HMS Carysfort (1766)

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Print by Thomas Whitcombe depicting HMS Carysfort retaking the Castor from the French on 29 May 1794
Career (UK) Royal Navy Ensign
Name: HMS Carysfort
Ordered: 4 & 20 February 1764
Builder: Sheerness Dockyard
Laid down: June 1764
Launched: 23 August 1766
Completed: By 11 August 1767
Fate: Sold on 28 April 1813
General characteristics
Class and type: 28-gun Coventry-class sixth rate
Tons burthen: 586 30/94 bm
Length: 118 ft 4 in (36.1 m) (overall)
97 ft 3.5 in (29.7 m) (keel)
Beam: 33 ft 8 in (10.3 m)
Depth of hold: 10 ft 6 in (3.20 m)
Propulsion: Sails
Sail plan: Full rigged ship
Complement: 200

As built

  • Upper deck: 24 x 9pdrs
  • Quarter deck: 4 x 3pdrs + 12 x ½pdr swivels

From 1780:

  • Upper deck: 24 x 9pdrs
  • Quarter deck: 4 x 6pdrs + 4 x 18pdr carronades
  • Forecastle: 2 x 18pdr carronades

From 1794

  • Upper deck: 24 x 9pdrs
  • Quarter deck: 4 x 6pdrs + 4 x 24pdr carronades
  • Forecastle: 2 x 24pdr carronades

HMS Carysfort was a 28-gun Coventry-class sixth rate of the Royal Navy. This frigate served during the American War of Independence, the French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars in a career that spanned over forty years.

She had a number of notable commanders during this period, and saw action in several single-ship engagements against French and American opponents. She took several privateers during the American War of Independence, though one of her most notable actions was the recapture of HMS Castor, a Royal Navy frigate that a French squadron had captured nearly three weeks earlier and was being sailed to France by a French prize crew. Carysfort engaged and forced the surrender of her larger opponent and Castor was restored to the British, though not without a controversy over the issue of prize money. She spent the later French Revolutionary and early Napoleonic Wars on the overseas stations, in the East and later the West Indies. Carysfort returned to Britain in 1806 where she was laid up in Ordinary. The Admiralty finally sold her in 1813.

Construction and commissioning

Carysfort was ordered from Sheerness Dockyard in February 1764 and laid down there in June that year.[1] Her construction was overseen by master shipwright John Williams until June 1765, and thereafter by William Gray until her completion. She was named on 29 July 1765 and launched on 23 August 1766.[2] She was completed by 11 August 1767, after the expenditure of £11,101.14.11d to build, plus £1,614.13.3d on fitting her out.[1]

Early years and American War of Independence

Carysfort commissioned under her first commander, Captain George Vandeput in June 1767, and sailed for the Mediterranean in September that year.[1] Vandeput remained in command until 1770, when in February Captain William Hay replaced him. Hay continued in the Mediterranean until May, when he sailed to Jamaica.[1] On that trip she ran aground in the Straits of Florida. Carysfort Reef there is named for her.

Hay and Carysfort briefly returned to Britain in 1771, before journeying back to Jamaica in April 1772. She was paid off in July 1773 and spent some time laid up.[1]

Carysfort began to be fitted for foreign service at Chatham Dockyard in September 1775, a process that had been completed by February 1776. She was then recommissioned in December 1775 under Captain Robert Fanshaw.[1] Fanshaw sailed to North America in April 1776, but returned the following year where she was again fitted out, this time at Plymouth.[1]

She paid off again in late 1778, but in late 1779 she was reactivated and began to be fitted for service in the English Channel.[1] She joined the Downs squadron under her new captain, William Cumming, and on 13 June 1780 she captured the privateer Espérance.[1] Cumming was replaced in November 1780 by Captain William Peacock, and in December Carysfort returned to operate in North American waters. On 24 May 1782 she captured the American privateer General Galvez.[1] Captain John Markham briefly took command in December 1782, and next month Carysfort was paid off again.[1]

