|Héros close in during the heat of the action!|
Although co-architect of the attack on the stranded English slaver Temperance, Rupert was prevented from playing anything but the role of spectator on account of a strong north westerly wind. Thomas Darbyshire, master of the grounded vessel, used his long experience at sea to make the best of a difficult position. Lying high and dry in an extremely narrow channel between the shore and some small rocky outcrops, his ship benefitted from protection of land on both sides. No experienced captain would
|Héros opens fire on Bowden's shallop (out of shot left)|
risk his vessel by coming inshore far enough to bombard. Any hostile approach would require smaller, shallow draught boats. To deter such an attack on the exposed stern Darbyshire had a boom drawn from shore to outcrops. One of the ship’s larger guns was manhandled onto the southernmost islet which local tribes used as a burial ground and had been christened Skull Island by the slavers.
|The French long boat approaches Bowden's shallop and opens fire!|
Both ship’s boats were crammed with musketeers and put out astern of Temperance. The defence was generally sound, but contained one weakness. She lay less than twenty yards from the shore making it possible for troops to approach very close to her starboard side and bring the exposed upper deck under fire from the thick undergrowth. Rupert had ordered thirty musketeers to force march from their landing point and distract the crew whilst the boats attacked from the south. The entire plan created tension with the Kombans. Their priority was a punitive expedition against the Mandinkans at Nema Kunku.
|Bowden's men fire at the Komban Juvenile warriors hiding along the shoreline.|
The relevance of this sideshow was lost on them. After much heated wrangling Rupert persuaded the new commander to allow around sixty warriors to accompany his musketeers with the proviso that once the mission was completed, everyone would move up river without further delay. Most of those detached to support the attack were untested juvenile warriors although a small contingent armed with newly supplied English muskets were to prove their worth.
|Curbishley Trotting's boat runs aground near Skull Island.|
Just after dawn, Rupert, in Swallow’s remaining boat containing twenty men, together with a similar sized boat from the French privateer Héros and the 16-gun sloop, closed in through the treacherous shallows. Darbyshire’s boats moved out to meet them but the smaller of the two immediately grounded. The attackers concentrated on the larger vessel which was hit by round shot from Héros, a small gun mounted on her longboat and, musketry fire from all three. As the shooting started at sea, the concealed landward musketeers peppered Temperance with small shot.
|These gunners contributed materially to saving Temperance.|
Things looked dark for Darbyshire when his first-line defence appeared about to be overwhelmed. Casualties mounted aboard Bosun Bowden’s vessel whilst a callow officer named Curbishley Trotting in command of the grounded boat, decided to take his men ashore. Having ripped a large hole in her hull whilst trying to re-float, he decided to quickly beach her on Skull Island and use the hull as cover for his musket men. Rupert’s boat was unable to make any headway into the combat zone and his men resorted to long range sniping on Bowden’s exposed and extremely shot-up longboat.
|Temperance tries to suppress the musket fire coming from the tree line.|
Héros grounded briefly as the French pushed through and being less than fifty yards from the gun position on the island, was subjected to a continuous withering fire before freeing herself and dropping anchor directly astern of Temperance. She did not remain for long. Trotting’s musketeers on the island, and Darbyshire’s own crew put up such a withering wall of musketry that she cut and ran. The two smaller attacking ships were poised to capture Bowden’s barely floating shallop but turned their noses southward on seeing the battered Héros break off.
|The French are beaten back by a hail of musketry from Curbishley and Temperance.|
The English musketeers ashore had taken many casualties when Temperance opened fire with her starboard guns double loaded with grapeshot. When they spotted the naval attack fail, they slipped back into the bush and headed south toward the old fort.
|The French sloop turns away, thwarted in its mission.|