1804 - Commodore Dance and Admiral Linois


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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
1804 Light Squadrons and Single Ships 250

firing, hauled their wind, and stood away under all sail to the eastward.

At 2 p.m. the Earl-Camden made the signal for a general chase, and the Indiamen pursued the French admiral until 4 p.m. ; when, considering the immense property at stake, and fearing that his charge might be carried too far from the mouth of the Straits of Malacca ; Commodore Dance made the signal to tack, which was immediately obeyed. At 8 a.m. the British ships anchored in a situation to enter the Straits in the morning, and soon lost sight of the squadron of M. Linois. The following is the French admiral's account of the defeat which he acknowledges to have experienced. " The headmost enemy's ship, having sustained some damage, bore away ; but, supported by those astern, again brought her broadside to bear, and, as well as the others, kept up a very spirited fire. The ships which had tacked rejoined those which were engaging us, and three of the first engaged ships manœuvred to double our rear, while the remainder of the fleet, crowding sail and bearing up, evinced an intention to surround us.* By this manoeuvre the enemy would have rendered my situation very dangerous. The superiority of his force was ascertained, and I had no longer to deliberate upon the part I should take to avoid the consequences of an unequal engagement : profiting by the smoke, I hauled up to port, and steering east-north-east, I increased my distance from the enemy, who continued the pursuit of the squadron for three hours, discharging at it several ineffective broadsides. " †

The Royal-George had one man killed and one wounded, and received several shot in the hull, and more in her sails ; comparatively trifling casualties, considering that she bore the brunt of the action, and was so long engaged. " Few shot touched either the Ganges or the Earl-Camden; and no other loss or damage appears to have been sustained by the British during this three-quarters of an hour's partial cannonade. The fire of the Royal-George, and the three or four ships in her wake, being chiefly directed at the rigging of the French ships, did not, according to M. Linois, injure a person on board of them.

With respect to the armament of the 16 Indiamen thus drawn up in line-of-battle, they carried from 30 to 36 guns each ; but the strongest of them was not a match for the Sémillante, and some of them would have found it difficult to avoid yielding to the Berceau. Some of the ships carried upon the main-deck 26 medium 18-pounders, or " cannonades, " weighing about 28 cwt. and of very little use : guns of this description,

* We do not understand what is meant by this, and yet the account clearly so states, thus : " Trois de ceux qui avaient des premiers pris part à l'action, manœuvraient pour nous doubler à l'arrière, tandis que le reste de la flotte, se couvrant de voile, et laissant arriver, annonçait le projet de nous envelopper."

† See Appendix, No. 28.

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