Battle of Lissa
|13th March 1811|
|British Squadron, William Hoste|
|Amphion||32||William Hoste||Fleet Flagship|
|Active||38||James Alexander Gordon|
|Cerberus||32||Henry Whitby||13 killed, 41 wounded|
|Notes on Action|
|Colonel Gefflinga's letter|
|From the Naval Chronical Vol 25|
In consequence of the command of your Royal Highness, I embarked onboard the frigate Favourite, at Ancona, on the 11th, in the evening. The division was under the command of Captain Dubordieu, consting of four frigates and two small corvettes, forming in all six ships, two of which belong to the French, and four to the Italian nary. They got tinder sail with a light breeze about seven in the evening. At sunset, on the 12th we perceived the eastern point of Lissa I proposed to Captain Dubordieu that I should land at Lissa, with 300 men, whom I had on board, in order to take a position. This, however, he refused, and the division remained the whole night in sight of land, keeping before the wind; At day-break we perceived the English division, which consisted of a cut-down ship of the line, carrying only her lower deck guns, and three frigates. The Commodore immediately made the signal to prepare for battle. As the Favourite sailed better than the other ships, she was two leagues a-head of the rest of the division. However, at a quarter past seven, the order was given for the action to commence. Captain Meillerie said to me : " Colonel, would it not be better were we to wait an hour longer, and forifl " our line?" I communicated this observation to the Commander, who replied : " This is the happiest day of our lives: two of these ships must " be ours; we have the advantage of two frigates over the enemy, and arc " as well manned as he is." Your Royal Highness must be aware, that on board this ship I was nothing: and that I now, for the first time in an action at sea, could only concur with this brave officer; and it is impossible to describe the courage which animated the crew of the Favourite. A few minutes after 8 the frigate had got within gun-shot of two of the enemy's ships, received their fire, and returned it with astonishing activity from both sides: the wind, however, which had become very slack, entirely sunk; and it became at last quite calm. We had been an hour and a quarter in action, and no ship of our division had joined us.
At a quarter past 9, Captain Dubordieu said to me: "This is a glorious " day, but I have been somewhat too rash; courage, however ! our division " will yet support us." Scarce had he spoken these words, when a ball struck him. About the same time, the Frigate Flora came into the line; and about half-past 10, the Couronne, and half an hour later the Danae also joined. From this plain statement, your Highness will perceive how inconsiderate our manoeuvres were.
As the Captain of the frigate and the Lieutenant were killed, the command, according to the practice in such cases, devolved on me; the Midshipman Villeneuve directed the manoeuvres. About half-past ten o'clock the masts of the Favourite fell by the board, and M. Villeneuve intimated to me that he could no longer steer the vessel. 'We were standing at the same time before the wind, close by the Island of Lissa. I gave orders to steer for the land, took possession of several vessels, in which I put my sailors on board, and allowed the frigate to escape without interruption.
The Couronne having lost all her masts, was, after the most obstinate resistance, obliged to strike about half-past four o'clock. The Danae. the Flora, and a corvette, ran, during the night, into Lessina. The English, in the utmost distress, took refuge in the Island of St. George, after they had set fire to the Couronne; and one of their frigates, after being wholly dismasted, ran against the rocks of the Island, and in all probability must have been dashed to pieces.
The result of this action is, on our part, the loss of two frigates; the loss on the part of the English is one frigate, and a cut down vessel.
It is certain, that if Captain Dubordieu had wished to wait longer and concentrate his division, this day would have been very glorious for the Italian navy. The extraordinary zeal and abilities of this officer have achieved a two-fold victory. At all events the Italian marine have covered themselves with glory, and acquired a fame that will be transmitted to posterity, by engaging and baffling the English with an equal, if not inferior force, in spice of the skill and manoeuvres of their Commanders. This merit will neither be overlooked nor un-rewarded by his Majesty. Having once engaged us, the enemy found no difference between the French and Italian regiments. The Italian marine had merited the same praise; and it must be to England a source of much anxiety and disappointment, that the sailors of the Adriatic are not inferior to the French seamen. The division will set sail to-morrow from Lesina for Ragusa in order to refit.
