Ambroise-Louis Garneray(19 February 1783 - 11 September 1857) was a French corsair, painter and writer. He served under Robert Surcouf and Jean-Marie Dutertre, and was held prisoner by the British for eight years.
Garneray was born in Paris (on Rue Saint-Andre-des-arts, in the Latin Quarter) on 19 February 1783. He was the elder son of Jean-François Garneray (1755-1837), painter of the king, who was pupil of Jacques-Louis David. At thirteen, he joined the Navy as a seaman, encouraged by his cousin, Beaulieu-Leloup, commander of the frigate Forte ("the Stout one"). Garneray sailed from Rochefort to the Indian Ocean with the frigate division under Sercey, to which the Forte belonged.
Garneray took part in the various campaigns of Sercey division and witnessed the hardship it met in the battle against Arrogant and Victorious. He then served in 1798 on the corvette Brûle Gueule ("Mouth burner"), which patrolled with the frigate Preneuse ("the Taker"). Returning from this campaign, the Brûle Gueule and Preneuse were chased by a British squadron comprising two ships of the line, one frigate and one corvette; the French flew into a creek near Black River whose shallow waters prevented the British from pursuing. The next day, the British squadron attacked; the French had established strong defensive positions by installing the unusable batteries of their ships ashore, and repelled the British squadron.
In 1799, Garneray was promoted to quartermaster and "first painter of the edge" on the Preneuse under captain Jean-Marthe-Adrien l'Hermite. The frigate was the last French official force in the Indian Ocean. This patrol went into trouble, in spite of an exceptional combat against the British ship of the line the Jupiter. Returning to Mauritius, her crew suffered from scurvy, and the Preneuse had to be kept quarantined and had to return to the British forces making the blockade of the island. Garneray escaped captivity by regaining the coast with the stroke. In spite of the disaster, Garneray kept longstanding admiration and friendship for to Lhermitte, whom he would continue to visit until his death 1826.
Garneray: Capture of Kent by SurcoufFor lack of official ships, Garneray joined the Confiance ("the Trust") of Robert Surcouf as an ensign, from April at December 1800. He took part in the capturing and boarding the Kent in October 1800. It was the only time where Garneray made money as a sailor. Upon returning from patrol, he invested his share in a slave trading ship, l'Union, on which he was a first mate.
He sailed on various trading ships during the peace of Amiens, after which he served aboard the Pinson ("the Finch"), a cutter based in Île Bourbon. He replaced the commander when he died, and was shipwrecked shortly thereafter. He then served on the corsair Tigre du Bengale and eventually on the frigate Atalante attached to the squadron of Linois. He later served on the Belle Poule ("beautiful chick"), and was aboard when she was captured by the British in March 1806. Wounded, Garneray was led in England and spent the eight following years on prison hulks off Portsmouth (on the Protee, the Couronne ("Crown") and the Vengeance. He was able to improve his standard of living by selling paintings to a British merchant.
A statement attributed to him goes: "But for piracy, I believe that I practiced about all kinds of navigation".