Royal Naval Biography/Coode, John
JOHN COODE, Esq.
[Post-Captain of 1810.]
A Companion of the Most Honorable Military Order of the Bath; Knight Commander of the Royal Neapolitan Order of St Ferdinand, and of Merit; and a Knight of the Order of Wilhelm, of the Netherlands.
This officer was made a Lieutenant, Sept. 5, 1799; and advanced to the rank of Commander, in 1802. His post commission bears date, Oct. 21, 1810.
At the commencement of 1814, Captain Coode commanded the Porcupine, a 22-gun ship bearing the flag of Rear-Admiral, (now Sir Charles V.) Penrose, who was then employed in co-operation with the victorious armies of Great Britain, Spain, and Portugal; and whose eminent services in the neighbourhood of Bayonne and Bourdeaux, we shall take this opportunity of relating:– the means by which we are enabled to do so have been obtained from various authentic sources, since the publication of our first volume.
It may not be amiss to state that, on the 10th Feb. 1814, the present Dauphin of France, under the auspices of Lord Wellington, then at St. Jean de Luz, issued a proclamation In the name of Louis XVIII., addressed to him (the Duc d’Angouléme), and empowering him, with the usual formalities, to represent his uncle till the arrival of the latter in France, and authorizing to employ himself in the re-establishment of good order in the different provinces into which he might be able to penetrate, as well as in the adjacent provinces. To this proclamation was added a brief but animated address from the Dauphin himself, to the French nation.
A few days after the promulgation of the above, the Marquis of Wellington removed his head quarters from St. Jean de Luz, and the combined armies began to advance through a country full of strong posts, destitute of good roads, intersected by rapid streams, and in the face of a brave, vigilant, and active enemy. A great deal of fighting ensued, but always to the advantage of the allies, who at length drove the French across the Gave d’Oléron, and established themselves on the banks of that rivulet. In consequence of these movements. Marshal Soult’s line of defence before Bayonne was broken in no less than three points; his entrenched camp, near St. Jean Pied de Pont, was abandoned; and he was obliged to establish himself on the heights above Orthes.
It formed a prominent part in Lord Wellington’s stupendous plan of operations, to take possession of both banks of the Adour, as well below as above Bayonne, and to place that city in a state of blockade, at the very moment when the army which covered it should be driven from its position. To render his lordship’s scheme effectual, it was necessary to push a detachment of troops, artillery, &c. across the river in readiness to protect the formation of a bridge, to be composed of small coasting vessels, decked boats, cables, and planks, which Rear-Admiral Penrose had been for some time indefatigably employed in collecting and preparing, at Porto de Socca, and in the bay of St. Jean de Luz.
Accordingly on the 23d Feb., 600 infantry and a small detachment of the rocket brigade, under the command of Major-General Stopford, were conveyed across in pontoons, and landed about two miles below Boucaut, a village situated rather more than midway from the citadel of Bayonne to the confluence of the Adour with the ocean. The strength of the tides, however, rendered it impossible to do more without the aid of the navy; and unfortunately Rear-Admiral Penrose, who had sailed with his flotilla the evening before, was then becalmed to the westward of Fontarabia.
At day-break on the 24th, the Porcupine with her charge arrived off the bar of the Adour, where Rear-Admiral Penrose was joined by Lieutenant John Debenham, an active and zealous agent of transports, who had come in a boat from Porto de Socca, in consequence of a message from Sir John Hope, received at a late hour the preceding night, requesting him to bring all the assistance he could, as there appeared no hope of the flotilla being able to stem the adverse current, and it had been found impracticable to get a raft across the rapid Adour. This officer informed the Rear-Admiral of the progress already made by the left division of the army, and that Major-General Stopford had been attacked by an enemy of far superior force, whose attempt to dislodge his little corps it was feared would be repeated. As the passage of the bar was an operation of great difficulty and danger, we shall here enter into a minute description thereof.
