THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF TRINIDAD
Publication No. 437.
A Report of the Attack on Tobago in March 1677.
by Monsieur de Patou!el.
Source:-Paris. Archives of the Ministry
of the Colonies. B.O. 1906. No 544.
Published by the courtesy of the Minister
of the Colonies. Paris.
Translated from the French.
27th March 1677.
The Squadron under Monsieur the Vice Admiral
D'Estrees consisted of the Glorieux, Precieux, Intrep-
ide, Gallaud, Fendant, Laurier, Emerillon, Solcit d'
Afrique, Jeux and the Marquis.
The troops were made up as follows; seven com-
panies of Infantry of Marines (260 soldiers); -;50 Mil-
itia from the Colonies of Guadeloupe, St Kitts and
The Fleet with the troops on board, arrived off
the Island of Tobago on February 19th and anchored.
They sent ashore some men who captured a negro. He
stated that on the 18th the vessel Erasmus had arriv-
ed and warned the Dutch that the French were coming
and to be prepared to meet them. He also informed the
French that recently four ships had arrived at Tobago.
Two of these had been large warships which had come
to replace some lost and they had brought supplies of
ammunition and of food. He reported that there were
eleven ships in the port of which eight were large
warships and that the Fort was not really finished.
On the 21st, it was decided to send a party to
make soundings off the port in order to find the chan-
nel along which the ships could pass. On this duty were
detailed the Comte de Blenac and Messieurs de Gabaret,
de Montortre and de Mericourt. While engaged on this
duty, the enemy fired several cannon shot at them but
On this same day the Chevalier de Grandefontaine
landed the seven companies of Marines and also the
Militia. They then cut a way through the woods and
came out over a hill from which they had a good view
of the Fort.
On the 22nd the Squadron had to stand off the land.
It was seen that the Fort was actually completed
in all its parts. It was in the shape of a star with a
well constructed parapet, palisades and well placed
guns commanding every side. It was clear that many
more troops were required especially to make a diver-
sion for the main attack to succeed.
The Comte D'Estrees then landed 250 sailors from
the Fleet under the command of Monsieur de la Piogerie
and directed them to entrench themselves and work up
to within a hundred paces of the Fort.This Officer re-
ported that this operation would require at least eight
days to complete.
The Comte D'Estrees was not prepared to remain
for a long siege but required a swift decision. He the-
refore, decided to force the issue and enter the port
with his fleet.However before taking this course which
was against the advice of almost all his officers, he
agreed to make a direct land attack on the Fort while
a feint was made at sea.
On the 22nd therefore at nine in the evening, Mon-
sieur de Gabaret made an attack on the ship Erasmus
which was stationed at the entrance of the port as a
guard ship. Simultaneously the Chevalier de Grande-
fontaine moved his troops on land up towards the Fort
but failed to reach his objective as in the dense dark-
ness he entirely lost his way and never reached the
Fort. Similarly at sea, the ship Erasmus merely retir-
ed within the Bay and Monsieur de Gabaret was not
prepared to enter in face of the whole Dutch Fleet.
On the 23rd, the Comte D'Estrees again consulted
his officers and gained much greater support for his
proposal to force a way into the port. Meanwhile two
8 pounders and a mortar were landed and during the
24th and 25th they were dragged up to a suitable place
by Monsieur de la Borde and trained upon the Fort. By
this time Monsieur de la Piogerie had managed to trench
up to within 300 paces of the Fort with 50 men.
On March 1st, the French captured a barque and on
board found a pilot who declared that the entry to the
port was not a dangerous one. This induced most of the
officers who had considered it a great danger and risk
to take the Fleet into an unknown bay where the enemy
was so strongly posted, to modify their objections and
it was finally decided to take the Fleet in and each
French ship was to engage a Dutch one. The Dutch had
ten ships and also a number of cannon, 24 and 18 poun-
ders, mounted in batteries on shore.
On entering, Gabaret led the van, then Montortre
then the Comte de Blenac, then de Lezine and then the
Comte D'Estrees. This naval battle lasted for 8 hours
and ended at five p.m.
Twenty two officers were killed and as many were
wounded. Among those dead were de Gabaret, of a can-
non shot, de Lezine, de la Borde, of a cannon shot in
the stomach, and de la Piogerie, (showing more brav-
ery than prudence) by a cannon shot.
Among those wounded were Monsieur de Villars d'O
who lost an arm by cannon shot, the Chevalier de Gra-
ndefontaine, a musket wound, de Mericourt and the
Comte de Blenac slightly.