Battle of Sadras

The Battle of Sadras was the first of five largely indecisive naval battles fought between a British fleet (under Admiral Sir Edward Hughes) and a French fleet (under Admiral Pierre Suffren) off the east coast of India during the Anglo-French War. Fought on 17 February 1782 near present-day Kalpakkam, the battle was tactically indecisive, but the British fleet suffered the most damage. Under Suffren's protection, French troop transports were able to land at Porto Novo, present-day Parangipettai.

Battle of Sadras
Part of the American Revolutionary War
Hindostan or India, from the best authorities, author unknown
Date17 February 1782
Location12°31′24.23″N 80°10′36.66″E / 12.5233972°N 80.1768500°E / 12.5233972; 80.1768500Coordinates: 12°31′24.23″N 80°10′36.66″E / 12.5233972°N 80.1768500°E / 12.5233972; 80.1768500
Result Tactically indecisive
Strategic French victory[1][2][3]
 France  Great Britain
Commanders and leaders
Pierre Suffren Edward Hughes
11 ships of the line 9 ships of the line
Casualties and losses
30 killed
100 wounded
32 killed
83 wounded


France had entered the American Revolutionary War in 1778, and Britain had declared war on the Dutch Republic in late 1780 after the Dutch refused to stop trading with the French and the Americans. The British had rapidly gained control over most French and Dutch outposts in India when news of these events reached India, spawning the Second Anglo-Mysore War in the process.

The French admiral Bailli de Suffren was dispatched for military assistance to French colonies in India, leading a fleet of five ships of the line, seven transports, and a corvette to escort transports from Brest in March 1781. Suffren was involved in a happenstance battle with a British fleet at Porto Praya in the Cape Verde Islands in April. In October, he left reinforcement troops at the Dutch-controlled Cape of Good Hope to assist with colonial defense. Suffren added some ships to his fleet and sailed on to the Île de France (present-day Mauritius), arriving at Port Louis in December.

After further additions at Port Louis, Suffren's fleet sailed for India under the command of the elderly Navy Brigadier General Thomas d'Orves, accompanying transports carrying nearly 3,000 men under the command of the Comte du Chemin. D'Orves died in February 1782, shortly before the fleet arrived off the Indian coast, and Suffren once again took command.

Suffren first sailed for Madras, hoping to surprise the British stronghold there. Encountering Hughes's fleet anchored in Madras on 15 February 1782, Suffren turned south. He intended to land troops at Porto Novo, march up the coast and recapture French and Dutch holdings on the way. Hughes raised anchor and sailed after Suffren.


French Admiral the Bailli de Suffren

Suffren was hampered with protecting his troop convoys from Hughes, whose goal he presumed was to prevent the troops from landing. Detaching one corvette to protect the convoy and detailing another to watch the British fleet, Suffren attempted to draw Hughes away. However, under cover of night Hughes managed to slip between Suffren's squadron and the convoys. The signal was raised on the morning of 17 February, and Suffren gave chase to force battle.

When the fleets closed for action around 15:30, some of Suffren's ships had not properly formed the line of battle. Only five of the French ships engaged at first. Of the remaining six, only two joined the action later, with the other four apparently violating Suffren's orders and hanging back. Suffren, leading in Héros, exchanged a broadside with Exeter before targeting Hughes's flagship Superb. The battle lasted for over three hours, with Exeter sustaining the most damage. She was nearly sunk, but two French ships were recalled (for reasons unknown) before they could inflict enough damage to cause her to sink. Superb also suffered significant damage. The battle came to end with the onset of night.


Suffren summoned his captains for council and chastised those who had chosen to stay out of the battle before following the troop convoy to Porto Novo. There the French army had landed, and Suffren met with the Mysorean ruler Hyder Ali to plan strategy. After making repairs, Suffren set off to find Hughes again. The French and Mysorean forces captured Cuddalore, just north of Porto Novo, on 4 April. Hughes sailed for Trincomalee, where he made repairs.

Order of battleEdit

Captain Suffren's squadron [4]
Ship Rate Guns Navy Commander Casualties Notes
Killed Wounded Total
Bizarre 64-gun 64   Captain la Landelle-Roscanvec
Orient 74-gun 74   Captain de la Pallière
Sphinx 64-gun 64   Captain du Chilleau
Vengeur 64-gun 64   Captain de Forbin
Héros 74-gun 74   Captain Suffren
Major de Moissac (flag captain)
Petit Annibal 50-gun 50   Captain Morard de Galles
Annibal 74-gun 74   Captain Boudin-Tromelin
Sévère 64-gun 64   Captain Villeneuve-Cillart
Artésien 64-gun 64   Captain Bidé de Maurville
Ajax 64-gun 64   Captain Bouvet de Précourt
Brillant 64-gun 64   Captain Armand de Saint-Félix
Flamand 54-gun 54   Captain Cavelier-Cuverville
British squadron
Ship Rate Guns Navy Commander Casualties Notes
Killed Wounded Total
HMS Eagle Fourth rate 64   Captain Reddal
HMS Monmouth Fourth rate 64   Captain James Alms
HMS Worcester Fourth rate 64   Captain Wood
HMS Burford Fourth rate 64   Captain Peter Rainier
HMS Superb Third rate 74   Admiral Edward Hughes
Captain Stevens
HMS Hero Third rate 74   Captain Hawker
HMS Isis Fourth rate 50   Captain Lamley
HMS Monarca Third rate 74   Captain John Gell
HMS Exeter Fourth rate 64   Captain King

Sources and referencesEdit



  1. ^ Malleson, p. 24
  2. ^ de Meuron (1982), p. 53
  3. ^ Castex (2004), pp. 340–44
  4. ^ Cunat (1852), p. 111.


  • Castex, Jean-Claude (2004). Dictionnaire des batailles navales franco-anglaises. Presses Université Laval. ISBN 978-2-7637-8061-0.
  • Cunat, Charles (1852). Histoire du Bailli de Suffren. Rennes: A. Marteville et Lefas. p. 447.
  • de Meuron, Guy (1982). Le Régiment Meuron, 1781–1816. Editions d'En bas. ISBN 978-2-8290-0028-7.
  • Killion, Howard R (1972), The Suffren Expedition: French Operations in India during the War of American Independence [Duke U. Ph.D. dissertation]
  • Malleson, George Bruce (1884). Final French Struggles in India and on the Indian Seas. W.H. Allen.

External links