Captain de Latouche-Tréville’s Strange Affair


July 28, 2016
by Norman Desmarais Also by this Author


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Louis René Madeleine Le Vassor de Latouche-Tréville (1745-1804) commanded the French frigate l’Hermione which brought Maj. Gen. Marie Jean Paul Joseph du Motier Marquis de Lafayette (1757–1834) on his second voyage to America. L’Hermione returned to France on February 24, 1782, after the British surrender at Yorktown. King Louis XVI promoted de Latouche-Tréville to Commander of the order of St. Louis and lieutenant general of the Navy. He also appointed him to command the French frigate l’Aigle (Eagle), the largest frigate ever built and the only vessel of its kind in the French Navy. The 1000-ton Aigle carried 44 guns (28 of them 24-pounders), 283 men and 51 officers.

Captain de Latouche-Tréville was ordered, in July 1782, to sail to North America in company with Louis Marie Casimir, Chevalier de Vallongue’s frigate Gloire (Glory), mounting 36 12-pounders. The two men were ordered to convey ministerial dispatches and a number of military officers and dignitaries to Philadelphia. The passengers aboard the Aigle included the Duc de Lauzun and the Baron de Vioménil. Louis-Philippe, Comte de Ségur (son of the Marquis de  Ségur, Minister of War, and the Marquis de Lafayette’s uncle; he was recently appointed colonel-en-second of the Soissonnais Regiment).[1], and Charles Louis Victor Prince de Broglie, the new colonel-en-second of the Saintonge Regiment, went aboard the Gloire.[2] These dignitaries traveled with their considerable baggage and a large retinue. The frigates also brought some reinforcements for the Count the Rochambeau’s army and 2,500,000 livres to pay the troops.

Captain de Latouche carried sealed orders which he was to open after he passed the Azores. Upon his arrival in America, he would become commander-in-chief of the naval forces there, as there was no longer any French fleet on the coast of America. In addition to l’Aigle and la Gloire, he would command the frigate Guadeloupe, the cutters la Suzanne and les Delices (formerly the Delight) and all other vessels captured from the enemy.

Captain de Latouche had a mistress whom he loved passionately and who loved him dearly. The couple could not bear to be apart. She followed him from Paris to La Rochelle, but the strict orders of the French Navy forbade the embarkation of women. Louis-François-Bertrand du Pont d’Aubevoye, comte de Lauberdière, Rochambeau’s cousin and aide-de-camp, says in his diary that Captain de Latouche’s mistress hired a vessel to follow her lover. More likely, the captain used his influence to arrange for the captain of the merchant vessel Sophie to transport his mistress and follow his ship. The Sophie was armed with 22 guns (9-pounders) and a crew of 104, including nine officers. She had only one official passenger, sixteen-year-old Samson Delage.[3]

L’Aigle and la Gloire departed from l’ile d’Aix on July 15, 1782, along with a convoy escorted by the frigate Cérès which they were to accompany as far as Cape Finisterre, Spain. The following night, a violent gust of wind caused the Cérès to collide with the Aigle. The captain of the Cérès decided to return to France to repair his damaged ship. The rest of his convoy followed—except the Sophie.

However, as the Sophie was a merchant vessel, she sailed more slowly than the frigates. Captain de Latouche decided to take her in tow so he could spend every night with his mistress. The towing made him lose at least three or four hours of travel per day. It took the vessels three weeks to reach the Azores where they arrived on August 3. Captain de Latouche intended to go to the port of Fayal, but the wind was contrary, so he anchored, in bad weather, at the port of Angra, on the island of Terceira. Lieutenant de Vallongue immediately wrote to the ministry of the Navy to report the unusual circumstances. Captain de Latouche also wrote his report, in a letter of the same date, and blamed the lack of wind and frequent calms. He did not mention the Sophie at all.[4]

