Capture of the Forte

28th February 1799 - 1st March 1799
Part of : The French Revolutionary Wars (1793 - 1802)
Previous action : Daedalus vs Prudente 9.2.1799
Next action : Defence of Acre 15.3.1799 - 20.5.1799


Great Britain

Ship NameCommanderNotes
Sybille (38) Edward Cooke (1772-1799) 17 killed, 22 wounded

République Française

Ship NameCommanderNotes
La Forte (44) Hubert Le Loup de Beaulieu (d.1799) Captured 65 killed, 80 wounded

Notes on Action


Late in February, the French frigate Forte, 40, Captain Beaulieu, arrived in the Bay of Bengal and began to harass British commerce. She was in bad order; the discipline of her crew was not good; and her captain, according to Rear-Admiral Sercey, was too old and feeble for his work. The British cruiser Sibylle, 40, Captain Edward Cook, a very fine and powerful vessel, went to look for her, to stop her depredations. In the evening of the 28th, whilst the Sibylle was on this quest, vivid flashes were seen to the north-west, and supposed to be lightning. As, however, the flashes went on continuously till nine, and then stopped altogether, Captain Cook began to suspect that they were from guns, and stood towards them, with all lights out, to make certain. At 9.30 he sighted the Forte and two prizes lying side by side. Captain Cook manoeuvred to gain the weather gage, untroubled by the Forte. The French captain saw the Sibylle, but was obstinately persuaded that she was a merchantman, and made no preparations to attack her, though assured by his officers that she was an enemy. The French were on the starboard tack, lying to. The Sibylle bore steadily down, until, as she approached, the Forte crossed her bows and fired a few random shot at her, to which the British ship made no answer. Then, at 12.45 A.M., the Sibylle put her helm up, the Forte being abaft her beam, and passed under the enemy's stern, pouring in a most destructive broadside at the very shortest range. She followed this up by closing the Forte broadside to broadside, whilst the guns of the French were fired by mistake at one of their prizes. The Forte had had to supply crews for seven captures and for this reason was unable to man her forecastle and quarterdeck guns. In consequence, her fire was not very effective. Early in the action Captain Cook was wounded, and Captain Beaulieu was killed an hour after the battle began. At 2.30 the Forte had only four guns which could be used. She therefore stopped her fire and endeavoured to make sail and escape. Discovering her intentions, the Sibylle, after twice hailing her to strike, resumed her fire and very quickly brought down the Forte's masts. On this the French ship struck and was taken possession of. The Sibylle was much cut up in her masts and rigging. The Forte was in a horrible state, with her starboard side almost beaten in, and three hundred shot in her hull.

In the Sibylle were 131 officers and men of the Scotch brigade, who fought with great credit. It should he noted that in the general opinion of naval men at that time the Sibylle was no match for the Forte. The latter's weight of broadside, from long guns only, was 448 Ibs., as against the Sibylle' s 579 Ibs. The bad shooting of the Forte is partly explained by the fact that her gun-quoins had been planed down three days previously. The Forte was purchased for the Navy and rated a 44.

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