Phoenix vs Didon
|10th August 1805|
|Phoenix||36||Thomas Baker||12 killed, 28 wounded|
|Didon||40||Captured 27 killed, 44 wounded|
|Notes on Action|
|Captain Bakers Letter||BG|
Phoenix, at Sea, August 13,1805.
With Sorrow I transmit you a List of the Killedand Wounded; and have the Honor to be, &c.
A List ofthe Killed and Wounded on beard the Phoenix and La Didon, on the 10th August 1805.
Phoenix 12 killed, 28 wounded. Total 40.
A list of the Killed And Wounded on board tbe Phoenix.
John Bounton, Lieutenant.
Henry Steel Lieutenant of Marines, dangerously.
WILLIAM WARDEN, surgeon.
In the end the Didon did not escape. She was sighted on August 10th by the Phoenix, 36, Captain Thomas Baker (1), at daylight. Baker immediately gave chase, and, strange to say, the French vessel made no attempt to get away, having received very erroneous information from an American craft as to the Phoenix's force. The American had represented her as a 20-gun ship, and her appearance, at a distance, gave some support to this story, since she had been disguised to look like a sloop. What happened is a good illustration of the folly of captains who are charged with despatches giving way to their instinct of pugnacity.
At about 8.45 A.M., the Didon opened on the Phoenix, which ship was steering to close on the French vessel's leeward quarter, so as to frustrate any attempt to escape. The Didon, also with the object of preventing the British ship's escape, wore three times as the Phoenix approached, on each occasion delivering a broadside at the British vessel's rigging. Her adroit manoeuvres compelled the Phoenix to abandon her attempt to pass round the enemy, and forced her to bear down and draw up on the windward side. At 9.15 A.M. the two ships were within close range, both standing on the port tack, when they began a broadside action. The Phoenix, however, had so much way on her that she speedily shot ahead, upon which the Didon passed under her stern, and fired some shots at her, but at too long a range to do much damage. The Didon was then to leeward, and used her position with effect, suddenly bearing up, passing a second time under her opponent's stern, and delivering a raking broadside, which, nevertheless, failed to inflict heavy loss, as the British crew, as soon as the manoeuvre was noted, was ordered to lie down. Again the French ship attempted to cross the Phoenix's stern, but was foiled by the British crew smartly backing her sails. The way on the Phoenix was arrested, and the Frenchman, as he attempted to turn, ran his port bow against the Phoenix's starboard quarter. In that position the French endeavoured to board, but were beaten back, though in greatly superior force. Meantime, one of the Didon's 36-pr. forecastle carronades poured in a steady fire upon the British ship.
Slowly the Didon drew ahead, and one by one the broadside guns in each ship came into action. Happily the Phoenix's people had been thoroughly trained in gunnery, practising with powder and shot where most Captains would have been content to go through the gunnery drill. They fired three shots to the Didon's two, and each shot was more effective. They brought down the enemy's main topmast, and so badly wounded the fore mast that it fell a little later. On her part, the Phoenix had her main royal-mast, main topsail yard, and gaff shot away. The two ships parted and made what repairs they could. The British crew, however, showed such smartness that the Phoenix was ready first; and this ability of hers to resume action whilst her antagonist was still disabled, virtually decided the issue of the engagement. There was a brief interchange of broadsides, and then, at about 12.15 P.M., the Didon struck, after a most gallantly fought encounter.
|BG||The London Gazette||Official||Book|
|TRN5||The Royal Navy : a history from the earliest times to the present Vol V||William Laid Clowes||Digital Book|