The crews and passengers were allowed two days’ leave to rest and stretch their legs. The Duc de Lauzun, the Prince de Broglie, and the Count de Ségur, with two or three other friends, were introduced to the governor who received them with great pomp and the most scrupulous etiquette but he did not even offer them a glass of cold water. They then met the English consul who was also the chargé d’affaires of Spain. He treated everyone equally. They supped at the house of the English consul that evening “and there we saw the fandango danced by a young sub deacon who was soon to be appointed bishop of the country.”[5]

The Nunnery

The English consul took his guests to a nunnery the next morning where they saw some indulgent nuns and very pretty school girls. They observed the Mother Abbess through the double grate that separated the visitors’ room from the interior of the convent. She held a crozier majestically in her hand.

After the opening compliments the ladies sat down, and our encouraging consul told us that in accordance with Portuguese custom and in spite of the presence of the Mother Abbess with her crook, we might be as gallant as we liked towards her young flock, because religious devoutness and amorous gallantry had always reigned together in the cloisters of chivalrous Portugal.

Each of us, therefore, chose the girl that appealed to him the most and seemed to show most response to his glances. Hence we very soon talked about love, though very innocently and platonically owing to the presence of the two gratings and the Abbess.

It may be difficult to realise how we managed to make one another understand, as the girls knew no French and we were ignorant of Portuguese. But nothing was impossible with our obliging consul. He undertook to be our interpreter, and thereby smoothed away the first difficulty of the conversation.

The signal for this gallant conversation was given by a young boarder named Senhora Dona Maria Emegilina Francisca Genoveve del Marcellos di Connicullo di Garbo. Struck by the good looks and costume of Lauzun, who was in hussar’s uniform, she laughingly threw a rose at him through the grating, asked his name and offered him the corner of her handkerchief, which he seized, while she tried to draw it back. A tender vibration seemed to pass pretty quickly from hand to heart.

We all eagerly followed their example. Handkerchiefs were soon fluttering on either side of the grating and flowers were thrown. As the young Portuguese girls threw us looks which seemed to indicate a strong desire to overturn the grating, we replied by throwing kisses to them, though not without fearing the Abbess would think us too daring. Our fun, however, did not disturb her in the least. So we went on kissing the corners of the handkerchiefs while the girls in their turn kissed the end that remained in their grasp.

Presently we tried to turn into Portuguese what little Italian we knew. The attempt was successful, and the ladies imitated our example, so that our conversation became more direct and gave the consul a chance to talk with the Mother Abbess.

After a while the latter took part in the conversation, and realising perhaps that our pleasure was not without a certain amount of surprise, she told us through the consul that pure love was very agreeable in the sight of God. She added: “These young persons, to whom I let you offer your homage, will have known how to please, and will one day be more agreeable to their husbands, while those who are destined to the cloister will have exercised the sensibility of their soul and the warmth of their imagination and therefore they will love the Divinity all the more. On the other hand, this form of gallantry, which was formerly much prized, cannot fail to be very useful to young fighting men. It will inspire you with the spirit of chivalry. It will stir you to great actions so that you may merit the heart of the lovely ones you love, and it will induce you to do honour to their choice by covering yourselves with glory.”

I do not know whether the consul translated her words faithfully, but the fire in the Abbess’s eyes, her dignity, tone and crozier almost made me feel I had been transported to some old enchanted isle of Ariosto and was back in the good old times of the paladins.

The day began to draw to a close. The Abbess gave the signal to retire. Touching adieux were exchanged. A second rendez-vous was arranged for the next day and it need not be said that we turned up very punctually.

On our arrival at the convent, we found the grating adorned with all kinds of flowers, and our ladies infinitely more lovely than the previous day. They performed some music for our enjoyment. The friend of Prince de Broglie and the favourite of the Duc de Lauzun sang a very sweet duet, accompanying themselves on the guitar.

