In 1810, he made an attack upon Jacotel: he thought this a somewhat dangerous enterprise; and, therefore, to inspire his men with more than usual courage and ardour, he headed them himself, in full uniform. After a desperate resistance on the part of the enemy, he succeeded in spiking the guns of the fort, and taking prisoner the commanding officer. For this service he was promoted to the rank of captain.
In the course of the same year, 1810, a musket burst in the hands of one of the men, so near to the place where Captain Willoughby stood, that his jaw was fractured, and the windpipe laid bare, so that his life was despaired of.
He had hardly recovered from this wound, before he was engaged in an attack upon Port Louis, Isle de France. The disasters which befel the squadron upon this occasion have now become a matter of history, and they need not be recounted here,—suffice it to say, that Captain Willoughby continued to keep up an unequal conflict until nearly all on board the Nereide were either killed or wounded. Nor did he surrender, although he had entirely lost one of his eyes, and the other was much injured, ’until (to use the words of Vice-Admiral Bertie) after a glorious resistance, almost unparalleled even in the brilliant annals of the British navy,’
Upon his return to England, Captain Willoughby had a pension of 550_l._ per annum awarded to him in consideration of his wounds.
Having no immediate prospect of employment at home, he repaired to St. Petersburg, and offered his services to the Czar.
In his very first engagement in his new career, Captain Willoughby was taken prisoner by the French.—falling a victim to his own generosity. During the action, he saw two Prussian soldiers severely wounded,—dismounting himself, and desiring his servant to do the same, he placed the wounded men upon his own horses, and attended them on foot. They were quickly overtaken by some French cavalry, and Captain Willoughby was made prisoner. He was soon afterwards informed that if he would sign a paper, pledging himself to hasten to France by a certain route, he would be allowed to travel alone.
He gladly consented to this; but to his astonishment, after signing the required paper, he was ordered to march with the other prisoners. In vain he protested against this breach of faith—he was obliged to proceed. His sufferings from cold and hunger whilst crossing the deserts of Russia and Poland were intense. After witnessing the heartrending scenes of Moscow, he at length reached Mayence. Thence he was removed to Metz, and he had scarcely reached the town, before an order came for his confinement in the Chateau of Bouillon, where he remained a close prisoner for nine months. He was then taken to Peronne, and there he continued until the arrival of the Allies at Chalons, when he contrived to make his escape.