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.
Capture of Kent by Confiance. Painting by Ambroise Louis Garneray
|East India Company|
|Owner||Henry Bonham (principal managing owner)|
|Builder||Thomas Pitcher, Northfleet|
|Launched||1799, or 10 February 1800,|
|General characteristics |
|Tons burthen||824, or 875 78⁄94 (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)|
Kent left Torbay on 3 May 1800. She was under the command of Robert Rivington, who sailed under a letter of marque dated 28 March 1800. 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. Queen and Kent had left Torbay on the same day.
At some point Kent had rescued the crew and passengers of another ship, destroyed by fire, and therefore had an exceptionally large complement. Including passengers, among whom there were some 100 soldiers, she had 437 persons aboard which was more than four times its normal complement. Surcouf managed to board his larger opponent, causing great confusion, and seized control of Kent. The British had 14 men killed, including Rivington, and 44 wounded, while the French suffered five men killed and ten wounded.
James reports that Kent fought for almost two hours and that Rivington was killed by a shot to the head as the French boarded. 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 between 20 and 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.
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. 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. Ensign (and future Lieutenant-General) John Hunter Littler was another passenger, he was put aboard a pinnace to complete his journey to India.
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. Confiance and Kent arrived at the Rade des Pavillons in Port Louis, Mauritius, in November. The capture of Kent became a sensation, and the British Admiralty promised a large reward for the capture of Surcouf.
Her captors sold Kent for 30,900 piastres to a Danish shipping company, which renamed her Cronberg. She left Mauritius on 21 March 1801, but as she approached Denmark passing vessels informed her that a British fleet had attacked Copenhagen; she therefore waited for some weeks off the coast of Norway before it was safe to proceed, and arrived in Kristiansand in June 1801, and later at Copenhagen on 16 July.
The EIC put the value of its cargo lost on Kent at £28,676.
Notes, citations, and referencesEdit
-  British Library: Kent (6).]
- Hackman (2001), p. 135.
- Letter of Marque, p.71 - accessed 25 July 2017.
- Demerliac (2003), p. 326.
- Naval Chronicle, Vol. 4, pp. 344–5
- Hardy & Hardy (1811), p. 202
- Levot, p. 495
- Hennequin, p. 384
- James (1837), Vol. 3, p. 31
- Laughton (1889), pp. 438–442
- "Littler, Sir John Hunter". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/16779. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- Rouvier, p. 527
- Cunat, p. 398
- Review 1842), pp. 178–9
- Cleveland (1843), pp. 135, 143–4
- 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.
- 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.
- Hackman, Rowan (2001). Ships of the East India Company. Gravesend, Kent: World Ship Society. ISBN 0-905617-96-7.
- Hardy, Horatio Charles (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. Black, Parry, and Kingsbury.
- Demerliac, Alain (2003). Nomenclature des navires français (in French). 1800–1815. Nice: Éditions A.N.C.R.E.
- 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.