Meanwhile Vicomte de Fleury’s mistress and mine danced with us. On either side of the grating we did our best to figure the steps which the dismal barrier prevented us from doing in the real way. It was very amusing to see the Abbess beat time with her crozier.[6]

The firing of three guns, on August 5, signaled the time of departure and the visitors said their farewells to their lady-loves. A rumor had spread through the town that the Frenchmen had asked the girls to tell them how they could scale the garden wall at night and visit without the grating. So, when they left the convent, they saw several men in large mantles and broad hats who did not seem to appreciate the convent’s educational program.

Captain de Latouche retook his tow and the Chevalier de Vallongue told him that if he did not leave it, he would make sail alone. Captain de Latouche reluctantly opened his sealed orders. They directed him to avoid all fighting and any pursuit which might cause a delay because the dispatches he was carrying contained the plan of operations for a new campaign and it was necessary that the plan should reach the Count de Rochambeau and the Marquis de Vaudreuil, the head of French naval forces, as soon as possible.

Latouche reluctantly decided to separate from the Sophie to follow his orders. He left her around the Canary Islands with instructions to follow the southern route while the two frigates took the more direct and rapid route along the fortieth parallel. The Sophie benefitted from the trade winds and arrived at the mouth of the Delaware River the same day as the two frigates.

The Hector

The two frigates were not more than about 200 leagues from the shores of North America, at 39° 10′ latitude and 67° 53’ longitude, on the night of September 4. The lookout announced, about midnight, that he discovered a large ship which turned out to be the Hector, a 74-gun vessel which the French had lost to the British in the battle on April 12, 1782, which is now known as the Battle of the Saints. She was the lead ship of a fleet returning to England from the Antilles, but she was undermanned, undergunned, ill-provisioned and so battle-scarred that she could hardly carry sail. After the Gloire fired the first shots, Captain de Latouche hurried to her assistance but it took him more than three-quarters of an hour to get into position. Meanwhile, the Gloire fought the Hector alone.

She continued to maneuver to find the best position before firing her broadsides. Captain de Latouche placed himself between the two vessels at about 4:15 A.M. and joined the fight. He thought the Hector was ready to board the Aigle so he let them because he had 500 fighting men aboard and several army officers eager for a fight. As one of the Hector’s yards got caught in the Aigle’s mizzen shrouds, Captain de Latouche fired a broadside and ordered his men to board the Hector; that ship attempted to escape without firing a single shot. The vessels were so close together that the artillerists fought each other with their rammers. As the two ships separated, they renewed the combat at musket range. The Hector’s rigging was so badly damaged that she could maneuver only with great difficulty, permitting the Gloire to continue fighting for almost three-quarters of an hour without receiving any return fire.

The French would have retaken the Hector but the lookouts discovered a number of vessels to the windward. It was the rest of the British fleet coming to the Hector’s assistance at full sail. Captain de Latouche, according to his orders not to chase any ships and to avoid any action that would deter him from his mission, gave the signal to regroup. However, the Gloire was at half musket range from the Hector, and Captain de Vallongue considered it too dangerous to execute the maneuver which would force him to expose his stern to the large enemy vessel. He preferred to engage in combat. The Hector fired a volley which the Gloire returned into the Hector’s stern.

The Aigle lost four men killed and thirteen wounded, four mortally, in the two-hour and fifty-minute engagement. The Gloire had only two killed and two wounded. The Aigle received five cannonballs in her masts and seventy in her sails.[7] The Gloire was hulled a few times. The sails and rigging of both frigates were damaged but not seriously enough to affect their sailing.

The Hector had nine men killed and thirty-three wounded, many of whom would die in subsequent days. Her masts were tottering, her sails were torn to shreds and she had been hulled several times. Her captain, John Bourchier, was severely wounded in the arm and back. He attempted to sail to Halifax but the winds toppled his masts on September 17 and he lost his rudder. The officers kept the desperate crew at the pumps by force of arms. The Hector foundered about 300 leagues from the shore and almost all on board perished. A British cruiser discovered some survivors near the grand bank of Newfoundland on October 3 and managed at great risk to save them. Thus, one of the trophies of the battle of the Saints was lost by the victors.

