Capture of the Niémen

5th April 1809
Part of : The Napoleonic Wars (1803 - 1815)
Previous action : Action of 1809-03-12 12.3.1809
Next action : Battle of the Basque Roads 11.4.1809


United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland

Ship NameCommanderNotes
Arethusa (38) Sir Robert Mends (d.1823)
Amethyst (36) Michael Seymour 8 killed, 37 wounded

Empire Français

Ship NameCommanderNotes
Niémen (40)   47 killed, 73 wounded

Notes on Action

On April 5th, the French frigate Niemen, 40, Captain J. H. J. Dupotet, on her way from France to Mauritius with stores and food, was sighted in the Bay by the Amethyst, 36, Captain Michael Seymour, and Emerald, 36, Captain Frederick Lewis Maitland, which were engaged in watching the Gironde. The British ships gave chase; but, as the evening of the 5th was very dark, they lost sight of one another and of the enemy. The Amethyst, however, made a good guess at the Niemen s course and sighted her again at about 9.40 P.M. Two hours later she was near enough to open with her chasers; and, at 1.15 A.M., she succeeded in bringing her starboard broadside to bear. On this the Niemen wore from the port to the starboard tack with the wind at E.N.E. The Amethyst imitated the manoeuvre, again closed with her adversary, drew ahead, and passed under the Frenchman's bows, pouring in a very effective raking fire. She then bore up, and, a second time, was passing under the Niemen's bows, when the French ship fell on board her and received a heavy fire from the after guns of her starboard battery. Apparently neither side attempted to -board, and the two ships soon drew clear. The action was continued broadside to broadside. Soon after 3 P.M. the Niemen caught fire in her port hammock-nettings, and, in quick succession, lost her mizen mast and main topmast. The fire in her hammock-nettings was barely got under ere another broke out in her main top. The attention of her crew was thus distracted from the battle, and her guns were all but silent. The Amethyst, observing this, bore up to pass under her stern and rake her; but the British ship's main mast suddenly fell, bringing down with it the mizen mast. At the same moment the Niemen's main mast went by the board. The wreckage prevented the Amethyst from answering her helm; but the British frigate Arethusa, 38, Captain Robert Mends, which had steered to the sound of the firing, opportunely came up, and received the surrender of the enemy whom the Amethyst had so skilfully overcome.

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