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Action of 1806-03-13

13th March 1806
Fought at : Atlantic Ocean
Part of : The Napoleonic Wars (1803 - 1815)
Previous action : Action of San Domingo 6.2.1806
Next action : Pallas in the Gironde 5.4.1806 - 6.4.1806


Empire Français

British Ships,
John Borlase Warren (1st Baronet of Little Marlow)British
Naval Sailor
Service 1774-1804
Ship NameCommanderNotes
London (90) 1766-1811
British 90 Gun
2nd Rate Ship of the Line
Harry Burrard NealeBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1787-1814
10 killed, 22 wounded
Amazon (38) 1799-1817
British 38 Gun
5th Rate Frigate
William ParkerBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1793-1863
3 killed, 7 wounded
Unengaged British Ships,
John Borlase Warren (1st Baronet of Little Marlow)British
Naval Sailor
Service 1774-1804
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Foudroyant (80) 1798-1892
British 80 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
John Chambers WhiteBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1790-1845
Fleet Flagship

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland

French Ships,
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Marengo (74) 1795-1806
French 74 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
1802 Renamed "Marengo"
 Fleet Flagship 63 Killed, 83 wounded Captured
La Belle Poule (40) 1802-1806
French 40 Gun
5th Rate Frigate
 6 killed, 24 wounded Captured

Notes on Action


On March 13th, the depredations on commerce of Admiral Linois's two ships the Marengo, 74, and Belle Poule, 40 came at last to an end. They were on their way back to France after a very unsuccessful cruise on the trade route to India, between St. Helena and the Canaries, when, very early in the morning of the 13th, they saw several sail to the eastward, and, taking them for merchantmen under convoy, approached them. These were really the London, 98, Captain Sir Harry Burrard Neale, Foudroyant, 80, Captain John Chambers White (flag of Vice- Admiral Sir John Borlase Warren), and Amazon, 38, Captain William Parker (2), forming part of the squadron then on its way to the West Indies to look after Lieissegues's and Willaumez's divisions 3 which had escaped from Brest. Five other ships of the British squadron were some miles astern.

At 3 A.M., the London, which, by reason of her bad sailing, had been placed to windward of the flagship Foudroyant, made signals, whilst on the port tack with wind at W.S.W. that an enemy was at hand. The night was so dark that the other ships could perceive nothing; but the Amazon, on discovering that the London was altering course, and apparently giving chase, made sail after her. As day broke, the British ship was seen to be close to a line-of -battle ship and a frigate, which vessels she at once engaged, opening a heavy fire at about 5.30. The Belle Poule, however, was directed by Linois to make off; and she left the London and Marengo to fight their battle out. Some minutes later, the Marengo, having received a heavy fire from the London, ' herself attempted to get away. She had inflicted so much damage on the London's rigging that that ship speedily dropped astern; but she had herself sustained such injuries that the other British battleships gained on her slowly. At about 11 A.M., the Ramillies, 74, Captain Francis Pickmore, was near enough to open fire upon her, whereupon she struck, with the Repulse, 74, and Foudroyant also almost within range. She had 63 killed and 83 including Linois and Captain Vrignault wounded, whilst the London had 10 killed and 22 wounded.

The Amazon, on seeing the Belle Poule' s attempt to escape, had boldly made all sail ahead, passing the Marengo, and receiving from that formidable vessel several broadsides, which, however, she returned with effect. At about 9 A.M. she was near enough to the French frigate to begin a running action, but was unable to close to decisive range, since she had been driven far to leeward in her efforts to avoid the Marengo's fire. At 11 A.M., nevertheless, the Belle Poule followed the Marengo's example and struck, with 6 killed and 24 wounded. The Amazon's loss was 3 including Lieutenant Richard Seymour killed and 7 wounded, of whom one afterwards died.

The battleE-WIKI

On 13 March 1806, Warren's squadron was cruising in the Eastern Atlantic. Most of the squadron were grouped to the northwest, but HMS London under Captain Sir Harry Burrard-Neale and the flagship HMS Foudroyant under Captain John Chambers White were sailing together some distance from the rest of the British force, in company with the frigate HMS Amazon under Captain William Parker. At 03:00, sails were spotted to the north-east by lookouts on London. Hastening in pursuit with the wind from the south-west, Captain Neale signalled the location of the strange ships to Warren with blue lights, the admiral following with Amazon and the rest of the squadron trailing behind. To the north-east, Linois had also sighted sails in the distance and turned Marengo south-west in pursuit, anticipating a third encounter with a valuable merchant convoy. Captain Alain-Adélaïde-Marie Bruilhac of Belle Poule insisted that the sails were from British warships, but Linois overruled him, arguing that any warships would be part of the convoy's escort and could be avoided in the night. It was not until 05:30, when London appeared from the gloom just ahead of Marengo that Linois realised his mistake. He attempted to escape, but his ships had been at sea for an extended period and were sluggish compared to the 98-gun London, which rapidly came alongside the French ship of the line and opened a heavy fire.

Linois returned London's fire as best he could, but by 06:00 he realised that he was outmatched and swung away, issuing orders for Captain Bruilhac in Belle Poule to escape as best he could. The frigate however, which had been firing at London during the battle, continued engaging the larger ship to give Linois support as he attempted to pull away. At 06:15, Bruilhac sighted Amazon bearing down and also withdrew, pulling ahead of Neale's ship which continued to fire into Marengo. Both Marengo and London had suffered severe damage to their rigging, and neither were able to effectively manoeuvre: as a result, Linois was unable to avoid both Neale's continued fire and shots from Amazon as Parker swept past in pursuit of Belle Poule. By 08:30, Parker's frigate was alongside Bruilhac's and the ships exchanged fire over the next two hours, Amazon succeeding in damaging Belle Poule's rigging to prevent her escape. Behind the battling frigates, Marengo had taken further battering from London and by 10:25 also came under fire from Foudroyant, and HMS Repulse under Captain Arthur Kaye Legge. HMS Ramillies under Captain Francis Pickmore was also rapidly coming into range. In the face of this overwhelming force, the French ship of the line had no option but to surrender, although by the time the tricolour was lowered at nearly 11:00, both Linois and Captain Joseph-Marie Vrignaud had been taken below with serious wounds.

Almost simultaneously with the surrender of Marengo, Captain Bruilhac surrendered Belle Poule, the damage inflicted by Amazon and the presence of Warren's squadron persuading him that further resistance was hopeless. French losses in the engagement were severe, Marengo suffering extensive damage to her hull and rigging and losing 63 men killed and 83 wounded from a crew of 740. The latter included both Linois and his son with serious wounds and Captain Vrignaud, who had to have an arm amputated. Losses on Belle Poule included six killed and 24 wounded from her complement of 330. British losses were comparatively light, London suffering ten dead and 22 wounded and Amazon four killed and five wounded. London was the only British ship damaged, mainly in her rigging, which was hastily repaired in the aftermath of the battle.

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