Database:   Ariel - Triumph  

Ariel - Triumph.

Other names:

What: late Dec 1780 (or Jan 1781). *Capt. John Paul Jones, Ariel vs. Capt. Pindar Triumph.

Where: 26.325845, -59.615444, Ariel - Triumph, late Dec 1780 (or Jan 1781)

Maps: [map notes]

  • 26.325845, -59.615444, Ariel - Triumph, late Dec 1780 (or Jan 1781)
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  • Boatner: Not found.

  • "Ariel",
    More than two months passed before Ariel was seaworthy once more. She finally got underway again on 18 October. Since much of his ship's battery had been left in France, Jones followed a southern route in the hope of avoiding interference by the Royal Navy.

    However, in this strategy, he was only partially successful. When his ship had reached a point some 200 miles north of the Leeward Islands, a lookout reported a large ship which soon to approach Ariel. Rather than risk his only partially ship and the vital cargo and dispatches which she was carrying, Jones reluctantly had Ariel take to her heels. Jones hoped that she would shake off her pursuer during the night, but the stranger was in full sight when daylight returned the following morning, closer than she had been when last seen the previous evening.

    Ever resourceful, Jones then shifted to a new plan. He would try to pass Ariel off as a warship of the Royal Navy. When his pursuer reached hailing distance of Ariel, Jones demanded that her captain identify himself and his ship which proved to be the 20-gun British privateer Triumph commanded by John Pindar. Jones then ordered the privateer's captain to come on board Ariel with documents to verify his statements. When Pindar did not do so, Jones opened fire and forced his surprised enemy to surrender following a short and one-sided struggle. However, after Triumph had struck her colors, Pindar maneuvered his ship to Ariel's weather bow while the latter was lowering a boat for a prize crew and then quickly sailed away from the slower American ship.

    This engagement was John Paul Jones' last battle in the cause of American freedom, but he soon had to deal with trouble of another sort, a budding mutiny.

  • Extracts from the Journals of my Campaign, John Paul Jones,
    After the storm I had masts jury-rigged and I returned to Lorient and wrote to Monsieur de Castries, who had then become minister of marine, from there to ask him to exchange l'Ariel for the frigate Terpsicore, which I did not obtain. I was therefore detained in Lorient to remast l'Ariel until December 18, 1780, and then put to sea for Philadelphia. As I was entrusted with the court's dispatches for the past six months for the Chevalier de Ia Luzerne, the French fleet, and the army which was in America, I did not want to encounter the enemy during my passage. I could foresee purposes of much greater importance, namely, to obtain the approbation of Congress for my past conduct and to be returned to France in order to execute the plan that Monsieur de Maurepas had approved.

    But after many encounters, I finally fell in with a frigate of 20 guns belonging to the English navy and called the Triumph. As this frigate sailed at much greater speed than l'Ariel, I was unable to avoid an encounter, but I maneuvered sails and rudder in such a manner, and I hid all the preparations for combat so well, that the enemy had no other thoughts than those of an easy conquest and a good prize.

    At nightfall the Triumph steered within hailing distance of l'Ariel and the enemy were not a little surprised to find that they were up against forces equal to their own. As the two frigates were then flying the English flag, the captain of the Triumph, John Pindar, and I began a conversation from which I learned the exact state of English affairs in America. Finally I pretended to believe that the Triumph did not belong to the English navy, and I insisted that her captain come aboard to show me his commission. The captain excused himself, complaining that his boats were leaking and that I had told him neither my name nor the name of my frigate. I answered that I did not have to account to him, and that I would give him five minutes to decide. The time elapsed and I'Ariel being situated directly in front of and to the leeward of the Triumph, some 30 feet away, I hauled up the American flag and commenced firing.

    In earlier combats I had never felt so satisfied as I did during this one with the regular and vigorous firing from the rigging and the batteries of l'Ariel. This resulted from plans and preparations made before the action by stationing passengers and the officers of l'Ariel everywhere to stop men from abandoning their posts and to encourage everyone to do his duty, which demonstrates the great advantage of having several good officers. For never was there a crew worse than that of l'Ariel.

    After a brief resistance, the enemy lowered their flag. The captain of the Triumph asked for quarter, saying that he surrendered and that half of his crew were dead. As a result I ceased fire, and as usual after a victory there were many huzzahs and cries of joy on l'Ariel. But a minute later the captain of the Triumph deceitfully set sail and fled. It was not in my power to prevent his flight, the enemy frigate being much faster than l'Ariel. But if the English government had possessed the sentiments of honor and justice that become a great nation, they would have delivered this frigate to the United States as their property and punished the captain in an exemplary manner for having thus violated the laws of war and the practices of civilized nations.

  • Archive "Naval Battles 1776-1800", map. Basis for site selection.

  • "Sailing Navies: Chronology - 1775 to 1799". Not listed.

  • Maps: Central America and the Caribbean

  • NBBAS:Two Not found.
  • NBBAS:Three Not found.

  • RevWar75   Not found.

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