October 7th, 1800 – Le Trente-et-un du mois d’août

Today-In-History

On October 7th, 1800 French corsair Robert Surcouf, commander of the 18-gun ship La Confiance, captures the British 38-gun Kent inspiring the traditional French song Le Trente-et-un du mois d’août.

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Robert Surcouf was a French privateer and slave trader who operated in the Indian Ocean between 1789 and 1801, and again from 1807 to 1808, capturing over 40 prizes, while amassing a large fortune as a ship-owner, both from privateering and from commerce for a time.

Robert Surcouf

Robert Surcouf (December 12th, 1773 – July 8th, 1827)

Surcouf started his career as a sailor and officer on the slave ships Aurore, Courrier d’Afrique and Navigateur. Having risen to Captain, and in spite of the prohibition of slave trading by the National Convention in 1793, he engaged in the business himself as a captain on Créole. He then captained the merchantman Émilie, on which he engaged in commerce raiding despite lacking a letter of marque. He preyed on British shipping, capturing the East Indiaman Triton, before returning to Île de France, where his prizes were confiscated. He then returned to France, where he obtained prize money from the government.

Returning to the Indian Ocean, Surcouf captained the privateers Clarisse and Confiance, raiding British, American and Portuguese merchantmen. He captured the East Indiaman Kent on October 7th, 1800. Returning to France, he was awarded the Legion of Honour and settled as a ship-owner.

He briefly returned to the Indian Ocean in 1807 on the custom-built Revenant before returning to France. There, he armed privateers and merchantmen. His privateers led successful campaigns against the British in the Indian Ocean and disastrous ones in the English Channel, except for Renard which achieved fame in her very costly victory over HMS Alphea on 9 September 1812 which exploded after repulsing French attempts at boarding it causing many casualties. After the Bourbon restoration, he organised fishing expeditions to Terre-Neuve and amassed a considerable fortune. He died in 1827 and is buried in a graveyard at Saint-Malo.

“Today in History” on The Pandora Society dot com is primarily focused on Victorian and Edwardian history and does not always have a direct connection to Steampunk, Dieselpunk, or whatever punk; in fact it rarely does, but it is our hope that in sharing these historical events they might serve as some inspiration to the writers in our community to create potential alternative history stories which we look forward to reading 🙂


 

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