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French frigate Minerve (1794)
Capture of Minerve off Toulon.jpg
Capture of Minerve off Toulon
Career (France) French Navy Ensign (1790-1794)
Name: Minerve
Builder: Toulon
Laid down: January 1792
Launched: 5 September 1794
Captured: 23 June 1795 by the Royal Navy
Career (United Kingdom) Royal Navy Ensign (1707 - 1800)
Name: HMS Minerve
Acquired: 23 June 1795
Captured: 3 July 1803 by the French Navy
Career (France) French Navy Ensign (1794-1815)
Name: Canonnière
Acquired: 3 July 1803

Canonnière in August 1806

Confiance in June 1809
Captured: 3 February 1810 by the Royal Navy
Career (United Kingdom) Royal Navy Ensign (1800 - present)
Name: HMS Confiance
Acquired: 3 February 1810
Fate: Struck from navy lists by 1814
General characteristics
Tons burthen: 700 tonnes
Length: 48.4 m (159 ft)
Beam: 12.2 m (40 ft)
Draught: 5.6 m (18 ft)

As built: 28 x 18-pounder guns + 12 x 8-pounder guns

Later:28 x 18-pounder guns + 16 x 32-pound carronades + 6 x 6-pounder guns

The Minerve was a 40-gun frigate of the French Navy. She was captured twice by the British and recaptured once by the French, before being disposed of in 1814. She therefore served under four names:

  • Minerve, 1794–1795
  • HMS Minerve, 1795–1803
  • Canonnière, 1803–1810
  • HMS Confiance, 1810–1814

French service as Minerve

Her keel was laid in January 1792, and she was launched in 1794. She took part in combat off Noli. On 23 June 1795, she and the 36-gun Artémise engaged the frigates HMS Dido and Lowestoffe. She surrendered to the British, Artémise having fled, and was commissioned in the Royal Navy as HMS Minerve.

British service as HMS Minerve

French Revolutionary Wars

On 19 December 1796, Minerve, under the command of Captain Cockburne, was involved in an action with HMS Blanche against the Spanish frigates Santa Sabina and Ceres. Minerve captured the Santa Sabina, which lost 164 men killed and wounded. Minerve herself lost eight killed, 38 wounded and four missing. Minerve also suffered extensive damage to her masts and rigging. Blanche went off in pursuit of Ceres. Early the next morning a Spanish frigate approached Minerve, which made ready to engage. However, two Spanish ships of the line and two more frigates approached. Skillful sailing enabled Cockburne to escape with Minerve but the Spaniards recaptured Santa Sabina and her prize crew.[1]

On the evening of 1 August 1799, at 9 P.M., Minerve's boats came alongside Peterel. Captain Francis Austen of Peterel sent these boats and his own to cut out some vessels from the Bay of Diano, near Genoa. Firing was heard at around midnight and by morning the boats returned, bringing with them a large settee carrying wine, and the Virginie, a French warship. Virginie was a Turkish-built half-galley that the French had captured at Malta the year before. She had provision for 26 oars and carried six guns. She was under the command of a lieutenant de vaisseau and had a crew of 36 men, 20 of whom had jumped overboard when the British approached, and 16 of whom the British captured. She had brought General Joubert from Toulon and was going on the next day to Genoa where Joubert was to replace General Moreau in command of the French army in Italy.[2] Minerve and Peterel shared the proceeds of the capture of Virginie with Santa Teresa and Vincejo.[3]

On 15 May 1800, Minerve and the schooner Netley captured the French privateer cutter Vengeance. Vengeance was armed with 15 guns and had a crew of 132 men.[4]

Napoleonic Wars

Capture of Minerve by Chiffonne and Terrible.

