Captain Mundy’s close shave and a game of ‘la chase’

Almost two hundred years ago, Captain George Mundy wrote a letter to his father, Edward Miller Mundy I on May 1st 1809, detailing an encounter with the French fleet in the Napoleonic wars five days earlier on Thursday, 27th April 1809. This letter is part of the Miller Mundy collection, which is an enlightening and fascinating insight into life at that time.

There are so many historical books, films and television programmes centred on the Napoleonic Wars, but to be able to read a first-hand account written by member of a family local and renowned to Derby, elevates your imagination and creates a much closer idea of what these seamen endured.

Captain Mundy's letter

HMS Hydra captained by George Mundy was anchored off Mongat, North East of Barcelona. He left his ship and writes that he

“arrived in the neighbourhood of the beach and immediately between me and the ship – a party of 200 French infantry that had marched out of Barcelona and came to plunder the village of Mongat – on the beach so heavy a surf that none of our boats could land, a squadron of men of war coming towards the Hydra”

He continues how he wished he could engage in ‘la chase’ – a chase, relying entirely on the wind and sea

“however it was to no purpose stewing and fretting and with a little exertion and some threats, I got a fisherman to launch me thro’ the surf and put me on board the old Hydra – never have I felt half the pleasure of getting alongside a good blazing fire after a long journey…as I did in putting my foot on the deck of my wooden residence – all the miseries I had been suffering vanished and I felt strong in my castle and able to undertake a good deal.”

Capt. Mundy’s delight at being back on board is clear, in spite of the considerable threat from the enemy fleet blocking their route.

And what happened next? After firing shots at the French infantry on the beach and faced with a whole squadron of Men of War, the Hydra managed to escape having used a secret signal to identify the enemy, and by skilled seamanship and bravery.

“soon under weigh (sic) and having given my friends at Mongat a few parting shots I made all sail towards the enemy advanced frigates (which I had then discovered them to be by their not answering the private signal) knowing that it was the only way to get off – that is to say by a little gasconade – by which I completely succeeded in escaping from the cul de sac – they had put me in, or rather shut me in – do not imagine that they were alarmed by the asserations and manoeuvre of the Hydra – no! The truth of the matter was that they took for granted that we supposed the squadron to be British and that we were joining them.”

Melanie, Archives Assistant

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