Norfolk and Annapolis , he relied on a tiny naval raiding force to keep the enemy guessing. The British offensive targeted American weakness, incessant raids kept the militia moving, provided a plentiful supply of fresh food, water, lumber to build a fortified base on Tangier Island , and hogsheads of tobacco to generate the prize money that kept sailors interested. When an army of less than 5,000 men finally arrived, Cockburn cajoled his superior officer and the commanding General into a stunning stroke that left Barney’s gunboats, Washington and the Navy Yard in ashes. His campaign should be taught at every Staff College . There is no better example of maritime strategy at work; flexible, quick, and always operating inside the enemy’s decision-making cycle. Cockburn planned the whole campaign to distract and demoralise the enemy, gather vital navigational intelligence and build up for a dramatic conclusion that would teach the enemy not to attack the British, even when they were at war with Napoleon. The legacy of those campaigns would be the immense stone fortifications that surrounded every significant American port. If vituperation be any measure of a man’s impact on his foes then George Cockburn must have been a titan. No insult was too scurrilous to be published. He took his revenge quietly, his official portrait, reproduced on page 126, shows him ashore, with spurs on his boots, the public buildings of Washington ablaze in the distance. In 1832 Cockburn was sent to command the American station, just as a border dispute threatened the fragile Anglo-American peace. Roger Morriss’s 1997 biography of this amphibious expert would have been a useful addition to the bibliography. At page 232 Cockburn’s Commander in Chief in 1814, Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane, is conflated with his more famous nephew, Thomas, Lord Cochrane, the model for every fictional Royal Navy hero of the Nelson era from Marryatt to O’Brien. While he lacked Cockburn’s local expertise Sir Alexander was also an amphibious warfare expert, having overseen assault landing at Aboukir in 1801 and other major disembarkations.

Based on a wealth of primary evidence Flotilla is a delight to read, carefully crafted and nicely paced, mixing telling human interventions from key players with analysis of the unfolding drama. The illustrations, contemporary drawings, portraits and modern maps are ideally placed to illustrate and explain the flotilla craft, personalities and operations. This will be an essential text for students of the war, and of maritime strategy. Barney’s gunboats did well, but they had no answer to Cockburn’s squadron.

Posted in Book Review | Leave a comment

Essays in Naval History, from Medieval to Modern

N. A. M. Roger, Essays in Naval History, from Medieval to Modern, Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2009. 344 pp., map, charts, graphs, notes, index.

Review by Jeffrey G. Barlow
Naval History and Heritage Command

Nicholas Roger, a Senior Research Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, is most recently known for his first two volumes of a projected history trilogy of Great Britain’s rise to naval power—The Safeguard of the Sea: A Naval History of Britain, Volume 1: 660-1649 (1997) and The Command of the Ocean: A Naval History of Britain, Volume 2: 1649-1815 (2004). The book under review, Essays in Naval History, from Medieval to Modern, a volume in Ashgate’s Variorum Collected Studies Series, is a collection of articles by the author that were originally published in British, French, German, and Greek journals or edited volumes in the years from 1995 through 2004.

Roger’s book contains a fascinating series of articles on the creation and growth of European navies and developments in naval warfare over the centuries. The reader should be aware, however, that despite the book’s title, the majority of the included pieces have to do with navies in the period from the second half of the Sixteenth Century through the first third of the Nineteenth Century. This, of course, should not be surprising, given the author’s particular interest in the Royal Navy of the Eighteenth Century—an interest that dates back at least to his 1986 book The Wooden World: An Anatomy of the Georgian Navy. Among the seventeen articles in this volume are pieces on the naval service of the Cinque Ports; naval warfare in the Sixteenth Century; medicine, administration, and society in the Eighteenth-Century Royal Navy; navies and the Enlightenment; and commissioned officers’ careers in the Royal Navy, 1690-1815.

A fascinating article in the initial portion of the book is Roger’s “The Development of Broadside Gunnery 1450-1650.” In this piece, he takes to task Sir Julian Corbett and other naval historians of the late Victorian era for arguing that the English fleet in 1588 had sailed and fought its ships in “line ahead” and had relied upon broadside gunnery to overwhelm its enemies. After carefully sifting through the evidence, Roger concludes that while basic aspects of both concepts were known to English sailors by that date, a full understanding of their value in battle was still decades off. As he expressed it, “So in the end the English, and with them no doubt the other northern nations, discovered that in setting out to match the galley, they had arrived at an entirely unexpected destination, with a new type of warship and a new style of fighting. In material terms, they were ready for the line of battle [a specific form of line ahead] by the 1580s if not before, in that they already had ships which mounted a majority of their guns (though not usually their heaviest guns) on the broadside – but this does not mean that they had yet understood the tactical implication, clear though it might be in hindsight.” (Article III, 317 [continuous pagination is not used in this book]).

Another article of great interest is the author’s “Weather, geography and naval power in the Age of Sail.” In this piece, Roger walks carefully through the difficulties of navigation imposed on sailing ships by their utter dependence upon favorable winds, tides, and currents to make progress toward many of their intended destinations. As the author sums up the matter, “ Britain ’s eventual success [in achieving naval dominance at sea] can be explained in terms of a prolonged process of learning how to exploit the favourable, and overcome the unfavourable, aspects of the situation. None of this was inevitable, and not much of it is intelligible to the historian who ignores the real world of winds and currents, navigation and pilotage.” (Article XII, 197).

This intriguing volume containing many of Nicholas Roger’s naval history articles deserves to be placed on one’s bookshelf, alongside the several substantial studies on the history of Britain ’s rise to naval power that he has written during the past three decades. That being said, even those readers with a more than casual interest in the larger framework of naval history will find much to ponder within its pages.

Posted in Book Review | Leave a comment

Deciphering the Rising Sun: Navy and Marine Corps Codebreakers, Translators, and Interpreters in the Pacific War

Roger Dingman, Deciphering the Rising Sun: Navy and Marine Corps Codebreakers, Translators, and Interpreters in the Pacific War, Naval Institute Press, 2009. 340 pp., illustrations, notes, index.

Review by Mark M. Hull
Department of Military History, US Army Command and General Staff College

In Deciphering the Rising Sun, Roger Dingman has crafted an interesting and highly readable story concerning a little-known but important aspect of the intelligence war in the Pacific: the Navy’s recruitment, training, and employment of Americans as translators of the complex Japanese language.

While the Army and Navy had been sending selected officers to Japan for years, by the period immediately before Pearl Harbor, there were only a handful of those officers on active duty. Compounding this difficulty was the on-going rivalry between the services to recruit likely candidates. The Army established its own Japanese language training school at the Presidio in November 1941 as it became clear that war with Japan was all but inevitable. Lieutenant Commander Arthur McCollum of the Office of Naval Intelligence – himself a Japanese linguist with interwar experience in Japan – stepped forward to find the right place, right faculty, and right students to allow the Navy to maintain parity.

Although there was a ready pool of ethnic Japanese who could have performed this work, in most cases their employment was impossible due to existing, often misplaced, security concerns. This forced the Navy to turn elsewhere for people with the necessary background or aptitude. Following a highly successful pilot program at Berkeley (and a somewhat less-than-successful one at Harvard), the Navy Japanese Language School was relocated to Boulder, Colorado, where the first batch of civilian recruits pioneered an eight-month intensive language course in spoken and written Japanese. They were a mixed lot; some had grown up in Japan or China (experience with non-Japanese languages was an acceptable substitute), others had lived or worked in Japan before the war, while still others had no first-hand experience upon which to draw, only the hope that their facility with languages would be enough to see them through. At the end of the fast-paced, high-pressure course, the students were commissioned as reserve officers in the Navy or Marine Corps.

While ethnic Japanese were not considered sufficiently trustworthy for employment as Navy translators and interpreters, they nevertheless made up the critical core of the Language School faculty, and provided a living link between the students and a language and culture that was entirely foreign to them. The graduates, male and female, went on to perform well in a myriad of assignments, some landing in the first waves with the Marines to aid in prisoner interrogation while other graduates focused on the translation and evaluation of captured Japanese documents. The author ably points to the dramatic differences in the linguists’ attitude about the Japanese after the Boulder linguists came face-to-face with war; some echo the racial stereotypes which were very much the norm, while others – particularly those assigned to post-war occupation duty – developed a sincere affection for the people, their culture, and their language. In every meaningful respect, the Navy program, as demonstrated in the field by the fledgling linguists, was a success in the war against Japan.

It would have been useful if Dingman had compared the Navy interpreter/translator program to that used by the U.S. Army, where enlisted, Japanese-speaking Nisei were used in significant numbers. While he exclusively highlights the successes of the Boulder school graduates, it is invariable that some were more capable than others. To fairly evaluate the program it would be useful to also mention those cases where the Boulder alumni were less than perfectly effective.

Deciphering the Rising Sun is very much a history focused on the individual experiences of the linguists themselves, rather than an operational or strategic overview of the Human Intelligence gathering and evaluation aspects of the Pacific War. It is also a welcome reminder that good, readable military history can remain on the micro level without becoming trivial.

Posted in Book Review | Leave a comment

Tides of History: Ocean Science and Her Majesty’s Navy

M. S. Reidy, Tides of History: Ocean Science and Her Majesty’s Navy. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2008

Reviewed by Duncan Redford
Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow
Centre for Maritime Historical Studies
University of Exeter

Tides of History is a fascinating book, both a scientific history and a maritime one that demonstrates the close links between these two areas of historical investigation as it charts the development of scientific enquiries and methods into tides. In today’s information age of good charts, data and satellite navigation it is easy to forget the difficulties, dangers and risk that mariners once faced. While the development of accurate charts and the ability to calculate a position while out of sight of land has attracted attention, the problems caused by tides have escaped serious study until Michael Reidy’s excellent work.

It might be thought that something as mundane for today’s world as tidal theory would make dry reading; such a view would be wrong. Reidy writes in an accessible and readable style, and the story he lays out is one of great interest, as he charts the formation of ‘tideology’ notably by concentrating on the efforts of William Whewell and his associates in the first half of the nineteenth century, before showing how from its foundations in tidal theory the maritime sciences moved outwards to encompass a multitude of phenomena such as mapping the magnetic variation of the earth’s oceans – a task just as important to safe and accurate navigation as Whewell’s work on tides, or Harrison’s chronometer and the measurement of longitude the previous century.

It is hard, sitting in a warm office or in a comfortable chair, to understand the importance of the advances made in the marine sciences during the nineteenth century – perhaps a few good tales of maritime misfortunate complete with the Victorian melodrama might make the process of understanding how vital this work was to the mariner. Tidal science when combined with accurate charts, an accurate log of speed and distance run, a good compass (made even more accurate in by the 1830s with the understanding of magnetic variation), the ability to calculate latitude and longitude made navigation more precise and safer tool for the mariner. Once the ground work of understanding tides had been achieved, understanding tidal streams – their speed and direction soon followed – then dead reckoning (course and speed only) could be replaced with the more accurate estimated position (course, speed and the influence of the tidal stream during the period) as the mainstay of the navigator’s art particularly in coastal waters where the effect of tides was most felt. Only the ability to see through the night, fog and driving rain could do more to improve the safety of navigation, and this would have to wait for the development of navigation radar in the 1950s.

Reidy is right to emphasise the level of support the early investigators and scientists of tidal theory received from the British Admiralty. What Reidy does not do, however, is go into detail as to why the Navy felt the marine sciences were of such importance during the late 1830s and 1840s. Yes, there was genuine interest from some officers about the use of science to improve understand of the natural world such as Beaufort, who as the Hydrographer had great influence over what research the Navy got involve with. Yes, the advances in understanding tides made navigation safer, but why was the Navy interested in tidal theory in that particular period? Was there more to the issue than just safe navigation and the increasing trade of Britain’s merchant marine? It is therefore important to consider strategy and naval policy with regard to the Royal Navy’s relationship with scientists and laymen who were involved in formulating tidal theory.

For many years the Navy had been vexed by the problem of what to do if an enemy refused to do the decent thing and leave its harbours and fortified anchorages behind and sail out to be beaten by the Royal Navy’s squadrons. The answer was to be able to seek out the enemy in harbour – steam and shell firing guns had made this more practicable, while understanding tides made it safer. At the same time, steam and the French development of Cherbourg as a major naval arsenal had undermined Britain’s traditional strategy of being able to command the English Channel with a Western Squadron up-wind of the main French base and Brest. The Royal Navy’s answer to these problems was to develop a coastal attack strategy in the 1840s that would neutralise the French threat at Cherbourg and which saw use in the Baltic during the Crimean War against the Russians. As Andrew Lambert has pointed out, the Royal Navy put a great deal of hydrographical effort into accurately charting and understanding the waters off Cherbourg in the 1804s and perhaps we should see the more general enthusiasm for the marine sciences in this period as an aspect of this coastal attack strategy.

Tides of History is a well written and engaging book. It is warmly recommended for all those interested in the development of the Royal Navy and Merchant Marine during the nineteenth century.

Posted in Book Review | Leave a comment

The Navy and the Nation: The Influence of the Navy on Modern Australia

David Stevens and John Reeve (eds.), The Navy and the Nation: The Influence of the Navy on Modern Australia, Allen & Unwin, 2005. 438 pp., illustrations, pictures, endnotes, and index.

Review by Charles Steele
Department of History,
United States Air Force Academy

In putting together The Navy and the Nation David Stevens and John Reeve have assembled something far more valuable than a mere narrative history of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). In many regards it is an historical argument against taking something of great value for granted. At a time when navies the world over are having their funding cut and their worth questioned, the editors of this volume have cobbled together a significant statement of the enduring value of the RAN to the nation it serves. The book, a collection of essays drawn from the biennial King-Hall Naval History Conference, provides a plethora of examples detailing the immense contributions of the RAN to Australia .

While there is no escaping the fact that this is a compilation of conference papers, and not a coherent narrative, it should not be dismissed as the intellectual equivalent of being made to eat leftovers. This is history written, compiled, and edited with a purpose. As a collection of arguments begging the consideration of a host of events, personalities, and contributions made either in connection with or on behalf of the RAN, The Navy and the Nation provides forceful testimony to the importance of this navy to its island nation. Rather than a single author advancing a thesis, Stevens and Reeve provide the theses of several writers that serve the greater purpose of demonstrating how the RAN has benefited Australia .

Divided into four parts, the book has a sensible organization that carries readers from “concepts and contexts,” a Mahanian macro-view of Australia ’s place in an evolving naval epic, through sections entitled “the Navy and the nation,” “ships, industry and technology for Australia ,” and “naval people and the nation.” Among the 19 essays contained in these sections are those touching upon everything from hydrographic surveys, the RAN’s place in furthering the foreign policy aims of Australia ’s political leaders, the most famous ships to have served the nation, the historic importance of ship building in Australia , and the value of naval experience in the Australian populace. The most compelling of these essays extol the traditional strengths of navies while managing to place those strengths in particularly Australian contexts.

The editors draw on a wide range of talents and the essays are representative of a vast expanse of knowledge. In some regards this compilation’s greatest strength, a wonderfully diverse testament to the value of navies, the RAN specifically, is also its greatest weakness. Lacking the coherence of a single storyline, this collection might seem to some readers as being a bit too all encompassing. However well the editors may have chosen individual essays to suit their purpose, the fact remains that this is a compilation that lacks natural transitions and it requires close attention if large sections are to be digested at a single reading. For instance, Neil Westphalen’s interesting account of the naval and medical services nexus is, in a strict sense, the only essay of its kind in the book. Similarly, Geoff Cannon’s contribution “Technology transfer, knowledge partnerships and the advance of Australian naval combat systems,” is more contemporary and in some regards more specialized than most of the other offerings. That quibble aside, the book’s essays make several cogent arguments that do great credit to the editors and the RAN.

As unorthodox as this book might appear at first glance, it should be noted that it does contain impressive examples of what might best be called traditional naval history. The contributions of Geoffrey Till and David Stevens are perhaps the best offerings of this genre to be found in this collection. Till does an admirable job of setting a strategic backdrop upon which other developments/essays can best be viewed and Stevens offers a compelling, if not touching account of one of the most famous ships in the nation’s history. In many ways Stevens’ account of the life and death of HMAS Australia is reflective of the book’s aim to place the navy at the fore of the nation’s quest for identity. In general, it would be difficult not to be impressed with all that the RAN has contributed to Australia ’s rise as a nation, based upon the contents of this book. Whether one is interested in the history of navies in general, or of Australia’s navy alone, The Navy and the Nation contains a wealth of useful scholarship and is worthy of a place in the library of any student of naval history.

Posted in Book Review | Leave a comment

The German Invasion of Norway, April 1940

Geirr H. Haarr, The German Invasion of Norway, April 1940, Naval Institute Press, 2009. 474 pp., illustrations, appendices, notes, bibliography, name index.

Review by Timothy J. Demy
U.S. Naval War College

On April 9, 1940, forces of the German Kriegsmarine, Luftwaffe, and Wehrmacht commenced Operation Weserübung, the invasion and occupation of neutral Norway in order to protect the Scandinavian ore resources and also deny them to Britain . This combined naval, amphibious, and airborne invasion surprised Norwegian and Allied forces, whose leaders did not believe Hitler would attempt a full-scale invasion and occupation. The German move signaled the last days of the “Phoney War” that had begun in September 1939 with the invasion of Poland . The Norwegian invasion also inaugurated novel activities such as combined land, air, and sea operations and the use of paratroopers. From a naval and air perspective, the first successful dive-bomber attack (a British Blackburn B-24 Skua) to sink an enemy ship (German cruiser Königsberg in Bergen harbor) also occurred during the campaign.

Focusing primarily on the naval operations, The German Invasion of Norway , April 1940, provides readers with an exceptionally detailed and well-documented volume. Drawing from Norwegian, German, and British primary sources and archives as well as numerous secondary sources, readers are given a balanced and thorough account of the naval aspect of the invasion. The book provides a highly readable and a compelling narrative of the German invasion and failure to repulse it.

The first third of the volume is devoted to the German rationale for and planning of the invasion. It was amazing to read that when Hitler told General der Inafanterie Nicoulaus von Falkenhorst that he was responsible for the planning the operation and occupation, von Falkenhorst went across the street to a bookshop and purchased a Baedeker’s travel guide to Norway in order to orient himself to the country and begin his planning. Interesting to readers in this section are the political miscalculations of the Norwegians, Germans, and British with regard to the intentions of all parties involved. Haarr does a good job showing the tensions among the Kriegsmarine, Luftwaffe, and Wehrmacht, and in noting Grossadmiral Erich Raeder’s concern that the German Navy not be shortchanged in the allocation of resources. It was Raeder who initially pushed the concept of a Scandinavian campaign. In the greater war strategies of the belligerents, no one initially envisaged a full-scale occupation (although Churchill had considered the idea earlier, giving rise to the ethical issue of “supreme emergency” wherein ethical norms of war may, under some circumstances, be abandoned) although both Germany and Britain began planning operations in early 1940. Also significant in this section for students of strategy is the recounting of the breakdown of the civil-military relations between the Norwegian government and military leadership wherein each assumed the other knew of the ill-equipped condition of the Norwegian military forces and the lack of cooperation between the forces as well as a void in contingency planning. Norwegian political miscommunication, hesitation, and an atrophied military hastened the German victory.

The latter two thirds of the work studies the major areas of operation (Oslofjord; Kristiansand —Arendal, Stavanger —Egersund, Bergen , Trondheim , and Narvik), interspersed with narrative of the political and military responses during the conflict. The volume does a superb job of recounting the naval operations on all sides and tracking naval vessels and units. The work is naval centric and students of the air and ground aspects of the operation will wish for an equally detailed book even though the author discusses these aspects. Haarr largely ends the story of the invasion with the events of the second day, April 10th, giving only slight attention to ground and air actions that followed. The author rightly concludes that although the campaign was a minor one compared to the rest of the war in Europe, it forever changed the history of the people of Norway .

Although previous works have discussed the German campaign in Norway and Denmark , what has been missing is an exceptional work from the Norwegian perspective. This volume fills that void. The author not only shows how the operation was viewed by the Norwegians, Germans, and British, but also the Dane, Swedes, and French. Detailed appendices and numerous black and white photographs significantly enhance the volume, as do charts of operational areas. A fuller index would have beneficial, as would an overall map of Norway at the front of the book to orient readers to the area and to the smaller regional maps within the book. The work is especially beneficial for readers limited to English. The book fills a needed void in naval studies of the Second World War and naval historians and enthusiasts will not be disappointed.

Posted in Book Review | Leave a comment

British Destroyers: From the Earliest Days to the Second World War

Norman Friedman, British Destroyers: From the Earliest Days to the Second World War, Naval Institute Press, 2009. 320 pp. illustrations, notes, tables, and index.

Review by Andrew Lambert
King’s College, London

The development of the locomotive torpedo in the mid nineteenth century provided a fundamental challenge for the dominant sea control navy of the era. Just as steam, armour, heavy rifled guns and rotating turrets provided the Royal, (and Union ) Navy with the means to transform sea control into strategic naval power projection, an English engineer quite literally knocked the bottom out of ironclad coast assault forces. The Royal Navy was among the first to visit Robert Whitehead’s factory at Fiume (then in Austria ) and purchase the right to use his ‘secret’. They were anxious to understand the new threat, and to assess its potential as a weapon for attacking enemy warships in harbour. The first British torpedo craft, HMS Vesuvius was a stealth vessel, designed for a slow, silent approach into enemy harbours at night, to get close enough to use the new weapon. The next prototype, HMS Polyphemus, a radical high speed armoured torpedo carrier, solved the problem of deploying a short range weapon in a fleet action by emphasising speed and protection. Finally the 1870s and 1880s produced the 30-60 ton torpedo boat, a cheap craft based on commercial steam launches that, when mass-produced, became a threat to the existing order at sea. The Royal Navy had to face numerous French torpedo craft based in small harbours all along the southern coast of the English Channel . They could attack the fleet or, in line with the commerce raiding doctrine of the Jeune Ecole, strike at merchant vessels. After experimenting with small torpedo cruisers, which were too expensive, and too slow, and torpedo gunboats, moderately fast, well-armed, seaworthy craft the Royal Navy settled on the torpedo boat destroyer in 1892. In essence the new type were super torpedo boats, larger and faster versions of the problem, armed with rapid firing guns and the odd torpedo. These ships, little more than skeletal racing hulls, crammed full of ultra-light weight power plants, with a few weapons on the upper deck, very limited supplies of fuel and food. These early ‘turtle-back’ destroyers were striking craft, low-lying, back, and topped off with a forest of funnels and ventilators to keep the boiler rooms free of smoke, and supplied with oxygen for the furnaces. They were demanding places to work, constantly wet, rolling, vibrating and dangerous. They were almost uninhabitable, the crew receiving extra ‘hard-lying’ pay for their trouble, like early submariners. It was work for young men with strong nerves.

Although the Royal Navy was well aware that trial speeds rarely translated into sea-going performance it was suckled into a race to the swift with France, Russia, Germany and Italy, one which served the interests of specialist builders, and advanced the relevant technologies. Down to the 1920s the Royal Navy wisely left the development of ships and machinery to specialist firms, notably Yarrow and Thornycroft, who competed to improve speed, and made large profits selling their designs abroad. A by-product of this dynamic private sector was that in both World Wars British shipyards had ships under construction for overseas customers, and most ended up in Royal Navy service. Similarly export successes ensured specialist destroyer building capacity in Britain was always greater than required by the peacetime orders of the service.

The introduction of the Parsons steam turbine transformed the destroyer, increasing speed while reducing maintenance, both at sea and in harbour. In 1900 HMS Viper reached 36 knots, three knots faster than any other warship, heralding a new era of speed obsessed designs.

