The Battle of Barfleur

Battle of Barfleur / La Hogue
Painting of the warships Resolution
The Resolution in a gale by van de Velde
Date:29 May 1692
Outcome:Alliance Victory
United Provinces

1 Summary

The Battle of Barfleur was fought on 29 May 1692. The battle of Barfleur itself was undecided, but when the French fleet could not find a safe haven afterwards, it lost 15 ships in the actions of Cherbourg and La Hogue. This secured Anglo-Dutch supremacy in the Channel for a few years, but the real decision was made by the governments in London and Versailles. The government in London decided to secure the advantage by building more ships. Versailles decided to concentrate on continental warfare.

2 Strategies to the Battle of Barfleur

2.1 The French naval Strategy

By its July 1690 victory the French navy had secured control of the Channel for a short period. After that nothing had been achieved, but a tiny raid on the English coast. The loss of Ireland in October 1691 signaled the failure of the French navy's strategy. In 1692 King Louis however wanted to make William III leave the continent by starting an invasion of Ireland. For this purpose about 12,000 soldiers were concentrated on the Cotentin peninsula under the command of Maréchal de Bellefonds. On returning from the Mediterranean Vice Admiral d'Estrées had to escort those across the Channel with 12 ships of the line. Meanwhile Tourville would keep the enemy in check with 60 ships1.

The French knew full well that the Dutch and English fleets in the Channel were larger, and that in normal circumstances such an operation could end in disaster. The experiences at Beachy head2, the assurances of James II, and probably actual contact with traitors, had however led Louis XIV to believe that it was rather doubtful that the English fleet would actually fight.

The outcome of the Battle of Beachy head, the internal power struggle at Versailles, and the general ignorance of naval affairs in the government, also led the French government to a very false impression of how naval affairs stood. This can be summed up as: A misinterpretation of the real balance of power in 1690 and 1691; The impression that Tourville was too careful or incompetent; Ignorance of how much more powerful the 1692 alliance fleet was compared to their 1690 fleet. In the 1690 battle the French had profited from facing only a small and unwilling part of the alliance fleet, but if this had fought, it was not necessarily weaker than the French fleet. After that Tourville faced a fleet that was definitly stronger, but this was incongruous with the belief that the French had weakened the alliance fleet. Finally the numbers of the total active alliance fleet did not change that much, and it was not that obvious to suppose that the 1692 alliance ships were much stronger. All this led Louis XIV to give Tourville an order to fight the enemy, 'weak or strong'.

2.2 The Anglo-Dutch Strategy

The Anglo-Dutch strategy was simply to fight any French vessel that entered the Channel. For that purpose English ships were equipping all the time, and new ships started to arrive in the fleet. The Dutch had equipped ships to replace those lost in 1690. Because of these efforts and the concentration of the alliance fleet, the English fleet was almost twice as strong in numbers as at Beachy head, and the Dutch were intended to be over 50% stronger than at Beachy head. These were however only the numbers. In quality both the Dutch and the English fleet used far heavier ships. At Beachy head it counted 10 three-deckers. At Barfleur there would be 25 three-deckers (9 Dutch and 16 English).

Just like Louis XIV hoped on treason, the Anglo-Dutch feared it. Queen Mary did indeed arrest a lot of persons and 8 officers of the English fleet3. On 25 May 1692 a lot of senior officers of the English fleet made a protestation of their loyalty by signing a declaration on board the Brittania4. I do not know whether this indeed quelled a potential serious rebellion/treason in the fleet, or whether this had not been considered when Tourville had been given his orders.

3 Tourville sails into the Channel

The 13 ship strong Mediterranean squadron of d'Estrées left Toulon in early May and arrived near the Strait of Gibraltar on 18 May. Here he was however beaten back by storm. His ships were quite seriously damaged and two were lost to the weather. The lost ships were the l'Assuré commanded by the chevalier de Chateaurenaud and Le Sage commanded by De la Guiche5. The result was that d'Estrées would not arrive in the Channel till after the battle.

