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The Action of 31 July 1793 was an inconclusive engagement between a British Royal Navy frigate and French frigate off the New Jersey coastline in the first year of the French Revolutionary Wars. The British captain, George Courtenay of HMS Boston, had arrived off New York City on 28 May and deliberately disguised his ship as a French vessel, fooling a French officer into coming aboard and making him a prisoner of war. Courtenay then sent a message into New York, where he knew a French frigate lay at anchor, challenging the French captain to battle within the next three days. The challenge was accepted and widely disseminated throughout the city, so that when Captain Jean-Baptiste-François Bompart of Embuscade sailed out to meet Courtenay on the morning of 31 July, the shore was crowded wit

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  • Action of 31 July 1793
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  • The Action of 31 July 1793 was an inconclusive engagement between a British Royal Navy frigate and French frigate off the New Jersey coastline in the first year of the French Revolutionary Wars. The British captain, George Courtenay of HMS Boston, had arrived off New York City on 28 May and deliberately disguised his ship as a French vessel, fooling a French officer into coming aboard and making him a prisoner of war. Courtenay then sent a message into New York, where he knew a French frigate lay at anchor, challenging the French captain to battle within the next three days. The challenge was accepted and widely disseminated throughout the city, so that when Captain Jean-Baptiste-François Bompart of Embuscade sailed out to meet Courtenay on the morning of 31 July, the shore was crowded wit
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  • Action of 31 July 1793
has abstract
  • The Action of 31 July 1793 was an inconclusive engagement between a British Royal Navy frigate and French frigate off the New Jersey coastline in the first year of the French Revolutionary Wars. The British captain, George Courtenay of HMS Boston, had arrived off New York City on 28 May and deliberately disguised his ship as a French vessel, fooling a French officer into coming aboard and making him a prisoner of war. Courtenay then sent a message into New York, where he knew a French frigate lay at anchor, challenging the French captain to battle within the next three days. The challenge was accepted and widely disseminated throughout the city, so that when Captain Jean-Baptiste-François Bompart of Embuscade sailed out to meet Courtenay on the morning of 31 July, the shore was crowded with thousands of sightseers. The engagement between the ships was fiercely contested, but the smaller and more lightly armed Boston seemed to be taking the more serious damage when at 6:20 Captain Courtenay was thrown to the deck. What happened next has been subject to debate, with the second-in-command, Lieutenant John Edwards claiming that Courtenay had been killed and he was thrown overboard as was the custom at the time. However rumours subsequently circulated that Courtenay had only been knocked unconscious when Edwards gave the order to jettison him, a story that his family credited and was later taken up by the contemporary historian Edward Pelham Brenton, although historian William James subsequently defended Edwards' actions. With Courtenay gone, Boston continued to suffer severe damage until just after 07:00, when the remaining officers ordered all surviving sails set and the British ship attempted to escape. Although Bompart pursued, by 08:00 the strain had proved too much for his ship and he fell back. After a close encounter with French ships in the Delaware River, Boston eventually escaped to St John's, Newfoundland while Embuscade refitted in New York.
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  • 10 killed, 24 wounded
  • 34 killed and wounded
combatant
  • France
commander
date
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result
  • Inconclusive
strength
  • 1 frigate
  • FrigateEmbuscade
  • FrigateHMS Boston
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