Aside from what was happening in North American waters towards the end of the Anglo-American War of 1812-14, the penultimate sea fight of the Napoleonic Wars took place in the Atlantic, 180 miles west of Ushant, on 25th February 1814. Two opposing frigates of the French and British navies found themselves thrown together in what would become one of the hottest-fought single-ship actions of the entire War and one which became rightly celebrated just as the long twenty-one year conflict was coming to an end.
On the afternoon of 25th February 1814, the brand-new 38-gun frigate H.M.S. Eurotas, under the command of Captain John Phillimore, was cruising in the Western Approaches when she sighted the significantly larger 44-gun French frigate Clorinde heading for Brest. Ignoring his opponent's superior fire-power, Phillimore gave chase at once until, at about 5.00pm, he caught up with Clorinde and, as he passed under her counter, poured the first broadside of the action into her unprotected stern. Manoeuvring along her port side, Eurotas then began to pound the enemy vessel in a furious action which continued, intermittently, for two-and-a-half hours. In the initial phase, Eurotas lost her mizzen mast and Clorinde her fore topmast yet this was only the beginning. As the two frigates jockeyed for position amidst a maelstrom of fire, Eurotas lost her main mast at 6.20pm and Clorinde's mizzen fell shortly afterwards. Ten minutes later Eurotas's foremast went overboard, as did her opponent's main mast at about the same time. Eurotas was now completely dismasted and at about 7.30pm., Clorinde set the remains of her fore-sail on the surviving stump of her foremast and limped out of range into the night.
Both ships suffered heavy casualties, the most notable being Captain Phillimore himself who was seriously wounded after being struck in the shoulder by a grape shot. Notwithstanding his incapacity which confined him to his quarters, Phillimore continued to direct matters from below whilst handing command of the deck to Lieutenant Smith. Whilst Clorinde concentrated all her efforts on widening the distance between them, the men of Eurotas meanwhile spent the entire night re-rigging their ship which, by dawn, had three serviceable jury masts and a good spread of sail to renew the pursuit. Clorinde was only about five miles ahead when the chase recommenced and Lieutenant Smith reported to Phillimore that Eurotas was making 6½ knots as she gradually began to close the distance. Everything was going well, with the crew of Eurotas relishing the prospect of finishing off the Frenchman when, at noon on the 26th, two other ships were sighted bearing down on Clorinde from the opposite direction. To the dismay of those aboard Eurotas, the two newcomers revealed themselves as the British 36-gun frigate Dryad and the 16-gun sloop Achates whose appearance on the scene convinced the French Captain Legarde that his situation was hopeless. A single shot from Dryad was all that was needed for Clorinde to strike her colours and surrender, whereupon Dryad took her in tow to Portsmouth where she was repaired and added to the fleet under the name Aurora. It had been a glorious episode in the annals of the Royal Navy although, sadly, Captain Phillimore lost not only his prize-money, but also the prestige of receiving the French Captain's surrender in person and the attendant honour which accompanied such a feat.
Captain Sir John Phillimore, C.B. (1781-1840) joined the Royal Navy in 1795 and served his time as a Midshipman under Captain (later Sir George) Murray. Present at both the battles of Cape St. Vincent (in the Colossus) and Copenhagen (in the Edgar), Phillimore was promoted for his actions at the latter and made Commander in 1804. After two years in the North Sea, he then joined Admiral Gambier's fleet off Copenhagen where his conduct at the siege of Kioge (August 1807) and his efforts in reconnoitring the Danish capital's harbour brought him not only the honour of carrying home Lord Gambier's despatches announcing the surrender of Copenhagen, but also his promotion to Captain in October the same year. By 1813, he was so well regarded that he was given command of the brand-new frigate Eurotas in which he had already distinguished himself before the action which resulted in the capture of the Clorinde. The wounds he sustained in that memorable fight took a long time to heal and he did not return to sea until given the command of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland's yacht William & Mary in April 1820. Already appointed to the Order of the Bath in 1815, he was knighted in 1820 and returned to active duty in 1823 in command of the 46-gun frigate Thetis. A diplomatic mission to Mexico (in 1823-24) was followed by a lively episode off the West Coast of Africa during an Ashantee uprising and, returning home in July 1824, Thetis was eventually paid off in November 1826. His sea service ended, Sir John retired to his home near Maidenhead where, after taking a wife in 1830, he died in March 1840.
These paintings are possibly Dodd's last commission, as he died the following year.