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Capture of Goree

Updated: Dec 10, 2023

Location: Goree

Period/ Conflict: Seven Years' War

Year: 1758

Date/s: Sunday 24th December 1758

The island fortress of Goree lay off Dakar on the west coast of Africa. Its position gave the French a base from which to menace the English trade route to India and the East. It was therefore strategically important for the English to capture it every time they were at war with France. On the occasion recorded in this painting, the task was entrusted to Commodore the Honourable Augustus Keppel, who had been sent out after Commodore Marsh’s failure against Goree in May 1758. Against Keppel’s more powerful squadron the French surrendered the after a short bombardment. Goree was returned to French control at the conclusion of peace in 1763.

A squadron of four ships of the line, two frigates, with 600 troops, sailed from Cork on the 9th of November, and anchored in the road of Goree on the 24th of December. On either side of the bay was a small fort, with several batteries extending along the shore, mounting in the whole 100 pieces of cannon; and the garrison consisted of 300 regulars, and about the same number of negro inhabitants.

On the morning of the 28th, the troops were ordered into the boats, ready for landing; and the ships having taken their stations, opened a heavy fire, which was returned by the enemy with great spirit. After this cannonade had been maintained for several hours, the governor surrendered at discretion; upon which Keppel landed all the marines of the squadron and took possession of the island.

The painting by Dominic Serres shows the island with its mole on the right occupying the left background. Visible over the mole are the upper galleries and spars of the ‘Nasau’ and ‘Dunkirk’, engaging the batteries to port. Astern of them is the ‘Torbay’, also bombarding the mole. Beyond her and to the right is the ‘Prince Edward’ with smoke and flame issuing from her stern caused by a shot early in the action which blew up an ammunition box, killed two marines and sent the ensign staff over the side.

In the right foreground a transport ship is at anchor starboard bow view disembarking troops for a landing. Astern of her is the ‘Fougueux’ port quarter view, sailing in towards the mole, and in the background beyond her two bomb ketches are in action. In the left background is another transport at anchor, almost stern on. One of a pair with BHC0388, this shows the island being retaken by Admiral Keppel.

References/ Further Reading:

  1. Royal Museums Greenwich - Attack on Goree, 29 December 1758

  2. Wikipedia - Capture of Gorée

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