There is a message from Malaga of 22 April 1692 describing how 20-24 ships of D'Estrée were beaten back by the storm AC20May1692

The failure of the junction of the Mediterranean squadron is often represented as the chief cause of Tourville's fleet being so small. In fact this was just as well caused by the failure of others to join him. These were the Marquis de la Porte with 5 ships from Rochefort and Comte de Chateaurenaud with 7 ships at Brest. Tourville meanwhile sailed into the Channel with a fleet of 39 ships that had been weakened by material shortages, ships not arriving, weather etc. On the 25th he was reinforced with 7 ships under De Vilette. Let's look at the composition of his fleet6 of 44 ships of the line on 27 May7, and the ships the French reported in port afterwards8:

4 The French fleet at Barfleur

French Order of Battle at Barfleur 1692 the Van
Ship Captain gunsmenbuiltIn port?faithlater action
Van: squadron of VA Marquis de Nesmond
Le Bourbon De Perrinet 68380bnnnn Toulon-B. La Hogue
Le MonarqueMarq. de Nesmond 90650b1689 BrestYMed. 1693
L'Aimable Chev. de Réals 70420b1687 Rochefort-
Le Saint LouisDe la Roque Persin 64350b1692 Le Havre-B. La Hogue
Le Diamant Chev. de Feuquières 50350b1692 Le HavreY
Van: squadron of Admiral Marquis d'Anfreville
Le Gaillard Chev. d'Anfreville 52350b1692 BayonneYB. La Hogue
Le Terrible De Sébeville 80490b1680 Brest-B. La Hogue
Le Merveilleux De Mons / Anfreville 98650b1680 Brest-B. La Hogue
Le Tonnant De Septèmes 80490b1680 Brest-B. La Hogue
Le Saint Michel Chev. de Villars 60350b1686 BrestY
Le Sans Pareil Ferville 62350b1685 BrestY
Van: squadron of RA Comte de Relingues
Le Sérieux Marq. de Blenac 64380b1686 Toulon-Med. 1693
Le Foudroyant De Relingues 104600bnnnn Brest-B. La Hogue
Le Brillant Comm. de Combes 62370b1688 Le Havre-to Brest Sep 1693
French Order of Battle at Barfleur 1692 the Center
Center: squadron of VA Marquis de Vilette
Le Fort Chev. de la Rongère 68350bnnnn x-B. La Hogue
Le Henry De la Rochalard 64400b1687 DunkerqueY
L'Ambitieux Saujon / de Vilette 92550b1691 Rochefort-B. La Hogue
La Couronne De Machaut 76490b1681 Brest;Y
Le Maure Des Augers 50300b1688 ToulonYfights at Cap Lezard Aug 1692
Le Courageux De la Luzerne 58350b1679 RochefortY
Center: squadron of Admiral Comte de Tourville
La Perle De Forbin 52300bnnnn x-fights at Cap Lezard Aug 1692
? Le Glorieux Chev. de Chateaumorant 64380b1678 BrestY
Le Conquérant Du Magnou 84550b1688 ToulonY
Le Soleil Royal Comte de Tourville 110900b1669 Brest-B. Cherbourg
Le Saint Philippe D'Infreville 84550b1665 Toulon-B. La Hogue
L'Admirable De Beaujeu 96650bnnnn Brest-B. Cherbourg
Center: squadron of RA Marquis de Langeron
Le Content Marq. de Saint Maure 68380b1686 ToulonY1696 Cap Bon
Le Souverain Marq. de Langeron 80560b1677 BrestY
L'iIlustre De Combes 68450exDutchY
? Le Modéré D'Ivry 52350b1687 Le Havre-fights at Cap Lezard Aug 1692
French Order of Battle at Barfleur 1692 the Rear
Rear: squadron of RA Chevalier de Coetlogon
L'Excellent ?Matelot?De la Vigerie 60350b1679 RochefortY
Le Prince De Bagneux 56350b1682 BrestY
Le Magnifique De Coetlogon 86550bnnnn x-B. La Hogue
?Le Laurier Chev. d'Hervault 64380b1691 BayonneY
Rear: squadron of Admiral de Gabaret
?Le Brave Chev. de Chalais 58350b1684 Le Havre Y
L'Entendu De Ricoux 40200b1684 Saint MaloY
Le Triomphant Machaut Belmont80490b1676 Brest-B. Cherbourg
? L'Orgueilleux Courbon Blenac / Gabaret86650b1689 LorientY
Le Fier De la Harteloire 90490bnnnn Rochefort-B. La Hogue
Le Fleuron De Montgon 56330b1688 ToulonYMed. 1693
Rear: squadron of VA de Panetié
Le Courtisan De Colbert, Saint Marc64380b1686 RochefortY
Le Grand Panetié 84630b1680 RochefortY
Le Saint Esprit De la Galissonnière64380b1689 BrestY
La Syrène Du Quesne 64350bnnnnYMed. 1693

