I've had a chance to peruse this massive volume and it is great! It is nearly as thick as the monographs for the Belle Poule and La Venus combined. I was surprised at how much information on this ship survive. Two builders plans for her survive, along with British admiralty plans showing her as captured and as fitted out. Add to this there are two stunning 36th scale models which flesh out the details, one rigged and partially cut away. In addition a detailed painting survives by Antione Roux. The booklet, included with the plans, shows dozens of color photos of each model, as opposed to B&W pics from other Boudroit monographs. Curiously, the two models differ in some small details, such as the stern carvings, and the number of glass panes in the stern and gallery windows. Both models show that the windows of the quarter galleries are nearly all false, something I thought didn't occur until later in the 19th century.
The Egyptienne, launched in 1799, was a heavy frigate of about 1400 tons English, 170 feet on the gun deck, mounting thirty 24-pounders (28-pounders, English weight) on the lower deck with fifty-plus guns total. Sound familiar? She is essentially a French "Constitution". L'Egyptienne was the second of two sister ships, the first being La Forte of 1794. Both were eventually taken by the British. Given the theory of "French Influence" in the Constitution's design, I have to wonder how much a part La Forte, and her later fame, influenced Joshua Humphries' designs. L'Egyptienne was originally supposed to have been built as a 74, but Napoleon ordered her timbers used to build another La Forte Class heavy frigate instead.
The drawings are simply some of the finest, most complete plans I have ever seen - I mean, they show everything. All frames are lofted out, both port and starboard. Explanations of each drawing, along with many isometric drawings, are also provided in the photo booklet. Even though my knowledge is limited, everything is clear. The ship herself is just beautiful, so much nicer than the clunky old Bon Homme Richard.
In short: This ship and these plans are absolutely incredible! BUY THIS MONOGRAPH!
Historically, the careers of the two 24-pounders ships are important, so I will provide them here, starting with La Forte, detailing her (and her several, lesser consorts) successful battle against two British 74's in the Indian Ocean. A naval battle which stunned the world - a French frigate squadron was not supposed to drive off two British 74s - and was even detailed glowingly months afterwards in his private logbook by American East-Indiam Captain Benjamin Crowninshield, later the US Secretary of the Navy. Much of the following histories is unabashedly lifted from Wikipedia:
La Forte was Launched on 26 September 1794, and commissioned two months later under Commander Beaulieu-Leloup, Forte was part of a large frigate squadron under contre-amiral Sercey, also comprising Prudente, Régénérée, Vertu, Seine, Cybèle and Preneuse. The division sailed to Ile de France to raid commerce in the Indian Ocean.
On 15 May 1796 Forte, Vertu, Seine, and Régénérée were cruising between St Helena and the Cape of Good Hope hoping to capture British East Indiamen when they encountered the British whaler Lord Hawkesbury on her way to Walvis Bay. The French took off her crew, except for two seamen and a boy, and put Forte's fourth officer and 13-man prize crew aboard Lord Hawkesbury with orders to sail to Île de France. On her way there one of the British seamen, who was at the helm, succeeded in running her aground on the east coast of Africa a little north of the Cape, wrecking her. There were no casualties, but the prize crew became British prisoners.
Forte took part in the Action of 8 September 1796, where the frigates drove off two British 74-guns.
The Action of 9 September 1796 was an inconclusive minor naval engagement between small French Navy and British Royal Navy squadrons off northeastern Sumatra, near Banda Aceh, during the French Revolutionary Wars. The French squadron comprised six frigates engaged on a commerce raiding operation against British trade routes passing through captured parts of the Dutch East Indies, and posed a considerable threat to the weakened British naval forces in the region. The British force consisted of two 74-gun ships of the line hastily paired to oppose the eastward advance of the French squadron.
