1809 - Rear-admirals Martin and Baudin


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1809 Rear-admirals Martin and Baudin 143

ships accidentally parted company, leaving the rear-admiral with the following six sail of the line

80 Canopus Rear.-adm (r.) George Martin
Captain Charles Inglis
74 Renown Captain Philip Charles Durham.
Tigre Captain Benjamin Hallowell.
Sultan Captain Edward Griffith.
Leviathan Captain John Harvey.
Cumberland Captain Hon. Philip Wodehouse.

The ships continued under a press of sail all night of the 23d, but saw nothing of the enemy until 5 p.m. on the 24th; when the Tigre, the headmost ship, made the signal for four sail in the north-north-east. These were the Robuste, Borée, Lion, and Pauline; the Pomone having previously parted company and steered for Marseille. Every stitch of canvass was now set by the British ships, in the hope to bring their opponents to an action before dark. But this could not be accomplished ; and at dark Rear-admiral Martin, owing to the proximity of the land, the shoalness of the water, and the circumstance of the wind blowing directly on the shore, was obliged to haul off for the night.

On the 25th, at 7 a.m., the French ships again discovered themselves in the north, running along-shore with a fresh breeze from the south-east. Instantly all sail was again set in chase ; and the British ships, nearing the land as well as the enemy, prepared for anchoring with springs. At 11 h. 45 m. a.m., the Robuste and Lion, putting their helms up, ran themselves on shore, within pistol-shot of each other, at a spot about six miles north-east of the harbour of Cette, and near to the village of Frontignan. The Borée, and Pauline, closely pressed by the Tigre and Leviathan, and the first fired at by the Tigre, succeeded in reaching Cette harbour ; but which scarcely contained depth enough to float them. Owing to the shoalness of the water upon the coast, and the intricacy of the navigation, the British ships, some of which had already got into seven and others into five fathoms, hauled their wind and stood off.

At 1 p.m., finding it impossible to save his ships, M. Baudin began dismantling them and landing the crews ; and at 4 p.m. the mizenmasts of both ships went by the board. At dark the British ships stood to the southward, and in the night tacked, with the intention of being close in with the wrecks by daylight on the 26th : but the wind falling, they did not regain a sight of them until evening. At 7 h. 30 m. p.m., both French ships, now with only a foremast between them, were set on fire by their crews. At 8 p.m. the Robuste and Lion were in flames fore and aft, and at 10 h. 30 m. p.m. blew up with a tremendous explosion ; the British squadron then lying nearly becalmed about seven miles from the spot.

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