Nelson's Journal of the Siege of Calvi, 1794

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The capture of Bastia left the British only needing to take Calvi to make their conquest of Corsica secure. Once again, Horatio Nelson played a key part in the siege, commanding the naval forces involved and providing the artillery required to bombard the French fortifications. While the attack on Bastia was characterised by the poor relations between the army and the navy, by the time of the attack on Calvi, the two services were cooperating much more keenly.

The journal is now amongst the Nelson papers at Monmouth.

The Document

A Journal of the Siege of Calvi, from June 10th, when the 'Agamemnon' left Lord Hood at sea, to the 10th August, when the English took possession of the town, by Captain Horatio Nelson, who commanded the seamen employed on the expedition.

On the 10th of June 1794: At 2 o'clock parted from Lord Hood and steered for Cape Corse.

June 11th: All day little wind, in the night got a fine breeze from the Northward running alongshore.

June 12th: At 8 o'clock anchored off the Town of Bastia, went on shore to General Stuart and settled that all the troops for the expedition against Calvi should be embarked the next morning at 6 o'clock. Ordered a ship to be loaded with empty casks.

June 13th: By 8 o'clock every solder was embarked in the different transports, 1,450 men exclusive of officers. At noon made the signal to unmoor. At 4 the signal to weigh, made sail in company H.M. Ship Dolphin and 22 sail.

June 14th: Little wind all day and night.

June 15th: At 7 o'clock in the evening anchored in Mortella Bay, General Stuart came on board and as he seemed anxious to go on to the attack of Calvi, if I thought it right to go with the shipping which I certainly did placing the firmest reliance we should be perfectly safe under Lord Hood's protection who would take care that the French fleet should not molest us. I therefore gave the necessary orders for the fleet to be ready to sail on the next day as also H.M. Ship Lutine.

June 16th: Raised 110 volunteers from the transports and took 30 seamen from the Inflexible. At 1/2 past 5 in the evening sailed from Mortella Bay with the Dolphin, Lutine and 16 sail of transports, victuallers and storeships. Little wind all night.

June 17th: Very little wind all day. It was 10 o'clock at night before any of the ships could get to an anchor on the coast about 4 miles to the westward of Cape Revalata, the bottom rocky and very deep water, the Agamemnon laying in 53 fathoms one mile from the shore opposite a little inlet called Port Agra. This coast is so rocky that a boat cannot land except in the inlet.

June 18th: In the morning at 1/2 past 3 o'clock went on shore with General Stuart to examine the coast for a proper landing place which we both agreed must be at the inlet called Port Agra, by no means a convenient place for landing guns or stores as sunken rocks lay 20 feet from the shore with deep water between them and with a common sea breeze such a swell sets in as to prevent boats landing. This inlet is 3.5 miles from the town of Calvi. Examined the enemy outposts and found them as follows:

Monachessco about 2,200 yards from the town on the S.W. side of it. The Mozelle fort about 650 yards, the Fountain battery in a shoulder of a hill between Mozelle and San Francesco which last stands on a rock on the north side the Peninsular and is washed by the sea.

Monan Bessco has one eighteen pounder and 3 or 4 other guns 6 and 8 pounders.

Mozelle a star stone fort with a Cavaliere in the centre mounting 10 guns 18 and 8 pounders with a bomb proof under the cavaliere.

Fountain battery 6 18 pounders landed from the Melpomene a fascine work defended by seamen who had a camp behind it.

At the old tower the enemy had a small entrenchment and an howitzer.

San Francesco two brass 18 pounders and one iron.

The town apparently well fortified but without any ditch.

June 19th: By 7 o'clock in the morning all the troops were landed under the direction of Captain Cooke with 6 field pieces which the seamen dragged up the hills. Landed in the afternoon with 250 seamen, encamped on the beach, landing baggage and provisions for the army. By the General's desire sent the Fox cutter with directions for 180 Royal Louis the 18th Regiment and 100 of the 69th Regiment to join as soon as possible. In the night landed from Lutine 4 26 pounders.

