A French “64” of the period – Monmouth would have looked generally similar
(Attribution: Wikipedia Commons and www.musee-marine.fr Authority control VIAF: 19144648200974718522 Museofile: M5026 Accession number 3 OA 10)
Soon after Byng’s death Gardiner was sent back to the Mediterranean in command of the 64-gun HMS Monmouth, as part of Admiral Henry Osborne’s squadron. In early 1758 this force had succeeded in driving a French fleet of fifteen ships into the Spanish port of Cartagena and keeping them blockaded there. This fleet had been en-route to Louisbourg, the great French fortress on Cape Breton Island, with reinforcements. On February 28th a French relieving force of three ships-of- the-line, carrying the Governor of “New France” (French Canada) and under the naval command of Admiral Gallifoniere. This officer also spotted the British force, and realising that it was larger, decided to retreat. Osborne responded by ordering a general chase, directing Gardiner in Monmouth, and two other ships, the Hampton Court and the Swiftsure, to engage Gallifoniere’s flagship, the Foudroyant. The latter was one of the most powerful vessels afloat, her eighty guns consisting of thirty 42-pounders – enormous weapons for the time – as well as thirty-two 24-pounders and eighteen 12-pounders. With a crew of 470, a French privateer previously captured by the Monmouth had said of the Foudroyant that “She would fight today, tomorrow, and the next day, but could never be taken.” By contrast, the Monmouth was armed with sixty-four 24-pounders and had a crew of 470 and her two consorts were almost identically armed. Together, these three ships might have been enough to defeat the more powerful French vessel, but any one of them alone would be heavily outgunned.
An accident of fate had provided Gardiner with the opportunity he craved to wipe out the stain on his honour. As the Monmouth, faster-sailing than Hampton Court or Swiftsure, closed with Foudroyant it was revealed that she was flying the flag of the Admiral Gallifoniere, the commander who had been present on board her during the action with Byng. Eager now for action, Gardiner pressed on with Monmouth, determined to engage the Foudroyant at any cost and unwilling to wait for the other British ships to catch up. According to one account he pointed to Foudroyant and told an army-officer on board “Whatever becomes of you and me, that ship must go into Gibraltar.”
By the time Monmouth opened fire on Foudroyant, both Hampton Court and Swiftsure were out of sight and Gardiner was committed to a one-to-one duel. He was wounded in the arm almost immediately, but not badly enough to incapacitate him. Monmouth’sopening fire damaged the Foudroyant’s rigging, thereby lessening her manoeuvrability, and Gardiner placed his ship off the enemy’s quarter. From this position Monmouthpounded Foudroyant for almost two hours while being exposed to less fire herself (As so often when learning of such actions, one Is struck by the duration of such cannonades – one can only assume that sheer exhaustion of the gun crews would have lessened the rate of fire considerably). Gardiner, directing operations from the open deck, now received his second, and ultimately fatal, wound, a blow from a ball or fragment on his forehead. Before he passed out and was carried below to the surgeon he called for his first lieutenant – Robert Carkett (approx. 1720 – 1780) – and asked him not to give up the ship or halt the action. Carkett responded by having the colours nailed to the mast and with a pistol in each hand swore that he would shoot anybody who would attempt to strike them