Action of 1795-09-28

28th September 1795
Part of : The French Revolutionary Wars (1793 - 1802)
Previous action : Action of 1795-08-22 22.8.1795
Next action : Southampton vs Vestale 29.9.1795


Great Britain

Ship NameCommanderNotes
Rose (8) William Walker

Notes on Action

Description of the actionW005
On the 28th of September, at 4 h. 30 m. A.M., the British hired cutter Rose, Lieutenant William Walker, of eight 4-poundcrs and only 13 men and one boy on board, being near to the island of Capraria on her passage from Leghorn to Bastia in Corsica, discovered three French lateen rigged privateers to leeward. At this time almost tho only man on deck was tho steersman, but tho alarm soon brought up from their beds the remainder of the cutter's small crew; and, although he had on board a king's messenger, Mr. Mason, and two ladies, as passengers, and 10,OOOZ. in specie, Lieutenant Walker formed the bold resolve of attacking the three vessels, either of which, in point of men at least, was known, from the complement they usually carried, to be more than treble the force of the Rose.

The cutter was quickly cleared for action, and bore down with a moderate breeze and smooth sea directly for the largest of the privateers, which was at some distance to leeward of the other two. It was the intention of Lieutenant Walker to give this privateer the cutter's stem, and for that purpose he himself attended to the steering; but, the Eose getting near, the lieutenant rushed forward to be among the foremost of the boarders, when the man whom he had left at the helm either misunder stood or neglected his orders, and permitted the privateer to shoot too far ahead.

The consequence was, that instead of striking the privateer amidships, the cutter with her bowsprit merely carried away the former's mizenmast and the projecting part of her stern. While passing to leeward, however, the Rose poured in a destructive raking fire with three round shot in every gun. She then luffed up, with the intention of placing herself on the bows of her antagonist, but became becalmed by the latter's sails. At length the Rose moved ahead, and, in tacking, carried away with her main boom the privateer's foreyard. On coming round upon the other tack, the Rose discharged a second broadside into her antagonist, and set fire to her foresail and mizen. The privateer instantly called for quarter and struck.

After threatening the French captain to sink his vessel if he attempted to make sail, Lieutenant Walker, who could have ill spared any hands to take possession, stood after the nearest of the two other privateers, and, by a welldirected broadside between wind and water, sent the second privateer to the bottom; nor, circumstanced as he was, and knowing the unprincipled character of these sea banditti, could that officer be blamed for not staying to pick up the drowning crew. The Rose left them to their fate, and, finding the third privateer making off to windward, stood towards, and with great difficulty secured the one that had struck to her.

This privateer mounted one brass long 6-pounder and four 1-pound swivels on her bow, and 12 brass blunderbusses, or musketoons, on her sides, and had on board when taken, exclusive of 13 reported as killed, 29 men. The privateer that was sunk was stated to have had on board 56 men, and the one that escaped, 48; making a total of 146 opposed to 14. Of this her small crew the Rose was so fortunate as to have only one man hurt, and that was by having his foot accidently crushed by one of the gun carriages. This intrepid fellow, William Brown by name, although so painfully wounded, could not be persuaded to go below, saying to his commander, " Indeed, sir, you cannot spare a man; I can sit here and use a musket as well as any of them." Notwithstanding her crew had escaped so surprisingly, the Rose had her hull struck with shot in every direction, her mast and main boom badly wounded, and her sails riddled like a sieve.

Battening down the privateer's men in their vessel and then taking her in tow, the Rose steered with her prize for Bastia, where, in a day or two, they both arrived. Lieutenant Walker soon afterwards, for his very gallant behaviour, received a most flattering letter from the Viceroy of Corsica, Sir Gilbert Elliot, as well as from Admiral Hotham, the British commander in chief on the station. But, owing to some unexplained cause, the official letter addressed to Admiral Hotham never found its way into the Gazette: hence the affair, although long a topic of admiration among the officers of the British navy serving in the Mediterranean, produced no beneficial result to the party who had so nobly sustained the honour of the British flag.

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