Battle of Rio de Janeiro
A French naval raid on southern Brazil in 1711
French colonialists initially settled in Rio de Janeiro and the adjacent island of Serigipe in 1555. The Portuguese pushed them out in 1567 and expanded their hold on much of present-day Brazil. During the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714), known in North America as Queen Anne’s War, the French and the Portuguese found themselves on opposite sides of a dynastic dispute, primarily waged in Europe. In an effort to revive the French military position, it was decided in 1711 to stage a diversionary raid on the weak Portuguese settlement in Rio de Janeiro. An additional reason for selecting Rio de Janeiro as the target was that the popular French buccaneer Jean-François Duclerc and his men were being held prisoner there following an unsuccessful attack in 1710. With royal support and a lot of private financial backing, a fleet of 17 warships, carrying 738 cannons and 6,139 sailors and soldiers, was assembled under the command of Rene Duguay-Trouin. With forewarning from their British allies, Portuguese forces were put on alert. When there was no French attack on the expected date, the forces were demobilized on 11 September. The French attack started on 12 September 1711. The four Portuguese ships of the line were unprepared. They cut their anchor cables in the haste to get underway, quickly ran aground, and were burned. The French ships were largely able to sail past the Portuguese forts before effective cannon fire could be brought to bear. After three days of bombardment, French troops were landed. The Portuguese governor attempted a feeble defense, but the local militia faded into the countryside. Meanwhile, the surviving French buccaneers escaped from prison and joined the French soldiers. French forces quickly gained control of most of Rio de Janeiro and demanded a ransom. The French forces departed on 21 September with a ransom estimated at four million British pounds. The raid proved to be widely lauded in France, but soured French-Portuguese relations for years.