The Adour, for about two miles from its union with the sea, has to force its way through a sandy plain; the consequence of which is, a vast accumulation of sand in that part of the ocean immediately contiguous to the shore, forming a bar of not less than a mile in breadth, on which at low water there is seldom more than two feet, and at the highest tide rarely above 15. Leading marks there are none, nor can there be any permanently established; for every gale, when the wind does not blow off the land, the sand changes its position: heavy rain in the interior always produces a similar effect, by causing violent freshes to come down from the mountains; in short, no man, however perfect his knowledge of the passage may be one day, can tell how or where it will be the next. The tides run with such rapidity, between the bar and Boucaut, a distance of about three miles, that even a 6-oared gig can scarcely make way against them: this has been partly caused by the erection of a stone wall, about fifteen feet wide, on each bank of the river, for the purpose of guiding the current: on these walls strong posts are placed at intervals, to which the mooring hawsers of vessels waiting the change of the tide, and the warps of others going against the stream, are made fast. The wall on the Boucaut side is extended farther up the river than that on the other, but they both commence at about a mile from the bar.
The spring tides had not yet commenced, and the surf on the bar was very high, when Rear-Admiral Penrose arrived off the Adour; but as the military operations could not be delayed, he determined to force his way, at all hazards, as soon as the increasing strength of the breeze then blowing would enable him to make the attempt: his mortification at having been drifted, by a very strong current, to the westward, it is easy to conjecture.
The whole of the vessels destined to enter the Adour were placed under the command of Captain Dowell O’Reilly, of the Lyra brig, who proceeded in a Spanish-built boat, selected as the safest for the service he was going upon, taking with him the principal pilot, the boats of the British squadron, and two flats, to endeavour to find a passage through the surf: a few troops were at that time seen crossing over to the French side of the river, but evidently much in want of the boats intended for their assistance. All Captain O’Reilly’s attempts, however, proved ineffectual, as the surf was every where beating in an equally dreadful manner.
While thus employed, Captain O’Reilly was hailed and passed by Lieutenant Debenham, who, after breakfasting with Rear-Admiral Penrose, had gone up to the Porcupine’s main-top-mast-head, and was induced, from the observations he made there, to believe that he had descried a place where the passage might be attempted with greater hopes of success than at any other.
Lieutenant Debenham’s boat was a 6-oared gig, with five spare men in her to take alternate spells at the oars, the distance of Porto de Socca from the mouth of the Adour being nearly 16 miles:– her lug fore-sail and mizen were at this time set, and her crew ready to give way the moment she arrived at the edge of the surf; – the extra hands sitting down in the bottom of the boat, at an equal distance from her stem and stern. When advanced so far that the surf broke just without her, the Lieutenant exclaimed “hurrah my boys, strike out;” they did so, and instantly she seemed to fly amidst the deafening sound of breakers, not less than 20 feet in perpendicular height; Lieutenant Debenham steering with one hand, and cheering his men, by waving an old cocked hat, with the other, at the same time telling them to trust in God, and the Almighty would protect them. After proceeding in this manner for at least a mile, the bowmen suddenly halloed out, “we are close to the beach. Sir!” and Lieutenant Debenham, with great presence of mind, immediately directed the rowers to be ready to unship their oars, to list the boat well to leeward, and to gather aft the fore sheet, himself attending to the mizen. In a moment afterwards he gave the expected orders, and strictly charged the men not to move from their respective thwarts – the boat was instantly thrown upon a spit of sand, and the receding wave left her perfectly dry; but still the men were ordered to keep their seats, nor were they allowed to stir from them until three or four successive waves had washed her well up upon the beach; the sails keeping her steady and forcing her broadside on as the sea lifted her.
Seeing Lieutenant Debenham dash into the tremendous surf, and not choosing to be out-done in noble daring by an inferior officer. Captain O’Reilly had instantly followed him; but his boat, although apparently much better adapted for such an undertaking, was unfortunately upset, and five of her crew perished: he and the other survivors were all more or less bruised; and it is nearly certain that the whole would have been drowned, had not Lieutenant Debenham and the transports’ people ran into the surf and dragged them out at the risk of their own lives. All the other boats returned on board their respective vessels, to wait the result of the next tide; it being scarcely possible that one in fifty could then have escaped a similar fate.
The spit of sand upon which Lieutenant Debenham’s boat was thrown, proved to be the extreme point of the right bank of the Adour; to which spot many soldiers hastened upon witnessing his most miraculous escape. The gig was very soon dragged over it, and launched into the river, across which he immediately rowed to where a number of military officers were assembled, one of whom was Sir John Hope, who publicly congratulated him, and returned thanks for his promptitude and highly meritorious exertions.