It is the opinion of all the sea-faring people, that if Captain Dubordieu had kept his division together, we should have got possession of two of the enemy's ships, though the enemy had two cut-down ships of the line. However, without reckoning the two corvettes which we had more than the enemy. and the advantage resulting from their having two reduced ships of the line, our frigates had each 80 men on board, which enabled them to fire from both sides. The rashness and impetuosity of Captain Dubourdieu lost every thing. Your Royal Highness will no doubt receive pleasure from the good conduct of the seamen on this day (though a positive victory was not obtained), which is the more to be wondered at, as it is the first action in which the Italian marine has been engaged, which must gain them the favour and approbation of his Majesty. I have no doubt that the French officers will represent to the Minister of Marine the distinguished courage the Italian seamen displayed on this occasion.
Great as the error was which Captain Dubourdieu committed", his loss is much to be regretted. Never was officer more brave, or seaman more skilful; but the sight of the enemy produced an imprudent temerity. The loss of the English was immense: half their officers and a great part of their crews, were killed. Finally, the good disposition of the inhabitants of the coast of Dalmatia, ought to be made known to your Highness. Vessels came from all the Islands to our assistance; and the national guards hastened to the coast, and offered us their assistance.
A. GEFFLENGA, Colonel-adjutant.
|Captain Hoste's letter describing the action to George Eyre, Esq. Senior Officer of H. M. ships and vessels in the Adriatic.|
|From the Naval Chronical Vol 25|
It is with much pleasure I have to acquaint yon that after an action of six hours we have completely defeated the combined French and Italian squadrons, consisting of five frigates, one corvette, one brig, two schooners, one gunboat, and one xebec; the force opposed to them was H. M. ships Amphion, Cerberus, Active and Volage. On the morning of the 13th, the Active made the signal for a strange fleet to windward, and daylight discovered to us the enemy's squadron lying to, off the north point of the Island of Lissa ; the wind at that time was from the north-west, a fine breeze. The enemy having formed in two divisions, instantly bore down to attack under all possible sail. The British line, led by the Amphion, was formed by signal in the closest order on the starboard tack to receive them. At nine A. M. the action commenced by our firing on the headmost ships as they came within range; the intention of the enemy appeared to be to break our line in two places, the starboard division, led by the French commodore, bearing upon the Amphion and Active, and the larboard division on the Cerberus and Volage; in this attempt he failed (though almost aboard of us), by the well directed fire and compact order of our line. He then endeavoured to round the van ship, to engage to leeward, and thereby place us between two fires, but was so warmly received in the attempt, and rendered so totally unmanageable, that in the act of wearing he went on shore on the rocks of Lissa in the greatest possible confusion.
The line was then wore to renew the action, the Amphion not half a cable-length from the shore; the remainder of the enemy's starboard division passing under our stern and engaging us to leeward, whilst the larboard division tacked and remained to windward, engaging the Cerberus, Volage, and Active. In this situation the action commenced with great fury, H. M. ships frequently in positions which unavoidably exposed them to a raking fire of the enemy, who with his superiority of numbers had ability to take advantage of it; but nothing, Sir, could withstand the brave squadron I had the honour to command, At twenty minutes past eleven A. M. the Flora struck her colours, and at twelve the Bellona followed her example. The enemy to windward now endeavoured to make off, but were followed up as close as the disabled state of H. M. ships would admit of, and the Active and Cerberus were enabled at three P. M. to compel the stern-most of them to surrender, when the action ceased, leaving us in possession of the Corona of 44 guns, and the Bellona of 32 guns (the French commodore), the Favorite of 44 guns on shore, who shortly after blew up with a dreadful explosion, the corvette of the enemy making all possible sail to the north-west, and two frigates crowding sail for the port of Lessina, the brig making off to the south-east, and the small craft flying in every direction ; nor was it in my power to prevent them, having no ship in a state to follow them.
