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the fleet was in sight, the Culloden ran up a signal to the mastheadIntelligence." The effect upon the fleet was like electricity; every bosom burned to know the particulars. The captain of the polacre was taken on board the admiral's ship, and gave information, that he had, only a few days before, seen the French fleet lying off Alexandria. The joy with which these tidings were received on board our ships, and the alacrity with which the command was obeyed, to make all possible sail to come up with the enemy, are scarcely credible. In the mean time Admiral Nelson made a solemn promise-and which was accordingly fulfilled-that if the information which the captain of the polacre gave proved true, he would restore him his vessel, and set him and all his crew at liberty, with a month's provision; only taking out the wine, with which she was laden, for the use of the fleet.
The French fleet, as we afterwards learned, had put into Rhodes, when we were standing for Egypt the first time, which was the occasion of our missing them. Arrived, as it appears, off Alexandria, on the second day after we had left, the French admiral learned that we had just made our appearance, and hastily departed; information from which the arrogance and vanity of our enemy led them to infer, that our withdrawing so speedily was a consequence of fear, at having heard of their numerical superiority. This delusion, no doubt, made the French admiral less careful to be in readiness for action than he might otherwise have been, had he more justly appreciated the character of British
On the morning of the first of August, the city of Alexandria once more presented itself to our view. Signal also was made by the ships which had been dispatched before, that the harbour was full of transports, and that the French flag was floating in the wind from the towers of the city. Soon afterwards the fleet itself was descried drawn up in line of battle in Aboukir Bay. Instant signal was made to clear away for action, whilst our ships steered direct for the enemy. To give a description of the general battle is
needless; every one knows it; and the glory which irradiated the British arms on the memorable night of the first of August, will shine resplendent to the end of time. Such, besides, was the full occupation and eagerness with which every man was engaged from the moment of beginning to clear away for action, till nearly the end of the battle, that but few individuals had opportunity to take more than a hasty glance of the process of the engagement; to say nothing of the darkness of the night, illuminated only by conflicting fires from the mouths of the cannon; and the smoke in which both fleets were involved. Leaving this, as most writers have described it, I shall confine myself to a description of only such scenes as fell under my own observation, immediately connected with the Leander, and which none could so accurately describe as those who were board. In consequence of being detained in the neighbourhood of the Culloden-to assist, as far as we were able, to extricate her from the unfortunate situation in which she was placed, having at about seven o'clock in the evening struck on a ridge of rocks, two miles from the scene of action-we were late in coming to an engagement. It ha ving been reported amongst the crew that the admiral had given strict orders, that the Leander, being a much smaller ship, and of much lighter metal, than any of the French ships of the line, was on no account to lay any of them alongside, our men were almost in a state of uproar at the disappointment, supposing this prohibition amounted to an exclusion from participating in the glory of the conflict; till they understood from Captain Thompson, that if we could find a situation in which we might " do any good," we were at liberty to run in our ship. We were not long before we discovered such a position; and accordingly we ran the Leander betwixt the stations of the Peuple-Souverain and the Franklin of eighty-four guns, dropping a stern and boweranchor, so as to place our ship right athwart the hawse of the latter ship, within only a few yards' distance, into the bows of which we continued to pour our broadside of twenty
four pounders so effectually, that in less than half an hour she was completely dismasted. The whole of her bows were soon laid open, and our shots raked her decks with dreadful precision, sweeping away the dense crew which filled them, so that none of the men could at length be brought to fight the bow and forecastle guns; the only ones which could be brought to bear upon
The stern-cable of the Defence having been shot away by the Peuple-Souverain, the former ship swung round, so as to assume an admirable position upon the starboard quarter of our antagonist, and dealt her broadsides with terrible effect. Soon afterwards we observed a singular appearance on board of the Franklin; on her forecastle an English colour was hoisted, but a French colour was flying abaft! At which our captain hailed her, and shouted, "Have you struck ?"
To which the French captain replied, "Yes!"
“What do you mean, then," replied Captain Thompson, " by keeping the French colour flying abaft?" "I cannot get any man on my decks to expose himself while he is " but if striking it," was the reply; you cease firing, I will take it down myself.".
