HotFreeBooks.com
The Life of Admiral Viscount Exmouth
by Edward Osler
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

On the 4th of June, in the absence of Captain Macbride, of the forty-gun frigate Artois, Captain Pellew assumed the temporary command of that ship, and sailed two days after to cruize on the coast of Ireland. Her master was Mr. James Bowen, so highly distinguished in the battle of the 1st of June, when he was master of the fleet, and who afterwards became a retired commissioner, and rear admiral. On the 1st of July, the Artois fell in with a French frigate-built ship, the Prince of Robego, of twenty-two guns, and 180 men; and after a four hours' pursuit, and a running fight of half an hour with the chase guns, ran alongside, and took her. Captain Pellew gladly availed himself of this opportunity to show his grateful respect to the memory of his benefactor, Captain Pownoll, by giving the agency to his brother-in-law, Mr. Justice, one of the officers of Plymouth-yard: and the plea of gratitude which he offered to his own brother, was felt to be quite conclusive. Captain Macbride wished to appoint an agent of his own; but Captain Pellew asserted his right, as the actual captor, with so much temper and firmness, that the other at length gave way. He had known Captain Pellew from early childhood, having been his father's intimate friend, and quite understood his character, of which he now expressed an opinion in language less refined than emphatic. "Confound the fellow," said he, "if he had been bred a cobbler, he would have been first in the village."

Peace left him without employment for the next four years. In 1783, he married Susan, daughter of J. Frowd, Esq., of Wiltshire; who survived him nearly four years. For a short time after his marriage, he lived at Truro; but when his elder brother became collector of the customs at Falmouth, he removed to the village of Flushing, which is separated from Falmouth only by a narrow creek, and which had peculiar attractions for him from family associations.

During this period he went out in command of his brother's armed lugger, the Hawk, in search of a notorious outlaw, Wellard, who commanded an armed smuggler in the Channel, and who was at length killed in action with the Hawk, and her consort, which captured his vessel. Active occupation, indeed, was essential to his comfort, and he found a life on shore most irksome. At length, in 1786, he commissioned the Winchelsea, for the Newfoundland station. Among her midshipmen was the late gallant Sir Christopher Cole,[2] to whose pen the reader is indebted for the following animated sketch of his service in that frigate:—

"I joined the Winchelsea under Captain Edward Pellew's command in 1786, recommended to him by my brother. Captain Frank Cole, who told me, 'You are going to serve under a gallant and active officer, and one of the best seamen in the navy, who, if he live, must one day be at the head of his profession. Make a friend of him by your good conduct, and you will do well.' The Winchelsea was manned with good seamen, with scarcely a landsman on board; and the first lieutenant, senior master's mate, and boatswain, were all excellent practical seamen; so that the midshipmen and youngsters, to the number of nearly thirty, could not be in a better situation for obtaining a knowledge of practical seamanship. We soon found that the activity of our captain would not allow us an idle hour, and there was so much kindness of heart, and cheerfulness of manner, blended with daring exertion in the performance of his duties, that we were all happy to imitate his example to the best of our abilities. In the course of our passage to Newfoundland we encountered much blowing weather, and at all hours of the day or night, whenever there was exertion required aloft, to preserve a sail, or a mast, the captain was foremost at the work, apparently as a mere matter of amusement; and there was not a man in the ship who could equal him in personal activity. He appeared to play amongst the elements in the hardest storms, and the confidence this gave to those under his command, on many occasions, is not to be described.

"The reduced peace complement of the crew made it necessary that they should work watch-and-watch, and one part of his system was, that the watch on deck, assisted by the idlers, should be in the habit of making themselves equal to every call of duty, without trespassing on the rest of those whose turn it was to be below. I remember relieving the deck one night after eight o'clock, when the captain was carrying on the duty, and shortening sail upon the quick approach of a severe gale, and being an old sailor for my age, being then sixteen, he ordered me to the mizentop, to close reef and furl the mizen-topsail; and this being done, from the increase of the gale, we had before twelve o'clock to take in successively every reef, furl most of the sails, and strike the topgallant-masts and other spars, to make the ship snug; the midshipmen being on the yards as well as the men, and the captain, when the gale became severe, at their elbow. In close reefing the main-topsail, there was much difficulty in clewing up the sail for the purpose of making it quiet, and the captain issued his orders accordingly from the quarter-deck, and sent us aloft. On gaining the topsail-yard, the most active and daring of our party hesitated to go upon it, as the sail was flapping about violently, making it a service of great danger. A voice was heard amidst the roaring of the gale from the extreme end of the yard-arm, calling upon us to exert ourselves to save the sail, which would otherwise beat to pieces. A man said, 'Why, that's the captain—how the —— did he get there!' The fact was, that the instant he had given us orders to go aloft, he laid down his speaking trumpet, and clambered like a cat by the rigging over the backs of the seamen, and before they reached the maintop, he was at the topmast-head, and from thence by the topsail-lift, a single rope, he reached the situation he was in. I could mention numberless instances of this kind, but will proceed to relate a few others fresh in my recollection. On our arrival at St. John's Newfoundland, we anchored in the narrow entrance in the evening; and many officers would have been satisfied to have remained there until the morning, as we could reach our anchorage only by the tedious and laborious operation of laying out anchors, and warping; but we saw that the captain was bent upon exertion, and we went heartily to work. In the course of our progress against a strong wind, the ship had been warped up to the chain rock, and it became necessary to cast off the hawser attached to it, but all the boats were employed in laying out an anchor and warps elsewhere. The captain called to the men on the forecastle, and desired 'some active fellow to go down by the hawser, and cast it off,' at the same time saying that a boat would soon be there to bring him on board again. The smartest seaman in the ship declined the attempt. In an instant the captain was seen clinging to the hawser, and proceeding to the rock; the hawser was cast off, and to the astonishment of every one, he swang himself to the side of the ship by the same means, mounted the ship's side, and was again directing the duty going on. After nine hours laborious and incessant exertion, the ship was anchored near the Commodore in St. John's harbour, before daylight; and as a salute had been prepared in the hope of seeing the Commodore's pennant before sunset on the evening before, the captain remained on deck with the gunner only to assist him. The rest of the officers and men, being excessively fatigued, had been sent below to rest; and I was not singular in being unconscious of the firing, although my hammock hung close to the open hatchway, and immediately under the deck that the guns were fired from.

"The strong mind and fertile genius of our commander kept the young mids., in particular, in constant employment. Besides that some of the number were stationed on every yard in the ship, the mizen-mast from the deck to the truck was entirely managed in the sails and rigging by the midshipmen, who were not such dandies as to despise the tar-bucket, or even volunteering the laborious task of working the oars of one of the boats in harbour. They were all emulous to leave nothing undone to make themselves practical seamen, and they all found the advantage of such examples as they had then before them, many years afterwards, at the breaking out of the revolutionary war.

"In the course of this year we visited every harbour, nook, and corner, on the east coast of Newfoundland, that the ship could be squeezed into; and the seamanship displayed by the captain, in working the ship in some most difficult cases, was not lost upon the officers and crew. With respect to his personal activity, I have often heard the most active seamen, when doubting the possibility of doing what he ordered to be done, finish by saying, 'Well, he never orders us to do what he won't do himself;' and they often remarked, 'Blow high, blow low, he knows to an inch what the ship can do, and he can almost make her speak. On our return from Newfoundland, he applied to cruise after smugglers in the winter months, instead of being kept idle in harbour until the season opened for visiting Newfoundland again; but this did not come within the scope of the management of that day. In 1787, we returned to our station at Newfoundland. The summers there are very hot, and on the birthday of the good old king, George III., the 4th of June, the ship's company obtained permission to bathe. The ship was at anchor in St. John's harbour, and the captain prepared himself for the public dinner at the Governor's by dressing in his full uniform, and mounted the deck to step into his barge, which was ready to take him ashore. The gambols and antics of the men in the water caught his attention, and he stepped on one of the guns to look at them; when a lad, a servant to one of the officers, who was standing on the ship's side near to him, said, 'I'll have a good swim by-and-by, too.' 'The sooner the better,' said the captain, and tipped him into the water. He saw in an instant that the lad could not swim, and quick as thought he dashed overboard in his full dress uniform, with a rope in one hand, which he made fast to the lad, who was soon on board again, without injury, though a little frightened, but which did not prevent his soon enjoying the ludicrous finish of the captain's frolic. The lad's boasting expression gave an idea that he was a good swimmer, and I believe if ever the captain was frightened, it was when he saw the struggles in the water: but his self-possession and activity did not forsake him, and no one enjoyed the laugh against himself more than he did when the danger was over.

"This season at Newfoundland was passed in the same course of active exertion as the former one. We sailed for Cadiz and Lisbon in October, for the purpose of receiving any remittances in bullion to England, which the British merchants might have ready on our arrival. We had light winds and fine weather after making the coast of Portugal. On one remarkably fine day, when the ship was stealing through the water under the influence of a gentle breeze, the people were all below at their dinners, and scarcely a person left on deck but officers, of whom the captain was one. Two little ship-boys had been induced, by the fineness of the weather, to run up from below the moment they had dined, and were at play on the spare anchor to leeward, which overhangs the side of the ship. One of them fell overboard, which was seen from the quarter-deck, and the order was given to luff the ship into the wind. In an instant the officers were over the side; but it was the captain who, grasping a rope firmly with one hand, let himself down to the water's edge, and catching hold of the poor boy's jacket as he floated past, he saved his life in as little time as I have taken to mention it. There was not a rope touched, or a sail altered in doing this, and the people below knew not of the accident until they came on deck when their dinner was over.

