Our Sailors; Gallant deeds of the British Navy during Queen Victoria's reign, by W.H.G. Kingston.
This book was originally written by Kingston quite early on in his career as a writer. As he died in 1880 he predeceased the Queen by quite a few years. The book was bought up to date, including, we believe, some input by George Henty, the writer of numerous books for boys, who had been a friend of Kingston's. So this edition presses on a quarter of a century beyond Kingston's death.
Much the same can be said about the parallel book "Our Soldiers" which is also to be found on the Athelstane website.
Most of the stories are, surprisingly enough, actually military ones. It is surprising how often naval forces were engaged in direct support of military actions. It was not just the Relief of Mafeking in which they were involved, though of course through the writings of Baden-Powell most of us have heard of that event.
The book is laid out in a way that is slightly different from the usual Kingston book is presented, but we hope we have followed the book fairly faithfully.
OUR SAILORS; GALLANT DEEDS OF THE BRITISH NAVY DURING QUEEN VICTORIA'S REIGN, BY W.H.G. KINGSTON.
"Let fall the topsails, hoist away—up anchor, round goes the capstan— sheet home—haul taut the braces! and away we glide, to prove to our countrymen that British sailors have not been sleeping on beds of roses for the last quarter of a century since her gracious Majesty Queen Victoria came to the throne." So wrote our author some forty years ago. "Up anchor, full speed ahead," is, we suppose, the modern equivalent for his nautical simile, and very prosaic and commonplace it sounds; but we shall find that the romance of the Navy did not go out with the last of the sailing frigates, and that the age of steam and electricity, of enormous ironclads and rapid cruisers, affords as great a scope for individual daring, resource, and heroism as the days of sailing frigates and boarding parties; and that though in recent years our sailors have not had many chances of using their weapons on the sea, the Naval Brigade has taken its part in many an expedition, on land, and on all occasions the British tar has proved himself a worthy successor to the heroes of Trafalgar and the Nile.
During the earlier years of the Great Queen's reign her sailors had little to do in the fighting line, though on the West Coast of Africa the slave traffic gave occasion to many a lively skirmish, and on other seas various events from time to time afforded an opportunity for showing that their weapons were as effective as of old.
THE CAPTURE OF ADEN.
Somewhat of that character was the capture of Aden, an Arab town on the entrance of the Red Sea. A former sultan or chief of Aden had by treaty given up the place to the British; but his successor, not approving of the bargain, refused to submit to it. As it was important for the English to hold the place, to facilitate the navigation of the Red Sea, an expedition, under Captain Smith of the Volage, was sent by Sir Frederick Maitland, then Commander-in-Chief on the East India Station, to bring the Sultan to reason.
It was not a big affair, though unhappily it cost several lives, but its result was important and lasting. Captain Smith's expedition comprised, besides HMS Volage, three smaller vessels and some transports. On the 19th of January 1839 he bombarded the town and landed his troops, who after a short resistance overcame the Sultan's army, and hoisted the flag on its walls, and Aden became a port of the British Empire, as it has remained ever since.
From early times it had been a very important centre for the trade between Europe and the East, but when the Portuguese opened up the route to India by the Cape it lost its advantage. In the hands of the British its prosperity has returned, and the return of the Eastern trade by means of the Suez Canal to the Red Sea has raised it to a far higher position than ever it possessed in ancient days; it is now the great coaling station for the British fleet and merchantmen in the East. The trade passing through it to and from Southern Arabia exceeds five millions a year, and it is also a strongly fortified naval station.
WAR ON THE COAST OF SYRIA—1840.
The next affair in which our bluejackets were engaged was the war on the coast of Syria, in 1840. The causes of this were as follow. Mehemet Ali, Pasha or Governor of Egypt, wished not only to make himself altogether independent of the Sultan of Turkey, who claimed to be his sovereign, but also to hold possession of Syria. Into that country he sent an army under the command of Ibrahim Pasha, who was everywhere successful, and was approaching Constantinople itself. This so alarmed the Sultan, that he was about to ask for assistance from the Russians. On this, England, France, and Austria thought it high time to interfere; for had the Russians once taken possession of Constantinople, it would have been a difficult matter to turn them out again. Accordingly, those three powers sent to the Turks to promise them assistance if they would hold out, and immediately despatched a large number of ships-of-war to the coast of Syria. Sir Robert Stopford was Admiral of the British fleet, and Sir Charles Napier, having his broad pennant flying, commanded a squadron under him.
BOMBARDMENT OF BEYROUT—SEPTEMBER 1840.
The first place attacked was the town and fortress of Beyrout. The English had thirteen sailing ships and four steamers. There was a Turkish squadron of seven ships, under Admiral Walker, who was then in the service of the Sultan, and three Austrian ships. Though cannonaded for several days, the place still held out. However, on the 2nd of October an Egyptian gunner, who had deserted, came on board the Hastings at Beyrout, and gave information that a train had been laid along the bridge to the eastern castle, where a large quantity of powder was concealed; and he undertook to guide a party to cut the train and seize the powder.
Commander Worth at once offered to perform this dangerous service, and numbers volunteered to follow him. He embarked in one of the boats of the Hastings, protected by the launch and pinnace of the Edinburgh, and covered by the fire of the ships. Dashing on in the face of a heavy fire of musketry, he landed on the bridge, cut off the train, and then forced his way into the castle, over the walls of which he threw some sixty or seventy barrels of powder, and succeeded in bringing off thirty-one barrels more.
Unfortunately, in this service, Mr Luscomb, a midshipman of the Hastings, was killed; the Egyptian, and two seamen of the Hastings and one of the Edinburgh, were wounded.
CAPTURE OF SIDON.
While the fleet lay off Beyrout, it was considered important to drive the Egyptians out of Sidon, a strong and important place. Commodore Napier undertook to perform the work, and be back off Beyrout in three days. With two steamers and five other ships, having on board 750 English and 800 Turkish marines, he appeared off the place on the 26th September. The town having been summoned to surrender, and no answer being given, was cannonaded for half an hour. Captain Austin, at the head of the Turkish battalion, landed, but was very warmly received, and several of his followers were killed. The fleet again accordingly opened fire, and battered down a number of houses, after which the commodore, at the head of the main body of the British marines, and Captain Henderson at the head of another, in the most spirited manner broke open the gates, fought their way in, and took possession of the castle. Numberless acts of gallantry were displayed. Among others, there was a complete race from the spot where they landed between Mr James Hunt, a midshipman of the Stromboli, and Signor Dominica Chinca, a midshipman of the Austrian frigate Guerriera, who should first plant their colours on the walls of the town. All now appearing quiet in the town, the commodore left a guard in the castle, and descended into it. No town was ever taken where less blood was unnecessarily spilt, or disorders more speedily put a stop to.
ATTACK ON THE CASTLE OF D'JEBEL.
A strong body of Albanian troops being posted in the Castle of D'Jebel, Captain Martin was despatched in the Carysfort, with the Dido and Cyclops, having on board 220 marines and 150 armed mountaineers, to turn them out.
As soon as the marines were prepared for landing, the ships opened their fire on the castle, which was returned by musket-shots.
After the fire had been continued for an hour, the marines, commanded by Captain Robinson, accompanied by a large party of armed mountaineers, pushed off from the Cyclops, and formed on the beach to the south of the town, their landing being covered by the ships, which again opened on the castle. The fire from the ships and the launch's carronades having cleared the gardens in front of the castle, the signal was made to push on. The marines on this advanced with their invariable gallantry to the assault; but when they got within thirty yards of the towers, a destructive fire was opened on them from a crenelated outwork, having a deep ditch in front, which was completely masked from the fire of the ships, and numbers fell killed and wounded. In vain Captain Robinson and the other officers looked for some part of the castle wall which might prove practicable. No gate was accessible, and they were therefore compelled to abandon the enterprise. The ships again started firing on the castle, but it was so stoutly built that no impression could be made on it, and at half-past five the firing ceased and the landing party re-embarked.
As the force was retiring it was discovered that an English flag, which had been planted on a garden wall by the pilot of the Cyclops as a signal to the ships, had been accidentally left there; it could not be suffered to fall into the hands of the enemy, and therefore had to be recovered, whatever the cost. It was a dangerous undertaking to run the gauntlet of the enemy's guns and bring it back, but Lieutenant Grenfell and a seaman from the Cyclops volunteered to attempt it. Their progress was watched with much anxiety. They crept along from cover to cover, and at last reached the flag, which they hauled down, and hastened back again with their prize. Loud cheers greeted them as they returned to the ships uninjured and successful.
Although the attempt to take the castle by storm had not been successful, it was not found necessary to renew it on the following day, for when morning came it was found that the steady fire from the ships had proved too much for the nerves of the garrison, and that rather than face it another day they had vacated the position and stolen away under cover of the night.
BOMBARDMENT AND CAPTURE OF ACRE—3RD NOVEMBER 1840.
