Translation © Donald E. Pusch 2008, Some Rights Reserved.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. To view a copy of this license, visit or send a letter to Creative Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.

D’Oisy to Minister, Brest, November 15, 1762; A.N., Marine B 104, fol. 228–32v; microfilm, Archives nationales. D’Oisy describes the events surrounding the wreck and loss of the frigate Opale off the island of Mogane (Mayaguana) in July 1762.1 Translated from the original French by Donald E. Pusch, August 2007. [fol. 228:] [Marginal note:]


Campaign Journals Loss of the frigate Opale 42 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36. 37. 38. 39. 40. 41. 42. Copy of the letter from Monsieur d’Oisy3 4 commanding the Calypso Brest, November 15, 1762 Monseigneur, I got under way from the roadstead of the Cap July 15 with the Diadème6 and the Brillant7 in consequence of the order that I received from Monsieur de Blénac.8 This sortie had as its objective the departure of some merchant ships, which we escorted. The 21st, at 4 o’clock in the evening, we were near Grand Caique.9 I was in the lead seeking to discover [the enemy], and I was alerted to 16 sails, which I signaled. And, at the same time, I reported this to Monsieur, the Chevalier Fouquet.10 [With] the two fleets heading to meet each other, the enemy [ships] found themselves well within range of us to be recognized. Their usual confidence put them in no condition to escape once they had realized their error. The frigate that was escorting them had a superior speed and, with the help of darkness, escaped us. I was ordered to head after the fleet, and I captured two ships loaded with troops. During the night, I rallied with the Diadème with my two prizes, which we finished manning the following morning, the 22nd. When this action was accomplished, we deployed sail and continued our route up until sunset. At that time, Monsieur de Fouquet signaled the fleet, which was in good sailing order, to continue its route, and we came about in order to regain Grand Caique and to reenter the channel at dawn.11 We were, according to our estimate, 15 leagues to the north northeast of the island of Mogane.12 We reckoned the route to be south and south by southeast, and we planned to pass at least five or six leagues windward of this island.13 We coursed under reduced sail, fair weather, very little wind, and pleasant seas. We made at most ten leagues from that time up until 3 o’clock in the morning, when I was awakened by a violent jolt. At the time that the Diadème, which had just sighted land, was making the signal to come about, I was windward of her a half league and on the port quarter, which had been designated for me by Monsieur the Chevalier Fouquet. The land could not be seen from the position I was in, the reef extending

[fol. 228v:] 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36. 37. 38. 39. 40. 41. 42. to more than a league seaward in this area from the northeast of the island, where the land is very low and, this night, very dark. In an instant, I got out of my quarters and onto the deck. I had cannon shots fired in order to warn the warships of the danger that I was in, and I signaled them of it. Immediately, the pumps were rigged, and a moment later the master caulker came to report that the Opale was breached, that water was rising visibly in the hold, and a half hour later she was full up to the hatchways. When I saw the peril, with no remedy, I set about, with the means I could employ, to save the men, and I was quite happy to inspire confidence during the first moments. I avoided, by that, the disorder and confusion that are usually the disastrous consequences of such an event. I put all the boats to sea and I put an officer in each one with orders to press toward the open sea, to not let anyone embark on them, and to return aboard only when I would recall them. This precaution inspired confidence, and everyone went to work and without complaint. I was so well supported by the officers, and even by the English, that in less than an hour the cannons and the masts were jettisoned into the sea without injuring anyone. The ship, lightened by this, took a better position. The jolts became less frequent and less violent. There remained only the rudder, which had cut into two or three beams and which we succeeded in jettisoning into the sea. And we found ourselves, though the ship had already settled, at least more calm and in condition to await, without danger, the help that the warships— which, at dawn, took action to put about—were able to send to us. I had, in the first minutes, occupied the English in collecting up bread from the store room, and a stockpile was made of it in the main cabin. But the greater part was wet and fell into the sea through the gun ports when the frigate settled. We found ourselves, at that moment, without water, without wine, and nearly without bread. The warships approached, and the Diadème’s large canot14

