Hired armed cutter Swan

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During the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars the Admiralty also made use of hired armed vessels, one of which was the Hired armed cutter Swan. Actually there were two such cutters, but the descriptions of these vessels and the dates of their service are such that they may well represent one vessel under successive contracts. The vessel or vessels cruised, blockaded, carried despatches and performed reconnaissance.

First hired armed cutter Swan[edit]

The first Swan was launched in 1797 and served the Royal Navy from 1 July 1799 to 24 October 1801.[1][2] She was a cutter of 14 guns - twelve 4-pounders and two 9-pounder carronades - and 12946/94 tons burthen (bm).[1]

There was an earlier Swan of 130 tons burthen and fourteen 4-pounder guns under the command of Francis Sarmen that received a Letter of Marque on 25 February 1793.[3]

Naval service[edit]

From 13 August to October 1799 Swan was employed on the disastrous Anglo-Russian expedition against the Batavian Republic under Vice Admiral Andrew Mitchell and Lieutenant General Ralph Abercromby. On 28 August Swan, together with the Hired cutter Active, participated in the capture of the Dutch hulks Drotchterland and Brooderschap, and the ships Helder, Venus, Minerva, and Hector, in the Nieuwe Diep, in Holland. Swan was also among the vessels sharing in the proceeds from the surrender of the Dutch fleet in the Vlieter Incident.[4] On 23 November 1799 Lieutenant-General Sir James Pulteney, second in command of the expedition, was on board Swan supervising the embarkation of the British and Russian troops.[5]

On 12 September there came in to Plymouth the Prussian galliot Vrouw Hildegarde. She had been sailing from Bordeaux to Hamburg with a cargo of brandy and wine wne Swan captured her.[6]

On 26 February 1800, under Lieutenant Henry Stanley, Swan was on the Irish station. Here she captured the Uligeride Mercarius (Flying Mercurius), of Bremen, which she had detained while on passage to Bordeaux.[7][8]

On 1 March 1801, while under the command of Acting Lieutenant John Luckraft, Swan captured the French privateer Vengeur in the Channel, one league southwest of Praule Point. Vengeur was under the command of M. Le Roy, mounted two large swivels and had a crew of 17 men, one of whom was wounded. She was ten days out of St Malo but had taken nothing. Luckraft further reported on behalf of the owners that due to the bad weather he had had the misfortune to lose one of their cutter's best boats boarding the privateer.[9]

Swan was under the command of Lieutenant Philip Browne from 26 February to 17 March 1802. During this period Swan intercepted and seized several notorious smugglers. Browne then transferred to the gun-brig Vixen in May.[10]

Prize money[edit]

On 18 May 1802 there was an announcement in the press that the proceeds arising from the capture of the Uligeride Mercarius would be due for payment at Dartmouth, or on Swan's next arrival there. On 24 February 1802 prize money resulting from the capture of the Drotchterland, Brooderschap, Helder, Venus, Minerva, and Hector was due to be paid. Lastly, between 17 November and 30 December, prize money resulting from the expedition to Holland was due for payment.

On 4 July 1802 orders were received at Portsmouth for Swan, among a number of other vessels including Bulldog and Serpent, to be put in commission.[11] Serpent may have been an ex-Dutch hoy of 4 guns, purchased in 1794 and sold in 1802.[12] Bulldog may have been Bulldog, which had been a powder hulk in Portsmouth since 1801, and which was broken up in 1829.[13] As neither this Serpent nor Bulldog appear to have been recommissioned, this Swan may also have not, in which case she would not be the second Swan.

Second hired armed cutter Swan[edit]

The second Swan was a cutter of ten 12-pounder carronades and 11927/94 tons burthen (bm) that served the Royal Navy from 6 August 1803 to 21 October 1803 and again from 3 August 1807 until her capture by the Danes on 24 April 1811 during the Gunboat War.[14][Note 1]

On 26 October 1803 Swan sailed in company with four transports from Portsmouth to Plymouth. There they were to pick up troops for Cork. An agent for the Royal Navy, Captain Watson, accompanied them.[15]

Under the command of Lieutenant William Richard Wallace she recaptured the Jane on 25 January 1805. The next day she captured the Fly (or Vlieg), a Danish privateer of 18 men that had captured the Jane.[Note 2] On 19 March salvage arising from the recapture of Jane was due to be paid at Yarmouth,[17] and on 28 May prize monies resulting from the capture of Fly were due to be paid on board.[18]

On 10 May 1805 Swan was part of a squadron under Rear-Admiral Thomas McNamara Russell when the squadron captured the Dorothea Elizabeth.[19] On 24 August 1807, Swan captured the Haabet, Joost, Master.[20]

During Swan's second contract she was under the command of Lieutenant Mark Robinson Lucas. On 24 May 1808 she found herself in action off the island of Bornholm with a Danish cutter-rigged vessel.[21] Swan had been carrying despatches when she had spotted the Danish vessel and lured her out. After a chase of about two hours, Swan was in a position to open fire.[21] After about 20 minutes the Danish cutter exploded. Swan suffered no casualties despite coming under fire both from the Danish vessel and the batteries on Bornholm. The fire from the batteries and the sighting of Danish boats approaching forced Wallace to withdraw without being able to make efforts to rescue survivors. The Danish cutter appeared to be of about 120 tons, to have mounted eight or ten guns, and apparently was full of men.[21] The Danish cutter turned out to be the privateer Habet.[22]

Four days later Swan captured the Danish brigs Emanuel and Aall.[23] In 1809 Lucas removed from Swan. On 15 November 1808 Swan captured the Anna Dorothea.[24]

