HMS Bonne Citoyenne (1796)

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The captured Furieuse is taken in tow by HMS Bonne Citoyenne, a print by Thomas Whitcombe
Career (France) French Navy Ensign
Name: Bonne Citoyenne
Launched: 1794
Captured: By the Royal Navy on 10 March 1796
Career (UK) Royal Navy Ensign
Name: HMS Bonne Citoyenne
Acquired: 10 March 1796
Fate: Sold on 3 February 1819
General characteristics
Class and type: 20-gun sloop-of-war
Tons burthen: 511 tons
Length: 120 ft 1 in (36.60 m)
Beam: 30 ft 11 in (9.42 m)
Draught: 8 ft 7 in (2.62 m)
Sail plan: Full-rigged ship
Complement: 125

20 guns:

Bonne Citoyenne was a 20-gun corvette of the French Navy, which the Royal Navy captured and recommissioned as the sloop-of-war HMS Bonne Citoyenne. Her most famous action was her capture of the French frigate Furieuse on 6 July 1809. Her lines were used as the basis for the Hermes-class post ship.

French service

Bonne Citoyenne was built and launched in 1794, put into service in 1795 and served in the English Channel and the Bay of Biscay.[1]

On 10 March, while under the command of Capitaine de Vaisseau Mahé-La-Bourdonnais, Bonne Citoyenn had the misfortune to be damaged in a storm off Cape Finisterre. She had the further misfortune to encounter the fifth-rate frigate HMS Phaeton, under the command of Robert Stopford. Phaeton sighted her and Stopford then engaged and captured her; he then took her back to England as his prize. She was commissioned into the Royal Navy as HMS Bonne Citoyenne.[2]

British service


HMS Bonne Citoyenne′s first commander was Captain Lindsay, who took command in January 1797, but by May that month he had been replaced by Captain Retalick. Captain Hesbitt took over in 1799, and in January Bonne Citoyenne took the Turkish Ambassador to Constantinople. After completing this task, she was sent to Malta to join the fleet blockading the French garrison there.[3]

A period of strong gales at the beginning of March made the commanders concerned that the French naval forces might attempt a sortie, and Bonne Citoyenne took up position west of Gozo. She was still on this station in 1800, when Commander Malling took over, afterwards being succeeded by Commander Robert Jackson.[3]

On 31 December 1800 Jackson and the Bonne Citoyenne captured the Spanish privateer Vives, which had been spotted sailing off Cape Mola. The Vives, ten days out on a cruise from Palma, was armed with ten 9-pounders and 80 men, and had previously captured a merchant vessel carrying wine for Citadella. Jackson went on to recapture this ship as well.[3]

Bonne Citoyenne then returned to Gibraltar, before sailing for Egypt with Lord Keith's fleet. The force attacked the French at Alexandria. After the Battle of Alexandria and the subsequent siege, Captain Alexander Cochrane in the 74-gun third rate HMS Ajax, with Bonne Citoyenne, Cynthia, the brig-sloops HMS Port Mahon and HMS Victorieuse, and three Turkish corvettes, were able to enter the harbour on 21 August.[3] Jackson was promoted to Post Captain in April 1802, and was replaced in command by Philip Carteret.

Bonne Citoyenne was paid off in 1803, and by 1805 was moored at Chatham. She was recommissioned under John Thompson in 1808, and served off the coast of Spain. Thompson was replaced by William Mounsey on 18 April 1809, who was sent with despatches for Earl St Vincent.[3]

Fight with Furieuse

Bonne Citoyenne returned to England after delivering the despatches, and on 18 June sailed from Spithead in company with HMS Inflexible. The two were acting as escorts for a convoy bound for Quebec. Whilst she escorted the convoy, on 2 July lookouts spotted a suspicious sail astern, and Mounsey dropped back to investigate.[3] In doing so he lost sight of the convoy.

As he sailed to rejoin the convoy, on 5 July he came across a French frigate that was in the process of capturing an English merchant. Despite the frigate's substantially larger size , Mounsey immediately gave chase, at which the French ship fled northwards.[3] After a chase lasting 18 hours the Bonne Citoyenne caught up with the French ship on the morning of 6 July and brought her to battle.

The subsequent engagement lasted seven hours, with Bonne Citoyenne at an disadvantage early on, when three of her guns were dismounted. She nevertheless fired 129 broadsides to the enemy's 70.[3] By the end of the battle Bonne Citoyenne had lost her top masts, her lower masts were badly damaged, and her rigging, sails and boats had been shot to pieces. Running out of powder Mounsey decided to force the issue and ordered his men to be prepared to board the French ship. Before he could do so, the French surrendered and Mounsey took possession.[3]

The enemy ship was discovered to be the Furieuse, which had sailed from the Îles des Saintes on 1 April, carrying sugar and coffee to France. She was capable of carrying 48 guns, but was only carrying 20 at the time. Despite this she had a much larger crew, with 200 sailors, 40 soldiers, and a detachment of troops from the 60th regiment of the line.[3] Furieuse had suffered heavy damage; she had lost her masts, had five feet of water in the hold, and her casualties numbered 35 killed and 37 wounded. By contrast, Bonne Citoyenne had just one man killed and five wounded.[3]

The frigate was patched up and Bonne Citoyenne towed her into Halifax, where both were repaired. The captured frigate was later commissioned into the Royal Navy as HMS Furieuse, whilst the Bonne Citoyenne returned to England in September.[3] A round of promotions followed the victory. Bonne Citoyenne's first lieutenant received a promotion to commander and Mounsey one to Post captain. He accepted the offer of command of Furieuse, once she had been repaired, commissioning her in November 1811.[3]

Greene and the Americans

Mounsey left Bonne Citoyenne in 1810, to be succeeded by Richard James O'Connor, and he by Pitt Burnaby Greene in 1811, whilst she was at Spithead.[3] Greene was promoted to Post captain on 7 March 1811, after which Bonne Citoyenne was re-classed as a Post-ship. Greene was sent to the South American Station, sailing out of the River Plate, and spending time as the senior officer of the station during the absences of Captain Peter Heywood.

With the outbreak of the War of 1812 Greene took on a cargo of specie, worth some half a million pounds, and sailed from Rio de Janeiro. Unfortunately, Bonne Citoyenne was damaged after a grounding and he was forced to put into Salvador for repairs.[3] Whilst she was in port, two American warships, the USS Constitution and USS Hornet arrived. James Lawrence of the Hornet sent a challenge to Greene, offering a single ship combat. Greene anticipated victory, but was wary of the much larger Constitution. He also felt responsible for protecting his valuable cargo, and so declined to come out.[3] Constitution subsequently left, and the arrival of HMS Montagu on 24 January 1813 forced Hornet to make a hasty escape. Greene sailed for Portsmouth, arriving there in April.[3]

In 1814 Bonne Citoyenne was tied up at Sheerness, and later moved to Portsmouth.[3] She was sold on 3 February 1819.[2]


  1. Lyon & Winfield. Sail and Steam. pp. Chap. 1; p. 72. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Colledge. Ships of the Royal Navy. pp. 44. 
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 3.15 3.16 3.17 "BONNE CITOYENNE (20)". Retrieved 2008-10-05.