1804 - Swift and Espérance, Wilhelmina and Psyché


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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
1804 Wilhelmina and Psyché 263

Lieutenant William Martin Leake, was fallen in with, engaged, boarded, and after a stout struggle, and the loss of her commander and many others of her small crew carried, by the French xebec-privateer Espérance, of 150 tons, 10 guns (represented, by the ship that afterwards captured her, as " 24 and 12 pounders, " probably carronades), and a crew of 54 men, commanded by Captain Escoffier. The Swift, it appears, was carrying despatches to Vice-admiral Lord Nelson Off Toulon ; but which, we rather think (for very few, if any particulars have been published), were thrown overboard previously to the cutter's capture. It does certainly seem strange, that, in a navy such as that of England, despatches to a commander-in-chief, upon an important foreign station, should be forwarded by a vessel not equal in force to a frigate's launch, when armed with her carronade and proper complement of men.

On the 9th of April, at daylight, in latitude 7° 44' north, and longitude 84° 30' east, the British armed en flute late 12-pounder 32-gun frigate Wilhelmina, Captain Henry Lambert, steering west-north-west, with the wind at north by east, and accompanied by the country-ship William-Petrie, laden with government stores for Trincomalé, and which ship the frigate, being bound to Madras, had been ordered to protect as far as the courses of the two remained the same, discovered a sail in the east-south-east steering to the eastward. Shortly afterwards the stranger wore and stood after the British vessels. Towards noon it fell calm, and the afternoon and night passed with very little wind, the stranger, until dark, still in sight. At daylight on the 10th, the wind then a light breeze from the north-east, and the course of the frigate and her charge about west half-north, the stranger was seen in the east by north, steering to the south-west. In a little time the latter hauled to the wind on the starboard tack, and steered directly after the former. Observing that the vessel was a ship of force, and suspecting her to be an enemy's cruiser, Captain Lambert directed the master of the William-Petrie, who had already arrived at the point for parting company, to alter his course after dark, and make the best of his way to the port of his destination.

The jury-rig alone of an armed en flute ship of war is a great deception, and it is generally in the power of the captain to give a mercantile appearance to the hull of his vessel. This was particularly the case in regard to the Wilhelmina, she being a ship of Dutch construction. It was the disguised appearance of the Wilhelmina that induced the stranger, who we may now introduce as the French frigate-privateer Psyché, of 36 guns, Captain Trogoff, after reconnoitring as she had done, boldly to approach with the determination of attacking the supposed Indiaman. At 6 p.m. came on a squall with rain ; through which, in her eagerness to close with the latter, the Psyché carried all sail. At 13 h. 45 m., it being dark and cloudy, the Wilhelmina, who to

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