Although there were few sea battles that involved entire fleets during the Revolutionary War (1775-83), the Battle of the Capes off the coast of Virginia between a French squadron under Admiral coMTE DE Grasse and a British squadron under Admiral Thomas Graves determined the outcome of the Yorktown campaign and helped guarantee the independence of the United States. Oddly, the fighting itself was a draw. But Graves’s decision to return to New York to refit doomed Charles, Lord Cornwallis to surrender his army at Yorktown on October 19, 1781.
The stage was set for the battle when de Grasse agreed on July 28, 1781, to sail from the Caribbean to North American waters. Word of this decision reached Generals coMTE DE Rochambeau and George Washington in New York State on August 14. After some hesitation, Washington agreed to abandon his planned attack on New York City and shift the French and Continental armies to the Chesapeake to rendezvous with de Grasse. In the meantime Admiral Comte de Barras was ordered to bring supplies and French troops from Newport, Rhode Island, to the Chesapeake. Anticipating de Grasse’s move, Admiral Sir Samuel Hood sailed for the Chesapeake from his station in the West Indies. He arrived on August 25, before the French fleet. Finding no French ships in the Chesapeake, Hood continued on to New York to join forces with Graves. De Grasse made it to the Chesapeake on August 30. On the same day, with Hood sailing outside New York Harbor ready for action, the British received news that de Barras had sailed from Newport on August 25. The British realized that if the two French squadrons were to unite the French would have overwhelming numbers. On August 31 Graves left New York to join Hood, hoping to either intercept de Barras on his way south or engage de Grasse before de Barras got to the Chesapeake.
With Graves in command as the senior officer, the British arrived off the Virginia Capes on September 5. De Grasse immediately ordered his ships to sea to meet the British threat. Graves had 18 ships of the line (with 64 or more guns); de Grasse had 24. Graves, however, had the advantage of the wind with his ships already at sea. Had he attacked the French immediately as they left the Chesapeake, and before they could organize a line, he might have fared better. Graves, however, intended on following the conventional battle plan of engaging the enemy ship against ship rather than concentrating his forces and disabling one part of the French fleet before attacking the rest. The result was that although the French got under way shortly after noon, the two fleets spent until five o’clock maneuvering for position before commencing the actual fighting. The battle was intense for a little more than an hour and a half before the growing darkness compelled both sides to disengage.
During the following days both fleets stayed within sight of each other as they drifted south off the coast of North Carolina in something of a stalemate. The British had been badly mauled, eventually they had to sink one ship because it had been so severely damaged. Even though they maintained an advantage with the wind, they had to delay another attack until repairs could be completed on several ships. The French hoped for a change in the wind so that they could attack the British. On the evening of September 8, de Grasse decided that he had gone too far south and that if the British headed for the Chesapeake and got there before him, Yorktown could be relieved and cooperation with the land forces impossible. On September 9 the British lost contact with the French, although they knew the French had headed north. Belatedly, Graves ordered the fleet back to the Chesapeake. By the time they returned on September 12, the French were already there and had been joined by de Barras. With the odds greatly against him, Graves decided to head for New York, hope for reinforcements, and refit his fleet. With that decision, and without fully pressing the action, Graves sealed the fate of Cornwallis and his army at Yorktown.
Further reading: Jonathan R. Dull, The French Navy and American Independence: A Study of Arms and Diplomacy (Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press, 1975).
Carey, Mathew (1760-1839) publisher An Irish immigrant, Carey became one of Philadelphia’s leading publishers in the 1790s and was a noted proponent of protective TARIFFS in the early 19th century. Born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, Carey did not receive much schooling as a child, even though his parents were relatively well-off. However, Carey read extensively and decided to become a printer and bookseller as a child. His father disapproved of this choice of a profession, but Carey persisted and apprenticed as a printer. As a young man, Carey—a Roman Catholic—became interested in defending his RELIGION in Ireland, and he published an anonymous pamphlet on the issue in 1779. When a reward was offered for the identity of the author—the pamphlet was condemned in Parliament—Carey’s family sent him to Paris. In the French capital he met the MARQUIS DE Lafayette and Benjamin Franklin. He even worked in a printing office set up by Franklin. After a year in exile, Carey returned to Ireland. He worked for others in a newspaper office until 1783, when his father underwrote the publication of his own newspaper, the Volunteer’s Journal. This paper trumpeted the cause of Irish nationalism and created a great stir. After some articles led to a demonstration, in which the young Carey took an active part, the British arrested Carey. When he was released after a short period, and when further legal action loomed, Carey headed for North America. Disguised as a woman he departed Great Britain on September 7, 1784.
When he arrived in Philadelphia, Carey did not have much money. However, he quickly obtained the patronage of Lafayette. In January 1785 he was able to begin printing another newspaper, the Pennsylvania Herald. Newspapers in this era generally were strongly political, and Carey quickly aligned himself with those who wanted a weaker central government. He also published the debates in the Pennsylvania state assembly, a new practice. By October 1786 he abandoned the newspaper business and began publishing the Columbian Magazine. He left this project to begin the American Magazine in 1787. During the 1790s Carey’s printing business grew. He also authored an important book that described the conditions of the yellow fever epidemic of 1793 and played a vital role in dealing with the health crisis created by that epidemic (see also DISEASE AND epidemics).