This he forthwith did; and, bringing it and his sword on board our ship, presented them to Captain Thompson, saying, "You deserve them, for you have done me all the mischief."
He was, however, conveyed on board the Defence, as being the larger ship, to make his surrender; but not till he had requested permission to walk round our ship; which having done, he expressed his amazement, "that such a little box should have conquered so large a ship!"
It was just after this event, and not, as has been erroneously stated, before, that the dreadful catastrophe of the blowing up of the Orient, in whose immediate neighbourhood we were, occurred. We had for a considerable time perceived her to be on fire, and anticipating the event, were adopting every precaution in our power against danger from the explosion; removing every thing from the upper deck which was easily com
bustible, wetting the sails, and stationing men in all directions with buckets of water in their hands. Even up to this time, whilst the lower deck in the after part of the Orient was in flames, such was the fury of the men, that they still continued to fire the guns on the upper decks. At length, however, about ten o'clock, we saw her spritsail yard and bowsprit crowded with men, receding as far as possible from the flames; whilst hundreds were seen jumping and overboard, and clinging to spars other pieces of wreck which were The floating in the neighbourhood. next moment the awful explosion took place, and, in the same instant, for ever disappeared the hundreds of human beings who had just before been seen floating on the bosom of the deep. Dreadful was the concussion; it seemed as though every timber, and joint, and seam of our ship, was severed; whilst blazing masses of rigging and timber, projected an amazing height into the air, were seen suddenly descending in all directions, and in a moment extinguished in the ocean; producing, in awful contrast, the tremendous blaze and explosion of the magazine, with a silence and darkness which seemed as though the world itself had ceased to be. Every man in both fleets appeared paralysed, and for nearly a quarter of an hour no gun was fired; no motion was percep
Not long after this fearful event we perceived a few of the unhappy sufferers, who, contrary to our supposition, had not been destroyed at the moment of explosion, swimming towards our ship, imploring that aid which Britons are known never to refuse to a fallen enemy. The piercing cries of these unfortunate men seem still to vibrate on my ear, as some of them approaching near the Leander, cried out," Bon John, give rop-e!-O,bon John, give rop-e, give rop-e!" As many of them as possible we rescued from a watery grave; though some of them, after all our endeavours, sunk to rise no more. It was wonderful to observe, notwithstanding the deplorable circumstances in which these poor fellows were placed, what strength the amor patriæ, or reluctance to acknowledge defeat, exerted in them.
To one of these forlorn creatures, drenched with water and exhausted with fatigue, I said-unseasonably I confess, and it may be thought unfeelingly, but it was on the spur of the moment-"Well, Monsieur, what think you now of your Bonaparte ?" To which the hapless man, summoning the little energy which remained in him, replied, "O, Monsieur John Bull, dis nothing, dis nothing; vive Napoleon !"
The issue of this dreadful, and, as it respects the British arms, glorious battle of the Nile, is all that needs to be mentioned on the present occasion, having proposed to myself, in compliance with your request, to give a detail of only such occurrences as fell under my own observation, together with such circumstances as are not elsewhere to be met with; excepting, of course, those statements which form the necessary connecting links of the story. Of the thirteen French ships of the line, eleven were taken or destroyed. The only ships which made their escape were, the Justice and the Diana frigates, and the Guilliaume Tell and Généreux, of seventy-four guns, with the last of whom, in little more than a fortnight afterwards, we were destined to have a severer struggle than any which had been experienced in Aboukir Bay; and of which, as it is closely connected with this part of my history, I shall, in conclusion, give you a brief sketch.
It was, you may be sure, no way agreeable to the British tars, to see the two seventy-fours and two frigates, who had sustained scarcely any damage-except from a few distinct and occasional shots, just to remind them that they were not forgotten by us-effecting their escape. Admiral Nelson made signal first to one ship, then to another, to endea vour to intercept their flight, but he received in reply,-" Disabled-unfit," &c. They accordingly proceeded, bearing tidings as unwelcome to the French nation, as they were joyous to the British. The second of August was employed by our crew in getting the Leander in sailing trim. On the third we were engaged in affording all the assistance in our
power to the Culloden; and, on the fifth, Captain Barry, of the Vanguard, charged with the dispatches from Admiral Nelson to Earl St Vincent, was sent on board our ship, and we immediately proceeded to convey the intelligence of the glorious victory of the Nile.
