King of Corsairs
....and Napoleon's France
Surcouf's career reflected many of Napoleons military strategies.
-- Guerre de Course
strike serious blows to British Commerce
no imports--industrial crisis (especially
Draw British Navy away from Channel
-- Cheap small arms - corsair warfare
-- Total war (involving
-- Gave troops free reign to loot and pillage conquered territories
ensured popularity with troops
and with French citizens since war booty restored coffers.
-- Levee en masse (draft)
-- Strategy of Anhilation
trading of prisoners of war
-- Ruthless audacity (attack on Kent matched Napoleon's attack on Europe?)
tactics, swift manoevering, daring and not a little hard fighting
-- In addition to the Code Napoleon", a new system of
honours was brought in and Napoleon rewarded the successful people of
the country with titles regardless of their background.
how do these fit in?
-- eliminating slave trade -- reinstituting slave trade?
-- dispersing Knights of Malta led
to anarchy in Mediterannean?
1773 born just four years after Napoleon
1780 sent to study with Jesuits in Dinan
1786 escaped from professors; stole a small craft to prove his ability to sail; he was subsequently caught
a tempest and had to be rescued.
1788 enlisted on a merchantman to India
1789-92 participated in slave trade between Mozambique and Madagascar
....1789 french revolution
....1792 Bonaparte journeyed to Paris, and on August 10 witnessed the storming of the Tuilleries Palace. The
mob massacred the king's Swiss Guards and King Louis XVI was dethroned. The French Republic was proclaimed that
1792 came back to Saint-Malo and discovered the political changes France had undergone in the wake of the
Revolution. He sailed to Isle de France (present-day Mauritius) in August on a commercial brig, and was informed on his arrival
of the outbreak of war against Britain. Isle de France was threatened by two vessels (54-gun and 60-gun) commanded by Commodore
Osborn. Surcouf was made a second officer of the frigate CybÃ¨le, which, with another frigate and a brig, and with less
than half their fire power, engaged and repelled the attackers. Surcouf was one of the heroes of the day. He was made a captain
in Isle de France, and expressed his ambition to wage corsair warfare against England. However, the Convention frowned at
privateers, and it was difficult to obtain a letter of marque. (pirate)
....1793 the king was executed. The queen and thousands more followed him to the guillotine. A month later, Maximilien
Robespierre, the austere, moralizing leader of the French government, vowed to save the Republic from its enemies
at any cost. The Revolution turned into the Terror. "Liberty," he said,
"cannot be secured unless criminals lose
their heads." Wanting to make his voice heard, Bonaparte wrote in support of Robespierre. He hated the Terror,
but he hated chaos even more.
....1793 The French Revolution introduced some of the concepts of total war. The fledgling republic found itself threatened
by a powerful coalition of European nations. The only solution, in the eyes of the Jacobin government was to pour the nation's
entire resources into an unprecedented war effort - this was the advent of the levée en masse. The following decree of the
National Convention on August 23, 1793 clearly demonstrates the enormity of the French war effort:
"From this moment until such time as its enemies shall have been driven from the soil of the Republic all Frenchmen are
in permanent requisition for the services of the armies. The young men shall fight; the married men shall forge arms
and transport provisions; the women shall make tents and clothes and shall serve in the hospitals; the children shall
turn linen into lint; the old men shall betake themselves to the public squares in order to arouse the courage of the
warriors and preach hatred of kings and the unity of the Republic."
....1793 the Committee of Public Safety formed (6 April 1793) and the levée en masse drafted all potential soldiers
to 25 (August 1793)
1794 S. sailed with the 4-gun ship La CrÃ©ole, with a complement of 30 men, with orders to bring rice to Mauritius,
and encountered three English ships escorted by the 26-gun Triton; he used a technicality to engage combat in self-defence,
by not flying his colours until the English ships requested them by firing a warning shot (a naval convention of the time),
which Surcouf later reported to consider an aggression. After a brief gunnery exchange, the British ships lowered their flag
and were brought back to Mauritius, with their cargo of rice and mais. Surcouf was welcomed as a saviour in the famished Port
Louis. The capture was declared legal, but in the
absence of a letter of marque, the authorities retained the entire cargo
(a portion of which normally goes to the corsair).
....1794, Robespierre’s government fell. On July 27, the guillotine he made bloody came down on his own head. The
Terror was over. France had a new constitutional government.
....1795, a fragile peace was established within France. But the armies of the kings of Europe - Austria, Spain, Prussia,
Great Britain – were bent on destroying the new French Republic. Pulling together the remnants of the army, France prepared
for war, promising to help "all peoples rise against their rulers."
....1796 Napoleon assumed his first independant military command.
