The Night Action H.M.S. Indefatigable engaging Les Droits de l'Homme, with H.M.S. Amazon, off Ushant, 13th-14th January 1797 signed 'J. Lynn' (lower right) oil on canvas 109.2 x 152.4cm (43 x 60in).
PROVENANCE: Private collection, UK
On 13th January 1797, H.M.S. Indefatigable, 38-guns, and H.M.S. Amazon, 32-guns, were patrolling south-west of Ushant when they sighted a large vessel heading for the French coast. As they closed with her, she was identified as the 74-gun Droits de l'Homme on her way home from Ireland after the abortive French landings in Bantry Bay with about 700 troops aboard her. The weather was overcast, with a strong westerly wind, and as the Frenchman attempted to outrun her pursuers by cramming on more sail, she lost her fore and main topmasts in a squall. Just before 6.00pm., Indefatigable brought her to action and the Droits de l'Homme, unable to use her lower gunports due to the heavy sea running, was soon at a disadvantage. After about an hour, Amazon joined the fray but, helped by the darkness, the Droits de l'Homme fought on and the action was only broken off at 4.20am. the next morning when all the participants realised they had drifted dangerously inshore during the night. All three ships were badly damaged and difficult to manoeuvre though Indefatigable, with great good luck, got safely out to sea. Amazon was less fortunate and grounded but lost only six men due to excellent discipline, whereas Droits de l'Homme hit a sandbank, heeled over and lost her masts completely. In the rapidly worsening weather the fierce surf sank the boats and rafts which managed to get away and those men remaining on board were marooned for four days before the weather finally abated and they were able to get ashore.