It was now about 10 A.M.:– the gig instantly began to carry over soldiers, and Lieutenant Debenham commenced the construction of a large raft, which, when completed, proved very serviceable to the army, it being capable of conveying 16 dragoons, with their horses, at a time. By means of this raft, field pieces, waggons, forge carts, and in short every thing that was brought to him, were transported across, during the time that elapsed before the bridge could be rendered passable for any of those heavy articles. During the progress of the bridge. Lieutenant Debenham made from 12 to 14 trips daily; and he subsequently conducted to the French side of the river the battering train of the invaders, on a larger raft, constructed by Major Todd of the staff corps. Our readers will pardon this digression; – we shall now return to the flotilla.
Finding it impossible to discover the passage into the Adour. Rear-Admiral Penrose sent his other Spanish pilot ashore, to the S.W. of the bar, with directions to walk from thence to the bank of the river, in order to make a concerted signal from within the breakers, to guide the vessels through the safest part. From the offing there appeared no interval, a long and heavy line of surf alone presenting itself. Flag-Lieutenant Edward Collins was at the same time despatched overland, to communicate with the army; and Lieutenant George Cheyne, of the Woodlark brig, who had been received as a volunteer on board the Porcupine, and whom the Rear-Admiral then believed, and afterwards knew to be an officer of great ability and the most abundant resources, was sent to visit all the foreign vessels which had been purchased or hired for this highly important service, to stimulate their crews by promising pecuniary rewards to the first, second, third, &c. that should pass the bar: and to select as a pilot whichever master he found to possess better nerve than the others:– he brought one to the Porcupine, who professed himself willing to conduct the flotilla in at half-tide; and he volunteered to accompany this person – an officer that gave the Rear-Admiral entire confidence.
About 3 P.M., it being then nearly high water, and the wind favorable, the flotilla was put in motion; each vessel having a certain flag hoisted, by which she could be distinguished. There were altogether about 70 sail of every description. When they sailed from Porto de Socca, towards the close of a fine evening, the spectacle was very imposing; but when they were seen rising and sinking alternately in the immense surf, it was awfully grand. At this moment, the flag of Rear-Admiral Penrose was flying at the mast-head of the Gleaner ketch; in which vessel he ran close to the breakers, directed the movements of the flotilla, and animated his officers and men to continued exertions, by his presence, example, and praises.
However appalling the prospect might have been from the sea, the author of “The Subaltern” informs us, that it was no less so from the land.
“On mounting an eminence,” says he, “we beheld a squadron leaving down, with all sail set, towards the bar; over which the waves were dashing in white foam, being driven inwards by a strong gale. But we were not the only anxious spectators of the animating shew. The bank of the river, and all the heights near, were crowded with general and staff officers, conspicuous among whom were Sir John Hope, and, if my memory fails me not, Lord Wellington himself. The groups were, one and all of them, speechless. The sense of sight appeared to be the only sense left in full vigour to the individuals who composed them, and even from it all objects were apparently shut out, except the gallant squadron.
“Down they came before the breeze with amazing velocity; but the surf ran so high, and there seemed to be so little water upon the sands, that I for one felt as if a weight had been removed from my heart, when I beheld them suddenly put up their helms and tack about. * * * * Even British sailors hesitated, for once in their lives, whether they could face the danger. But the hesitation was not of long continuance.”
Lieutenant Cheyne resolved to succeed, or perish: Providence favored him! His boat, Spanish-built, but manned by five British seamen, was borne by the swell clear across the shoal: “and loud and reiterated were the shouts with which it was greeted, as it rushed proudly through the deep water.”
The next which entered the river was a large fishing-boat, manned by volunteers from the transports at Porto de Socca. She was closely followed by a gun-vessel, under the command of Lieutenant John Chesshire, the first person that hoisted the colours of Britain in the Adour! Following in the track of the gun-boat was a schooner-rigged vessel; but she unfortunately broached to, and instantly capsized.
“The horror,” says Mr. Gleig, “which we experienced at contemplating this event, though extreme for the moment, was necessarily of short duration; for our attention was immediately attracted to other vessels, which, one after another, drew near. Of these, all except one particular chasse-marrée, succeeded in making good the passage; – it shared the fate of the schooner. It was upset upon the curl of a wave, and went down with the whole of its crew. This last was even a more awful spectacle than the former. The little vessel, after being tossed round, rocked for a moment, as it were, upon the surf, just long enough for us to see the despairing gestures of the sailors, and to hear their shriek of consternation, – and then a huge wave striking her, she fell, not upon her broadside, but absolutely with bottom upwards.”