Ibrahim Pasha, who had taken Acre in 1837, had commenced to strengthen it greatly; but the fortifications he had designed were not completed when the allied squadron of twenty ships, mostly line-of-battle ships, appeared off it, 2nd November 1840. Towed by the steamers, the ships the next morning speedily took up their positions, and opened their fire in the most spirited manner.
After the ships had hotly engaged the batteries for nearly two hours, the grand magazine blew up with a most tremendous explosion, whether caused by a shell or by accident it is difficult to say. A large number of the garrison were blown up, and many probably were buried alive in the ruins or in the casements. The guns, however, notwithstanding this catastrophe, kept up their fire with great spirit to the last. About sunset the signal was made to discontinue the engagement; but the commodore kept the fire up some time after dusk, lest the enemy should be tempted to re-man their guns. The flag-lieutenant then brought the orders to withdraw.
In the middle of the night a small boat brought off the information that the Egyptian troops were leaving the town, and in consequence, at daylight, 300 Turks and a party of Austrian marines landed, and took unopposed possession of the place. The havoc caused by the guns of the squadron on the walls and houses was very great, though, notwithstanding the hot and long-continued fire they had been exposed to, the ships escaped with little damage, and the amount of casualties was very small, being fourteen English and four Turks killed, and forty-two wounded.
An entire battalion, which had been formed near the magazine, ready to resist any attempts to storm, was destroyed. The appearance of the dead and wounded, as they lay scattered about the town, was very dreadful, but they seemed to excite but little sympathy in the breasts of the Turks. Every living creature within the area of 60,000 square yards round the magazine had ceased to exist, the loss of life being computed from 1200 to 2000 persons. Certainly two entire regiments were annihilated, with fifty donkeys, thirty camels, twelve cows, and some horses.
This was the first occasion on which the advantages of steam had been fully proved in battle, by the rapidity with which the steamers took up their positions, and the assistance they rendered to the other ships; as also by the destruction caused through the shells thrown from them.
On the 4th another explosion took place, by which a marine was killed and Captain Collier had his leg fractured.
The garrison being placed in a state of order, was left under the command of Sir Charles Smith, with 3000 Turkish troops and 250 marines, under Lieutenant-Colonel Walker, with the protection of the Pique and Stromboli.
The results of the capture of Acre were very important. Ibrahim Pasha evacuated Syria, and Mehemet Ali gave up the whole Turkish fleet, which sailed for Marmorice under Admiral Walker. Soon after, the Sultan sent a firman, according to the Pasha the hereditary possession of Egypt, without any interference on the part of the Porte, while a yearly tribute of 2,000,000 pounds was to be paid to the Sultan, besides about 2,000,000 pounds more of arrears.
Thus terminated the part taken by the British at that time in the affairs of Turkey and Egypt.
WARFARE IN CHINESE WATERS—1840-1842.
The war in China was undertaken to punish the Government for the numerous injuries and insults they had offered to the English, and, by teaching them to respect our power, to induce them to trade with us on fair and equal terms, and to treat us in future as one civilised people should treat another; also to demand reparation of grievances, and payment for the property of British subjects destroyed at Canton; to obtain a guarantee against similar occurrences in future; and, what was of the greatest importance, to open up the trade at the different ports along the coast.
With these objects to be accomplished, a large squadron and a number of transports, containing a considerable body of troops, were despatched in 1840 by the Governor-General of India to the Chinese seas.
Soon after this a large fleet arrived from England, under the command of Admiral the Honourable G. Elliot, while Sir Gordon Bremer had his broad pennant flying on board the Wellesley. Captain Elliot, RN, it must be understood, was acting on shore as Chief-Superintendent of Trade.
The Chinese are a very clever people, but though their civilisation is very ancient it has been stationary for ages, and all change and advance of Western ideas has been violently opposed both by the governing classes and the people. In the matter, however, of armament they have in recent years made great advance, but at this time this advance had hardly yet commenced, and they had nothing to oppose to the British fleet.
Not having the real thing, with great ingenuity they proceeded to extemporise an imitation, the appearance of which they hoped would be sufficient to frighten off the foreigner. They purchased an English trading vessel, the Cambridge, intending to turn her into, at least in appearance, a man-of-war, and built some strange-looking little schooners upon a European model, for the purpose of employing them against the English. Commissioner Lin also got up some sham fights at the Bogue, dressing those who were to act as assailants in red coats, in order to accustom the defenders to the sight of the red uniform,—the redcoats, of course, being always driven back with tremendous slaughter. They also ran up formidable-looking forts along the banks of many of their rivers, which on examination, however, turned out to be merely thin planks painted. The object of these was to alarm the barbarians, and to prevent them from entering their harbours. But the crowning and most ingenious device was the construction of some vessels, with large paddle-wheels like those of steamers, which were worked inside by men; though, that they might appear to be real steamers, they had, it is said, funnels and fires under them to create a smoke.
Although from these accounts it would appear that the Chinese were not very formidable enemies, it must be understood that they also possessed some forts which were really very strong; and that though the true Chinese are not very fond of fighting, and, from their peculiar temperament, (looking upon discretion as the better part of valour), prefer running away to stopping with the certainty of being shot or bayoneted, yet that, as they fully understand division of labour, they employ a large number of Tartars to do their fighting for them. These Tartars are very brave fellows, and so are their officers; and in numberless instances they preferred death to defeat. They invariably fought to the last; and often, when they could fight no longer, cut the throats of their wives and children, and then their own, rather than yield. This horrible practice arose undoubtedly from ignorance, they believing that their conquerors would ill-treat and enslave them if they captured them alive. Besides these Tartar troops, who were far from contemptible enemies, our gallant redcoats and bluejackets had to contend with the pernicious climate of the south of China, by which, more than by the jingall-balls of the enemy, numbers were cut off. The Tartars we have been speaking of are powerful men, armed with long spears, and often they crossed them with the British bayonet, for which the long spear was sometimes more than a match. Hand-to-hand encounters with the Tartar troops were not uncommon, and our men learned to their cost that they had held the Chinese too cheap. Instances occurred in which the powerful Tartar soldier rushed within the bayonet guard of his opponent, and grappled with him for life or death.
A full description of the numerous actions which took place from the commencement to the termination of the war, extending over so many months, would at the present day be far from interesting. We shall, therefore, but briefly allude to some of them.
CAPTURE OF CHUSAN.
The crisis had come. The Chinese had determined to drive away the "foreign devils" from their coasts, and the "foreign devils" had equally determined to show that they were a match for the Celestials.
On 5th July 1840, Chusan, a small island in the Chinese sea, fell into the hands of the British. The previous day, HMS Conway, Alligator, and Wellesley, with a troopship and two transports, arrived in Chusan harbour. The ships took up position opposite a large Joss House or Temple. Sir Gordon Bremer was in command of our force. In the evening a deputation was sent on shore, calling upon the governor to surrender the town of Chusan and avoid unnecessary bloodshed. The Chinese admiral and two mandarins themselves came to refuse this offer. During that night the people were seen strengthening their fortifications, while the inhabitants were flying up the river in their merchant junks, which were allowed to pass without impediment, although their cargoes, probably containing much that was valuable, would have made the fortunes of many a British officer. However, they were allowed through untouched, for our bluejackets had not come to war against civilians and women and children. Indeed, to their credit, in no instance throughout the war did the helpless suffer injury at the hands of either British soldiers or sailors.
On the 5th, vast crowds could be seen along the hills and shores, and the walls of the city were lined with troops. Twenty-four guns were placed on the landing-place, which, with the appearance of several war-junks, showed that resistance was going to be offered.
The troops were landed in two divisions, under Major-General Burrell's supervision. The fire from the batteries and from the shores was soon silenced by the British "men of war." Not far distant from the city was a hill surrounded on three sides by a deep canal and very boggy land, and our troops took up position on this hill; and though fire was opened on them till nearly midnight, the effects of it were scarcely felt. On the morning of the 6th the guns were directed towards the city, but as no sound could be heard or troops seen, it was thought that the city had probably been evacuated, and a party was sent forward to find out if this was the case. The walls of the city were scaled, and then it was found that, with the exception of one or two unarmed Chinese, the place was empty. Over the principal gate was a placard on which was inscribed, "Save us for the sake of our wives and children." The British flag was, without loss of time, hoisted upon that gate.
On 19th August 1840, Captain Smith, in the Druid, and a few smaller ships of war and some troops, attacked and defeated the Chinese in a very spirited manner, stationed in some fortifications known as the Macao Barrier. The guns were spiked, and the whole of the troops fled; nor did they ever again occupy the barrier. Two junks were sunk, and the rest allowed to escape round the opposite point, while the barracks and the other buildings were burned. The British, having four men only wounded, re-embarked, and the ships returned the same evening to their former anchorage in Macao roads. This well-timed and important piece of service of Captain Smith's was the last hostile movement of the British during the year 1840. On the 6th November a truce was announced by Admiral Elliot, and on the 29th he resigned his command from extreme ill-health, and returned to England, leaving Sir Gordon Bremer as commander-in-chief.
