Guy François de Coëtnempren de Kersaint
Guy de Kersaint was born June 7, 1703 in Plouneventer, Cléder, Finisterre, France as the elder son to Jacques de Coëtnempren de Kersaint and Yvonne Catherine de Pentrez. He was from an ancient noble family of Léon whose first member was on crusade with St. Louis in 1248 and in the 1700s gave the navy a century of brilliant officers.
He became a naval cadet (garde de la marine).
De Kersaint began his career with a long campaign under the command of the Marquis de Vienne aboard le Griffon of 44 guns. The campaign resulted in the repression of a revolt in Saint-Domingue (Santo Domingo).
Returning from Saint-Domingue, he was promoted to a garde du pavillon (a senior learning officer).
He left Toulon aboard le Griffon of 48 guns.
His ship took part in the bombardment of cities in Tripoli, Tunis, and Algiers in the squadron of Captain de Grandpré consisting of eleven ships-of-the-line and frigates.
He was assigned to le Lys of 64 guns on a campaign in the Mediterranean.
He became an ensigne de vaisseau (lieutenant) at age 22 aboard la Venus, a 26-gun frigate during a campaign along the coast of Morocco against the Barbary corsairs.
He campaigned on convoys to Quebec aboard la Venus for seven months with Admiral de la Jonquière.
De Kersaint sailed aboard la Venus on the coast of Morocco.
He commanded a company of infantry paid for at his own expense during the Chickasaw Champaign in Louisiana under Etienne Périer and later Le Moyne de Bienville, general commanders of Louisiana. The expedition employed the Choctaws as allies against the Chickasaw. The expedition ended with a tentative peace agreement that failed to stop Chickasaw aggression towards the French in later years.
Assigned to Le Havre, he became a captain (lieutenant de vaisseau) at age 38 and commanded the corvette la Naïade of 18 guns. One secret mission was to transport diamonds and gold worth 800,000 livres from Lisbon, Portugal to Paris to be cut and made into a crown. After successfully returning after many storms and an attempt to be detained as a prisoner by the British at Falmouth, he was given an award of 100 louis by Minister of the Navy Jean-Frédéric Phelypeaux, comte de Maurepas.
De Kersaint became the harbor lieutenant in Le Havre where he met his future wife.
In Paris he married Jeanne Armande Marquerite Eustache de l’Ecluse. She was much younger than he, born July 23, 1722 in Le Havre. Her father was Simon Eustache, Lord de l’Ecluse, from a family of bankers and an alderman of Le Havre; her mother was Denise-Armande Coulteux de Molay.
Aboard la Naïade, he continued on missions off Portugal.
His son Armand-Guy-Simonde was born.
A dowry of 10,755 livres was paid for the marriage the previous year.
His daughter Suzanne-Armande was born.
He was on le Superbe of 74 guns in the Channel on patrol.
His son Jacques Guy-François was born.
He took command of the corvette la Méduse of 16 guns and patrolled for corsairs and sailed on convoy along the coast of Portugal and the English Channel.
On la Méduse, he was driven close to wrecking on the English coast during a storm but made it to the Hague. The storm sank the British flagship Victory of 100 guns.
Near the l’Ie de Batz, he drove off privateer corsairs from Guernsey who had been harassing the coasts of Brittany.
He was in North American waters engaging the British later in the year.
He took the first command of the new frigate la Renommée in Brest.
De Kersaint departed France and arrived in Nova Scotia after bad weather. His mission was to appraise the security of the citadel of Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island and deliver documents. As he approached Louisbourg he was unable to enter due to ice flows. While he waited for an ice-free channel to open to the harbor, he engaged British and colonial ships in the area, capturing the colonial snow Prince of Orange of 14 guns. Unable to reach the harbor because of ice and enemy ships, he sailed for Brest to report the blockade of Louisbourg.
De Kersaint arrived in Brest and then joined the squadron of Perier de Salvert preparing to relieve the blockaded Louisbourg.
The small de Salvert fleet set out for Cape Breton as la Renommée sailed ahead to reconnoiter and await the other ships. On route, he captured and boarded the British mastship Prince of Orange of 44 guns, sailing en flute with 28 guns, and took the lieutenant-governor of the New York colony prisoner. During the action, he was wounded in his leg. De Kersaint interrogated the prisoner and learned that Louisbourg had already surrendered. Documents found on the mastship later revealed Anglo-American plans to invade Canada. After the squadron met up with him, they concluded the mission must change to warn French merchant ships of Louisbourg’s fall. La Renommée suffered a demasting in a severe storm on the way back to Brest.