June 20th and 21st: It blew so strong with a heavy sea as to preclude all intercourse with the shipping. By morning of the 21st every ship had put to sea. We were employed in making roads for our gins and getting up 3 26 pinders to the Madona about 2.5 miles from the landing place. The road for the first 3/4 of a mile is up a steep mountain and the other part not very easy in the heavy rains with much thunder and lightning.

June 22nd: More moderate got off boats to such ships as got back again. Employed landing provisions, powder, shot, gun, carriages. Of the first article we were much in want. The Fox returned with 180 Royal Louis. Got one 26 pounder up the hill. Still a great deal of surf. A serjeant deserted from Calvi. At night got 2 26 pounder from the Madona to the place intended for the battery against Monachessco from which it is distant 850 yards. A working party of soldiers filling sand bags.

June 23rd: The water pretty smooth. Landed two 26 pounders, a great quantity of provisions, shot etc. At night got one 26 pounder from the Madona to the intended battery against Monachessco and mounted the 3 guns.

June 24th: Landed on 26 pounder, 2 24 pounders and 2 18 pounders. A very fine day. Capt. Hollowell and Capt. Serocold joined with 50 seamen from the Victory. Got 2 24 pounders to the top of the hill.

June 25th: Captain Cooke left me. Got up one 26 pounder and 2 18 pounders to the top of the hill. Employed making a road to carry on the guns towards the Mozelle. The Agamemnon and the transports returned from Fiorenza.

June 26th: Got up 2 26 pounders, 2 12 inch mortars, 1 8 inch howitzer to the top of the hill. The 18th Regiment and flank company of the 69th Regiment arrived. Our force exclusiove of seamen 2,000 men.

June 27th: Got up 2 10 inch howitzers. Employed carrying forawrd about 3/4 of a mile the heavy guns and carriages. All the day a gale of wind. All intercourse with the shipping cut off. At 2 o'clock in the afternoon the French came out and made an attempt to turn both flanks of the Corsicans and a gun boat came out to fire in the rear of the Corsicans, and under cover of a heavy cannonade the enemy advanced. The light corps were under arms, ready to support the Corsicans if necessary. Seamen got down two field pieces and fired at the gun boat who instantly retired. The enemy rather forced the Corsicans to retire. Went with General Stuart to the Corsicans who kept a smart fire of musketry and regained their post. Colonel Sabbatini their commandant was killed with 2 or 3 others, and 5 or 6 wounded. The enemy retired about 4 o'clock, believe they have not the smallest idea of our intentions of bringing cannons over the mountains. The Victory in sight from the hills.

June 28th: The boats were with difficulty enabled to get off the ships. Employed carrying forward the guns and mortars and making a road nearer Calvi. Went on board the Victory. Landed 4 18 pounders.

June 29th: Shifted the seamen's camp to the top of the hill. Landed 2 26 pounders, got them up a hill to the left of the Madona 1,500 yards west of the Mozelle and 1,000 yeards N.W. of Monachessco. This is called Hill Battery.

June 30th: Got 2 12 pounders on the point inside Cape Revalata and 1 12 pounder on the pitch of the cape, also 1 12 inch mortar on the Hill Battery.

July 1st: Went on board the Victory. Landed inside Cape Revalata. All night employed in moving the guns, mortars and howitzers to within 450 yards of the intended battery.

July 2nd: Made two trips to the landing place for stores. At night got two mortars to their battery carrying platforms etc., till 2 in the morning.

July 3rd: Employed 6 hours bringing up stores from the landing place. At night carrying casks, sand bags and platforms towards the intended battery. The French cannoniers and Royal Louis made a 3 gun battery against Monachessco. The French are to have the fighting of this battery.

