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steering to the south-west, and at 8 A. M., the wind then a fresh breeze from the eastward, was but four miles ahead of the leading British ship, the Blonde. During the day's chase, the Nereide gained about two miles of the Blonde; when the latter, at 10 p. M., carried away her main topmast and the yard with it, also her foretopsail yard and fore and mizen topgallantmasts. The Blonde, in consequence, dropped astern; and the remaining ships continued the chase throughout the night, the Melampus leading. During the whole of the 10th the Nereide kept gaining by degrees on the Melampus; who at 8 P. M. lost sight of her squadron, and, at 10 h. 30 m. P. in., of the French frigate. In another hour the Melampus shortened sail, and hauled to the wind on the starboard tack, to rejoin her consorts.
Thus relieved of her pursuers, the Nereide steered a more northerly course, intending to make her voyage back by the windward passage, or that between the islands of St.-Domingo and Cuba. On the 13th, at daylight, when within eight or ten leagues of Pointe Abacou upon the first-named island, another enemy made her appearance to windward. This was the British 22-gun ship Rainbow, Captain James Wooldridge. The latter hoisted the English and Spanish private signals, and, finding them not answered, bore up in chase and cleared for action. At 8 h. 30 m. A. M. the Nereide brought to to reconnoitre the ship which was so boldly approaching her, and must soon have discovered that she had but 10 ports and a bridle of a side on her main deck, three on her quarterdeck, and one on her forecastle, total 28 ports, just the number of guns the ship mounted." Nor could the Rainbow's size have alarmed her, for the ship did not measure more than 587 tons. However,'the re was a something about the British ship that the Nereide did not like; and at 9 A. M. the latter bore up and made all sail. Captain Wooldridge followed; and at noon, Pointe Abacou then bearing north-northwest distant six or seven leagues, the Rainbow was within a mile and a half of a French frigate of more than double her force in guns, men, and size. The chase continued during the afternoon, without any perceptible advantage to either ship; and at 8 P. M. Captain Wooldridge, as his duty prescribed, let off several rockets, to apprize any friend who might be in sight of them, that the Rainbow was in pursuit of an enemy.
On the 14th, at 4 A. M., the Rainbow was within about a mile of the Nereide, and at 9 A. M. exchanged numbers with the 18-gun brig-sloop Avon (sixteen 32-pounder carronades and two sixes), Captain Henry Tillieux Fraser, then about six miles north-west by north of Cape Tiburon, and consequently to leeward of both ships. The Avon was soon under all sail in chase, standing across the enemy's course. At 1 h. 15m. P.m. the
Nereide fired her maindeck stern-chasers at the Rainbow; and in 10 minutes the French captain cut away his stem-boat, in order that the quarterdeck chasers might also bear. A shot about this time carried away the Rainbow's larboard foretopmast studding-sail boom. At 2h. 30m. P.m. the French frigate, whose course had been north-west by west, hauled by degrees more to the southward, and at 3 h. 30 m. p. M. opened her broadside upon the Rainbow; who, hauling up also, in five minutes returned the fire. A warm action now ensued between this British 22-gun ship and French 40-gun frigate, until 4 p. m when the Avon came up and raked the Nereide with a broadside. At 4h. 5 m. P. m leaving the Rainbow in a totally unmanageable state, the Nereide wore; as well to evade the raking fire of the Avon, as to punish her for her temerity. Between the British brig and French frigate an action now commenced, and continued until 5 p. M.; when, having reduced this opponent to even a worse state than her first one, the Nereide bore away under courses, topsails, stay-sails, and main and mizen topgallantsails.
The greater part of the Rainbow's standing and running rigging was cut to pieces, and her masts and yards were much wounded; but, owing to the high firing of her antagonist, her hull was not materially injured. It was this high firing that occasioned the loss of the Rainbow, out of a crew on board of 156 men and boys, to be so comparatively slight as to seamen and marines wounded. The Avon, in her rigging and sails, was as much disabled as her consort, and suffered more in her masts; which, along with her bowsprit, were completely crippled. The brig's hull, although much lower, and therefore more difficult to hit, than the Rainbow's, appears to have received the greater proportion of the Nereide's shot. Her upperworks were cut through; and several shot had entered between wind and water, causing her to have three feet water in the hold. The Avon had also two of her guns disabled, one man killed, another mortally wounded, and one acting lieutenant (Curtis Reid), one midshipman, and five men wounded severely.
