|Naval history of Great Britain
||Calcutta and Rochefort Squadron
Where one ship of a fleet misconducts, or is supposed to misconduct herself in action, a host of disinterested witnesses may be obtained from among the ships in company. But, where a ship, cruising alone, is engaged by, and surrenders to, an enemy's ship or ships, that advantage is lost ; and, as the smallest boy on board feels himself implicated in the sentence which a court-martial has to pronounce upon the officers and crew, the evil follows of which we have just complained. It is this ex-parte mode of proceeding that has occasioned us, in frequent instances, to blame captors for not doing justice, in their official statements, to the exertions of an unsuccessful antagonist ; in order that the public at large, as well as the small conclave assembled to try the crew of the captured ship, may see the grounds upon which a defence, like that of the Blanche, is declared to have displayed " very able and gallant conduct " on the part of her commander. *
On the 3d of August the British 54-gun ship Calcutta, Captain Daniel Woodriff, sailed from the island of St. Helena, with the Indus Indiaman, three whalers, and two other ships, under her protection, bound to Europe. On the 14th of September she fell in with the British merchant ship Brothers, of London, which had separated in a gale of wind, along with many other ships from a fleet of 200 sail, in charge of the 74-gun ship Illustrious, from the Leeward islands. † Being very leaky and short of provisions, the Brothers requested and obtained the protection of the Calcutta, but was so ill-found, and sailed so heavily, that she detained the convoy at least one-third of its hitherto daily run.
On the 25th of September, at noon, being in latitude 49° 30' north, and longitude about 9° west, the Calcutta discovered sevens ships in the west-north-west. It was then nearly calm, but light breeze from the westward enabled the strangers to approach fast. Night came on and the Calcutta, doubtful yet whether her pursuers were friends or foes, kept between them and her charge. At daylight on the 26th the strangers neared the Calcutta considerably ; all owing to the slow progress of the Brothers. At 11 A.M. the Calcutta made the private signal, and, having by noon received no answer to it, hailed the Indus, and directed her to make all possible sail ahead with the convoy. The Calcutta then dropped astern to speak the Brothers ; and
* There cannot be any blame imputed to Captain Mudge for the surrender of his ship ; she was fought until she had six feet water in her hold, and all seamen know, that in such a state, a ship is little calculated to escape. The force opposed to her was certainly more than double ; and a court-martial having acquitted Captain Mudge, the public may rest satisfied, that the different captains who formed the court, delivered their opinions conscientiously, that the Blanche was bravely defended, and only surrendered when it was hopeless to continue the contest. The discrepancies in the letters referred to are hardly worth notice. -Ed.
† See p. 144.
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