The soaring ideals of the French Revolution had devolved into the bloody misrule of the Reign of Terror by the spring of 1794. Revolutionary France was beset by enemies on all sides, dissension from within, and, looming above it all, the specter of famine.
A bad crop harvest and a disrupted countryside had led to perilous food shortages. The threat of a starving France was the threat of a failed Révolution. All hope rested on a massive grain convoy being assembled in the United States for the transatlantic crossing. That grain had to get through at all cost—and so it fell to the French navy, the Marine Nationale, to rescue Revolutionary France from its impending doom.
But to cross the Atlantic, meet the eastbound convoy, and escort it homeward, the French fleet would have to play cat-and-mouse the whole way with the most powerful sea force in the world—the Royal Navy. England and France, the age-old foes, were freshly at war again—a protracted state of conflict that, this go-round, would last until 1815, as France lurched violently from post-revolutionary upheaval to the meteoric rise, then ignominious fall, of Napoleon.
William James, The Naval History of Great Britain, from the Declaration of War by France in 1793 to the Accession of George IV (London: Richard Bentley & Son, 1886), vol. 1, 138–99.
Mark Lardas, The Glorious First of June 1794 (Oxford, UK: Osprey, 2019).
Alfred Thayer Mahan, The Influence of Sea Power upon the French Revolution and Empire, 1793-1812 (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1893), vol. 1, 122–61.
Peter Padfield, Maritime Power and the Struggle for Freedom: Naval Campaigns that Shaped the Modern World, 1788–1851 (New York: Abrams Press, 2005), 72–105.