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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol II
1799 Sibylle and Forte 325

Malaga. Upon the whole, the result of the action was highly creditable to the officers and crew of the British brig.

In the month of June, 1798, we left Rear-admiral Sercey at Batavia, whither he had just arrived from the Isle of France in the Brûle-Gueule corvette.* Of the subsequent cruises and performances of several of his frigates, we have since given some account. The Forte herself now demands our attention. Sometime in the latter end of the year 1798, this formidable French frigate, commanded by Captain Beaulieu-le-Long, sailed from the Isle of France on a cruise in the bay of Bengal. The depredations committed by the Forte on eastern commerce soon attracted attention ; and on the 19th of February, the British 38-gun frigate, Sibylle, Captain Edward Cooke, sailed from Madras road in quest of her. On the 23d the Sibylle fell in with a cartel, bound to Madras, having on board some English prisoners taken out of one of the Forte's prizes, and on the 26th, anchored in Balasore road. While lying here, Captain Cooke despatched his boats for information to some country ships also in the road, but without success. The Sibylle then weighed, and bent her course towards the Sand-heads off the river of Bengal.

Although no information had been gained respecting the present movements of the Forte, enough had been learned of her formidable force to alarm a man of less intrepidity, or of less zeal in the duties of his profession, than the captain of the Sibylle. When the officer, in charge of the Forte's cartel fallen in with on the 23d, was brought on board the Sibylle, and informed of the special object of her cruise, he at once candidly pronounced her to be no match for the Forte ; and, anticipating the glory that, in the event of a contest, would accrue to his countrymen, naturally expressed a wish that he had not quitted his ship. A Captain Johnstone, also, whose ship, the Chance, had been taken by the Forte, on coming on board and viewing the force of the Sibylle, trembled for the consequences of a meeting ; but, like a brave man, he volunteered to serve in the action.

Let us then, before we proceed further in the account of what ensued, see how this British and French frigate really stood in point of relative force. The Sibylle had been a French 40-gun frigate, until captured by the Romney 50, in June, 1794. On being fitted out in the British service, the Sibylle, a fine Toulon-built frigate of 1091 tons, was armed with 44 long 18 and 9 pounders ; but, subsequently, 10 of her 16 nines were exchanged for fourteen 32-pounder carronades. This gave her 28 long 18-pounders on the main deck, and six long nines and fourteen 32-pounder carronades on the quarterdeck and forecastle, total 48 guns ; which was the precise force of the Sibylle on the

* See p. 217.

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