1808 - Africa and Danish gun-boats


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1808 Light Squadrons and Single Ships 76

On the 15th of October the British 64-gun ship Africa, Captain John Barrett, accompanied by the Thunder bomb-vessel and one or two gun-brigs, sailed from Carlscrona in Sweden with a homeward-bound convoy of 137 sail. On the morning of the 20th the whole of this convoy, except one vessel captured and three which had run on shore and were destroyed, got safe into the channel of Malmo. While the smaller vessels of war and the convoy anchored in that roadstead, the Africa, for their better protection, anchored about eight miles to the southward of the town of Drago, on the Danish island of Amag. At about 40 minutes past noon, observing a flotilla of gun-boats advancing to attack the convoy, the Africa got under way and stood to meet them. At 1 p.m. the little wind there had been died away to a calm ; and the Danish flotilla, rowing towards the Africa, was now seen to consist of 25 large gun and mortar boats, and seven armed launches, mounting between them, upon a moderate estimate, 80 heavy long guns, and manned with upwards of 1600 men.

At 1 h. 15 m. P.M. the Africa shortened sail and cleared for action ; and at 2 h. 55 m. the gun-boats advanced within gunshot upon the ship's quarters and bows, and commenced an animated fire of round and grape. The Africa returned the fire by such of her guns as she could bring to bear ; and in this way the engagement continued without intermission until 6 h. 45 m. p.m., when the darkness put an end to it. During the action the Africa had her colours twice shot away ; and each time the Danes advanced cheering, thinking they had gained the day. The British crew quickly rehoisted the colours, and, cheering in their turn, gave the Danish crew such a salute as sent them quickly back to their secure retreat upon their motionless opponent's quarters and bows.

The Africa had her lower masts and lower yards badly wounded, and the greater part of the standing and running rigging and sails cut to pieces. Her two cutters were entirely destroyed, and her remaining boats disabled. Her hull was struck in many places, several large shot had entered between wind and water, and her stern was much shattered. The loss on board the Africa was proportionably severe. It amounted to nine seamen and marines killed, the captain (slightly), two lieutenants of marines (Thomas Brattle and John George Richardson), the captain's two clerks, one midshipman, and 47 seamen and marines wounded. The loss among the Danes it is impossible to state ; but one or two of their boats were seen to go down. The difficulty of hitting such small objects, and the care the gun-boats took to station themselves where few shot could reach them, render it probable that the Danish loss was comparatively trifling.

Captain Barrett walked the deck during the whole engagement, perfectly cool and composed, and kept exhorting the men

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