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USS Insurgent (1799)
Combat naval pendant la quasi guerre
Naval encounter during the Quasi-War between USS Constellation and French ship Insurgente (right) on 9 February 1799.
Career (France) Ensign of France
Name: Insurgente
Builder: Pierre-Joseph Pénétreau, Lorient
Laid down: March 1791
Launched: 27 April 1793
Captured: by USS Constellation, 9 February 1799
Career (United States) Flag of the United States (1795-1818).svg
Name: USS Insurgent
Acquired: 9 February 1799
Commissioned: August 1799
Fate: Lost at sea, September 1800
General characteristics
Type: Sémillante class frigate
Tons burthen: 600 tonnes
Length: 45.5 metres
Beam: 11.5 metres
Draft: 5.5 metres

French service:Officers + 278 men[1]

US Service: 340 officers and enlisted

French service (initially):

French service (1798-99):

US service:

  • 26 x 18-pounder guns
  • 10 x 12-pounder guns
  • 4 x 36-pounder howitzers[1]

The Insurgente was a 40-gun Sémillante class frigate of the French Navy commanded by Captain Michael-Pierre Barreaut. She was engaged and captured by USS Constellation, Captain Thomas Truxtun in command, off the island of Nevis during the Quasi-War. After capture she served in the US Navy patrolling the waters in the West Indies. Some time later she was caught up in a severe storm and was presumed lost at sea.[2][3]

French frigate InsurgenteEdit

Insurgente was built by Pierre-Joseph Pénétreau at Lorient and launched on 27 April 1793.[1]

Battle with ConstellationEdit

On 9 February 1799 after being at sea for three days, the USS Constellation spotted the Insurgente approximately six leagues northeast off the Island of Nevis. The Insurgente being a fully rigged frigate was considered one of the fastest sailing vessels in the world at the time where three weeks earlier she had encountered the Constellation but was able to outrun her and escape.[4] Shortly after being spotted by Constellation this second time the ships encountered a squall where the topmast of the Insurgente was snapped by a violent gust of wind, thus impairing her speed. Upon being approached by the Constellation Captain Barreaut first attempted to seek haven by making way for St. Eustatius, but to no avail, where the Insurgente hauled wind and assumed a starboard tack. After being overtaken she hoisted American colors, at which time the Constellation hoisted the private signals. Unable to respond appropriately, she gave up her attempt at disguise and Captain Barreaut ordered the French tri-colors hoisted and a gun fired to windward to signal the challenge where Insurgente boldly sat in wait to be engaged. This was the first time since the American Revolution that a shot had been fired from an enemy vessel at an American ship. Truxtun gave the order to clear the deck of Constellation for action and the Boatswain sounded the whistle. Both ships bore up to take positions to engage. The Constellation fired the first broadside, double-shotted, inflicting much damage to the French vessel's hull and killing many in the first minute of the engagement. Insurgente responded and fired a broadside, inflicting much damage to Constellation's rigging and top foremast, almost cut off.[5] At 3:30 PM after and hour and a half of running battle and several raking broadsides from the Constellation the Insurgente struck her colors. First Lieutenant John Rodgers, Midshipman David Porter along with eleven men were put on board the captured vessel to take possession and to secure the prisoners who were sent to the lower hold. She had lost 70 men from a crew of 409, while the Constellation, badly damaged also, only lost three out of a complement of 309. This was the first American victory against a foreign naval vessel.[6][7]

There were no handcuffs to be found and the prisoners seem disposed to rebel and accordingly Rodgers placed sentrys at the hatch, and armed with blunderbusses were ordered to open fire should the prisoners attempt to breach the hatch way.[8]

See article: Action of 9 February 1799


Scene depicting the action of 9 February 1799, when the USS Constellation (left), commanded by Captain Thomas Truxtun, captured the French frigate Insurgente (right)

Service in US NavyEdit

After being captured the Insurgent was considered a prize in the Quasi-War with France, where the frigate was taken to the West Indies and refitted for service in the young American navy. It cruised under Lt. John Rodgers in company with Constellation until May 1799. Ordered back to the United States, Insurgent was purchased by the Navy for $84,500. Commissioned with Captain Alexander Murray in command, Insurgent sailed from Hampton Roads for Europe 14 August 1799. Cruising in European waters during the winter of 1799-1800, the frigate captured French ship Vendémiaire and recaptured the American ships Margaret, Angora, Commerce, and William and Mary. Insurgent returned to the United States in March 1800 via the West Indies.[9]

On 29 April 1800 Patrick Fletcher assumed command and was ordered to cruise between the West Indies and the American coast to protect American shipping interests see and to capture any enemy vessels he encountered. Insurgent departed Baltimore 22 July and after a brief stop at Hampton Roads sailed for her station 8 August 1800. Never heard from again, the frigate and her crew were presumed lost as a result of the severe storm which struck the West Indies 20 September 1800.[10]

See alsoEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Demerliac (1996), p.68, #421.
  2. U.S.Navy, DANFS, Insurgent prgh.1
  3. Toll, 2006 pp.142-144
  4. Toll, 2006 p.115-117
  5. Toll, 2006 p.117
  6. Harrison, 1858 p.156-158
  7. Toll, 2006 pp.117-119
  8. Harrison, 1858 p.158
  9. U.S.Navy, DANFS, Insurgent prgh.2
  10. U.S.Navy, DANFS, Insurgent prgh.3


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