The French squadron, commanded by Contre-amiral Pierre César Charles de Sercey, had left their base on Île de France in July, cruising off Ceylon and Tranquebar before sailing eastwards. Their movements had so far been unopposed as British forces in the East Indies were concentrated at Simon's Town in the west and Malacca in the east. After raiding the shipping at Banda Aceh on 1 September the squadron sailed eastwards to attack Penang. On 8 September, while the French were removing supplies from a captured British merchant ship east of Banda Aceh, two large sails were spotted. These were HMS Arrogant and HMS Victorious, sent to drive off the French before they could attack the scattered British shipping and ports in the region.
Although the British ships were substantially larger than any individual French vessel, the frigates were more numerous and more manoeuvrable. Neither side could afford to take significant damage in the battle, so each sought to drive the other off rather than achieve an outright victory. On 9 September Sercey's frigates formed a line of battle, successfully engaging first Arrogant and then Victorious and inflicting damage on each while preventing them from supporting one another. The French frigates, particularly Vertu and Seine, also suffered and by late morning both sides disengaged, the British retiring to Madras for repairs while Sercey anchored at King's Island in the Mergui Archipelago, eventually sheltering in Batavia.
At the start of 1796 French and allied forces had been almost completely driven from the Indian Ocean, most of the colonies of the French-allied Batavian Republic falling to British invasions during 1795. The only significant French presence was on Île de France and a few other nearby islands, from which a squadron of two frigates periodically operated against British trade. The British were so confident of supremacy that they had split their forces, with a large squadron based at Simon's Town in the Cape Colony of Southern Africa under Sir George Keith Elphinstone and a smaller dispersed force operating under Peter Rainier in the Dutch East Indies, based at the captured port of Malacca. The important trading ports of Calcutta, Madras and Bombay were largely undefended, as were the valuable trade routes which supported them.
On 4 March 1796 significant French reinforcements were dispatched when a squadron of four frigates and two corvettes sailed from Rochefort under the command of Contre-amiral Pierre César Charles de Sercey. Both corvettes were lost before the squadron had left the Bay of Biscay and frigate Cocarde forced to return to port after running aground. After resupplying at La Palma and joining with replacement frigate Vertu, the squadron enjoyed unimpeded progress, seizing several British and Portuguese ships, including two Indiamen in the South Atlantic and Western Indian Ocean. The squadron had not been dispatched primarily to increase the French military presence in the East Indies, but rather to enforce the National Convention's decree that Île de France abolish slavery. The agricultural economy of the island depended on slavery to remain profitable, and the colonial committee had simply ignored the decree when it first arrived in 1795. The matter was then taken up by the Committee for Public Safety, which sent agents Baco and Burnel to ensure the ruling was carried out, supported by 800 soldiers under General François-Louis Magallon.
On arrival at Port Louis on 18 June, the agents were confronted by a large body of heavily armed militia opposed to the abolition of slavery. Although they ordered Magallon to attack the islanders, the general refused and the agents were sent back to sea in a small corvette, eventually returning to Europe. Sercey remained in the East Indies, refitting his ships and joining his squadron to that already at Île de France. This force he divided, sending Preneuse and a corvette to patrol the Mozambique Channel. The remaining six frigates, comprising Vertu, Régénérée, Forte, Seine, Prudente and Cybèle, with the privateer schooner Alerte, Sercey took eastwards on 14 July, towards the Bay of Bengal.
Sercey was unaware of how scattered British forces were in the region, and sent Alerte to scout ahead after the squadron arrived off Ceylon. Captain Drieu of Alerte made the miscalculation of attacking a ship on 14 August which turned out to be the 28-gun British dispatch frigate HMS Carysfort, and on board Alerte the British captors discovered documents revealing the exact extent of Sercey's strength and intentions. Carysfort's captain was unable to warn any allied ships as his small frigate was the only British warship in the Bay of Bengal, and so he instead arranged for false information to be passed to Sercey regarding a fictional British battle squadron at Madras. This was sufficient to deter Sercey from lingering in the area, and after a raiding sweep along the coast to Tranquebar his squadron sailed eastwards once more.
