« AnteriorContinuar »
owing to the high firing of the Piernontaise, amounted to only three seamen slightly wounded, made sail in chase, and by daylight on the 7th had so gained upon the French frigate, that the latter, seeing a renewal of the engagement was unavoidable, hoisted her colours and wore, in order to bring her broadside to bear.
At 6h. 20m. A.m., being within half a mile of the SanFiorenzo, who had also wore, the Piemontaise fired her broadside, and the action recommended, the two frigates gradually closing to a quarter of a mile. The fire was constant and welldirected on both sides, until 8 h. 5 m. A. M., when that of the French frigate visibly slackened. At 8 h. 15 m., having discharged her whole broadside, the Piemontaise ceased firing, and made sail before the wind, leaving the San-Fiorenzo with her maintopsail yard shot through,' main royal-mast shot away, both main topmast-stays, the spring-stay, and the greater part of the standing and running rigging and sails, cut to pieces, and therefore not in a condition for an immediate chase. Under these circumstances, the fire of the British frigate could only continue while her retreating opponent remained within gun-shot. The San-Fiorenzo's loss, by the morning's action, amounted to eight seamen and marines killed and 14 wounded. The remainder of the day was occupied by the San-Fiorenzo in repairing her damages, and in a vain pursuit of the Piemontaise, who crowded sail to the eastward, and at 9 P. M. disappeared.
At midnight the French frigate again showed herself, bearing east, and at daylight on the 8th was about four leagues distant. At 9 A. 'M., being perfectly refitted, the San-Fiorenzo bore up under all sail. At noon the Piemontaise hoisted a Dutch jack, but at 2 h. 15 m. P.m. changed it to an English ensign. The San-Fiorenzo was now fast approaching; nor did the Piemontaise avoid the British frigate until the latter hauled athwart her stern, in order to gain the weathergage and bring on a close action. To frustrate this manoeuvre, the French frigate, who now appeared with her proper colours, hauled up also, and made all sail. Perceiving, however, that the superior sailing of the San-Fiorenzo rendered a battle unavoidable, the Piemontaise tacked; and at 4 p. u.-f the two frigates, when passing each other, on opposite tacks, at the distance of not more than 80 yards, reopened their fire.
In the second broadside from the French frigate a grape-shot killed Captain Hardinge; whereupon the command of the SanFiorenzo devolved upon Lieutenant William Dawson. As soon as she had got abaft her opponent's beam, the Piemontaise wore; and at 5 h. 49 m. p. ml, after a well-fought action, one hour and
* So says Lieutenant Dawson's official letter, but the log says: "fore-topSail-yard shot in two."
f According to the San-Fiorenzo's log; but the Gazette says "three."
20 minutes of it close, and during which she had all her rigging and sails cut to pieces, her three masts and bowsprit badly wounded, and a great proportion of her numerous crew placed hors de combat, the French frigate hauled down her colours; some of her people, at the same time, waving their hats for a boat to be sent to them.
The loss sustained by the San-Fiorenzo in the third day's action, although numerically less than that on the second day, was more serious, as it included among the killed her truly gallant captain :* the remaining killed of that day consisted of four seamen and marines, and the wounded, of one lieutenant (Henry George Moysey, severely) and seven seamen and marines. This made the total British loss, on the three days, 13 killed and 25 wounded. The Piemontaise, besides her regular crew of 366 Frenchmen, had 200 Lascars (prisoners taken out of some captured Indiamen), to work the sails. Out of these 566 in crew and supernumeraries, the French frigate lost 48 officers, seamen, marines, and Lascars killed, and 112 wounded.
The force of the San-Fiorenzo, in guns and men, has already appeared.} In her armament there was no alteration; but, in respect to crew, the ship was so greatly deficient, owing to the sickness of some men and the absence of others in prizes, as to muster no more than 186 men and boys; a circumstance which, singular enough, the British official account has omitted to notice.