Its divisions9

Possible doubt about the above list:

According to Sue the ships above with a ? were not present, and these were:
Le Formidable Marq. d'Amfreville 94650Y
Le Fulminant Marq. de la Porte 96550YMed. 1693
Le Victorieux d'Amblimont 92700Y
L'Intrépide De Sainte Hermine 84530b1690 Rochefort-
L'Apollon Marq. de Rouvroy 60350YMed. 1693
Le Vermandois De Lévy 60350-
Le Ferme Du Quesne Mosnier 60350YMed. 1693

5 The English and Dutch fleets in the Battle of Barfleur

OOB of the Dutch fleet in the Battle of Barfleur
Adm.Ship Captainmen guns in correspondenceRemarks
Van, the White Flag
Squadron of the Rear Admiral
MDe Zeven ProvinciënE. de Liefde50076 In on 19 May damaged
MKapitein Generaal 500 84 In on 19 May damagedRA van der Goes
MMaagd van Dordt 325 64
MDelft 250 54
MRidderschap 375 72
MVeluwe 335 64 In on 19 May
FVriesland 370 70
FPrins Casimir 370 70
FStad en Lande 210 52
Squadron of LA Philips van Almonde
AAmsterdamC. vd Zaan 325 64 In on 19 May mentioned
APrinces Maria 500 92 In on 19 May djVA Gillis Schey
ALeiden 325 64 In on 19 May
ASchattershoef 210 50 In on 19 May
AElswout 375 72 In on 19 May
APrins 540 92 In on 19 May mentionedLA Almonde
ASlot Muiden 375 72 In on 19 May
AZeeland 325 64 In on 19 May
Squadron of the Vice Admiral
AGaasterland 210 50
AKV Brandenburg 500 92 In on 19 May dj
ZEerste Edele 400 74 In on 19 May
ZKoning Willem 525 92 dj
ZVeere 325 62 In on 19 May
AGelderland 325 64
ZGoes 225 54 In on 19 May
ZZierikzee 325 60
ZZeeland Schrijver500 90 mentioned
NNoord Holland 350 68 In on 19 May
Not arrived in time
ARipperda 210 50 Not expected to join
AHaarlem 325 64 Not expected to join
AGelderland 375 72 Not expected to join
NBeschermer 475 84 Not expected to join
NKast. v. Medemblik 500 86 dj
NHoorn 210 50
NWest Vriesland 475 84 dj
NMunnikendam 375 72
NMedemblik 210 50
OOB of the English fleet in the Battle of Barfleur
RateShip Captainmen guns Build-endRemarks
Center, Red Flag
Squadron of VA Ralph de Laval
2St. MichaelHopson 600 90 1669-1706r1706 Marlborough
3LennoxMunden 460 70 1678-1701r
3YorkDean 340 60 1677-1703wrecked 1703
4BonaventureHubbard 230 50 1683-1699r
2Royal KatherineCornwall 540 90 1664-1702r1706 Ramilies
1Royal SovereignSaunders815 100 1685-1697Acc. burned 1697
3DevonshireHorton ? 80 1692-1704rL. 5 April 1692; presence not sure, 1707 blown up
3CaptainJones 460 70 1678-1708r
4CenturionWyvel 280 50 1691-1728bu
3BurfordHarloe 460 70 1699-1719wrecked 1719
Squadron of Admiral Eduard Russel
3ElisabethFairborn 440 70 1679-1704rcaptured 1704
3RupertBeaumont 400 60 1664-1697r