I must now account for the Flora's getting away after having struck her colours. At the time I was engaged with that ship, the Bellona was raking us; and when she struck, had no boat that could possibly take possession of her. I therefore preferred closing with the Bellona and taking her, to losing time alongside the Flora, which I already considered belonging to us. I call on the officers of my own squadron as well as those of the enemy to witness my assertion. The correspondence I have had on this subject with the French captain of the Daval (now their commodore), and which I enclose herewith, is convincing, and even their own officers (prisoners here) acknowledge the tact. Indeed I might have sunk her, and so might the Active; but as the colours were down, and nil firing from her had long ceased, both Capt. Gordon and myself considered her as our own; the delay of getting a boat on board the Bellona, and the anxious pursuit of Captain Gordon after the beaten enemy, enabled him to steal off, till too late for our shattered ships to come up with him, his rigging and sails apparently not much injured: but by the laws of war I shall ever maintain he belongs to us. The enemy's squadron, as per enclosed return, was commanded by Monsieur Dubourdieu, a capitaine de vaisseau, and a member of the legion of honour, who is killed. In justice to a brave man I must say, he set a noble example of intrepidity to those under him. They sailed from Ancona the 11th instant, with 500 troops on board, and every thing necessary for fortifying and garrisoning the island of Lissa. Thanks to Providence we have this time prevented them.
I have to lament the loss of many valuable officers and men; but in a contest of this kind it was to be expected. It is now my duty to endeavour to do justice to the brave officers and men I had the honour to command. I feel myself unequal to the task nothing from my pen can add to their merit. From your own knowledge of Captains Gordon, Whitbv, and Hornby, and the discipline of their ships, every thing you know, sir, might be expected; and if an officer so near in the same rank as themselves may be permitted to give an opinion, I should say they exceeded my most sanguine expectations, and it is a duty I owe all to express in the most public manner my grateful sense of the brave and gallant conduct of every captain, officer, seamen, and royal marine, employed on this occasion. From my First Lieut. Sir David Dunn, I received every assistance that might be expected from a zealous, brave, and intelligent officer, and his exertions (though wounded) in repairing our damage, is as praise-worthy as his conduct in the action, particularly as I have been unable to assist him from a wound in my right arm, and several severe contusions Captain Moore of the royal marines, of this ship, received a wound, but returned to his quarters immediately it was dressed. The captains of the squadron speak in the warmest terms of their officers and men, particularly of their First Lieutenants Dickenson, Henderson, and Wolridge; and the behaviour of my own officers and ship's company, who have been with me so long, was everything I expected from their tried worth; but I must not particularize where all were equally meritorious. I am now on my way to Lissa, with the squadron and prizes. The damage the ships have sustained is very considerable, and I fear will render us totally incapable of keeping the sea. I enclose a statement of the enemy's force, together with a return of killed and wounded in the squadron, and deeply lament they are so great.
I have the honour to be, &c.
|Description of the action from William James' History of the Royal Navy:|
|"On the evening of the 11th of March M. Dubourdieu sailed from Ancona, with, besides his former ship, the Favorite, and three Venetian frigates Corona, Bellona, and Carolina the two French 40-gun frigates Danaé and Flore, the latter commanded by Captain Jean-Alexandre Péridier, but the name of the Danaé's we are unable to state. M. Dubourdieu had also with him the Venetian 16-gun brig-corvette Principessa Augusta, one 10-gun schooner, one 6-gun xebec, and two gun-boats, having on board from 400 to 500 troops, under Colonel Gifflenga of the Italian army, as a garrison for the island of Lissa, as soon as they should succeed in conquering it. Early on the morning of the 13th this Franco-Venetian squadron, of four 40-gun frigates, two of a smaller class, brig-corvette and other vessels, arrived off the north point of Lissa, and there fell in with a British squadron, of three frigates and a 22-gun ship, under the orders of Captain William Hoste, the very officer who had commanded the squadron, which M. Dubourdieu and his crews, as formerly mentioned, were so desirous to meet. Captain Hoste's three frigates were the Amphion, Cerberus, and Active, already so frequently named; and he had also with him the 22-gun ship Volage, Captain Phipps Hornby.|
At 30 (sic) a.m., when about a mile from the entrance of Port St.-George, the Active, the weathermost ship of her squadron, then close hauled on the larboard tack, with the wind a fine breeze from the north-north-west, discovered the Franco-Venetian squadron, lying to to-windward. After making the night-signal for an enemy, the Active bore up to join her consorts. At 4 a.m. the extremes of Lissa bore from the Amphion, who was then one mile off shore, from west by north to north by east. At daylight the force of M. Dubourdieu's squadron was made out, and the squadron of Captain Hoste carried all sail in chase. At 6 a.m. the Franco-Venetian squadron began bearing down to the attack in two divisions; the starboard or weather one consisting of the Favorite, Flore, Bellona, and Principessa Augusta, and the larboard or lee one, of the Danaé, Corona, Carolina, and small craft.
