Capture of the Albion

3rd November 1803 - 4th November 1803
Part of : The French Revolutionary Wars (1793 - 1802)
Previous action : Action near Etaples 31.10.1803
Next action : Capture of Surinam 25.4.1804 - 5.5.1804


United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland

Ship NameCommanderNotes
Blanche (36) Zachariah Mudge (1770-1852)

République Française

Ship NameCommanderNotes
L'Albion (2)  † Captured

Notes on Action


On November 3rd, the Blanche, 36, Captain Zachary Mudge, discovered the French cutter Albion 11 (two 4-prs., six swivels, forty-three officers and men) lying under the guns of Monte Christi in the island of San Domingo, with a cargo of cattle for Cape Francois. Four of the Blanche's boats were thereupon despatched to capture her, with sixty-three officers and men under Lieutenant William Brathwaite. The attempt was badly ordered and managed. The boats attempted to row in, in broad daylight, under the muzzles of four 24-prs. and three field pieces mounted in the Monte Christi battery; and the wind was blowing inshore, so that, even if the cutter had been carried, she could not have been got out of the bay. It was soon evident that nothing could be done without inordinate and unnecessary waste of life. Brathwaite therefore retired.

A night attack was next determined on, and Lieutenant Edward Nicolls, R.M., volunteered to lead it. On the 4th he set out with only the cutter containing thirteen men. Such a force was quite inadequate for the work; which fact seems to have struck Captain Mudge very speedily, for he sent the barge with twenty-two men under Lieutenant the Hon. Warwick Lake to follow, reinforce, and supersede Nicolls. When the two boats were near the French cutter, Lake insisted on rowing off in another direction, asserting that the cutter was to be found there; and Nicolls, left to himself, rowed towards the Albion. The French were ready for him and received him with two volleys, as his men with three hearty cheers dashed in. Three men were wounded before he was able to board. Then, followed by the other ten, he leapt into the cutter. The French commander fired at him at the same moment, and the bullet passed right round his stomach and lodged in his arm. The Frenchman was at once shot; and the Albion was carried. Her loss was five wounded besides the commander killed. The battery ashore opened fire, but Nicolls resorted to a most judicious stratagem to stop its attack. He directed his men to discharge their muskets vigorously as if the conflict on board were still proceeding, anticipating that in that case the battery would hold its fire. The cutter was just clearing the shore when Lake in his boat arrived, stopped the firing, and, as the reward of his stupidity, had two of his men killed. The cutter then ran out of gunshot.

Captain Mudge added to the other mistakes which he made on this occasion that of failing to draw attention to the splendid courage of Nicolls. He did not mention the fact that that officer had been wounded, and he gave Lake even more credit than the other. James suggests that " Mudge had a favourite, whom he was determined to serve, no matter at whose expense." In 1806, Lake was made Commander, and in 1808 he was posted. He deserved no such favours. He was a thoroughly worthless officer, and, in 1810, was dismissed the service for having marooned a seaman on the desert island of Sombrero.

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