Affair with the Tripoli

31st January 1824


United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland

Ship NameCommanderNotes
Naiad (38)  
Cameleon (10) George Robert Lambert (1796-1869), James Burton (d.1832), James Ryder Burton (1795-?)


Ship NameCommanderNotes
Tripoli (20)  

Notes on Action


As had been suspected at the time in England, the lesson given in 1816 to the Dey of Algier had not been sufficiently severe to be lasting. After allowing his subjects to commit numerous outrages on the high seas, His Highness filled up the measure of his iniquities by again violating the sanctity of the British Consulate, and by seizing the persons of two consular servants. To remonstrate against these proceedings, the Naiad, 46, Captain the Hon. Sir Robert Cavendish Spencer, accompanied by the Cameleon, 12, Commander James Ryder Burton, was sent to Algier, off which place she arrived in January, 1824. He found in the harbour two Spanish vessels, which had been recently captured by one of the Dey's cruisers. Spencer added a demand for the release of their crews to the other claims which he had been instructed to make against the Moorish government; but, getting no satisfactory reply, he took on board the British Consul and his family, and, on the 31st, worked out of the bay. While the Naiad and Cameleon were still beating out, the latter sighted to windward a sail, which presently proved to be the Algerine corvette Tripoli, 20, the same which had captured the Spanish vessels. The Naiad, hoisting her colours, fired a shot across the stranger's bows. The stranger replied with a shot directed at the Naiad. Both British vessels at once went in chase, endeavouring especially to cut off the corsair from the mole. The Naiad was the better sailer, and, at length, passed ahead of the Tripoli, firing into her and reducing her to a wreck. The Cameleon was then close under the enemy's lee, and had suffered somewhat from the shot of the Naiad, as well as from the broadsides of the pirate. Spencer, deeming that he had suffi- ciently punished the foe, stood out to sea, and made the signal of recall to the Cameleon. Burton, however, chose to disregard it, and, after some manoeuvring, most gallantly ran the Algerine on board, and, at the head of his men, only 45 all told in number, drove her 150 people below. He was then about to take the Tripoli in tow, when Spencer, who had wore round, passed within hail, and ordered him to abandon the prize.

The Tripoli was, of course, a thoroughly beaten ship when she was boarded. The disparity of numbers opposed to him might well, nevertheless, have deterred Burton from risking a hand to hand conflict; and high credit must be assigned to him for his bravery. He was deservedly promoted on February 23rd following

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