Sir Robert Calder's Action 22 July 1805
Chrono date: 
1805 May 10

NEVER did the Athenians, in the most anxious moments of their Warfare against Philip, look for NEWS with more eager expectation, than our Countrymen have done during the whole of the last mouth: and as the Wind has lately been favourable, their irritation has proportionally increased. Yet still we can only at present hear, that our dastardly and vaunting Enemies have performed the same manoeuvres with their Fleet which they formerly were so notorious for doing with their Army:

"The King of France with forty thousand Men March'd up the Hill! and then march'd down again."

The following is a brief account of the Proceedings of Lord Nelson:-

Captain Bettesworth, of the Curieux Sloop of War, arrived at the Admiralty with Dispatches from Lord Nelson on the morning of July the ninth, about two. His Lordship, with the Fleet under his Command, reached Barbadoes on the 4th of June, having made the Voyage from Lagos Bay in 25 days. All his Crews were in health, and in the highest state of discipline. The Curieux did not leave him till the 13th. The French Fleet had previously quitted Martinique for the northward; and his Lordship, on that day, was pursuing them, upon good information as to their track. So exact, indeed, was his intelligence, that he told Captain Bettesworth, who would of course out-sail him when dismissed with the Dispatches, what course of steering would give him a sight of the Enemy, before his finally standing for Europe. Captain Bettesworth, by following his instructions, did accordingly see them. This was on the 20th. They were then seventeen Sail of the Line, sailing badly. Lord Nelson had ten Sail in perfect condition, and Captain Bettesworth supposed his Lordship to be then not more than a day and a half behind them. The Enemy had lost three thousand Men by sickness.

Thus this vast Fleet, after escaping from their own Ports, and reaching the West Indian Seas, are returning to Europe. For this purpose they were endeavouring to cross the Trade Winds, that they might return by an unusual course, and have some chance of escaping Lord Nelson. But his Lordship was well aware of this, and followed in the same track.

Lord Nelson was only twenty-four hours in watering his Fleet at Barbadoes. He had been to Trinidad and Grenada.

It was in latitude 32deg 12' N. and longitude 58deg W. that the Curieux saw the Enemy.

The seamanlike manner in which the HMS Curieux, Captain Bettesworth, came to an anchor, and furled her sails, when she arrived in the Sound from the West Indies, was very gratifying to a number of Nautical Spectators on the Hoe, as the time taken by this well disciplined Ship's Company, from going aloft to furl and trim the sails, was only three minutes and a half before they were all snug, and the Men again on deck. The HMS Curieux fought a gallant Action in the West Indies, in which Captain Bettesworth was severely wounded. One of the Neutrals detained by the Lord Nelson, was chased last Sunday morning by a long French Row-boat Privateer, rowing sixty oars; but she escaped, and arrived safe here.

All due diligence has been employed by the Admiralty, acting upon the information received by the Curieux, to bar the return of the Enemy to any of their Ports in the Ocean. Admiral Sir Robert Calder has been reinforced off Ferrol, by the HMS Windsor Castle and HMS Barfleur, of 98 guns; and the HMS Triumph, HMS Raisonable, and HMS Warrior, of 74 guns each. The Squadrons cruising off Rochefort and Cadiz have also been reinforced.

Lord Seaforth, Governor of Barbadoes, in his letters to Government, states that a great mortality had prevailed on board the French Ships, in consequence of their crowded state; and to this circumstance is imputed their delay at Martinique. The Flag Officers are a Spanish Admiral and a French Vice and a Rear Admiral. On the 22d of May they had stationed four Frigates at St. Pierre; had they been a fortnight later, a large Convoy would have been assembled at Tortola in an unprotected Harbour. General Prevost had on the 20th withdrawn all his Forces from Roseau, &c., and concentrated them at Prince Rupert's, where he had collected abundant Stores.

On Wednesday, July 10, His Majesty's Sloop Orestes, Captain T. Browne, cruising on the French Coast between Dunkirk and Gravelines, got on Shore on one of the numerous Banks on that Coast: to prevent her failing into the Enemy's Possession, after every endeavour was made to get her off, without effect, she was set on fire and entirely destroyed. The Captain, Officers, and Crew, we are happy to inform, were ail saved by the Boats of the different Cruisers, and since arrived in the Downs.

Parliament was prorogued by Commission July 12, to Thursday the 22d of August, on which occasion the Lord Chancellor read a short Speech, a substitute for that usually delivered by the King in person. The following part, though it affords but little information respecting our Continental Negociation, breathes the spirit of Peace, supported by an independent and unsubdued Resolution:-

"My Lords and Gentlemen, "His Majesty has not yet been enabled to communicate to you the result of the Negotiations in which he is engaged with Powers on the Continent; but you may rest assured that no step will be omitted on His Majesty's part, for promoting such a concert as may afford the best prospect of restoring; general and permanent tranquillity; or may, if necessary, furnish the means of repelling with vigour the continued encroachments on the part of the French Government, which threaten every day, more and more, the Liberty and Independence of all the Nations of Europe."
The following Ships attend their Majesties and the Royal Family, during their residence at Weymouth, viz. the HMS Diamond and HMS Chiffonne Frigates, HMS Defender and HMS Safeguard Gun-brigs, with the HMS Liberty and HMS Viper Luggers.

