Hippolyte de Bouchard, or Hipólito de Bouchard (January 15, 1780], or 1783– January 4, 1843), was a French and Argentine sailor and corsair who fought for Argentina, Chile, and Peru. During his first campaign as an Argentine corsair he attacked the Spanish colonies of Chile and Peru, under the command of the Argentine-Irish Admiral William Brown. He was the first Argentine to circumnavigate the world. During his voyage around the world he blockaded the port of Manila, recovered, in Hawaii, an Argentine privateer which had been seized by mutineers, occupied Monterey, California, raising the Argentine flag there and claiming for that country, for a short time, a small portion of the future State of California. After raiding Monterey, he raided Mission San Juan Capistrano in Southern California. Toward the end of the voyage he raided the Spanish ports in Central America. Therefore, in his second homeland he is remembered as a hero and patriot; several places are named in his honour.
Bouchard was known for his heated temper, which led to incidents between him and his subordinates, to whom he meted out terrible punishment whenever they disobeyed him.
Bouchard was born in Saint-Tropez in 1780 or 1783. The son of André Louis Bouchard and Thérèse Brunet was baptized as André Paul but eventually went by the name Hippolyte. He initially worked in the French merchant fleet, then served in the French Navy in their campaigns against the English, thus starting his life at sea. After many campaigns in Egypt and Santo Domingo, and disillusioned with the way the French Revolution was going, the young Bouchard came to Argentina in 1809 and, in order to aid the May Revolution, became a part of the National Argentine Fleet, led by Azopardo. On March 2, 1811 he fought for the first time under the Argentine Flag by defeating the Spanish Captain Jacinto de Romarate in San Nicolás de los Arroyos, and in July and August of that year he played a major role in defending the City of Buenos Aires from a Spanish blockade. In March, 1812 Bouchard joined the Mounted Grenadiers Regiment led by José de San Martín and took part in the Battle of San Lorenzo in 1813, where he captured a Spanish flag and therefore was granted Argentine citizenship. Some months later he married Norberta Merlo.
Campaign with William Brown
In 1815 Bouchard started a naval campaign under the command of Admiral William Brown, wherein he attacked the fortress of El Callao and the Ecuadorian city of Guayaquil. On September 12, 1815 he was granted a corsair license to fight the Spanish aboard the French-built corvette Halcón, which had been bought to the Argentine State by Vicente Anastacio Echeverría. Most of the officers were French, except for the second commander, the Englishman Robert Jones, and Ramón Freire. Before weighing anchor a conflict between Bouchard and his superiors arose when the expedition’s agent, Severino Prudant, promoted several sailors. Echevarría intervened and settled the conflict.
The campaign fleet was composed of the frigate Hercules under the command of William Brown, the Santísima Trinidad under the command of his brother, Miguel Brown, the schooner Constitución under the command of Oliverio Russell, and the Halcón. The Hércules and Santísima Trinidad set sail from Montevideo on October 24; the other two ships departed five days later. The plan was for all four ships to rendezvous at Mocha Island where they would establish a plan of operation. The Brown brothers arrived at the island on 28 December, with the Halcón arriving the following day. Upon arrival Bouchard announced that while circumnavigating Cape Horn his ship was exposed to fourteen days of severe weather, and it was on that basis that he had concluded that the Constitución had sunk (neither the ship nor its crew were ever seen again). On December 31 Brown and Bouchard agreed to operate together during the first hundred days of 1816. Any plunder would be divided as follows: two parts to Brown, as the commander-in-chief, and one-and-a-half parts each for the Santísima Trinidad and the Halcón. Bouchard and Miguel Brown subsequently set course for the Peruvian coast, while the Hércules sailed to the Juan Fernández Islands in order to free a number of patriots that were being held prisoner there.
