|Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
||British and French Fleets - Channel
had been effected two hours before he was in a situation to make that signal, Sir Sidney in his letter says: " Since two o'clock (a little earlier than was the case) the sternmost prame struck her colours and ran on shore. "
But there is a more disinterested testimony, in favour of the claims of the Cruiser and Rattler, than is to be found in the logs of any of the British ships. The French minister of marine, Vice-admiral Decrès, under date of May 20, 1804, gives as the substance of the report of Rear-admiral Ver-Huell, that an English frigate and corvette, or, in other words, that an English frigate-built and brig-rigged corvette, who were very near, manœuvred to cut off two of the gun-boats and a transport, &c. The action during two hours," proceeds the account, " was extremely warm : the two enemy's vessels were disabled and retreated. " The rear-admiral goes on to state, that the port of Ostende being left open, he steered towards it ; but that Commodore Sir Sidney Smith, " having assembled his squadron, attacked the flotilla within three leagues of Ostende, " &c. As this translation is at complete variance, in some material points, with that which appears in the work of a contemporary, we will here add the original passages, or so much of them as is necessary : " Une frégate et une corvette anglaise, * qui étaient fort près, manœuvrèrent," &c. " Le combat, pendant deux heures, fut extrêmement chaud, les deux bâtimens ennemis furent désemparés et firent chasses." † " Le Commodore Sidney Smith, ayant pu réunir sa croisière, joignit la flotille gallo-batave à trois lieues d'Ostende."
From the above extracts, it is evident that Rear-admiral Ver-Huell considered that he was attacked, and engaged for two hours, by the Cruiser and Rattler, before the Antelope, or any other ship of Sir Sidney's squadron, fired a shot at him ; and thus, like an honest man, did he report the fact to the official organ of his government. But the appearance of Sir Sidney Smith's official letter, in the columns of the Moniteur, made M. Decrès condemn the haste he had used in publishing the, report of the Dutch admiral. Instead of the attack having been made by two sloops, or, taking the literal translation, by one frigate and one sloop, it was here confessedly made by one 50-gun ship, three frigates, two sloops, and two cutters. Accordingly M. Dumas, and all the other French historians, reject their own official account as too tame and inglorious, and prefer incorporating in their pages the official account of their enemy. This is particularly the case in one work, which, on most other occasions, would scorn to glean its materials from any source that was not decidedly French . ‡ We regret that we were so far misled by Sir Sidney's letter, as, in the former edition of this
* An English frigate and a cutter. - Brenton, vol. iii., p. 244.
† The two vessels of the enemy were dismasted and sheered off. Ib., p. 245.
‡ Précis des Evènemens, tome xi., p. 19.
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