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Rochetts, 2nd November, 1803.
The very great attention you have shewn to the French General Morgan, did, in my judgment, merit a better return than an invidious comparison of the treatment of the prisoners in the two countries. It is notorious that Captain Brenton,* his officers and men, were marched into the interior of France, many hundred miles from the spot they were first confined in, with very little aid from the French government, at a grievous expense to the parties. I am persuaded, however, this act will not operate in your minds to the prejudice of General Morgan and his suite, of whom Captain Bayntunf has given a very favourable description, such as to entitle them to any attentions in your power to afford, consistently with the measures you are directed to carry into execution.
I am, Gentlemen, &c.
Commissioners of Transport Board.
* Now Sir Jahleel Brenton, Bart. K. C. B. f Now Rear-admiral Sir Henry William Bayntun, K. C. B. at that time captain of his Majesty's ship the Cumberland.
Invasion threatened by Bonaparte—Means taken to counteract him—Description of vessels for that purpose—Jalouse and Cruiser—Blockade of the Texel—Capture of the Atalante by Captains Hardinge and Pelly—Humanity of Admiral Thornborough—Violation of the law of nations by detention of a flag of truce—Sir Sidney Smith attacks enemy's flotilla— Manner of these vessels getting along shore—Attacked by Captain Owen in the Immortalit6—Bombardment of Havre de Grace—Marine artillery—Bombardment of Dieppe, St. Valery, and Calais—Reflections—The enemy's flotilla puts to sea in divisions—Attacked by Leda—Cruisers—Observations on the improved art of war—Of fire-ships—Flotilla before Boulogne—Catamarins—Clock machines—Useless attack—Stone-ships—Loss of the Romney—Letter of Viceadmiral Russell to Admiral Kickhurt—Honeyman in the Leda takes nine sail of flotilla—Bonaparte abandons all thought of invasion, on hearing of Villeneuve's return to Ferrol—Observations.
The panic of invasion had so forcibly seized the imaginations of many people, that the expectation of the event had in some degree the effect of its accomplishment. Government, willing to tranquillize the public mind, availed itself of every species of force to repel the threatened aggression. Every old hulk that could be fitted to bear a gun, was immediately brought forward under the name of block-ships. Some were placed in the river Thames, as high as Gravesend; others down the Swin channel off Harwich, or in Hosely-bay; some were stationed off Margate. Colliers and other stout north country built ships, were purchased into the service; new decks were laid in them, and ports cut to carry heavy guns. These vessels were at first intended to guard our own coast, but soon after were sent over to annoy the enemy, though with few of those qualities that could render them efficient for such a purpose; so that the officers commanding them had sometimes the mortification of seeing their countrymen taken prisoners, without the possibility of affording them relief; and not unfrequently to contend against a lee-shore, with a vessel that never could be impelled to windward by any art or seamanship. Such were the bomb-vessels, Sulphur, . Hecla, Tartarus, and Prospero, and the sloops of war, Merlin, Autumn, Falcon, and Woolverine. There were many others, but we name these as specimens of the whole set. They were, however, not idle or totally useless, but intercepted the trade of the enemy, and made many valuable captures and recaptures. The orders given to the cruisers, in case of falling in with the invading flotilla, were to disable them as much as possible, and leave them to their fate.
By a decree of Bonaparte, dated March 31st, the town and fortress of Flushing were declared to be in a state of siege; the general of brigade, Monet, was ordered to conduct the operations.
In the month of June, the Jalouse and Cruiser, two brigs of war, chased and drove on shore, near Cape Groznez, a brig and a schooner. Commodore Owen, in the Immortality, being present, made the signal to close with the enemy, which was done in so gallant and effectual a manner, as to compel the Frenchmen to jump overboard, and escape to the beach; whence a heavy fire of musketry was kept up; in spite of which, our brave fellows pushed in with their boats, boarded the vessels, and as the tide flowed, brought them off. They proved to be the national schooner Inabordable, and brig La Comode, each mounting four long twenty-four pounders, and intended for the purpose of invasion. Mr. Charles Adams, midshipman of the Jalouse, appears to have been the only person severely wounded.
On the 28th of this month, the Elbe and Weser were declared in a state of blockade by the British government.
While the Glatton lay as guard-ship in Aberlady bay, in the Frith of Forth, Lieutenant Thomas Mitchel, a young officer belonging to that ship, fancied that the forts near Dunbar were not so well guarded as they should be; and to prove his conjecture, went at night with one boat's crew, got into the battery, made the guard prisoners, and, it is said, hoisted the French flag. The real state of things was, however, soon discovered; the Lieutenant put under an arrest, and severely reprimanded in public orders, as having committed an act, tending to disturb the harmony subsisting between the army and navy. The act itself we cannot defend, and we believe the youth would rather it had been an enemy's redoubt; but the imprudent enterprise, by causing a more vigilant attention to the posts along the sea-shore, was not without its advantages.
Lord Keith, who in 1804 commanded in the North Seas, usually had under his orders from ten to fifteen sail of the line, including sixty-fours, and from thirty to forty frigates; but as this number constantly varied from the exigences of the service, it is impossible to fix with any degree of exactness, the precise force employed in the North Seas at any particular time.
In 1803, we find the following list of large ships; to which, in 1804, were added the Defence and Eagle, of seventy-four guns, then off the Texel.
The most rigid blockade of the ports of the North Seas and the Channel, from Heligoland to Brest, began to make the ruler of France sensible of the difference between a naval and a military power. The Elbe, the Weser, and the Ems, were almost useless to their owners; and at the