Capture of the Curieux

3rd February 1804
Part of : The Napoleonic Wars (1803 - 1815)
Previous action : Capture of the Ressource 26.10.1803
Next action : Battle of Pulo Aura 14.2.1804


United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland

Ship NameCommanderNotes
Centaur (74) Bendall Robert Littlehales, Murray Maxwell9 wounded

République Française

Ship NameCommanderNotes
Le Curieux (16) Joseph-Marie-Emmanuel Cordier39 killed and wounded Captured

Notes on Action

Early in February, 1804, Commodore Hood determined that an attempt should be made to cut out the Curieux, a fine French brig of sixteen 6-prs. and 70 men, under the command of Commander J. M. E. Cordier, which was lying in the harbour of Fort Koyal, Martinique, under shelter of the guns of Fort Edouard, and was nearly ready for sea. The French, anticipating such an attempt, were prepared, as they said, to defy any force which could be sent against them. Boarding nettings were triced up, guns and swivels loaded with grape, numerous sentries posted, and the whole watch kept under arms. On the night of February 3rd, four boats of the Centaur, 74, with 60 seamen and 12 Marines, under Lieutenant Robert Carthew Reynolds, delivered the attack after a hard pull of twenty miles. There was a moon, and they were seen and hailed by the Frenchmen long before they could close, and the Curieux's guns were discharged, though with little effect. The British Marines, as the boats rowed in, kept up a steady fire. The first boat, the barge, found a rope ladder hanging over the Curieux's stern. Reynolds climbed up it and cut away the boarding netting, whereupon the British seamen poured on board and began a hand-to-hand struggle with the French. . The officers especially offered a most determined resistance, but, indifferently supported by their men, they were speedily flung below, and wounded or killed. The Curieux's cables were then cut and the vessel was got under way, under a smart fire from the French batteries, which did, however, no damage. The British loss was 3 officers and 6 seamen wounded, the gallant Reynolds mortally, and Lieutenant Edmund Byron Bettesworth and Midshipman John Tracy slightly. Reynolds received no fewer than five wounds. Among the French the havoc was greater. Cordier was thrown overboard and seriously injured; his first lieutenant had three wounds; and an enseigne de vaisseau, 4 midshipmen, the carpenter and gunner, and 30 men, were killed or wounded. So many were the wounded that Hood sent them in the Curieux, as a cartel-ship, to Fort Royal. On the Curieux's return, Reynolds 3 was given command of her, but, disabled by his wounds, was succeeded by Bettesworth, who some months later was to carry home the news of Villeneuve's return to Europe in the Trafalgar campaign. One French account reckoned the British boarding party at 225, and asserted that the weather was dark and that the Curieux was surprised. This, however, was contradicted by the gallant Cordier when he recovered.

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