The Action of 10 November 1808 was a minor naval engagement of the Napoleonic Wars, in which a British frigate defeated and captured a French frigate in the Bay of Biscay. The action formed part of the blockade of the French Biscay ports during the war by the British Royal Navy, a strategy designed to prevent ships from entering or leaving French harbours, thus eliminating foreign trade with France and damaging the French economy as well as cutting France off from her overseas colonies. The French ship in the action, Thétis, was destined for the French held West Indian island of Martinique with a cargo of flour and military supplies, including over 100 soldiers to reinforce the island's garrison.
Thétis had not even cleared the French coast when she was discovered by a patrolling British frigate of the inshore squadron, a unit tasked with watching the entrance to the French Biscay ports, principally Brest, and intercepting any ships seeking to enter or leave the harbours. This frigate, HMS Amethyst chased Thétis and brought her to battle, closing with the French ship but preventing the soldiers aboard Thétis from boarding the British ship and using their superior numbers to overwhelm her with heavy and accurate gunfire. The battle lasted more than six hours and the French suffered over 130 men killed, including the captain and many of the soldiers aboard, before the crew of Amethyst was able to storm and capture Thétis. Within minutes two additional British vessels arrived, attracted by the sound of gunfire, and helped secure the badly damaged Thétis for the journey to Britain.
The battle was a blow for the French defenders of Martinique, who were isolated from France and suffering from shortages of military and food supplies. Although another supply frigate broke through the blockade and arrived in December 1808, the island was surrounded by British bases and was invaded and captured in January 1809. Other French colonies were seized over the next two years as the blockade cut off French communications with their overseas territories. Amethyst and her captain Michael Seymour were active in this campaign, capturing a second French frigate, Niémen, at the Action of 6 April 1809.
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