King's College London
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‘The paradise of the world’: conflict and society in the Caribbean

Martinique and Guadeloupe

View of the attack on Martinique, shows the disposition of the troops and batteries of gunsView of the attack on Martinique, from: Richard Gardiner. An account of the expedition to the West Indies, against Martinico ... Birmingham: printed by John Baskerville; London: for G Steidel, at the Crown and Bible, Maddox-Street, Hanover-Square, 1762 [FCDO Historical Collection F2151 GAR]The Seven Years’ War was the first global war and the Caribbean saw its share of conflict.

Displayed here is the account by Captain Richard Gardiner (1723-81), who led a company of marines aboard HMS Rippon, of the failed British attempt to capture Martinique from the Frenchin 1759.

On 13 January 1759 a fleet, commanded by Commodore John Moore, and consisting of nearly 100 vessels, including 60 transport ships and ten ships of the line, sailed from Barbados towards Martinique. On 16 January the British ships began to engage the French batteries on the island and by the following morning three brigades of British troops had been landed about five miles from the main French stronghold of Port Royal.

However, resistance by the local militias was stiff and by nightfall the British commander Major-General Peregrine Hopson, overestimating the strength of the opposing forces, broke off the attack and ordered his troops back aboard ship. According to Gardiner, 23 British troops had been killed in the attack and another 49 wounded. Martinique was captured by another British expedition in the following year.

The expedition had greater success when it turned its attention to Guadeloupe. British troops were landed on that island on 24 January and despite suffering heavy losses due to disease they managed to force the French into capitulation in May. The loss of the rich sugar islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique was a great blow to the French but under the Treaty of Paris (1763), which ended hostilities, the islands were returned to France. A heavy price was paid, however, as the French had to cede Canada, all their territories east of the Mississippi, Grenada, Dominica, Tobago and St Vincent to Britain under the treaty.

The plate on display shows the disposition of the troops and batteries of guns during the attack on Martinique.

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