1803 - Mr. Smith and French schooner, Mr. a'Court and French schooner


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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
1803 Light Squadrons and Single Ships 204

Between the two attacks upon the Albion, another boat-party from the Blanche captured, in a very gallant manner, a vessel of superior force. On the 4th in the morning, the launch, armed with a 12-pounder carronade, and manned with 28 men, under the command of Mr. John Smith, master's mate, attacked, and after an obstinate conflict of 10 minutes boarded and carried, as she was coming out of the Caracol passage, a French schooner, mounting one long 8-pounder on a pivot, and manned with 30 men, of whom one was killed and five were wounded. The launch had one man killed and two wounded. The prize was a beautiful ballahou-schooner, and had on board a considerable quantity of dollars.

In his official letter, announcing the capture of this schooner, Captain Mudge says, " She is one of the finest vessels of her class I ever saw, and is fit for his majesty's service ; " and, to show how ready he was, in some cases, to atone for his apparent neglect of a young officer, Captain Mudge in a postscript adds, " I have omitted mentioning the Honourable Frederick Berkley; but the only apology I can make is saying he behaved nobly, and was much to be envied. "

A day or two after the affair of Mr. Smith, midshipman Edward Henry a'Court, with a marine and seven seamen, was despatched from the Blanche in the red cutter, to collect sand for the use of the ship. Although it had been ordered that youngsters, sent upon services of this kind, lest their pugnacious spirit should lead them into danger, were not to be allowed arms, the men in the boat, before they pushed off from the frigate, contrived to smuggle five or six muskets through the ports. It so happened that, in the dusk of evening, the boat fell in with a schooner, nearly becalmed. The midshipman and his little party of sanders unhesitatingly pulled towards her; and, as she had the appearance of a privateer, and might open a cannonade upon them, Mr. a'Court judiciously kept in her wake. Just as the boat had approached the stern of the schooner, a fire of musketry from the latter mortally wounded one man, and badly wounded another, of the boat-party. Mr. a'Court, nevertheless, pulled straight up alongside, and, with the assistance of his five remaining hands, boarded and carried a French schooner, bound to Cape-François, having among her passengers, a detachment of between 30 and 40 soldiers, commanded by a colonel, who had fought, bled, and distinguished himself, at the battle of Arcole. His wound was a fractured scull, and, upon the piece of plate that covered the denuded part, and which extended over a great portion of one side of his head, was engraven, in large characters, the word " Arcole."

When asked how he could surrender to so insignificant a force, the French colonel, with a shrug replied, that it was all owing to " le mal do mer ;" and that, had he been on shore, the case would have been otherwise. Let that have been as it may,

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