On the Water

Rigged Model, Privateer Prince de Neufchatel

The privateer schooner Prince de Neufchatel was built by Adam and Noah Brown at New York in 1813. It measured 117 feet long and 320 tons. With a recorded speed of 13½ knots and a crew of 129 men, and armed with 18 cannon, it was one of the swiftest and most successful privateers of the War of 1812.

The Prince was initially owned by Mme. Flory Charreton, a French widow who moved to New York and became an American citizen sometime before 1812. It was sailed to France under Capt. J. Ordronaux and fitted out as an armed privateer at Cherbourg. In March 1814, it captured nine British prize vessels in the English Channel.

In June 1814, the Prince took six more prizes in just six days. That summer, the Prince evaded no fewer than 17 British warships that chased and tried to capture the swift American privateer. In October 1814, it survived a battle off New England with a much larger British frigate. Two months later, a squadron of three British frigates finally captured the Prince and promptly sailed it back to London to have shipwrights copy the lines of the speedy vessel at Deptford Dockyard. The Royal Navy planned to purchase the American vessel, but it was badly damaged coming out of the dry dock and sold as a wreck.

The original October 1814 articles of agreement that accompany this model list it as a brig, which is a two-masted vessel with both masts rigged with square sails. However, ship captains had the authority to rig their vessels as they pleased, and this model portrays the Prince as a hermaphrodite brig. This was a rare and short-lived rig from the early 19th century, and modern scholars disagree on its exact layout. The foremast is rigged with square sails, and the main sail on the mainmast is fore-and-aft rigged, but the upper sails on the mainmast can be rigged differently.

The lines of the Prince de Neufchatel were redrawn by the Smithsonian’s Howard I. Chapelle from the original line drawings by the British Admiralty. They are available from the ship plans collection at the National Museum of American History (americanhistory.si.edu/csr/shipplan.htm).

ID Number:
AF*59447-N
Material:
wood, textile
Date:
1965
Dimensions:
45 3/4 in x 8 5/16 in x 74 in; 116.205 cm x 21.082 cm x 187.96 cm