French corvette Berceau (1794)

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Berceau vs USS Boston-h76555.jpg
Career (France) French Navy Ensign French Navy Ensign
Name: Berceau
Builder: Lorient
Laid down: December 1793
Launched: 12 July 1794
In service: July 1794
Captured: 12 October 1800
Fate: Broken up in 1804
General characteristics [1]
Length: 33.45 m (109.7 ft)
Beam: 9.1 m (30 ft)
Draught: 4.6 m (15 ft)
Propulsion: Sails
Sail plan: Ship
Complement: 180>
Armament: Originally:22 x 8-pounder guns

1797:2 x 36-pounder obusiers added

1800:A further 6 x 36-pounder obusiers added

Berceau was a 22-gun corvette of the French Navy, built to a design by Jacques-Noël Sané, and launched in 1794. The Americans captured her in 1800 but restored her to France the next year. She then served in the Indian Ocean before returning to Spain, where she was broken up in 1804.


On 17 October 1794 Berceau was in the Île-d'Aix roads. Her commander was lieutenant de vaisseau Bonamy.[2]

Berceau participated in the Croisière du Grand Hiver, an unsuccessful sortie by the French fleet at Brest on 24 December 1794.

On 18 September 1797 Berceau was at Saint-Nazaire and under the command of capitaine de frégate Bourrand. Between 21 May and 8 June 1799 she carried dispatches from Toulon to Malaga, and then returned to Palamós.[2]

In 1799, Berceau took part in the Cruise of Bruix. On 11 May, Admiral Bruix set his flag on Berceau to direct a battle against the British off Cadiz; after the Spanish broke contact, Bruix cancelled the attack.

On 13 July 1800, Berceau fought against two Portuguese corvettes off Guyana.[2] From September, she cruised the Caribbean under capitaine de frégate Louis-Andre Senez.

Main article: USS Boston vs Berceau

On 12 October, she met the 28-gun American frigate Boston. Unbeknownst to the participants, the Peace that ended the Quasi-War had been signed. In the ensuing engagement, Berceau was badly damaged and lost 34 men killed and 28 wounded before she eventually struck her colours. The Americans had four men killed, three men mortally wounded, and eight men wounded.[3]

Berceau had been dismasted so Boston towed her as a prize to Boston. During the voyage prize-master Lieutenant Robert Haswell rigged a jury mast and then sailed her on in an impressive feat of seamanship.[3] The battle having been fought two weeks after a formal peace agreement, Berceau was repaired at American expense for $32,839.54.[3] On 22 June 1801, she was restituted to France and recommissioned under Lieutenant Michelon.[4] He then sailed her from Boston to Port-Louis, arriving around 19 October 1801.[2]

She sailed from Saint-Pierre, Martinique, to Lorient. Between 29 March and 14 April Berceau was under the temporary command of lieutenant de vaisseau Emanuel Halgan. Capitaine de frégate Brouard succeeded Halgan.[2]

On 25 September 1803, under René Lemarant de Kerdaniel, Berceau joined up with Linois' squadron off Île de France, bringing the news that the War of the Third Coalition had broken out.

In December, The French frigate Sémillante and Berceau sent their boats in to attack British vessels anchored at Pulo Bay, and burn the [{East India Company]] factory and naval arsenal there.[3][Note 1] Accounts differ, but the French succeeded in burning between six and twelve vessels.[5]

In February 1804, Berceautook part in the Battle of Pulo Aura under capitaine de frégate Halgan. Afterwards, the captains of the French vessels and the one Dutch vessel involved, including Halgan, wrote reports on the incident.[2]


Berceau returned to Europe, reaching Vigo in August or September 1804, in bad condition. On 28 September Emperor Napoleon ordered her sold; she was decommissioned on 4 November and sold,[1] for 21,000 piastres.[3][Note 2]

See also[edit]

Notes, citations and references[edit]

  1. ^ Pulo Bay is a now silted-up natural harbor about eight miles southward of Benkulen (Benkulu).
  2. ^ Piastre was the French term for dollars.[6] This would imply a price of £3,500,[7] which seems implausible high for a superannuated brig.
  1. ^ a b Winfield and Roberts (2015 forthcoming), Chap. 6.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Fonds Marine BB4, 1790-1804.
  3. ^ a b c d e Leiner (2014), Chap. 6: The Boston and the perils of taking prizes.
  4. ^ Canney, 2001 p.55
  5. ^ Anon. (1852), p.291.
  6. ^ Kelly (1811), p.301
  7. ^ Kelly (1811), p.149.
  • Anon. (1852) Nouvelles annales de la marine et des colonies: revue mensuelle (P. Dupont).
  • Canney, Donald L. (2001). Sailing warships of the US Navy.
    Chatham Publishing/Naval Institute Press. p. 224. ISBN 1-55750-990-5.
  • Fonds Marine - Campagnes (opérations ; divisions et stations navales ; missions diverses); Inventaire de la sous-série Marine BB 4. Tome premier (1790-1804).
  • Kelly, Patrick (1811) The Universal Cambist, and Commercial Instructor: Being a General Treatise on Exchange, Including the Monies, Coins, Weights and Measures of All Trading Nations and Their Colonies : with an Account of Their Banks and Paper Currencies. Vol. 2.
  • Leiner, Frederick (2014) Millions for Defense: The Subscription Warships of 1798. (Naval Institute Press). ISBN 9781612513485
  • Winfield, Rif & Stephen S Roberts (2015 Forthcoming) French Warships in the Age of Sail 1786 - 1862: Design Construction, Careers and Fates. (Seaforth Publishing). ISBN 9781848322042