1809 - Capture of Senegal


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1809 Capture of Senegal 205

surmounting this difficulty, the George was driven on shore, and a schooner and a sloop were totally wrecked. Only one individual perished on the occasion; and that unfortunately was Captain

Parker of the Derwent. It was now discovered that the French had collected their force, consisting of 160 regulars and about 240 militia and volunteers, at Babagué, a spot about five miles below the town of St.-Louis and ten above the bar. Major Maxwell, with the detachment of troops and marines, numbering altogether about 210 men, landed without opposition on the left bank of the river, and immediately took up a position, with the intention of waiting until provisions could be passed from the shipping, and the schooner George could be got afloat.

On the 9th the French commandant marched out to attack the British, and Major Maxwell, supported by the boats, rapidly advanced to meet him. Finding the British stronger than he had expected, the former waited only to exchange a few shot with the troops and the boats, and (then retreated so expeditiously, and with so perfect a knowledge of the country, that it was impossible to cut him off. The position, to which the French had retired, consisted of a formidable line of defence at Babagué, a battery on the south point of an island commanding the passage of the river. This post was further defended, at about a quarter of a mile in advance of the battery, by a chain secured to anchors on each shore, and floated all across the stream by large spars ; and, at about a hundred yards in the rear of this boom, lay a flotilla of seven armed vessels and gunboats, mounting between them 31 guns.

On the 10th, in the evening, the sloop George was got afloat; and on the 11th the Solebay and Derwent, the latter now commanded by captain Joseph Swabey Tetley, took up a position close to the narrow neck of land that divides the river from the sea, for the purpose of cannonading the fort of Babagué. This the two ships did with considerable effect; but, in the course of the ensuing night, the frigate, in shifting her birth, went on shore, and, although still in a position to annoy the enemy, became totally wrecked. Fortunately no lives were lost, and the crew managed to save a great proportion of the stores.

On the 12th, in the morning, the troops were re-embarked, and the flotilla proceeded up the river until within gun-shot of the fort at Babagué ; when, just as every thing was in readiness for a night attack, information arrived that the French commandant meant to capitulate. The attack was therefore postponed ; and on the morning of the 13th it was discovered, that the French (probably the militia, who were disaffected) had broken the boom, and abandoned the vessels and the battery, leaving their colours flying upon both. Shortly afterwards a letter was brought from the commandant, offering to capitulate; and in the course of the day terms were agreed upon, surrendering the colony of Senegal to the British arms.

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