1804 - Wolverine and Blonde


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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
1804 Loss of the Apollo 257

deep. The long duration of the action was not without its effect. The second privateer, either from bad sailing or bad management, could not overtake one of the eight merchant vessels ; nor could the Blonde withdraw herself in time to do more than capture two of the number : the remainder effected their escape.

A 50 minutes' close engagement between two ships so decidedly unequal in force entitled the weaker, although the vanquished party, to at least as much praise, as is usually bestowed upon the victor in a well-matched contest. Had the Blonde been a national ship, and even worse armed, worse manned, and worse fought than she was, Captain Gordon and his first lieutenant would have been promoted for their gallantry, and the conduct of all on board the Wolverine been held up as an example of the devotedness of British seamen in upholding the honour of their flag, and in protecting the commercial interests of their country. But, as it was a privateer, a " paltry privateer, " in the words of the Annual Register, which had captured the king's ship, the action of the Wolverine and Blonde was considered to be discreditable to the former, and therefore not worthy to be recorded in the annals of the British navy. To make success the sole criterion of merit is as unjust, as it is discouraging : where then, is the stimulus to persevere in an almost hopeless, or even in a barely doubtful cause ; and what more can a seaman do, than stand to his gun until his vessel sinks under him ?

This is as the account stands in our first edition; and, although not a line of the details here given is to be found in any other publication, we may usefully add the following from the work of a contemporary, published since ; and to whom, we believe, that information on the subject was granted which was refused to us. " Captain Gordon, though many years a prisoner, was promoted to the rank of post-captain, and, on his return to England most honourably acquitted by the sentence of a court-martial. " The admiralty list informs us, that Captain Gordon was made post on the 8th of April, 1805 : it was this lapse of nearly 13 months, and our unacquaintance, for the reason already stated, with the requested particulars of his case ; which occasioned us to suppose that Captain Gordon had not been rewarded in the manner he deserved.

On the 26th of March the British 36-gun frigate Apollo, Captain John William Taylor Dixon, and 28-gun frigate Carysfort, Captain Robert Fanshawe, sailed from the Cove of Cork with 69 merchant vessels under convoy, bound to the West Indies. On the 2d of April, at 3 a.m., while steering

* Brenton vol. iii., p. 391. The complement of the Blonde is here reduced to " 180 men ;" but, in confirmation of the accuracy of our account, we may state, that the ship was captured by the British a few months afterwards with 240 men on board.

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