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New other : lowest price. The next day, the French fleet moved into Chesapeake Bay for anchorage, individual ships having been delegated to block the mouths of the York and the James. On September 2, the land forces under the Marquis de St. Simon were sent up the James in long boats for landing at Jamestown. Dispatches telling of the arrival of De Grasse were sent to Washington and Rochambeau, contact having already been established with Lafayette. De Grasse felt that there was urgent need for action, but Lafayette, even with the reinforcements of St. Simon, thought that it would 12 not be wise to attack before Washington and the army under his command reached the area.
Such good fortune might not continue. The undisturbed voyage had indeed been a stroke of luck. In July, word had been received by Rear Adm. Thomas Graves, in command of the British naval units at New York, that a convoy, with valuable aid for the American cause, had sailed for America and that it was important that it be intercepted.
This led him to put to sea, believing that Rodney, in the West Indies, would take steps to cover any movement of the French fleet of De Grasse which was known to be in that area. As a precautionary measure, however, he sent some light craft on reconnaissance south along the Atlantic coast.
From a painting in the U. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Md. Not finding Graves, the commander of the sloop put to sea to locate him, but was attacked by a privateer and forced ashore. Needing repairs, Graves did not want to sail again until his fleet was in readiness. Another matter that was troubling him was the French squadron of eight ships under Admiral De Barras at Newport; and it was tentatively agreed that when he was at full strength joint operations would be undertaken against that station.
Then, on August 28, Rear Adm. Rodney, suffering from poor health, had turned over his command to Hood and sailed for home, but one of his last acts had been to dispatch Hood northward along the Atlantic coast with comprehensive instructions to act against, or to head off, De Grasse. Hood, on August 25, had entered the Chesapeake and found no enemy, since he had sailed in advance of De Grasse. From Virginia he had continued on to New York.
Thus Hood had missed De Grasse, and the latter was now in the Chesapeake. A model of the flagship of the Count de Grasse during his operations in Virginia waters in the autumn of An intelligence report was received about this time by the British that De Barras had sailed from Newport with his entire squadron and that he, too, was headed for Virginia. Immediate action was imperative. On August 31, he sailed south, hoping to intercept either De Barras or De Grasse, or of engaging them both.
On the morning of September 5, Graves approached the capes of the Chesapeake. The French fleet was sighted and a signal was made to form a line of battle. By noon, his ships were getting to their stations.
The fleet was divided into three divisions, with Graves directing operations from his flagship, the London , of 98 guns. Division commanders were Rear Adm. Samuel Hood and Rear Adm.
Francis Samuel Drake. Meanwhile, in the French fleet, De Grasse ordered all hands to prepare for action. The tide was right by noon, and, even though 90 officers and 1, men were not aboard, his ships got under way and moved out into the Atlantic to allow more room for maneuver. A French account of the battle related that:. Only the eight leading ships of the English line took any great part in the fight. The combat was violent here.
For the most part the center of their fleet and their rear held themselves at half a cannon shot without inclining to engage. The wind failed the nine last vessels of our line entirely Count de Grasse desired ardently that the action be general, and in order to have the enemy at command there he ordered his van to bear down a second time. That of Admiral Graves was very abused, and that admiral profited by the advantage of the wind which rendered him master of distance, in order to avoid being attacked by the French rear-division which was making every effort to reach him and his center.
Sunset ended this battle The first fifteen ships in the French line were the only ones to participate in the battle In the action, 24 French ships of the line, carrying approximately 1, guns and 19, seamen, were opposed by 19 British ships of the line, having about 1, guns and 13, seamen.
[Diary entry: 19 October 1781]
Casualties for the British were 90 killed and wounded. The French counted about 15 in killed and wounded. Several English ships were damaged, and one, the Terrible , had to be sunk several days after the engagement. During the night of September , the two fleets remained close together.
At a conference on the London , on the 6th, Graves decided that with a number of his ships disabled it would be too hazardous to renew the action. De Grasse, having stopped the British and having inflicted considerable damage, likewise hesitated to renew the engagement.
On the 7th and 8th, the two fleets remained from 2 to 5 leagues apart. Meanwhile, a northeast wind was carrying them south. On the 9th, they were below Albemarle Sound, and by the next day the British fleet was off Cape Hatteras.
It was on the 9th that De Grasse lost sight of the British and, fearing that a change of wind might prevent it, sailed toward the Chesapeake Bay, which he reached on the 11th. Admiral Graves followed De Grasse northward, realizing that the situation was now out of hand. The Battle of the Virginia Capes, as the action of September 5 has come to be called, was a most important phase of the siege of Yorktown. At a critical point the French had seized control of the sea and had sealed in the British at Yorktown.
This prevented the evacuation of Cornwallis and ended his hopes of reinforcement and supply.
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The next phase of the combined operation against Cornwallis was encirclement by land. Already this was being accomplished. On September 7, Lafayette moved his force from the Pamunkey River to Williamsburg where he could at least temporarily block any movement that Cornwallis might make up the peninsula. His army was substantially enlarged the next day by the more than 3, troops under St. Simon, who had arrived with De Grasse and landed at Jamestown. The combined French and American forces, which Washington had left at the head of the Chesapeake early in September, found a shortage of shipping also at Head-of-Elk.
It was necessary to use most of the vessels available for the transport of ordnance and stores, with the result that the bulk of the troops had to march on to Baltimore and Annapolis to embark. On September 15, Washington wrote to De Grasse about the transport of his army.
The French admiral had anticipated this need, and had already dispatched the transports brought to the area from Newport 16 by De Barras plus some frigates which had been seized—enough to accommodate about 4, troops. Count de Rochambeau, Commander of the French wing of the allied armies which besieged Yorktown.
On September 17, Washington, with Rochambeau, Chastellux, Henry Knox, and the Chevalier Duportail, visited De Grasse aboard the Ville de Paris to pay their respects and to confer on the joint operation now in progress against Cornwallis. In the discussion, Washington was able to prevail on De Grasse to extend his stay in Virginia waters past the October 15 deadline which he had originally set.