Interwar period and French Revolutionary Wars

Carysfort underwent a Great Repair in mid-1785, and returned to service in January 1787, having commissioned the previous month under Captain Matthew Smith.[1] She served in the Mediterranean for three years, paying off in 1790. After a further period spent laid up, Carysfort was prepared for active service again after the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars, and recommissioned in August 1793 under Captain Francis Laforey.[1]

Carysfort and Castor

While off Land's End on 29 May 1794 she came across HMS Castor, sailing under French colours.[1] The Castor, originally under Captain Thomas Troubridge, had been captured twenty days earlier by a French squadron under Joseph-Marie Nielly during the Atlantic campaign of May 1794.[3] Castor was being sailed back to France by a French prize crew at the time she was discovered, and was towing a Dutch brig.[4] The French cast off the brig and fought Carysfort for an hour and a quarter, before surrendering.[4] Carysfort's casualties amounted to one dead and four wounded, while the French on Castor had 16 killed and nine wounded.[4] One master's mate and eighteen seaman of the original crew were released after the recapture, but Troubridge and most of the British crew had been taken aboard Nielly's flagship, Sans Pareil, and would have to wait for the defeat of the French fleets at the Glorious First of June and the capture of Sans Pareil before they could be freed.[4]

Carysfort towed Castor to a British port, but a dispute then arose over the matter of prize money. The naval commissioners decided that since Castor was being taken to a French port, she was not yet a French warship, and that Carysfort had merely recovered the British ship.[4] This meant Laforey and his crew were entitled to some salvage rights, but not the more lucrative bounty of prize money.[4] Laforey protested and the case went to Sir James Marriott, the judge of the High Court of Admiralty. The captured French captain was called upon to give evidence, and reported that Nielly was empowered to 'condemn, arm, fit-out, and equip, all such prizes as he might think calculated for the service of the French republic.'[4] Marriot determined that Castor fulfilled the criteria of such a ship, and therefore awarded her full value to Laforey and the men of Carysfort.[4] Also, in 1847 the men of Carysfort were authorized the Naval General Service Medal with the clasp "CARYSFORT 29 MAY 1794"; however, none came forward to claim theirs.

Later service

Captain John Murray took command of Carysfort in 1795, and left Britain for the East Indies in February 1796. Carysfort remained in the East Indies for the next few years, passing under the command of Captain Thomas Alexander in March 1796.[1] Alexander captured the 16-gun Alerte on 19 August that year. In December he was succeeded by Captain John Turnor. Turnor was replaced by Captain William Hills in 1798, and he by Captain Volant Vashon Ballard in December 1798.[1] Captain Adam Drumond commanded Carysfort from August 1800, until her return to Britain to be fitted out at Portsmouth in 1801.[1]

She came under the command of Captain George Mundy in May 1802, then Captain Robert Fanshawe from September 1802, and later Captain John Woolcombe.[1] Carysfort sailed to Jamaica in March 1804, and came under Captain Kenneth McKenzie in March 1806.

In July 1806 Captain Philip Carteret of Scorpion helped McKenzie save sixty-five deeply laden merchantmen at St. Kitts from destruction. A letter from Carteret warned McKenzie that a French squadron under Admiral Willaumez had arrived at Martinique. Carysfort ran to leeward with her charges and escaped the enemy, who had sailed from Fort Royal on 1 July. When the French reached St. Kitts, they only succeeded in capturing 7 merchantmen which had missed the convoy; the fort on Brimstone Hill and a battery on the beach protected nine others.

McKenzie took the 18-gun Lutine in the West Indies on 24 March after a 30-hour chase, with late assistance from Edward Berry's HMS Agamemnon.[5] The Navy took Lutine into service as HMS Hawk.[6]


Carysfort returned to Britain later in 1806 and was laid up at Deptford in August.[1] Five years later she was sold for £1,800 on 28 April 1813.[1][2]


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 Winfield. British Warships of the Age of Sail: 1714-1792. p. 223. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Colledge. Ships of the Royal Navy. p. 62. 
  3. James. The naval history of Great Britain. p. 128. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 James. The naval history of Great Britain. pp. 205–6. 
  5. Clarke. The Naval Chronicle. p. 439. 
  6. Winfield. British Warships of the Age of Sail: 1793-1817. p. 301.