1803 - Capture of Minerve


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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
1803 Capture of the Minerve 189

Royal dock-yard, the Créole, commanded by Captain Austin Bissell, foundered on her passage to England, and had it not been for the presence of other ships, would have consigned her officers and crew to a watery grave.

On the 2d of July the British 38-gun frigate Minerve, Captain Jahleel Brenton, grounded and was captured at the entrance of the harbour of Cherbourg. The circumstances under which this happened have been so fully detailed by Captain Brenton's brother, that we cannot do better than transcribe our contemporary's account.

" In the evening the Minerve, running close in with Cherbourg in a thick fog, mistook Fort de la Liberté for Pélée; and a number of vessels being seen to the eastward, the pilot assured the captain he might run amongst them without hesitation. The helm was accordingly put up for the purpose, when just as the ship was about to open her fire, she grounded, and the fog at the same time dispersing, discovered her to be in a very perilous situation. She was on the western Cone Head, about six furlongs from Fort de la Liberté, of 70 guns and 15 mortars ; and one mile from the Isle Pélée, of 100 guns, and 25 mortars, from both of which a fire almost immediately opened. This happened about nine o'clock in the evening. Captain Brenton, aware that strong and decided measures were necessary, and that the launch of a frigate was not calculated to carry out a bower anchor, immediately despatched his boats armed, to cut out a vessel from under the batteries, of sufficient capacity for the purpose; whilst the launch, with her carronade, should be employed in diverting the fire of two gun-brigs, lying in such a position ahead of the Minerve, as to annoy her greatly by a raking fire. The yawl, being the first boat in the water, was sent under the orders of the Honourable Lieutenant William Walpole, and the other boats were directed to follow as soon as ready ; but the gallant officer, to whom the enterprise was in trusted, found his own boat sufficient. He proceeded under a heavy fire of round, grape, and musketry, and from her position close to the batteries, cut out a lugger of 50 tons, laden with stone for the works, and towed her off to the ship. Before the bower anchor could be placed in this vessel, it was necessary to clear her of her cargo, and that this might be done, without adding to the shoal on which the ship lay, she was veered astern by the ebb tide to the length of a hawser. Unfortunately, the moon shone with great brightness. The enemy's fire became very galling: the more so, as no return could be made but from the two forecastle guns, those of the main deck having been all run close forward, for the purpose of lightening the ship abaft, where she hung. At 11 p.m. the lugger, being cleared, was brought under the larboard cathead, to receive the small bower anchor, and during this operation, was so frequently struck by the gun-brigs, as to keep a carpenter constantly employed in stopping

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