The Raccoon

On the morning of September 12, the Aigle sighted land. The lookout also saw three ships of two and three masts, a sloop and a brig. It was a British force commanded by Capt. George Keith Elphinstone consisting of the 50-gun Warwick, the 64-gun Lion, the 28-gun Vestal, the 14-gun sloop Bonetta and the brig of war Raccoon, carrying 14 guns and 72 men. The two French frigates isolated and captured the Raccoon near Cape James, at the southern entrance to the Delaware Bay. Meanwhile, Captain Elphinstone sighted a ship to the east. Instead of going to assist the Raccoon, he changed his course and chased this new quarry. The pursued ship hoisted French colors at noon and struck them a short while later. It was the Sophie. The prisoners informed Captain Elphinstone that they had sailed under convoy of two frigates which had many distinguished passengers and a large sum of money on board.[8]

Realizing the importance of taking the frigates, Captain Elphinstone pursued them into the Delaware Bay. The entrance to the bay was filled with shoals and sandbars that marked channels of different depths. It was very risky to attempt to enter without a pilot. The northwest wind forced the French to tack to enter the bay. Captain de Latouche hoisted signals which he had agreed upon with the coastal pilots the previous year. As night fell, about 9 P.M., Captain de Latouche decided to anchor, three leagues east of Cape James. He sent his boat ashore to search for a pilot at Lewistown (Lewes, Delaware), but the wind dashed the boat against a bluff. Most of the sailors were drowned. The officer escaped with great difficulty and Captain de Latouche waited in vain for a pilot.

At dawn on the 13th, the British fleet appeared to the southeast. The wind was from the northeast. Captain de Latouche immediately set sail and rapidly approached the entrance to the bay. A British frigate and two other vessels chased the French. The Aigle, Gloire and Raccoon entered the bay under small sails and with depth probe in hand. Captain de Latouche soon learned that there was an excellent river pilot on board the Raccoon. He immediately offered the pilot 500 louis if he would take charge of the frigates and bring them to safety. He threatened to hang the pilot if they went aground.[9]

Under instructions from the pilot, the two frigates turned around to gain entry to the correct channel but found it blocked by the British. Captain de Latouche decided to go up a channel which proved to be a dead end. The British, who had already scraped ground twice, hesitated to engage in this dangerous channel and dropped anchor to await the high tide. The Gloire’s boat went ashore that morning and returned with some pilots who considered the situation hopeless.

Captain de Latouche decided to put ashore the dispatches from the court, the money and the passengers.[10]8 The Baron de Vioménil ordered all the officers who were passengers on board the two frigates to embark immediately in boats and to follow him on shore. He also ordered that the longboats should be used to send ashore the 2,500,000 livres.

The Money

The crews of the two frigates immediately set to work to unload the money during the afternoon and evening of the 13th. When two barges manned by 100 Loyalists attacked the Aigle’s longboats, the frigate’s lieutenant drove them off with muskets and swivel guns.

The officers landed at about 6 P.M. on August 13 without valets or extra clothing. The young men were sent throughout the neighborhood to call out the militia and to find wagons to transport the money the next morning. The Prince de Broglie succeeded in getting three wagons, each with four horses. He mounted a horse at 4 A.M. and was bringing his convoy to the Baron de Vioménil.

He met the Duc de Lauzun along the way.  He told the prince the money was landed at 3 A.M. and that about half of it (about two tons of silver and gold) was already piled on the beach. Two other well-armed boats full of Loyalists approached the spot where the launches were anchored with the money. The Baron de Vioménil had three or four musketeers with him and, seeing no means of defense, ordered a few chests, containing about 100,000 livres, to be thrown overboard with some observation buoys, as he had no time to land them. He then proceeded to Dover, Delaware (about seventeen miles away) with the rest of the money which was placed on the backs of some horses and then in a wagon.

