1804 - Gun-brigs and French prames, Bombardment of H‚vre, Commodore Owen and Boulogne flotilla


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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
1804 Invasion Flotilla 227

work, to have contributed to mislead the public respecting the real merits of the engagement off Boulogne in May, 1804.

On the 17th, at daybreak, the four gun-brigs, commanded by Lieutenant Manderston, having joined, were sent in, under the direction of Captain Hancock, to see what could be done with the French prame Ville-d'Anvers, aground to the eastward of Ostende. The gun-brigs opened their fire, but received from the numerous train of horse and other artillery assembled along the beach, as well as from the heavy mortars and pieces of cannon mounted upon the heights, so heavy a fire in return, that they were obliged to desist and haul off. No loss appears to have been sustained by the gun-brigs; but the Minx was struck by a large shot in the hounds of her mainmast. On the morning of the 19th the 16-gun ship-sloops Galgo, Captain Michael Dodd, and Inspector, Captain Edward James Mitchell, co-operated with the gun-brigs in a second attack upon the grounded prame ; but, protected by the powerful batteries on shore, the Ville-d'Anvers floated with the rising tide and got safe into Ostende. Five of the eight grounded schooners and schuyts were also floated into the basin.

Hâvre, owing to its central position on the French Channel-coast, was made a temporary dépôt for the vessels of the flotilla constructed to the westward, or in the Seine and the rivers flowing into it. As soon as a sufficient number was assembled, they were to be convoyed, by prames and gun-brigs, to the grand entrepôt at Boulogne. In the month of July a British squadron, composed chiefly of sloops, bombs, and small-craft, under the orders of Captain Robert Dudley Oliver, in the 38-gun frigate Melpomène, was stationed off Hâvre to reconnoitre and harass the port, and prevent, as well the vessels of the flotilla inside from escaping, as those on the outside from joining. On the 23d the bomb-vessels bombarded the town, set it on fire, and compelled several of the vessels to retire behind the pier and up the river. The mortar-batteries on shore opened a fire in return, which, although continued for some time, inflicted very little damage and no loss on the British vessels. On the 1st of August a second attack was made, attended with nearly a similar result.

On the 19th of July, in the afternoon, the wind, setting in strong from the north-north-east, made so much sea, that the French flotilla in the road of Boulogne became very uneasy. At about 8 p.m. the leewardmost brigs began to get under way, and work to windward, while some of the luggers ran down apparently for Etaples, leaving in the road at anchor 45 brigs and 43 luggers. The British frigate Immortalité, Captain Owen, with the 38-gun frigate Leda, Captain Robert Honyman, and several small vessels, was then at anchor about eight leagues to the westward of the town of Boulogne. The commodore immediately directed the 18-gun brig sloop Harpy, Captain

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