1801 - Abergavenny's tender and Santa-Maria


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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
1801 Abergavenny's tender and Santa-Maria 135

beam, on which the gun rested, was found to be badly sprung. This was irreparable. The vessels rigging was decayed, and he had no cordage; her sails were split and torn, and he had neither canvass, nor even sail-twine. Being, however, a man of resources, Lieutenant Fitton reduced and altered the shape of the sails, the seamen using for twine what they unravelled from the remnant pieces. He then rigged the tender as a lugger, and embarked his men, gun, and the few stores he had left.

In this ineffective state, the tender bore up for Carthagena her commander intending to coast down the Main to Portobello, in the hope of being able to capture or cut out some, vessel that might answer to carry his crew and himself to Jamaica. On the 23d of January, early in the morning, as the tender was hauling round Cape Rosario, a schooner was discovered, to which she immediately gave chase. The schooner, which was the Spanish garda-costa, Santa-Maria, of six (pierced for 10) long 6-pounders, 10 swivels, and 60 men, commanded by Don Josef Coréi, a few hours only from Carthagena, bore down to reconnoitre the lugger. The latter having her gun below, and as many of her men hid from view as the want of a barricade would permit, the garda-costa, readily approached within gunshot. Although he could have no wish to contend with so powerful an adversary, Lieutenant Fitton could not resist the opportunity of showing how well his men could handle their 12-pounder. It was soon raised up, and was discharged repeatedly, in quick succession, with evident effect.

After about 30 minutes' mutual firing with cannon and musketry, the Santa-Maria sheered off, and directed her course for the Isle of Varus, evidently with an intent to run on shore. Her persevering though one gun opponent stuck close to her, plying her well with shot, great and small ; but the tender was unable, as her commander wished, to grapple the schooner, because the latter kept the weathergage. At length the Santa-Maria grounded ; and Lieutenant Fitton, aware that, if the schooner landed her men in the bushes, no attempt of his people would avail, eased off the lugger's sheets, and ran her also on shore, about 10 yards from the Santa-Maria. The musketry of the latter as she heeled over greatly annoying the tender's men, who had no barricades to shelter them, Lieutenant Fitton leaped overboard; and, with his sword in his mouth, followed by the greater part of his crew similarly armed, swam to, boarded, and after a stout resistance carried, the Spanish schooner.

In this splendid little affair, the tender lost two seamen killed and five wounded; and of her small crew, numbering originally but 45, many were too sick to attend their quarters. Four or five, also; who were in the sick list, heedless alike of the doctor's injunctions and their own feeble state, had, when the boarding call was made, sprung over the side with their comrades ; and one or two of them nearly perished, in consequence of their

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