Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: A Short History of the Royal Navy 1217-1815 - Volume II 1689-1815
Author: Hannay, David
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Short History of the Royal Navy 1217-1815 - Volume II 1689-1815" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



Transcriber’s Notes


Minor punctuation errors repaired.

Inconsistent spelling of proper names has been retained.

Italic text is denoted by _underscores_.

In this book, English and British ships' names are in small caps,
other vessels' names in italics. In the plain text version, small capped
ships' names only have been marked by =equal signs=. All other small
caps have been changed to all caps or lower case as appropriate.



A SHORT HISTORY

OF THE

ROYAL NAVY



 A SHORT HISTORY
 OF THE
 ROYAL NAVY
 1217-1815

 BY
 DAVID HANNAY


 VOLUME II
 1689-1815


 METHUEN & CO.
 36 ESSEX STREET W.C.
 LONDON



_First Published in 1909_



PREFACE


I submit this second part of the _Short History of the Royal Navy_ to
the kindness of the reader and the animadversions of reviewers with a
profound sense of its deficiencies. That some were inevitable where so
much had to be told in so narrow a space is no excuse for such errors
as I have committed. It is my sincere hope that they are not very
frequent nor very gross, and that my book does at least indicate the
main outlines of the polity and the achievements of the navy. It is my
pleasant duty to thank the Reverend William Hunt for his kindness in
revising my proofs, and for the many excellent suggestions he made.
I have also to present my thanks to Messrs. Blackwood for giving me
their permission to make use in Chapter III. of matter published in
_Blackwood’s Magazine_; and to the proprietors of the _Saturday Review_
for allowing me to make use of articles on the mutinies of 1797,
formerly published in that periodical.

      DAVID HANNAY



CONTENTS


 CHAP.                                                PAGE

 I. The War with France till 1693                        1

 II. Expeditions, Convoy, and the Privateers            49

 III. The Men and the Life                              80

 IV. The Two Colonial Wars                              98

 V. The Seven Years’ War till 1758                     133

 VI. The Years of Triumph                              166

 VII. The American War till 1780                       204

 VIII. The American War till the Fall of Yorktown      243

 IX. The Close of the War and the East Indies          271

 X. The First Stage of the War                         293

 XI. The War till the End of 1797                      323

 XII. The Mutinies                                     355

 XIII. The Nile                                        385

 XIV. Invasion till the Close of 1801                  411

 XV. Trafalgar                                         436

 XVI. The Command of the Sea                           467

 Index                                                 493



A SHORT HISTORY OF THE ROYAL NAVY



CHAPTER I

THE WAR WITH FRANCE TILL 1693

 AUTHORITIES.—Burchett, _Memoirs of Transactions at Sea 1688-1697_;
     Lediard, _Naval History of England_; Colomb, _Naval Warfare_;
     Troude, _Batailles navales de la France_; Delarbre, _Tourville
     et la Marine de son temps_; Toudouze, _Bataille de la Hougue_;
     Lambert de Sainte-Croix, _Marine de France 1689-1792_; _Code
     des Armées Navales_; Crisenoy, _L’Inscription maritime_;
     Calmon-Maison, _Châteaurenault_; Martin Leake, _Life of Sir John
     Leake_; De Jonge, _Geschiedenis van het Nederlandsche Zeewesen_.


The Revolution of 1688 drew a line across the history of England,
and marked the termination of the great struggle between King and
Parliament. From that time forward it was settled beyond all dispute
that when the two differed the last word was not to be with the king.
Our sovereigns have ruled by a Parliamentary title, and the authority
which conferred the Crown must always be superior in fact, if not in
theory, to the Crown itself. Within Parliament the dominating body
must necessarily be the House of Commons, which has the command of the
purse. After 1688 the Crown, or the aristocracy, could only govern
by securing the support, by means of pocket boroughs, by persuasion
or corruption, of a majority of the Lower House. The navy, like the
rest of the nation, was deeply affected by the change. From this time
forward we hear little of the personal influence of the king. It was
to the House of Commons that the navy appealed. Officers who wished
to push their fortunes no longer thought of securing the goodwill
of the sovereign or of a favourite. They became members of the House
of Commons and earned promotion by serving a Parliamentary party. In
one way the change was for the manifest good of the navy. It now had
a master who might be unwilling to pay handsomely, but who both would
and could pay whatever he chose to promise with a regularity far beyond
the power of the king. In the years following the Revolution there were
indeed complaints of wages in arrear and of necessities neglected. But
this was only during the first period of strife. The increasing wealth
of the nation supplied Parliament with ample means, and after a time
the money was always regularly forthcoming. In another way the change
was not so good. A great deal of party spirit was introduced into the
navy, and there were times when Whig and Tory animosities interfered
with the loyal discharge of duty.

The Revolution also dates, if it did not cause, an evolution in the
navy. After 1688 the sea service was sharply marked off from the army.
During the reign of King James it had not been uncommon to find men who
had served alternately as soldiers and sailors, while some held double
employments. Isolated cases of the kind may be met with later, but they
became very rare, and soon disappeared altogether. The formation of a
large standing army, and the participation of England in Continental
wars, drew off the gentlemen volunteers who had been found in the
fleets of Charles II. The stamp of man described in old plays as “a
coxcomb but stout,” had a natural preference for the army. It did
not take him off dry land, and the practice of retiring into winter
quarters enabled him to combine a great deal of pleasure with his
fighting. A ship was at all times but a prison, and in those it was a
prison very much overcrowded and abounding in foul smells. The navy was
left entirely to the tarpaulin who had been bred to the sea, and could
endure its hardships.

The final victory of the tarpaulin element in the corps of naval
officers brought with it both good and evil. The good lay in their
seamanship. Even a bad seaman is better than an ignorant or careless
landsman in command of a ship. The purely technical part of the navy’s
work, that which consisted in the mere handling of the vessel, was
better done in the years following the Revolution than had been the
case before, except during the Interregnum, when also the sailors had
been the predominant element. The evil which came was of a kind not
to be wholly attributed to the disappearance of the military officer
from the higher ranks of the fleet. It was that there was a distinct
fall in the purely military spirit, and as a navy is a fighting as
well as a navigating force, this was a misfortune. When we speak of
a fallen military spirit, it is not meant that there was any sinking
in the mere courage of the service, but only that the naval officer
as he became at the Revolution and as he remained till far into the
eighteenth century, was first and foremost a seaman, and that he had a
tendency to discharge the military side of his duty in blind obedience
to various rules of thumb. Two reasons may be assigned for this. Times
of revolution are very often followed by times of lassitude. The
seventeenth century had been very stormy, and it was to be expected
that the Englishman of the following generations would be a less daring
and original man than his ancestor of the Civil War time. The sailors
shared in the general deadening and commonplaceness of their age. It
was only natural that men who went to sea as boys, and were never asked
to be more than sailors, should not have tried to be more. Then it was
the misfortune of the navy that just at a time when it was tending to
stupidity in military conduct, it was called upon by authority to obey
a set of hard and fast rules.

Mention has already been made of the fighting orders drawn up by the
admirals of the Commonwealth at the close of the First Dutch War, and
reissued by Penn when he sailed on his expedition to San Domingo. It
will be remembered that these rules established the line ahead as the
regular formation for a fleet about to engage the enemy. After the
Second Dutch War they were reissued by the Duke of York with certain
additions of his own, and they became the orthodox pattern for the
navy’s method of fighting. It is to them that we owe it that the line
of battle passed from being the order adopted for the purpose of coming
most effectually into action with the enemy, and grew to be regarded
as an end in itself. The duke’s orders would not perhaps have hampered
a more original generation; but they were sure to have a deadening
effect upon men who felt no natural impulse to think. The admiral
who conformed to the orders could always plead that he had obeyed
authority, whereas if he departed from them, and his independence was
not justified by a brilliant victory, he would be in considerable
danger of being accused of insubordination. The harm done by these
instructions arose mainly from two of the articles. No. VIII. lays it
down that “if the enemy stay to fight (his majesty’s fleet having the
wind), the headmost squadron of his majesty’s fleet shall steer for
the headmost of the enemy’s ships.” No. XVI. contains the following
peremptory instruction: “In all cases of fight with the enemy, the
commanders of his majesty’s ships are to keep the fleet _in one line_,
and (as much as may be) to preserve that order of battle which they
have been directed to keep before the time of fight.” The duke had
foreseen that an English fleet, being to leeward, might wish to force
on a battle. In this case it was directed that the van upon obtaining
a favourable position for the purpose, should tack and break through
the enemy. So soon as it had broken through it was to turn, and attack
from windward. In the meantime the centre and rear were to remain to
leeward, and co-operate with the van. But this was a very difficult
manœuvre to carry out against even a moderately efficient opponent.
Ships performing it would be liable to lose spars and to drift to
leeward towards their own centre. Moreover, an enemy who kept his wind
and stood on might possibly file past, and so deliver the fire of all,
or the greater part, of his ships into the unsupported English van.
Article III., which prescribed this method of attack, remained a mere
counsel of perfection, and was soon dropped out of the fighting orders.
It was, I venture to affirm, never acted on except by Howe on the 29th
of May 1794, and then with only partial success.

The course followed by English admirals was less complicated and risky
than this, but also less likely to prove effectual when fully carried
out. When they were to leeward and the enemy would not attack them,
they manœuvred to gain the weather-gage. When they had the wind of
the enemy, they came down on him with their fleet in line—the leading
ship of the English steering for the leading ship of the enemy, and
the others behind for their respective opponents. Thus the two fleets
engaged van to van, centre to centre, rear to rear. To take “every man
his bird” was the familiar naval image for a well-conducted action
with an enemy who did not shirk. Of course this method only applied to
the case where the two fleets were going in the same direction. If one
turned, the two would pass one another, and then they must curl round
again before the action could be resumed. The advantage of engaging the
enemy from the leading ship to the last was this, that it prevented
any portion of his ships from tacking, and so putting some of the
English between two fires. The drawback was that if the two fleets were
even not very unequal, no overwhelming superiority was developed on
either side at a chosen point. The damage done was about equivalent,
and the two separated without decisive result. This would not have
been the case if the admirals after the Revolution had been as ready
as the chiefs of the Dutch wars to depart from their line when once
it had served its purpose of bringing them in contact with the enemy.
If the captains had been allowed to steer through the hostile line
wherever they could find or make an opening, a general mêlée must have
ensued, and the battle would have been fought out. But here came in the
influence of Article No. XVI., which prescribed the retention of the
“same order” all through the battle. If an English captain stood out of
the line to press through the enemy, it must necessarily be broken. But
this was rigidly forbidden. Therefore the system of fighting adopted
by our navy at the close of the seventeenth century made it inevitable
that our admirals would attack from windward, would spread themselves
all along the enemy’s line, that the damage done would be pretty
equally divided between the two fleets, and that the enemy, having the
road to leeward open, could retire whenever he pleased.

The Revolution brought no considerable alteration in the mere
administrative machinery of the navy. From that time forward the office
of Lord High Admiral was habitually put into commission, but the change
was made for the purpose of finding the greatest number of places for
Parliamentary supporters, and was in substance not very different
from the method adopted by the Commonwealth, by Charles I., and by
James I. It was of more importance that the reign of William III. saw
the complete establishment of half pay. The later Stuarts had granted
allowances to flag officers and a few captains, but the Parliament of
the Revolution first regularly provided for the support of a body of
officers of all commissioned ranks when not in active service. This
also was inevitable if the country was to maintain a regular staff for
the fleet. It was neither possible to maintain the navy continually on
a war footing, nor to disband the whole corps of officers so soon as
peace was signed, and trust to forming another when the need had arisen.

The establishment made by King James II. in 1686 fell with its maker.
The handsome table-money allowance was not paid after the Revolution,
and the officers were thus thrown back on the old scale of pay. This
meant that the captain of a first-rate who had flattered himself with
the hope of receiving £535, 18s. 4d. per annum found that he was in
fact only entitled to £285, 18s. 4d. Captains of the lesser rates were
disappointed in proportion. At the same time the regulations depriving
them of convoy money, and restricting their chances of casual gains,
were more strictly enforced. The trading classes had won great power
by the Revolution, and could put pressure on the House of Commons, and
they were not unnaturally eager to defend themselves against extortion.
Their case was good, but the grievance of the naval officer was not the
less genuine. Yet the loss of King James’s establishment was probably
not much regretted by the navy at large, since it benefited the
captains only. Other ranks had their grievances. The complaints of the
sea officers were so loud and persistent that at last the Government
was compelled to do them some justice. By an Order of the Commissioners
of the Admiralty dated 14th February 1694, it was established that the
sea pay “of the flag officers, commanders, lieutenants, masters and
surgeons of their majesty’s ships be increased to as much more as it
is at present.” As a set off to this the number of servants they were
entitled to take to sea at the expense of the Crown was reduced. With
this provision for the officers on active service came the formation
of a half-pay list. It was somewhat arbitrarily constructed. The
benefit was confined to “all flag officers and commanders of ships of
the first, second, third, fourth and fifth rates, and of fireships, and
also the first lieutenants and masters of the first, second and third
rates who have served a year in ships of rates respectively, or have
been in a general engagement with the enemy, and shall have performed
their duties to the satisfaction of the Lord High Admiral of England
or the Commissioners executing that office.” These were to “be allowed
half pay during their being on shore in time of peace at home.”

