Captain Knapp and the Mayflower, February 1762

From The London Chronicle.

The Mayflower, Knapp, bound from London to Guernsey, being in the Downs on Sunday night, a large vessel in the gale of wind drove on board of the Mayflower, broke her bowsprit; and, to prevent being sunk, Captain Knapp was obliged to cut his cables, and put to sea; and on Tuesday about eight o'clock in the morning, the Isle of Wight bearing from them N.W. about four leagues, the wind shifted to the N.W. and blowing a storm, obliged Captain Knapp to bear away for Dover; and that evening, about five o'clock, being about two miles off Fairleigh, he was taken by the Chevalier Demurse [De Mezières] privateer, of Dunkirk, Capt. René Brisson, and ransomed for 120 guineas. The vessel got yesterday into Dover.

René Brisson was based in the notorious privateers’ lair of Dunkirk. He was captured and taken prisoner while piloting and captaining the Prince de Soubise privateer, but after being bailed by a 'Gentleman of Portsmouth' in 1757, he escaped to France. He was returned by the French authorities following representations. In 1762 Brisson was busy; he is reported to have taken into Dieppe in January two prizes of navy transport ships with hundreds of soldiers from Loudun's and Manners' Regiments, which were on their way back from Belle-Isle (then in British possession) to England, in recognition of which he received a sword from the king: 'deux prises Anglaises, faites par la Corvette la Gelinotte et par le Corsaire le Chevalier de Mezières. Çés prises n'étoient chargés que d'Officiers et de Soldats, qui retournoient da Belle-Isle en Angleterre. Elles avoient à bord un Lieutenant-Colonel, 2 Capitaines, cinq Lieutenants, quatre Enseignes, cent quarante et un Soldats (du Régiment de Loudon, et cent trente trios du Régiment de Maners).' (Gazette de Cologne, 1762)

Brisson's ship was new, and had first put to sea in October 1761. His privateering season ended on the 4th April 1762, when the increasing daylight was seen as unfavourable to the activity. See 'Le Journal de M. Henri Verbeke,' Bulletin de l'Union Fauconnier, XVII (1), 1914, pp. 225 ff.

There are pedigrees of the Knapp family in the Library, worked up by Edith Carey. The family was prominent in Guernsey and Jersey at this period. Several were sea captains. This Knapp, if he was from the Guernsey branch, may well have been Gabriel, who had previously captained the Kitty, and was an old man in 1762. He was not put off by his misadventure: the Mayflower was back home in Guernsey in September 1762, having been to Antigua and picked up a cargo of rum.

'Knapps from Reserson papers:'

2 April 1692. Capitaine Jean Knapp Junior and Dame Marie Lihou. Children: Jean, bapt. 1 December 1692; Charles, bapt. 16 December 1694; Gabriel, bapt. 21 March 1696/7; Marie & Martha, bapt. 23 July 1699; Catherine, bapt. 30 July 1794.

31 December 1696. Capitaine Elizée Knapp and Dame Marie Le Cocq. Children: Elizée, bapt.14 November 1697; Marie, bapt. 3 June 1699; Pierre, bapt. 10 November 1700; Martha, bapt. 20 October 1702; Martha, bapt. 25 January 1794; James, bapt. 20 April 1707. [p 97. List of privateers and prizes, in Library Strongroom.]