About halfway to Dover, the Prince de Broglie met one of the baron’s aides-de-camp who told him that the general had just received word that the enemies had sailed off and that the tide had gone down. It was now possible to attempt to recover the chests of silver that he had ordered to be thrown into the bay. He also reported that the general was returning to the landing place to oversee the work. The aide added that General de Vioménil ordered them to conduct the first load or convoy of silver to Dover. The other convoy arrived a few minutes later. The men divided the money among three wagons which the Duc de Lauzun had sent forward. They reached Dover safely at 11 P.M.[11]

Both parties remained at anchor that night (September 13). The British received reinforcements, allowing them to enter the channel. Ironically, one of the two cutters accompanying the frigate HMS Vestal was the Sophie.

A British flag of truce boarded the Aigle at 10 A.M. on September 14. Commodore Elphinstone, commander of the British squadron, proposed a prisoner exchange and demanded that Lieutenant Nagle, captain of the Raccoon, be set free on parole. The Sophie and the Raccoon had the same size crews and the exchange seemed equitable. Captain de Latouche immediately agreed and freed Lieutenant Nagle on parole as a sign of good will. He undoubtedly hoped that the exchange of prisoners would result in a cease-fire.

However, a line of British boats, supported by a cutter, began to sound the channel almost as soon as the flag of truce left the Aigle. Faced with these hostile preparations, Captain de Latouche was forced to escape upstream. Some of the pilots thought that it was possible to sail about a league upstream and maybe even cross the bar if the ships could be lightened enough. Both frigates began to pump water and to throw overboard any unnecessary objects. The British set sail at 4 P.M. and approached. Captain de Latouche ordered his vessels to get underway. He put the Gloire in the lead because she drew less water. The Gloire and the Raccoon crossed the bar and reached the main channel, but the Aigle touched ground twice and then became stuck. Every attempt to free her failed, even throwing the cannons overboard.

The outgoing tide lay her on her side and rendered her artillery useless. The frigate had to be scuttled to avoid falling into enemy hands. Captain de Latouche had the masts cut and ordered the master carpenter and master caulker to make three large holes in the hold wide enough to render the ship inoperable. A British frigate approached athwart the Aigle to cannonade her. She opened fire at 8:30 P.M., killing three men and wounding five. Captain de Latouche attempted in vain to return fire with his stern chasers which fired three shots to no avail. For the safety of his crew, he ordered them to lie prone on deck and he had all of the sick and wounded brought up. He thought of blowing up the Aigle by setting fire to the powder magazine but he decided not to do so. His boats escaped with about forty men. Latouche and his officers were taken aboard the Vestal and then aboard the 64-gun HMS Lion in the middle of the night.


On the morning of September 15, Commodore Elphinstone went aboard the Lion and expressed great regard for his prisoner. He brought news from his mistress who presented herself aboard the Sophie as Madame de Latouche. Captain de Latouche did not correct Captain Elphinstone who later reunited the couple. Meanwhile, Captain Elphinstone had his adversary brought on board the Warwick to present him to Prince William Henry, the second son of King George III, who served in the capacity of a marine guard.

Four officers and eighty sailors escaped from the Aigle before her surrender. Two officers were immediately exchanged for two officers of the Raccoon. The rest were taken to New York. The British salvaged the Aigle after three days of work and took her in tow, to Latouche’s great rage and sorrow. They brought her to New York with the Sophie. Captain de Latouche was also taken to New York, aboard the Lion, a few days after his capture. In all likelihood, he was accompanied by “Madame de Latouche” as part of the prisoners from the Sophie were also taken aboard the Lion.[12]

The Count de Ségur arrived at Peekskill on September 22, 1782 and gave his dispatches to the Count de Rochambeau along with the details of the disaster suffered by the Aigle.