The force of the Piemontaise has also been fully stated at a former page ;% but, instead of 46 guns, as there particularized, Lieutenant Dawson, in his letter, says: "She (the Piemontaise) mounts fifty guns, long 18-pounders on the main deck, and 36pound carronades on her quarterdeck." No other of the few accounts that have been published is more precise; and yet, according to the navy-office draught of the Piemontaise, the ship could mount 24 carriage guns only of a side, 14 on the main deck, seven on the quarterdeck, and three on the forecastle. Her two maindeck bow-ports, if filled, would make 50 guns in all, but even this would add nothing to her broadsideforce. Under these circumstances, and particularly as it is a French ship whose force is to be stated, we shall consider the Piemontaise, in her action with the San-Fiorenzo, to have mounted the same guns as she did a year and nine months before, in her action with the Warren-Hastings.
We cannot pay a higher compliment to the victorious party in this case, than to rank the action of the San-Fiorenzo and Piemontaise with that of the Phoenix and Didon.§ The odds in each action, except in point of crew, were nearly the same. The Piemontaise was certainly not so manfully fought as the Didon.
The former began to run from the first; and it was that constant avoidance of her opponent, which protracted the contest to the third day. The actual engagement, however, did not, as it appears, last altogether more than four hours and five minutes; ten minutes on the first day, two hours and five minutes on the second, and one hour and 50 minutes on the third. The action, on the part of the British frigate, was conducted with as much skill as gallantry; but neither skill nor gallantry would have availed, had the San-Fiorenzo not excelled her antagonist in a third quality, swiftness of sailing.
Soon after daylight on the morning of the 9th the three masts of the Piemontaise fell over her side. In this state she was taken in tow by' the San-Fiorenzo; and on the 13th the two frigates cast anchor in the road of Columbo, island of Ceylon, where, by order of the governor, Lieutenant-general Maitland, the highest military honours were paid to the remains of the SanFiorenzo's late youthful captain. Her present commanding officer received, we believe, the customary promotion, but did not long survive the reward of his gallantry. The Piemontaise was afterwards purchased for the British navy, and classed among the large 38s.
Aware of the latitude allowed to a " Biographical Memoir" in the "Naval Chronicle," we should not feel disposed to find fault with its editor for stating, even in the high-flown, and not always intelligible, language of the Reverend James Stanier Clarke, one of the co-authors of the " Life of Nelson," that "a superannuated frigate of thirty-eight guns," had captured a French frigate armed with "fifty long 18-pounders ;"* but our duty compels us to reprobate the introduction of so gross a falsehood into a solemn memorial presented to the king in council. A document of this kind, presented by Mr. George Hardinge, uncle to the deceased captain, praying for an augmentation to the armorial bearings of the family, contains the following statement: "Your memorialist represents to your majesty, that your ship, the St. Fiorenzo, carried thirty-eight guns, and mustered 186 men, including officers; that la Piedmontaise carried fifty guns, long 18-pounders, and had on board 566 men." It is not added, that 200 of these were Lascars and prisoners. Had this memorial met the fate of thousands of others, no harm would have been done; but, unfortunately for the cause of truth, in the next London Gazette appears an order, in which the king himself is made to declare, that his frigate carried "only thirtyeight guns."
On the 13th of March, at 5 P.m., the British 18-pounder 36gun frigate Emerald, Captain Frederick Lewis Maitland, being off the harbour of Vivero, in Spain, discovered lying there a large French armed schooner, and immediately stood in with the
* Naval Chronicle, vol. xx., p. 385.
view of attempting her capture or destruction. At 5 h. 30 m. P.m. the first fort on the right, mounting eight 24-pounders, opened upon the ship; and as soon as the frigate got within range, another fort, situated about a mile further in on the left, and mounting five 24-pounders, also commenced firing. Finding it impossible to place the ship so as to act against both batteries at once, Captain Maitland detached a party of seamen and marines, under first Lieutenant Charles Bertram, assisted by Lieutenants of marines Giles Meech and John Husband, and master's mates Matthew Mildridge and Edward Saurin, to storm the outer fort, while the frigate stood in as near as the depth of water would admit, and opened her fire upon the inner one.