"In every instance when a life was in danger, he was instant to peril his own for its preservation; and I could fill pages, if it were necessary to notice any but those which I was so fortunate as to witness."

After the Winchelsea had been paid off in 1789, Captain Pellew was appointed to the Salisbury, 50, bearing the flag of Vice-Admiral Milbanke, on the Newfoundland station; in which he served till 1791. His brother Israel became the first lieutenant, and was promoted from her. While in this ship, he was one day required to decide on the case of a seaman belonging to a merchant vessel in the harbour, who came on board to complain that his captain had punished him for a theft. Finding that the captain had acted illegally, though the man had really deserved a far more severe punishment, he said to the complainant, "You have done quite right in coming here: your captain had no business to punish you as he has done, and that he may learn to be more cautious in future, we order him to be fined—a shilling!" The man turned to leave the cabin, much disappointed at the award; but how was his surprise increased, when Captain Pellew said, "Stop, sir; we must now try you for the theft." The fact, which had been already admitted, allowed of no defence; and before the man left the ship, he was deservedly brought to the gangway.

The admiral's secretary, Mr. Graham, afterwards the well-known police magistrate, related this circumstance to Lord Thurlow. The chancellor relaxed his iron features, and throwing himself back in his chair in a burst of laughter, exclaimed, "Well, if that is not law, it is at least justice. Captain Pellew ought to have been a judge."

FOOTNOTES:

[1] This seems to require explanation, for Mr. Pellew entered the navy in 1770, only ten years before. It was the allowed practice at that time, and for many years after, for young men intended for the navy to serve by proxy. A ship's boy would be borne on the books in the name of the future midshipman, who was allowed the credit of his substitute's service, and whose time in the navy was thus running on while he was still at school. Not only so, but, by permission of the Admiralty, the time served by one boy, personally, or even thus by proxy, might, if he left the service, be transferred to the account of another! It has been stated that Mr. Pellew's eldest brother was borne on the books of the Seaford, till he gave up the profession of the sea for that of medicine; and while Mr. Pellew was serving in America, he wrote to his brother a letter which still exists, requesting him to procure the transfer to himself, of his nominal Service. It would therefore appear that Lord Exmouth, when a midshipman, had the three years of his elder brother's nominal service added to his own time, though his brother was never at sea.

[2] The Coles were through life intimately connected with the Pellews, to whom they were neighbours in childhood, when both families lived on the shores of the Mount's Bay; and their fortunes were very similar. Left when very young, to the care of a widowed mother, and in narrow circumstances, they all rose high by their own deserts. Two entered the church, and became, one Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, the other Chaplain to Greenwich Hospital, and Chaplain-General of the Navy. Two entered the Navy, of whom Frank, the eldest, was selected to take charge of the late King William IV., when he was sent to sea as Prince William Henry. Christopher went to sea at ten years old, and became one of the first officers in the service, and not less distinguished for business habits and talents, in every post of duty. His capture of the strongly fortified island of Banda Neira, garrisoned with 1,200 soldiers, with a mere boat party of 180 men, was an exploit, perhaps, unequalled. He was in charge of two frigates and a sloop of war, and having obtained the Admiral's permission to attempt the capture, nor without a strong caution, he proposed to come upon the place unexpectedly at day-break, and, like Sir Charles Brisbane at Curacoa, lay the ships as close as possible, and storm the works under their fire. This plan was baffled by the premature discovery of the ships by the enemy. He then resolved upon a night attack with the boats, and left the ships soon after midnight with 400 men: but the wind rose and dispersed the party, and at day-break he found himself with only 180 at hand. Undismayed, he pushed ashore with his little handful of heroes, rushed up the hill to Fort Belgica, which crowned and commanded the island, mounted the walls, swept the ramparts like a whirlwind, followed with the panic stricken enemy through the gate of an inner fortification, and carried the fortress, and with it the island, without the loss of a man, and even without a wound. He was second in command of the naval force at the capture of Java, and directed the landing of the troops, which, by his promptitude, and wise arrangements, was effected without loss. He twice received the thanks of the Supreme Government of India for important, political services. From his sovereign he received the rank of K.C.B.; from the Admiralty, a naval medal; from Oxford, the honorary degree of D.C.L., and from the East India Company, a service of plate. He represented Glamorganshire in Parliament for twelve years; was captain of the Royal Sovereign yacht, and colonel of marines. He died suddenly, August 24th, 1836. It may encourage young officers whose promotion is slow, to learn that the brilliant successes of Sir Christopher Cole were preceded by thirteen years active service as midshipman and mate, and seven years as lieutenant.



CHAPTER III.

THE NYMPHE AND CLEOPATRA.

Rich only in reputation, and with an increasing family, Captain Pellew felt the pressure of narrow circumstances; and with the mistake so often made by naval officers, he thought to improve them by farming. There was a moderately large farm, Treverry, within a few miles of Falmouth, which had descended in the family to his elder brother, and he proposed to cultivate this upon the principle of sharing the profits. His brother, though not very sanguine on the result, readily agreed to the experiment; and when in no long time Captain Pellew complained that he found it impossible to keep the accounts so as to make a fair division, he was allowed to rent it on his own terms. It will not occasion surprise that the undertaking was anything but profitable.

Indeed, farming is almost always a very losing employment to a gentleman, and especially to a sailor. Nothing can be more incorrect than the conclusion that education ought to excel, because ignorance succeeds; for success depends upon attention to a multiplicity of petty details, which inexperience will be likely to overlook, and talent may find it irksome to attend to. If the small farmer, who cultivates his little ground by the labour of his own family, and the more considerable one, who devotes to his estate skill, capital, and undivided attention, so often fail, what can he hope for, who depends upon labourers whose mistakes he cannot correct, and whose indolence, and even dishonesty, he is scarcely able to check? The failure of crops which depend for their success upon the knowledge and activity of the principal; and the necessary and constant outlay, which is great beyond the conception of a novice, may ruin even him who farms his own land, when the care of it is only a secondary object; and this it will generally be to a professional man.

The expected pleasures of fanning will be likely to disappoint, even more than its profits. When the fields are waving with abundance, nothing appears more delightful than to direct the labours they require; but the enjoyments of the harvest month, when all the weary toil of preparation is forgotten, will be found a poor compensation for the daily annoyances of the year. To be excelled in management by the uneducated, and over-reached by the cunning: to study systems of agriculture, to be thwarted in carrying them into effect, and when they fail, to become an object of contemptuous pity to the ignorant but successful followers of the old routine: to find that all around take advantage of his ignorance: that servants, the best with other masters, become careless and unfaithful with him: to become involved in petty disputes with low neighbours, and to be unable to avoid them except by a forbearance which encourages aggression: to find, that with all his attention and trouble, the income lags far behind the outgoings—those are among the pleasures of a gentleman farmer.

To Captain Pellew, the employment was peculiarly unsuitable. His mind, happy only while it was active, could ill accommodate itself to pursuits which almost forbade exertion; and a business within the comprehension of a peasant was not for a character which could fill, and animate, with its own energy an extended sphere of action. Even now, when agriculture has become an eminently scientific profession, it requires to make it interesting that it shall be thoroughly understood, and conducted upon a proper scale; but at that time it was commonly a mere routine of dull drudgery, and nowhere more so than in the west of Cornwall. To have an object in view, yet be unable to advance it by any exertions of his own, was to him a source of constant irritation. He was wearied with the imperceptible growth of his crops, and complained that he made his eyes ache by watching their daily progress. He was not likely to excel in occupations so entirely uncongenial. The old people in the neighbourhood of Treverry speak with wonder of the fearlessness he displayed on different occasions, but shake their heads at his management as a farmer. They have no difficulty in accounting for his fortune. While he lived at Treverry, a swarm of bees found an entrance over the porch, of the house, and made a comb there for many successive years; and to this happy omen they attribute all his after success. The apartment is still called the "bee-room."

The offer of a command in the Russian navy gave him an opportunity to escape from his difficulties. It was recommended to him by an officer of high character, with whom he had served, and who possessed so many claims upon his confidence that he thought it right to strengthen his own decision by the opinion of his elder brother, before he finally refused it. His brother, who had always encouraged his every ambitious, and every honourable feeling, and who, even at this time, confidently anticipated for him a career of high distinction, of which, indeed, his past life afforded ample promise, would not for a moment listen to his entering a foreign service. He said, that every man owes his services, blood, and life, so exclusively to his own country that he has no right to give them to another; and he desired Captain Pellew to reflect how he would answer for it to his God, if he lost his life in a cause which had no claim upon him. These high considerations of patriotism and religion are the true ground upon which the question should rest. Deeply is it to be regretted that men of high character should have unthinkingly sanctioned by their example what their own closer reflection might have led them to condemn. Still more is it to be deplored that deserving officers, hopeless, in the present state of the navy, (1834) of promotion, or employment, should be driven by their necessities to sacrifice their proudest and most cherished feelings, and to quit for a foreign flag the service of which they might become the strength and ornament. War is too dreadful a calamity to be lightly incurred. Only patriotism, with all its elevating and endearing associations of country, homes, and altars, can throw a veil over its horrors, and a glory around its achievements: patriotism, which gives to victory all its splendour; sheds lustre even on defeat; and hallows the tomb of the hero, fallen amidst the regrets and admiration of his country. But he who goes forth to fight the battles of another State, what honour can victory itself afford to him? or how shall he be excused, if he attack the allies of his own country, whom, as such, he is bound on his allegiance to respect?