On 1 September Sercey raided Banda Aceh, capturing a number of merchant ships and on 7 September seized the small merchant ship Favourite off the northeastern coast of Sumatra en route to attack the British port of Penang. The following morning, as his squadron transferred rice from the prize, two large sails appeared in the distance to the northeast. These sails belonged to the 74-gun British ships of the line HMS Arrogant under Captain Richard Lucas and HMS Victorious under Captain William Clark. These ships had been sent to the East Indies from the Cape at the start of August on orders from Elphinstone and were engaged in protecting British trade with China. When news reached Penang that Sercey was in the region, Lucas ordered Clark to join him in a search for the French in the Straits of Malacca.
Lucas first sighted the French at 06:00 on 8 September, approximately 24 nautical miles (44 km) east of Point Pedro, the northeastern tip of Sumatra. By 10:00 Sercey had determined that the new arrivals were probably hostile and formed his frigates into a line of battle, tacking to investigate. Lucas and Clark conferred at 14:00, Clark believing that two of the ships were French ships of the line while Lucas correctly insisted that they were six frigates, accompanied by the captured East Indiaman Triton. The captains agreed to pursue the French and bring them to battle when possible. At 14:30, Forte determined that the approaching ships were British ships of the line and Sercey turned away, unwilling to risk suffering severe damage in a pointless engagement with two such powerful opponents. Sercey's squadron attempted to seek shelter in coastal waters, closely pursued by Lucas' ships; by 21:30 the British were just 3 nautical miles (5.6 km) behind the French.
By the morning of 9 September the wind had dropped and the French frigates were sailing in line slowly eastwards along the northern coast of Sumatra, the British ships close behind. With battle inevitable, Sercey gave orders at 06:00 for his line to put about and seize the weather gage while Lucas led Arroganton a path to intercept. At 07:25 Lucas opened fire on the lead French ship Vertu at the range of 700 yards (640 m). The British ship was able to fire two broadsides before Captain Lhermitte on Vertu could reply, the first French volley snatching away the ensign. Arrogant then progressively came under fire from the whole French line, as Seine, Forte and Cybèle passed, the more distant Régénéree and Prudente joining the fusillade. During this exchange of fire both Arrogant and Vertu suffered damage to their sails and rigging, the Arrogant temporarily unmaneuverable as the winds dropped almost completely.
Victorious was also hit, Captain Clark forced to retire wounded after being struck in the thigh by debris at 08:00. At 08:30 the rearmost French ship, Prudente, passed out of range of Arrogant leaving the ship isolated. With Lucas unable to participate, Lieutenant William Waller on Victorious assumed command and ordered his ship to engage the French at 08:40, a string of signal flags hoisted on Arrogant unreadable in the light winds. Victorious was soon surrounded by the French, with two frigates on the port bow and four on the port beam, all firing into the ship of the line from approximately 900 yards (820 m). By 10:15, when the wind suddenly returned, Victorious had been badly damaged. Using the wind to turn towards the distant Arrogant, Waller exposed his ship's stern and was repeatedly raked. The winds remained unreliable, and Victorious took further damage for the next half-hour, the French ships remaining outside the arcs of fire from the British ship.
The damage Vertu had taken early in the combat rendered Lhermitte unable to continue the action, and his ship gradually fell out of the line to the south. Captain Pierre Julien Tréhouart turned Cybèle away too, using sweeps to reach Vertu and take the ship under tow. With Vertu secured and Arrogant slowly coming back into range, Sercey ordered his squadron to turn away to the north at 10:55, the last shots fired at long range from Victorious at 11:15.
