SAINT-CLAIR, PIERRE DE, naval officer, a native of Normandy (probably of Avranches); d. 20 Aug. 1736 at Le Havre.
Saint-Clair was appointed a midshipman at Rochefort 15 Feb. 1670, sub-lieutenant 28 Dec. 1673; beginning 13 Jan. 1677 he served as assistant town major at the port of Brest. On 9 Dec. 1686 he was promoted commander, and captain 15 Sept. 1689. In 1694 he received command of a squadron of 3 ships: the Gaillard of 54 guns, the Pélican of 50, and the Aigle of 36. This squadron was fitted out by a private company in which he himself had invested the sum of 1,000 écus. The force was commissioned to practise privateering in Canadian waters, to acquire information concerning the state of the English defences in Newfoundland, and if possible to attack the enemy’s settlements in order to capture any ships found there and send them to Placentia (Plaisance). On 10 Sept. 1694, in company with a privateer from Saint-Malo, a fire-ship, and a small vessel rigged out as a bomb-ketch, Saint-Clair tried to attack the English post at Ferryland (Forillon), which was defended by Captain Holman. The Aigle, commanded by Du Vignau, entered the harbour channel, but because there was no wind it ran aground. Part of the crew, which was formed of Basque sailors who had been taken on at Placentia to make up the complement, mutinied and refused to fight. After a cannonade that lasted several hours, the French had to withdraw, but not without having refloated the Aigle, which had been seriously damaged.
After this failure Saint-Clair, who seems hardly to have taken part in the combat, conferred with his captains and, because of the narrowness of the channel, which was strongly defended, gave up his idea of attacking St John’s, to the great rage of Brouillan [Monbeton], governor of Placentia. It required Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville’s audacity to carry out a similar operation successfully two years later.
On 13 Oct. 1694 Saint-Clair left to go back to France, escorting a convoy of 34 merchant ships. Subsequently he was the naval commander at Dunkirk during the War of the Spanish Succession and retired from the service 4 May 1720, with a pension of 2,500 livres.
AN, Col., B, 17, f.59v; C11C, 2, ff.25, 26, 33v, 38; Marine, B4, 15, ff.374–82; C1, 161. PAC Report, 1887, cccxiii, cccxiv; 1899, Supp., 305. Taillemite, Inventaire analytique, série B, I. La Morandière, Hist. de la pêche française de la morue, 1, 454. Lounsbury, British fishery at Nfld. Prowse, History of Nfld.