The decision of Captain Pellew on this occasion proved as fortunate as it was honourable. At the beginning of 1793, there was no appearance of hostilities; and when the French republicans put to death their king, on the 21st of January, and declared war against England twelve days after, the Government, which had made no preparation for such an event, was taken by surprise almost as much as the country. The navy was on the peace establishment, with only sixteen thousand seamen and marines; and it became necessary in the course of the year to raise for it sixty thousand men. Mr. Pellew, whose situation at Falmouth enabled him to obtain the earliest information, hastened to Treverry as soon as he saw that war was likely to break out, and advised his brother immediately to offer his services to the Admiralty in person. Captain Pellew, too happy in the prospect of exchanging the ploughshare for the sword, returned with him to Falmouth; and the same night was on the road to London.

He was immediately appointed to the Nymphe, of thirty-six guns, formerly a French frigate, which, by a striking coincidence, had been taken by boarding in the former war, after having been disabled by the loss of her wheel. He fitted her with extraordinary dispatch; but from the number of ships commissioned at the same time, there was great difficulty in manning her. Anticipating this, Captain Pellew wrote to Falmouth as soon as he had received his appointment, and adverting to the importance of getting his ship to sea quickly, he requested his brother to assist him in procuring a crew—of sailors, if possible; but if not, then of Cornish miners.

The choice may appear extraordinary, but Cornish miners are better calculated to make seamen than any other class of landsmen; not so much because they are always accustomed to difficult climbing, and familiar with the use of ropes, and gunpowder, as that the Cornish system of mining, with an order and discipline scarcely surpassed in a ship of war, compels the lowest workman to act continually upon his own judgment. Thus it creates that combination of ready obedience, with intelligence, and promptitude at resource, which is the perfection of a sailor's character. Familiarity with danger gives the miner a cool and reflective intrepidity; and the old county sport of wrestling, so peculiarly a game of strength and skill, now falling into disuse, but then the daily amusement of every boy, was admirably calculated to promote the activity and self-possession necessary in personal conflicts.

Captain Pellew's quick discrimination is remarkably shown in thus discovering the capabilities of a class of men, who had never before been similarly tried, and with whom he could have had comparatively but little acquaintance There were no mines in the immediate neighbourhood of anyplace where he had lived; and as his professional habits were not likely to give him an interest in the subject, he had probably never held much intercourse with miners, except when he might have met them as rioters. For at that period, the attention of the west countrymen was devoted almost exclusively to their mines and fisheries, to the neglect of agriculture; and the county being thus dependent upon importations, famine was not uncommon. At such times, the poor tinners would come into the towns, or wherever they had reason to believe that corn was stored, with their bags, and their money, asking only barley-bread, and offering the utmost they could give for it, but insisting that food should be found for them at a price they could afford to pay. If the law must condemn such risings, humanity would pity them for the cause, and justice must admire the forbearance displayed in them. At one of these seasons of distress, when there was a great quantity of corn in the customhouse cellars at Falmouth, a strong body of miners came in to insist that it should be sold. Mr. Pellew, the collector, met them in the street, and explained to them the circumstances under which he was entrusted with it, and which left him no power to sell. They were famishing men, and the corn was in their power; but they had come to buy, and famine itself, with the almost certainty of impunity, could not tempt them to steal. They received his explanation, and left the town peaceably.

About eighty miners entered for the Nymphe and joined her at Spithead. She sailed on her passage from Spithead to Falmouth very badly manned, having not more than a dozen seamen on board, exclusive of the officers, who were obliged to go aloft to reef and furl the sails, the captain setting the example wherever anything was to be done, and often steering the ship. A corporal of marines was captain of the forecastle. Arriving at Falmouth, after a rough passage, she soon picked up a few good men. She took a convoy from thence to the Nore, another from the Nore to Hamburgh, and a third from Cuxhaven to the Nore again; never letting slip an opportunity to press as many men as could be spared from the merchant-ships. The captain would remain in a boat all night, and think himself amply repaid if he obtained only one good man. From the Nore, she returned to Spithead, and thence sailed on a cruize, in company with the Venus, Captain Jonathan Faulknor, having now a full proportion of good seamen, though she was still short of her complement, and none of the crew had ever seen a shot fired. She parted company with the Venus in chase, but rejoined her on the 29th of May. On the 27th, the Venus had engaged the French frigate Semillante, one of a squadron then cruizing in the Channel under the orders of Captain Mullon, of the Cleopatra. The action had continued two hours, much to the disadvantage of the enemy, when the Cleopatra was seen coming up, and the Venus was obliged to fly. On the Nymphe rejoining her, the two frigates went in pursuit of the enemy as far as Cherbourg. Thence Captain Pellew proceeded to the North Channel, where some French cruisers were reported to have gone; but having swept the Channel without seeing anything of them, and taken on board his brother Israel, then living, a commander on half-pay, at Larne, he returned to Falmouth. Here, on the 16th of June, the Nymphe pressed the crew of a South-seaman, which full manned the ship.

She sailed from Falmouth on the evening of the 18th. That afternoon, Captain Pellew was informed that two French frigates had again been seen in the Channel, and he discussed with his brother Israel, at their elder brother's table, the course most likely to intercept them. After they had talked over the advantages of sailing along the English or the French coast, they at length determined to keep mid-channel.

An active and most anxious pursuit of the enemy for the last three weeks had made the crew not less eager than their commander; and the subject of the expected battle engrossed their sleeping and waking thoughts. A dream of Captain Israel Pellew had perhaps some influence on the result. His brother would not allow him to be called till they were just closing the French frigate, and meeting him as he ran on deck half dressed, he said to him, with much emotion,—"Israel, you have no business here! We are too many eggs from one nest. I am sorry I brought you from your wife." But Israel, whose whole attention was occupied with the enemy, exclaimed, "That's the very frigate I've been dreaming of all night! I dreamt that we shot away her wheel. We shall have her in a quarter of an hour!" His brother, who had already inferred her high state of discipline from her manoeuvres, replied, "We shall not take her so easily. See how she is handled." He was a perfect artillerist, and, prompted by the suggestions of his sleep, he took charge of a gun, made the wheel his object, and ultimately shot it away. Not less extraordinary was the dream of a master's mate, Mr. Pearse, who had served in the Winchelsea. He dreamt that the Nymphe fell in with a French frigate the day after leaving port, that they killed her captain, and took her; and so vivid was the impression, that he firmly believed it to be a supernatural intimation, and spoke of it accordingly to his messmates. They rallied him immoderately on his superstition, but his confidence remained unshaken; and when his papers were examined after his death, for he was killed in the action, it was found that he had written the dream in his pocket-book.

At day break on the 19th, as they were proceeding up Channel, being still some miles to the westward of the Start, a sail was observed in the south-east, winch was soon made out to be a French frigate. Before six o'clock they had approached very near, the enemy making no attempt to escape; and, indeed, if both nations had wished at this early period of the war to try the merit of their respective navies by a battle, no ship could have been better calculated than the Cleopatra to maintain the honour of her flag. Her commander, Captain Mullon, was deservedly considered one of the most able officers of the French marine. As Suffren's captain, he had taken a prominent part in the actions with Sir Edward Hughes in the East Indies; and the code of signals then used along the French coast was his own invention. The Cleopatra had been more than a year in commission, and, with such a commander, it may be supposed that her crew had been well trained to all their duties. Indeed, it was known that the enemy had taken great pains in the equipment of their cruizers; and the generally inferior description of the English crews, inevitable from the circumstance that a navy was to be commissioned at once, had led to great apprehensions for the result of the first action. The seaman-like style in which the Cleopatra was handled did not escape the eye of Captain Pellew; who, conscious of his own disadvantage, from the inexperience of his ship's company, determined to avail himself of the power which the enemy's gallantry afforded him, to bring the ships at once to close action, and let courage alone decide it.

In the courage of his men he placed the firmest reliance; and when he addressed a few words to them, before they closed with the enemy, he knew how to suggest the most effectual encouragement in a situation so new to them all. To the miners, he appealed by their honour and spirit as Cornishmen; a motive which the feelings of his own bosom told him would, above all things, animate theirs. Probably there is no place where local pride prevails so strongly as in the west of Cornwall. The lower classes, employed for the most part in pursuits which require the constant exercise of observation and judgment, and familiarized to danger in their mines and fisheries, are peculiarly thoughtful and intrepid; while the distinctness of name and character which they derive from the almost insular position of their county, and the general ignorance of strangers in the interesting pursuits with which they are so familiar, have taught the lower classes to regard it less as an integral part of England, than a distinct and superior country. They have a nobler motive for this feeling, in the successes of their forefathers against the arms of the rebel parliament, when their loyalty, unwavering amidst prosperous treason, and their victories over superior discipline and numbers, obtained for them the grateful eulogy of their unfortunate sovereign. His letter remains painted, as he directed, in a conspicuous part of their older churches, a most honourable monument of their virtues and his gratitude. No man could be prouder of his county than Captain Pellew himself; and, as it was an object much coveted by the most promising of its young men to serve in his ship, and he continued steadily to patronize those who showed themselves deserving, there is scarcely a town in it from which he has not made officers. Thus his feelings were in perfect unison with theirs; and never was an appeal made with greater confidence, or answered with higher spirit, than when he reminded them of their home.

