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|François Joseph Paul de Grasse|
|Nickname(s)||Comte de Grasse|
13 September 1723|
Le Bar-sur-Loup, Provence, France
|Died||11 January 1788
Tilly, Île-de-France, France
|Buried||Church of Saint-Roch, Paris|
|Allegiance|| Order of Saint John (1734–1741)
Kingdom of France (1741–1784)
|Years of service||1734–1784|
|Rank||Lieutenant général des armées navales|
François Joseph Paul de Grasse (September 13, 1723 – January 11, 1788) was a French admiral. He is best known for his command of the French fleet at the Battle of the Chesapeake, which led directly to the British surrender at Yorktown in the American Revolutionary War.
Admiral Rodney defeated and captured de Grasse the next year, at the Battle of the Saintes. de Grasse was widely criticised for his loss in that battle. On his return to France, he demanded a court martial; it acquitted him of fault in his defeat.
François-Joseph de Grasse was born and raised at Bar-sur-Loup in south-eastern France, the last child of Francois de Grasse Rouville, Marquis de Grasse who earned his title and supported his Provençal family.
At the age of eleven (1734), de Grasse entered the Order of Saint John as a page of the Grand Master. He served as an ensign on the galleys in wars against the Turks and the Moors. In 1740 at the age of 17, he entered the French Navy.
Following Britain's victory over the French in the Seven Years War, de Grasse helped rebuild the French navy in the years after the Treaty of Paris (1763).
In 1775, the American War of Independence broke out when American colonists rebelled against British rule. France supplied the colonists with covert aid, but remained officially neutral until 1778. The Treaty of Alliance (1778) established the Franco-American alliance and France entered the war.
In 1779, he joined the fleet of Count d'Estaing in the Caribbean and distinguished himself in the battles of Dominica and Saint Lucia during 1780[clarification needed] and of Tobago during 1781. He contributed to the capture of Grenada and took part in the three actions fought by Guichen against Admiral Rodney in the Battle of Martinique (1780).
De Grasse came to the aid of Washington and Rochambeau's Expédition Particulière, setting sail with 3,000 men from Saint-Domingue. De Grasse landed the 3,000 French reinforcements in Virginia, and immediately afterward decisively defeated the British fleet in the Battle of the Chesapeake in September 1781. He drew away the British forces and blockaded the coast until Lord Cornwallis surrendered, ensuring the independence of the United States of America.
He returned to the Caribbean, where he was less fortunate and was defeated at the Battle of St. Kitts by Admiral Hood. Shortly afterward, in April 1782, he was defeated and taken prisoner by Admiral Rodney at the Battle of the Saintes. He was taken to London, and while there briefly took part in the negotiations that laid the foundations for the Peace of Paris (1783), which brought the war to an end.
He returned to France and published a Mémoire justificatif. In 1784, he was acquitted by a court-martial.
His son Alexandre Francois Auguste de Grasse published a Notice biographique sur l'amiral comte de Grasse d'après les documents inédits in 1840.
There is a monument commemorating Admiral de Grasse and the sailors who helped the United States achieve its independence from the British Crown at the Cape Henry Memorial, Joint Expeditionary Base East, Virginia Beach, Virginia. It is maintained by the Colonial National Historical Park of the National Park Service. A statue of Admiral de Grasse is in the Place de la Tour of Le Bar-sur-Loup, the village where he was born and grew up and another statue is located in the riverwalk landing located in Yorktown, Virginia.
De Grasse was the name of two medium-sized French Line passenger ships, one built in 1924 in Scotland, and the other formally the 1956-built Bergensfjord of Norwegian America Lines, which was introduced in 1971. The first ship was famous world-wide, servicing the transatlantic route and later served the Allies as a troop ship in World War II. Refitted, she was the first French Liner to inaugurate service after the war's end. After being supplanted by newer ships in the company, the liner was sold in 1952 to Canadian Pacific Lines as an emergency replacement for their fire-damaged Empress of Canada for the busy Coronation Year season, was sold again in 1956 to Grimaldi-Siosa Lines and then to another firm who modernized her further and renamed her Venezuela. After grounding near Cannes in 1962, she was scrapped later in the year.
The second De Grasse served the Le Havre–Southampton–West Indies service with little success, as the old colonial trades were being supplanted by the airlines. West Indies cruises, plus assignments to the Baltic, Mediterranean, and North Africa also suffered mixed profits. She was sold off in 1973, lived under a short string of new Israeli and Greek owners, and, after two fires in 1977 and 1980, was scrapped in Greece.
The French Navy has had two vessels named in his honour:
The United States Navy has had three vessels named in his honour:
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Grasse, François Joseph Paul, Comte de". Encyclopædia Britannica. 12 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 369.
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