3EagleLeake 460 70 1679-1699rwrecked 1707
4ChesterGillam 280 50 1691-1707captured 1707
1St. AndrewChurchill 730 100 1670-1703r1703 Royal Anne
1Brittania Mitchel 780 100 1682-1715r
1LondonAylmer 730 100 1670-1706r
4GreenwichEdwards 280 50 1666-1699r
3RestaurationGother 460 70 1678-1702rwrecked 1702
3GraftonBokenham 460 70 1679-1700rcapt. 1707
Squadron of VA Cloudesly Shovel
3HamptoncourtGreydon 460 70 1678-1701rcapt. 1707
3SwiftsureClank 420 70 1673-1696r
4St. AlbansFitzpatrick 280 50 1687-1693wrecked 1693
3KentNevil 460 70 1679-1699r
3BredaLambart ? 80 1692-1730buL. 23 April 1692, presence not sure
1Royal WilliamJennings 780 100 1692-1714r
2SandwichHastings 660 90 1679-1712r
4OxfordWisheard 280 50 1674-1701r
3CambridgeLestock 420 70 1666-1694wrecked 1694
4RubyMeese 230 50 1652-1706r
3PlymouthMaine 340 60 1677-1705rpresence not sure
Rear, Blue Flag
Squadron of RA Richard Carter
3HopeRobinson 460 70 1678-1695capt. 1695
4Deptford Kerr 280 50 1687-1700r
3EssexBridges 460 70 1679-1700r
3CornwallBoyce ? 80 1692-1705rL. 28 April 1692
2DukeWright 675 90 1682-1701r1701 Prince George
2OssoryTertil 660 90 1682-1706r1706 Prince
4WoolwichMinns 280 54 1675-1702r
3SuffolkBillop 460 70 1680-1699r
4CrownWarrin 230 50 1654-1704r
3DreadnoughtCole 365 60 1691-1706r
3Sterling CastleWalters 460 70 1679-1699r1703 wrecked
Squadron of Admiral John Ashby
3EdgarTapley 445 70 1668-1700r1711 burned
3MonmouthRobinson 460 70 1667-1700r
2DuchessClements 660 90 1679-1709rAnne 1701; Winds. C. 1702; 1703 Blenheim
1VictoryStanley 780 100 1675-1694rex Royal James
2VanguardMason 660 90 1678-1704r1703 sunk. 1704 raised
4AdventureDilks 200 50 1691-1709capt. 1709
3WarspiteGrantham 420 70 1666-1702r
3MontagueFolks 355 60 1675-1698r
3DefianceGurney 400 70 1675-1659r
3BerwickMartin 460 70 1679-1700r
Squadron of VA George Rook
3LionWiseman 340 60 1677-1698Sold 1698
3NorthumberlandCotten 460 70 1679-1702rwrecked 1703
4AdviceViccars 200 50 1677-1698rCapt. 1711
3Royal OakBing 470 70 1690-1713rpresence doubtful
2NeptuneGardner 660 90 1683-1710r
2Windsor CastleLord Danby660 90 1678-1693wrecked 1693
4ChathamLeader 200 50 1691-1719rL. 20 Oct. 1691, presence doubtful
2ExpeditionDover 460 70 1679-1699r
3MonkHoskins 340 60 1677-1702r
3ResolutionGood 420 70 1667-1698rwrecked 1703
2AlbemarleFran. Wheler 660 90 1680-1704r1704 Union

In his letter of 3 June 1692 captain Schrijver puts the alliance fleet at 27 Dutch and 56 or 57 English ships of the line. This means that some of the English ships and a lot of the Dutch ships were not present.