What loss was sustained by the French frigate in this encounter, we have no means of ascertaining; and the only visible damage which the Nereide received, besides some cut rigging, was her fore topgallant yard shot away. On ceasing her fire, the Nereide resumed her course to the north-west, and at 6 P. M. was out of sight of her two opponents; who, as soon as the Avon had joined the Rainbow, then about three miles distant in the south by east, made all the sail they could for Jamaica, and on the 16th anchored in the harbour of PortRoyal. The Nereide, in all probability, conveyed to France the account of the fall of Guadaloupe before it was known in England. The Scorpion carried home the English despatches; but, not having departed until after her return from the chase of the Nereide, did not arrive at Plymouth until the 13th of March.
One effect of the supremacy of the British navy was to compel France to make merchantmen and transports of her men of war: hence a frigate, despatched on a voyage to a colonial port, is ordered to chase nothing and speak nothing on her way. This may account for even two French frigates, as we have shown to have been the case, declining to engage one British frigate; and, had the Nereide fallen in with the Rainbow and Avon before she reached Guadaloupe, might have explained why this French, frigate ran from a British 22-gun ship and brig-sloop. But, having found that island shut against her, the Nereide would, one might suppose, resume her character of a ship of war, and endeavour to effect something that should do honour to a 40-gun frigate and confer a benefit, however slight in degree, upon the nation to which she belonged. Instead of this, acting as, after having knocked away his opponent's mainmast, he did on a former occasion,* Captain Lemaresquier waits merely until he has deprived his two inferior antagonists of the means of pursuit; then leaves them to repair their damages, and to boast, justly boast, of what their prowess had accomplished.
The conduct of the Rainbow and Avon, throughout this running fight, reflects the highest honour upon their respective officers and crews, as well as upon the flag under which they served; and the noble conduct of Captain Wooldridge, in his earnest pursuit, single-handed, of an enemy so much superior to the Rainbow, was just what might be expected from an officer who, on a former occasion, when commanding the Mediator fireship, behaved so gallantly. The prompt support which Captain Fraser afforded his friend, while it relieved the Rainbow from a destructive fire, brought upon himself and his little brig the whole weight of the French frigate's broadside; the serious effects of which we have already described. But, because the engagement produced no trophy as its result, the account of it did not appear in the London Gazette; and that having been the case, and no fresh opportunity offering for him to distinguish himself, Captain Fraser continued as a commander during the remainder of his life. He appears to have died in one of the latter months of the year 1816.
On the 10th of January, in the morning, while a small British squadron, under the orders of Captain Sir Joseph Sydney Yorke, of the 80-gun ship Christian VII. was lying in Basque roads, a convoy of French coasters were discovered, on their passage from Isle d'Aix to Rochelle. Immediately the boats of the Christian VII. and of the 38-gun frigate Armide, Captain Lucius Hardyman, were detached, under the orders of Lieute
nant Gardener Henry Guion, to cut off the vessels. The boats soon drove the vessels on shore, within grape and musket range of the French battery. Notwithstanding their apparent security, Lieutenant Guion and his party succeeded in capturing one chasse-maree, and in destroying a brig, a schooner, and two chasse-marees, all valuably laden; but which, owing to the fast ebbing of the tide, it was found impracticable to get afloat.
On the 20th, in the evening, another convoy of about 30 sail making their appearance in the Maumusson passage, and the van seeming inclined to push for Rochelle, the boats of the same two ships, still under the orders of Lieutenant Guion, were sent in chase. With their accustomed gallantry, the British attacked the convoy, which ran aground within a stone's throw of the batteries; when five of them, under a heavy fire of grape and musketry, were burnt, and a sixth was taken: the rest put back. The captured vessels were all chasse-marees, and were laden, as the former had been, with wine, brandy, soap, rosin, candles, pitch, oil, &c. In this affair one of the Armide's seamen was wounded, and two of the French seamen were killed.