On January 10, 1816 the three vessels met again near the fortress of El Callao. The ships formed a blockade and bombarded Guayaquil and its nearby the fortification. The following day the group seized the brigantine San Pablo, which was used to transport sick and injured sailors as well as the liberated prisoners. On the 13th the frigate Gobernadora was captured, and Lt. Colonel Vicente Banegas, officer of the Republican Army of Nueva Granada, joined the fleet. Four more ships were commandeered on the 18th, including the schooner Carmen and the brig Místico along with two other ships, one of which was sacked and sunk. On January 21 the Argentine fleet again attacked the fortress, sinking the frigate Fuente Hermosa in the process. Seven days later two more vessels were captured, the frigates Candelaria and Consecuencia. The next day the expanded fleet sailed north in the search of the Guayas River. On February 7 the Argentine contingent arrived at Puná Island, near Guayaquil. As they arrived, William Brown ordered Bouchard and his brother to stay close to the seven ships they had captured. Brown took the command of the Santísima Trinidad, with which he wanted to attack Guayaquil. The next day his attack demolished the fort of Punta de Piedras, located some five leagues from Guayaquil. However, on 9 February Brown failed in his attempt to take the castle of San Carlos, and was instead captured by the royalist forces. After a long negotiation, the Argentine corsairs traded Brown for the Candelaria, three brigantines and five correspondence chests that had been taken from the Consecuencia.
After three days, Bouchard informed Brown that his ship was close to sinking and that the officers wished to return to Buenos Aires. He then asked for a division of the booty, and received the Consecuencia, the Carmen, and 3,475 pesos as compensation (he had to leave the Halcón behind). Bouchard elected to return to Buenos Aires via Cape Horn, and it was there that new incidents with the crew arose, many of which were solved with violence, such as a duel with one of his sergeants. When an officer on the Carmen notified Bouchard that the ship was in imminent danger of foundering, Bouchard nonetheless ordered the man to continue the journey. As a result, the crew mutinied and headed to the Galápagos Islands. The Consecuencia, with Bouchard still in command, made port in Buenos Aires on June 18.
Campaign with La Argentina
The beginning of the campaign
Bouchard decided to stay with the frigate Consecuencia for his next campaign. In concert with Vicente Echevarría the ship’s name was changed to La Argentina. Preparing the ship was not an easy task, as it was very heavy and some 100 meters long. Echevarría acquired 34 artillery pieces and hired experienced carpenters to mount them in place. Upon Bouchard’s request, the Argentine State gave him 4 bronze cannons and 12 iron cannons, 128 guns, and 1,700 cannonballs, but he was unable to requisition small arms such as boarding guns or sabers (even cavalry sabers). Even more difficult was finding the 180 men he needed for a crew, especially given Bouchard’s reputation as ill-tempered (which dogged him after the conflicts in the Pacific). Most of the sailors he did enlist were foreigners, though some were from the provinces of Corrientes and Entre Ríos.
On June 25, with La Argentina still in port, a sailor struck one of his superiors, an act of insubordination. When Bouchard discovered this he ordered the sailor’s arrest, provoking general unrest. One of the fellow sailors attacked Commander Sommers, who killed him in self defense. This did not prevent other members of the crew from barricading themselves inside the ship, which led their being forcibly removed by the marine infantry, led by Sommers. Two crewmen were killed in the conflict, and four others were wounded. Following the altercation Echevarría sent a letter to Supreme Director Juan Martín de Pueyrredón explaining that the incident was the result of the crew having been stuck in Buenos Aires for an extended period, and that chances of further outbreaks would be lessened once the ship put to sea. Two days later La Argentina headed to Ensenada de Barragán, which started rumors flying that Bouchard had deserted the service. In reality, the frigate disembarked under the authority of a general order which required ships that were subjected to loading delays and such but were otherwise seaworthy leave the harbor in order that they not be caught at anchor should the Spanish attempt an invasion.
On June 27 Bouchard obtained the Argentine corsair patent (a “letter of marque”) that authorized him to prey on Spanish commerce, the countries of Spain and Argentina being in a state of war at the time.
On July 9, 1817 (the first anniversary of the signing of the Argentine Declaration of Independence) Bouchard set out from Ensenada de Barragán in command of La Argentina on a two-year voyage, intending to travel across the Atlantic to the African coast in order to circumnavigate around the Cape of Good Hope and engage a fleet of ships operated by the Company of the Philippines that had sailed from Spain to India. However, a fire broke out on July 19, which the crew had to fight for hours until it was extinguished. Consequently, when the ship subsequently arrived in the Indian Ocean it headed northeast to Madagascar, where it laid up at Tamatave (on the east of the island) for a period of two months while repairs were effected. Once in Tamatave, a British officer requested Bouchard’s assistance in preventing four “slaver” ships (three British and one French) from leaving the island, whereupon Bouchard offered the use of all his available troops. The La Argentina seized the slavers’ food supplies and recruited five French sailors prior to departing Madagascar with the intent of launching attacks on the Spanish merchant vessels that sailed in region. Unfortunately, much of the crew was soon afflicted with scurvy, which required that ship’s operations be conducted by those few sailors who had escaped illness. On October 18 La Argentina encountered an American frigate that passed on the news that the Company of the Philippines had ended trade with India three years prior.