Contemporary British thinking about the use of destroyers focussed on wiping out enemy torpedo forces, to facilitate the blockade and other coastal operations. By blockading French flotilla bases with larger, faster craft it should be possible to catch and kill any that put to sea. The destroyer only became a fleet escort when it had the range and seaworthiness to keep station with the battleships. The necessary tactics were developed in the Mediterranean under Admiral Sir John Fisher – who had ‘invented’ the destroyer half a decade earlier. The constant trade off between size, cost, speed, guns and torpedoes was further complicated by the shift to focus on Germany as the most likely enemy after 1904. The German bases were a lot further away than those of France, which suited the new slower, but more seaworthy ‘River’ class ordered in 1901-02, ships that came closer to the old torpedo gunboat concept. As First Sea Lord between 1904 and 1910 Fisher wanted 36 knot destroyers, but his prototype, the 2000 ton HMS Swift, was simply too large for mass production. Between 1900 and 1914 the British would try every conceivable mix of size, power, weapons and concepts in a seemingly endless search for the ‘right’ destroyer. With the specialised builders competing to improve performance the Navy could push the development of hulls and machinery down to 1914, bringing the speed of smaller craft back over 30 knots, and increasing the torpedo battery to reflect the fact that the function of the destroyer had shifted from operating independently to destroy torpedo boats to acting as fleet torpedo boats.

In peacetime the British generally built economical units, in significant numbers. In wartime, when the financial limits were removed, they shifted to superior types, as far as shipbuilding resources would allow. Indeed it was only with the benefit of hard won experience in the First World War that the balance between gun and torpedo power would be stabilised. While the Grand Fleet favoured torpedoes the Harwich Force stationed in the southern North Sea stressed gun power to deal with German destroyers. By 1916 a classic design had emerged, the superb ‘V and W’ class and the large ‘destroyer leaders’ of 1916 that doubled ahead gunfire, introduced fire control equipment and improved seaworthiness. The move from 4 inch to 4.7 inch guns almost doubled shell weight, creating a potent all-round fighting ship, while geared turbines and improved boilers enabled Thornycroft’s 1600 ton ‘leader’ HMS Shakespeare to reach 42 knots on trials. Post war British destroyers, and numerous overseas units built in British yards, developed the basic design with increased range, improved weapons and new sensors, including sonar, into an economic, effective type that formed the backbone of the British and Canadian flotillas down to the middle of the Second World War.

Friedman is critical of the inter-war type, contrasting their relatively low pressure power plant and the lack of sophisticated anti-aircraft fire control and high angle guns with American practice. As he notes these failings limited endurance and led to heavy losses from air attack. However, the British did experiment with high pressure steam plant in the 1920s, but after the failure of these tests decided to wait for more reliable systems: they were quick to follow the American lead. The air threat also requires further analysis. The only aircraft that proved dangerous to such fast, manoeuvrable vessels were dive bombers, a type that could only operate effectively when unopposed by defending fighters. The majority of British losses occurred when destroyers were used, without air cover, to evacuate defeated British armies from France , Greece and Crete . Half a million British soldiers were saved from prisoner of war camps by these ships. It is unlikely if any destroyers, used in this way, would have done much better, and few navies would have attempted such operations in daylight.

On a positive note the combat record of the inter-war destroyers against their larger German, Italian and French counterparts was very good, and none of them were any better equipped against dive bombers. In addition the British units proved devastatingly effective in the anti-submarine role. By April 1940 they had cut a swathe through the U-boat arm with text book multi-ship attacks. As newer, bigger destroyers ships joined the fleet the surviving inter-war units were modified to emphasise their capabilities as fast Anti-Submarine escorts in the Battle of the Atlantic, where they joined First World War veteran ‘V and Ws’ and ex-American four stackers. By 1943 radar, HF/DF, Hedgehog and even Squid ahead thrown anti-submarine weapons had replaced guns and torpedoes as the main weapons of older destroyer. A few of them even fought a new ‘torpedo boat’ threat on the British Coast , German motor torpedo boats.

In Norman Friedman’s treatment the evolution of the British destroyer becomes far more than just a catalogue of designs, it is the history of a concept in the broadest context of strategy and policy. Based on a major research project his analysis is supported by newly executed drawings by A. D. Baker, a wealth of striking images and rich appendices. This first rate book will provide much food for thought, for historians, students of ship design, and those grappling with the endless problem of balancing the best ship against the need for numbers.

Posted in Book Review | Leave a comment

Battle of Surigao Strait

Anthony P. Tully, Battle of Surigao Strait. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009. 329 pp, notes, maps, photos, appendices, and index.

Review by John T. Kuehn
U.S. Army Command and General Staff College

On opening Anthony Tully’s new book Battle of Surigao Strait one might be forgiven for asking oneself, why should I read yet another book about the series of naval battles around Leyte Gulf in the Philippines in late October 1944? A number of recent works, which Tully brings to the reader’s attention in his prologue and elsewhere, have come out that have greatly updated our understanding of these engagements: The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors by James Hornfischer (Bantam, 2004), H.P. Willmott’s The Battle of Leyte Gulf (Indiana University Press, 2005), and Milan Vego’s The Battle for Leyte, 1944 (Naval Institute Press, 2006). These are excellent books, but one only deals with the Battle off Samar (Hornfischer) while the other two raise questions that remain unanswered and are larger operational or campaign histories. Too, there remain ongoing myths about the southernmost of the extensive air and sea battles that occurred in the Sulu Sea, Mindanao Sea and the Surigao Strait which dumps into Leyte Gulf from the south.

Tully is the perfect historian to provide a revisionist account that updates our understanding of Surigao Strait , the last battle in naval history where dreadnought battleships slugged it out on the surface of the ocean with each other. Tully brings the same skill and dedication to this telling that he and co-author Jon Parshall (who provided his help with the maps and line diagrams in this effort) for the battle of Midway in Shattered Sword ( Potomac , 2005). In that effort Tully and Parshall, using Japanese sources and an unquenchable curiosity, undid almost 40 years of received wisdom that was essentially wrong about the U.S. Navy’s greatest battle. Here the reader gets both the Japanese and American perspectives on the battle to give one a very comprehensive understanding of what happened during this often confusing night surface action in the Surigao Strait . Of particular value, though is the detailed Japanese perspective. Tully puts his readers into the chart rooms and bridges with the Admirals, Captains and their staffs as well as providing a number of “eyewitness” vignettes and stories by the lower ranking sailors. This is all the more incredible given the paucity of Japanese survivors on these ships, especially the two battleships Fuso and Yamashiro.

Accordingly, most of the new “finds” in this book involve Tully’s sensitivity and care with these Japanese sources and perspectives. Often Japan ’s Sho-1, or “Victory 1,” plan is presented as a complete operation that naturally included three mutually supporting efforts—Admiral Ozawa’s carrier deception force in the north, Admiral Kurita’s powerful battleship and cruiser force as the main effort in the center, and then the southern forces under Vice Admirals Nishimura and Shima. Tully shows conclusively that both Nishimura’s and Shima’s forces were ad hoc afterthoughts to the main plan. Of particular value is Tully’s approach to Shoji Nishimura, who has often been cast by historians as an officer much like the Earl of Cardigan of the Light Brigade, advancing mindlessly up the nautical equivalent of the “valley of death” to his and the men under his command’s doom. Tully, to this reviewer’s mind, conclusively demonstrates a completely different explanation that only adds nuance, and even luster, to this long-castigated warrior’s reputation.

Tully goes one step further in retelling this battle by explicitly addressing the three most enigmatic “riddles” of the night battleship action in his first appendix. Often readers will skip these sorts of “extras,” but here the reader is advised to take the extra time to read Tully’s arguments and analyses—he or she will not be disappointed. Speaking of disappointment, the book has very few of them. At the beginning, because Tully is making a complex argument about the operational movements of both Shima’s and Nishimura’s forces, the book is a bit dry and lags. However, once the fighting begins the book achieves that rare thing for such a detailed work, it becomes a page turner.

There are editorial mistakes that occasionally detract from the narrative, for example on page 1 where Iwo Jima is confused for Okinawa . Also, the text uses both the Japanese as well as English format for the names of Japanese participants (e.g. Uehara Kouji versus Kouji Uehara) and this can confuse readers already struggling with the Japanese names. But these are minor and infrequent problems. Although the Americans are here, the bravery of the Japanese involved is well-documented and not necessarily un-thinking. Too, we learn that the Japanese ships, though outmatched, were very “well-fought” by their crews, especially Nishimura’s flagship the battleship Yamashiro. Tully does not dissipate the “fog and friction” of war as they affected this battle, but he makes things about as coherent as the evidence will let him. Battle of Surigao Strait is gripping naval history that is both exciting to read and adds new and valuable scholarship to our understanding of this iconic battle. Bravo Zulu, Mr. Tully.

Posted in Book Review | Leave a comment

Armchair Warriors: Private Citizens, Popular Press, and the Rise of American Power

Joel R. Davidson, Armchair Warriors: Private Citizens, Popular Press, and the Rise of American Power, Naval Institute Press, 2008. 316 pp., notes, works cited, index.

Review by Stephen Badsey
University of Wolverhampton

The relationship between public opinion, the mass media, and military power in a modern democracy is a particularly complex one, especially in the case of the United States, and is an understandable preoccupation among historians at present. Both in his title and his introduction, this author promises his readers some kind of discussion or analysis of this relationship and its associated issues. In fact he has produced a book on a quite different subject, although still one that provides interest, and has some merit.

Starting with the Spanish-American War and ending with the U.S. emergence as a world superpower in the aftermath of World War II, this is an anthology of letters sent by private citizens throughout the United States to various government and military officials and politicians, from the President downwards, expressing opinions and offering suggestions on the wars and defense issues of the day. The great majority of these letters were never made public in any form, and although the author supplements them with occasional newspaper and magazine editorials, any connection that most of them might have with the popular press is indirect at best. The resulting collection of the writings of cranks, crackpots, racial and political bigots, busybodies, and inventors of the miracle weapon that will win the war, certainly has its entertainment value, but it is difficult to judge how far these individual letters might be representative of more widely held opinions, and the author offers his readers no guidance on this issue. Instead, he provides the briefest of linking passages, and a little general popular historical context; this is very much the work of the historian as copy-typist.

In 1917, Scientific American magazine, which the author notes had volunteered to screen letters on how to defeat the U-Boats for the Naval Consulting Board, found that the overwhelming majority fell into five categories: ideas that had already been adopted, ideas that were old and discarded, the mechanically or scientifically impossible, the possible but inexpedient, and ideas that would defeat one aim in achieving another. Similarly, almost all the letters published in this book reveal only their writer’s lack of any grasp of politics, strategy or military technology, together with quite often a ruthless willingness to tear down civilization in order to hurt the enemy of the moment. Inevitably, there are letters predicting an attack on Pearl Harbor, or reflecting some future (or existing and secret) military development, or postulating a strategy that merited serious consideration at the time.

It is noteworthy how real the idea seemed to some people in 1940-41 that a defeated Great Britain might surrender its fleet to Germany, and the threat that this would then pose to the United States. One rare gem in the collection is the suggestion in 1941 to the National Inventors Council from the behaviourist B.F. Skinner that a pre-conditioned bird in a transparent nosecone could be used to steer a bomb onto its target. But otherwise the author’s initial assertion, that these letters disprove the idea of a supine public passively following the war news given to them by their government, and represent instead evidence of a dynamic interplay between government, press and public at war, will be something for another and very different book to prove or not.

Posted in Book Review | Leave a comment

Somalia: Lessons from the Past

Victor Enthoven
Netherlands Defense Academy,
Free University of Amsterdam

1. Introduction

In the early 1990s, organisations such as the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) began to register reports of (attempted) piracy. As will become clear in this essay, the timing was not accidental. Piracy, as we know, is a contemporary phenomenon with a long history. That means that there are lessons to be drawn from the past.[1] It appears that the phenomenon of piracy has three aspects that have kept recurring throughout the centuries, and can also be discerned in the current events in the waters around Somalia , namely:

piracy is primarily experienced and condemned by its victims;

piracy is a phenomenon occurring at the periphery;

people resort to piracy for an underlying reason.

These three aspects of piracy will be examined in this short article. They will be illustrated by historical examples, after which we will focus on the situation in Somalia .

2. The Victims

Piracy has been occurring since antiquity. Classical scholar Philip de Souza aptly articulated the notion that the term “piracy” stems mainly from the vocabulary of the victims.

Piracy is a term normally applied in a pejorative manner. Pirates can be defined as armed robbers whose activities normally involve the use of ships. They are men who have been designated as such by other people, regardless of whether or not they consider themselves to be pirates.[2]

Thus the term ‘piracy’ has a negative connotation, usually conveying a sense of moral judgement. Pirates are people who have been labelled as such by others, irrespective of whether they see themselves as pirates. The term “piracy” is therefore mainly used and qualified by its victims.

A consequence of this is that those aggrieved by piracy are often ill-informed about its background. I will illustrate this with a number of examples from the recent past. From 1994, a dramatic increase was seen in the incidence of attempted piracy in Southeast Asia, particularly in the Straits of Malacca and the South China Sea . The number of reports rose from approximately 50 per year to almost 500 in the year 2000. It was not until 2005, however, before serious studies into illegal activities of this kind were published, including, D. Johnson and M. Valencia (eds.), Piracy in Southeast Asia: Status, Issues, and Responses (Leiden/Singapore: IIAS, 2005), and A.J. Young, Contemporary Maritime Piracy in Southeast Asia : History, Causes and Remedies (Leiden/Singapore: IIAS, 2007).

Since then, the number of reports of piracy in the region has fallen to the approximate level of the mid-1990s and the focus of attention has, to some extent, shifted away from the region.[3]

In March 2009, the RAND Corporation convened a small group of experts from the U.S. government, allied partner nations, the maritime industry, and academic organisations to reconsider the underlying factors that drive maritime piracy in the 21st century. Perhaps the most important conclusion that can be drawn from the workshop is that mitigating the complex nature of maritime crime requires the input of all relevant stakeholders – state, national, private, and non-governmental – and must necessarily embrace measures that go well beyond the simple and expedient reactive deployment of naval assets. However, no representatives from the region (Horn of Africa) had been invited.[4]

This was also the case at the seminar of 8 July 2009 organised by the Netherlands Institute for International Relations Clingendael under the title “Pioneering for Solutions Against Piracy: Focusing on a Geopolitical Analysis, Counter-Piracy Initiatives and Policy Solutions”. The seminar was concerned mainly with the Indian Ocean and Somalia :

Participants in this seminar are academics, policy makers, and top-level military staff, from EU member states and institutions, NATO, and American universities, who all have a professional interest in the subject.[5]

Apparently, it was thought that solutions for the problem of piracy could be found without the advice of representatives from the region.

Just recently, UN special representative for Somalia Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah said: “Piracy on the high seas cannot be fought by international naval fleets alone, but requires a regional approach that also deals with its root causes.” In my opinion not only an open door, but a little bit late as well.[6]

3. Piracy as a phenomenon at the periphery

A study into the history of piracy reveals that piracy is a phenomenon which chiefly occurs at the periphery. In Bandits at Sea: A Pirates Reader, Anne Pérotin-Dumon put it as follows:

There is a description of piracy that spans the ages: illegal and armed aggression at points of maritime traffic that are important but under weak political control. The aggression is committed by the marginal who seek to appropriate the wealth of the more affluent, or by newcomers desiring to force their way into pre-existing trade routes.[7]

The essence of this quotation lies, of course, in: “at points of maritime traffic that are important but under weak political control.” Piracy thus occurs in areas where (relatively) little political power is being exercised or can be exercised. Such areas are often located at the periphery, far removed from the centre of power. This demands some explanation.

The process of state formation

The period roughly between 1500 and 1800 is known as the Early Modern Period. This period is characterised by the rise of the “military fiscal state.” By the end of the Middle Ages, the emerging monetary economy had created the conditions enabling rulers to hire professional soldiers. Not only did this professionalization of warfare result in more conflicts, it also made them much more costly. Stronger governments were needed to generate higher revenue through taxation in order to finance increasingly expensive wars. In turn, the more powerful a state became, the more inclined it would be to wage wars. What emerged was a self-reinforcing spiral of wars, taxation and state formation.[8]

During the Modern Period, roughly the period from 1800 to 1990, this development in the Western World led to the formation of nation-states, combining a powerful state with a population who considered themselves to be part of that state. Nationalism provided a sense of shared identity. Money was no longer required for building up an army and a fleet. Enormous conscript armies, raised on the basis of nationalism and a national identity, were now fighting each other.

Since then, we have entered into the Post-modern Period, characterised by the diminishing influence of the state. This has brought about two developments in many armed forces. First of all, there was the transformation from conscript to all-professional armed forces in the mid-1990s. In that regard, we have returned to the situation of the Early Modern Period.[9] As for other parts of the world: not only have states become weaker, a few, such as the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia , have even disappeared. Somalia has also effectively ceased to exist as a nation-state. In other words: the Somalian government, assuming there is such a thing, exercises very little political power.

The fight against piracy

Here is not the place to give a detailed description of piracy and what was and is being done to combat it. I will therefore limit myself to the four most significant periods that can be distinguished in the history of countering piracy since Early Modern times.

The first period runs from the end of the Middle Ages to the seventeenth century. The increasingly powerful maritime states of Western Europe succeeded in suppressing piracy in the North and Baltic Seas . By 1650, merchant ships in Western European waters hardly needed protection any longer.[10] During the second period, the fight against piracy shifted to the Mediterranean . The activities of the Barbary corsairs, who operated from the Ottoman regencies of Tripoli , Algiers and Tunis and from independent Morocco , were viewed by Western powers as ordinary acts of piracy. It was not until the early nineteenth century, when particularly Spain and France brought their influence to bear in North Africa, that the Barbary corsairs disappeared from the scene for good.[11] The third period was the so-called war against piracy, which took place approximately from 1715 to 1730 when the Royal Navy waged a merciless campaign to suppress piracy in the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean . Hundreds of pirates were hanged during this campaign.[12] The fourth and last period was during the nineteenth century when the Dutch and British colonial administrations dealt with the last pirates’ nests in Southeast Asia .[13] By around 1900, piracy had been eradicated. In 1925, the Harvard Law Review rhetorically asked: “Is the crime of Piracy Obsolete?” The answer given was affirmative. Piracy was mostly considered an interesting phenomenon from the past.[14]

From a Western European perspective, the fight against piracy has seen a steady shift away from the centre. Whenever the Western European powers wished to exercise political control in the periphery of their spheres of influence, they were faced with combating piracy. By the time the Western colonial powers controlled about eighty percent of the world, the days of piracy were finished. The absence of piracy is thus a phenomenon of the modern era.

During the 1980s, however, a major transition took place as the clear-cut bipolar world of the Cold War, with its two great power blocs whose influence extended throughout vast parts of the globe, transformed into a multi-polar world with a great deal more political instability, particularly at the periphery. It should therefore come as no surprise that in 1991 the IMB and IMO began to keep a register of reported attacks on seagoing vessels. As the Modern Period came to a close, piracy had once again reared its head (table 1).

Table 1. Reported cases of piracy, 1991-2009

1991 107

1998 200

2000 471

2003 445

2004 329

2005 276

2006 239

2007 263

2008 293

2009 (first six months) 240

Source: ICC International Maritime Bureau, Annual Reports Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships, available on ICC webpage, URL: www.icc-ccs.org.


On a local scale, this mechanism of political stability, or rather instability, can also be observed in Somalia . Piracy in Somalian waters started occurring about ten years ago. With the advent of the so-called Islamic Courts Union (ICU) in south Somalia in 2006 came the expectation that this new government would be able to curb piracy. But following the ousting of the ICU by, among others, Ethiopian troops, the last vestige of government disappeared and the incidence of piracy increased explosively (table 2).[15]

Table 2. Piracy incidents near Somalia , 2003-2009

2003 18

2004 8

2005 10

2006 10

2007 13

2008 92

2009 (first six months) 130

Source: ICC International Maritime Bureau, Annual Reports Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships, available on ICC webpage, URL: www.icc-ccs.org.

The lack of political control has historically been a essential precondition for piracy, but it is in itself not sufficient to explain the phenomenon. After all, there are other regions that are under very weak political control and yet have not seen the development of piracy. Examples are countries such as Liberia and Sierra Leone .[16]

4. Causes

History has shown that there is usually a reason or cause, explaining why people in regions with relatively little political control resort to piracy. I will offer two illustrative examples.

The Dutch Sea Beggars

Around 1560, there was something brewing in the Netherlands . There was widespread discontent about the centralist policies of the Habsburgs in Brussels , which violated the age-old privileges and customs of regional administrations. The long drawn-out wars waged by the rulers in Brussels against France were causing major harm to economic interests. At the same time, the new religious insights of Martin Luther and John Calvin found fertile soil in the Low Countries, a development towards which the government in Brussels was less than understanding. Tensions erupted in the autumn of 1566 with the outbreak of the Iconoclastic Fury, which drove King Philip II to dispatch his commander Don Fernando Álvarez de Toledo, Duke of Alva, to the Low Countries to restore order. This led a number of protestant exiles to revolt. Their supreme goal was to repel Alva and “restore” Protestantism, and they saw William of Orange as their leader. In addition to hijacking ships, they specialised in capturing dignitaries in order to collect a ransom, a practice known as “rationing” (rantsoenering). In the eyes of the Habsburg rulers, the Sea Beggars were nothing but ordinary pirates. The pirate activities of the Sea Beggars were thus ignited by the Netherlands ’ struggle for independence from Habsburg rule.[17]

Pirates of the Caribbean

The adventures of captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies by Walt Disney are inspired by the so-called golden age of piracy. Roughly between 1716 and 1726, approximately 1,500 to 2,500 pirates were operating from a total of twenty to thirty heavily armed ships in the West-Indies and the Atlantic Ocean . Marxist-oriented maritime historian Marcus Rediker believes that these sea-robbers formed a multicultural, democratic and egalitarian community and were the product of gross social injustice. In his view, they were the forerunners of the American and French revolutionaries. Here, the underlying cause of piracy was social inequality and the class struggle.[18]


Diminishing fish stocks, caused by illegal fishing and illegal dumping of waste by Western companies, are generally assumed to be the reason why Somalian fishermen have resorted to piracy. In a BBC interview, the twenty-five year old Somali Dahir Mohamed Hayeysi declared:

I used to be a fisherman with a poor family that depended only on fishing. The first day joining the pirates came into my mind was in 2006. A group of our villagers, mainly fishermen I knew, were arming themselves. One of them told me that they wanted to hijack ships, which he said were looting our sea resources. He told me it was a national service with a lot of money in the end. Then I took my gun and joined them.

Years ago we used to fish a lot, enough for us to eat and sell in the markets. Then illegal fishing and dumping of toxic wastes by foreign fishing vessels affected our livelihood, depleting the fish stocks. I had no other choice but to join my colleagues.

The first hijack I attended was in February 2007 when we seized a World Food Programme-chartered ship with 12 crew. I think it had the name of MV Rozen and we released it after two months, with a ransom. Now I have two lorries, a luxury car and have started my own business in town.

The interview ends with the following statement:

The only way the piracy can stop is if [ Somalia ] gets an effective government that can defend our fish. And then we will disarm, give our boats to that government and will be ready to work. Foreign navies can do nothing to stop piracy.[19]

5. Conclusion

The conclusion should be clear: piracy will continue to exist as long as there are politically unstable regions located along important sea routes. As piracy is chiefly a result of political instability, it must be combated first of all on land.[20] This is both good and bad news for the navies currently operating near the Horn of Africa.

