|Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
||Cutting Out the Prima Galley
on one side, the greater part of their opponents fled overboard on the other. Almost immediately afterwards the night bargee, or commodore's broad pendant, the only colours flying on board the galley, was hauled down by Lieutenant Gibson, first of the Vestal, and all further resistance ceased.
The boats were immediately ordered ahead to tow; and the slaves, in seeming cheerfulness, manned the sweeps, crying out, in broken English, "Bless the king of Gibraltar!" After some delay, the galley was cleared from the chains by which she had been moored to the mole, and began moving to the entrance of the harbour under a tremendous fire of shot, shells, and musketry; the latter from a numerous body of troops drawn up on the mole-bead ; round which the galley passed within 10 yards, with no greater loss or damage than five British seamen wounded one shot through the head of the mainmast, and some cut rigging. Of the galley's people, one was killed, and 15 wounded, by the British when they boarded: a few others, in all probability, were drowned; and many succeeded in gaining the shore. According to the French accounts, the captain, Bavastro, was among the latter, and had leaped into the water on seeing that 50 Ligurian grenadiers, stationed on board his vessel, had treacherously fired only three muskets at the assailants.* From the testimony of the latter, there is not the least ground for this accusation; and, in Lord Keith's letter in the Gazette, the captain of the galley is named Patrizio Galleano.
Soon after the Prima had passed the mole-head, Captain Beaver quitted her in his boat to acquaint Lord Keith with his success, and the command devolved upon Lieutenant Gibson, already mentioned as the officer, who, with his own hand, had struck the galley's colours. Before the galley had got quite out of gun-shot of the mole-head, an alarm was raised of fire below. Lieutenant Gibson instantly rushed down, and found a half-drunken French sailor, with a light and a crow-bar, in the act of breaking open the door of the magazine, for the purpose, as he unhesitatingly declared, of blowing up the vessel and all on board of her. The man was promptly secured and a sentry placed over the hatchway. Had the wretch succeeded in his villainous attempt, between 400 and 500 souls might have perished; for, besides the British officers and men who had captured the galley, and the 60 or 70 French soldiers and seamen remaining on board out of those that had belonged to her, there were upwards of 300 miserable beings chained ton the oars.
It was principally by the exertion of these very slaves, that the galley shot so quickly past the mole-head, and thus escaped destruction by the batteries. So vigorously did these practised rowers continue to ply their sweeps, that the galley nearly over ran the British boats towing ahead. As soon as the galley had got out of gun-shot, the slaves, by the permission of
* Victoires et Conquetes, tome xii., p. 199.
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