Under attack from pirates

In the 17th century, international trade from Britain was exclusively carried out by sea. In addition, packet ships were essential for delivering mail to and from the colonies. Officially the captains of packet ships were forbidden to engage larger ships in battle. But in 1793, the packet ship Antelope successfully fired on the French Privateer ‘Atlanta’ until she surrendered. A privateer was a vessel authorised by a government to attack foreign vessels during wartime. Prior to this attack, the Antelope had been captured twice before, by the French, and ransomed back to the English. The crew successfully defended the mail and the packets on board and were hailed as heroes when they arrived back in England.

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