The Strange History and Legend of the Moran Moor
Extract Three. Lissa
23rd October 1810 the ‘Favorite, commanded by Bernard Dubourdieu, with a keen but nervous Julien Lasalle-Bargossa overseeing a quartet of cannons towards the frigates prow raided the harbor of Lissa doing serious damage and managing to capture as prizes six vessels in the harbor. Julien proving to be a brave and resourceful gun commander in the fray, but unfortunately was quite badly burned on the left side of his visage when a cartouche of gun powder exploded unexpectedly. Continuing at his post despite being racked with pain Julien saw out the action and was rewarded with both heartfelt praise and a glowing account recorded in the ships log.
Severe powder burns were a common occurrence in fighting ships of the age and the fast and experienced ministrations of the frigate’s surgeon ensured that apart from a rather expansive degree of scarring no permanent disabling damage ensued. Julien’s almost black hair, his dark almond eyes and now scorched face made his long-held nickname of ‘the moor’ even more appropriate.
Barely five months later in March 1811 the ‘Favorite’ leading a squadron of French and Italian frigates and a number of smaller vessels retuned to Lissa, this time with the intent of launching both an invasion of the island and to confound the havoc being caused in the immediate vicinity by Captain William Hoste’s four ships which were based at the excellent deep water harbor. Hoste, a contemporary of Horatio Nelson and one of the most accomplished naval tacticians of the age proved more than a match for his far out numbering opponents, scattering the French-Venetian squadron far and wide and driving the flagship the ‘Favorite’ itself aground, admiral Dubourdieu being killed during the action. Julien Lasalle-Bargossa was, not for the last time, obliged to jump ship and swim for his life.
Julien managed to evade capture for several days but eventually was, with the rest of his surviving shipmates captured. There being neither facilities on the island for prolonged internment of prisoners of war nor any easy means to transport same to either a British or Venetian governed facility the prisoners, as was the custom of the time, were freed under license upon the clear understanding that they would partake in no further wartime activities, upon pain of immediate execution. Such an arrangement seems very strange to 21st century minds, but we must remember that in the period in question the giving of an oath was considered somewhat sacred and the breaking of such almost beyond consideration.
Lasalle-Bargossa found passage from Lissa to the Venetian influenced city of Dubrovnik aboard the merchantman ‘Cizma’, on its homeward leg having delivered supplies to the island. The crew were made up in the main of Croats originating from that renowned walled city and therefore seafarers of the highest ability. Julien would remain as a crew member for the next five years absorbing the lessons offered with a willingness that endeared him to both captain Martecchini and every crew member alike. It was during these formative years that despite his continued muteness Julien picked up a working knowledge of the many languages and dialects that surrounded him both aboard ship and that most cosmopolitan of regions, even mastering a smattering of the most populous language used at sea, English.
Julien joined the ‘Cizma’ a promising sailor boy but was molded over the next half decade into a well-rounded and accomplished seaman with all the skills, superstitions and vices that profession is prone to include.
Little needs to be said about much of this education, particular in regard to the understood indulgence of mariners in drunkenness, debauchery and wagering at the least opportunity. Thankfully Julien survived his time on the ‘Cizma’ without serious injury or contracting a permanently incapacitating disease and at the now ripe old age of twenty years took a birth as a more than able seaman on a British merchantman bound initially for Gibraltar and from there to Nova Scotia.
Maritime National Entries 1810-1811, Les Invalides, Paris
Log of th the ‘Favorite’, Toulon National Maritime Museum
‘The Naval History of Great Britain, Volume 6, 1811–1827’ William James 2002
‘The War for All Oceans.’ Roy Adkins 2007
‘Il potere marittimo in età moderna, da Lepanto a Trafalgar.’ Francesco 2009
‘The Napoleonic Wars Data Book’. Digby Smith, 1998
Official Archives, Maritime Museum, St Johns Tower, Dubrovnik, Croatia