Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

Thence he proceeded, in 1793, on business of a private nature, to Barbadoes ; and finding on his arrival at that island, an armament about to sail against the French colonies, he immediately tendered his services to Sir John Jervis, the Commander-in-chief, who received him on board his flagship, the Boyne, and soon after ordered him to take charge of some cartel ships going to Europe with prisoners of war. Unfortunately he reached St. Maloes during the sanguinary government of Robespierre, who, without any respect to the laws or common usage of nations, not only seized the vessels, but threw their commander and crews into prison, in consequence of which, a very considerable period elapsed before any intelligence whatsoever could be obtained, either of Lieutenant Wood, or of those under his orders.

From St. Maloes our officer was transferred to Paris: and after undergoing an examination by the Committee of Public Safety, who, it appears, suspected the men brought by him to France were royalists, was consigned to the Abbaye, in which, and various other prisons, he was confined for many months. Being at length liberated on his parole of honour, he exerted himself most warmly in behalf of his suffering countrymen, and with no inconsiderable degree of success, as will appear from the following letter addressed by General O'Hara, who had been taken prisoner at the siege of Toulon (and with whom he formed an intimacy during his captivity), to the late Viscount Melville, at that time Principal Secretary of State for the War Department: —

"Paris, Prison Du Dreneux, April 6. 1795.

"Sir, — Give me leave to present to you Lieutenant Wood, of the Royal Navy, whose long confinement in a common gaol, where our acquaintance began, renders him highly deserving your protection, as the unexampled severities he experienced arose from his manly endeavours to oblige those faithless people to carry into execution the object of his mission to this country.

"Lieutenant Wood will, I am fully persuaded, Sir, have a further claim to your good offices, when you are acquainted that several English families who had languished for many months in the prisons of this town, the mansions of despair and accumulated cruelties, are indebted to [his friendly interference for their liberty; and that likewise the exchange of several officers of the royal navy has been, in a great measure, brought about by his unremitting exertions.

"I trust, Sir, you will have the goodness to forgive the liberty I take of endeavouring to contribute my feeble aid to be useful to an officer, whose sufferings have been so great, and fortunes so deeply wounded from a spirited discharge of his duty.

"I have the honour to be, Sir,

"With the greatest respect, "Your most obedient and most humble servant,

(Signed) « Charles O'HARA.*

"Right Honourable Henry Dundas, Sfc. 8sc. Sfc.""

Among the Englishmen then in the power of France was Captain Cotes, late of the Thames frigate; from whom, previous to his departure from Paris, Lieutenant Wood, although personally unknown to him, received a letter, dated at Gisors, in the department de 1'Eure, from which we extract the following passage: —

"The interest you take in my misfortunes, merits my sincere acknowledgments, and . for which I shall entertain the most lasting remembrance. I am, I thank you, in want of nothing but health. Would but the great Bestower of it grant

• The Brat part of General O'Hara's letter, alludes to the circumstance of some of the French prisoners under Lieutenant Wood's charge, having made three attempts to obtain possession of the cartel ship in which they were conveyed to Europe. Their endeavours, however, were frustrated, although the English crew were but eighteen in number, whilst the republicans were upwards of 200.

me that, I should be happy, and to assure you personally how

much I am,

"Your grateful humble servant,

(Signed) "James Cotes."

"Lieut. Wood, Rue Fauxbourg St. Honare, No. 64. a Paris."

Soon after his return to England, Lieutenant Wood was advanced to the rank of Commander, and appointed to the Favourite sloop of war, in which, after cruising for some time in the Channel, he proceeded to the West Indies, where he arrived in time to assist in quelling the insurrections which had long raged in the islands of St. Vincent and Grenada, and threatened the total destruction of those colonies. Among the many instances of his activity and zeal while oil that service, was the capture and destruction of three formidable French privateers in the course of one day. These vessels, which he fell in with in the Gulf of Paria, had been long and but too successfully employed in carrying provisions to the insurgents of the latter island. Subsequent to this event, Captain Otway, the senior officer on that station, ordered the Favourite to cruise to windward of Grenada, where she fell in with three other armed vessels, chased them during a whole day in light variable winds, and at length came up with a ship mounting 16 guns, formerly a Liverpool letter of marque, but then an enemy's cruiser, which struck without firing a shot; and Captain Wood by this means obtaining a knowledge of the private night signal, was fortunate enough to get possession of her consorts before day-light. From this period no supplies were ever received by the brigands, for the only vessel that ever afterwards attempted to come over was taken in a most gallant manner by the boats of the Zebra sloop of war, under the directions of Lieutenant Senhouse. ^

