1801 - Sylph and French Frigate


Next Page

Previous Page
Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
1801 Sylph and French Frigate 155

between wind and water, and her rigging and boats had also been a good deal cut. The loss on the part of the Flêche, out of an alleged complement, of 145 (including four lieutenants, besides her commanding officer), from the number of dead and wounded reported to have been found on her forecastle, was supposed to be very severe; but Captain Bonnavie acknowledged to having had only four men killed: the wounded he did not enumerate.

Like the Chiffonne, the Flêche had brought from Nantes, about four months back, and since deposited on one of the Seychelle islands, 35 banished Frenchmen. Some of her men had been left sick at the Isle of Bourbon; but, to compensate for their loss, 20 of the late Chiffonne's crew had assisted serving the guns. Had the action been carried on wholly close quarters, the heavy metal of the Victor would certainly have rendered her too powerful to be an equal match for the Flêche ; but, in that respect, the French brig had managed to give herself the advantage by keeping her adversary at long-shot. Great credit was therefore due to the officers and crew of the Victor, for their gallantry, skill, and perseverance ; but the Flêche was not eventually lost, the French having afterwards weighed and, we believe, refitted her.

On the 31st of July, in the evening, the British 18-gun brig-sloop Sylph, Captain Charles Dashwood, cruising off Santander or San-Andero, on the north coast of Spain, with a light air from the southward, chased an armed schooner standing to the north-east; but, before there was a possibility of arriving up with her, a large frigate, then judged to be Spanish, but afterwards believed to be French, was descried under the land advancing towards the brig, and to which frigate the schooner fled for refuge.

Finding it impracticable to gain the wind of the strange frigate, whose hull, at sunset, was clearly discernible, the Sylph, shortened sail, hove to, and prepared for battle. At 11 p.m. the frigate arrived within half-gun shot; when, having in the usual manner ascertained the ship's hostile character, the brig opened her fire. Soon afterwards the frigate approached within hail, and a spirited cannonade was kept up for one hour and. 20 minutes ; when, having had her sails and almost all her running rigging cut to pieces, and one carronade dismounted, and having received several shot between wind and water, the Sylph edged away to repair her damages. Perceiving, however, that the frigate either was unable or unwilling to make sail in pursuit, the Sylph, as soon as she was out of gun-shot, hove to.

On the 1st of August, at daybreak, the Sylph discovered her late, opponent, with her fore yard upon deck, about seven miles off in the north-west, which was now to windward, the wind having shifted to that quarter in a squall during the night,

^ back to top ^