The author of the “Subaltern” likewise tells us, that the above mentioned schooner-rigged vessel was “guided by Captain Elliot” (the commander of H.M. brig Martial) ; but this we can prove to be an error.
“Captain Elliot,” says Sir Charles V. Penrose, “was in his gig, accompanied by Mr. Charles Norman, his assistant-surgeon:– I had spoken to him not more than two minutes before his boat overset: I observed to him how handsomely the gallant fellows were dashing in after their bold and skilful leader Cheyne, when he said, ‘I think I see one or two rather slack,’ and pulled round the gig to row towards them – I conclude he winded her the wrong way, as she was out of sight immediately in the surf. The fate of Mr. Norman was singularly unfortunate:– he managed to get safe on board a gun-boat, which was afterwards thrown up upon the beach, where he was killed by the oversetting of her 24-pounder.”
In addition to the foregoing disasters, three transports’ boats were lost, with all their crews, and several others swamped; one coasting vessel took the ground, after she entered the river, and remained fast for a considerable time.
Notwithstanding the loss of lives sustained, it may justly be said, that the daring and highly necessary attempt to cross the bar of the Adour was attended with wonderful success; and that the zeal, intrepidity, and skill of British seamen never shone forth in a more conspicuous manner than on that trying and memorable occasion.
Upon witnessing the approach of the flotilla, Captain O’Reilly, who had somewhat recovered from the effects of his disaster in the morning, went to where Lieutenant Debenham was employed in preparing his raft, and directed him to go in the gig, and render any assistance he might be able to the different vessels requiring it. No sooner had the agent of transports received this order than he hastened to the edge of the inner breakers, and succeeded in rescuing many men, who but for him must inevitably have been drowned. For his conduct throughout this eventful day, the thanks of Rear-Admiral Penrose were publicly read to him on the beach by Captain O’Reilly.
Twenty-five chassé-marées, &c. having entered the Adour, in the manner above described, and also several heavy gunboats to protect the bridge, no time was lost in running them up to their proper stations, about two or two and a half miles from the bar, where they were moored in a line abreast, with large anchors ahead and astern; the vessels at an equal distance from one another. The whole were then bound together by cables passed along to the right and left from the centre vessels, as they anchored: those craft that were between them and the banks of the river had on board a number of old heavy guns and strong purchases, by means of which the extreme ends of this line of cables, after being passed over the walls we have spoken of, were first secured on the north bank, and then hove taut on the other: the purchase blocks were lashed to fir-trees growing near the southern bank. On the deck of each of the largest vessels was bolted a piece of timber, shaped like the bridge of a fiddle, with notches in it to keep the cables steady: – in this manner were six lines of cables extended across the flotilla, and firmly secured on shore. Planks were then laid on transversely, with holes cut at proper distances to lash them to the cables; and “at dawn, on the following day, it was declared that infantry might cross the floating bridge with safety. This was the signal for action; and hence the 25th was, at least to part of the army, a day of hostile employment.”
Above this famous bridge, five heavy gun-boats were moored with their heads towards Bayonne; and for its for their protection a strong boom, which had been constructed at St. Jean de Luz, under the immediate inspection of Rear-Admiral Penrose, was thrown across between it and the gun-boats. This boom was conveyed to the Adour by a large brig, in charge of Lieutenant George Robert Douglas, first of the Porcupine; and it was rather a curious circumstance, that while he was placing it to keep off fire-rafts, &c. the French were forming one higher up the river to prevent annoyance from below.
We should here observe, that a number of sappers and miners were embarked in the flotilla previous to its departure from Porto de Socca: these men had been instructed how to proceed in forming the bridge after the vessels were moored, and each of them had his proper part assigned him: in his official letter to Lord Keith, reporting the proceedings of the flotilla, Rear-Admiral Penrose highly approved of their conduct, and afterwards expressed himself as follows:–
“That so many chassé-marées ventured the experiment” of crossing the bar, “I attribute to there having been two or more sappers placed in each of them, and a captain and eight lieutenants of engineers commanding them in divisions. The zeal and science of these officers triumphed over all the difficulties of the navigation.”
