to command the Spitfire schooner, in which, during the following months, he was actively employed along the coast, till she was ordered to be burnt at Rhode Island, on 4 Aug., to prevent her falling into the hands of the enemy. Saumarez returned to England in the Leviathan, and was shortly afterwards appointed to the Victory, the flagship in the Channel, and continued in her for the next two years. In June 1781 he followed Sir Hyde Parker (1714–1782) [q. v.] to the Fortitude, of which he was second lieutenant in the action on the Dogger Bank on 5 Aug. 1781.
On 23 Aug. he was promoted to command the Tisiphone fireship, and was shortly afterwards ordered to join the Channel fleet, from which, in the end of November, he was detached with the squadron under Rear-admiral Richard Kempenfelt [q. v.], and was with him on 12 Dec. when he cut off the French convoy from under the protection of a very superior fleet under Guichen. He was forthwith sent on to the West Indies to give Sir Samuel Hood (afterwards Lord Hood) [q. v.] warning of Guichen's sailing. He joined Hood at St. Kitt's in the early days of February 1782, and on the 7th was posted by him to the Russell of 74 guns, whose captain was obliged to invalid. In the action of 12 April the Russell had a very distinguished share, and in the evening was for some time warmly engaged with the Ville de Paris, the French flagship. The Russell was shortly afterwards sent to England with the trade, and Saumarez was placed on half pay. During the following years he resided in Guernsey and afterwards at Exeter; and though appointed in 1787 to the Ambuscade, and again in 1790 to the Raisonnable, it was on each occasion only for a few weeks, when, the alarm having subsided, the ships were put out of commission.
When the war broke out in the beginning of 1793 Saumarez was appointed to the Crescent frigate of 36 guns, which he was able to man with a very large proportion of Guernsey men, and others from the neighbourhood of Exeter. After cruising to the westward during the summer, he refitted the Crescent at Portsmouth, from which he sailed on 19 Oct. with despatches for the Channel Islands, when information reached him of a frigate at Cherbourg which came out each night, and having picked up one or two merchant vessels went back in the morning; he stood over to Cape Barfleur, and found her, as reported, on the morning of the 20th, trying to get back into Cherbourg against a southerly wind. She was the Réunion of 36 guns and 320 men; but they were neither seamen nor gunners, and though they resisted the Crescent's attack for more than two hours, the result was not a minute in doubt. When she had lost 120 men killed and wounded, while the Crescent had not one man hurt, she surrendered and was taken to Spithead. Such a success at the beginning of the war was thought a happy omen. Saumarez was invited by the first lord of the admiralty to come up to town, was presented to the king and was knighted, and was presented by the merchants of London with a handsome piece of plate.
During the following year the Crescent, alone or in company with the Druid, of similar force, cruised in the Channel under orders from Rear-Admiral John Macbride [q. v.], and on 8 June, having also the Eurydice of 20 guns in company, fell in with a squadron of five of the enemy's ships, two of which were frigates of equal force with the Crescent and Druid, and two others were cut down 74-gun ships, then carrying each 54 heavy guns. The fifth vessel was small; but the disproportion of force, the impossibility of engaging these reduced line-of-battle ships with frigates, compelled Saumarez to retreat towards Guernsey, then some thirty miles distant. The Eurydice, sailing very badly, was ordered to make the best of her way, while the other two followed under easy sail. The Druid was afterwards ordered to go on under all sail, while Saumarez in the Crescent drew off the pursuit by standing in shore, where it appeared as though his capture was certain. From this he escaped by his own local knowledge and the skill of a Guernsey pilot, who took the ship through among the rocks in a way not before known. While passing through the narrowest part of the Channel, Saumarez asked the pilot if he was sure of the marks. ‘Quite sure,’ answered the man; ‘ther is your house, and there is mine.’ Seen from the shore, Saumarez's daring conduct and escape excited admiration and enthusiasm, and the governor, calling attention to it in a general order, gave out the parole of the day Saumarez, with the countersign Crescent.
The Crescent was afterwards attached to the Channel fleet under Lord Howe, and in March 1795 Saumarez was appointed to the 74-gun ship Orion, which was one of the foremost ships under Lord Bridport in the running fight off L'Orient on 23 June. For the next eighteen months he was employed in the blockade of Brest or Rochefort, and in January 1797 was detached under Rear-admiral (afterwards Sir) William Parker (1743–1802)