Light Squadrons and Single Ships.
In October of the last year we left the French Rear-admiral Sercey, with his six frigates, the Forte, Seine, Vertu, Cybèle, Régénérée, and Prudente, on his way to Batavia. He arrived there, and besides getting his ships thoroughly repaired and victualled, obtained a treaty from the Regency of Batavia, to supply the Isle of France with rice, as well as with cordage and canvass, to the amount of 300,000 rix-dollars. After a stay of two months, Rear-admiral Sercey put to sea on his return to the Isle of France. On the 28th of January, 1797, just as he had cleared the straits of Bali, and was off the east end of Java, M. Sercey met with, what he considered at the time, a fortunate escape from very superior force, but which, he was afterwards fain to confess, was the most unlucky occurrence that had befallen him during his long, and by no means inactive professional life.
Five (if not six) homeward-bound, richly-laden Indiamen, the Woodford, Captain Charles Lennox, Ocean, Captain Andrew Patton, Taunton-Castle, Captain Edward Studd, Canton, Captain Abel Vyvyan, and Boddam, Captain George Palmer, under the charge of the first-named officer, found themselves on the morning of the day mentioned, in sight of Rear-admiral Sercey's frigate-squadron. Knowing that, besides the inutility of running as a means of escape from men of war, the very act of doing so would expose the weakness of his force, Captain Lennox, with as much judgment as presence of mind, hoisted the flag of Rear-admiral Rainier, blue at the mizen, and made his other ships hoist pendants and ensigns to correspond. He even did more. He detached two of his ships to chase and reconnoitre the enemy. As these advanced towards the French reconnoitring frigate, the Cybèle, Captain Thréouart, the latter crowded sail to join her consorts, with the signal at her mast-head, "The enemy is superior in force to the French." *
On this the French admiral also made sail ; and although, on the Forte's carrying away her main topmast, M. Sercey thought it extraordinary that the English did not continue the chase, the assurance by Captain Thréouart, on his passing within hail of the Forte, that he had clearly made out the enemy's force to consist of two line-of-battle ships, and four frigates, induced the admiral to continue his retreat. In about four weeks after this well-managed ruse on the part of Captain Lennox, Rear-admiral Sercey arrived with his squadron at the isle of France. There, to his mortification, he learnt, that Admiral Rainier had not been near the Bali straits, and consequently that the fears of one of his captains, coupled with a
* L'ennemi est supérieur aux forces Françaises:'- Victoires et Conquêtes tome viii. p. 295.
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