Captain de Latouche was paroled on October 4 but confined to quarters at Jamaica, Long Island until a British cartel could return him to France. Meanwhile his friends worked on his behalf. As soon as his capture was announced on September 15, the Baron de Vioménil, second in command of the French army under the Count de Rochambeau, wrote to Captain Elphinstone for news about him and recommended him to his good care. He also took the opportunity to request the liberation of the servants belonging to the officers who were passengers. Captain Elphinstone immediately reassured the baron that he exerted himself to render the life of this brave and distinguished man as comfortable as possible. He added “No officer could have exhibited more courage and adress in the conducting of his Majesty’s ship.”[13]

Later, in October, the Duc de Lauzun went to New York to seek an improvement in the situation of the French prisoners. He also requested the liberation of his friend Latouche but was denied.[14]

Captain de Latouche’s situation was very comfortable at the beginning of his captivity but then it deteriorated. Shortly after his residence at Jamaica with his mistress, the British told him that he must immediately board the flag of truce Alexander with his officers to return to France. Latouche said that he

was ill and unable to endure the voyage but his illness was not apparent. Doctor Blane of the British fleet came to visit him and declared him fit to board. The British commissary-general for naval prisoners directed the Comte de Latouche to prepare to embark immediately, but Latouche responded that he was the best judge of his health and declared that he “would not go unless forced at the point of the bayonet.”[15] The Alexander set sail without Latouche and the British attitude toward him hardened.

Irritated by Latouche’s insubordination, admirals Pigot and Digby had another complaint. A certain John Cramond, who was among the prisoners of HMS Romulus taken aboard the Hermione in June 1781, complained about the conditions of his imprisonment. He claimed he was treated more as a criminal than as a prisoner of war and claimed to have endured a long and unjust imprisonment in France because of Latouche. As a result of this complaint, Latouche was again imprisoned aboard the Lion, this time apparently without his mistress. The conditions were entirely different from those he had known immediately after his capture.

He wrote a letter to Captain Elphinstone on October 28 which induced Elphinstone to intervene on his behalf.[16] The British admirals decided to release Captain de Latouche from prison and to send him to England on board the frigate Carysfort which Captain Elphinstone had recently been appointed to command. Latouche boarded this vessel with his mistress and four servants (valet-de-chambre Jean Morin, two black servants named Azor and Zamour, and “Maria,” probably a lady’s maid).[17]

The Carysfort set sail from New York on November 8 and anchored at Spithead, England on November 28 after a very rapid but uncomfortable passage due to the heavy seas. Captain Elphinstone requested instructions from the Admiralty and received the order to send his prisoner to Alresford, one of the towns selected by the British to quarter paroled officers.

During the crossing, the strong feelings Latouche and Elphinstone had for each other transformed into a true friendship, evidenced by the fact that Elphinstone did not seem to consider the accusations brought against Latouche to be very serious. In a letter dated December 9, 1782, Latouche mentioned that Admiral Digby ordered his treatment as vengeance and reprisal to satisfy American Loyalists. A postscript to the letter sent “Madame de la touche’s” regards.[18]

Captain Elphinstone did everything in his power to make his new friend’s sojourn in England as comfortable as possible. He encouraged his friends in Alresford to show all the kindnesses imaginable to his prisoner and his “wife.” The couple moved into the residence assigned to them on December 8. There, they experienced a few weeks of peace. De Latouche and Elphinstone, who resided in London, exchanged frequent correspondence and the former did not hesitate to request certain services of the latter, such as procuring a vehicle for two people at a price not to exceed forty-three guineas.

The preliminary peace treaty was signed at Versailles on January 10, 1783. Louis René de Latouche-Tréville was freed and returned to France. He later became one of Napoleon’s most decorated and respected admirals. He died in the port of Toulon on board his flagship le Bucentaure on August 17,1804. His estate was divided between his wife and his mistress.


