1801 - Phoebe and Africaine


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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
1801 Phoebe and Africaine 139

After several attempts to wear in pursuit, the Penguin found it impracticable ; and the corvette and her two consorts were presently out of sight. Although the action had lasted so long the very high firing of the corvette, some of whose missiles were iron bars from eight inches to a foot long, occasioned the Penguin's principal damages to be in her rigging and sails; and from the same cause, the brig's loss amounted to only one man killed and a few wounded. Having in the course of the night repaired her rigging and got up another topmast, the Penguin, at daylight on the 19th, again saw her three opponents, and chased them into the island of Teneriffe.

For the sake of Captain Mansel, and the officers and crew of the Penguin, we regret not to have succeeded in discovering the name and other particulars of the ship, which they had so gallantly fought and so fairly beaten. If the vessel was a national corvette, she probably was one of those which Buonaparte had sent to Cayenne or the Seychelles with banished persons; but, supposing the ship to have been a privateer, her evident size and force, and the knowledge that some of the French privateers, cruising at this particular period, were a match for a British 28-gun frigate, will prevent that from operating as the slightest disparagement, to the Penguin's action.

On the 19th of February, at 4 p.m., the British 18-pounder 36-gun frigate Phbe, Captain Robert Barlow, being about two leagues to the eastward of Gibraltar, beating up for that port with a light breeze at west, discovered on the African shore, nearly abreast of the fortress of Ceuta, a strange ship under a press of sail, steering directly up the Mediterranean. The Phbe, having her head to the northward, immediately tacked and stood for the stranger; who, however, made no alteration in her course. At 7 h. 30 m. p.m. the Phbe, by her superiority of sailing, closed the stranger upon the larboard quarter; and the latter, finding an action inevitable, shortened sail. Having done the same, and being unable from the darkness to discern her colours, the Phbe fired a shot over the strange ship, to induce her to bring to. Almost immediately afterwards the French 40-gun frigate Africaine, Commodore Saulnier, with 400 troops, six brass field-pieces, several thousand stands of arms, and a great quantity of ammunition (but not " implements of agriculture," as erroneously stated in the official letter), which she had embarked at Rochefort (and, having sailed with and since parted from the 36-gun frigate Régénérée, similarly freighted, was conveying to Egypt), altered her course to port ; and, as soon as she could bring her broadside to bear, discharged it at the Phbe, but with little or no effect.

Having altered her course so as to keep parallel with her opponent, and got quite near to her, the Phbe, poured in a well-directed, and, as it proved, most destructive broadside.

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