Losses on both sides were heavy. Arrogant had been damaged early in the battle and lost seven killed and 27 wounded while Victorious which bore the brunt of the French attack, suffered 17 killed and 57 wounded, the latter including Clark. Neither British ship was in sufficient repair to continue the engagement; Arrogant had several cannon dismounted and her sail's and rigging were tattered. Victorious was less badly damaged, but had more than one in five of the crew unfit for duty. All of the French ships suffered damage and casualties, although Régénérée reported no losses in the aftermath. Vertu was damaged early on and took 24 casualties, Seine was hit by heavy fire later in the battle and lost 62 dead and wounded, with the captain among the former. The remainder of the squadron suffered lighter losses, with 12 on Prudente, 17 on Cybèle and 23 on Forte.
Lucas and Clark remained off Sumatra until basic repairs could be completed before Arrogant then took Victorious under tow, leading the damaged ship back to Penang and then Madras for repairs, arriving on 6 October. Sercey abandoned plans for an attack on Penang and sailed northwards to King's Islandin the Mergui Archipelago. There his ships underwent extensive repairs, some even replacing their lower masts. In October the squadron swept eastwards to the Ceylon coast before turning back west towards Batavia, where Sercey hoped the supply depots would provide more support than those on Île de France. The squadron remained at Batavia throughout the winter, ceding control of the Indian Ocean trade routes to the British.
The action has been described as inconclusive by British historian C. Northcote Parkinson as neither side could achieve a decisive result. Parkinson is also scathing of his criticism of both Clark and Waller, accusing them of failing to properly to prepare for battle or effectively manoeuvere their ship under fire. During the battle neither side had actually sought a decisive result, both unwilling to risk damage which would jeopardise their mission. Sercey's orders were to raid British trade routes, not to engage heavy warships and suffer the consequent damage: the battle severely curtailed his opportunities to prey on British merchant shipping in the East Indies during 1796. Lucas sought to block Sercey's passage through the Malacca Straits, but was aware that his ships, though large and powerful, were outnumbered and outgunned in the engagement, particularly given the size of the main French line, composed of ships with batteries of 18-pounder long guns and including Forte, one of the most massive frigates then at sea. William James considers that had the winds been more favourable Lucas might have been able to cut off and capture at least two French frigates, but had Sercey attempted a boarding action against the ships of the line his more numerous crews would probably have successfully seized them.
Captain Richard Lucas
838 pounds (380 kg)
Captain William Clark
838 pounds (380 kg)
Captain Jean-Matthieu-Adrien Lhermitte
1,700 pounds (770 kg)
Captain Latour †
Captain Hubert Le Loup de Beaulieu
Captain Pierre Julien Tréhouart
Captain Jean-Baptiste Philibert Willaumez
Captain Charles René Magon de Médine
Source: Clowes, p. 503. Clowes conflates figures for broadside weight, crews and casualties. Crew and casualty details from James, pp. 353–354.
In 1797, Forte and Prudente were sent to Batavia to ferry troops. Command of Forte was given to Captain Ravenel. Against the wishes of Sercey, General Malartic restored Beaulieu to command.
While operating in the Bay of Bengal in early 1799, Forte captured a number of vessels. These were (with their master's name in parentheses): Recovery (M'Kinley), Chance (Johnson). Yarmouth (Beck), Endeavour (Eastwick), Earl Mornington (Cook), and Surprize (Moore). Forte also captured two unnamed vessels. She made a cartel of one of her captures and sent her into Madras.
On 24 February 1799, Forte encountered the East Indiaman Osterley. A sharp single-ship action developed, with Osterley losing four men killed and 13 wounded before she struck. Forte spent two days or so transferring some of Osterley's cargo before he let her and her crew proceed. Some accounts state that he released her as a cartel for an exchange of prisoners. Lloyd's List reported that the galley Surprize participated in the engagement but escaped.
In the evening of 27 February 1799, she captured the East Indiamen Endeavour and Lord Mornington; unbeknownst to Beaulieu-Leloup, the flashes of the battle were spotted by the 38-gun HMS Sybille, under Captain Edward Cooke, which closed in to investigate. She was spotted by the officers of Forte and identified as a British frigate, but Beaulieu-Leloup insisted that she was another East Indiaman and sent his crew to sleep for the night. It was only when Sybille's intent to intercept became evident that Beaulieu-Leloup called to battle stations; even then, he closed in and ordered a restrained attack, firing his guns one by one to test his opponent.