This establishment was too good to last. When the Peace of Ryswick was
made, the country was burdened with a heavy debt. The House of Commons
was in an economical mood. It insisted upon disbanding a large part of
the troops, and was only prevented from leaving the officers entirely
without support by the strenuous exertions of the king. William III.
made no effort to save the naval officers, for the House of Commons
had no such jealousy of the fleet as of the army. The sea officers
presented a petition stating their hard case. The petition was laid on
the table in a busy session, and was for a time smothered, but in the
following year the Commons took up the case of the naval officers, and
the result was the establishment of April 1700. This new scheme cut
down the rate of pay allowed during the last six years. According to
a tolerably uniform practice, the reduction was less severe with the
higher than with the lower ranks. While the Admiral of the Fleet was
reduced from £6 to £5 per diem, a captain of a fifth-rate was reduced
from 12s. to 8s. But while the House of Commons was thus economising
the whole pay, it fully recognised the necessity of maintaining a
“competent number of Experienced Sea Officers, supported on Shore, who
may be within reach to answer any sudden or immergent Occasion; and
therefore do humbly propose the number of Flag Officers, Captains,
Lieutenants, and Masters following, to be always supported on Shore
while out of Employment, by the Allowances against their Names
exprest.” The scale drawn up by Parliament provided for 9 admirals at
sums ranging from 17s. 6d. per diem for the Rear-Admiral to £2, 10s.
for the Admiral of the Fleet. For 50 captains who had served during the
“late war,” at 10s. a day for 20 and 8s. for 30. For 100 lieutenants
who had seen service, in the following proportions: 40 at 2s. 6d. and
60 at 2s. For 30 masters, of whom one half were to receive 2s. 6d.
and the other half 2s. per diem. The total half-pay charge of that
time was only £18,113. No officer who took service with the merchants,
or had other employment, was to be entitled to the allowance. As
officers on the half-pay list died or were drawn for active service,
an equal number of others who were duly qualified were to step into
the enjoyment of the allowance. It will be seen that this was at
best a half measure. Many men who deserved to be supported were left
without provision, yet the House of Commons had adopted the principle
of granting half pay, and that was a great step towards the complete
establishment of the rule that all who served the State were entitled
to be maintained at its expense, even when they were not immediately
wanted. It is in this tentative way, not by great administrative
schemes, but by small measures meant to meet a present necessity, that
the whole of the organisation of our navy has grown. At the close of
the reign of Queen Anne the right to half pay was made general.

One other great change directly affecting the navy was brought about by
the Revolution. The expulsion of King James left England free to become
the leader, and the main promoter, of the opposition to Louis XIV. From
that time forward our enemy was always France. When we met the Spaniard
or the Dutchman again, it was with very rare exceptions because they
were allies of the French. The resistance to Louis XIV. grew into a
general colonial and political rivalry between France and England. The
fight was prolonged throughout the eighteenth century and into the
nineteenth. Some knowledge of the navy we were to meet in every sea and
in so many battles during a century and a quarter is necessary in any
history of the Royal Navy.

The French Navy is marked off very sharply from our own by the fact
that it was always, and solely, the handiwork of the Crown. In England
necessity taught the nation that it must have a fleet, and the nation
either forced attention to its wants on the Crown at times when the
king was indifferent, or provided itself with a naval force when the
royal authority was suspended or subordinate. France is admirably
placed for commerce, but it has not the same need for trade as
England. It is a great corn-growing and wine-producing country, and
its inhabitants have grown rich by constant industry and thrift. They
have rarely shown much faculty for trade on a great scale. In such
conditions the navy fell into neglect, except when the ruler wished
to possess one for political reasons. When Louis XIV. attained his
majority vigorous efforts were made to form a powerful fleet. In 1669
the king restored the office of Admiral, which had been suspended by
Richelieu, in favour of his natural son the Count of Vermandois. The
Count was a child and the navy was governed in his name by a Minister
of Marine and a Council. The Minister of Marine for some years was
M. de Lyonne, who worked under the supervision of Colbert. This
great administrator, who laboured hard to supply France with foreign
commerce and colonies, applied an almost feverish activity to the work
of creating a fleet. Five military ports were established, namely,
Dunkirk, Havre, Brest, Rochefort, on the Channel and the Ocean, and
Toulon on the Mediterranean. Dunkirk and Havre were too shallow for
ships of great burden. The long stretch of coast from Brest to the
frontier of Spain is ill provided with harbours. The old port of
Brouage, which had been used in the Middle Ages, had become silted
up, and was useless. Colbert was compelled to create a harbour and
an arsenal at Rochefort, where there had formerly not even been a
village, though the place has great natural aptitude. Yet Rochefort
has always been of subordinate importance. The great naval station
of France on the Ocean has been at the magnificent harbour of Brest.
Toulon, the naval station of the Mediterranean, is also a fine natural
harbour. The mechanical ingenuity of the French has always been shown
in shipbuilding. It was comparatively easy for Colbert to provide fine
vessels. Some of the noblest warships of the time were built under
his directions. These were the ships which excited the admiration of
Charles II. and his brother, when the Count D’Estrées brought his
squadron to Portsmouth at the beginning of the Third Dutch War.

It was less easy to form a corps of officers and to collect crews.
Although France possesses some excellent seamen in Normandy and
Brittany, the maritime population has never been large. There were few
experienced officers, either gentleman or tarpaulin, to command the
king’s ships. The seamen of Dieppe, St. Malo, or Havre were daring.
They had invaded the Spanish West Indies before Hawkins made his first
voyage, but they were not numerous enough to supply the king with
an equivalent for the large body of ship’s captains trained among
ourselves by the Civil War and the wars with the Dutch. Besides, they
were hardly the men to whom a king of France would have cared to
entrust the honour of his flag. In the early years of the king’s reign
it was found necessary to give the command of fleets and individual
ships to mere gentlemen who were not only not seamen, but who looked
down upon those who were, with all the contempt usually shown by
the French _noblesse_ for mechanics. This partly accounts for the
ineptitude shown by French naval officers during the naval campaigns
of 1672 and 1673. The exertions of Colbert did much to remedy this
defect. By twenty years of hard work and the most energetic driving, he
formed a naval organisation. The orders issued for this purpose were so
numerous that it was found necessary to reduce them to a Code. Colbert
began the work, but did not live to finish it. On his death in 1683 he
was succeeded by his son Colbert de Seignelay, who continued what his
father had begun. The famous _Ordonnance_, or Code of Law of the old
French Royal Navy, was at last completed, and by a curious coincidence
it was promulgated in April 1689, in the month before the beginning of
the war with England.

This body of laws, or regulations, was very French in its completeness,
its air of logical coherence, and its excessive regulation, of every
detail of the service. It was contained in twenty-three books. It
divided the French Navy into four branches, three civil and one
military. The three civil branches, collectively known as _La Plume_,
or the Pen, were divided between the purchase, manufacture, and care
of materials. The administration of the dockyards was in the hands
of the Pen. At the head of each dockyard was a civil officer, called
the _Intendant de la marine_. The military branch, called _L’Epée_,
or the Sword, consisted of the naval officers. It was entrusted
with the navigation and the fighting of the ships. Under the old
organisation established by Richelieu, the control of the dockyards
had been given to the Sword; but Colbert, who was a civilian, and who
cherished a lively jealousy of the military officers, had reversed this
arrangement. The Sword was never quite reconciled to its degradation,
and its feuds with the Pen went on until the French Royal Navy was
destroyed by the Revolution. While Colbert lived and the king was
young, the central authority was strong enough to compel obedience,
but in later years all the parade of precision in the language of the
_Ordonnance_, and all the power of the king, could not keep the civil
and military officials from quarrelling, from disobeying orders, and
disputing the meaning of the most exactly worded regulations.

The head of the Sword was naturally the Admiral of France, who was
a member of the royal family, and except in the case of the Count
of Toulouse, a dignified figurehead, and not an effective chief.
His administrative work was done by the Minister of Marine and the
Council. Next to the Admiral came the two Vice-Admirals, _Du Levant_
the Mediterranean, and _Du Ponant_ the Ocean, who commanded in chief
when he was absent, each in his own sea. The next rank was that
of Lieutenant-General. We may say for purposes of comparison that
the Admiral of France answered to our Lord High Admiral, and the
Vice-Admirals to our Admirals, while the Lieutenants-General answered
to our Vice-Admirals. Next came an officer happily unparalleled in our
service. This was the _Intendant des armées navales_, who is not to
be confounded with the _Intendant de marine_. He was a civilian who
accompanied every French squadron, and had supreme authority over the
_Commissaires_, or Pursers, and the civil work in all its branches. But
he had also a right to sit on councils of war, and was authorised to
report on the behaviour of the naval chief in action. The _Intendant
des armées navales_ was in fact a French equivalent for the Dutch
Field Deputies, and he acted in exactly the same way, by hampering
the fighting chief when he was an energetic man, and by reducing him
to submission when he was a weak one, and of course by irritating and
exaggerating the jealousies of the Pen and the Sword. He was a spy
whose word could make or mar the fortunes of a naval officer, and yet
was not a competent judge of the naval officer’s work. That Colbert
should have created such a rank, and that it should have been preserved
by the very able men who succeeded him in the government of the French
Navy, shows that they were all blinded by the professional jealousy of
the civil official for the fighting man, and by the Frenchman’s mania
for over-governing.

The next in rank was the Chef d’Escadre, Rear-Admiral or Commodore.
Then we have another civil official, the _Commissaire Général à la
suite des armées navales_, a subordinate of the _Intendant des armées
navales_, who watched the Captain as his superior did the Admiral. The
order of precedence in a French ship could not offer much novelty.
There was the Capitaine du Vaisseau, or Post-Captain, and the Capitaine
du Brûlot, or Captain of a fireship. The second in command was called
the Major. He commanded the soldiers in the ship’s company, and all
landing parties. Then came the Lieutenant, and after him the Enseigne.
The recruiting of the corps of officers was provided for by the _Gardes
de la marine_. There were three companies of the Gardes: one at Brest,
one at Rochefort, and one at Toulon. They were mostly young men of
gentle birth—that is, members of the _noblesse_ who had a right to
a coat of arms and to the privileges of their caste,—but members of
respectable families who had received the education of gentlemen were
admitted. They were supposed to receive a very thorough professional
training, and to be drafted into the ships when qualified. The fact did
not always square with the theory. It was found that young gentlemen
of good family and some influence were kept to their books with great
difficulty. A certain number of them did no doubt attain to a level
of book-knowledge very rare among our officers, but the whole history
of the eighteenth century is at hand to prove that as a class they
were inferior in practical capacity to the men brought up in the rough
school of the English Navy.

The crews were raised by the _classes_, the predecessors of the
_Inscription maritime_, a great system of naval conscription. Like
so much else in France, this also was founded by Richelieu, but it
was perfected by Lyonne and Colbert, and was finally established by
the _Ordonnance_ of 1689. All Frenchmen engaged in working in ships
or boats throughout the whole coast of France, and on the banks of
rivers large enough to carry a lighter, were held to be subject to
serve in the _classes_. They were divided into seven, which were to
serve successively for periods of four years. All seafaring men,
waterman or lighterman, were inscribed on the lists of the Commissioner
of the District. During the four years of their liability to serve
the king they were not allowed to engage with private employers. It
was calculated that the total number subject to service was 60,000.
The obligation began at the age of ten, and lasted till the man was
too old to work. As a compensation for this unlimited obligation a
retaining fee was promised to men not serving, and those who had
served at sea were entitled to a small pension when their period of
liability to service was over; while hospitals were established at
all the ports, and employment in the dockyards was promised to all
who were so severely hurt as to be unable to go to sea, but were
still capable of doing some work. This famous institution exists in
a modified form to-day, and has often been the subject of admiration
among ourselves. On paper it no doubt possessed immense advantages over
our rough-and-ready system, or no system, of raising crews by bounties
and impressment. Yet whenever the French Crown endeavoured to use all
the resources provided by the _classes_, the neatly constructed machine
broke down. The seafaring population rebelled against its severity, and
in practice the king was constantly driven to impress men very much in
the English fashion, without regard to their class. In the last years
of the reign of King Louis and until the Revolution, the financial
distress of the French Government made it impossible to provide half
pay, and the hospitals were neglected. The _classes_ was in fact a more
uniform and grinding oppression than our own impressment, and was not
more efficient in producing crews.

