Next Page

Previous Page

10 Pages >>

10 Pages <<
Naval History of Great Britain - Vol II
1798 Light Squadrons and Single Ships 234

and was left at last with only one shroud of a side to support it.

Broadside-guns No. 26 40
lbs. 432 1024
Crew No. 282 936
Size tons. 1052 1926

Where is there a single-ship action which has conferred greater honour upon the conqueror than in this instance lights upon the conquered? Such a defence is unparalleled, even in the British navy, where to be brave is scarcely a merit. Nothing, however, is without its alloy. Captain Thompson had the misfortune to be compelled to yield up his brave crew and himself to, we are sorry to say, a man who, by his subsequent treatment of his prisoners, disgraced both the profession he served in, and the country that employed him.

No sooner had the French midshipman and boatswain got on board the prize, than they began laying their hands upon every thing within their reach. The chief matter of surprise here is, that the Leander's people should have permitted such spoliations, when, in the twinkling of an eye, they might have thrown the plunderers back into the element out of which they had just before raised them. Never was there a finer illustration of the opinion entertained by honourable minds, of the duties which a state of surrender imposes, than the non-resistance of the Leander's crew under treatment so oppressive ; the lions were now changed to lambs ; and all the British crew did was to hasten in patching up a boat, as well to convey Captain Thompson and his principal officers on board of the Généreux, as to bring back from the latter some officer of high rank, and, it was hoped, of more honourable feelings, than the one they had been forced to receive.

Captain Thompson and his officers soon found, to their cost, how fallaciously they had judged of the French captain and his lieutenants. By these the British were plundered of every thing, save very little more than the clothes on their backs. Captain Thompson owned a very large stock of shirts ; but Captain Lejoille would allow him to retain three only, tied up in a handkerchief ; and, in exchange for all the remainder of his clothes, gave him an old great-coat ; the wretch refused to the gallant officer even his cot, although badly wounded.

In vain did Captain Thompson and his officers expostulate with the captain on this harsh treatment : in vain they reminded him of the very opposite treatment experienced by the French officers taken prisoners at the Battle of the Nile. Captain Lejoille, with perfect nonchalance, answered, "J'en suis fâché, mais le fait est, que les Français sont bons au pillage." Captain Berry expressed a wish to have returned to him a pair of pistols,

^ back to top ^