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Forced to hasten on réide
1810, the vicinity, or by the inhabitants among whom, it Aug. may be said, he was sojourning, the trip on shore
was considered in the light of a pleasant excursion, rather than of a forced irruption into an enemy's territory; when, at about 10 A. M. on the lastnamed day, an event occurred which gave a complete change to the aspect of affairs, and placed the whole party, who had hitherto considered themselves so secure, in the utmost jeopardy.
This alarm was caused by the discovery of five
ships, four of them large, away in the east-south-east boere or windward quarter, standing down under easy sail
for the Isle de la Passe channel to Grand-Port. Leavby the ing his remaining boats to get up in the best manner
they could, captain Willoughby liastened away in his french gig; and, after a hard pull of nearly five miles squa- directly to-windward, arrived, about noon, on board
the Néréide. Considering that these ships, known to be french and suspected to be what they were, would, when united with the force in Port-Louis, which the Iphigenia, on the 18th, had telegraphed as being ready for sea, be a decided overmatch for captain Pym’s three frigates, captain Willoughby resolved to endeavour to entice the former into Grand-Port. For this purpose, a french ensign and pendant were immediately hoisted by the Néréide; and french colours almost as quickly appeared on the flagstaff at the island, with the signal, “L'ennemi croise au Coin de Mire.” “The enemy is cruising off the Coin de Mire,” a patch of rocks close off the northern extremity of the Isle of France. One of the french
frigates then made the private signal, and was Decoys
answered from Isle de la Passe. Upon which they ships severally announced themselves, by their numbers, channei as the Bellone, Minérve, Victor, and two prizes.
The latter, as a reference to a few pages back will show, were the Windham and Ceylon.*
At lh. 30 m. P. M. the Victor, under her three topsails, led into the channel, and, passing the sea
* See p. 387.
battery, arrived within pistol-shot of the Néréide ; 1810. when the latter, at 1 h. 40 m. P. M., substituting Aug. the union jack for the french ensign, opened her fires at fire with such effect, that the Victor hailed that Mishe struck, and anchored on the Néréide's starboard and outer quarter. Captain Willoughby imme- pels diately sent lieutenant John Burns and lieutenant of marines Thomas Robert Pye, with a party strike. of men, to take possession of the corvette. At 1 h. 45 m. P. M. the Minerve, followed by the Ceylon, both under their topsails, entered the channel, and were fired at ineffectually by the seabattery of Isle de la Passe. While passing close Mito the Victor, after having exchanged broadsides
obliges with the Néréide, captain Bouvet hailed captain Victor Morice, and ordered him to cut his cable, rehoist and his colours, and follow. Although the Néréide's follow boat was then alongside of her, the Victor did as she had been ordered, and was quickly in the wake of the Ceylon steering towards Grand-Port.
Unfortunately a very serious accident had hap- Explopened at the island fort. While one of the men was in the act of hauling quickly down the french the colours, in order to substitute the english, and begin island. firing at the enemy, the cotton texture of the former became ignited by a match lying near the flagstaff, and instantly caused the explosion of more than 100 cartridges; whereby three men were killed, and 12 severely burnt. Five of the sea-battery guns were also dismounted at the first fire ; as was one of the four, (two on open platforms, which protected the Néréide's anchorage. One of these, likewise, in the act of firing at the Minerve, mortally wounded a quartermaster in the boat of lieutenant Burns, while on his way back from the unsuccessful attempt to secure the Victor.
The situation of the Néréide was now, as may be cal sisupposed, a very critical one ; but the situation of tuation her boats, with a great proportion of her crew on Néré board, besides a party of soldiers and artillery men, hoats.
isio. was still more critical.' These were now pulling Aug. up the narrow channel, down which the Minerve and Bellone Ceylon were sailing, and their capture appeared
inevitable. At this moment it was observed that the ham Bellone, instead of following the other ships through
the channel, had hauled off on the larboard tack, as if intending, in company with the Windham, to seek another port. Although in a 12-pounder frigate, with a great part of her crew absent, captain Willoughby thought himself a match for the Minerve, Victor, and prize indiaman, especially if he took on board the troops from the island. At 2 h. 30 m. P. M.,. just as the soldiers were about to remove into the Néréide, and the latter had loosed her sails, and was preparing to slip, the Bellone, having left the Windham steering under a crowd of sail to the westward, bore up for the passage.