The bad news is that the deployment of navy ships and the escorting of merchant ships in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean will not bring about a decrease in piracy. With those efforts we are merely fighting the symptoms. As the Netherlands ministers of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Development Cooperation informed the Dutch Parliament on March 13, 2009:

Operation Allied Protector is a brief military contribution intended to combat the symptoms of piracy near the Horn of Africa while, in an international context, the transition process in Somalia and the implementation of the Djibouti agreement are being supported and a study is being conducted, through, among others, the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, into how regional capacity building can contribute to countering piracy in the long term.[21]

The good news is that the deployment of navy ships against Somalian pirates will continue for an indefinite period into the future. For now, the hope for peace in the region has faded and the Djibouti agreement has been consigned to the wastepaper basket. Strict Islamic groups appear to be gaining the upper hand. As has been shown by the Islamic Courts Union, such organisations will bring a certain degree of political stability, enabling the suppression of piracy. On the other hand, regimes of this kind are unacceptable to the West. The United States has recently sent 40 tonnes of weapons to Somalia . Direct intervention is, after all, an undesirable option, evidence of which is provided by 1993 US operation in Mogadishu (depicted in the movie Black Hawk Down).

In my opinion, in Somalia the international community finds itself caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.[22]

[1] D.J. Puchala, “Of Pirates and Terrorists: What Experience and History Teach”, Contempory Security Policy 26 (April 2005) 1:1-24.

[2] Ph. De Souza, Piracy in the Graeco-Roman World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999) 1.

[3] “Southeast Asia Maritime Security Review, 3rd Quarter 2008” , available on the webpage of S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, URL: www.rsis.edu.sg; IIAS Newsletter 36 (March, 2005); P. Gwin, “Dark Passage: The Straits of Malakka. Pirates Haunt it. Sailors Fear it. Global Trade Depends on it”, National Geographic (October, 2007) 126-149.

[4] Peter Chalk, Laurence Smallman and Nicholas Burger, Countering Piracy in the Modern Era. Notes from a RAND Workshop to Discuss the Best Approaches for Dealing with Piracy in the 21st Century ( Washington : RAND Corporation, 2009).

[5] “Discussion Paper Clingendael Security and Conflict Programme “Pioneering for Solutions Against Piracy” Focusing on a Geopolitical Analysis, Counter-piracy Initiatives and Policy Solutions”, available on the webpage of Clingendael, URL: www.Clingendael.nl.

[6] AFP, “UN calls for multi-level approach in fighting piracy” (November 18, 2009), available on the webpage of Google: http://www.google.com.

[7] A. Pérotin-Dumon, “The Pirate and the Emperor: Power and the Law on the Seas, 1450- 1850” , in C.R. Pennell (ed.), Bandits of the Sea: A Pirates Reader ( New York : New York University Press, 2001) 25.

[8] Ch. Tilly, Coercian, Capital, and European States , AD 990-1992 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990); R. Bonney (ed.), Economic Systems and State Finance (Oxford: Claredon Press, 1995); P. Wilson, “European Warfare, 1450- 1815” , in J. Black (ed.), War in the Early Modern World, 1450-1815 (London: UCL Press, 1999) 177-206.

[9] Adviesraad Internationale Vraagstukken, De inhuur van private militaire bedrijven. Een kwestie van verantwoordelijkheden (The Hague, 2007); J.M.D van Leeuwe, “De inhuur van private militaire bedrijven in operatiegebieden”, Militaire Spectator 177 (2008) 4:240-245.

[10] V.W. Lunsford, Piracy and Privateering in the Golden Age Netherlands ( New York : Palgrave Macmillan, 2005); J.C. Appleby, “A Nursery of Pirates: the English Pirate Community in Ireland in the Early 17th Century”, International Journal of Maritime History 2 (1990) 1:1-27; C. Senior, A Nation of Pirates: English Piracy in its Heyday (Newton Abbot: David and Charles, 1976).

[11] J. de Courcy Ireland, “Raïs Hamidou: The last of the Great Algerian Corsairs”, The Mariner’s Mirror 60 (1974) 2:187-196; D.J. Vitkus and N. Matar, Piracy, Slavery, and Redemption: Barbary Captivity Narratives from Early Modern England (New York: Colombia University Press, 2001); D. Panzac, Barbary Corsairs: the End of a Legend, 1800-1820 (Leiden: Brill, 2005); N. Matar, Britain and Barbary, 1589-1689 (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2005).

[12] D. Cordingly, Under the Black Flag: The Romance and Reality of Life among the Pirates (New York: Harvast Book, 1995); Aaron Smith, The Atrocities of the Pirates (Guilford:The Lyons Press, 1999); J. Rogoziński, Honor among Thieves: Captain Kidd, Henry Every, and the Pirate Democracy in the Indian Ocean (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2000); P. Earl, The Pirate Wars (London: Methuen, 2003).

[13] J.N.F.M. à Campo, “Asymmetry, Disparity and Cyclicity: Charting the Piracy Conflict in Colonial Indonesia”, International Journal of Maritime History 19 (2007) 1:35-62; G. Teitler, A.M.C. van Dissel and J.N.F.M. à Campo, Zeeroof en zeeroofbestrijding in de Indische archipel, 19de eeuw (Amsterdam: Bataafsche Leeuw, 2005).

[14] E.D. Dickinson, “Is the Crime of Piracy Obsolete”, Harvard Law Review 37 (1924/5) 334-36.

[15] R. Middleton, Piracy in Somalia Threatening Global Trade, Feeding Local Wars (October, 2008), available on the webpage of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, URL: www.chathamhouse.org.uk.

[16] D. Nincic, “State Failure and the Re-Emergence of Maritime Piracy”, available on the webpage of All Academic Research, URL: http://www.allacademic.com.

[17] J.C.A. de Meij, De Watergeuzen en de Nederlanden, 1568-1572 (Amsterdam: Noord-Hollandsche Uitgevers Maatschappij, 1972).

[18] M. Rediker, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea : Merchant Seamen, Pirates, and the Anglo-American Maritime World, 1700-1750 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987); M. Rediker, Villains of the Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age ( London : Verso, 2004).

[19] “It’s a Pirate’s Life for Me”, available on the webpage of the BBC, URL: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8010061.stm.

[20] M. Schenkel, “Los zeeroverij op aan land. Effectief gezag in Somalië is vereiste voor uitbannen van piraterij”, NRC-Handelsblad (November 22, 2008).

[21] Ministers van Buitenlandse Zaken, van Defensie en voor Ontwikkelingsamenwerking aan Tweede Kamer der Staten-Generaal (29 521, nr. 93) (March 13, 2009).

[22] K. Lindijer, “Hoop op vrede in Somalië is alweer vervlogen. Nieuwe gevechtsronde onafwendbaar door verdeeldheid, buitenlandse inmenging en criminele belangen”, NRC-Handelsblad (May 22, 2009); M.B. Sheridan, “U.S. has sent 40 Ton of Munition to Aid Somali Governemnt”, The Washington Post (June 27, 2009); K. Lindijer, “Al-Shabaab trekt strijders van overal aan”, NRC-Handelsbla (August 6, 2009).

Posted in Article | Leave a comment

When Dreams Confront Reality: Replenishment at Sea in the Era of Coal

Warwick Brown
King’s College, London

This paper examines in the forty years leading up to the First World War how different navies, particularly the British and American, approached the problem of providing “free and unrestricted movement of their fleets” by replenishment at sea. Today the deployment of a naval force to distant locations – power projection – be it a single vessel or a large flotilla, is invariably accompanied by an appropriate number of logistical support vessels. The modern replenishment ship is well versed in transferring the everyday necessities, of food, ammunition and fuel to a warship sailing along side at speed.

Two hundred years ago in the age of sail there was no fuel to transfer and a warship could be provisioned for many months prior to setting sail. That changed with the advent of the steam engine for naval use. The introduction of steam-power was rapid; starting in 1821 for the Royal Navy with the Comet and by 1837 the Admiralty was operating in excess of fifty steam vessels.[1] As early steam engines were unreliable their use was initially confined to harbour craft that did not stray far from their fuel source. By the early 1850s the steam-powered warship had emerged as the dominant maritime weapons system. Even so warships of all sizes still carried rigging and relied albeit to a diminishing degree on the wind for their main source of propulsion, steam complemented wind power with its sole use being reserved for an emergencies or to manoeuvre in action. Only during the 1870s did steam become the exclusive means of propulsion.[2] As the 19th century progressed so did the design of steam engines, improved among other things, by better metallurgy, vertical cylinders and triple expansion engines, all leading to greater reliability and power.[3]

With warships wholly reliant on coal, its provision and the acquisition of coaling stations became a matter of supreme strategic importance for maritime powers. Coal was also the principal factor that determined a warship’s duration at sea. As one American commentator wrote in 1913

“We are too prone to consider that the size of our fleet in battleships alone is a measure of our national strength. That is true only in part and, like all half-truths, has a lurking within it a seed of danger. A fleet of battleships is powerful only when its constant mobility is assured, when we are able to guarantee the free and unrestricted movement of that fleet to a given theater of war, and within that area after it has arrived.”[4]

However, before examining efforts to refuel vessels under weigh a brief examine of the how vessels were coaled in harbour will be helpful. Colliers usually delivered coal to refuelling stations as a bulk cargo. As coal stored in the open steadily looses its calorific value – the warmer the climate the faster the process of deterioration – stocks were kept to a minimum.

Vessels usually coaled along side a quay, in American and British home ports of coal sacks containing two hundredweight (101 kg) of coal were either craned or wheeled on board by local labour, tipped into the coal scuttles before being transported internally to whichever bunker required filling. Overseas on stations, such as Malta , the West Indies and China coal was conveyed on board by native labour in baskets.

However, when stocks were available afloat in a collier or lighter the coaling was carried out at anchor in the shelter of a harbour with warship supplying the sacks and the men to fill them in the carrier’s hold before they were lifted onto the warship’s deck. Coaling evolutions involved nearly all the crew and were often done to the accompaniment of the ship’s band. Coaling ship was backbreaking, dirty and dangerous work.

Speed of coaling was considered an important factor in a vessel’s overall effectiveness, and to encourage efficient coaling fleet and flotilla trophies were awarded for the one that coaled most tons per hour.[5] Speeds were published in military journals and faithfully report to their superiors by naval attaches. Speeds though varied considerable depending on the vessel’s design, the facilities and available labour. Nevertheless, overall speeds steadily improved during the period. For example, the American Naval attaché reported in 1893 the Royal Navy coaled at between twenty to seventy-five tons an hour during manoeuvres.[6] In 1903 the C-in-C Portsmouth informed the Admiralty “coaling from one lighter each side will not exceed 130 tons per hour”[7] and during the First World War the Grand Fleet battleships at Scapa Flow regularly exceeded 200-300 tons per hour.[8] But as coaling speeds increased so too did warships’ appetites, for example the 8,400 horse power HMS Inflexible of 1876 had bunkerage for 1,300 tons while the 41,000 horse power HMS Inflexible of 1907 had space for over 3,000 tons (plus 375 tons of oil fuel).[9] The larger the bunker capacity the greater the range, but space and weight allocated to fuel had to be bought at the expense of a ship’s other characteristics, such as armament, armour, habitability and speed.

A number of factors determined the different approaches to coaling taken by British and American Navies. In South Wales Britain had the best steam coal for naval purposes. South Wales also had a highly developed infrastructure for extracting and transporting the coal to the coast from where the world’s largest collier fleet could move it to any of the global network of British coaling stations. The Royal Navy were able charter private colliers as and when required without difficulty in peacetime and considered that the large privately owned merchant collier fleet would able to cater for any additional demands in wartime. Indeed so firm was the British Empire’s grip over the world’s steam coal and coaling facilities that it was an important economic weapon in itself during the First World War. Indeed the Royal Navy was unique in its ability to project its power across the globe without recourse to logistical support from others.

The United States had no such advantages. Its indigenous steam coal was located in North Virginia and Pennsylvania ; further from the coast and inferior in quality to Welsh steam coal and on the west coast there was no suitable coal for naval purposes at all. Neither did America possess a significant merchant collier fleet or chain of overseas coaling stations. These shortcomings were came to the fore during the Spanish-American war of 1898 when the USN was forced to purchase Australian coal for its fleet in Manila and employ British colliers to help deliver it, as well as help deliver American coal along the Atlantic coast.[10] To reduce this dependence on foreign transports during the war the USN acquired an ad-hoc fleet of twenty colliers and between 1909-1914 built a fleet of ten large colliers to be operated by the navy.[11] These were intended to transfer their cargoes to “men-of-war within the sheltered limits of a harbour.” They were not intended to accompany a fleet in touch with the enemy; their employment was to be strategic rather than tactical.[12] In any case none were completed in time to accompany Theodore Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet’s 1907-09 circumnavigation of the globe. Consequently problems of coal supplies were to constantly plague the venture and although 90% of the coal the fleet consumed came from American sources, American colliers only delivered on 7.5% of it. Foreign colliers – British – delivered 70% with the remaining 22.5% came from shore-based sources.[13] A confidential memorandum admitted that the circumnavigation “could have not been undertaken had we depended upon our own resources.”[14]

During the 1905 Russo-Japanese War the Russian Navy also found that sending a large naval force across the world was fraught with difficulties. As a belligerent nation Russia was denied help from Britain under the rules of neutrality. Britain , an ally of Japan , was not inclined to bend the rules. So, laden with inferior coal in every available space the Russians relied on hired German colliers of the Hamburg-American Line and good weather to coal in whatever sheltered waters they could find.[15]

Although Britain held all the aces in regard to coal, the RN was not blind to the advantages of coaling at sea would be to vessels on station as part of a blockading force. Sailing ships had been able to remain on station for months whereas steam-powered warships need to refuel in harbour meant they would be absent for long periods. In 1903 Lieutenant A.C. Dewar RN highlighted the inconvenience of blockading a remote port with steamships. Citing the example of a hypothetical blockade of Toulon by 12 Implacable class battleships based at Malta , some 550 miles away. Each vessel could remain on blockade duty for 10.5 days, but would be absent for coaling for 5.8 days. Indeed it was estimated that a quarter of the Union steam ships blockading Charleston during the American Civil War were absent for this reason alone.[16]

Of course vessels had always transferred, persons, stores and, since mechanisation, coal while at sea, but these transfers were dependent on clam weather, carried out at very slow speeds and very limited in scale. In August 1870, for instance, the Royal Navy’s Channel Squadron transferred fifty tons of coal using ships’ boats to the ill-fated HMS Captain at the rate of five tons per hour.[17] Attempts were made to lash vessels together for coaling, but this too required calm weather and slow speeds if severe damage was not to be inflicted on both vessels. Coaling was not viable with swells “sufficient to cause a roll of more than three or four degrees, or especially to make the vessels rise and fall in the sea more than one or two feet.”[18]

In an 1883 paper to the Royal United Services Institute Lieutenant Lowry RN enumerated the conditions any satisfactory coaling at sea system would have to meet:-[19]

Rapidity. He considered “nothing short of 20 tons per hour for an iron clad…or 40 tons if she has several ports that can be worked for coaling, or 15 tons in a small vessel ought to be considered a satisfactory solution.” Even at forty tons an hour it would take over twelve hours to restock half the bunkers of a typical 1883 Battleship (HMS Collingwood).[20]

Safety. Clearly the danger of injury from large weights swinging about on vessels moving at sea is greater than when coaling in a port.

The coal must be kept dry. It was generally believed at the time that wet coal was more liable to spontaneously combust and would be harder to burn.

A minimum speed of five knots to be maintained during coaling.

“It may be most import not to stop the ship or fleet entirely. With a large squadron, the capacity of whose bunkers may vary greatly, one ship may require coaling much before another, and it may be inconvenient to stop the squadron, or risky to leave one ship behind.”

Any apparatus must be stowed on the collier not the warship.

A minimum of labour should be required to operate the equipment. In port all hands are used for coaling, this would not possible when a vessel is under weigh.

Cost. Any system had to affordable and durable “enough to stand considerable knocking about at sea.”

Lowry then went on to postulate that any such system might comprise of floating watertight coal carriers transferred between vessels suspended from a cable. While those present at Lowry’s paper agreed on the advantages from coaling at sea, they differed in their solutions to the problem of refuelling. The discussion that followed went along the lines of many others when new ideas are put forward – it is best to wait until what is on the horizon makes unnecessary – as advocated by Admiral Selwyn who thought the answer lay in the introduction of oil fuel, as “I am absolutely confident you are going to see the end of coal for steam at sea altogether.” Or the idea is to solve a problem of our own making and if we remove the problem there is no need for the solution, as advocated by Captain Bedford Pim who thought the solution was the reintroduction of sails, “Now we know that no ironclad is worth much under sail. Why do we not build ships that will keep the sea under sail, the same as the ships of our forefathers did, as long as provisions lasted? In conclusion the Chairman thought the best way forward was the creation of a committee to examine the question. Although Lowry’s watertight coal carriers were rejected as impractical, his general principles were widely accepted. Indeed the advantages of developing a workable system began to exercise the minds of naval officers, engineers, entrepreneurs and cranks on both side of the Atlantic . The Admiralty alone received twenty-three submissions of one form or another between 1888-1890, each involving various combinations of cables, chutes, bridges and buckets; however none was considered suitable for a trial.[21]

The hub of the problem was maintaining the distance between the collier and warship. Chutes, bridges and buckets required the vessels to steam dangerously close abeam and were quickly rejected by the Admiralty. However in July 1898, The Times reported that a French collier using a Temperly Transporter, an equipment developed to increase the speed of coaling in port, had transferred 200 tons of coal to two warships while steaming at six knots, the procedure only halting when the collier was damaged in a collision with one of the warships.[22]

A warship coaling from a collier using a Temperly Transporter:

Only despatching coal along a system of cables would allow vessels to maintain a safe distance, but this necessitated some way of keeping the cable taut enough to prevent the coal receiving a dunking but not so taut to risk the cable parting. Ideas continued to arrive at the Admiralty, but it not until 1901 were any serious trials carried out when, using a cable system, the battleship HMS Royal Sovereign coaled from the collier Rosari. Relying on the collier’s winches nineteen tons per hour was transferred; to improve on this stronger winches would be required. Further trials the same year involving the battleship HMS Empress of India used, instead of winches, weights suspended from the collier’s mast to keep the line taut. Neither system was developed further; probably because the Mediterranean Fleet that conducted both trials had been able to use only equipment from local stores, thereby placing little or no burden on existing budgets so any extension of the trials would have required additional funding from London .[23]

In 1900 the journal The Engineer reported on some American trials based on an idea put forward by the naval constructor J. J. Woodward. The system, developed in conjunction with the Lidgerwood Manufacturing Company of New York , employed cables so the vessels could steam at four to eight knots and 350ft (107m) to 500ft (150m). Unable to bring his notion to fruition before the end of the American-Spanish War Woodward seems to have returned to other work. His role was then taken over by Spencer Miller, a civil engineer and able publicist who had taken an interest in the problem since 1893. In the Lidgerwood-Miller system, as it came to be known, the vessels steamed in line ahead one towing the other, which way round depended on their size and available workable deck space. A pair of shear poles were erected on the warship from which a line with a sea anchor attached extended aft of the second vessel, the drag on the anchor keeping the line taut. Seven hundred to one thousand pounds (317-453 kg) of bagged coal was slung under a quick release hook and transported along the cable to the warship, the hook being returned along the same cable, all under the power of a winch on the collier.[24]

The Spencer Miller system under test in 1904

Although Miller tried to sell his design worldwide it was the USN that tested it first. Over a period of five days in 1899 the battleship USS Massachusetts towed the collier Marcellus some 300-400ft behind – the rougher the sea the greater the distance – and achieved an average transfer rate of twenty to twenty-two tons of coal per hour while travelling at five knots. After the trials the captain of the USS Massachusetts is reported to have said, “There was no time during the Cuban blockade of last year when this system could not have been used. I consider it great success.” However, the twenty tons per hour fell well short of the forty tons an hour and ten knots that Miller had been informed the RN considered necessary before it would accept any system into service. The RN and Rear Admiral Melville USN proposed that the operating winches be placed on the warship instead of the collier. A logical alteration for a navy that did not operate colliers; but one strongly opposed by American constructors who regarded it as an unwelcome addition to a warship’s equipment. In order to achieve at least forty tons per hour Miller put forward a number of improvements, one of which was to replace the sea anchor by a winch with a slipping drum, so the tension on the cable could be better maintained and loads of up to 1,500 lbs carried, although Miller persisted with sea anchors for smaller vessels. He also considered that to achieve maximum efficiency from the system the construction of large 10,000 tons colliers designed to using the equipment would be required.[25] Despite reservations, in 1902 the USS Illinois was equipped with winches and machinery for operating Miller’s system making her able “to take coal from any masted vessel it may meet in any quarter of the world”. With no machinery on the collier Miller had to resort to the sea anchor. He was strangely quite about this installation, and that it was decided later to fit his apparatus onto the Navy’s colliers suggests that the USS Illinois’s system fell short of expectations. Indeed, a few years later when the new large American colliers had joined the fleet the outcome of trials involving the dreadnought USS South Carolina and the collier USS Cyclops led the Lidgerwood company to propose installing its equipment onto six colliers. However by 1913 the General Board of the Navy was of the opinion that even sixty tons an hour was insufficient to meet fleet requirements, and as new ships entering service had greater range it was not expected that they would need to refuel at sea anyway. Also the tactic of close blockade had become obsolete and colliers would be a encumbrance to any fleet in proximity to the enemy. The Board therefore did not see “any military necessity for a coaling at sea apparatus”. Lidgerwood managed to challenge the Board’s decision strongly enough so that in October 1914 the Board relented and recommended, “that three more colliers in addition to Cyclops be fitted with the apparatus,” two each for the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets. [26]

The RN also tested Miller’s system. Using new winches perfected by the British Temperley Company, it became know as the Temperley-Miller system. The Muriel, the collier chartered for the trials in 1901, was smaller than Miller would have liked. Nevertheless, dock trials commenced in November, and after a few glitches were ironed out sea trials began in February 1902 using the battleships from both the Channel and Mediterranean fleets.[27] A mean transfer rate of forty-seven tons per hour was sustained for three hours, and at one point HMS Vengeance achieved a transfer rate of sixty tons an hour before a line parted. The limiting factor was the inability of the collier to feed the cableway fast enough because of limited deck space and labour. Although able to transfer up to sixty tons an hour, to sustain this rate would require larger colliers with larger crews and the coal bagged ready for transfer. Requirements that conflicted with the British system of chartering colliers, as private colliers were generally between 1,500 – 5,000 tons and carried their cargo in bulk, relying on the receiving warship to provided the sacks and labour for bagging. Nonetheless, although no further sets of equipment were acquired, the trial equipment was not discarded and retained in store at Portsmouth .[28]

Undeterred by the lack of sales to the RN ever the optimist Miller persuaded the Russian and Italian Navies to test his equipment. A month after the outbreak of the war between Japan and Russia, the Russians were persuaded enough to order eight complete sets of the Lidgerwood-Miller system to fit onto the warships of the Russian Second Pacific Squadron. However, there appears little or no evidence of them being employed during the Squadron’s ill-fated voyage to the Far East .

