California State Military Department
The California State Military Museum
Preserving California's Military Heritage
Spanish and Mexican California
Hippolyte de Bouchard and His Attacks on the California Missions
 
 


Hippolyte de Bouchard (1783–1843) was a French revolutionary, born in Saint-Tropez. He worked in the French merchant fleet. He came to Argentina in 1809 (he is known there as Hipólito Bouchard) and became a part of Azopardo's naval squadron. He took part in the Battle of San Lorenzo as part of the Mounted Granadiers Regiment.

Bouchard became a citizen of Argentina in 1813. In 1815 he went back to the Navy, under the command of Admiral Guillermo Brown.

In 1817 Bouchard led his vessel, La Argentina, on the first circumnavigation of the globe by a ship under the Argentine flag, which took two years, and which included raids against ships and territories of the Spanish Empire. Though regarded by his victims as a pirate, he was a corsair from the then very young free state of the United Provinces of the River Plate (the direct ancestor of the present-day Argentine Republic), since he had a legal "corsair license" against any property of Spain all over the world.

On November 20, 1818 Bouchard raided the Presidio of Monterey in Monterey, California. He hired Sir Peter Corney to captain the Santa Rosa, whose crew had mutinied. Bouchard sailed to the Sandwich Islands (now Hawaii) to find new crew members, after much of his crew died from scurvy. Soon thereafter, Bouchard's forces approached the coast off of Mission Santa Bárbara and threatened the nearby town. The padres armed and trained 150 of their neophyte charges to prepare for attack. With their help, the soldiers at El Presidio de Santa Bárbara confronted Bouchard, who sailed out of the harbor without attacking.

On December 14, 1818 the privateer brought the La Argentina and the Santa Rosa to within sight of Mission San Juan Capistrano and sent forth an envoy with a demand for provisions. The garrison soldiers were aware that Bouchard (California'a only pirate) had recently conducted raids on the settlements at Monterey and Santa Barbara, so the demand was rebuffed and threats of reprisals against the pirate band were made. In response, Bouchard ordered an assault on the Mission, sending some 140 men and a trio of cannon to take the needed supplies by force. The Mission guards engaged the attackers but were overwhelmed, and the privateers left several damaged buildings in their wake, including the Governor's house, the King's stores, and the barracks.

In Argentina, Bouchard is honored as a patriot and several places (among these a major avenue in Buenos Aires) are named after him.

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