Louis-Antoine-Cyprien Infernet (1757–1815) was a French Navy officer, famous for his bravery at the Battle of Trafalgar. He was born of humble origins near Toulon, a relative of André Masséna, he was rough and spoke in a strong Provençal accent. He joined the French navy as a cabin boy and performed 'powder monkey' duties too. He was a tall man for the time 5'10" and of open, agreeable personality.
Infernet captained the Intrépide, a Spanish-built 74-gun, at the Battle of Trafalgar. She was part of Dumanoir's six-ship vanguard squadron; Nelson's plan left these ships downwind and away from the fight, and Dumanoir did not answer Villeneuve's calls to tack and return to engage the English. Eventually, Infernet outraged at Dumanoir's lack of hunger for a fight ordered his ship turned. This was a difficult manouevre as the wind had died, but Intrepide was turned after a pulling was lowered, and eventually enough way was gathered to enter the battle. Intrepide engaged the HMS Leviathan and Africa, soon rejoined by Agamemnon, Ajax, Orion and Conqueror. Pressed to surrender, Infernet answered in Nice dialect:
|“||Not in a lifetime, my ship has just been painted fresh||”|
By then, Intrépide had lost all her masts, half her crew and was filled with 8ft of water. Still Infernet did not wish to surrender, but he was held down in tears as his colours were lowered. Along with others he swam for it, carrying his son, a 10yr old midshipman, with him. He was picked up by HMS Orion, where the English, recognizing his bravery treated him, and his crew, with great respect. Intrépide was scuttled the next day to avoid recapture by Cosmao's squadron.
Infernet was taken to England, and later, like most senior captains and admirals was exchanged after a few months.
|“||If all my ships had behaved like those you commanded, victory would not have been in the balance. I have made you commanders of the Legion of Honour.||”|
The cruiser Infernet was named in his honour.
Source and references
- Jamai de la vida, lou miéu batéau es pintat de nòu !
- Si tous mes vaisseaux s’étaient conduits comme ceux que vous commandiez, la victoire n’aurait pas été incertaine. Je vous ai nommés commandeurs de la Légion-d’Honneur.
- Charles Mullié, Biographie des célébrités militaires des armées de terre et de mer de 1789 à 1850, 1852