The Remembrancer/Particulars of the engagement between the French frigate La Belle-Poule, and an English frigate
The Remembrancer; or, Impartial Repository of Public Events For the Year 1778 (London, Printed for J. Almon, opposite Burlington House, Piccadilly, 1778)
From the Supplement to the Gazette of France, June 26.
Particulars of the engagement between the French frigate La Belle-Poule, and an English frigate.
The 17th of this month, at ten o'clock in the morning, Lieutenant Chadeau de la Clocheterie, commanding the King’s frigate la Belle Poule, of 26 guns, twelve pounders, discovered from the top of the masts several ships; at half past ten, he began to suspect they might be an English squadron; a few minutes after, he reckoned twenty men of war, fourteen of which at least appeared to him to be ships of the line; the squadron was then at four leagues distance from the French frigate. The Sieur de la Clocheterie soon perceived that a frigate and a sloop gained upon them. The latter, carrying ten six-pounders, came up with the Belle Poule, and hailed her in English. The Sieur de la Clocheterie answered, bidding him speak French: then the sloop joined her frigate.
At half past six, the English frigate came up within musket shot of the Belle Poule, to leeward, the squadron being still at the same distance.
The Sieur de la Clocheterie manœuvered to avoid the disadvantageous position he was in. His manœuvre, executed with precision and celerity, soon put the two frigates across each other, and within pistol shot. In this position, the English frigate hailed her in English; he answered he did not understand; she then hailed him in French, and said he must come to her Admiral; the Sieur de la Clocheterie answered, that his mission did not permit him to take that route. The English frigate insisted, and repeated that he must come to the Admiral; the French Captain assured him he would do no such thing: then the English frigate poured a broadside into him, and the engagement began at a time when there was scarce any wind to govern the ship. The action lasted from half past six in the evening, till half past eleven, still within pistol shot. It is to be presumed that the English frigate, which is of 28 six pounders, was spent, since at that epocha she availed herself of a breeze that sprung up, and returned to her squadron: in that position she received upwards of fifty cannon shot from the French frigate, without returning one.
It was impossible for the French frigate to pursue her; that route would have carried her amidst the English fleet. The Sieur de la Clocheterie resolved to run a-ground, and at half past twelve at night he anchored among the rocks, near Plouascat, where, the 18th, the frigate was observed, and watched by two English ships; but the rocks which surrounded him, seemed to shelter him from any insult.
The action has been most bloody. On the 18th the exact number of the dead was not yet known; but was estimated at 40 at least. The Sieur Green de Saint Marsault, Lieutenant, and second in command, was killed. The Sieur de la Roche de Kerandraon, Ensign, having had his arm broke, after fighting two hours, had it set, and returned to his post, which he kept during the three remaining hours that the action lasted. The next day he was obliged to suffer an amputation. The Sieur Bouvet, an auxiliary officer, was grievously wounded, but would not leave the deck to be dressed. The Sieur de la Clocheterie had two violent bruises, one in the thigh, and the other in the head. The number of the wounded amounts in all to 57.
The action was kept up with equal fire, and with the same spirit, till the moment when the English frigate abandoned the combat. The Chevalier de Capellis commanded the [p. 232] battery, and was seconded by the Sieurs Damard and Sbirre, auxiliary officers, and the Sieur de Basterot, and Chevalier de la Galernerie, marine guards. The crew, animated by the example of the officers, gave the greatest proofs of bravery and presence of mind.
The Sieur de Sartine, Minister and Secretary of State for the marine department, having given the King an account of the engagement of the frigate la Belle Poule, his Majesty has granted to the Sieur de la Clocheterie, who commanded her, a brevet of Captain; to the Sieur de la Roche Kerandraon, Ensign, the Cross of St. Louis, and a pension; to the Sieur Bouvet, a brevet of Lieutenant of frigate; and has given marks of his satisfaction to all the officers and marine guards.
His Majesty has likewise granted a pension on the funds of the invalids of the marine, to Mademoiselle Green de Saint Marsault, sister to the officer of that name, who was killed in the engagement. He has moreover provided for the widows and children of the marine officers killed in the action; and has granted to the wounded men, gratuities proportioned to their wounds, as also a general benefaction to all the crew, which the widows of the killed will be admitted to partake of.
London, July 6.
A correspondent says, that the French King seems determined to endeavour to recover the honour of his flag, and to dispute with us the sovereignty of the sea. After a particular account of the engagement between the Arethusa and Belle Poule, the French Gazette goes into the detail of the honours and rewards conferred on the several officers and the crew of the French frigate. "Sa Majesté a accordé au Sieur de la Clocheterie, qui la commandoit, le Brevet de Capitaine de Vaisseau; au Sieur de la Roche-Kerandraon, Enseigne de Vaisseau, la Croix de Saint Louis, & une pension; au Sieur Bouvet, le Brevet de Lieutenant de fregate en pied, & elle a donné des temoignages de satisfaction à tous les officiers & gardes de la marine.
"Sa Majesté a pareillement accordé une pension sur les fonds des invalides de la marine à la Demoiselle Green de Saint-Marsault, Sœur de l’officier de ce nom qui a été tué dans le combat. Elle a pourvu d’ailleurs au sort des veuves & des enfans des officiers-mariniers & Matelots tués dans l’action, & elle a accordé aux blessés des gratifications proportionnées à leurs blessures, ainsi qu’une gratification générale à tout l’équipage, au partage de laquelle les veuves des morts seront admises."
These noble acts of public gratitude to distinguish naval valour, the London Gazette does not announce to the nation to have been imitated by the King of England, at the commencement of a war, to at least equal English valour. No honours are conferred on the brave Captain Marshal, the commander of the Arethusa, nor on any of his officers. No gratifications of any kind are given to the surviving valiant crew; no pensions settled on their widows or orphans. No mark of the private satisfaction of the sovereign to a meritorious officer from a prince, who has a pension of 900,000l. a year from the nation, and an income of above a million, on the eve of a war with the ancient enemy of this kingdom, to encourage and animate a fleet, on which our domestic tranquility and security entirely depend.
It is observed by a correspondent, that France and England have in the compass of a century had two sovereigns, who were their own ministers. After the death of Cardinal Mazarin, Louis XIV governed without any Prime Minister. George III has been his own minister. The event was prosperous to France, most [p. 233] disgraceful to England. Louis XIV increased his dominions with the important acquisitions of Alsace, Franche Comté, the three considerable Bishopricks of Mentz, Verdun, and Toul, French Flanders, the remainder of Artois, the Nivernois, &c. &c. &c. George III has already lost the Colonies of New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island, and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New-York, New-Jersey, Pennsylvania, the Counties of New-Castle, Kent, and Sussex on Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia, but the same Minister still continues in England.