Bouvet, Francois Joseph
BOUVET, FRANCOIS JOSEPH (1753-1832), French admiral, son of a captain in the service of the French East India Company, was born on the 23rd of April 1753. He went to sea at the age of twelve with his father. Bouvet served in the East Indies in the famous campaign of 1781-83 under the command of Suffren, but only in a subordinate rank. On the outbreak of the French Revolution he very naturally took the anti-royalist side. Murder and exile had removed the great majority of the officers of the monarchy, and the services of a man of Bouvet's experience were valuable. He was promoted captain and received the command of the "Audacieux" (80) in the first great fleet collected by the republic. In the same year (1793) he was advanced to rear-admiral, and he commanded a division in the fleet which fought the battle of the 1st of June 1794 against Lord Howe. Until the close of 1796 he continued in command of a squadron in the French Channel fleet. In the December of that year he was entrusted with the van division of the fleet which was sent from Brest to attempt to land General Hoche with an expeditionary force in the south of Ireland. The stormy weather which scattered the French as soon as they left Brest gave Bouvet a prominence which he had not been designed to enjoy. Bouvet, who found himself at daybreak on the 17th of December separated with nine sail of the line from the rest of the fleet, opened his secret orders, and found that he was to make his way to Mizen Head. He took a wide course to avoid meeting British cruisers, and on the 19th had the good luck to fall in with a considerable part of the rest of the fleet and some of the transports. On the 21st of December he arrived off Dursey Island at the entry to Bantry Bay. On the 24th he anchored near Bear Island with part of his fleet. The continued storms which blew down Bantry Bay, and the awkwardness of the French crews, made it impossible to land the troops he had with him. On the evening of the 25th the storm increased to such a pitch of violence that the frigate in which Bouvet had hoisted his flag was blown out to sea. The wind moderated by the 29th, but Bouvet, being convinced that none of the ships of his squadron could have remained at the anchorage, steered for Brest, where he arrived on the 1st of January 1797. His fortune had been very much that of his colleagues in this storm-tossed expedition, and on the whole he had shown more energy than most of them. He was wrong, however, in thinking that all his squadron had failed to keep their anchorage in Bantry Bay. The government, displeased by his precipitate return to Brest, dismissed him from command soon afterwards. He was compelled to open a school to support himself. Napoleon restored him to the service, and he commanded the squadron sent to occupy Guadaloupe during the peace of Amiens, but he had no further service, and lived in obscurity till his death on the 21st of July 1832.
Tronde, Batailles navales de la France, vols. ii. and iii., and James, Naval History, vols. i. and ii., give accounts of the 1st of June and the expedition to Ireland. There is a vigorous account of the expedition in Tronde's English in Ireland, and it is dealt with in Admiral Colomb's Naval Warfare.