1800 - Capture of the GuÍpe


 
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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
1800 Seine and Vengeance 49

account given of the size of the Vengeance, namely, that she was as large as a British 64, tended greatly to mislead the public as to the merits of the action which had led to her capture, we beg to be allowed to digress a little, to show how the mistake arose.

When a captured vessel is purchased by government, it is at so much a ton, according to the age and condition of the prize. Hence the ship's measurement must be taken before the sum can be fixed. In the case of the Vengeance, the master-shipwright, shipwright's assistant, and boatswain, belonging to Port-Royal yard, took her dimensions and computed her tonnage, but in such a way that they made the sister-ship of one that was 1182, measure 1370 tons. As the Vengeance was prevented from coming home to be properly measured, no way remains to prove the erroneous calculation of the dock-yard officers, but by analogy. For instance, in the year 1803 the same officers measured, among many other ships, the French prize-frigates Clorinde, Surveillante, Vertu, and Créole, and the 74-gun ship Duquesne. The following little table will show that, in their way of performing the task, the Port-Royal dockyard officers could not have made a ship of 1180 tons measure less than 1370.

  Tons   Tons
Clorinde, measured at Jamaica 1375 Measured in England 1161
Surveillante, measured at Jamaica 1235 Measured in England 1094
Vertu, measured at Jamaica 1245 Measured in England 1073
Duquesne, measured at Jamaica 2151 Measured in England 1903
Créole, measured at Jamaica 1267 Foundered on her way home: but was known to be similar in size to Vertu 1073
Vengeance, measured at Jamaica 1370 Actual measurement of Résistance, afterwards Fisgard 1182

Consequently, the average rate per ton, at which these six French ships were purchased, being 10l. 10s. for the Clorinde, 12l. 10s. for the Surveillante and Duquesne, 7l. for the Vertu, 8l. 10s. for Créole, and 6l. 5s. for the Vengeance, government paid 11,137l. 10s. more than they had agreed to give.

On the 29th of August, while the British squadron, already mentioned as under the command of Sir John Borlase Warren in the 74-gun ship Renown, was, with several transports in company, proceeding along the coast of Spain to its ulterior destination, a large French ship-privateer, alarmed by the appearance of so formidable a force, was seen to run into Vigo, and to anchor at a spot near the narrows of Redondela, and close to some batteries. In the evening a division of boats, 20 in number, from the ships of the squadron, placed under the orders of Lieutenant Henry Burke of the Renown, proceeded to attack the privateer ; which was the Guépe, mounting 18 long 8-pounders, and manned with 161 men.

At about 40 minutes past midnight the boats got alongside of

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