July 4th: The Royal Louis battery opened at 5 o'clock on Monachessco which did considerable damage to the enemy's works. By evening, it being the General's intention to make our advanced battery this night against the Mozelle, he judged it proper to endeavour to draw off the enemy's attention from the place, by a show of an attack on Monachessco. In the evening the Royal Irish marched from the right, while the Light Corps moved to the left. The Corsicans as soon as it was dark began a firing which the enemy thinking an attack on Monachessco began to fire in all directions, not only from Monachessco but from the Mozelle Fountain Battery and the Town. In a short time the enemy thinking I suppose that we were in possession of Monachessco directed their cannon against it. Their musketry was fired entirely across the isthmus, doubtless apprehending a general attack. It was General Stuart's orders for the working parties to move forward with sand bags, casks and platforms and as soon as they were got forward, I was to move with the guns. At 1/2 past 10 o'clock not an engineer had gone forward, and when the General returned an attempt was made to erect the battery but it was too late, and all the bags etc. , were obliged to be brought back again.

July 5th: Carrying junk for mortar platforms and placing the mortars on their beds all night. 100 seamen employed in getting forward things for the advanced battery. Lieut. Moutray made a battery for 2 18 pounders inside Revalata with 25 guns.

July 6th: Getting some planks and preparing everything to be ready to get on brisk in the evening. At 1/2 past 9 o'clock in the evening a feint of an attack was carried on against Monachessco and the enemy turned their fire during the whole night towards that post which they supposed was attacked. By excessive labour in every department the battery was erected by day light on the 7th and the guns brought close to it.

July 7th: It was impossible to get the guns on their platforms before 6 o'clock which exposed us to a heavy fire of grape shot, but the seamen did their duty as becomes them, and 4 26 pounders and 2 24 pounders were mounted in spite of all opposition. Amongst those who fell was to be regreted Captain Walter Serocold of the Navy, Mr. Corney mate of a transport and one seaman belonging to the Agamemnon. Several soldiers were killed and wounded in the rear of the battery. At 10 o'clock the battery was opened on the Mozelle 6 gun fascine battery and San Francesco. Very much silenced before night the enemy's fire at the fascine battery and Mozelle which latter is much damaged. Our distance from Mozelle 750 yards. Seamen fight this battery one artillery man to each gun.

July 8th: The enemy repaired much of their fascine battery during the night and during the whole day they kept up a constant heavy fire of shot and shells on our battery. They destroyed two of our gins and much damaged another and the works. One shell burst in the centre of our battery amongst the General, myself and at least 100 of us, but wonderful not a man was hurt, although it blew up our battery magazine. The Mozelle is a good deal battered but if any of their guns are disabled, they have others to supply the place. Got 2 guns to replace the damaged ones. 2 seamen killed 3 soldiers wounded.

July 9th: The enemy during the night repaired much of their fascine battery and the Mozelle with sand bags. By 10 o'clock we got the superiority of fire and before night dismounted every gun in the fascine battery and Mozelle, but the guns on San Francesco annoyed us very much being so much on our left flank cannot get our guns to bear on it. In the night mounted a 10 inch howitzer which fired on the enemy as the battery did every three minutes to prevent their working. Landed shot and shells in Port Vaccaja between Revalata and Calvi. Found in this bay a small cove where I think guns may be landed. 1 solder killed 1 wounded 2 seamen wounded.

July 10th: At daylight opened our fire on the Mozelle and occasionally a gun on the Fountain battery. Found the enemy had not duone any work on this battery during the night. At the Mozelle's they had laid great numbers of sand bags to prevent our shot hitting under the arches of the Cavaliere, which we did yesterday by beating down the marlins of the lower work. By 7 o'clock all the bags were knocked down and our fire went on without any opposition. By evening the Mozelle was much shaken and I am sure a practival breach may be made when ever the General things it right to turn his attention to it. To the honour of General Stuart he is not sparing of himself on any occasion. He every night sleeps in the advanced battery. Landed 2 34 pounders this night in the cove I examined yesterday. 1 artillery man killed.