The following are the names of the engineer officers of whom Rear-Admiral Penrose speaks so handsomely:– Captain Slade, Lieutenants Mellhuish, Read, Rivers, Robe, Savage, Tinling, Wallace, and West. For some unaccountable reason or other, the Admiralty did not allow any mention, either of them or their men, to be made in the London Gazette. Major Todd was the officer who superintended the formation of the bridge, which altogether covered a space little short of 900 yards.
Immediately after the arrival of the flotilla, Rear-Admiral Penrose received a letter from Sir John Hope, in which that, distinguished General expresses himself as follows:
“I have often seen how gallantly the navy will devote themselves when serving with an army; but I never before witnessed so bold and hazardous a co-operation; and you have my most grateful thanks.
“I wrote you in the course of last night, to say how much we stood in need of boats, seamen, &c. but when I saw the flotilla approach the wall of heavy surf, I regretted all I had said, for fear it might have urged your zeal beyond what you may have thought right.”
To this handsome acknowledgment was added the just applause of Lord Wellington, who expressed himself “infinitely indebted to Rear-Admiral Penrose for the cordial assistance he received from him in preparing for the plan” (of crossing the Adour), “and for that which he gave to Lieutenant-General Sir John Hope in carrying it into execution.”
The following is an extract of Lord Keith’s reply to the Rear-Admiral’s official letter, detailing the particulars of the above service:–
“I have great satisfaction in observing, that the arduous service of entering the Adour was executed under your own immediate direction, on the 24th Feb., when the bar of that river was passed, under circumstances where zeal, intrepidity, and judgment were never more requisite, nor wore more conspicuously displayed. I most highly approve of the activity with which you appear to have collected the means for undertaking this service, as well as of the ability with which you directed its execution; and you will be pleased to express to the officers and men who were employed on the service, my best thanks for their zealous exertions, and my admiration of their intrepid conduct.”
It is here proper to add, that the above service was performed without pilots, and that no one British subject concerned was acquainted with any of the localities!
On the 27th Feb. 1814, Bayonne was closely invested by Sir John Hope, and Marshal Soult completely routed, near Orthes, by the main body of the allies. The enemy in his retreat, left open the direct road to Bourdeaux, and Lord Wellington availed himself of the opportunity to send a detachment, under Sir William Beresford, to take possession of that city. This expedition proved of great consequence to the cause of the Bourbons, whose restoration now first began to be talked of, and to be considered as not altogether hopeless. Sir William Beresford arrived at Bourdeaux on the 12th March, and was received by the principal inhabitants with every demonstration of joy.
Ten days after this auspicious event, Rear-Admiral Penrose, then at Passages, received a despatch from the Marquis of Wellington, dated March 17, informing him of the advance of the combined forces towards Toulouse, and that it was desirable that his squadron should speedily enter the Gironde.
The hopes of being thus called upon had induced the Rear-Admiral previously to send the Racer schooner off the Cordouan light-house, and to Basque Roads, to give the cruisers on the former station notice of his probable arrival there, and, to request assistance from Lord Amelius Beauclerk, which that officer most readily granted.
The difficulty of getting out of Passages, except under the most favorable circumstances, is uncommonly great; and it was not until the 24th March in the forenoon, that Rear-Admiral Penrose’s anxious wish to escape from that port was gratified. The naval force which entered the Gironde under his orders, March 27, consisted of the following ships and vessels:
|Egmont (flag ship)||74 guns,||Captain Joseph Bingham.|
|Andromache||38 __,||Captain George Tobin.|
|Belle Poule||38 __,||Captain George Harris.|
|Porcupine||22 __,||Captain John Coode.|
|Vesuvius||bomb,||Captain William Hext.|
|Challenger||brig,||Captain Frederick E. V. Vernon.|
|Polargus||__,||Captain George Rennie.|
|Martial||__,||Lieut. Edw. Collins (acting Comm.)|
|Dwarf||cutter,||Lieut. Samuel Gordon.|
To which were shortly afterward; added the Reynard brig, Captain David Latimer St. Clair; and the Nimble cutter, Lieutenant Peter Williams.
