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Action of 1793-05-27

Page history last edited by mcquinleys@... 12 years, 7 months ago

On the 27th of May, at about 1 A. M., Cape Finisterre bearing south, 58° east, distant 125 leagues, the British 12-pounder 32-gun frigate Venus, captain Jonathan Faulknor, and the french 36-gun frigate Semillante, mounting 40 guns, captain Gaillard, descried each other. At 3 h. 30 m. A. M. the Venus tacked; and at 4 A. M. the Semillante, having bore down to reconnoitre the stranger, passed to-windward of her. The Semillante, soon afterwards, hoisted a blue flag at the mizen-peak, and fired two guns to-leeward, in quick succession. Upon this, the Venus hoisted her colours, and returned a shot to one which the Semillante had just before fired, to try her adversary's distance. At 4 h. 30 m. A. M. the Semillante tacked for the Venus, who kept her wind, and carried sail to get the weathergage; but the former, unwilling to give up that advantage, also kept her wind. At 7 h. 30 m. A. M. the Semillante fired a lew random shot, and at 8 A. M. dropped nearer to the Venus; when the latter opened her fire, and a warm cannonade ensued. The two ships gradually neared each other until 10 A. M., when they were scarcely half a cable's length asunder.

The Semillante, by this time, had lost her first and second officers, and had her masts, yards, sails, rigging, and hull, much damaged by shot; and her guns, for the last half hour, had made no return to the vivid fire kept up by the Venus. In this state, the Semillante, very naturally, strove to disengage herself from the combat. On observing her opponent's intention, the Venus trimmed her sails as well as she was able, and, ranging- up alongside, gave the Semillante a well-shotted broadside; then dropped a little astern, and was in the act of again shooting ahead to repeat her fire, when she discovered to leeward a large ship under french colours. The Semillante, as if recognising the stranger, bore up to join her; while the Venus, whose cross-jack, yard, gaff, and main rigging, were entirely shot away, and whose masts, yards, sails, and rigging, in general, were much cut and injured, hauled as close to the wind as her crippled state would permit. Thus ended the action; and at that moment, according to the testimony of the master of an english merchantman, who was then on board the Semillante, the latter had five feet water in her hold.

* Armed precisely as No. 7 in the table at p. 78. In the first edition of this work we had classed all these ships as 32-gun frigates, according to their original denomination in the french service; but, finding that almost every one of them, at the commencement of the war of 1793, took on board four additional 6-pounders, these ships here stand classed as 36's; in which we are borne out by most of the lists published in french works.

As a British 32-gun frigate, the Venus was an anomaly in point of armament, mounting 24 instead of 26 long 12-pounders on the main deck; which, with eight long 6-pounders and six carronades, 18pounders, on the quarterdeck and forecastle, gave her a total of 38 guns. Her complement, excluding the widow's men, was 231, fourteen more than the establishment of her class. Not having a marine on board, and being 20 seamen short, the Venus commenced action with only 192 men and boys. Of these she had two seamen killed, her master, and 19 seamen wounded. The loss on board the Semillante, (whose force has already been stated,) out of a crew of at least 300, amounted to 12 officers, seamen, and marines killed, and 20 wounded.







Broadside guns












Ship size





William James Vol I

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