July 11th: Our fire constant on the Mozelle. Fired some hot shot at the fascine battery which set the marlins on fire, but they had put too much sand with the fascines for us to effectually destroy the battery. At 10 o'clock saw the enemy carry off their field pieces and howitzer and totally abandon the work, which was no sooner done than they opened their fire from the bastions of the town, firing over their old battery and over the Mozelle, and although they could not see our battery from the bastions yet great numbers of their shot struck it and killed an additional gunner. At night a large breach was made in the lower work of the Mozelle. At 10 o'clock got up 2 36 pounders and one 26 pounder to the rear of the battery. Lieut. Mountray joined me with 25 seamen.

July 12th: The enemy opened a heavy fire at daylight from the town and San Francesco seldom (very extraordinary) missing our battery. At 7 o'clock C.N. was much bruised in the face and eyes by sand from works struck by shot. 2 26 pounders were dismounted by evening. The Mozelle much breached at night. Replaced the guns destroyed, fired a gun and morter every three minutes. At 1/2 past 12 the town was on fire and burnt for three hours.

2 seamen and 3 soldiers wounded.

July 13th: The enemy kept up a constant fire all day from the town and dismounted another 26 pounder. This is the 5th gun disabled since the 7th when our battery opened and having only 6 guns in it, 'tis wonderful. At night landed 4 18 pounders with a quantity of shot and shells in Port Vaccaja. Employed getting them up to the rear of our battery. I must here acknowledge the indefatigable zeal, activity and ability of Captain Hollowell and of the great readiness he ever shews to give me assistance in the laborious duties entrusted to us. To this night by computation we may be supposed to have dragged one 26 pounder with its ammunition and every requisite for making a battery upwards of 80 miles, 17 of which up a very steep mountain.

1 soldier killed.

July 14th: Fired all day at Mozelle the General not thinking the breaches sufficiently practicable. At night landed 3 26 pounders 1 24 pounder 1 13 inch mortar 1 10 inch mortar and a great quantity of shot and shells. The enemy laid a great quantity of sand bags in the breach.

July 15th: Landed scaling ladders, the General thinking the breaches would be practicable in the evening, but it seems they were not thought so. Got up from the beach to the rear of the battery the guns and mortars landed last night. The enemy fired a good deal during the night but without doing any damage.

July 16th: The enemy have fired much this day and have fixed the range of their guns to the Mozelle and the height between it and the old tower. At night landed 2 howitzers and carriages. Went with General Stuart to examine the ground for a battery against the Mozelle or Town.

3 seamen 3 soldiers blown up with gunpowder.

July 17th: The enemy got clear 2 or 3 guns in the Fountain battery and laid them to fire on our approach to the Mozelle. The breaches very large, every thing ready to go forward but from some cause the attack is deferred for this night.

1 additional gunner killed.

July 18th: Getting everything ready to proceed. The 50th Regt. to assist in making a battery for the 3 26 pounders to the right of the Mozelle and about 300 yards distant. The seamen to carry forward the guns and mount them, also 1 13 inch mortar, 60 seamen under Lieut. Edmonds and Lieut. Harrison to carry forward the field pieces.

The disposition of the troops were as follows:-

Colonel Wemyss with the 18th Regt. to proceed by the left of our 6 gun battery with two field pieces drawn by seamen commanded by Lieut. Edmonds of the Agamemnon and with fixed bayonets to take possession of the Fountain Battery which when he had got possession of he was if San Francesco fired to direct his fire against it, when the troops under Colonel Moore with two field pieces drawn by seamen commanded by Lieut. Harrison of the Navy were to move forward under cover of the 3 gun battery. Carpenters under Lt. St. George to go before and to cut down the pallisadoes. A party under Major Brereton to go by the right of the Mozelle to cut off the enemy's retreat from the town. Colonel Moore's party to be supported by the 51st Regt. The 50th Regt. after work to remain under arms. All night hard at work. The troops to move forward laying on their arms. Landed 112 seamen in addition from the Agamemnon under Lieut. Suckling.

