1813 - Bonne-Citoyenne and Hornet


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1813 Bonne-Citoyenne and Hornet 191

which the characteristic cunning of Americans turned greatly to their advantage. In the middle of November the British 20-gun ship Bonne-Citoyenne, of eighteen 32-pounder carronades and two long 9-pounders, Captain Pitt Barnaby Greene, having, while coming from Rio-de-la-Plata, with half a million sterling on board, damaged herself greatly by running on shore, entered the port of St.-Salvador, to land her cargo and be hove down.

When the ship was keel-out, the two American ships arrived in the port. The American consul and the two American commanders now laid their heads together to contrive something which, without any personal risk to any one of the three, should contribute to the renown of their common country. What so likely as a challenge to Captain Greene ? It could not be accepted ; and then the refusal would be as good as a victory to Captain Lawrence. Accordingly, a challenge for the Hornet to meet the Bonne-Citoyenne was offered by Captain Lawrence, through the American consul, to the British consul, Mr. Frederick Landeman ; commodore Bainbridge pledging his honour to be out of the way, or not to interfere.

Without making the unpleasant avowal, that his government, upon this occasion, had reduced the vessel he commanded from a king's cruiser to a merchant ship, Captain Greene transmitted, through the consular channel, an animated reply ; refusing a meeting, " upon terms so manifestly disadvantageous as those proposed by Commodore Bainbridge. " Indeed, it would appear, as if the commodore had purposely inserted the words, " or not interfering, " lest Captain Greene, contrary to his expectation, should accept the challenge. For, had the two ships met by agreement, engaged, the Constitution looked on without interfering, and the British ship been the conqueror, the pledge of honour, on the part of both American commanders, would have been fulfilled ; and can any one for a moment imagine, that Commodore Bainbridge would have seen the Bonne-Citoyenne carry off a United States' ship of war, without attempting her rescue ? It was more than his head was worth. Where was the guarantee against recapture, which always accompanies a serious proposal of this sort, when a stronger force, belonging to either party, is to preserve a temporary neutrality ? The bait, therefore, did not take : the specie remained safe ; and the American officers were obliged to content themselves with all the benefit they could reap from making a boast of the circumstance. This they did ; and, to the present hour, the refusal of the Bonne-Citoyenne to meet the Hornet stands recorded in the American naval archives, as a proof of the former's dread, although the " superior in force, " of engaging the, latter. The two ships, as has just been seen, were equal in guns, and not very unequal in crews; the Hornet having 171 men and two boys, the Bonne-Citoyenne, including 21

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