get under way at daylight, and attack, and endeavour to board, the two British frigates, thus hovering about the bay and cutting off all commerce with the capital.
0a the 3d, at 4 h. 30 m. A.M., profiting by a light air which had just sprung up from the south-east, the Spartan stood into the bay of Naples on the starboard tack, under plain sails and rather off the wind. At 5 a.m., when about midway between Cape Misano and the island of Capri, the Spartan discovered the French squadron, distant six miles right ahead, standing out from the mole of Naples on the larboard tack. The force, thus advancing to attack a single British frigate, consisted of the Cérès, an 18-pounder frigate mounting 42 or 44 guns, with a crew of from 320 to 350 men, a large corvette, the Fama, mounting 28 guns, either 8 or 12 pounders, with a crew of more than 220 men, a brig, the Sparvière, mounting eight guns with 98 men, a cutter, the Achille, mounting 10 guns with 80 men, and at least sevens gun-boats, of one long French 18-pounder and 40 men each. The Swiss troops, it appears, were in addition to the complements of the vessels : consequently, there were 95 guns, and about 1400 men, opposed to 46 guns and 258 men.
At 7 a.m. the Cérès, followed in line of battle by the Fama and Sparvière, hauled up, as if desirous to get to windward of the British frigate; but the Spartan frustrated that intention, by setting her courses and hauling up too. In a few minutes, finding his object defeated, the French commodore again steered with the wind a-beam : and at 7 h. 45 m. clewed up her courses ; the Spartan immediately did the same. In this way the two parties were mutually approximating from opposite points of the compass.
At 7 h. 58 m. a.m., being within pistol-shot on the larboard or lee bow of the British frigate, the Cérès opened a fire from her larboard guns in quick succession. The Spartan " reserved her fire until every gun was covered by her opponent, and then returned a most destructive broadside, treble-shotted on the main deck. The carnage on board the Cérès was very great, particularly amongst the Swiss troops, which were drawn up in ranks, and extended from the cat-head to the taffrail, in readiness for boarding. " † The Spartan then engaged in succession the Fama and Sparvière ; and, as neither party was going at a faster rate through the water than from two to three knots an hour, the British frigate was enabled to discharge a broadside at each.
Since the commencement of the firing, the cutter and gun boats had hauled to the south-east. In order to cut off these from their consorts, the Spartan now kept her luff ; and at 8 h. 13 m. a.m., having fired at the small-craft with her foremost
* British official account says, " eight; " French account, "six ; " and Spartan,, log "seven."
† Brenton, vol. iv., p. 434.
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