Imatges de pÓgina

had ventured from the protection of the harbour of Brest, and was actually upon the open seas, on a cruise. On the 2nd of January, Sir John Borlase Warren, an officer who had already distinguished himself, sailed from Falmouth, with a squadron of frigates, to reconnoitre Brest and the contiguous line of French coast. To penetrate into the mouth of this harbour was the hazardous commission that devolved on Captain Smith. The Diamond, in an incredibly short space of time, was so completely Frenchified in appearance—but in appearance only, that her gallant captain was enabled completely to deceive the enemy. With the utmost coolness he sailed into the harbour in the evening, remained there the whole of the night, and departed early on the following morning, without, for a moment, having his disguise suspected. In returning from this bold undertaking, he actually passed within hail of a French line-of-battle ship.

Having, by this manæuvre, satisfactorily ascertained that the French fleet had really ventured to put to sea, he returned in safety with the important intelligence to his anxious commodore.

Nothing particularly worth narrating occurred to our officer until the month of May following, when he assisted at the capture of a convoy of transports. His untiring vigilance was next

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exhibited on the 4th of July following, when he made a brave but ineffectual attempt to capture two French ships of war, having under their protection a large convoy of merchant vessels. In this gallant affair the batteries of La Hogue proved too strong for the attacking force. Even this failure had more than its compensating advantages, in the terror that it occasioned to the enemy, and the paralysing opinion that it gave them of British daring. In this attempt the Diamond had the misfortune to have one man killed and two wounded.

Sir Sidney's official despatch was as follows :

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Diamond, at anchor off the Island of St. Marcou,

July 5, 1795. “Sir,-In pursuance of the orders of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, I sailed from St. Helen's on the evening of the 1st instant, and stretched across the Channel towards Cherbɔurg, his Majesty's ships Syren and Sybille, also four gunboats, in company. On looking into that port, we found that one of the three frigates which had been seen there the last time we were off, was missing: the master of a neutral vessel, just come out, informed me that she had sailed to the eastward, and I accordingly proceeded in quest of her. Going round Cape Barfleur, we saw two ships,


one of them having the appearance of the frigate in question, at anchor under the sand, and immediately made sail towards them ; we soon after saw a convoy coming alongshore within the islands of Marcou.

The wind dying away, and the ebb-tide making against me,

I obliged to anchor, and had the mortification of seeing the enemy's vessels drift with the tide under the batteries of La Hogue, without being able to approach them. At four o'clock in the morning of yesterday, the breeze springing up with the first of the flood, I made the signal to the squadron, and weighed and worked up towards the enemy's ships, which we observed warping closer inshore under the battery on La Hogue Point.

“ As we approached, I made the signal for each ship to engage as she came up with the enemy, and at nine o'clock began the action in the Diamond. The other frigates, having been sent in chase in different quarters the day before, had not been able to anchor so near as we did, and were consequently to leeward, as were two of the gunboats. The Fearless and the Attack were with me, and their commanders conducted them in a manner to merit my approbation, by drawing off the attention of the enemy's gunboats, of which they had also two. The small vessels of the convoy ran into the pier before the town ; the largest, a corvette, continued warping into shoal water; we followed, engaging her and the batteries for three quarters of an hour, when, finding that the enemy's ship had attained a situation where it was impossible to get fairly alongside of her without grounding likewise, and the pilots being positive as to the necessity of hauling off from the shore, where the water had already begun to ebb, I acquiesced under their representations, and wore ship. The Syren and Sibylle were come up by this time, and the zeal and ability of their commanders would, I am persuaded, have carried them into action with some effect, if I had not annulled the signal to engage, which I did, to prevent them getting disabled, as we were, when we had no longer a prospect of making ourselves masters of the enemy's ship. She had suffered in proportion, and we now see her lying on her broadside with her yards and topmasts struck, but, I am sorry to say, so much sheltered by the reef which runs off from La Hogue Point, that I cannot indulge a hope of her being destroyed.

“ In justice to my officers and ship’s company, I must add, that their conduct was such as gave me satisfaction. I received the most able assistance from the first lieutenant, Mr. Pine, and Mr. Wilkie, the master, in working the ship, on the precision of which everything depended, circumstanced as we were with respect to the shoals and the enemy.

The guns of the main-deck were well served under the direction of Lieutenants Pearson and Sandsbury, and the men were cool and collected.

“No officer was hurt; but I am sorry to say that I have lost one of the best quartermasters in the ship, Thomas Gullen, killed, and two seamen wounded; the enemy fired high, or we should have suffered more materially from their red-hot shot, the marks of which were visible in the rigging. We have shifted our fore and main topmasts, which, with two topsail-yards, were shot through; and having repaired our other more trifling damages, I shall proceed in the attainment of the objects of the cruise. Fishingboats, with which we have had an intercourse, confirm all other accounts of distress for want of provisions, and the consequent discontent in this distracted country.

" I have the honour, &c.

“ W. SIDNEY SMITH." Evan Nepean, Esq.

There is but little in this despatch worthy of notice, but as a sample of this sort of composition. The skirmish was itself trifling, and the service it

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