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The Caribbean Commerce War - Seine versus Vengeance, 1800
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The Caribbean Commerce War - Seine versus Vengeance, 1800

Measurements: Overall: 42cm (16.5in) x 52cm (20.25in)



Watercolour, pen and ink on paper.  A depiction of the single ship action between Seine (38-guns) and Vengeance (36-guns). Applied verso with a period manuscript label inscribed ‘La Vengeance, French Frigate striking / to La Seine Frigate, Captain Milne / 20th August 1800’.

The contest between H.M.S. Seine and the frigate Vengeance was a notable event in the Royal Navy’s relentless pursuit of the French privateers and warships that menaced Caribbean trade in the final years of the French Revolutionary War.  

H.M.S. Seine was a French built frigate that was captured in 1798 and commissioned into the Royal Navy as a fifth rate ship-of-the line. In July 1800 she sailed to Jamaica to join the fleet under Lord Hugh Seymour and on 20 August brought Vengeance to battle in the Mona Passage between Santo Domingo and Puerto Rico. Vengeance which had just finished refitting at Curaçao in the Dutch Antilles, led Seine in a chase that lasted most of the day until Seine was forced to drop back due to damage to her masts. Next morning Seine was able resume the action at close quarters. After a hard fight of three hours, Vengeance had lost all her masts and was badly damaged in her hull. Vengeance struck her colours, a French officer hailing the Seine from her bowsprit. The French had lost 35 men killed and 70 wounded. Vengeance was towed to Jamaica, with nine feet of water in   her hold, and purchased for the Royal Navy but she was so badly damaged that she never sailed again.

Seine underwent a refit at Chatham between June and July 1803, with Milne recommissioning her for the North Sea. However, soon after she grounded on a sandbank to the north of Terschelling on 21 July 1803. That evening Milne had ordered the pilots to keep her out of shallow water and they had assured him that she was safe - forty minutes later she struck. The crew laboured all night and well into the morning, with the assistance of two passing merchant vessels to pull her off and to lighten her, but to no avail. At about 11.30am the crew abandoned Seine, and set her alight to prevent the French recapturing her. A subsequent court martial honourably acquitted Captain Milne and it found the pilots guilty, sentencing them to be stripped of their wages and slung in Southwark’s notorious Marshalsea prison for two years.

In 1847 the Admiralty authorised the issue of the Naval General Service Medal clasp ‘Seine 20 Augt. 1800’ to all surviving claimants of the single ship with action Vengeance.