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Seahorse vs Aigrette

10th January 1761
Part of : Seven Years' War (1756/05/17 - 1763/02/10)
Previous action : Unicorn vs Vestale 8.1.1761
Next action : Rippon v L'Achille 9.3.1761 - 10.3.1761


Great Britain

Ship NameCommanderNotes
Seahorse (24) 1748-1784
British 24 Gun
6th Rate Frigate
James SmithBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1741-1772

Royaume de France

Ship NameCommanderNotes
L'Aigrette (30) 1756-1789
French 30 Gun
5th Rate Frigate

Notes on Action

On January 8th, 1761, the Unicorn, 28, Captain Joseph Hunt, cruising off Penmarck, fought a sharp action with, and captured, the Vestale, 32, which later became the Flora in the British Navy. The captains of both ships were mortally wounded. On the following day the Unicorn chased, but could not come up with, the Aigrette, 32, and, on the 10th, saw her engage the Seahorse, 20, Captain James Smith, then carrying out astronomers to India to observe the transit of Venus. Again she tried to come up, but could not; and the Aigrette, having mauled the Seahorse considerably, refused to be further detained and forced to fight at a disadvantage.

Previous comments on this page

Posted by Cy on Tuesday 26th of October 2021 07:49

Thanks, you make a good arguement. I shall consider the options and decide what to do about ir.

Posted by Ruadhri on Monday 25th of October 2021 11:12

Well, quite a few – the thing is, there doesen’t seem to be any for the Aigrette. No contemporary sources mention Aigrette in connection with this action. Rather, Grand is cited in the initial English reports.
The London Gazette 13 January 1761
Royal Society Collection MM/10/128 12 January 1761

Beatson substitutes the Aigrette for the Grand a century later, for the very good reason that Grand dosent exist.
Beatson vol 2

The phonetic mistake LeGrand for L’Aigrette being extant in sources of the time, referring to her stay in the Villaine, replacing it is fair enough.
The Annual Register: World Events .... 1761. - 1762 P 64

And since then Aigrette and Grand have vied for supremacy in tangentally interested accounts.
The William and Mary Quarterly Vol. 13, No. 4, Oct., 1956
Wikipedia etc

No doubt it seemed a good fit, since Aigrette is cited as the consort of Vestale when escaping from the Villiane a few days earlier.
Gazette de Vienne, No 13, 14th February 1761 Volume 5

And since she had been her consort in the recent past.
Gazette de Vienne, No 20, 11th March 1758 Volume 2

The Vestale being soon engaged and taken, I suppose it stood to reason that the other single ship engagement of the same day involved her partner.
The Annual Register: World Events .... 1761. - 1762 P 64

So that’s the reasoning. But that doesen’t mean its so. It is also stated in continental sources, that Aigrette, on escaping the Villaine, separated from Vestale, and had continued on to the West Indies.
Gazette de Vienne, No 13, 14th February 1761 Volume 5

And indeed returned “without encountering any enemy”
Gazette de Vienne, No 53, 4th July 1761 Volume 5

Meanwhile, those initial reports were swiftly and definitively corrected in accounts from France and Plymouth by prisoners and participants, stating very clearly that it was in fact Opale.
London Chronicle 1761 Volume 9 Feb 17-19 p169
London Chronicle 1761 Volume 9 Feb-3-5 p122

Opale being crusing for some months,and engaging in a series of actions with the British.
Gazette de Vienne, No 41, 31st May 1760 Volume 4
Monthly Chronologer May 1760

And it happens that her captain, Charles Bremond, Marquis D’Ars was killed in combat with the English on this very date, off the coast of Britain.
Fonds Marine : dossiers individuels (1ère partie) MAR/C/7/44, dossier 52

In an action, the description of which, matches exactly that of the Seahorse on the same day.
Gazette 24 Janvier 1761 Recueil de Gazettes de France 1761 no.4 p 47

And is indeed accepted as her opponent within a few years of the events
Chronological Annals of the war; From its Beginning to the Present Time. Part 2 Page 184 John DOBSON 1763

The identity of Aigrette derives from a demonstrably innacurate identification based on immediate guesswork, then subject to interpolations a century later attempting to reoncile the error; while the identity of Opale is based on sources both informed and contemporary, which are explicit, sober, detailed, and match entirely with official disinterested documentation.
Still, replacing any “accepted” indentification, no matter how justified, can cause a bit of a domino effect and create a bit of a mess. So I guess I’ll make myself useful for the moment by endeavouring to fill out the chronological details of vessels and people surrounding the action, which can only make things clearer.

Posted by Cy on Monday 18th of October 2021 07:52

Not an error as far as I am aware. What is your source?

Posted by Ruadhri on Sunday 17th of October 2021 22:13

Surely this is an error. L'Opale engaged Seahorse on this day, under Charles de Bremond, who was killed.

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