Another scheme put forward to the Admiralty was that of Thames Iron Works, Blackwall, the company proposed “to construct one or more fast coaling transports to carry coal out to the distant fleet” equipped with its patented ‘Express’ equipment that would enable vessels to coal at sea at a rate of fifty tons per hour. Unlike Miller’s reciprocating system, the ‘Express’ used an endless cable that delivered coal broadside to the warship and returned the empty sacks to the collier, the line being kept taut by a counter weight suspended in the collier. However the Admiralty still regarded broadside coaling as too risky, and were concerned that if the sixty-ton counter weight broke free it would plunge through the bottom of the collier. To eliminate the Admiralty’s concerns the company modified the system, and submitted a revised version that included additional safety fixtures on the counter weight and end on coaling with the warship ahead. Nonetheless, the transfer rate of fifty tons per hour failed to impress the Admiralty, who now thought “a rate of at least 75 tons should be guaranteed with the prospect of 100 tons”. The Admiralty also considered it undesirable to pay the at least £7,000 that any trial would cost. (The Spencer Miller trials had cost £4,000 for the equipment and £1,000 for the alterations to the collier plus the charter costs.) Informed in 1903 that the Admiralty were not willing to proceed with the matter Mr. Mackrow of Thames Iron Works claimed that the land trials had achieved a transfer rate of 150 tons per hour and the company had had received inquiries from Germany, Italy, France and Japan, but he “had held off to let the Admiralty have if not the exclusive rights at least first go”. Moreover the company would pay for the fitting out of a collier if the Navy provided a warship and agreed to buy the equipment if the trials were successful. The offer was accepted provided the cost of the equipment was made known before hand and it coaled at, at least eighty tons per hour for six hours. But the trials failed to take place, as in October 1904 the Admiralty denied the company’s request to use an Admiralty coaling lighter for further tests before it paid to fit out a collier.[29]

Designs for coaling at sea also originated from within the RN. The schemes of the early service advocates, such as Lowry, Bell and Tupper were obviously impractical, but the one put forward in February 1902 by Chief Engineer Metcalf was considered, albeit with reservations, worthy of a trial. Metcalf’s scheme envisaged the warship towing the collier with the tension on the cable being maintained by a steam ram. At very little cost the initial trials commenced on shore at Chatham in early 1903 and were considered promising enough to justify progressing to sea trials using the old warship HMS Basilisk as the collier. The original cost estimates for sea trials were soon exceeded and by the time HMS Basilisk was ready the total expenditure had risen to £2,200.

Captain Wonham a retired coaling officer who had overseen the Miller trials over saw these too and reported in November 1903 that they showed that nine-point-nine knots was the best speed to operate the equipment and fifty-four tons per hour was possible in smooth water. The equipment was even tested at night out under arc lamps, with twenty tons being delivered in twenty minutes to the battleship HMS Revenge. However, the Director of Stores questioned if collier owners would be willing to have the steam ram fitted on their ships in peacetime and if not the delay in fitting it in an emergency may involve serious risk, therefore it should be considered that the ram should be a fixture on the warship. The Basilisk’s limited coal capacity precluded any prolonged evolutions or endurance tests[30] consequently the 5,750 ton collier Torridge was chartered, attached to the Channel Fleet and loaded with 2,000 tons of ready bagged coal ready to commence further trials in June 1905.[31] The captain of the battleship HMS Duncan reported that the system “should be able to supply coal in ordinary weather to a ship steaming nine or ten knots, at the rate of eighty tons per hour, for which 100 men would be required on board the collier, if the coal was in bags.” One reason Metcalf’s system achieved a high delivery rate was because it employed two endless cables, one each side of the ship and both transporting coal, while tensioned by the same steam ram. (HANDOUT) According to Captain Wonham this system, utilising endless cables and divided loads, was unquestionably superior to Spencer Miller’s single line reciprocating method. However, in did increase the amount of wear on the cables making the splices liable to fail and in the event of an emergency the vessels could not be easily parted unlike Miller’s device which could release them almost immediately. This latter point Wonham considered important and should he thought be addressed by design changes, while the life of the cables could only be tested by exhaustive trials.[32]

HMS New Zealand coaling using Metcalf method:

The trials continued into 1906 by which time it was thought that enough information had been gained. Metcalf, now a Commander, thought the trials successful enough to suggest “That the apparatus should be supplied and fitted to the warships as part and parcel of her general equipment [and] that the apparatus should be provided for fitting in the colliers.” In contrast the Director of Stores thought trials had not “resulted in a conspicuous success” and that both Metcalf’s notions impracticable because of the cost – £2,000 per set – and because of the weight – twelve tons – which “in the shape of top hamper is a very serious matter”. Moreover, the Director of Stores wanted time to evaluate reports of an improved system by a M Leue before making a decision.[33]

To fully consider the matter a conference attended by the Secretary of the Navy, the Directors of Stores and Contracts, Assistant Director of Construction and four naval officers was held by the Admiralty on 3rd December 1906 . The committee was of the opinion that the advantages of being able to replenish at sea in time of war were considerable and it was desirable to adopt some form of apparatus to accomplish this. Although the committee were aware of the drawbacks of Metcalf’s system and suggested further trials with smaller warships, it regarded his as the best available and recommended its adoption. It was though a partial endorsement, as it considered just three or four sets sufficient, and that these should be installed onto colliers not warships. Leading to the question of which colliers? Having the Navy operate the colliers would, the committee concluded, be the most efficient, but also an unjustifiable expense in peacetime. If the gear were permanently fitted into subsidised colliers the purchase of additional sets would be necessary if the right number were to be on hand when required. The committee settled on providing the gear to colliers on extended time charter.

Even this limited endorsement was not unanimous as the Assistant Director of Naval Construction W. H. Whiting questioned the importance of coaling at sea “for a nation which has a great numerical preponderance in coaling stations and in ships, and whose ships are generally larger and carry a larger coal supply than those of the same class belonging to foreign powers.” Any coaling at sea he deemed to be too risky as it involved the transfer of part of a battleship’s crew to the collier and “coaling en voyage means a great reduction of speed for the whole fleet, if even a single ship is being coaled.[34] Despite the Committee’s recommendation for the purchase of three or fours sets of apparatus in January 1908 the Director of Stores decided to buy only the one set.[35] So far no evidence of its use has come to light, and the comment following the 1912 annual manoeuvres that every opportunity should be taken to practice coaling (and oiling) at sea suggests that it was not used.[36]

If the Director of Stores’ decision to only purchase one set of Metcalf’s gear was predicated on hopes that M Leue’s system would prove superior, he was to be disappointed. Trials in July 1905 by the German Navy of Leue’s system demonstrated that the equipment, which like Metcalf’s used a ram and endless cable but also had a vessel quick release facility, fell short of the designer’s expectations of seventy to one hundred tons per hour, as a maximum of only fifty tons per hour was achieved. Moreover the tensioning apparatus at twelve point five metres long one point eight metres high and two metres wide, was too large to be fitted on a warship and consequently restricted to colliers, a serious drawback for the German navy that had hoped to be able to coal from any steamer a warship might meet.[37]

One of Leue’s fiercest German critics was Otto Adams, who not surprising had his own system under development. Adams’ system was cheaper and smaller than Leue’s, and like Metcalf’s it used two endless cable but employed an electric motor connected to a system of pulleys to provide the tension on the cable necessary to transport, so Adams claimed, a combined total of one-hundred and twenty tons per hour. Tested in 1909 using the armoured cruiser KMS Roon, transfers of sixty-five to ninety tons per hour were achieved, and it appears that few if any sets of Adams’ apparatus beyond the trial equipment was purchased by the German navy. The USN that had also shown a keen interest in it also declined to buy Adams ’ apparatus.[38]

Apart from the USN training exercises, the writer has seen no evidence that any of the belligerents coaled at sea during the First World War. A number of factors pushed the notion down naval planners’ wish lists. For the British, with their stranglehold on the world’s coaling stations, there was little or no need to coal vessels in transit while they were at sea. The attraction of refuelling the blockade line on station disappeared when the close blockade was replaced by the distant blockade. Indeed the vulnerability of vessels following a constant course and speed as they coaled under weigh, made them easy prey to submarine and surface attack, reinforcing the reasons that caused the abandonment the close blockade in the first place. Also, as the RN depended on private colliers fitting special naval equipment into private vessels would incur additional cost and problems of training and availability.

On the other hand, as it discovered during the Spanish-American War, the American Navy’s need to coal at sea was more compelling. But by the time the Americans had commissioned large colliers more suited to the existing technology it was apparent that the use of coal was on the wane, hence the limited issue of Miller’s equipment[39]. And after America ’s entry into the First World War the USN in the European theatre was able to rely on British resources for coal. The French, Russians, Austro-Hungarians, Italians and German High Sea Fleet did not stray far enough during the First World War to require replenishment at sea. The warships that did need to coal at sea were the German raiders of 1914, but even they did not carry the necessary special equipment.[40]

No navy considered that the capacity of any of the many systems for coaling at sea on offer before the First World War showed sufficient promise to warrant allocating them a significant portion of their precious budgets or reorganising their logistical agreements to suit the system’s requirements. As none of the systems’ designers managed to keep pace with the ever increasing demands of the navies the dream of deploying fleets across the globe that could rely on their intrinsic coal resources never materialised. Only when oil replaced coal was the available technology able to match the ambition, and, as predicted by Admiral Selwyn in 1883, it become possible to rapidly and efficiently refuel at sea.

[1] David Lyon & Rif Winfield, The Sail and Steam Navy List, Chatham , London : 2004. p. 148.

[2] ibid. p. 19.

[3] Denis Griffiths, Steam at Sea, Conway Press, London : 1997. p. 119.

[4] C. Theo. Vogelgesang, Logistics –Its Bearing Upon the Art of War, USNIP, Vol. 39, No. 145, 1913, p. 68.

[5] Charles Owen, Yarns from the fleet, Thrupp. Sutton: 1997. p. 54.

[6] Memorandum Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI), Rate of Coaling English Navy, 17th April 1897 . United States National Archive (USNA), Record Group (RG) 45, Box 708 .

[7] C-in-C Portsmouth to Admiralty, February 1903. United Kingdom National Archive (NA), ADM 1/7675.

[8] Logs of HMS Hercules 1914-18, NA ADM 53/44166-70.

[9] Oscar Parkes, British Battleships, Seely Service & Co. London : 1957. pp. 252 & 492.

[10] Memorandum on the Urgent Necessity of an Adequate War Supply of Coal. 4th March 1910.USNA. RG. 80 Box 39 .

[11] Paul Silverstone, US Warships of World War 1, Ian Allen, London : 1970. p. 206.

[12] General Board Memorandum, ( 28th April 1908 ). USNA RG. 80, Box 114.

[13] USNA RG. 38 Box 837 .

[14] Memorandum, 4th March1910, USNA RG. 80, Box 39.

[15] Lamar J. R. Cecil, “Coal for the Fleet the Had to Die”, The American Historical Review, Vol. LXIX, No. 4, July 1964, pp. 990-1005.

[16] USNIP, Vol XXIII. 1897, p. 365.

[17] R.S. Lowry, ‘On Coaling Ships or Squadrons on the Open Sea ’ Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) Journal 1883, p. 386.

[18] ONI, Notes on Coaling Warships, Washington : 1899. p. 15.

[19] Cit. op. 16.

[20] R.A. Burt, British Battleships 1889-1904. Naval Institute Press: Annapolis , 1988. p. 26.

[21] Memorandum by Capt. Wonham, 1905. NA. ADM 1/7827.

[22] Coaling Vessels at Sea, USNIP. Vol. XXVI. 1900, p. 211.

[23] Cit. op. 24.

[24] “Coaling at Sea”, The Engineer, Vol. 89, 27th July 1900 . pp. 84-86.

[25] Spencer Miller, Coaling of the U. S. S. Massachusetts at Sea. Transaction of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, ( New York ) Vol. VIII, 1900. pp. 155-165.

[26] USNA. RG. 80, Box 114.

[27] Spencer Miller, Coaling Warships at Sea – Recent Developments. Transaction of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, ( New York ) Vol. XII, 1904. pp. 177-199.

[28] Cit. Op. 24.

[29] Memorandum by Controller of the Navy, 28th November 1903 . NA. ADM1/7748 .

[30] Correspondence, November – December 1904, NA ADM 1/7824.

[31] NA. ADM 1/8725.

[32] Report by Captain Wonham, 1905. NA. ADM 1/8727

[33] Director of Stores to 4th Sea Lord, 22nd October 1906 . NA. MT 23-201.

[34] Report of Conference on Coaling at Sea held at the Admiralty on 3rd December 1906 . NA. ADM 1/8004

[35] ibid.

[36] NA ADM 1/8269

[37] Jahrbuch der Schiffbautechnischen Gesellschaft Vol. VII, 1906. p. 489, USNA RG. 38 Box 835 .

[38] USNA. RG. 38 Box 837 .

[39] The opening of the Panama Canal in 1913 also reduced the requirement for the USN.

[40] Edwin P. Hoyt, The Last Cruise of the Emden , White Lion, London : 1975. p. 150.

Posted in Article | 1 Comment

The Ugly Duckling: The French Navy and the Saint-Domingue Expedition,1801-1803

Philippe R. Girard
McNeese State University


The article surveys the naval aspects of the Saint-Domingue expedition (1801-1803). During this expedition, the French Navy played a multiplicity of roles, including transporting troops to the Caribbean, assisting amphibious operations, patrolling the coastline, deporting or executing enemies, and combating Great Britain ’s Jamaica squadron. The French devoted tremendous resources to this expedition yet eventually lost to an army of former slaves, in part, the article argues, because military commanders in Paris and Saint-Domingue belittled the navy as a junior partner and repeatedly misused the naval forces at their disposal.

The paper is based on extensive research conducted at the Archives Nationales (Paris), the Centre des Archives d’Outre-Mer ( Aix-en-Provence ), the Service Historique de la Défense ( Vincennes ), the University of Florida ( Gainesville ), the U.S. National Archives ( Washington , DC ), the Historical Society of Pennsylvania ( Philadelphia , PA ), and the British National Archives ( Kew ).


In the fall of 1801, one of the largest fleets France ever assembled gathered in Brest . It included the 120-gun flagship L’Océan, fourteen French and Spanish vaisseaux (ships of the line), five flûtes (vaisseaux stripped of their guns to accommodate more passengers), and three frigates. For months, men, provisions, water, ammunition, and 83 fretful horses were led from the arsenal to the armada anchored in the port and 8,000 to 8,500 troops, 500 officers, as many civilians, and 8,000 French and 4,000 Spanish sailors had boarded the overcrowded men-o-war by November 25th.[1] Other squadrons were also readied in Cádiz, Lorient , Vlissingen (Flushing), Le Havre , Rochefort, and Toulon .[2]

The expedition was not aimed at invading England , Ireland , Egypt , or any foreign land. Instead, it was headed for the French colony of Saint-Domingue (modern-day Haiti ). France’s most valuable overseas possessions, Saint-Domingue had been ruled since 1798 by the former slave Toussaint Louverture, who had insisted on his loyalty to France but had also expelled France’s agents and signed treaties with Britain.[3] Considering him to be de facto independent, First Consul Napoléon Bonaparte thus decided in the spring of 1801 to remove him from power. Under Bonaparte’s plan, the French fleet was to appear simultaneously in all major ports of Saint-Domingue, publicize its peaceful intentions, and disembark its troops, by force if necessary. The captain general of the expedition, Lt. Gen. Victoire Leclerc, would then deport all leading officers of color. Not a word was said of slavery, but a quick victory could have incited Bonaparte to renege on the February 1794 law of emancipation.[4]

Taking place halfway between the expedition to Egypt (1798-1801) and the aborted invasion of England (1803-1805), the expedition was the most notable of the Consulate. No less than 32 vaisseaux and 22 frigates arrived in Saint-Domingue in the spring of 1802, or two thirds of the French navy.[5] Sending reinforcements and protecting the coast of Saint-Domingue would keep one third of the French Navy employed over the next eighteen months, at a time when France was also readying expeditions to take over Guadeloupe , Louisiana , Réunion, Pondicherry , Mauritius , and Martinique .[6] And yet, by 1804, Saint-Domingue had declared its independence, marking the first major defeat of the Consulate and the only example of a successful slave revolt in world history.

Despite its historical significance, the Saint-Domingue expedition has been insufficiently studied, and its naval aspects even less. General histories of the Haitian Revolution typically dedicate a handful of chapters to the expedition and pre-occupy themselves almost exclusively with guerilla warfare on land.[7] There is only one, short academic work that focuses on the naval aspects of the expedition.[8] Archival sources, by contrast, are abundant. The French naval archives in Vincennes contain extensive records of the expedition (BB4 series), as do its army counterparts (BB7 series), while the French national archives (CC9 A, B, and C series) and the University of Florida (Rochambeau Papers) also include numerous pertinent documents. The British National Archives contain full records of the Jamaica squadron (ADM 1 series). Records on the U.S. Navy at the U.S. National Archives are rather limited, but private records of U.S. merchants supplying Louverture’s army, found at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, are informative. Information on the small Haitian rebel navy is harder to come by (Haitian archives were destroyed or sold in the nineteenth century).

The Leclerc expedition included Napoleon’s finest, yet was decisively defeated in eighteen months by an army of former slaves, so the cause for the Haitian victory is the main historiographical issue under debate. The rebels’ courage and dedication, their innovative use of guerrilla warfare, a yellow fever epidemic, and the resumption of hostilities with Great Britain have all been cited, with good reason, as deciding factors. Little attention, though, has been paid to the factors that undermined the expedition at sea. Why, one might ask, did a fleet that initially incorporated two thirds of the entire French Navy fail to tip the balance in France ’s favor?

All four factors cited above (yellow fever in particular) played a role at sea, but to these causes must be added human agency—namely, the inability on the part of the expedition’s military leaders to make good use of the significant naval resources at their disposal. The French Navy generally performed its tasks courageously and professionally. It bombed rebel forts, ferried soldiers, landed sailors in support of land operations, and patrolled the coast for contraband and rebel barges. Some naval officers, like Louis-Thomas Villaret-Joyeuse, made occasional blunders, but others, such as Louis de Latouche-Tréville and Philippe Willaumez, stood out as dedicated. What plagued the French Navy was its inferior status as the ugly duckling of the Saint-Domingue expedition. In stark contrast with the Jamaica squadron, whose admiral acted independently of the desiderata of the Jamaican governor, the French navy was under the direct command of the French captain general (Leclerc, then Donatien de Rochambeau after November 1802), who had limited knowledge of, or respect for, the Navy and consistently misused it. A similar pattern could be observed in Paris , where Bonaparte, no matter how many resources he dedicated to shipbuilding, never seemed to fully understand naval matters.[9] French ships were thus anchored in unhealthy regions, deprived of their crew, or employed for such distasteful missions as drowning the enemy, and by early 1803 the once-mighty force was reduced by mismanagement to a collection of ill-kept vessels manned by skeletal crews that was unable to prevent the British navy from blockading the colony when the Peace of Amiens came to an end.

Bonaparte’s planning for the expedition

The Saint-Domingue expedition’s goals were primarily political—to end Louverture’s rule—but they fit into a larger project aimed at restoring France ’s maritime power. Bonaparte was the product of eighteenth-century mercantilist thought, according to which colonies played a central economic and military role as they gave an outlet to a merchant navy from which able seamen could be recruited in times of war. Saint-Domingue had fulfilled these two tasks so admirably before the revolution that by the late 1780s half of Europe ’s tropical produce came from Saint-Domingue, whose commerce employed 15,000 sailors and over 1,500 ships.[10]

Conversely, France ’s navy, trade, and colonial empire collapsed in tandem in the 1790s. All of France ’s colonies were invaded by the British.[11] Even after land forces in Guadeloupe and Saint-Domingue expelled the British, French merchants were excluded to the benefit of U.S. and British merchants.[12] U.S. warships became more common than French ones along Saint-Domingue’s coast by the end of the Quasi-War.[13] Deprived of colonial outlets, France ’s trading centers shriveled while its navy became a shadow of its former self.[14]

Bonaparte thought repeatedly of sending a fleet to Saint-Domingue in 1799-1800, only to put such plans on hold due to technical difficulties and his evolving attitude toward Louverture, so the genesis of the Saint-Domingue expedition can be traced back to a 4 May 1801 order to prepare a 3,600-troop expedition in Brest under Villaret-Joyeuse.[15] Getting past the British blockade was a major impediment, but war-weary Britain soon agreed to a ceasefire and on 7 October, just one day after he had approved the London Peace Protocols, Bonaparte gave the order to build up the small squadron already assembled in Brest to a force of 6,000 (an additional 5,600 men was scheduled to leave from other ports).[16]

Peace had come not too soon, Bonaparte explained, because France had “entirely lost its commerce” in the war.[17] As always, Bonaparte thought big and envisioned a vast North American empire that would encompass not only traditional sugar powerhouses like Saint-Domingue but also Louisiana .[18] French commerce would once again dominate the Caribbean trade, while training the next generation of sailors that would make the French Navy victorious should war with Great Britain resume.[19] In true mercantilist fashion, Bonaparte’s secret instructions to Leclerc specified that foreign merchants should be driven out of Saint-Domingue shortly after the French takeover.[20]

Rather than wait for the permanent peace of Amiens , Bonaparte requested immediate British acquiescence to the expedition (the fleet had to leave in the fall so as to leave plenty of campaigning time before the deadly summer fevers of the Caribbean ).[21] The British agreed with Bonaparte’s policy of reining in former slaves, but they also expressed their “surprise and worry” when learning of the expedition’s vast size. The French, they feared, could easily redirect their fleet to attack Jamaica .[22] The British asked Bonaparte to disarm his ships to alleviate their fears, but he refused as a matter of national honor.[23] At any rate, he added with disarming frankness, the French “fleet was ill armed and weakly manned, even for a peace establishment… and that, upon the whole, they were incapable of fighting, and must run away from a very small force.”[24] England eventually decided to send a squadron of its own to the Caribbean and match the French fleet ship for ship.[25]

Bonaparte was simultaneously finalizing the preparations for the expedition, though his interference in naval matters was not always for the better. Hopeful that Jérôme would become a Bonaparte of the seas, he sent his brother to the Caribbean repeatedly in 1802, but Jérôme showed little interest in naval matters and eventually absconded and eloped in Baltimore .[26] The large Brest squadron was entrusted to Villaret-Joyeuse, who was known mostly for his role in losing seven vaisseaux during the First of June (1794), another four in a storm during the winter of 1794-1795, and another three in a 1795 engagement off Lorient .[27] Adm. Ganteaume, a survivor of the disaster of Aboukir ( Battle of the Nile), took charge of the Toulon squadron and Bonaparte appointed another unhappy veteran of Aboukir, Denis Decrès, as Minister of the Navy.[28]

Contrary to Europe , where Napoleonic armies foraged as they campaigned, the troops sent to Saint-Domingue would have to be supplied by sea. French commerce was too weak to provision such a large overseas army in 1802, so Bonaparte requested that the British send the requisite supplies from Jamaica . The reply was predictably negative.[29] He obtained Thomas Jefferson’s reassurances that U.S. merchants would help supply the expedition, but these merchants had profited greatly under Louverture and many eventually supplied the rebels as well.[30] Securing vital sea lanes should have been the French navy’s priority, and Bonaparte’s failure to adequately plan for provisioning proved deadly when war with England renewed and French troops found themselves blockaded and starving in Saint-Domingue’s ports.