The Milanese greeted Napoleon as a heroic
liberator, the general who freed them from the rule of the Austrian emperor Francis I. "People of Italy, the French
army is here to break your chains," Napoleon proclaimed, "our only quarrel is with the tyrants who have enslaved
1796-7? Following a dispute with the governor of Isle de France, Surcouf sailed to France to receive his letter
....1798 Modern conscription was invented during the French Revolution, allowing the Republic to defend itself
monarchies' attacks. Deputy Jean-Baptiste Jourdan gave its name to the September 5, 1798 Act, whose first article stated:
"Any Frenchman is a soldier and owes himself to the defense of the nation." It enabled the creation of the Grande Armée, what
Napoleon Bonaparte called "the nation in arms", which successfully battled European professional armies.
1798, sailed as captain of the 18-gun Clarisse, with 105 men. He captured four ships in the South Atlantic, and two
others near Sumatra in February 1799. On the 11th of November, the 20-gun Auspicious was captured, with a cargo worth in excess
of one million francs. Surcouf later had to flee before the 56-gun frigate Sybille,
throwing eight guns overboard to out-sail
the British warship. He captured a British brig and an American merchantman before returning to Isle de France
....1799, Bonaparte had established a new government, rewritten the Constitution, and made himself head of state
under the tthe Committee of Public Safety formed (6 April 1793) and the levée en masse drafted all potential soldiers aged
18 to 25 (August 1793itle First Consul.
....1800 Napoleon Bonaparte, now 30 years old, was the most powerful man in France.
1800 Surcouf took command of La Confiance, a fine and fast 18-gun frigate from Bordeaux undergoing repairs
in Isle de France. Beginning in March, he led a brilliant campaign which resulted in the capture of nine British ships. On
the October 7th, 1800, in the Bay of Bengal, La Confiance'\' met the 38-gun Kent, a 1200-ton East Indiaman with 400
men and a company of naval riflemen. Despite being outnumbered three to one, the French managed to seize control
of the Kent''. He became a living legend in France and, in England, a public enemy whose capture was valued at 5 millions
francs, although he was noted for the discipline of his crew and his humane treatment of prisoners.
1801 settled in Saint-Malo, married, and spent six years in retirement, as a businessman.
....1802 Napoleon oversaw the codification of a new system of laws – the Civil Code – which abolished feudal
privileges and established the equality of every man before the law. The rights and duties of citizens –
that’s an invention of the revolution. But they were not codified in a central text. It was necessary that
these rights and duties become the basis for a grand legal system for the society to function effectively.He forced
the nations he had conquered to accept the new laws he had created for France, undermining the centuries-old foundations
of European civilization. The monarchs of Europe arrayed their armies against Bonaparte. But time and time again,
Austrian, Russian, and Prussian troops were defeated by the citizen-soldiers of the French Republic.
1803 Napoleon Bonaparte personally offered him the title of captain and command of a frigate squadron in the
Indian Ocean. Surcouf, however, refused, for two reasons: first, he would not have been allowed to operate as independently
as he desired; and second, he believed that the war against England should be waged with economic means (i.e. by attacking
its merchant navy) rather than direct naval assault.
....1804 The original Napoleonic Code, or Code Napoléon (originally called the Code civil des Français, or civil
code of the French), was the French civil code, established at the behest of Napoléon I. It entered into force on March 21,
1804.The Civil Code represents a typically Napoleonic mix of liberalism and conservatism, although most of the basic revolutionary
gains - equality before the law, freedom of religion and the abolition of feudalism - were consolidated within its laws. Property
rights, including the rights of the purchasers of the biens nationaux were made absolute. The Code also reinforced patriarchal
power by making the husband the ruler of the household. The Napoleonic Code was to be promulgated, with modifications, throughout
1804 Surcouf went into business as ship-owner, and equipped 14 privateers in the Indian Ocean (among them his brother
Nicolas Surcouf and his cousin Joseph Potier).
....1804 The Legion of Honor was intended to foster equality, as well as reward talent. "...The establishment
of the Legion of Honor, which was the reward for military, civil, and judicial service, united side by side the soldier, the
scholar, the artist, the prelate, and the
magistrate; it was the symbol of the reunion of all the estates, of all
1804 Surcouf made officer of the Legion d'Honneur on the 18th of July 1804.
1805 Napoleon heeded Surcouf's advise and chose a blockade against England rather than direct confrontation, and
privateers to operate with relative impunity.
....Francis I of Austria and Tzar Alexander I of Russia had joined Britain in an alliance to destroy him. In
retaliation for the English blockade of the French coast, Napoleon declared the Continental Blockade in an attempt
to cripple England’s economy. All of Europe braced itself for the coming war.Napoleon had inherited the ten-year-old
struggle between revolutionary France and the monarchs of Europe, who were determined to crush the Revolution
before it spread.
