HMS Bellerophon Ships log – 10th July 1815

Location: Off Isle d’Oleron
Winds:  South West light, Clear
Water expended 2 ½ tons. Remaining 180tons

At first light, the French Schooner Mouche was sighted making towards Bellerophon under a flag of truce. Ordered the ship to heave to and received onboard two envoys sent on behalf of Buonoparte carrying the following letter.

“The Emperor Napoleon having abdicated the throne of France, and chosen the United States of America as a retreat, is, with his suite, at present embarked on board the two frigates which are in this port, for the purpose of proceeding to his destination. He expects a passport from the British Government, which has been promised to him, and which induces me to send the present flag of truce, to demand of you, Sir, if you have any knowledge of the above-mentioned passport, or if you think it is the intention of the British Government to throw any impediment in the way of our voyage to the United States. I shall feel much obliged by your giving me any information you may possess on the subject.”I have directed the bearers of this letter to present to you my thanks, and to apologise for the trouble it may cause.

Whilst the envoys were still onboard, HMS Falmouth arrived with new orders from Sir Henry Hotham who remained off Quiberon bay.

“The Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty having every reason to believe that Napoleon Buonaparte meditates his escape, with his family, from France to America, you are hereby required and directed to keep the most vigilant look-out for the purpose of intercepting him; and to make the strictest search of any vessel you may fall in with; and if you should be so fortunate as to intercept him, you are to transfer him and his family to the ship you command, and there keeping him in careful custody, return to the nearest port in England (going into Torbay in preference to Plymouth) with all possible expedition; and on your arrival you are not to permit any communication whatever with the shore, except as herein after directed; and you will be held responsible for keeping the whole transaction a profound secret, until you receive their Lordships’ further orders”.

After three hours, the envoys departed with my formal response: “In reply, I have to acquaint you , that  it is impossible for me to permit any ship of war or any merchant vessel to pass without the sanction of my commanding officer Sir Henry Hotham”.

In the late afternoon, Bellerophon sailed up the channel towards the two French frigates and dropped anchor close to the Ile de’Aix.

Note: Buonoparte and his entourage had already embarked on the French frigate Saale which was now under close observation by Bellerophon. Captain Maitland was unaware at this stage that Buonoparte was onboard but wished to prevent either from escaping.