1804 - Cutting out the Curieux


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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
1804 Light Squadrons and Single Ships 244

station off the Diamond, were detached to attempt the capture of the French brig-corvette Curieux, Capitaine de frégate Joseph-Marie-Emmanuel Cordier, of 16 long 6-pounders and (supposed to have been about 100, but with only, as admitted) 70 men, lying at anchor close under Fort-Edouard at the entrance of the Carénage, Fort-Royal harbour, Martinique, victualled for three months, and all ready for a start to sea. Although the suspicion that an attack might be made by a part of the blockading force had led to every commendable precaution to prevent surprise ; such as, loading the carriage-guns with grape, and the swivels (of which there were eight) and wall-pieces with musket-balls, spreading on the quarterdeck and in the arm-chest the muskets, sabres, pistols, tomahawks, and pikes, filling the cartouch-boxes, placing as sentries, one marine at each gangway-ladder, one at each bow, and two at the stern, tracing up the boarding-nettings, and directing a sharp look-out to be kept by every officer and man of the watch (28 in number), yet was the Curieux, owing to the vigour of the onset and the hour chosen for making the attack, unapprized of her enemy's approach until too late to offer a successful resistance.

At about three quarters of an hour past midnight, after a hard pull of 20 miles, and just as the moon was peeping from behind a cloud, the Centaur's boats were hailed by the Curieux, and then fired into by the sentries, by two of the starboard 6-pounders, a swivel, and a wall-piece. The 12 marines returned the fire with their muskets, and the boats pulled rapidly on. In the midst of a scuffle alongside, the barge pushed for the brig's stern. Here hung a rope-ladder, to which two boats were fast. Lieutenant Reynolds, and a seaman named Richard Templeton, ascended by it to the taffrail, and, in defiance of the swivels and wall-pieces mounted at this end of the vessel, were quickly followed by the rest of the barge's crew. In his way up the ladder, Lieutenant Reynolds, with admirable coolness, cut away one of the tracing-lines with his sword, whereby the corner of the netting fell, and thus enabled the three remaining boats to board on the brig's quarter.

Since the first alarm had been given all the Curieux's officers and men, headed by their brave commander, had been at their quarters ; and a sanguinary combat now ensued, in which the French officers took a much more active part than a portion of their men. The French, however, were soon overpowered : some were killed or badly wounded ; others thrown down the hatchway; and the remainder, finding themselves abandoned, retreated to the forecastle. Here a line of pikes stood opposed to the British ; but all was unavailable. Handspikes and the butt-ends of muskets became formidable weapons in the hands of the latter, and soon laid the captain and most of the officers near him prostrate on the deck. The majority of the surviving crew having by this time fled below, all further resistance presently

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