to drive us into the sea.
We were next despatched to Corfu, off which island
Captain Hoste appeared on the 24th December, it blowing
a hurricane at the time.
On 5th January 1813, when passing the Island of
Fano, early in the afternoon, we discovered a flotilla of
gun-vessels standing out to sea, evidently bound across to
The wind being fair for the Adriatic, we
crowded all possible sail, as if making a passage up the
Gulf without perceiving the enemy's flotilla, which lowered
their sails and hauled in under the high cliffs of the
island. The moment we lost sight of them, we shortened
sail, and stood over close-hauled on a wind, for Otranto,
in the hope of cutting them off on the morning following.
At midnight we were made happy by a number of letters
from England, which the Weazle had recently received.
On the 6th, at about half-past five, the officer of the
watch sent a midshipman to inform me that it was a
perfect calm, with light only sufficient to distinguish that
we were at a short distance from five gunboats of the
enemy, then exactly midway between Corfu and Otranto.
Our ruse de guerre had evidently so far proved successful.
The Weazle was not more than four miles from us, but in
an opposite direction to the flotilla, now about six or
seven miles distant. This service, as there was no wind,
was necessarily to be executed by our boats, which were
in readiness by six o'clock, and which I had the honour
328 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN O'BRIEN
As on former occasions, my gallant friend, Lieutenant
Haig of the marines, always active and zealous in the
service of his king and his country, accompanied me in
the barge. Lieutenant Hood commanded the launch ;
Lieutenant Gosling, the second yawl ; Mr. Edward Webb,
master's mate, the first yawl and two gigs, one of which
was commanded by Mr. Hoste, midshipman.
The enemy, perceiving the preparations, separated, two
of them taking the direction back towards Corfu ; the re-
maining three, with sails furled, kept their course towards
Otranto, sweeping with all their might, which division
we pursued, Mr. Webb, with whom the Weazle's boats
were directed to co-operate, chasing the former division.
After two good hours 1 chase, we in the barge closed
with the sternmost gunboat, the officer of which kept up
an incessant and well-directed fire of round and grape,
that splintered several of the oars ; but not a man was
wounded, and to this fire we could reply by cheers only,
as otherwise we should have been obliged to lay in our
oars, which, of course, would retard our progress in
closing. Now nearly alongside, and about to cease row-
ing, we discharged our twelve-pound carronade with grape,
which wounded two of his men ; and, seeing that we were
ready to lay him on board, he thought proper to haul
down his colours.
The other boats coming up, I pushed on for the next
ahead. To Mr. Hoste, whose gig kept the whole time
close to the barge, I left charge of the prize. I perceived
him take possession in good style with his little crew, send
the prisoners below off the deck, and, with amazing
celerity, he had her bow-gun, which traversed upon a
pivot, to bear upon the chase, contributing greatly to her
CAPTURE OF FLOTILLA
surrender, though a fine breeze now sprang up, which
enabled them to make sail which, of course, we did
also ; as did the frigate when it reached her, though at a
great distance to leeward.
The third gunboat was closing fast with the Neapolitan
coast, but we gained upon her, and in little more than
an hour we had the satisfaction of having captured the
whole, without any loss whatever on our side.
Mr. Webb, in the first yawl, captured the sternmost
of the two which he had been in chase of, before the
Weazle or her boats (notwithstanding they used every
exertion) could co-operate. However, as they were rapidly
advancing, he left his prize to be taken possession of by
them, and, pushing forward, boarded and carried, in the
most gallant manner, the other, ably supported by the
Hon. H. J. Rous. All proved to be vessels of a superior
description and very fast craft : their officers stated that
they were bound to Otranto, for the purpose of picking up
and fetching back to Corfu specie for the payment of the
troops in that island.
Their guns were fitted on a pivot, which enabled them
to traverse and fire in any direction, without altering the
course; it was by this means that they were enabled to
annoy our boats so much in approaching, as I have already
stated. We found it necessary to bear up for Valona Bay,
in order to put our prizes in a state to encounter bad
weather, which, from all appearances, was then to be
On the 8th we sailed with them for the Island of
Zante ; and the next day, when off Fano, we captured a
convoy consisting of five vessels, laden with provisions, for
Corfu. The weather again becoming boisterous, compelled
330 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN O'BRIEN
us to return to our anchorage, and to destroy two of the
gunboats ; a third was missing, which we feared must
have gone down. If I am not mistaken, it was the Calypso>
under the command of Mr. Edward O. Pocock.