The Commission given to the Captain of le Vaillant, Prize to la Loire, is signed by the Corsican Emperor, and runs as follows:-

"We, by the grace of God, Napoleon I, Emperor of the French, &c. &c. &c. to Captain--- , greeting," and then goes on in the usual form.
This Officer is a Capitaine de Vaisseau, but commands the above Privateer a circumstance very common in 1759 - like Commodore Thuror, when he commanded three private Ships of War on the Coast of Ireland, and was captured by Captain Elliott, which were fitted out by Dunkirk Merchants.

It has been incorrectly stated, that Captain Maurice, and a party of Soldiers, commanded the Diamond Rock, at the entrance of Martinique. The gallant Commander was Captain Maurice, of the Navy, and the Rock was defended by the same number of Seamen as is on board a Sloop of War. Captain M. was First Lieutenant to Sir Samuel Hood.
Our Naval Service is much indebted to Captain Cowan, for the invention of a dexterous mode of reefing all the sails of a Ship: by this plan, now generally adopting through the Navy, the main-sail of a first-rate Ship is reefed by two Men on the yard with more facility than when forty were employed to effect it.
From Nantucket, May 20, 1805. The following article was found in a junk-bottle, taken up at the southward of the Vineyard, by one of the Pilot-boats on the 9th instant. The bottle in which it was found was ballasted with six ounces of lead balls, and had a staff made fast to it, with a piece of silk handkerchief put through as a Flag:-

"French National Ship Silence, April 10, 1805. "One of His Britannic Majesty's Subjects, confined as a Prisoner on board this Ship, embraces this mode of communicating information to his Countrymen (being the only means left in his power), hoping that it may prove successful. If it should even fall into the hands of any of our American well-wishers, they no doubt will make it public, that a valuable Spanish Ship, with an immense quantity of specie, bound to Cadiz, would leave the Havana about the 1st of this month. Such a Prize is certainly worthy the attention of any of His Majesty's Ships on this Station looking after. The Spanish Vessel's force is only 16 guns, and but indifferently equipped.


The Fleet in the Texel is extremely ill manned, and badly victualled, but rigidly disciplined. To give an idea of their Seamen, and the shifts they have recourse to for procuring them, it is only necessary to state the following, cirumstance:-

The poor, innocent, and oppressed inhabitants of Switzerland, deprived of the means of subsistence in their own Country, have been lately in the habit of emigrating by the way of Holland, with a view of finding Shipping for America. Several hundreds of these unfortunate People having reached Amsterdam, were reported to the Police, who gave orders for their detention till the General in Chief should signify his pleasure on the subject of their quitting Holland. His Excellency ordered those capable of serving in the Navy, to be conveyed on board some Dutch Men of War fitting out in the Texel, and their Families to be provided with Passports to return and starve in their Native Country!


The Spanish Ship the St. Michael, from Lima, is arrived in one of the Spanish Ports, having on board 200,000 piasters on account of the Spanish Government, and 470,000 for the Merchants, with a Cargo of cocoa and other valuable merchandizes. This Vessel fell in with the second Rochefort Squadron, and from it learnt, that Hostilities had commenced between Spain and England.

The Spaniards, who have been taken Prisoners in different Ships, express themselves in terms of great warmth against the English; and scruple not to assert the most palpable falsehoods. A Correspondent informs us, that Lord Cochrane rendered himself very obnoxious to them, by putting their consecrated candlesticks on the heads of his masts. The anecdote respecting that Officer's Liberality was not entirely correct: something was returned to the Spaniards, but nothing equal to what has been imagined.
Cadiz, May 19. A Passenger just arrived here from the Isle of France, which he quitted on the ninth of March, on board an Austrian Vessel, has brought the following intelligence:- Rear-Admiral Linois has captured thirty-five of the Enemy's Merchantmen; ten of which, richly laden, belonged to the East India Company: he was also preparing to make further Attacks upon the English Commerce in the East Indies.

On the 27th of May, R. Callaway, Esq. held an inquisition on the body of Emanuel Porlello, a Spanish Prisoner, on board the San Damaso, a Prison Ship, in Portsmouth Harbour, who died in consequence of a stab with a knife in his left thigh. It appeared upon the examination, which lasted six hours, that the deceased was discovered by the Spanish Surgeon, in the orlop-deck, weltering in his blood; from the loss of which he was so exhausted, that he could not be understood: that the knife was found several yards from where he lay; without any traces of blood to the spot, which must have been the case had he inflicted the wound on himself: and that he had been gambling with another Prisoner, who underwent a strict examination. The Jury upon these, and other strong collateral circumstances, returned a verdict of Wilfully stabbed by some Person or Persons unknown.

Established in 2003, Royal Navy History is the leading and official website for the History of the Royal Navy.
Copyright © 2017, Royal Navy History