Nothing remarkable occurred, nor was our progress retarded, till, on the eighteenth of the month, early in the morning, being within a few miles of the Goza di Candia, the man from the mast-head cried out, "A sail on the starboard quarter-a large ship." At this time the Leander was becalmed, whilst the sail in question was evidently bringing up a good breeze with her. She soon discovered herself to be a sail of the line, and with a view to decoy us, ran up Turkish colours. By the shot-holes in her bows, however, we soon recognised her as one of the seventyfours which had effected her escape from Aboukir Bay; and, on a nearer approach, that she was the Généreux, Captain Le Joille. We had no possibility of escape from a ship which was of a force so greatly superior to our own. Nothing remained but to clear away for action, and to render our capture, if unavoidable, as dearly obtained as possible; else an escape, if practicable, would have been advisable, and no man on board for a moment entertained the thought of striking without a battle.
At the battle of the Nile,-such was our almost miraculous exemption from disaster whilst engaged with the Franklin,-not one of our men was killed, and only ten were wounded; and those were not wounded by the Franklin's guns, scarcely any of which could be brought to bear upon us, but by the descending wreck and some of the iron ballast which fell upon our deck, from the explosion of the Orient. Still, however, we were nearly a hundred men short of our complement. In spite of all these disadvantages, the enthusiasm with which our brave fellows manned their guns, and held themselves in readiness, at the word of command, to receive their tremendous antagonist, was amazing. The Généreux soon came within range of her guns, on our larboard quarter, and opened a terrible fire upon us. Instantly hauling our
wind, so as to bring our guns to bear, we poured our whole broadside into her. The shots told severely on both sides. One single shot of our first fire, nearly knocked two of the Généreux's ports into one, killed two men, and then lodged in her mainmast. This dreadful struggle was continued for four hours without intermission, hurling the thundering messengers of death and destruction into each other, as fast as our guns could be loaded and fired, at not more than forty yards distant,
During the heat of the action, a youth of about eighteen years of age, an assistant to the captain's secretary, and who was stationed at one of the guns in the ward-room, was struck down, to all appearance dead, by the wind of a thirty-six pound shot, which passed close by his head. On examination by the surgeon, although the ball had not struck him, the concussion seemed to have produced a sensible indentation in his scull. Almost as soon as he was brought into the cockpit-where I attended him-and placed in a reclined posture, the blood oozed from his eyes and ears, and flowed copiously from his nose and mouth-a mournful sight. He never spoke afterwards, but died in about an hour and a half after the occurrence.*
Whilst every one on board that was able to handle a rammer, or carry a cartridge, was needed and called upon to exert every power of his body and mind in this strenuous conflict, I was directed to take charge of four guns on the upper deck, which had now been fought with uncommon vigour and effect for upwards of two hours and a half. Much exhausted with previous care and exertion, I was greatly in want of water, the only drink allowed in British men-of-war during an engagement, and hastily ran to the quarter-deck in quest of a water-cask which had
escaped the general devastation; for almost every one on the gun-decks had been shattered to pieces. Luckily, I found one half full of water, and a jug lying by it. This, having been accidentally concealed, was a prize indeed. I eagerly seized the jug, and was just about to drink, when Captain Thompson, as necessitous as myself, stepped across the deck and requested to share the boon. I presented him with the jug, and having drank, he repaired to his former station, when he was astonished at his providential escape; during the few moments he was drinking the water, the mizen-shrouds, against which he was standing the instant before, were shot away. Nor was this all: an equal Providence saved my life at the same moment; for just as I was hastening to my former post, I was met by a lieutenant who accosted me with, "Why, I'm happy to see you alive! Where have you been? Every man within the last minute has been killed at the two guns where you were just standing!"-they were eleven in number.
