1801 - Light Squadrons and Single Ships, Melpomène and Sénégal


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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
1801 Light Squadrons and Single Ships 132

On the 3d of January, the British 38-gun frigate Melpomène, Captain Sir Charles Hamilton, being off the bar of Sénégal, the latter resolved, with the concurrence of Lieutenant-colonel Frazer, the commandant of the garrison of Gorée, to attempt to carry by surprise a French 18-gun brig-corvette and an armed schooner at anchor within it; in order, by their means, as vessels of a less draught of water than the frigate, to get possession of the battery that commanded the entrance to the river, and eventually of the settlement itself.

Accordingly, at 9 h. 30 in. p.m., five boats, containing 55 volunteers from the Melpomène, five from the crew of a transport in company, and Lieutenant Christie and 35 men from the African corps, being 96 in all, placed under the orders of Lieutenant Thomas Dick, assisted by Lieutenant William Palmer, and by Lieutenant William Vyvian of the marines, quitted the Melpomène upon the service intrusted to them. Having passed in safety the heavy surf on the bar with the flood-tide, also the battery at the point, without being discovered, the boats, at 11 h. 15 m., arrived within a few yards of the brig ; when the latter, by a single discharge of her two bow-guns, killed Lieutenant Palmer and seven men, and sank two of the best boats. Notwithstanding this, the three remaining boats pulled alongside of, boarded, and, after a 20 minutes' severe contest, carried, the French brig-corvette Sénégal, of 18 long 8 and 12 pounders (the latter carronades probably) and about 60 men, commanded by Citizen Renou.

In the mean time the schooner had cut her cable, and run for protection nearer the battery; the fire from which, and from some musketry on the southern bank of the river, frustrated every attempt upon the former, although Lieutenant Dick had turned the guns of the brig against her. Having effected as much as he could, Lieutenant Dick cut the cables of the brig, and made sail with her down the river; but, owing to the ebb-tide's having made, and no one on board being acquainted with the navigation across the bar, the Sénégal grounded. After several vain attempts to get off the prize, Lieutenant Dick and his party quitted her; and, with the three boats, succeeded in making his way to the ship, across a tremendous surf, and under a heavy fire of grape-shot and musketry from the adjoining batteries. The brig afterwards sank up to her gunwales, in the quicksand on which she had grounded. The loss sustained by the British in this spirited, although but partially successful affair, amounted to one lieutenant (William Palmer), one lieutenant of marines (William Vyvian), one midshipman (Robert Main), six seamen, one marine, and one corporal of the African corps killed, one master's mate (John Hendric,) one surgeon's

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