13th January. We were now again on our passage to
Zante with the prizes captured on the 9th inst. : the
weather becoming boisterous, buffeted them about very
much, and on the 23rd it became still more inclement,
which obliged us to take young Mr. Hoste and the crew
out of one until the weather abated. Another, com-
manded by Mr. Few, which we had left perfectly secure
and well in under the Island of Zante, we perceived early
the next morning (24th), bearing down to us with the
signal of distress at the mast-head. I obtained permission
from Captain Hoste to proceed with a volunteer crew (as
was usual on dangerous occasions) to her assistance. On
coming within hail, I received the melancholy intelligence
of the loss of this very promising young man, Mr. Few, 1 in
the night. It happened that, in the act of wearing, the
vessel's fore-yard struck him, and tossed him completely
overboard : the night was excessively dark, and a
mountainous sea running; the crew had heard him call
out, but could not see him or render any assistance.
This severe loss cast a gloom over all hands. Another
young gentleman was placed in command ; and, having
seen all our prizes safe into Zante (with the exception
of the three which were missing), we resumed our station
1 This was the midshipman who made the sketch from which the
illustration facing page 314 is reproduced.
Capture of General Borde and his staff A gallant boarding exploit
A horrible murder by Italian prisoners of war Success of
our navy A balance of accounts My promotion Quitting
the Bacchante Pain of leaving old friends and brave shipmates
The plague at Malta Captain Pell gives me a passage home
An ineffectual chase and a narrow escape Stratagems of the
enemy Toulon Gibraltar The English Channel Ingenious
device of Captain Pell resulting in the curious capture of a
French privateer Arrival in England A kind reception by
the First Lord of the Admiralty An official promise " Hope
deferred maketh the heart sick " A return to London The
peace of 1814 Its consequences Half-pay and an end to all
ON 13th February, at about 10 o'clock P.M., after a long
chase we captured the Vigilante, a French courier gun-
boat bound for Otranto with despatches, which, of course,
were thrown overboard before we took possession of her.
She had on board of her General Borde with his staff,
who, we had discovered by intercepted letters, was then
on his passage to take the command of the French forces
At 2 A.M., being about ten or twelve miles from
Otranto, a sail was perceived steering for that port. The
wind being very light, our boats were despatched under
Lieutenant Hood, who captured the enemy by boarding,
in a gallant style, after a warm salute of grape and
musketry, and before the rest of our boats could join
332 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN O'BRIEN
him. This brave exploit reflected the greatest honour on
this officer and his boat's crew.
The prize proved to be the Alcinous, carrying a twenty-
four-pounder carronade forward and an eighteen -pounder
abaft. She had left Corfu with eight merchant-vessels,
the whole of which we captured. The only person
wounded on this occasion was the gallant commander,
Lieutenant Hood, who received an injury in the vertebrae,
which eventually deprived him of the use of the lower
extremities by paralysis.
Of our three recent prizes, which were missing when
we left Zante, we now found that one had arrived at her
place of destination, but the third was still unheard of,
and a most melancholy account was given of the second,
under the command of Mr. Cornwallis Paley, a fine,
promising young gentleman, who was beloved and
esteemed by our captain and by everybody on board, and
who had distinguished himself in the action off Lissa.
Mr. Paley's crew, on taking charge of the prize, con-
sisted of three excellent seamen and a young lad, a
mizzen-top man. Three of the Italian prisoners were left
on board, to assist in navigating the vessel. After parting
company, a fourth Italian, who had been concealed in the
hold, made his appearance on deck. It turned out that
he had been the principal person who was interested in
the vessel and cargo. The brave and honourable English-
man, influenced by his humanity, allowed the supplicating
creature to join his countrymen. He was plausible and
obsequious, and poor Paley, it appears, had rather liked
his society as a relief to the dulness and monotony of
his passage. Becalmed off Corfu, this miscreant proposed
to Mr. Paley to anchor, which he did, and went below to
dinner with his three seamen, leaving the four Italians
MURDER BY ITALIAN PRISONERS 333
and the English lad on deck. The Italians watched their
opportunity, and seizing the young man murdered him,
and then laid on the hatches to keep the English below.
