Pictured above is Punta Vaca on Isla Culebra, Puerto Rico.
This is where the survivors of HMS Triton and the merchantman Topaz made landfall in Governor Ramage, R. N. Ramage’s camp would have been in what looks like a hotel complex in the inlet at the upper right.
The novel opens in Carlisle Bay, Barbados where Lieutenant Ramage, commander of the brig HMS Triton, is receiving orders, along with the masters of 49 merchantmen and four other escorts, for a convoy to Kingston, Jamaica. Ramage has again found himself under the command of two of his father’s enemies, men who contrived Ramage’s court martial on charges of cowardice when he was in the Mediterannean. He knows the trip will be fraught with professional danger because of his commander, but they are departing at the beginning of hurricane season and the convoy commander, Ramage’s nemesis Admiral Goddard, alludes to one of the merchantmen carrying a very valuable cargo but doesn’t specify which ship.
Major spoilers follow. Continue reading
William Hoste was born in 1780 at Ingoldisthorpe, Norfolk. His father was an Anglican minister. Young William seems to have been destined for a life at sea from an early age. His father had sufficient social connections to get young William entered on the books of HMS Europa at age five. Through the good offices of his landlord, the elder Hoste was introduced to Horatio Nelson, then commanding HMS Agamemnon, who agreed to take William on board as his servant in April 1793.
Hoste quickly impressed Nelson and became one of his favorites. He was rated midhipman in February 1794. When Nelson moved to HMS Captain in 1796, Hoste followed him. He was with Nelson at the Battle of St. Vincent and again at the Tenerife where Nelson lost his arm. After than battle, Nelson had Hoste promoted to lieutenant at age 18. Following the Battle of the Nile, he was made commander into HMS Mutine and was made post into HMS Greyhound in 1802.
Hoste was an energetic officer and had several successes in the Mediterranean. His initiative and daring led Admiral Collingwood to send him on an independent cruise into the Adriatic. It turned out to be profitable for both as Hoste took or sunk over 200 ships in about 18 months. Collingwood sent Hoste back to the Adriatic in 1810, this time leading a small squadron consisting of his own frigate HMS Amphion (36), HMS Active (36), and HMS Cerberus (32). This deployment culminated in the Battle of Lissa, described below. Hoste returned to the Adriatic in 1812 in command of the 38-gun HMS Bacchante and actively collaborated with local forces allied with Britain to harry the French and their allies.
Unfortunately, his long service in the Mediterranean ruined his health. He acquired malaria and repeated infections in his lungs, returning to England in 1814. He was made baronet upon his return and knighted in 1815. In 1817 he married and had 6 children before his death from tuberculosis in 1828.
Below we discuss the Battle of Lissa (1811) fought just west of the mouth of the harbor pictured above.
In 1811, the Dalmatian island of Lissa, as Vis was then called, was used by the British navy as a base of operations for warships and privateers operating against the ships of France and its allies in the Adriatic. The main town on the island was Port St. George, the modern day town of Vis which is pictured above.
The Napoleonic Wars encompassed theaters of operations throughout the world. The main theaters shifted over time but some theaters were destined to remain strategic backwaters. The Adriatic was one of those.
The Venetian Republic had ceased to exist when it was overrun by the troops of Revolutionary France in 1797. Ceded to Austria under the treaty that ended the War of the First Coalition, Venice was an Austrian province until 1805. When the Treaty of Pressburg was signed, in the aftermath of disastrous defeats at the hands of the French at Ulm and Austerlitz and the collapse of the Third Coalition, Venice was stripped from Austrian control and became part of Napoleon’s short lived Kingdom of Italy.
While the Adriatic was of little strategic import to the British it was an important source of naval stores for France and so raiding commerce in the Adriatic became a priority for the British Navy. Continue reading
In Ramage and the Freebooters, Lieutenant Nicholas Ramage finally tracks down the lair of the French privateers at Marigot Bay, St. Lucia.
The landward end of the bay shows the channel that could have easily been concealed from seaward view by the use of rafts bearing camouflage.