French frigate Hermione (1779)

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L'Hermione in the Naval battle of Louisbourg, by Auguste-Louis de Rossel de Cercy
Hermione in the Naval battle of Louisbourg, by Auguste-Louis de Rossel de Cercy
Career (France) French Navy Ensign French Navy Ensign
Name: Hermione
Laid down: 1778
Launched: 1779
Fate: Sank 1792
Notes: The subject of a reconstruction project in Rochefort, Charente-Maritime, France from 1997
General characteristics
Class and type: Concorde class 12-pounder frigate
Displacement: 1,166 tons
Length: 44.2m
Beam: 11.24m
Draught: 5.78m
Complement: 255
Armament: variously reported as 26, 32 or 36 Cannon of 12lb

The Hermione was a 12-pounder Concorde class frigate of the French Navy. She became famous when she ferried General La Fayette to the United States in 1780 to allow him to join the American side in the American Revolutionary War.


  • 1779 : Built in eleven months at Rochefort, by the shipwright Henri Chevillard. Between May and December she underwent successful sea trials in the Gulf of Gascony under the command of Vassor de la Touche.
  • 1780 : General La Fayette embarked at Rochefort on the 11th March and arrived in Boston on 28 April carrying the then secret news that he had secured French reinforcements (5,500 men and 5 frigates) for Washington. She got underway again on 2 June and suffered serious damage in a fierce but indecisive action against the 32 gun British frigate Iris (formerly USS Hancock) under the command of James Hawker.
  • 1781 : The ship received the American Congress on board in May. Under the command of Louis-René Levassor de Latouche Tréville she fought several times in company with the Astrée commanded by Jean-François de Galaup, comte de La Pérouse, especially at the Naval battle of Louisbourg on 21 July 1781.
  • 1782 : After the end of the American Revolutionary War, the frigate returned to France in February. She then formed part of a squadron sent to India to help Pierre André de Suffren against the British. However peace was declared and the ship returned to Rochefort in April 1784.
  • 1792 : Again in service against the British, she ran aground off Croisic, and was then wrecked by heavy seas.
  • 1997 : Rebuilding project starts in Rochefort.


She was of the type of frigate known as light (French: légère), due to speed and maneuverability. She could carry a crew of 255, had a displacement of 1,166 tons, a length overall of 44.2m, a beam of 11.24m and a draught of 5.78m.

She was armed with 26, 32 or 36 (sources vary) 12-pound cannons and had three decks: quarter deck, gun deck and a berth deck.


This project began in 1997, envisaging a launch in the Spring of 2011 (as compared to the original, which took less than a year to build).

The shipyard is in one of the two dry docks beside the Corderie Royale at Rochefort.

As far as possible, traditional construction methods are used. The site is open to the public, and admission fees help fund the project.

The original plans have been modified in several ways for reasons of strength and safety: planks have been bolted rather than pegged to avoid movement during the long period of construction. Similarly, the mast sections are fastened with glue rather than metal hoops to avoid water penetration. The cannons are lightweight and non-functional to save weight, and for safety reasons. Hemp rigging will be used, but the sails will be synthetic for strength and to allow a smaller crew to handle them.

An engine will be used for safety, and electric generators for lighting and basic amenities.


Photographs of the reconstruction from 2005

Photographs of the reconstruction from 2006

Photographs of the reconstruction from 2009


  • Emmanuel de Fontainieu, Yves Gaubert, L'Hermione, de Rochefort à la gloire américaine, Editions de Monza, 2002 ISBN 978-2-90-807195-5
  • Robert Kalbach, Jean-Luc Gireaud, L'Hermione, Frégate des Lumières, Dervy, 2004 ISBN 978-2-84-454319-6
  • Jean-Marie Ballu, L'Hermione, l'aventure de sa reconstruction, Editions du Gerfaut, 2007 ISBN 978-2-35-191018-4
  • James M. Volo, Blue Water Patriots: The American Revolution Afloat, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007 ISBN 978-0-27-598907-1

External links

de:Hermione (Fregatte) fr:Hermione (frégate)