In truth, the merit of the French organisation was altogether more
on paper than in reality. It looked very coherent and beautifully
divided, but its distinctions and divisions answered to no natural
classifications in the work to be done. For instance, to make the Sword
responsible for fitting out the ships and yet to leave the control of
the dockyards to the Pen was simply to provide for incessant conflicts
of authority between the two, and to divide the responsibility. The
English system of putting a retired naval officer at the head of
the dockyard as Commissioner was incomparably simpler and better.
It is needless to point out that nothing could be more fatal to the
independence of character of an officer commanding a fleet than the
presence of the _Intendant des armées navales_. But the spirit of the
_Ordonnance_ is best shown by the article which forbade the captain to
make any kind of changes in the armament of his ship. It was no doubt
necessary to guard against mere eccentricity, but if such a regulation
as this had been enforced in the English Navy it might never have had
the carronade, and would certainly have had to do without the many
improvements in gunnery introduced by Sir Charles Douglas in the last
quarter of the eighteenth century. The _Ordonnance_ was full of that
over-regulation which is the ruin of all independence of character and
originality of mind. Other faults the French Navy had which arose out
of the social condition of France. The officers were one of the many
privileged corps which ended by destroying the French monarchy. They
stood much on their rights, and were above all extremely jealous of the
admission of colleagues who were not of noble birth.

When King William’s Government was able to settle down after the
confusion of the Revolution, one of its first duties was the reconquest
of Ireland, which was still holding out for King James. Louis XIV. was
giving open support to his cousin, and war had really begun in March,
two months before the formal declaration, when a French squadron under
the command of Louis Gabaret landed King James at Kinsale. The material
force at the disposal of the English Government was considerable. It
consisted of 173 vessels of 101,892 tons, carrying 6930 guns, and
requiring when fully manned 42,003 men. Of the 173 vessels 108 were
rated. The rating of English ships, which had first been settled
according to the number of their crews, was now based on the number
of guns. There were six rates in all—the first carrying 90 guns and
upwards, the sixth 18 guns or less; unrated ships were little craft
such as sloops, ketches, smacks, yachts, etc. With the help of the
Dutch fleet, this was more than enough to be a match for the French,
but Parliament was justly persuaded of the necessity for increasing
the Navy. In 1690 it voted £570,000, to be employed in the building of
17 ships of 80 guns and 10 ships of 60. Three of 70 were also ordered
to be built, making the total addition of 30 vessels. The 80-gun ships
of that time were three-deckers, and of a burden of 1100 tons. The
60-gun ships were of 900 tons. The time allowed for completing this
list was four years. In spite of the wear and tear of the war, and
the limited number of prizes we were able to take from the French,
the additions made to the navy in the reign of William III. were very
considerable. It increased from 108 to 174 rated ships, and in tonnage
from 101,000 to 158,999. The increase was greatest in vessels of the
fourth and fifth rates—that is, in vessels carrying from 30 to 60 guns.
The political confusion of the early years of the king’s reign combined
with corruption to neutralise the material strength of the navy to some
extent. It was the policy of the king to divide employments between the
two parties to which he looked for support, the Whigs, and those Tories
who had accepted the Revolution. In pursuit of this policy his first
Board of Admiralty was chosen from both. Arthur Herbert, who was a
Tory, was made First Commissioner. Other members of the Board belonged
to the same party, but it included William Sacheverell, who was a
strong Whig. The presence of men belonging to different factions in the
same governing body was sure to lead to dissensions, and it was not
long before the quarrels of the Admiralty Board became very violent.
In order to facilitate the manning of the fleet two new regiments of
marines were raised. The admiral’s regiment had been disbanded because
it was suspected of being too much attached to the deposed king. The
new corps were formally established in 1690, but the work of recruiting
them was begun in 1689. They were raised by Herbert, who had been
created Earl of Torrington after an action about to be mentioned, and
by the Earl of Pembroke, and were named, according to the custom of the
time, after their colonels. By the first establishment they were to
consist of 12 companies each of 200 men; but the number of companies
was afterwards increased to 15.

As for the sailors, it is needless to say that they were raised in
the usual manner. Although much was done for the officers in this
reign, the men were no better paid than before. Their wages remained
throughout the century at the figure fixed in the reign of Charles
II., and were not increased till a rise was extorted by the mutinies
of 1797. The main grievance of the seamen was not so much the amount
as the irregular payment of their wages. In the earlier times after
the Revolution they were kept waiting because the Government was in
want of money, but the system of pay subjected them to long delays
even when the resources at the disposal of the Government were ample.
It had been the custom in the old days of the Winter and Summer Guard
to pay the men only at the end of the commission. This was no hardship
when the term of service lasted only a few months. But the practice
was continued when we had begun to maintain fleets abroad for years
together. In King William’s reign the injustice did not reach the
height it was destined to attain later on, yet the men were often
driven to sell their pay tickets at a heavy discount because the
distresses of the Treasury, or the delays due to a complicated system
of accounts, kept them waiting during months for their hard-earned
wages.

The great bulk of the officers who had served King James passed over to
his successor. A few, indeed, followed the exiled king, and among them
was Sir Roger Strickland, who as a Roman Catholic was disqualified for
office. Captain David Lloyd also adhered to his master, and was very
busy during the years next ensuing in endeavouring to shake the new
allegiance of his former brother-officers. In this, however, he had
no success. In spite of discontent, and although some naval officers
endeavoured to provide for their own safety in case of a restoration by
sending promises to King James, the navy as a whole remained loyal.

The war now beginning lasted with an interval of truce between 1697
and 1702, until the signing of the Peace of Utrecht, in the reign
of Queen Anne. It was in reality one continuous war waged by Europe
in self-defence, and by France for the purpose of establishing the
predominance of the house of Bourbon. The naval part of this struggle
is divided into two periods. During the first, which lasted to the
close of 1793, the French king kept great fleets at sea. After that
date the exhaustion of his treasury through the calls made upon it by
the land war rendered him incapable of meeting the allies at sea with
equal forces. He was driven by penury to lay up his ships, and the
war on the side of France was conducted by privateers. In this second
period the allied fleets still kept the sea, swept the French coast,
and co-operated with the armies.

When hostilities began in 1689, the first object of the French was to
give assistance to King James in Ireland. The first duty of the English
was to defeat his efforts, and then to cover the passage of our own
forces. The Dutch had to protect their own commerce and to co-operate
with us in the general purposes of the war.

The news that the French king was about to supply his cousin with the
means of passing over to Ireland reached London early in March. A
squadron was prepared to sail for the purpose of intercepting Gabaret,
but it started too late. Herbert, who went in command without resigning
his place as First Commissioner of the Admiralty, did not reach
Cork until the 17th of April. All he could do now was to intercept
whatever further help the French might be sending to the assistance
of the Jacobites. He knew that a force was preparing at Brest under
the command of the Count of Châteaurenault. Not finding any sign of
this expedition on the coast of Ireland, Herbert stood over to Brest.
Either at this time, or shortly afterwards, he detached George Rooke
with a small squadron to the west of Scotland, for the double purpose
of rendering what help he could to the Protestants of Ulster and
preventing the French from sending help to the Scottish Jacobites. The
wind was easterly on the coast of France, and Herbert failed to reach
Brest in time, or to approach it close enough to prevent Châteaurenault
from sailing with a fleet of vessels of from 40 to 60 guns, 5
fireships, and a number of transports carrying 6000 soldiers. Finding
that the French had escaped him, Herbert returned to the south coast of
Ireland, and was off Cork on the 29th April. The French fleet were seen
in the neighbourhood of Kinsale, and Herbert stood in to place himself
between them and the coast. Châteaurenault made no attempt to land at
Kinsale, but steered west for Bantry. At Baltimore, Herbert obtained
information of his enemy’s destination. He at once pursued, but on
rounding Cape Clear caught sight of the Frenchmen heading for Bantry
Bay. This was on the afternoon of the 30th of April. The day being far
advanced, Herbert did not follow Châteaurenault at once, but lay to all
the night. The force under his command is variously stated as nineteen
and twenty-two ships of the line. The average size of the English ships
was about the same as the French.

On the 1st of May the wind was blowing off the land. Châteaurenault had
disembarked as many of the soldiers as were carried in the men-of-war
on the previous evening. But the transports were still undischarged,
and had not yet been able to work up to the town of Bantry. Seeing
that the English were somewhat, though not much, inferior in number
to himself, the French admiral came to the very proper decision to
engage. He got under way about half-past eleven, and stood down the
Bay. As he had the weather-gage, he had the choice of attack. Herbert
lay to to receive him. At the moment of getting under way the French
fleet was in order of convoy, that is, in three parallel columns;
Châteaurenault himself in the middle, with the van division under the
command of Gabaret on one side, and the rear commanded by Forant on
the other. When the order to draw into a line of battle was given,
Gabaret should have stood on ahead, leaving a sufficient space for the
admiral’s division between himself and Forant. But he moved so slowly
and kept his wind at such a distance from the enemy that Châteaurenault
in a fit of impatience crowded on sail, ran between the van division
and the English, and took the place of van himself, thus leaving
Gabaret to fall in behind and form the centre. In consequence of these
misunderstandings the French line was in considerable disorder, which
was increased by the fact that the narrow water of Bantry Bay left
little room for manœuvring, and that the fleet was speedily compelled
to tack. It would appear that these conditions ought to have afforded
Herbert an opportunity for working to windward and forcing a close
action with the enemy. It is, indeed, asserted that he made an attempt
to gain the weather-gage, and could not do so because the French kept
their wind so carefully. Thus the battle was confined to artillery fire
at a considerable distance, and no great harm was done on either side.
The French make an unfounded claim to have sunk an English ship. On the
other hand, it is allowed that the French _Diamant_, Captain Coëtlogon,
was set on fire. The biographer of Sir John Leake, who served in the
battle as commander of the fireship =Firedrake=, claims the honour of
this achievement for his hero. He says that the feat was performed
by a “cushee piece” invented by Leake’s father, the Master-gunner of
England. But the cushee piece was never heard of again, as Captain John
Leake judged it to be as dangerous to its friends as its enemies, for
which independence of judgment he was badly treated in the will of his
indignant parent. The two fleets continued onwards in a disorderly way
and firing at one another over a distance of twenty-one miles till they
were off Dursey Head, then Châteaurenault, finding that he was being
drawn out to sea, and remembering that he was answerable for the safety
of the transports, returned to Bantry Bay. Herbert, satisfied that
enough had been done, made for the general rendezvous of the fleet near
the Scilly Isles, thereby leaving Châteaurenault free to complete the
disembarkation of his soldiers, collect his transports, and return to
Brest. His whole expedition had lasted only for eleven days, and was
considered by the French a glorious success.

This estimate shows that the French took a modest view of what
constituted success in naval operations. Châteaurenault, if he had
pushed his attack home on Herbert, might have had some English prizes
to show, and might have greatly encouraged the enemies of England,
besides landing his soldiers and bringing off his transports. But he
at least had some case. What is extraordinary, when we think what
had been once the standard of the English navy, was that Herbert
bragged of having gained a victory because he had not been routed by
an enemy of slightly superior force, and that his countrymen, instead
of laughing at him, or asking indignantly why he did not fight again,
threw up their caps and huzzaed. The battle, and the praise given it,
were melancholy signs of the poorness of spirit which had come over
Englishmen since the Second Dutch War. It was the beginning of a dull
method of doing work in the navy, happily never universal, but much
too common, during the next half century or more. We see the French
admiral intent on carrying out some operation other than attacking the
English fleet, fighting a little, but with great care not to fight
seriously. Opposite him is the English admiral, who has no idea that a
decisive battle is possible unless the enemy is good enough to supply
him with one, and perfectly ready to go off so soon as a few broken
spars give him an excuse for saying enough has been done. Herbert
went on from Scilly to Portsmouth. The king may not in his heart have
thought much of the battle, but he knew the necessity of pleasing the
naval officers and the great Tory party. He therefore professed himself
satisfied, knighted two of the captains, John Ashby and Cloudesley
Shovell, and made Herbert Earl of Torrington.