La Argentina headed toward the Philippines, weathering several storms in the Sunda Strait (that divides Island of Java and Sumatra, and connects the Java Sea with the Indian Ocean) along the way. On November 7 Bouchard decided to land at Java in order to let his sick crew members recuperate. After leaving the island, La Argentina continued on its journey to the Philippines. Traveling through the region was fraught with danger due to the presence of Malayan pirates, and was compounded the crew’s weakened condition. The pirate ships were equipped with cannons in the prow and in the stern, and were outfitted with one mast and many oars. The Lanun as they were known to the Malay people were not seen until the morning of December 7, when the watchman sighted four small ships. Combat was delayed until midday when the largest of the pirate vessels attempted to close in on La Argentina. As Bouchard preferred to instigate boarding actions and relied on hand-to-hand combat he therefore chose to forgo firing upon the aggressor. La Argentina’s crew prevailed and were ordered to take the ship; in the meantime, the other would-be attackers fled. Bouchard convened a “war council” to judge the prisoners, sentencing all of them to death, save for the youngest. The condemned prisoners were returned to their ship (its mast had been damaged, and it was therefore unable to flee); the damaged ship was subjected to salvo after salvo of cannon fire from La Argentina until it was sunk with all hands aboard.
After passing through the Makassar Strait, La Argentina crossed the Celebes Sea and made landfall on the island of Joló. There she re-supplied and headed to the Spanish port at Manila for the purpose of establishing a blockade. Upon arrival on January 31, 1818 the Argentines stopped an English frigate attempting to dock to determine whether or not it carried supplies for the Spanish colony. Bouchard attempted to hide his origin, but the frigate’s captain discerned what his true intentions were and warned the Spanish authorities of his intentions. The City of Manila had fortified walls and was protected by a redoubt, Fort Sanitago, with powerful artillery. Bouchard instead began to plunder nearby vessels, all the while staying clear of the Spanish cannons. For the next two months La Argentina captured a total of 16 ships through the use of intimidating cannon fire and quick boardings, while Manila’s inhabitants fell into a state of despair as the price of food doubled, and even tripled. The governor sent two armed merchant vessels, accompanied by a corvette, to engage La Argentina. The group missed its opportunity, however, as Bouchard had already departed the area on March 30.
Few days after, the ship sighted a brigantine from the Mariana Islands. When it noticed the proximity of La Argentina, it fled to the port of Santa Cruz. The Argentine frigate was unable to approach the harbor because of its draft, so Bouchard ordered Sommers, Greissac and Van Buren to use three boats to capture the ship. The three officers and many crew members started to approach the brigantine that had not arrived to the port. Sommers managed to arrive get very close to the vessel when it anchored but his boat sunk as it crashed with the hull of the enemy ship. The brigantine’s crew, instead of taking them prisoners they decided to attack them and killed fourteen of them. The others were rescued by Greissac and Van Buren and returned to the frigate.
Bouchard wanted to revenge the deaths, but in order to capture the brigantine he needed a vessel with a smaller stern. So he ordered Greissac to lead some sailors and take any of the schooners that sailed near the port. Once captured, Bouchard put a number of cannons in her. He placed Greissac and Oliver in command of her with 35 sailors. The schooner attacked on April 10 but the brigantine’s crew had fled. When they were away from Santa Cruz, the Argentines took a Spanish schooner loaded with precious cargo. However, because of the strong winds it was possible to send only an officer and eight sailors to sail the vessel. The schooner was in sight until April 15, possibly the insubordination was caused by the value of the shipment. La Argentina traveled to the Sandwich Islands (now Hawaii) to find new crew members to replace the those who had died from scurvy. Bouchard hired Sir Peter Corney to captain the Santa Rosa, a captured ship whose crew had mutinied.
