Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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USS Hornet Blockades HMS Bonne Citoyenne

Pitt Burnaby Greene took command of HMS Bonne Citoyenne in late 1810. He was promoted to post captain on 7 March 1811 and sailed HMS Bonne Citoyenne to the South American Station on 12 March.

When the War of 1812 broke out Greene took on a cargo of specie, worth some half a million pounds, and sailed from Rio de Janeiro. Unfortunately, a grounding damaged Bonne Citoyenne and he was forced to put into Salvador, Brazil for repairs. While she was in port, two American warships, USS Constitution and USS Hornet arrived. James Lawrence of Hornet sent a challenge to Greene, offering a single ship combat, with Commodore William Bainbridge of Constitution pledging not to intervene.

Bonne Citoyenne and Hornet were evenly matched in terms of the number of guns, and sizes of their crews. In his reply, Greene stated that he expected that he would emerge the victor in such a contest, but that he could not expect Bainbridge and Constitution to forsake their duty to intervene should Bonne Citoyenne emerge the victor. Consequently, he declined the challenge at this time and place, but stated that he stood ready to accept the opportunity should the circumstances be different.

Constitution left on 6 January 1813, but Bonne Citoyenne did not leave port even though Hornet was now alone. The arrival of the ship of the line HMS Montagu on 24 January 1813 finally forced Hornet to leave.