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began his military career as a commander of land forces. He was captured
twice by the British in battles for the East Indies, where he began to
command naval operations. In 1763, he was made 'Lt. General' in the French
Navy, and made Vice Admiral in 1777.
In 1778 he commanded a fleet sent to North America. He participated in
poorly coordinated French-American operations at New York (11-22 July)
and at Newport (29-31 August). He sailed to the West Indies in November,
where he failed in attempt to re take Santa Lucia, but succeeded in capturing
St. Vincent and Grenada. He also bested the British in a sea battle on
6 July, but did not follow up. He has generally been criticized as being
too cautious a naval commander.
D'Estaing's personal bravery was not doubted, as attested during his return
to North American waters in fall of 1779. He directed an allied siege
of the British fortifications at Savannah (9 October). He was wounded
leading a land assault, and the siege had to be broken off. Some historians
place blame for d'Estaing's failed allied ventures on his autocratic manner,
which contrasted dramatically with that of Rochambeau.
Many narratives that cover the set backs of d'Estaing's operations in
the North America fail to address the difficulties encountered by a French
navy squadron in waters that were more familiar to the British. De Grasse
benefitted by having been with d'Estaing's forces in 1778 and 1779, and
was well prepared in 1781 to have made advance arrangements for American
pilots to assist. Another irony is that the failed 1779 siege of Savannah
(GA) instigated the British evacuation of Newport (RI), which had been
the objective of the allied July-August 1778 campaign.
was well liked by the king and his career did not suffer from his exploits
in North America. His campaigns in the West Indies ended generally positive
for French interests; whereas, his efforts in the American colonies were
failures. This contrasted with de Grasse's later experience, which was
singularly productive for the American cause, but ended most poorly for
France with his defeat and capture in the naval Battle of Dominica [or
"the Saints"] (12 April 1782) in the West Indies. In early 1783,
d'Estaing was placed in command of a new French and Spanish armada being
assembled at Cadiz to deploy to the West Indies with the intent to launch
another assault against Jamaica. The venture was aborted when the Peace
treaties were signed that year. D'Estaing did not fare well in the French
Revolution and was executed in April 1794.