1800 - Cutting out the Prima galley


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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
800 British and French Fleets - Mediterranean 10

rowing 52 oars, and mounting two extremely long brass 36-pounders besides smaller pieces, an armed cutter, three armed settees, and several gun-boats. On the 20th, in the afternoon, this flotilla, standing along outside of the new or south-western mole-head, exchanged several shot with some of the British ships in passing; particularly with the Audacious, who was once or twice hulled by the long 36-pounders of the galley. At sunset the flotilla took up a position under the guns of the two moles and the city bastions, which were covered with troops, manifesting a determined resistance.

Notwithstanding this formidable indication, the bombarding flotilla, at about 9 P.M., quitted the Minotaur to make a fourth attack upon the town and shipping. On the 21st, at about 1 A.M. a brisk cannonade was opened upon the town, and quickly returned from various points; particularly from the long 36-pounders of the Prima galley, now lying chain-moored close to the inside of the old or eastern mole-head. Being unable, from his lighter metal, to offer any effectual check to this annoyance by a cannonade, Captain Beaver resolved to attempt carrying the galley by boarding. For this service a detachment of 10 boats, containing between them about 100 officers and men, immediately drew off from the flotilla. While the British were proceeding with all possible silence, in the hope to approach undiscovered in the prevailing darkness, a gun-boat stationed between the two mole-heads opened her fire upon them. Every moment's delay now adding to the danger, the boats dashed on towards the galley. On arriving alongside a new obstacle presented itself: The gangway, or gunwale, of a galley projects three feet and upwards from the side of the hull, and that of the Prima was strengthened by a stout barricade, along the summit of which were mounted several blunderpieces and wall-pieces. As an additional obstruction to the advance of boats, the oars were banked or fixed in their places, ready for use, with the handles secured to the benches or thwarts. Thus, with a crew of 257 fighting men, and those by the gun-boat's alarm, prepared for resistance, the Prima galley, even had she not been chain-moored in a harbour the entrance to which was guarded by numerous batteries, would have been a formidable object of attack.

All this, however, as we shall soon see, was of no avail. The first entrance was made amidships on the starboard side in the most gallant manner, by a boat of the Haerlem, under the command of Midshipman John Caldwell; who was promptly supported by some of the other boats. In the mean time the boats' crews of the Minotaur's cutter, commanded by Captain Beaver, and of the Vestal's launch, by Lieutenant William Gibson, supported by the remaining boats, had clambered up the images on the quarter, to carry the poop, where a considerable number of French soldiers had assembled. After a desperate struggle the British succeeded in their object ; and, as they gained footing

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