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Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century biographies contain errors and bias. We rely on volunteers to edit the historic biographies on a continual basis. If you would like to edit this biography please submit a rewritten biography in text form . If acceptable, the new biography will be published above the 19th Century Appleton's Cyclopedia Biography citing the volunteer editor





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Charles Hector Theodat Estaing

ESTAING, Charles Hector Theodat, Count d', French naval officer, born in Ruvel, Auvergne, France, in 1729; died in Paris, 28 April 1794. At the age of sixteen he entered the Mousquetaires, became colonel of the regiment Rouergue in 1748, and brigadier in 1756. In 1757 he served in the fleet of Count d'Ach5, and in 1758 took Gondeleur and Fort St. David. He then joined the East Indian squadron under Count Lally, and was Rome prisoner at Madras in 1759, but was released on parole. After this he joined the navy, was given command of two men-of-war, and inflicted great damage on the English while in the east, but on his return was captured near L'Orient by British cruisers, he was imprisoned in Portsmouth aim subjected to cruel treatment, on the ground that he had broken the parole that he had given in Madras. Admiral Boseawen was then commander-in-chief in India, and often said that, if ever he should get "the villain" in his power again, he "would chain him upon the quarterdeck and treat him like a baboon."

D'Estaing seems to have had equally bitter feelings against the English. In 1763 he was made lieutenant general in the navy, and in 1778 vice-admiral, a rank that he had at first refused. Meanwhile the colonies in America had found an advocate at the French court in the person of Marie Antoinette, who placed in the hands of Louis XVI a memoir prepared by the Counts de Maillebois and D'Estaing, which tenured the timid policy of the king's ministers.

After the defeat of Burgoyne, 6 February 1778,a treaty was concluded between the United States and France, and, pursuant to its stipulations, a fleet of twelve ships of the line and four large frigates, under the command of D'Estaing, sailed for America on 13 April 1778. Early in July D'Estaing reached Delaware bay, and, after landing Conrad A. Gerard, the French ambassador, sailed for New York in hopes of engaging' the British fleet, but, being unable to secure a pilot, anchored near the Jersey shore, not far from the mouth of the Shrewsbury River, where he captured several prizes. At the suggestion of General Washington, the French fleet was requested to cooperate with General John Sullivan in the expulsion of the British from Rhode Island.

D'Estaing appeared at Newport late in July and on 5 August 1778, the British burned six frigates in order to prevent their falling into the hands of the French. Events seemed favorable for the capture of the entire British force at Newport, but delays and lack of proper understanding between the two commanders prevented united action. The appearance of the British fleet, and a subsequent storm in which several of the French vessels were seriously injured, led to their withdrawal to Boston for repairs, and the campaign terminated without success. In May 1779, D'Estaing proposed a joint expedition with his fleet and the American troops to capture Halifax and Newfoundland for the king of France. Washington could not afford to reduce his army by the required number of troops, and the enterprise was consequently abandoned. Later, D'Estaing sailed to the West Indies, where, after an unsuccessful attempt to take St. Lucia, he captured St. Vincent and Grenada, and also forced the British admiral, Byron who came to the relief of Grenadato retire.

In September 1779, with twenty ships of the line and eleven frigates, bearing about 6,000 soldiers, he suddenly appeared off the coast of Georgia. Four British vessels at once fell into his hands, and a plan was arranged with General Benjamin Lincoln for a united attack on the City of Savannah. The lateness of the season, the dangerous coast, and the reported approach of a British fleet, made it necessary for him to insist on immediate action: but unfortunate circumstances, with various delays, made it possible for the British to prepare themselves, and, in consequence, the attack was postponed. Finally, on 9 October it was decided to carry the town by assault. The Americans and French advanced in three columns, the principal one under the direct command of D'Estaing, assisted by General Lincoln. Early in the engagement the French commander was wounded both in the arm and thigh, and in this condition was carried to his camp. The combined forces failed in carrying the fortifications, and, after severe losses, withdrew. A second attack was urged by General Lincoln, but D'Estaing's loss had been heavy, and he determined on immediate departure, in consequence of which the siege was raised.

He returned to France in 1780, and there endeavored to persuade the ministry to send 12,000 men to America as the best way of pursuing the war. Lafayette had given similar advice, and in June 1780, Count de Rochambeau, with 6,000 men, was sent to the colonies. In 1783 D'Estaing had command of the allied fleets of France and Spain, and was made a grandee of Spain. Subsequently he declared himself in favor of national reforms, and was elected in 1787 to the assembly of notables, in 1789 he was appointed commandant of the National Guard, and was chosen admiral in 1792 by the legislative assembly, but was retired soon afterward. He continued to cherish a regard for the royal family, and wrote friendly letters to the queen, who came to the knowledge of the revolutionary authorities, and he was arrested and imprisoned. On the trial of Marie Antoinette he testified in her favor, but without avail. He was himself brought to trial in 1794, and cited his military and naval services to the nation in his defense, but, seeing that his death was determined on, said, "Send my head to the English; they will pay you well for it." D'Estaing wrote a poem, "Le reve," a tragedy, and a pamphlet, "Apergu hasard5 sur l'exportation dans les colonies ; dddis a fen M. Franklin" (Paris, 1790).

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