Initially, the ship was known as L'Indien (Note: According to various different sources, the name is also Indien). Boux oversaw the laying of her keel in a private Dutch shipyard in Amsterdam, Holland in early 1777 and her launching (while she was still only partially completed) in February 1778. Another source lists the keel as being laid in 1776; the ship actually being launched in November 1777; with the first commissioning being in April 1778. Boux may have chosen to have her built in Holland in the hopes of deceiving the British as to her real purpose. In early 1777, France was close to a declared war against England and her ports were closely watched by not only Royal Navy warships in the English Channel but, more closely by British spies or Frenchmen in the pay of the British secret service. Holland was actually a neutral country at the time and thus Boux may have deliberately chosen to lay the keel and build her in Amsterdam harbor. He also may well have chosen the name, L'Indien, to try to mask the true intent of the ship. This name implies that she was destined to be a merchantman of the Dutch East Indies trade (the name literally means "The Indian Man". Some sources state the name as being L'Indienne which would be translated as "The Indian Woman". Many of the biographies of John Paul Jones, who desperately wanted command of this ship, refer to her as L'Indienne or as Indienne or Indien). But, the British had eyes and ears everywhere and there was a very effective spy/information-gathering network in Amsterdam also, so the British knew of the nature of the construction of the L'Indien, as she was initially known. Interestingly, British spies and paid informers would always orbit around this ship wherever she moored - Holland, France, Spain and the colonies - before her capture. Information may have been sent from Philadelphia to British headquarters in New York stating that the ship was indeed there in the fall of 1782 and intended on sailing soon from that city for another cruise against British shipping. Hence, the three heavily-gunned British warships waiting for her to emerge from the Delaware River in December 1782.
Through out most of her life, the ship was known as L'Indien or one of the variants of this name listed above - L'Indienne, Indienne, L'Indien or Indien. When the ship was turned over to the control of the state of South Carolina, her name was changed by Commodore Alexander Gillon to the South Carolina and remained as such through out her service to this state. This would have taken place on May 30, 1781 or shortly thereafter. The significance of this date was it marked the signing over of the L'Indien/South Carolina by the Chevalier de Luxembourg to the state of South Carolina and simultaneously turning it over the the command of Commodore Alexander Gillon of that state. But, there is no evidence that the name was changed after her capture by the Royal Navy on December 20, 1782. As a matter of fact, the memoirs of Johann Dohla, a Hessian soldier, makes several references to the South Carolina as transporting Hessian troops to Longreach and Deal, England in late 1783 as Crown forces were being withdrawn from the United States. In his memoirs, Dohla specifically uses the name South Carolina in referring to the ship. In a twist of fate, one of the ships that escorted this particular convoy of ships across the Atlantic Ocean was the HMS Quebec, one of the Royal Navy frigates that captured the South Carolina in December 1782. The fate of the South Carolina after this is shrouded in mystery. It would be one thing for a great warship to end its days in battle, storm or through decommissioning. But, this was not to be the case of the South Carolina. She simply disappeared into the mists of time.
The L'Indien was unique ship from the very beginning. Her mainmast towered 103' above the main deck. This seems to be the only dimension of the ship that is not contested. One source lists her as having a keel (end to end - length) length of 168' and a beam (side to side - width) of 47'. Another source states that she had a keel length of 170' and a beam of 43' 3". A third source states that she had a keel length of 149', a beam width of 49' and a "gun deck" length of 160'. Her draught (depth of the water that she plunged to below the water level when at sea) is variously given as being 22' or 16' 6". She displaced 1,453 tons. According to one source, she possessed the scantlings (in naval architecture terms - the dimensions of) and lines of a small 74-gun third rate, ship-of-the-line but, was constructed to be a frigate. A source referenced above lists her as a fourth rate, ship-of-the-line. As to armament, she carried 28 Swedish 36-pounders on her main deck and 12 "long" 12-pounders on her quarterdeck and forecastle. She could easily deliver over 500 pounds of iron in a single broadside (another source lists her as being able to deliver 1,152 pounds of iron in a single broadside. The author of this blog wondered about this great discrepancy of weight of shot in a single broadside until he realized that this last calculation is the weight on all of her guns being fired at once - a double broadside - which would have never been done in 18th century naval warfare). After her capture and being brought into New York harbor, the British did an inventory of the ship which included her armament. These were listed as being 28 39-pounders, 10 (not 12) "long" 12-pounders on her quarterdeck and 2 9-pounders on her forecastle. There is some evidence that she may have carried as many as 8 smaller guns but, the British inventory does not give any mention of these additional guns. It may have been that these additional pieces of armament could have been added to the ship's arsenal after she had been launched and thus would not be "officially" included among her shipboard guns at her initial launching. Also, the source mentioned above also lists among her armaments 4 French 4-pounders, which may account for some of the "extra" guns aboard her when she was captured. These may well have been swivel guns on her forecastle due to their smaller size when compared with the other main guns listed as main ship armament.
At some point during the construction of L'Indien, Boux must have become aware of or been made aware of the fact that the bar at the mouth of Amsterdam harbor was too shallow for L'Indien to pass over it when she was fully outfitted, armed, crewed and finally launched. In fact, the depth of the bar has been listed at 13' at this point in history but, L'Indien drew at least 16' 6" of water, if not more (22' according to another source). In the opinion of this writer, this is the main reason for L'Indien remaining in Amsterdam harbor for so long. One can imagine the chagrin of Boux at learning this potentially devastating fact. It will be seen that the realization of this fact caused untold number of problems and difficulties in the later life of L'Indien/South Carolina. It would take a man of particular intelligence, vision, and drive to get her out of Amsterdam harbor and into the open expanses of the North Sea. Alexander Gillon of South Carolina was that man.