At six o'clock the ships were so near, that the captains mutually hailed. Not a shot had yet been fired. The crew of the Nymphe now shouted "Long live King George!" and gave three hearty cheers. Captain Mullon was then seen to address his crew briefly, holding a cap of liberty, which he waved before them. They answered with acclamations, shouting, "Vive la Republique!" as if in reply to the loyal watchword of the British crew, and to mark the opposite principles for which the battle was to be fought. The cap of liberty was then given to a sailor, who ran up the main rigging, and screwed it on the mast-head.

At a quarter past six, the Nymphe reached the starboard quarter of the Cleopatra, when Captain Pellew, whose hat was still in his hand, raised it to his head, the preconcerted signal for the Nymphe to open her fire. Both frigates immediately commenced a furious cannonade, which they maintained without intermission for three quarters of an hour, running before the wind under top-gallant-sails, and very near each other. At a little before seven, the mizen-mast of the Cleopatra fell, and presently after her wheel was shot away. Thus rendered unmanageable, she came round with her bow to the Nymphe's broadside, her jib-boom pressing hard against the mainmast. Captain Pellew, supposing that the enemy were going to board, ordered the boarders to be called, to repel them; but the disabled state of the Cleopatra was soon evident, and he at once gave orders to board her. Immediately the boarders rushed on the forecastle, a division of them, headed by Mr., afterwards Capt. George Bell, boarding through the main-deck ports, and fought their way along the gangways to the quarter-deck. The republicans, though much superior in numbers, could not resist the impetuosity of the attack. At ten minutes past seven they had all fled below, or submitted, and the pennant of the Cleopatra was hauled down.

While the boarders were pouring in upon the enemy's forecastle, the mainmast of the Nymphe, having been much wounded, and with the main and spring-stays shot away, was most seriously endangered by the pressure of the Cleopatra's jib-boom. Fortunately, the jib-boom broke, and the Cleopatra fell alongside the Nymphe, head and stern. The mainmast was again in danger, from the Cleopatra's larboard maintopmast-studding-sail boom-iron hooking in the larboard leech-rope of the main-topsail, and dragging the sail. Captain Pellew ordered some active seaman to go out upon the yard, and free the sail, promising ten guineas, if he succeeded; and a main-top-man, named Burgess, immediately sprang out, and cut the leech-rope. Lieutenant Pellowe had been already directed to drop the best bower-anchor, as a means of getting the ships apart; and by the time half the prisoners had been removed, the prize separated, and fell astern.

The crew fought with a steadiness and gallantry above all praise. A lad, who had served in the Winchelsea as barber's boy, was made second captain of one of the main-deck guns. The captain being killed, he succeeded to command the gun; and through the rest of the action, Captain Pellew heard him from the gangway give the word for all the successive steps of loading and pointing, as if they had been only in exercise. In the heat of action, one of the men came from the main deck to ask the captain what he must do, for that all the men at his gun were killed or wounded but himself, and he had been trying to fight it alone, but could not. Another, who had joined but the day before, was found seated on a gun-carriage, complaining that he had been very well as long as he was fighting, but that his sea sickness returned as soon as the battle was over, and that he did not know what was the matter with his leg, it smarted so much. It was found that the poor fellow had received a musket ball in it.

The loss was severe on both sides, and, in proportion to the respective crews, nearly equal. The Nymphe, out of a crew of 240, had 23 killed, including her boatswain, a master's mate (Pearse), and three midshipmen; and 27 wounded, among whom were her second lieutenant, the lieutenant of marines, and two midshipmen. The Cleopatra lost 63 killed and wounded, out of a crew of 320. She came out of action, therefore, with 67 effective men more than her conqueror. It is highly creditable to the Nymphe's crew, that they beat a ship like the Cleopatra by gunnery, notwithstanding their inexperience; and carried her by a hand-to-hand conflict, notwithstanding their inferior numbers.

Captain Mullon was killed. A cannon-shot struck him on the back, and carried away great part of his left hip. Even at that dreadful moment he felt the importance of destroying the signals which he carried in his pocket; but in his dying agony, he took out his commission in mistake, and expired in the act of devouring it;—a trait of devoted heroism never surpassed by any officer of any nation. These signals, so valuable as long as the enemy did not know them to be in possession of the British, thus fell into the hands of Captain Pellew, who delivered them to the Admiralty.

Captain Pellew arrived at Portsmouth with his prize on the following day. He sent the flag under which she fought, and the cap of liberty, to his brother. This, the first trophy of the kind taken in the revolutionary war, is about seven inches long, made of wood, and painted red; with a round, tapering spear of brass, about three feet and a half long, the lower half being blackened, with a screw at the end to fix it on the mast. The following letter accompanied these trophies:—

"DEAR SAM,—Here we are—thank God! safe—after a glorious action with La Cleopatre, the crack ship of France; 40 guns, 28 on her main-deck, and 12 on her quarter-deck, some of 36 pounds, and 320 men. We dished her up in fifty minutes, boarded, and struck her colours. We have suffered much, but I was long determined to make a short affair of it. We conversed before we fired a shot, and then, God knows, hot enough it was, as you will see by the enclosed.[3] I might have wrote for a month, had I entered on the description of every gallant action, but we were all in it, heart and soul. I owe much to Israel, who undertook with the after-gun to cut off her rudder and wheel. The tiller was shot away, and four men were killed at her wheel, which I verily believe was owing to him. I will write again in a day or two, and do all I can for everybody. We must go into harbour. Cleopatra is fifteen feet longer, and three feet wider than Nymphe—much larger, Poor dear Pearse is numbered with the slain[4]—Plane and Norway slightly wounded—old Nicholls safe. God be praised for his mercy to myself, and Israel, and all of us! "Yours, ever, E.P."

"Be kind to Susan—go over, and comfort her; I cannot write to poor Pearse's mother for my life—do send her a note; I really cannot. I loved him, poor fellow, and he deserved it.

"June 20, 1793."

FOOTNOTES:

[3] A list of the killed and wounded.

[4] After the action, Mr. Norway requested permission to keep the body of Mr. Pearse for interment by his friends. Captain Pellew for answer desired Mr. N. to read the contents of a paper which he drew from his pocket. It was a direction that if he, Capt. P., should foil, his body should at once be thrown overboard. Of course Mr. N. immediately withdrew his request.



CHAPTER IV.

THE WESTERN SQUADRONS.

The capture of the first frigate in a war is always an object of much interest; and the circumstances of the late action, the merit of which was enhanced by the skill and gallantry of the enemy, gave additional importance to Captain Pellew's success. "I never doubted," said Lord Howe, "that you would take a French frigate; but the manner in which you have done it, will establish an example for the war."

The brothers were introduced to the King on the 29th of June, by the Earl of Chatham, First Lord of the Admiralty; when Captain Pellew received the honour of knighthood, and his brother was made a post-captain. Besides the usual promotions, the master, Mr. Thomson, received a lieutenant's commission. As Mr. Thomson was a master of considerable standing, the captain supposed that he would decline the change to be a junior lieutenant; but the master preferred to get into the line for promotion, and as the result showed, he decided wisely, for he followed Sir Edward to the Arethusa and Indefatigable; and as he had the singular fortune to fight four brilliant actions in three years and a-half, each of which obtained promotion for his first lieutenant, Mr. Thomson thus rose rapidly to seniority, and was made a commander for the action with the Droits de l'Homme.

Captain Mullon was buried at Portsmouth, with all the honours due to his gallantry. One of Sir Edward's first acts was to write a letter of condolence to the widow; and as he learnt that she was left in narrow circumstances, he sent, with her husband's property, what assistance his then very limited means enabled him to offer. Madame Mullon acknowledged his attention and kindness in a most grateful letter. He received also the warm acknowledgments of the Cleopatra's surviving officers, the senior of whom requested and received from him testimonials of the skill and gallantry with which they had defended their ship, without which their defeat, in the bloody councils which then prevailed, would probably have brought them to the scaffold. What was scarcely to be expected at such a time, and after a first defeat, it was admitted in the Moniteur that the "superb frigate" the Cleopatra had been taken by a frigate of equal force.

The action between the Nymphe and Cleopatra is interesting as the first in which a ship had substituted carronades for her quarter-deck guns of small calibre, making them a material part of her force. This gun had been invented about three years before the close of the former war, and the Admiralty had allowed it to be introduced generally into the navy; but except in one ship, the Rainbow, 44, which was armed entirely with heavy carronades, it was considered as supplementary to the regular armament, being mounted only where long guns could not be placed, and not affecting the ship's rating. The Flora, when she took the Nymphe, in 1780, thus carried six 18-pounder carronades, in addition to her proper number of long guns; and the Artois, when Sir Edward commanded her, was armed in the same manner. The carronade was at first very unpopular with the sailors, generally prejudiced as they are against innovations, and who, not understanding how to use it, attributed failures which arose from their own mismanagement to defects in the invention. Sir Edward, who had no prejudices to contend with in training his crew, obtained permission, when he fitted the Nymphe, to exchange the six-pounders on her quarter-deck for 24-pounder carronades; and the result of the battle confirmed his favourable opinion of them. His next ship, the Arethusa, was armed precisely as the forty-four gun frigates at a later period of the war, with eighteen-pounders on the main-deck, and 32-pounder carronades on the quarter-deck and forecastle. He joined her in January 1794.