Rooke, on being detached by Herbert, had gone on at once to the west
of Scotland. He was in the estuary of the Clyde in May, and for
about a month was very active against King James’s partisan in the
islands. On the 8th of June he was called off to escort Kirke, who
had been detached with a body of troops for the purpose of raising
the siege of Londonderry. Rooke’s squadron consisted of five vessels,
one of which was the =Dartmouth=, now under the command of Leake,
who had been promoted for his use of the cushee piece on the 1st of
May. The squadron anchored in Rathlin Bay, and from thence went off
to Lough Foyle, whence there is a clear waterway up to Londonderry.
From what happened a month later, it may be taken for granted that
nothing whatever prevented the smaller ships from being carried up to
Londonderry, nothing, that is, except a want of goodwill and manhood on
the part of Kirke and Rooke. Unfortunately, they were wanting. Rooke
was indeed a brave man who did gallant service in later years. But his
conduct in these weeks was not worthy of his later reputation. Kirke
was a drunken, violent, foul-mouthed ruffian. It is idle to speculate
what was passing in his head. He may not have been a mere coward, but
he acted as if he had some hidden reason for not exerting himself. He
held a council of war on board the =Swallow=, and it was decided that
as there were not troops enough to operate against the enemy outside
the town, nothing could be done, as if it would not have been much
to carry provisions and a reinforcement of men into Londonderry. He
retired to the Island of Inch, and there remained perfectly quiescent.
Rooke in the meantime cruised in search of French privateers and
Jacobite prizes. Whatever his motives may have been, his actions
were those of a man who thought it no shame to fill his own pockets
by prize-hunting while his countrymen were starving and fighting in
desperation on the turf walls of Londonderry. At last, under the
influence of pressing orders from England, it was decided to do
something, and something was done in a way which covers with ignominy
the memory of the officers who did not dare to act before. During
the month of delay, due to their sloth or half-hearted treason, the
besiegers had had time to throw up batteries on the banks of the Foyle,
and to draw a boom across the river below Londonderry. The operation
was therefore more difficult than it had been, and yet it was done with
no great loss. On the 26th July the =Dartmouth= was told off to break
the boom, and convoy two victuallers, the =Mountjoy= and the =Phœnix=,
small vessels both belonging to Londonderry. Leake performed his
work in a thoroughly officer-like fashion. So soon as the flood-tide
began to run, and there was water enough to float the =Dartmouth= and
victuallers, he stood into the mouth of the Foyle, with the =Mountjoy=
and =Phœnix=, towing behind him the long boat of the =Swallow=. The
Irish batteries opened fire, but the little squadron held on steadily,
the =Dartmouth= giving all the cover she could to the merchant ships.
Their progress was slow for the wind was light, and the tide was not
yet running strongly. The =Mountjoy= reached the boom first, and was
steered straight at it by her skipper Browning. The victualler had
not enough way to break through the obstacle. She recoiled from the
boom and tailed on shore, that is to say, she grounded stern first.
The Irish raised a yell of gratification, and rushed down to the bank,
where they opened a heavy fire on the =Mountjoy=. Browning was shot
dead, but his men fired a broadside on the crowd. The shock, aided by
the tide, floated the =Mountjoy=. In the meantime the long-boat towed
by the =Dartmouth= had rowed up to the boom, and, undeterred by the
musket fire from the banks, had cut through the ropes which held the
spars together, and had made an opening. Then she towed the =Phœnix=
in. The =Mountjoy= and the =Dartmouth= easily forced their way through
the loosened spars. The disheartened besiegers broke up their camp and
marched away. It was a gallant piece of work, well done by Leake and
the merchant skippers, but the ease, and the trifling cost with which
it was done, are lasting reproaches to Kirke and Rooke.

After the relief of Londonderry, Rooke had other important work to do
in the Irish Sea. In August he covered the transport of Schomberg’s
army to Ireland, and co-operated in the capture of Carrickfergus. Then
he cruised down the coast, threatening the towns held for King James,
and landing where the enemy was not too strong to be attacked. As the
autumn drew on, and his ships became foul, Rooke came round to the
Downs, and his squadron was laid up for the winter. In the meantime,
the Grand Fleet of combined English and Dutch had cruised in the
Channel under the command of Herbert, who was joined by Edward Russell.
They looked into Brest, and cruised at the mouth of the Channel,
going every now and then into Torbay for provisions. There were many
complaints of the want of beer. At last, when the autumn had begun, the
Grand Fleet also came back, and was laid up. It was still not thought
prudent to keep the great ships out late in the autumn.

On a general survey of the operations of the year it cannot be said
that either party had displayed much energy. The French fleet had done
nothing proportionate to its pretensions and its paper strength. In
1692, the King of France was believed to possess 110 rated ships and
690 other vessels of war. This figure is of course absurd, unless we
are to suppose that it included all the lighters and row boats employed
in his harbours. The fleet carried 14,670 cannon, and was manned
by 2500 officers and 97,500 men. We may presume that this estimate
covers the dockyard workmen. Ninety-seven thousand five hundred men
was more than the whole number of Frenchmen liable to be drawn by the
_classes_, and it is very doubtful whether the French king ever had the
service at sea of one-half of them at any given moment. Still, when
all deductions are allowed for, this was a great force. It had done
nothing in proportion to its size. There would have been no difficulty,
considering that all Ireland except the north was in the hands of
King James, in establishing a naval station at Bantry Bay, or even
at Dublin, and from either of these ports the French could have done
something effectual to stop the passage of Schomberg’s army. They were
content to land their troops in Ireland, and then to return. But we
certainly did very little to prevent them, and the feeble conduct of
Herbert in the action of Bantry Bay promised very ill for the future.

The winter afforded the English Government an opportunity to prepare
for a vigorous campaign, but it was neglected. The first joy over
the Revolution was followed by a reaction. The two sections of the
victorious party, the Whig and the Tory, began to quarrel and to
struggle for predominance. These factions were nowhere more acutely
felt than at the Admiralty. It is said by several authorities, and
denied by nobody, that Herbert had fallen back into the dissolute
habits of his early life. He was addicted to excesses which are
ruinous to a man’s nerve and energy. It is certain that the work of
the Admiralty was so badly done that the French privateers were very
successful against our trade. In the new establishment of pay, made in
1694, it was said that the increase of salary was given in order that
the officers might no longer be able to make their poverty an excuse
for not doing their duty. Given the moral level of the Restoration and
the Revolution, it is not incredible that captains, who were sulky
at the loss of their table money, did refuse to exert themselves
in defence of the merchant ships unless they were bribed. The old
complaints of bad rations, bad pay, and bad beer were loud in the
fleet. At last it was found necessary to make a change at headquarters.
The existing Board of Admiralty was dissolved, and replaced by another
with the Earl of Pembroke at its head. Torrington was very indignant,
and threatened to resign the command of the fleet in the Channel. He
was pacified with gifts, and then showed his zeal as an officer by
staying in London to enjoy himself. He afterwards said that he had
warned the Government that a larger fleet must be prepared, but did
not take the effectual step of insisting upon resigning unless he was
supplied with sufficient force.

A strong fleet was indeed necessary, for the French king had at last
decided on making a serious attack in the Channel. His Toulon squadron
was to be brought round from the Mediterranean, and was to join the
Vice-Admiral _du Ponant_, the Count de Tourville, at Brest. Then the
whole force, which was intended to reach the imposing figure of 78
ships of the line, 30 fireships, and 15 galleys, besides frigates and
other attendant small craft, was to come into the Channel. The French
Government, exaggerating the meaning of the discontent in England, was
under the impression that a Jacobite rising would take place upon the
appearance of the French fleet. On our side there was no understanding
of the gravity of the coming crisis. In March Admiral Killigrew was
dispatched with thirteen sail of the line and two fireships to protect
the Mediterranean convoy. He was joined by some Dutch men-of-war.
The combined squadron met with bad weather, and put into Cadiz on
the 3rd of April. While lying here Killigrew received information
that Châteaurenault was to be expected shortly on his way out to the
ocean. Killigrew left Cadiz, and went into Gibraltar Bay, where he
was joined by Captain Skelton, who was also on convoy duty with six
ships. The combined force stood over to the Barbary coast to look for
Châteaurenault, who might be supposed to be likely to hug the shore of
Africa in order to escape observation. The common fate of our fleets
at that time attended this operation. Killigrew was too late. On
the 11th of May, Châteaurenault was seen outside the allied fleets.
Killigrew pursued, but his ships were foul with long cruising, perhaps
by neglect, for some of them had not been cleaned for seventeen months.
The French squadron easily outsailed its pursuers. Killigrew then
returned to Cadiz, and collected the trade before returning home. He
reached England at the beginning of July and there heard of a disaster
further up channel, which left him no resource but to carry his ship
into the Hamoaze, and there take shelter behind batteries.

This disaster was the Battle of Beachy Head, which the French call the
Battle of Bévisier, a corruption of Pevensey Bay. As the year grew
on, the English Government became aware that a large French force
might soon be expected in the Channel. The crisis was a very dangerous
one, since the king had sailed for Ireland with all the best troops.
There were few left in England, and the discontent of the Jacobites
was notorious. The naval preparations made to meet an enemy were
insufficient. When Torrington was at last sent down to Portsmouth on
the 28th May there were but thirty-two English ships and eighteen Dutch
collected.

Tourville had sailed from Brest on the 13th of June. The reinforcements
brought him by Châteaurenault raised his fleet to something over
seventy ships of the line, with thirty fireships and some small craft.
He sailed into the Channel, and his approach was first known to
Torrington on the 22nd. The English admiral was completely surprised
by the appearance of the enemy. At a later period, when his conduct
was called into question, he endeavoured to throw the blame for his
want of knowledge on the ministers, who, as he complained, had not
sent him down till the last of May, when it was too late for him to
station look-out ships off Brest. It does not, however, appear why
he thought it necessary to stay in London till he was driven out by
a special order. After the change in the Admiralty Board he had no
official duties in the capital, and if he stayed there till he earned
from the sailors the nickname of Lord Tarry-in-Town, it was presumably
because he did not wish to leave. Even so, he was with the fleet on
the 30th of May, and might have detached look-out ships to the mouth
of the Channel. He said he did, and then immediately afterwards said
he did not, because all his frigates were engaged in shipping Lord
Pembroke’s newly raised regiment of marines. The Dutch, to whom he
entrusted the duty, without taking the trouble to see whether it were
executed, were too busy shipping their stores to have leisure for
anything else. The allied fleet, in fact, presented a picture of sloth
and carelessness. When the enemy was known to be in the immediate
neighbourhood, it weighed anchor, and dropped down to Dunnose. Here
it was joined by two English and three Dutch ships of the line, which
raised it to fifty-five. Torrington anchored and remained at anchor
until the 25th. On that day he again weighed with the wind at N.E. and
on the afternoon sighted the French to the south of the Isle of Wight.
They were much scattered, and some of them were far to leeward. In
such circumstances Monk would at once have attacked the enemy within
striking distance in the hope of crippling him severely before he could
be reinforced. Torrington drew his fleet into a line of battle and
made towards the enemy. But he soon came to the conclusion that “they
had enough in a body to have given us more than sufficient work.” He
could not understand why they had not attacked him. It is probable that
they abstained because he was to windward and they were scattered. To
Monk the fact that the enemy was shy would have been an extra reason
for attacking. To Torrington it only suggested dismal reflections as to
what might happen if the French became enterprising, and therefore he
retired. During the 26th he worked back from the south of the Isle of
Wight to the N.E. A letter which he wrote on this day to the Council
is marked on every line with glee over the embarrassment the crisis
was likely to cause to his political opponents. He did indeed say that
he would watch the enemy, and get to westward of them if he could; but
before this he had expressed his opinion that the best course was to
fall back to the Gunfleet, and then the ships from the west might come
up to Portsmouth, and join him over the “Flats,” that is the shallows
at the mouth of the Thames. The ships from the west were Killigrew’s
squadron. Torrington knew that they had been cruising and must be foul,
and it was certainly within his knowledge that they were less numerous
than his own fleet. Yet he proposed to subject them to the risk of
passing the French fleet, which he thought too great to be run by
himself. This was not how Tromp had behaved when he united the fleets
of the Maas and the Texel in defiance of Monk at the end of the First
Dutch War.

It would seem that there are two types of fighting man. The first when
in presence of the enemy instinctively thinks, “How can I strike with
the most effect.” The great race are of this type. To it belong Blake
and Monk, Hawke, Hood, Nelson, and their like, among our admirals;
and, among our enemies, Tromp, De Ruyter, and Suffren. Then there is
another kind of fighting man who may be brave enough personally, but
who, when he is a commander, instinctively says, “How can I prevent the
enemy from hurting me.” This kind of leader has fortunately been rare
with us at sea, but Herbert was of the race, and so was Byng. Such men
are always looking over their shoulders, always making the most of the
enemy’s force, always exaggerating the defects of their own command.
They seek for excuses to do nothing, and when they do come to the
resolution to fight, the opposite determination to retreat forms itself
underneath, as it were spontaneously. This was the natural tendency of
Herbert as he had already shown in Bantry Bay, and it was strengthened
by his wish to punish those political rivals in London who had refused
to take his advice, and had turned him out of the Admiralty.

