Database:   Tobago  


Other names:

Siege, Tobago, 23 May - 2 Jun 1781, *Gen. Philbert Blanchelande vs. Major Henry Fitzroy Stanhope, Lt. Governor George Ferguson

11.229007, -60.678032, Tobago

Maps: [map notes]

  • 11.229007, -60.678032, Tobago, 23 May - 2 Jun 1781
  • Multimap.
  • Google Aerial or hybrid.
  • Mapquest. Aerial or street view. Zoom out once.
  • MSN
  • DMA Explorer, EC JRC Digital Atlas. Scripts must not be disabled. Click on cross-hairs to zoom in. Close window to return.
  • Confidence: 5


  • "Tobago Wars",

    "In 1781, Tobago was once more under siege, this time again by the French who succeeded in capturing the island. The French with nine ships were sighted on 23 May, 1781. The British, under Lt. Governor George Ferguson, surrendered only after a gallant ten day struggle against overwhelming odds.

    Ferguson had, upon sighting the French, immediately mustered all able-bodied men, some 427, comprised of planters, militia, sailors and regular troops. The French first attempted a landing at Minister Bay [1], named by the Dutch as Luggarts Bay, but high seas drove them off. They then tried close to Scarborough at Rockly Bay [2], but once again the weather proved too bad for a landing.

    The following day they succeeded in landing 3,000 men at Great Courland Bay, Plymouth [3]Major Hamilton of the militia who had manned a two-gun battery at Black Rock [4] across the bay was able to bring the French ships under heavy fire, until he was forced to retire. Ferguson in the meantime had retreated strategically and regrouped his men at Concordia, on the heights above Scarborough [5] and not far from Mason Hall, fighting a guerrilla action all the way.

    The French general Philbert Blanchelande in hot pursuit, demanded their surrender, having set up a battery at French Fort, a cotton estate which overlooked Concordia. A French attack on the English position failed in the night as the French lost their way. Ferguson and his small band refused to surrender, requesting the French general ‘not to trouble me again upon this point’.

    From the heights of Concordia, Ferguson was able to see more French troops landing at Plymouth [6] and was forced to wait until the dead of the night to fall back to the base of the main ridge, the site of the present day Caledonia estate (near to Hillsborough Dam).

    He did this so well that when the French stormed his position the next day they found that he had gone. In headlong retreat and fighting off the French, Ferguson led his men towards the high woods where he had prepared a fortified position of last resort. The French by this time landed som 400 men at Man-o-War Bay, determined to take the English from the rear. Still the british resisted. It was only whent hte French started to burn the plantations that Ferguson’s force, exhausted, very short of ammunition and food, decided that the wisest course of action would be to surrender.

    This was a military decision with which Ferguson disagreed. The French general congratulated the English on their gallant defence. The conditions and the laws laid down by the English were left unchanged, although Scarborough was renamed Port Louis, as the Governor de Blanchelande was followed by René Marie le Vicomte d’Arrot."

  • It may be noted in the above account that the British, outnumbered 8:1, mostly non-regulars, held off the French for 10 days!

  • Small version of "Thomas Jefferys, Tobago, 1775. 4723037 from the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection with numbers conforming to those shown in the above account:

    Jefferys Tobago

  • Snippets from "Thomas Jefferys, Tobago, 1775. 4723037 from the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection.

    Minister Bay, Rockly Bay, Scarborough:

    Minister Bay

    Great Courland Bay (Black Rock marked):

    Great Courland Bay

    Man of War Bay:

    Man of War Bay

  • Snippet from Thomas Jefferys, Composite: West Indies, 1775, image 4723024 from David Rumsey Historical Map Collection at



  • Documents on the loss of Tobago, Cambridge University Library: Royal Commonwealth Society Library, Documents on the loss of Tobago, RCMS.
    "Tobago was attacked by a French fleet in May 1781, and faced with the unwillingness of his militia and some of his troops to continue the defence, Governor Ferguson capitulated on 2 June. Major Stanhope, commanding the regular troops, was later courtmartialled for his conduct, but found not guilty.

    The volume begins with 'The whole proceedings on the trial of the Hon. Major Henry Fitzroy Stanhope at a court the month of June 1783, taken in shorthand by Joseph Gurney', printed in 1783 (104 pages). This is followed by manuscript transcriptions of two documents: 'Address of Governor Ferguson to the public relative to the capture of Tobago', 1781 (12 pages), and 'Capitulation of the island of Tobago received from Lieutenant Governor Ferguson', 1781 (8 pages)."

  • "Trinidad and Tobago", Chronology:
    1762, Tobago a British colony (French rule 1781-93 and 1802-03).

  • GODEFROY, Prise De Tabago. Detailed copper plate engraving of Capture of Tobago Island in 1781, large text block beneath. Black/white 1783 7"x 6". From Kauai Fine Arts

  • "Tobago",

  • Modern map of Tobago

  • "War with France & Spain 1778-1783".
    "1781 June Tobago"
    86th Regiment of Foot (Rutland Regiment) raised in England
    1781.06 5 coys captured by the French on Tobago

  • Boatner: 364, 565. Irrelevant but interesting.

  • Piers Mackesy, War for America, Published 1993, U of Nebraska Press, p.225, 227.

  • "Battles of the Atlantic (and other parts of the world) and the War for Independence", National Society Sons of the American Revolution.
    " 5/23 - 6/2/1781, Tobago, West Indies, Land, French Victory"

  • "Table Summary of Movements of French Naval Fleets During the War for American Independence"". Useful site, also shows arrivals and departures.
    De Grasse
    2 Jun captured Tabago.

  • "West Indies Score Card":
    " TOBAGO, captured by French 2 Jun 1781."

  • "Travel by Seas":
    "... in the Caribbean, where prevailing winds are from the southeast the entire year."
    Estimated travel times in days (similar to mileage charts on a road map) is interesting.

  • "Lesser Antilles vs Greater Antilles / Windward Islands vs Leeward Islands - Confused Yet?", Caribbean Magazine:
    "The terms "leeward" and "windward" are used in reference to islands in an archipelago and to the different sides of a single island. In the latter case, the windward side is that side of an island subject to the prevailing wind. The leeward side is protected by the elevation of the island from the prevailing wind, and is typically drier and less windy. Thus, leeward and windward are not only important in terms of location in the island chain but also important weather and climate terms.

    The prevailing winds in the Caribbean blow from south to north. In the case of an archipelago - or a group of islands, "windward islands" are the islands facing the oncoming wind. In the case of the Caribbean the "southern" islands get hit with the wind first..."

  • CIA map: Central America and the Caribbean. Will zoom or drag as needed.

  • RevWar75  
    listing 5/23 - 6/2/1781 Tobago. French victory.

    Related sites:

    Confidence level: 5