Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

prived of the further services of Captain Hare: he had performed that of placing his fireship to admiration, but was blown into the water, and much scorched, by the explosion of her priming, when in the act of putting the match to it. Lieutenant Gore was also much burnt, and I was consequently deprived of him also, which I regretted the more, from the recollection of his bravery and activity in the warm service of Fort Mulgrave. Mr. Eales, midshipman, who was also with him on this occasion, deserves my praise for his conduct throughout this service. The guns of the fireship going off on both sides as they heated, in the direction that was given them, towards those quarters from whence we were most apprehensive of the enemy forcing their way in upon us, checked their career. Their shouts and republican songs, which we could hear distinctly, continued till they, as well as ourselves, were in a manner thunderstruck by the explosion of some thousand barrels of powder on board the Iris frigate, lying in the inner road, without us, and which had been injudiciously set on fire by the Spanish boats in going off, instead of being sunk as ordered. The concussion of air, and the shower of falling timber on fire, was such as nearly to destroy the whole of us. Lieutenant Patey, of the Terrible, with his whole boat's crew, nearly perished : the boat was blown to pieces, but the men were picked up alive. The Union gunboat, which was nearest to the Iris, suffered considerably, Mr. Young being killed, with three men, and the vessel shaken to pieces. I had given it in charge to the Spanish officers to fire the ship in the basin before the town, but they returned, and reported that various obstacles had prevented their entering it. We attempted it together as soon as we had completed the business in the arsenal, but were repulsed, in our attempt to cut the boom, by repeated volleys of musketry from the flagship and the wall of the Battery Royal. The cannon of this battery had been spiked by the judicious preacutions taken by the governor previously to the evacuation of the town.

“ The failure of our attempt on the ships in the basin before the town, owing to the insufficiency of our force, made me regret that the Spanish gunboats had been withdrawn from me to perform other service. The adjutant Don Pedro Cotiella, Don Francisco Riguielme, and Don Francisco Truxillo, remained with me to the last ; and I feel bound to bear testimony to the zeal and activity with which they performed the most essential services during the whole of this business, as far as the insufficiency of their force allowed it, being reduced, by the retreat of the gunboats, to a single felucca, and a mortarboat which had expended its ammunition, but contained thirty men with cutlasses.

“We now proceeded to burn the Hero and Themistocles, two seventy-four gun ships, lying in the inner road. Our approach to them had hitherto been impracticable in boats, as the French prisoners, who had been left in the latter ship, were still in possession of her, and had shown a determination to resist our attempt to come on board.

The scene of conflagration around them, heightened by the late tremendous explosion, had, however, awakened their fears for their lives. Thinking this to be the case,

I addressed them, expressing my readiness to land them in a place of safety, if they would submit; and they thankfully accepted the offer, showing themselves to be completely intimidated, and very grateful for our humane intentions towards them, in not attempting to burn them with the ship. It was necessary to proceed with precaution, as they were more numerous than ourselves. We at length completed their disembarkation, and then set her on fire. On this occasion I had nearly lost my valuable friend and assistant, Lieutenant Miller of the Windsor Castle, who had staid so long on board, to insure the fire

taking, that it gained on him suddenly, and it was not without being very much scorched, and at the risk of being suffocated, that we could approach the ship to take him in. The loss to the service would have been very great, had we not succeeded in our endeavours to save him. Mr. Knight, midshipman of the Windsor Castle, who was in the boat with me, showed much activity and address on the occasion, as well as firmness throughout the day.

“ The explosion of a second powder-vessel equally unexpected, and with a shock even greater than the first, again put us in the most imminent danger of perishing; and when it is considered that we were within the sphere of the falling timber, it is next to miraculous that no one piece, of the many which made the water foam around us, happened to touch either the Swallow or the three boats with me.

“Having now set fire to everything within our reach, exhausted our combustible preparations and our strength to such a degree that the men absolutely dropped on the oars, we directed our course to join the fleet, running the gauntlet under a few ill-directed shot from the forts of Balaguier and Aiguillette, now occupied by the enemy; but, fortunately, without loss of any kind, we proceeded to the place appointed for the

a

embarkation of the troops, and took off as many as we could carry. It would be injustice to those officers whom I have omitted to name, from their not having been so immediately under my eye, if I did not acknowledge myself indebted to them all for their extraordinary exertions in the execution of this great national object. The quickness with which the inflammation took effect on my signal, its extent and duration, are the best evidences that every officer and man was ready at his post, and firm under most perilous circumstances.

- We can ascertain that the fire extended to at least ten sail of the line; how much farther we cannot say. The loss of the general magazine, and of the quantity of pitch, tar, rosin, hemp, timber, cordage, and gunpowder, must considerably impede the equipment of the few ships that remain. I am sorry to have been obliged to leave

any, but I hope your lordship will be satisfied that we did as much as our circumscribed means enabled us to do in limited time, pressed as we were by a force so much superior to us.

I have the honour to be, &c.

“ W. SIDNEY SMITH. “Right hon. Lord Hood, &c. &c. &c.” *

* Here follows a list of the officers employed, and of the killed and wounded :

« AnteriorContinua »