Friday 21 October 2011

Address of Governor Ferguson to the Public relative to the Capture of Tobago

 “The capitulation oƒ Tobago, having been published in the last ‘Gazette’ without any part of my dispatch to the Secretary of  State which accompanied it, it may be expected that I should give the public some account of the siege and capture of that island, and it may perhaps be thought the more incumbent upon me to do so, as Sir George Rodney, in his letter of the 29th June, to the Secretary, has misstated several facts respecting that event, and insinuated that it had surrendered without making any defense.
Early on the morning of the 23rd of May, I received information that the enemy’s squadron had been seen to windward the evening before, and that it was then approaching the island. I instantly dispatched Captain Barnes of the ‘Rattlesnake’ with the intelligence to Sir George Rodney. Captain Barnes was fortunate enough to find the fleet at Barbados, and he delivered my dispatch, on board the ‘Sandwich’ at 12 o’clock on the night of the 26th May.
About 10 o’clock in the morning of the 23rd, the squadron brought to off Minister Point, hoisted French colours, and immediately got their troops into boats with an intention to land at Minister Bay, but finding the sea very high, and receiving some shot from a gun at Minister Point which would have annoyed them in landing, they returned on board. They then endeavoured to get into Rockly Bay, but the current carrying them to leeward, they went round the west end of the island. This squadron consisted of the ‘Pluton’, of 74 guns; the ‘Experiment’ of 50; the ‘Railicuse’ of 32; the ‘sensible’, a flute of 32; the ‘eagle’, of 14; and four sloops, under the command of the Chevalier Albert de Rious.
Next morning (the 24th), the enemy affected a landing at Great Courland Bay with very little loss, the temporary battery there of three eighteen pounders was almost entirely without cover, and so injudiciously situated that ships could fire upon the back part of it, before a gun from it could bear upon them. The ‘Pluton’ brought to within four hundred yards of this battery, and kept up so constant a fire that in a very short time the party were driven from it, having been scarcely able to bring a gun to bear upon her. But a gun at Black Rock under the direction of Major Hamilton of the militia being at a greater distance, continued to fire upon the ‘Pluton’ for a considerable time and killed many of her men.
Upon quieting the battery, our troops were posted on the heights upon each side of the road leading from Courland to Scarborough to harass the enemy their march, but the French general, with great judgment avoided the defile, and leaving the road, ascended the height upon his right. He there kept his men still above him. This advance party exchanged a few shots with some of our regulars, but as they were at a considerable distance from each other, there were only two of our people killed. Upon this occasion, Mr. Collow offered to set fire to his canes to distress the enemy, but some rain which had fallen in the night unfortunately prevented their burning so rapidly as to have that effect. Mr. Collow’s magnaminity, however, is not the less deserving of praise, s the troops were much fatigued with the hard duty they had undergone that and the previous day, and as there was likewise reason to believe that the enemy would attempt to cut off our retreat to Concordia, the place of our rendezvous by detaching part of their army round by another road, it was judged proper to carry the troops thither in the evening.
General Blanchelande, governor of St. Vincent, who commanded the French troops in the meantime dispersed papers among the planters, expressing his surprise at their deserting their houses, and informed them that their plantations would be plundered and confiscated if they did not return to them in 24 hours. These, however, had no effect upon the inhabitants, who were determined to retire with me to Concordia. The General at the same time sent a flag of truce to inform me that he had landed with 3,000 men to conquer the island, and he offered to give any terms if I would capitulate. But his offer was rejected, and his excellency was requested not to trouble me again upon that subject. In consequence of which he dispatched a cutter that night (the 24th) to Martinique for a reinforcement.

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