Bonaparte received increasingly threatening reports in late 1801 that Louverture’s army was large, well trained, and determined and he significantly enlarged the expedition in response.[31] He relied primarily on vaisseaux as transports, but their 600-man crew left little room for passengers. Civilian troop transports could have transported more men at a lesser cost but were not employed, apparently because they could not be mobilized as fast and Bonaparte was eager to give the navy some much-needed sea time.[32] The ensuing logistical problems were daunting. The Toulon squadron received 3,000 troops when it expected 500.[33] Villaret’s Brest squadron of 12 vaisseaux, already overloaded with supplies, artillery, and 6,000 troops in addition to its regular crew, was asked to accommodate another 1,600 men, with a few more thousand on the way. Even though Bonaparte had insisted to the British that he would not disarm his ships, Villaret had to strip some ships of their guns and reduce the rest to their peacetime crew.[34] The mighty three-deck Océan, for one, was sent without naval gunners.[35] The change freed some space, but it also annihilated the ships’ value as weapons platforms.

After weeks of delays due in part to contrary winds, the Brest squadron only left on December 14th.[36] The Brest fleet transported 8,000 soldiers and was followed in the days and weeks to come by another from Rochefort (with 3,000 troops), Lorient (1,200), Toulon (3,000), Cadiz (1,700), Le Havre (1,000), and Vlissingen (1,600).[37] No one understood it at the time, but the delay was highly significant. Had the expedition reached Saint-Domingue in late November 1801, it would have landed in the midst of the Moyse rebellion, which pit Louverture against his nephew and would have prevented him from mounting an effective defense.[38] An early arrival would also have given French troops more time to fight before they were decimated by summer fevers.

At Bonaparte’s urging, Decrès had devised a complex route whereby the squadrons of Brest , Lorient , and Rochefort would rendezvous off Belle Ile or the Canary Islands, then at Cape Sámana . The plan was designed to allow the fleet to attack en masse and achieve complete surprise, but it was so cumbersome in the age of sail that it achieved the opposite result.[39] The three squadrons failed to rendezvous because a winter gale, accompanied by thick fog, soon broke out. Determined to follow orders, Villaret grimly held his station in the awful weather, but to no avail since Latouche-Tréville’s Rochefort squadron had bypassed the first stop to avoid the storm.[40] After waiting for seven days and sending the Duquesne and Neptuno away to repair persistent leaks, Villaret headed west.[41] A second stop in the Canary Islands , which Latouche had already left, proved just as pointless.[42] The Brest fleet only reached Sámana on 29 January 1802, where the Rochefort squadron and fast small units had been waiting for 11 days.[43] In retrospect, Leclerc and Villaret wrote, the rendezvous system had been a failure.[44] No tactical surprise was achieved: Louverture actually witnessed the arrival of the main fleet in Sámana.[45]

The other squadrons arrived even later. The Havre squadron left on 8 January, but was forced to stop in Cherbourg due to bad weather.[46] The Cadiz squadron arrived on 14 February.[47] The Toulon squadron, scheduled to leave on 11 December, only got under way on 9 January and arrived on 12 February after a horrendous crossing marked by constant storms.[48] Adm. Hartsinck, who commanded the Dutch squadron, insisted on stopping for a month in the Canaries and reached Saint-Domingue a full 57 days after the fighting began.[49]

Leclerc and his successor Rochambeau insisted repeatedly that only large, massed reinforcements would allow them to launch coordinated attacks on all points of the colony, but Decrès never found an effective way to ship many men at a single time.[50] Ten of the vaisseaux needed extensive repairs after their return and Decrès concluded that using large warships as transports was too costly.[51] He thus shifted to smaller merchant ships accompanied by one or two military units—including, in some cases, converted slave traders.[52] These were cheaper, but also unreliable and they brought a constant trickle of small detachments that were progressively eaten away by disease.[53] The 3rd Polish demi-brigade, for example, embarked from Livourne in May 1802 on a flotilla of 14 Danish, Russian, U.S. , and British vessels ranging from 170 to 400 tons. One ship was lost in a storm and the survivors only reached Saint-Domingue in September, some troops having spent the entire crossing outside for lack of room below decks. They arrived in the midst of a yellow fever epidemic and were decimated within a month.[54] By 1803, when defeat seemed likely and Bonaparte lost interest in the expedition, Decrès overloaded tiny vessels with deserters, invalids, and foreign troops and the last ship to reach Saint-Domingue, L’Auguste, reached its destination on 24 June 1803 after losing 102 of its 350 troops—a death rate of 29 percent that topped that typically found on slave ships.[55]

Military role (February 1802-May 1802)

Leclerc, concluding that speed was essential if he was to catch Louverture unprepared, decided not to wait for stragglers when he reached Sámana and immediately headed for his main objective, Cap Français, but the French demi-brigades had been loaded so haphazardly that he wasted two days transferring troops from one ship to another to constitute coherent units.[56] He reached Cap a few days later, only to realize that the black commander Henri Christophe had taken out all buoys and that Villaret had somehow forgotten to bring a single pilot familiar with Cap and other ports.[57] Villaret refused to negotiate the pass under fire and Leclerc, to his great annoyance, had to stage his main landing west of Cap.[58] Leclerc compounded Villaret’s mistakes by selecting Port Margot, a distant and impractical spot, as his landing site.[59] In all, the slow transfer from Sámana, the preparations for a landing, and the land attack consumed over a week, leaving ample time for Christophe to burn Cap.[60] As the city burned, Villaret (who had stayed off Cap with the larger units) noticed that the forts of Cap were unmanned, entered the port, and French sailors captured the city hours before Leclerc’s forces arrived by land.[61] The exploit helped restore the navy’s professional pride after the pilot fiasco, but most of Cap was already in ashes.[62] The shortage of pilots, which had done so much to undermine the landing in Cap, remained a problem in later weeks and the Desaix, the San Genaro, and the Foudroyant were all lost or damaged on reefs for lack of pilots.[63]

Other landings were better organized. On 3 February, Rochambeau’s division assaulted the city of Fort Liberté while Capt. Charles Magon’s vaisseaux silenced the main forts with two broadsides. The attack was conducted so vigorously that Louverture’s officers had no time to burn the town.[64] Latouche-Tréville and Gen. Jean Boudet were as effective in taking Port-au-Prince , the colony’s second largest city. Troops landed early on 5 February under covering fire from the frigates. Meanwhile, the vaisseaux attacked Fort Bizoton and the entire city was captured before it could be burned.[65]

The vaisseaux, useful in the initial landings, otherwise proved unsuited for the mountain guerilla warfare that characterized the subsequent phase of the war. Louverture’s naval units had been captured by the Jamaican squadron for fear that he planned to invade Jamaica , so there was no significant naval engagement until 1803.[66] Leclerc and Villaret, concerned that large units like the three-deck Océan, cost a fortune in rations, proposed to keep only 5 to 7 vaisseaux to overawe their enemies, a number Decrès later pared down to two as tensions in Europe raised fears of a renewed war with England.[67]

Few frigates and cruisers had been sent with the fleet, but they proved cheaper and much more effective than larger units for the most important mission facing the French navy in the following months: patrolling Saint-Domingue’s extensive coastline. Black rebels obtained many of their weapons and ammunition from U.S. and British merchants and armed small barges that preyed on French merchant ships.[68] Piracy and contraband took place so close to the shore that Latouche-Tréville armed small merchant ships to replace the unwieldy vaisseaux that could not operate in shallow waters.[69] By January 1803, the French fleet numbered 37 ships, only four of which were vaisseaux while the rest were a combination of cutters, brigs, converted merchants, and frigates.[70] After these adjustments, the squadron was finally suited for the tasks it had been given and the navy scored some successes in denying supplies to the rebels.[71]

Misusing the Navy (June 1802-May 1803)

Despite Bonaparte’s initial mistakes when planning for the expedition, the navy could have provided significant help once it was transformed into a flotilla of cruisers. Villaret, whose relationship with Leclerc had gone from mediocre to stormy, returned to France with most of the vaisseaux and left Latouche-Tréville in charge in Cap and the northern coast.[72] Both he and Philippe Willaumez, who commanded naval forces in the West and South of Saint-Domingue, were competent individuals and could have provided superior leadership—had they been allowed to do so.[73] But military leaders in Saint-Domingue insisted that they had full authority over the navy and routinely interfered with naval management, sometimes with disastrous consequences.

Inter-service rivalries stemmed largely from the army’s sense of superiority vis-à-vis naval forces whose recent record left much to be desired. Leclerc even refused to correspond with Decrès, even though the latter was his direct superior as minister of the navy and the colonies.[74] Antipathy was reflected at lower levels as well. Naval officers complained repeatedly when the fleet was delayed in Brest that they had to pay to wine and dine the army’s staff.[75] As pollywogs, soldiers enjoyed the novelty of life at sea, particularly the colorful coronation of King Tropics;[76] but as landlubbers, they resented the sailors’ disdainful professional pride and fights often broke out during the Atlantic crossing.[77] Financial feuds were common in Saint-Domingue, as Leclerc grumbled about the cost of the navy while naval officers complained that they received their salary months after army officers did.[78]

French naval officers seemed to appreciate their colleagues in the British navy more than their own compatriots. The two navies had been bitter rival just months before, but to alleviate British fears that France might attack Jamaica Villaret sent lists of all French units to Adm. John T. Duckworth in Jamaica and treated British visitors to gun salutes and state dinners.[79] (The efforts did not pay off. Jamaica ’s governor Georges Nugent regularly turned down French requests to obtain food or specie in Kingstown , while British captains snickered that French ships were “infamously dirty” and badly manned.)[80]

The colonial hierarchy normally called for a triumvirate consisting of a grand judge, a colonial prefect, and a captain-general, but continuous fighting allowed Leclerc and Rochambeau to impose martial law and claim dictatorial powers over civilian and naval authorities.[81] In May 1802, Leclerc issued a decree specifying that “the general in chief is sole commander of the naval forces” and that the generals stationed in each port would have complete authority over local vessels.[82] In practice, any army officer assumed immediate command over a ship when he came on board.[83] One brig captain was even sent to jail for failing to report when he cast anchor.[84] Typical of navy-army correspondence was a memo instructing Latouche-Tréville to transport 400 convalescents from Môle Saint-Nicolas to Saint-Marc. A detailed itinerary was included; Latouche-Tréville merely got to pick the name of the ship.[85]

Naval morale sank accordingly and in September 1802 Latouche-Tréville asked Decrès if he could return to France . He cited health problems, but also bitterly noted that his “authority as squadron commander was so low that [he] acted as a chief of staff whose sole duty was to execute the orders [he] received.”[86] He did not even know how many ships were under his command because Leclerc occasionally sent parliamentarians to nearby islands without informing him. “Given my age, my rank, and my career,” he added, “I cannot obey the orders of a general who could be my son.”[87] Latouche-Tréville repeatedly asked for orders from Paris that would delineate the proper chain of command.[88] He received no reply, so one can assume that Bonaparte shared his brother in law’s distrust for the navy.

The navy was thus reduced to the role of a deluxe cab service. Leclerc, then Rochambeau, sent numerous diplomatic missions to Jamaica, Cuba, Venezuela, Mexico, Grenada, France, and the United States to request funds, provisions, and purchase man-hunting dogs (for the army) and exotic animals (for Paris’ museum of natural history).[89] Naval records show that in the month of October 1802, for example, the navy was asked to evacuate besieged troops four times, ferry reinforcements seven times, transport officers to their new assignments five times, send envoys and exiles to France three times, assist in two attacks, transport sick personnel twice, ferry weapons once, and carry Leclerc’s body back to France after he died of yellow fever.[90]

The disgruntled naval officers used such occasions to supplement their salary, even though such sales could be politically sensitive. Some officers sold goods (including slaves) in Cuba , leading to Spanish recriminations that its French ally was importing contraband.[91] When frigates transporting 1,500 black deportees from Guadeloupe landed in Cap, a rumor spread that the French intended to restore slavery in Saint-Domingue as they had done in Guadeloupe .[92] Private commerce on state ships was nominally illicit, but Latouche-Tréville argued that officers could not be blamed for trying to make money when they were owed months of arrears.[93]

Just as the black rebellion renewed in intensity due to fears that slavery would be restored, a yellow fever epidemic of unprecedented intensity and duration broke out and ravaged French ranks well into the fall months. The French army paid a heavy toll, but the epidemic made particularly horrifying progress when it broke out on the overcrowded, unsanitary ships.[94] Capt. Zacharie Allemand of L’Aigle lost an average of one man a day when in Saint-Domingue; he returned to France with 341 sailors, half of the regular complement.[95] Capt. Joseph Khrom, who had left for Havana to repair the San Genaro, reported that he only had 205 men left on board; only one of five surgeons remained.[96] Half the crew of the Duguay Trouin died in a single month.[97] Losses were magnified by desertion as fearful sailors enrolled on departing merchant ships.[98]

It would be another century before doctors understood the mosquitoes’ role as carriers of yellow fever, but Leclerc failed to take basic prophylactic measures—isolating the sick, draining pools of stagnant water, and stationing troops in cool areas—that his health officers proposed.[99] The doctors’ advice was based on the erroneous miasmatic theory, but would nonetheless have been effective against mosquitoes. Contemporaries also noted that losses abated when ships reached colder latitudes, so Decrès sent orders to get the ships moving and Latouche-Tréville begged Leclerc to send ships on cruises.[100] But Leclerc—apparently to expose sailors to the same risks his soldiers were facing—ordered the navy to remain in port, no matter how heavy losses were, and ships often sailed only when the army needed transports to carry the sick to a hospital, thus helping to spread the epidemic.[101]

The epidemic, compounded by Leclerc’s insistence that ships remain at anchor, soon destroyed the navy’s ability to function. As early as July 1802, Leclerc confessed to the Governor of Jamaica that he could not answer a letter in timely manner because his frigates were grounded for lack of sailors.[102] By October 1802, the Cap squadron was down to three ill-maintained vaisseaux with a mere 160 to 220 sailors, too little to set sail, let alone fight.[103]

Despite the losses, Leclerc tapped the navy as a ready source for reinforcements.[104] Using sailors on shore was particularly wasteful considering that metropolitan France had an abundance of soldiers but a dearth of able seamen, but yellow fever had left gaping holes in army ranks and Leclerc felt that he could not afford not to draft sailors. Already operating with minimal crews when it left France , its ranks depleted by the epidemic, the French Navy was thus stripped of its last healthy men to pursue rebels in the hills. In a typical case, an aspirant (midshipman) of the Intrépide spent months guarding a river near Cap until rebel attacks and bouts of fever killed 14 of 16 fellow aspirants.[105]

To address the navy’s resulting manpower shortage, Leclerc ordered that black rebels earmarked for deportation be used as crew members on the return trip to France .[106] Such biracial crews were considered an obvious security threat, so regulations specified that ships could not be captained by men of color and that colored sailors could not constitute more than a third of a crew.[107] Such rules were largely ignored due to pressing circumstances; one white captain commanded six white and two hundred black or mixed-race sailors.[108] Another requested black prisoners to complete a crew that was down to seven white survivors.[109]

The navy was also employed as an instrument of political repression. Bonaparte had ordered that Louverture’s main associates be deported and at least 640 officers of color were exiled to France (the most famous was Louverture himself, who left onboard the Héros in June 1802).[110] A few white officers were also exiled for pursuing the enemy with insufficient ardor, or pursuing Pauline Bonaparte with too much vigor.[111] At first, prominent officers were deported while common soldiers were spared, but as the war grew bitterer deportation and mercy became rare and warships, which had shifted from gun platforms to transports, then hospitals, then floating prisons, now turned into extermination camps. Drowning prisoners surreptitiously in the harbor seemed more astute politically than public executions, which frequently put the rebels’ courage on display.[112] It was also considered a cheap, effective method of execution (some prisoners were also suffocated with sulfur inside the hold of ships).[113]

Targeted drowning of prisoners turned into mass murder in October 1802, when most officers of color defected to the rebel side, Cap was besieged, and Leclerc advocated a genocidal policy aimed at killing virtually the entire black population.[114] In Cap, up to 4,000 Blacks, including civilians and the entire 6th colonial demi-brigade, were summarily drowned.[115] After Leclerc died of yellow fever, command fell momentarily in the hands of Colonial Prefect Hector Daure, who insisted that Francois-Marie Kerversau, the head of Santo Domingo ’s French occupation forces, send his entire force of 140 black troops on a corvette. Kerversau was under no illusion as to their fate and wrote in a sad postscript that “by tomorrow morning no black troops will remain…. Some of the duties one must fulfill are very cruel.”[116]

Mass drowning was a policy designed locally. Bonaparte and Decrès favored targeted deportation, not large-scale massacres, if anything because they destroyed a valuable labor force.[117] To their credit, several local captains also balked when asked to become mass executioners. Willaumez was willing to execute rebels caught conspiring but stopped short of race-based mass murder. In October 1802, he wrote to Cap asking for instructions regarding a shipload of “Blacks who were arrested during the night in Port-au-Prince .”[118] Latouche-Tréville obliquely answered that “war has become very simplified and now pits White against Black; I took measures to assure that prisoners don’t bother us, and I advise you to do the same.”[119] Willaumez did not, or would not, understand the innuendo and wrote again to ask for food for his prisoners.[120] Other captains secretly released prisoners earmarked for drowning in other parts of the colony.[121]

When Rochambeau took over as captain general and a batch of reinforcements arrived from France , he organized a series of amphibious operations similar to those of February 1802.[122] The Duquesne and the Intrépide helped retake Port-de-Paix (though the Intrépide was damaged on a reef due to poor seamanship) and the navy provided covering fire for an attack on Léogane.[123] Smaller units continued to patrol the coast against rebel barges and smugglers, though France had again sent an overabundance of vaisseaux with the last reinforcements.[124] The burst of optimism petered out in March 1803, when an attack on Petit Goave failed miserably and the yellow fever epidemic resumed.[125] Rochambeau had tried to enlist his son in the navy and promised to pay sailors more regularly, but overall he continued to treat the navy as a secondary branch, assigned white sailors to shore duty, replaced them with black prisoners, and gave orders to “débouquer” (drown) captured rebels.[126]

Downfall (June 1803-December 1803)

The Saint-Domingue expedition had only been made possible because of a lull in hostilities between France and England and it was particularly ominous when Decrès wrote Rochambeau in March 1803 that war was imminent.[127] Upon learning this, Rochambeau and Latouche-Tréville answered that, without a powerful naval force, Saint-Domingue’s ports would be blockaded, the rebels would obtain supplies from Jamaica , and the colony would be lost.[128] With the latest recent reinforcements, the Saint-Domingue squadron amounted to 3 vaisseaux, 5 frigates, and 31 smaller units.[129] The vaisseaux could finally have found some use against the Jamaica squadron, but Decrès ordered most large units back to France .[130] Recalling large units meant that British mastery of the Caribbean was inevitable and that the expedition was doomed, but Decrès glossed over such inconvenient truths. When faced with Rochambeau’s increasingly hostile requests, Decrès and Bonaparte simply stopped writing altogether and Rochambeau learned of the resumption of the war from Jamaica .[131]

In the absence of definite news from France , some colonial officers hoped that war had not broken out despite all evidence to the contrary.[132] The British eagerly contributed to this wishful thinking and insisted that war had not begun even as they blockaded Cap and seized passing ships.[133] Uncertain as to the status of hostilities in Europe , Rochambeau did little aside from telling the officers commanding each port to prepare for a long, hopeless blockade.[134] He even sent wine, vegetables, and fruit, to Capt. John Loring as he blockaded Cap.[135] Latouche-Tréville’s leadership was no more forceful. He tried to gather what military vessels he had in Cap, but his health deteriorated so much that he soon had to leave the colony and naval forces were left in the hands of a fairly minor officer, Capt. Henri Barré.[136]

Such cautious leadership was in stark contrast with England ‘s aggressive posture. The Admiralty ordered Duckworth to seize all French ships in Saint-Domingue; by the time the orders reached Duckworth, he had already anticipated them.[137] Prizes fell into British hands like ripe fruit. They included the frigate La Créole, taken after a short, inglorious fight near Port-au-Prince , the corvette Mignonne, the brigs Lordy, Aiguille, and Vigilant, and the cutters Amitié and Terreur.[138] The frigate Embuscade, her commander unaware that a war was on, was taken on her way back to France .[139] In a two-week period in June-July 1803, the British captured 45 civilian and military vessels.[140] In addition to the windfall in prize money, the easy victories could not have come at a better time for the British. Duckworth, who had repeatedly complained to the Admiralty that he needed more small units, selected the best French prizes and incorporated them in his fleet.[141]

The navy’s strategic outlook in Saint-Domingue was bleak given the departure of most of the vaisseaux, but military authorities worsened the situation by continuing to interfere with naval affairs. It would have made sense to allow naval units to leave for France before the British blockade tightened, but army officers refused to let ships go, apparently because they needed them as transports to carry the fortune they had made in Saint-Domingue in the likely event of an evacuation.[142] The enseigne Dubuisson, one of the few captains to bring his ship safely back to France , was even accused by Rochambeau of desertion and cowardice.[143]

Such orders cost the French navy dearly. Capt. Pierre Quérangal of the 74-gun Duquesne asked to leave Cap as soon as he heard of British hostilities on 21 June 1803. Rochambeau refused, so the vaisseau was trapped with the rest of the Cap squadron when the British set up their blockade on 1 July.[144] When an evening storm on 24 July forced the British squadron away, the Duquesne, the Duguay Trouin, and the frigate Guerrière, cut their cables and left the port (it is unclear whether they had Rochambeau’s approval), but a change of weather left them facing head winds while the British returned. The Duguay Trouin and the Guerrière were quick and skillful enough to evade the pursuit, but the poorly manned Duquesne was captured after a one-day chase.[145] Pierre Mausin, one of the 23 cabin boys onboard the Duquesne, performed the only heroic act in the otherwise pointless loss of a fine vaisseau. As soon as the prize was brought into Jamaica , he dove overboard and escaped through the shark-infested waters of Port Royal .[146]

After over a year in Caribbean waters, French crews and ships were in poor shape to fight, but as often during the revolutionary and Napoleonic wars a dearth of combative officers compounded the French navy’s underlying weaknesses. French naval archives contain numerous lengthy reports in which captains exculpated themselves for the supposedly ineluctable loss of their ship. Few of them seem to have spent much time thinking of ways they could have won the battle and instead planned to hold out for a few hours, then strike their flag when enough men had died for the defeat to be honorable.[147]

Only Willaumez rejected the ambient defeatism. Willaumez had been stationed in the south of Saint-Domingue since the beginning of the expedition, first as captain of the 74-gun Duguay Trouin, then on the frigate Poursuivante.[148] His ship, her keel damaged during a prior incident, was as defective as any and manned with a mere crew of 120, half of them convalescents, the rest partly composed of black sailors of dubious loyalty.[149] When the British began hostilities in June 1803, Willaumez left for Cap to join the main fleet.[150] Off Môle on 28 June, the Poursuivante and smaller units encountered the Jamaican convoy bound for England and the escort, composed of five ships of the line, immediately gave pursuit. Willaumez, chased by the Hercules and the Goliath, hugged the coast to make maximum use his ship’s speed and shallow draught, then maneuvered to rake the Hercules and sneak into Môle.[151] For a frigate to stand up to two ships of the line was an exceptional feat; yet the modest Willaumez apologized because his frigate was badly damaged—having been hit 135 times—and because he had failed to save the corvette Mignonne from the other three British ships of the line.[152]

Willaumez’s action was a rare French triumph in an otherwise one-sided series of British victories (a large painting immortalizing the event subsequently hung in Decrès’ office).[153] He added to his personal reputation by again breaking through the enemy blockade of Môle to reach Santiago in Cuba .[154] Having failed to recruit sailors there, he left for Charleston , capturing two prizes on the way.[155] U.S. authorities refused to let him enter the port, so he continued for the Chesapeake and Baltimore .[156] Having stopped there to repair his sinking ship, he once again eluded a British squadron and left for France , finding enough during the Atlantic crossing to inspect 11 neutrals and capture two British merchants.[157] Breaking through one last British blockade, he finally reached Rochefort in May 1804.[158] All this was achieved on a leaky ship below its full complement, thus proving the importance of the human element.

