22 May 1812 near Lorient, Henry Hotham’s 74 gun ship-of-the-line HMS “Northumberland” brought the two French frigates “Ariane” and “Andromaque” to bay who, trying to slip the British blockade, returned home from a successful commerce raid out in the Atlantic.
“I Andromache, envied name in days of yore, but now of all women that have been or yet shall be the most unfortunate“ (Euripides, “Andromache”)
Destruction of the French Frigates Arianne and Andromaque , 22nd May 1812
The Napoleonic Wars at sea were, contrary to popular myth, not over after Trafalgar. However, what was left of Napoleon’s navy lay scattered in ports along the French Channel and Atlantic coast, bottled up by the Royal Navy with hardly a chance left for small squadrons or even individual French ships-of-the-line to slip the blockade and win an engagement against the British or even assemble into another invasion fleet again. Nevertheless, a few actions were fought between French vaisseaux de ligne and British ships-of-the-line, most notably one off Santo Domingo in 1806 and one in the Basque Roads in 1809. After that, even though Napoleon launched one ship-of-the-line after the other, none would ever threaten British supremacy on the high seas again, but there was commerce raiding. Commissioned warships, often enough a brace of frigates, as well as privateers sneaked out into the Atlantic in the tradition of the famous Breton corsairs Duguay-Trouin and Robert Surcouf to harass British merchant shipping, while the French battleships remained a fleet in being. Early in the year of 1812, one of those forays had brought the two “Pallas”-class 5th rate frigates “Ariane” and “Andromaque” to the Azores and off Bermuda.
|A French “Pallas”-class frigate|
|A French post-Trafalgar Bucentaure-class 80-gun ship of the line, like those that escaped with Allemand and the “Diadème” that had remained in Lorient|
And more about the Action of 22 May 1812 on: