Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

lante

France.

César-Joseph Bourayne, of whom mention has al.

we have no doubt, have had their wishes realized. 1808. As it was, the Terpsichore returned to Pointe de Galle to refit, and the Sémillante, early in the month Sémilof April, reanchored in Port-Louis for the same purpose. The Sémillante, however, was found to be safe in too much cut up in her hull to serve again as a cruiser; especially as, to escape from the Terpsichore, she had thrown overboard a great part of her arma. ment. Captain Motard, therefore, as soon as his frigate was repaired, loaded her with a cargo of colonial produce, valued at seven million of francs, and set sail for Europe. The same good fortune, which had attended the Sémillante ever since she escaped from the british frigate Venus in May, 1793,* still accompanied her; and, in the month of February, 1809, this richly-laden french frigate succeeded in entering a port of France.

Although, from the damages she had received in French her action with the Terpsichore, the Sémillante, at the after her return to Port-Louis in April, was unable Isle of to put to sea as a cruiser, there still remained

upon the Isle of France station two french national ships. One was the 40-gun frigate Canonnière, captain

France.

ready been made; the other, the ship-corvette Jéna, of 18 long 6-pounders and 150 men, commanded by lieutenant Nicolas Morice.' This vessel had sailed from Europe as a privateer, but had since been purchased by governor Decaen to be employed as a national corvette.

Some time in the month of August, 1808, the Laprel Canonnière joined the Sémillante in the harbour of off Port-Louis ; and on the 5th or 6th of September the british 22-gun ship Laurel, captain John Charles Woollcombe, arrived off the Isle of France from the Cape; whence she had been despatched by viceadmiral Bertie, the new commander in chief on that station, with provisions for two ship-sloops expected

Port-
Louis.

* See vol. i. p.

135.

[ocr errors]

nze: uch

Sends in a

truce.

[merged small][ocr errors]

1808, to be cruising npon the Isle of France station. Not
Sept. finding these sloops, nor any other british cruiser,

off Port-Louis, captain Woollcombe conceived it to
be his duty, till relieved as he soon expected to be,
to watch the motions of the Semillante, then sup-
posed to be the only french frigate in the harbour.

In a day or two after her arrival off the island, the flag of Laurel recaptured a portuguese ship, bound last

from the rendezvous of french prizes in St.-Paul's
bay to Port-Louis. On board this ship, as pas-
şengers from Bourbon, were some ladies belonging
to the Isle of France. The gallantry of captain
Woollcombe induced him to despatch one of his
boats with a flag of truce to governor Decaen, re-
questing the general to send out a vessel to bring on
shore the ladies and their baggage. In the middle
of the night the second captain of the Canonnière, as
he afterwards proved to be, came on board the Laurel
in a flag of truce; and, having to remain until seven
or eight in the morning before the baggage could all
be enbarked, monsieur made himself thoroughly ac-
quainted with the Laurel's force in guns and men.

On the 12th, in the afternoon, the Laurel chased
Canon- a ship almost under the batteries to the north-east

of Port-Louis harbour, and, discovering the vessel to
he a cartel, was about to wear off the shore with a
light breeze from the east-south-east, when a sail was
discovered on the lee bow steering the same course as
the Laurel. The latter consequently stood on, but,
from the position of the stranger, could only make
out that she was a ship. A difference of opinion
prevailed as to her force; some of the officers taking
her for a prize indiaman, others for the Sémillante
frigate. In a little while the strange ship hove in stays;
and her pursuers saw at once that she was a large
french frigate with a commodore's broad pendant.

This was, as may be conjectured, the Canonnière out to berself. Upon the return to Port-Louis of the flag attack of truce with the ladies on board, the french officer

made such a representation of the Laurel's insigni

[ocr errors]

Falls in with

nière.

[ocr errors]

Had sailed

.

ficant force, that governor Decaen resolved to send 1808. out the Canonnière to endeavour to bring her in. In

Sept. order, too, that the contest might be quickly decided, and the least possible damage done to the prize, whose services as a french cruiser were so much in request, a party of at least 70 soldiers from the garrison, with a captain to command them, were added to the 340 or 350 officers and seamen composing the crew of the Canonnière. Armed, as has Force elsewhere appeared, with 48 guns,* manned, as we two have just shown, with full 420 men, and, as a proof ships. that she had no other object in view than the capture of the Laurel, supplied with only a few days' provisions, the Canonnière put to sea from Port-Louis. The force of the Laurel was precisely that of her sister-ship, the Comus ;t 22 long 9-pounders on the main deck, with six carronades, 18-pounders, and two long sixes on the quarterdeck and forecastle. But, of her complement of 175 men and boys, having quitted the Cape short-handed and since manned a prize, the Laurel had only 144 on board, and a few of these were sick. In point of relative size, one ship was 526, the other 1102 tons.