The British ships immediately formed in line ahead, with, besides the customary red ensign at their respective peaks, union-jacks jacks and ensigns, blue and red, at their foremast heads and at their different stays. Thus nobly decorated, the four ships continued working to windward to close the enemy. Just before the two squadrons got within gun-shot, aware of what would be the talismanic effect, at such a moment, of the name and example of his late friend and patron, Captain Hoste telegraphed, "REMEMBER NELSON!" The loud "hurrahs!" of the four ships' companies quickly responded to a signal, so admirably calculated to inspire the hearts of both officers and men with all the zeal, all the valour, and all the confidence, necessary to withstand a force of such apparently overwhelming superiority as that which, in the full expectation of achieving an easy victory, was now rapidly approaching.
At 9 a.m. the Amphion, then under top and topgallant sails, on the starboard tack, with the Active, Volage, and Cerberus, in close order astern, so close indeed, that the ships almost touched each other, opened her fire upon the Favourite; who was rather ahead of the Danaé, the leading ship of the larboard division. The Amphion and Active kept up so well-directed a fire upon the Favorite, and the line they formed was so close and compact, that M. Dubourdieu was completely frustrated in his gallant attempt to pass between those ships. The Favorite now evinced a disposition to board the Amphion upon the quarter, and the French crew seemed all ready on the forecastle to carry the plan into effect; when, just as the Favorite had approached within a few yards, a brass 5½ inch howitzer upon the Amphion's quarterdeck, loaded with 750 musket-ball, was discharged at her larboard bow, and, sweeping the French ship's forecastle, committed dreadful havoc among the crowd of boarders there assembled. Amidst them was observed, ready to lead on his men to the assault, the French Commodore himself; and he, it appears, was among those who fell on the occasion.
As the British ships were moving at the rate of about three knots an hour, the course of each of the Franco-Venetian columns became more and more oblique, until the Danaé, Corona, and Carolina, especially the two former, brought their larboard guns to bear upon the Volage and Cerberus; which ships, although unable to cope with three such opponents, returned their fire with spirit. In the mean time, foiled in her endeavours either to board the Amphion, or to cut the line astern of her, and deterred by the Active's apparent superiority of force from wearing and coming to close action with her, the Favorite stood on engaging the Amphion, with the evident intention of rounding the latter ship's bows and placing the British squadron between two fires. At 9 h. 40 m. a.m., being within half a cable's length of the shore of Lissa, Captain Hoste threw out the signal for his ships to wear together. Just as the latter were in the act of obeying the signal, the Favorite made an effort to wear and get to leeward of the British line, but had scarcely put her helm up, ere she struck on the rocks in the utmost confusion. This important circumstance of the battle, to produce which had been the object of Captain Hoste in standing so long upon the starboard tack, we have endeavoured to illustrate by the following diagram.
While the Cerberus was in the act of wearing, her rudder became choked by a shot. This occasioned the Volage to get round before her, and that ship consequently took the lead on the larboard tack; on which board, being close to the wind, the four ships fell into a bow and quarter line. Sheltered as she had been in some degree by her leader, the Flore was in much better trim for performing any evolution; and, now that the British line had stood off from the land, Captain Péridier found no difficulty in passing under the stern of the Amphion. The Flore then opened her first fire, and immediately afterwards hauled up on the larboard tack upon the Amphion's lee quarter. Almost at the same moment the Bellona hauled up on the Amphion's weather quarter, and both ships opened upon her a heavy fire. See the diagram on the following page.
