Southampon vs Heureuse Réunion

2nd February 1812
Part of : The Napoleonic Wars (1803 - 1815)
Previous action : Action of 1811-11-29 29.11.1811
Next action : Capture of the Merinos 13.2.1812


United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland

Ship NameCommanderNotes
Southampton (32) James Lucas Yeo (d.1818)1 killed, 10 wounded


Ship NameCommanderNotes
Heureuse Réunion (34) Gaspard Captured 105 killed, 202 wounded

Notes on Action

Notes on the actionEWIKI

At 06:00 on 3 February, Yeo discovered Gaspard's ships at anchor to the south of the island of Guanaboa and demanded that Gaspard come aboard Southampton with his commissioning papers, to establish under whose authority Gaspard commanded the warship. The Haitian captain refused, but sent aboard his first lieutenant with a note purported to be from Borgella, signed "Borgellat, general in chief of the south of Hayti". As Borgella had no authority to commission warships, Yeo ordered the lieutenant to tell Gaspard that his ships must submit to Southampton and be taken to Port Royal, Jamaica, where their ownership could be established by the naval authorities. He would have five minutes to consider the proposal. A British officer accompanied the Haitian lieutenant back to Heureuse Réunion for Gaspard's answer, and was informed within three minutes that Gaspard had no intention of submitting to the British ship. He was also told that should Yeo be intent on fighting the Haitian ship then he should indicate it with a bow gun fired ahead of Heureuse Réunion. Returning to Southampton at 06:30, the lieutenant relayed the message and the bow gun was fired, followed a few seconds later by a full broadside from Southampton.

Heureuse Réunion responded to the cannonade in kind. During the engagement, Gaspard repeatedly attempted to board Southampton, where his vastly superior numbers could overwhelm the British crew. Yeo was aware of his enemy's intentions, and repeatedly manoeuvered out of the way, his more disciplined and agile vessel easily able to remain out of contact with the overloaded Haitian ship. Within half an hour the highly efficient gunners on Southampton had knocked down the main and mizen masts on Heureuse Réunion, leaving her unable to manouvere and vulnerable to repeated pounding at close range. Despite the severe damage the Haitian ship suffered, her crew continued to fire cannon at irregular intervals for 45 minutes, each shot prompting a broadside from the British ship. The two smaller Haitian vessels did not support the frigate, fleeing towards Maraguana near Petit Goâve to shelter under the batteries there. By 07:45, after over an hour of heavy fire, Yeo hailed Heureuse Réunion to discovered whether or not she had surrendered. Somebody aboard replied that they had, although Gaspard had been seriously wounded and was no longer in command, so the identity of the person who gave the surrender is not known.

As Southampton stopped firing, the remaining masts of the Haitian ship fell overboard. Casualties on Heureuse Réunion were immense: of the 600–700 crew, 105 were dead and 120 wounded, the latter including Gaspard, who subsequently died of his injuries. Yeo's loss was one man killed and ten wounded, from a crew of 212.[12] Seeking to rid himself of so many prisoners, Yeo landed most of them at Maraguana before sailing to Port au Prince, where the rest were landed and temporary jury masts were fitted to Heureuse Réunion for the journey to Jamaica. 20 prisoners were retained for trial at Port Royal.


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