She had on board, exclusive of her crew of 700 men, about 1050 troops, which, with 50 English prisoners, made 1800 souls.
At a little past five o’clock, the Indefatigable closed with the enemy and began the action; this had lasted about an hour, when the Indefatigable unavoidably shot ahead, on which the Amazon took her place and nobly continued the battle. The Indefatigable, having in the meantime repaired her rigging, again joined in the attack, the British ships placing themselves one on each quarter of their opponent. A continued fire was kept up for upwards of five hours, when they found it absolutely necessary to sheer off, in order to secure their masts. During the action the sea is described as having run so high, that the men on the main decks of the frigates were up to their middles in water. As soon as the masts were secured, the attack was again resumed, and notwithstanding the crews of both ships were almost exhausted with their exertions, it was prolonged for five hours more, when, late in the night, the fire ceased on both sides. The Amazon had now nearly three feet of water in the hold, and was in other respects most severely damaged. The enemy had suffered still more; her foremast was shot away, and the main and mizen-masts left tottering, the decks being strewed with the dead and dying.
At about four o’clock in the morning, an officer on board the Indefatigable reported breakers ahead, and the loss of all three vessels appeared almost inevitable.
The Indefatigable was then close under the starboard quarter of the Droits de l’Homme, and the Amazon as near to her on the larboard bow. The Indefatigable was fortunate enough to avoid the danger by being able to make sail to the southward, and she escaped.
When daylight broke, a terrible spectacle was presented. The Droits de l’Homme had drifted towards the land—broadside on—a tremendous surf beating over her. The position of the Amazon was as precarious, notwithstanding every effort was made by her officers and crew to work her off shore, all proved unavailing, and she struck the ground. The ship’s company, with the exception of six men, gained the shore, which proved to be Audienre Bay, where they were all made prisoners.
The melancholy fate of the Droits de l’Homme is described in James’s Naval History. Already 900 souls had perished, when the fourth night came with renewed horrors,—’weak, distracted, and wanting everything,’ says one of the prisoners, a British officer, in his narrative, ’we envied the fate of those whose lifeless corpses no longer needed sustenance. The sense of hunger was already lost, but a parching thirst consumed our vitals.’ ... ’Almost lost to a sense of humanity, we no longer looked with pity on those who were the speedy forerunners of our own fate, and a consultation took place, to sacrifice some one to be food to the remainder. The die was going to be cast, when the welcome sight of a man-of-war brig renewed our hopes. A cutter speedily followed, and both anchored at a short distance from the wreck. They then sent their boats to us, and by means of large rafts, about 150, out of nearly 400 who attempted it, were saved by the brig that evening; 380 were left to ’endure another night’s misery,—when, dreadful to relate, about one half were found dead next morning!’