Action off Rochefort

25th September 1806
Part of : The Napoleonic Wars (1803 - 1815)
Previous action : Destruction of the Impétueux 14.9.1806
Next action : Action of 1806-10-12 12.10.1806

 

Great Britain

 
British Squadron, Lord Samuel Hood (1st Viscount Hood of Whitley) (1724-1816)
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Windsor Castle (98) Charles Boyles
Centaur (74) John Talbot (1769-1851)Fleet Flagship 3 Killed, 4 wounded
Achille (74) Richard King (1774-1834)
Monarch (74) Richard Lee4 killed, 25 Wounded
Revenge (74) Sir John Gore (1772-1836)
Mars (74) William Lukin
Atalante (16) Joseph Ore Masefield
 

République française

 
French Squadron, Éléonor Jean Nicolas Soleil (1767-1824)
Ship NameCommanderNotes
La Gloire (40) Éléonor Jean Nicolas Soleil (1767-1824)Fleet Flagship Captured
L'Infatigable (40) Joseph Marie Girardais (1770-1832) Captured
La Minerve (36) Joseph Collet (1738-1828) Captured
L'Armide (40) Jean Jacques Jude Langlois Captured
La Thémis (40) Nicolas Joseph Pierre Jugan (1774-1810)
La Sylphe (16)  
 

Notes on Action


Description of the ActionW005

On the 25th, at 1 A.M., as the above squadron, with the wind at north by east, was stretching in upon the larboard tack for Chasseron lighthouse, then distant six or seven leagues, seven sail were discovered to leeward. At this time the Revenge was to windward of the Centaur, the Monarch, who had first made the signal for an enemy, to leeward and a mile and a half ahead of her, and the Mars on her starboard bow. The remaining ships of the British squadron were considerably in the rear. In expectation that the strangers or a part of them, were line-of-battle ships, a signal was made to form the line ; but the almost immediate discovery that they were frigates, caused the signal for a general chase to be substituted. The strangers were a French squadron which had escaped the preceding evening from Rochefort, bound to the West Indies, and consisted of the Nearly as soon as seen, the French squadron bore up, and steered south-south-west under all sail. The British ships bore away also ; whereby the Revenge, who lay well to windward, was thrown very far astern. At 4 A.M., when the French squadron was about eight miles ahead of the Centaur, the Monarch had arrived nearly within gun-shot of the rearmost frigate, the Armide. At 5 A.M. the Monarch began firing her bow-chasers at the latter ; who returned the fire with her stern-guns, the frigates having previously hoisted French colours, and the commodore his broad pendant. At 6 A.M. the Infatigable, which was the weathermost frigate, hauled to the northward, and was pursued by the Mars; while the leewardmost frigate, the Thémis, accompanied by the two brigs, bore up to the south-ward, and, no unengaged ship being near enough to pursue them, effected their escape.



The three remaining French frigates, the Gloire, Armide, and Minerve, now kept in close order for mutual support. At about 10 A.M. the Monarch opened her starboard guns upon the two rearmost frigates, and a very heavy, cannonade ensued between her and them : so much to the disadvantage of the Monarch, chiefly because the heavy swell prevented her, during a great part of the time, from opening her lowerdeck ports, that, in about 20 minutes, she was much disabled, and scarcely manageable. At 11 A.M., the Centaur got up, and commenced a heavy fire from her larboard guns upon the Gloire and Armide ; while the Monarch continued engaging the Minerve. All three frigates kept up a smart and harassing fire in return. At 11 h. 45 m. A.M. the Armide struck to the Centaur ; and soon after noon, the Minerve struck to the Monarch. By this time the Mars had also overtaken and captured the Infatigable. Thus left to herself, in the midst of foes so numerous and powerful, the Gloire, as a last resource, hauled up, and made sail to the westward. The Centaur, carrying all the canvass she was enabled to set, pursued her. At 2 h. 30 m. P.M. the Mars, who had joined in the chase, and who, from the entire state of her rigging and sails, was at this time the most effective ship, opened her fire upon the Gloire, and at 3 P.M. compelled the latter to haul down her colours.



So determined a resistance on the part of the French frigates, of the three, at least, that kept together, was not without its effect. The Centaur had eight of her fore, and five of her main shrouds shot away ; also the main spring-stay, slings of the main yard, the chief part of the topmast and topgallant rigging and bob-stays, together with her jib-boom. Her bowsprit, foremast, fore yard, mainmast, and main yard, were each shot through in several places ; and her running rigging and sails cut to pieces. As a proof that the Frenchmen had chiefly this object in view, the Centaur's loss amounted to only one seaman and two marines killed, the captain and three seamen wounded. Sir Samuel's wound was a very serious one. While leaning with his right hand on the railing of the quarterdeck, giving orders, a musket-ball entered and passed through between the wrist and the elbow, lodging below the shoulder. The shattered condition of the arm rendered amputation necessary.



The damages of the Monarch were of a similar description to those of the Centaur, except that the former had her main topgallantmast shot away, and was more hit in the hull. The Monarch's loss amounted to one midshipman (William Buddin) and three seamen killed, one lieutenant (John Anderson), her boatswain (Peter Duffy), one midshipman (John Geary), 15 seamen, and seven marines wounded ; total, on board the two ships, nine killed and 29 wounded. The Mars, the only ship besides these, that took, or could take, any part in the engagement, sustained a slight injury in her sails and rigging, but, although hulled eight or ten times, escaped without any loss.



The Gloire mounted 46 guns ; and each of the other French frigates 44 ; long 18s on the main deck, and long eights, with iron 36-pounder carronades, on the quarterdeck and forecastle. They each had on board, including troops, about 650 men, and were full of stores, arms, ammunition, and provisions. No doubt it was owing to their being so deeply laden, that these frigates were not able, in the first instance, to escape from the line-of-battle ships.



Sir Samuel, in his official letter, promises to make a return, as soon as possible, of the loss sustained by the captured frigates ; merely stating, that the result of their " obstinate resistance was attended with much slaughter. " No doubt the Gloire, Armide, and Minerve severally suffered a very heavy loss, and were proportionably cut up in rigging, masts and hull. Such gallant conduct on the part of the French ships merited a circumstantial account of the state, in point of damage and loss, in which they were at their surrender ; and, admitting that the promised return was transmitted to the admiralty, it ought to have been published in the Gazette, if only as an act of justice towards a brave enemy.



These captured frigates were of very large dimensions. The Minerve measured 1101, the Armide 1104, the Gloire 1153, and the Infatigable 1157 tons. They were all added to the British navy ; the first under the name of Alceste, the last, of Immortalité, and the other two under their French names.




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