From Thomas Luny to Derek Gardner, many artists have attempted to capture the drama and danger of the Droits de L’Homme engagement, and paintings of the celebrated action still sell for significant sums today. However the engagement also inspired a number of songs and verses. This contemporary ballad “The Amazon Frigate” appears in the Navy Records Society’s rare 1907 volume Naval Songs and Ballads.
|~The Amazon Frigate~
Come all you British seamen bold, that plow the raging main,
On the thirtieth of December in Falmouth as we lay
Our anchors weighed our sails were set, our ship she seemed to fly;
We steered our course to southward as far as Cape Finistere,
But in bearing up for England an American ship we see,
On the 28th of January a man sung from aloft
But we were at the heels of her, and night coming on,
Both round grape and double-head we poured in so fast
The Frenchmen all for quarters aloud to us did cry;
The ship was called the Droits de l’ Homme; from Brest she lately came,
T’was early the next morning the land it did appear,
So now the Indefatigable is bound for England’s shore
Like all good ballads, the song employs a little poetic licence. Although some of the details of the engagement are quite accurate, the French ship never did strike her colours or call for quarter, de Lacrosse and his crew fought to the bitter end. Also when the Indefatigable finally returned to “England’s shore”, Pellew had no knowledge of what had happened to the Amazon after he clawed his ship out of Audierne Bay. In his first letter to Lord Spencer, First Lord of the Admiralty, following the engagement Pellew expressed his concern in heartfelt terms.
I am laboring under some difficulty in communicating with your lordship from my want of certain knowledge of my invaluable friend, Captain Reynolds. We have been very long brothers in affection and my grief would never cease should any misfortune on this occasion happen to him.
Historical quibbles aside, this ballad provides a wonderful contemporary insight into how the Droits de L’Hommes engagement was perceived in the popular imagination of the day.