The plan of attacking the Minerve was now of
course abandoned, and the Néréide began preparing escape to receive the Bellone. Just at this moment, to the reide's surprise of all on board the Néréide, the boats were
seen approaching, after having been passed, successively, by the Minerve, Ceylon, and Victor. It appears that the boats were so near to the Minerve, as to be obliged to lay in their oars, and that the french officers and men were assembled on the gangway, looking down upon them : nay one boat actually struck against the frigate. But not a word was spoken by the frigate to the boats ; nor, as may be supposed, by the boats to the frigate: an enigma in the former case, not to be explained, especially when it is considered how promptly and collectedly captain Bouvet had just before hailed the Victor, and desired her to follow him. Had he given the same orders to the boats, they must have obeyed; otherwise, with the velocity with which they were sailing, the Ceylon and Victor could with ease have run them down, He did not do so; and the boats, and the 160 or 170 officers and men they contained, reached the Néréide in safety,
At about 2 h. 40 m. P. M. the Bellone let fall her 1810. topgallantsails; and, having exchanged a fire with the
Aug. battery, hauled up a little for the Néréide, apparently Belto run her on board, but, as we conjecture, to be well lone to-windward, in her passage down the channel, of a thepasprojecting part of the shoal. At all events the soldiers rage in the Néréide were drawn up in readiness upon starboard gangway and forecastle, to repel any such attempt to board. But none was made ; for com- with modore Duperré, just as he was advancing upon ide! the Néréide's starboard bow, kept more away. At 2 h. 45 m., when so close to each other that their yards almost touched, the Bellone and Néréide exchanged broadsides. By this fire the Néréide had her driver-boom shot away close to the jaws, her fore and mizen topgallant yards and main springstay shot away, some of her rigging cut, and her foremast badly wounded below the cat-harpins ; but her loss amounted to, no more than two seamen killed and one marine wounded. This slight damage and loss was attributed to the circumstance of a sudden gust of wind laying the french frigate over, just as she was in the act of firing. What damage or loss, if any, the Bellone, or either of the other french ships, sustained has not been recorded.
At 4 P. M. captain Willoughby sent lieutenant Capt. Deacon in the launch, to captain Pym, with a note, loughannouncing the arrival of the french frigates, and by offering, with one frigate besides the Néréide, to lieut
. lead in and attack them. At 4 h. 30 m. P. M. the Deacutter, with lieutenant Weiss, was sent upon the capt same errand, but at sunset returned, not having been Pym. able to pull ahead on account of the fresh breeze and rough sea. It may naturally be asked, why the Néréide, considering how exposed she lay to an attack by two heavy french frigates and other vessels, did not get under way herself and proceed to join the Sirius. The truth is, we believe, that captain Willoughby, as he had been ordered to protect the newly acquired post of Isle de la Passe, was resolved to do so as long as he was able.
The anchorage taken up by the french frigates Aug. being 'rather nearer than 'was safe or agreeable, Throws captain Willoughby ordered the artillery officer on shells the island to try the range of his mortars. This was french done, and the first shell burst over the ships. Before ships many others could be thrown, commodore Duperré obliges either cut or slipped, and reanchored at a greater them distance off; but still in a situation to watch the move motions of the Néréide, and make an attack upon her
if deemed advisable,
At 9 A. M. on the 21st, to prove to captain Duperré a flag that the Victor had struck her colours, to impress to de- upon him an idea of the confidence with which the mand Néréide maintained her position, and to reconnoitre
and obtain a correct knowledge of that taken up by the french frigates, captain Willoughby sent lieutenant Burns and lieutenant of marines Pye, under a flag of truce, with a letter to the commodore, demanding the restoration of the Victor. Commodore Duperré replied that, before he could return an answer, he must send to the governor at Port-Louis on the opposite side of the island, a distance of nearly 25 miles; and he desired lieutenant Burns to come again at the same hour the next morning.
In full expectation that an attack would be made pares upon him by the squadron at anchor in Grand-Port, fend captain Willouglīby and those under his orders used
every means to strengthen their position and prevent surprise. There was no room on Isle de la Passe for any more guns; but a breastwork was thrown up, to prevent the approach of boats. The Néréide herself was fully prepared to effect quite as much as could be expected from her; and at night boats rowed guard between the frigate and the enemy. The only time, indeed, when any attack could be made, was with the land wind in the morning, just at the first peep of twilight. All eyes on board the Néréide, and at the island, were then directed to the north-west, and were only relieved when broad day burst forth, and the sea breeze was heard murmuring in the south-east.