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Naval battle off Cape Breton
Combat naval en vue de Louisbourg
Part of the American Revolutionary War
Combat naval de Louisbourg 1781.jpg
Naval battle off Cape Breton (Combat Naval A La Hauteur De Louisbourg) by Auguste-Louis de Rossel de Cercy
Date July 21, 1781
Location Off Louisbourg, Nova Scotia
Result Tactical French victory; strategically inconsequential
France France United Kingdom Great Britain
France Latouche Tréville
France La Pérouse
United Kingdom Captain Evans 
United Kingdom Captain George
2 frigates:
Astrée (38)
Hermione (34)
6 warships:
Charlestown (28)
Allegiance (24)
Vernon (24)
Vulture (20)
Jack (14)
Thompson (18) (did not fight)

9 coal transports
4 supply ships
Casualties and losses
over 30 killed
2 warships and 3 merchantmen captured

The Naval battle off Cape Breton (French: Combat naval en vue de Louisbourg, or Combat naval à la hauteur de Louisbourg) took place on July 21, 1781, between two French Navy frigates and a convoy under protection of the Royal Navy off the harbour of Louisbourg, capital of "Ile Royale" (modern Cape Breton), Nova Scotia. The attack took place in the context of the Franco-American alliance against Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War.[1][2]



Astree at the battle off Cape Breton.
Hermione at the battle off Cape Breton.

The British convoy was bound for Spanish River on Cape Breton Island to pick up coal for delivery to Halifax.[3] It was composed of 18 ships, including 9 coal-transporting ships and 4 supply ships.[4] The escorting ships were the frigate Charlestown (28), two sloops Allegiance (24) and Vulture (20), an armed transport Vernon (14), and another small armed ship Jack (14).[3]

Two French frigates attacked the convoy:[4] they were the Astrée (38), commanded by La Pérouse, and the Hermione (34), commanded by Latouche Tréville. Charlestown was severely damaged in the encounter, losing her mainmast and much of her command crew, including Captain Evans. Jack also lost her captain and suffered significant damage, and struck her colors. The engagement ended with the fall of night. Captain George of the Vulture led the damaged escorts into harbor.

While the British escort was severely damaged, the convoy picked up a load of coal at Spanish River and delivered it to Halifax.[3] The escort ships Jack and Thorn were captured, along with three merchantmen, and brought back to Boston.

The encounter was painted by Auguste-Louis de Rossel de Cercy, and is on display at the Musée Nationale de la Marine in Rochefort.

The two French commanders would become particularly famous, as Latouche Tréville became an Admiral and a hero of the Napoleonic war, and La Pérouse became a famous explorer. One of the ships, the Hermione, had brought La Fayette to the United States, and a copy is now under construction in the original docks of Rochefort.

See also


L'Hermione in combat off Cape Breton. Combat Naval A La Hauteur De Louisbourg by Auguste-Louis de Rossel de Cercy.
Description of the order of battle by Lieutenant de Frégate auxillaire Mullon, who was on the Hermione the day of the battle.
  1. ^ History of the origin, formation, and adoption of the Constitution of the United States George Ticknor Curtis, p.156 [1]
  2. ^ Brian Douglas Tennyson and Roger Flynn Sarty (2002), Guardian of the Gulf, University of Toronto Press. Pages 18-19
  3. ^ a b c Frigates and Foremasts: The North American Squadron in Nova Scotia Waters, 1745- 1815 by Julian Gwyn p.72-3[2]
  4. ^ a b Ashore and afloat by Julian Gwyn p.155 [3]


  • Gwyn, Julian, Ashore and afloat
  • Gwyn, Julian (2004), Frigates and Foremasts: The North American Squadron in Nova Scotia. Waters, 1745–1815, UBC Press.
  • Murdoch, Beamish, A History of Nova-Scotia, or Acadie.


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