1803 - Commodore Loring at St.Domingo, Capture of the Surveillante, Lieutenant Willoughby and the Clorinde


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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
1803 Colonial Expeditions - West Indies 208

at the former General Rochambeau. Cape-François, besides being blockaded at sea by the British, was invested on land by the insurgents ; and the French garrison had the additional misfortune fortune of being reduced to a state bordering on famine.

Thus situated, General Rochambeau, on the 17th of November, proposed to Commodore John Loring, the commanding officer of the British blockading force, to evacuate the Cape, provided he and his garrison were suffered to go to France on board one or more of the ships of war in port. Such terms were of course rejected. The General then concluded a treaty with Dessalines, by which, in 10 days from the 20th of November, he was to evacuate the Cape and its dependencies, and to be allowed, himself, and his troops, and their baggage, to retire on board the French ships lying in the harbour. By the fifth day General Rochambeau had embarked his garrison, and hoped to escape the English squadron ; but the latter was too vigilant to afford the former even an opportunity of making the attempt. On the 30th, the day on which the truce expired, the Negroes hoisted their colours upon all the forts, and began to prepare for sinking the French ships with red-hot shot, should they any longer delay, their departure. To know the reason of this delay, Captain Loring had sent in Captain Bligh with a flag of truce ; when, at a meeting between him and Captain Barré, the French naval commanding officer, a rough sketch of a capitulation, was drawn up and signed, and General Dessalines was induced to allow the French ships, with colours hoisted, to sail out of the harbour. They were then, after firing each a broadside in return to a shot discharged athwart their bows by one of the British ships, to haul down the French colours and surrender.

The 40-gun frigate Surveillante, accompanied by some smaller vessels, came out in this manner, and was taken possession of by the British ; but the Clorinde, another 40-gun frigate, in her way out grounded upon the rocks under Fort St.-Joseph at the entrance of the harbour, and beat off her rudder. The frigate, in short, was in so desperate a situation, that the British boats, which had been detached to assist the French ships in getting out of the mole, were returning to the squadron, upon a supposition that no efforts of theirs could save the Clorinde. The ship, which was thus abandoned to her fate, had on board, besides a small crew of from 150 to 200 men, General Lapoype and 700 French troops, together with several of the officers' wives, their women-servants, and children; in all full 900 souls.

Among the boats of the squadron, employed upon the service just mentioned, was the launch of the Hercule, manned with from 30 to 40 hands, under the command of Acting-lieutenant Nisbet Josiah Willoughby. From slow-pulling, or from some other unexplained cause, retarded in her progress, the launch was among the rearmost of those boats. Anxious to rescue so many persons as were evidently on board the Clorinde, from the certain

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