Patrick O'Brian Discussion Forum

Re: A war of words and very large oil paintings


Anybody in 2017 is going to have had (does quick calculation) a gazillion forbears who were alive at the time of the Great Siege of Gibraltar and many might have been actors on either side.

Not so many humble artillerymen had their experiences put into a popular novel/biography of their as-yet-to-be-thought-of-daughter. But that's another (unreadable) story which has been handed down in my family. I've shyly decided to put forum members into the picture by quoting, from the Google books copy, some of my gggggrandfather's very words on the evening of the 12th September, 1782, as he explains the situation to General Eliot [sic] and has it explained back to him:

ggggfather: ".... The battering ships seem to be drawing closer to us, and by this time they must be pretty well prepared to tell us what they mean. Two rockets went up about ten minutes since, and were answered by two of the same kind from the land. Boats have been plying from ship to ship, and I think we shall have a hailstorm, your honour, on the morrow"

Gen. Eliot: "You are not far out in your calculation, I think. The Duke de Crillon has been more alive than I have seen him for weeks past, and Monsieur D'Arcon has been as busy as if he were going to set the world on fire! - Warm work to-morrow for them as well as ourselves....Never fear, my brave fellow! We have fully determined to try the power of red-hot shot upon their hulks; and, if we do not fire some of them, I shall be greatly disappointed. I hope this attack will end the siege."

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