J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

October 1780: The Deadliest Month

The Newfoundland Hurricane of September 1775, latterly dubbed the “Independence Hurricane,” killed an estimated 4,000 people—but it wasn’t the deadliest Atlantic hurricane during the Revolutionary War.

On 6 Sept 1776, a hurricane hit the French island of Guadeloupe and killed about 6,000 people. And that wasn’t the deadliest of the period, either.

The era’s worst storm was the Great Hurricane of 1780, which roared across the Caribbean on 10-16 October. It reportedly knocked down every tree and every house on Barbados, and damaged every fort. About 4,500 people died on that island.

At Port Castries on Saint Lucia, rough seas destroyed Admiral George Rodney’s Royal Navy fleet. A ship landed on the port’s hospital and totaled the building. About 6,000 people died.

A fleet of forty French ships involved in the war in America capsized off Martinique, with the loss of about 4,000 soldiers. The 25-foot storm surge on that island killed about 9,000 more people. Another storm surge on Saint Eustatius took 4,000 more lives.

There was heavy damage on many other Caribbean islands, and historians estimate the total deaths as 20,000 to 27,500 people within one week.

As a comparison, the total number of American fighters dying during the entire Revolutionary War from all causes (most dying in camps or prisons) is about 25,000. Historians think the total number of British military deaths is about 44,000.

The Great Hurricane of 1780 was not only the deadliest storm of the Revolutionary War, but the deadliest hurricane ever in Atlantic history. And two other storms caused 1,000 deaths apiece in the same month.


Anonymous said...

Hey J.L., I really enjoy your blog so I have awarded you the “One Lovely Blog” award. Stop on over to my place to pick it up.

J. L. Bell said...

Thanks so much!

Anonymous said...

Where did you get the painting jpg you used for this post (the ship in the storm?)
I love it and I'd like to know if it's copyrighted or if I could use it too.

Great blog!!

J. L. Bell said...

Click on the image to get through to a Wikipedia page about the artist. Wikipedia uses images on the legal theory that an exact photographic reproduction of a work of art is not creative enough to deserve its own copyright. I’m not sure that’s accepted law everywhere, however. The painting itself belongs to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, which might demand a permission fee for any reproduction, particularly in print.