Another example of inadequate leadership was the failure to pursue alternative goals more conducive to French interests, namely, an attack on Jamaica . Land forces in this valuable colony were less than 5,000 men, far below France ‘s massive contingents in Saint-Domingue.[159] The existing Jamaica squadron was so weak in January 1802 that Leclerc could have more easily landed in Port Royal instead of Cap, especially since British cruisers stationed along the northern coast of Saint-Domingue somehow managed to miss the squadrons as they arrived (the British only learned of the fleet’s arrival when Villaret sent a frigate to notify them).[160] To match Villaret’s fleet and forestall such an invasion of Jamaica , Great Britain had planned to send a large fleet of its own, but it left late due to bad weather and only reached its destination long after Villaret did.[161]

The fall of 1802, when the British sent the entire Jamaican squadron to Hallifax for fear of hurricanes, presented another missed opportunity.[162] As the military situation in Saint-Domingue grew desperate, Latouche-Tréville suggested that French troops should be employed in a glorious death ride to ravage Jamaica , but his plan was never implemented and the British fleet returned a month later.[163] In May 1803, Rochambeau also mused that an attack on Jamaica would be his best option should war resume, but he thought the plan impractical for lack of ships.[164] He did not even act on a valuable tip informing him of the departure of a large British merchant convoy from Jamaica .[165] The fall of 1803 offered one last opportunity. Gen. Jean Sarrazin convened a war council in Port-au-Prince and proposed to gather all remaining troops and attack Jamaica , but he was rebuked by his own inferiors.[166] Such plans might have worked, since several thousand French troops made it to Cuba during the evacuation despite a British blockade.[167]

The departure or capture of most large units meant that the French navy in Saint-Domingue was reduced by the summer of 1803 to a collection of small vessels while British squadrons captured neutral merchants trying to provision the besieged ports.[168] Complete mastery of the seas allowed the British to sell ammunitions and powder to the black rebel army, starve French garrisons, and assist the rebels by sea as they seized one French-held port after another.[169] The French Navy’s only notable contribution was to create a small flotilla that destroyed rebel barges and opened a supply route between Cap and Montechristi.[170]

In November 1802, after France lost control of most ports and the land battle at Vertières brought the rebel army to the outskirts of Cap, Rochambeau concluded that it was time to evacuate and loaded the 3,900 troops that remained from the once-mighty expedition onboard a flotilla of civilian and military ships, including the frigates Surveillante, Clorinde, and Vertu. He apparently hoped to break through the British blockade to safeguard his considerable loot, but the winds were weak and the entire fleet was captured by the British.[171] The survivors were sent to Jamaica , where they joined 4,200 French prisoners already enduring horrendous conditions aboard pontoon boats.[172] Môle fell a few days later, though its commander, Louis de Noailles, cleverly joined the British convoy returning from Cap and escaped in the dead of night (he died shortly thereafter off Cuba while boarding a British ship).[173]

The evacuation of Môle brought an unfortunate chapter of French naval history to an end, but the French remained present in the region for years as they hoped to retake Saint-Domingue (renamed Haiti in 1804). Many survivors found refuge in Cuba (particularly Santiago ), where they armed numerous privateers.[174] The French were also present in Santo Domingo , which the Haitians failed to capture in 1805 and which remained a nest of privateering operations until French forces were finally expelled from Hispaniola in 1809.[175]


The Saint-Domingue expedition proved costly to the French navy. Ten ships of the line were lost or severally damaged: the Banel (part of the Toulon squadron, sank off Algeria , 1802), the Desaix (sank off Cap after hitting a reef, 1802); the San Genaro (damaged off Cap, 1802); the Intrépide (damaged off Port-de-Paix, 1803); the Duquesne (captured off Cap, 1803). To these, one may add the Jupiter, Alexandre, Brave, Impérial and Diomède, which were captured or burned off Santo Domingo in 1806 when they came to re-supply the remnants of the Rochambeau expedition still in Hispaniola and a squadron led by Adm. Duckworth attacked them.[176] Dozens of smaller units were also taken by the British war in the summer and fall of 1803.

Ships could be replaced; men could not. Hospital records were poorly kept due to the violence of the yellow fever epidemic, but an incomplete register lists at least 32,000 dead (soldiers and sailors) in 1802-1803 and reliable accounts put the total death toll on the French side at 50 to 60,000.[177] The navy alone lost 8,000 sailors; when taking into account normal death rates in the navy, the expedition directly led to the loss of 6,000 sailors.[178] There were only 80,000 sailors in all of France during that period, so the expedition diminished France’s seafaring population by up to ten percent, an incredible amount for a single expedition (by comparison, French and Spanish losses at Trafalgar totaled 4,400).[179] The poor condition of many units after months in tropical waters also forced many ships of the line into inaction in 1803.[180]

When defending their poor record, Leclerc and Rochambeau were quick to point to the ravages of tropical fevers and to Bonaparte’s lack of support. These played a significant role in France ’s loss; but humans, then as always, had the ability to shape their own destiny. By and large, they failed short of the daunting challenges they faced. Willaumez excepted, naval officers envisioned any encounter with the British Navy with such terror that they foresaw defeat before a shot was even fired and seemed more intent on preserving their honor than their ship. Well aware of their country’s proud record on land and poor record at sea, French army leaders treated the naval service as a junior one and made a bad situation worse. Bonaparte made organizational decisions—such as assigning multiple rendezvous points—when his grasp of naval affairs showed none of the genius he displayed on the battlefields of Europe . Leclerc and Rochambeau commandeered, immobilized, and looted units at their disposal instead of trusting them with independent cruises that could have crippled U.S. and English commerce and even threatened Jamaica . The navy was deemed incapable of making a significant military contribution and was reduced to the thankless task of ferrying troops and drowning prisoners. In this context, it should not be surprising that the demoralized crews of the French Navy eventually conformed themselves to the low expectations invested in them and contributed to the French defeat and, eventually, Haiti ’s independence.


AN: Archives Nationales (Paris).

BNA: British National Archives ( Kew ).

CAOM: Centre des Archives d’Outre-Mer ( Aix-en-Provence ).

HSP: Historical Society of Pennsylvania ( Philadelphia , PA ).

NARA-CP: U.S. National Archives II ( College Park , MD ).

NARA-DC: U.S. National Archives I ( Washington , DC ).

RP-UF: Rochambeau Papers— University of Florida ( Gainesville , FL ).

SHD-DAT: Service Historique de la Défense—Département de l’Armée de Terre ( Vincennes ).

SHD-DM: Service Historique de la Défense—Département de la Marine ( Vincennes ).

[1] [Adm. Louis-Thomas Villaret-Joyeuse], “Etat de situation des troupes embarquées à bord des bâtiments composant l’armée navale aux ordres de l’amiral Villaret” (26 November 1801), BB4 161, SHD-DM, Adj. Cdt. [Mayer?], “Etat de situation des troupes embarquées, à l’époque du 30 brumaire an X [21 November 1801]” (6 Frimaire 10 [27 November 1801]), CC9B/23, AN, Squadron Chief Clément, [Untitled] (c. December 1801), AF/IV/1325, AN, “Etat de situation des équipages et passagers embarqués sur l’armée navale aux ordres de l’amiral Villaret-Joyeuse…” (c. 19 Frimaire 10 [10 December 1801]), BB4 162, SHD-DM, Jacques de Norvins, Souvenirs d’un historien de Napoléon: mémorial de J. de Norvins vol. 2 (Paris: Plon, 1896), 325, “Ordre du jour” (1 Frimaire 10 [22 November 1801]), in “Analyse chronologique et alphabétique des ordres du jour de l’armée de Saint-Domingue” (c. 15 August 1802), CC9/B23, AN, “Ordre du jour” (3-4 Frimaire 10 [24-25 November 1801]), in “Analyse chronologique et alphabétique des ordres du jour de l’armée de St-dom” (c. September 1802), CC9A/31, AN.

[2] Bureau des Ports, “Extrait d’un état adressé par le commissaire en chef de l’armée navale de Saint-Domingue au ministre de la marine” (1 Ventôse 10 [20 February 1802]), CC9B/23, AN.

[3] Roger Dorsinville, Toussaint Louverture ou la vocation de la liberté (Paris: Julliard, 1965), 196-197, Claude Bonaparte Auguste and Marcel Bonaparte Auguste, Les déportés de Saint-Domingue: contribution à l’histoire de l’expédition française de Saint-Domingue, 1802-1803 (Sherbrooke, Québec: Naaman, 1979), 33, Auguste and Auguste, L’expédition Leclerc, 1801-1803 (Port-au-Prince: Henri Deschamps, 1985), 14, Madison Smartt Bell, Toussaint Louverture: A Biography (New York: Pantheon Books, 2007), 197.

[4] Napoléon Bonaparte, “Notes pour servir aux instructions à donner au Capitaine Général Leclerc” (31 October 1801), in Gustav Roloff, Die Kolonialpolitik Napoleons I (Munich: Drud and Berlag von R. Didenbourg, 1899), 245. See also Henry Mézière, Le Général Leclerc et l’expédition de Saint Domingue (Paris: Tallandier, 1990), 160-162.

[5] Rochambeau, “Aperçu général sur les troubles des colonies françaises de l’Amérique, suivi d’un précis de la guerre dans cette partie du monde” (c. 1805), 1M593, SHD-DAT. The French Navy had a total of 48 vaisseaux in 1802, with 16 more under construction. Min. of Navy Denis Decrès, “Rapport” (22 Prairial 10 [11 June 1802]), BB4 161, SHD-DM. The French fleet had reached a total of 143 large units (vaisseaux and frigates) in 1792, but naval disasters had only left 82 in 1802; the number rebounded to 118 in 1813. Jean-Marcel Humbert and Brunot Ponsonnet, eds. Napoléon et la mer: un rêve d’empire ( Paris : Seuil, 2004), 59-60.

[6] Auguste and Auguste, Les déportés de Saint-Domingue: contribution à l’histoire de l’expédition française de Saint-Domingue, 1802-1803 (Sherbrooke, Québec: Naaman, 1979), 19, Auguste and Auguste, L’expédition Leclerc, 40.

[7] C. L. R. James, The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution (1938; reprint, New York: Vintage Books, 1963), Laurent Dubois, Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004), Ott, The Haitian Revolution, Thomas Madiou, Histoire d’Haïti vol. 2 (Port-au-Prince: Courtois, 1847), Auguste and Auguste, L’expédition Leclerc, Col. Auguste Nemours, Histoire militaire de la guerre d’indépendance de Saint-Domingue vol. 2 (Paris: Berger-Levrault, 1925), Beaubrun Ardouin, Etudes sur l’histoire d’Haïti 11 vols. (1853-1860; reprint, Port-au-Prince; Dalencour, 1958).

[8] Rémi Monaque, “Les aspects maritimes de l’expédition de Saint-Domingue,” Revue Napoléon no. 9 (February 2002), 5-13.

[9] Humbert and Ponsonnet, Napoléon et la mer, 10, 24, Christopher Hibbert, Napoleon’s Women ( New York : Norton, 2002), 23, Philip J. Haythornthwaite, Napoleon’s Military Machine (New York: Sarpedon, 1995).

[10] Pierre Pluchon, Toussaint Louverture (Paris: Fayard, 1989), 16-17, Moreau de Saint-Méry, Description topographique, physique, civile, politique et historique de la partie française de l’isle Saint-Domingue vol. 1 (1797-1798; reprint, Paris: Société de l’Histoire des Colonies Françaises, 1958), 111, Pamphile de Lacroix, La révolution de Haïti (Paris: Karthala, 1995; 1st ed. 1819), 7, Eric Williams, From Columbus to Castro: The History of the Caribbean (1970; reprint, New York: Vintage Books, 1984), 237, Charles Lee Lewis, Admiral de Grasse and American Independence (NY: Arno Press, 1980), 118, Ludwell Montague, Haiti and the United States, 1714-1938 (Durham: Duke University Press, 1940), 32, 47, R. Lepelletier de Saint-Rémy, Saint-Domingue: Etude et solution nouvelle de la question haïtienne (Paris: Arthus Bertrand, 1846), 60-69, Laurent Dubois, A Colony of Citizens: Revolution and Slave Emancipation in the French Caribbean, 1787-1804 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004), 47, Rayford W. Logan, Diplomatic Relations of the United States with Haiti, 1776-1891 (Chapel Hill: U. of North Carolina Press, 1941), 3, Anonymous, History of the Island of St. Domingo, from its First Discovery by Columbus to the Present Period (1818; reprint, New York: Mahlon Day, 1824), 232.

[11] Dubois, A Colony of Citizens, 152, David P. Geggus, Slavery, War, and Revolution: The British Occupation of Saint-Domingue, 1793-1798 (Oxford: Clarendon press, 1982), 65.

[12] Brig. Gen. Thomas Maitland and Div. Gen. Toussaint Louverture, “Convention secrète…” (13 June 1799), ADM 1/249, BNA.

[13] For example, see Capt. of USS George Washington Patrick Fletcher to Sec. of the Navy Benjamin Stoddert (14 August 1799), RG 45, Microfilm M625/199, Capt. of USS Boston George Little to Stoddert (19 March 1800), RG 45, Microfilm M625/200, NARA-DC.

[14] On the commercial decline, see Saint-Venant, Des colonies modernes, 78, “Résumé du commerce extérieur et de la navigation de la Rép. Française pendant l’an IX, et prises maritimes,” Moniteur Universel no. 204 (24 Germ. 10 [14 Apr. 1802]), 3, Paul Butel, “Succès et déclin du commerce colonial français,” 1089-1091, C. C. Robbin, Voyages dans l’intérieur de la Louisiane, de la Floride occidentale, et dans les îles de la Martinique et de Saint-Domingue vol. 1 (Paris: Buisson, 1807), 3, Francis Démier, “Slavery, Colonial Economy, and French Development Choices,” in Dorigny, The Abolitions of Slavery, 237, Louis Bergeron, France under Napoleon (1972; reprint, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981), 167-171. On the Navy’s decline, see Philippe d’Auvergne to British War Secretary Henry Dundas (5 May 1800), WO 1/923, BNA, Auvergne to Dundas (2 September 1800), WO 1/923, BNA, Auvergne to Dundas (14 November 1800), WO 1/923, BNA, Decrès to Min. of Navy Pierre Forfait (1 Nivôse 9 [22 December 1800]), BB4 151, SHD-DM, Latouche Tréville to Forfait (10 Nivôse 9 [31 December 1800]), BB4 151, SHD-DM, Contre-amiral Louis-René de Latouche Tréville to Forfait (17 Nivôse 9 [7 January 1801]), BB4 151, SHD-DM, Thouvenot, “Mémoire sur la marine et les colonies” (18 Floréal 9 [8 May 1801]), Box 2/69, RP-UF, N. A. M. Rodger, The Command of the Ocean: A Naval History of Britain, 1649-1815 (New York: Norton, 2004), 465, F. Teissedre, ed., Souvenirs de marins du Premier Empire (Paris: Teissedre, 1998), 75.

[15] On early, aborted plans, see Bonaparte to Ganteaume (19 Dec. 1799), Bonaparte, “Arrêté” (25 Dec. 1799), Bonaparte to Contre-amiral Lacrosse (4 Jan. 1800), Bonaparte to Forfait (22 Apr. 1800), Bonaparte, “Arrêté” (10 Sept. 1800), Bonaparte to Forfait (22 Dec. 1800), Bonaparte to Forfait (26 Jan. 1801), in Vaillant, Correspondance de Napoléon vol. 6, 28, 42, 64, 227, 458, 543, 590, Bonaparte to Forfait (4 February 1801), Bonaparte to Sahuguet (6 March 1801), in ibid. vol. 7, 8, 81. On the genesis of the expedition, see Bonaparte, “Arrêté” (4 May 1801), in Vaillant, Correspondance de Napoléon vol. 7, 179.

[16] Bonaparte to Talleyrand (6 Oct. 1801), in Howard, Letters and Documents of Napoleon vol. 1, 715, Bonaparte to Decrès (7 Oct. 1801), in Vaillant, Correspondance de Napoléon vol. 7, 351.

[17] Quoted in Baron Charles Cornwallis to British Sec. of State Robert Banks Jenkinson Lord Hawkesbury (3 December 1801), PRO 30/11/264, BNA. See also Bonaparte, “Note to be handed to Lord Hawkesbury” (23 July 1801), reproduced in Howard, Letters and Documents of Napoleon vol. 1, 498, Hawkesbury and French Commissary Louis Guillaume Otto, “Preliminary articles of peace…” (1 October 1801), FO 93/33/3, BNA, Robert B. Mowat, The Diplomacy of Napoleon (1924; reprint, New York : Russell and Russell, 1971), 101, 140.

[18] Raphaël Lahlou, “Le rêve américain et caraïbe de Bonaparte: l’expédition de Saint-Domingue et le destin de la Louisiane française,” Revue du Souvenir Napoléonien no. 440 (April-May 2002), 12.

[19] “Mémoire sur les avantages d’un établissement aux îles de la mer du Sud,” Moniteur Universel no. 301 (1 Thermidor 9 [20 July 1801]), 1-2, Gautier, “Aperçu sur les intérêts du commerce maritime” (November 1801), CC9A/28, AN, Illegible [D’Auveyne prince de Bouïllon?] to Hobart (27 July 1802), WO 1/924, BNA.

[20] Bonaparte, “Notes pour servir aux instructions à donner au Capitaine Général Leclerc” (31 October 1801), reproduced in Roloff, Die Kolonialpolitik, 245.

[21] Bonaparte to Charles de Talleyrand (17 September 1801), Bonaparte to Talleyrand (30 October 1801), reproduced in Howard, Letters and Documents of Napoleon vol. 1, 500, 506, Auguste and Auguste, L’expédition Leclerc, 49.

[22] Otto to Talleyrand (17 Brumaire 10 [8 November 1801]), in Baron Charles Cornwallis to Hawkesbury (12 November 1801), PRO 30/11/264, BNA. See also Marcus Rainsford, An Historical Account of the Black Empire of Hayti (London: Albion Press, 1805), 264, James Stephen, The Crisis of the Sugar Colonies (1802; reprint, New York: Negro University Press, 1969), 101, Auguste and Auguste, L’expédition Leclerc, 44-45.

[23] Talleyrand to Otto (12 November 1801), in Cornwallis to Hawkesbury (12 November 1801), PRO 30/11/264, BNA.

[24] Quoted in Cornwallis to Hawkesbury (12 November 1801), PRO 30/11/264, BNA.

[25] Bonaparte to Talleyrand (13 November 1801), in Nemours, Histoire militaire vol. 2, 4, Cornwallis to Hawkesbury (13 November 1801), PRO 30/11/264, BNA, Villaret-Joyeuse to Decrès (27 Brumaire 10 [18 November 1801]), BB4 161, SHD-DM, Bonaparte to Talleyrand (30 October 1801), reproduced in Howard, Letters and Documents of Napoléon vol. 1, 506, Auguste and Auguste, L’expédition Leclerc, 50-51.

[26] Humbert and Ponsonnet, Napoléon et la mer, 20, 33, Cdt. Bergevin to Decrès (29 Germinal 10 [14 April 1802]), BB4 163, SHD-DM, Edward Corbet to Governor of Jamaica Sir George Nugent (23 April 1802), CO 137/108, BNA, [Bouïllon?], “Mouvements Maritimes” (20 May 1802), WO 1/924, BNA, [Min. of Navy Antoine] de Thévenard to Bonaparte (2 Complémentaire 10 [19 September 1802]), AF/IV/1325, AN, Joséphine de Beauharnais to Rose-Claire de la Pagerie (7 November 1802), reproduced in Bernard Chevallier, Maurice Catinat, and Christophe Pincemaille, eds., Impératrice Joséphine: Correspondance, 1782-1814 (Paris, Payot, 1996), 130, Capt. Philippe Willaumez to Decrès (19 Brumaire 12 [11 November 1803]), BB4 183, SHD-DM, Willaumez to Decrès (27 Germinal 12 [17 April 1804]), BB4 183, SHD-DM.

[27] Kenneth Johnson, “Louis-Thomas Villaret de Joyeuse, Admiral and Colonial Administrator,” Ph.D. Diss. (Florida State U., 2006), 175-183.

[28] Bonaparte, in Saint-Domingue and elsewhere, relied extensively on the ‘quarteron d’Aboukir:” Decrès, Bruix, Gantheaume, and Villeneuve. Rodger, The Command of the Ocean, 532.

[29] Bonaparte to Talleyrand (30 October 1801), reproduced in Howard, Letters and Documents of Napoleon vol. 1, 506, Otto to Talleyrand (17 Brumaire 10 [8 November 1801]), in Cornwallis to Hawkesbury (12 November 1801), PRO 30/11/264, BNA.

[30] Gordon S. Brown, Toussaint’s Clause: The Founding Fathers and the Haitian Revolution ( Jackson , MS : University Press of Mississippi, 2005), 195-216, James Madison to Tobias Lear (8 January 1802), 208 MI/2, AN.

[31] Louis-André Pichon to Talleyrand (18 Thermidor 9 [6 August 1801]), CC9/B21, AN, de Chair, ed., Napoleon on Napoleon, 178, Lacroix, La révolution de Haïti, 23, 264, Wenda Parkinson, “This Gilded African:” Toussaint l’Ouverture (New York: Quartet Books, 1978), 155.

[32] Monaque, “Les aspects maritimes,” 5-13. By comparison, the British Navy used ships (typically old, small ships of the line) that were specifically earmarked as troop transports. Rodger, The Command of the Ocean, 423.

[33] Nemours, Histoire militaire, 26-37.

[34] Villaret-Joyeuse to Decrès (25 Vendémiaire 10 [17 October 1801]), BB4 161, SHD-DM. See also Villaret-Joyeuse to Decrès (1 Brumaire 10 [23 October 1801]), BB4 161, SHD-DM.

[35] Villaret-Joyeuse to Decrès (5 Brumaire 10 [27 October 1801]), BB4 161, SHD-DM. See also (in Cádiz) Adj. Cdt. Urbain Devaux to Berthier (8 Frimaire 10 [29 November 1801]), B7/2, SHD-DAT.

[36] Villaret-Joyeuse to Decrès (7 Frimaire 10 [28 November 1801]), Villaret-Joyeuse to Decrès (11 Frimaire 10 [2 December 1801]), Villaret-Joyeuse to Decrès (19 Frimaire 10 [10 December 1801]), Villaret-Joyeuse to Decrès (23 Frimaire 10 [14 December 1801]), BB4 161, SHD-DM, Villaret-Joyeuse to Bonaparte (23 Frimaire 10 [14 December 1801]), AF/IV/1325, AN, Lemonnier-Delafosse, Seconde campagne de Saint-Domingue, 26.

[37] “Etat général de situation des bâtiments composant l’escadre aux ordres du Contre-amiral Latouche Tréville” (2 Frimaire 10 [23 November 1801]), BB4 162, SHD-DM. Rochambeau, “Aperçu général sur les troubles des colonies françaises de l’Amérique, suivi d’un précis de la guerre dans cette partie du monde” (c. 1805), 1M593, SHD-DAT, Lemonnier-Delafosse, Seconde campagne de Saint-Domingue, vii-viii, 2.

