« AnteriorContinuar »
brig-sloop Wolverine, Captain Francis Augustus Collier, were within a very few miles of them.
On the 3d of October the British 18-gun brig-sloop Carnation (sixteen 32-pounder carronades and two sixes), Captain Charles Mars Gregory, cruising about 60 leagues to the northward and eastward of Martinique, fell in with the Palinure, still commanded by Captain Jance, and then cruising alone. An action ensued; and, at the end of an hour and a half's cannonade, the Palinure, who was to windward, being greatly disabled in her rigging, fell on board the Carnation.
In common cases this would have been the moment for the British vessel to terminate the contest in her favour, but the Carnation was not so fortunate: her gallant commander was dead, and all her principal officers and several of her crew had been either killed or badly wounded; so that the boatswain, William Triplet, was now the commanding officer on deck. Finding that the British were not, as usual, ready to rush on board their vessel, the French took confidence, and became themselves the assailants. The boatswain advanced boldly to repulse the boarders; but, of the 45 or 50 men then on deck (several, exclusive of the wounded, were on duty below, perhaps about 20), not more than eight or 10 came to his support. The remainder, headed by the sergeant of marines, John Chapman, deserted their quarters and fled below. The consequence was, that the Carnation became a prize to the Palinure, and that too by boarding.
The British brig, out of a crew of 117 men and boys, had her commander, purser (Morgan Thomas), and eight men killed, and her two lieutenants (Samuel Bartlett Deecker and James Fitzmaurice, severely), master (Anthony Metherell, mortally) and 27 officers, petty-officers, seamen, and marines wounded, no fewer than 15 of them mortally. What loss was sustained by the Palinure, whose crew on this occasion certainly did not exceed 100 men, has not transpired. The captain, as it appears, was suffering with the yellow fever; and the active part in the conduct of the engagement had, in consequence, devolved upon Enseigne de vaisseau Simon-Auguste Huguet, who is represented to have greatly distinguished himself. According to the French accounts, Captain Jance, in less than an hour after his victory, died on board the Carnation, of which, as the preferable vessel, he had taken the command. Both brigs, in the course of the day succeeding the action, arrived at the harbour of Marin, Martinique.
On the 20th of October the British 74-gun ship Pompee, Captain George Cockburn, being within two days' sail of Barbadoes, came up with and captured the French brig-corvette Pilade, with a crew of 109 men on board, and still commanded by Lieutenant Cocherel, eight days from Martinique on a cruise.
On the 31st, at daylight, the 12-pounder 32-gun frigate Circe, Captain Hugh Pigot, cruising off the harbour of Fort-Royal, Martinique, observed a brig under jury-masts coming before the wind. The instant the frigate made sail, the brig, which was the Palinure on her way from Marin into the harbour of FortRoyal, hauled close round the Diamond rock. It being nearly calm, the brig was enabled, with her sweeps and a boat, to get under the protection of a battery on Pointe Salomon, before the Circe could get near her. As soon as the frigate arrived within gun-shot, an action ensued; and in 10 or 15 minutes the Palinure hauled down her colours, with the loss, out of her 79 men on board when the action commenced, of seven killed and eight wounded. The Circe herself, from the fire of the battery, which was too much above her to be fired at with effect, lost one man killed and one wounded. On board the Palinure were found nine of the surviving seamen late belonging to the Carnation; which brig had either put back to Marin after sailing, or had been left there by the Palinure.
On the 6th of November the late master of the Carnation, one of the officers recaptured in the Palinure, died on board the 98gun ship Neptune, in Carlisle bay, Barbadoes, of, we believe, the wounds he had received in the action; but a contemporary states, that he died of the yellow fever.* On the 1st of February a court-martial was held at Carlisle bay upon a badly wounded quartermaster and a captain of the mast late belonging to the Carnation, and they were honourably acquitted. On the 28th, at Fort-Royal bay, Martinique, where, as we shall see presently, the British commander-in-chief, Rear-admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane, then was, the remainder of the surviving officers and crew, having been recaptured at the surrender of the island, were put upon their trial; and the two lieutenants, the surgeon, the two master's mates, the three midshipmen, the gallant boatswain, and a few seamen and marines, were honourably acquitted. Others that were on duty or wounded below, including among the former the gunner and his two mates, were also acquitted of all blame.
