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[Transcription and notes in italics by Pieter Dickson]

Royal Cornwall Gazette, 11 th June 1808

English Newspaper

Capt. Petre and the crew of the 'Prince Ernest',[1] have given fresh proof of the bravery which pervades the Falmouth packets. On 19th March, in the Charibbee sea, Capt. Petre fell in with a French schooner privateer of 10-guns and full of men, which he fought in close action for three hours and beat off. On the 20th, the packet, thus gallantly preserved arrived at Jamaica. We regret to add, that this honourable success was not obtained without bloodshed. Capt. Petre and three of his brave fellows was wounded.

[1] Royal Mail Packet Boat from the port of Falmouth, Cornwall, England. These 'packets' were essential to both official and private correspondence between Jamaica and Britain and, although fast, were prey to equally fast enemy [French] privateers. Wrapped in sealed, weighted canvas bags to be jettisoned in emergency, official letters would be charged to the personal care of the captain or to a military officer travelling for the purpose.

From the Jamaica Royal Gazette

Copy of a letter from Capt. Petre to Jarmin Barbauld, Esq., Deputy Postmaster-General.

"His Majesty's Packet, Prince Ernest, Port Royal, Jamaica, March 20, 1808.

Sir, I beg to inform you that on March 10, 1808, at three P.M., Port Mourant W.N.W distant four leagues, Prince Ernest of six guns and 28 men and two passengers, fell in with a French schooner of 10 guns (four of which of large calibre) and upwards of 100 men. We commenced action and continued until six P.M. The first ten minutes was very warm and close, within pistol-shot, when his large guns did great execution among the sails and rigging, and two of my fine fellows and myself were wounded. In the course of the first two hours she attempted twice to board, but was repulsed with great slaughter and the last time, at five P.M. with a discharge from great guns and small arms, she laid me alongside, but my choice little crew were ready to receive them, and they appeared panick-struck with the loss of two of their best men at the helm. When alongside, they hauled off on our larboard beam, and fired a few shot, but without much effect, and at six P.M. ran away to the northward under her square-sail and top gallant-sail not being able to make any sail on her main-mast, it being very much wounded. I have great satisfaction in saying that every Officer, men and boys, have done their duty to their King and country;
and I remain sir, your obedient servant".

Also a letter from B. Barbauld, Esq., D. P. M., Kingston, Jamaica.

"The merchants and other inhabitants of this town have come forward with their usual liberality, to reward the gallant crew of the 'Prince Ernest', and it is proposed that the sum of 700 Guineas, which has been raised, shall be appropriated in the following manner, viz. To the Captain, 200 Guineas, Master 100 ditto, Mate 50 ditto, Boatswain, Gunner and Carpenter, each 25 ditto. Each of the crew, 10 ditto. The present was accompanied by a very handsome letter from John Jaques, Esq. Mayor of Kingston,[2] in which the 'gallant and good conduct' of Capt. Petre, his officers and crew, are acknowledged in the warmest of terms." [3]

[2] The Hon. Henry Jaques of Jaques, Laing & Co. Estate Attorneys, also Custos for Kingston and a Member of the Assembly.

[3] The warm words and generous cash bounty signify the importance with which the mail boats were regarded on the Island; contract documents, bills of exchange, money and goods were valuable to merchants.

In a similar encounter in December 1793 the RMPB Antelope, homeward bound and 4 days out of Falmouth, Jamaica, not only survived but captured its attacker: " The victorious Packet returned to port [in Jamaica] with its prize, the crew feted and given handsome cash awards". In September 1794 she was captured by a squadron of French frigates, the loss being valued at £2,784. 18s. 6d.

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