De Jonghe also noticed this, and noted the names of the Dutch three-deckers which were present. His suggestion of the Dutch fleet's composition seems however not to have been based on any solid knowledge of which ships were, or were not present. Therefore his naming the three-deckers should only be understood as being the three-deckers destined for the fleet. From available letters we do know of some ships which were surely present, marked as 'mentioned' or 'damaged'.

One of the most important documents that sheds some light on exactly which Dutch ships were present is a list Russel sent by Russel on 9/19 May. It has 36 ships, 2 frigates and 6 burners. The frigates and 6 burners and 16 ships are marked as present. In the table these are marked 'In on 19 May'. 4 ships are marked as not expected within three weeks and are marked as 'not expected to join'.

The question then remains which 5 other ships did not arrive in time. For this we have the London Gazette Issue 2771 page 2 with news from Deale of 30 May: 'Yesterday in the evening came into the Downes five Dutch men of War and a Fireship, belonging to the Province of West Friesland, who are bound to the westward to join the English and Dutch fleet'. As West Friesland equals Noorderkwartier, we can thus safely take out the Noorder Kwartier ships which were not in on 9/19 May. This many ships not arriving might have led to some reshuffeling in the Dutch squadrons, but the number gets to 27.

To make things still somewhat complicated we can mention the London Gazette nr 2766 page 2, citing that on 12/22 May Callenburg and Evertsen passed by Deale to join the fleet with 9 or 10 great Dutch men of war. Also that another passed on 13/23 May. The whole fleet sailed on 17/27 May.

6 The action at Barfleur on 29 May

6.1 Overview and weather

The actual battle of Barfleur happened on 29 May 1692. It started when the English were about 12 km north-east of Barfleur. The battle was ended when it became night. Up till then neither party had lost a ship. During the night some ships became lost. Seven under Nesmond sailed for La Hogue and three under Gabaret sailed in the direction of the English coast.

With regard to the weather Russel was rather specific in his letter. He stated that 'as soon as the fleets began to engage' it fell calm. With which he probably meant at about 11 AM. Russel stated that by about 2 the wind turned west north west. At about 4 PM a very thick fog came up and led to a lull in the fighting.

6.2 The fleets range in line of battle

In the account of Russel, the French fleet was sighted on 29 May at 3 AM, when the alliance fleet was 7 leagues NNE of Cape Barfleur, the wind westerly. At 11 AM the fleets engaged 10.

According to the 'Relation du Combat de la Hogue' the alliance fleet was sighted at daybreak by Rochalard, commander of one of the reconnaisance vessels, at 3km distance. At that time the French fleet was sailing in six columns and the westerly wind was light. The signal to form the line of battle was given, but led to a lot of gaps and confusion, because not all captains were equally attentive or commanded a well-sailed vessel.

Marquis de Vilette posted himself opposite Delaval and Tourville opposed Russel. Between Delaval and Russel the French counted 16 English Vessels. Between Vilette and Tourville they counted 6 French. RA de Langeron had some trouble to arrive into the line of battle, and only closed in later. French and English accounts agree that De Vilette and Tourville closed in to the distance of a musket shot.

The van commanded by Marquis de Anfreville had to face the Dutch. De Nesmond's squadron was close to the enemy when the maneuver started and sailed so fast that he reached the first ship of the Dutch part and closed in to the range of their guns. The Bourbon of Captain De Perrinet even passed the Dutch and could not get back in to line. D'Anfreville stayed at the maximum gun-range and the same goes for Relingues. De Relingues used his sloops to close in on the Dutch, but also stayed out of range. He noted a gap between the French van and center and warned d'Anfreville. It's not so clear to me yet if the weather, strategy or incomplete recognition of the enemy caused this gap.

