The small French town of Creusot in Saone-et-Loire, Burgundy was well known for rich natural resources but these remained untapped until 1782 when the French Crown selected the city as the site of a "Fonderie Royal". By 1788, this Royal Foundry had finished their first cast iron cannons, and each was crucial to the French Navy then outgunned by the formidable British.
By the time this fine bronze three stage cannon was completed in 1794, the factory at Creusot was one of the most important industrial manufacturers of the age, though few surviving examples of their cannon are found today. Even rarer is this particular model, a 1786 Pierrier. In addition to its date of manufacture, the cannon is also marked "Ramus Au Creusot", for the director of the foundry during this period, M. Ramus.
This cannon's greatest and most familiar inscription however, is the large "Egalite, Liberte" (Equality, Liberty) with fine decorative border emblazoned in large script letters on the first reinforce. During the 18th Century the words Liberté and Égalité were commonly linked as Revolutionary slogans but the French National Motto we know today with "Fraternité" as the third pillar wasn't formally adopted until 1848.
From the foundry this cannon became one of 74 guns on the newly launched French Téméraire-class ship-of-the-line BARRA, a ship soon after renamed Pégase in 1795, and in 1797 becoming the HOCHE. On September 16th, 1798 the HOCHE set sail from Brest as Flagship of a military expedition in support of the Irish Rebellion against the British (Irish Rebellion of 1798) seeking an Irish independent state. Under the command of Commodore Jean-Baptiste-Francois Bompart, the fleet consisted of HOCHE along with eight frigates carrying a total of 3,000 soldiers, bound for County Donegal, near Lough Swilly, in Ulster. HOCHE also carried the most important figure to the rebellion, Wolfe Tone, leader of the Society of United Irishmen.
They were pursued by British ships almost from the start, shaking off a squad of British frigates only to be chased soon after by a larger British fleet under the command of Commodore Sir John Borlase Warren. Racing across the channel, both fleets encountered heavy winds and rains, and HOCHE lost all three of her topmasts and had her mizzensail shredded, allowing the British to come ever closer. On October 12, 1798 the British fleet caught the HOCHE and engaged her in battle just nine miles from County Donegal, near Tory Island.
HOCHE immediately came under heavy fire from multiple ships, standing alone when her supporting frigates attempted to flee to the southwest. Within a few hours, the battle was over. With the HOCHE heavily damaged and most of his crew and passengers killed or wounded, Bompart surrendered never having reached the shore, and once they were boarded Wolfe Tone was recognized and captured. Tone was tried and condemned. With Tone caught and the French reinforcements gone, the rebellion was finished. Tone's influence however, would live on. His writings and actions would inspire generations afterward to fight for an independent Ireland and he is still honored there to this day.
Now captured, the HOCHE would rise again as a ship in the British Navy. She underwent a complete refit and was recommissioned the HMS DONEGAL, in tribute to Tone as a valiant foe. The ship would go on to a long and illustrious career fighting mainly French and Spanish ships in the Napoleonic Wars. She was part of Admiral Lord Nelson's fleet which chased Franco-Spanish forces to the West Indies and back, hoping to engage them in battle. She was part of the British effort to finish the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, chasing and capturing the fleeing Spanish ship RAYO. Through many more battles and another refit she was used as a flagship through the 1830's and was decommissioned in 1845.
In very good condition this cannon's rich history compliments its fine appearance. The rich dark green patina is excellent and even across the piece. The tube is mounted on a period naval step carriage with wood wheels, which are sturdy and sound.
Included with the cannon are various documents including a confirmation of sale from Holland and Holland in 1981 and an article on cannon manufacture in the period, including details on this model, the 1786 Pierrier.
Length: 42" Overall on Carriage, Tube: 40 Inches Overall, 2 Inch Bore.
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