At length, after ten o’clock, a signal from the English admiral caused the frigate to withdraw, and the firing ceased. Our line of ships was not greatly damaged in this long and terrible combat, because the broadsides from the frigate simply cut into our rigging, and did not enter the body of our vessels. The brig and the cutter, however, did more harm.
The First Consul left Boulogne to return to Paris, in order to be present at the marriage of one of his sisters. Prince Camille Borghese, descendant of the noblest family of Rome, had already arrived at Paris to—marry Madame Pauline Bonaparte, widow of General Leclerc, who had died of yellow fever in San Domingo. I recollect having seen this unfortunate general at the residence of the First Consul some time before his departure on the ill-starred expedition which cost him his life, and France the loss of many brave soldiers and much treasure. General Leclerc, whose name is now almost forgotten, or held in light esteem, was a kind and good man. He was passionately in love with his wife, whose giddiness, to put it mildly, afflicted him sorely, and threw him into a deep and habitual melancholy painful to witness. Princess Pauline (who was then far from being a princess) had married him willingly, and of her own choice; but this did not prevent her tormenting her husband by her innumerable caprices, and repeating to him a hundred times a day that he was indeed a fortunate man to marry the sister of the First Consul. I am sure that with his simple tastes and quiet disposition General Leclerc would have preferred less distinction and more peace. The First Consul required his sister to accompany her husband to San Domingo. She was forced to obey, and to leave Paris, where she swayed the scepter of fashion, and eclipsed all other women by her elegance and coquetry, as well as by her incomparable beauty, to brave a dangerous climate, and the ferocious companions of Christophe and Dessalines. At the end of the year 1801 the admiral’s ship, The Ocean, sailed from Brest, carrying to the Cape (San Domingo) General Leclerc, his wife, and their son. After her arrival at the Cape, the conduct of Madame Leclerc was beyond praise. On more than one occasion, but especially that which I shall now attempt to describe, she displayed a courage worthy of her name and the position of her husband. I obtained these details from an eye-witness whom I had known at Paris in the service of Princess Pauline.
The day of the great insurrection of the blacks in September, 1802, the bands of Christophe and Dessalines, composed of more than twelve thousand negroes, exasperated by their hatred against the whites, and the certainty that if they yielded no quarter would be given, made an assault on the town of the Cape, which was defended by only one thousand soldiers; for only this small number remained of the large army which had sailed from Brest a year before, in brilliant spirits and full of hope. This handful of brave men, the most of them weakened by fever, led by the general-in-chief of the expedition, who was even then suffering from the malady which caused his death, repulsed by unheard of efforts and heroic valor the repeated attacks of the blacks.