THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF TRINIDAD
Publication No. 365.
An Account of the Attack on Tobago by the French.
Source :-Dictionnaire Historique el Biographique des Generaux
Francais. Chevalier de Courcelles. Vol. V, 1822.
Translated from the French.
He set s il with his squadron from Martinique whence he
left with six vessels and four frigates to contend with the
Dutch Fleet commanded by Vice Admiral Bincks which was
at the Island of Tobago.
He gave orders to bombard the fort an hour after the
attack on the Dutch squadron of ten ships, one bomb ship
and three small vessels, stationed in a bay which the French
could only enter in single file.
The Comte D'Estrees entered the bay on February 23rd
and began one of the most furious naval battles known which
lasted from seven in the morning to two in the afternoon.
One of the French vessels caught fire and entangled and fired
a Dutch vessel. The flames also reached two flutes on which
had been placed the women, children and negroes as a shelter
safer than the fort which would bear the brunt of the attack.
Soon the shrieks of the women, the cries of the children, the
noise of the cannon and the explosions on the ships made a
The cannon shot from the ship of the Comte D'Estrees set
on fire that of the Dutch Rear Admiral with which it had
grappled and captured. Shortly afterwards the Dutch ship
exploded and set fire to that of the Comte D'Estrees who was
wounded in the head and leg. He was surrounded in the
middle of this ship on fire by the dead bodies of his officers,
soldiers and sailors who had been killed and he only escaped
in a. skiff brought by a marine, Berthier, with great courage
across the bows of a Dutch ship. This skiff was riddled by
shot and soon sank but was near enough to the shore for the
Comte to escape.
The attack on the fort had miscarried by the over anxiety
of the officer in command of the assault so the Comte withdrew
his remaining ships having lost four. All the Dutch ships
were burnt or sunk.
The Comte D'Estrees then returned to France in the
month of June and left Brest again on October ist with a
new squadron. He appeared off Cape Verde Island on the
20th and bombarded the two forts. The Governor retired
from one fort to the other and then surrendered at discretion
with the guard of 200 men.
The Comte then sailed at once for Barbados which he
reached on December ist and found there the reinforcements
expected from .Martinique. He sailed for Tobago and
disembarked there on the 7th and on the 8th marched to
attack the fort. The third shot fell in the powder magazine
killing the Commandant and most of the officers. Taking
advantage of this disaster, the Comte D'Estrces ordered an
immediate attack in which the fort was captured with
During this action he had arranged his ships so as to close
the bay and thus he took all the Dutch ships there and at the
same time recovered one of the French vessels which had
sunk in the last attack and had since been raised by the Dutch.