The logs of the Aigle and the Gloire no longer exist. Extracts of the log of the Hermione are published as Journal de la frégate du Roi l’Hermione de 32 canons (extraits) Commandée par M. de La Touche, Lieutenant de Vaisseau. La campagne, commencée le 23 janvier 1780, finie le 26 février 1782. in Tott, François de; Latouche-Tréville, Louis René Madeleine Le Vassor; Bois, Jean-Pierre. Deux voyages au temps de Louis XVI, 1777-1780 la mission du baron de Tott en Égypte en 1777-1778 et le Journal de bord de l’Hermione en 1780 (Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2005),127-252.

Rémi Monaque’s well-researched and well-documented biography of Captain de Latouche-Tréville, Latouche-Tréville, 1745-1804: l’amiral qui défiait Nelson (Paris: SPM, 2000) is the best single source of information on the captain. Robert A. Selig’s The Washington – Rochambeau Revolutionary Route in the State of Delaware, 1781 – 1783. A Historical and Architectural Survey. Dover, 2003, Chapter 13: The Journey of the Frigates L’Aigle and La Gloire, 19 May to 26 September 1782, 107-113 provides many interesting details.

[1] Other passengers on l’Aigle included the Marquis de Laval-Montmorency, Jean Frederic de Chabannes, marquis de la Palice, Colonel Comte de Vauban, Mr. de Melfort, Comte Bozon de Talleyrand, Louis de Champcenetz, Charles Laure MacMahon, André Arsène de Rosset, Vicomte de Fleury and the American Major Porter.

[2] Other passengers on la Gloire included Col. Dominique Sheldon, the Vicomte Alexandre de Loménie, the Chevalier Alexandre de Lameth, Charles-Louis Baron de Secondat de Montesquieu, the Baron de Poleresky, Jean-Louis de Rigaud, Vicomte de Vaudreuil, and Carl Pontus Lillienhorn, an aide-de-camp to the King of Sweden.

[3] National Archives (Britain). Admiralty 36/8658, 8659 and 8660. Archives Maritimes, Port de Rochefort 13 P8 44. André Desrosiers, France, Archives Maritimes, Port de Rochefort, sous-serie IE, liasses 339-375 et 398-404 MG 6, C, 1. (Ottawa: Archives publiques du Canada, Section des manuscrits, 1977).

[4] Letter of August 3 1782. Archives Nationales de la Marine, Paris. B4 185, fol. 273 and fol. 199.

[5] Claude Victor, Prince de Broglie, “Narrative of the Prince de Broglie,” translated by E.W. Balch, Magazine of American History, Vol. 1, 1877, pt. 1, 182.

[6] Louis-Philippe, comte de Ségur, The memoirs and anecdotes of the Count de Ségur (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1928), 117-120.

[7] Archives Nationales de la Marine, Paris. B4 185, fol. 321.

[8] G. Rutherford, “The case of M. de Latouche,” The Mariner’s Mirror Vol. 34:1, 1948, 34-41.

[9] Latouche’s and Vallongue’s reports on the loss of the Aigle: Archives Nationales de la Marine B4 185, fol. 202 et 278). Monaque, Rémi. Latouche-Tréville, 1745-1804: l’amiral qui défiait Nelson. Paris: SPM, 2000. p. 164.

[10] Armand-Louis de Gontaut, duc de Biron, Memoirs of the Duc de Lauzun (New York: New York Times; Arno Press, c1969), 218.

[11] De Broglie, “Narrative,” 184-185; Segur, memoirs and anecdotes, 132-136.

[12] Ibid.

[13] George Keith Elphinstone, viscount Keith. The Keith papers. Selected from the papers of Admiral Viscount Keith. edited by W. G. Perrin and Christopher Lloyd (London: Navy Records Society, 1927-1955), 1:89-90;  Rutherford, “The case of M. de Latouche.”

[14] Biron, Memoirs, 168.

[15] Charles Middleton, and John Knox Laughton, Letters and papers of Charles, Lord Barham, admiral of the Red squadron, 1758-1813 (London: Navy Records Society, 1907), Vol. 1 App. B.

[16] Letter of Captain Latouche-Tréville to Elphinstone, on board the Lyon, Oct. 28, 1782, Keith papers, 1:90-91.