July 19th: At 3 o'clock a smart firing of musketry opened on the 18th Regt., who marched into the Fountain battery without firing a shot although the Mozelle fired grape on them. The enemy abandoned the work and trench behind it and fled into the town. The 3 gun battery began to fire at the Mozelle as did the field pieces under Lieut. Harrison into the breach. The Royal Irish giving an huzza the Pioneers pushed forward cut down the pallisadoes and the troops under Colonel Moore giving an huzza were in the breach. The enemy only firing a few musketry were panic-struck and fled except a very few who threw down two large shells one of which burst. One or two of the enemy were bayonetted in the Mozelle and two taken prisoner, but so fast did they fly that Major Brereton with the light infantry had not time to get between the Mozelle and the town before they all escaped. Capt. McDonald led up one breach, Lieut. McDonald up the other, both were slightly wounded. Thus fell the Mozelle; it cost us 4 men killed and 7 wounded.

The Royal Irish employed from the moment they got into the Fountain battery in throwing up an intrenchment being within grape shot of the town. At daylight the enemy opened a heavy fire of shot and shells from every part of the town on the Royal Irish and the 3 gun battery and this regiment not being well under cover before 11 o'clock suffered accordingly 6 killed and 12 wounded. The Mozelle is an absolute heap of ruins. In the afternoon the General sent a flag of truce to the town to know if they had any terms to propose. The answer was the motto of the town: 'Civitas Calvis semper fidelis.'

Capt. McKenzie wounded.

July 20th: Not a gun fired on either side since the flag of truce. All night seamen employed in carrying forward from the 6 gun battery to the rear of the Mozelle, 2 36 pounders 3 26 pounders 1 24 pounder 2 12 inch mortars 1 13 inch mortar 1 10 inch mortar 1 10 inch howitzer 8 gun carriages 2 mortar beds 1 howitzer carriage 1,500 shot 36 pounders and 26 pounders, 500 8 inch howitzer shells. 700 seamen at work, the whole of this night and one one else.

July 21st: Resting part of this day, the remainder carrying shot and shells to the rear of the Mozelle. Every seamen continued at work till 2 o'clock in the morning. Carried to the rear of the Mozelle 1 26 pounder 1 20 inch howitzer 1 8 inch howitzer 2 mortar beds for 12 inch mortars. None but seamen and mules at work.

July 22nd: The enemy at work changing their light guns for heavy ones, filling the embrasures and mounting their guns on Dumourier carriages. Seamen employed carrying shot and shells and 4 26 pounders and one howitzer to the battery on the left of the Mozelle, a working party making batteries all day.

July 23rd: At night removed all the mortars from the right to the left of the Mozelle. Removed 3 18 pounders from the 6 gun battery to the 3 gun battery and changed them. 3 26 pounders which we carried to the Fountain battery. A working party making batteries.

July 24th: Not a gun fired since the 19th. The enemy hard at work as well as ourselves. Mules and seamen carrying shot and shells.

July 25th: Mounted all the mortars, howitzers and 7 gun battery with 26 pounders. At night attempted to remove the Royal Louis battery, broke the devil carts, only got one gun half way down the mountain.

July 26th: Seamen employed all day carrying shot and shells from the beach to the batteries.

July 27th: Not a gun fired. Landed 2 32 pounders, At night mounted 2 36 pounders 1 26 pounder and 4 18 pounders, all ready to open before day light on the 28th. Our batteries as follows:-

From the left: 1 26 pounder 1 10 inch howitzer 1 24 pounder 6 26 pounders 1 10 inch howitzer 3 13 inch mortars 3 18 pounders 1 8 inch howitzer 1 5.5 inch howitzer 1 10 inch mortar 1 18 pounder 2 36 pounders 1 26 pounder - all these within 600 yards of the town wall.

