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Gallant action of the Pigot Indiaman—Capture of the Vengeur -and Resolue, by Captain Mitchell, who soon after defeats a squadron of French frigates—Successful stratagem of Captain Lennox, who saves five valuable Indiamen from capture by Rear-admiral Sercey—The Company's ship Phoenix captures a French privateer—-Blockade of Batavia—Captain Collier's action with La Fleche—Vice-admiral Rainier occupies the Portuguese settlements—Accounts reach Bombay of the probability of a renewal of the war—British naval force in India —Arrival of Rear-admiral Linois—Admiral Rainier refuses to
. deliver up Pondicherry—Linois sails in the night—News of the war reaches India—Linois attacks Bencoolen—Meets with the China fleet off Pulo A'or, and after a short action quits them—Anecdote of Captain Meriton—Munificence of the East India Company—Gallant action of Captain H. Lambert—Action between Centurion and Marengo—Captain Lambert in the St. Fiorenzo takes the Psyche—Admiral Rainier returns from India with the richest fleet ever remembered—Affairs of Ceylon and of India—Linois falls in with Sir Thomas Trowbridge in the Blenheim—Short action, undecided—Linois's disasters.
While these sheets were in the press, we were favoured with some anecdotes of the late war in India, which, though not in time for insertion in their proper place, we trust will be found highly acceptable to our readers. Modern French writers contend, that the disasters which have attended their navy, were attributable to the misconduct of their rulers, to superior force on our side, or, in short, to any cause but the right one. The navy of France must, however, be differently manned and constituted, before a better result can be expected. Let M. Dupin, the Count de Dumas, or Mons. Parissot, produce instances like what we are about to relate, and we shall be induced to change our opinion.
On the 17th of January, 1794, when there was not a British ship of war in India, the Company's ship Pigot, commanded by Captain George Ballantyne, was lying in Rat Island basin near Bencoolen, about eight or nine miles from the island of Sumatra; she mounted thirty-two guns, and had on board one hundred and two men, with her decks in confusion from her state of equipment. Here she was attacked by two French privateers; the larger was called Le Vengeur, mounted thirtytwo guns, and had three hundred and fifty men; the second was La Resolue, of twenty-eight guns, and one hundred and sixty men. The entrance to the basin was too narrow to admit of both ships coming to action at the same time, so that they relieved each other. The larger ship began the attack at a quarter past eight in the morning; at times within one hundred and fifty yards, and seldom at a greater distance than three hundred and fifty. After fighting one hour and threequarters, the enemy cut his halsers, and made sail: the smaller ship immediately took up the same position, and renewed the action, but in twenty minutes was forced to follow her consort, and both came to an anchor about two miles distant from the Pigot, to repair their damages. The Pigot lost but one man, who died of his wounds; her masts, sails, and rigging, were very much cut.
The two French ships were captured shortly after by four sail of Tndiamen, under the command of Captain Charles Mitchell, who, on his return to England, was knighted for his conduct, and presented by the East India Company with 8000/., as a compensation for the loss he had sustained by being diverted from his voyage.
The particulars of this action are much too honourable to pass unnoticed. The ships were the William Pitt, Captain Charles Mitchell; Houghton, Captain Hudson; Pigot, Captain Ballantyne; Nonsuch, Captain Canning; Britannia, Captain Cheap. These ships Avere in the China seas in December, 1793. On the 21st of January, the Pigot parted company. On the 22d, while at anchoroff North Island, the Britannia, Houghton, and Nonsuch, saw two strange sail; they immediately weighed and chased; the Strangers stood towards them, but soon discovering that the Indiamen had no wish to avoid an action, they tacked and ran. The English ships pursued, and brought them to action at a quarter before eleven, and in forty minutes they both surrendered. They proved to be the Vengeur of thirty-six guns, Captain Corosin, and the Resolue of twenty-eight guns, Captain Jallineaux. The Britannia had one man killed and two wounded; the Vengeur had fifteen killed and twenty-six wounded; among the latter was the Captain, who died after the amputation of his leg.
On the 24th of January, the same ships were attacked by a French squadron, consisting of—
La Prudente ... 40 Commodore Renard
Sybille • • • .44 Captain Trehowars
Le Dtiguay Trouin* • Trehowars
Isle de France • 10 Renard.t
The French frigates sustained a gallant fight for some time, when, finding themselves overpowered, they made sail and escaped; and soon after took the Pigot, when lying in Rat Island basin, repairing her damages. With concern we add, that the gallant Captain Cheap, of the Britannia, died in the month of June following.
Another instance, equally honourable, confirms the observation of the Count de Dumas, that our Indiamen are frequently mistaken for ships of the line; and he might have said, not only in appearance, but in action.
The Company's ships—
Captain Charles Lennox,
were surprised off the east end of Java, at daybreak, on the 28th of January, 1797, by a French
* Formerly Princess Royal Indiaman.
t Two Captains Trehowars, and two Captains Renard.
squadron of six frigates. The English ships were valuably laden with specie and merchandise; and Captain Lennox, who saw that to run would have betrayed the nature of his force, hoisted the flag of Rear-admiral Rainier, and directing his ships to shew the colours of ships of war, he ordered two of them to go in chase, and reconnoitre the enemy. This produced the desired effect; the French squadron made sail, and left our ships to pursue their voyage. It appeared that this squadron was commanded by Rear-admiral Sercey, an officer of distinguished merit in the French service. On his arrival at the Isle of France, he reported that he had been chased by Rear-admiral Rainier, with five sail of the line; but, to his utter mortification and dismay, the Governor convinced him that the Rearadmiral had not been near the spot, and that M. de Sercey had run away from five East Indiamen.
In November, 1800, the Honourable Company's ship, the Phoenix, when inlat. 20° 15' south, fell in with a French privateer ; she immediately cleared for action, and as they approached within pistolshot, the Frenchman manned his rigging and prepared to board. The Phoenix, however, gave him no time to carry his plans into execution, for pouring in only half a broadside, the privateer struck her colours and called loudly for quarter: she proved to be the General Martillac, of sixteen guns, two of which were thirty-six pounders, and one hundred and twenty men. The conduct of the Cap