1796 - Boats of Niger near the Penmarcks, Spencer and Volcan


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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol I


Light Squadrons and Single Ships


was " 158 feet long and 43 broad." On the contrary, the Virginie measured but 151 feet 3 inches on the lower deck, and her extreme breadth was only 39 feet 10 inches. In fact, she was a ship considerably shorter and narrower than the Indefatigable, and was exceeded in size by several of the French 40-gun frigates which had previously been captured.

On the 27th of April the British 12-pounder 32-gun frigate Niger, Captain Edward James Foot, was detached by Vice-admiral Colpoys [should probably read Rear admiral Thompson, Vice-admiral Colpoys didn't arrive on station until 29 Oct 1796], cruising with his fleet off Brest, in pursuit of a large French armed lugger, which, at sunset, anchored for shelter among the rocks off the Penmarcks. Having approached as near as the depth of water would allow, the Niger anchored, with a spring on her cable, and kept up a brisk, but, owing to the distance, ineffectual fire on the lugger, until 9 p.m. ; when Captain Foote despatched the barge and cutters, with the Niger's first and third lieutenants, George Long and Thomas Thompson, master's mate, Jeremiah Morgan, and midshipman James Patton, with a party of seamen and six marines, to bring away or destroy the vessel.

The tide having ebbed considerably, it was not without great difficulty that the boats got alongside the object of attack. After an obstinate resistance on the part of the French, in which many of them were killed and wounded, the national lugger Ecureuil, of eighteen 4-pounders and 105 men, commanded by Lieutenant Jean-Baptiste-Augustin Rousseau, who with the survivors of his crew excepting 28 taken prisoners, escaped to the shore, was set on fire and destroyed ; with the loss, on the part of the British, of Lieutenant Long, wounded severely on the head and hand, and one midshipman (Mr. Patton), three seamen, and two marines, wounded slightly.

On the 4th of May, at noon, latitude 28 north, and longitude 69 west, the British ship-sloop Spencer, of fourteen 12-pounder carronades and two long fours, with 80 men and boys, Captain Andrew Fitzherbert Evans, after a long chase came up with the French gun-brig Volcan, of twelve 4-pounders, and between 80 and 90 men. A close action ensued, which, owing to the upsetting of three of the Spencer's carronades on the side engaged, was protracted to an hour and a quarter ; at the end of which time the Volcan, having had both topmasts shot away, and her standing and running rigging cut to pieces, hauled down her colours.

The Spencer had her mizenmast badly wounded, and some of her running rigging rendered useless, but sustained no greater loss than one seaman killed and one wounded. The loss on board the Volcan was known to be considerable, but could not be ascertained, and arose in a great degree from the explosion of some powder-flasks and combustibles which the crew had prepared to assist them in boarding the British vessel. Several of the Frenchmen, to avoid the effects of the explosion, leaped over

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