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Capture of the Thetis

10th November 1808
Part of : The Napoleonic Wars (1803 - 1815)
Previous action : Capture of the Jena 8.10.1808
Next action : Capture of Samana 11.11.1808


United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland

Ship NameCommanderNotes
Amethyst (36) 1799-1811
British 36 Gun
5th Rate Frigate
Michael SeymourBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1790-1818
19 killed, 35 wounded

Empire Français

Ship NameCommanderNotes
La Thétis (40) 1788-1808
French 40 Gun
5th Rate Frigate
  Captured 51 killed, 102 wounded

Notes on Action


On the evening of November 10th, the French Thetis, 40, Captain Jacques Pinsum, on her way from Lorient to Martinique with troops and provisions on board, was sighted by the Amethyst, 36, Captain Michael Seymour, off Groix, and chased. At 9 P.M. the two ships began a running action, engaging with bow or stern chasers, and the Amethyst signalled the presence of an enemy to the other British ships off the coast. The Triumph, 74, Captain Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy, at once made sail to the Amethyst's help. At 9.15 a close action between the Amethyst and Thetis began. The Thetis, after going before the wind, suddenly came round on the starboard tack, intending to cross the bows of the Amethyst, which ship was also going before the wind, and rake her. The Amethyst, however, frustrated the manoeuvre by also turning, inside the Thetis's circle, and engaging the enemy broadside to broadside. Both ships described a complete circle, and then resumed their course before the wind. A second time the Thetis attempted to rake, the Amethyst having drawn slightly ahead of her; but, miscalculating, the French ship ran her jib-boom on board the Amethyst, between the main and mizen rigging. She quickly cleared the British ship, and resumed the broadside action until about 10, when the Amethyst, then some distance ahead, turned to port, crossed the Thetis's bows, pouring in a raking fire, and again turned to starboard before the wind. At that point the Amethyst's mizen-mast came down, doing much damage, and encumbering the quarter-deck. Fortunately, the Thetis's mizen mast also fell a few' minutes later, so that both ships were left on even terms.

At 11, the Thetis's captain determined to board, and use his superiority of men. He steered to strike the Amethyst's bow, struck it, rebounded, and fell alongside, whereupon the British, who had reserved their fire, poured in a terrible broadside. The two ships became entangled, and, in that state, the British crew poured broadside after broadside into the enemy, setting her on fire, and shattering her hull and masts. At last, at 12.20 A.M. on the 11th, the Amethyst's men boarded and carried their determined adversary. The Thetis had three-quarters of her crew killed or wounded; 15 of her guns were dismounted; on the engaged side, the timbers, between her portholes had been, in many places, beaten in, so that she showed huge gaps. Her two remaining masts fell just after the close of the action.

In this case, as in many others, the number of troops on board the Thetis 106 in all largely swelled the losses. An hour after the action was over, the Triumph and the Shannon, 38, came up, and assisted in the transfer of prisoners, and in clearing the prize.

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