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North America.—Action between Cleopatra and Ville de Milan —Capture and recapture of the Cleopatra, and capture of the Milan by the Leander—Lieutenant Pigot, of the Cambrian, enters the river St. Mary's, and takes merchantmen.
West Indies.—Action between Curieux and Dame Ernouf— Action between Rmard and General Ernouf—Capture of the Blanche by a French squadron—Capture of two of thatsquadron by the Goliath.
Cape of Good Hope.—Second reduction of that colony by the British forces, under the command of Captain Sir Home Popham and Major-general Sir David Baird.
The events in North America, since the renewal of the war in 1803, had been very unimportant, and afforded nothing particularly interesting until the month of February, 1805, when Rear-admiral Sir Andrew Mitchell, K. B. commanded on the Halifax station.
Captain Sir Robert Laurie, in the Cleopatra, a frigate of thirty-two guns, twelve pounders, was cruising to the southward and westward of the Bermudas, on the 16th of February, in lat. 28° N. and long. 67° W., when he fell in with a French frigate, and as such it became his duty to chase her, whatever might have been the disparity of force. To use the sea phrase, they were both ships of one deck, and though Captain Laurie saw that his enemy had fifteen ports of a'side, it made no difference in his determination. The Cleopatra made every sail in chase, and the French frigate as much to get away. Squalls of wind and a heavy sea carried away the studding-booms. and yards during the night: in this condition the British frigate continued the chase,' and at daylight, on the morning of the 17th, the enemy was about four miles ahead. The swell still continued, with a fresh breeze, and at half-past ten, the enemy took in his studding-sails, and prepared for battle, hauling more to the wind: the Cleopatra, when within three-quarters of a mile of her opponent,, took in her studding-sails also, and steered for his quarter. Both ships having their colours flying, the action began by the bow chase guns of the British frigate, which were returned by those of the stern from the enemy. Nothing was done till half-past twelve, when the French frigate luffing close to the wind, gave the Cleopatra two broadsides, which were returned at the distance of one hundred yards, and a close and severe action lasted till five o'clock; when the enemy's main-topsail-yard was shot away, and the Cleopatra forged ahead so fast as to render it necessary to shorten sail, but this she was unable to do more than to back the mizentopsail. Her clew-garnets, braces, and bowlines being shot away, Captain Laurie could not haul up his courses or square his main-yard; in this difficulty he thought it best to haul to the wind, across the bow of his adversary, in preference to being raked by exposing the stern to a broadside. At the important moment a shot struck the wheel of the Cleopatra and rendered it immovable, while at the same time the rudder was choked below by the splinters and pistols placed near it, in the gun-room. The French Captain instantly perceiving the embarrassment of his enemy, who was to leeward of him, put his helm up, and ran on board the Cleopatra, passing his bowsprit over her quarter-deck, just abaft the main rigging, attempting to board under a heavy fire of musketry and musketoons, but was driven back. The advantage, however, which they had gained, they determined to keep. The enemy, from superior height, commanded the decks of the Cleopatra, and from her tops, well filled with musketry, she poured down a destructive tire: the Cleopatra could only oppose two guns, the shot from which went no higher than the enemy's lower deck; and the sea running high, the momentary concussions of the heavy French ship, built for a seventy-four, threatened to sink the little Cleopatra under her. Still Sir Robert Laurie and his brave companions were unsubdued, and they attempted to hoist the fore-topmast-staysail to get clear of her; the spritsail was also ordered to be set at the same time, but every man sent on this service was knocked down by the musketry of the enemy, who, at a quarter past five, succeeded in boarding, and took possession of the well-defended Cleopatra. The frigate which made this conquest was called La Ville de Milan, mounting forty-six guns, eighteen pounders, manned with three hun
dred and fifty men, besides officers and passengers; she was commanded by Monsieur Reynard, capitain de vaisseau, who was killed in the action, and succeeded by Monsieur Gillet, capitain de frigate, who was severely wounded. The moment the Cleopatra had surrendered, her mast fell, leaving her with only her mizenmast and bowsprit standing, and Sir Robert Laurie fully expected her to founder, before she could be got clear of the Ville de Milan. It would not be easy for the most skilful officer to say, how more could have been done to defend his Majesty's ship. The Milan was nearly double the force of her enemy in every respect; she was twelve hundred tons, the Cleopatra little more than seven hundred; she had near four hundred men, the Cleopatra not two hundred; her metal, French eighteens, the Cleopatra, English twelves; yet with these mighty odds against her she fought near five hours, and was taken with honour. The loss on board the Cleopatra was twenty-two killed, including two who died immediately after the action, and thirty-six wounded, being more than one-fourth of her complement.
This, it must be owned, was a hard-earned prize for the Milan, and we have been more than usually minute, because the defence offers a fine specimen of British valour and skill. We will not presumptuously say, that the Cleopatra would have subdued an enemy so much her superior, if the accident had not happened to her tiller; but we will say, that a better action was never fought, and that
when the British frigate at last surrendered, she was scarcely worth taking into port. The valour of Captain Laurie soon had its reward, by causing both the prize and her conqueror to fall an easy prey to a very gallant and very fortunate officer.
Captain John Talbot, of the Leander, on the 23d of the same month, fell in with the Cleopatra under jury-masts, and soon after saw the Milan also under jury-masts. As the Leander came up with the small frigate, the other closed to support her, but soon after separated; one going before the wind, the other keeping it on her larboard quarter. The Cleopatra struck, on the Leander firing a shot over her. It was very soon discovered by Captain Talbot what ship he had taken; and finding that there were Englishmen enough on board to secure her, he lost no time in going after the Milan, desiring the Cleopatra to follow him. One hour's chase brought him alongside of the enemy, who, incapable of resistance, instantly surrendered, without firing or receiving a shot. Thia frigate was from Martinique, bound to France with despatches, ahd the officers declared, that they did every thing in their power to avoid an action with the Cleopatra. Sir Robert Laurie, though no longer captain of the ship, took charge of the Cleopatra, by desire of Captain Talbot, and the three ships proceeded to Bermuda, whence, on the 7th of March, Captain Talbot dates his letter to Sir Andrew Mitchell.
Sir Robert Laurie, when tried by a court-mar