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  • Le Bailli Pierre-André de Suffren: A Precursor of Nelson

    Rémi Monaque

    Chapter from the book: Guimerá A. & Harding R. 2017. Naval Leadership in the Atlantic World: The Age of Reform and Revolution, 1700–1850.


    This account of Suffren’s career notes his training ‘à l’anglaise’ (at sea), his imprisonment by the English and alternate spells of duty with the French navy and in Malta. As a dedicated Knight Hospitaller monk his leadership style was marked by concern for his crew combined with the Maltese tradition of ‘attacking the enemy with energy’ and a spirit of risk-averse sacrifice. Explaining the significance for Suffren of the Seven Years War, notably the French victory at Minorque in 1756, Suffren’s reputation prospered again during the American War of Independence. Influenced by his analysis of the campaigns of the Dutch Admiral Michiel de Ruyter, he developed a clear tactical approach consisting of engaging the enemy in very close combat and concentrating fighting forces on a ‘section of the enemy squadron’. Renouncing combat in a continuous line but spreading squadron strength, his style anticipated the ‘Band of Brothers’ approach of Horatio Nelson. Actions at Porto La Praya, Cape Verde and the Battle of Sadras illustrate this though specific commands were not always communicated or understood properly by subordinates. Suffren lacked any pedagogical sense but deserves his high reputation as one of the most able l naval leaders between Ruyter and Nelson.

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    Monaque, R. 2017. Le Bailli Pierre-André de Suffren: A Precursor of Nelson. In: Guimerá A. & Harding R (eds.), Naval Leadership in the Atlantic World. London: University of Westminster Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.16997/book2.h

    This is an Open Access chapter distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (unless stated otherwise), which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Copyright is retained by the author(s).

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    Published on March 30, 2017