In j justice to the memory of the officers who were killed in the action, or died of their wounds, the following declaration was made by the court: "That the conduct of Captain Gregory, from the commencement of the action to the period of his being killed, was most exemplary. And it also appears, that Mr. Anthony Metherell, late master of the Carnation, Mr. Morgan Thomas, the late purser, Mr. Thomas Griffiths, the late carpenter, and all those of her crew who were killed during the action, did perform their respective duties as became them." Of the remainder of the late Carnation's crew present to take their trial, 32 seamen and marines were found guilty of gross cowardice, and
Brenton, vol. iv., p. 269.
sentenced to 14 years' transportation to Botany bay, except one man, the sergeant of marines, John Chapman: he was condemned to be hanged; and hanged he was, on the day after his trial, at the fore yard-arm of the 44-gun ship Ulysses, at anchor in Fort-Royal bay.
Being aware that our chief historical contemporary commanded a sloop of war in the West Indies at the period of this disgraceful aff air of the Carnation; and that, at the date of the court-martial, if not sitting as one of the members, he was at, or very near to, the spot where it was held, we naturally turned to big book, for a full account of the circumstances, under which the sister-brig of the Amaranthe had been lost.
We find it stated, that a long chase, and a three hours' running fight, at the end of which the Carnation had fired away all her filled powder, preceded the close action; but here comes the statement that surprises and puzzles us: "The master of the Carnation ran from his quarters, as did the sergeant of marines." "The vessel was sacrificed to the cowardice of the master and the sergeant of marines." "The facts above stated came out in evidence before the court."' How this could have been the case, and such a sentence have been pronounced as that of which a faithful transcript has been given in the preceding page, is beyond our comprehension. All we can say is, that, as Captain Brenton calls the Carnation's first lieutenant "Dicker," instead of Deecker, and acknowledges that he has "unfortunately forgotten the name of the second," his memory may have been equally treacherous respecting the conduct, and he actually appears not to know the name of the unfortunate master, whose memory he has so aspersed.
On the 28th of November, as the British 16-gun brig-sloop Heureux, Captain William Coombe, was cruising off the north side of the island of Guadaloupe, information was received that seven vessels, some laden and ready for sea, lay in the harbour of Mahaut at the bottom of the bay of that name. Thinking it practicable to cut out these vessels, Captain Coombe resolved to head his boats in the attack. He had a pilot to carry the boats in, and a guide to conduct the storming parties to the two batteries, which mounted, one of them one, and the other two, long 24-pounders.
In the dusk of the evening three boats pushed off from the brig; and, after rowing for about six hours, lay upon their oars to await the setting of the moon. At 4 A. M. on the 29th they dashed on; and, after a few minutes of desperate fighting, Captain Coombe, in the barge with 19 men, boarded and carried a schooner of two guns, and a crew of 39 seamen and soldiers. In the mean while Lieutenant Daniel Lawrence, assisted by Mr. Robert Daly, the purser, with the remainder of the party,
* Brenton, vol. iv., p. 269.
amounting to about 44 officers and men, had landed and spiked the two 24-pounders upon the nearest battery. Having accomplished this, Lieutenant Lawrence and his party boarded a brig; but, before either the schooner or the brig could be got off, the shore was lined with musketry, and three field-pieces were brought to bear upon the two captured vessels. In their way out, these unfortunately grounded, and thus became fixed objects for the enemy's fire, which was presently increased by the remaining 24-pounder.
Finding it impossible to get the vessels afloat, and daylight appearing, Captain Coombe was in the act of giving orders to abandon them, when a 24-pound shot struck him on the left side, and he instantly expired, exclaiming, " I die contented; I die for my country!" Lieutenant Lawrence, who was wounded by a musket-ball in the arm, succeeded, by about 6 A. M., without any additional loss of consequence, in getting all three of the boats beyond the reach of shot.
