An Account of a Failed Attempt at Impressment

The following letter from a Lieutenant to his Captain on the Venerable in 1803 brings home the rather hopeless prospects of ventures within the impressment service.

Sir,

In pursuance of your order, I went last night to Dartmouth, with the officers and men previously directed, and made a strict search of all the public houses, and in every other place where the Lieutenant of the Rendezvous thought there might be a probability of success. I dispatched at the same time a party to examine all the vessels afloat. I am sorry to say the result of all these endeavours only produced two men; this is, I imagine to be accounted for by the same duty having been several times performed at Dartmouth since the first breaking out of the Impress., which has made the seamen too wary to be suddenly caught; indeed I am informed that the greater part of them are retired some miles into the country, particularly at the back of Teignmouth, where nothing but an adequate military force can insure their being secured for His Majesty’s Service.

Inclosed I transmit you a list of the two men impressed and have the honour to remain,

Sir,

Your respectful and obedient Servant,

J.C. Searle

Courtesy of the Historical Maritime Society.

Dr. Maturin suggests further reading

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