1804 - Cutting out the Atalante


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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
1804 Cutting out the Atalante 261

On the 28th of March the British 18-gun brig-sloop Scorpion Captain George Nicholas Hardinge, having been detached by Rear-admiral Thornborough to reconnoitre the Vlie passage into the Texel, discovered two Dutch brig-corvettes at anchor in the road. At the outermost, which was the Atalante, of 16 long 12-pounders, Captain Hardinge resolved to make a dash with his boats ; an attack by the Scorpion herself being impracticable, owing to the numerous shoals that surround the entrance. On the 31st, just as a favourable opportunity occurred, and the men were about to embark, the British 14-gun ship-sloop Beaver, Captain Charles Pelly, joined company. The latter, at his urgent request, was permitted to serve under Captain Hardinge ; and at 9 h. 30 m. p.m., three boats from the Scorpion, and two from the Beaver, containing between them about 60 officers and men, pushed off from the first-named sloop.

Having the flood-tide in their favour, the boats, in two hours, arrived alongside of the Atalante, who had her boarding nettings traced up, and was fully prepared to resist the attack. Captain Hardinge was the first man that leaped on board. His boat was promptly supported by the others ; and such was the impetuosity of the assault, that many of the Dutchmen quitted their quarters and ran below, " leaving to us, " says Captain Hardinge, in a private letter, " the painful duty of combating those whom we respected the most. " These, the remainder of a crew on board of 76, after a short but severe conflict, in which they had their commander and three seamen killed, their first lieutenant, two other officers, and eight seamen badly wounded, were overpowered. The British then set about securing the hatches, which the party below, headed by a lieutenant, repeatedly attempted to force. The Dutch officer, however, receiving a desperate wound, his men relaxed their efforts, and at length surrendered. Of the five boats employed, those of the Scorpion only sustained any loss ; and that was comparatively trifling, amounting to only one lieutenant (Buckland Stirling Bluett), the sloop's master (Woodward Williams), one midshipman (Edmund Jones), and two seamen wounded.

The above private letter from Captain Hardinge contains some interesting particulars, not less illustrative of the writer's gallantry than of his goodness of heart. " The decks, " he says, " were slippery in consequence of rain ; so that, grappling with my first opponent, a mate of the watch, I fell, but recovering my position, fought him upon equal terms, and killed him. I then engaged the captain, as brave a man as any service ever boasted : he had almost killed one of my seamen. To my shame be it spoken, he disarmed me, and was on the point of killing me, when a seaman of mine," as Captain H. thought, at the time, but it was Mr. Williams, the master of the Scorpion, " came up, rescued me at the peril of his own life, and enabled me to recover my sword. At this time all the men were come

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