Towards the end of 1793, the enemy fitted out a number of frigates, which cruised at the entrance of the Channel, chiefly in small squadrons, and committed the most serious depredations. Sir Edward formed the idea of checking them by an independent cruising squadron; but, expecting that a measure so unusual as to create a distinct command within the limits of an Admiral's station would be very strongly opposed, he would not, as an officer without influence, venture to recommend it himself; but he explained his views to Sir J. Borlase Warren, whose interest was great, and urged him to apply for such a command. The Admiralty, whose attention had already been anxiously directed to the successes of the enemy, approved of the proposal, and gave Sir John a small squadron of frigates, of which the Arethusa was one, and which were to rendezvous at Falmouth. Such was the origin of the Western squadrons, which, from the number of their successes, and their character of dashing enterprise, became the most popular service in the navy. As a school for officers and seamen, they were never surpassed. Almost all their captains rose to high distinction, and a list of well-known flag-officers may be traced in connection with them, such as, perhaps, was never formed by any other service of the same extent. It may suffice to mention such names as Sir Richard Strachan, Sir Israel Pellew, Sir Edmund Nagle, Sir Sidney Smith, Sir Richard Keats, Sir James Saumarez, Sir Philip Durham, Sir Charles V. Penrose, Admirals Barlow, and Reynolds. Nothing equals the animating duties of a cruizing frigate squadron. The vigilance in hovering on the enemy's coast, or sweeping over the seas around it; the chase, by a single ship detached to observe a suspicious stranger, or by the whole squadron to overtake an enemy; the occasional action; the boat-attack;—service like this gives constant life to a sailor. In a line-of-battle ship, with the perfection of discipline, there is less demand for individual enterprise, and fewer of the opportunities which fit crews for exploits where all depends on rapidity and daring. On the other hand, a single cruizer wants the stimulus supplied by constant emulation. But in a squadron, all the ships vie with one another; and the smartest of them, herself always improving, gives an example, and a character to the whole.

In the middle of April 1794, Sir J.B. Warren sailed from Portsmouth in the Flora, with the Arethusa, Concorde, Melampus, and Nymphe. At daylight on the 23rd, he fell in with a French squadron off the Isle of Bass; the Engageante, Pomone, and Resolue, frigates; and the Babet, 22-gun corvette. The enemy, who were standing to the north-west, made sail on perceiving the British squadron; the Commodore in l'Engageante being a-head, then Resolue, Pomone, and Babet. Soon after, the wind shifted two points, from S.S.W. to south, giving the British the weather-gage, and preventing the enemy from making their escape to the land.

Outsailing her consorts, the Flora came up with the enemy at half-past six; and giving the Babet a passing broadside, stood on and attacked the Pomone. The Pomone was at that time by much the largest frigate ever built, being only one hundred tons smaller than a 64-gun ship, and carrying long 24-pounders on her main deck. The Flora, being only a 36, with 18-pounders, was a very unequal match for this powerful ship, which soon cut her sails and rigging to pieces, shot away her fore-topmast, and left her astern. The Melampus, which, notwithstanding her endeavours to close, was still far to windward on the Pomone's quarter; now fired on her, but unavoidably at too great a distance to produce any material effect, though the heavy guns of the enemy inflicted on her a greater loss than was sustained by any other ship in the squadron. The Arethusa, which had previously cannonaded the Babet, while she was pressing on to overtake the frigates, soon came up with the Pomone, closed her to windward, and engaged her single-handed, and within pistol-shot, till she struck. The Flora, in the mean time, took possession of the corvette. A short time before the close of the action, the Pomone took fire, but her crew succeeded in extinguishing the flames. At half-past nine, the Arethusa shot away her main and mizen masts, and compelled her to surrender.

As soon as the enemy struck, the Commodore, in the full warmth of his feelings, wrote to Sir Edward a short and expressive note:—

"MY DEAR PELLEW,—I shall ever hold myself indebted, and under infinite obligations to you, for the noble and gallant support you gave me to-day.

"God bless you and all yours! "Your most sincere, "And affectionate friend, "J.B. WARREN."

He then made signal for a general chase. Both the Flora and Arethusa were too much crippled to follow immediately, though the latter in a very short time repaired her damages sufficiently to enable her to make sail; and the Nymphe, to the great mortification of all on board, was so far astern from the first, that she was never able, with all their exertions, to take any part in the action. But the Concorde, commanded by Sir Richard Strachan, by superior sailing, came up with the Resolue; when the French Commodore, in l'Engageante, coming to assist his consort, Sir Richard brought his new opponent to close action, and took her. The Resolue escaped. It is remarkable that this frigate had been attacked and compelled to submit by Sir R. Strachan, in November, 1791, for resisting the search of some vessels which were carrying stores to Tippoo Saib; and that she was afterwards taken by the Melampus.

The squadron carried their prizes into Portsmouth. The Commodore was honoured with a red ribbon, a most unusual distinction for a service of this extent, and which he often said Sir Edward Pellew had mainly contributed to place on his shoulder. Sir J. Warren's acknowledgments were not the only flattering notice which Sir Edward received. The First Lord of the Admiralty sent him a letter, dated on the third day after the action.

"DEAR SIR,—I have but a moment to acknowledge your letter, which I have received this morning with infinite pleasure; and to say, that I am extremely happy the same success and honour attend you in the Arethusa as in the Nymphe. I shall be very glad to see you while you are refitting, as soon as your leg will permit it, and which, I am happy to hear, is only a sprain.

"I am, dear Sir, "Your very faithful, humble servant, "CHATHAM."

From Lord Howe, the Commander-in-chief on the station, then just about to sail on the cruise which proved so honourable to himself and to his country, he received the following letter:—

"The Charlotte, St. Helen's, 28th April, 1794.

"SIR,—I had already desired Sir John Warren, before the receipt of your favour of this day's date, to present my congratulations on the very distinguished success which has attended your late undertaking. The superiority of the Pomone adds much to the credit of it; although the event has not surpassed the confidence I should have entertained of it, if I could have been apprized of the opportunity before the action commenced.

"I am much obliged by the communications which have accompanied your letter; and remain, with sentiments of particular esteem and regard,

"Sir, "Your most obedient, humble servant, "HOWE."

On the 23rd of August following, the squadron, now consisting of six frigates, which had sailed from Falmouth on the 7th, chased the French frigate Volontaire, and the corvettes Alerte and Espion, into the Bay of Audierne, a large bay immediately to the southward of Brest, having the promontory at the south entrance of that harbour, the Bec du Raz, for its northern, and Penmarck Point for its southern extremity. Four of the squadron chased the frigate on shore near the Penmarcks, where she was totally wrecked. The corvettes took shelter under the batteries, where they were driven on shore and cannonaded by the Flora and Arethusa, until their masts fell, and great part of their crews escaped to the land. The boats of the Arethusa were now ordered to set them on fire; but when it was found, on boarding them, that many of their wounded could not be removed with safety, Sir Edward contented himself with taking out the rest of the prisoners, leaving the wounded to the care of their friends on shore, and the stranded corvettes, which were already bilged, to their fate. L'Espion was afterwards got off by the enemy.

The state of the Channel was at this time very different from what it had been a few months before. The enemy's cruisers, which then were almost in possession of it, could now scarcely leave their ports without being taken. While the frigates swept the Channel, spreading themselves to command a very extensive range of view, it was difficult for an enemy to elude their vigilance. Chasing in different directions, to take advantage of every change of wind, and to circumvent him in every manoeuvre, it was impossible for him, once seen, to escape their pursuit.

The services of the western squadron led the Admiralty to increase the force, and divide the command; and the second squadron was given to Sir Edward Pellew. On the 21st of October, at daybreak, the Arethusa, with the Artois, Captain Nagle; Diamond, Sir Sidney Smith; and Galatea, Captain Keats, fell in with the French frigate Revolutionaire, eight or ten miles to the westward of Ushant, the wind being off the land. The squadron gave chase, and the Commodore took the most weatherly course, observing, that if the French captain were a seaman, the prize would fall to himself, for his only chance of escape was to carry a press of sail to windward. Instead of this, the enemy kept away; and the Artois overtook, and brought her to action. After they had been closely engaged for forty minutes, the Diamond came up; but Sir Sidney Smith, with that chivalrous feeling which marked his character, would not allow a shot to be fired, saying, that Nagle had fought his ship well, and he would not diminish the credit of his trophy. But when the enemy did not immediately surrender, he said, that she must not be allowed to do mischief, and ordered a broadside to be ready. Then, taking out his watch, he continued, "We'll allow her five minutes: if she do not then strike, we'll fire into her." He stood with the watch in his hand, and just before the time expired, the French colours came down.