Poor Paley, hearing a noise on deck, suspected that all
was not right, and starting from the table he forced one
of the hatches up sufficiently to thrust his head on deck,
when the inhuman wretches seized him by the hair, pulled
his head back on the combings, and instantly cut his
throat. The other three Englishmen were attacked in
succession, and hewed down with an axe : the murderers
eventually took the vessel into Corfu, where poor Paley
and two of our seamen were interred ; the other two, after
they had recovered from their wounds, were exchanged
and sent on board of us ; and from them we learnt the
appalling information. Was it not disgraceful that the
public authorities did not bring these criminals to justice ?
Allowing prisoners to rise upon their captors can only
have the effect of obliging conquerors to increase the
severity inseparable from captivity, even in its mildest
form ; but when prisoners resort to butchery and murder,
it behoves all civilised governments to bring them to justice.
For want of bread and provisions we were now obliged
to repair to Malta ; and from thence we returned to Zante
and the Adriatic, to bid adieu to Admiral Freeman tie
Captain Hoste having, in the interim, received orders
from the commander-in-chief (Sir Edward Pellew) to join
him off Toulon.
But, having again arrived at Malta on 19th April, I
almost immediately received from Captain Hoste the joy-
ful news that the Admiralty, in reward of my services up
to 18th September 1812, had promoted me to the rank of
commander. It would be injustice to my kind friends,
were any fears of being accused of vanity to make me
334 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN O'BRIEN
hesitate in saying that my promotion was hailed by my
brave captain, and all my brother officers and the ship's
company, with a cordiality most grateful to my feelings.
On the 22nd I quitted my companions in arms and my
social friends, and bade adieu to the glorious frigate
Bacchante, which received counter orders from Sir Edward
Pellew to return to the Adriatic station.
My commission was dated 22nd January, sixteen days
after I had been engaged in capturing the Corfu flotilla ;
and, in the hope that the arrival of the news of this
victory would induce their lordships of the Admiralty to
give me the command of a sloop-of-war in the Mediter-
ranean, I remained at Malta, though the plague was raging
most violently. It was the doctrine of the medical pro-
fession that the disease could be taken, not by infection,
but only by contact, and therefore, mounted on a spirited
charger, I daily rode through all parts of the city.
Captain Hollis of the Achille found difficulty in taking
me as a passenger to England, from an apprehension that
I might communicate the plague ; and at last I sailed in
H.M. bomb-ship Thunder, commanded by Watkin O. Pell.
In passing through the Straits of Bonifacio we ineffectu-
ally chased several of the Corsican coral-boats. Some of
our cruisers were more fortunate. The Rainbow, Captain
William Gawen Hamilton, caught two of them.
We made the land off Toulon early in the morning,
and narrowly did we escape capture. We were delighted
at discovering what we supposed to be our own Mediter-
ranean fleet, consisting of sixteen sail of the line, about
ten miles from Cape Sicie. We should have rushed into
the arms of supposed friends, had we not found, on coming
within signal distance, that our private signal was not
answered. The enemy, the better to deceive us, kept four
PELL TAKES A FRENCH PRIVATEER 335
sail of the line in advance (for which we steered, and made
our signal to them), so that the remaining twelve might
appear as a French fleet in chase of an English squadron.
Discovering our error, we crowded all sail, and the caution
of the enemy was evinced ; for we sailed heavily, yet they
dared not follow us (although they had a leading wind), lest
they should lose the opportunity of regaining their port.
At Gibraltar, I had the satisfaction of receiving
numerous letters from friends at home, some of them of
very old dates, that had been in pursuit of me all over
the Mediterranean and Levant.
At length we arrived at Portsmouth, and had to remain
for six weeks in quarantine at the Mother-Bank. The
joys of revisiting our own country were thus most cruelly
damped. Never did men suffer more of tantalization.
However, on the 4th of October, I had the happiness of
putting my foot on England's soil. I landed at Ports-
mouth, bade adieu to my hospitable host of the Thunder,
and his kind and excellent officers, and made arrangements
to proceed to London.
