Nelson & His World

Satire or science fiction? Napoleon's navy defeated in 1803
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Author:  Galiano [ Mon Jun 16, 2014 12:33 am ]
Post subject:  Satire or science fiction? Napoleon's navy defeated in 1803

(Forgive me if this has already been posted here at some time.)
Satirist Joseph Moser imagines the defeat of Napoleon's naval invasion force.
(OCR errors mostly fixed)

From Spirit of the Public Journals, Vol. VIII (1804):

[from: Asperne's Collection of Loyal Papers]

*This ingenious piece is said to have been a hasty production from the pen of a worthy and active Magistrate, Joseph Moser, Esq. to whom the public stand indebted for numerous Essays, Lucubrations, and Vestiges, abounding in wit and humour, no less than in interest and utility. His lighter labours, for several years past, seem to have been chiefly devoted to the European Magazine.

Admiralty Office, November 8, 1803.
THIS morning, at half past four o'clock, Captain Briton, of his Majesty's ship the Invincible, arrived at this office with dispatches from the Right Honourable Lord Guard'em, Admiral of the Blue, and Commander in Chief of the Channel Fleet, to the Right Honourable Lord Finisterre, of which the following are copies:

Royal Sovereign, St. Helens, Nov. 7, 1803.
My Lord,
I have the honour, by this, the earliest opportunity, to inform your Lordship, that on Thursday the 3d instant, Captain Lynx, of the Eagle frigate, communicated to me a letter from Lieutenant Piercer, of the hired armed cutter L'Espion, stationed to watch the operations of the French off Brest, &c. stating, that from the motions of their gun-boats, fishing vessels, and other small fry, which had, for some time, both singly and (as opportunity offered) in fleets, been skulking along the coast, from their small ports and inlets, to avoid our cruisers ; nay, this letter adds, that some of them have even been put upon wheels, and drawn to their place of grand rendezvous by horses, therefore there was reason to believe that the long-expected expedition was on the point of sailing. These movements, and also some which were made by the men of war in the harbour, which I had intelligence were no longer chained to the ground, induced me also to suspect that the enemy meant to take advantage of the length and darkness of the nights, and of the fogs, which, even at this early period of the winter, hang over the Channel in the day, and attempt, with their collected force, the invasion of our coast. This suspicion was in some degree confirmed by advices which I received from Captain Oak, of the Fury bomb, Lieutenant Sting, of the Ant cutter, and from other quarters, all agreeing that similar operations were carrying on at St. Maloes, aml other ports, which led me to conclude that the different flotillas acted in concert, and that the hustle in every place indicated a general movement at the same time. Fearful that the appearance of an English vessel should thwart their intention, and two or three gathered together frighten them back to their ports; and resolved, at the fame time, to give them plenty of sea-room; I ordered all the brigs, cutters, sloops, luggers, launches, and even skiffs, with which we had hitherto opposed them, to join the fleet, which I judged to be the only means to put an end to the vapouring on their parts, which every gale had conveyed to our shores, and impatience on ours at the delay of vengeance which the brave fellows under my command seemed to consider as the only hardships of the expedition.

As I expected, on Friday morning the 4th instant, the signal was made from the Resolute, Captain Takeall, that the enemy had failed, and were at that time about eighty leagues S. E. of Cape Barfleur, collecting their force, which was stated to consist of twenty-eight ships of the line and some frigates. The small craft, which issued from the creeks on the opposite side of the Channel, I understood to be innumerable. I immediately ordered the signal to be made for the fleet under my command to make all fail in chase, and endeavour to cut them off their own coast : this we happily effected. Favoured by the wind, we found on the morning of the fifth of November instant, the day on which they had proudly vaunted that they intended to make a descent on our coast, that they were about mid-channel, incumbered with their immense flotillas, which appeared to be scattered in all directions, and which, it seemed, by the frequent signals of the flag-ship, and the anxiety of the repeating frigates, the Admiral was endeavouring to collect, and, as much as in his power, to concentrate. A circumstance happened at this period (nine o'clock, A. M.) which the enemy probably considered as fortunate, though in the event it was attended with serious consequences to them: namely, about half an hour after we had discovered them, and just as I had made the signal for the ships as they advanced to attack them singly, for, against such an irregular and disorderly-like foe, it was impossible to form a regular line of battle ; just at this moment when the True Briton, Captain Steady, who led the van, was within pistol-shot of L'Assassin, Captain Sang, it came on so foggy, that for some time it shrouded the whole fleet from our sight. The enemy, taking advantage of this circumstance, crowded all the sail they could carry, and, as I have since been informed, In their hurry to bear away from us, not only ran foul of each other, but run down many of their flat-bottomed boats and small vessels. About eleven A. M. the fog cleared away, and, as we had still kept on the same tack, we again discovered them: Captain Steady, resolute in his purpose, soon came up with, and attacked L'Assassin, with an alacrity and intrepedity that does honour to himself, officers, and crew: the other ships, as they came up, went gallantly into action, which was continued with uniform success on our part till four o'clock, P. M.

