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1812 Chase of the Belvidera 81

west, a large sail was descried in the north-east, standing directly for the American squadron. This was the British 18-pounder 36-gun frigate Belvidera, Captain Richard Byron ; who, until her discovery, a few minutes before, of the strangers' approaching her, had been lying to, waiting to intercept the French privateer-schooner Marengo, hourly expected from New London. At 6 h. 30 m., just as the Belvidera, having arrived within six miles, had made out the three largest ships to be frigates, they and the sloops, by signal from the commodore, hauled to the wind on the starboard tack in chase. The British frigate immediately tacked from the strangers ; and at 8 h. 15 m. A, M., finding the private signal not answered, Captain Byron made all sail, keeping away to about north-east by east. At 11h. A.M. the wind began to decrease and draw more to the westward. At 11 h. 30 m. the Belvidera hoisted her colours ; and immediately afterwards the American squadron did the same, the two commodores also displaying their broad pendants.

Having now ascertained that the squadron approaching belonged to a " friendly power," Captain Byron would probably have shortened sail, to allow the American van-ship to close ; but a New-York pilot-boat had a few days before spoken the Belvidera, and informed her of what was likely to happen. Coupling this with the persevering efforts of the American commodore in the chase, Captain Byron no longer doubted the hostility of his intentions. The Belvidera, as a matter of course, had cleared for action and loaded her guns, and had shifted to her stern ports two long 18-pounders on the main deck and two 32-pounder carronades on the quarterdeck ; but, although the cartridges of the guns were pricked, the priming was not laid on. This was done by Captain Byron's express orders, to prevent the possibility of any such charge being brought against the Belvidera, as had been made so much of in the case of the Little-Belt.

The wind, which since 2 p.m. had veered to west-south-west, and was therefore nearly aft in the course the ships were steering (about north-east), began gradually to fall. This of course favoured the ships astern : and at 4 h. 20 m, p.m., being the vanship of her squadron and distant about 600 yards astern, or rather, about half a point on the larboard and weather quarter of the Belvidera, the President opened a fire from her bow guns. The first three shot all took effect in the British ship's hull : one struck the rudder-coat, and the others entered the counter and transom, but hurt no one, the men being above at quarters. A fourth shot struck the muzzle of the larboard chase 18-pounder, and, breaking into several pieces, killed one seaman, wounded mortally another, severely two others, and slightly a lieutenant (William Henry Bruce), in the act of pointing the gun, and two seamen standing near him. In five minutes after the President had commenced her fire, the Belvidera returned it from her stern

 

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