After this, nothing very remarkable was done till the Bogue forts were captured, on the 7th January 1841. The Chinese Emperor had only opened negotiations for the purpose of gaining time it was resolved, therefore, to attack Canton itself. Several fleets of war-junks were destroyed, some of the junks being blown up with all on board. On the 26th of February the Boca Tigris forts were taken by Sir Gordon Bremer; and, on the 5th of March, the squadron having advanced up the river, Howqua's Fort was captured. Other forts in succession fell into the hands of the British force; and on the 28th of March, the passage up to Whampoa being forced, the forts of Canton and a large Chinese flotilla were captured. After this, the Chinese came to terms; trade was again opened, and went on for some time with great activity. All this time, however, the treacherous Chinese were plotting how they might exterminate the English; and, on the night of the 21st of May, a bold attempt was made by them to destroy the British fleet by means of fire-rafts. The attempt, however, was happily defeated, and warlike operations were once more commenced.
During these operations, Mr Hall performed a gallant act, which probably saved the lives of Captains Elliot and Herbert and all standing near. A congreve rocket had been placed in a tube and ignited, when it hung within it instead of flying out. In another moment it would have burst, scattering destruction around, had not Mr Hall thrust his arm into the tube and forced it out from behind. The rush of fire, however, severely burnt his hand, and caused him much suffering; it was long, indeed, before he recovered the use of it.
Canton was now attacked both by sea and land; and after some severe fighting, which lasted from the 23rd up to the 30th of May, that important city was taken possession of by the British.
Amoy was captured on the 26th of August in a dashing manner, and Chinghae on the 10th of October 1841, and Ningpo was occupied on the 12th of the same month. Early in the year, Captain Hall and the officers and crew of the Nemesis had a spirited brush with the Chinese, to the north of Chusan. After this, the enemy kept at a distance from that place.
Several attempts were made by the Chinese to destroy the ships of the squadron, each time defeated by the vigilance of the officers and crews. On the 13th of May 1843, Chapoo, a large town near the sea, was attacked and captured; and Woosung and Shanghai shared the same fate on the 16th and 19th of June, the greater part of the fighting on both occasions being performed by the seamen and marines of the fleet.
CAPTURE OF CHIN-KEANG-FOO AND NANKIN—21ST JULY 1842.
We now come to the crowning victory of the British in China in this war.
Considerable reinforcements having arrived, it was resolved to advance on Nankin itself, the ancient capital of the empire, as the most certain way of bringing the Chinese to terms. To reach that city, the admiral had determined to conduct his fleet, consisting of nearly eighty sail, including two line-of-battle ships, up the great river Yang-Tze, into the very heart of the empire, 200 miles from the sea.
On the 6th July, this imposing fleet passed up the river without any opposition, the Chinese having even withdrawn their guns from most of the towns on its banks, to escape the injury they expected would be inflicted had they made any hostile demonstration. At Seshan, however, about fifteen miles below Chin-Keang-Foo, some batteries at the foot of a hill, mounting about twenty guns, opened their fire on the Pluto and Nemesis, as those vessels were surveying in advance. On the following day, the batteries having fired on the Modeste, she very speedily drove out their garrisons, and destroyed them completely.
On the 16th, the naval and military commanders-in-chief went up the river in the Vixen, followed by the Medusa, to reconnoitre the approaches to Chin-Keang-Foo. They approached the entrance of the Imperial Canal, which passes close to the city walls, and is one of the greatest works in China for facilitating the internal water communication through the country. As no soldiers were seen on the walls, and no other preparations for defence were visible, it was hoped that resistance would not be offered, and that thus all effusion of blood would be spared. When, however, some of the officers landed on Golden Island, which is opposite the mouth of the Great Canal, and climbed to the top of the pagoda in the centre of the island, they discovered three large encampments on the slope of the hills to the south-west of the city. This showed that the Chinese had a large army ready to defend the place, though it was doubted if the troops would fight. The British land force consisted of about 7000 men of all arms. It had been determined that none of the ships-of-war should be engaged in the attack. The Auckland was therefore the only vessel which fired into the city, when employed in covering the landing of the troops.
On the evening of the 20th all preparations were completed for the attack, which was to take place at daylight the next day. A body of seamen and marines, however, under Captain Peter Richards, took an active part in the engagement, accompanied by Sir William Parker, who forced his way with the general through the gates of the city. Lord Saltoun's brigade was the first on shore, and, gallantly attacking the Chinese encamped outside the walls, soon drove them over the hills. General Schoedde's brigade, however, was received by a hot fire of guns, jingalls, and matchlocks, and in consequence he gave orders for immediately escalading the walls. The Tartars fought with the most determined bravery, often in hand-to-hand combats, and several of the British officers and men were wounded. The walls were soon scaled; and, as the troops scoured them to the right and left, they fell in with Sir Hugh and Sir William, who had forced their way in at the gate, while Captains Peter Richards and Watson, with the seamen and marines, had scaled the walls in another direction. Still, in the interior of the city, the Tartars held every house and street where they could hope to make a stand, determined to sell their lives dearly; and often, when driven back by superior force, they with perfect deliberation put an end to their own lives, and frequently those of their wives and children.
While these events were taking place, another of a more naval character was enacting elsewhere. The Blonde was anchored off the mouth of the Grand Canal, and her boats had been employed in the morning in landing the artillery brigade. At ten o'clock they were ordered away to carry some of the artillery, with two howitzers, up the canal, to create a diversion in favour of the troops. They were under the command of Lieutenant Crouch, of the Blonde, who had with him Messrs. Lambert, Jenkins, and Lyons, midshipmen. The barge, cutter, and a flat were a little in advance, when, coming suddenly in sight of the west gate of the city, they were assailed by a heavy fire of jingalls and matchlocks from the whole line of the city wall, running parallel with the canal. As the wall was nearly forty feet high, the gun in the barge could not be elevated sufficiently to do service, and the fire of the musketry was ineffectual. Lieutenant Crouch and Mr Lyons, midshipman, two artillery officers, sixteen seamen, and eight artillerymen were wounded. As it would have been madness to have remained longer than necessary exposed to such a fire, the men leaped from the boats, which they abandoned, and took shelter under cover of some houses in the suburbs. The crews of the launch and pinnace, however, which were some way astern, remained under cover of some buildings, and escaped without loss. Lieutenant Crouch's party now saw that their only chance of escape was to join the latter, though to do so they would have to pass across a wide space, exposed to the fire from the walls. They succeeded, however, in doing this without loss, and in getting on board the two boats. The whole party returned down the canal to the Cornwallis, where they reported what had happened to Captain Richards. They were compelled to leave some of the wounded behind, who, it is satisfactory to report, were kindly treated by the Chinese,—a strong proof of the advantage of the example set by the British.
As soon as Captain Richards was informed of the circumstances which had occurred, he landed with 200 marines at the entrance of the canal, where he was joined by 300 men of the 6th Madras Native Infantry, under Captain McLean.
This body then made their way through the suburbs, to escalade the city walls. At the same time the boats of the Cornwallis, under Lieutenant Stoddart, with those of the Blonde, pulled up the canal, with orders to bring off the boats and guns which had been left behind, and to endeavour to check the fire of the Chinese, while Captain Richards' party were engaged in escalading the walls. As soon as Captain Richards landed, he was joined by Captain Watson and Mr Forster, master of the Modeste, with a boat's crew and a small body of seamen from that ship.
A quantity of rubbish was found near the walls, on which the ladders were planted by Captains Peter Richards and Watson, when, in face of a strong body of Tartars, who opened a tremendous fire on them, they began the hazardous ascent. Captain Richards escaped unhurt; but Captain Watson was wounded, as was Lieutenant Baker, of the Madras Artillery; and a marine, who with them was one of the first on the walls, was killed.
At this juncture, Lieutenant Fitzjames brought up some rockets and lodged one in a guard-house, which, catching fire, threw the enemy into such consternation that they gave way, followed by Captain Richards, who, at the head of his men, had jumped down into an open space between two gateways. At the same moment the gate was blown open by powder bags; and Sir William Parker, with the third brigade under General Bartley, accompanied by Sir Hugh Gough, dashed over its ruins. Several officers and a large number of men suffered from the effects of the hot sun. The Naval Brigade having in consequence rested for some time in a guard-house, on hearing some firing, again sallied out, when they were met by a sudden fire from a body of Tartars, drawn up across a street behind a small gateway. Here Lieutenant Fitzjames was wounded, as were several of the men.
The British, however, uttering a loud cheer, attacked the Tartars with such fury that they were soon driven back and put to flight, when numbers fell by their own hands. The city was speedily in entire possession of the British, when every means was taken to spare life, to prevent plunder, and to restore order. We must not omit to speak of the gallantry of several naval officers mentioned by Sir Hugh Gough. Having heard that the canal was fordable, he had sent Major Gough to ascertain the fact, accompanied by Captain Loch, RN, who acted as an amateur throughout the campaign, as the general's extra aide-de-camp, and Lieutenant Hodgson, of the Cornwallis, as also by Lieutenant Heatley. Instantly rushing down the bank, the four officers plunged into the canal and swam across, thus proving the impracticability of fording it.
