|Naval history of Great Britain
||Light Squadrons and Single Ships
The name of no officer appearing in the letter of Captain Baker published in the London Gazette, the very recital of the above acts of good conduct on the part of his officers may raise a charge of unfairness against him, until it is known, that the services of every officer belonging to the Phœnix were properly set forth in the letter which Captain Baker transmitted to the admiralty. If, for reasons not very clear, it becomes requisite to suppress more than half an officer's letter, the mutilated portion laid before the public, and which in this instance is very short, should not be called " Copy of, " but, " Extract from, a letter." Then, neither will the public have grounds for supposing that the writer wishes it to be inferred that his valour alone achieved the victory, nor the officers who served under him, and who contributed so mainly to the consummation of that victory, have a light to complain, that their captain has neglected to mention them.
The action of the Phœnix and Didon was one in which, even after its decision, the victorious party had both a difficult and a perilous duty to perform. The prisoners greatly outnumbered the captors : the latter, therefore, had not only to separate and secure the former, but to watch over them with unremitting attention. They had also to refit the ships, particularly the prize, whose mainmast was in so tottering a state, that the British were obliged to cut it away. The wreck cleared, the Phœnix, taking the Didon in tow, steered for a British port. On the 14th, at 8 P.M., Captain Baker spoke the Dragon 74, and in company with her, the next day at 4 P.M., fell in with M. Villeneuve's fleet. The Phœnix, with the Didon in tow, immediately bore up and made all sail to the southward. A division of the fleet chased the two crippled frigates, and had nearly arrived within gun-shot, when, at sunset, the French ships tacked and stood back to their main body. Having passed Lisbon, the British frigate and her prize were steering to enter Gibraltar, when, in a thick fog, the ringing of bells and the occasional firing of guns were heard in every direction. Shortly afterwards Captain Baker became apprized by the Euryalus frigate, whom he spoke, that the sounds proceeded from the Franco-Spanish fleet, then on its way to Cadiz. Phœnix and Didon immediately changed their course to the westward, and soon got clear of all danger from the ships of M. Villeneuve.
But this was not the only danger from which Captain Baker and his officers and crew had the good fortune to escape. The French pilot of the Phœnix overheard a conversation among the prisoners, the subject of which was a plan to get possession of the Phœnix, and by her means of the Didon. The discovery of this plot called for increased vigilance on the part of the British on board of both ships ; and, scarcely had means been taken to overawe the prisoners in the hold of the Phœnix than the
^ back to top ^