Sandwich Islands (Hawaii)
On August 17 Bouchard arrived at Kealakekua Bay on the western coast of the island of Hawaii. A group of natives came close to the ship in a canoe and informed them, in English, that a corvette, which used to be Spanish but had been sold to King Kamehameha I, was also at anchor in the harbor. They also told them that, on the previous night, a frigate had departed. Bouchard decided to chase the frigate, which they found becalmed. He ordered Sheppard to take a rowboat to ask the frigate’s commander for information about the ship in the Hawaiian harbor. Sheppard found out that it was the Santa Rosa or the Chacabuco, a corvette that had weighed anchor at Buenos Aires almost the same day the La Argentina had. The crew of Santa Rosa had mutinied near Chile’s coast and headed to Hawaii, where the crew had attempted to sell the vessel to the Hawaiian king. The French privateer forced the frigate to return to the harbor, because he suspected that among its crew were hiding some of the mutineers. While investigating the men he found nine men he had seen in Buenos Aires and punished them. After an interrogation he found out the revolt’s leaders were hiding in Kauai Island.
When he arrived to the harbor he found the Santa Rosa almost dismantled, therefore he decided to meet king Kamehameha I wearing his uniform of Lieutenant Colonel of the United Provinces of River Plate. During the meeting Bouchard demanded the restitution of the corvette.
On August 26 he took charge of the Santa Rosa, which he had to partially re build. Six days later he arrived to Kauai island. There he captured those who had mutinied in the Santa Rosa, shooting the leaders and punishing the rest with twelve whips in the face. After buying food, ammunition and hiring eighty men, the fleet left, heading to California.
California and Central America
Bouchard decided to sail towards California because he wanted to take advantage of the Spanish trade. However the Spanish authorities knew his intentions since on October 6 the Clarion had reported two corsair ships were ready to attack the Californian coasts. The governor, Pablo Vicente de Solá, who resided in Monterey, ordered to take away from the city all the valuables and to transport far away two thirds of the gunpowder stocked in the military outposts.
On November 20, 1818, the watchman of Punta de Pinos, located in one of the tips of Monterey Bay, sighted the two Argentine ships. Once the governor was informed of these facts the Spanish prepared the cannons along the coastline, the garrison went to their fight positions and the women, children, and men unfit to fight were sent to Soledad.
Bouchard met with his officers to design the attack plan. Officer Corney knew the bay very well because had already visited Monterey two times. They decided to use the corvette Santa Rosa to attack since the La Argentina frigate could hit the bottom of the sea due to her big draft. The frigate had to be towed by small boats and taken away from the Spanish artillery. Once it was out of range, Bouchard sent captain Sheppard to the Santa Rosa, leading two hundred soldiers, carrying guns and spears.
Santa Rosa corvette, led by Sheppard, anchored by midnight near the Spanish fort. Since, after towing the frigate and rowing back to the corvette the men were very tired, Sheppard decided not to attack in the night. At dawn he discovered that he had anchored too close to the coast and that few meters ahead the Spanish artillery was ready to attack them. The captain decided to open fire, but after fifteen minutes of combat the corvette had to surrender. From the frigate, Bouchard saw how his men were defeated, but he also noticed that the Spanish did not attempt to take control of Santa Rosa because they did not have boats. The corsair ordered to weight anchors and move towards the port. However, due to the frigate’s draft, he could not get close enough to open fire. After sunset they started to bring to the frigate the survivors of the corvette.
Before dawn, November 24, Bouchard ordered his men to board the boats. They were 200: 130 had guns and 70 had spears. They landed seven kilometers away from the fort in a hidden creek. The fort posed a very weak resistance, and after an hour of combat the Argentine flag was flying upon it. The Argentines took the city for six days, storing which they stole the cattle and burned the fort, the artillery headquarters, the governor’s residence and the Spanish houses. The creole population was not harmed.
