1803 - M. Linois at Bencoolen Sellabar and Batavia


Next Page

Previous Page
Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
1803 Admirals Rainier and Linois 213

The message of the 8th of March, considered every where as the signal of the approach of war between England and France, reached Madras on or about the 5th of July. It is probable that the intelligence was communicated to Admiral Rainier by the Terpsichore. At all events, in a week or two after the admiral's arrival at Madras, the British ships began taking on board their war-stores. It was not, however, until the 3d of September, that the king's message of the 16th of May, which was tantamount to a declaration of war, reached that settlement ; nor until the 13th of September, that the news of the actual commencement of war arrived at Fort-William. The intelligence had been received at Bombay on the 21st of August ; where, two days afterwards, arrived the board of admiralty's directions for the conduct to be pursued by Vice-admiral Rainier, and which could not well have reached him at Madras earlier than the first week in September.

Rear-admiral Linois, with his squadron, arrived at the Isle of France on the 16th of August ; and, about the latter end of the succeeding month, the French 20-gun corvette Berceau, it is believed, brought out the news of the war. On the 8th of October (why he deferred sailing till then does not appear) the French admiral, having detached the Atalante on a special mission to Mascat, a Portuguese settlement in Arabia-Felix, put to sea with the Marengo, Belle-Poule, Sémillante, and Berceau, The ships retained on board a portion of the troops they had brought from France, and with which they were now proceeding to reinforce the garrisons of the Isle of Réunion, or Bourbon, and of the city of Batavia, the capital of Java.

In the early part of his voyage M. Linois had the good fortune to fall in with and capture several richly-laden English ships ; and, on making Sumatra, he resolved to pay a visit to the road of Bencoolen, a British settlement upon that island. A pilot belonging to the port, mistaking the Marengo for what, by her colours, appeared an English man of war, went off to her, and anchored the French squadron just out of range of a battery which commanded the road. Meanwhile the merchant vessels, having discovered the true character of the strange ships, had cut or slipped and proceeded to Sellabar, a small port about two leagues to the southward of Bencoolen. They were soon followed by the Sémillante and Berceau, but not in time to prevent six of the vessels from being burnt, and two others run on shore, by their crews. The French burnt the two vessels that were aground, also three warehouses filled with spice, rice, and opium, and carried off a ship and two brigs, richly laden ; but not with entire impunity, as the Sémillante had two men killed by a shot from the shore. Having performed this exploit, the French squadron set sail, and on or about the 10th of December anchored in the road of Batavia.

^ back to top ^