To the right: 900 yards distant 2 26 pounders besides our 3 gun battery and the hill battery.

July 28th: At 7 the General sent in a letter to say he should not fire at their black flags (hospitals) according to their desire. The Governor sent an answer that he would send a letter in the course of the day. At 1/2 past 5 a flag came out with two officers and a letter, which was to say that if no succours arrived in 25 days that they would then enter upon terms for a surrender of the twon.

July 29th: The truce still continues. At 10 o'clock the General went on board Lord Hood and it was determined to give the garrison to the 10th August when if no succours arrived we were to be put in full possession of the town. In the night four small vessels got in. The garrison gave three cheers which will probably end our negotiation. The seamen (except one artillery man to each gun to point it) manned the whole of these batteries as they did every other, except the Royal Louis battery. The greatest merit is due to every lieutenant landed from the fleet for their constant assiduity and attention, as I must also say to the seamen, only 2 have been punished since our first landing. Lieutenants Edmunds, Ferrier, and Morgan were constantly with the seamen who fought the 6 gun and gun battery. At the near batteries they were assisted by Lieutenants Moutray, Hoye and Suckling, assisted by Mr. William Harrington Master of the Williamson Transport, Lieutenant Harrison agent for Transports who volunteered this service with us, was alert and assiduous in every duty he was desired to perform. Our troops and seamen getting sickly.

July 3oth: At noon a flag sent in with our final determination. At 1 he returned the enemy having rejected our terms. Got everything ready to commence hostilities. At 5 o'clock opened our fire, the enemy began also firing, but very soon run from thei guns. By dark 3 or 4 guns were dismounted and the enemy only now and then fired a gun at us. Lieut. Byron 18th Reg., Ensign Boogus 51st Regt., killed. Lieut Livingstone 30th Regt., and one seaman Agamemnon wounded. At 9 o'clock the town was on fire in five places from our shells which fired incessantly the whole night.

July 31st: Our fire kept up very brisk during the whole day. The enemy seldom firing, and only one gun from the left and one howitzer to their right, by sun set nearly all the enemy's guns seemed disabled, a great part of the parapet wall beat down, and three fires burning. At 5 o'clock a flag came out to say 2 men had been killed in the hospital.

Mr Banks midshipman killed. 1 additional gunner killed.

August 1st:Our fire kept up till 11 o'clock when the enemy hung out a flag of truce and demanded to same time 10th August, which General Stuart thought proper to grant without consulting Lord Hood, and granted the enemy such terms as he thought proper, or even sending to Lord hood to sign the capitulation.

To the 10th: Every hour our troops and seamen falling ill and dying. On that day not 400 soldiers were fit for duty.

August 10th: At 9 o'clock about 300 troops a party of seamen, some Royal Louis and some Corsicans were drawn up opposite the Great Gate to receive the garrison who at 10 o'clock marched out with two pieces of cannon and the honours of war and laid down their arms, in the whole 300 troops and 247 armed Corsicans. Sent Lieut. Moutray and a party of seamen to take possession of the frigates, gun boats and merchant vessels in the harbour. Ordered six transports into the harbour. Employed all day embarking the garrison, sick and such inhabitants as chose to return to France. The enemy had out of their armed men 313 sick in the hospital.

Melpomene 40
Mignonne 32
Ca Ira Gun Boat  
Two Merchant Brigs and some small craft  

A list of killed and wounded officers and seamen:-

Victory 1 2 0 3
Agamemnon 1 2 1 4
Transports 4 2 0 6
Inflexible 0 0 1 1
Totals: 6 6 2 14
  Captain Serocold killed  
  Mr. Banks killed  
  Mr. Corney killed  

See Also
Books on the Napoleonic Wars
Subject Index: Napoleonic Wars

How to cite this article

Rickard, J (12 November 2005) Nelson's Journal of the Siege of Calvi, 1794,

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