[17] National Archives (Britain). Admiralty 36/9608.

[18] Keith papers, 1:91-93.


  • Thumbs up! Naturally Delaware loves this article!

    Many thanks, Norman, for telling one of my favorite stories of the W3R–the shipwreck in the Delaware Bay. Glad to see Bob Selig cited as well!

  • Superbly written . . . to which I offer a few subsequent details.

    Prizes L’Aigle and La Sophie were both purchased by the New York Naval Storekeeper, William Fowler, for Royal Naval service, for £9910.11.5d and £3045.10.4d, respectively (ADM 17/220, n.p.).

    HMS Aigle was commissioned 26 Oct 1782 as a 5th rate with Captain William Peacock commanding but Peacock died at New York on 13 Dec 1782 and Captain William Fooks superseded. HMS Aigle was paid off 11 Aug 1783 but was recommissioned during the Napoleonic War serving until wrecked in 1798.

    La Sophie was a frigate-built armed merchant vessel, which according to Rif Winfield (British Warships in the Age of Sail 1714-1792, p. 242) who wrote “This privateer had been hired by the French Navy 6.1782 at Rochfort.” HMS La Sophie was also commissioned 26 Oct 1782 with Commander Henry Mowat promoted to Captain but was superseded by Commander, promoted to Captain, the Hon’ble Alexander Forrester Inglis Cochran on 24 Sep 1783. HMS La Sophie was paid off at Deptford on 26 May 1784 and sold there for £870 on 17 Aug 1784 (Winfield).

    On 08 Oct 1782, RAdm Robert Digby notified the Admiralty (ADM 1/490, ff.150-152) of the purchase of the two French prizes, indicating that “I also propose to buy La Sophie being quite new and having copper sufficient to copper her in order to supply the place of the Allegiance that has been taken, and the Albany that is quite worn out, and cannot go to Sea, and as Captain Mouatt [Henry Mowat] of the Albany appears to me to have great merit and to have been much neglected, I propose to give him Post either into her, or by some other move upon this occasion, so that I shall only make one Captain–“

    Admiralty instead sent commissions dated 17 Dec 1782 (ADM 6/22,p.556) to America for Commander Richard Creyk to be promoted to Aigle and Forester promoted to command La Sophie (ADM 6/22, p.556). When these commissions arrived at New York via circuitous a route in June 1782, Creyk already had sailed for England but Forrester raised a big brouhaha after RAdm Digby refused to allow him to take command. Digby’s final words (18 June 1783) were “In answer to y[ou]r lett[e]r I must observe that the quitting the Carolina was intirely for your own convenience as you might have remain’d Captain of her till this Time if you had chose it, and you knew very well my opinion & determination; Viz, That it was neccessary for the Service that Captain Mowat s[houl]d proceed in the Sophie to Nova Scotia with the Refugees to whom he c[oul]d be of more use than any other person, and I received a Petition from them for that purpose; Whenever that service is over I shall not object to your joining the Sophie If I cant employ you sooner, And as I must confess it falls hard upon you; if you have anything, in the mean time; to request or propose, I desire you will do it in writing & I shall very readily consider it.” (ADM 1/1615/5) Cochran had to wait another 14 weeks to take command. Later HMS La Sophie sailed from New York in Jan 1784 with the New York treasury aboard and was reported lost but went into Lisbon for repairs before returning to Deptford.

    The former brig-rigged letter of marque Lovely Sally of Philadelphia, Nicolas Vallance commanding, was captured by HMS General Monk, Sloop [of war], in early April 1782 and purchased for Royal Naval service as HM brig Racoon [sic], Sloop [of war]. When captured by the French, Racoon was commanded by Commander Edmund Nagle who in his court martial (ADM 1/5320 03 Oct 1782) reported that the pilot of the Racoon was reported to have entered the French service for a fee of five hundred louis d’or and had taken the French ships and their prize upriver.

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