1809 - Lord Gambier at Basque Roads


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1809 Lord Gambier at Basque Roads 113

it became nearly high water, the Océan also got afloat, and moved herself about 700 yards nearer to the channel of the river, where she was again stopped by the mud.

Seeing the French ships thus gradually getting beyond the reach of attack, whereby the whole object of the enterprise would be defeated, and observing, in particular, that the three nearest ships, the Calcutta, Aquilon, and Varsovie, were laying out anchors and hawsers far the purpose of effecting a similar removal, Lord Cochrane, at 1 p.m., just as the Ætna and the three gun-brigs had run past him, got under way with the Impérieuse, who had previously hove short, and, without any order or signal to that effect, dropped down towards the enemy. At 1 h. 30 m. p.m. the frigate set her topsails, and stood directly for the group of grounded ships on the Palles. Conceiving, now, that no serious attack was intended to be made upon these ships, which were setting their sails to assist in forcing them off the shoal, Lord Cochrane made the signal No. 405, " The enemy's ships are getting under sail ;" and in 10 minutes afterwards, or at 1 h. 40 m. P.M., finding no attention paid to that, he caused to be hoisted the signal No. 378, " The enemy is superior to the chasing ship." At 1 h. 45 m. this was followed by No. 364, " The ship is in distress, and requires to be assisted immediately ." The latter was the point aimed at ; but there was no disuniting the signal without having recourse to the tedious operation of the telegraph.

At 1 h. 50 m. p.m. the Impérieuse shortened sail, and fired a shot at the Calcutta; and at 2 p.m. anchored on the Palles shoal in five fathoms, veered to half a cable and kept fast the spring. Her starboard broadside being thus brought to bear upon the Calcutta's starboard quarter, the Impérieuse commenced her fire upon that ship, and occasionally, with her starboard forecastle and bow guns, upon the Varsovie and Aquilon. At 2 h. 10 m., finding that the shot from the 24 and 18 Pounder carronades of the Insolent, Growler, and Conflict, were dropping outside of the Impérieuse, and that even the shot from the heavier carronades of the Beagle, which brig had since anchored rather within the line taken up by the gun-brigs, were not producing any visible effect, Lord Cochrane wished to order them to come closer in ; but, the signal making no distinction between ships and brigs, the Ætna would also feel bound to obey it, and she was in a proper situation for throwing her shells. In this emergency, the captain of the Impérieuse adopted an expedient more decisive than courteous : he ordered the maindeck guns of the frigate to be fired at, or near to, the brigs. They were so ; and the latter took the hint, and dropped down to a more effective position, but still kept outside of the Impérieuse.

At a few minutes past 2 p.m., finding that the Impérieuse was warmly engaged with the enemy's ships, Lord Gambier made the signal for the Indefatigable, then at anchor with the

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