On November 29 they left Monterey, passed Point Conception, and anchored off of Refugio Canyon, about twenty miles west of Santa Barbara, where they went to the hacienda of the Ortega family. The ranch was owned by a family that, it was told to Bouchard, had strongly supported the Spanish cause. On December 5 the Argentines disembarked near the farm and, without finding any resistance, they took all the food, killed the cattle, and slit the throats of the saddle horses in the corrals. A small squadron of cavalry, sent by José De la Guerra from the Santa Barbara Presidio, waited quietly nearby until they had an opportunity to capture some stragglers. They were able to capture an officer and two sailors, which they brought back to the Presidio in chains. Bouchard waited for them the whole day, because he thought they were lost, until he decided to burn the farm and go to Mission Santa Barbara, where the three men could have been taken as prisoners. Once he arrived at Santa Bárbara, and seeing the town was heavily defended (in reality, what Bouchard saw through his spyglass was the same small troop of cavalry, which stopped and changed costume each time it passed behind a heavy clump of brush), the privateer sent a messenger to speak to the governor. After the negotiation the three captured men returned to the Santa Rosa and Bouchard set free one of his prisoners.
The Mission San Juan Capistrano
On December 16 the ships weighted anchors and headed to San Juan Capistrano. There he requested food and ammunition; a Spanish officer said “he had enough gunpowder and cannonballs for me”. Bouchard did not tolerate to be threatened and decided to send one hundred men to take the town. After a short fight the corsairs took some valuables and burned the Spanish houses. On December 20 he left for Vizcaíno Bay, where he repaired the ships and allowed his men to rest. Among the Spanish settlements in California the raids earned Bouchard a reputation as “California’s only pirate” (and was therefore often referred to as Pirata Buchar by the Spanish colonists of the day).
On January 17, they sailed to a city called San Blas, located in what is now Mexico, a port they would start to blockade eight days later. On March 1 while blockading San Blas, they sighted a schooner. The two ships began to chase her but failed to reach her. Afterwards, Bouchard ordered to proceed to Acapulco following the coastline. Once they arrived, he sent a boat with an officer to explore the place, and to report the quantity and quality of the ships in the harbour. The officer reported there was no relevant ship nearby, which is why they decided to sail away.
On March 18 the Argentines went to a town called Sonsonete in El Salvador. An officer was sent to spy on the port and he informed there were reasonable ships to board. On that day Bouchard captured a brigantine. On April 2 they arrived to port El Realejo, and prepared two boats with cannons and sixty men, led by Bouchard himself. They were sighted by the port’s watch, however, and Spanish troops went to defend the ships. In addition, they had protected the port with four ships: a brig, two schooners and a lugger. After an intense combat three ships were taken. Bouchard burned the brig San Antonio and the schooner Lauretana, because their owners had not offered enough money for them, 30,000 and 20,000 duros respectively. Due to their quality he kept the lugger, Neptuno, and the second schooner, María Sofía.
After the combat in El Realejo, the Argentines found the same schooner with the Spanish flag that they had lost in San Blas. The ship went forward towards the Santa Rosa, whose crew was composed by inexpert Hawaiian sailors and had few artillery. A first attack killed three Argentines and wounded many more. When the Argentine ship was going to repel the enemies’ boarding, the schooner took out the Spanish flag and showed it was a Chilean ship, called Chileno (Chilean). It was commanded by a corsair whose surname was Croll. Bouchard demanded that his surgeon heal the wounded, but the Chilean corsair decided to go away.
On April 3, 1819 Hipollyte de Bouchard’s long expedition ended. He decided to go to Valparaíso, in Chile in order to collaborate with José de San Martín’s liberating campaign. Some historians, for example Miguel Ángel de Marco, suggest that the flags of the United Provinces of Central America and most of the states that composed it were inspired by the Argentine Flag that Bouchard took with him.
On July 9, 1819, exactly two years after Bouchard left Buenos Aires, the Santa Rosa and the María Sofía arrived to Valparaíso. the 12th of the same month arrived the Neptuno and one day later arrived La Argentina. Bouchard was informed that Thomas Cochrane had ordered his arrest. The corsair replied that the Chilean government had no authority to judge him and that he would only speak about his travels to the Argentine authority. The trial for piracy started on July 20. In September a Chilean fleet had left to Peru to try to take El Callao fortress. Then, the corsair’s defense decided to accelerate the trial and the court decided, on December 9, to return all ships, papers and documents to Bouchard; however the money and the booty were not given back. The ships had no sails nor cannons, because they had been requested by the Chilean navy. Bouchard, with no money, used a schooner to deliver clay to Buenos Aires, and due to the poor future of his ships, he decided to change the name of La Argentina to Consecuencia, the name it had before being taken. They were used as transport ships: the Consecuencia took 500 soldiers to Peru, while Santa Rosa took cattle and weapons.