On the death of Baudin, Linois directed that the Casuarina should be dismantled, and appointed Captain Milius to the command of Le Geographe, with instructions to take her home as soon as her sick crew recovered and she had been revictualled.
The mistake into which Captain Milius had been led by his treacherous visitor was therefore not discovered until the Phoenix was close to the Didon, which ship, hoisting her colours, fired a gun to windward, and at 8:45 a.m. opened her broadside.
Among the most remarkable of the gallant actions of this period between single ships was that fought in August, 1805, between the British 18-pounder 36-gun frigate Phoenix, Captain Thomas Baker, and the French frigate Didon, of 40 guns, Captain Milius.
Captain Milius decided not to make for Havre, whence the expedition had sailed in 1800, in consequence of what had happened to Le Naturaliste on her return to Europe in the previous year. War was declared by the British Government against France in May, and every captain in King George's navy was alert and eager to get in a blow upon the enemy.
On his acknowledging that he had none, Captain Milius besought Captain Baker to put the fellow in irons, declaring him to be a disgrace to the name of Frenchman. After this the prisoners remained quiet, and the Phoenix with her prize, having the advantage of a good wind, at length safely reached Plymouth Sound on the 3rd of September.
The Didon, which had three days before sailed from Corunna with despatches for the Rochefort squadron, and after escaping an action from another English frigate, had been visited by the skipper of an American merchant-vessel, who informed Captain Milius that a ship whose topgallant-sails were just then rising out of the water to windward was an English 20-gun ship, on board of which he had been the previous evening, and from what he had heard he was sure that she would venture to engage the Didon.
Nor shall I more than barely mention that Father Kircher ascribes the settlement of America to the Egyptians, Budbeck to the Scandinavians, Charron to the Gauls, Juffredus Petri to a skating party from Friesland, Milius to the Celtæ, Marinocus the Sicilian to the Romans, Le Comte to the Phoenicians, Postel to the Moors, Martin d'Angleria to the Abyssinians, together with the sage surmise of De Laet, that England, Ireland, and the Orcades may contend for that honor.
The Phoenix had lost her second lieutenant, 1 master's mate, and 10 seamen killed, and 3 officers, 13 seamen, and 12 marines wounded; while the Didon had had 27 officers and men killed, and 44 badly wounded out of her crew of 330 men, who were looked upon as one of the most efficient in the French navy, while Captain Milius, who was known for his gallantry and seamanship, had fought his frigate with the greatest bravery.
Captain Milius, though ordered to avoid an action, believing that victory was certain, backed his mizen-topsail and kept his main-topsail shivering to allow the British ship to come up with him. The stranger was the Phoenix, and which was not only a smaller frigate, but Captain Baker had disguised her to resemble at a distance a sloop of war.
The French pilot belonging to the Phoenix overheard some of the prisoners talking of a plan for getting possession of the Phoenix. The intended mutiny was speedily crushed. Shortly afterwards the pilot brought aft Captain Milius' late coxswain, accusing him of being the ringleader. The French captain was very indignant, and demanded of the man whether he had any complaint to offer.