In September, 1796, a few days prior to the departure of Sir Hugh C. Christian for England, Captain Wood waited upon that officer, in company with Captain Otway (whose attention he had repeatedly called to the situation of Trinidad), and represented the facility with which that important settlement might be wrested from the Spaniards, and added to the possessions of Great Britain; at the same time earnestly entreating him to mention the subject to Mr. Secretary Dundas on his arrival in London. On the 5th of January in the ensuing year, Sir Ralph Abercrombie arrived-at Martinique, in the Arethusa, from Europe. Captain Wood, anxious to know whether the General had been instructed to proceed against Trinidad, went on board the frigate before she anchored; and in the course of a long conversation, in which he urged the great importance of taking possession of that island, together with the Spanish squadron lying there, was happy to find that Sir Ralph perfectly coincided in opinion with him; and that although he had brought out no particular orders to that effect, his attention had been directed thereto by a note from either Sir Hugh Christian or Mr. Dundas, previous to his sailing from England to assume the chief command of the land forces employed in the West Indies. The General concluded his observations by stating, that he would discuss the matter with the naval Commanderin-chief, immediately on his arrival at Port Royal.

On the very next day Captain Wood received instructions, from Rear-Admiral Henry Harvey, to inspect the defences of Trinidad, of which he made the following report; —

"Sir, — In pursuance of your secret orders of the 6th instant, I arrived with his Majesty's ship under my command off Trinidad at seven o'clock on Sunday evening, the 8th instant, where I spoke an American who had left the Gulf of Paria that morning. After receiving all the information that I could from him, I proceeded on to enter the first Boca, hoisted out a small, but very fast-sailing boat, which had been blacked like a canoe for this express purpose, and sent an intelligent officer in, with directions to post himself on a small island covered with a thick wood, and to haul the boat up into a small cove, where it would be impossible to see her either. from the Spanish ships or the shore. The officer remained on the island until eight o'clock next morning.

"There are three two-decked ships lying-in Shagaramus bay, not moored, no sails bent, nor top-gallant-yards across. The Spanish Admiral, bearing a flag at the mizen, lies the inside ship. In fact they are in their old position.*

"The Favourite's boat rowed round them several times , during.the night; and it is my opinion that these ships might be boarded and carried by boats in the night, without the loss of a man, as they keep but a very indifferent look-out.

"On the east point of Parsang's Island, or Gasper Grande, which forms the west entrance of Shagaramus bay, there is a small battery of masonry, about twenty feet above the water's edge, where the enemy have four guns; and on the summit of the same island there is a look-out house, and some huts, with a flag-staff lately erected, but no works yet thrown up; nor is there the least appearance of any encampment about the bay; nor any fortification erected on the peninsula of Point Gourd, or the island of Shagaramus, which completely commands it, and also Trimbladaire bay, and the Carenage to the eastward of it, where there is a most capital landing-place for troops.

"There is also a two-decked ship of 80 guns, and a frigate, that now lie seven or eight miles higher up the gulf, abreast of Port d'Espagne; but at such a distance that the guns on shore could give them no protection in case of an attack. From the best information I have been able to procure, there are not more than 1000 land troops on the island, and not more than 600 of them fit to serve.

"From the local knowledge I have of this island, and all the information that I have succeeded in obtaining, I have no doubt of its accuracy; and in the event of an expedition being undertaken against it, if you will permit me to have the

* Captain Wood had reconnoitred the enemy's squadron a few days before, and reported their exact position to Rear-admiral Harvey.

« ElőzőTovább »