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Friday, 16 January 2015

Battle of Jersey 6 January, 1781

This painting depicts the final action between the British and French on the island. My game of it shall follow
 by John Singleton

From wikipedia:

 Aware of the military importance of Jersey, the British government had ordered that the island be heavily fortified. Gun batteries, forts and redoubts had been constructed around the coast, and round towers were in the process of being erected as well. The Royal Militia of the Island of Jersey comprised some 3000 men in five regiments, including artillery and dragoons. Regular army units—the entire 95th Regiment of Foot, five companies each of the 83rd Regiment of Foot (Royal Glasgow Volunteers) and 78th Highlanders, and around 700 "Invalids" (semi-retired reservists)—were also present. The total force amounted to about 9,250 troops of all types. A naval force, the "Jersey Squadron", was also based in the island, but was on a cruise against the Dutch at the time of the invasion.

Despite the misgivings of the French military, who believed that an attack on Jersey would be a futile waste of resources, with any success being short-lived, the government approved a plan put forward by Baron Philippe de Rullecourt. De Rullecourt was an adventurer and a colonel in theFrench Army. King Louis XVI had promised de Rullecourt the rank of General and the Cordon rouge as soon as he had control of the town of Saint Helier, the island's capital. The Second Commander was an Indian prince, named Prince Emire, who had been taken by England in wars in India, had been sent to France with other French prisoners and whom the French had since retained in their service; a member of the British force wrote of him: "He looked quite barbarian, as much as his discourse; if our fate has depended on him, it would not have been of the most pleasant; he advised the French General to ransack everything and to put the town to fire and to blood."
Officially the expedition was a private affair; however, funding, equipment, transport and troops were provided by the government. In order to conceal their involvement, the government went so far as to order the 'desertion' of several hundred regular troops to De Rullecourt's forces.
On 5 January 1781 the expedition, consisting of some 2,000 soldiers in four divisions, set out. Jersey still celebrated 6 January as 'Old Christmas Night', and the French landed undetected. The 800 men of the first division landed at La Rocque, Grouville, and passed close by the guards without being noticed; a French officer even said that he had slept beneath the guards, but that the guards had not heard the French. The guards were subsequently put on trial, where it was found they had abandoned their post to go drinking. The French first division stayed there most of the night. The 400 men of the French second division landed amongst rocks and was entirely lost. (The initial British report was that a privateer and four transport vessels had been lost, together with "upwards of 200 men".[1]) The boats that contained the third division, consisting of 600 men, were separated from the rest of the fleet and were unable to join it. The fourth division, consisting of 200 men, landed early in the next morning at La Rocque. The total of the French troops landed on the island was therefore about 1,000, half the number of soldiers that France had expected to take into battle.

The attack began. The British forces in the Grande Rue included the 78th Regiment, the Battalion of Saint Lawrence, the South-East Regiment and the Compagnies de Saint-Jean. The 95th Regiment of Foot, with the rest of the militia, advanced down the other avenues. The British had too many troops for the battle, a British soldier later saying that a third of the British troops would have been more than enough to destroy the French army. Many British soldiers, confused and having nothing to shoot at, fired most of their shots into the air.
The French resistance was of short duration, most of the action lasting a quarter of an hour. The French only fired the cannons that they had at their disposal once or twice. The British had a howitzer placed directly opposite the market in the Grande Rue, which at each shot "cleaned all the surroundings of French" according to a member of the British service. Major Peirson and the 95th Regiment advanced towards the Avenue du Marché; just as the British were about to win, Major Peirson was killed by a musket ball in the heart, but his saddened troops continued to fight. When de Rullecourt fell wounded, many French soldiers gave up the fight, throwing their weapons and fleeing; however, others reached the market houses, from where they continued to fire.

Historical re-enactment soldiers of 1781 Jersey Militia marching in the Royal Square, St. Helier, site of the Battle of Jersey, during ceremonies marking the anniversary of battle on 6 January 2007. At right, the house of Dr Lerrier where Baron de Rullecourt died (now the pub called The Peirson)
The British took 600 prisoners that day, who were subsequently sent to England. The British losses were 11 dead and 36 wounded among the regular 
De Rullecourt, through Corbet, told the British that the French had two battalions and an artillery company at La Rocque, which could be at the town within a quarter of an hour. The British were not intimidated, knowing that the number of French troops there was less than 200. A guard of 45grenadiers of the 83rd Regiment resisted against 140 French soldiers until the arrival of a part of the East Regiment, whereupon the French were defeated, with 70 prisoners taken and 30 dead or wounded. The remaining French soldiers dispersed themselves throughout the countryside to reach their boats, though several were caught while trying to do so.
The French take up positions in the square of St. Helier. One gun is on the French right. 

The Jersey militia with grenadiers from the 83rd and 95th Regiments with the 78th Highlanders in reserve.

A further group of French troops with sailors hide in the side streets awaiting the British attack.

The Grenadiers begin to advance, while the St. Lawerence battalion moves into the square, supported by a lone gun on their far left.

The militia and 78th Highlanders trade volleys with the French, both sides take heavy casualties.

The French left keeps up.

The 78th move into the square while the French left move down to swing and flank the British. 

The Grenadiers and militia begin the fire but then

the French volley devistates the British. The Royal Artillery take out the French gun. With the loss of their firepower, the French fall back. A very near run thing.

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