....1805 Napoleon planned an invasion of the British Isles, and massed 180,000 troops at Boulogne. However, in
order to mount his invasion, he needed to achieve naval superiority — or at least to pull the British fleet away from
the English Channel. A complex plan to distract the British by threatening their possessions in the West Indies failed when
a Franco-Spanish fleet under Admiral Villeneuve turned back after an inconclusive action off Cape Finisterre on 22 July 1805.
The Royal Navy blockaded Villeneuve in Cádiz until he left for Naples on October 19, but Lord Nelson caught and defeated
his fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar on October 21. This battle cost Admiral Nelson his life at the hands of a French sharp-shooter,
but Napoleon would never again have the opportunity to challenge the British at sea. Napoleon had sent nine different plans
to Villeneuve and the indecisive French commander hesitated continually. By this time, however, Napoleon had already all but
abandoned plans to invade the British Isles, and turned his attention to enemies on the Continent once again. The French army
left Boulogne and moved towards Austria.
1807 returned to sea on a specially-built three-mast, the 20-gun Revenant. Le Revenant was constructed under
special directives by Surcouf himself, with a completely coppered hull, and a remarkable (for the time) top speed of 12 knots.
Surcouf arrived at Isle de France in June, defeating the British blockade and capturing several ships on the journey. During
the subsequent campaign, which was to be his last, Surcouf captured 16 British ships 1808 governor of Isle de France, General
Charles Decaen, seized the Revenant for the defense of the island. After a heated argument with Decaen, Surcouf acquired the
frigate La SÃ©millante, renamed it Le Charles, and sailed it back to France. In the meantime, Decaen had confiscated all Surcouf's
possessions in the Indian Ocean
1809 arrived in France with a 8-million franc cargo. Surcouf was received by Napoleon and made Baron d'Empire,
and his possessions were returned to him.
1814 made a colonel in the National Guard of Saint-Malo. However, he took no part in the Hundred Days as a chief
of Legion. After the war, he returned to Saint-Malo, rich and with the title of baron, and
became a merchant ship-owner,
establishing business with Terre-Neuve, the Caribbean, Africa and the Indian Ocean.
1817 fought against twelve Prussian officers with a cue stick because they had insulted an old man in a bar; he
managed to hold them long enough to challenge them all to duels. He subsequently defeated eleven of the officers,
one by one, leaving the last and youngest alive "to tell the tale".
1827 carried to his grave by sea on a flotilla of over 50 sailboats
The French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars that followed revolutionized military strategy. The impact of this
still to be felt in the American Civil War and the early phases of World War I. With the advent of cheap small arms and
rise of the drafted citizen soldier, armies grew rapidly in size to become massed formations. This necessitated dividing
army first into divisions and later into corps. Along with divisions came divisional artillery; light-weight, mobile
great range and firepower. The rigid formations of pikemen and musketeers firing massed volleys gave way to light infantry
fighting in skirmish lines.
Napoleon I of France took advantage of these developments to pursue a brutally effective "strategy of annihilation" that
cared little for the mathematical perfection of the geometric strategy. Napoleon invariably sought to achieve decision
battle, with the sole aim of utterly destroying his opponent, usually achieving success through superior manouevre. As
and general he dealt with the grand strategy as well as the operational strategy, making use of political and economic
measures. Napoleon was ultimately defeated when his opponents adopted the strategies that he had perfected.
His strategy was to isolate the Austrians from the Piedmontese, taking on each group separately and nullifying the advantage
of greater numbers. The ingenious principle was always to try to have superior numbers at a given place.
This bravado inevitably led to ill-advised and rash encounters and unprecedented bloodshed. A 1798 sortie into Egypt
his innovative thinking shine through to devastating effect. Napoleon organised his army into five gigantic squares during
some battles to produce the effect of continual rolling fire. The French lost 30 men in one battle and their opposition
or six thousand. However he was left stranded with 35,000 soldiers in Egypt after his waiting fleet was attacked by Nelson.
Probably Surcouf's greatest victory was capturing the ship of british east indian company -"Triton". Surcouf had only
and 4 canons against 150 Brits and their 32 canons. The victory over this british ship made Surcouf live sea legend.
the fight on the board of Triton he killed himself about 20 british sailors. His pirates fought like berserkers
In 1807 Surcouf achived his another great sea vicotry against british warship "Kent". Kent had crew of 437 sailors and
regular soldiers and 38 canon while the ship of Sarcouf only 130 sailors (if we can call those pirates sailors). British
captain named Revington invited even some vips to show them how is he dealing with pirates.
Between vips captured
on Kent was British general and german princess.
That victory has shocked whole England and the British started to call
Surcouf the lord of the ocean and the daemon of