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Edward Pellew's - Dispatches


Droits de l'Homme: Pellew to Spencer


Indefatigable, Falmouth. 17th January, 1797


My Lord, - I am labouring under some difficulty in communicating with your lordship from my want of certain knowledge of my invaluable friend, Captain Reynolds. (1) We have been very long brothers in affection and my grief would never cease should any misfortune on this occasion happen to him. We were both, my lord, in imminent danger, but I believe my ship was rather most crippled during the first onset before Reynolds could get up. I therefore conclude the Amazon to have been in a better state than myself when we hauled off. If she is safe, my heart will be at ease. I fear your lordship will think me rather imprudent on this occasion, but what can be done if an enemy's coast is always to frighten us and give them protection as safely as their ports? If Lord Hawke had no fears from a lee shore with a large fleet under his charge, could I for a moment think of two inconsiderable frigates? I was anxious to tow this nondescript to England; for indeed, my lord, I cannot tell you what she was. All those about me believe her a ship-of-the-line without a poop. Two tier of guns she certainly had, and I should think not less than 6 or 700 men. When he endeavor'd to run me on board his lion-head was at least 6 feet above our taffrail, and heavy fire of musketry assailed us through his head doors. In fact, my lord, we must patiently await intelligence from France. I have great doubt if any person can be saved; the surf was tremendous and beating quite over them. I have placed him on the chart about 3 or 4 miles to the southward of Audierne Town. She must have suffered prodigiously; our expenses alone was above 100 barrels of powder. I never experienced such a severe fatigue. The ship was full of water, the cockpit half-leg deep, and the surgeon absolutely obliged to tie himself and patient to the stanchions to perform an amputation. We broke no less than 28 ring bolts thro' the side. We were, however, fortunate in having no men killed, and many of the wounded are but slight from splinters. My worthy old lieutenant, Mr. Thomson, who has weather'd many a battle, received rather a severe contusion on his breast and shoulder. The surgeon is apprehensive the latter will be troublesome. I entreat of your lordship the favour of making him a commander. He is truly a deserving man, and I trust will obtain your favour altho' we have not brought the enemy to England.

I cover to your lordship the copy of my letter to the Board. It is very long, but I could not make it shorter to be intelligible. I shall entreat your lordship to curtail it if you think proper. The Indefatigable must go into a dock; there are many shot very low in her bottom and her Lisbon complaint in one part is leaky. I beg of your lordship to direct her defects to be made good that we may get again to sea.
I cannot speak too highly of my officers and men. I beg your lordship to give them all a step without our parting; it can be done by making the Indefatigable a fourth-rate as a mark of your approbation of their conduct. Your lordship will remember that none of them got any promotion on taking La Virginie. Little Cadogan is a most delightful boy.
(2) I think he promises to be everything the heart can wish. He is stationed on the quarter deck, where I assure you, my lord, he was my friend. He stood the night out in his shirt and kept himself warm by his exertions. I cannot say too much in his praise. I have thus, my lord, run over a night of severe difficulties. I entreat your indulgence to my errors, your favourable opinion being the height of my ambition, and there is not exertion I would not make to obtain it. Being with very high respect,

Your lordship's most grateful and most oblig'd servant,
Ed. Pellew


(1) Pellew in the Indefatigable (44) and Reynolds in the Amazon (36) had met, about 50 leagues SW of Ushant, the Droits des L'Homme (74), returning with General Humbert on board from Ireland. They fought her from 5:30 P.M. on the 13th January all through the night in a heavy sea till past 4:00 A.M. next morning, when land was sighted close ahead. The Indefatigable hauled off and got clear, but the Amazon, very much injured, ran aground half an hour later. She became a total wreck and her company were made prisoners. The Droits des L'Homme was also lost with nearly all her crew, numbering about 1000. For a full description of the action see next letter.

(2) Probably the Hon. George Cadogan.



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