Action of 5th July 1808

5th July 1808
Part of : The Napoleonic Wars (1803 - 1815)
Previous action : Landing at Sint Maarten 3.7.1808
Next action : Attack at Noli 1.8.1808


United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland

Ship NameCommanderNotes
Seahorse (38) John Stewart (d.1811)

Ottoman Empire

Ship NameCommanderNotes
Bedr-i Zafer (50) Küçük Ali Captured
Ateş Feşan (26) Duragardi Ali

Notes on Action


On July 1st, the Seahorse, Captain John Stewart, whilst anchored off the island of Syra in the Archipelago, received intelligence that a Turkish force, consisting of the Badere-i-Zaffer, 52, Captain Scandril Kichuc Ali, and Alis Fezzan, 26, Captain Duragardi Ali, was off the island of Chiliodromia. Captain Stewart at once proceeded towards that place, and, on the afternoon of the 5th, sighted his two enemies, who were standing to the south with the wind at north-east. At 9.30 P.M., the Seahorse was near enough to the Badere-i-Zaffer to hail her and order her to surrender. The Turks paid no attention to the demand, whereupon the Seahorse poured a double-shotted broadside into the Badere-i-Zaffer's lee quarter at a range of only twenty yards, and a close action began.

The Seahorse was to windward, as it was important that the Turks, with their enormous number of men, should not be permitted to board. The Badere-i-Zaffer was slightly before her port beam, and between her and the Alis Fezzan, which latter ship was thus unable to engage. The larger frigate, after a few minutes' firing, attempted to run on board the Seahorse, but the manoeuvre was foiled by the British ship luffing and tacking astern of her. This brought the Seahorse upon the Alis Fezzan. Three broadsides were poured into the smaller Turkish ship with so much effect that her guns were silenced. The powder under the forecastle exploded, and the vessel was set on fire. After this the Alis Fezzan seemed to have had enough, for she retired amidst dense clouds of smoke, which entirely hid her from view. The Badere-i-Zaffer, which had fallen to leeward, with almost every one of her sails shot to rags, was again closed by the Seahorse at about 10.35, and engaged broadside to broadside. A little later, the Turk attempted a second time to board, collecting 300 or so men on her forecastle. The Seahorse, however, shot ahead of her and cleared her, though the Turkish ship's bowsprit fouled, and carried away, the gaff vanes and the mizen mast standing rigging. The Seahorse's stern-chasers poured a terrible fire into the would-be boarders.

For two hours more the Seahorse plied her enemy with deadly broadsides, hailing at intervals to know if the Turks would strike. The Turkish ship was gradually reduced to a complete wreck, but knowing the temper of his enemy, Stewart did not care to waste life in boarding. At about 1.15 A.M. the British discontinued their fire, and stood by the Badere-i-Zaffer until daylight, only discharging an occasional shot or two " to keep the Turks awake." When day-light came, as the Turkish colours were seen to be still flying, the Seahorse came up under the Turk's stern, and poured in a raking broadside. The Turkish captain had hitherto shot, or threatened with death, all those who suggested surrender. He was at length seized by his own men, and the colours were lowered. Possession was then taken by the British.

The enormous losses of the Turks show plainly the desperate nature of the resistance; and their complete failure to inflict heavy loss upon the Seahorse shows that their gunnery was of the most rudimentary kind. The two Turkish ships did not work together, and thus greatly simplified the task of the Seahorse. Still, the action does Captain Stewart the greatest credit. The chief injuries which the Seahorse sustained were in her mizen mast, which was so wounded that it fell.

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