Robert Surcouf : biography
The arrival of Surcouf at Isle de France did not go unnoticed: the authorities and the population reacted with enthusiasm, while British insurance companies on Calcutta doubled the reward for his capture, which amounted to one rupee lake, or 250,000 francs.Hennequin, p.387 On 3 September 1807, Revenant departed to cruise off Bengal. On 25 September, she captured the British 12-gun Trafalgar carrying 10,000 bags of rice, and the 14-gun Mangles, carrying 11,000; on the 27th, the 12-gun Admiral Applin, with 9,500 bags of rice; on 1 October, the 1—gun Suzannah, with 5,500 bags of rice; on the 19th, the wood-laden Success, which was burnt; on the 30th, the 12-gun Fortune, which carried no cargo and was sunk; on 15 Novermber, the Indian Macauly; on 18 December, the British 10-gun Sir William Burrough; on the 30th, the Portuguese Oriente; and on 6 January 1808, the Arab Jem lab Dim. Surcouf sent with prize crews to Isle de France, and returned himself on 31 January 1808.
Surcouf then gave command of Revenant to his first officer, Joseph Potier. After a short cruise, Potier returned with a 34-gun prize of the Portuguese East India Company, the Conceçáo de San Antonio,Lepelley, p.7 captured after a one-hour fight.Cunant, p.400
On 4 July 1808, Revenant was requisitionned by order of General Decaen, governor of Isle de France.Fonds Marine, p. 377 She was renamed Iéna, and her command was given to Lieutenant Morice, with Lieutenant de vaisseau Albin Roussin as second officer. Surcouf had an altercation with Decaen but had to renounce his ship, and eventually purchased the Sémillante, which he renamed Charles, to return to Saint-Malo, where he arrived on 4 February 1809.
From 1809, Surcouf went into business as ship-owner, and over the years, he armed a number of privateers: Auguste, under Pelletier;Gallois, vol.2, p.306 Dorade; Biscayenne; Édouard; Espadon; Ville-de-Caen; Adolphe and his last, the Renard, under Leroux. The British captured all the privateers sent into the Channel, with the exception of Renard.
In January 1814, Surcouf was made a colonel in the National Guard of Saint-Malo. During the Hundred Days, he served as a chief of Legion and maintained order. He resigned after the Battle of Waterloo and became a merchant, arming 19 merchantmenCunat, p.401 and establishing business with Terre-Neuve.
Surcouf died on 8 July 1827, and was buried in Saint-Malo graveyard with military honours.Cunat, p.402 His tomb features a globe showing the Indian Ocean and an anchor,Granier, p.228 with the epitaph:
A number of legends have grown around Surcouf over the time: he is often stated to have been made a Baron of the Empire, which is untrue. Another legend states that Surcouf had thrown overboard gold seized on Kent; in fact, Kent did not carry gold. An epic tale goes that around 1816 or 1817, Surcouf challenged twelve Prussian officers to a duel and defeated all of them except for the last, which he let go "to tell in his country how a former soldier of Napoleon fights"; this story appears to be a fabrication posterior to 1890.M. Corbes, , Société d’histoire et d’archéologie de l’arrondissement de Saint-Malo.
Five ships of the French Navy were named in honour of Surcouf: a steam aviso; an armoured cruiser; a submarine cruiser, which at the time of her launch was the largest submarine in the world, joined the Free French Naval Forces during the Second World War, and disappeared mysteriously after liberating Saint-Pierre and Miquelon; a large fleet escort destroyer, which was heavily damaged in a collision with a Soviet ship; and the present-day stealth frigates, one of the first stealth combat ships., netmarine
Notes and References
Category:1773 births Category:1827 deaths Category:French Navy officers Category:People of the Quasi-War Category:Privateers Category:People from Saint-Malo Category:French people of Breton descent Category:French sailors