In the evening of 2 July 1803 during a fog, Minerve, then under the command of Captain Jahleel Brenton, ran aground near Cherbourg.[5] She had been pursuing some merchant vessels when she hit. The guns of île Pelée immediately and the gunboats Chiffonne (Captain Lécolier) and Terrible (Captain Petrel) joined in the attack.[6]Minerve's crew attempted to refloat her, but the fire forced Brenton to surrender at 5:30 in the morning[6] after she had lost 12 men killed and about 15 men wounded.[7] Brenton attributed his defeat to fire from Fort Liberté at île Pelée, although the artillery of the fort comprised only three pieces (its other guns had been moved to the fort on the Îles Saint-Marcouf), fired at extreme range, and had ceased fire during the night; on the other hand, the gunboats fired continuously at half-range.[6]

The French took Minerve back into their service under the name Canonnière.[5]

French service as Canonnière

The Action of 21 April 1806 as depicted by Pierre-Julien Gilbert. In the foreground, HMS Tremendous aborts her attempt at raking Cannonière under the threat of being outmaneuvered and raked herself by her more agile opponent. In the background, the Indiaman Charlton fires her parting broadside at Cannonière. In fact, several hours separated the two events.

In 1806, under Captain César-Joseph Bourayne,[8][9] she sailed to Isle de France (now Mauritius) to reinforce the frigate squadron under admiral Linois. Failing to find Linois at Isle de France, Canonnière patrolled the Indian Ocean in the hope of making her junction. She fought the inconclusive Action of 21 April 1806 against the 74-gun HMS Tremendous and the 50-gun HMS Hindostan.[10]

In late 1806, Canonnière was in Manilla, where Bourayne agreed to sail to Acapulco to claim funds on behalf of the Spanish colonies.[11] She arrived at Acapulco in April 1807 and escorted Spanish merchantmen to Luzon. She then returned to Acapulco on 20 July to load three million piastres, ferried them to Manilla, and was back in Isle de France in July 1808.

At that time, the French division of Isle de France, comprising the frigates Manche and Caroline as well as the corvette Iéna, was at sea to conduct commerce raiding. The island was blockaded by the 30-gun HMS Laurel, under Captain Jobn Woolcombe. On 11 September, Canonnière set sail to meet Laurel and force her to retreat or fight. After a day of searching, Canonnière found Laurel and the frigates began exchanging fire around 17:00. Laurel sustained heavy damage to her rigging, hindering her ability to manoeuvers and at 19:00, a gust of wind gave advantage to Canonnière. Laurel struck her colours shortly before 20:00, and Canonnière took her prize in tow back to Port Louis. Her capture strengthened the situation of the island, as Laurel was freshly arrived and carried a five-month supply as well as various supplies for the British squadron.[11]

Canonnière returned to Mauritius in late March 1809 [2]. As she required repairs beyond those possible in Mauritius, the French eventually sent her back to France en flûte under the name Confiance.

Capture and British service as HMS Confiance

It was during this transit that HMS Valiant, under Captain John Bligh, recaptured her on 3 February 1810 near Belle Île after a six-hour chase. She was armed with only 14 guns and had a crew of 135 men,[12] under the command of Captain Jacques Peroud. She had been 93 days in transit when she was captured, having eluded British vessels 14 times. She was carrying goods worth £150,000,[13] General Decaen having made her available to the merchants of Île de France to carry home their merchandise.[12]

Confiance then briefly re-entered the Royal Navy as HMS Confiance. She never returned to active service however, and was deleted from navy lists in 1814.[14][15]


  1. "No. 13986". 25 February 1797. 
  2. [1]Molland's Circulating Library, "Jane Austen's Sailor Brothers. Chapter 6, The Patrol of the Mediterranean".
  3. "No. 15591". 7 June 1803. 
  4. "No. 15278". 22 July 1800. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 Grocott (1998), p.152.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Troude, Batailles navales, p.288. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "troude288" defined multiple times with different content
  7. James (1837), Vol. 3,p.27.
  8. Les combats de la Canonnière
  9. Naval history of Great Britain, by William James
  10. Troude, op. cit., vol.3, p. 461.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Troude, op. cit., vol.3, p. 513
  12. 12.0 12.1 "No. 16340". 6 February 1810. 
  13. James (1837), Vol. 5, p.97.
  14. Winfield. British Warships in the Age of Sail. p. 149. 
  15. Colledge. Ships of the Royal Navy. p. 227. 


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