When his letter of the 26th reached the Council it was not unnaturally
interpreted by them as indicating a wish to retire to the Gunfleet at
once. This may have been a mistake, but an admiral who said that he
had “heartily given God thanks” that the enemy declined battle, and
added, “I shall not think myself very unhappy if I can get rid of them
without fighting,” had no ground to complain if he was thought to be
wanting in spirit. No member of the Council was more bitter against
Herbert than his brother seaman Edward Russell, a rancorous man, and
an extreme Whig. He was very probably moved by jealousy, but the queen
and the civil members of the Council can hardly be severely blamed
for not entirely trusting one admiral, when another admiral condemned
him without stint. On general grounds the Council was justified in
expecting more energy from Torrington. The danger was not that a
great French army could land, this the queen’s counsellors knew to be
impossible, but that a small corps of French troops might be thrown
on shore which could act as a rallying point to the partizans of King
James. It was a great object to rouse the general patriotic feeling
of the country, and there was no more effectual method of doing that
than a battle. The case was one in which it was better to fight, and be
beaten, than not to fight at all. A letter was written in the queen’s
name to Torrington. It was worded with no apparent want of confidence,
and it left him free not to fight if he preferred; but it ordered him
strictly not to lose sight of the French, to get to windward of them if
he could, but to fight on the first advantage rather than to go to the
Gunfleet.

The letter reached Torrington on the 29th of June. He called a council
of war which agreed with him that it implied an order to fight on the
first advantage. A previous council of war had confirmed his opinion
that it was better not to fight. It may be laid down as a general rule
that a council of war is a mere blind for the commander-in-chief. When
it does not consist of his dependants it must still necessarily be full
of his inferiors in rank, who have been trained by the habits of their
life not to contradict the commanding officer. Besides, when he wants
to fight, it looks cowardly to recommend retreat, and, when he wants
to retreat, it looks like a reflection on his courage to insist upon
fighting.

The fleet was now lying off Beachy Head some nine or ten miles to the
south. The enemy again were some eighteen miles off to the S.W. The
fleet weighed anchor at nine o’clock at night, and remained beating
to and fro till daybreak. The wind was off the shore. The enemy also
was under way at sundown, but at two o’clock in the morning Tourville
was heard to fire guns as a signal to anchor. The sound was heard and
understood in the English fleet. An opportunity now presented itself
for slipping between the French and the land, and getting to the
westward of them for the sake of joining Killigrew. Tromp would have
made a push, but Torrington seems to have been in a dogged and stupid
mood with no very fixed intention in his mind, save to make all the
trouble he could for other people. At daybreak the fleet had not much
altered its position. Beachy Head was still twelve miles to the N.E.
and the French were visible at anchor to the south. At four o’clock
the signal was made to form the line, and at eight o’clock the “bloody
flag,” the red flag hoisted at the fore-topmast-head, which was the
signal to engage the enemy, was run up in the flagship. Two vessels had
joined Torrington since he left Dunnose. His total force now consisted
of thirty-five English, and twenty-two Dutch. According to the order
established for the fleet, the Dutch led when it was upon the starboard
tack. As the wind was N.E. and the enemy to the South and West, the
fleet bore down with the wind on the right quarter, the Dutch led.
Torrington himself was in the centre with the Red Squadron, with Sir
John Ashby between him and the Dutch, and Sir George Rooke between him
and the Blue Squadron in the rear. Sir Ralph Delaval commanded the Blue
Squadron. The fleet it must be understood was not perpendicular, but
parallel to the enemy though a little behind him. Thus the ships of
the allied fleet had to bear down on the French in a number of lines
which struck upon them at an angle, but were parallel to one another.
When the allied fleet was seen to be approaching, the French weighed
anchor and lay with their heads pointing to N. of W. in a long concave
line. The official French list gives seventy-two vessels present in
the line, but the English counted that there were thirty-four ahead
of the French admiral and forty-eight behind him. In this there was
probably exaggeration, and perhaps downright lying. Tourville himself
had his flag in the _Soleil Royale_, a magnificent ship of 110 guns.
The van was commanded by the Lieutenant-General Châteaurenault and
Lieutenant-General the Marquis de Villette Mursay. The rear was under
the command of Count D’Estrées, Vice-Admiral _du levant_, and the
Lieutenant-General Gabaret, who had been promoted after the action of
Bantry Bay.

Fire began at nine o’clock when the Dutch ships under Admiral
Cullemburg came into action with the French van. Owing to the
inferiority of the allies in numbers there was a danger that as they
could not stretch all along the line of the French fleet some of the
ships in the French line would turn to windward, and put either the
Dutch or the English, according to circumstances, between two fires.
The danger was one which De Ruyter had had to face in the battles of
1672 and 1673, and he had provided for it by telling off a squadron to
watch the enemy’s van and had then thrown the bulk of his own force
on the rear. It shows how useless experience is to naturally stupid
men, that although all the senior officers present had served either
with, or against, De Ruyter, none of them thought of following his
example. All the allied leaders could do was to endeavour to get as
near as they could to stretching themselves out to the same length
as the enemy by sending the van down against the French van; by
keeping the Red Division opposite the enemy’s centre; and by leaving
the attack on the rear to Sir Ralph Delaval. While they were bearing
down, Herbert changed his mind once, or twice, as to the exact point
of the enemy’s line he wished to reach, and altered the course of his
ship accordingly. The result was that Sir John Ashby became puzzled
as to the intentions of his commander-in-chief, and finally ended by
attaching himself to the Dutch. In the end Torrington placed himself
opposite the rear of the French centre so that there came a gap between
him and Ashby. Being afraid that the French would stand out of their
own line, in order to pass through this opening, Herbert kept his ships
a good distance from the enemy so that he might be the better placed to
head off such as attended this movement. As the French began to move
ahead slowly, just as the allies came down, the Dutch could not get
abreast of the leading ship, and struck on them at the ninth.

The Dutch began to fire at nine, Sir Ralph Delaval at half-past nine,
and the centre at ten. At the two extremities the fighting was hot. Sir
Ralph Delaval pressed eagerly on the squadron of Count D’Estrées, and
pushed his attack with such energy that the enemy seemed to flinch.
Sir John Ashby in the van found himself abreast of Tourville. He fired
two guns in order to see whether the Vice-Admiral _du Ponant_ would
be a “reasonable enemy.” Tourville disdained to strike first at his
inferior in rank, and it was not until Ashby’s first broadside had been
delivered that the _Soleil Royal_ opened fire. The wind, which had been
strong in the early morning was still blowing a good breeze. It was
used by the ships at the head of the French line to work to windward.
Between eleven and twelve o’clock they succeeded in doubling on the
Dutch and putting them between two fires. Admiral Cullemburg’s squadron
fought gallantly but was overpowered. What had happened was seen on
the centre and rear. Torrington’s attention was called to the movement
by his flag-captain who asked if he also intended to allow himself to
be weathered. He answered that he did not, and began at once to work
up to windward. As Sir Ralph Delaval had pressed closely on D’Estrées,
he had fallen to leeward of the commander-in-chief, and there was an
“elbow” in the English line. By two o’clock the wind fell away to a
dead calm and movement became restricted on either side to what could
be done by towing, or drifting along with the tide. Cannonading went on
between the two stationary fleets for some time. At last the ebb-tide
set up a strong westerly current. The Dutch dropped anchor with all
sails set. As the French were not seamen enough to do the same thing
they drifted to the west. One Dutch ship which was too much damaged to
anchor floated away, and became a prize. Then Herbert drifted down to
the neighbourhood of the Dutch and anchored close by them. The allies
remained at anchor, till the easterly current began to flow with the
flood-tide in the evening. Then they got up anchor and tided eastwards
towards the Thames. The pursuit of Tourville was timid. He followed
next day, but in line of battle which limited the speed of his fleet to
that of the slowest vessel in it. To this timidity Torrington owed his
safety from complete destruction. A few of the more severely crippled
Dutch and English vessels were set on fire, but the great bulk of the
allied fleet got safely into the Thames.

The subsequent movements of Tourville may be dismissed in a few lines.
He remained in the Channel until the early days of August, ranging at
will up and down and of course paralysing commerce, but he did nothing
more against our coast than burn the little town of Teignmouth in
South Devon. There was nothing in fact that he could do. The Jacobite
rising did not take place because he had no troops to land to help the
country gentlemen, who were resolved not to move until they were secure
against being attacked by the Government’s forces before they were
sufficiently organised to offer any resistance. In August Tourville
returned quietly to Brest. There had been a furious outbreak of anger
in the country against Torrington and a great movement of patriotism
which was unspeakably to the advantage of King William’s government.
Yet when Torrington was brought to trial in December he was acquitted.
The acquittal was intelligible. King William’s victory at the Boyne,
gained just after the battle of Beachy Head, had put the country into
good humour, and the admiral’s most bitter accusers were the Dutch who
were not popular in England. But it was none the less a misfortune.
Torrington had not done his utmost. His position indeed was a difficult
one, but it was not worse than Monk’s in 1666, or De Ruyter’s in 1672,
’73, and he had not behaved as these men had done. When a court martial
could find no fault with his management it lowered the whole standard
of conduct expected of an English naval officer. It showed that a man
who leaned to the side of timidity would not be condemned by other
officers. Then, too, the court, which could see nothing to blame in
his feeble effort of attack on the 30th June, must have been composed
of men of a lower level of intelligence than the sea chiefs, whether
Dutch, or English of the previous wars. It laid the foundation of that
pedantic adherence to the line and the practice of engaging from van to
rear which afterwards led to the monstrous sentence on Admiral Mathews,
to the helpless weakness of Byng, and to the stupidity of Graves.
Perhaps the ugliest feature of the whole transaction was this, that the
English excused Torrington very largely on the ground that the chief
sufferers in the battle had been the Dutch. There was something very
base in the code of honour of people who did not think it ignoble to
throw the burden of battle on an ally.

While Tourville was ranging the Channel the English government had
fitted out a fresh armament. It was put under the combined command
of Sir Richard Haddock, Sir John Ashby, and Admiral Killigrew. This
fleet could, however, do little. The French were no longer at sea, and
the great ships were laid up as usual before the beginning of autumn.
Yet one good piece of service was done before the year was closed.
Marlborough had suggested that an expedition might be sent to act
against the partisans of King James in the south of Ireland. The scheme
was approved by King William, and Marlborough sailed in September,
under an escort of third and fourth rates commanded by the admirals.
Cork was taken on the 29th September, and the bulk of the ships then
returned to the Channel, leaving a few to co-operate with Marlborough
in the attack on Kinsale. This completed the expedition. A separate
squadron of ships had cruised during this year on the coast of Ireland,
under the command of Sir Cloudesley Shovell, and had co-operated in the
taking of Duncannon.

In this year the French had again made very little use of their naval
force. In spite of Tourville’s victorious cruise in the Channel, the
English cause had advanced as a whole. King James had been beaten from
the north and east of Ireland, and deprived of two very important ports
in the south. That this was so was due to the little help afforded
him by the French navy. King Louis seems never to have thought of
keeping a squadron permanently on the coast of Ireland, though it would
have been easy and manifestly advantageous so to do. In the Channel,
Tourville had really effected very little. He is perhaps not to be
blamed for retiring in August. Nobody then thought of keeping the great
ships out in autumn, and the French ports in the Channel are very poor.
But he had shown undeniable want of enterprise against Torrington. His
pursuit had been so feeble after Beachy Head that we may doubt whether
he was the man to have taken advantage of the weather-gage of the
change of wind which Herbert feared had occurred. His own countrymen
were ill-satisfied with him. The famous epigram of Seignelay that he
was _poltron de tête mais non de cœur_, is well known. If this was all
the French could do when their powers were at the best it would be the
fault of the allies if they did not some day turn the tables on their
enemy.

The operations of 1691 were of a nature to confirm this belief. A
powerful fleet was sent to sea by the allies under the command of
Russell. Its movements throughout the summer were wearisome and
unimportant. It went to and fro between May and the beginning of
autumn. In the meantime Tourville was at sea with a fleet of eighty
sail of the line. His cruise is rather a famous passage in French naval
history. He contrived to keep the sea without allowing himself to be
forced to battle—and at last, by making clever use of a shift of wind,
managed to get into Brest untouched by the allied fleet. The pride of
the French of the time with this achievement, and the satisfaction
they have expressed at it since, are the condemnation of a navy, and a
method of conducting war. Tourville was quite strong enough to fight
the allies, yet his movements were directed to avoiding battle and to
capturing merchant ships. As a matter of fact, he missed his great
prize, the Smyrna convoy, and in the meantime Limerick, King James’s
last stronghold in Ireland, was taken, and the country thoroughly
subdued. The great French fleet had preserved itself, but the King of
France had lost an ally who kept up a useful diversion of the resources
of England. A fighting force which makes it a principal object to avoid
battle is doomed to defeat when it comes across an enemy who makes it
a steady rule to fight. But the French never took the view that if
you wish to use the sea you must drive your enemy off it, and if you
want to do that you must smash him. In the dullest times the English
navy has always understood that the beating of the French navy was the
preliminary to everything else. The French government, which was much
distressed by lack of money, was angry with Tourville for missing the
convoy, and accused him of timidity.