La Renommée returned to Brest.
He joined the huge armada of Duc d’Anville (d’Enville) that was preparing to recapture Louisbourg.
The fleet departed late from La Rochelle for Louisbourg after many delays. La Renommée, due to its speed, was again chosen to precede the fleet. While passing the Azores, de Kersaint fought off enemy ships for four days and received wounds to his leg and torso.
He arrived in Chebucto (Halifax) in Nova Scotia to join the fleet. There de Kersaint learned that a storm had scattered Duc d’Anville’s fleet and damaged or destroyed many of the ships. He safely escorted four ammunition ships safely to Quebec after passing through heavily patrolled British waters. The expedition failed when Duc d’Anville died and the season was too late to attack any other enemy locations. While sailing back to France, de Kersaint captured and burned a colonial merchant ship carrying a cargo of tobacco.
Fog enclosed him just off the French coast and for 11 hours he battled his way through a fleet of 13 warships of Admiral Anson. He was seriously wounded in his leg during the battle near Belle-Isle and was replaced by Lieutenant La Motte-Picquet. Returning to France, his letter sent to the king was the first news of the failed mission of the Duc d’Anville Expedition. Soon after he received a chevalier rank in the Ordre de Saint Louis.
He was promoted to captaine de vaisseau (captain) and put in command of l’Alcide of 64 guns.
He departed for the West Indies in convoy with le Magnanime of 74 guns, l’Arc den Ciel of 50 guns, l’Etolle of 50 guns, and other ships on their way to India.
His convoy was met by British warships near Haiti but repelled them. L’Alcide continued on to India.
His son Guy Pierre de Kersaint was born.
De Kersaint arrived aboard l’Alcide at Port Louis, the capital of Île-de-France (now Mauritius). The French fleet protecting the port had departed for India and he hastily armed seven merchant ships to look like warships just before the arrival of a British fleet under Admiral Boscawen. This deceptively helped force the British to abandon their efforts to attack the island.
He departed Île-de-France for India.
De Kersaint dropped anchor in Pondichéry, India to reinforce Dupleix, the French Governor-General of French India.
He returned to France after a stay of three years in India on l’Alcide.
His daughter Alexandrine was born.
He sailed to Saint-Domingue on l’Illustre of 64 guns.
His twin boys Achilles-Jean Guy Baptist and Guy-François were born.
He was granted an award of 800 livres from the Ordre de Saint Louis.
His daughter Armande-Charlotte was born.
He commanded the ship le Formidable of 80 guns in the fleet of 25 ships of Lieutenant-General de MacNémara and Duguay. The fleet crossed to Cadiz and separated from the convoy to lure a British squadron away. He was promoted to capitaine de pavillon (captain of the flagship).
His son Armand-Guy joined the Garde de la Marine in Brest.
De Kersaint became a chef d’escadre (rear admiral), commanding l’Intrépide of 94 guns.
He departed Brest on the l’Intrépide with a small squadron of three ships of the line and three frigates for West Africa. The fleet split into two divisions to attack different targets. With his son Armand-Guy on board, he destroyed English trading posts, forts, and captured slavers in Guinea, Senegal, and Benin. He then departed for the Antilles.
Armand-Guy was promoted to ensign (lieutenant) for his bravery in action on the African expedition and sailed with his father to Saint-Domingue.
The two divisions of the Africa expedition fleet met in Martinique.
While in the Antilles near Saint-Domingue, he gathered a merchant convoy for France but before leaving engaged three vessels of Commodore Forrest in the Battle of Cap-Français. After receiving nine wounds, he would not surrender and the battle was a draw. He lost 27 men with 123 wounded.
The convoy departed for France and made Brest after a terrible storm.
Due to an outbreak of scurvy and tuberculosis in Brest, de Kersaint’s squadron was forced to put in at the Isle of Treberon in the Rade de Brest (Bay of Brest) to unload those men who were ill. Armand-Guy transferred to the frigate l’Améthyste of 34 guns.
He received an award of 1000 livres for a higher ranking in the Order of Saint Louis.
He commanded le Thésée of 74 guns in the squadron of Marshal de Conflans.
During the Battle of Quiberon Bay, at Cardinaux, (Conflans vs. Hawke), he attempted to keep Admiral Hawke from attacking the French flagship, le Soleil Royal of 80 guns. As he tacked sharply between the two, the lowest cannon ports flooded and his ship sank rapidly. He perished with two of his sons, Guy François* and Jacque Guy François*, and 600 crewmen. Only 22 men survived who swam to the coast.
