French daring paid off however – one is reminded of Farragut in somewhat similar circumstances at Mobile bay. Determination was rewarded as the French vessels smashed through the Siamese line, ramming and sinking one gunboat in the process and damaging another by gunfire. The Jean Baptiste Say was however hit and was forced to cast off its tow before grounding on a nearby island. The minefield appears to have proved ineffective and both Inconstant and Comete drove on upriver to Bangkok and trained their guns on the Royal Palace as a powerful inducement to reach an agreement. The French had suffered three dead and two wounded, the Siamese many more.
There was however a violent postscript. The grounded Jean Baptiste Say was captured by the Siamese and her crew was taken prisoner. On July 15th another French gunboat, the Forfait, sent a boarding party to recapture the vessel but it was repulsed. This represented the end of active hostilities. With Bangkok essentially blockaded by French forces, as far as maritime trade was concerned, and as French vessels lay off the heart of Bangkok, there was every reason for the Siamese to negotiate. A treaty, highly favourable to the French, and consigning control of Laos to them, was signed three months later. Jules Ferry would have been pleased, though he did not live to see it – he had died on 17th March that year, following an assassination attempt.
There have been few more effective – and cost-effective – examples of gunboat diplomacy.
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