The city was now completely in the power of the British; but, in consequence of the bad drainage and the number of dead bodies left in the houses, the cholera broke out, and raged with fearful violence among the troops, even though they were removed to an encampment outside the walls. The number of Tartars who destroyed themselves and families was very great; while much damage was committed by the Chinese plunderers, who flocked in from the country, and pillaged in every direction; yet, although the place had been taken by assault, none of the British troops were allowed to plunder or to commit violence of any description.
These triumphant successes of the British had at length brought the Emperor to reason.
The true state of affairs was represented to him; and, on the 20th of August, his commissioner came on board the Cornwallis, with authority to treat for peace. On the 24th, the visit was returned by Sir Henry Pottinger, Sir Hugh Gough, Sir William Parker, and upwards of a hundred officers.
On the 29th, a treaty of peace, for which the British had been so long contending, was happily signed on board the Cornwallis by Sir Henry Pottinger on the part of Great Britain, and by Ke-Ying, Elepoo, and New-Kien, on the part of the Emperor of China.
While the British fleet remained in the China seas, several gallant acts, well worthy of record also, were performed by some of the officers of the ships.
Although a very imperfect account has been given of the operations in the China seas, enough has been said to show that the Tartar troops were no despicable enemies, while the bluejackets of Old England had ample opportunities of exhibiting their daring courage, as well as that perseverance, discipline, endurance, and humanity, for which they have ever been conspicuous.
A TIMELY RESCUE.
CALLAO, 20TH AUGUST 1844.
Her Majesty's ship Collingwood, Captain R. Smart, was lying off the port of Callao, in China, on the 20th of August 1844. There were at the time two mates on board, Mr Roderick Dew and the Hon. Frederick William Walpole. The latter officer had, it appears, in the afternoon gone on board a cutter-yacht, belonging to a gentleman at Callao. As night came on there was a fresh breeze blowing, which knocked up a short chopping sea. It was also very dark, so that objects at any distance from the ship could scarcely be discerned. The officer of the first watch on that night was Lieutenant Richard R. Quin, and the mate of the watch was Mr R. Dew. In those seas the currents run with great rapidity, and where the ship lay there was a very strong tide. Just as the quartermasters had gone below to call the officers of the middle watch, it being then close upon twelve o'clock, the look-out man forward reported a boat ahead under sail. The lieutenant of the watch, on going to the gangway, observed a small cutter on the starboard bow, which, as well as he could make out through the obscurity, appeared to be hove to. He judged from the position of the cutter that she wished to communicate with the ship, but it was impossible to see what was taking place on board of her. Shortly afterwards a dark object was observed on the water on the starboard bow approaching the ship, but it did not look like a boat. When it was at the distance of seventy or eighty yards, it was hailed by the sentry. An answer was returned, but too indistinctly for the officers aft to understand what was said. The sentry, however, on the forecastle seems to have made out the answer, for he instantly sung out the startling cry of "A man overboard!" No boats were down at the time; and in that hot tideway in another minute the drowning man would have been swept past the ship, and carried in all probability out to sea, where he must have perished. Mr Dew was forward. Whether or not he knew the person who was in peril of his life, I cannot say; probably any human being would equally have claimed his aid; but without a moment's hesitation he jumped fearlessly overboard, and swam to the assistance of the man he supposed was drowning. He struck out bravely, but could not at first succeed in the object for which he was aiming. Meantime the order for lowering a boat was given; but long before she was got into the water the figure of a human being was discerned close to the ship. The sentry again hailed, when a voice, which was recognised as that of Mr Walpole's, answered with a cry for help. Mr Dew cheered him up by letting him know that he was coming to his assistance; and very soon after he got up to him, and found him clinging to a small boat full of water, and, as he was encumbered with a heavy pea-coat, holding on with the greatest difficulty. Mr Dew, who was lightly clad and fresh, enabled him to guide the swamped boat up to the ship, near which the current was of itself carrying her. As they passed near the gangway, a coil of rope was hove to them, which they getting hold of, the boat was hauled alongside, and Mr Walpole and his gallant preserver Mr Dew were brought safely upon deck. Mr Walpole then gave an account of the accident which had befallen him. He had shoved off from the cutter in her dinghy, which was very soon swamped; and as the tide would not allow him to regain the vessel, he was being carried rapidly to destruction, and would, he gratefully asserted, have inevitably perished, had it not been for the heroic conduct of Mr Dew, who, under Providence, was thus the means of preserving his life.
CAPTURE OF A VENEZUELAN SQUADRON—FEBRUARY 1841.
Among the numerous states which have arisen from the fragments of the Spanish empire in South America is that of Venezuela, of which Carthagena on the northern coast, and on the eastern shore at the entrance of the Gulf of Darien, is one of the chief towns. Although the inhabitants have proved themselves on many occasions to be a brave and gallant people, they too frequently, after they drove out the Spaniards, quarrelled among themselves, and at the time of which we write had allowed their navy to fall into a very disorganised condition. It appears that the British merchant brig Jane and Sarah, in company with a sloop called Little William, were lying at Sapote, a harbour near Carthagena, when, on the 6th of February 1841, some Venezuelan ships-of-war, under the orders of General Carmona, attacked the two vessels and plundered them of a large amount of goods and specie. A Colonel Gregg and other passengers, together with their crews, were taken on shore and imprisoned. We are not aware of what crime Colonel Gregg and the other persons were accused. They found means, however, to communicate their condition to the British consul resident at Carthagena, who immediately interested himself on their behalf, and applied to the Government for their release.
His intercession was perfectly unsuccessful. As soon, therefore, as he was able, he sent off a despatch to Lieutenant De Courcy, commanding HM brig Charybdis, stationed on the coast to protect British interests, and which was fortunately then in the neighbourhood. Immediately on receiving the communication, Lieutenant De Courcy came off the port of Carthagena, and despatched a boat with an officer bearing a letter to the commodore of the squadron, then at anchor inside, demanding the release of Colonel Gregg and the other British subjects.
The Venezuelan squadron consisted of a corvette, a brig, and three schooners of war. When the officer got on board the corvette, he found the commodore, who treated him with great insolence, observing that, as the letter was not written in Spanish, he could not understand it, and therefore could not receive it, treating the threatened interference with the greatest contempt. The unfortunate Colonel Gregg, it appears, was shot, immediately after the application for his release had been made; so that probably the commodore was acting under the orders of the Government, who were little aware of the punishment they were about to draw down on the head of the commander of their ships.
As soon as the British officer had returned on board the Charybdis, and reported these circumstances, Lieutenant de Courcy determined to compel attention to his communications. The Charybdis was rated as a six-gun brig, but she carried only one long gun amidships and two carronades, and her full complement of officers and men was but fifty-five. Nothing daunted, however, he boldly entered the port, and was passing up to an anchorage, when, without any provocation, he was fired into by the corvette,—the commodore's vessel,—and the forestay of the Charybdis was shot away.
This was an insult not for an instant to be borne, and, in spite of the small size of his vessel and the apparently overwhelming force opposed to him, he immediately took up a position, and opened his fire on the corvette. His officers and crew enthusiastically supported him, and, working their guns with a will, so rapidly was their fire delivered, and so well was it directed, that in a short time the corvette hauled down her colours and surrendered, when, on taking possession of her, it was found that the commodore and twenty-five of his men had been killed.
In the meantime, a brig-of-war had been coming down to the assistance of the corvette, followed by three schooners; and scarcely had the first been disposed of when she came into action. Unexhausted by their exertions, the gallant crew of the Charybdis fought their guns as before, and in five minutes after they had been brought to bear on the brig, she sank; and in a short time the schooners, after exchanging a few shots, also surrendered.
Thus, in the course of less than an hour, the whole of the squadron was captured or destroyed,—the victor remaining at anchor in their port with his prizes, to await the decision of the admiral on the station as to their disposal. In consequence of Lieutenant De Courcy's capture of the Venezuelan squadron, he at once received his promotion to the rank of commander.
SUPPRESSION OF PIRACY IN BORNEO—RAJAH BROOKE.
Sir James Brooke, Rajah of Sarawak, went out as a cadet to India, where he distinguished himself in the Burmese war, but, being wounded there, he returned home. A warm admirer of Sir Stamford Raffles, by whose enlightened efforts the flourishing city of Singapore was established, and British commerce much increased in the Eastern Archipelago, he took a voyage there to form a personal acquaintance with those interesting islands. He found the people groaning under oppression, piracy unchecked, and commerce undeveloped. He here secretly resolved to devote his life to remedying these evils. On his return home he purchased a yacht, the Royalist, of 142 tons, and with care and kindness, for three years, he trained a crew zealously ready to follow his fortunes.
Having been appointed Governor of Sarawak, 24th September 1841, he set himself actively to work to reform abuses, to improve the cultivation of the country, and to secure peace and happiness to the people. Having arranged the internal affairs of his government, he went back to Singapore for the purpose of asking the aid of some ship-of-war to put down piracy. The Dido, the Honourable Captain Keppel, was accordingly sent to assist him in carrying out his object. Among the many gallant acts performed by that officer and ship's company, we have space to recount only one.