During this contest, L'Egyptien, Admiral Jaffa, a near relation of the First Consul, struck to the Royal Sovereign, on board of which I had hoisted my flag; the Admiral and crew were consequently made prisoners of war. Le Catiline was sunk by a broadside from the Tremendous, Captain Dart. La Gasconade blew up early in the action. Le Brutus struck to the Caesar, Captain Pharsalia. Le Pet** (bomb) also blew up with a terrible explosion, when alongside Le Regicide, which, from this circumstance, caught fire and burnt to the water's edge. Never was acclamation so general as that from our surrounding ships when Le Catiline went down. This I mention with the more fatisfaction, as the greater part of her crew were saved by the gallantry of the British seamen.

The contest betwixt the Lion and Le Coq, both first rates, was, while it lasted, extremely severe; but it was decided in favour of the former. While the capture of the latter seems to have been the signal for a general retreat on the part of the enemy, who immediately after appear to have foregone the intention of invading our island, and, in consequence, taking advantage of a gale which sprung up in their favour, to have borne away for their own coast. Le Marat, Le Santerre, L'Egalite, La Bastille, which they intended for a prison-ship, with several others, flew, to escape our fleet, with all the canvass they could crowd. In this, however, they had little success. Le Marat was forced into action by the Terrible, Captain Conde, and soon after struck. Of the others I have not yet received a correct account; but have reason to believe that several were either burnt, sunk,or taken; and that those few which hid the good fortune to escape, were in so crippled a state as to prevent the French government from a second attempt at invasion, for at least many years. Thus ended this glorious and memorable day, in the course of which, and in attending to its consequences, your Lordship will perceive that I have been too much engaged to be more particular. One observation you will permit me to make with respect to the officers and sailors under my command - that they have upon this, as upon former occasions, acted like true Britons. Where all have been so meritorious, it would appear invidious to mention particular individuals; but it is with pleasure and pride I boast that they have in every respect deserved the rewards, the applauses, the honours, which their King and Country, whom they have so ably defended and avenged, have prepared for them.

I have the honour to be, with the greatest respect, my Lord, your Lordship's most obedient humble servant,


[** "the Fart"]

Author:  Galiano [ Mon Jun 16, 2014 12:52 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Satire or science fiction? Napoleon's navy defeated in 1803

Here's the second "letter" by Mr. Moser. (again with OCR errors fixed)
I'm surprised and moved by his expression of sympathy for the French officers and men, despite the dreaded shadow cast by the Terror. I wonder, was this a left-liberal sentiment at the time - or was such sympathy more general?
Also note his accurate prediction of the aftermath: the enormous effort by the English fleet to save the lives of French and Spanish seamen.


Royal Sovereign, St. Helens, Nov. 7, 1803.


I would not close my dispatches until I had communicated to your Lordship, as accurately as it is in my power to collect it, an account of the grand flotilla of transports, flat-bottomed boats, &cc. &c. which was destined to convey the invading forces, that have been arrogantly termed " the Army of England," to this kingdom. I have already intimated to your Lordship the manner in which, under the convoy of the fleet, they failed; but it is impossible to convey to your mind an adequate idea of the confusion that ensued in consequence of our attack. Impelled by their guardian men of war to follow them, while they endeavoured as fast as possible to make their escape, as they were crowded with troops, horse and foot, the former of which they termed " marine cavalry," you will be little surprised to learn that many of them fell foul of each other, and that the far greater number of them are gone to the bottom. Humanity shudders at the reflection of so many brave, but misguided men, being sacrificed to the caprice of a cowardly tyrant, who, I understand, so far from sharing with his companions in arms, as he called them, the dangers of the expedition, of which he was well apprized, kept himself safe on shore, furnished, instead of weapons, with the best telescopes he could procure, with which he surveyed the Channel; and, although his distance from the principal scene of action was too great for the events of it to come within the scope of his vision, he had, probably, the gratification to behold some of his battered and dismantled vessels pursued to their own ports by our ships. He may now also congratulate himself that his grand intention in projecting this expedition is answered, as it has enabled him to dispose of many, both officers and soldiers, whom he feared, and consequently hated.

