1809 - Expedition to the Scheldt


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1809 British and French Fleets 134

admiral Sir Richard Keats, had landed unopposed on the island of Zuid-Beveland, near Wemeldinge ; and on the following night the Dutch Major-general Brues evacuated the important forts of Bathz, without firing a shot, or even seeing the enemy, unless he so considered a patrole of 30 men, whom Lieutenant-general Hope had sent to reconnoitre the coast ; and who were not slow in taking possession of a post which, in loyal hands, might have given a much larger force some trouble to reduce.

It was at about 8 h. 30 m. a.m. on the 29th of July, that the signal posts of Walcheren and Cadzand announced the appearance of the British off the coast ; and immediately Rear-admiral Missiessy, from his anchorage off the Calot, weighed and stood up the Scheldt. By the next evening's tide the Anversois, Commerce-de-Lyon, Dalmate, Dantzig, Duguesclin, and Pulstuck, passed the boom of Lillo ; and the Charlemagne would have passed also, but that the French admiral preferred anchoring below it, in order to be ready to succour, if necessary, the Albanais, César, and Ville-de-Berlin, who had been obliged to bring to between Bathz and Waerden. On the 1st of August, late in the evening, six French gun-brigs, that had been lying in company with the three line-of-battle ships, weighed and made sail towards Antwerp ; but the ships of the line remained at their anchors until a very few hours before the British were in possession of a fort, which would have completely obstructed their passage, and have rendered their capture or destruction almost certain. The escape of these ships lessened, in some degree, the importance of Bathz ; but still it opened to the British both branches of the Scheldt, and commanded the finest and most extensive anchorage in the river, the bay of Saeftingen, where ships could lie completely out of reach of shot from the shore.

Owing to a defect in the arrangements, or to some misunderstanding respecting the degree of co-operation which was to be afforded, the three divisions of the army, in the transports at anchor in the Wieling passage, intended to occupy the island of Cadzand on the south-west side of the entrance to the Scheldt, were removed to the Veer-Gat, to be landed on Walcheren and Zuid-Beveland. This was a great relief to General Rousseau, commanding at Cadzand, who, until noon on the 30th, had with him only 300 men, and even after that day received but scanty reinforcements. They were sufficient, however, to enable him to take advantage of the seeming remissness of his enemy, and to send across reinforcements to the garrison of Flushing. By means of small schuyts, aided by a southerly wind, he succeeded, on the 1st and 2d of August, in throwing in 1600 men ; but he failed on the 3d, owing to the gallant behaviour of the 16-gun brig-sloop Raven, Captain John Martin Hanchett. *

* This service was effectually performed by Captain Hanchett in a style of gallantry seldom surpassed, to the great delight and admiration of a large body of both army and navy, who were spectators of the action that very soon commenced between the Raven and the batteries on Cadsand and the whole sea-front of Flushing. The expenditure of the enemy in red-hot shot, grape, and shells upon the little brig, was sufficient to have destroyed fifty such vessels. She was handled and fought in a manner that reflected the greatest credit and honour on her commander, and every individual on board. Latterly she became unmanageable from the wind failure, and having her topmast knocked over the side, her lower masts and all her spars badly wounded, sails and rigging cut to pieces. The ebb-tide drifted her out of gun-shot on a sand-bank from which she was not extricated till the following morning. " Capt. Scott's Recollections of a Naval Life, vol. ii., p.186 [footnotes for pages 134 & 135 have been combined to make easier reading]

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