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Privateer Pulteney against the Xebecs

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As printed originally in the Naval Chronicles Volume 25


Extract of a Letter from Gibraltar, dated January 7, 1743.*

The most gallant action which haas been performed in the present war happened in sight of this garrison, a little to the east of Europa Point, and almost in reach of our guns, on the 27th past, as follows :

The Pulteney privateer, a large brigantine, mounting 16 carriage, and 26 swivels, Captain James Purcell, had been cruising in the Streight's mouth, and was standing in for this bay from the west, but with little or no wind.

As soon as she'was seen from Old Gibraltar, two great Spanish xebeques, each carrying 120 men, 12 carriage guns, and a great number of pattereroes and musquetoons were sent out, and looking upon her as already their own, made great haste with their oars, and soon came up with her.

There was in the bay an 80 gun-ship, but without a main-top-mast; so that there was no assisting the privateer but by a reinforcement of men; which might very easily have been sent when the xebeques first stood out; but the sea officers, though applied to, refused so reasonable a request, alleging that it was impossible so small a vessel, even full of men, could escape so superior a force.

The brave Captain Purcell was, however, of a different opinion; and though he had in all but 42 men, and of those three wounded, yet he was resolved not to give up a vessel that had the honour of a commission from the Admiralty, till the last necessity; and finding his officers and men in the same disposition, they prepared for an obstinate defence.

After a few single guns, the Spaniards came near and hailed the vessel by her name, and the captain by his; entreating him to strike and preserve their lives, otherwise no quarter. These threats were returned with guns. The Spaniards attempted to board, but were resolutely beat off, they attempted it twice more, but Captain Purcell prudently reserving half his broadside, they had not courage to board him, but exposed themselves so much, particularly in the last push, that they could stand it no longer, but made off with their oars towards Malaga, having lost half their men.

The engagement lasted an hour and three quarters, and the Pulteney had but one man shot through the body, and five more very much wounded ; but what is very remarkable, every man on board was shot through his cloaths, and the sails ^and rigging were all shot to pieces. Some nine pounders went through his hull and masts. The Pulteney remaining becalmed after the battle, several boats went and towed her round, and the garrison have so high a sense of the great merit of the action, of which many hundreds of them were witnesses, that the governor and officers have made up a handsome sum for a large piece of plate, as a present to the captain, with a proper inscription ; and the merchants and other inhabitants will do the same in another piece; the sailors having already received a present from them in money.

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