By this time the Danaé, carefully avoiding the Active's line of fire, had wore on the larboard tack, followed by the Corona and Carolina. Thinking to make an easy conquest of the Volage, the Danaé took up a station abreast of her. Thus honoured with occupying a frigate's post, the Volage bravely maintained a frigate's character, and poured in her 32-pound shot with steadiness and precision. Finding the unexpected weight of these, and soon discovering that they proceeded front carronades, the Danaé hauled off to a greater distance; where her long 18s could produce their full effect, but where carronades could not reach. The Volage was now obliged to increase the charge of powder for her carronades; and they, in consequence, broke their breechings and upset ! So that, at last, the 6-pounder on the forecastle was the only gun which this gallant little ship had to oppose to the 14 long 18-pounders of her wary antagonist. While the Volage and Danaé were thus employed, the Cerberus and Corona were not looking inoffensively at each other. In a little time, however, the Cerberus, who was upwards of 90 men short of complement, became greatly shattered in hull, and nearly disabled in rigging, by the heavy and well-maintained fire of the Corona; with whom the Carolina co-operated only in a slight degree, that ship not appearing very ambitious of closing. At length the Active, who had been striving her utmost to get to the assistance of her two friends in the van approached under a press of canvass. The moment they saw her coming up, the Danaé, Corona, and Carolina made all sail to the eastward. The following diagram will serve to illustrate this period of the action; the date of which we may fix at from 10 to 10 h. 30 m. a.m.
Suffering greatly from the fire of the two ships that had placed themselves on her quarters, the Amphion gradually bore up to close her heaviest and most annoying opponent. Having passed so close ahead as almost to touch the Flore, the Amphion, at about 11 h. 15 m. a.m., came to the wind on the same tack as before, with her larboard broadside bearing directly on the French ship's starboard and lee bow. So well-directed a fire was now opened upon the latter, that, in about five minutes, the Flore ceased firing and struck her colours. Immediately after the Amphion had bore up, the Bellona did the same; and, placing herself across the former's stern, maintained a heavy and destructive fire. Although particularly careful not to fire into her late consort, some of the Bellona's shot appear to have struck the Flore, who had imperceptibly forereached upon the Amphion. Conceiving the shot to come from the Amphion, one of the officers of the Flore took the French ensign, halliards and all, and, holding them up in his hands over the taffrail, as if for the Amphion's people to witness the act, threw the whole into the sea.
After an ineffectual attempt, owing to the damaged state of her rigging and yard-tackle, to hoist out a boat to take possession of the Flore, the Amphion bore up to close and silence the Bellona. Having wore round on the starboard tack, and taken a position on the Bellona's weather bow, the Amphion poured in one or two broadsides; and at a few minutes before noon compelled the Bellona to haul down the Venetian, as the Flore had the French colours. In the mean time the Principessa Augusta brig had also been firing occasionally at the Amphion; but an 18-pounder was at length brought to bear upon her, and the brig soon swept herself beyond the reach of either giving or receiving annoyance. Lieutenant Donat Henchy O'Brien, by Captain Hoste's orders, now went with two seamen in the punt, and took possession of the Bellona.
Having secured this prize, the Amphion wore round; and, making the signal for a general chase, brought to on the larboard tack, a little to leeward of the Cerberus and Volage, whose greatly disabled state had obliged them to bear up. The Amphion had now the mortification to see her first and most valuable prize, the Flore, out of gun-shot on her weather bow, making sail for the island of Lessina; and towards whom the Danaé presently edged away, as if to encourage the Flore's commander in the dishonourable act: dishonourable indeed, for the French ship, had lain, for some time, at the mercy of the Amphion. The Active also, until she made sail after the Corona, might have sunk the Flore, and probably would have taken possession of her, but that it did not comport with Captain Gordon's spirit, to stay by a beaten enemy, while a fighting enemy remained to be subdued; above all, when a friend stood in need of his assistance. Had even the Cerberus or Volage been aware that the prize was not secured, either ship, as the Flore passed them, might have sent a boat and taken possession of her, having had her rigging sails cut to pieces, and expecting her foremast every moment to fall, the Amphion was as much incapacitated from giving chase as the Cerberus and Volage.
The surrender of the Flore and Bellona, the escape of the former, and the closing of the Active with the Corona, we have attempted to show by the following diagram.
