Battle of Syracuse

9th November 1710
Part of : War of Spanish Succession (1701 - 1714)
Previous action : Action of 1709-06-04 4th June 1709
Next action : Action of 1710-12-13 13th December 1710

 

Great Britain (The Royal Navy) - Edward Rumsey

 
British Ships, Edward Rumsey
Ship NameGunsCommanderNotes
Pembroke 60 Fleet Flagship Captured
Falcon 32  Captured
 

Royaume de France (Marine Royale) - Jacques Cassard

 
French Squadron, Jacques Cassard
Ship NameGunsCommanderNotes
Le Parfait 72Jacques CassardFleet Flagship
Sérieux 58de l'Aigle
Le Phénix 60de Haies
Le Toulouse 62 de Lambert
 

Notes on Action


Description of the action 

The British vessels made all possible sail away from the enemy, but were come up with and taken, after a smart action, in which Captain Kunisey was killed, and Captain Constable was dangerously wounded. The Pembroke did not strike until she was completely disabled and had lost one hundred and forty killed and wounded. The Falcon made, if possible, an even more determined defence, if it be true, as is alleged in contemporary accounts, that, when she surrendered, only sixteen of her people remained unwounded


Description of the action 

On receiving his orders from the Minister of Marine, Cassard at once proceeded o Toulon, and on the 8th of November set sail for Syracuse at the head of a well-found little squadron consisting of the Parfait, 70, flying his own flag, the Toulouse, 60, Captain De Lambert, Serieux, 60, M. de l'Aigle, the Phoenix, 56, M. du Haies. Favoured with a strong westerly breeze, Cassard reached Syracuse on the evening of the following day, and then found that the blockading squadron had borne up for Port Mahon, leaving but two ships, the Pembroke, 64, and Falcon, 36, to watch the French convoy. Knowing that the English had merely proceeded to Port Mahon for stores and water, Cassard determined to profit by their absence, and to at once attack the ships watching the port. He accordingly ordered De Feuquieres to weigh anchor and proceed with the convoy to Marseilles, whilst he with the Parfait, 70, Serieux, 60, and Phoenix, 56, bore down on the two English frigates. Although outnumbered and overmatched, Rumfry, the captain of the Pembroke, did his utmost to delay the escape of the French convoy; but he had no means of sending information to his admiral, and all he could do was to endeavour to sink some of the enemy's ships and avoid capture himself. He soon found, however, that the new commander of the French squadron was a very different man to De Feuquieres, a man anxious to provoke rather than to avoid a combat, one capable of handling a vessel with coolness and judgment, and that every effort would be needed to save himself from capture: all thought of harming the French convoy must be put on one side.



Cassard on his part was determined to take or to sink the English vessels; he felt that the convoy was now secure from all chance of capture, and that he might act at his leisure with the two craft before him. He directed M. de l'Aigle and M. de Haies with the Serieux and Phoenix to engage the Pembroke. whilst he in the Parfait attacked the little Falcon, The unequal combat was not of long duration, though the defence of the Falcon was marked by much determination and much gallantry. Unable to escape from her more powerful and swifter- sailing adversary, the little frigate determined to sell herself as dearly as possible, and when the Parfait ranged up alongside, and succeeded in lashing her bowsprit to the fore-chains of the Falcon, the English captain, Constable, forestalled Cassard's intention by pouring over one hundred well-armed boarders on the Parfait's decks; this attempt to carry Cassard's ship was quickly repulsed, not, however, without serious loss, and when Cassard attempted to throw his own boarders on to the Englishman he found that the grappling-irons had been cast loose, and the Falcon, filling, was standing away from him. The heavy metal of the Parfait soon put an end to the Falcon's flight, and once more Cassard grappled to the Englishman's rigging, endeavouring to carry the frigate by boarding. This second attempt was also drivenback; but the crew of the Falcon had made their last effort: Constable and seventeen of his men, had been left dead on the Parfait's decks in their first gallant attempt to carry the Frenchman, and in beating off Cassard's assaults, forty-three killed had been added to the total. Number now began to tell, and though the crew of the Parfait was also much weakened, she was able to bring into action three men to every one the Falcon could show. At last, seeing two-thirds of his crew hors-de-combat, and seeing also that the Pembroke was too hard pressed to offer him any assistance, the First Lieutenant of the Falcon hauled down his colours. Placing a prize-crew on board, with orders to its commander to bear up after De Feuquieres' convoy, Cassard stood on to aid the Serieux and Phoenix, which were merely indulging in a cannonade with the Pembroke. On noticing the approach of the Parfait, the captain of the English two-decker at once bore down on the newcomer, with the intention of throwing his boarders on her; in manoeuvring to avoid the shock of collision, Cassard laid himself open to a raking fire from the broadside of the Pembroke, which, tearing through his stern galleries, killed over thirty men on his lower deck. Broadsides now were exchanged at close quarters, yard-arm to yard-arm, muzzle to muzzle : the two ships fought on, but the Pembroke was doomed to capture. The Serieux, ranging up on her other quarter, exposed her to a raking fire as she took up her position, and in a few moments her main top-mast and her mizzen went by the board, lumbering her decks with their wreckage and disabling many men in their fall. After half an hour of this unequal combat the Pembroke struck her colours, and on taking possession of her, Cassard found that her captain, the gallant Rumfry, and seventy-four men were dead, and six officers and 134 men lay wounded, out of a total of 320 men.



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