The Action of 7 June 1780 took place during the American War of Independence between the frigates Hermione and HMS Iris. The ships exchanged fire for one hour and a half before parting. The battle resumed epistolarily when Hawker publish his account of the battle in a newspaper, which Latouche contested heatedly.
The Franco-American alliance marked the French intervention in the American War of Independence, yielding a considerable contribution to the Naval operations in the American Revolutionary War. France and Britain fought to control shipping lanes and supply their side on the American continent, while conducting support operations and landings.
One of the French frigates involved was Latouche's 32-gun Hermione, that had ferried General La Fayette France to Boston. After a bried period installing artillery for the defence of Rhodes Island, Latouche returned off Long Island to intercept shipping to New York.
On 7 June, Hermione was 15 miles South-East of Long Island, cruising under a fair South-Western wind, when she spotted four sails windward. As Hermione was a good sailor,[note 1] Latouche came nearer to the wind and closed in to investigate. He soon made the strange ships to be a frigate, a corvette, a schooner and a snow. The frigate reduced her sails and ran in the wind to intercept Hermione, which took a port tack for the same purpose.
Slightly before they arrived on each other's beam, both frigates reduced their lower sails and hoisted their flag, firing a full broadside. The British frigate was the 32-gun HMS Iris,[note 2] under Captain James Hawker. After overhauling Iris, Hermione turned to run into the wind, on a starboard tack, and easily sailed into the beam of Iris. The exchange of fire then resumed, and Latouche was wounded when his arm was shot through by a musket ball; he nevertheless continued to command his ship.
After an hour and a half of cannonade at half-musket range, Isis reduced the topsail of her foremast; as soon as Hermione overhauled her, she veered into the wind and sailed away. Latouche attempted to mirror this maneuver, but his rigging was torn to ribbons, and he could not give chase.
On 10 June, Hawker published his version of the battle in a newspaper,[note 3] stating that Hermione had fled although an American frigate was in sight. Latouche published a letter written to Hawker, in which he stated that the rigging of his frigate was so torn that she could harldy maneuver and that Iris could have re-engaged at will. He further stated that he had attributed the retreat of Iris to her casualties, which he inferred from her low rate of fire at the end of the engagement, and was surprised to read that she had only seven killed and nine wounded.
Notes, sources and references
- Hermione was one of the few coppered frigates at that time (Troude, p.78)
- Troude calls her Isis
- Troude (p.79) names the newspaper as the "Gazette de New-Port"
- Levot, p.295
- Guérin, Les Marins illustres, p.431
- Troude, vol.2, p.78
- Troude, vol.2, p.79
- Troude, vol.2, p.80
- Guérin, Léon (1857) (in French). Histoire maritime de France. 5. Dufour et Mulat. pp. 50–52. http://books.google.com/?id=95BKAAAAMAAJ.
- Guérin, Léon (1845) (in French). Les marins illustres de la France. Belin-Leprieur et Morizot. http://books.google.com/?id=uutuoMfBe4AC.
- Levot, Prosper (1866) (in French). Les gloires maritimes de la France: notices biographiques sur les plus célèbres marins. Bertrand. http://books.google.com/?id=08O_XGLO43QC.
- Roche, Jean-Michel (2005). Dictionnaire des bâtiments de la flotte de guerre française de Colbert à nos jours. 1. Group Retozel-Maury Millau. ISBN 978-2-9525917-0-6. OCLC 165892922.
- Troude, Onésime-Joachim (1867) (in French). Batailles navales de la France. 2. Challamel ainé. http://books.google.com/?id=TwZv6FX-RpsC.
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