An avid DEMOCRATiC-REPUBLiCAN (Jeffersonian), Carey became embroiled in several political controversies, most notably with the FEDERALIST Party spokesman and Englishman William Cobbett. During the 1790s Carey did business worth more than $300,000 and kept as many as 150 men working in his print shop. He may have begun his career as an ARTISAN, but by 1800 Carey had evolved into an entrepreneur specializing in the publishing and marketing of books. In 1802 he was elected a director of the Bank of Pennsylvania, and in 1810 he was one of the few Democratic-Republicans to advocate rechartering the Bank of the United States.
After the War of 1812 (1812-15), Carey became a strong advocate of the American System, and in particular he served as one of the most noted spokesmen for protective tariffs to encourage the development of manufacturing. Throughout his career he retained an interest in the
Irish cause, forming a Hibernian Society in the 1790s and defending Irish Catholics in print.
See also journalism.
Further reading: Earl L. Bradsher, Mathew Carey, Editor, Author, and Publisher: A Study in American Literary Development (New York: Columbia University Press, 1912); Rosalind Remer, Printers and Men of Capital: Philadelphia Book Publishers in the Early Republic (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996).
Carleton, Guy, first baron of Dorchester (17241808) British soldier and colonial administrator An able administrator and brave soldier, Guy Carleton defended Quebec in the face of an invasion by revolutionary Americans in 1775 and 1776, and he served as governor of Canada. Born in 1724 to a middle-class Protestant family in Ireland, Carleton entered the army at a young age and quickly advanced through the ranks by his courage in battle and by making good political connections. In 1758 and 1759 Carleton served under General James Wolfe in Canada and was wounded in battle. He also took part in two other campaigns during the French and Indian War (1754-63): at Belle Isle en Mer in the Bay of Biscay and in the siege of Havana in 1762. In both campaigns he served with distinction and was wounded. For his service he was made a permanent colonel in the British army. After the war he was appointed lieutenant governor of the new British province of Quebec. Since the governor had been recalled, in essence he became the chief administrator of Quebec in 1766. He was also made a brigadier general and in 1768 became governor outright. Carleton consolidated power in his own hands in Quebec and sought to incorporate the French-speaking inhabitants into the British Empire. He supported the Quebec Act (1774), which tolerated Catholics, recognized French civil law in the province, and confirmed the land system that had been established under French rule. As the crisis with the North American colonies intensified in 1774-75, Carleton hoped that these policies would ally the Frenchspeaking population to the British government. It may not have done so, but at least it convinced many Canadians to remain neutral.
When hostilities broke out in April 1775, Carleton had only about 800 regulars to defend Canada. Efforts to raise a militia among the French Canadians failed. Montreal quickly fell in November 1775 to a force under General Richard Montgomery, who then marched his small army of 300 men to join Benedict Arnold before Quebec. Carleton beat back their combined assault on December 31, 1775: Montgomery was killed, Arnold wounded, and almost 500 soldiers captured. Having sustained great losses, the revolutionaries settled in for a siege. Carleton drove off the remainder of the revolutionary army in the spring of 1776. He pursued the retreating soldiers, beating them again in the Battle of Trois Rivieres (June 8, 1776). Carleton hesitated at Lake Champlain in his pursuit, waiting for the dismantling of a fleet on the St. Lawrence and having it rebuilt it on the lake. With these forces, which had been greatly reenforced with troops under General John Burgoyne, he gained control of Lake Champlain at the Battle of Valcour Island (October 11, 1776). He did not take Fort Ticonderoga, however, at the southern end of the lake. Instead, he withdrew to Canada to await the spring for a renewed offensive.
Despite his victories, command of the army destined to invade New York—and ultimately to surrender at Saratoga (October 17, 1777)—fell to Burgoyne. Carleton was knighted and promoted to lieutenant general for his defense of Canada. Up until this point Carleton had enjoyed strong political support in Great Britain. But in 1775 a political enemy, George Sackville, Lord Germain, had become colonial secretary. Germain forced Carleton to resign as governor of Canada (June 27 1777). Carleton returned to England in the summer of 1778. Once in Great Britain he avoided any blame for the Saratoga disaster and was provided a government position in Ireland. He lived quietly until 1781, when he was called to return to North America and, as commander in chief, handle the negotiations for the removal of British troops and Loyalists at the end of the Revolutionary War (1775-83). Once again his administrative talents came to the fore. Having succeeded in this difficult and awkward task, he became governor of all of Canada in 1786. At the same time he was ennobled as the Baron Dorchester. He remained governor of all or part of Canada until 1796, when he retired from public life.
See also Quebec, Battle of.
Further reading: George Athan Billias, George Washington’s Opponents: British Generals and Admirals in the American Revolution (New York: Morrow, 1969).