Kent (1799 ship)

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Combat naval - l'abordage du Kent de Garneray (1836) musée de La Roche-sur-Yon.jpg
Capture of Kent by Confiance. Painting by Ambroise Louis Garneray
Flag of the British East India Company (1707).svgEast India Company
Name: Kent
Owner: Henry Bonham (principal managing owner)
Builder: Thomas Pitcher, Northfleet
Launched: 1799,[1] or 10 February 1800,[2]
Fate: Captured 1800
Flag of Denmark.svgDenmark
Name: Cronberg
General characteristics [1]
Type: East Indiaman
Tons burthen: 824, or 875 7894[2] (bm)
Length: 145 ft 6 in (44.35 m) (overall); 117 ft 11 in (35.94 m) (keel)
Beam: 36 ft 3 in (11.05 m)
Depth of hold: 14 ft 9 in (4.50 m)
Complement: 100[3]

Kent, launched in 1799, was an East Indiaman of the British East India Company. On her first voyage in 1800 she was on her way to Bengal and Bencoolen when the French privateer Robert Surcouf captured her near the mouth of the Ganges.


Kent left Torbay on 3 May 1800.[1] She was under the command of Robert Rivington, who sailed under a letter of marque dated 28 March 1800.[3] At St. Salvador, she took on 300 persons, including troops and passengers, the survivors of the East Indiaman Queen, which had caught fire there and been destroyed, with in excess of 100 fatalities.[5] Queen and Kent had left Torbay on the same day.[6]

On 7 October Kent encountered the French privateer brig Confiance, of 18 guns and 150 men, under the command of Robert Surcouf.[7]

East Indiaman Kent battling Confiance, a privateer vessel commanded by French corsair Robert Surcouf in October 1800, as depicted in a painting by Ambroise Louis Garneray

French account[edit]

At some point Kent had rescued the crew and passengers of another ship, destroyed by fire, and therefore had an exceptionally large complement.[8] Including passengers, among whom there were some 100 soldiers, she had 437 persons aboard. Surcouf managed to board his larger opponent and seize control of Kent. The British had 14 men killed, including Rivington,[8] and 44 wounded, while the French suffered five men killed and ten wounded.[8]

British account[edit]

Account of the capture of Kent in The Gentleman's Magazine, October 1800

James reports that Kent fought for almost two hours and that Rivington was killed by a shot to the head as the French boarded.[9] He states that Kent's armament consisted of twenty 12-pounders, and six 6-pounders on her castles, and that Confiance's armament consisted of 20-22 long 8-pounder guns. He speculates that if Kent had carried 18 or 24-pounder carronades instead of the long 6-pounders, she might have been able to use grapeshot to deter boarding. He further reports that in addition to her crew of 100 or so, she had some 38 male and three female passengers, including seven or eight passengers that she had picked up at St. Salvador, after a fire there had destroyed the Indiaman Queen on 9 July. Apparently some four or five passengers were among the British dead, and there were also passengers among the wounded.[Note 1] James attributes the crew being overwhelmed by the boarders to a shortage of swords, pikes and pistols.[9]

Another account estimates the number of persons on Kent as under 200, and gives the casualties as 11 killed and 44 wounded on the British side, and 16 wounded (of whom three later died), on the French side.[10] The passengers included General St. John, his wife, three daughters, two other women, and St. John's aide, Captain Pilkington, who had been wounded. Surcouf put them into a passing Arab merchantman and they arrived shortly thereafter in Calcutta.[10]


Surcouf put his first officer, Joachim Drieux, aboard Kent, together with a 60-man prize crew. Surcouf released the passengers on a merchantman that he stopped a few days later.[11] Confiance and Kent arrived at the Rade des Pavillons in Port Louis, Mauritius, in November.[12] The capture of Kent became a sensation, and the British Admiralty promised a reward for the capture of Surcouf.[11]

Her captors sold Kent for 30,900 piastres to a Danish shipping company, which renamed her Cronberg.[4][13] She left on 21 March 1801, but as she approached Denmark passing vessels informed her that a British fleet had attacked Copenhagen; she therefore waited some weeks in Fleckeroë before it was safe to proceed to arrive in Kristiansand in June 1801, and at Copenhagen on 16 July.[14]

The EIC put the value of its cargo lost on Kent at £28,676.[15]

Notes, citations, and references[edit]


  1. ^ He makes no mention of any soldiers,[9] though other evidence suggests more than strongly that they were aboard.[5]


  1. ^ a b c [1] British Library: Kent (6).]
  2. ^ a b Hackman (2001), p. 135. sfnp error: no target: CITEREFHackman2001 (help)
  3. ^ a b Letter of Marque, p.71 - accessed 25 July 2017.
  4. ^ a b Demerliac (2003), p. 326. sfnp error: no target: CITEREFDemerliac2003 (help)
  5. ^ a b Naval Chronicle, Vol. 4, pp. 344–5
  6. ^ Hardy & Hardy (1811), p. 202
  7. ^ Levot, p. 495
  8. ^ a b c Hennequin, p. 384
  9. ^ a b c James (1837), Vol. 3, p. 31
  10. ^ a b Laughton (1889), pp. 438–442
  11. ^ a b Rouvier, p. 527
  12. ^ Cunat, p. 398
  13. ^ Review 1842), pp. 178–9
  14. ^ Cleveland (1843), pp. 135, 143–4
  15. ^ Reports... (1830), Vol. 2, p. 977


  • Cleveland, Richard Jeffry (1843) A Narrative of Voyages and Commercial Enterprises. (John Owen).
  • Cunat, Charles (1857). Saint-Malo illustré par ses marins (in French). Imprimerie de F. Péalat.
  • Hackman, Rowan (2001) Ships of the East India Company. (Gravesend, Kent: World Ship Society). ISBN 0-905617-96-7
  • Hardy, Charles and Horatio Charles Hardy (1811) A register of ships, employed in the service of the Honorable the United East India Company, from the year 1760 to 1810: with an appendix, containing a variety of particulars, and useful information interesting to those concerned with East India commerce. (London: Black, Parry, and Kingsbury).
  • Demerliac, Alain (2003). Nomenclature des navires français (in French). 1800–1815. Nice: Éditions A.N.C.R.E.
  • Hennequin, Joseph François Gabriel (1835). Biographie maritime ou notices historiques sur la vie et les campagnes des marins célèbres français et étrangers (in French). 1. Paris: Regnault éditeur.
  • James, William (1837). The Naval History of Great Britain, from the Declaration of War by France in 1793, to the Accession of George IV. R. Bentley.
  • Laughton, John Knox (1887) Studies in Naval History: Biographies. (Longmans, Green, and Company).
  • Levot, Prosper (1866). Les gloires maritimes de la France: notices biographiques sur les plus célèbres marins (in French). Bertrand.
  • Reports from the Select Committee of the House of Commons appointed to enquire into the present state of the affairs of the East India Company, together with the minutes of evidence, an appendix of documents, and a general index, (1830), Vol. 2.
  • Rouvier, Charles (1868). Histoire des marins français sous la République, de 1789 à 1803 (in French). Arthus Bertrand.