Actions of December 1809

13th December 1809 - 18th December 1809
Part of : The Napoleonic Wars (1803 - 1815)
Previous action : Rinaldo vs Maraudeur 7.12.1809
Next action : Capture of Guadeloupe 26.1.1810 - 6.2.1810


Empire Français

Ship NameCommanderNotes
La Renommée (44)  
La Clorinde (44)  

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland

Ship NameCommanderNotes
Sceptre (74) Joseph Bingham
Freya (38) John Hayes
Blonde (16) Volant Vashon Ballard
Junon (38) John Shortland (d.1809) Captured 20 killed, 40 wounded
Thetis (24) George Miller (d.c.1813)
Observateur (16) Richard Smith, Frederick Augustus Wetherall
Ringdove (16)  

Notes on Action


On December 13th, to the east of Antigua, the Junon, 38, Captain John Shortland, and Observateur, 16, Commander Frederick Augustus Wetherall, sighted the Renommee, 40, and Clorinde, 40, convoying the two flutes, Loire, 40, and Seine, 40 (then mounting 20 guns apiece only). The British vessels boldly gave chase and closed. The strangers showed the Spanish flag, and made the correct answer to the private signal. This led the Junon to approach within a quarter of a mile of her antagonists, whereupon the French hoisted their national colours, and the Renommee fired a broadside. The Clorinde ran almost foul of the Junon' s starboard side; the Renommee closed yard-arm to yard-arm on the port side; and the two flutes opened a raking fire ahead and astern of the British frigate. Thus circumstanced, and though her deck was swept by the enemy's small-arms fire, she fought heroically for half an hour, and did not haul down her flag till more than a quarter of her crew had been placed hors de combat, and her gallant captain wounded no fewer than five times. Of those wounds he died on January 21st following. Out of 224 officers and men, she lost 20 killed and 40 wounded. Her enemies had among them 21 killed and 18 wounded. The Junon's hull was in such a shattered state that, as soon as the prisoners had been transferred, the frigate was set on fire by the French.

The Observateur, seeing that her aid would be fruitless, escaped as soon as her consort was surrounded. She made sail for Guadeloupe, and there warned the Blonde, 38, Captain Volant Vashon Ballard, Thetis, 38, Captain George Miller, Hazard, 18, Commander Hugh Cameron, and Cygnet, 18, Commander Edward Dix. All these vessels took post in the channel between the Saintes and Guadeloupe, where they were joined on the 16th and 17th by the Scorpion, 18, Commander Francis Stanfell, Ringdove, 18, Commander William Dowers, and Castor, 32, Captain William Roberts, the latter having been chased by the Frenchmen off Desirade. The Scorpion and Ringdove were detached to reconnoitre Basseterre. It was still early on the 17th when the Loire and Seine were made out by the squadron, steering down the west of Guadeloupe towards Basseterre.

The British gave chase, and drove them into Anse la Barque, where they anchored. A battery to the south of the Anse fired at the squadron, but its activity induced a somewhat startling result, for Commander Dowers instantly landed with a boat party, stormed it, and destroyed it, without loss. The British then stood off and on off the port, preparing to attack. There they were joined by the Freija, 36, Captain John Hayes, and Sceptre, 74, Captain Samuel James Ballard. In the afternoon of the 18th, the Blonde and Thetis closed within 400 yards of the French ships, and attacked them, whilst the Sceptre and Freija cannonaded the batteries, and a large landing party attacked from the shore side. The French flutes were speedily compelled to strike, though they afterwards took fire. At about the same time the most important of the shore batteries was stormed by a party under Commander Cameron. The losses of the Blonde and Thetis were 9 killed (including Lieutenant George Jenkins) and 22 wounded. Those of the other British vessels are not known. The Renommee and Clorinde saw the British squadron at a distance, and, in endeavouring to escape, ran aground off Antigua, sustaining severe injury. This led their captains, when, by throwing overboard many of their guns, they had lightened their ships and got them afloat, to return to Brest, where they arrived late in January, 1810. The British vessels, busy with the flutes, do not seem to have paid any attention to them.

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