REDDING’S REMINISCENCES. No. 2
On the 12th of August 1823, I shipped on board The Revenge, and we shortly afterwards proceeded to Lisbon, in the cause of the old King, who died a short time back. We had for our Captain, a very good man and a thoroughbred sailor; Sir Charles Burrard.
Whilst lying in the Tagus, our Captain invited his Portuguese Majesty to a public breakfast, and well I remember it, and so do many others, for that day we got no breakfast, seeing how we were forbid to light any fires, that no unpleasant smell might reach the nose of royalty. The preparations had been going on for several days, and when we were ready for our visitor, not an inch of wood was to be seen, for the masts were covered with flowers, and draperies, and things.
So at length the old gentleman came in a thirty-oared barge, and nearly a hundred rowers, for there were three to each oar, and were all dressed in a fine scarlet livery, looking vastly gay. Now there had come on board of us the day before, three of His Majesty’s carpenters, who had employed themselves in making a ladder, and fixing it according to their own fancy, it being, as they said, a thing unheard of that the old Don should trust his neck to any other King’s ladder.
Well, of course we receive the noble party with due honour, but surely there never was a more ill-favoured King in any Christian land, he would have made a glorious monarch of the Ugly Island, and must have borne down all opposition.
It was on the 12th of July 1824, when we sailed for Algiers, to settle a little account with the black-bearded pirates of the African coast. Our people had been somewhat insulted by the Algerines; I think the quarrel began about an affront offered to the Hon. Robert Spencer, of The Naiade; so it was determined to bring them to their senses by mild or forcible means, as might be necessary. Our Commodore had collected a pretty little fleet from the Mediterranean, and we were plenty in numbers and strength to knock the nest of these robbers about their ears. We had scarcely cast anchor in the Bay, before a French frigate of 36 guns attempted to pass athwart our bows without asking with your leave or by your leave of us; so our Captain brought her to, and told the Commodore to proceed at his peril, as the British fleet was on blockade service, and would not allow communications. Monsieur told us he had dispatches on board for the French Consul. So we made him ship his dispatches in a cock boat, and without suffering the frigate to anchor, started her homewards.
Now comes the speechifying between us and the Algerines, and we use to meet them half-way, their folks coming out of their hiding place in one boat, and we going towards them in another, until they were near enough for conversation. I was on every trip of this kind, because I had scraped up a little Arabic, which however was of little service to any body. We were very careful not to touch the Algerines boat, as that must have put us under quarantine; but the longbeards were very polite in handing us a pinch of their snuff, in their large gold boxes, and some of us thought what a pretty list of prize money these would be in a storm of the town.
Well, as our speechifyer could make no hand at it, for the Algerines are a stubborn set, we began to prepare for beating a little sense into them from our port holes. The ships were formed in a crescent line; the Revenge in the centre. We had The Lightning steam packet from Portsmouth as a despatch boat, and The Racer cutter for the same purpose. The latter was inshore and becalmed one morning, when a parcel of the enemy’s gun boats made an attempt to carry her to port. She had nothing but a few pop-guns with which to fight the devils, and sure enough they would have her if The Naiade had not tumbled a few shots about their ears from the quarter deck guns, which sinking two of their boats, drove the rest to harbour.
There seemed no chance of settling things in a peaceable manner, so we got ready in earnest. Our Captain had four of our big guns lugged up to the quarter deck, which had been supported by strong iron stanchions. The weight of each of them was 7.4 cwt., and two being placed on each side they would have done much havoc, from their elevated position, if they had been used. We were at our quarters all night, and in the morning, the Hon. Robert Spencer was sent on shore with a white flag for the last time. The Algerines came to terms; they were very sorry for what they had done; very free of promises for what they meant to do, and it all ended in a bottle and a smoke.
That morning, our Admiral, in his iron-bound coat and hat, landed, and was very well received – and all that. We each fired a salute, and the minister of the Bay came on board and shook hands with our officers, and everything went off very smoothly, until we had left Algiers and got into the rough water and the rough weather which followed.