1809 - Lord Gambier at Basque Roads


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1809 Lord Gambier at Basque Roads 119

the Impérieuse would take the other. Captain Rodd declined to do so ; alleging as his reason, that the Indefatigable's main topmast had a shot through it, that her draught of water was too great for the service in contemplation, and that he should not be justified in acting without orders, in the presence of two superior officers, Captains Bligh and Beresford. At 6 a.m. the Impérieuse anchored in the Maumusson passage [Trousse roads] ; and at 6 h. 30 m. a.m. the Pallas passed under sail, on her way to Basque roads after the other ships. Captain Seymour hailed the Impérieuse to know whether or not he should remain. Lord Cochrane directed him to do so, if he, Captain Seymour, had received no orders to the contrary. The Pallas immediately anchored ; and the Beagle and gun-bugs followed her example. At 8 a.m., which was as early as the tide suited, Lord Cochrane despatched the brigs and bomb-vessel to attack the nearest French ships aground at the entrance of the Charente ; meaning to follow with the two frigates, if the water, which happened not to be the case, should prove sufficient. At 11 a.m. the Beagle, Ætna, Conflict, Contest, Encounter, Fervent, Growler, the rocket schooner Whiting, and the two rocket cutters Nimrod and King George, coming to anchor, opened their fire upon the Océann, Régulus, and Indienne, as those ships lay aground. The Océan, during the preceding night, had landed all her boys, and the greater part of her soldiers : the faint-hearted (hommes pleureux) of her crew had also been allowed the same indulgence. This left on board just 600 officers and men, determined to defend their ship to the last extremity. Since daylight the third tier of water had been started, the shifting ballast, 100 barrels of flour, and a great quantity of salt provisions, thrown overboard ; but the Océan still remained fast. The Beagle, in the most gallant manner, took a position, in 16 feet water (her draught was 12½ feet forward, and very nearly 15 abaft), upon the French three-decker's stern and quarter, and engaged her for five hours. The Océan returned the fire with her eight stern-chasers ; from which, although her two poop-carronades from being overheated had upset early in the action, she is represented to have fired 260 36-pound shot, 340 24-pounders, and 380 12-pounders.

The Beagle appears to have borne the brunt of the engagement. At all events, that brig suffered more than any one of her consorts ; having had her hull struck in several places, her main yard and main topmast shot through, and her standing and running rigging very much injured. The Beagle did not, however, sustain any loss of men ; none at least that has been recorded. The bomb-vessel and gun-brigs also appear to have escaped without loss, as well as without any material damage ; except that the Ætna, as was now become an invariable case, had split her 13-inch mortar. At the time that the flotilla ceased firing, the Océan and Régulus it being then high water, were preparing to push further up the Charente. At 4 p.m., the

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