I always think that Francis William's modesty in his reply to Susan Quincy's letter is a little overstrained. Without denying Frank anything as a family man or a handy man, I see more than a passing resemblence to another, more dashing captain in his actions as told in his own words.
For evidence, his letter to Captain Oliver of the HMS Mermaid:-
" Petterell at Sea, March 22.
I have to inform you that the vessels with which you saw me engaged yesterday afternoon, near Cape Couronne, were a ship, brig and xebecque, belonging to the French Republic; two of which, the ship and the xebecque, I drove on shore, and after a running action of about one hour and a half, during which we were not more than a cables length from the shore, and frequently not half that distance, the third struck her colours. On taking possession found her to be La Ligurienne French brig of war, mounting 14 six-pounders and two thirty-six pounder howitzers, all brass, commanded by Citizen Francis Auguste Pelabon, Lieutenant de Vasseau, and hand on board at the commencement of the action 104 men. Though from the spirited conduct and alacrity of Lieut. Parker, Mr Thompson, the master, and Mr. Hill, the purser (who very handsomely volunteered his services on the main deck)joined to the gallantry and determined courage of the rest of the officers, seamen and marines of his Majesty's sloop under my command, I was happily enabled to bring the contest to a favourable issue, yet I could not but feel the want, and regret the absence of my First Lieutenant, Mr. Glover, the Gunner, and 30 men, who were at the time away in prizes.
I have a lively pleasure in adding that this service has been performed without a man hurt on our part, and with no other damage to the ship, than four of our caronades dismounted, and a very few shots through the sails. La Ligurienne is a very fine vessel of the kind, well equipped with stores of all sorts, in excellent repair, and not two years old; is built on a peculiar plan, being fastened throughout with screw bolts, so as to be taken to pieces and set up again with ease, and is said to have been intended to follow Buonaparte to Egypt. I learn from the prisoners that the ship is called Le Cerf, mounting 14 six-pounders, and the xebeque Le Joillet, mouning 6 six-pounders; that they had sailed in company with a convy (two of which, as per margin, I captured in the forenoon) that morning from Cette for Marseilles. I enclose a list of the killed and wounded, as far as I have been able to ascertain it.
And am, &c. F.W.AUSTEN"
This letter (forwarded along with one from Captain Oliver to Lord Keith, where Oliver adds
"It is impossible for me to express in terms strong enough,the gallant conduct of Captain Austen, his officers, and the ships company, on this occasion, in a contest against so superior a force.")was published in the London Gazette of May 10, 1800, and reproduced in papers throughout the UK for the next week.
I copied the text from Jacksons Oxford Journal of Saturday May 17th, 1800 - one of the last and therefore more accurate and comprehensive reports, which I accessed through the British Library's 19th century newspaper database - Gale Document Number Y3202637946.
Great to be caught up and ready to join the group-read