d’HANACHE, Marquis (b.1739) soldier & merchant. ALS to brother reports on Battle of the Saintes 1782

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d’HANACHE, Marquis (HUGHES-BARTHELEMY ALEXANDRE)  (b. 1739), soldier and merchant. Autograph letter in French signed to his brother ‘Le chevalier d’Hanache’[Louis-Maximilien Alexandre d’Hanache], 1 side 4to bifolium, closely written, with red wax seal, St Marc [Haiti]14 May 1782, reporting on the shipment of shared goods [translated:] ‘I have here in Port-au-Prince one thousand six hundred and forty five [bales?] of cotton which I am sending to Mr Michel ……. that would bring, in France, at least thirty-eight thousand pounds net.  I explained to this gentleman to charge you six thousand pounds.  The goyavas [guavas] suffered so much bad weather especially in our region that no one could do anything with them, for you they will make, at best, two or three thousand cartons …….. I have, of yours and mine, around twelve to fifteen thousand of coffee which I am having prepared and which I will send with the second convoy.  In order that these will not be missed I authorise you to take from what I am sending to my merchants six thousand pounds in French money’, and commenting upon the French defeat at the Battle of the Saintes [translated:] ‘We here are devastated about the event befalling Monsieur de Grasse  - Admiral Rodney defeated him on the way here from la Martinique; he took seven of our vessels, one of which was our Ville de Paris …….. With fifty eight vessels he is consequently superior to ourselves who were, with the Spanish, able to rally only thirty nine and ours were well delapidated.  Messieur de Voudreuilles fought furiously …… I will give you in further letters a positive report of the officers and the vessels taken as prizes.  I leave in your hands my pressing affairs; we must do the impossible for success’. Piece of paper removed from blank edge by seal.

The Alexandre d’Hanache brothers were born in St Domingue, Haiti, whose parents, descended from a noble British family, had settled in Haiti. Marquis Hughes-Barthelemy, the writer of this letter, born in 1739, served as a musketeer and as a captain of dragoons, and married Charlotte-Françoise le Féron in 1768. The Marquis frequently corresponded with Benjamin Franklin. His youngest brother the Compte Louis-Maximilien Alexandre, the recipient of this letter, was born in 1745, served as a lieutenant and a captain of the militia, and later led a company of cavalry in St Domingue. He married Henriette Cochon du Puy in 1780, and lived variously in Haiti, Jamaica and France. A third brother, Jerome-Marie was born in 1741, also became a soldier, commanding the Gonaïve Militia in Haiti in the 1760s.

The French Admiral the Compte François-Joseph Paul de Grasse had in September 1781 played a vital role in ensuring the success of the American War of Independence by reinforcing Washington’s troops in Virginia and by halting the British at the Battle of the Chesapeake. In April 1782 de Grasse was preparing his fleet in Martinique to join forces with the Spanish for an invasion of British-held Jamaica in efforts to drive the British out of the Caribbean. De Grasse departed Martinique on 8th April with 33 ships-of-the-line to rendezvous with 12 Spanish, and some 15,000 troops. Admiral Sir George Rodney who had only just taken command of the British Caribbean forces (with a strength of 36 ships-of-the-line) set off in pursuit, and on 12 April engaged with the French near Les Iles des Saintes off Guadeloupe. Employing a clever tactic of “breaking the line” Rodney decimated the French fleet, and de Grasse surrendered his ship the Ville de Paris and was taken prisoner. As a result in the Treaty of Paris of 3 September 1783 which ended the war between Britain and the United States of America and its allies, Britain regained most of its island possessions in the West Indies.

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