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1805. Didon then hauled up again on the larboard tack, Aug.
and endeavoured to bestow her starboard broadside in a similar manner; but the Phoenix had by this time repaired her rigging sufficiently to enable her, worked as she was by one of the best disciplined crews in the service, promptly to throw her sails aback, and prevent the Didon from again taking a position so likely to give an unfavourable turn to the
This manoeuvre brought the Didon, with her largates board bow, or stem rather, pressing against the
starboard quarter of the Phoenix; (No. 3;) both ships lying nearly in a parallel direction, and one only having a gun that, in the regular way of mounting, would bear upon her antagonist. This gun was a brass 36-pounder carronade upon the forecastle of the Didon; who might also, but for some obstruction of which we are not aware, have brought an 18pounder long-gun to bear through the maindeck bowport. The instant the two ships came in contact, each prepared to board the other; but the immense superiority of numbers, that advanced to the assault in the Didon, obliged the Phoenix to defend her own decks with all the strength she could muster. Having repulsed the french boarders, chiefly with her excellent marines, the Phenix hastened to take advantage of the means which she exclusively possessed of bringing a maindeck gun to bear upon an antagonist in the position of the Didon.
Having, in his zeal for the good of the service, ventured to overstep one of its rules, captain Baker had caused the timber or sill of the cabin-window on each side next the quarter to be cut down, so as
to serve for a port, in case a gun would not bear adop- from the regular stern-port next to the rudder-head. tion of Unfortunately, the gunner had neglected to prepare
tackles sufficiently long for transporting the aftermost maindeck gun to the new port. The omission was of serious consequence; for, during the whole time occupied in substituting other means to place
of capt. Baker's.
the gun in the port, the Didon, hy her powerful 1805. body of marines, stationed along the whole length of
Aug. the larboard gangway, kept up an incessant fire into the stern-windows of the Phoenix, strewing the cabindeck with killed and wounded.
At length the exertions of captain Baker, and of the few officers and men that remained of those assisting him in this perilous but necessary duty, were crowned with success. The gun was run out, and the direction in which it pointed showed, at once, that its importance had not been overrated. It was fired, and by its first discharge, as subsequently acknowledged on the part of the enemy, laid low 24 of the Didon's crew: it swept the ship from her larboard how to her starboard quarter, and was truly awful in its effects. Meanwhile the marines and musketrymen on the quarterdeck were exerting themselves in the most gallant and efficacious manner: one party, posted at the stern, kept up a spirited fire at the Didon's marines on the gangway; while another party, (the men of both parties, on account of their exposed station stooping to load and rising to fire, directing their fire at the carronade upon the Didon's forecastle, prevented the french sailors from discharging it.
After the two frigates had remained on board of each other for upwards of half an hour, the Didon began to fore-reach. In an instant the Phoenix brought her second aftermost gun to bear, and by its Frifirst discharge cut away the head-rails of the Didon, gates and, what was far more important, the gammoning rate. of her bowsprit. The Didon, as she continued to forge ahead, also brought her guns successively to bear, and a mutual cannonade recommenced between the frigates, yard-arm and yard-arm, (No. 4,) to the evident advantage of the Phønix, whose crew had been constantly trained at the guns, and that, as much as possible, and far more than the regulation of powder and shot allowed, by practising the real, not the dumb motions of firing. In consequence of that, and of her lighter guns, the Phoenix fired nearly
1805, half as quick again as the Didon; and the shattered
hull and disabled state of the latter, as, with her main topmast gone and foremast tottering, she passed out of gun-shot ahead, proved that quickness of firing was not the only proficiency which the crew of the Phoenix had attained.
Although not materially injured in hull or lower masts, the Phænix was so damaged in rigging and sails as to be nearly unmanageable, (No. 6,) and had had her main royal-mast, maintopsail yard and her gaff shot away. The gaff had fallen just as the two ships got foul; and, the fly of the british white ensign at the gaff-end having dropped upon the Didon's forecastle, the Frenchmen tore it off, and carried the fragment aft as a trophy. As a substitute for their ship’s mutilated colours, the seamen of the Phoenix immediately lashed a boat's ensign to the larboard, and a union jack to the starboard, arm of ber cross-jack yard.
Taking advantage of the suspension of firing, each frigate now began repairing her damaged rigging, that she might be ready to renew the engagement the instant a return of the breeze would admit of mancuvring. Although the main topmast of the Didon, and the main royal-mast, topsail yard, and gaff of the Phoenix, were the only deficient spars, both frigates exhibited a woful appearance, on account chiefly of the quantity of sail under which they had engaged. Instead of a cloud of canvass swelling proudly to the breeze, rope-ends and riddled sails hung drooping down from every mast and yard.
One of the characteristics of a well-disciplined crew is the promptitude they display in refitting their ship after an action; and, if any thing could animate the men of the Phoenix to additional exertions, it was the sight of their opponent's foremast falling over the side. This happened at about noon, and was caused by the motion of the ship acting upon the mast in its terribly shattered state. Very soon afterwards, such had been the diligence of her crew,
the Phoenix had knotted and spliced her rigging, rove fresh braces, and trimmed her sails, so as to profit by Aug. the air of wind which had just sprung up. In this refitted state, the Phænix made sail on the larboard tack towards the Didon, then with her head the same way, upon the former's weather bow. Having arrived within gun-shot, the british frigate was in the act of opening her fire, when, being from the fall of her foremast and other previous damage in a of Didefenceless state, the french frigate, at about 15 don. minutes past noon, hauled down her colours.
The following diagram has been prepared to elu-. cidate the evolutions of these frigates, after the commencement of the close action.
Of her 260 men and boys, the Phoenix, when she Loss on commenced the action, had on board, including 10 or 12 who were too sick to attend their quarters, only 245. Of these she had her second lieutenant, (John Bounton,) one master's mate, (George Donalan,) and 10 seamen killed, her first lieutenantof marines, (Henry Steele, dangerously in the head,) two midshipmen, (Aaron Tozer, dangerously, and Edward B.Curling, *) 13 seamen, and 12 marines wounded, several of them
* This youth, not quite 17, was wounded in an extraordinary manner. While with jaws extended he was sucking an orange,
1805. badly; total, 12 killed and 28 wounded. The loss on
Milius, amounted to 27 officers, (including her se-
Until captain Baker's appointment to her, the of the Phoenix had been armed precisely according to the
establishment of her class, as described a few pages
Here is a statement which, in every branch of it,
+ See p.