Military Wiki
French ship Puissant (1782)
Career (France) French Royal Navy Ensign French Navy Ensign
Name: Puissant
Builder: Lorient
Laid down: August 1781
Launched: 13 March 1782
Career (UK) Royal Navy Ensign
Name: HMS Puissant
Acquired: 29 August 1793 by surrender
Fate: Sold 1816
General characteristics [1]
Class & type: Pégase class
Type: Third rate
Tonnage: 1799 4994 (bm)
Length: 178 ft 9 in (54.48 m) (overall)
146 ft 5 12 in (44.641 m) (keel)
Beam: 48 ft 0 34 in (14.649 m)
Depth of hold: 21 ft 4 in (6.50 m)
Propulsion: Sails

French service:
Lower deck: 28 x 32-pounder guns
Upper deck: 28 x 18-pounder guns
QD: 14 x 9-pounder guns
Fc: 4 x 9-pounder guns

British service: Not armed

Puissant was built in 1781-82 to a design by Antoine Groignard as a Pégase class 74-gun ship of the line. Her captain handed her over to the British at Toulon on 29 August 1793. She arrived at Portsmouth on 3 May 1794. She then remained there as an unarmed receiving ship, sheer hulk, and flagship until her sale in 1816.

British career

On 28 August 1793, Admiral Lord Hood of the Royal Navy and Admiral Juan de Lángara of the Spanish Navy, committed a force of 13,000 British, Spanish, Neapolitan and Piedmontese troops to the French royalists' cause at Toulon. The next day, the royalists handed over a number of their vessels to the British.[2]

Puissant was under the command of Mon. Ferrand. After her hand-over to British control she spent several weeks laying opposite and firing on a shore battery of 24-pounders at the head of La Seine in Toulon harbor. She then sailed to Portsmouth. The British government awarded Ferrand a pension of £200 per annum for his services.[3]

In early 1796 Puissant was fitted as a receiving ship and was commissioned in April under Commander David Hotchkiss.[1] From March 1798 she was under the command of Lieutenant R. Allen and then between October 1799 and 1801 under Commander William Syme.[1]

In 1803 Lieutenant James Bowen recommissioned her as a receiving ship. Later that year she became a sheer hulk under Commander James Irwin who remained her captain through 1810. Captain Charles William Paterson succeeded Irwin in 1811 and remained in command until 12 August 1812. In September 1812 Captain Benjamin Page became her captain and she served as the flagship for Admiral Sir Richard Bickerton.


Although Puissant was unarmed and confined to port, her crew did earn prize money on three occasions. On 26 October 1806, Tsar Alexander I of Russia declared war on Great Britain. The official news did not arrive there until 2 December, at which time the British declared an embargo on all Russian vessels in British ports. Puissant was one of some 70 vessels that shared in the seizure of the 44-gun Russian frigate Speshnoy (Speshnyy), then in Portsmouth harbour. The British seized the Russian storeship Wilhelmina (Vilghemina) at the same time.[4] The Russian vessels were carrying the payroll for Vice-Admiral Dmitry Senyavin’s squadron in the Mediterranean.[5][Note 1]

Then on 27 August 1808, Puissant and the "armed cutter" Linnet shared in the detention of the Danish ship Deodaris.[7] At the time, Linnet may have been acting as a tender to Puissant.

Lastly, when news of the outbreak of the War of 1812 reached Britain, the Royal Navy seized all American vessels then in British ports. Puissant was among the Royal Navy vessels then lying at Spithead or Portsmouth and so entitled to share in the grant for the American ships Belleville, Janus, Aeos, Ganges and Leonidas seized there on 31 July 1812.[8][Note 2]


Puissant was paid off in October 1815. She was then sold on 11 July 1816 for £2,250.[1]

See also


  1. An able seaman on any one of the 70 British vessels received 14s 7½d in prize money.[6]
  2. A first-class share was worth £20 19s 0d; a sixth-class share, that of an ordinary seaman, was worth 4s 1d; the Commander in Chief received £230 10s 8d.[9]


  • Tredrea, John and Eduard Sozaev (2010) Russian Warships in the Age of Sail, 1696-1860. (Seaforth). ISBN 978-1-84832-058-1
  • Winfield, Rif (2008). British Warships in the Age of Sail 1793–1817: Design, Construction, Careers and Fates. Seaforth. ISBN 1-86176-246-1. 

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