Pearl – John Cramlington #1

The sea-battle where the French corsair Iphigene and the (captured) Pearl fought against H.M.S. Trincomalee and the Comet is described in H. C. M. Austen’s “Sea Fights and Corsairs of the Indian Ocean : Naval History of Mauritius from 1715 to 1810”.

But Austen in turn got the account from the Naval Chronicle, from July to January 1801:-

The following interesting Particulars of the melancholy Fate of his Majesty’s Ship TRINCOMALE, have been received at the India House.
Bombay, Jan. 18.
By a dingey, which arrived a few days ago, a letter has been received from Mr. John Cramlington, late chief officer of the Pearl, dated Muscat, November 10, containing a confirmation of the capture of that ship, and the melancholy fate of his Majesty’s sloop the Trincomale, Captain J. Rowe ; the particulars of which are as follow :
” The Pearl left Bushire on the 4th ult. and was proceeding on her voyage with light winds from the W. and N. W. On the 7th, at half past eight in the morning, the great Tomb bearing S. distant about two miles, they were surprised by the sudden appearance of a ship right a-head, and close to them, which it afterwards appeared had been lying at anchor under the great Tomb, and had seen the Pearl at sun-set, but was concealed from the Pearl’s view by the land, and the hazy state of the atmosphere. – The two ships soon approached, and Captain Fowler of the Pearl, on hailing the stranger, was answered, “The Swift, Company’s cruizer, from Bombay,” good English ; Captain Fowler being hailed in his turn, answered, “The Pearl;” on which the enemy instantly hauled his courses up, and discharged his broadside with a volley of musketry into the Pearl ; some guns were without loss of time returned, and Captain Fowler gave orders for getting the tacks down, to trim the sails on a wind, and thus endeavour to escape ; with which view Captain Folwer took th ehelm himself, but was unfortunatley soon afterwards killed by an eight-pound shot, which struck him on the breast ; the maintop-sail-tye was shot away about the same time, and the ship taken aback ; on which the crew all quitted the deck, and the chief officer had no alternative but to surrender, having previously thrown overboard three packets which Captain Fowler had in charge for Government. Six men were killed and several wounded. On the following day the freight-treasure was removed on board the privateer, which proved to be the Iphigene, Captain Malroux, from the Isle of France, mounting 22 guns, four of which were 48lb. carronades, the rest twelves and sixes, and 200 men. Mr. Cramlington, with the gunner and some of the crew, were shifted to the privateer. The enemy, elated with his success, had determined to quit the gulf in company with his prize, when on the 10th at midnight, being off the Coins, the Pearl, about two miles a-head of the privateer, fell in with his Majesty’s sloop Trincomale, and the Comet cruizer, who on hailing the Pearl, and not receiving a ready or satisfactory answer, fired into her ; on which the privateer fired two guns in that direction, and put about and stood from them, judging one of them to be an English frigate, and that the Pearl was retaken. — Contrary to Capt. Malroux’s expectation, however, the Pearl was nearly up with the privateer at day-light in the morning, the Trincomale and Comet at the same time considerably to windward, bearing down ; from which circumstance it would appear, that on the privateer discovering herself by the firing of the two guns, the gallant but unfortunate Captain Rowe left the Pearl to pursue what he probably deemed a more noble object, which he might think had a chance of escaping him, if he lost any time by taking possession of the Pearl.
” About eleven o’clock in the forenoon several shots were exchanged between the Trincomale and Comet, and the Iphigene, but without effect. Light and baffling winds and calms, and the tardy manoeuvres necessary under these disadvantages to favour the different views of the respective commanders, the French captain being, no doubt, desirous to avail himself of the assistance of his prize, which was well armed, and Captain Rowe being, in all likelihood, as desirous of separating them, for the same reason, prevented their coming to close action till about ten o’clock on the night of the 12th, when a furious cannonade commenced, which lasted for about two hours : the Trincomale and her adversary then fell on board of each other, and remained in that situation some time, the privateer having her studding-sail boom rigged out, and grappling irons fixed to their extremities, when she engaged. The strength and number of her crew encouraging them to place great confidence in boarding, it appears they were in the aft of making an attempt of that kind, when the Trincomale blew up, and every person on board perished, except one English seaman and one Lascar : the ships touching each other at this time, the shock stove in the side of the privateer, and forced the main and mizen-masts clear out of the ship. Mr. Cramlington was then on the orlop, or platform appropriated for the wounded, whom he describes to have been numerous ; he consequently had two decks over his head, and the hatchway was suddenly choaked with lumber ; but in the midst of this wreck and desolation he providentially, by a ray of light which the moon afforded through the shattered side, discovered a hole in the deck, through which he ascended, and finding a corresponding opening in the upper deck, he, with five or six others, succeeded in extricating themselves from their dismal situation. The Iphigene was at this time going forward, and Mr. Cramlington ran aft over heaps of dead and dying, and jumped overboard, when he made every exertion to swim from the sinking vessel, which soon disappeared ; four minutes having elapsed, as near as Mr. Cramlington can guess, from the moment of her receiving the shock. This Gentleman owes his safety to a piece of the floating ruin, by which he supported himself for about two hours and a half, with thirty Frenchmen in a similar situation. The Pearl and Comet were in the meantime firing at each other, which prevented their sending immediate relief to the sufferers ; but at length the Comet made sail. The Pearl then sent her boats, and took all the survivors off the wreck. The privateer, according to their own account, lost about 115 men, among whom were the captain, surgeon, boatswain, gunner, carpenter, and seven other officers. By information received from the French survivors, it appears that there were eight privateers fitted out at the Isle of France this year, two of which were intended to cruize on the Malabar coast ; one of them a brig, named the General Murat, mounting twenty guns, and a fast sailer. The Iphigene was the other proposed for that cruise, after her visit to the Gulf. A Jew passenger, whom the Pearl had received on board at Bussora, and several of the Pearl’s crew, went down in the Iphigene. The Pearl anchored at Muscat on the 15th of October, from whence she soon after sailed for the Isle of France, after landing all the Lascars, Sepoys, horse-keepers, and Seacunnies, retaining the gunner and carpenter.”

Unfortunately, according to subsequent report, John Cramlington was not to survive long:

John Cramlington the fourth son went out to India as a ‘Free Mariner’ and died in Bombay in 1799. The Newcastle Courant of llth October, 1800, quotes the following notice from the India Gazette of 23rd December, 1799:

On Monday last Mr. John Cramlington, whose detail of the dreadful conflict between the ‘Trincomalee’ and ‘Iphigenia’ was inscribed in our last courier, arrived at Bombay in a very bad state of health, in a dow from Muscat, and we are sorry to say expired yesterday.

The Courant adds :

To a natural openness and candour of disposition he added an unremitted attention to the duties of his profession and an undaunted perseverance under every difficulty. He had not attained his 30th year and yet had encountered greater hardships than usually fall to the lot of humanity.

There is also a small obituary of Cramlington here, along with a brief mention of the Pearl’s Captain Fowler:

[November] 28, at Bombay, in the 30th year of his age, Mr. J. Cramlington, first Officer of the ship Pearl ; a judicious and skilful officer. His character was highly respectable ; in his manners he was amiable and unassuming ; and in the whole tenor of his conduct, a credit to his profession. Lately, Mr. J. C. Fowler, commander of the ship Pearl, in the defence of which he fell in the prime of his life. Mr. Fowler was a man of strict fidelity; a good seaman, an useful and diligent officer.