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Charles Hector, comte d'Estaing

Charles Hector Comte d'Estaing (1729 - April 28, 1794), French admiral, was born at the château of Ruvel, Auvergne.

He entered the army as a colonel of infantry, and in 1757 he accompanied count de Lally to the East Indies, with the rank of brigadier-general. In 1759 he was made prisoner at the siege of Madras, but was released on parole. Before the ratification of his exchange he obtained command of some vessels, and conducted various naval attacks against the English; and having, on his return to France in 1760, fallen accidentally into their hands, he was, on the ground of having broken his parole, thrown, into prison at Portsmouth, but as the charge could not be properly substantiated he was soon afterwards released. In 1763 he was named lieutenant-general in the navy, and in 1777 vice-admiral; and in 1778 he obtained the command of a fleet intended to assist the United States against Great Britain. He sailed on April 13, and between the 11th and the 22nd of July, blockaded Howe at Sandy Hook, but did not venture to attack him, though greatly superior in force.

In concert with the American generals, he planned an attack on Newport, preparatory to which he compelled the British to destroy some war vessels that were in the harbour; but before the concerted attack could take place, he put to sea against the English fleet, under Lord Howe, when owing to a violent storm, which arose suddenly and compelled the two fleets to separate before engaging in battle, many of his vessels were so shattered that he found it necessary to put into Boston for repairs. lie then sailed for the West Indies on November 4. After a feeble attempt to retake Santa Lucia from Admiral Barrington, he captured St Vincent and Grenada.

On July 6 1779 he fought a drawn battle with Admiral Byron, who retired to St Christopher. Though superior in force, D'Estaing would not attack the English in the roadstead, but set sail to attack Savannah. All his attempts, as well as those of the Americans, against the town were repulsed with heavy loss, and he was finally compelled to retire. He returned to France in 1780. He was in command of the combined fleet before Cadiz when the peace was signed in 1783; but from that time his chief attention was devoted to politics. In 1787 he was elected to the assembly of the notables; in 1789 he was appointed commandant of the national guard; and in 1792 he was chosen admiral by the National Assembly. Though in favour of national reform he continued to cherish a strong feeling of loyalty to the royal family, and on the trial of Marie Antoinette in 1793 bore testimony in her favour. On this account, and because of certain friendly letters which had passed between him and the queen, he was himself brought to trial, and was executed on the 28th of April 1794.

See Marins et soldats français en Amérique, by the Viscomte de Noailles (1903); Beatson, Naval and Military Memoirs of Great Britain, vol. v.