Cooke reserved his fire and manoeuvered into a raking position before delivering a broadside into the stern of Forte. In the damage, confusion and smoke caused by Sybille's fire, Forte began to mistakenly fire her starboard battery at one of her own prizes, leaving Sybille free to come about and deliver a second raking broadside from her other battery. The two frigates then began trading broadsides at close range, mortally wounding Cooke at 1:30; ten minutes later, Beaulieu-Leloup was killed by a cannonball.
After Beaulieu-Leloup's death, command of Forte passed to Lieutenant Vigoureux, who was killed himself at 2:00. Lieutenant Luco took over and attempted to manoeuver Forte, but her entire rigging collapsed, putting an end to her resistance. Sybille hailed to inquire whether Forte had struck, and ceased fire when this was confirmed. The next morning, Sybille hoisted a French flag to deceive the prize crew on Endeavour and Lord Mornington and recapture the ships, but the ruse was foiled and the two East Indiamen escape.
Forte was taken into British service as HMS Forte. She was under the command of Captain Hardyman when she was wrecked on 29 January 1801 off Jeddah, in the Red Sea. She was entering the port with a pilot, William Briggs, when she struck a rock. Briggs knew of the rock, which was visible the whole time, but failed to issue any orders. Hardyman eventually ordered the helmsman to turn, but it was too late. Forte reached the shore and ran up the beach, where she capsized. The court martial board admonished Briggs to be more circumspect in the future and penalized him one year's seniority as a master.
History of L'Egyptienne:
Égyptienne was a French frigate launched at Toulon in 1799. Her first service was in Napoleon's Egyptian campaign of 1801, in which the British captured her at Alexandria. She famously carried the Rosetta Stone to Woolwich, and then the Admiralty commissioned her into the Royal Navy as the 40-gun fifth-rate frigate HMS Egyptienne. She served in a number of single-ship actions before being reduced to harbour service in 1807, and was sold for breaking in 1817.
Égyptienne was part of the two-ship Forte-class of frigates designed by François Caro. She was launched 17 July 1799, put into service in November 1799 and armed at Toulon on 23 September 1800. The foremost maindeck port was found too curved in the bow to admit a gun, so Égyptienne received only 48 cannon instead of 50.
In 1801 Napoleon required reinforcements in Egypt so the frigates Égyptienne and Justice, each carrying troops and munitions, left Toulon. On 3 February the vessels anchored in the old or western port of Alexandria.
The British discovered Causse, Égyptienne, Justice, Régénérée and two ex-Venetian frigates in the harbour of Alexandria at the capitulation on 2 September 1801 after the fall of Alexandria. The British and their Turkish allies agreed to a division of the spoils; the British received Egyptienne, Régénérée and Léoben (ex-Venetian Medusa) (26) while Captain Pacha (sic) received Causse (ex-Venetian Vulcano) (64), Justice (46), Mantoue (ex-Venetian Cerere) (26), and some Turkish corvettes that were in the harbour. Admiral Lord Keith commander of the naval forces, gave the value of Égyptienne for prize money purposes at £23,665 0s 0d.
The British took Égyptienne into service on 27 September and Captain Thomas Stephenson sailed her to Britain; on this voyage she carried Colonel Tomkyns Hilgrove Turner, who was bringing the Rosetta Stone to England. As Égyptienne was coming into the Downs she collided with the East Indiaman Marquise Wellsley. She finally arrived at Woolwich on 13 February 1802.
The Admiralty added her to the Royal Navy as HMS Egyptienne and she was fitted out at Woolwich between October and December 1802, at a cost of £12,625. During this period she was under the command of Captain Charles Ogle.
