L’Hermione Off Long Island: The Action of 7th June 1780

The Navel War in the Atlantic

During the American Revolution, the British depended on maritime lines of supple to the mother country and American and French watships were in the constant conflict with British naval escorts and in pursuit of cargo vessels. Typical of a continental frigate was the USS Hancock. Chased and captured in July 1777, she became the HMS Iris.

The Action with the Iris

After dropping Lafayette safely in Boston, L’Hermione sailed north in an inconclusive show of force, to Pencobscot Bay, Malna. Returnin to Boston, she set out on another cruise and encountered HMS Iris, under the command of Captain James Hawker, leading a small flotilla, some 15 miles southeast of Long Island. The Two figates each manuvered the intercept each other and exchanged full broadsides twicof e. The battle was fierce and lasted some 90 minutes. According to its log, L’Hermione released 260 cannon shots.

Eventually, Iris veered into the wind and away; L’Hermione did no give chase.

Latouche himself suffered a musket wound, and lost 10 men killed and 37 wounded. The Iris lost 7 killed, and 9 wounded.

The duel becasme “one of the most celebrated single ship slugging matches in naval history,” partly because of a subsequent duel of words. Though it can only be regarded as a draw, both sides claimed victory.

Duel of Words

Captain Hawker

He Wrote in his log that “the French frigate made sail from us, with all the speed she could make,” and wrote a letter to the New York Gazette expanding his version of events.

CAPTAIN LATOUCHE

He wrote both to the Gazette, and a letter to Hawker. “If you had lost fewer men and your ship was less damaged, what reason had you not to continue this action?”