THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF TRINIDAD
Publication No. 441.
The Capture of the Island and Fort of Tobago
with the Vessels in the Port. December 1677.
Source:-A.Dessalles. Histoire Generale des Antilles.
1847. Vol II. p 6.
Translated from the French.
27th December 1677.
The Pavilion, with the vessels accompanying it
from Cape Verde, arrived in sight of Barbados on Nov-
ember 30th. The English stood to arms in every quar-
ter of the Island as they are accustomed to do when a
fleet of ships is seen.
For our part with the pretext of confirming to the
Governor that excellent relations continued between
His Majesty and the King of England, we sent Monsieur
de Chaboissiere and Monsieur de Matisse Huiliesme a-
shore to ascertain the position of the enemy at Tobago
and the defensive works which they might have made
since our last campaign.
They were well received and during the two days
they remained there, we were joined by the Bourbon,
Emerillon and the Mangue and we learnt from Monsieur
de Blenac,who was on the Bourbon,that the Belliqueux
and the Brilliant, would arrive a few days later with
600 soldiers and habitants.
It was decided to go, at once to Tobago and fore-
stall the news which the Dutch would receive from Bar-
bados, and hasten the attack before there was time to
This was one of the great difficulties which Mon-
sieur the Vice Admiral (the Comte D'Estrees) feared
in this enterprise believing that the enemy would pro-
bably have corrected the errors they made during the
With a view to deceiving the enemy as to the point
of landing, the ships were anchored on December 6th
some two leagues from the Fort.In the evening 550 men
were landed under the command of Monsieur de Blenac
who had under him Messieurs de Chaboissiere, de Blor
and de Brevedent with the necessary number of offic-
ers for control.
During the night or at dawn, they occupied a well
placed advanced post which would have taken the en-
emy in the rear, had they fortified a bay called Palm-
iste which is the best place for landing.
We learnt from prisoners that they had determined
to defend this Bay and at 7.0 that morning, they sent
out 200 men for this purpose;on seeing that our troops
had already occupied all the Bay, they promptly re-
turned to the Fort.
Monsieur le Marquis de Grancey, a senior general
officer, had asked for the command on land but it was
necessary so to order the ships at anchor in battle ar-
ray as to maintain an attack on the Fort and also to
repulse the Dutch ships,should they appear and attack
as reported, so he was not allowed to land that day.
On the 7th and 8th, the rest of the troops were
landed, (who altogether amounted to about 950 men
without officers) the ammunition, provisions, mortars,
bombs, cannon and equipment necessary for an attack.
This is almost an endless business when everything
has to be carried by hand or on the backs of men along
a path about one and a half leagues.
This path had to be made through woods by axe
and bill, through ravines and over steep hills as the
enemy had destroyed the road which we had made be-
fore and the rains had made everything into a bog.
These labours have been so great all the time,
from the disembarkation of the troops to the time of
re-embarkation, that it is difficult to give any ade-
quate description of these continuous travails; general
officers being as much involved as the humblest sol-
This difficult path had to be traversed at least
once or twice a day. Along it are four or five ravines
or river mouths which have to be waded through with
water to the waist.
On the 9th, the troops camped on a hill about 600
paces from the Fort. On this date also, Monsieur the
Vice Admiral sent Monsieur Gassaud to Admiral Binck-
es with a request that he should not force the French
people in the Island to join his troops and make them
fight against their own countrymen. The Vice Admiral
warned him that there were already 400 Dutch prison-
ers taken at Viapoque and at Cape Verde whom he would
deal with severely if Monsieur Binckes continued to
violate natural rights.
The Admiral replied, expressing great respect for
the French King, and added that the best evidence he
could supply that he offered no violence to the French
residents of the Island, was that they were walking a-
bout freely, without restraint, daily along the shore
within the Vice Admiral's view.
As Monsieur de Gassaud was leaving, Monsieur de
Binckes jokingly asked him why Monsieur the Vice Ad-
miral did not do him the honour of summoning him to
surrender as in the last campaign.
Actually, the Dutch relied greatly on the heavy
rains which were not yet over. The garrison comprised
about 900 men, or a bit more, the Commissary having
stated that each day he issued 1,000 rations of which
600 were in the Fort and 300 in the ships, anchored as
near as possible to the shore.
In spite of the difficulties, which I have mention-
ed, three mortars were placed on the hill with bombs,
munitions and provisions.A battery for the mortars was
completed at 370 paces from the Fort.
The rains were now falling very heavily and many
thought, contrary to the Vice Admiral, that any firing
should be postponed. As the enemy now began to fire
at the battery with five cannon from that side of the
Fort, orders were given to fire the mortars.
At half past twelve,the third bomb fell within the
Fort into some powder and caused such an immense ex-
plosion that Binckes and all his officers, to the num-
ber of six then at dinner, with more than 250 soldiers
were completely destroyed.
Monsieur the Vice Admiral, who was dining with
Monsieur de Blenac who had replaced Monsieur le Mar-
quis de Grancy, immediately drew up the troops and
with 450 men and the said Monsieur de Blenac,he mar-
ched at once to the Fort in order to capture it as well
as the ships.All this was effected in less than an hour
and there was no need to call upon l'Etoile, l'Hercule
and the Bourbon which had been ordered to enter the
port in case of desperate resistance.
Erasmus, a famous corsair, who had not dined at
the Fort,tried vainly to rally the scattered Dutch and
finally got into a shallop with five sailors and board-
ed a galliot which, cutting its cable passed between
the Red Rocks. Presumably he was making for Trinidad
when the corvette l'Hirondelle sailed in pursuit and
seemed to have captured it. We hope to have this news
The Belliqueux and the Brilliant arrived the next
day with nearly 600 men.
All the officers have rendered good account of
themselves. Messieurs de Grancey, de Blenac and de
Patoulet, the Commissary General, have taken a large
part in the fatiguing labour and contributed greatly to
We have 600 prisoners not counting those from
Cape Verde; among them are a minister, a captain and
eight ship's officers, several pilots and an ensign who
miraculously escaped from the explosion in the Fort.
In the port we have taken the vessel of Admiral
Binckes with 54 guns; the Precieux; a flute, the Roi
Daniel, which had come from Holland on 10th July and
a small frigate which during our attack in March, had
been at Barbados and brought back provisions.
So far as it is possible to estimate, the Dutch
have lost in this expedition sixteen vessels and two
galliots, if the Hirondelle captured the one chased,
500 people killed by fighting or by fire, about 600 or
700 died from sickness and the expenditure of about
four millions has been made useless.
Since December 21st of last year,we have entire-
ly destroyed four Dutch Colonies; Cayenne,Aprouague
Viapoque and Tobago; also the forts at Cape Verde.
In addition we have taken 1300 prisoners.
In the Fort at Tobago we found 44 cannon, one
mortar, 9 bombs and 30,000 bullets as is shown by the
inventories of Monsieur de Patoulet, the Commissary
Le Comte D'Estrees.