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His Britannic Majesty's ship Eagle,
I have this moment received your flag of truce, conveying to me the Honourable Captain Colville, late of his Majesty's ship the Romney (wrecked upon your coast), with eight of his officers, which you have first humanely saved from impending destruction, and which your government, with its ancient magnanimity, released and restored to their country and friends, on their parole of honour.
They are all, Sir, most sensibly affected with heartfelt gratitude to the Batavian government, for their emancipation from captivity; to Admiral Kickhurt for their preservation from the jaws of death; and to all the Dutch officers and the inhabitants of the Texel, for their kindness and most humane attention. This, Sir, is nobly alleviating the rigours of war, as the Christian he. roes of your country and mine were wont formerly to do in these seas, before a considerable portion of European intellect was corrupted by false philosophy. Captain Colville will communicate to the right honourable my lords commissioners of the admiralty your proposal for au exchange of prisoners. Accept my sincere thanks, and the assurance that
I am, &c.
T. M. RUSSELL
To Admiral Kickhurt, Texel.
The last operation of the year 1804, in the North Seas, was a fruitless attempt made by Captain Sir Home Popham, to destroy Fort Rouge, at the mouth of Calais harbour.
On the 17th of November, Captain Hancock had the good fortune to fall in with, and, after a long chase, in which much nautical skill and ability were displayed on both sides, capture Le Contre Amiral Magon, French privateer brig, of eighteen guns and eighty-four men, commanded by the noted Captain Blackman, who had cruised against our trade with much success. Captain Hancock greatly distinguished himself during the war, as a vigilant and successful cruiser.
On the 31st of December, the Honourable Captain Colville, with the officers and ship's company of his Majesty's late ship the Romney, were tried by a court-martial, on board the Africaine, at Sheerness, for the loss of their ship off the Texel, on the 19th of November.
It appeared to the court, that the loss of the ship was occasioned by the thickness of the fog, and the ignorance of the pilots; and the sentence of the court was, that these should forfeit all their pay, and be rendered incapable of taking charge of any of his Majesty's ships or vessels of war in future; one of them to be imprisoned in the Marshalsea for the space of six months, and the other for twelve calendar months.
The captain, officers, and crew were honourably acquitted of all blame; it appearing to the court that the utmost exertions were used by them to save the ship after she had struck, and to prevent the ship's company from becoming prisoners of the enemy.
In the month of April, the enemy began again to increase his force in Boulogne, by contributions of small vessels built at the different ports during the winter. The Gallant and Watchful, two gun-brigs under the orders of Lieutenant Shirley, fell in with a number of Dutch schuyts coming from Dunkirk, which were pursued and driven ashore in great confusion; but the Gallant receiving four heavy shot from the batteries, below her water-line, was forced to put about. On the same day they were met by Captain Honeyman, of the Leda, with his little squadron of sloops of war and gun-brigs, and he succeeded in bringing them to close action, and took seven vessels. Two more of them were taken on the following day by Lieutenant Price, in the Archer gun-brig. These vessels were from twenty-five to thirty tons burden, carrying one long twenty-four pounder, a howitzer, and one or two twelve or six pounders; they were manned with soldiers, under the command of a lieutenant of infantry, and had seldom more than four sailors on board.
The mortifications of the Emperor, while he continued on the coast, were endless. On the 17th of July, the Ariadne, commanded by the Honourable Captain Edward King, was lying in the road of Gravelines, with the Speedy, Calypso, and Zephyr, sloops of war, and Devastation bomb, and three gun-brigs: at half-past six in the evening, the enemy's flotilla, to the number of forty sail, were discovered to be under way, and coming to the westward; as soon as they approached sufficiently near, Captain King made the signal to slip, and at half-past nine opened his fire on the enemy with great impetuosity, the flotilla returning it and approaching Calais; at midnight the British vessels drew off.
At daylight a squadron from the Downs made its appearance; the enemy at an anchor near Calais ; the British bomb-vessels threw shells among them and the infantry and flying artillery which lined the shore. At four o'clock the Immortalite and Vestal having joined, the action became more general; but at half-past seven the squadron hauled off without having effected the capture of one vessel, and having, in the two actions, five men killed, and more than twenty wounded. The Immortalite and Ariadne were the chief sufferers.
If tjie character of an officer were to be estimated only by the number of vessels he had captured from the enemy, some of our best and bravest would not appear in their proper station. This remark is peculiarly applicable to Commodore (now Sir Edward) Owen, whose arduous services off Boulogne and Calais, entitle him to a high consideration among the foremost defenders of their country.
He commanded the Immortalite, a frigate of the larger class, and though of a great draught of water, was constantly cruising in the long winter nights among the shoals and intricate navigation of the narrow seas; nor can we say, that the number of prizes captured by this frigate bore any proportion to the actions she was constantly in, to the time she continued at sea, or to the skill, vigilance, and bravery of her commander.
These skirmishes terminated the active operations of the enemy in the JXorth Seas, for the year 1805. Had the events in the Channel been different, had Villeneuve defeated Sir Robert Calder and eluded Nelson, it is probable we should have been compelled to dispute the passage of the Channel with the French army and navy, headed by Bonaparte in person. For confirmation of this opinion, we may turn to the famous commentary of Bonaparte on the conduct of his admiral, given in M. Dupin's work, so often quoted, vol. i. p. 244. It is not however very likely, that Villeneuve would have acted in a manner so diametrically opposite to his orders as stated by the Emperor, that he should have run into Ferrol, instead of the Channel, where his presence was the only thing wanted to complete the plans of the campaign, and to set the stupendous armament in motion. The invasion of England (and who can say to what it might have led ?) was abandoned; and the battle of Austerlitz, fought by the army of France, was perhaps as fatal to that country as to Germany. Well indeed might the enraged Bonaparte exclaim, "Quel amiral! Quelle marine! Quelles sacrifices /" If such were his exclamations in August, what must they have been in October, when he learned that the same Villeneuve had lost twenty-five sail of the line; when all his hopes of the conquest of England, and of the plunder of the Bank, all his "ships, commerce, and colonies," and most of his best seamen, were buried in one common grave?