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Thoughts on the Practicability of Taking the Flag Ship Preston


Thoughts on the practicability of taking the Flag-Ship PRESTON.

She mounts fifty guns, carries three hundred men, (officers included,) and now musters her full complement; the following draughts being made therefrom, viz: eighteen sick, forty lent to other ships, and forty in the floating batteries, leaves two hundred and two effective men. This deficiency of their full complement reduces them to the necessity of manning the guns on one side only at a time. When the watch is set, at eight o' clock in the evening, one-half the ship' s company retire to their hammocks; they have then eight marines and two sailors on the poop, one marine at each gangway, two marines and two sailors on the forecastle, one sentinel over the prisoners between decks, one at the great cabin, one at the ward-room, and one at the gun-room door; in the whole, twenty men under arms every night. The rest of the watch are totally unarmed and defenceless; their duty leading them to their respective quarters at the great guns, immediately upon an alarm. They have, indeed, armed chests on the poop, containing several hundred muskets, about twelve pole-axes, and sixteen spears, about eight feet long, on the quarter-deck; these are to be made use of only by the marines, about fifteen in number, who we suppose to be now in their hammocks. There is an accommodation-ladder, leading from the water into the ship, which will deliver about sixty men in forty seconds. The only difficulty lies in bringing about eighty or one hundred men within musket-shot of the ship unnoticed. Suppose, then, that number of men embark from the eastern point of Noddle-Island, on a cloudy evening, with a flood-tide; in this case, the accommodation-ladder, being on the larboard side, will afford the most convenient situation for boarding her. Four boats, I imagine, would conveniently carry the men. Let the first boat be about two hundred yards before the rest, and when the three last are perceptible, the first will be in possession of the ladder. To carry on the deception with greater certainty of success, let the first boat have a square-sail, (provided the wind is favourable,) which will give her the appearance of one of the Boyne' s boats. Upon being hailed, answer, Ay! Ay! which denotes your having an officer in the boat, and that you intend to board the ship you are hailed from. Upon a nearer approach, should they inquire, What boat is that? answer, the Boyne' s; and I imagine the chance to be a hundred to one if you meet with the least opposition. I have observed several instances exactly similar at midnight. These circumstances being given, their cannon can be of no service to them, and must produce the greatest confusion in the ship. Should they discover your intentions early enough to guard against them, you will have notice in season to retreat, by the drum, which always, on such occasions, beats to arms. The only possibility I can conceive of failing in such an attempt, must arise from their


having some previous information of your design; in which case, you would have no warning from the drum; they would be all at their quarters, and, with their cannon, must totally defeat the assailants. About eleven or one o' clock would be the most convenient time for making the attack, as the guard boat would then be at the greatest distance from the ship, and that point of Noddle-Island.