1804 - Captain Bligh at Curaçoa


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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
1804 Colonial Expeditions - West Indies 284

vessels of superior force, which, in consequence of Captain Tucker's imprudence, had been despatched in pursuit of her.

In the early part of December, 1803, the 74-gun ship Theseus, Captain John Bligh, arrived at Port-Royal Jamaica, from the mole of Saint-Nicholas. On the 17th Captain Bligh received an order directing him to proceed on the ensuing day off the city of Santo-Domingo, and, in company with the 74-gun ship Vanguard, Captain James Walker, previously stationed there, to blockade the port. Should the French in possession of the town * propose capitulation, Captain Bligh was authorized to treat with them, and was at the same time verbally informed by Sir John Duckworth, in strict confidence, that he would receive an order by the 74-gun ship Hercule, Captain Richard Dalling Dunn, to attack the island of Curaçoa; but that it was not his, Sir John's, intention, that the safety of the line-of-battle ships should be risked by attempting to force the harbour of St.-Ann.

On the 19th the Theseus sailed from Port-Royal, and before the end of the month arrived off the city of Santo-Domingo ; but the Vanguard was not there, nor, in fact, did that ship join at all. On the 15th of January, 1804, Captain Bligh received his orders by the Hercule, and by them was directed, taking with him the three 74s, already named, also the 18-pounder 36-gun frigates Blanche, Captain Zachary Mudge, and Pique, Captain William Charles Bayne Hodgson Ross, and the 10-gun schooner Gipsy, Acting-lieutenant Michael Fitton, to proceed without a moment's loss of time off the island of Curaçoa ; " having," says Sir John, "received certain information that the garrison of Curaçoa has not been strengthened since the commencement of the war, and consists of only 160 troops, with a frigate in the port whose officers and crew are said nearly all to have fallen victims to the climate." Captain Bligh is then directed to summon the island to surrender to his majesty's arms upon liberal conditions. In case of a refusal, and that he should have no reason to believe there had been any augmentation of the garrison, Captain Bligh is to land a part of the crews of the ships. Then follows this nugatory salvo: " But it is my duty to caution you by no means to hazard more than the object is worth." Nugatory, indeed; for, by what standard was the relative value of the object and the means to be measured ?

With his two 74s, two frigates, and one schooner, and with no other knowledge of the state of Curaçoa than was contained in the paragraph already quoted from his orders, and with no person on board the squadron who had ever seen the island, except Captain Ross and Mr. Fitton, Captain Bligh made sail for his destination. Owing to calms and variable winds, the squadron did not, until the 30th of January, arrive in sight of the island of Bonaire, which lies off the east end of Curaçoa. In the evening the ships bore up, and early on the next morning, the 31st, hove to about six miles to the eastward of the town and

* See p. 210.

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