We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Sir Samuel Hood and the Battle of the Chesapeake

Colin Pengelly

Publication Year: 2009

The Siege of Yorktown--the military engagement that ended the American Revolutionary War--would not have been possible without the French fleet's major strategic victory in the Battle of the Chesapeake on September 5, 1781. It was during this battle that British fleets lost control of the Chesapeake Bay and the supply lines to the major military base at Yorktown, Virginia. As a direct result, General George Washington's forces and the newly arrived French troops were able to apply the pressure that finally broke the British army.

Sir Samuel Hood (1724-1816) was one of the commanders of the British fleet off the Virginia Capes during the American Revolution. Responsibility for some of the missed opportunities and gaffes committed by the British during the bloody Battle of the Chesapeake can be traced to him, specifically his failure to bring his squadron into action at a key moment in the action. Afterward, Hood defended his actions by arguing that ordering his ships to attack would have contradicted the orders sent to him by battle flag. Hood largely escaped blame, which was assigned to Rear Admiral Graves, who commanded the fleet.

Though Hood's inaction arguably resulted in the loss of the American colonies, he ultimately rose to command the Mediterranean fleet. Colin Pengelly engages the details of this battle as no other historian and sifts through Hood's own propaganda to determine how he escaped subsequent blame.

Published by: University Press of Florida

Title Page, Copyright

pdf iconDownload PDF (133.4 KB)


pdf iconDownload PDF (30.0 KB)
pp. v

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (62.2 KB)
pp. vii-x

Water is unquestionably the most important natural feature on earth. By volume the world’s oceans compose 99 percent of the planet’s living space; in fact, the surface of the Pacific Ocean alone is larger than that of the total land bodies. Water is as vital to life...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (107.0 KB)
pp. xi-xii

The origins of this book go back to my earlier research into the life of Lord Hood. It was a long-nurtured project to convert that research into a book. When Paul Wilderon of the United States Naval Institute Press considered my partially finished manuscript..

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (79.4 KB)
pp. 1-7

The second battle of the Chesapeake (or the second battle of the Virginia Capes, as it is known in the United States) was fought on the fifth of September 1781. On the British side were the combined squadrons of Rear Admiral Sir Thomas Graves,1 Sir Samuel Hood...

read more

1. Hood’s Early Career

pdf iconDownload PDF (69.7 KB)
pp. 8-11

Samuel Hood came from a long-established Dorset family with their roots in South Perrott and Mosterton in the southwest of England. The family had farmed there in the time of Henry VIII. His father, also Samuel, was vicar of Butleigh, a village in Somerset...

read more

2. The Frigate Captain

pdf iconDownload PDF (89.2 KB)
pp. 12-21

The appointment as post captain brought Samuel Hood to one of the most active and successful phases of his professional career. His return coincided with the court-martial of Admiral John Byng, about to take place at Portsmouth. Admiral Smith was president...

read more

3. The Commodore

pdf iconDownload PDF (106.9 KB)
pp. 22-36

Hood was not immediately offered a further command after the war. He could not live comfortably off his own means and could not therefore contemplate for long a life on half-pay. He asked for an appointment to one of the guard ships at Portsmouth...

read more

4. The Commissioner

pdf iconDownload PDF (133.7 KB)
pp. 37-59

On Hood’s return from North America there was a dispute with Spain over the Falkland Islands, and at one time it looked like it might result in a war. The crisis had been provoked by the belief in France and Spain that Britain had lost the will and power...

read more

5. The Other Side of the Channel

pdf iconDownload PDF (78.7 KB)
pp. 60-66

For the government of France, this was a time of preparing for conflict. The king, Louis XVI, had succeeded to the throne in 1774 at the age of nineteen. The diplomatic situation between Britain and France was delicate. While French representatives in Britain...

read more

6. The Flag Officer

pdf iconDownload PDF (164.5 KB)
pp. 67-95

Prior to Hood’s arrival Rodney had returned from North America wanting to undertake some action against the French islands. There were only four French sail of the line in the area, at Martinique, and Rodney agreed with General Vaughan1 to make an attempt..

read more

7. The Chesapeake: The Forces Gather

pdf iconDownload PDF (150.7 KB)
pp. 96-123

While the British fleet refitted at Barbados, de Grasse and the French fleet arrived at Fort Royal on 18 June and began to prepare their ships for sea again. The time was coming when the trade convoys of both sides would have to be escorted to Europe...

read more

8. The Chesapeake: The Battle Joined

pdf iconDownload PDF (150.4 KB)
pp. 124-150

When the British fleet was first seen approaching, the patrolling French frigates were not immediately certain of their identity. The wind was blowing from the north-northeast and de Grasse was signaled that ships were coming from the north. De...

read more

9. The World Turned Upside Down

pdf iconDownload PDF (196.9 KB)
pp. 151-193

The prospects for the British fleet were not entirely black. It is certain that Graves had it in mind to engage the French the following day despite the odds against him, as his disposition of the fleet attests. Captain Everitt of the Solebay had hailed Saxton as Everitt...

read more

10. The Rise and Fall of an Admiral

pdf iconDownload PDF (180.6 KB)
pp. 194-226

When Samuel Hood left New York to return to his station in the Leeward Islands, he again assumed responsibility for the most important area for British trade and wealth. For the eighteenth-century governments of Britain— and France—the...

Appendix 1

pdf iconDownload PDF (52.3 KB)
pp. 227-226

Appendix 2

pdf iconDownload PDF (67.0 KB)
pp. 227-230


pdf iconDownload PDF (102.7 KB)
pp. 231-242


pdf iconDownload PDF (68.1 KB)
pp. 243-246


pdf iconDownload PDF (70.7 KB)
pp. 247-251

About the Author, Further Information

pdf iconDownload PDF (34.1 KB)
pp. 253

E-ISBN-13: 9780813045894
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813033136
Print-ISBN-10: 0813033136

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2009

Research Areas


UPCC logo

Subject Headings

  • Chesapeake, Battle of the, Va., 1781.
  • Hood, Samuel Hood, Viscount, 1724-1816 -- Military leadership.
  • Admirals -- Great Britain -- Biography.
  • Great Britain. Royal Navy -- History -- Revolution, 1775-1783.
  • United States -- History -- Revolution, 1775-1783 -- Naval operations, British.
  • United States -- History -- Revolution, 1775-1783 -- British forces.
  • You have access to this content
  • Free sample
  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access