Captain Nagle was deservedly knighted for his gallantry. The prize, which had been launched only six months, was 150 tons larger than any British-built frigate, and superior to any captured one, except the Pomone. She had a furnace for heating shot, which the enemy had used in the action. She was commissioned by the Commodore's early friend. Captain Frank Cole, and attached to the squadron. It would have added to the interest Sir Edward felt when he took possession of this very beautiful ship, could he have known that she was to close her career in the navy under his second son, at that time a child. She was taken to pieces in 1822, at Plymouth, after having been paid off by the Hon. Captain Fleetwood Pellew, who had commanded her for the preceding four years.

On the 22d of December, when Sir Edward's squadron was at anchor in Falmouth, the Channel fleet being at Spithead, and a large outward-bound convoy waiting for a fair wind at Torbay, an English gentleman, who had just escaped from L'Orient, arrived at Falmouth in a neutral vessel, and reported to Mr. Pellew, the collector of the Customs, the important fact that the Brest fleet had just been ordered to sea. He had received the information from the naval commandant at L'Orient, and a line-of-battle ship in that port, Le Caton, was to join the force. Sir Edward was immediately sent for by his brother, and the very important information they received appearing certain, it was deemed necessary that Sir Edward should communicate it in person to the Admiralty, and send advices from the nearest post towns on the road to the admirals at Plymouth and Portsmouth, as well as to the senior officer at Torbay. He went off express the same afternoon, accompanied by the marine officer of the Arethusa, afterwards Colonel Sir Richard Williams, K.C.B., late commandant of the division of marines at Portsmouth; and arrived in London on the 24th, at that time an almost unexampled despatch.[5]

The object of the French fleet in putting to sea at so unusual a season was most probably to strike a severe blow at British commerce, by intercepting the convoy from Torbay; and in this there is every reason to believe they would have succeeded, but for the timely information of their intended cruise, and the prompt measures which were taken in consequence, for the wind became fair that night. It was one of those events which so frequently occur in history, and as often in private life, where important consequences depend upon some accidental, or, to speak more properly, providential circumstance, which yet is unavailing, unless improved by judgment and energy.

When Sir Edward made his communication to the Admiralty, Earl Spencer observed, that the first step was to send advices without delay to the admirals at Plymouth and Portsmouth. "That," replied Sir Edward, "has been already attended to. I sent despatches from Exeter and Salisbury." "Then, Sir," said a junior Lord, apparently with displeasure, "you have left nothing for the Admiralty to do."—"Except," interposed Lord Spencer, "to get the British fleet to sea with as little delay as possible."

The Board directed Sir Edward to return to Falmouth, and proceed without delay to reconnoitre Brest. During his absence, Sir J.B. Warren had arrived with his frigates; and a squadron, consisting of the Pomone, Arethusa, Diamond, Galatea, and Concorde, sailed from Falmouth on the 2nd of January, and arrived off Ushant on the following morning. The Diamond, commanded by Sir Sidney Smith, was sent a-head to reconnoitre, and the squadron followed. A line-of-battle ship was seen at anchor in Bertheaume Bay on the evening of the 4th. The Diamond persevered in working up through the night, and at eight next morning was seen returning to the squadron.

Sir Sidney reported that he had completely reconnoitred Brest at daylight, and ascertained that the enemy's fleet was at sea. On his return, he was under the necessity of passing very near the French seventy-four, but having disguised his ship with French colours, and a bonnet rouge at her head, he went boldly under the enemy's stern, and hailed her in French. She was the ship from L'Orient, Le Caton, which had been obliged to return to port disabled, and her pumps were going as she lay at anchor. Sir Sidney gave the name of his own ship as La Surveillante; and having offered assistance, which was declined, he took leave, and made sail for the squadron.

The enemy's fleet, thirty-five sail of the line, thirteen frigates, and sixteen smaller vessels, had put to sea towards the end of December. Some of them were driven back by a gale, but the fleet continued to cruise until the end of January, when they were obliged to return to port, with the loss of five ships.[6]

The squadron, having effected their principal object, arrived off Falmouth, and landed despatches on the 6th. They afterwards continued their cruise until the 22d, when they returned to port.

Sir Edward now left the Arethusa, and joined the Indefatigable, one of three 64-gun ships which had lately been cut down to heavy frigates. One part of the plan was to reduce their masts and rigging in proportion to the diminished size of their hulls. All of them proved slow and unmanageable ships; and Sir Edward, who had satisfied himself of the cause of the failure, applied to the Navy Board for permission to alter the Indefatigable. The Comptroller of the Navy was much offended at the request, denying that the plan of the Navy Board had failed; and when Sir Edward alluded to the notorious inefficiency of the ships, he said that it arose entirely from faulty stowage of the ballast and hold. They parted, mutually dissatisfied; and Sir Edward appealed immediately to Lord Spencer, who, a short time before, had been placed at the head of the Admiralty. This nobleman showed every desire to meet Sir Edward's wishes, but expressed very great reluctance to involve himself in a difference with the Navy Board; and requested him to arrange the affair, if possible, himself. He accordingly attempted it; but finding no disposition to meet his views, he at length declined the appointment, saying that he would not risk his credit by commanding a worthless ship. This brought the question to a point; and he was allowed to alter the Indefatigable according to his own plans. They were entirely successful, for she became an excellent sailer and a most efficient ship.

Sir Edward was remarkably accurate in judging of a ship's qualities. For this he was probably indebted in the first place to the practical knowledge of ship-building which he acquired, when he assisted to construct the squadron on Lake Champlain, and to his very close intimacy with Lieutenant (afterwards Rear-Admiral) Schanck, an enthusiast on the subject, and who always regarded him with peculiar pride and attachment, as a pupil of his own. The general knowledge which he thus obtained, could not fail to be improved in the course of his own service. Many illustrations may be given of the correctness of his opinion in this respect. The Bordelais, a French cruiser taken by the Revolutionaire, carrying 24 guns on a flush deck, 149 feet long, was bought into the service, and commissioned by Captain Manby. She was one of the fastest and most beautiful vessels ever seen, but so dangerous, that she was called, in the navy, "the coffin." Sir Edward saw her alongside the jetty at Plymouth, and pointing out to her commander the cause of her dangerous character, recommended the means of guarding against it. His advice was always acted upon, and the Bordelais survived; while two other captured sloops of war, the Railleur and Trompeuse, built after her model, but on a reduced scale, foundered with their crews on the same day. When the 10-gun brigs were introduced into the service, he condemned them in the strongest terms; and being asked what should be done with those already built, he replied, "Put them all together, and burn them, for they will drown their crews." His prediction has been too correctly fulfilled in the fate of these vessels, of which six were lost in the packet-service in six years and a half, with two hundred and fifty people. At a much later period, when the beautiful Caledonia, the most perfect ship of her class, was about to be made the victim of an experiment, he implored, but unfortunately in vain, that she might be spared.

The Indefatigable sailed from Falmouth on her first cruise on the 2nd of March; and in the following week, the squadron captured fifteen out of a convoy of twenty-five vessels, which had taken shelter among the rocks of the Penmarcks. On the 7th of May, she had a most narrow escape from shipwreck. The extraordinary circumstances connected with the accident, are related in the words of the late Capt. George Bell, at that time one of the officers.

"In the summer of 1795, the Indefatigable, when cruising off Cape Finisterre, fell in with Admiral Waldegrave's squadron of line-of-battle ships, and the Concorde frigate. The admiral made signal for the Indefatigable and Concorde to chase a small strange sail running along shore. All sail was soon set, royals, top-gallant studding-sails, &c., the wind being northerly, and the water as smooth as glass. At noon, Mr. George Bell, acting master, was in the act of crossing from the starboard gangway to the quarter-deck, to report twelve o'clock to the captain, who was looking over the larboard quarter-deck hammocks at the land, and strange sail, when he suddenly heard a rumbling noise, as if a top-sail-tie had given way, and the yard was coming down. He looked aloft, but saw nothing amiss, and then perceived that the ship was aground. Mr. Bell instantly sprang into the main-chains, and dropped the hand lead over. Only eighteen feet water was on the rock, the ship drawing nineteen and a half feet abaft. There were twelve and fourteen fathoms under the how and stern, consequently she hung completely in the centre. Sir Edward, whose judgment in moments of danger was always so correct and decisive as never to have occasion to give a second order, immediately directed some of the main-deck guns to be moved, and the ship's company to sally her off the rock. This fortunately succeeded. The ship fell over heavily, and started into deep water, with five feet water in her hold. Signals of distress were now made to the flag-ship, and the admiral ordered the Indefatigable to proceed to Lisbon to repair, and the Concorde to accompany us to the mouth of the Tagus. We arrived on the third day after the accident. So serious was the leak, that the men could not quit the pumps for a moment, and only a good ship's company, such as we had, could have kept the ship afloat.

"On the evening of our arrival, the English consul sent on board a number of Portuguese, to relieve the crew. Early next morning (having the morning watch) I observed all these people leave the pumps. It was a saint's day, and they would not work. I ran into the Captain's cabin to state the circumstance; he in a moment came out in his dressing-gown, with a drawn sword, chased the Portuguese round the gangways and forecastle, made them to a man lay in at the pumps, and kept them at it till the pumps sucked.