[fol. 229:] 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. arrived towards 9 o’clock. When the warships were close enough, I dispatched the Diadème’s canot, my chaloupe,15 and my canot, loaded with people. I might have had, at that moment, 600 men on board the Opale, as many English as French. I saw the difficulty that the warships would have in approaching her. The following day, the winds and the currents causing [them] to fall off leeward, I wanted to take advantage of this first moment in order to save as many of my people as I could. And in order


11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36. 37. 38. 39. 40. 41.

to bring that about, I forbade that anyone think of saving anything except the clothes they wore. I arranged them one-by-one in all the boats, and I placed there as many of them as they [the boats] could carry without risk. One of the prizes, in which Monsieur de Charité embarked, came very close to us, and the people were disembarked onto her. This gave us the means to make two trips. In the evening, she moved away and was to rejoin the warships. I had Monsieur Fouquet told of the condition I was in and he sent to me, the following day, by his canot, some provisions, which reached us just at the right time. But that day we were only able to rescue very few people, the warships having fallen off a long way leeward, and only one trip could be made. I had on board the two captains of the prizes that I had taken, and one of them [the prizes] found itself grounded near us and had remained upright. The captain proposed to me to go there to find any kind of provisions. He carried back to us some casks of water, some biscuit, and some taffia.16 These unexpected provisions revived the crew, which was dying of hunger and which saw, although perhaps less than I did, the distress that we were facing because of the remoteness of the warships, although Monsieur Fouquet did everything humanly possible in order to give us assistance. But the currents and the winds did not permit him to do any better. I owe him my salvation and was even more touched by the form he employed than by the substance. Humanity dictates

[fol. 229v:] 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. the one, but all men do not know how to apply as well the other. In the minutes immediately following the wreck, I had a raft made from the spare topmasts and all the yards that I had on board. I put on this raft the few provisions that remained to me of the flour, my sheep, two bullocks, and generally whatever could be used to survive on. I had placed on it about sixty of the best men left to me, who were the maîtres,17 the petty officers (officiers mariniers), and a few English. And I wanted to have this raft go ashore after having sent back the Diadème’s canot and having asked Monsieur Fouquet to send [a party] to look for me on the lee side of the island, where the small boats could safely anchor. And I alerted him that I was going to take ashore about 180 men who were still with me. But I had the displeasure to see my raft run aground on the bar that was between the land and me and to see all the provisions that I had placed in it sink to the bottom. Fortunately, I was able to bring the raft back aboard and no one perished on it. This accident distressed me a lot but did not discourage


23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36. 37. 38. 39. 40. 41.

me. I still had my chaloupe and my small canot. The two English captains, who had sailed a great deal to the coast of Guinée [and were] accustomed to passing by canot over bars where the sea breaks more than on this one, proposed to me, if I would entrust my small canot to them, to go to look for a passage [through the bar] for my chaloupe. I accepted their offers. They succeeded and arrived on shore. The 25th, in the morning, the third day of my wreck, they carried onto the island, in the chaloupe that they guided, more than one hundred men. And in the evening, no longer seeing the warships, I myself went there at 7 o’clock, preceded by the chaloupe, in which were the officers and the maîtres, and I followed them in the small canot. I had the displeasure to see this chaloupe run aground and almost perish on the bar, from which she was pulled only by the maneuver that the officers had the crew make, having them get

[fol. 230:] 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. into the water and lift the chaloupe, which they floated and reached the shore, where I experienced the sight of the groaning of my entire crew, which was dying of hunger and thirst, not having found, since morning, a drop of water on this island. [But],I did not find it at all hard to calm them. They had seen that I had never neglected their salvation, not one man drowned or even injured, [and] the officers no better treated than they. The example that it had presented them had acquired [their] confidence. Large fires are started and on them were placed some grills of salt bacon and beef, a few barrels of which had come to the coast. I promised them water for the following morning. The expectations settled them down, calmness returned in an instant, and they slept peacefully throughout the night. The English and the French had an equal fate, and peace reigned between us. At daybreak, I assembled everyone. I laid out some wells in places where I judged to find it less difficult to dig. I put everyone to work, and the officers placed themselves to direct them. I had caulked and put back into place one of the chaloupe’s strakes, which it was missing the day before when it was run aground. Once everyone was occupied, I left in charge of the works Monsieur de Capellis18 who was second [captain] to me and was charged to send [the chaloupe] to pick up provisions aboard the prize. Once the chaloupe was repaired, I left him and was off to scour the coast in order to see if I could find some indication of a spring, which might provide us some water more potable than that which I hoped to find in the wells that 4