I had to regret that I had not gone up the Channel
with my friend Captain Pell, who was ordered to take the
Thunder to Woolwich. Off the Oars' light, he discovered
a lugger to windward, under easy sail, which he suspected
to be an enemy. Captain Pell directly altered his course,
and bore up for the land, as if, to avoid capture, he
intended to run his ship on shore. He yawed and steered
wildly, and by these, and other symptoms of fear and con-
fusion, the enemy was completely deceived. The lugger
soon came up with the chase, and made an awful display
of boarders ; her decks being crowded with armed men.
She at last hailed Captain Pell to strike his colours, or she
would sink him. The order, of course, was not obeyed,
336 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN O'BRIEN
and the lugger put her helm up to board. Pell im-
mediately put his helm the contrary way, which instantly
brought the boasting and confident enemy across the
hawse of H.M. ship Thunder, and not of the harmless
merchantman they had supposed. The brave and in-
genious Pell had now succeeded both in his stratagem and
manoeuvre ; and, seizing on the critical moment, he poured
into the astonished Frenchmen the full contents of grape
and canister of four guns ; and, following this up by a
volley of musketry, he rushed with his men (whom he had
hitherto kept concealed) upon the enemy's deck, and soon
was the English flag floating over the tricolour. The
enemy had four men killed and ten wounded ; the Thunder
had only two wounded. This was a fortunate finale to
our gallant officer's cruise. The prize proved to be the
Neptune, of sixteen guns, with a complement of sixty-five
men actually on board ; and the capture was important,
as this fast-sailing, well-equipped vessel had been a great
annoyance to our trade in the Channel. She was taken into
Ramsgate. My friend, Captain Pell, was most deservedly
advanced, for his numerous services, to the rank of post-
captain, on the first of the ensuing month of November.
Arrived in London, the first Lord of the Admiralty,
Lord Melville, received me courteously, and complimented
me on my promotion, which he was pleased to say I had
won by my services and merit. I pointed out to his lord-
ship that the important capture of the Corfu flotilla,
which had been achieved by me, was unknown in England
when my promotion had been given to me, and I urged
that I hoped this last service might procure me a ship.
Lord Melville's reply was, on my taking leave of his lord-
ship, " You shall go afloat, Captain O'Brien ; we will not
keep you on shore."
A RETURN TO LONDON 337
Most joyfully was I received by all my friends ; whilst
my naval companions congratulated me on the certainty
of my soon receiving an eligible command. Week after
week did I remain in the expensive metropolis, in the hope
of getting a ship.
The success of the Americans at sea, and the capture of
the gallant Guerriere, 1 by her leviathan opponent, now
formed the subject of public and private conversation.
I felt most anxious to be on the shores of the New World ;
but after writing to Lord Melville, and reminding him of
his promise, I received an official reply, " That I was noted
for consideration at a convenient opportunity"
It was clear that a long holiday was before me, so
passing over to Ireland I had the heavenly happi-
ness of embracing my honoured and beloved parents,
who had come to the Irish metropolis to receive me.
Let no man undervalue the happiness of life who
has felt the joy of embracing parents, after a long and
painful absence, in which he has suffered much, and has
been also fortunate in bearing a distinguished part in
participating in honourable public services.
During the autumn of 1814 I was attacked with ague,
a disease common to the bay of Dublin, and was in a state
of convalescence when I received a welcome and un-
expected official letter from the Admiralty, desiring me
to repair immediately to London.
I proceeded to London forthwith, but, from a boisterous
and unpleasant passage, had a relapse of the disease.
However, as soon as I was equal to it, I saw Mr. Hay, the
private secretary of the First Lord of the Admiralty, who
1 Captured by the Constitution, Aug. 19, 1812. The American
frigate was decidedly a larger and stronger vessel, yet hardly enough
so to justify O'Brien in calling her a " leviathan."
338 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN O'BRIEN
received me very kindly ; and the interview ended in his
requesting me to leave my London address, as it was the
intention of the First Lord to give me a ship.
I thanked Mr. Hay very much for the information,
and took my leave by stating to him that I had been
confined to my bed a fortnight, and that this was my
first attempt at moving out.
Day after day I passed in feverish anxieties for the
arrival of the letter appointing me to a command. Days,
weeks, months, and, I may say, years passed, and no such
letter was received.
