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) Patrick Campbell (1773-1841)Fleet Flagship
Andromeda (32) Henry Inman (1762-1809)
Kent (16)  
Biter (14) Samuel Norman (d.1808)
Boxer (14) Thomas Gilbert
Falcon (10) George Ross Fireship (expended)
Wasp (8) John Browning Edwards Fireship (expended)
Ann (12) Robert Young
Kent (12) Robert Baron Cooban
Comet (8) Thomas Leef
Vigilant (6)  

République Française

French Squadron, Jean Joseph Castagnier (1753-1807)
Ship NameCommanderNotes
La Poursuivante (40) Jean Baptiste OreilleFleet Flagship
L'Incorruptible (40)  
La Désirée (40)  most of the hundred killed or wounded off the day Captured all the wounded and prisonners return to the shore
Carmagnole (38) Jean Joseph Hubert (1765-1805)

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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