36. 37. 38. 39.

were being dug. Hope gave me strength, and I went more than two leagues without encountering anything but some holes in the rocks where there was a little water from a foul source,19

[fol. 230v:] 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36. 37. 38. which, nevertheless, I drank in long gulps. During that time, the chaloupe had made one trip, and sparing distributions of what had been carried ashore were made to everyone. I continued my trek. I had eaten, in four days, only some brandied peaches and had drunk some taffia, but I had strength again. A little while later, I saw two men who told me that the prizes were waiting for me 4 leagues away. I was more than two [leagues] away from my people. I sent them [the two men] to Monsieur de Capellis with orders to set out to follow me, and I continued my trek in order to go and have food prepared for them at their arrival. When I had yet made two leagues, I stopped on the side of a river in order to restore myself and to have it sounded by a sailor who had followed me. I heard voices near me. I shouted out, and I saw coming to me some sailors from the Diadème who came in order to guide us through a marsh that they had crossed, and [they] assured me that one could not get through [by going] along the sea [coast]. I believed them and followed them, but I had considerable difficulty withstanding the fatigue and the impediments that I encountered there at every moment, being a few times in water up to my chin and thick, burning mud up to my knees. Fortunately, I arrived beside the sea, supported during this trek by two sailors who helped me walk and often raised me up. I found there Monsieur Dumas and the provisions that this officer had had placed on the route along the coast. I asked him to send [help] immediately to the poor wretches who followed me and to make them stop on the edge of the river. And I wrote to Monsieur de Capellis

[fol. 231:] 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. so that he forbade anyone to go by way of the marsh where three quarters of our people, exhausted by fatigue and nearly out of food for four days, would have remained without help. Monsieur Dumas undertook to search for a route along the coast and sent [a party] to check (gager) the river. I boarded one of the prizes, and in the evening everyone arrived. The following morning, I went ashore and again gathered up a few stragglers. At noon, 5

11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36. 37. 38. 39. 40.

seeing no more people on the other side of the river where I had been, I boarded the prize and made the signal that Monsieur Fouquet had sent me orders to make to him when everyone was embarked. I got under way and he came up ahead of me. I came up to him in the evening [and] we made route for the Cap, where we arrived July 31. On arrival, a headcount was taken of my crew, and it revealed not one fewer Frenchman, but it was missing, of the English, 12 or 15 men. I requested that a ship be fitted out as a parlementaire20 in order to go give them some help and to take advantage of that occasion to salvage the crew’s clothing and my own, which had remained on the deck of the frigate. My request was granted, but the usual slowness, especially in this country, only permitted this ship to leave 8 or 10 days after our arrival. It was necessary to overcome some obstacles to her departure, which I cannot go into without getting far off my subject. Also, it reached there too late; the English had gotten there first, and she returned without finding either men or clothing. I asked Monsieur de Clugny21 for two months pay to aid my crew in clothing themselves, and I obtained it. However, Monseigneur,

[Marginal note opposite the last three lines of the page:] The King, having consented to this gratuity, he responded to this item and wrote to Monsieur Hocquart22 on the subject on December 6. [fol. 231v:] 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. I added to it the hope that the King, touched by their misfortune, would grant them these two months in gratuity, and I fulfill my obligation to them in taking the liberty to ask you this favor, which they have merited by their conduct, their obedience, and their resignation in an event where they had experienced, during 4 days, the horrors of impending death, without complaint and without a single man of the crew seeking to save himself by swimming to shore. I still owe them a testimony, in your presents, of the acts of goodwill that they performed when they were employed in the careening of the Hector23 and the raising of the Calypso. Monsieur de Blénac was able to render an account to you of their


18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36. 37. 38. 39. 40.

