On the 6th of July, at 7 p.m., the British 12-pounder 32-gun frigate Quebec, Captain John Cooke, being about seven leagues to the westward of the island of Porto-Rico, steering for Cape Nicolas-Mole, St.-Domingo, with four transports and one merchant vessel under her convoy, which she had brought from Martinique, perceived two strange sail, one to the westward and the other to the southward. At 9 p.m. the strangers were made out to be frigates, and were, as we conjecture, the French frigates Thetis and Pensée on a cruise. The Quebec immediately hauled her wind to the northward, and made the necessary signals to keep her convoy together for the night.
On the 7th, at daylight, the nearest frigate was seen with Spanish colours flying. These, at noon, she hauled down. At 1 h. 15 m. p.m. the Quebec, having been standing to the southeast on the larboard tack, hoisted her colours, and edged away to protect two of her convoy to leeward ; whereupon the frigate on her lee bow hoisted French colours and fired a gun to windward. Having made the signal for her convoy to disperse, the Quebec kept her wind, and at 1 h. 30 m. p.m. exchanged broadsides with the French frigate ; but without effect on either side, the shot from the lee-guns of the British frigate falling short, while those from the weather-guns of the French frigate passed over the Quebec.
In the mean time the second French frigate was employed in taking possession of the convoy ; and never did English vessels so give themselves away, so court capture apparently, as the five ships and brigs in charge of the Quebec. Their masters had previously disobeyed all the signals made to them, and now crowned their misconduct by yielding up their vessels without an effort. Some of them did not wait to be fired at, or even approached within two or three miles, but shortened sail and hauled down their colours the moment they saw the head of the French frigate directed towards them. To give the names of these transports and their masters at this late day would be useless, otherwise we would most willingly expose them to the indignation of their countrymen.
Having now nothing but her own safety to consult, the Quebec made all sail, and soon outstripped the French frigate that was in chase of her. The following account of this occurrence appears in the work of a contemporary: "After capturing a French national cutter, Captain Cooke (previously mentioned to have joined the Quebec, January 1, 1796) was again ordered to the West Indies ; where, by his conduct in a rencontre with two frigates of far superior force, he obtained the commendations of his commodore, the late Sir John T. Duckworth." * At least, we can discover no other case than that we have just recorded, to which this account can apply; and, assuredly, Captain
* Marshall, vol. ii., p., 21.
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