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Some account of the

and of the rise and progress of the
commercial Navy of Great Britain. 1834

SOURCE: The Saturday Magazine, No. 117. Supplement, April, 1834

But, perhaps, the most memorable affair in which the Company's ships were engaged, was that off Pulo d'Or in 1804. On the evening of the 14th of February, a valuable fleet of homeward-bound vessels, consisting of sixteen of the Company's ships, and eleven sail of country traders, fell in with the French squadron, under the command of Admiral Linois, comprising the Marengo 74, two 44-gun frigates, a corvette of 28 guns, and a brig, which had been sent expressly into the eastern seas, for the purpose of harassing our commerce. Captain Dance, of the Company's ship Camden, who commanded the fleet, instead of ordering his ships to separate, and seek their safety in flight, wisely formed them, during the night, in line-of-battle, and resolved to resist the attack of the enemy. As soon as day-light arrived, Captain Dance ordered his ships to hoist British colours and offer battle.

After a good deal of maneuvering, in which the French had great advantage from their superior sailing, although they seemed extremely reluctant to engage, they at last opened their fire upon the Royal George, our headmost ship, which was received with the utmost coolness, and not returned until she was enabled to get closer to her opponents. She then engaged, and bore the brunt of the action, until the Camden and Ganges joined her: but before any of the other ships could get up, the French Admiral hauled his wind and stood away to the eastward, under all the sail he could set. Captain Dance immediately made a signal for a general chase, but, after a pursuit of two hours, finding the enemy gained on him, he very properly desisted. The conduct of the Company's officers and men, on this memorable occasion, displayed a wonderful instance of our national character. The enemy's squadron might, according to the fair calculation of sea-fighting, have taken or destroyed half the British fleet. None of the latter had more than one hundred men—their heaviest metal 18-pounders. The Marengo had at least 700 men, with a weight of metal on her lower deck which rendered her an overmatch for all the ships of that fleet, that could, at one time, have brought their guns to bear on her; and the two frigates were also very powerful vessels.

Captain Dance, whose conduct is deserving of the highest praise that can be bestowed on a sea-officer, was knighted by His Majesty on his return. The East India Company presented him with £2000, and a magnificent piece of plate, besides giving him a pension of £500 a year for life; and the Bombay Insurance Company presented him with £5000. All the other officers and seamen in the fleet were also liberally rewarded by the company.

In March, 1805, the most valuable fleet that ever sailed from the East, reached the Downs in safety, under the convoy of Admiral Rainier. It consisted of 39 ships, and was estimated in value at fifteen millions sterling.

In a few years, the country will no longer have to boast of these "princely merchant-men." About 45 ships, of the collective burden of 70,000 tons, were, previously to the late Act of Parliament for opening the trade to China, employed in that capacity by the company; but only seven of the old ships have sailed from London this season. The value of an East India ship was formerly about £50,000, but is now reduced to £10,000, or £12,000. The shipping that will henceforth be employed in our eastern trade will be from 400 to 800 tons burden.

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