Lieutenant Bertram having, without much difficulty, driven the Spaniards out of the right-hand fort and spiked the guns, Lieutenant William Smith, the third lieutenant, with another party of men, proceeded to do the same to the left-hand fort. On landing about a mile from the fort, Lieutenant Smith was opposed by a party of soldiers, most of whom, with their leader, are represented to have fallen, and the remainder to have retreated. These the British followed; but, owing to the nature of the ground, the darkness of the night, and a temporary cessation of firing by the battery, missed their way to it and returned. Meanwhile midshipman Daniel Baird had been sent with a party to take possession of the schooner; which, to avoid being captured, had run herself on shore upon the rocks. This party was joined by that under Lieutenant Bertram, and the united detachments were presently met by the principal part of the schooner's crew. After an exchange of musketry, the pike and bayonet of the British put the French to flight, and occasioned several of them to be left dead on the road.
Lieutenant Bertram now advanced towards the schooner, which was the Apropos, of eight 12-pounder carronades and a complement of 70 men, from the Isle of France with despatches; but, as the vessel had gone on shore at high water, no efforts on the part of the British, although persevered in until a party of soldiers opened a galling fire upon them, could get her afloat. Notwithstanding the attack thus made upon them, Lieutenant Bertram and his men managed to set the Apropos on fire; and at 1 A. M. on the 14th the vessel exploded. This enterprise was attended, unfortunately, with a serious loss to the British. Nine of the Emerald's seamen and marines were killed; and Lieutenant Bertram (severely), the two lieutenants of marines, one of the master's mates (Mildridge), and 11 seamen and marines were wounded. For the gallantry he had displayed, Lieutenant Bertram was immediately promoted to the rank of commander.
In the month of March the port of Lorient, in which were three or four ships of the line ready for sea or fitting, and the neighbouring port of Concarneau, in which lay Jerome Buonaparte's late ship, the Veteran, were watched by the two 74-gun ships Impetueux, Captain John Lawford, and Saturn, Captain Thomas Boys, the 18-pounder 36-gun frigate Aigle, Captain George Wolfe, 18-pounder 32-gun frigate Narcissus, Captain Charles Malcolm, and two or three smaller vessels. On the 22d of the month this squadron lay at an anchor in an excellent harbour formed by the Glenan islands, receiving provisions out of some transports which had lately arrived there from Plymouth.
At about 3 h. 45 m. p. M. the 4-gun schooner Cuckoo, Lieutenant Silas Hiscutt Paddon, being about midway between the island of Groix and the Glenans, made the signal for an enemy in the south-east. The Aigle, from whose main top the enemy was also visible, got under way and made sail in chase, followed by the Impetueux and Narcissus; but the Saturn was directed by telegraph to remain at anchor and watch the Veteran in Concarneau.
The strange vessels were the two 40-gun frigates Italienne and Seine, standing close hauled on the larboard tack, with the wind from the north-north-west, and bound to Lorient. At about 7 h. 30 m. p. M., while passing the Cuckoo, Captain Wolfe directed Lieutenant Paddon to acquaint the commodore, then about two miles astern, that he should run between Groix and the main, in order, if possible, to cut off the two frigates, who were then closing with the island. For this purpose the Aigle made all sail, with the wind on her larboard beam, and, on entering the passage, was fired at by the batteries on both sides. At 8 h. 30 m. p. M. the Aigle got within half gun-shot of the sternmost of the two French frigates, both of which had just then rounded the north-west point of the island. After receiving a fire from the Aigle's starboard guns, this frigate bore up, and anchored under the protection of the batteries on the north-east side of Groix, near Pointe de Billery.
The Aigle immediately stood after the other French frigate, then standing directly in for Lorient At a few minutes past 9 p. me, in a very dark night, Captain Wolfe got within 50 yards of this frigate to windward; and, afterburning a blue light to show her own and the enemy's situation to the Impetueux then coming up astern, the Aigle opened her starboard broadside. This the French frigate, who had now the dockyard's boats on board, and was standing right into the harbour, returned. As the Aigle was already in four fathoms' water, and, by continuing longer on this course, would soon be in Port-Louis road, Captain Wolfe resolved to board his enemy, and bore up for the purpose. Seeing the Aigle's intention, and being determined to defeat it, the French captain bore round up before the wind. By that manoeuvre the French frigate brought the Aigle astern with the latter's jib-boom abreast of her larboard mizen rigging; thus adroitly avoiding a mode of attack, which experience had shown was generally successful.