ATTACK ON SAREBUS PIRATES.
The Dido, after leaving Sarawak, proceeded to the island of Burong, which was appointed as the place of rendezvous. The force selected for the expedition consisted of the Dido's pinnace, two cutters, and a gig, with Rajah Brooke's boat, the Jolly Bachelor, carrying a long six-pounder brass gun and thirty of the Dido's men. Several chiefs sent their fleets, so that the native force was considerable, and it caused no little trouble to keep them in order.
On the 11th, as they passed rapidly up the stream, the beating of gongs and the loud yelling warned them that they were approaching their enemies. A sudden turn in the river brought them in front of a steep hill, which rose from the bank. As they hove in sight, several hundred savages rose up, and gave one of their war-yells. "It was the first," says Captain Keppel, "I ever heard. No report from musketry or ordnance could ever make a man's heart feel so small as mine did at that horrid yell. I had no time to think, but took a shot at them with my double-barrel as they rushed down the steep, while we hurried past." As the large boat came up, she gave them a dose from her heavy gun. A barrier of stakes was now encountered, but the gig pushed through, and found herself in the presence of three formidable-looking forts, which immediately opened a heavy fire on her. Luckily the enemy's guns were elevated for the range of the barrier, a few grape-shot only splashing the water round the gig. The boat was drifting fast towards the enemy. The banks of the river were covered with warriors, who yelled and rushed down to secure her. With some difficulty the long gig was got round, and, Rajah Brooke steering, she was paddled up against the stream. During this time Captain Keppel and his coxswain kept up a fire on the embrasures, to prevent the enemy reloading before the pinnace could bring her twelve-pounder carronade to bear. Unfortunately she fell athwart the barrier, and had three men wounded while thus placed. With the aid, however, of some of the native auxiliaries, the rattan lashings which secured the heads of the stakes were cut, and the first cutter got through. The other boats then followed, and kept up a destructive fire on the fort. Mr D'Aeth, who was the first to land, jumped on shore with his crew at the foot of the hill on the top of which the nearest fort stood, and at once rushed for the summit.
This mode of warfare—this dashing at once in the very face of their fort—was so novel and incomprehensible to the enemy, that they fled panic-struck into the jungle, and the leading men of the British could scarcely get a snap-shot at them. That evening the country was illuminated for miles by the burning of the capital, Paddi, and the adjacent villages. The guns in the forts were also taken and the stockades burnt. The banks of the river were here so narrow that it was necessary to keep vigilantly on the alert, as a spear even could easily be thrown across, though for the greater part of the night the burning houses made it light as day. In the evening, Doctors Simpson and Treacher amputated the arm of the captain of the forecastle on board the Dido. In the morning, a fleet of prahus came sweeping towards them, and were only discovered to be friends just in time to save them from a deadly discharge from the six-pounder.
In the evening, a party under Lieutenant Horton, who was accompanied by Rajah Brooke, was sent up the left stream. Captain Keppel was at supper on board the Jolly Bachelor, when the sound of the pinnace's twelve-pounder carronade broke through the stillness of the night. This was responded to by one of those simultaneous war-yells, apparently from every part of the country. Captain Keppel, on this, jumping into his gig, pulled off to the aid of his friends. From the winding of the stream, the yells appeared to come from every direction—sometimes ahead, sometimes astern. Proceeding thus for nearly two hours, a sudden and quick discharge of musketry warned him that he was approaching the scene of action.
He kept his rifle ready for use on his knee; and to give an idea that he was bringing up a strong reinforcement, he ordered the bugler he had with him to strike up "Rory O'More." This was immediately responded to by three British cheers, followed, however, by a deathlike silence, which made him suppose that the enemy were between him and his friends.
Seeing some human forms before him, he hailed, and, receiving no answer, fired, supposing them to be Dyaks, when, to his horror, Lieutenant Horton exclaimed, "We are here, sir." Providentially no one was hurt. The sound of the current had prevented his hail being heard. The party had taken up a very clever position on the top of a bank from which the jungle had been cleared for about thirty yards, and which rose perpendicularly from a little bay just big enough to hold the boats. Here Lieutenant Gunnel was posted, with seven royal marines as a rear-guard. This was an important position, and one of danger, as the jungle itself was alive with the enemy; and although spears were hurled from it continually during the night, no shot was thrown away unless the figure of a pirate could be distinctly seen. The rain fell heavily, the men wore their greatcoats to keep their pieces dry. Often during the long night a musket was raised to the shoulder, and lowered, as the enemy flitted by. Those in the boats below stood facing the opposite bank of the river, with their arms in their hands.
It appears that the enemy had come down in great force to attack the boats from that side; and as the river was there very shallow, and the bottom hard, they could, by wading not more than knee-deep, have approached to within five or six yards of them. But in the first attack they had lost a good many men, and it is supposed that their repeated advances during the night were more to recover their dead and wounded, than to make any attack on the compact little force of British, whose deadly aim and rapid firing had told with such effect, and who certainly were, one and all, prepared to sell their lives as dearly as possible. For some object, the enemy had begun felling some large trees, and their torches showing their position, Mr Partridge kept up a hot fire on them from the pinnace, till a signal rocket fired among them made them take to flight. Two natives and one marine of the British party were wounded; and the latter poor fellow, a gallant young officer named Jenkins, already distinguished in the Chinese war, volunteered to convey in the second gig, with four boys only, down to the Jolly Bachelor. He performed his duty, and was again up with the party before daylight.
At dawn the pirates began assembling in some force; but as the boats advanced up the river towards a spot where they had left their wives and children, they sent in a flag of truce. Several chiefs soon appeared, and the result of the conference was, that they undertook to abandon piracy if their lives were spared. This was agreed to, and they have strictly adhered to their promises.
WARFARE ON THE RIVERS LA PLATA AND PARANA.
BATTLE OF THE PARANA—30TH NOVEMBER 1845.
Juan da Rosas, having made himself master of La Plata, and taken possession of Buenos Ayres, closed the Rio de La Plata against all strangers. This was contrary to a treaty with the English and French; and accordingly an English and French squadron was despatched to open up the channel of commerce, the lighter vessels forming an expedition to force the Parana.
Rear-Admiral Inglefield was commander-in-chief, with his flag on board the Vernon. The French squadron was commanded by Admiral Laine. The command of the English force was given to Captain Charles Hotham, of HM steam-frigate Gorgon; and he had under him, Firebrand, steam-frigate, Captain J Hope; Philomel, surveying brig, Commander BJ Sulivan; Comus, eighteen guns, Acting Commander EA Inglefield; Dolphin, brigantine, Lieutenant R Levinge; Fanny, tender, Lieutenant AC Key.
On the 18th, the expedition arrived within three miles of the very strong defences General Rosas had caused to be thrown up on the right bank of the Parana, on Punta Obligada, to oppose their progress. This spot was about thirty miles below the river San Nicholas, and a hundred from the mouth of the river.
At daylight the following morning the two captains reconnoitred the position of the enemy, and soon discovered that great military skill had been evinced, both in the ground chosen and the plan of defence pursued.
The morning of the 20th broke dark and foggy, but about eight a.m. the weather cleared, and a southerly breeze sprang up. At a quarter to nine, the southern division weighed, and with a light wind stood towards the batteries, followed shortly afterwards by the San Martin and Comus. The Dolphin and Pandour had previously anchored on the north shore. Two of the Dolphin's crew—R Rowe, gunner's mate, and W Ross, caulker's mate—though severely wounded, refused to leave their quarters till the day was won.
At about ten minutes before ten the batteries commenced the action by opening a heavy fire on the Philomel and the southern division, which Commander Sulivan speedily returned with interest. On this occasion the gallant Lieutenant Doyle, of the Philomel, had his arm shot away, and for some time his life was despaired of; but, notwithstanding the agony of his wound, he still showed his interest in the progress of the action. On this the Dolphin weighed, to support the ships in action; but as some of her sails were shot away before she could reach her appointed station, the current drove her astern, and compelled her to anchor. Lieutenant Levinge, however, contrived to place her in a position where her guns did good execution; she, however, was unavoidably exposed all the time to a tremendous shower of shot, shell, grape, and rockets, which came flying over her. During it several of her people were wounded; and Mr G Andrews, clerk in charge, was unhappily killed while assisting the surgeon in his duties to the wounded.
The remaining ships of the north division were gallantly led into action by the brave Captain Trehouart, whose brig succeeded in reaching her appointed station.
A terrific cannonade was now taking place, increasing as the ships, one after the other, got into action. It had, however, unfortunately the effect of making the wind fall light; and, in consequence, the ships of the northern division, having to contend with a current running three miles an hour, were compelled to anchor two cables short of the stations assigned to them. About this time the Spaniards cast loose the fire-vessels, chained two and two together; and as they came drifting down rapidly towards the squadron, the steamers kept moving about to tow them clear, should they drift against any of the ships. Fortunately they did no harm; but, till they had drifted past, the steamers could neither anchor nor open their fire.