In 1692 the French at last learnt by a painful experience the truth
of Bacon’s saying that “_Occasion turneth a bald noddle after she has
presented her locks in front, and no hold taken_, or at least turneth
the handle of the bottle first to be received and afterwards the belly
which is hard to clasp.” After wasting three years either in delivering
their blows wide, or hitting feebly when the direction was good, the
French at last made a serious effort to strike England to the heart.
But what they might have done with a fair prospect of success in ’89,
’90, or ’91, they attempted with insufficient means in ’92. Their
deficiencies were due to causes which a little foresight would have
made them understand were sure to operate sooner or later. The events
of ’90 had taught the English Government the necessity for vigorous
preparations. At the same time an accident, such as was always likely
to occur, prevented a timely concentration of their own forces. The
Toulon fleet, under Châteaurenault, ought to have joined Tourville at
Brest early in the year, but it was delayed by bad weather. It was,
and always has been, a cause of weakness to the French that their two
seacoasts on the Mediterranean and the Atlantic are separated from one
another by the Spanish Peninsula. An enemy who is in a position to
occupy the Straits of Gibraltar with a strong naval force is admirably
placed, to prevent one-half of the French fleet from uniting with
the other. Even when there was no hostile squadron in the Straits,
persistent bad weather might confine the French in the Mediterranean.
At a later date, attempted concentrations of the French fleet broke
down from these very causes. But this was a probability which ought
to have been provided for. Louis XIV. ought either to have made his
officers act with more spirit or not to have allowed an important part
of his fleet to go back to the Mediterranean at the close of ’91. As
it was, his effort to carry out a scheme of invasion with a part of
his naval force, when the whole of them would not have been too many,
ended, as it was bound to end, in disastrous failure.

The allied Dutch and English fleets were out early. Their Governments
had a double motive for wasting no time. They were aware that an army
of invasion, consisting in part of Irish regiments in the service of
France, was being collected in Normandy for the invasion of England. In
spite of many disappointments King James was still hopeful, and he had
persuaded the King of France to make an effort to help the Jacobites
in England. The army of invasion, some 30,000 strong, was collected in
the Côtentin. They were quartered at La Hougue, on the eastern side of
the Côtentin. Another object for which the allies had to provide was
the safe return of the ships, Dutch and English, composing the Smyrna
convoy. It was coming home under the protection of a squadron commanded
by Sir Ralph Delaval. In order to discharge the double duty of covering
the return of the convoy and watching the French, a detached squadron
under the command of Rear-Admiral Carter cruised on the coast from
Brest to Cape La Hague, the north-westerly point of the Côtentin.
Delaval brought his convoy back in March and then joined Carter on the
coast of France. In later times the English navy would have prepared to
prevent the concentration of the French fleet by cruising off Brest,
but at the end of the seventeenth century our officers had not yet
acquired that confidence in their vessels, and the vessels had not been
so far perfected, as to make cruising in spring on so dangerous a coast
as that about Brest appear practicable for the great ships. The grand
fleet was not in fact fully ready for sea till May, when Russell called
in the detached squadrons, and united his whole force at St. Helens.

There was another reason for bringing the fleet together. The
Government had decided on making a demonstration. During the last few
months, as indeed at all times in King William’s reign, the Jacobite
agents had been very busy. The great discontent undoubtedly existing
among the naval officers, and partly due to the grievances as to
their pay, had appeared to give the friends of the exiled king an
opportunity. Captain David Lloyd had been running to and fro with great
zeal. His old comrades were too much attached to him to betray him
to the Government even when they were opposed to his party, and there
were no doubt great numbers of English naval officers who were as well
disposed as other Englishmen to restore the exiled king if only he
would not be his own worst enemy. These men would not be shocked by
arguments in his favour. As they had themselves been praised and in
some cases rewarded for deserting King James, it would be unreasonable
to expect that they should have been greatly offended when asked by
an old brother officer to desert back to him from King William. The
activity of Lloyd was perfectly well known to the English Government.
He had spoken to Carter, who had immediately reported the whole of the
conversation to the queen. Lloyd himself does not appear to have taken
all the grumblings he heard among his brother seamen very seriously,
and the Council of Regency was probably not very frightened. But it
wisely decided to bring all doubts to the test. On the 15th May a
letter drawn up in the queen’s name by the Secretary, Nottingham, was
sent down to the flag officers and captains of the fleet. In this
letter the queen informed them that she had heard stories accusing them
of disloyalty but she did not believe the accusations, and continued to
repose the most complete confidence in their fidelity. This profession
of a confidence it would have been wise to assume, even if it had
not been sincerely felt, was at once communicated by Russell to his
subordinates. It had the effect which had been hoped for. The fleet
answered by unanimous expression of loyalty. An address expressing the
perfect readiness of all the officers to venture their lives, with all
imaginable “alacrity and resolution,” in defence “of the Government
and of the religion and liberty of the country and against all Popish
invaders whatsoever,” was drawn up and signed on behalf of the fleet by
sixty-four flag officers and captains.

An opportunity was speedily given to these officers to show that they
could be as good as their word. A council of war decided to take the
initiative against the French. A body of troops was to be landed at St.
Malo, while the allied fleet was to lie to the westward of that place
in order to provoke a battle. On the 18th May, Russell sailed from St.
Helens, and on the following day when he was about twenty miles off
Cape Barfleur, the easterly corner of the Côtentin, the look-out ships
to the westward of the fleet made the signal for seeing the enemy. In
fact, while the allies had been talking of invading France, Tourville
had sailed from Brest with the intention of covering an invasion of
England, and after suffering some delay from the weather had come so
far. The two fleets now opposed to one another were divided as follows,
and consisted of the elements shown on these lists:—

 +-------------------------+----------------------------------------------+
 |       THE DUTCH         |                  THE ENGLISH                 |
 +-------------------------+-----------------------+----------------------+
 |   The White Squadron    |     Red Squadron      |    Blue Squadron     |
 +-------------------------+-----------------------+----------------------+
 |                    Guns |                  Guns |                 Guns |
 | _The Zealand_        90 | =The Royal            | =The Victory=    100 |
 | _Konig Wilhelm_      92 |      William=     100 | =Albemarle=       90 |
 | _Brandenburg_        92 | =London=          100 | =Windsor Castle=  90 |
 | _West Friesland_     84 | =Britannia=       100 | =Neptune=         90 |
 | _Printz_             92 | =St. Andrew=      100 | =Vanguard=        90 |
 | _Printzess_          92 | =Royal Sovereign= 100 | =Duchess=         90 |
 | _Bexhirmer_          84 | =St. Michael=      90 | =Ossory=          90 |
 | _Casteel Medenblick_ 86 | =Sandwich=         90 | =Duke=            90 |
 | _Captain General_    84 | =Royal Catherine=  90 | =Resolution=      70 |
 | _North Holland_      68 | =Cambridge=        70 | =Monk=            60 |
 | _Erste Edele_        74 | =Plymouth=         60 | =Expedition=      70 |
 | _Munickendam_        72 | =Breda=            80 | =Royal Oak=       74 |
 | _Gelderland, A._     72 | =Kent=             70 | =Northumberland=  70 |
 | _Stadt Meeyden_      72 | =Swiftsure=        70 | =Lion=            60 |
 | _Etswout_            72 | =Hampton Court=    70 | =Berwick=         70 |
 | _Printz Casimir_     70 | =Grafton=          70 | =Defiance=        70 |
 | _Frisia_             70 | =Restoration=      70 | =Montague=        60 |
 | _Riddershap_         72 | =Eagle=            70 | =Warspight=       70 |
 | _De 7 Provintzen_    76 | =Rupert=           60 | =Monmouth=        70 |
 | _Zurick Zee_         60 | =Elizabeth=        70 | =Edgar=           70 |
 | _Gelderland, R._     64 | =Burford=          70 | =Stirling Castle= 70 |
 | _Vere_               62 | =Captain=          70 | =Dreadnought=     60 |
 | _Zealand, A._        64 | =Devonshire=       80 | =Suffolk=         70 |
 | _Haerlem_            64 | =York=             60 | =Cornwall=        80 |
 | _Leyden_             64 | =Lenox=            70 | =Essex=           70 |
 | _Amsterdam_          64 | =Ruby=             50 | =Hope=            70 |
 | _Velew_              64 | =Oxford=           50 | =Chatham=         50 |
 | _Maegd van Dort_     64 | =St. Albans=       50 | =Advice=          50 |
 | _Tergoes_            54 | =Greenwich=        50 | =Adventure=       50 |
 | _Medenblick_         50 | =Chester=          50 | =Crown=           50 |
 | _Gaesterland_        50 | =Centurion=        50 | =Woolwich=        54 |
 | _Ripperda_           50 | =Bonaventure=      50 | =Deptford=        50 |
 | _Schattershoff_      50 |                       |                      |
 | _Stadden Land_       52 |                       |                      |
 | _Hoorn_              50 |                       |                      |
 | _Delft_              54 |                       |                      |
 +-------------------------+-----------------------+----------------------+

The list of the French fleet given by Monsieur Troude is as follows:—

 +-------------------+---------------------+------------------+
 |              Guns |                Guns |             Guns |
 | _Bourbon_      64 | _Fort_           60 | _Content_     64 |
 | _Monarque_     90 | _Henri_          64 | _Souverain_   84 |
 | _Aimable_      68 | _Ambitieux_      96 | _Illustre_    70 |
 | _Saint Louis_  60 | _Couronne_       76 | _Modéré_      52 |
 | _Diamant_      60 | _Maure_          52 | _Excellent_   60 |
 | _Gaillard_     68 | _Serieux_        68 | _Prince_      60 |
 | _Terrible_     76 | _Courageux_      58 | _Magnifique_  76 |
 | _Merveilleux_  94 | _Perle_          56 | _Laurier_     64 |
 | _Tonnant_      76 | _Glorieux_       64 | _Brave_       58 |
 | _Saint-Michel_ 60 | _Conquerant_     84 | _Entend_      60 |
 | _Sans-Pareil_  62 | _Soleil Royal_  104 | _Triomphant_  76 |
 | _Foudroyant_   82 | _Saint-Philippe_ 84 | _Orgueilleux_ 94 |
 | _Brilliant_    68 | _Admirable_      90 |                  |
 +-------------------+---------------------+------------------+

It will be seen that the force of the two fleets was extremely unequal;
the allies being in fact more than twice as strong as their enemy.
If this was a surprise to the French, the information supplied to
Louis XIV. by the Jacobites in England, and by his agents in the Low
Countries, must have been far less accurate than is commonly supposed.
If, on the other hand, he really did believe that the grumblers in
the English fleet, and that Russell the admiral, who was undoubtedly
in communication with the exiled court at St. Germain, would betray
their country to its hereditary enemy on the field of battle, and under
the eyes of all the world, he must have been singularly impervious
to experience. Tourville received peremptory orders, dated the 26th
March, and worded in a style insulting to him. He was told to go near
enough to the enemy to see them for himself, and not to be misled into
believing that merchant-ships were men-of-war, as he was accused of
doing during the off-shore cruise of 1691. If on reaching La Hougue
he found the allies already there, he was to attack them whatever
their numbers might be. If victorious, he was to cover the passage of
the army to England. If defeated, he was to save his fleet as he best
could. Should the allies not be near La Hougue when he arrived, he was
to transport the army without waste of time. If the allies attacked him
during the passage, he was to fight with obstinacy, so as to give the
army time to land. In case the allies appeared after the landing, he
might avoid a battle if they exceeded in number by ten ships.

When the French were signalled by the guns of the look-out ships at
three o’clock on the morning of the 19th, the weather was foggy.
Fearing that the enemy might stretch past him to northward, Russell
signalled to the rear to tack and close the space between him and
the coast of England. At four o’clock the mist lifted and the enemy
were seen to the westward with their heads pointing to the south. As
this showed that they had no intention of attempting to turn him on
the north side Russell countermanded the order to the Rear or Blue
Division. The allied fleet was not in order of battle but scattered
some ahead, some to windward, and some to leeward of the admiral.
The wind was blowing from the S.W., and the French therefore had the
weather-gage. The line was formed at eight o’clock with the Dutch
or White Squadron in the van, and to the south of the Red Squadron
which formed the centre, then came the Blue Squadron farthest to the
north. There must have been a distance of many miles between the first
and last ship of this great fleet of ninety-nine sail, and the Blue
Squadron was still to leeward. Having made his simple disposition to
meet the attack Russell lay with his topsail to the mast waiting for
the enemy to come on. With a resolution of character which shows his
innate superiority to Herbert, Tourville charged home. He directed his
attack on the centre of the allied line, telling off a few ships in his
van and rear to watch the van and rear of the allies, and prevent them
from doubling on his own fleet.