It is worthy of remark, that no line-of-battle ship had ever ventured to enter the Gironde, with all her guns and stores on board, before Rear-Admiral Penrose resolved to make the experiment; which he did under every disadvantage, as there was not a single person in the squadron acquainted with the dangerous navigation of the river, and the weather was at first very thick and threatening, though the sky became clear after the ships had got fairly into the stream. Standing on the fore-part of the Egmont’s poop, with the chart spread before him, and the master by his side, he conducted the pilotage himself, to the astonishment of a Frenchman who had had charge of the Egmont when she was employed in the blockade of Rochefort, but who was wholly unacquainted with the Gironde. The most useful aid he received was from the enemy, when they attempted to check his progress; for as the first shot fired from Point Coubre went over him, it shewed that he was within the Mauvaise bank, and consequently clear of the greatest danger. This information Rear-Admiral Penrose acknowledged by a thankful bow to the battery.
The Regulus, a French 74, the Sans Souci corvette, two brigs of war, and several other armed vessels, were then at anchor off Royan; but being informed, by telegraph, that the British were superior in force, they weighed and ran higher up the river; pursued by the Egmont and her consorts under a crowd of sail. As all the batteries on the northern shore opened, in succession, a heavy fire of shot and shells, the whole formed a grand and imposing spectacle. Having proceeded as high as the shoal of Talmont, the French squadron entered the narrow channel between it and the main, which had been buoyed in expectation of their retreat thither; the passage being protected by a very strong fort.
It was not until the 29th March that any communication could be opened with the army. On that day, Rear-Admiral Penrose extended his small vessels up the Gironde; and ordered Captain Hext to throw some shells in the direction of the Regulus, but only by way of practice.
On the 30th, the position of the British army having caused the garrison of Castillon to retire, Rear-Admiral Penrose again removed to the Porcupine, and proceeded from Verdun road to an anchorage off the abandoned town; taking with him the Andromache, Vesuvius, Challenger, Podargus, and Dwarf. He there received several deputations from the villages on the left bank of the river, all or which had displayed the white flag, but were still in great dread of Napoleon and the conscription.
From Castillon, Captain Rennie was sent with a summons to the commandant of Blaye, who availed himself of the opportunity thus afforded him of displaying a remnant of revolutionary brutality, by firing a shot at the flag of truce, and obliging it to retire.
On the 31st, Captain Coode was sent up as far as Pouillac, with the Vesuvius, Challenger, Podargus, Reynard, and Nimble, under his orders, to commence the bombardment of the above citadel; and all the armed boats of the squadron, with 200 marines, were likewise despatched with him to make an attempt upon Patd, a small island, in the middle of the river, about six miles nearer to Bourdeaux, defended by a round tower forty feet high, mounting six long 18-pounders, and supposed to contain about 600 men.
On the arrival of this detachment off Pouillac, Captain St. Clair received directions to take the boats and marines under his protection, tow them to the island, and cover their debarkation.
Finding it impracticable to effect a landing, owing to the state of the weather, he reluctantly abandoned the attempt; and was returning towards Pouillac, when a violent storm arose and drove his brig on a sand-bank, within range of the tower, where she was high and dry in less than three hours. Providentially, it was midnight when she took the ground, and the enemy did not discover her until she was again under sail, otherwise nothing could have saved her from destruction. Captain St. Clair’s exertions on this alarming occasion were very great, and deserving of much praise. Notwithstanding the failure of the attempt upon Isle Paté, the seamen and marines of Rear-Admiral Penrose’s squadron very soon had an opportunity of performing a brilliant service, hardly surpassed by any exploit of the same nature that has ever been recorded.
Ever since the occupation of Bourdeaux by the allies, General Count De Caen, a staunch adherent of Napoleon Buonaparte, had been making preparations to retake that city, and to punish its inhabitants for their friendly reception of Sir William Beresford. To further the Count’s views, two brigs, each mounting six long 18-pounders, a fine schooner, eight gun-boats, and four armed chasse-marées, had anchored in a line across the mouth of the Dordogne river, which falls into the Gironde about six miles above Blaye, and four leagues below Bourdeaux.