At about ten minutes to eleven the action became general; and the effect of the admirable gunnery practice, both of the English and French crews, was soon evident by the unsteadiness with which the enemy continued their fire. No men could, however, have fought more bravely than they did. No sooner had the fire from the British ships swept one set of men from their guns, than they were replaced by others, compelled, if not determined of their own accord, to fight to the last. At length the fire from the batteries began to slacken, some of the guns being dismounted, and the gunners driven from the others; and at four p.m., an occasional shot only being fired, Captain Hotham made the signal for the boats of the squadron, manned and armed, to rendezvous alongside the Gorgon and Firebrand, sending at the same time to the French commander, to propose that the remaining part of their plan, which was that they should land and storm the batteries, should be carried into immediate execution. Captain Hotham landed with 180 bluejackets and 145 marines, when, giving three hearty British cheers, they formed on the beach preparatory to making a rush up the hill. Commander Sulivan, who had under him the skirmishing party and light company of seamen, led the way up the hill; the rest quickly followed, and, as they reached the crest, they were received by a smart fire of musketry. The enemy were, however, quickly driven back before the bayonets of the marines, under the command of Captain F Hurdle, RM; while, at the same time, the light company of seamen, under Lieutenant AC Key, made a dash at the wood, which it was most important to hold. In a few minutes it was carried and taken possession of. Shortly after this the French brigade landed; and, the enemy taking to flight in all directions, little more remained to be done, beyond spiking the guns and destroying the batteries. Captain Hope, after cutting the chain across the river, landed with Captain Hotham, and acted as his aide-de-camp throughout the day.
In consequence of this action, Captain C Hotham was made a Commander of the Order of the Bath; Commander BJ Sulivan was posted; and Lieutenants Inglefield, Levinge, Doyle, and Key were made commanders; R Rowe, gunner's mate, was made a gunner, and W Ross, caulker's mate, was made a warrant officer, both of whom, though severely wounded, had refused to quit their quarters till the battle was over.
Two ships of war being left to prevent the enemy offering any obstruction to the navigation of the Parana, the squadron proceeded to convoy a fleet of merchantmen up the river.
Captain Hope, in a very gallant way, pursued and destroyed the schooner Chacabuco, belonging to the enemy.
ENGAGEMENTS WITH THE BATTERIES OF SAN LORENZO.
After the squadron and convoy had passed up, which they did without the loss of a single vessel or man, Rosas set to work to fortify the cliffs of San Lorenzo. This he did in the most effectual way in his power, by throwing up large works of earth, and in collecting guns from every direction, and also in training his men to the use of them. He had plenty of time to effect these objects, as the squadron was detained some time at Corrientes, while the merchantmen were disposing of their cargoes, and collecting fresh ones to take back in return. May 1846, indeed, had arrived before the different vessels of the convoy had settled all their affairs, and to the number of no were ready to descend the river.
In the meantime, a constant communication had been kept up with the admiral at Monte Video by the men-of-war, which had on each occasion to run the gauntlet of the batteries, and in some instances with severe loss, their commanders at the same time affording a noble display of gallantry, in obeying the orders they had received. Commander Sulivan, among others, made himself very conspicuous by the accurate knowledge he possessed of the river, which enabled him to pilot the ships up without risk.
The Philomel having been despatched from Corrientes to Monte Video, as she approached the batteries of San Lorenzo, Commander Sulivan made preparations to pass them. Knowing that he could pass under the cliffs, he judged it best to hug them as closely as possible, lest any guns should already be mounted. Having made a barricade of hammocks and bags for the helmsman, he sent all hands below to be out of harm's way,—he himself only, and his first lieutenant, remaining on deck to con the brig. Slowly and silently the little vessel drew near the point of danger. A light and favourable air filled her sails, and, almost grazing the perpendicular cliff, she glided slowly by. When the brig was close under the first battery, the enemy opened their fire at her; but so near was she to the cliffs, that they could not sufficiently depress their guns to touch her decks, their lowest shot going through the boom-mainsail, four or five feet above the hammock-netting. They continued their ineffectual fire till the gallant little Philomel was quite clear and out of range.
HM steamer Lizard, HM Tylden, lieutenant in command, which was sent up the Parana on the 21st of April, was not so fortunate in escaping without damage. When about six miles from San Lorenzo, Lieutenant Tylden observed that large batteries had been erected on a commanding point, and that the adjacent coast was lined with artillery and field-pieces. As the Lizard approached the batteries, Lieutenant Tylden ordered three ensigns to be hoisted, as a signal to the enemy that he intended to fight as long as the ship floated. At half-past eleven a.m., the northern batteries opened a heavy fire; and on approaching nearer, the other batteries and artillery commenced a quick and well-directed fire also, which was returned by the Lizard with rockets and her forecastle gun, until the rocket-stand was shot away, and the gun could no longer be elevated sufficiently to bear on the enemy.
When the gallant commander found that the heavy shot, grape, and musketry were riddling his vessel from stem to stern, he ordered the officers and men to go below, with the exception of those absolutely required on deck, in the hopes that they might thus escape injury. Scarcely, however, had they gone below, when two shots entered the gun-room, one of which killed Mr Barnes, clerk in charge, and the other Mr Webb, master's assistant. Two seamen also were killed; and Mr Miller, assistant surgeon, and three men were wounded. As the wind and current were against her, and there was a great deal of water in the hold, she made but slow progress, and it was not till twenty-five minutes past one p.m. that she got out of fire. She received 7 shot between wind and water, besides 9 cannon, 14 grape, and 41 musket-balls in the hull and bulwarks, and 7 cannon and grape in the funnel and steam-pipe; while her boats, mainmast, and rigging were pierced through and through by round shot.
HM steam-sloop Alecto, Commander FW Austen, had previously, early in April, gone up, towing three heavily-laden schooners against a current of three knots and a head wind. On approaching a place called Tonelero, a number of workmen were seen throwing up batteries, clearly for the purpose of annoying the convoy on their way down. Opening her fire on them, she soon put the men to flight. She came up to the batteries on the morning of the 6th, with a strong wind and current against her, and the heavy schooners in tow. She had been accompanied all the way by a squadron of cavalry, who kept pace with her in an easy walk, halting every now and then. At two her crew went to quarters; and at forty minutes past two, having before fired a few shot, her three guns and rockets were got into full play. This was answered by the lower guns on the batteries with round shot until she reached the narrowest part, when the enemy opened with round shot and grape together. Their guns were raking her at this time from head to stern in such a way that none of her guns could be brought effectually to bear on them. In this state she remained for twenty minutes, scarcely going ahead, and receiving the fire of seven eighteen-pounders, several of which were pointed down on her decks. During this time she fired away in return at the enemy, who appeared abreast of her, every charge of grape and canister on board, and was then reduced to round shot. For a few minutes, also, she exchanged with them a sharp fire of musketry. She then went gradually ahead, and as the river widened, and the current decreased in strength, she drew out of shot, having been an hour and fifteen minutes under fire.
Captain Austen, her commander, was the only person hurt, a spent grape-shot having struck him a severe blow on the thigh. Commander Mackinnon, then a lieutenant, who has written a most amusing account of the affair, says "that in going into action the men appeared to take it as a matter of course; but as the plot thickened and they warmed at the work, they tossed the long guns about like playthings, and indeed managed them in an admirable manner." This he attributes to the system taught on board the Excellent.
The crews of the Monte Videan schooners were in a dreadful fright all the time, expecting to be sent to the bottom. On sounding the well on board the Alecto, a considerable quantity of water was found in the hold. When search was made, a shot-hole was discovered forward, between wind and water. This was speedily plugged. Just as she came in sight of the convoy, after her long and tedious voyage, she got on shore, and there remained for some days before she was again floated off.
GALLANT EXPLOIT OF A ROCKET-BATTERY.
Santa Fe is situated on the east bank of the river. It is a place of some size. Built partly at the foot and partly on the side of a lofty hill, surrounded by corrales where thousands of cattle are slaughtered, their hides and their tallow being shipped from the port, while vast flocks of vultures, carrion crows, and other birds of prey hover over them to consume the refuse beef, which there are not human mouths sufficient to eat. As may be supposed, it is far from an agreeable place. The greater part of the English and French men-of-war were lying at Baxadar de Santa Fe, which was the appointed rendezvous of the merchantmen. Here the larger number, having effected their object, collected towards the middle of May. The difficulty was now to get the convoy safely back past the batteries of San Lorenzo. Sir Charles Hotham had got up to settle some diplomatic affairs with the Government of Corrientes, and on the 16th of May he returned in the Alecto.
A plan had occurred to Lieutenant Mackinnon of that ship, by which the passage of the convoy might be facilitated; and, having proposed it to Sir Charles Hotham, he, after a short consideration of its possibility, expressed his willingness to have it carried out, should everything be as supposed.