Unfortunately for me, Napoleon had fallen six months
before, and peace with America was now talked of; to
this I attribute mainly the neglect of my incessant and
anxious applications to be employed. The reply always
was, that " I was noted for consideration at a convenient
opportunity " ; but there was added after a time the un-
happy news, " that it was not intended at present to place
any more ships in commission.'"
I had seen my last war service, and may now bring my
narrative to a conclusion.
Whatever may have been the circumstances of my
captivity, the painful adventures that I was destined to
endure, and the innumerable varieties of incidents that
were crowded into my chequered fate, I trust that one
thing is evident to the reader that the honour of the
British empire, with the character of the naval service,
has always been uppermost in my mind : that I have ever
The flag that braved a thousand years
The battle and the breeze.
A Copy of MR. ARCHIBALD BARKLIMORE'S Letter to Capt. D. H.
O'BRIEN, on his arriving in England,
14 Dean Street, Soho,
MY DEAR O'BRIEN I hasten, knowing how anxious you will
be to hear from your old fellow-traveller and fellow-prisoner,
to inform you of my safe arrival in London, where I have been
received and welcomed by numerous friends, as if I had actu-
ally been a resuscitated creature from the other world.
When I now look around me and see the cheerful counte-
nances of the people of Old England, blessed in security under
a paternal and just Government, I cannot help contrasting
them with the meagre, squalid faces of those we have left
behind, groaning under the tyranny of an usurper. Nor can
I, my dear friend, conceal from you that I feel a something
within me which proclaims aloud the great superiority of the
British nation, and makes me no longer wonder that her sons,
with their daring spirit, should break through prisons, bolts,
and bars, and fly to protect so sacred a home ! Shall I ever
forget our exploits in scaling ramparts, eluding the vigilance
of sentinels and guards, and all the hairbreadth 'scapes we
had to encounter, from the time we got clear of the fortress of
Bitche, until you had been hoisted up in a chair, with your
disabled arm (which I fear you will lose), on board the
Amphion ? That, my good friend, was a severe conflict, and
one which I shall never forget. It was the first time I had
ever set my foot on board of a British ship-of- war's boat ; and
it will be, I hope, a very long time before I again volunteer
to go a cruise in one upon the enemy's coast at all events on
the coast of Dalmatia.
A very remarkable circumstance has occurred since you
and I parted, and would appear more like those unnatural
tales of romance, of which we read in novels, than anything
founded in truth incontestable. You must recollect the
340 ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN O'BRIEN
miserable and destitute plight in which our unfortunate com-
panion,, poor Batley, was, when we were driven to the necessity
of leaving him at Rastadt : well, he was again arrested in
Wiirtemberg, and confined closely in a prison ; whence, after
some weeks, he had the good fortune to outwit his keepers,
and effect his escape. The poor fellow's funds were now
nearly exhausted, and little or 110 hope left him of ever being
able to succeed. In this forlorn state, quite desponding, and
overwhelmed with anguish, his singular appearance you know
what a tall, meagre, poor-looking creature "fat Jack" was
caught the eye of a lady who happened to be passing at that
moment on the road. Her benign countenance gave him
courage ; he advanced and accosted her in his best manner
for Jack had the manners and address of a gentleman
explained to her candidly who he was, and his deplorable
situation, and earnestly begged she would assist him in pro-
secuting his journey to Trieste. Most fortunately for him,
this lady proved to be the wife of an officer at that time in
the British army. She entered fully into his distressed condi-
tion, procured him the means which enabled him to reach
Vienna ; thence he proceeded to Trieste, where he found your
old ship Amphion ready to sail for Malta, and arrived there
only, he stated, a few minutes before honest Hewson and you
had quitted Malta in the Leonidas, to join Lord Collingwood.
The ship which I was in touched at Gibraltar; and on
landing there, the first person I met was my long-lost friend
Batley : never were two people more surprised and better
pleased to catch once more a sight of each other. He
immediately quitted his vessel, and engaged a passage in the
same ship with me, and we arrived safe in England together.
I remain, My dear O'Brien,
Your sincere friend,
(Signed) ARCHD. BARKLIMORE.
2nd April 1809.
Printed by R. & R. CLARK, LIMITED, Edinburgh.
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