In the rear the first squadron of Coëtlogon closed in on the enemy. The second kept itselve at some distance for fear of getting surrounded. The last squadron of Pannetier did not succeed in joining the line of battle in time and found itself cut off before the battle started.

6.3 The fighting starts

It was about 11 in the morning and no shot had yet been fired. One of the Dutch ships then fired on the Saint Louis. An impatient gunner of that ship did not wait for orders and fired back. The fleets took that as a signal and both lines fired.

In the van De Nesmond fought the Dutch at close range. D'Anfreville's squadron was engaged by the Amsterdam and Schey's Princes Maria, but at a somewhat larger distance. Almonde stated that only the first squadron of the Dutch and some ships close to it had an opportunity to fight for 1.5 hours. According to Schey it lasted 3.5 h., according to Van der Zaan it lasted 4 hours. The squadron of De Relingues kept the wind and did not engage the Dutch. Captain Schrijver of the Zeelandia stated that he and others of Van der Putte's squadron did not get an opportunity to effectively fire on the enemy. To sum it up: De Nesmond fought at close range. The first half of d'Anfreville's squadron fought at a somewhat larger range. The second half of d'Anfreville's squadron fought not at all or at maximum range. The third French squadron kept out of range.

In the center the fighting was far more intense. According to Russel, Tourville started to fire at him at three-quarter musket shot distance at about 11:30 AM. He observed that his own guns fired faster and that after 1.5 hours Tourville's ship was in 'great disorder'. This disorder was described as Tourville's 'rigging, sails, and top-sail yards being shot, and nobody endeavouring to make them serviceable; and his boats towing of him to windward, gave me reason to think he was much galled.

The relation du combat states that Tourville fought Russel his 'matelots' and other ships. The Relation du combat naval that Tourville fought Russel and his two 'matelots of 100 guns each'. To sum it up: Because of the unequal numbers Russel and his seconds were able to team up against Tourville's Soleil Royal, and in one and a half hours severely damaged this ship.

The first squadron of the French center was troubled by the gap between the French van and center. This caused that its first two ships suffered heavy damage, implying that they faced many English ships.

In the rear the entire English blue division cut off Panetié's division. This caused that Panetié kept the wind, and Gabaret started to do the same. The English rear then continued to face Panetié. This can be described as either pursuing him, or as trying to come up wind of the Gabaret and the French center.

6.4 The wind changes in the afternoon

In the afternoon at about 1 or 2 o'clock the wind started to change to the west north west. Coetlogon's squadron posted itself in front and behind Tourville's flagship. Shovel squadron weathered Tourville's and posted itself between Tourville's and De Gabaret's squadron (Russel's 2nd letter). The whole blue squadron then fell upon De Gabaret's (and probably De Langeron's) squadron. This forced De Gabaret to post his ships in a line paralel to Tourville and Vilette's.

The French fleet then threw their anchors at about two o'clock, the moment when the sea was 'à l'estale'. In the memoirs of De Vilette this is annotated as the moment that flood ended and ebb was to start. It seems however that this term meant at the end of flood or ebb. When this term was meant as 'end of ebb', the maneuver becomes clear. In the Relation du Combat is noted that the English blue division anchored up wind from Tourville before the flood. Thus its distance to De Gabaret increased. The Henry failed to anchor and had to be towed back from the enemy line. There was then some confusion which caused that De Vilette anchored late and combat restarted between his first three ships and the English. The Sandwich of Shovel's squadron could not get its anchors to hold and floated through the French line, where captain Carter was killed. At about 4 PM mist ended fighting for a while.