The battle began about ten o’clock, and lasted till about five in the
afternoon. The French ships engaged with the Red Division made no
attempt to break through the English line. The battle was conducted
entirely by cannonading at short ranges, and the English claimed that
their fire was more rapid than the French. When the enemy’s attack was
fully developed Russell ordered the van to tack for the purpose of
getting to windward of the French, and putting them between two fires,
and at the same time signalled to the Blue Division to come closer to
the centre. Neither order could be obeyed, for the wind was very light
so that the ships were unable to manœuvre. The real battle was always
between the Red Squadron and the ships immediately around Tourville.
About two o’clock in the afternoon the wind, after falling altogether,
rose again, but from the N.W., thus giving the weather-gage to the
allies, and by five o’clock Tourville began to draw off. He doubtless
felt that enough had been done for honour, and he hoped that the Red
Squadron had been sufficiently mauled to cripple it from pursuing him.
The wind was light and variable. As the French ships drew away to the
westward it fell calm and the mist arose again; then there was a short
squall from the east. Sir Cloudesley Shovell with the rear division of
the Red Squadron broke through the French in the interval between the
centre and the ships which had been stretched out to observe the rear
of the allies. Captain Hastings of the =Sandwich= was killed at this
phase of the action. The two fleets became mingled in the fog, and
drifted to the westward with the ebb-tide. Both anchored at the flood,
but at this moment a portion of the Blue Squadron which had worked to
the westward of the French drifted back through them in the mist and
darkness. They were fired on as they came through, and Rear-Admiral
Carter, whose division made this movement, was killed. The sound of the
cannonading was heard by the rest of the allied fleet, but it could
take no part in the action. When he saw that the enemy was in retreat
Russell had ordered a general chase, that is to say he left each ship
free to go at its utmost speed. But no great rapidity of movement was
possible. The wind had fallen, and the fog made it impossible to see.

This was the end of what strictly speaking is called the battle of
La Hogue, from the old spelling of La Hougue. The name is improperly
used, for the actual battle was fought off Cape Barfleur. The battle of
Barfleur was in fact the title commonly given by our ancestors, but it
has been displaced by the name of the place which was the last scene
of the four days’ pursuit following on the action. The pursuit began
like a nightmare, in strenuous effort to act without the power to move.
Both fleets had anchored during the night. When daylight came there
was a thick haze and the French were invisible to the allied fleet.
What little wind there was, was from the N.N.E. At about eight o’clock
some of the Dutch ships caught sight of the enemy to the W.S.W. The
pursuit was resumed, but, as the ships could not move more quickly
than they were carried by the tide, the progress was very slow. At four
o’clock in the afternoon the ebb-tide ceased, and both fleets again
anchored, the French in order to avoid the risk of being carried among
their pursuers, and the allies so that they should not lose ground.
They had moved so little during the ebb-tide that they were still off
Cape Barfleur, and at no great distance from the scene of the battle.
As long as the tide was flowing it was useless to move, but at ten
in the evening, when it turned, both fleets again got under way and
began to drift to the west. About this time the fore-topmast of the
=Britannia=, which had been seriously injured in the action, came
down, and as Russell did not transfer his flag to another vessel, this
delayed the Red Squadron under his immediate command. Many of them must
have suffered in the action. Whether because they felt bound to remain
about their admiral, or because they could not move any faster, the
ships of the Red Squadron fell somewhat behind in the pursuit while
the Blue and White pressed on ahead. At four in the morning of the
21st both fleets anchored again. They had now tided so far that they
were almost off Cape La Hague. Both were much scattered. A part of the
French had passed the Cape, the others had not. Among those which had
failed to get beyond the headland was the _Soleil Royal_, Tourville’s
flagship. She had suffered very severely in the action from the fire of
the =Britannia= and the ships just ahead and astern. It has been said
with some appearance of truth that if Tourville had had the resolution
to set her on fire he might have brought the whole of his fleet round
Cape La Hague. But she was the pride of the French Navy, and had been
named from the king himself who was the royal sun of France, and the
admiral could not make his mind up to sacrifice her. He had, however,
transferred his flag to another ship the _Ambitieux_.

When the fleets were ordered to anchor, only a portion of the French
was able to obey. Whether it was because they had slipped their cables
on the previous night, and therefore could not anchor, or whether
their anchors would not hold, it is certain that they were unable to
stop themselves from being carried to the eastward towards the allies.
The position then in the early hours of the 21st was this, one part
of the French fleet was ahead, to the west another part was drifting
eastward between the land and the allies. The best sailing ships of
the White and Blue Squadrons were well ahead of Russell, who with the
Red Squadron was furthest of all to the east. The inability of the
ships immediately about him to anchor showed Tourville that it was
useless to endeavour to keep his now divided fleet acting as one body
any longer. If he summoned the ships to the west to his assistance he
would bring the whole fleet into a trap between the land and the enemy,
who was in overwhelming numbers. Since he could no longer exercise his
powers as commander to any advantage there remained nothing for him
but to abdicate. He therefore hauled down his flag of command from
the main-topmast-head, as a signal that every captain was free to act
as he thought best for the safety of his ship. The French fleet now
split into fragments. One part, under the Chef d’escadre Pannetier
made a push for the Channel between the coast of France and the island
of Alderney. The easterly current of the flood-tide splits at Cape La
Hague. While the main body flows up Channel a branch turns off, and
runs with great speed between the west side of the Côtentin and the
island of Alderney. This makes what we call the Race of Alderney, and
the French the Raz Blanchard. The navigation is dangerous, and would,
under ordinary circumstances, have been avoided by the heavy ships,
but circumstances only left the French a choice of evils, and they ran
through the Race to seek refuge under the guns of St. Malo.

Russell, seeing that the division of the French and the distress of the
vessels drifting towards him made it no longer necessary to keep his
fleet together, signalled to Ashby, and the Dutch to pursue Pannetier.
Meanwhile he, with the Red Division and the laggards of the White and
Blue, prepared to deal with those of Tourville’s ships which had failed
to round La Hague. Ashby could not reach the enemy. Pannetier had time
to get his ships over the bar of the Rance, and take refuge under the
guns of the corsair town of St. Malo, before his pursuers reached him.
Ashby returned next day and joined Sir Ralph Delaval, who, in the
meantime, had done a good stroke of work at Cherbourg. When it became
clear that they were trapped the ships of Tourville had no resource
but to endeavour to fly to the eastward between Russell and the land,
to round Cape Barfleur and to take refuge at La Hougue. Three of them
were too crippled for further flight. These were the famous _Soleil
Royal_, for whose sake so much had been risked, the _Admirable_, and
the _Triomphant_. All three were run ashore at Cherbourg, and the
others fled eastward. Russell left Sir Ralph Delaval to deal with the
stranded ships, and followed the rest. Delaval could do nothing on the
evening of the 21st, but on the following morning he sent in the boats
and fireships, under the command of Captain Heath, Captain Greenaway,
and Captain Foulis. The _Admirable_ and _Triomphant_ were burnt. But
the fireship with which Captain Foulis endeavoured to burn the _Soleil
Royal_ was sunk by the Frenchmen’s fire. Hereupon, Delaval hauled in as
close as he could and opened fire on the great stranded flagship. When
he had battered her for some time, and found that no further resistance
was made, he took his boats and boarded her. Sir Ralph Delaval’s
report contains a detail which is discreditable to King Louis’s navy.
He says he found many men and wounded men in the _Soleil Royal_, but
no officers. She was burnt by the English. When the work was done Sir
Ralph was disturbed by thirty sail approaching him from the west.
This, however, turned out to be Sir John Ashby’s squadron, and the two
officers united their forces, and followed the admiral to the east. A
few of the French ships under command of Nesmond escaped by sailing
round the British Isles.

Russell pursued Tourville round Cape Barfleur. The French admiral ran
as close as he could to La Hougue, with the thirteen vessels still
about him. It was not until the evening of the 22nd, so light was the
wind and so slow were the ships of that time amid tides and variable
breezes, that Russell was able to anchor in the neighbourhood of the
fugitives. On the 23rd he sent in the boats and fireships under Rooke,
who burnt six of the enemy. On the 24th the work was completed by the
destruction of the other seven. The French indeed were panic-stricken,
and the resistance was trifling. Not more than ten men were killed
in this piece of service, which if attempted against an alert and
resolute enemy must needs have been very costly.

The battle pursuit and destruction spread over these five days, and
included under the name of “La Hogue” make nearly the last passage of
naval warfare of a brilliant decisive character which we shall meet
for three-quarters of a century. The navy had work of vital importance
to do, and a function of unusual importance to fulfil. But it was no
longer to meet equal fleets at sea, except on rare occasions, and
when it did its own method of fighting was dull. The French fleet
very soon ceased to contend with the allies in the ocean and channel
altogether, and in the Mediterranean its efforts were spasmodic. The
great change has been attributed to the disaster of La Hogue, without
sufficient reason. We have seen that the operations of the French in
previous years had been very languid. Their weakness during the rest
of the war was to be mainly attributed to the French king’s want of
money. His resources were overburdened by the war on land against the
League of Augsburg, and he could not afford to fit out great fleets.
But to our ancestors the importance of the battle of La Hogue was
naturally a subject of high gratification. The material loss inflicted
on King Louis was considerable, and the blow to his prestige greater
still. They could feel that the Channel was now safe, not indeed from
privateers, but from great fleets sent out to cover an invasion of
England. Besides, after the spiritless straggling operations of the
last three years, the resolution of Russell and the vigour of his
pursuit were an immense change for the better.

The decline of the French navy was not immediately visible. An attempt
to attack St. Malo at the close of 1692 was given up as hopeless, and
the ships under Pannetier’s command were able to make their way to
Brest undisturbed. In 1693 the French even achieved a considerable
measure of success, partly through their own good management, and
partly by the help of mistakes of the English Government. Russell
was no longer at sea. The shifting politics of the time, and his own
position as one of the leaders of the Whig party, combined with the
king’s discovery of his intrigues with St. Germain to remove him from
command. His place was taken by Killigrew, Delaval, and Shovell, who
were combined in a joint commission as admiral. The practice of giving
the command at sea to a committee was once more revived because the
Government distrusted a single command. The result was to discredit for
ever the appointment of several men to do work which most especially
requires unity of will and authority.

The fleet was collected under the joint admirals in April. It was not
manned without great difficulty. Crews had to be found by taking men
out of the privateers and by embarking five regiments of soldiers to
serve as marines. Neither the Government nor the admirals had any
definite plan of operations for the year. But an object was found for
them by the necessity of escorting the Mediterranean trade safe on its
way. The French privateers had been very active, and the convoy work
at least of the English navy very badly done. Ships had remained in
port rather than face the risk of making a passage. The necessities
of the English and Dutch revenue compelled the Government to forward
the trade, and so a squadron was told off under the command of Rooke
and the Dutch admiral Van der Goes, to carry the outward-bound Smyrna
convoy into the Mediterranean. The twenty-three ships, Dutch and
English, appointed to protect the convoy would have been insufficient
to deal with the Brest fleet, and the admirals were therefore ordered
to see Rooke and his Dutch colleague well past Ushant. In the latter
days of May the whole force was collected and sailed with the merchant
ship under its protection in the beginning of June. By an oversight,
which reflects very little credit on their intelligence, the admirals
omitted to find out whether the French were in Brest or not. They had
been ordered to accompany the convoy thirty leagues past Ushant, and
they reached that point on the 4th of June. Not being satisfied that
enough had been done for safety they exceeded their instructions so far
as to continue with the merchant ships till they were fifty leagues
W.S.W. off the island of Ushant. Then they left them and returned to
the Channel. It is an example of the vices still prevailing in our
naval administration that though the fleet had only just been collected
it was in want of provisions already. When the admirals had returned to
Torbay they learnt what they ought to have been at the trouble to find
out before, namely, that Tourville had left Brest. At the same time
the English Consul at Leghorn forwarded information that the French
Toulon fleet was ready to sail from Toulon. This report did not reach
the admirals till the 13th June. When it was too late they realised the
extent of the danger threatening Rooke. Tourville had in fact sailed
south in May with orders to wait for the convoy. Messages were sent in
hot haste to warn Rooke of his danger, but the disaster had happened
before they could reach him.

