Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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GENNES, Julien, Count de, French navigator, born in Vitrd in 1652; died in Plymouth, England, in 1704. He entered the French navy under the auspices of the Mardchal de Vivonne, and, being sent on several missions, acquitted himself with such credit that he was promoted captain and named chevalier of the Order of St. Louis in 1677. He was also granted large pensions and an extensive tract of land in Cayenne, which the king created a County under the name of Comte d'Ovac. Some filibusters, who had sailed to the Straits of Magellan, proposed to De Gennes, on their return to France, to found a colony there. De Gennes went to Paris and organized a company for this purpose, the king placing six vessels at its disposal. The expedition, under command of De Gennes, sailed from La Rochelle, 3 June, 1695, entered the Straits of Magellan, 11 February, 1696, and, having doubled Cape Forward, a bay not down on the charts was discovered and named French bay, and the River emptying into it De Gennes. Soon afterward De Gennes decided to return to France, leaving behind a small colony. Afterward he was made governor of the French part of the Island of St. Christopher, and had only about 160 men with which to defend himself when the English began hostilities without going through the formality of declaring war. The latter having gathered a force of over 2,000 men, De Gennes, after negotiating, signed articles of capitulation, acting under the advice of twelve out of seventeen members of a council of war which he had called together. This advice was not that of the king's lieutenant, Valmeinier, and his ineffectual protest was made the basis of charges subsequently brought against the governor. After prolonged discussions and recriminations, the English finally took possession, 16 July, 17'02. After vainly attempting to return for a time to Cayenne until the French court should have been informed of the truth regarding his capitulation, he was captured by a Dutch cruiser, taken to St. Thomas, and finally landed, in April, 1703, in Martinique, the very place he wished to avoid. Captain de Machault, governor-general of the French West India islands, insisted on putting him on trial. De Gennes defended himself energetically, and would doubtless have been acquitted, had he not been imprudent enough to bring charges against three of his judges. In August, 1704, he was declared to be guilty of cowardice, degraded from the nobility, and deprived of the cross of St. Louis and of all the other honors that had been conferred upon him. From this judgment he appealed to the king, and was on his way to France in the "Thetis," when that vessel was captured by the English and taken into Plymouth, where De Gennes died without being able to establish his innocence. No sooner, however, had Louis XIV. learned of his death than he bestowed large pensions on his widow and children, and restored De Gennes's titles. De Gennes had a taste for mathematics and mechanics. Among his inventions were cannon and mortars, arrows designed to perforate and damage the sails of vessels in battle, and watches without springs or weights--all made of ivory. He also invented "a peacock that could walk and digest food," and many other curious devices that are said to have greatly pleased the king. He wrote "Relation d'un voyage fair en 1695 a '97 aux cStes d'Afrique, detroit de Magellan, etc.," etc. (Paris, 1699), and "Des Iles sous le vent, leurs resources et leur avenir" (1701).
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