1799 - Destruction of the Preneuse


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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol II
1799 Light Squadrons and Single Ships 350

to our knowledge, was held, we are unable to give a satisfactory explanation of the causes that may have led to it. Were the facts all made known, perhaps they would exonerate the Jupiter's officers and crew from every particle of blame. Undoubtedly it was a cause of just triumph to Captain l'Hermite, and well calculated to wipe away the disgrace incurred by the Preneuse at Algoa bay ; yet not a French writer, that we can discover, has touched upon the subject.

The Preneuse continued her cruise, but it proved her last. On the 11th of December, in the forenoon, the British 74-gun ship Tremendous, Captain John Osborn, and 50-gun ship Adamant, Captain William Hotham, cruising off Port-Louis in the Isle of France, discovered and chased the Preneuse ; who, finding it impossible to escape from the Adamant, ran herself on shore on the west side of the river Tombeau, about three miles from Port-Louis, and near to some batteries. At 3 p.m. the frigate cut away all her masts, and at 3 h. 30 m. p.m., in conjunction with the batteries, opened a fire upon the Adamant, who was using every exertion to work up to her. At 5h. 30 m. p.m. the latter opened a fire in return ; and, in about 15 minutes afterwards, the Preneuse hauled in her ensign from the quarter as a signal of submission : whereupon the Adamant discontinued the action.

After a communication between the two British captains, Captain Osborn consented that two boats of the Adamant and one of the Tremendous should be sent in to attempt to destroy the French frigate. Accordingly at 7 p.m., one 12, and two six. oared cutters, containing about 35 men, and placed under the orders of Lieutenant Edward Grey, first of the Adamant, assisted by Lieutenant John Walker, and Lieutenant of marines, John Owen, of the same ship, and Lieutenant Benjamin Symes of the Tremendous, put off from the Adamant, to execute the service intrusted to them.

At about 8 p.m., the French batteries began firing shots and shells at the boats and at the Adamant, who was still working up towards the object of attack. At about 9 p.m., just as the boats were getting alongside of the Preneuse, two of her launches filled with men, pulled from her towards the shore. Shortly afterwards Lieutenant Grey and his party, under a heavy fire still kept up from the batteries, gallantly boarded the French frigate. Having removed Captain L'Hermite, 14 or 15 other officers, and a few men, all that remained in her, and, greatly to Lieutenant Grey's credit, saved as much as possible of the private property belonging to them, Lieutenant Grey set fire to and destroyed the Preneuse, and returned to the Adamant without the loss of a man.

That the commanding officer in this gallant and well-executed boat-attack should not have been rewarded with promotion savours of injustice; but we shall by and by come to a case, in

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