"In order to ascertain whether both sides of the ship had been injured. Sir Edward resolved to examine the bottom himself; and to the astonishment and admiration of everybody who witnessed this heroic act, he plunged into the water, thoroughly examined both sides, and satisfied himself that the starboard side only had been damaged. This saved much time and expense; for had not Sir Edward hazarded the experiment, the apparatus for heaving down must have been shifted over. The Indefatigable was docked on her arrival at Plymouth, early in August, and it then appeared how accurately he had described the injury. She had twenty-seven of her floors and first futtocks broke, and the Portuguese, in repairing her, had put in seventeen feet of main-keel. The frame of a regular-built frigate could not have stood the shock.

"A few days after the submarine inspection, the gun-room officers invited Sir Edward to dinner, to commemorate the 10th of June, the Nymphe's action, on board the Principe Real, a Portuguese 80-gun ship, used as a hulk by the Indefatigable's crew, while their ship was repairing. In the evening, some of the crew took Sir Edward on their shoulders, carried him all over the hulk, and swore they would make him an admiral."

In her next cruise, the Indefatigable nearly lost her gallant captain. On the 31st of August she had strong gales and squally weather, the wind flying round from W. by S. to N.E., S.E., and S.W. In the afternoon the weather moderated. The ship had been hove to under a close-reefed main-topsail, with the top-gallant yards down, the sea running very high, and the ship pitching much. It was Sunday, and the captain was at dinner with the officers, when a bustle was heard on deck. He ran instantly to the poop, and saw two men in the water, amidst the wreck of a six-oared cutter. One of the tackles had unhooked, through a heavy sea lifting the boat, and the men had jumped into her to secure it, when another sea dashed her to pieces. The captain stepped into the gig, which was carried over the stern above the cutter, and ordered it to be lowered; and though his officers urgently dissuaded him from so dangerous an attempt, he determined to hazard it. At this moment the ship made a deep plunge aft, the boat was stove, and the captain left in the water. He was much hurt, and bled profusely, for he was dashed violently against the rudder, and his nostril was torn up by the hook of one of the tackles. But his coolness and self-possession did not forsake him, and calling for a rope, he slung himself with one of the many that were thrown to him, and cheerfully ordered those on board to haul away. As soon as possible, the jolly-boat, with an officer and crew, was hoisted out from the booms, and fortunately saved the men.

This was the third time within the present year that Sir Edward had risked his life to save others. While the ship was being fitted out, he had been instrumental in saving two lives at Point Beach. Again, a short time before she sailed, and while she was lying at Spithead, the coxswain of one of the cutters fell overboard. The captain ran aft, and was instantly in the water, where he caught the man just as he was sinking. Life was apparently extinct, but happily was restored by the usual means. Perhaps no man has oftener distinguished himself in this manner; but the splendour of one act of heroism and humanity leaves all the others in the shade.

On the 26th of January, 1796, when the Indefatigable was lying in Hamoaze, after having been docked, the Dutton, a large East Indiaman, employed in the transport service, on her way to the West Indies with part of the 2nd, or Queen's regiment, was driven into Plymouth by stress of weather. She had been out seven weeks, and had many sick on board. The gale increasing in the afternoon, it was determined to run for greater safety to Catwater; but the buoy at the extremity of the reef off Mount Batten having broke adrift, of which the pilots were not aware, she touched on the shoal, and carried away her rudder. Thus rendered unmanageable, she fell off, and grounded under the citadel, where, beating round, she lay rolling heavily with her broadside to the waves. At the second roll she threw all her masts over board together.

Sir Edward and Lady Pellew were on their way to dine with Dr. Hawker, vicar of Charles,—who had become acquainted with Mr. Pellew when they were serving together at Plymouth as surgeons to the marines, and continued through life the intimate and valued friend of all the brothers. Sir Edward noticed the crowds running to the Hoe, and having learned the cause, he sprang out of the carriage, and ran off with the rest. Arrived at the beach, he saw at once that the loss of nearly all on board, between five and six hundred, was almost inevitable. The captain had been landed on account of indisposition on the preceding day, and his absence could not fail to increase the confusion of a large and crowded transport under such appalling circumstances. The officers had succeeded in getting a hawser to the shore, by which several of the people landed; but this was a slow operation; and none but a bold and active person could avail himself of this means of escape, for the rolling of the vessel would now jerk him high in the air, and then plunge him among the breakers. Every minute was of consequence, for night was approaching, and the wreck was fast breaking up.

Sir Edward was anxious to send a message to the officers, and offered rewards to pilots, and others on the beach, to board the wreck; but when every one shrank from a service which they deemed too hazardous to be attempted, he exclaimed, "Then I will go myself." Availing himself of the hawser which communicated with the ship, he was hauled on board through the surf. The danger was greatly increased by the wreck of the masts, which had fallen towards the shore; and he received an injury on the back, which confined him to his bed for a week, in consequence of being dragged under the mainmast. But disregarding this at the time, he reached the deck, declared himself, and assumed the command. He assured the people that every one would be saved, if they attended quietly to his directions; that he would himself be the last to quit the wreck, but that he would run any one through who disobeyed him. His well-known name, with the calmness and energy he displayed, gave confidence to the despairing multitude. He was received with three hearty cheers, which were echoed by the thousands on shore; and his promptitude at resource soon enabled him to find and apply the means by which all might be safely landed. His officers in the mean time, though not knowing that he was on board, were exerting themselves to bring assistance from the Indefatigable. Mr. Pellowe, first lieutenant, left the ship in the barge, and Mr. Thompson, acting master (son of Mr. Thompson, who had been master of the Nymphe), in the launch; but the boats could not be brought alongside the wreck, and were obliged to run for the Barbican. A small boat belonging to a merchant vessel was more fortunate. Mr. Edsell, signal midshipman to the port admiral, and Mr. Coghlan, mate of the vessel, succeeded, at the risk of their lives, in bringing her alongside. The ends of two additional hawsers were got on shore, and Sir Edward contrived cradles to be slung upon them, with travelling ropes to pass forward and backward between the ship and the beach. Each hawser was held on shore by a number of men, who watched the rolling of the wreck, and kept the ropes tight and steady. Meantime, a cutter had with great difficulty worked out of Plymouth pool, and two large boats arrived from the dockyard, under the directions of Mr. Hemmings, the master-attendant, by whose caution and judgment they were enabled to approach the wreck, and receive the more helpless of the passengers, who were carried to the cutter. Sir Edward, with his sword drawn, directed the proceedings, and preserved order—a task the more difficult, as the soldiers had got at the spirits before he came on board, and many were drunk. The children, the women, and the sick, were the first landed. One of them was only three weeks old; and nothing in the whole transaction impressed Sir Edward more strongly than the struggle of the mother's feelings before she would entrust her infant to his care, or afforded him more pleasure than the success of his attempt to save it. Next the soldiers were got on shore; then the ship's company; and finally. Sir Edward himself, who was one of the last to leave her. Every one was saved, and presently after the wreck went to pieces.

Nothing could equal the lustre of such an action, except the modesty of him who was the hero of it. Indeed, upon all occasions, forward as he was to eulogize the merits of his followers, Sir Edward was reserved almost to a fault upon everything connected with his own services. The only notice taken of the Dutton, in the journal of the Indefatigable, is the short sentence:—"Sent two boats to the assistance of a ship on shore in the Sound;" and in his letter to Vice-Admiral Onslow, who had hoisted his flag at Plymouth a day or two before, he throws himself almost out of sight, and ascribes the chief merit to the officer who directed the boats:—

"DEAR SIR,—I hope it happened to me this afternoon to be serviceable to the unhappy sufferers on board the Dutton; and I have much satisfaction in saying, that every soul in her was taken out before I left her, except the first mate, boatswain, and third mate, who attended the hauling ropes to the shore, and they eased me on shore by the hawser. It is not possible to refrain speaking in raptures of the handsome conduct of Mr. Hemmings, the master-attendant, who, at the imminent risk of his life, saved hundreds. If I had not hurt my leg, and been otherwise much bruised, I would have waited on you; but hope this will be a passable excuse.

I am, with respect, Sir, Your most obedient, humble servant, ED. PELLEW."

"Thursday evening."

The merit of services performed in the sight of thousands could not thus be disclaimed. Praise was lavished upon him from every quarter. The corporation of Plymouth voted him the freedom of the town. The merchants of Liverpool presented him with a valuable service of plate. On the 5th of March following, he was created a baronet, as Sir Edward Pellew, of Treverry, and received for an honourable augmentation of his arms, a civic wreath, a stranded ship for a crest, and the motto, "Deo adjuvante Fortuna sequatur." This motto, so modest, and not less expressive of his own habitual feelings, was chosen by himself, in preference to one proposed, which was more personally complimentary.

Appreciating Mr. Coghlan's services, and delighted with the judgment and gallantry he had displayed, Sir Edward offered to place him on his own quarter-deck. It is unnecessary to add that the career of this distinguished officer has been worthy his introduction to the navy.

