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Apollo vs Oiseau

31st January 1779
Part of : The American War of Independence (1775/04/19 - 1784/01/14)
Previous action : Battle of St. Lucia 14.12.1778 - 15.12.1778
Next action : Action of March 7 1779 7.3.1779


Great Britain

Ship NameCommanderNotes
Apollo (32) 1763-1786
British 32 Gun
5th Rate Frigate
1774 Renamed "Apollo"
Philimon PownollBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1751-1762
6 killed, 22 wounded

Royaume de France

Ship NameCommanderNotes
L'Oiseau (32) 1769-1779
French 32 Gun
5th Rate Frigate
 30+ killed, ? wounded Captured

Notes on Action

On January 31st, the British frigate Apollo, 32, Captain Philemon Pownall, was cruising off the Breton coast, when she came in sight of ten vessels. On giving chase she overtook them, and made out one of the ten to be a frigate. She steered for her, whilst the other French ships, which were merchantmen under convoy, scattered and sought the land. Soon after noon the Apollo was close enough to fire upon the strange frigate, which was the Oiseau, 32, Lieut. de Tarade, and which as yet had hoisted no colours. The first broadside of the Apollo did the Frenchman some damage and led him to hoist his flag. The two ships were upon opposite tacks, when the Apollo luffed and came round on the same tack as the Oiseau. After some skilful manoeuvring on either side the Apollo got within pistol shot, but to leeward. The ships engaged very closely; so closely that more than once the Apollo's bowsprit all but caught in the Oiseau' s foremast shrouds. The wind had fallen, and the Oiseau's advantage in speed had gone with it. The superior fire of the British sailors cleared the enemy's deck till Lieut, de Tarade and four men were all who were left on the quarter-deck; the main-deck battery was dismounted and silent; and finally a shot carried away the French flag. The Apollo's men cheered and hailed to know if the French had struck. No answer was made, but their fire had ceased, and so the English took possession. The Oiseau had lost her main-topmast and mizen-mast: her hull was terribly riddled, as many of the Apollo's shots had passed right through her; and if it had not been for the calm weather she could scarcely have been taken to Great Britain.

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