goodwill to which he was witness on that occasion. Monsieur de Blénac and Monsieur Ho[c]quart should have had the honor to write to you today on this subject and have promised me, in view of the reasonableness of my request, to join with me to obtain this favor. The officers are also in the same situation and arrived at the Cap as I did, completely naked. It is not that it was impossible for us, the day that we spent on the island, to save most of my effects and those of the officers, but there are cases, and I believed this one [to be] among those, where it is necessary to sacrifice everything for the common good. I caused, out of necessity, in the first minutes [after striking the reef], my crew to be completely naked. The same necessity no longer existed in latter moments, but one might believe that this precaution [not letting the crew take their cloths with them] had only been taken in order to have more room for my effects. A shirt is more dear to a sailor than to me. I could not bring back theirs, [so] I was not going

[fol. 232:] 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. to save my own. And, although I considered, from then, the inconvenience that the loss I was experiencing was going to cause to my financial situation, I was making sacrifices and it meant nothing to me. I believed it quite necessary to use, on one hand, punishment toward some and, on the other, money in order to encourage those who worked willingly. And [in addition], I have the honor to alert you that I am planning, at the review [of the incident], to request advancement for some. I believe it necessary to request that those with whom I was displeased be cut off and excluded from the gratuity, in case you grant one. The number of these last is small and limited to three men. There is a fourth whom I left at Saint-Domingue in prison and whom I was not able to have hung before my departure. Whatever appeal I made regarding this matter, the proceeding was informed [of the evidence] and his judgement certain. However, it would have been desirable that he be executed as an example before the departure of the squadron. Here is his crime: When I had the two prizes that I had captured on the 21st manned, I gave command of them to two pilots mates (aides pilotes), wise and capable of sailing them. For handling [the ships], I gave them some petty officers [and] a dozen sailors. A quarter master (quartier maître), a few days later, found out that the wife of an officer who had remained on the ship had, under the head of her bed, 7

31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36. 37. 38. 39. 40. 41. 42. 43. 44. 45.

money and some jewels. He was, with a knife in hand, about to steal them and was caught in the act by a sailor and the woman’s husband, who disarmed him. The women was pregnant, and the fright she received caused her to miscarry. I was given an account of it the moment I arrived aboard the prizes. I had the culprit arrested, and he was put aboard the Diadème in irons and turned over, by order of Monsieur de Blénac, into the hands of judges at the Cap. The English themselves sought to excuse him when they saw things at this point. Drunkenness was used as the excuse, but mercy never occurred to me. I fulfilled the obligation of my responsibility, I believe, in asking for the most scrupulous examination. And more proof was found than necessary to give rise to the hope that the execution would serve

[fol. 232v:] 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. as an example to people capable of committing similar excesses, which would become only too common if they went unpunished. Believing myself, in this event, Monseigneur, more to be pitied than condemned, I believed I must leave it to Monsieur de Blénac and Monsieur Fouquet to render an account to you of my conduct before entering into the details that I had the honor to send you today. And I dare flatter myself that my misfortune will not pose an obstacle to the readiness I have to be effective to respond to the mark of confidence that the États d’Artois24 gave me. In consequence, I implored Monsieur de 25 Roquefeuil to ask of you a leave that will allow me to pay my respects to you and to go to my family to make arrangements that put me in a condition to profit from the favor that you saw fit to grant to me on this occasion and which will allow me to give new proofs of my zeal for the service and of my diligence toward my profession. I am, with respect, etc.26


