At 18:42 on 10 November 1808, the garrison of a French defensive gun battery on the island of Groix saw a frigate moving rapidly westwards. As they had not been informed of any French movements at that time, the battery fired two warning shots at the ship to establish her identity. The frigate, Thétis, replied with her recognition signal and the firing stopped, but the sound had attracted the attention of HMS Amethyst, then approaching Groix from the west. Within a few minutes, Seymour's lookouts had spotted the French frigate and Amethyst immediately gave chase. Pinsum followed his orders to avoid combat and made all sail south-west, intending to escape into the Atlantic. By 21:00, Amethyst was close enough to fire her bow-chasers, small guns positioned at the front of the ship, at the French frigate and was attacked in turn from the French stern chasers. Certain that his quarry was an enemy, Seymour launched signal rockets in the hope of attracting attention from other ships of the inshore squadron that might intercept the French ship, and he received answering flashes from the north-east as Captain Sir Thomas Hardy joined the chase in HMS Triumph.
By 21:15, Pinsum realised that his heavily laden ship could not outrun Amethyst and reduced his speed, turning sharply in front of the British ship in an attempt to rake her. Seymour was prepared for the manoeuvre and countered it by turning sharply away from Thétis so that the French broadside fell harmlessly into the sea and both frigates performed a complete circle before returning to their previous course. Seymour then swung back towards the French ship, bringing Amethyst alongside and pouring a heavy fire into Thétis, which replied in kind. For 25 minutes, the frigates continued firing on one another from close range as they sailed westwards. At 21:40, Pinsum again attempted to rake Amethyst, trying to cross the British ship's stern as she pulled ahead. Seymour countered by slowing his ship and the French rigging became tangled in the British, the firing continuing as the crews worked to free their ships from one another. Separating a few minutes later, the frigates continued their close-range duel. Amethyst again pulled ahead at 22:05, Seymour successfully crossing the bow of the French ship from port and raking her before swinging back along the starboard side to resume the close range exchange of broadsides.
French fire was taking its toll on the British ship, and at 22:20, Amethyst's mizzenmast was shot through and collapsed on the quarterdeck, smashing the wheel and impeding Seymour's command of his ship. Thétis began to pull ahead and Pinsum attempted to rake Amethyst in her disorganised state, turning sharply to starboard but coming to a sudden halt as her own mizzenmast collapsed. With their ability to manoeuvre severely hindered, Amethyst and Thétis gradually closed on one another, Pinsum ordering the soldiers on his frigate to board the British vessel and capture her, while Seymour prepared for the eventuality by loading his cannon with two roundshot and his carronades with double loads of grapeshot. At 23:00, Pinsum suddenly swung his frigate towards Amethyst, the bows colliding and rebounding and the French stern swinging towards the British. At his signal, the soldiers and sailors crowded onto the deck and railings, ready to leap on to the British ship and engage her crew in hand-to-hand combat. With seconds remaining, Seymour ordered his gunners to fire. The double-shotted broadside, fired at point-blank range, killed or wounded over 100 men, including most of the officers. Only four guns were still serviceable on Thétis, which was set alight in three places due to the proximity of the British muzzle flashes.
Read more about this topic: Action Of 10 November 1808
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