On the 13th of February, three deeply-laden chasse-marees, part of a convoy of ten sail which had sailed on the preceding evening from the Charente in thick weather, blowing fresh from the west-south-west, having got on the reef that projects from the point of Chatelaillon between Aix and Rochelle, Sir Joseph Yorke detached, for the purpose of destroying them, three boats from the Christian VII., three from the Armide, and two from the 12-pounder 36-gun frigate Seine, Captain David Atkins, still under the orders of Lieutenant Guion.
As the eight boats of the British, manned and armed in the usual way, advanced towards the grounded chasse-marees, nine French boats, each carrying a 12-pounder carronade and six swivels, and rowing from 20 to 30 oars, pulled out to meet the former and prevent them from fulfilling their object. Lieutenant Guion made a feint of retreating, to decoy the French boats from their shore defences; and, having got to a proper distance, suddenly pulled round and stood towards them. The French immediately retreated; but the Christian VII.'s barge, in which was Lieutenant Guion, being a fleet boat, boldly advanced along the rear of the French line to their third boat. Finding, however, from circumstances, that the rearmost boat was the only one likely to be attacked with any prospect of success, Lieutenant Guion gallantly boarded and carried her, sword in hand. She had two men killed and three wounded, including her commanding officer, severely.
In the mean time Lieutenant Samuel Roberts, of the Armide, had pursued two others of the French armed boats in the direction of the beach; and, by the steady fire which his men maintained upon them at a pistol-shot distance, they must have sustained a loss. The protectors of the chasse-marees being thus defeated, the British boats proceeded to execute the service for which they had been detached: they soon effectually destroyed the three chasse-marees on the reef, and got back to their ships without, as far as it appears, having a man hurt. For the gallantry which he had displayed in these several spirited boat-attacks, Lieutenant Guion was deservedly promoted to the rank of commander.
On the 3d of February, at daylight, the British 74-gun ship Valiant, Captain John Bligh, being close to Belle-Isle in light and baffling winds, discovered, about three miles off, and immediately chased, a strange frigate. This was the late famous French 40-gun frigate Canonniere, but now the French armed merchant ship Confiance, Captain Jacques Peroud, (the privateer Bellone's late captain), armed with only 14 guns, and laden with a cargo of colonial produce valued at 150000Z. sterling; with which, 93 days before, she had sailed from the Isle of France, having been lent by General Decaen to the merchants there, for the purpose of carrying home their produce, the frigate requiring more repairs to refit her as a cruiser than the colony could give her. At about noon, after a seven hours' chase, the wind suddenly took the Confiance by the head, and threw her round upon the Valiant's broadside. Her escape being now hopeless, the Confiance hauled down her colours: she had, it appears, been chased 14 times during the passage from Port-Louis. Having been built since the year 1714, and wanting considerable repairs, the Confiance, although formerly a British frigate, was not restored to the service.
On the 21st of February, in the morning, latitude 33° lC north, longitude 29° 30' west, the British 38-gun frigate Horatio, Captain George Scott, fell in with the French frigate-built storeship Necessite, mounting 26 guns of the same description as those carried by the Var and Salamandre, and having a crew of 186 men commanded by Lieutenant Bernard Bonnie, from Brest bound to the Isle of France with naval stores and provisions. After ft. long chase, and a running fight of one hour, during which she manifested some determination to defend herself, the Necessite hauled down her colours. No loss appears to have been sustained on either side; and the Horatio escaped with only a slight injury to her masts and rigging.
On the 12th of April, close off the coast of France in the neighbourhood of the isle of Re, the British 18-pounder 32-gun frigate Unicorn, Captain Alexander Robert Kerr, fell in with and captured the late British 22-gun ship Laurel, at this time named Esperance, armed en flute, and under the command of a Lieutenant de Vaisseau, from the Isle of France with a valuable cargo of colonial produce. The prize was afterwards restored to her rank in the British navy, but, a Laurel having since been added to it, under the name of Laurestinus.