De Kersaint had seven surviving children, four boys and three girls, three of the boys served in the navy. His wife and family were to receive a pension of 2,000 livres annum from the royal treasury for his services after his death. Years later his wife petitioned for the unpaid pension. Later she traveled to the Americas to manage her inheritances in the West Indies before returning to France. His wife Jeanne died in Brest on March 28, 1791.
His known children were:
- Armand-Guy-Simon de Coëtnempren, Count de Kersaint was born July 20, 1742 in the Ville de Paris. Armand entered the French Navy in 1755, and in 1757, while serving on his father’s ship, was promoted to the rank of ensign for his bravery in action. During the American War of Independence, he played a significant role in the French defense of the American coast. By 1782 he was a captain. During the French Revolution, he sided with the revolutionaries and was appointed administrator of the department of the Seine by the electoral assembly of Paris. He became a deputé suppléant to the Legislative Assembly and joined the ranks of the Girondins. He voted against the death penalty in the trial of the Louis XVI and was arrested and taken before the Revolutionary Tribunal. Accused of having conspired for the restoration of the Bourbon Monarchy and insulting the government, Armand was guillotined in Paris on Dec. 4, 1793. He is considered one of France’s most prominent historical figures. In 1772 he married Louise “Claire” François de Paule de Alesso d’Eragny (born 1743 and died 1815).
- Suzanne-Jeanne Armande was born on July 26, 1743 and married Louis Rene de la Landelle, Viscount of Roscanvec, Captaine de Vaisseau, Chevalier de Saint Louis (died 1802).
- *Jacques Guy François de Coëtnempren de Kersaint was born on September 8, 1744 in Brest, and died at 15 years of age at the Battle of Quiberon Bay in 1759 with his father and brother, Guy-François.
- Guy-Joseph, Viscount of Kersaint, born in Brest on November 29, 1746. He became a marine in 1762 and then a lieutenant. He retired in 1778 and lived in Île de France. He married Elisabeth Pitois du Filhol (born 1763) but during the war, he re-entered the navy commanding the corvette, Duc de Chartres. He became a Chevalier de Saint Louis in 1786 and retired to Île de France in 1789 and died on January 12, 1797 in Port Louis.
- Guy-Pierre de Coëtnempren was born November 26, 1747. He was made a chevalier, then baron, and became Comte de Kersaint. He joined the Garde de la Marine in 1764. He took part in the American Revolution and became a capitaine de vaisseau (captain) aboard le Rossignol. He did not accept the principles of the French Revolution, emigrated, and then returned and was restored to his rank in the French navy. He commanded la Driade and later was made maritime prefect of Antwerp, and prefect of the Départment of Meurthe. He became a Baron de l’Empire on February 25, 1811 and a contre-amiral (vice admiral) in 1814. He was awarded a Chevalier de Saint-Lazarre, a Commandeur de la Légion d’Honneur, and a Commandeur de Saint-Louis in 1820. He died on August 24, 1822 at Suresnes, Hauts-de-Seine, Ile-de-France, France. He married Agathe François Halna Du Fretay (born 1767 and died 1835).
- Alexandrine-Gabrielle, born March 1, 1751 in Brest and died on October 23, 1824 in Lesquivit. She was married twice, the first time in 1772, to Alexandre Potier, Baron de Courcy and capitaine de vaisseau (captain), and remarried in 1782, to Charles-Rene-Louis Bernard (born 1740 and died 1816), Viscount of Marigny, who died a Vice-Admiral, Grand Croix de Saint Louis.
- Guy-Marie de Coëtnempren de Kersaint, born on September 20, 1752 in Brest.
- *Guy-François de Coëtnempren de Kersaint, born October 11, 1753 in Brest, and died at six years of age at the Battle of Quiberon Bay in 1759 with his father and brother, Jacques Guy.
- Achilles-Jean Guy Baptist, Chevalier de Kersaint, born October 11, 1753 in Brest. He was a lieutenant in the Régiment de la Martinique.
- Armande-Charlotte, born in Brest on February 9, 1755 and died in 1814 in Lesquivit, and married to Jean-François Aube de Bracquemount, Capitaine de Vaisseau (captain), Brigadier of the Naval Army, Chevalier de Ordre de Saint Louis.
- Un-named baby born on February 9, 1756