We’ve written a bit about cutting out expeditions. Some of these were large scale affairs like that conducted by Captain Sir Henry Duncan at Anzio in which a convoy of 29 French or allied merchantmen was cut out in broad daylight and the coastal fortifications reduced.
In this next installment we will take a look at the small scale variety of this activity.
On March 5, 1804 the British schooner Eclair (10) looked in at Deshaies, Guadaloupe (pictured above) and spotted a schooner anchored there covered by a coastal battery.
We don’t know much about the commander of Eclair, a Lieutenant William Carr, but what we know of his tenure in Eclair indicates that he was a scrapper. Only a month before, Eclair was returning from a routine mission of escorting a packet some 200 miles north of Tortola when an unidentified ship was spotted. Carr gave chase and brought to battle a 22-gun French privateer Grande Decide. They engaged in an exchange of broadsides and musket fire for some 45 minutes until Carr decided to board. The Frenchman decided not to oblige him and broke off the fight. Carr tried to pursue but his rigging was too badly mangled leaving him empty handed and with one dead marine and four wounded seamen. His willingness to attack and attempt to board a heavier armed and more heavily manned foe bespeaks a combative spirit.
Lieutenant Carr decided to try to cut out the schooneer from under the nose of the battery. The sailing master, Mister Salmon, and the ship’s surgeon volunteered to lead the expedition consisting of 10 seamen in Eclair’s boat. The mission started unraveling as soon as the small boat entered the harbor. They were spotted and came under heavy fire from the shore battery and the schooneer, but they preservered. The reached the schooner, boarded it, and carried it after a short fight, killing five and wounding ten of the crew of 49.
While still under fire the boarding party used a combination of towing and sweeps to move the schooner, named the Rose and carrying a brass 9-pounder, out of the harbor.
The boarding party suffered no losses.
Again, this is one of those stories any self-respecting novelist would have to significantly rewrite in order to make it seem believable to the modern reader.