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 States of America
Acquired: 1796 by purchase of a prize
Fate: Sold c.1796
United Kingdom
Name: Triton
Acquired: 1796–1797 by purchase
Fate: Unknown post-1809
General characteristics [1]
Tons burthen: 800,[1][3] or 8005494,[2] or 828[4] or 850,[5] or 950[6] (bm)
  • 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.


The EIC took Triton up as for six voyages a regular ship,[7] she completed three and was captured on her fourth.

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]

Of her 118 passengers, not less than 98 had been soldiers in India, they had served out their contracts and were returning to England at the EIC's expense, together with their wives and children. Most of these men were now entitled to a lifetime pension from the EIC.[8]

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.[9] 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.[10] 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.[11] Surcouf, feeling unable to flee, decided to board her with his 26 men,[12][Note 1] After haranguing his men, he approached under a British flag,[14] before hoisting French colours at the very last moment and launching a violent assault.[13] In the ensuing 45-minute battle,[11] Triton suffered 5 wounded and 10 killed,[15] including Burnyeat and the first officer, Picket;[13] 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.[16]

Newspaper accounts stated that a boatswain had persuaded 20 members of Triton's deck crew to decline to fight.[17]

Surcouf returned to Île de France (Mauritius) with his prizes,[18] arriving on 10 March 1796.[13] 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.[15][18]

The EIC put the value of the cargo it lost at £3,030.[19]

Recapture and subsequent career[edit]

Triton returned quickly to British ownership as a country ship, i.e., sailing in the coastal trade.[2] She was reportedly purchased at Mauritius by an American and entered Calcutta under American colours a few months after her capture.[20] Apparently the American sold her to Calcutta owners.

The EIC chartered her to serve as a transport, one of about 15, in a planned attack on Manila;[6] the EIC chartered her from 25 May 1797 to 25 March 1798 at sicca rupees 10,000 pr month.

However, the British Government cancelled the invasion following a peace treaty with Spain and the EIC released the vessels it had engaged. Triton arrived at Madras on 24 June 1798.

Later, 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.[21]

Outfitting Triton for her return voyage cost £9,920 9s 2d, and was billed on 6 March 1800.[22]

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.[23] There she delivered a cargo of rice.[2]

Outfitting Triton for her return voyage cost £7,474 9s 3d, and was billed on 15 July.[22]

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.[23]

Outfitting Triton for her return voyage cost £1,926 9s 2d, and was billed on 1 November.[22]

On 12 January 1803 Triton, Captain Anstiss, arrived at Bahia requiring repairs; the authorities put many administrative and pecuniary obstacles in his way and he was not able to effect his repairs and leave until 6 February. While Triton was at Bahia, the captain and crew of the whaler brig Anna Augusta arrived there; she had been wrecked a few days earlier south of Bahia.[24]

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 828 tons burthen, and is listed as having been built on the Thames;[4] this entry continues unchanged through 1809.

An 1803 listing of country ships registered at Calcutta shows her master as N. Ansties and her owner as Fairlie, Gilmore and Co.[25] An 1809 listing shows her master as — Patrick, and her managing owner as Robert Lawson.[5]


Triton's ultimate fate is currently unknown.

Notes, citations, and references[edit]


  1. ^ Levot gives a figure of 17 men; Cunat, of 19.[11][13]


  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. ^ a b Reports... (1809), p.241.
  6. ^ a b Select (1814), p.654.
  7. ^ Select (1814), p.81.
  8. ^ Edinburgh Evening Courant, 18 May 1789, p.4.
  9. ^ Universal Magazine, January 1794, p. 60.
  10. ^ "No. 13621". The London Gazette. 4 February 1794. p. 115.
  11. ^ a b c Levot (1866), p.494.
  12. ^ Rouvier, p.252.
  13. ^ a b c d Cunat, p.395
  14. ^ Rouvier, p.253
  15. ^ a b Hennequin, p.380.
  16. ^ Granier, p.218.
  17. ^ A Peoples' History 1793 – 1844 from the newspapers – accessed 17 July 2018.
  18. ^ a b Rouvier, p.254.
  19. ^ Reports from the Select Committee of the House of Commons appointed to enquire into the present state of the affairs of the East India Company, together with the minutes of evidence, an appendix of documents, and a general index, (1830), Vol. 2, p.976.
  20. ^ Analytical Review (1799), Vol. 28, p.434.
  21. ^ Hardy (1800), p.224-5.
  22. ^ a b c Select (1814), pp.613-4.
  23. ^ a b British Library: Triton (4).
  24. ^ Lindley (1808), pp.125-133.
  25. ^ East-India register and directory (1803), p.99.


  • Analytical Review: Or History of Literature, Domestic and Foreign, on an Enlarged Plan. (1799), Vol. 28. (J. Johnson).
  • Cunat, Charles (1857). Saint-Malo illustré par ses marins [Saint-Malo illustrated by her sailors] (in French). Imprimerie de F. Péalat. OCLC 793555867.
  • Granier, Hubert (1998). Histoire des Marins français 1789–1815 [History of French sailors 1789–1815]. illustrations by Alain Coz. Marines éditions. ISBN 2-909675-41-6. OCLC 468167565.
  • Hackman, Rowan (2001) Ships of the East India Company. (Gravesend, Kent: World Ship Society). ISBN 0-905617-96-7
  • Hardy, Charles (1800) A Register of Ships, Employed in the Service of the Hon. the United East India Company, from the Union of the Two Companies, in 1707, to the Year 1760: Specifying the Number of Voyages, Tonnage, Commanders, and Stations. To which is Added, from the Latter Period to the Present Time, the Managing Owners, Principal Officers, Surgeons, and Pursers; with the Dates of Their Sailing and Arrival: Also, an Appendix, Containing Many Particulars, Interesting to Those Concerned in the East India Commerce.
  • Hennequin, Joseph François Gabriel (1835). Biographie maritime ou notices historiques sur la vie et les campagnes des marins célèbres français et étrangers [Maritime Biography of historical notes on the lives and campaigns of famous French and foreign sailors] (in French). 1. Paris: Regnault éditeur. OCLC 457813464.
  • Levot, Prosper (1866). Les gloires maritimes de la France: notices biographiques sur les plus célèbres marins [The maritime Glories of France: biographical notes on the most famous sailors] (in French). Bertrand. OCLC 562314991.
  • Lindley, Thomas (1808) Authentic narrative of a voyage from the cape of Good Hope to Brasil: a Portuguese settlement in South America, in 1802, 1803 ... with general sketches of the country, its natural productions, colonial inhabitants, &c ... (W. Baynes).
  • Reports and Papers on the Impolicy of Employing Indian Built Ships in the Trade of the East-India Company, and of Admitting Them to British Registry: With Observation on Its Injurious Consequences to the Landed and Shipping Interests, and to the Numerous Branches of Trade Dependent on the Building and Equipment of British-built Ships. (1809). (Blacks and Parry).
  • Rouvier, Charles. Histoire des marins français sous la République, de 1789 à 1803 [History of the French sailors during the Republic, from 1789 to 1803] (in French). Arthus Bertrand. OCLC 6804406.
  • Select Committee on Petitions Relating to East-India-Built Shipping, House of Commons, Parliament of Great Britain (1814) Minutes of the Evidence Taken Before the Select Committee of the House of Commons on Petitions Relating to East-India-built Shipping. (His Majesty's Stationery Office).