Having her sails and rigging in a more perfect state than either the Cerberus or Corona, the Active soon passed to windward of the former, and at about 30 minutes past noon, when just in midchannel between Lissa and Spalmadon, received the fire of the Corona; a most galling fire too, as the Active could not bring any number of her own guns to bear, without keeping off the wind, and of course losing way in the chase. At length, at about 1 h. 45 m. p.m., the Active closed the Corona to leeward. A spirited action now ensued between these two frigates, and continued until 2 h. 30 m. p.m., when the Corona surrendered, after a resistance highly honourable to the Venetian flag; and which resistance she had protracted until almost within reach 4 the batteries of Lessina. The Carolina and Danaé the latter of whom, had she supported the Corona, might perhaps have saved her from capture, were already in safety under the guns of those batteries, and just about to enter the road. The whole of the Venetian small-craft also effected their escape in different directions.
The Amphion had all her lower masts badly shot through, particularly her foremast as already stated, her larboard main yard-arm and mizen topmast shot away, and her sails and rigging much cut. Her loss, out of a complement of 251 men and boys, amounted to her boatswain (Richard Unshank), two midshipmen (John Robert Spearman and Charles Hayes), seven seamen, and five marines killed, her captain (in his right arm; and with some severe contusions, but he would not quit the deck till the action was over), one lieutenant (David Dunn, severely), one captain of marines (Thomas Moore), two midshipmen, (Francis George Farewell and Thomas Edward Hoste), one captain's clerk (Frederick Lewis), two first-class volunteers (Charles Buthane and the Honourable William W Waldegrave), 34 seamen, and four private marines wounded; total, 15 killed and 47 wounded. The Active, whose damages were comparatively slight, out of her complement of 300 men and boys, had four seamen killed, one lieutenant of marines (John Meares), 18 seamen, and five private marines wounded; total, exclusive of a subsequent loss, which will be noticed presently, four killed and 24 wounded. The Cerberus, although without a stick shot away except her mizentopsail yard, was a good deal battered in the hull, as her loss will testify. Out of a complement the same originally as the Amphion's, but since reduced by absentees to about 160 men and boys, the Cerberus had her purser (Samuel Jeffery), one midshipman (Francis Surrage Davey), eight seamen, and three marines killed, one lieutenant (George Cumpston), 33 seamen (one mortally), and seven marines wounded; total, in the action, 13 killed and 41 wounded. The Volage had her main yard shot away in the slings, and lost her fore topgallantmast: she was also greatly damaged in sails, rigging, and masts. Her hull, on the larboard side especially, was completely riddled, and her loss of men was in proportion: in reference, indeed, to her complement, it was far more severe than that of any one of her consorts, except the Cerberus. Out of a crew of 175 men and boys, the Volage had one midshipman (John George), 10 seamen, and two private marines killed, one lieutenant of marines (William Stephens Knapman), 27 seamen, and four private marines wounded; total, 13 killed and 33 wounded: making the total loss of the British, in the action, 45 killed and 145 wounded.
Contrary to what is customary, the British official account makes not the slightest allusion to the loss sustained by the opposite party; a circumstance attributable, no doubt, to the difficulty of ascertaining it, and to the necessity of forwarding the despatch, in all possible haste, to Captain Eyre of the Magnificent, the British commanding officer in the Adriatic, in order that he might adopt measures to complete the capture or destruction of the enemy's squadron. Moreover, when he dictated the despatch, Captain Hoste was lying in his cot under severe sufferings from his wounds. Nor, minute as it is in other respects, does the French official account enumerate the killed and wounded on board the Favorite. We may gather, however, that, as 200 of her men were all that remained after the action, about the same number comprised the killed and badly wounded. Among the former were Commodore Dubourdieu and Captain Meillerie, the first lieutenant, and other of the principal officers; so that the command at last devolved upon Colonel Gifflenga, with an enseigne de vaisseau to direct the working of the ship.
The Corona had her rigging and sails cut to pieces, her masts all badly wounded, and her hull shattered in every direction; and appears, from subsequent inquiry, to have sustained a loss of upwards of 200, in killed and wounded together. The Bellona had 70 officers and men killed, and about the same number badly wounded, including Captain Duodo himself, who died of his wounds. This ship's masts and yards, at the close of the action, were all standing; but her hull, a mere shell in point of scantling, and at which principally the Amphion had directed her shot, was pierced through and through. The hull of the Flore was also the part in which she had suffered the most; and her loss of men, which was known to include her captain badly wounded, must have been tolerably severe.