While still under the command of Lucas, Swan captured the Constantine Pawlowitz on 4 August 1809.[25] In December 1809 Swan captured the Friendschaff (5 December), Neptunus and St. Johanna (10 December).[26]

One year later, On 4 August 1810, Swan was under the command of Edward Mourilyan , owhen she captured the Juliana Carolina.[27] On 25 August Swan brought in to Hano Bay, Sweden, where Vice-Admiral Sir James Saumarez and his flagship Victory then were, a Danish privateer rowboat with 11 men, one of whom had been killed and another wounded in attempting to make their escape. Swan also brought in a galiot that she had recaptured.[28]

On 6 January 1811 Swan was in Yarmouth for repairs, having had to cut away masts during a gale. On 19 April 1811, Swan captured the Baron Rhanizen Lhen and the Bellona.[29] That same day she captured the Lykkern Prove, Peterson, Master.[30]

On 24 April 1811, Swan and hired armed cutter Hero anchored off Kungsholm;[31] at 3am the next morning they saw three Danish gunboats in The Sleeve (Sunningesund), approaching them.[2] The two British cutters cut their cables and attempted to escape. Shots from one of the gunboats damaged Swan and one resulted in the wetting of her powder magazine, As the wind died off, the gunboats concentrated on Swan, forcing her surrender.[31] The Danes boarded her but were able to retrieve little before Swan sank off Uddevalla, on the Swedish coast north of Gothenburg.[2] The fight cost Swan two men killed and one wounded.[31] The same battle apparently also resulted in the damaging of the Hero.[32][Note 3]


  1. ^ Anderson gives the day as 23 April, Winfield gives it as 24 April, and Gossett gives it as 25 April.
  2. ^ The London Gazette gives the name of the privateer as Flip, which probably represents a miscopying, misreading, oor mistranslation of the vessel's name.[16]
  3. ^ Gossett has Hero being sunk, but does not report any court date. All other reports have Hero damaged, but continuing to serve until November 1811.


  1. ^ a b Winfield (2008), p.389.
  2. ^ a b c Gossett (1986), pp.78-9.
  3. ^ Letter of Marque, p.88.[1]
  4. ^ The London Gazette: no. 15545. pp. 9–10. 28 December 1802.
  5. ^ The London Gazette: no. 15205. p. 1193. 19 November 1799.
  6. ^ Naval Chronicle, Vol. 2, p.353.
  7. ^ The London Gazette: no. 15362. p. 504. 5 May 1801.
  8. ^ Naval Chronicle, Vol. 3, p.236.
  9. ^ The London Gazette: no. 15342. p. 254. 3 March 1801.
  10. ^ Marshall (1928), Supplement, Part , p.97.
  11. ^ Naval Chronicle, Vol. 8, p.84.
  12. ^ Winfield (2008), p.325.
  13. ^ Winfield (2008), pp.247-8.
  14. ^ Winfield (2008), p.392.
  15. ^ Naval Chronicle, Vol. 10, p.457.
  16. ^ The London Gazette: no. 15775. p. 125. 26 January 1805.
  17. ^ The London Gazette: no. 15788. p. 341. 12 March 1805.
  18. ^ The London Gazette: no. 15806. p. 639. 11 May 1805.
  19. ^ The London Gazette: no. 16335. p. 104. 20 January 1810.
  20. ^ The London Gazette: no. 16625. p. 1421. 21 July 1812.
  21. ^ a b c The London Gazette: no. 16152. pp. 802–803. 7 June 1808.
  22. ^ The London Gazette: no. 16268. p. 924. 20 June 1809.
  23. ^ The London Gazette: no. 16279. p. 1177. 25 July 1809.
  24. ^ The London Gazette: no. 16389. p. 1084. 21 July 1810.
  25. ^ The London Gazette: no. 16514. p. 1623. 17 August 1811.
  26. ^ The London Gazette: no. 16548. pp. 2341–2343. 3 December 1811.
  27. ^ The London Gazette: no. 16500. p. 1207. 29 June 1811.
  28. ^ The London Gazette: no. 16398. p. 1261. 21 August 1810.
  29. ^ The London Gazette: no. 16538. p. 2145. 5 November 1811.
  30. ^ The London Gazette: no. 16584. p. 525. 17 March 1812.
  31. ^ a b c Hepper (1794), p.136.
  32. ^ Anderson (1910), p.344.


  • Anderson, Roger Charles (1910) Naval wars in the Baltic: during the sailing-ship epoch, 1522-1850. (London: C. Gilbert-Wood).
  • Gossett, William Patrick (1986) The lost ships of the Royal Navy, 1793-1900. (London: Mansell).
  • Hepper, David J. (1994) British Warship Losses in the Age of Sail, 1650-1859. (Rotherfield: Jean Boudriot). ISBN 0-948864-30-3
  • James, William (1837). The Naval History of Great Britain, from the Declaration of War by France in 1793, to the Accession of George IV. 5. R. Bentley. 
  • Marshall, John ( 1823-1835) Royal naval biography, or, Memoirs of the services of all the flag-officers, superannuated rear-admirals, retired-captains, post-captains, and commanders, whose names appeared on the Admiralty list of sea officers at the commencement of the present year 1823, or who have since been promoted ... (London : Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown).
  • Winfield, Rif (2008). British Warships in the Age of Sail 1793–1817: Design, Construction, Careers and Fates. Seaforth. ISBN 1-86176-246-1. 

External links[edit]

  • Phillips, Michael - Ships of the Old Navy - Swan(10; 1800)[2]