At day-light on the 2d April, this flotilla was discovered near Blaye, apparently pushing for Talmont. Very few minutes elapsed before the British boats were in pursuit; and on their approach, the whole of the enemy’s vessels ran ashore near the citadel, from whence 200 French soldiers marched out to protect them, although their crews, were greatly superior in number to the attacking party. A smart fire was also kept up from the citadel; but nothing could check the ardour of our countrymen, who dashed on, landed, charged the enemy, drove them into the woods with great loss, and kept possession of the beach until the tide allowed the greater part of the vessels to be brought off. They consisted of one brig, the schooner, six gun-boats, and three chasse-marées, together with an imperial state barge, rowing 26 oars. The other brig, gun-boats, and chasse-marée were set on fire and destroyed.
In the performance of this exploit, the British had not a man slain, and only sixteen persons wounded:– two men, officially reported as missing, were afterwards recovered by Rear-Admiral Penrose, who highly commended the gallantry and excellent conduct of Lieutenant Robert Graham Dunlop, senior officer of the detachment; of whom it is said, that when the party landed, he caught a horse, twisted some rope-yarns together for a bridle, and mounted; observing to those near him, that unless he could keep a-head of his fine fellows, he did not know where they would stop! The exemplary behaviour of Lieutenant Patrick Robertson, R.M., and the other officers who served under Mr. Dunlop’s orders, was also highly eulogised.
After the capture and destruction of the Dordogne flotilla, Rear-Admiral Penrose despatched the boats and marines to Verdun road, where they were placed under the command of Captain Harris, in order to land and storm fort Talmont, while the Egmont took advantage of high water to run over the shoal, and alongside the Regulus. At mid-night, April 6th, just as that well-appointed British ship was in the act of hoisting her jib, for the purpose of casting towards them, the French 74, corvette, and brigs were discovered to be in flames, making a most magnificent bonfire, which continued to burn until sun-rise the following morning.
It appears, from this proceeding on the part of the enemy, that they were aware of the meditated attack, although Rear-Admiral Penrose and Captain Bingham had used every means to keep them in ignorance thereof. We should here observe, that the Centaur 74, Captain John Chambers White, had anchored below Verdun road on the evening of the 6th April, and that she cordially co-operated by sending her boats and marines to join the detachment under Captain Harris; but the assistance of that ship, in the intended attack upon the Regulus, was never considered necessary, and consequently was not called for. The statement in the London Gazette, dated at the Admiralty, April 19th, 1814, is calculated to mislead the reader.
The enemy having thus voluntarily altered the nature of the service in the Gironde, Captain Harris and his party were sent to the mouth of the river, where they effected a landing; and after destroying the battery at Point Coubre, commenced a march of fifty miles along the right bank, in the course of which 4 other batteries, 17 mortars, and 47 pieces of cannon were rendered ineffective. On his return from this expedition. Captain Harris was directed to superintend the operations against Blaye, for the regular siege of which strong fortress preparations were then making by Lord Dalhousie, in concert with Rear-Admiral Penrose, by whom the Belle Poule was ordered to proceed up the Gironde, “in advance of the advanced squadron,” as a compliment due to the zealous habits of her commander.
Meanwhile the bombardment of Blaye was continued by the Vesuvius, which vessel had been placed by Captain Hext with great judgment for that purpose; the Porcupine and Andromache, the former ship still bearing the Rear-Admiral’s flag, joined the advanced squadron near Pouillac, in the evening of April 6th, and the Egmont spiked all the iron guns in a deserted battery on Point de Grave, bringing off several brass cannon and mortars.
The arrival of Louis XVIII. at Paris, was soon afterwards announced to the Due d’Angoulême, in the presence of Rear-Admiral Penrose, who had gone by land from Pouillac to Bourdeaux, at the express and repeated request of H.R.H. and Lord Dalhousie. All the public functionaries then came in as a matter of course, to pay their respects to the Dauphin, and one of them, the archbishop of that city, ended a very graceful address with the following remarkable expression, evidently intended as a compliment to the British nation:– “Viola la fin de l’ouvrage de Monsieur Pitt!”
Rear-Admiral Penrose now hoisted his flag in the Podargus, which vessel he caused to be anchored exactly opposite the principal street of Bourdeaux, near the Exchange, so that all the inhabitants could see the British colours waving in the fresh waters of France, at a distance of nearly 100 miles within the battery which first opened its fire at the mouth of the river. Thus was the spot so renowned in history, for the display of British valour under Edward the Black Prince, again the theatre of operations which redounded equally to the honor of England. The important services of the army on shore, and the equally momentous services of the squadron in the Gironde, the results which they led to, and the beauty of surrounding objects, all contributed to render the scene one of peculiar interest.