At 4 p.m. the Favorite, having been set on fire by her surviving crew, blew up with a great explosion. Both the Corona and Bellona were very near sharing her fate, and placed in considerable jeopardy the lives of all that were on board of them. As soon as Lieutenant O'Brien arrived on board the Bellona to take possession, he interrogated the gunner as to the state of the magazine. The latter privately informed him, that Captain Duodo, at the commencement of the action, had ordered to be placed in the small bower-cable tier two or three barrels of gunpowder; intending, as soon as all hopes of further resistance were at an end, to set fire to the train, and, if not blow up the ship, to intimidate the British from taking possession, and thus enable the survivors of the crew to effect their escape. But Captain Duodo's wound came opportunely to prevent the fructuation of his diabolical design; and the officers of the Bellona themselves probably had, for their own safety, watched very narrowly the movements of their captain. Lieutenant O'Brien visited the cable-tier, saw the barrels of gunpowder, and, placing one of his men as sentry over them, proceeded to the cabin; where lay the mortally wounded projector, wholly unconscious of the discovery of his plot. Captain Duodo expressed his gratitude, in the strongest manner, for the attention paid by the British officer to a "beaten foe", but said not a word about the powder; nor were his dying moments disturbed with the slightest allusion to the circumstance.
The Corona was much nearer destruction. At 9 p.m., when in tow by the Active, the prize caught fire in the main top; and the whole of her mainmast, with its rigging, was presently in flames. The Active immediately cut herself clear, and the Corona continued burning until 11 h. 30 m. p.m.; when, owing to the prompt and energetic exertions of Lieutenants James Dickinson of the Cerberus, and George Haye of the Active, and their respective parties of seamen, the flames were got under, but not without the loss of the ship's mainmast, and, unfortunately; of some lives. Four seamen and one marine of the Active were drowned, and Lieutenant Haye was severely burnt; as were midshipman Siphus Goode and two seamen belonging to the Cerberus.
In reviewing the merits of the action, although we might easily show that, in point of force, the Amphion and Cerberus were both inferior, and the Active herself not more than equal, to any of the four 40-gun frigates on the opposite side, and that the Bellona and Carolina were either of them a decided overmatch for the Volage, we shall consider that the seven larger ships agreed with each other in force, and that the three smaller ones did the same. There were also, it will be recollected, one Venetian 16-gun brig, one armed schooner, one xebec, and two gunboats, mounting altogether 36 guns, and perhaps equal, in the light winds that prevailed, to a second Bellona or Carolina, or, at all events to a second Volage. The number of men in the British squadron appears to have been about 880, and the number in the Franco-Venetian squadron, at the lowest estimate, 2500. Hence the British had opposed to them, a force in guns full one third, and in men nearly two-thirds, greater than their own; and the whole of that force, as far as the number and appearance of the vessels could designate its amount, was plainly discovered, as the Amphion and her three consorts advanced to the attack. But the foe was met, the action fought, and the victory won; and fresh and unfaded will be the laurels, which Captain Hoste and his gallant companions gained at Lissa.
