Sir Samuel Hood and the Battle of the Chesapeake

The Siege of Yorktown - the military engagement that ended the American Revolutionary War - would not have been possible without the French fleet's major strategic victory in the Battle of the Chesapeake on September 5, 1781. It was during this battle that British fleets lost control of the Chesapeake Bay and the supply lines to the major military base at Yorktown, Virginia. As a direct result, General George Washington's forces and the newly arrived French troops were able to apply the pressure that finally broke the British army. Sir Samuel Hood (1724-1816) was one of the commanders of the British Fleet off the Virginia Capes during the American Revolution. Responsibility for some of the missed opportunities and gaffes committed by the British during the bloody Battle of the Chesapeake can be traced to him, specifically his failure to bring his squadron into action at a key moment in the action. Afterwards, Hood defended his actions by arguing that ordering his ships to attack would have contradicted the orders sent to him by battle flag. Hood largely escaped blame, which was assigned to Rear Admiral Graves, who commanded the Fleet. Though Hood's inaction arguably resulted in the loss of the American colonies, he ultimately rose to command the Mediterranean Fleet. Colin Pengelly engages the details of this battle as no other historian and sifts through Hood's own propaganda to determine how he escaped subsequent blame.