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Wetherell of H. M. S. Hussar

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Wetherell of H. M. S. Hussar
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Author(s): John Wetherell
Date Published: 2008/08
Page Count: 264
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-513-0
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-514-7

A true account of the British navy in the Napoleonic Wars

This is a book which will delight the many enthusiastic readers of accounts both true and fictional of the Royal Navy in the great days of sail—the days of Nelson and other great captains who fought the navy of Revolutionary and Napoleonic France. This is the story of a very ordinary seamen—extraordinarily written by his own hand—who was pressed from the merchant trade into a fighting ship of the Royal Navy—HMS Hussar. Captained by a tyrant—even by the standards of the day—this is an account of hardship, cruel punishment, battle action before the mast and ultimately shipwreck. The crew of the Hussar are eventually taken as prisoners of war by the French and there follows a further harrowing account of endurance which only ends as the crew meet the advancing British Army in the South of France in the days leading to the abdication of the Emperor.

The two launches were to lay under her stern and make her at the time of boarding, and by this means take part of the enemy’s attention from the boarders. When we in the Hussar’s barge, being the van boat on the starboard side of the ship, passed her side in order as we were stationed to cut her cables, we were struck with astonishment to find her quite ready to oppose us. She was surrounded with boarding nettings which we little suspected, and when we got under her cable and made the first stroke with the hatchet. To our great surprise the cable was wormed with chain from the hawse beneath the water, caused fire to fly from the hatchet with the stroke. The boats were all ready for boarding but dreadful to relate at that moment a cataract of fire burst from the Mouth of Strumbolo could not gush from its confined regions with greater fury than these infernal engines of destruction vomited death from all parts of the ship. She was all flames in one moment as it were so that it was instant death to every man that attempted to mount her side. Those who had gained hold of the nettings were all either shot or run through with pikes or sabres and fell back into the boats or the sea. We never heard of one man that gained her deck. Meeting with such a formidable reception (all hands were in confusion) muskets roaring over our heads, officers ordering us to retreat, wounded men groaning, and others dying, death stared every survivor in the face. We shall refer to our boat where I was one of the unfortunate crew. Directly after striking the cable, we received a volley from her head and bowsprit, which laid seven of our comrades dead in the boat, and horrid to relate we the four survivors were all wounded, and as we were endeavouring to bear our boat astern clear of her head, something come in contact with my head. Putting up my hand I found the muzzle of a Frenchman’s musket pushed it on one side just as he fired, saved my own life and nearly shot our first lieutenant near enough to graze his skull by the flash of the gun. I saw the man in the head that fired it and drawing my pistol from my belt gave him the contents through his noodle and laid him in the water under our boat’s bow. By this time the boats that were able had got off and gone astern and we being all four wounded were very weak through the loss of blood. Nevertheless we got under her stern and drifted clear of her cursed leaden pills, over our shoes in blood, and in this state as well as possible followed our companions from the slaughter. Richard Pridham our first lieutenant. wounded in the head and right shoulder, John Waddell wounded in his left hip side and right arm, I, Wetherell, left shoulder breast bone broke right thigh and left leg, Edw. Carney Marine (a fine fellow) one ball through his left wrist. We four had to hobble back the boat.<br>
We got under the stern of the ship and by those means were sheltered a little from her constant showers of musket shot. We found our boats were all making their best way towards the Hussar but in a very different order to what we were in when we left her; some boats had four oars and some six, nay even some had only two men that were able to pull the boat back to the Hussar. The day broke soon after we got from along side, and a most wretched appearance we made, some in one direction and some in another, as for our parts we were ready to give up the ship, being faint and weak through the loss of blood, and our having to exert all our efforts at the oars, in order to regain our ship and having our bleeding wounds dressed by the surgeon. About 8 am. we saw some of the boats gain the Hussar, and at 10 am we got along side, and I was at that time as happy to get on board her, as I should have been a few days before to have left her, and never to have seen her again.
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