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Action of 1793-10-24

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

On the 24th of October, at 9 h. 30 m. A. M., the British 12-pounder 32-gun frigate Thames, captain James Cotes, being in latitude 47° 2' north, and longitude 7° 22' west, standing close hauled to the southward, with the wind at west-south-west,saw a sail bearing south; which sail, after hoisting a blue flag at the fore by way of signal, as it afterwards proved, to a brig that accompanied her, bore away large. The weather soon came on very thick, and did not clear up until 10 h. 15 m. A. M.; when the stranger, now seen to be a frigate, appeared on a wind standing for the Thames. The latter immediately cleared for action, and at 10 h. 30 m. p. M. the french 40-gun frigate Uranie, the frigate in sight, fired a gun to-windward, and hoisted french national colours.

The two ships, having the same object in view, soon passed very near to each other, on contrary tacks; at which time the Uranie fired her broadside, and wore round on the opposite tack. An action now commenced, and was continued, with great spirit on both sides, until 2 h. 20 in. p. M.; when the Uranie, getting under the stern of the Thames, gave her two or three raking broadsides, and then attempted to board on the starboard quarter; but, on receiving through her bows a well-directed fire from six or seven of the Thames's maindeck guns, double-shotted, the Uranie threw all her sails aback, and hauled off to the southward. The British crew, on seeing this, gave three hearty cheers; but the Thames was in too crippled a condition to make sail in pursuit.

The Thames, whose force consisted only of her established long guns, 32 in number, had quitted England 30 men short of complement, and was obliged, in consequence, to take the marines from the 6-pounders to assist in working the 12s. Her loss in the action, out of a crew of 184 men and boys, amounted to 10 seamen and one private marine killed, her second lieutenant, (George Robinson,) master, (George Norris,) one master's mate, (David Valentine,) one midshipman, (James Dale,) 14 seamen, and five private marines wounded. The Uranie's force in guns was exactly that of the french 40-gun frigate, in the table at p. 78, and her complement was stated to have been from 320 to 350. The constant stream of musketry, that poured from her during the whole of the action, renders it probable, that the highest of those numbers came nearest to the amount. The loss on board the Uranie does not appear; but it was believed to have been very severe, and to have included among the killed her captain, M. Tartue.






Broadside guns












Ship size






26-12p, 6-6p

28-18p, 12-8p, 4-36pc

Opposed to so decided a superiority, it will not appear surprising that the Thames should have suffered to the extent now about to be detailed. Her three lower masts and bowsprit were shot through in several places; all her stays were shot away, as was all the main rigging, except a few shrouds," and they were rendered useless. The maintopmast rigging was even worse than the main rigging, and the topmast was shot through in three places. The maintopsail yard was shot away in the slings by a double-headed shot, and the yard-arms came down in front of the main yard; the slings, both iron and rope, and the geers of the main yard, were shot away, so that the yard hung by the trusses, about a third of the mast down; and the mainsail was cut to pieces, particularly the leech-ropes.

The foremast had received nearly the same damage as the mainmast, except that the slings of the fore yard were not all cut away, whereby the yard remained aloft: the foretopmast rigging," except a. shroud or two, was all shot away; as were all the stays, back-stays, lifts, braces, ties, halliards, and. other tackling. The bowsprit was shot through in several places; and all the bob-stays and bowsprit shrouds were cut by shot and langridge: the jib-stay and halliards had been shot away at the first broadside. The mizenmast was so injured, and the rigging so cut, that the gaff was obliged to be lowered, as soon as the action ended, to prevent the mast from going over the side; and the fore-part of the top was entirely shot away.

The hull of the Thames had received innumerable shots; the chief part of the gangways was shot away; the main deck in front of the mainmast was torn up from thejwaterway to the hatchways, and the bits were shot away and unshipped. Six shots had passed between wind and water on the starboard, and three on the larboard side. One gun on the quarterdeck, and two on the main deck, were dismounted ; and almost all the tackles and breechings were cut away. The loss on board the Thames, as we have just seen, amounted to 11 men killed, and 23 (two of them mortally) wounded. The surprise is that, after being so terribly mauled by shot, her loss was not treble what it proved.

The condition of the Uranie can be taken only from her appearance as she lay to, about two miles from her opponent, repairing her damages. Her masts, though all were standing, seemed to be greatly injured, as did her rigging and sails. Several men were seen over her sides, stopping shot-holes; and it was evident that she was pumping, with all her remaining strength.

The Thames could steer but one course, and that was right before the wind. Judging that the Uranie would certainly renew the contest, as soon as she was in a state to bear down, captain Cotes commenced refitting the Thames, in order to receive her. The British crew had been so busied in their various duties, that they had scarcely bestowed a glance beyond their own ship; and at 4 P. M., when inquiries were made after the Uranie, not a person, either on deck or in the tops, could see any thing of her: and yet it did not appear possible that, under every advantage of sailing, she could have gained a distance to be completely out of sight.

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