[38] Auguste and Auguste, L’expédition Leclerc, 73.

[39] Lacroix, La révolution de Haïti, 283, Auguste and Auguste, L’expédition Leclerc, 57-64. Bonaparte issued similarly complicated orders before Trafalgar. Rodger, The Command of the Ocean, 532.

[40] Lemonnier-Delafosse, Seconde campagne de Saint-Domingue, 26-27, Latouche-Tréville to Decrès (15 Pluviôse 10 [4 February 1802]), CC9A/36, AN, Norvins, Souvenirs d’un historien, 334.

[41] Capt. of Vaisseau Pierre Quérangal to Decrès (18 Nivôse 10 [8 January 1802]), BB4 164, SHD-DM, Louis Bro to Jean-Louis Bro (18 Nivôse 10 [8 January 1802]), 82AP/1, AN, Federico Gravina to Decrès (30 December 1801), BB4 161, SHD-DM, Villaret-Joyeuse to Decrès (21 Pluviôse 10 [10 February 1802]), CC9/B20, AN.

[42] Norvins, Souvenirs d’un historien, 335.

[43] Lemonnier-Delafosse, Seconde campagne de Saint-Domingue, 28-29.

[44] Leclerc to Decrès (20 Pluviôse 10 [9 February 1802]), CC9B/19, AN, Villaret-Joyeuse to Decrès (21 Pluviôse 10 [10 February 1802]), CC9/B20, AN, Villaret-Joyeuse to Bonaparte (21 Pluviôse 10 [10 February 1802]), AF/IV/1325, AN. See also Latouche-Tréville, “Tableau de la route faite par l’escadre…” (c. February 1802), CC9A/36, AN, Div. Gen. Charles Dugua to Berthier (19 Pluviôse 10 [8 February 1802]), B7/2, SHD-DAT.

[45] Louverture, Mémoires, 92, Lacroix, La révolution de Haïti, 283, Monte y Tejada, Historia de Santo Domingo vol. 3, 215.

[46] Etat de situation des bâtiments composant la division aux ordres du capit de vaisseau Meynne, au moment de leur départ de ce port…” (18 Nivôse 10 [8 January 1802]), BB4 162, SHD-DM, “Etat des troupes embarquées à Cherbourg … idem à Flessingue…” (c. 23 Nivôse 10 [13 January 1802]), BB4 161, SHD-DM, Christophe Paulin de la Poix, Chevalier de Fréminville, Mémoires du Chevalier de Fréminville (1787-1848) (Paris: Librairie Ancienne Champion, 1913), 13.

[47] “Etat général de situation des équipages et troupes passagères à bord des bâtiments de la division aux ordres du Contre-amiral Linois” (28 Nivôse 10 [18 January 1802]), BB4 162, SHD-DM, Contre-Amiral Linois to Min. of Navy [Denis Decrès] (28 Pluviôse 10 [17 February 1802]), reproduced in Moniteur Universel no. 182 (2 Germinal 10 [23 March 1802]), 729.

[48] Berthier to Bonaparte (19 Frimaire 10 [10 December 1801]), B7/2, SHD-DAT, Contre-Amiral Gantheaume to Decrès (28 Pluviôse 10 [17 February 1802]), reproduced in Moniteur Universel no. 182 (2 Germinal 10 [23 March 1802]), 729.

[49] Vice-Admiral Hartsinck to Decrès (23 November 1801), BB4 151, Decrès to Hartsinck (13 Nivôse 10 [3 January 1802]), BB4 162, SHD-DM, SHD-DM, “Etat des troupes embarquées à Cherbourg … idem à Flessingue…” (c. 23 Nivôse 10 [13 January 1802]), BB4 161, SHD-DM, “Etat de situation des bâtiments composant l’expédition partie du port de Flessingue le 14 Nivôse an 10” (c. 14 Nivôse 10 [4 January 1802]), BB4 162, SHD-DM, Brig. Gen. Philibert Fressinet, “Mémoires sur la dernière expédition de Saint-Domingue” (1802 [probably May 1805]), 1M593, SHD-DAT.

[50] Bureau of Ports of Ministry of Navy, “Rapport au Premier Consul” (6 Ventôse 11 [25 February 1803]), BB4 181, SHD-DM.

[51] Decrès, “Rapport” (22 Prairial 10 [11 June 1802]), BB4 161, SHD-DM.

[52] Decrès to Leclerc (9 Thermidor 10 [28 July 1802]), CC9/B24, CC9/B22, AN, Decrès to Leclerc (14 Frimaire 11 [5 December 1802]), CC9/B22, AN. On a slave trader, see André Nicolas Joseph Guimot and Louis Mathieu Dembowski, Journal et voyage à Saint-Domingue (Paris: Tesseidre, 1997), 49-51, 57-62.

[53] Decrès to Rochambeau (19 Pluviôse 11 [8 February 1803]), CC9/B22, AN, Rochambeau to Decrès (11 Ventôse 11 [2 March 1803]), CC9A/34, CC9B/19, AN.

[54] Ordonnateur de l’armée Michaux, “3ème ½ Brigade polonaise—Etat nominatif” (28 Floréal 10 [18 May 1802]), B7/4, SHD-DAT, Bat. Chief Junge to Berthier (12 Fructidor 10 [30 August 1802]), B7/6, SHD-DAT, Capt. Sangoroski, “Rapport” (4 Vendémiaire 11 [26 September 1802]), B7/7, SHD-DAT. The 1st battalion had lost all but 20 of 984 men in the 1st battalion by September 1803, a 98 percent death rate. Jan Pachonski and Reuel K. Wilson, Poland’s Caribbean Tragedy: A Study of Polish Legions in the Haitian War of Independence , 1802-1803 (Boulder: East European Monographs, 1986), 90.

[55] Armée de Saint-Domingue, “Etat général des troupes arrivées dans la colonie depuis l’expédition du Gén. Victoire Leclerc jusqu’à ce jour” (c. July 1803), CC9/B23, AN. Also arriving that month were the Théobald (134 dead, 188 survivors, 42 percent death rate) and the Bonne Mère (63 dead, 227 survivors, 22 percent death rate). See also Quérangal to Decrès (24 Prairial 11 [13 June 1803]), BB4 182, SHD-DM.

[56] Leclerc to Decrès (20 Pluviôse 10 [9 February 1802]), CC9B/19, AN, Lemonnier-Delafosse, Seconde campagne de Saint-Domingue, 31.

[57] Administration of Fortifications, “Idées générales sur l’attaque de la ville du Cap…” (10 Pluviôse 10 [30 January 1802]), B7/2, SHD-DAT, Lemonnier-Delafosse, Seconde campagne de Saint-Domingue, 80, Norvins, Souvenirs d’un historien, 347, 351, Lacroix, La révolution de Haïti, 288, Brown, History and Present Condition of St. Domingo vol. 2, 56, A. P. M. Laujon, Précis historique de la dernière expédition de Saint-Domingue (Paris: Delafolie, c. 1805), 23.

[58] Auguste and Auguste, L’expédition Leclerc, 98-99.

[59] [French officer in the Leclerc expedition], “Mémoire succint sur la guerre de SD” (1804), 5-16, 1M598, SHD-DAT.

[60] On the week-long delay, see Lemonnier-Delafosse, Seconde campagne de Saint-Domingue, 35, “Rapport du Général Dugua (8 February 1802),” reproduced in Nemours, Histoire militaire, 156-158, Lacroix, La révolution de Haïti, 289-291, Leclerc to Henry Christophe (13 Pluviôse 10), reproduced in A. J. B. Bouvet de Cressé, ed., Histoire de la catastrophe de Saint-Domingue (Paris: Peytieux, 1824), 106. On the burning of Cap, see “Ministère de la marine—Délibérations de l’administration municipale du Cap (16 Pluviôse an X [5 February 1802]),” Moniteur Universel no. 212 (2 Floréal 10 [22 April 1802]), 1, Leclerc to Decrès (20 Pluviôse 10 [9 February 1802]), CC9B/19, AN, Dugua to Berthier (19 Pluviôse 10 [8 February 1802]), B7/2, SHD-DAT, Madiou, Histoire d’Haïti vol. 2, 137-144, Aimé Césaire, Toussaint Louverture: La révolution française et le problème colonial (Paris: Présence Africaine, 1981), 290.

[61] Villaret-Joyeuse to Decrès (21 Pluviôse 10 [10 February 1802]), CC9/B20, AN, Laujon, Précis historique, 23-25, Norvins, Souvenirs d’un historien, 352-355.

[62] “Notes sur l’expédition de Leclerc à Saint-Domingue et sur la famille Louverture,” 4, 6APC/1, CAOM, Lear to [ Madison ?] (12 February 1802), B7/2, SHD-DAT, Norvins, Souvenirs d’un historien vol. 2, 358, Lemonnier-Delafosse, Seconde campagne de Saint-Domingue, 80-81, Nemours, Histoire militaire, 160-2, Brown, History and Present Condition of St. Domingo vol. 2, 61-62, Laujon, Précis historique, 25, Lacroix, La révolution de Haïti, 294.

[63] On the iDesaix and San Genaro, see Linois to Decrès (28 Pluviôse 10 [17 February 1802]), reproduced in Moniteur Universel no. 182 (2 Germinal 10 [23 March 1802]), 729, Villaret-Joyeuse to Decrès (28 Pluviôse 10 [17 February 1802]), reproduced in Moniteur Universel no. 182 (2 Germinal 10 [23 March 1802]), 728, Capt. of Vaisseau Joseph Krohm to Decrès (30 Germinal 10 [20 April 1802]), BB4 164, SHD-DM, Krohm to Decrès (17 Messidor 10 [6 July 1802]), BB4 164, SHD-DM, Norvins, Souvenirs d’un historien, 3, F. Teissedre, ed., Souvenirs de marins du Premier Empire (Paris: Teissedre, 1998), 99. On the Foudroyant, see Capt. of Vaisseau Clément to Decrès (1 Germinal 10 [22 March 1802]), BB4 162, SHD-DM.

[64] Leclerc to Decrès (20 Pluviôse 10 [9 February 1802]), CC9B/19, AN, Auguste and Auguste, L’expédition Leclerc, 94, Lemonnier-Delafosse, Seconde campagne de Saint-Domingue, 37-46.

[65] Gen. Jean Boudet to Decrès (19 Pluviôse 10 [8 February 1802]), in “Extrait de la correspondance concernant Toussaint Louverture depuis le 21 Pluviôse [10 February 1802] jusqu’au 23 Prairial 10 [12 June 1802]” (c. June 1802), CC9/B23, AN, Latouche Tréville to Villaret-Joyeuse (17 Pluviôse 10 [6 February 1802]), CC9/B20, AN, Villaret-Joyeuse to Decrès (28 Pluviôse 10 [17 February 1802]), reproduced in Moniteur Universel no. 182 (2 Germinal 10 [23 March 1802]), 728, Villaret-Joyeuse to Decrès (30 Pluviôse 10 [19 February 1802]), CC9/B20, AN, Lacroix, La révolution de Haïti, 300-302.

[66] “Extrait des pièces déposées au contrôle de la marine du Cap” (19 Vendémiaire 8 [11 October 1799]), WO 1/72, BNA, Hugh Cathcart to Gov. of Jamaica Earl of Balcarres (17 November 1799), CO 137/103, BNA, Cathcart to Adm. Sir Hyde Parker (c. December 1799), WO 1/74, BNA, Parker to Cathcart (2 December 1799), WO 1/74, BNA, Louverture to Cathcart (28 Frimaire 8 [19 December 1799]), WO 1/74, BNA, Louverture to John Wiggleworth (16 January 1800), WO 1/74, BNA, Balcarres to Parker (5 February 1800), WO 1/74, BNA.

[67] Dugua to Leclerc (10 Floréal 10 [30 April 1802]), Box 4/293, RP-UF, Latouche Tréville to Villaret-Joyeuse (14 Ventôse 10 [5 March 1802]), Villaret-Joyeuse to Decrès (15 Ventôse 10 [6 March 1802]), Villaret-Joyeuse to Decrès (14 Germinal 10 [4 April 1802]), BB4 161, SHD-DM, Leclerc to Decrès (19 Germinal 10 [9 April 1802]), CC9B/19, AN, Decrès to Leclerc (27 Prairial 10 [16 June 1802]), CC9/B24, AN.

[68] On U.S. and British contraband, see Leclerc, [Order] (27 Thermidor 10 [15 August 1802]), Box 10/839 , RP-UF, Thouvenot to Dugua (9 Vendémiaire 11 [1 October 1802]), B7/20, SHD-DAT, Capt. John Perkins to Rear Adm. John T. Duckworth (6 October 1802), ADM 1/252, BNA. Gazette of the United States no. 127 (26 October 1802), Adj. Gen. Jacques Boyé to Div. Gen. François Watrin (3 Frimaire 11 [24 November 1802]), no. 745, CC9B/11, AN, Villaret-Joyeuse to Decrès (30 Pluviôse 10 [19 February 1802]), CC9/B20, AN. On barges, see Gen. Jean-Baptiste Brunet to Rochambeau (18 Ventôse 11 [9 March 1803]), Box 17/1705 , RP-UF, Laujon, Précis historique, 193, Edward Corbet, “Extract of a letter from a gentleman at Aux Cayes” (29 October 1802), CO 137/110, BNA.

[69] Latouche Tréville to Villaret-Joyeuse (Pluviôse 10 [February 1802]), BB4 161, SHD-DM, Latouche Tréville to Decrès (15 Frimaire 11 [6 December 1802]), BB4 161, SHD-DM, Decrès to Leclerc and Villaret-Joyeuse (21 Germinal 10 [11 April 1802]), CC9/B22, CC9/B24, AN.

[70] Latouche Tréville to Decrès (3 Pluviôse 11 [23 January 1803]), BB4 181, SHD-DM.

[71] “Rapport d’espionnage” (13 Floréal 11 [3 May 1803]), 135AP/3, AN.

[72] Villaret-Joyeuse to Bonaparte (30 Floréal 10 [20 May 1802]), AF/IV/1325, AN, Leclerc to Bonaparte (17 February 1802), B7/2, SHD-DAT.

[73] Latouche-Tréville was a veteran of the American Revolution, who had the rare honor of defeating Nelson during an attack on Boulogne in August 1801. Humbert and Ponsonnet, Napoléon et la mer, 81, Rodger, The Command of the Ocean, 471.

[74] Leclerc to Decrès (4 Vendémiaire 11 [26 September 1802]), Box 12/1094a, RP-UF, Leclerc to Bonaparte (4 Vendémiaire 11 [26 September 1802]), Box 12/1095 , RP-UF.

[75] Villaret-Joyeuse to Decrès (17 Frimaire 10 [8 December 1801]), BB4 161, SHD-DM. See also Quérangal to Latouche-Tréville (3 Germinal 11 [24 March 1803]), BN08269 / lot 103, RP-UF.

[76] Fréminville, Mémoires, 30-35, Norvins, Souvenirs d’un historien, 335-337, Villaret-Joyeuse to Decrès (15 Vendémiaire 10 [7 October 1801]), BB4 161, SHD-DM.

[77] Norvins, Souvenirs d’un historien, 342.

[78] Leclerc to Decrès (19 Germinal 10 [9 April 1802]), CC9B/19, AN, Latouche Tréville to Decrès (25 Messidor 10 [14 July 1802]), BB4 161, SHD-DM, Nugent to John Sullivan (12 August 1802), CO 137/108, BNA.

[79] For lists of French units, see Decrès to Gen. Bouvet (28 Ventôse 10 [19 March 1802]), CC9/B24, AN, Latouche Tréville to Rear Adm. John Thomas Duckworth (29 Germinal 10 [19 April 1802]), ADM 1/252, BNA. For British visitors, see Capt. R. Mends to Duckworth (1 April 1802), ADM 1/252, BNA.

[80] For the refusal to help the French, see Nugent to Leclerc (17 October 1802), CO 137/109, BNA, Nugent to Lord John Sullivan (5 March 1802), CO 137/107, BNA, Nugent to Hobart (29 March 1802), CO 137/108, BNA. For negative assessments of French ships, see Mends to Duckworth (1 April 1802), ADM 1/252, BNA, Capt. McNamara to Duckworth (26 April 1802), ADM 1/252, BNA.

[81] Gazette Officielle de Saint-Domingue no. 1 (7 Messidor 10 [26 June 1802]), CC9A/30, AN, Grand Judge Ludot to Decrès (22 Pluviôse 11 [11 February 1803]), CC9/B21, AN.

[82] Leclerc, “Service militaire de la marine” (26 Floréal 10 [16 May 1802]), CC9/B22, AN. A later decree posited that the colonial prefect would have financial authority over the navy, but this was probably designed to let civilian authorities foot the bill for the navy. Gazette Officielle de Saint-Domingue no. 111 (11 Messidor 10 [30 June 1802]), BB4 161, SHD-DM.

[83] Nugent to Sullivan (12 November 1802), CO 137/109, BNA.

[84] Monaque, “Les aspects maritimes,” 5-13, Capt. Henri Barré to Decrès (19 Floréal 12 [9 May 1804]), CC9/B20, AN.

[85] Boyé to Latouche-Tréville (3 Frimaire 11 [24 November 1802]), no. 744, CC9B/11, AN. See also Chief of Staff of Clauzel division to Latouche-Tréville (19 Prairial 10 [8 June 1802]), CC9B/10, AN.

[86] Latouche Tréville to Decrès (23 Fructidor 10 [10 September 1802]), BB4 161, SHD-DM, Latouche Tréville to Decrès (23 Fructidor 10 [10 September 1802]), BB4 161, SHD-DM.

[87] Quoted in Monaque, “Les aspects maritimes,” 10.

[88] Latouche Tréville to Decrès (16 Vendémiaire 11 [8 October 1802]), BB4 161, SHD-DM.

[89] Hector Daure, “Compte-rendu de l’administration générale de Saint-Domingue” (late 1803), CC9B/13, CC9B/27, AN, Rochambeau to Gen. [Louis de Noailles] (22 Ventôse 11 [13 March 1803]), B7/9, SHD-DAT, Norvins, Souvenirs d’un historien, 2, 23, 24, 32, 35, 387, Madiou, Histoire d’Haïti vol. 2, 206.

[90] Latouche-Tréville to Decrès (18 Brumaire 11 [9 November 1802]), CC9/B20, AN.

[91] Jean Vermonnet to Decrès (20 Thermidor 11 [8 August 1803]), CC9/B22, AN, Daure to Decrès (19 Frimaire 11 [10 December 1802]), CC9A/33, AN, Daure, “Instructions pour le Gén. Boyer” (c. May 1803), CC9/B20, AN.

[92] Nugent to Sullivan (12 August 1802), CO 137/108, BNA, Dubois, A Colony of Citizens, 321, 403, 407.

[93] Latouche Tréville to Decrès (25 Messidor 10 [14 July 1802]), BB4 161, SHD-DM.

[94] Nugent to Sullivan (28 July 1802), CO 137/108, BNA, [Naval engineer] Notaire Grandville, “Rapport sur les changements demandés pour la frégate La Poursuivante” (16 Fructidor 10 [3 September 1802]), BB4 161, SHD-DM, Willaumez to Decrès (25 Fructidor 10 [12 September 1802]), BB4 164, SHD-DM.

[95] Div. Chief Zacharie Allemand to Decrès (18 August 1802), BB4 163, SHD-DM.

[96] Krohm to Decrès (6 Messidor 10 [25 June 1802]), BB4 164, SHD-DM.

[97] “Etat nominatif des officiers, sous-officiers et soldats morts au dit hôpital [la Providence ] pendant le mois de Vendémiaire an XI [September-October 1802]” (c. October 1802), HOP/72, CAOM.

[98] Leclerc, “Arrêté” (9 Floréal 10 [29 April 1802]), CC9/B22, CC9A/30, AN, Leclerc, “Ordre du jour” (11 Floréal 10 [1 May 1802]), CC9A 31, AN, Leclerc, “Ordre du jour” (26 Messidor 10 [15 July 1802]), CC9/B22, AN, Willaumez to Prefect of the department of the West Jauvin (24 Vendémiaire 11 [16 October 1802]), BB4 163, SHD-DM.

[99] Colonial Health Council to Leclerc (23 Prairial 10 [12 June 1802]), BN08270 / lot 141, RP-UF, Dr. Gilbert, “Rapport du conseil de santé colonial au général en chef” (11 Prairial [10] [31 May 1802]), BN08270 / lot 141, RP-UF.

[100] For the link between latitude and disease, see Capt. of Vaisseau Malin to Decrès (4 Fructidor 10 [22 August 1802]), BB4 163, SHD-DM, Allemand to Decrès (18 August 1802), BB4 163, SHD-DM. For Decrès’ orders, see Decrès to Leclerc (27 Prairial 10 [16 June 1802]), CC9/B24, AN. For Latouche’s demands, see Latouche Tréville to Decrès (11 Messidor 10 [30 June 1802]), BB4 161, SHD-DM, Latouche Tréville to Decrès (16 Vendémiaire 11 [8 October 1802]), BB4 161, SHD-DM.

[101] “Répartition faite par le général en chef Leclerc des différents bâtiments composant la station de Saint-Domingue” (28 Floréal 10 [18 May 1802]), BB4 161, SHD-DM, Latouche Tréville to Decrès (22 Messidor 10 [11 July 1802]), BB4 161, SHD-DM.

[102] Leclerc to Duckworth (28 Messidor 10 [17 July 1802]), ADM 1/252, BNA.

[103] Latouche Tréville to Decrès (14 Vendémiaire 11 [6 October 1802]), BB4 161, SHD-DM. See also “Station de Saint-Domingue – etat de situation des batiments…” (1 Nivôse 11 [22 December 1802]), BB4 181, SHD-DM.

[104] Latouche Tréville to Decrès (30 Fructidor 10 [17 September 1802]), BB4 161, SHD-DM, Latouche Tréville to Decrès (16 Vendémiaire 11 [8 October 1802]), BB4 161, SHD-DM.

[105] F. Teissedre, ed., Souvenirs de marins du Premier Empire (Paris: Teissedre, 1998), 101.

[106] Leclerc to Decrès (3 Thermidor 10 [22 July 1802]), CC9B/19, AN, Capt. of Vaisseau Garreau to Decrès (23 August 1802), BB4 164, SHD-DM.

[107] Lt. Vaisseau Bellenger to Adj. Gen. Pierre Thouvenot (11 Brumaire 11 [2 November 1802]), B7/8, SHD-DAT.

[108] Capt. of Frigate Greban to Willaumez (29 Germinal 11 [19 April 1803]), BB4 183, SHD-DM.

[109] Lt. of Vaisseau Gurin to Willaumez (26 Vendémiaire 11 [18 October 1802]), BB4 163, SHD-DM.

[110] On Bonaparte’s orders, see Bonaparte, “Notes pour servir aux instructions à donner au Capitaine Général Leclerc” (31 October 1801), reproduced in Roloff, Die Kolonialpolitik, 245, Auguste and Auguste, Les déportés de Saint-Domingue, 32. On deportations, see Auguste and Auguste, Les déportés de Saint-Domingue, 36-55, 104, Auguste and Auguste, L’expédition Leclerc, 170-181, Madiou, Histoire d’Haïti vol. 2, 240, Norvins, Souvenirs d’un historien vol. 2, 403, Nemours, Histoire militaire, 301-343, Pluchon, Toussaint Louverture, 493, Marcus Rainsford, An Historical Account of the Black Empire of Hayti (London: Albion Press, 1805), 305. On Louverture, see Decrès to Leclerc (9 Thermidor 10 [28 July 1802]), CC9/B24, CC9/B22, AN.