Lieutenant Mackinnon stated that opposite to the heavy part of the batteries of San Lorenzo he had observed an island covered with long reeds, grass, and small trees, but completely commanded by the guns of the battery. He proposed, the night before the convoy was to fight their way down, to take on shore a certain number of congreve rockets, to land them at the back of the island, and to place them in readiness for use when the time of action should arrive; this could be effected in a few minutes,—then to dig by the side of each rocket a hole large enough to contain the men working them, and to throw the earth up as a kind of barricade before it; at the signal given by the commander-in-chief, when all the enemy's batteries were fully manned, waiting for the convoy, to commence a tremendous fire of rockets, which, being totally unexpected by the enemy, would be proportionally effective and destructive. The chances were that they would return this fire, which the prepared holes would render harmless; and if the rocket-stands or tubes were hit,—very difficult objects,—poles and instruments would be at hand to repair them immediately. Besides, when the vessels were passing, the chances were that, from the height of the cliffs, the rockets would strike the enemy over the mast-heads of the ships, thus causing a double-banked fire of great force.
Sir Charles Hotham having consulted Captain Hope and Captain Trehouart, who highly approved of the plan, provided the ground when reconnoitred was found as suitable as expected, the execution of it was entrusted to Lieutenant Mackinnon, of the Alecto, with Lieutenant Barnard, of the Firebrand, as his second. For several days the preparations were going on; and on the 25th of May, all being ready, the convoy and men-of-war dropped down the river, and anchored about five miles above the batteries of San Lorenzo, while the Alecto, continuing her course, brought up still nearer to them.
At length, on the night of the 1st of June, Sir Charles Hotham and the French captain, with some other officers, reconnoitred the locality. Besides the island we have spoken of, there were several others of nearly the same size, and at the same distance from the western shore; to the eastward of them, again, was an immense archipelago of low swampy islands, covered with brushwood, extending in that direction six or eight miles between them and the main shore of Entre Rios.
There was just sufficient light for the reconnoitring party to see their way as they steered through the intricate passages to the east of the large islands. With muffled oars and in dead silence they pulled on till they reached the island they wished to examine; and as they shoved the boat's bow into the mud, a loud rustling was heard in the brushwood, and a wild beast of some sort, which they took for a tiger, rushed towards them. They dared not fire, of course, and without allowing a moment's hesitation to interfere with the service they were upon, proceeded to land according to seniority. As the first officers leaped on shore, sword in hand, the supposed tiger, with a loud snort, jumped into the river, proving to be a harmless capybara, or water-hog, peculiar to the large rivers of South America.
They now advanced cautiously, among the reeds and brushwood, across the island, when, to their great satisfaction, they found that the river itself had performed the very work required, by throwing up, when swelled by the rains, an embankment many feet high along the entire length of the island, so as completely to screen them from the enemy's batteries,—a work, indeed, which many hundred men could not so well have executed in a week. Behind this the land rising, there was consequently a large natural trench; here the rockets might be placed in comparative safety. The only difficulty would be to get the men into the trench and to retire safely after the ammunition was expended, and also to avoid any suspicion on the enemy's part of the proximity of such a foe. The party then returned to the ship, and completed the necessary preparations.
The next night the rocket-party, in the Alecto's paddle-box boat, took their departure under the command of Lieutenant Mackinnon. He was accompanied by his second in command, Lieutenant Barnard, of the Marine Artillery, by Mr Hamm, the boatswain of the Alecto, and Mr Baker, the pilot, with twelve artillerymen and eleven seamen. Silent as the grave, they pulled behind the islands, and without accident reached the appointed spot. They first set to work to get the rocket-stands and rockets up to the embankment; and very fatiguing work it was to the men, for they had to carry them through a swamp, into which they sank up to their knees, and then a considerable distance over rough and uneven ground, among thick reeds and brushwood. A glass of grog, with some pork and biscuits, set them to rights again; and without delay they planted the rocket-stands, pointing them so that the rockets might just clear the top of the batteries. Fortunately, a few yards beyond the little bay where the boat had been lying all night, a large willow tree had fallen into the river, of her exact length, and beyond that was a point of land running out likewise; between these she was hauled in. Branches of willow were stuck in all round and inside the boat, which most effectually concealed her,—so much so, that when Lieutenant Baker arrived the next night at the spot, he was observed standing up in the stern-sheets of the gig, looking wistfully towards the sandy beach, without seeing anything of the boat, though the starboard bow-oar of his gig splashed the water in Lieutenant Mackinnon's face. The latter officer whistled; upon which Lieutenant Baker pulled in, and began conversing.
All this time Lieutenant Mackinnon was standing with one leg on the gunwale of the boat and the other on land, the boat's gunwale being flush with it; it appeared, therefore, as if he was partly standing on a tree in the water, and so completely deceived Lieutenant Baker that he exclaimed, "But where on earth have you put the boat to?" The low laugh from the men, who were hid under a tarpaulin, revealed where she was. When they were moving about in daylight, they were obliged to crouch down like a herd of kangaroos, creeping behind the bushes and among the long grass, so as not to be seen by the enemy, to whom the whole island was then exposed to view. Had the Spaniards found out that they were there, of course they would have sent boats across to attack them, and would have fired on them from the forts; and though no doubt the bluejackets would have made a good fight of it with their rockets, the plan for preserving the fleet must have failed entirely.
The first day all hands were roused from their sleep in the boat and mustered at two p.m.; their arms being examined, they were ordered to remain at the boat in readiness for any emergency, while the officers and two artillerymen relieved the look-out at the battery. Twenty-eight embrasures, with heavy guns in them, were counted in the enemy's forts; and so close were the party, that with pocket-telescopes they could clearly distinguish the faces of the people, and observed General Moncellia, the brother-in-law of Rosas, drive up in his carriage with four horses, and, dismounting, inspect the troops and guns. Little did he suspect the foe he had near him. Having remained some time, the officers crawled back to the boats to take some rest, but they were far too anxious to sleep long; and the next night was passed, as before, in paying constant visits to the rocket-battery. Once they were nearly discovered, by one of the men incautiously exposing himself. As Lieutenant Mackinnon was watching the battery, he observed the sentry suddenly stop, and eye the spot narrowly. "Hold fast," he whispered to the man; "don't move, as you value your life." The man obeyed, and, to the lieutenant's infinite relief, he at last saw the sentry move on.
Daybreak of the 4th came at length; the wind blew fairly down the stream, and everyone was on the tiptoe of expectation, listening for the report of two guns, the preconcerted signal of the fleet being about to sail. It was a time of the greatest anxiety, for any moment, if discovered, the twenty-eight pieces of ordnance might have commenced playing on them, and blown them all to atoms; but fortunately the eyes of the enemy were turned up the stream, towards the point from whence the fleet was expected to appear. Slowly the hours seemed to pass, till at length, at nine a.m., the welcome sound of the two guns came booming along the water; and immediately the men proceeded from the boat to the rocket-stands, creeping along like a band of North American Indians on a war expedition to surprise a sleeping foe.
A long pole, with the British flag made fast to it, had been prepared, on the elevation of which the first discharge of rockets was to take place. The squadron of men-of-war and merchantmen now approached, the Gorgon, Fulton, and Alecto leading. Majestically they glided on till they came within range of the batteries, at which they commenced firing their shells with admirable precision. The long and anxious moment at length arrived for the discharge of the rockets. Lieutenant Mackinnon waved his cap aloft; at this signal Lieutenant Barnard planted the British flag under the nose of the enemy, and, taking off his cap, made them a low bow.
Up went a flight of rockets; two of them flew into the very centre of the most crowded part of the batteries, completely clearing them of their defenders, two went over their heads, and two stuck in the cliffs beneath them. The elevation of the four stands which were wrongly pointed being rectified, they were once more charged; and as soon as the enemy had returned to their guns, and were looking along the sights to take aim at the steamers, Lieutenant Mackinnon, jumping up on the embankment, thoughtless of how he was exposing himself, sang out, "Pepper, lads! pepper, lads! pepper, pepper, pepper!" and pepper away the men did with a vengeance. The crash was tremendous.
The enemy, with dismay, deserted their guns; and terrific must have been the slaughter among them, for in one minute, forty rockets, admirably directed, were poured in among them. To add to their confusion, a rocket had penetrated an ammunition cart, which, blowing up with a prodigious sound, filled the air with smoke. At the same time the dry grass about the seamen catching fire, they were surrounded by so dense an atmosphere that it was impossible for some moments to see what was going forward. The wind, however, soon blowing aside the murky veil, the fleet of merchantmen were seen passing quickly down, while the steamers took up their position directly under the batteries.
On this up went another shower of rockets, which continued without cessation, filling the air with long delicate threads of smoke, under which the vessels passed in safety, the effect being most beautiful. These events occupied some time; and as soon as the sternmost ships of the squadron were well out of range of shot, the Gorgon hoisted the signal for their return. The enemy's guns, as soon as they had no floating opponents directly in front, directed their fire at the island, but, misled by the flagstaff, peppered away at that, to the great delight of the rocket-party, who were safe behind the bank; however, the enemy discovered their mistake, and turned their guns in the proper direction of the rocket-battery. The shot fell harmless, as they either stuck in the bank or passed over the men's heads like cricket balls.
