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Action of 1794-06-17

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

On the 17th of June, while the British 50-gun ship Romney, captain the honourable William Paget, having under her charge one British and seven dutch merchant vessels, bound from Naples to Smyrna, was passing between the small islands of Tino and Miconi in the Archipelago, a frigate, with french national colours and a broad pendant, accompanied by three merchantmen, was discovered at anchor in-shore of Miconi. The British frigates Inconstant, Leda, and Tartar, from whom the Romney had, on the preceding day, been detached, being still in sight from the mast-head, captain Paget directed the convoy to join them; and the Romney, hauling to the wind, was presently at anchor in Miconi road, within a little more than a cable's length of the french 40 gun frigate Sibylle, chef de division, or commodore, Jacques-Melanie Rondeau.

In the hope to save the effusion of blood, captain Paget sent a message to the french commander, desiring him to surrender his ship. This commodore Rondeau refused; alleging that he was well acquainted with the Romney's force, that he was fully prepared, both with men and ammunition, and that he had made oath never to strike his colours. By the time theRomney's officer had returned to his ship, the Sibylle had placed herself between the Romney and the town of Miconi; which obliged captain Paget to carry out another anchor, and warp the Romney further ahead, in order that her guns might point clear of the town. At 1 p.m. the Romney, being abreast of the french frigate, and secured with springs on her cables, fired a broadside, which the Sibylle instantly returned. The action, thus commenced, lasted, without a moment's intermission, for one hour and ten minutes; when the Sibylle, being quite in a defenceless state, hauled down her colours, and, along with the three merchantmen, was taken possession of by the Romney.

The Romney, when she commenced action, was 74 working men short of her established complement: consequently she had on board only 266 men and boys. Of these the Romney lost eight seamen killed, and 30 (including two mortally) wounded. The Sibylle commenced action, as deposed by three of her surviving officers, with a crew of 380; of which number she lost her second lieutenant, captain of marines, and 44 seamen killed, and 112 officers, seamen, and marines (including nine mortally) wounded. The fact of the Romney's being so short of complement had, it appears, reached the ears of M. Rondeau; who, knowing, on the other hand,that his own ship could muster at quarters upwards of 100 men, and those effective hands, more than his adversary, was sanguine enough to hope for that success which his bravery so well merited.

The Sibylle, although she mounted but 26, had, like other 40-gun frigates, ports for 28 guns on her main deck, and actually fought through her aftmost port one of the guns from the opposite side; a measure which, from her stationary position, was not at all inconvenient. The force of that shifting-gun will accordingly be computed. On her quarterdeck and forecastle the Sibylle mounted 16 long 8-pounders and two brass carronades, 36-pounders; making her total number of guns 44. In the official letter, the 8s and the carronades are called 9 and 42 pounders; but no such pounders are known in the french service. The mistake, which is a very frequent one, arises from adopting the denomination assigned to an english gun of the nearest apparent caliber, in preference to that used by the French.

The Romney does not appear to have been supplied with carronades: consequently her 50 long guns, as particularized in the first annual abstract, were all that she mounted.




Broadside guns



Broadside wt.









From this statement it appears, that a British 50-gun ship of those days was not, in reality, a very decided overmatch for a french 40-gun frigate. Some allowance, however, is to be made for the advantage which a two-decker possesses over a one-decker in the power of concentrating her fire. Under all the circumstances of the case, had the french captain foreborne to communicate the oath he had taken, not to strike his ship's colours, this engagement would have been yet more creditable than it was to the officers and men of the Sibylle.

The Sibylle was built at Toulon in the year 1791, of the best materials, and is still, under the same name, one of the finest ships of her class in the British navy. The three lieutenants on board the Romney, in her action with the Sibylle, were William Henry Brisbane, Francis Ventris Field, and Edward O'Bryen; the first of whom was shortly afterwards promoted to the rank of commander.

From William James Vol. I

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