Monday, April 11, 2011

Battle of Basque Roads

The Battle of Basque Roads took place this day, April 11, in the year 1809.  Basque Roads is a bay on the west coast of France where the British and French were facing off during the Napoleonic Wars.  The British under Admiral James Gambier and Captain Thomas Cochrane won this affair.  A precurser to the battle involved a number of French ships that Gambier chased into the Basque Roads, after they escaped from Brest.  This event was reported in The Edinburgh Annual Register (ed. Walter Scott) dated March 9, 1809.  It was Captain Cochrane that successfully led the attack on the ships once in Basque Roads.

'ESCAPE OF A SQUADRON FROM BREST, INTO BASQUE ROADS.—Intelligence has been received at the Admiralty, of a squadron of the enemy's ships having lately eluded the vigilance of our blockading force, and got out of Brest. The force which thus escaped is understood to have consisted of eight sail. Their object is said to have been to surprise our small squadron off Rochefort, and then to proceed to the West Indies. The enemy has along his coast signal stations, or telegraphs, by which intelligence is quickly communicated from north to south; and it is believed that they had been informed in this manner that our small squadron off Rochefort was in the habit of lying at anchor with its sails down. Accordingly, when our fleet was blown off Brest, they slipped out, and ran directly for Rochefort. Meanwhile the Naiad, our look-out frigate off Rochefort, descrying the enemy, made the signal to Admiral Stopford, who instantly shifted his station into another part of the bay. The enemy, as soon as they arrived off Rochefort, ran for the position in which their telegraph had taught them to expect our squadron; and not finding it there, conceived it had quitted its station. They then put into Basque Roads, between Rochefort and Rochelle. The promptitude with which our naval affairs are administered soon reinforced Admiral Stopford with three more sail of the line ; and these heroes, who came with eight sail of the line to attack four, did not venture out with eleven sail of the line, because Admiral Stopford was before Rochefort with seven. Lord Gambier had dispatched Admiral Duckworth after the enemy. His lordship is arrived at Plymouth.




Enemy's force in Basque Roads ---


One 3-decker, ten 2-deckers, one 50 gun ship, and four frigates.


At Sable D'Olonne—Three frigates.


British force with Admiral Stopford—Three sail of the line, four frigates, and one brig.


With Captain Beresford, and nearly in sight of Admiral Stopford— Four sail of the line and one frigate.


It is expected that an attempt will be made to destroy these ships in Basque Roads. All the line of battle ships in the Downs were ordered on Monday to sail with all possible expedition to Plymouth ; and an order was received at Plymouth on Saturday, for all the line of battle skips there to put to sea immediately. The Black Joke lugger, Parthian, and Weazle schooner, sailed lately from Plymouth, to warn all the vessels they might meet with of the sailing of the above squadron from, Brest. They may now return quietly into port.'

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