1796 - East Indies


 
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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol I

1796

Capture of Columbo, Amboyna, and Banda

371

On or about the 12th of May a French squadron arrived at Cape-François, having on board about 1200 troops, 20,000 muskets, 400,000 lbs. weight of powder, and 12 field-pieces, besides the agents from the directory, Santhonax, Giraud, Raymond and Leblanc, General Rochambeau, and several military and civil officers. This squadron had quitted France in two divisions : one, commanded by Commodore Henri-Alexandre Thévenard, and consisting of the 74-gun ships Fougueux and Wattigny, 40-gun frigate Vengeance, and, we believe, 20-gun ship-corvette Berceau sailed from Rochefort ; the other, consisting of the 40-gun frigate Méduse, 36-gun frigate Insurgente, 20-gun ship-corvette Doucereuse, and eight transports, under Captain Guillaume Thomas, had escaped from Brest. The most extraordinary circumstance is that, in spite of the numerous British cruisers afloat, all these ships got safe back to France.

East Indies

On the 5th of February an expedition, composed of the British 12-pounder 32-gun frigate Heroine, Captain Alan Hyde Gardner, 16-gun ship-sloops Rattlesnake, Echo, and Swift, Captains Edward Ramage, Andrew Todd, and James Sprat Rainier, and five armed ships belonging to the East India company, with a body of troops on board, under the command of Colonel Stuart, from the Cape of Good Hope, anchored off Negombo, a settlement and roadstead distant about 18 miles from the object of the expedition, the important fortress of Colombo in the island of Ceylon. The fort at Negombo, having been abandoned by the enemy, was immediately taken possession of ; and, in the course of the 6th, the whole of the troops were safely disembarked.

While the troops proceeded over land to Colombo, meeting on their march with little opposition, the Heroine and squadron had stationed themselves close to the fortress, to be ready to land the artillery. On the 14th, every thing being prepared for commencing the attack, the garrison was summoned to surrender, and, on the next day, the 15th, agreed to the terms of capitulation proposed. Thus was this valuable and highly important settlement and its dependencies, with a very trifling loss, transferred to the possession of Great Britain. The pepper, cinnamon, and other merchandise, independent of the ships and the military and naval stores, were valued at 25 lacks of rupees, or about 300,000 sterling.

On the 16th of February an expedition under Rear-admiral Peter Rainier, composed of the 74-gun ship Suffolk, Captain Robert Lambert, 50-gun ship Centurion, Captain Samuel Osborne, 44-gun ship Resistance, Captain Edward Pakenham : 32-gun frigate Orpheus, Captain Henry Newcome, and 16-gun ship-sloop Swift, Captain James Sprat Rainier, with one or two armed

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