Triton (1787 EIC ship)

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Carter-Triton-m021400 009599 p.jpg
Boarding of the Triton by the French corsair Hasard (ex-Cartier) under Robert Surcouf. Painting by Léon Trémisot.
East India Company Ensign
Name: Triton
Namesake: Triton
  • EIC Voy. 1-3: Gilbert Slater[1]
  • EIC Voy. 4: John Jackson[1]
Builder: Randall, Rotherhithe
Launched: 26 November 1787[2]
Fate: Captured 1796
United Kingdom
Name: Triton
Acquired: 1798 by recapture and subsequent sale
Fate: Unknown post-1809
General characteristics [1]
Tons burthen:

800,[1][3] or 8005494,[2] or 828[4]

  • 143 ft 7 in (43.8 m) (overall)
  • 116 ft 0 in (35.4 m) (keel)
Beam: 36 ft 0 12 in (11.0 m)
Depth of hold: 14 ft 9 in (4.5 m)
Propulsion: Sail
Complement: 70[3]
Armament: 26 × 9 & 6-pounder guns[3]

Triton was launched in 1787 as an East Indiaman for the British East India Company (EIC). She made three full voyages for the EIC before the French privateer Robert Surcouf captured her in 1796 while she was on her fourth voyage, the British Royal Navy recaptured her in 1798 and the EIC chartered her for three more voyages to Britain. Her subsequent fate is unknown.


First voyage (1788-89)[edit]

Under the command of Captain William Agnew, Triton sailed from The Downs on 5 April 1788, bound for Madras and Bengal. She reached Madras on 14 July and arrived at Diamond Harbour on 23 July, she left Bengal on 30 December, reached St Helena on 7 March, before arriving at The Downs on 14 May.[1]

Second voyage (1790-91)[edit]

Captain Agnew again left The Downs on 5 January 1790, this time bound for Madras and China. Triton reached Madras on 9 July, and arrived at Whampoa on 30 August. Homeward bound, she crossed the Second Bar on 2 February 1791, reached the Cape on 9 April and St Helena on 28 April, arriving at The Downs on 28 June.[1]

Third voyage (1793-94)[edit]

Capt Philip Burnyeat sailed Triton from Torbay on 13 January 1793, bound for Madras, Bengal and China, she reached Madras on 21 May, leaving on 6 July. Trtion was at Pondicherry on 15 July, together with Warley, and Royal Charlotte, maintaining a blockade of the port, together with HMS Minerva.[5] Triton had sailed from Fort Saint George (Madras) as escort to Admiral Lord Cornwallis, then Governor General of India, who was traveling to Pondicherry in a small captured French vessel.[6] Triton also escorted him back, returning to Madras on 30 July. (Pondicherry fell to the Army on 23 August.) She reached Kedgeree on 8 August, and then on 8 September was at Madras again. She reached Penang on 4 October and Malacca on 19 October, before arriving at Whampoa on 15 December, she crossed the Second Bar on 14 March 1794, reached St Helena on 18 June, left on 1 July, and arrived at The Downs on 17 September.[1]

Fourth voyage and capture (1795-96)[edit]

Engraving of the battle, by Ambroise Louis Garneray.

Captain Burnyeat left Portsmouth on 9 July 1795, bound for Madras and Bengal,[1] because she was travelling in wartime, Burnyeat had arranged for a letter of marque, as was customary for EIC ships, which was issued to him on 1 May 1795.[3] This authorized him to engage in offensive action against the French, not just defensive, the French captured Triton at Balasore Roads on 29 January 1796.[1]

The privateer Robert Surcouf had had a successful cruise in the Indian Ocean capturing several vessels, including the pilot boat Cartier, which he renamed Hasard, he transferred his remaining men from his ship Émilie to Hasard and on 28 January, sighting Triton at anchor, decided to attack. He recognised only too late the overwhelming superiority of his opponent.[7] Surcouf, feeling unable to flee, decided to board her with his 26 men,[8][Note 1] After haranguing his men, he approached under a British flag,[10] before hoisting French colours at the very last moment and launching a violent assault;[9] in the ensuing 45-minute battle,[7] Triton suffered 5 wounded and 10 killed,[11] including Burnyeat and the first officer, Picket;[9] Surcouf transferred his prisoners to Diana, another vessel that he had captured, and which he released to her captain against a 30,000 rupee ransom.[12]

Surcouf returned to Île de France (Mauritius) with his prizes,[13] arriving on 10 March 1796.[9] However, Émilie had been sailing without a letter of marque, so although the Prize court declared the prizes legal, it seized them and sold them for the benefit of the State.[11][13]

Recapture and subsequent career[edit]

The Royal Navy recaptured Triton and she arrived at Madras on 24 June 1798. Thereafter she served as a country ship, i.e., sailing in the coastal trade.[2]

However, the EIC chartered her as an extra ship for three voyages, for which records exist for the second and third:

First voyage (1798–99)[edit]

Triton, under the command of Captain David Dunlop, arrived in England on 28 September 1799 from Madras.[14]

Second voyage (1800-1801)[edit]

Captain David Dunlop left Madras on 10 October 1800, bound for London. Triton reached St Helena on 12 December, and Spithead on 22 February 1801. She was at The Downs on 1 March, and London on 5 March.[15] There she delivered a cargo of rice.[2]

Third voyage (1802)[edit]

Captain Nicholas Anstis left Calcutta on 26 February 1802. Triton left Kedgeree on 17 April, and reached St Helena on 9 July. she arrived at The Downs on 13 September.[15]

Triton appears in the 1804 volume of the Register of Shipping with N. Ansties, master, Scott & Co., owners, and trade London-India. She is of 528 tons burthen, and is listed as having been built on the Thames,[4] this entry continues unchanged through 1809.


Triton's ultimate fate is currently unknown.

Notes, citations, and references[edit]


  1. ^ Levot gives a figure of 17 men; Cunat, of 19.[7][9]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i British Library: Triton (3).
  2. ^ a b c d Hackman (2001), p.206.
  3. ^ a b c d "Register of Letters of Marque against France 1793-1815", p.90. - accessed 11 June 2011.
  4. ^ a b Register of Shipping (1804), Seq. №360.
  5. ^ Universal Magazine, January 1794, p. 60.
  6. ^ "No. 13621". The London Gazette. 4 February 1794. p. 115. 
  7. ^ a b c Levot (1866), p.494.
  8. ^ Rouvier, p.252.
  9. ^ a b c d Cunat, p.395
  10. ^ Rouvier, p.253
  11. ^ a b Hennequin, p.380.
  12. ^ Granier, p.218.
  13. ^ a b Rouvier, p.254.
  14. ^ Hardy (1800), p.224-5.
  15. ^ a b British Library: Triton (4).