HMS Eclair (1801)

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HMS Eclair (1801) was a French schooner captured in 1801. The British took her into service under her French name and armed her with 12 12-pounder carronades. In 1804 she engaged in a noteworthy, albeit indecisive single ship action with the 22-gun French privateer Grande Decide. In 1809 she was renamed to Pickle. In December 1812 she and three other small British vessels engaged the French 40-gun frigate Gloire in another noteworthy and indecisive action. She was sold in 1818.


On 15 January, while the 20-gun Post-ship Daphne, Captain Richard Matson, 18-gun ship-sloops Cyane and Hornet, Captains Henry Matson and James Nash, and schooner-tender Garland, were at an anchor in the harbour of the Saintes, they observed a convoy of French coasters, escorted by an armed schooner, sailing towards Vieux-Fort, Guadeloupe. At midnight Garland, accompanied by two boats from each of the three ships, under the command of Lieutenants Kenneth Mackenzie and Francis Peachey, attempted to capture or destroy the convoy. The vessels, however, except one, succeeded in getting under the guns of Basse-terre. One vessel, which had anchored near Vieux-Fort, they boarded and brought off under a heavy but apparently harmless cannonade.[1]

Two days later, in the afternoon, the British observed the French schooner Eclair, of four long 4-pounders, twenty 1½ pounder brass swivels, and 45 men, the escort of the convoy in question, put into Trois-Rivières, and anchor under the protection of one principal battery and two smaller flanking ones. Lieutenants Mackenzie, of Daphne, and Peachey, of Cyane, volunteered to attempt cutting her out. For this purpose Mackenzie, with 25 seamen and marines, went on board the Garland. The next day, which was as early as the breeze would permit, Garland ran alongside Eclair and Lieutenants Mackenzie and Peachey, with 30 men, boarded and carried the French schooner in the face of the batteries.[1]

The British lost one seaman and one marine killed, and a sergeant of marines and two seamen wounded. The Eclair lost one seaman killed, two drowned, and her captain, first and second lieutenants, and six men wounded.[1]

Eclair was of 145 tons burthen bm. Although she carried only four guns, she was pierced for 12 and was large enough to carry that many cannon. The schooner had recently sailed from Rochefort and was going to Pointe Petre to complete her armament of twelve 6-pounders and twenty brass swivels. The British took her into service under her existing name and armed her with 12 12-pounder carronades.[2] Mackenzie became Eclair's first commander.

HMS Eclair

In March 1801 Eclair took part in the attack on the islands of St Bartholomew and Saint Martin, led by Rear-Admiral Duckworth and Lieut. General Thomas Trigge. On 20 March, after the capture of St Bartholomew, Duckworth sent Drake and Eclair to investigate ten sail. The ten vessels proved to be troopships from England that had landed their sick, and the women and children, at Barbados before following on. With this accumulation of force the British proceeded to attack St. Martin on the 24th.

In 1804 Eclair was under the command of Lieut. William Carr, in the West Indies. On 5 February she was 200 miles north of Tortola, returning from having escorted a packet when she chased and challenged a strange vessel. The two ships exchanged broadsides and musket-fire for three quarters of an hour but when Carr made preparations to board, the Frenchman ceased firing and made all sail to the northward. Eclair attempted to give chase but much of her rigging had been shot away. She lost one marine killed and four seamen wounded in the encounter. The French vessel turned out to have been the privateer Grande Decide, Captain Mathieu Goy, of 22 long 8-pounders and a complement, including 80 soldiers, of about 220 men.[3]

On 5 March Eclair sighted a schooner standing in to La Hayes, Guadeloupe, to take shelter under the battery there. The master, Mr John Salmon, and the surgeon, Mr John B. Douglas, volunteered to go in with 10 men and bring her out. They were under fire from the privateer and the shore as soon as they entered the harbour but boarded and carried the French schooner in ten minutes, killing five and wounding ten of the 49 crew without loss to themselves. The wounded included the captain and four that jumped overboard. The boarding party towed and swept out the prize under heavy fire from the shore. She proved to be the Rose, armed with one long brass 9-pounder gun.[4]

In 1805, Eclair was under the command of Lieutenant Evelyn, in the Leeward Islands. On 5 April he recaptured the English ship Heroine, from London.

HMS Pickle

In May 1809, the Admiralty renamed Eclair to Pickle, the famous schooner Pickle having been recently lost. In 1809 she was under the command of Lieut. Goodwin, with Lieut. Andrew Crawford succeeding him in September, on the Jersey station. In 1812 she was under the command of Lieut. William Figg.

During the night of 17 December 1812 Pickle and the 18-gun ship-sloop Albacore were becalmed off the Lizard with six merchantmen. At dawn they found that they were also in company with the French 40-gun frigate Gloire. When a wind came up the Frenchman made all sail to escape pursued by the British ships, who were joined later by the 12-gun brig-sloop Borer and 4-gun schooner Landrail.[5] In the exchange of fire Albacore suffered one man killed and six or seven wounded before she pulled back. Eventually, the frigate managed to outrun the four small vessels. In the engagement Landrail did not actually fire her guns. As James put it, “for the Landrail to have fired her 12-pounders would have been a farce.”[5]


In 1816 Pickle was out of commission. She was sold on 11 June 1818.[2]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 James (1837), Vol. 3, p.133-4.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Winfield (2008), p.356.
  3. James (1837), Vol. 3, p.246.
  4. James (1837), Vol. 3, p.247.
  5. 5.0 5.1 James (1837), Vol. 6, p.7.
  • James, William (1837). The Naval History of Great Britain, from the Declaration of War by France in 1793, to the Accession of George IV.. 3. R. Bentley. 
  • Winfield, Rif (2008). British Warships in the Age of Sail 1793–1817: Design, Construction, Careers and Fates. Seaforth. ISBN 1861762461.