6.5 The English Blue division attacks

In the Relation du Combat we find that at about 7 PM the English Blue division attacked by letting the flood transport its vessels to the French line. It advanced to the distance of a musket shot and then let go a number of burners. Of the five aimed at the Soleil Royal two were diverted, but the third forced Tourville to cut his anchors. Two others passed by and Tourville re-anchored. Three other burners were aimed at Vilette's squadron, but were diverted by his sloops and destroyed. Next the whole English blue division passed through the intervals in the French line. According to the Relation du Combat Naval this was not only the English blue, but also Shovel's squadron, and this maneuver was finished at 10 PM.

6.6 The French fleet retreats

At the start of ebb the French fleet then again cut its anchors according to the Relation du Combat. This would be at about 8 PM. According to the Relation du Combat Naval the French fleet sailed when there was sufficient wind from the west at about 1 o'clock at night. D'Anfreville and Vilette made to the west and could not discover Tourville the rest of that day. The six ships of De Nesmond sailed in the direction of La Hogue. THe three ships of Gabaret, de Langeron and Combes sailed in the direction of the English coast.

7 The actions at Cherbourg and La Hogue

7.1 The pursuit on 30 May

In the morning of 30 May at seven o'clock, 35 ships assembled with Tourville. At 8 o'clock in the morning the French main fleet was about a lieue (almost 4 km) removed from the allied fleet, and this should have been enough to escape. The heavily damaged Soleil Royal was however not able to keep up and at 18:00PM the distance was only two km. The French then decided to try to escape by taking the route of the Raz de Blanchard, a channel with heavy currents between Guernsey, Alderney and Cotentin.

7.2 Split up at the Raz de Blanchard

During the night of the 30-31st the fleet entered the Raz. The heavy currents in this channel did however split the French fleet in three parts. The lighter ships, numbering about 20 would succeed in escaping through the Raz and reaching St. Malo. The three most damaged ships; the Soleil Royal; l'Admirable and Thriomphant beached near Cherbourg. 13 others were stopped by the eb before getting through the Raz and had to throw their anchors. These anchors did however not succeed in fixing them against the strong currents. Tourville (who had changed ships) with 10 ships therefore refuged himself at La Hogue and was there joined by two of Nesmond's ships. The names of the ships at La Hogue were: l'Ambitieux; Le Merveilleux; Le Foudroyant, Le Magnifique, Le Saint Philipppe, Le Fier, Le Fort, Le Tonnant, Le Terrible, Le Gaillard, Le Bourbon and Le Saint Louis. The Anglo-Dutch also divided in three parts.

7.3 Part of the French escape to St. Malo

The first part of the Anglo-Dutch fleet pursued the twenty ships which had escaped throgh the Raz. These ships did however succeed in reaching Saint Malo on 1 June.

7.4 Action at Cherbourg

The second part of the Anglo-Dutch fleet of 17 ships of the line and 8 burners first attacked the three ships at Cherbourg. These were all destroyed

7.5 Action at La Hogue

The third part of the enemy fleet composed of 40 ships and burners followed Tourville to La Hogue. Later the first two parts joined the first. The result was that all the ships at La Hogue were destroyed.

8 The naval balance of power afterwards

The defeats of Barfleur, Cherbourg and La Hogue are mostly perceived as the end of France's bid to command the ocean. Others state that the loss of 15 ships of the line could hardly spell the end for a navy that had about 90. Indeed the French still had about 70 ships of the line in their Atlantic ports after La Hogue. It could have diverted the war effort and have manned these 70 ships, but that would not have been sufficient to challenge the Anglo-Dutch. Such a 'new' fleet would have consisted of about 70 ships of the line, of which 12 with 80+ guns. They would have had to face an Anglo-Dutch fleet of about 99 ships of the Line, of which 28 with 80+ guns. The loss of 11 ships of 80+ guns thus made that the French would also be at a disadvantage in quality and could not hope for victory in a full confrontation.