Now and then a single rocket was sent into some of the enemy's embrasures, which accelerated a return of shot. When the little Dolphin came down, leading the convoy, at the order, "Cover the Dolphin," another volley and running fire burst forth, accompanied with loud cheers for the gallant little vessel, which passed down with slight damage.
Preparations were made for decamping, and, as a last salute, the flagstaff was waved in the face of the enemy, which appeared to annoy them much, as a heavy fire was drawn towards the retreating party; but, as they spread out wide apart, the shot passed through without touching a single man or article belonging to them. The boat was soon reached, the willows cast off, and all hands got on board, when "Out oars!" was the word, and away they pulled down the stream to join the fleet.
After these events, the British and French squadron relieved Monte Video from an attack made on it by some of the allies of Rosas, and for some time their marines and seamen occupied it, and assisted in placing it in a better position of defence.
EXPEDITION TO SAN JUAN DE NICARAGUA.
CAPTURE OF FORT SERAPAQUI—21ST FEBRUARY 1848.
The state of Nicaragua will be found towards the southern portion of that narrow neck of land which joins the two continents of North and South America. A variety of outrages and insults having been offered to British subjects,—two individuals especially having been carried off from San Juan by Colonel Salas, of the Nicaraguan army,—Mr Walker, Her Majesty's Consul-General and Agent stationed at Bluefields, requested Admiral Austen, the Commander-in-chief on the West India station, to send some ships-of-war to support and protect British interests in that part of the world.
In consequence of this request, the admiral despatched HMS Alarm, Captain Granville G. Loch, and HMS Vixen, Commander Ryder, to Bluefields. They reached the mouth of the river the following day, where the ships came to an anchor. The nearest Nicaraguan settlement was at Serapaqui, about thirty miles up the river, but this, owing to the strength of the current and various rapids, was generally a four days' journey by boats. It was understood that Colonel Salas was stationed at this fort with a considerable body of troops. Nothing daunted by this, by the known strength of the fort, or by the difficulty of approaching it on account of the rapidity of the current of the river which there flows by the place, Captain Loch resolved to insist on Colonel Salas making all the reparation in his power, or, in the event of his refusal, to compel him to do so by force.
The fort of Serapaqui was situated on a point projecting into the river very abruptly, and rising to the height of fifty feet. It was protected in the rear by a dense forest, and in the front by an abattis formed of large trees felled, with their heads and branches reaching into the river. The defences of the fort consisted of six angular stockaded entrenchments, formed of very tough timber, eight feet high and four feet thick, one side of each stockade looking across the river, and the other down the reach. The principal stockade commanded the only landing-place, on which also a gun was at the time mounted. The fort was only to be approached by heading a rapid current of nearly five knots an hour, in order to pass the fort and descend towards the landing-place, which was above the stockaded batteries, and excessively steep and narrow. The fort is situated at the head of a straight reach about a mile and a half long, the woods on either side affording an almost impenetrable shelter to a concealed foe.
As soon as the ships anchored, the expedition, consisting of 260 officers and men, left their sides in twelve boats.
The representations as to the strength of the current were found to be in no way exaggerated; but, with a gallantry, zeal, and perseverance never surpassed, Captain Loch and his brave followers pulled on hour after hour against the stream. Often they had to pass over downfalls and rapids, when it was only by the greatest exertions that the heavy boats could in any way be forced along. In this service, Lieutenant Scott, first of the Vixen, showed the most praiseworthy zeal and gallantry.
At night they rested, but at an early hour again each morning they recommenced their exertions, and at length, after a most fatiguing pull of seventy-two hours, they anchored a short distance below the fort. Early on the morning of the 12th of February the expedition got under weigh, and proceeded up towards the fort. Captain Loch and Commander Ryder went on ahead in their gigs, in order to communicate with Colonel Salas, and to state the object of Her Majesty's forces being in the river.
No sooner, however, were they seen from the fort than they were fired at by two guns, and directly afterwards by musketry from both sides of the river. As this act effectually prevented any peaceable arrangements, Captain Loch immediately ordered up the boats for the purpose of storming the fort. The two gigs then took the lead, followed pretty closely by some of the lighter-pulling boats. On they went, pulling against the rapid current, which, as they advanced, grew still stronger, and exposed all the time to a hot fire of musketry from men concealed behind both banks of the river, so that there was little use even in attempting to return it.
From this severe fire several men were wounded, and one officer very severely,—Mr R. Turner, midshipman,—and two killed. The boats were also almost riddled with shot, and nearly half the oars were broken; it seems, indeed, surprising, considering also their crowded state, with the mill-stream rate of the current, that a greater number of casualties did not occur. In this exposed position, often appearing to be quite stationary, they had to pull one hour and forty minutes before they were enabled to pass the batteries sufficiently high to drop down to the landing-place previously mentioned.
By this time nearly all the boats were up, and Captain Loch gave the order to land, he himself leading the way. The boats' crews, with a British cheer, leaped on shore, and gallantly charged the enemy. The Nicaraguans withstood them for some time, but the cutlass and pistol soon did their work; and in ten minutes they had taken to flight, and the British flag was hoisted on the fort. One of the first on shore was a seaman of the Vixen (Denis Burke, stoker), who quickly fought his way up to the enemy's colours, and captured them.
As the enemy fled, the British pursued them into the thick woods; but after they had been chased for about thirty minutes, Captain Loch, considering that they had been sufficiently punished, ordered the recall to be sounded. The English then destroyed the stockades, spiked the guns, broke the trunnions, and threw them, together with all the muskets and ammunition left behind, into the river. The force was next embarked, when the whole of the defences were set on fire.
From the dangers to which the party were exposed, and the difficulties they overcame, this affair may well be considered as one of the most gallant among those we have to record.
THE DESTRUCTION OF LAGOS—26TH DECEMBER 1851.
The town of Lagos, built at the mouth of the river Ogun, which debouches in the Bight of Benin, is a healthy place, and well situated for trade. It is the seaport also of Abbeokuta, a town of considerable dimensions, sixty miles inland from it, and which it is hoped will become a very important place, now that Lagos is open for legal commerce.
The more immediate cause of the attack on Lagos was in consequence of an application made for assistance by Akitoye, the lawful chief of Lagos, to Mr Beecroft, the British consul for the Bight of Benin, residing at Fernando Po.
Akitoye, the younger of two brothers, had, by his father's will, succeeded as king of Lagos. The elder, Kosoko, had been, for misbehaviour, banished. After the death of the old king, Akitoye recalled Kosoko, and took him into favour; but Kosoko, bribing the army, usurped the government, and drove Akitoye to take refuge at Badagry. On this, Kosoko prepared to attack Badagry, and, had he been successful, would doubtlessly, as he intended, have attacked Abbeokuta also, and given a severe blow to the advancement of Christianity and civilisation in Africa. On this account Mr Beecroft felt it his duty to apply to the senior officer on the coast for a force to destroy Lagos, his movements being hurried by hearing that the king of Dahomey had sent 1000 picked troops for its support.
The commodore, however, sent only the Bloodhound and a few boats; and Lagos being really a strong place, they were compelled to retire with the loss of several men.
The first expedition against Lagos having failed solely from want of sufficient force to keep possession of the town, Commodore Bruce sent one of ample strength, and thoroughly organised, to drive the slave-dealing chief Kosoko from his stronghold.
The squadron appeared off Lagos by the 24th December. The boats of the Sampson and Bloodhound were for some time employed in ascertaining the position of the enemy's fortifications. The Bloodhound and Teazer at this time got on shore, and while they were being hove off, their people were exposed to a very hot fire from the negroes, who soon proved that they were no contemptible antagonists.
As the fire from jingalls, petrals, and muskets continued from the ditch and embankment abreast of the ship, and as the enemy were observed trying to bring their guns into position, at half-past two, Lieutenant Thomas Saumarez, with the boats of the Sampson, accompanied by Lieutenant E. McArthur, R.M.A., in command of the Marine Artillery, was despatched to attempt a landing and to spike the guns. They did all that men could do; but it was found impossible to make their way through the showers of musketry opened against them. Mr Richards, a gallant young midshipman, was mortally wounded, and ten men were severely wounded; while so hot was the fire, that there seemed every prospect of the whole party being cut off. Still they bravely persevered. While undaunted efforts were being made to get on shore, Mr William J. Stivey, carpenter of the Sampson, setting a noble example, which others followed, leaped on shore, and, axe in hand, hewed manfully away at the stakes to make a passage for the boats to go through them.
All, however, was in vain; their numbers were thinning rapidly; and at length Lieutenant Saumarez himself, being hit in three places, reluctantly, but very properly, gave the signal for return. The remainder of the day was spent in throwing shot and shell, as circumstances required, so as to prevent any guns being moved against the steamer. The nearest shot passed about ten yards astern of her.
The Teazer still continuing on shore, it became evident that before the tide rose the enemy would destroy her, unless the guns which were annoying her were captured. It was resolved, therefore, at once to effect this.