Capture of the Kent by the Confiance. Painting by Ambroise Louis Garneray.
|Career (East India Company)|
|Owner:||Henry Bonham (principal managing owner)|
|General characteristics |
|Tons burthen:||824 (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)|
|Armament:||26 x 9 & 12-pounder guns|
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. 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.
On 7 October Kent encountered the French privateer brig Confiance, of 18 guns and 150 men, under the command of Robert Surcouf.
- French account
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. Surcouf managed to board his larger opponent and seize control of the Kent. The British had 14 men killed, including Rivington, and 44 wounded, while the French suffered five men killed and ten wounded.
- British account
James reports that the 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' 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.
Surcouf put his first officer, 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 promise a reward for the capture of Surcouf.
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