On the 9th of March the Indefatigable sailed from Falmouth, with the Revolutionaire, Argo, Amazon, and Concorde. On the 21st, the Indefatigable gave chase to three corvettes, one of which she drove on shore, and destroyed. On the 13th of April, she fell in with the French frigate l'Unite, on her way from l'Orient to Rochefort, having on board, as passengers, the governor's lady, Madame la Large, and her family. The Revolutionaire, which was ordered to chase in shore to cut off the enemy from the land, came up with her a little before midnight. Captain Cole hailed the French captain, and urged him repeatedly to submit to a superior force; but the enemy refusing to strike, he poured in two destructive broadsides. He was preparing to board, the frigates at the time running ten knots, when the French ship surrendered. She had suffered very severely from the fire of the Revolutionaire, without having been able to make any effectual return. Sir Edward sent the passengers to Brest in a neutral vessel, and finding that one of the junior officers of the prize was a son of Mme. la Large, he took the young man's parole, and allowed him to accompany his mother.

With his official communication to the Admiralty, which accompanied Captain Cole's account of the action, he wrote a private letter to the First Lord, and another to the Earl of Chatham. It was his practice through life thus to strengthen an interest for his officers in every possible quarter, and it was one, though not the only, cause of his remarkable success in obtaining promotion for so many of them. His letters on this occasion, though they display the warmth of private friendship, are not stronger than he was accustomed to write for others, whose only claim upon him was that which every deserving officer has to the patronage of his commander. The following is the letter to Lord Spencer:—

"MY LORD,—I have much pleasure in informing your Lordship of the capture of the French frigate, l'Unite, of thirty-eight guns, and two hundred and fifty-five men; and I have more in conveying to your Lordship my sense of Captain Cole's merit upon the occasion. Nothing could be more decided than his conduct; and his attack was made with so much vigour and judgment, that a ship of very superior force to l'Unite must have rewarded his gallantry. To his extreme vigilance and zeal, the squadron are indebted for this prize. It is not improper for me to say, that on all occasions I have found much reason to respect Captain Cole as a skilful and brave officer, and I rejoice in the opportunity of bearing testimony to his merit."

To the Earl of Chatham, with whom he was intimate, he wrote in a more familiar strain:—

"MY DEAR LORD,—Much as I dislike breaking in upon your time, I cannot resist the pleasure of repeating to you the good fortune of my friend, Frank Cole, who was the fortunate man among us in taking l'Unite, alias la Variante. There are few things, my Lord, that could raise my friend either in your opinion or mine; but one cannot but rejoice on finding our expectations realized.

"I am satisfied that nothing could be better conducted than Frank's ship upon this occasion, or courage more coolly displayed; a proof of which was strongly exhibited in his conversation with a vaunting Frenchman, boasting of his own strength, and threatening the vengeance of his partner. It will not be advancing too much when I say, that a ship of far superior force must have shared the same fate. The French commander complains bitterly of Cole's taking such advantages as his superior skill afforded him. The Revolutionaire is much improved since her mainmast was moved, and you will believe her, my Lord, always in good order. I have with infinite pleasure given my testimony of Frank to Lord Spencer, and I doubt not but your Lordship will give him a lift in the same quarter."

Captain Cole, though his career had been less brilliant than that of his friend since they parted, had gained most flattering distinction. His high character as an officer, and his reputation for peculiar correctness of conduct, added perhaps to his more than common advantages in person and manners, had obtained for him the honour of being selected, conjointly with the late Sir Richard Keats, to have the particular charge of his late Majesty, when he first entered the navy, being made lieutenants of the watch in which the Prince was placed. He was introduced by his royal pupil to the Prince of Wales, who said of him, "They may talk of a cockpit education, and cockpit manners; but a court could not have produced more finished manners than those of your friend Captain Cole." The friendship between Sir Edward and himself had continued from their boyhood, and they had cherished for each other the affection and confidence of brothers. He died at Plymouth in 1799. A little before his death, Sir Edward, who had just returned from a cruise, came to see him for the last time. "Now," said the expiring officer, "I shall die more happy, since I have been permitted to see once again the dearest of my friends:" and when Sir Edward at length tore himself from the room, unable to control his feelings any longer, a burst of grief, on returning to the mother and sisters of Captain Cole, prevented him for a considerable time from regaining sufficient composure to quit the affecting scene.

On the morning of the 20th of April, the frigates were lying-to off the Lizard, when a large ship was seen coming in from seaward, which tacked as soon as she perceived them, and stood off without answering the private signal. The Revolutionaire and Argo were ordered by signal to proceed to port with the prize, and the others to make all sail in chase, the wind being off the land. Towards evening the Concorde and Amazon had been run out of sight, but the Indefatigable gained upon the chase, which made the most strenuous efforts to escape, and was manoeuvred with no common ability. She was the 40-gun frigate Virginie, one of the finest and fastest vessels in the French marine, and commanded by Captain Jaques Bergeret, a young-officer of the highest character and promise. The Virginie was one of the fleet of Villaret Joyeuse, when, ten months before, Cornwallis, with five sail of the line and two frigates, effected his justly celebrated retreat from thirty French men-of-war, of which twelve were of the line. On this occasion, Bergeret attacked the Mars, with a spirit and judgment which gave full earnest of his future conduct.

Finding that the British frigate outsailed her on a wind, the Virginie bore away; but the Indefatigable continued to gain on her, and at a little before midnight came up within gun-shot, and took in royals and studding-sails, having run one hundred and sixty-eight miles in fifteen hours. The Virginie fired her stern-chasers, occasionally yawing to bring some of her broadside guns to bear, but without material effect; and the two ships, still running under a press of canvass, came to action. The Indefatigable had only one broadside-gun more than her opponent; but her size and very heavy metal gave her an irresistible superiority. Seven of the Virginie's people were killed at one of the quarter-deck guns, which struck such a panic in those around them, that it was with difficulty they could be induced to return to their quarters. Yet Bergeret fought his ship with admirable skill and gallantry, and maintained a very protracted action, constantly endeavouring to cripple the Indefatigable's rigging. Sir Edward had a very narrow escape. The main-top-mast was shot away, and falling forward, it disabled the main yard, and came down on the splinter-netting directly over his head. Happily, the netting was strong enough to bear the wreck.

It was an hour and three-quarters from the commencement of the action, when, the Virginie's mizen-mast and main-top-mast being shot away, the Indefatigable unavoidably went a-head. In addition to her former damage, she had lost her foreyard and gaff, and her rigging was so much cut that she was unable immediately to shorten sail. The Virginie was completely riddled. Some of the Indefatigable's shot had even gone through the sail-room and out at the opposite side of the ship. She had four feet water in her hold, and more than forty of her crew were killed and wounded. Yet she attempted to rake her opponent as she was shooting a-head, and had nearly succeeded in doing so.

While the Indefatigable was reeving fresh braces, the other frigates came up, having been enabled to make a shorter distance by the altered course of the combatants during the chase. On their approach, the Virginie fired a lee-gun, and hauled down her light; and being hailed by the Concorde, replied, "We must surrender, there are so many of you: we strike to the frigate a-head." A more brave and skilful resistance is scarcely afforded by the annals of the war; and the officer who thus defends his ship against a very superior force may challenge more honour than would be claimed by the victor.

A boat was sent from the Indefatigable for the gallant prisoner, who was deeply affected at his misfortune, and wept bitterly. He inquired to whom he had struck; and being told Sir Edward Pellew, "Oh!" he exclaimed, "that is the most fortunate man that ever lived! He takes everything, and now he has taken the finest frigate in France."

Bergeret was for some time the honoured guest of Sir Edward and his family, and the British Government considered him an officer of sufficient character to be offered in exchange for Sir Sidney Smith, who had been made prisoner at Havre just before. They sent him to France on his parole, to effect this object; but his application not being successful, he returned to England. Two years after, Sir Sidney Smith escaped, and the British Government, with a feeling most honourable to themselves, set Bergeret unconditionally at liberty. Thus do the brave and good, in challenging the respect of their enemies, contribute to soften the rigours of war, and to create a better feeling between hostile nations.

FOOTNOTES:

[5] A trifling incident occurred in this journey, which may, perhaps, deserve to be mentioned. In going down a hill, two or three miles beyond Axminster, both leaders fell, and the night being very cold, for the wind had set in strong from the eastward, a ring, on which he set particular value, dropped from Sir Edward's finger, as he was getting into the carriage again. He was vexed at the loss; but the road being very dirty, and the night dark, it was useless then to seek it. He therefore tore a bush from the hedge, and left it where the carriage had stopped: and ordering the post-boys to draw up at the next cottage, he knocked up the inmates, and promised them a reward if they found it. To his great pleasure, the expedient proved successful, and the ring was delivered to him on his return.

[6] The Revolutionaire, 110, wrecked Dec. 24, on the Mingan rock, near Brest; the Neuf Thermidor, 80. Scipion, 80, and Superbe, 74, foundered in a heavy gale on the 28th of January; and the Neptune, 74, wrecked in Audierne Bay.



CHAPTER V.

EXPEDITION AGAINST IRELAND.

France, having at length obtained internal quiet, and a settled Government under the Directory, and secured the alliance of Spain and Holland, prepared for a decisive blow against Great Britain. The condition of the British empire was at that time peculiarly critical. Of her allies, some had joined the enemy, and the others had proved unequal to resist him. In the East, the most powerful of the native princes were preparing to subvert her authority. At home, Ireland was organized for rebellion; and England herself contained a strong revolutionary party, checked, indeed, by the energy of the Government, and still more by the excellent disposition of the people, but prepared to rise in formidable activity, whenever the successes of the enemy should enable them to declare themselves.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse