Capture of the Africaine
|12th September 1810|
|Africaine||38||Robert Corbet†||Captured 49 killed, 114 wounded|
|Notes on Action|
On that same day [Sept. 9th 1810], the Africaine, 38, Captain Robert Corbett, on her way from England to Madras, touched at Rodriguez, and heard of the misfortunes in Mauritius. Corbett, therefore, changed his route, and steered to join Rowley at Reunion. On the way thither, on the 11th, he sighted and drove ashore near Cape Malheureux, Mauritius, the French dispatch vessel No. 23. In an attempt to destroy her, the British unhappily lost 2 killed and 16 wounded, and had to retire.
Corbett made St. Denis, Reunion, early on the 12th, and found in the offing the Iphigenie and Astree. These were presently chased by the Boadicea, 38, the Otter, 16, Commander James Tomkinson, and the Staunch, 14, Lieutenant Benjamin Street, which had left St. Paul's Bay for the purpose, and which were at once recognised by the Africaine. Corbett hastily took on board a few men of the 86th Regiment, and made sail to support his friends; but towards evening, while rapidly gaining on the chase, he lost sight of his consorts. During the night, however, he sent up rockets and burnt blue lights to indicate his position; and, in the early morning of the 13th, when he found himself close on the weather quarter of the Astree, the Boadicea was only four or five miles on his own lee quarter. As the enemy was nearing the shelter of Port Louis, Corbett pluckily attacked, without waiting for the Commodore to come up. He opened fire at 2.20 A.M., and, within a few seconds, was seriously wounded, the command devolving on Lieutenant Joseph Crew Tullidge, who fought the ship bravely until a few minutes before 5 A.M., when, having suffered terribly, and the Boadicea being still far off, the Africaine struck to her two opponents. Of 295 people on board, she had 49 killed, including Master Samuel Parker, and 114 wounded, including Corbett (mortally), Lieutenants Tullidge and Robert Forder, Master's Mates John Theed and Jenkin Jones, and Midshipmen Charles Mercier and Robert Leech. The French lost 9 killed and 33 wounded in the Iphigenie, and 1 killed and 2 wounded in the Astree. The Africaine was an utter wreck aloft. There is, unfortunately, much reason to suppose that Captain Corbett's reputation for extreme severity had antagonised his crew, and that the men did not behave as loyally as they should have behaved. Brenton unwarrantably suggests that this gallant but harsh officer committed suicide, rather than become a prisoner.
Not long after the Africaine had struck, the Boadicea began to feel a strengthening breeze, and, coming up, passed within musket-shot of the enemy; but, instead of at once engaging, she tacked, and stood to windward to look for the Otter and Staunch. At 10 A.M. she was joined by them, and at 12.40 the three British vessels bore up with a fine breeze from S.S.E. As they approached the enemy, the Astree and Iphigenie abandoned their prize and made sail to windward; and at 5 P.M., the Africaine, after having fired a couple of guns, hauled down her French colours, and was taken possession of. On September 15th, never having lost sight of the enemy for more than a few hours at a time, Rowley's squadron anchored in St. Paul's Bay, and, later in the day, the Commodore, with the Otter and Staunch, put to sea again to look for the French; but, though he saw them, no engagement resulted, and Rowley returned to St. Paul's Bay on the 18th at 5 A.M. In the interval, the Astree and Iphigenie captured the East India Company's armed brig Aurora, 16. On September 22nd, they anchored with her at Port Louis. Seeing that the Boadicea was, so far as her Captain knew, the only British frigate on the station, and that, besides the Astree and Iphigenie, the French had the Venus and Manche in the immediate neighbourhood, Rowley's recapture of the Africaine must be regarded as a very creditable exploit.
|TRN5||The Royal Navy : a history from the earliest times to the present Vol V||William Laid Clowes||Digital Book|