The Action of February 7th, 1813

Today-In-History

The Action of February 7th, 1813 was a naval battle between two evenly matched frigates from the French Navy and the British Royal Navy, Aréthuse and HMS Amelia. The battle was fought in the night of February 7th 1813 at the Îles de Los, off Guinea. It lasted four hours, causing significant damage and casualties to both opponents, and resulted in a stalemate. The two ships parted and returned to their respective port of call, both sides claiming victory.

Arethuse_vs_Amelia 680

In the morning of February 6th, while Aréthuse was completing her repairs, HMS Amelia appeared under the wind. Bouvet set sails to meet her and in the evening, the frigate sailed on parallel courses; As Irby was not aware of the demise of Rubis, he was attempting to lure Aréthuse away from her to prevent the two French frigates from supporting each other. Aréthuse having a slight advantage, and hoping to overhaul his opponent during the night, Bouvet hoisted the French colours and fired a carronade; Aréthuse answered by hoisting the Union Jack and firing a shot.

Bouvet_maisonneuve

Captain Pierre Bouvet, who commanded the French squadron, his flag on Aréthuse.

At dawn, a fog obscured the frigates from each other, and Bouvet could not engage. The next morning, Aréthuse found herself alone on the sea, an Bouvet followed the course that he assumed Amelia had taken; around eleven, she appeared on the horizon and Aréthuse put on all sails to give chase. The frigates raced all day and at 7:30PM, Irby decided that he was far enough to avoid interference from Rubis, and Amelia turned to confront her opponent.

Aréthuse was pierced for 44 guns, but actually mounted only 42: as her two foremost guns, obstructed by bollards, could not be maneuvered properly, Bouvet had ordered them stored in the hold. This left Aréthuse with twenty-six 18-pounder long guns, two 8-pounder chase guns, and fourteen 24-pounder carronades. Amelia mounted twenty-six 18-pounders and twenty 32-pounder carronades. Her crew was reinforced by that of Daring.

Frederick_Paul_Irby

Frederick Paul Irby, in 1822. He commanded Amelia during the action.

The frigates closed in to pistol range without opening fire. As they passed each other, Aréthuse came about and fired her broadside at Amelia that cut the braces of her topsail; Amelia answered in kind, and then veered and abruptly decreased her speed, her davit touching Aréthuse at starboard. Aréthuse fired another broadside a point-blank range, and for the following hour and a half, the two frigates remained entangled, exchanging volleys, gunners from both sides snatching the ramrods of their opponents and duelling with sabres from one gunport and the other, but neither side attempting to board the other.

After 90 minutes of cannonade and gunfire, Captain Irby and his two Lieutenants, John James Bates and John Pope, were wounded. The third lieutenant, George Wells, was killed soon after taking command, and the master of Amelia, Anthony De Mayne, replaced him. Then, Bouvet attempted a boarding to decide the issue, but with her clewlines cut by shots, Aréthuse could not maneuver.

At 9PM, the frigates separated. The cannonade continued until eleven, until the frigates lost contact. Soon, a dense fog hid the frigates one from another, and it was not until the next morning that Amelia was spotted again. According to Bouvet’s report, Aréthuse attempted to give chase, but to no avail.

“Today in History” on The Pandora Society dot com is primarily focused on Victorian and Edwardian history and does not always have a direct connection to Steampunk, Dieselpunk, or whatever punk; in fact it rarely does, but it is our hope that in sharing these historical events they might serve as some inspiration to the writers in our community to create potential alternative history stories which we look forward to reading 🙂


 

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