Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Journal ou Campagne des Armées de Terre et de Mer …, 1781-1782

Hubert S. Smith Naval Collection

Finding aid created by
Caitlin Marineau, March 2011

Summary Information
Title: Journal ou Campagne des Armées de Terre et de Mer…
Creator: Anonymous
Inclusive dates: 1781-1782
Extent: 1 volume
The Journal ou Campagne … documents the movements of the French naval squadron commanded by the Comte de Grasse during the American Revolution.
Language: The material is in French
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1954. M-963.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.

Alternate Format:

This volume has been microfilmed

Preferred Citation:

Journal ou Campagne des Armées de Terre et de Mer …, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


François-Joseph-Paul, comte de Grasse (1722-1788), was born in Bar-sur-Loup, France, on September 12, 1722. In 1781, after serving as a commodore in the French navy during France's early involvement in the American Revolution, de Grasse was promoted to admiral and given command of a large fleet. The convoy reached the West Indies in April 1781 and participated in several engagements before sailing to Virginia to support the Comte de Rochambeau's troops. De Grasse and his fleet fought the British in several battles around the Chesapeake, and provided a naval blockade during the sieges of Yorktown and Gloucester. After General Charles Cornwallis surrendered to the allied forces in October of 1781, de Grasse returned with his fleet to the West Indies, where they aided in capturing St. Kitts, Nevis, and Montserrat in 1782. However, in April 1782, de Grasse faced a disastrous defeat against Admiral George Romney off of the Îles de Saintes, and was captured by the British. He was eventually freed and he returned to France, where he died in 1788.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The journal, which is titled Journal ou Campagne des Armées de Terre et de Mer, depuis le 22 Mars, 1781, jour du départ de l'armée navale françoise, commandée par Mr. le Comte de Grasse, de la Rade de Brest jusques au 31 May, 1782, jour auquel l'escadre commandée par Mr. le Marquis de Chabert, est partie de la Rade du Cap François pour conduire en Europe un convoy de 126 voiles, avec les details de la traverse la ditte escadre, documents the movements of the French naval squadron commanded by the Comte de Grasse during the American Revolution. Written by an anonymous member of the French navy, the journal begins with the fleet's departure from Brest on March 22, 1781, followed by their arrival at St. Lucia at the end of April. While in the West Indies, the author recorded enemy activities and engagements, including a battle led by the Marquis de Bouillé, who landed on St. Lucia, "sous le fond d'une batterie des ennemis" (under a battery of enemies), and captured one-hundred prisoners (p. 4).

The fleet remained in the West Indies for the next several months. In July, while the ships were stationed at Cap François at Saint Domingue, dispatches arrived from Generals Washington and Rochambeau, asking for naval support to defend against General Cornwallis's forces, who were stationed in Virginia, poised to invade Maryland, and if it would be possible "d'arreter ces progrès et même de le prendre lui et son armée, si nos forces maritimes devenoient superieurer…"to stop their progress and even capture him [Cornwallis] and his army, if our maritime forces proved superior) (p. 6).

The author then discussed the preparation and departure of the fleet, which arrived at the Chesapeake on August 30th, where de Grasse proceeded to blockade the entrances of the York and James rivers. The journal then records the slaughter of Marquis de St. Simon's men by British soldiers at the James River. The author described corpses exposed on the river bank, and the devastation of a deserted region: "tel fut le triste et cruel spectacle, qui s'offrit a ces yeux," (such was the sad and cruel spectacle that showed itself to these eyes) (verso p. 8). After de Grasse's arrival, Cornwallis swiftly fortified his position at Yorktown. The journal contains details on the Battle of the Chesapeake, fought between French and British fleets on September 5th, and includes a diagram of the positions of the French and English ships on the Chesapeake (inlaid at p. 9).

By mid-October, Cornwallis was forced to surrender; the journal includes a copy of the articles of capitulation, signed on October 19th (p. 14). After successfully blockading the Chesapeake, and the surrender of Cornwallis, de Grasse returned to the West Indies. The journal contains accounts of the Marquis de Bouillé's attack on St. Eustatius, the captures of Martinique and St. Christopher, and the articles of capitulation for the surrender of St. Christopher. The journal also contains an account of the April 1782 battle in which Admiral Rodney defeated de Grasse's fleet. The end of the journal contains lists of the vessels under de Grasse and the Comte de Barras, along with a list of British ships (September 5, 1782).

Subject Terms

    • Bouillé, Francois-Claude-Amour, marquis de, 1739-1800.
    • Chesapeake, Battle of the, Va., 1781.
    • Cornwallis, Charles Cornwallis, Marquis, 1738-1805.
    • France--History, Naval--18th century.
    • Grasse, François Joseph Paul de Grasse, comte de, 1722-1788.
    • Rochambeau, Jean-Baptiste-Donatien de Vimeur, comte de, 1725-1807.
    • United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Destruction and pillage.
    • United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Naval operations.
    • United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Participation, French.
    • Washington, George, 1732-1799.
    Genre Terms:
    • Diaries.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Volume   1  
    Journal ou Campagne des Armées de Terre et de Mer ...,  March 22, 1781-September 5, 1782 [series]
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    The Chevalier de Monteil log book contains a letter from the Chevalier de Monteil to de Grasse (September 23, 1781).

    The Clements Library has additional materials related to de Grasse during the American Revolution. Below are several examples:


    Scott, Samuel F. "Grasse, Comte de." American National Biography Online. Oxford University Press, 2000.