She commissioned under Captain Charles Fleeming (or Elphinstone or Fleming) in April 1803 and initially sailed in the English Channel and off the coast of France. Here, on 27 July, she captured the 16-gun French brig-sloop Epervier in the Atlantic Ocean. Epervier had a crew of 90 men and was carrying dispatches from Guadaloupe to Lorient. The Royal Navy took Épervier into service under her existing name.
On 30 August Egyptienne captured the privateer Chiffonette. Chiffonette was armed with 16 guns and a crew of 80 men. She was 26 days out of Bordeaux and had captured a brig from Jersey that Endymion had already recaptured. Chiffonette was in the process of attacking another British brig when Egyptienne approached, an attack that Chiffonette then abandoned. Fleming remarked in his report that she was an extremely fast vessel that had several times eluded British frigates, including Egyptienne herself on one occasion.
Then she sailed to St Helena escorting a convoy of ships. During this time Charles John Napier was a midshipman aboard Egyptienne. (In later years, feeling that Fleeming had treated him badly, Napier challenged Fleeming to a duel; their seconds effected a reconciliation, so eviting the duel.) On 13 February 1805 Egyptienne captured the Dichoso, which was under the command of F. Caselins.
Egyptienne was present at the Battle of Cape Finisterre, but did not participate in the engagement. While reconnoitering in advance of the fleet she captured a Danish merchant brig. After the battle she took the disabled Spanish 74-gun Firme in tow. After the battle, Admiral Robert Calder requested a court-martial to review his decision not to pursue the enemy fleet after the engagement. Fleming was one of the witnesses. The court martial ruled that Calder's failure to pursue was an error of judgment, not a manifestation of cowardice, and severely reprimanded him.
On 2 October Egyptienne captured the French brig-sloop Actéon, under Capitaine de frégate Depoge, off Rochefort. She was armed with sixteen 6-pounder guns and had a crew of 126 men. Actéon had on board a colonel and some recruits, as well as arms and clothing for a regiment in the West Indies. The navy took Actéon into service as Acteon.
HMS Egyptienne in pursuit of a Spanish schooner in 1806
In November Egyptienne captured several ships: the Paulina, the French lugger Edouard, the Maria Antoinette, under the command of J. Heget, and the French sloop Esperance. Paulina, which Egyptienne captured on 20 November, was a 12-gun Spanish letter of marque, under the command of Don Antonio Acibal. The chase took nine hours, during which the Paulina threw eight of her guns overboard. She was out of Pasaia, Spain on her way to cruise the West Indies.
On 24 December off Rochefort, Egyptienne, under Lieutenant Handfield, his promotion still not confirmed, and Captain Frederick Lewis Maitland's HMS Loire captured the 40-gun Libre, Capitaine de Frégate Deschorches commanding. Libre was armed with twenty-four 18-pounders, six 36-pounder carronades and ten 9-pounder guns. In the fight, which lasted half an hour, the French lost 20 men killed and wounded out of a crew of 280 men. Loire had no casualties but Egyptienne had 8 wounded, one mortally. Libre was badly damaged and had lost her masts so Loire took her in tow and reached Plymouth with her on 4 January 1806. Libre had sailed from Flushing on 14 November in company with a French 48-gun frigate but the two vessels had parted in a gale on 9 November off the coast of Scotland.
Captain Charles Paget replaced Elphinstone in December. Egyptienne's boats cut out the privateer Alcide from Muros on 8 March 1806 and under incessant but ineffective fire from two shore batteries. The boats were under the command of Phillips Crosby Handfield, her First Lieutenant, who stayed with Egyptienne as a volunteer as his promotion to Commander had not been confirmed. Alcide was frigate-built and pierced for 34 guns. She was only two years old and when she had last gone to sea had had a complement of 240 men.
Egyptienne was paid off at Plymouth and put into ordinary on 5 May 1807. Soon after she was fitted out and served as a receiving ship at Plymouth. She was in ordinary from 1812 to 1815. On 30 April 1817 she was finally sold to John Small Sedger for £2,810 for breaking up.