The extraordinary circumstance, of a naval official account emanating from the pen of a colonel of infantry, would, of itself, justify a slight investigation of its contents; and really, if every officer, commanding a detachment of troops on board a French frigate, could make up so good a story as Colonel Alexandre Gifflenga, it would be well for the glory of the French navy that he, and not the captain of the ship, should transmit the particulars of the action. For instance, Colonel Gifflenga says: " At daylight we perceived the English division, consisting of a cut down ship of the line and three frigates." The colonel then wishes to make it appear that, owing chiefly to the lightness of the breeze, the attacking ships went into action one by one. He proceeds: " At half-past ten, the masts of the Favorite having fallen, Ensign Villeneuve announced to me that he could no longer steer the ship. We at that moment struck upon the rocks off the island of Lissa. I ordered the people to be debarked: I took possession of several vessels, and caused the frigate to be blown up. " " Je m'emparai de plusieurs bâtimens et je fis sauter la frégate." " The English, in the utmost distress," adds the colonel, " entered the port of St.-George, after they had set fire to the Corona and one of their frigates: the cut-down line-of-battle ship, after being wholly dismasted, ran upon the rocks of the island, and in all probability was lost. The result of this action is the loss, on our part, of two frigates, and, on the part of the English, of one frigate and one cut-down ship of the line. It is the opinion of the sailors, that, if Captain Dubourdieu had kept his squadron together, we should have got possession of two English vessels, although the enemy had two cut-down ships of the line." To show that these extraordinary statements really form part of the colonel's letter, we subjoin the whole of the original passage. " Les Anglais sont entrés dans le port de Saint-Georges dans le plus mauvais état, et après avoir mis le feu à la frégate la Couronne et à une de leur frégates - le vaisseau rasé, démâté de tous ces mâts, était échoué sur les roches de l'ile. Il doit s'être perdu. Le résultat de ce combat est, pour nous, la perte de deux frégates qui ont péri, et pour les Anglais la perte d'une frégate et d'un vaisseau rasé. L'opinion de tous les marins est que, si le Capitaine Dubourdieu avait bien rallié sa division, nous prendrions deux bâtimens anglais, quoique l'ennemi eût, deux vaisseaux rasés."
It is not a little extraordinary that Colonel Gifflenga's " vaisseaux rasés " was at this time within five or six of being the smallest ship of the numerous class of British 38-gun frigates; but she was larger, undoubtedly, than either of the two 32-gun frigates associated with her. The Active measured 1058, the Amphion, 914, the Cerberus 816, and the Volage 529 tons. Yet the Active was a smaller ship than the Corona, which measured 1094 tons, and than either the Favorite, Danaé, or Flore; not one of which, we believe, measured less than the Corona. Why, therefore, the Active should have been so avoided during the battle, and so magnified in force after it was over, we cannot conceive. The fire on board the Corona accounts, in some degree, for what is stated respecting that ship; and had any one of the British ships merely touched the ground, there would have been a pretext for the colonel's assertion on that head; but no accident of the kind occurred. In stating, at the commencement of his letter, that the British had one " cut-down ship of the line," and at the end of it, that they had two, the writer reminds us of that prince of braggarts Falstaff and his men of buckram.
Leaving the letter of Colonel Alexander Gifflenga to the contempt it merits, we shall make a few admissions, which, even in the opinion of a reasonable Frenchman or Italian, will outweigh all the colonel's rodomontade. Commodore Dubourdieu advanced to the attack in a brave and masterly manner; and, had the Favorite escaped being driven on shore, a much more serious task, in the nature of things, would have devolved upon Captain Hoste. Captain Péridier also deserves credit, for the gallant manner in which he seconded the views of his unfortunate chief; and, as the captain was badly wounded and below at the time the Flore struck to the Amphion, we should be disposed to exculpate him from the dishonourable act of making sail after his ship had so unequivocally surrendered. Of the Danaé's captain, we are unable to state the name; and perhaps it is better for him that we are so. With respect to the Corona's captain, no officer, to whatever navy he may belong, could have fought his ship better. The Corona, it will be recollected, was not subdued by one opponent: she had two frigates upon her in succession; and both, the first in particular, felt the effects of her steady and well directed fire. By his gallant behaviour in the action, and his frank and manly deportment afterwards, Captain Paschaligo not only afforded a bright example to the little navy of Venice, and ennobled an already noble name, but gained for himself the hearts of those into whose temporary custody he had fallen.
After the destruction of the Favorite, the 200 survivors of her late crew retired to Lissa : in which port lay two prizes to the Active, in charge of two of her midshipmen, James Lew and Robert Kingston. These enterprising young men, assisted by come privateer's men, actually summoned the 200 French seamen and troops to surrender. As a contrast to this very gallant behaviour, a Sicilian privateer-brig, of 14 guns, commanded by Clemento Fama, lying in the port, hauled down her colours to a one-gun Venetian schooner: and that in the face of the British squadron. This was " Fama" indeed! The Active's two midshipmen, with the true Gordon spirit, went on board and took charge of the brig, beat off the schooner, and prevented her from destroying the British and Sicilian vessels in the bay.
NOTE: James incorrectly includes the Mercure (10) instead of the Principessa Augusta, this error has been corrected in this transcription to aid clarity.