1800 - Lieutenant Fitton at Curaçoa


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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
1800 Colonial Expeditions - West Indies 60

off the port of Amsterdam, in the island of Curaçoa, the Dutch inhabitants of the latter, tired out with the enormities of the band of 1500 republican ruffians that were in possession of the west part of the island, sent off a deputation to claim the protection of England. On the 13th the capitulation, surrendering the island to his Britannic majesty, was signed in form, by the governor, Johan Rudolph Lausser, on the one part, and by Captain Watkins, of the Néréide, on the other. The vessels, large and small, lying in the harbour of Amsterdam, numbered 44 ; but no ships of war were among them.

In one of his despatches announcing this event, Captain Watkins speaks of the "activity and spirited conduct" of Lieutenant Michael Fitton,* commanding the Active schooner, then in company with the Néréide. Among the many occasions which called forth that eulogium, one, although it did not end decisively, may merit a place here. The Active was a schooner of about 80 tons, tender to the Abergavenny 54, the flag-ship at Jamaica, and carried eight 12-pounder carronades, with a crew of about 45 men and boys. The service upon which the Active had been ordered by Captain Watkins, was to watch the mouth of the harbour of Amsterdam, while the Néréide cruised in the offing. This the schooner continued to do for several days, standing in frequently so near, as to be just out of range of the long 18s and 24s on Fort Fiscadera, and in full view of five or six French privateers lying moored close to the walls of it, and one of which was the Quidproquo, already mentioned as captured by the Gipsy. † Upon these privateers Lieutenant Fitton looked with a longing eye, till he could resist no longer. Observing that, at a certain hour every day, the officers went on shore at the fort to dine; and aware that, owing to his daily practice of standing across and across without molesting them, the privateersmen or garrison paid very little attention to the Active's manœuvers, Lieutenant Fitton resolved to afford them an unexpected treat. Having seen the boats pass as usual, and being in perfect readiness, the Active stood close in, and bringing her broadside to bear, opened the contents of it right into the sterns of the cluster of privateers.

Instantly all was bustle on board the latter and in the fort and the boats, in their hurry back, became also exposed to a destructive fire from the schooner; some of whose 12-pounder shot, so well and closely directed as they were, could not have fallen harmless even in the fort itself. The instant he saw the guns of the latter in motion (and the people in charge of them appeared not very brisk), Lieutenant Fitton crowded sail away, in such a direction, however, as to expose no wider mark to the enemy than the Active's stern, This, as he anticipated, the artillerists at the fort failed to hit; although some of the shot

* See vol. ii., p. 353.

See p. 53.

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