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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol I


Terpsichore and Vestale


his men and the prisoners from the Décius, to set the vessel on fire. Thus unencumbered, the Lapwing escaped from her pursuers, and reached St.-Kitts in safety. Soon after his return to this island, Captain Barton was presented by a deputation of the inhabitants with a very flattering address, lauding as well his gallantry in the action we have just detailed, as his subsequent humanity towards the crew of the Décius. To this address a suitable reply was returned.

Having repaired at Gibraltar the damages which she had sustained in her action with the Mahonesa, the Terpsichore frigate was again at sea in search of an opponent ; when, on the 12th of December, at daybreak, while lying to about 20 leagues to the westward of Cadiz, Captain Bowen descried an enemy's frigate also lying to, distant about four miles on his weather quarter. Owing to the stormy weather of the preceding night, and the fresh south-easterly wind which, with a short uneasy sea, still prevailed, the Terpsichore was under a close-reefed main topsail, and had her topgallantmasts struck. Quickly replacing these, and spreading as much sail as the state of the weather would permit, the Terpsichore tacked and stood after the stranger ; whom we may at once introduce as the French 36-gun frigate Vestale, Captain Foucaud, who had parted company a few days before, in a gale, from the squadron of Rear-admiral Villeneuve, already mentioned as on its way from Toulon to Brest.

As if desirous to avoid an action, the Vestale made sail, tacked, and stood to windward. The Terpsichore, owing to the breeze getting more ahead, was unable to fetch within gun-shot, but continued working up until past 2 p.m. ; when the Vestale wore, and stood to the east-north-east. This brought the two ships nearer together ; but a change in the wind again baffled one and favoured the other, and its increased violence sprang the Terpsichore's fore and main topmasts. The chase was nevertheless persevered in, each ship under her courses, until 2 a.m. on the 13th ; when, being close in with the land about Cape Marcus, the Terpsichore wore and brought to with her head off shore.

At about 8 a.m. the Vestale was again seen from the masthead ; and, a shift of wind to the south-west having now given the British frigate the weathergage, the latter again wore and made sail in chase. The sprung state of the Terpsichore's masts rendered it likely that the Vestale, carrying the sail she did, would soon reach Cadiz, the port towards which she was seemingly directing her course, and then but a few miles distant. However, at 9 h. 30 m. p.m., to the great joy of the Terpsichore's officers and men, the Vestale hauled up her courses and hove to. In this state, without firing a shot, or even hoisting her colours, the latter waited until the Terpsichore had reached her weather quarter.

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