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Action of 1794-05-05

Page history last edited by mcquinleys@... 12 years, 2 months ago

Early in the present year the British 12-pounder 32-gun frigate Orpheus, captain Henry Newcome, 50-gun ship Centurion, captain Samuel Osborne, and 44-gun ship Resistance, captain Edward Pakenham, arrived on the East India station. On the 5th of May, while this squadron was cruising off the Isle of France, two strange sail were discovered approaching before the wind. These were the french 34-gun ship DuguayTrouin, late Princess-Royal indiaman,and, we believe, the Vulcain brig-corvette. As soon as it was thought that the British ships could lay up for the enemy, chase was given; and at 11 h. 45 m. a.m. the Orpheus, from her superior sailing, got within long gun-shot of the Duguay-Trouin. In ten minutes afterwards a close action commenced, and, at a little after noon, the Orpheus obtained a position upon the Duguay-Trouin's starboard quarter. Here she kept pouring in her broadsides until 1 h. 5 m. p.m.; when the french ship, having had her bowsprit shot through, and three of the knees of her head cut away, and having sustained a considerable loss in killed and wounded, struck her colours: at which time the Centurion and Resistance were about three miles astern, crowding sail to get up. The brig-corvette, in the mean while, had effected her escape.


Having previously, out of her complement of 217, sent away in a prize, one lieutenant, two midshipmen, and 20 seamen, the Orpheus commenced action with only 194 men and boys; of whom she had one midshipman (Mr. Singleton) killed, and one master's mate (Mr. Staines, badly) and eight seamen wounded. The Duguay-Trouin had on board, in all, as many as 403 persons; many of them sickly. It would be unfair to consider the whole number as her complement, when the absence of the idle passengers and the sick would have increased, rather than diminished, her effective strength. The DuguayTrouin's loss in the action amounted to 21 officers, seamen, and marines killed, and 60 wounded. The ship is represented to have mounted 26 long 18 pounders on the main deck, and two 9 and six 4 pounders on the quarterdeck and forecastle; but it is more likely that the former were 12-pounders, the ship having mounted guns of that caliber when in the company's service, and her ports not being adapted for 18-pounders.


The usual figure-statement of comparative force would, in this case, afford but a poor criterion of the relative strength of the parties, the British vessel being a regular ship of war, while the french vessel had recently been a merchant-ship, and was fitted out with such stores only as a foreign station, and that a very distant one, could supply. Her crew, also, were sickly, and, it is believed, short of water and provisions. Moreover, the action was fought in sight, and did not terminate till the near approach, of a greatly superior force.





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