Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

down her colours, and was taken possession of by the Bellone. In the mean time the Victor had proceeded in chase of the Astell; but, owing to the time occupied in securing her two captured consorts and the extreme darkness of the night, the Astell effected her escape.

The Ceylon, Windham, and Astell were each 800-ton ships, and were armed nearly in the same ineffective manner. The force of the Windham has already appeared, and that will suffice for the force of either of her consorts. Commodore Duperre gave each of his prizes 30 guns; whereas 26, we know, were all the guns that the Windham mounted, and we believe the Ceylon and Astell mounted no more Each Indiaman had on board a detachment of about 250 troops, exclusive of 100 Lascars, and from 12 to 20 British seamen. The Windham appears to have had only 12 British seamen and 160 effective soldiers: the remainder of the troops were probably sick.

We have now to show the loss on board each ship. The Ceylon had four seamen, one Lascar, and two soldiers killed, her captain, chief mate, seven seamen, one Lascar, one lieutenantcolonel and 10 soldiers of the 24th regiment (one mortally) wounded; total, six killed and 21 wounded. The Windham had one seaman, three soldiers, and two Lascars killed, seven soldiers, and two Lascars severely, and three of her officers and six others slightly wounded; total, six killed and 18 wounded. The Astell had four seamen and four soldiers killed, her captain, fifth mate, nine seamen, one Lascar, five cadets, and 20 soldiers wounded; total, eight killed and 37 wounded: making the aggregate loss on the British side amount to 20 killed and 76 wounded. The loss on the French side appears to have been as follows: Bellone, four killed and six wounded; Minerve, 17 killed and 29 wounded; Victor one killed and three wounded: total, 22 killed and 38 wounded.

Great praise was undoubtedly due to the captains, officers, and crews of these three Indiamen, for their very gallant defence against a force so decidedly superior. Nor must we omit the officers in command of the troops and their men; who, we have no doubt, by their steady fire, inflicted a great proportion of the loss which the enemy sustained. The East India company, to testify their approbation of the conduct of the crews of the three ships, presented each of the captains with the sum of 500/., and bestowed a handsome remuneration upon the remaining officers and men.

The officers of the Astell certainly possessed a great advantage, in being able to publish their statement before the officers of the Ceylon and Windham could do so. As one proof of it a contemporary says thus: "The East India company settled a pension of 460/. a year on Captain Hay, and presented 2000/. to the officers and crew, as a mark of approbation for their distinguished bravery. Andrew Peters, one of the seamen of the As tell, nailed the pendant to the maintopmast-head, and was killed as he descended the rigging. The lords commissioners of the admiralty, to testify their approbation of the defence of the Astell, granted to the ship's company a protection from impressment for three years.'"' But our reliance upon this statement is somewhat shaken by the glaring inaccuracies contained in the following passages: "Du Perree, in the Bellone, of 44-guns, with the Victor corvette, came up about 4 P. M. The Minerve

the Ceylon and Astell."—" She (the Bellone) bore up, ran to leeward, and in the act of wearing her topmasts fell." The loss of the Windham is also enumerated at only four men killed and four wounded. The colours of the Astell, it appears, were three times shot away. This may excuse M. Duperre, for stating in his official letter, that the Astell struck, but does not in the least justify the epithet, " indigne fuyard," which the French captain applies to her gallant, and, long before that time, disabled commander.

Early in the morning of the 4th, the French commodore made sail with the two captured Indiamen, and on the next day anchored in the bay of Johanna, in the island of that name. Here it took M. Duperre so long to refit his ships, particularly the prizes, the masts of which had all to be fished, that he was not able to sail again until the morning of the 17th. In three days, however, the French squadron and prizes made the high land at the back of Grand-Port, or Port Sud-Est in the Isle of France. At this critical moment we must leave M. Duperre, until we have given some account of the naval occurrences at the isles of France and Bourbon, during his four months' absence from the station.

In the latter end of March or beginning of April, a British naval force arrived off the Isle of France from the Cape, commanded by Captain Henry Lambert, of the 18-pounder 36-gun frigate Iphigenia, having under his orders the 50-gun ship Leopard, Captain James Johnstone, 12-pounder 36-gun frigate Magicienne, Captain Lucius Curtis, and one or two smaller vessels. The French force in Port-Louis harbour consisted, at this time, of the two 40-gun frigates Venus and Manche, and brig-corvette Entreprenant.

On or about the 24th of April the 12-pounder 36-gun frigate Nereide, Captain Nisbet Josiah Willoughby, from the Cape of Good Hope, which she had quitted on the 10th, joined Captain Lambert's squadron, and was immediately detached to cruise off the south-east coast of the island. On arriving abreast of the entrance of Riviere-Noire, a ship was discovered at anchor there, moored in such a manner between the powerful batteries of the place, that her stern was alone visible to the Nereide. She was

[graphic]

The weight of the battle fell on

[ocr errors]
[graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[graphic]

evidently a ship of war, and was supposed to be a corvette. The Nereide in working up to the spot, discharged several broadsides at the French ship, and received in return a fire from the neighbouring batteries, but neither sustained, nor, it is believed, inflicted any injury. Instead of being a corvette, this ship was a fine French frigate of 1085 tons, the Astra, already mentioned as having quitted Cherbourg in company with the Nereide, a frigate of the same force. Having been, as soon as he made the southwest point of the island, apprized by signal, that a British force was cruising off Port-Louis, Captain Breton had put into Riviere-Noire and moored the Astree in the manner above stated.

On the 30th, while the British frigate Nereide was reconnoitring the coast of this part of the island, a large merchant ship was discovered lying at the anchorage of Jacolet, within pistol-shot of two batteries, which commanded the entrance to the harbour. Notwithstanding these obstacles, having on board an excellent pilot, one of the black inhabitants of the Isle of France, Captain Willoughby resolved to attempt cutting the ship out. For this purpose he embarked in the boats at midnight, taking with him Lieutenants John Burns, Thomas Lamb Polden Laugharne, and Henry Collins Deacon, and Lieutenants of marines Thomas S. Cox and Thomas Henry William Desbrisay, together with 50 seamen and the same number of marines.

Having with much difficulty found and entered the narrow and intricate passage into the anchorage, Captain Willoughby had just reached the only feasible spot for effecting a landing, and even there the surf was half filling the boats, when the French national schooner Estafette, of four brass 4-pounders and 14 men, commanded by Enseigne de vaisseau Henri Chauvin, and lying at an anchor close abreast of the battery on the left, shouted, and gave the alarm. Both batteries, assisted by two field-pieces, immediately played upon the spot on which the British were landing; and, no sooner had the latter formed on the beach, than they became also exposed to a heavy fire of musketry. As every officer had already received his orders, the whole party was instantly upon the run, and m 10 minutes got possession of the nearest battery mounting two long 12pounders.

Having spiked the guns, Captain Willoughby and his men marched towards the guard-house in the rear; which was protected by two 6-pounder field-pieces, 40 troops of the 18th regiment of the line, 26 artillerymen, and a strong detachment of militia. This party, while the seamen and marines were taking the battery, had attacked the small division of men left in charge of the boats, and had driven them and their boats into the centre of the harbour. The same party now opened a fire upon the British main body. This was the signal for the seamen and marines to charge. Captain Willoughby and his brave followers

« AnteriorContinuar »