1804 - Hippomenes and Buonaparte


 
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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
1804 Light Squadrons and Single Ships 268

the action, the enemy having so much the advantage of him in point of sailing." *

On the 21st of June, at noon, the British ship-sloop Hippomenes, now commanded by Captain Kenneth Mackenzie, cruising to windward of Antigua, in latitude 18 north, and Longitude 58 west, with the wind at east, and her head to the northward, observed in the north-east a brig, which afterwards proved to be the French privateer Buonaparte, Captain Paimpéni, of 18 long 8-pounders and 146 men. The peculiar construction of the Hippomenes, a Dutch-built corvette, had been taken advantage of in so disguising her appearance, that the privateer, believing the ship to be an African trader, bore down, under English colours, to take possession of her. At 1 h. 30 m. P.M. the Buonaparte shortened sail, and the Hippomenes hauled close to the wind to expedite the meeting. At 1 h. 50 m. P.M. the Hippomenes opened her fire at the privateer, who had now changed her colours to French. The latter instantly returned the fire, and a spirited action ensued. In the course of 10 or 12 minutes the Buonaparte ranged up on the weather quarter of the Hippomenes, and in a little time, becoming unmanageable, fell on board her opponent, dropping stem-on a little abaft the latter's fore chains. The guns of the Hippomenes, particularly two carronades on the upper deck, a Dutch 24-pounder and an English 12, in a very few minutes did serious injury to the Buonaparte ; while the latter, from her tops, threw stinkpots upon the decks of the former, thereby setting her on fire abaft.

It was at this crisis that, having to prevent the privateer's escape caused her bowsprit to be lashed to his ship's mainmast, Captain Mackenzie called to his crew to follow him in boarding, and secure the victory. He then, followed by his officers, and, as he thought by at least 50 or 60 of his men, rushed upon the Buonaparte's forecastle. The onset was encouraging : for the brig's crew, with scarcely a show of resistance, retreated abaft the mainmast. Here the privateer's men rallied ; and well they might rally, for they now saw what a mere handful of enemies stood upon their deck. The fact is, no more men had followed Captain Mackenzie and his officers, than made a total of 18 British ; opposed to whom, allowing an ample deduction for previous loss, were 100 French. The catastrophe may be summed up in a few words. Captain Mackenzie, his officers, and the few gallant fellows in company, defended themselves until five of the party were killed and eight wounded, including a master's mate severely, and the captain in as many as 14 places ; and who, in endeavouring to regain his ship, fell senseless into her main chains, just a minute or two before the lashing gave way and the vessels parted. Nine, including the captain

* Brenton, vol. iii., p. 344.

See p. 255.

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