Narratives of Shipwrecks of the Royal Navy; between 1793 and 1849 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 387 pages of information about Narratives of Shipwrecks of the Royal Navy; between 1793 and 1849.
and several midshipmen, all volunteers, to endeavour to bring her out.  The instant the boats put off, the Hirondelle hoisted her colours, fired a gun, and warped her broadside towards them.  As they advanced, the privateer opened a fire from her great guns, and as they drew nearer, from her small arms also.  In spite of this, and of a strong breeze directly on the bows of the boats, Lieutenant Muller intrepidly pulled up to the privateer, and after a short but obstinate resistance, he boarded and carried her, with the loss only of one seaman, and one marine wounded.’[12]

Such was the first introduction of the Hirondelle into the British navy.  Her career in it was of short duration, and its conclusion fearfully sudden and disastrous, as the following account, given by the survivors, will show.

On the 22nd of February, 1808, the Hirondelle, commanded by Lieutenant Joseph Kidd, sailed from Malta, bound to Tunis, with dispatches on board.  On Wednesday evening they steered a course towards Cape Bon, but unfortunately they got within the action of the strong current that sets eastward along the Barbary Coast, so that, instead of making the Cape as she intended, the brig fell some few leagues short of it to the eastward, and run aground.  As soon as the alarm was given, all hands were turned up; the night was so dark it was impossible to ascertain the exact position of the ship, but they distinctly heard the breakers on the shore.  Every effort was made to bring the vessel up, by endeavouring to anchor, but without effect; while this was going on, the cutter had been manned with ten or twelve men, and she might have been the means of saving many lives, but she was no sooner lowered, than the people rushed into her in such numbers that she was almost immediately swamped, and all who were on board her perished, except one man, who regained the deck of the Hirondelle.  The commander now saw that the loss of his ship was inevitable, and he therefore desired his crew to provide for their own safety.  The order was scarcely uttered, no one had had time to act upon it, when suddenly the brig gave a lurch and went down; the sea washed over her, and of all her men, four only were left to tell the sad tale.  Happily for them they were clinging to the wreck, and so escaped the fate of their companions who were swept overboard; and by aid of some of the spars they succeeded in gaining the shore.

This account is necessarily brief:  so short a time elapsed between the unexpected striking of the ship and her going to pieces, that there is no incident to relate.  The commander and officers of the Hirondelle seem to have done all in their power to extricate her from her unfortunate position; indeed, it would appear that had they attended less anxiously to the preservation of the ship, many lives might have been saved.


[12] James’s Naval History.

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