Action of 1810-05-03

3rd May 1810
Part of : The Napoleonic Wars (1803 - 1815)
Previous action : Action at the castle of Terracina 25.4.1810
Next action : Action of 1810-05-22 22.5.1810


United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland

British Ship
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Spartan (38) Jahleel Brenton (1770-1844)10 killed, 22 wounded

Kingdom of Naples

Neopolitan Ships
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Cerere (40) EamatuelleFleet Flagship
Fama (30) Giuseppe Cosa
Sparviero (8) Raffaele Cosa
Achille (8) Vincent

Notes on Action

The Neoplitan ships were assisted by six or seven gunboats, each carrying a long 18-pounder
Description of the ActionTRN5

On May 1st 1810, the Spartan was cruising with the Success off Ischia, when, late in the afternoon, two ships, a brig, and a cutter were discovered in the Bay of Naples. These were recognised as the Neapolitan Cerere, 40, Captain Eamatuelle, Fama, 30, Captain Giuseppe de Cosa, Sparviero, 8, Commander Raffaele de Cosa, and Achille, 8, Commander Vincent. That evening those vessels were chased nearly within the mole. On the morning of the 2nd, they were seen at anchor. Having stood towards them, and satisfied himself that they would not fight the force then at his disposal, Brenton that evening detached the Success to a rendezvous south-west of Capri. The Neapolitans, however, intended to fight, and had already made preparations to that end, putting 400 Swiss troops into the Cerere and Fama, and adding six or seven gunboats, each carrying a long 18-pr., to the squadron.

Very early on May 3rd, the Spartan stood into the bay with a light S.E. breeze in order to attack; and soon she found that the enemy was already standing out for the same purpose. The Cerere, followed in line of battle by the Fama and Sparviero, after manoeuvring in vain to get to windward, held on, and, at 7.58 A.M., being then within pistol shot on the Spartan's port, or lee, bow, the Cerere opened fire. The Spartan waited to reply to the best advantage, and then returned a destructive broadside, having treble-shotted the guns on her main deck. As the ships were moving slowly through the water, she was subsequently able to throw broadsides into the Fama and Sparviero in succession. By that time the Achille and gunboats had hauled to the south-east. Standing on to within easy range of them, the frigate hove in stays, and, coming round, gave them the whole of her port broadside, while she discharged her starboard one at the larger craft. These, instead of tacking to meet the Spartan, wore, and stood towards the Baia batteries.

When, therefore, she was round on the port tack, the Spartan kept her helm up and went after the Cerere; but, at about 9 A.M., the failing breeze left the British ship with the Cerere nearly across her bows, the Fama and Sparviero on her port bow, and the Achille and gunboats sweeping up astern. She was thus exposed to a concentrated fire, which wounded Brenton, and caused the command to devolve upon Lieutenant George Wickens Willes. Soon, however, the light S.E. breeze sprang up again, and enabled the Spartan to place herself on the starboard quarter of the Cerere and the starboard bow of the Fama. Then, although the Sparviero, Achille, and gunboats still annoyed her on the stern and quarters, the Spartan quickly began to assert herself. The Cerere hauled to windward of her consort and gained the protection of the Baia batteries; the Fama, after having been raked and terribly damaged, was gallantly towed away by the gunboats; and the Sparviero, by a broadside from the frigate's port guns, was compelled to strike, after the action had lasted for about two hours.

In this well-fought affair, 95 guns and about 1400 men were opposed by 46 guns and 259 men, and beaten. The Spartan lost 10 killed, including Master's Mate William Robson, and 22 wounded, including Brenton and Lieutenant Willes. The total loss of the enemy in killed and wounded seems to have been 131. Brenton, who was rendered useless for further service, was made a Baronet on December 24th, 1812. Willes was made a Commander on June 2nd, 1810. Among the others who distinguished themselves on the occasion were Lieutenants William Augustus Baumgardt and Henry Bourne, and Captain George Hoste, who was a passenger, together with Master Henry George Slenner, and Purser James Dunn, who took charge of some of the main-deck guns.

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