It is a curious circumstance, that the crew of the Terrible, in overhauling the hold of Le Marat, that struck to her, found among the other articles 50,128 Thumb-screws, 10,905 Iron collars, 44,201 Toe-vices, 12,500 Pair of handcuffs, 25,040 Pair of setters, and 479 Racks.

Many of these instruments of torture, which were unquestionably intended to facilitate the discovery of property, had the word Liberty at full length; and others the initials L. E. t. e. Liberty and Equality stamped upon them. There were also found several packages of opium, probably the remains of the Egyptian expedition ; and a vast number of daggers : the use for which these articles were intended it is easy to conjecture.

On a farther search, the sailors also discovered a very great number of strong iron-bound chests and casks, intended for the reception of money; and some of the same nature, evidently formed for the conveyance of plate, and other valuable articles : these had all the name of Bonaparte stamped upon their lids, and were under the care of a confidential Commissary appointed for that purpose, as soon as filed to have been sent to Paris.

Several reams of proclamations, printed in English, and dated " From our Court of St. James's," and signed " Bonaparte," together with other papers, the intention of which was to discover and apprehend the publishers, and to write down the loyal productions of the present times, were also discovered; of which I shall, the first opportunity, transmit specimens to your Lordship.

In conclusion, it gives me great pleasure to state, that this arduous contest has ended with little loss in killed or wounded on our part, and little damage to his Majesty's ships under my command, while that of the enemy must have been enormous. And here I cannot help congratulating my country on the characteristic generosity which every action displays in her soldiers and sailors. In this, the far greater number of the latter who have fallen, lost their lives in consequence of their sedulous endeavours to save those of their enemies, who, abandoned by their officers, fell martyrs to the confusion which the unseamanlike conduct of the conductors of their fleet occasioned; and had it not been for the intrepidity of those for whom they were preparing tortures, the whole must have perished.

I have the honour to be, with the greatest respect, my Lord, your Lordship's most obedient humble servant,


Author:  Devenish [ Mon Jun 16, 2014 10:41 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Satire or science fiction? Napoleon's navy defeated in 1803


Thanks for posting those interesting 'reports'. i am sure they must have kept the general population amused, and kept their spirits up, at what must have been a worrying time for many.

Author:  Galiano [ Mon Jun 16, 2014 6:24 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Satire or science fiction? Napoleon's navy defeated in 1803

I'm Galiano not Collingwood. Guess my signature's misleading. :)

Author:  Devenish [ Mon Jun 16, 2014 6:38 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Satire or science fiction? Napoleon's navy defeated in 1803

Oops! My apologies. :oops:

Author:  Galiano [ Thu Jun 19, 2014 7:37 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Satire or science fiction? Napoleon's navy defeated in 1803

No need for blushes - indeed the blushes are all mine, seeing as how I don't know whether to address you as Kester or Devenish. :mrgreen:

Author:  Devenish [ Fri Jun 20, 2014 10:59 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Satire or science fiction? Napoleon's navy defeated in 1803


Either is fine, but Kester is my real (first) name. :wink:

Author:  Galiano [ Sat Jun 21, 2014 2:16 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Satire or science fiction? Napoleon's navy defeated in 1803

What a charming name, it makes me think of a lovely little falcon.

(we have kestrels in Canada too - size of a robin, attitude of an eagle:)

Author:  Devenish [ Sat Jun 21, 2014 1:11 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Satire or science fiction? Napoleon's navy defeated in 1803


It's a derivative of Christopher, another being Kit – or so my mother found out! Most of my friends used to call me 'Kes'.

Yes, the kestrel – I've been called that too – is a lovely bird. Did you take the photo?

Author:  Galiano [ Sat Jun 21, 2014 6:52 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Satire or science fiction? Napoleon's navy defeated in 1803

No, I can't take credit for the photo. The image is a hotlink to the website

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