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Attack on Dunkirk

7th July 1800
Part of : The French Revolutionary Wars (1793 - 1802)
Previous action : Action of 1800-06-09 9.6.1800
Next action : Action of 1800-08-04 4.8.1800

 

Great Britain

 
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Dart (28) 1796-1809
British 28 Gun
Unrated Sloop
Patrick CampbellBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1788-1830
Fleet Flagship
Andromeda (32) 1784-1808
British 32 Gun
5th Rate Frigate
Henry InmanBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1780-1806
Biter (14) 1797-1802
British 14 Gun
Unrated Gunboat
1797 Renamed "Biter"
Samuel NormanBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1795-1808
Boxer (14) 1797-1809
British 14 Gun
Unrated Gunboat
1797 Renamed "Boxer"
Thomas GilbertBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1790-1800
Falcon (10) 1782-1800
British 10 Gun
Unrated Sloop
George RossBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1784-1801
Fireship (expended)
Wasp (8) 1782-1800
British 8 Gun
Unrated Sloop
John Browning EdwardsBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1795-1804
Fireship (expended)
Ann (12) 1795-1801
British 12 Gun
Hired Cutter
Robert YoungBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1797-1800
Kent (12) 1798-1801
British 12 Gun
Hired Cutter
Robert Baron CoobanBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1797-1800
Comet (8) 1783-1800
British 8 Gun
Unrated Fireship
Thomas LeefBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1793-1800
Vigilant (6) 1793-1801
British 6 Gun
Hired Cutter
 
 

République Française

 
French Squadron,
Jean Joseph CastagnierFrench
Naval Sailor
Service 1780
Ship NameCommanderNotes
La Poursuivante (40) 1796-1805
French 40 Gun
5th Rate Frigate
Jean Baptiste OreilleFrench
Naval Sailor
Privateer
Marine
Service 1793
Fleet Flagship
L'Incorruptible (40) 1795-1815
French 40 Gun
5th Rate Frigate
Amand LeducFrench
Naval Sailor
Privateer
Merchant Sailor
Service 1774-1816
CO wounded
La Désirée (40) 1796-1800
French 40 Gun
5th Rate Frigate
 most of the hundred killed or wounded off the day Captured all the wounded and prisonners return to the shore
Carmagnole (38) 1793-1800
French 38 Gun
5th Rate Frigate
1795 Renamed "Rassurante"
1798 Renamed "Carmagnole"
Jean Joseph HubertFrench
Naval Sailor
Service 1780-1805
 

Notes on Action


Description of the ActionW005

On that evening the ship-sloop Dart Captain Patrick Campbell, followed by the Biter and Boxer gun-brigs, Lieutenants William Norman and Thomas Gilbert, and the four fire-ships Wasp, Captain John Edwards, Falcon, Captain Henry Samuel Butt, Comet, Captain Thomas Leef, and Rosario, Captain James Carthew, with the cutters and small-craft attending them, entered Dunkerque roads. At about midnight the Dart and her companions got sight of the French ships. Soon afterwards one of the latter hailed the Dart, and asked whence she came. The answer was, " De Bordeaux." The Frenchman then desired to know what convoy that was astern, meaning the gun-brigs and fire-ships. The reply was, " Je ne sais pas."



This conversation ended, the Dart continued to pass on unmolested, until she arrived alongside of the innermost frigate but one, when that frigate opened upon her a very heavy fire. This the Dart was enabled to return with 15 double-shotted 32-pounders, discharged in much quicker repetition than common, owing to the carronades being mounted on the non-recoil principle. The Dart then ranged on, and boarded the innermost frigate, the Desiree, by running her bowsprit between the latter's foremast and forestay, having previously let go a stern-anchor to check her own way. The first-lieutenant, James M'Dermeit, at the head of a division of seamen and marines, immediately boarded the French frigate on the forecastle, carrying all before him, but not without being badly wounded in the arm. He then hailed the Dart, to say he had possession of the ship; but as he feared the crew would rally, and he was wounded, he requested that an officer might be sent to take charge. Having cut her stern-cable, the Dart had just swung alongside the Desiree; on whose quarter Lieutenant William Isaac Pearce instantly leaped with a second division of men. This officer completely repulsed the French crew, who were rallying at the after hatchway. Lieutenant Pearce then cut the frigate's cables, got the Desiree under sail, and steered her over the banks that could not have been passed half an hour later in the tide.



In this dashing enterprise, which was concluded in about 15 minutes, the Dart had only one seaman killed, her first-lieutenant, already named, one master's mate (James Hall), and nine seamen and marines wounded; while the loss sustained by the Desiree, a fine new frigate of 1015 tons, was supposed to have amounted to full 100 in killed and wounded together, including nearly the whole of the officers present. The established complement of the Desiree was from 300 to 350 men; but it does not appear that the frigate had all her crew on board. The exact number that was on board we are, however, unable to state; especially as, from some unexplained cause, no head- money certificates were signed, or at least recorded.



The four fire-ships were admirably conducted, and not abandoned by their officers until completely in flames: on board the Comet, indeed, the captain and one seaman were wounded by the explosion. By alacrity, however, in cutting their cables, during which they were exposed to the fire, within pistol-shot of the Dart, and of the gun-brigs Biter and Boxer, the three remaining French frigates escaped before the wind, and ran out of the road to a short distance down the channel that passes within the Braak sand. One of them here got on shore, but at daylight on the 8th got off; and all three ships subsequently regained their anchorage.



During the attack the hired 14-gun cutter Kent, Lieutenant Robert Baron Cooban, found employment for some French gun-boats that would otherwise have annoyed the attacking vessels. In this cannonade the Kent had one seaman wounded ; and the 12-gun hired cutter Ann, Lieutenant Robert Young, and the gun-brig Biter, Lieutenant Samuel Norman, had each one seaman, and the latter her commander, wounded, in the service which they were respectively rendering. The better to direct the enterprise, Captain Tnman, with 30 volunteers from the Andromeda, had embarked on board the hired lugger Vigilant, Mr. William Dean, master, and proceeded with the other vessels into Dunkerque roads. Captain Inman, very humanely, sent the prisoners, many of whom were dreadfully mangled, to Dunkerque on their parole. For this he received the thanks of Commodore Castagnier. If all the prisoners were thus sent away, the reason is explained why there were no head-money certificates.




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