All the cartridges on board the Généreux, as we afterwards learned, being expended, she sheered alongside with an evident intention to board us, and came so near as to carry away two of our ports; such, however, was the intrepidity of her crew, that though the captain gave the command to board, not one of his men would obey; at this moment, indeed, scarcely ten men were to be seen on her upper-deck. Our forecastle at this juncture was crowded with men, seeking the very object which their opponents shunned, and endeavouring to grapple the Généreux for this purpose: one of our men had actually thrown a rope over her starboard cat-head, and was in the act of belaying it, when she sheered off and broke the rope. Could we at this instant but
*This brings to my recollection another singular circumstance, which happened some years afterwards under my own eye. Being on a cruise in quest of some merchant ships, we had to run close under a heavy fire from a battery on shore, when our captain was knocked down on his back in a similar manner, by the wind of a large shot, and did not recover his senses for eight days. At length he was taken on shore to an hospital, where, after a careful examination of his body, a small spot, scarcely larger than a pea, was discovered on his right shoulder. No sooner was this lanced, than a dark-coloured humour flowed from the incision, and he almost instantly recovered the use of his faculties:
have lashed her fast, there is little doubt but we should have carried her. So enraged was Captain Le Joille at the dastardly conduct of his crew, that he threatened, if his men did not come upon the upper deck and board the Leander, he would blow up his ship. At this they came upon deck; but the moment was gone by; the opportunity for ever lost.
By this time the Leander had lost both her fore and main topmasts, and her mizen-mast; whilst the Généreux had lost only her mizen-mast: our ship, therefore, lay like a log in the water, whilst that of the enemy was completely under command. The Généreux then forged ahead, and ran down considerably to leeward, in order to prepare cartridges for another assault, which they did by cutting up their stockings to make bags for the powder. Whilst she was effecting this movement, either through incaution, or supposing our cartridges were as deficient as her own, or that as our masts and rigging having fallen on the starboard side, our guns were disabled; she passed down towards our starboardquarter, affording us a charming opportunity to revenge our injuries. Our upper-deck guns were, indeed, utterly disabled with the wreck of our masts and sails, but our lower deck was ready; and accordingly we brought the whole battery of our heaviest metal on the starboard side to bear, and poured two most efficient broadsides into our antagonist as she passed us.
Having effected her purpose, and being exasperated to the highest pitch at our last destructive fire, she was coming up for a second conflict. Farther resistance would have been madness, not bravery. I informed Captain Thompson of the extent of our loss of men, and suggested to him the propriety of yielding the contest, against so fearful a disparity, else that the lives of all our brave fellows would be lost. The command was given to strike: not, however, till taking the precaution of sinking the dispatches, together with every other valuable document, to the bottom of the ocean. These, as is usual in case of danger of being captured, had been attached to a heavy shot, and suspended by a cord
out of one of the gun-room ports. This cord was cut, and the British flag struck at the same instant, whilst the tri-coloured flag was hoisted on the stump of our mizen-mast.
The position of the Généreux at this moment was such, as to be unable to lay us alongside, and all her boats were so shattered as to be useless. In this emergency, in order to put her men on board our ship, they constructed a raft of such spars and planks as were at hand, and a considerable number of men descended upon it; but instead of being able to reach us they were drifted to leeward. At length some of the men who were able to swim plunged into the sea, and swimming towards our ship, laid hold of the wreck which adhered to us, and scrambled, as well as they were able, up the sides of the Leander.
Thus ended a conflict, disastrous indeed in its issue to the Leander, but than which, perhaps, nothing more brave or daring was ever attempted on the ocean. That a ship of only fifty guns, the very largest of which carried only a twenty-four pound shot; whilst that of our antagonist was one of the most powerful of the French seventy-fours, whose large guns carried a thirty-six pound shot; the crew of the latter being at least seven hundred men, whilst that of the former was only two hundred and sixty; that such a ship should have sustained a conflict of upwards of six hours, at such frightful odds, will ever redound to the honour of the British navy, and the intrepidity of its hearts of oak.
On board the Leander thirty-eight men were killed and forty-eight wounded; whilst the Généreux had eighty-eight men killed, and one hundred and twelve wounded. Of those who survived to take possession of our ship, such a set of vagabonds, sure, never before trode the decks of a British man-of-war. The very sight of them was loathsome to behold, as they crawled up the sides of our gallant ship, in their filthy rags, dripping with water, and seemingly half famished. But their appearance was even princely, compared with their conduct. The moment they reached our deck, lost to all sense of honour or shame, their only object appeared to be plunder. They were