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(Brig: a. 12 guns)

The first Vengeance, a former merchant ship and dockyard tender, was one of four vessels procured and fitted out by the French government in February 1779 to form a special squadron under command of Capt. John Paul Jones. The other three vessels were the frigate Bonhomme Richard, the frigate Pallas, and the cutter Cerf.

On 19 June 1779 the squadron sailed from L'Orient, France, accompanied by the frigate Alliance to escort French merchantmen and troop transports to Bordeaux, and also to cruise against the British in the Bay of Biscay. On the second day out, Alliance fouled Bonhomme Richard, causing sufficient damage to force the squadron to return to port for repairs on 1 July. Vengeance, Pallas, and Cerf soon put out to sea, and cruised briefly off Belle-He to protect American and French commerce from British privateers before returning to port.

The entire squadron sailed again on 14 August 1779, this time embarking on an extended cruise northwest around the west coast of Ireland into the North Sea and then down the east coast of Scotland and England. Four days out, the Monsieur, a French privateer accompanying the squadron, captured a ship and left with her prize the next day. A large vessel outran the Americans during a chase on 19 and 20 August, but the squadron overtook Mayflower on 21 August and sent that British brig to L'Orient as a prize. The vessels separated during a storm on the night of 26 August but reassembled on the night of 1 and 2 September. The following day, they took an Irish brigantine returning from Norway; and, on 15 September, they captured two colliers. Unfavorable winds frustrated an attempt to attack the port of Leith, Scotland, on 17 September.

While off Spurn Head, England, on 22 September, Jones received a report from Vengeance that the English Baltic Fleet was approaching from the northeast. Capt. Jones immediately ordered Vengeance to stand out to sea, find Alliance, and tell her to rendezvous with the squadron off Flamborough Head, England. The Americans encountered the fleet of 41 ships under convoy of the frigate HMS Serapis and the sloop-of-war Countess of Scarborough the next day. During the ensuing battle, Capt. Jones in Bonhomme Richard captured Serapis against tremendous odds, losing his own ship but gaining an international reputation for gallantry and daring both for himself and the fledgling Continental Navy. Pallas took Countess of Scarborough to complete the victory.

All told, the American squadron took 16 merchant vessels as prizes during the voyage; Vengeance, herself claiming three. Jones' exploits also left the English coastline in considerable uproar for the duration of the war. Vengeance remained with the Navy until American independence was secured in 1783 and was then returned to France.

Published: Wed Oct 21 13:29:26 EDT 2015