End Notes There exists a second copy of this letter at fol. 224–27; significant differences between the two are addressed in endnotes. 2 This marginal note is somewhat different on the second copy of d’Oisy’s report: Squadron of Monsieur de Blénac Monsieur le Chevalier d’Oisy November 15, 1762 Wreck of the Opale No. 33 3 The Chevalier d’Oisy, lieutenant de vaisseau, was commander of the frigate Opale on the Blénac campaign. At some point following the loss of the Opale, d’Oisy was given command of the corvette Calypso. Extrait du journal de Kxven [Kerven] le Gall Ecrivain du Roy Embarqué Sur au 4 le V le Duc de Bourgogne..., joint à la lettre de Kxven le Gall du 8 juin 1762, A.N., Marine, B 104, fol. 108; hereinafter cited as the journal of Kerven Le Gall. 4 The 16-gun corvette Calypso, commanded initially on the Blénac campaign by Monsieur Duchilleau, enseigne de vaisseau. Ibid. 5 Cap Français, today Cap Haïtien, Haiti. 6 The 74-gun warship Diadème, commanded on the Blénac campaign by the Chevalier Fouquet, capitaine de vaisseau. The journal of Kerven Le Gall. 7 The 64-gun warship Brillant, commanded on the Blénac campaign by the vicomte de Rochechouart. Ibid. 8 Charles de Courbon, comte de Blénac, chef d’escadre and commander of the campaign. Michel Vergé-Franceschi, La Marine française au XVIIIe siecle: guerres – administration – exploration (Paris: SEDES, 1996), 414. 9 Grand Caicos Island. 10 Paul-Louis Fouquet, capitaine de vaisseau (1754), chef d’escadre (1771), and lieutenant général (1780). Etienne Taillemite, Dictionnaire des Marins français, nouvelle édition (Paris: Tallandier, 2002), 191. 11 This is the Caicos Passage which runs between the Caicos islands and Mayaguana. Because of the danger of entering the passage in darkness, d’Oisy and the other captains attempted to adjust their speed and route so as to arrive at the passage’s entrance at dawn. 12 Mayaguana Island. 13 The ships were apparently to the northeast of Mayaguana and experiencing an east or northeast wind. Recognizing the danger of being blown into the shallows, they intended to give the island a wide birth as they made route for the Caicos Passage. 14 A small rowboat used primarily to carry people to and from the ship. 15 A boat considerably larger than a canot but having no deck. Chaloupes could be rowed but were also likely to have one or two sail-rigged masts. Their primary purpose was to transport merchandise, munitions, and passengers to and from the ship, but they were usually sturdy enough to make short, open-water excursions. 16 A liquor distilled from sugarcane juice. 17 Experienced individuals who were in charge of specific functions on the ship. One specifically mentioned in d’Oisy’s account is the master caulker (maître calfat). 18 The second copy of d’Oisy’s letter refers to this individual as the Marquis de Capellis. This is thought to be Jean-Antoine-Nicolas-François, marquis de Capellis who, in 1762, was a lieutenant de vaisseau. Jacques Aman, Les officiers bleus dans la Marine française au XVIIIe 7 siècle (Genève: Libraire Droz, 1976), 179, citing Capellis’ service dossier, A.N., Marine C 52. 19 The French here is un peu d’eau de puits détestable. In the second copy of d’Oisy’s letter, the French is un peu d’eau de pluie détestable (a little foul rain water).


A ship that was allowed to enter enemy waters or ports for the purpose of exchanging prisoners or performing other neutral tasks. 21 Jean-Etienne-Bernard de Clugny de Nuits, intendant of Saint-Domingue, 1760–1763. Vergé-Franceschi, La Marine française au XVIIIe siecle, 212, 419. 22 Gilles Hocquart de Champerny, intendant of the Marine at Brest, 1749–1764. Ibid., 209, 426. 23 The 74-gun warship Hector, commanded on the Blénac campaign by Monsieur de Sanzay, capitaine de vaisseau. The journal of Kerven Le Gall. 24 The state of Artois was one of several provincial jurisdictions that exercised certain administrative and fiscal powers and appointed various provincial functionaries. They were originally set up to control ancient fiefdoms within the realm but, between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries, were also used to administer newly acquired territory. The Chevalier d’Oisy was apparently the recipient of some post or favor from the state of Artois. 25 Aymar-Joseph, comte de Roquefeuil, chef d’escadre (1761) and lieutenant général (1766). Roquefeuil was commandant of the Marine at Brest from 1761 to 1772. Vergé-Franceschi, La Marine française au XVIIIe siecle, 191, 437. 26 So ends this copy of the letter. The second copy includes the ending, “Your very humble & very obedient servant, Le Chr D’oisy, Brest, November 15, 1762.”