In this situation, Rear-Admiral Penrose gave the Duc d’Angoulême a public breakfast on board the little Podargus; and it is highly to the honor of British spirit to mention, that among the troops ordered out by Lord Dalhousie to line the streets through which H.R.H. passed, first to the Rear-Admiral’s hotel, and thence to his barge, were those regiments of militia who had volunteered to serve abroad under the Duke of Buckingham and Sir Watkin Williams Wynn. It is no less remarkable, that among other combinations caused by the late long and sanguinary wars, the soldiers of Brunswick were also brigaded on this occasion!
Whilst at Bourdeaux, some of Rear-Admiral Penrose’s officers met those who had belonged to the corvette burnt at Talmont, and talked over the late occurrences in a friendly way; but not one of the Frenchmen could be brought to believe that the Egmont had entered the river with all her guns on board, as the Regulus was the first ship of her class that was ever known to have been sent into the Gironde, and the pilot that conducted her thither from Aix roads, was admitted into the Legion of Honor and rewarded with a pension, though she had been lightened of her guns and stores. The retort of one of the British officers was most excellent:–
“If the Egmont could not come in with, her guns on board, why did the Regulus, fully armed and manned, run away?”
To form a correct opinion of the difficulties of the enterprise we have been describing, a reference to the chart is necessary; and to judge of the able manner in which it was conducted, it should be known that the above-mentioned services, and the capture of 60 pieces of ordnance, many thousand stand of arms, and an immense quantity of ammunition, in different vessels, at various periods, were effected by the squadron under Rear-Admiral Penrose, without the most trifling injury being sustained by any of H.M. ships, or the loss of life to any British subject.
Rear-Admiral Penrose subsequently proceeded to Passages, for the purpose of facilitating and superintending the embarkation of the army, stores, &c. destined to America. In the execution of that service, the general tenor of his public and private conduct drew forth the eulogiums of the respective officers commanding divisions and brigades. He returned to Plymouth in the Porcupine, and struck his flag Sept. 12, 1814.
During the war with Murat, in 1815, Captain Coode commanded the Queen 74, bearing the flag of Rear-Admiral Penrose; to whose memoir, as given at p. 579 et seq. of our first volume, we shall make considerable additions, at the close of Suppl, Part. II. The Order of St. Ferdinand and of Merit was conferred upon Captain Coode, in consequence of the British flag-ship having been selected by his Sicilian Majesty to convey him and his family from Palermo to Naples.
On the 31st Dec. 1815, Captain Coode was appointed to the Albion, another third rate, fitting for the flag of the same officer, with whom he returned from the Mediterranean in the spring of 1819.
The Albion formed part of Lord Exmouth’s fleet, but as a private ship, before Algiers, on the memorable 27th Aug. 1816: her fire that day was noticed as peculiarly animated, a circumstance partly attributable to her having been fitted with the then newly constructed magazine; and although her loss was very trivial, considering the nature of the service, her log-book will shew that she was well placed to annoy the enemy: when the ships were ordered off, her anchors were weighed and preserved with much good management. She had no more than 3 persons killed, and 15, including Captain Coode, wounded. The subject of this memoir was nominated a C.B. Sept. 21, 1816; and he was also presented with the Order of Wilhelm, in common with his brother officers who had fought in concert with the Dutch squadron under Admiral Van Capellan.
Captain Coode married, Feb. 8, 1819, the eldest daughter of his old friend, Sir Charles V. Penrose, K.C.B., by whom he has three sons and one daughter.
Agents.– Messrs. Maude and Co.
- See Elliot’s Life of Wellington, 2d edit. p. 542.
- The Rev. Mr. Gleig, formerly a Lieutenant of the 85th light infantry.
- Captain O’Reilly died at Plymouth, May 22d, 1816, aged only 29 years. When senior lieutenant of the Surveillante frigate, he greatly distinguished himself on the coast of Spain, and was, for his services there, advanced to the rank of commander, Sept. 23d, 1813: he obtained a post commission, Aug, 29, 1815.
- This trophy was sent as a present to H.R.H. the Prince Regent.
- See Vol. I, Part I, p, 227.