Excerpt from the personal diary of Midshipman Jean-Cyril Blanc of the French Armed Merchant Frigate The Bloodwine
Being the 28th of February in the year 1720 of our Lord did our fleet make haste and gather in the open waters before the small port of Port-de-Paix. I remember recalling grimly how the port could not have been more inappropriately named, having been a mere days sailing from that den of villany and evil known as Tortuga, fortress and citadel to the vile Brethren of the Coast.
Our good Captain, the honorable Joseph-Valery Leblanc, was nervous that day. It was clear he didn't want us to know, but on a ship there ar eno secrets. As we took our position amongst the Line, I began to see why. Our older Stralsund was a gallant craft indeed, but was dwarfed in size by the Highland Confederacy Commodore's craft before us, and the massive Defiant class frigate the Merchant Angevin had committed to the battle astern. To make matters worse, there had been some mixup in the supply chain, and we had to set sail with minimal provisions and stores, ammunition and fresh lumber for hull repairs being notably absent.
Despite our Captain's worry, I could not help but feel pride as I saw the assembled fleets of the French draw a large cordon across the open waters between the blockading reef to the south and the small island with our defensive fort to the north. The squadron of Confederates had the honor of holding the southernmost end of the line, the anchor to their ballast, so to speak. The Commodore's impressive ship was closest to the reef, our Stralsund forming the second, with four more ships of the Highland stretching behind us. I took confidence in the sight of our three Ships-Of-The-Line in the center of our line.
Soon our scouts had detected the pirate fleet approaching fast, forming a flying V of sorts as they approached from the shadow of the reef out of the south. Captain Leblanc told us to steel ourselves for battle, and one look at the enemy fleet told me we were soon to see action. Keeping to the edge of the reefs, the pirate fleet shifted formation into a single long line, lead by the notorious pirate William Obvious. The first report of cannons echoed through the night, and the battle was began in earnest. For a moment I believe the pirate scum may run across our lines, committing nautical suicide as they ran against the full weight of our cannon of the line, but much to my surprise the lead ship pulled away and went back out to sea, doubling back towards the end of their own formation. The following ships followed suit, and soon we saw the pirate fleet sailing in a fast moving circle roughly a half mile wide, each ship coming closest to us unloading a broadside before movign back out to sea and making room for the next one to fire.
The Commodore's gallant Naval Frigate direct afore us was taking the brunt of the fire, the waters churning around the craft as the weight of shot fell upon him. Soon the vessel's starboard armor was shattered and holed, and the Commodore wisely pulled closer to the shadow of the reef, blocking their line of fire from further assault upon his vessel. The pirates quicky altered their targets, and soon The Bloodwine itself came under sustained fire from their attacks. During those ferocious minutes I remember distinctly when Captain Leblanc's shouted orders were suddenly cut short, a stray cannon ball having removed the bottom half of his person and part of the forecastle along with it. Thinking quickly, our First Mate Bernard Bouchard ordered us forward to take position closely behind the Commodore. The men needed little more prompting, and soon our ship fell out of their arc and into the protective lee of the reef.
A hole had been made however, the weight of fire from the pirate fleets attacks had taken its toll, and forced open a gap in our line. Upon the next rotation of their formation, their lead ship chose not to turn and continue their circle, but instead to make for the gap dividing our squadron in two, the Commodore and the Bloodwine against the reef furthest to the south, and the remaining four Confederate Ships, at least one already badly damaged, and the rest of the line stretching out to the north.
We exchanged volleys, damaging the lead ships prow, but not detering its forward movement. Our frigate shuddered under their initial broadside as they passed, but fought on. When I saw the entirety of the pirate fleet following on his heels, I knew fear. Ship after ship passed in quick succession, our cannons unable to fire fast enough as they passed, each broadside belching out death as they pierced our ranks and made for the inner bay. We had hurt a few, that we could tell, but we had to come about or our vessel was done for. I was just climbing into the rigging when the ship pitched suddenly to the side. I will never forget the sight of the rising column of fire from where our stern used to be. With a thunderous crack, the Bloodwine split in to and exploded outwards, our powder store touched off by the continuous pounding.
I was thrown through the air, the foremast I was on snapped cleanly in two and thrown forward to land to port of the Commodore's ship. Me and a pitiful handful of other survivors clamoured onto the reef, clinging to what wooden debris we could to stay afloat. I had somehow survived the ordeal unharmed, this trusty diary wrapped in pigskin and tucked into my vest as usual.
The next few hours were a blur as I watched through explosion pocked gloom of night. Huge clouds of smoke and fire hung over the waters, the night lighting up as another ship released its broadside. The screams of the dying were heard everywhere. I was sure we were done for, and had fallen unconscious for a spell, collapsed atop the reef.
When I came to I saw a wonderous sight. The pirate fleet, or what was left of it, only ten strong now, in full flight back out to sea as our line finally broke formation for the first time and gave pursuit. I remember cheering until I lost my voice, overwhelmed with emotion as I watched pirate after pirate fail to escape. Of the twenty three vessel they had brought for the assault, only three escaped to spread tale of our victory. For that loss, I saw our French fleet had only suffered the loss of five vessels, although it pained me to realize four of them where from our squadron, whom bore the brunt of the pirate assault, buying our Ships-Of-The-Line time to pound the vile heathen into matchsticks.
I was thankful when I saw a longboat from the Commodore's ship, still somehow intact despite the enemies best efforts, approach my position on the reef, fishing out any survivors they could now that the engagement had ended.
I knew, that day as I was dragged dripping wet but happy into the longboat, what it was to be a Frenchman.