We formerly submitted some remarks upon the ineligibility of a class of British cruisers, which it was thought advisable to build at Bermuda of the pencil cedar; vessels that were to measure from 75 to 78 tons, and mount four 12-pounder carronades, with a crew of 20 men and boys.* These king's schooners, 12 in number, and named Ballahou, Baracouta, Capelin, Grouper, Haddock, Herring, Kingfish, Mackerel, Pilchard, Pike, Snapper, and Whiting, were all launched and at sea in the course of the year 1804. A foreboding, perhaps, that their terms of service would be short, and the British navy, in consequence, suffer a reduction in its strength, caused 18 more of these cock-boats to be constructed; and they were all, before the end of the year 1806, launched, armed, manned, officered, and sent to "take, burn, and destroy" the vessels of war and merchantmen of the enemy. Of these 18 "men-of-war" schooners, six only were built at Bermuda, and, like the others, were named after the piscatory tribe: Bream, Chubb, Cuttle, Mullet, Porgay, and Tang. The remaining 12 were built in English dock-yards, and received the names of birds: Crane, Cuckoo, Jackdaw, Landrail, Magpie, Pigeon, Quail, Rook, Sealark, Wagtail, Wigeon, and Woodcock.
When the flimsy and diminutive frames, four or five in a slip, of these tom-tit cruisers came to be viewed amidst the substantial and towering structures standing near them, many a sailor's joke (and a sailor's joke is proverbially a good one) was cracked at the projector. This opened the eyes of the surveyors of the navy, and a slight enlargement of the class took place. Hence came the Adonis, Alphea, Barbara, Laura, Cassandra, Sylvia, and half a dozen of the like pretty names; schooners (some
* See vol. iii. Appendix, note i to Abstract No. 13.
rigged as cutters) of 111 tons each, pierced to mount, but too small conveniently to carry, ten 18-pounder carronades, with a crew of 50 men and boys. In the course of the year 1808, the schooner class received a more decided improvement, in the construction .of the Bramble, Holly, Juniper, Misletoe, Shamrock, and Thistle, of 150 tons each, with the same guns and complement as the last.
A case or two, which we have now to relate, will show the propriety of our remarks, as to the unfitness of any of the first or 4-gun class of these schooners, to traverse the ocean unattended by a consort to defend her from the attacks of an enemy, or, should a gale come on, and the accompanying vessel not be quite large enough to hoist her in, to take out the crew and let the worthless hull go to the bottom. Some time in the month of January, 1807, the Jackdaw, Lieutenant Nathaniel Brice, cruising off the Cape de Verd islands, was fallen in with, and captured by, "a Spanish row-boat." In the following month the prize was recaptured by the 32-gun frigate Minerva, Captain George Ralph Collier; and Lieutenant Brice, on his return to England, was tried by a court-martial and dismissed the service. He was, however, shortly afterwards reinstated in his rank. In fact, there was many a row-boat privateer, that was a full match for the Jackdaw; and 18 or 20 smart hands in a frigate's launch, armed with her 18-pounder carronade, would have felt themselves quite equal to the task of capturing
giving the Jackdaw 10 guns instead of four. In April, the Pike, Lieutenant John Ottley, cruising off Altavella, was fallen in with and captured by the French privateer Marat, of four times her force. Shortly afterwards the 18-gun brig-sloop Moselle, Captain Alexander Gordon, recaptured the Pike, and restored her to the British navy. A similar fate attended the Kingfish, whereby her valuable services were only lost for a time.
On the 18th of August, 1808, the Rook, one of the 4-gun schooners, commanded by Lieutenant James Lawrence, being off the mole of Cape St.-Nicholas, on her way from Port-Royal, Jamaica, to England with despatches, was fallen in with and attacked by two French schooner privateers, one of 12, the other of 10 guns. After an action of one hour and a half, during which the lieutenant was killed, the next officer, master's mate Thomas Seaward, mortally wounded, and 13 out of the remaining 18 men of the crew killed or mortally wounded, the privateersmen made a prize of the Rook. This very gallant action more than redeemed the fate of the Jackdaw. Three other schooners of this class were captured by privateers, but in later years. In short, the whole 30 vessels composing this class, except three sold out of the service, came to an untimely end j
appear worse than it was, by