Considering the time it normally took to build ships the Battle of Barfleur had decided who would be supreme at sea for a few years. This effect of the Battle of Barfleur was amplified by the fact that in the years after Barfleur about thirty English and a dozen Dutch ships which had been ordered after 1688 started to arrive in the line of Battle. On the French side only a handful of ships did. Restoring the situation to how it was before Barfleur would therefore have meant ordering about 50 ships of the line and waiting at least three years for them to compleat. Apart from the financial strain this would have caused in France the necessary supply of wood was probably not available.

Shortly before Barfleur France had taken Namur and therefore it hoped to destroy its enemies on land. In such circumstances, and assuming it was correct in expecting to win on land, the French decision to withdraw from the naval race was therefore correct. The expectations for a victory on land were however themselves diminished by the effects of Barfleur. The expected victory on land had to come in a few years or the economic effects of Barfleur would annihilate the economy that sustained the army.

9 Sources

Russel's first letter to Nottingham can be found on page 539 of the History of Great Britain. Russel's letter to Nottingham of 2 June 1690 is on page 550 of the Harleian Miscellany. The 1708 memoirs of Cloudsley Shovel do not seem to add much.

On the French side there are two rather complete stories. The first it the 'Relation du Combat Naval donné le 29 Mai 1692, entre l'Armée du roi et les Anglais et Hollandais joints ensemble'. It's printed in Sue's Histoire de la Marine Française. In the Mercurius for 1692 there is a Dutch translation of this piece called 'Relaas van het zeegevecht, geleverd op den 29sten May tusschen des konings en de gecombineerde Engelsche en Hollandsche Vlooten'. The other is the 'relation du combat de la Hogue' it can be found in the memoirs of the Marquis de Vilette. According to him it was made by one of his friends who had a son serving on the fleet and who used the statements of many witnesses.

From the Dutch there is the Europische Mercurius for 1692. In it is under June 1692 page 150: the complete list of the French Ocean fleet containing Tourville's fleet and the squadrons that did not join him. On page 153 is the list of how the alliance fleet was designed to be, including the ships which did not arrive and excluding others. On page 170 it has a list of French ships in port after the battle.

On page 174 there is a Dutch translation of Russel's first letter, and a letter from the Mary Galley both dated 30 May. A translation of Delaval's letter dated 1 June. From page 176 3 letters by Almonde dated 31 May; 1 June and 3 June. On page 181 a letter by vA Gillis Schey dated inside as 3 June. On page 183 extract from a letter by RA van der Goes dated 1 June. On page 184 a letter by Captain van der Zaan dated 3 June. Also on page 184 the letter by Captain Schryver of 3 June. On page 187 there is a 'pertinent verhaal' of the battle, but it seems to add very little facts. On page 190 a letter by Schey dated 5 June. Also a Dutch translation of Russel's letter to Nottingham of 2/12 June.

The Europische Mercurius was also translated / followed in other countries. The English Present state of Europe did not publish most of the letters, but did publish a translation of the 'Relation du Combat Naval'

10 Notes

1) Histoire de la Marine Française by Eugène Sue, Paris 1845, Vol IV Book 8, Page 198 and following for the preparations to invade Ireland and the Battle of Barfleur.
2) See the testimonials of Tourville and Chateaurenault on the page about the Dutch fleet.
3) See Europische Mercurius under May 1692, page 136 about a lot of people and 8 officers of the fleet getting arrested.
4) See Europische Mercurius under May 1692, page 138 about the declaration of loyalty by the senior officers of the fleet.
5) See Europische Mercurius under May 1692, page 152 for these names for these two ships
6) Histoire de la Marine françoise, by Eugène Sue, Paris 1845 Vol IV Book 8 page 207: for this French OOB at Barfleur
7) Europische Mercurius May 1691 page 96 has a list of ships that sailed to Ireland in May 1691, and this has been used to add data about guns and men
8) See Europische Mercurius under June 1692, page 170 for a list of ships reported in port after the Battle of Barfleur
9) Sue page 213 for the partition in divisions
10) Letter by Russel to Nottingham 20 May 1692