[111] Auguste and Auguste, L’expédition Leclerc, 57, 181.

[112] Nugent to Sullivan (12 November 1802), CO 137/109, BNA.

[113] Willaumez to Dugua (3 Complémentaire 10 [20 September 1802]), BB4 163, SHD-DM, Gen. Juste Chanlatte jeune, “Adresse à mes concitoyens” (24 Floréal 12 [14 May 1804]), CC9/B21, AN.

[114] Leclerc to Bonaparte (7 October 1802), reproduced in Henry Adams, History of the United States of America During the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson (NY: Library of America, 1986), 280. See also Rochambeau to Decrès (16 Frimaire 11 [7 December 1802]), CC9B/19, AN, Bureau des Colonies (Ministry of Navy), ‘Extrait de différentes lettres écrites…’ (3 Floréal 11 [23 April 1803]), CC9A/34, Rochambeau to Decrès (25 Nivôse 11 [15 January 1803]), CC9B/19, Rochambeau to Decrès (2 Ventôse 11 [21 February 1803]), CC9B/19, Rochambeau to Decrès (8 Floréal 11 [28 April 1803]), CC9A/34, AN

[115] Brapatel to Gen. [unspecified] (20 Brumaire 11 [11 November 1802]), B7/8, SHD-DAT, [French planter in Saint-Domingue], “Submission and afterward revolt of the blacks in Saint-Domingue’ (28 January 1803), CO 137/110, BNA

[116] Brig. Gen. François-Marie Kerversau to Lacroix (25 Brumaire 11 [16 November 1802]), B7/8, SHD-DAT.

[117] Decrès to Rochambeau (21 Ventôse 11 [12 March 1803]), CC9/B22, AN.

[118] Willaumez to Latouche Tréville (14 Vendémiaire 11 [6 October 1802]), BB4 163, SHD-DM.

[119] Latouche Tréville to Willaumez (24 Vendémiaire 11 [16 October 1802]), BB4 163, SHD-DM. The French often spoke of atrocities indirectly or metaphorically. “Hanging” was referred to as “going up in the ranks,” “shooting” as “washing one’s face with lead,” and “mass drowning” as “catching a lot of fish.” Louis Boisrond-Tonnerre, “Mémoire pour servir à l’histoire d’Hayti” (22 June 1804), CC9B/27, AN.

[120] Willaumez to Rochambeau (15 Brumaire 11 [6 November 1802]), BN08269 / lot 103, RP-UF.

[121] A. J. B. Bouvet de Cressé, ed., Histoire de la catastrophe de Saint-Domingue (Paris: Peytieux, 1824), 87-8, Madiou, Histoire d’Haïti vol. 2, 353.

[122] Latouche-Tréville to Decrès (5 Ventôse 11 [24 February 1803]), CC9/B20, AN, Auguste and Auguste, L’expédition Leclerc, 270-272, Laujon, Précis historique, 142.

[123] On Port-de-Paix, see Quérangal to Latouche Tréville (17 Nivôse 11 [7 January 1803]), BB4 182, SHD-DM, Quérangal to Latouche Tréville (19 Nivôse 11 [9 January 1803]), BB4 182, SHD-DM, Rochambeau to Decrès (25 Nivôse 11 [15 January 1803]), CC9B/19, AN, Quérangal to Decrès (4 Pluviôse 11 [24 January 1803]), BB4 182, SHD-DM. On Léogane, see Willaumez to Latouche-Tréville (3 Germinal 11 [24 March 1803]), BN08269 / lot 103, RP-UF.

[124] Rochambeau to Decrès (11 Ventôse 11 [2 March 1803]), CC9A/34, CC9B/19, AN, Latouche Tréville to Decrès (6 Germinal 11 [27 March 1803]), BB4 181, SHD-DM, Rochambeau to Decrès (9 Germinal 11 [30 March 1803]), CC9B/19, CC9A/34, A.N, Latouche-Tréville to Decrès (30 Floréal 11 [20 May 1803]), CC9/B20, AN, Laujon, Précis historique, 192.

[125] Rochambeau to Decrès (10 Germinal 11 [31 March 1803]), BB4 181, SHD-DM, CC9A/34, AN, Daure to Decrès] (10 Germinal 11 [31 March 1803]) CC9/B20, AN. The gun batteries of the vaisseau Duguay Trouin and the frigate Franchise were so overwhelmed with casualties after the attack on Petit Goave that the captain could not even give an account of his losses. Capt. Lhermitte to Rochambeau (8 Germinal 11 [29 March 1803]), BN08269 / lot 103, RP-UF. On the 1803 epidemic, see Quérangal to Decrès (27 Germinal 11 [17 April 1803]), BB4 182, SHD-DM.

[126] On Rochambeau’s favorable promises, see Rochambeau to Decrès (8 Germinal 11 [29 March 1803]), CC9A/33, AN, Daure to Decrès (8 Germinal 11 [29 March 1803]), CC9A/36, AN. On his continued use of black prisoners, see Rochambeau to Contre-amiral Emeriau (30 Pluviôse 11 [19 February 1803]), BB4 181, SHD-DM, Boyé to Rochambeau (14 Thermidor 11 [2 August 1803]), CC9B/11, AN. On continued drownings, see Boyé to Latouche-Tréville (21 Frimaire 11 [12 December 1802]), no. 961, CC9B/11, AN, Boyé to Latouche-Tréville (26 Frimaire 11 [17 December 1802]), no. 1032, CC9B/11, AN, Boyé to Latouche-Tréville (3 Germinal 11 [24 March 1803]), no. 2195, CC9B/11, AN, Div. Gen. Jean-Jacques Dessalines, “Aux hommes de couleurs habitant la partie ci-devant espagnole” (6 Nivôse 11 [27 December 1802]), CC9A/32, AN, Adj. Cdt. Pascal Sabès to Rochambeau (3 Ventôse 11 [22 February 1803]), 135AP/3, AN.

[127] Decrès to Rochambeau (21 Ventôse 11 [12 March 1803]), CC9/B22, AN. The governor and admiral of Jamaica were notified by their own government around the same time. Duckworth to First Secretary to the Admiralty Evan Nepean (27 April 1803), ADM 1/253, BNA, Nugent to Hobart (30 April 1803), CO 137/110, BNA, Duckworth to Nepean (17 May 1803), ADM 1/253, BNA.

[128] Latouche Tréville to Decrès (25 Floréal 11 [15 May 1803]), BB4 181, SHD-DM, Rochambeau to Decrès (25 Floréal 11 [15 May 1803]), CC9B/19, AN, Rochambeau to Decrès (30 Floréal 11 [20 May 1803]), CC9B/19, AN.

[129] [Latouche Tréville], “Etat des bâtiments de la station de Saint-Domingue (1 Floréal 11 [21 April 1803]), BB4 181, SHD-DM, Latouche-Tréville to Nugent (2 May 1803), CO 137/110, ADM 1/253, BNA. A British captain sent to spy on the French mentioned 14 vaisseaux, but much of the report was inaccurate. Capt. Henry William Bayntun to Duckworth (15 May 1803), ADM 1/253, BNA.

[130] Rochambeau to Decrès (21 Floréal 11 [11 May 1803]), CC9A/34, CC9B/19, AN.

[131] Daure to Decrès (10 Prairial 11 [30 May 1803]), CC9/B20, AN, W. L. Whitfield to Nugent (10 June 1803), CO 137/110, BNA.

[132] Boyé to Div. Gen. Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte (23 Prairial 11 [12 June 1803]), no. 2840, CC9B/11, AN, Capt. Morel-Beaulieu to Decrès (9 Messidor 11 [28 June 1803]), CC9/B20, AN.

[133] Capt. of Vaisseau Henri Barré to Decrès (21 Messidor 11 [10 July 1803]), BB4 182, SHD-DM, Laujon, Précis historique, 200, 208-209.

[134] Rochambeau, “Arrêté” (17 Messidor 11 [6 July 1803]), CC9A/30, CC9A/37, CC9/B22, AN, Rochambeau to Decrès (20 Messidor 11 [9 July 1803]), CC9B/19, AN, Ministry of Navy (Bureau of Political Economics and Legal Affairs), “Rapport” (1 June 1810), CC9/B22, AN.

[135] Capt. John Loring to [Rochambeau] (23 July 1803), Box 19/2004 , RP-UF, Loring to Rochambeau (24 July 1803), Box 19/2005 , RP-UF.

[136] On Latouche, see Willaumez to Capt. of Frigate Gémon (5 Messidor 11 [24 June 1803]), BB4 183, SHD-DM, Latouche Tréville to Denis Decrès (10 Messidor 11 [29 June 1803]), BB4 181, SHD-DM, Latouche Tréville to Decrès (8 Thermidor 11 [27 July 1803]), BB4 181, SHD-DM, Latouche Tréville to Duckworth (22 July 1803), ADM 1/253, BNA, Duckworth to Latouche Tréville (10 August 1803), ADM 1/253, BNA, Latouche Tréville to Decrès (20 Vendémiaire 12 [13 October 1803]), BB4 181, SHD-DM, Rochambeau, “Aperçu général sur les troubles des colonies françaises de l’Amérique, suivi d’un précis de la guerre dans cette partie du monde” (c. 1805), 102, 1M593, SHD-DAT. On Barré, see Barré to Decrès (24 Thermidor 11 [12 August 1803]), CC9/B20, AN.

[137] Duckworth to Nepean (3 July 1803), ADM 1/253, BNA.

[138] Capt. Austin Bissell to Duckworth (16 July 1803), ADM 1/253, BNA, Latouche Tréville to Decrès (8 Thermidor 11 [27 July 1803]), BB4 181, SHD-DM, Capt. of Frigate Le Bastard to Decrès (23 October 1803), BB4 182, SHD-DM, Monaque, “Les aspects maritimes,” 5-13.

[139] Capt. of Vaisseau Fradin to Decrès (28 May 1803), BB4 182, SHD-DM.

[140] “A list of vessels captured by his majesty’s ships and vessels employed at Jamaica , under the command of Sir. J. T. Duckworth” (July 1803), ADM 1/253, BNA.

[141] Duckworth to Nepean (14 July 1803), ADM 1/253, BNA.

[142] Barré to Decrès (19 Floréal 12 [9 May 1804]), CC9/B20, AN.

[143] Bureau of Military Officers, Ministry of Navy, “Rapport” (19 Ventôse 12 [10 March 1804]), BB4 208, SHD-DM. Dubuisson was court-martialed at the army’s insistence but eventually cleared of wrongdoing. Enseigne Dubuisson to Decrès (26 May 1804), BB4 208, SHD-DM, Bureau of Military Officers, Ministry of Navy (15 Prairial 12 [4 June 1804]), BB4 208, SHD-DM.

[144] Quérangal to Decrès (7 August 1804), BB4 182, SHD-DM.

[145] Quérangal to Decrès (7 August 1804), BB4 182, SHD-DM, [Officers of the Duquesne], Untitled [Account of naval fight on board the Duquesne] (Thermidor 11 [July – August 1803]), BB4 182, SHD-DM, Duckworth to Nepean (13 August 1803), ADM 1/253, BNA, Capt. of Vaisseau L’Hermite to Decrès (16 Fructidor 11 [3 September 1803]), BB4 182, SHD-DM.

[146] “ Jamaica —French prisoners between 25 June and 30 September 1803” (November 1803), ADM 103/193, BNA.

[147] Capt. of Frigate Taupier to Decrès (1 Complémentaire 11 [18 September 1803]), Capt. of Frigate Jean-Louis Bargeau and officers of the corvette Mignonne, “A bord de la corvette la Mignonne…” (9 Messidor 11 [28 June 1803]), Lt. Elie Barjeau and other officers of the frigate Franchise, [Account of the loss of the frigate] (c. 30 August 1803), Capt. of Vaisseau Jurien to Decrès (12 Fructidor 11 [30 August 1803]), BB4 182, Capt. of Vaisseau Garreau, “Rapport fait à son excellence le Ministre de la Marine…” (c. March 1806), BB4 251, SHD-DM.

[148] Div. Gen. Jean Boudet to Willaumez (23 Pluviôse 10 [12 February 1802]), BB4 163, SHD-DM.

[149] Willaumez to Decrès (25 Fructidor 10 [12 September 1802]), BB4 164, SHD-DM, Willaumez to [Latouche Tréville] (17 Floréal 11 [7 May 1803]), BB4 183, SHD-DM.

[150] Willaumez to Capt. of Frigate Gémon (5 Messidor 11 [24 June 1803]), BB4 183, SHD-DM.

[151] Capt. Henry William Bayntun to Duckworth (28 June 1803), ADM 1/253, BNA, Capt. of Frigate Jean-Louis Bargeau and officers of the corvette Mignonne, “A bord de la corvette la Mignonne…” (9 Messidor 11 [28 June 1803]), BB4 182, SHD-DM, Div. Gen. Lapoype to Rochambeau (14 Messidor 11 [3 July 1803]), Box 19/1969 , RP-UF, Latouche Tréville to Decrès (8 Thermidor 11 [27 July 1803]), BB4 181, SHD-DM.

[152] Willaumez to Latouche Tréville (10 Messidor 11 [29 June 1803]), BB4 183, SHD-DM.

[153] Humbert and Ponsonnet, Napoléon et la mer, 11.

[154] Willaumez to Gov. of Santiago de Cuba (9 Thermidor 11 [28 July 1803]), BB4 183, SHD-DM.

[155] Willaumez to [Frigate officer Clément] (26 Thermidor 11 [14 August 1803]), BB4 183, SHD-DM, Willaumez to French Consul in Charleston (30 Thermidor 11 [18 August 1803]), BB4 183, SHD-DM.

[156] Willaumez to French Consul in Charleston (1 Fructidor 11 [19 August 1803]), BB4 183, SHD-DM, Willaumez to French Consul in Georgetown (21 Fructidor 11 [8 September 1803]), BB4 183, SHD-DM.

[157] Willaumez to Decrès (19 Brumaire 12 [11 November 1803]), BB4 183, SHD-DM, Willaumez to French Consul in Norfolk (Ventôse 12 [February – March 1804]), BB4 183, SHD-DM, Willaumez to Decrès (27 Germinal 12 [17 April 1804]), BB4 183, SHD-DM, Willaumez to Cdt. of station of Verdon (27 Germinal 12 [17 April 1804]), BB4 183, SHD-DM.

[158] Willaumez to Decrès (2 Prairial 12 [22 May 1804]), BB4 183, SHD-DM.

[159] Nugent to [former] British Home Secretary William Cavendish Duke of Portland (17 August 1801), CO 137/106, BNA.

[160] Nugent to Hobart (3 January 1802), CO 137/106, BNA, Duckworth to Nepean (19 February 1802), ADM 1/252, BNA, Duckworth to Nepean (13 February 1802), ADM 1/252, BNA.

[161] “Angleterre, Parlement Impérial,” Moniteur Universel no. 128 (8 Pluviôse 10 [28 January 1802]), 1-2, Richard Dacres and others to Rear Adm. George Campbell (14 January 1802), ADM 1/252, BNA, Nugent to Sullivan (19 February 1802), CO 137/106, BNA, “British naval force employed at Jamaica under the orders of Sir John Thomas Duckworth” (c. May 1802), BB4 161, SHD-DM.

[162] Duckworth to Nepean (12 August 1802), ADM 1/252, BNA, Nugent to Sullivan (12 August 1802), CO 137/108, BNA.

[163] Latouche-Tréville to Decrès (18 Brumaire 11 [10 October 1802]), CC9/B20, AN, Duckworth to Nepean (16 November 1802), ADM 1/252, BNA.

[164] Rochambeau to Decrès (25 Floréal 11 [15 May 1803]), CC9B/19, AN. See also “Information given by Evan Boulanger owner and supercargo of the schooner Poisson Volant, taken by HMS Elephant” (6 July 1803), CO 137/110, BNA, Daure, “Compte-rendu de l’administration générale de Saint-Domingue” (late 1803), III, 113-117, CC9B/13, CC9B/27, AN.

[165] L. Pellissier to Rochambeau (15 May 1803), Box 18/1869 , RP-UF.

[166] Nugent to Hobart (8 October 1803), CO 137/110, BNA.

[167] Nugent to Hobart (19 November 1803), CO 137/110, BNA.

[168] Nugent to Hobart (9 August 1803), CO 137/110, BNA, Duckworth, “An account of vessels captured, detained, and destroyed by his majesty’s ships…” (August 1803), ADM 1/253, BNA, Barré to Decrès (7 Vendémiaire 12 [30 September 1803]), CC9/B20, AN.

[169] Dessalines to Duckworth (13 August 1803), ADM 1/253, BNA, Laujon, Précis historique, 202, 207, 213.

[170] Barré to Bonaparte (7 Vendémiaire 12 [30 September 1803]), AF/IV/1325, AN, Barré to Decrès (7 Vendémiaire 12 [30 September 1803]), CC9/B20, AN, Barré to Decrès (9 Brumaire 12 [1 November 1803]), BB4 182, SHD-DM, CC9/B20, AN, Barré to Rochambeau (24 Fructidor 11 [11 September 1803]), BN08269 / lot 103, RP-UF, “Journal de la flotille partie du Cap le 10 Vendémiaire an 12…” (c. 20 Brumaire 12 [12 November 1803]), BN08269 / lot 103, RP-UF.

[171] Lt. Vaisseau Sabron, “Précis des opérations maritimes du mois de Brumaire, affaire du 26 [18 November 1803], évacuation du Cap, notes sur la position et les forces actuelles de Saint Domingue et de la Jamaïque” (Frimaire 12 [c. December 1803]), CC9A/36, CC9/B20, AN.

[172] For general comments on POWs, see Léon Vallée, ed., Memoirs of the Empress Joséphine vol. 1 (New York: Merrill and Baker, 1903), 241, Rodger, The Command of the Ocean, 501, Gunther E. Rosenberg, The Art of Warfare in the Age of Napoléon (Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 1978), 89-90, Humbert and Ponsonnet, Napoléon et la mer, 162-164. For conditions in Jamaica proper, see Nugent to Hobart (19 December 1803), CO 137/110, BNA, Lemonnier-Delafosse, Seconde campagne de Saint-Domingue, 96-101. Officers were paroled on shore or shipped to Europe . Rochambeau, “Aperçu général sur les troubles des colonies françaises de l’Amérique, suivi d’un précis de la guerre dans cette partie du monde” (c. 1805), 1M593, SHD-DAT, Duckworth to Nepean (15 December 1803), ADM 1/253, BNA. Regular troops were evacuated much more slowly due to a lack of ships and crew. As of March 1804, there were still 5,500 French prisoners in Jamaica . “An account of French Prisoners of War on Parole, at Kingston and Spanishtown, between the 29th February and the 6th March 1804” (c. 6 March 1804), CO 137/111, BNA, Duckworth to Nepean (9 March 1804), ADM 1/254, BNA. The numbers were down to 1,300 by July. “General entry book of French parole prisoners of war at Jamaica ” (c. July 1804), ADM 103/575, BNA. All were gone by November. Nugent to Earl Camden (16 November 1804), CO 137/112, BNA.

[173] J. R. Fitzgerald to Cathcart (23 February 1804), CO 137/111, BNA, Rainsford, An Historical Account, 344, Brown, History and Present Condition of St. Domingo vol. 2, 139, Laujon, Précis historique, 228-230.

[174] Duckworth to Nepean (12 June 1803), ADM 1/253, BNA, Gov. of Cuba Someruelos to Gov. of Santiago Sebastián Kindelán (30 July 1803), Someruelos to [Kindelán?] (22 September 1803), in José Luciano Franco, ed., Documentos para la historia de Haití en el Archivo Nacional (Havana, Cuba: Publicaciones des Archivo Nacional de Cuba, 1954), 150-151, 154-155, Duckworth to Someruelos (4 September 1803), ADM 1/253, BNA, Duckworth to Nepean (2 October 1803), ADM 1/253, BNA, Duckworth to Nepean (19 November 1803), ADM 1/253, BNA, Duckworth to Nepean (21 December 1803), ADM 1/253, BNA, Capt. Caesar Lawson to Duckworth (17 January 1803 [probably 1804]), ADM 1/254, BNA, Corbet to Nugent (25 January 1804), CO 137/111, BNA, Brig. Gen. Jean-Louis Ferrand to Agent of Saint-Domingue in Cuba Lanchamp (18 Pluviôse 12 [8 February 1804]), CC9/B22, AN, Dessalines to Duckworth (12 February 1804), ADM 1/254, BNA, Capt. Henry Whitby to Duckworth (21 February 1804), ADM 1/254, BNA, Corbet to Nugent (29 February 1804), CO 137/111, BNA.

[175] Lt. of Vaisseau Guillaume Martin Lefée to Decrès (20 Messidor 12 [9 July 1804]), BB4 208, SHD-DM.

[176] Duckworth, “A Journal of the proceedings…” (29 November 1805-18 March 1806), ADM 50/41, BNA, “Combat de l’Amiral Leisseigues” (7 February 1806), BB4 251, SHD-DM, Capt. Henry and other officers of vaisseau Diomède, “Rapport sur le combat, mise à la côte et reddition du vaisseau de sa majesté Diomède…” (19 February 1806), BB4 251, SHD-DM, Chief Surgeon of vaisseau Alexandre [name illegible], “Rapport médical” (1 March 1806), BB4 251, SHD-DM, Capt. of Vaisseau Garreau, “Rapport fait à son excellence le Ministre de la Marine…” (c. March 1806), BB4 251, SHD-DM, Contre-amiral Corentin de Leisseigues to Decrès (8 April 1806), BB4 251, SHD-DM, Rodger, The Command of the Ocean, 546.

[177] On the hospital records, see “Répertoire des personnnes mortes aux colonies (A à K)” (no date), HOP82, CAOM, “Troupes des colonies, répertoire des actes de décès (L à Z)” (no date), HOP 83, CAOM. On the total death toll, see Lacroix, La révolution de Haïti, 431, 434, H. Castonnet des Fosses, La perte d’une colonie: la révolution de Saint-Domingue (Paris: Faivre, 1893), 348, Lemonnier-Delafosse, Seconde campagne de Saint-Domingue, 95, Pluchon, Toussaint Louverture, 514.

[178] Monaque, “Les aspects maritimes,” 13. The British Navy lost 19,000 to 24,000 sailors in the Caribbean during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, though it had a larger pool of trained sailors and could more easily endure such losses. Rodger, The Command of the Ocean, 436

[179] Humbert and Ponsonnet, Napoléon et la mer, 93, Arthur Herman, To Rule the Waves: How the British navy Shaped the Modern World ( New York : Harper, 2004), 393.

[180] Bureau of Ports of Min. of Navy, “Rapport au Premier Consul” (6 Ventôse 11 [25 February 1803]), BB4 181, SHD-DM.

Posted in Article | Leave a comment

We have finally returned from the Digital Dark-Side!

We would like to apologize to our readers and contributors for the delay in new issues of the journal during 2010. We experienced what every web-based journal fears: a crash of our primary server. However, the recovery of all of our data, including nine years-worth of articles and book reviews demonstrates that our precautions against such possibilities helped us survive the episode. However, this process took some time, provided an education in data retrieval techniques, and taught us to deal with a great deal of frustration.

My greatest praise goes to the IJNH team for their assistance and to our current contributors for their amazing patience. We hope this new issue meets your expectations and serves your needs.

All best,
Dr. Gary E. Weir
Editor, IJNH.

Posted in Editorial | 2 Comments