Vence, Jean Gaspard

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Vence, Jean Gaspard

VENCE, JEAN GASPARD. (1747–1808). French privateer, admiral. Son of a merchant marine captain, he was born in Marseilles. In 1762 he sailed to the West Indies. The following year he served aboard the warship Protecteur in combat against English privateers. In 1777 he went to Martinique, was commissioned as a privateer, and in May sailed in the Tigre. In 40 actions before the war, he took 211 prizes.

On 6 September 1778 Vence took part in the capture of Dominique and Governor General Bouillé breveted him lieutenant de frégate. In December he saw action aboard the Truite off Saint Lucia. He then served aboard the Cérès and subsequently on the Languedoc, Admiral d'Estaing's flagship. On 4 July 1779 he spearheaded the French attack at Grenada, taking the main enemy battery, cutting down the Union Jack, and holding his position against heavy odds until d'Estaing arrived with the main body. Promoted to lieutenant de vaisseau, he led an attack at Savannah that got into the British works before being driven back. He was made chevalier in the Order of Saint Louis in 1780 and was later admitted to the Society of the Cincinnati.

Made captain of the port of Grenada in 1780, he served in 1782 on the Terrible in the Franco-Spanish squadron at Cadiz. Capitaine de vaisseau in November 1792 and commanding the Duquesne, he campaigned in the Mediterranean and at Tunis. On 10 March 1793 he was given command of the Heureux and on 16 November became vice admiral. In 1800, as maritime prefect of Toulon, he commanded an armed squadron at Brest whose duty was to protect the anticipated invasion of England. His criticism of the project drew the ire of Naval Minister Decrès, and he was retired on 16 October 1803.

SEE ALSO Estaing, Charles Hector Théodat, Comte d'.


Contenson, Ludovic de. La Société des Cincinnati de France et la Guerre d'Amérique. Paris: Editions Auguste Picard, 1934.

Lasseray, André. Les Français sous les treize étoiles (1775–1783). 2 vols. Macon: Imprimerie Protat Frères, 1935.

Lawrence, Alexander A. Storm over Savannah: The Story of Count d'Estaing and the Siege of the Town in 1779. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1951.

Loir, Maurice. Jean-Gaspard Vence, corsaire et amiral, 1747–1808. Paris: Baudoin, 1894.

Taillemite, Etienne. Dictionnaire des Marins Français. Paris: Editions Maritimes et d'Outre-Mer, 1982.

                              revised by Robert Rhodes Crout