Notwithstanding all this, the Laurel stood on to meet the Canonnière; and, as the two vessels approached Laurel each other on opposite tacks, captain Woollcombe and called out to the master, “ Lay me as close to her nière as you can." It was now about 6 h. 30 m. P. M. ; engage. and, just as the Laurel, edging away on the larboard tack for the Canonnière's starboard bow, was about to discharge her foremost starboard maindeck gun, the Canonnière wore. Either from the lightness of the wind, or, as was considered to be the case on board the Laurel, from the mismanagement of her crew, the french frigate came so slowly round, that the former was enabled to pour into her stern a deliberate, and, as acknowledged, destructive fire. At length the Canonnière came to on the larboard

Canon.

.

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

Her loss, &c.

: the wold

1808, tack, and discharged her broadside. So well, how-
Sept. ever, did the master obey the directions given him

by captain Woollcombe as to running close to his
antagonist, that, after that broadside, nearly all the

Canonnière's shot flew over the heads of the british Laurel crew. In this way, the wind gradually sinking by the türed, cannonade to nearly a calm, did the two vessels engage,

until a few minutes before 8 P. M.; when, having had
her rigging of every sort completely destroyed, the
slings of her main yard and her gaff shot away, and
her mizenmast left tottering, the Laurel hauled down
her colours.

Out of her 144, or, adding a passenger, lieutenant
Henry Lynne, who shared the danger of the quarter-
deck with captain Woollcombe, 145 men and boys,
the Laurel, as with every attempt at explanation must
still appear extraordinary, sustained the compara-
tively slight loss of nine wounded: her master, (James
Douglas, six seamen, and two marines. Three of the
seamen lost each a leg, and one, a boatswain's mate,
died after amputation, but entirely through his own
fault. The inconsiderate man swallowed a large
quantity of raw spirits: the consequent enlargement
of the vessels about the stump burst the bandages,
and he bled to death.

The loss on board the Canonnière,as acknowledged

by captain Bourayne, amounted to five men killed nière. and 19 wounded; but it is believed that the french

captain's report referred to his proper crew only,
and that the captain of the detachment of troops had
also to report to general Decaen a loss of some
serious amount. Indeed the british officers after-
wards understood, that the killed and mortally
wounded alone in the Canonnière exceeded 20.
Among the damages received by the french frigate,
was considerable injury to her stern-frame and
quarters, and so many shot in her mizenmast that
her crew had to fish it to prevent its falling.

As soon as captain Woollcombe, lieutenant Lynne,
and the Laurel's first lieutenant, William Ingle

[ocr errors][merged small]

Loss on board Canon

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

Courtmartial

Wooll combe.

count.

Woodman, were brought on board the Canonnière, 1808. captain Bourayne, an experienced seaman of the old som

Sept. french school, and a brave officer, returned them their swords, with a suitable compliment to their gallantry. On a subsequent day, when these officers and others of the late Laurel's crew got back to the Cape of Good Hope, the sentence of a court-martial most honourably acquitted them of the loss of their ship; oncapt

. and the president, captain Josias Rowley, passed a very handsome encomium upon captain Woollcombe, for his brave and able defence of the Laurel against an enemy's ship, that was acknowledged to be more than doubly superior to her.

Until the statement of a contemporary met our Capt. eyes, we could almost have sworn, that every officer ton's in the french, as well as in the english, naval service acwould have praised the defence of the Laurel, and have concurred in the opinion, that no efforts of captain Woollcombe, even could they have been more skilfully directed than they were, would have enabled him to succeed against such a ship as the Canonnière. Of all things, too, the individual, who, in dissenting from that opinion, argues against physical impossibility, is the brother of the gallant officer that once commanded the Canonnière; and who, we are sure, would have gladly encountered, in the Minerve, as was then the

frigate's name, two french ships armed and manned like the Laurel. Indeed there was not an 18-gun brig in the british navy that, with her 32-pounder carronades, would not haveconsidered herself a match for her. After narrating, in his usual brief manner, (including an omission of the date, the action between the Laurel and Canonnière, our contemporary proceeds thus: “ The character of captain Woolcomb received no blemish from this misfortune, a court-martial having honourably acquitted him : in his mode of fighting he appears to have adhered to the old'english maxim, of firing at the tier of guns. In a case of this sort, where the opponent was of so

« AnteriorContinuar »