The Repeated Defeats of Comte d'Estaing
Charles Henri Hector d’Estaing was one of France’s most accomplished military and navy commanders well before the outbreak of the American Revolution.
After the French joined the Patriots in a war against Great Britain, they sent d’Estaing to provide the Continentals the Naval support they so desperately needed.
Although d’Estaing met with middling success during his time in the Revolutionary War, he certainly did not deserve the very tragic end his life would meet.
Charles Henri Hector d’Estaing
By the time the French joined the Americans in the Revolutionary War, Charles Henri Hector d’Estaing was already one of that nation’s most successful military men.
Commonly known as the Comte d’Estaing, Charles had traveled the world, fighting in India and Africa.
The Comte d’Estaing had achieved the high ranks of Lieutenant General in the French Army and Admiral in the French Navy. Keep in mind, it was very rare for a person to receive appointment to EITHER of these offices, let alone BOTH.
Joining the Revolution
d'Estaing was the first Admiral sent to assist the Americans, leaving France with sixteen ships and over 4,000 men.
He first went to blockade the Delaware River, hoping to trap Britain’s Main Army in Philadelphia. However, having heard of his arrival (coupled with other issues) the Redcoats had already moved back toward New York.
d’Estaing the traveled to Rhode Island where his conflicts with Major General John Sullivan contributed to a losing effort at the Battle of Newport.
The American Revolution in the Caribbean
Charles decided to move his fleet to the Caribbean.
Here, he met with some success taking the British islands of St. Vincent and Grenada, but could not prevent the enemy from occupying St. Lucia.
The Admiral then responded to requests for assistance in the American South. Comte d’Estaing teamed up with Major General Benjamin Lincoln (who was in command of the Continental Army’s Southern Department) and began a siege of Savannah, GA.
The Siege of Savannah
When d’Estaing arrived in Georgia, he offered the British the chance to surrender.
During the 24 hours the Redcoats were given to make their decision, reinforcements arrived. d’Estaing expected Lincoln to have held these men off or he would most likely have attacked immediately.
Due to the arrival of these soldiers, a combined French and American force began the month long siege of Savannah.
With supplies running low and disease spreading through his ships, d’Estaing ordered an attack on the ground. Unfortunately, several poor choices on the field allowed the outnumbered British to repel the intruders.
The irony is that, in all likelihood, had d’Estaing been able to continue his siege, the Brits would have eventually had to surrender.
Before you get too mad at d’Estaing for his failures as an Admiral, bear in mind that he was severely wounded during the attack on Savannah.
He was recalled to France and still needed assistance walking upon his return.
Over the course of the next decade, d’Estaing (still a very important Frenchman politically) witnessed the birth of the French Revolution.
Although he had a great deal of sympathy for the rebels, Charles had always been close with French Royalty. He had actually grown up attending school with King Louis XVI’s father.
Due to his relationship with the King, d’Estaing followed the Royal Family to the guillotine.
Allegedly, just before his execution, d’Estaing quipped, “After my head falls off, send it to the British, they will pay a good deal for it.”
How about some more French Founders?
There are surprisingly few books about d’Estaing’s adventures in the Revolutionary War.
‘Storm Over Savannah’ is extremely rare but it it covers the Admiral’s part in this important victory for the British.
If you’d like a copy you can get one through the Amazon affiliate link below (you’ll support this site, but don’t worry, Amazon pays me while your price stays the same).