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|Our touch with the Great Nation
Written by Rae
(10/13/2008 12:32 p.m.)
[A]fter taking privateers enough to be very entertaining, I had the good luck in my passage home, the next autumn, to fall in with the very French frigate I wanted. I brought her into Plymouth; and here was another instance of luck. We had not been six hours in the Sound, when a gale came on, which lasted four days and nights, and which would have done for poor old Asp in half the time; our touch with the Great Nation not having much improved our condition. .
Blink, and you would miss it – that’s all he says about the spectacular capture that undoubtedly won him promotion to post captain, within a couple of years of being promoted from lieutenant to commander!
The Asp is a sloop; one of the smaller classes of warship, with 14 – 24 guns. She was probably at the smaller end of that range, as Wentworth was still a commander, and we know that she had seen hard times! She would have had only one internal deck, and had all her guns on the maindeck. This is a model of a
The frigate could have carried anything from 28 guns to 50. Here is a model of a
The sloop was heavily outgunned, and there would not have been particular dishonour if Wentworth had got away without engaging the frigate. Instead he ‘brought her into Plymouth’ – no details of how long the fight went on for or how exactly he succeeded, but Wentworth’s capture of the frigate was career making. Once made post captain, promotion was strictly by turn. Getting on to the post captains’ list was vital and even just a few months’ delay, let alone years’, could make all the difference to a long term career. In Wentworth’s situation, with no connexions to help him, this kind of outstanding achievement was really his only way of getting quick promotion.
To most of JA’s readers the significance of such a capture would be obvious. Taking such a prize in such a small ship was not a frequent event – one such capture was that by the Speedy, a 14 gun sloop under the command of Lord Thomas Cochrane, of a much larger Spanish frigate El Gamo in May 1801, after a successful cruise spent harassing the coastal trade in the Mediterranean, and certainly taking, as Wentworth had done in the Carribean, ‘enough privateers to be very entertaining’. These sorts of stories, and the names of the officers involved, would have been widely known. JA is creating a bit of a superhero here – he (and the Admiral, who is, after all a Trafalgar veteran) are probably the most glittery people ever to grace the Musgrove’s table. He had done everything he had tried to convince Anne he would do, and more!
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