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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol II
1797 Arethusa and Gaieté 87

the prison at Petersfield, contrived to effect their escape, but were arrested by the coast-fencibles, near Portsmouth, and re-confined in one of the prisons there. Thence they were removed, the account states, along with several other prisoners, to the hulks, preparatory to being transported to Botany Bay. From the hulks, Sélis and Thierry, with six other Frenchmen, effected their escape ; but they were all retaken, and were finally embarked on board the Lady-Shore. These eight Frenchmen, with no other assistance than that afforded by three Germans and a Spaniard, are represented to have surprised and captured the convict-ship ; which they afterwards carried to Monte-Video and sold. *

Accustomed as we are to the French manner of relating an occurrence of this kind, the chief surprise it excites in us is, that prisoners of war should have been sent to Botany Bay for having, as, by a law of nature almost as strong as that of self-preservation, they were justified in doing, attempted to escape from confinement. We think there must be a mistatement as to the cause that led to the banishment of MM. Sélis and Thierry ; in short, that these French prisoners had committed some act of turpitude, the divulgement of which would have shown, not only that their punishment had been justly inflicted, but that their veracity was not to be relied upon.

On the 10th of August, at daylight, the British 38-gun frigate Arethusa, Captain Thomas Wolley, being in latitude 30° 49, north, longitude 55° 50' west, and having a detained Prussian ship in tow, discovered to windward three strange sail; one of which, at about 7 h. 30 m. a.m., bore down, under French colours, to within half gun-shot, and then opened her fire. This the Arethusa was not slow in returning ; and the French ship, which, extraordinary to say, was only a corvette of 20 long 8-pounders, made no attempt to escape, until she had fought a British 18-pounder frigate, mounting 44 guns, for half an hour, and sustained, besides considerable damage in her sails and rigging, a loss of two seamen killed and eight wounded. The Gaieté's fire was not wholly ineffectual ; for the Arethusa lost one seaman killed, the captain's clerk (leg amputated), and two seamen wounded.

The Gaieté had 186 men on board at the commencement of the action, and was commanded by Enseigne de Vaisseau Jean-François Guignier. One of the vessels in her company was the brig-corvette Espoir, of 14 guns. The latter kept to windward until the action was over, and then stood away. What the, third vessel was, does not appear ; but, unless she was a corvette nearly equal in force to the Gaieté, the temerity of M. Guignier in provoking the attack was highly censurable. At all events, his two consorts were not ambitious to take a share in an enterprise of such hardihood and danger as that in which the French

* Victoires et Conquêtes, tome viii., p. 265.

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