While the admirals and Government were realising their mistake and
were looking forward to the inevitable outcry in the City and House
of Commons, the great convoy had been rolling southward at a speed
regulated by the slowest of the merchant ships, happy if it made three
miles an hour in favourable circumstances. It reached Cape St. Vincent
on the 17th June. Here Rooke despatched a look-out vessel ahead, to see
if there were any enemies in Lagos Bay, on the south coast of Portugal
between Cape St. Vincent and Faro. The wind was very light, and the
convoy made little progress. Next day the frigates discovered ten sail
of French ships standing out of Lagos. The position was an extremely
difficult one. With a large force of men-of-war so close at hand there
was little hope of safety in flight for heavily laden merchant ships.
It was decided to make a push for the friendly Spanish port of Cadiz.
The wind from the N.N.W. was still light, and it might be that the
French being to leeward would be unable to work up. But this course,
though perhaps the best, where all were bad, led the convoy right into
the jaws of Tourville’s fleet of eighty-six sail. Battle was hopeless,
and flight not much better. Yet to run was all there was to do. The
French advanced squadron had fallen back merely to draw the convoy on,
and even if the bait had not succeeded there could have been but one
end to the meeting. A hurry and a scurry such as may easily be imagined
followed. Some of the small ships ran close in shore, by Rooke’s
orders, and endeavoured to find a refuge in Faro, San Lucar, or Cadiz.
By these we must understand very small craft from 40 to 100 tons. The
heavier ships, meaning boats from 150 to 300 tons, the size of a large
merchant ship of those times, did their best to shelter themselves
behind Rooke and Van der Goes, and they all struggled to get away into
the open sea. The Dutch warships were in more danger than our own, for
being in the van they were to leeward and nearer the French. Tourville
must have suffered from a constitutional inability to act with energy
except by fits and starts. He now repeated, and with even less excuse,
the very mistake he made after the battle of Beachy Head. His pursuit
was slack. Some of the Dutch ships were overtaken and captured after
a gallant resistance. But Rooke was able to carry a great part of the
convoy to Madeira, and from thence home to Cork. He joined the admiral
in the Channel in August. Tourville, after giving up the pursuit of
Rooke too early, returned to the Straits where he spent his time in
capturing or destroying the smaller merchant vessels. The total loss
to the Dutch and English was put down at twenty-nine vessels taken and
fifty destroyed.

This business of the Smyrna convoy may be said to be the turning-point
of the war. Louis XIV. had sent Tourville to capture the Smyrna convoy
mainly because he looked to gain money. In the following year he
ordered the Brest fleet into the Mediterranean, and he made no serious
attempt to contend with the allies in the western seas during the
remainder of the war. At the time, and while the smart of the loss was
fresh in England and Holland, this could not be known. The capture of
the convoy led to a furious outcry against the Admiralty in England,
and to violent inconclusive discussions in Parliament. Yet it was the
direct cause of a great change for the better. The Government was
fully waked up to the necessity of taking its fleet more seriously
in hand. The effort to conduct a war by a committee was given up.
Russell was restored to the command. At the same time, the officers
were stimulated to do their work with a better heart by increase of pay
and the establishment of the half-pay list. With sinking energy on the
side of the French and increasing efficiency on our own the naval war
took a new character. From this time forward there was an overwhelming
superiority on the side of the allies. England came to contribute an
increasing proportion of the naval force employed, for the land war
was straining Holland to the utmost. When the struggle with Louis
XIV. came to an end at the Peace of Utrecht, England was much the one
unrivalled sea power as she was when Napoleon surrendered to Captain
Maitland of the =Bellerophon=.



CHAPTER II

EXPEDITIONS, CONVOY, AND THE PRIVATEERS

 AUTHORITIES.—See last Chapter; _Memoirs of Forbin and Duguay-Trouin_;
     Poulain, _La Course au 17^{me} Siècle_.


The second and larger division of the War of the League of Augsburg
can be most conveniently dealt with by subjects rather than in
chronological order. There were no great campaigns between equal forces
of sufficient interest to be taken by themselves. Throughout all these
years the overpowering fleets of the Alliance cruised unchecked on the
sea, hemming France in, harassing her coast, annihilating her commerce,
and rendering assistance to the armies operating against her. Detached
squadrons issued from England year after year to attack the French
possessions in the New World and defend our own. In the meantime, the
efforts of France on the sea were ever more strictly confined to the
cruises of her privateers.

The object before the allies when once they had vindicated their
superiority on the ocean was to harass the French coast and to
co-operate with the armies on shore wherever an opportunity presented
itself. The first duty was done with more barbarism than success. In
the November of 1693 a futile attack was made on St. Malo by Benbow.
Infernal machines, invented by one Meesters, a Dutchman in the English
service, were drifted in for the purpose of destroying the shipping.
They exploded too soon, and did no harm to the enemy. This attack on
St. Malo was both the beginning and the type of a kind of operation we
adhered to till the middle of the eighteenth century. Good powder and
shot, and the lives of men, were thrown away in one dab after another
at this or the other point on the French coast. It was very rarely that
the expedition succeeded in causing any serious destruction to the
enemy. When it did, the harm inflicted on France was never enough to
cripple her power, though the suffering caused to individuals was no
doubt cruel. The English Government hardly ever showed itself capable
of understanding that to assail unfortified towns does no good, and
that fortified towns must be attacked with sufficient resources. To
give more than a mere mention to such enterprises as these here would
be to overestimate their importance altogether.

In 1694 this work of harassing the French was taken in hand, with
results excellently calculated to show how a fleet ought to act, and
how it ought not. Russell was at sea at a reasonably early date, with
the intention to watch the Brest fleet and to endeavour to destroy that
port itself. If the French fleet remained in the harbour the whole of
his force would be needed for the purpose. If, however, Tourville had
gone south a detachment might be left to deal with Brest, and Russell
could go on. This recognition of the fact that the proper employment
of an English fleet was to follow the enemy was perfectly sound in
principle. So much cannot be said for the plan of attack on Brest.
It might be a very advantageous thing to destroy the great French
arsenal, but such a place was certain to be so strongly fortified as
to be impregnable to the sudden attack of a mere flying column. Yet
no greater force than can be fairly described by the name was put
under the command of Tollemache. As a matter of fact the expedition
was hopeless, for it had been betrayed to King Louis by some of King
William’s servants who were in communication with St. Germain. One of
the traitors was the great Marlborough.

As early as the 19th May, Russell learnt that Tourville had already
sailed for the south. Before starting in pursuit, the new Admiral
of the Fleet was able to deliver one effectual stroke at the enemy.
A large French convoy of merchant ships was lying in Berteaume Bay
under the protection of one French man-of-war. Russell dispatched a
light squadron under Captain Pritchard to destroy it. The work was
thoroughly done, and was followed up by the destruction of a number of
other vessels going south with provisions to Tourville. Then, on the
5th or 6th June, Russell sailed for the south, leaving Lord Berkeley
to carry out the attack on Brest. On the 7th of June Berkeley entered
the wide channel between the Pointe St. Mathieu and the Pointe du Raz,
called the Iroise. The entrance to the Bay of Brest, named Le Goulet,
or Gullet, is on the north-east corner of this channel. It is a narrow
passage which leads into the land-locked Bay of Brest. The bay is shut
off from the sea by a peninsula running south from the Goulet. The
western side of this peninsula, after running due north and south,
turns to the west with a curve to the end at the north, and forms the
anchorage known as the Roads or Bay of Camaret.

The object of the expedition was to land in Camaret Bay, seize the
peninsula on the western side of the harbour, and, using that as a
basis of operations, open the entry to the bay to the fleet; and then
destroy the arsenal of Brest. The French were on their guard; Camaret
Bay was bristling with batteries and lined with troops. To go on was an
act of folly, and so Carmarthen, who surveyed the bay, gave Tollemache
to understand; but the soldier, though an exceedingly brave man and a
good subordinate, was no general, and he was burning to distinguish
himself. He urged the naval officers on, and among them he found an
ally in Lord Berkeley. The result was that several ships were all but
battered to pieces by the French cannon, and Tollemache landed at the
southern corner of the bay with a few hundred men—an act of headlong
folly which cost him his life, and sacrificed the lives of many others.
Then the expedition came away.

There was a kind of wrong-headed magnanimity about the conduct of
Tollemache which extorts a certain respect, but the succeeding
operations are merely examples of how to combine the greatest possible
malignity of intention with a high degree of ineptitude in the
execution. Berkeley came back to St. Helens for refreshments, and
then returned to the coast of France to take revenge. What he did was
morally on a level with the desolation of the Palatinate, for which
King Louis had been so bitterly reproached by his enemies, and it
had this further disgrace attaching to it, that it was imbecile. The
English fleet only bombarded Dieppe and Havre, killing a certain number
of women, children, and unarmed men, and burning a few houses. Then
it threatened La Hogue and Cherbourg. This done, it came back to St.
Helens for refreshments. When invigorated by repose it returned to
Dunkirk, and exploded more infernal machines to no purpose.

In 1695 it was the same story. We made a demonstration at St. Malo,
then we burnt the little fishing town of Granvelle, and then we
achieved another failure at Dunkirk. In the following year these feats
were renewed at Calais and elsewhere, till the war died down and was
brought to a pause by the truce called the Peace of Ryswick in 1697.
When it was resumed, the Admiralty had learnt that these expeditions
were forms of waste, and we hear little or nothing of them during the
reign of Queen Anne. It is probable that Captain Pritchard did more
harm to the enemy by destroying the convoy in Berteaume Bay than was
inflicted in all these expeditions, and he did it at a thousandth part
of the cost.

More legitimate and fruitful than these attacks on the French coast
towns were other operations of the fleet, which may be classed under
two heads. First are the cruises of what our ancestors called “The
Grand Fleet”—that is to say, movements of great forces representing the
bulk of our effective naval power in Europe. Then contemporary to, but
apart from them, were the cruises of squadrons, designed to protect our
own colonial possessions or menace those of the French. These two kinds
of naval operations were so far independent of one another that it is
not necessary to tell them together. Again, many of them were so barren
in results that it is superfluous to tell them in detail. Yet the mere
fact that they took place shows the magnitude, the persistence, and
the coherence of our efforts to make full use of the fleet. It has
seemed to me most advisable to set them both forth briefly in parallel
columns, and give particular accounts of the more notable among them
afterwards.

          Grand Fleets                            Small Squadrons

 The year of Beachy Head.           December 1689 to May 1690.—Captain
                                      Lawrence Wright to the West Indies,
                                      with ten ships and three small
                                      vessels. Contemporary with this
                                      cruise was the expedition of Sir W.
                                      Phipps from New England against Nova
                                      Scotia, then a French colony, and
                                      Quebec.

 Year of Russell’s first command    12th December 1690 to August
   in the Channel.                    1691.—Captain Ralph Wren to the West
                                      Indies. He died of fever, and many of
                                      his men with him. The squadron was
                                      brought home by Boteler.

 Year of La Hogue.                  In 1692 there was no colonial
                                      expedition.

 Disaster of Rooke’s convoy.        January to August 1693.—Cruise of Sir
                                      F. Wheeler to the West Indies, with
                                      twelve sail and three fireships.

 Russell in Channel. Goes to sea    January to September 1695.—Captain
   in May. Sails for Mediterranean    Robert Wilmot to West Indies, with
   in June. Enters Mediterranean in   five ships and one fireship. Wilmot
   July. Operations on coast of       died of fever, and one vessel was
   Catalonia. Winters at Cadiz.       lost for want of hands.
   Goes up Mediterranean again in
   March 1695. Returns to England
   in November of that year.

                                    April 1696 to October 1697.—Cruise of
                                      Vice-Admiral Nevil to West Indies.
                                      This squadron was almost totally
                                      destroyed by fever—only one captain
                                      returned.

There was now a break of four years, due to the truce which followed
the Peace of Ryswick, 20th September 1697.

          Grand Fleets                            Small Squadrons

 1700.—Sir George Rooke sent into  No colonial expedition.
   Baltic to support Charles XII.
   of Sweden against Denmark.

                                    September 1701.—Benbow to the West
                                      Indies, where he died on the 4th
                                      November 1702 of wounds received in
                                      action with Du Casse. The command
                                      passed to Whetstone.

 June to November 1702.—Rooke’s    July to October 1702.—Sir John Leake
   cruise to Cadiz, and attack on     attacks French in Newfoundland.
   treasure ships at Vigo, in
   co-operation with the Dutch.

 June to September 1703.—Cruise    January to September 1703.—Rear-Admiral
   of Sir C. Shovell into the         Graydon’s cruise into West Indies to
   Mediterranean.                     replace Benbow.

 January to September               No new expedition to colonies.
   1704.—Shovell and Rooke in
   Mediterranean; capture of
   Gibraltar and battle of Malaga.

 April to November 1705.—Shovell   April 1705 to December 1706.—Sir
   and Peterborough; taking of        William Whetstone commanding in
   Barcelona.                         West Indies. He left in command Kerr.

 February to October 1706.—Sir     October 1706 to April 1707.—Sir John
   John Leake in command on coast     Jennings in West Indies.
   of Spain.

 1707.—Sir C. Shovell to the       March 1707 to November 1709.—Sir
   Mediterranean. He was wrecked      Charles Wager in the West Indies.
   on the Scilly Isles when
   returning from this cruise,
   23rd October 1707.

 March to October 1708.—Sir John
   Leake to the Mediterranean.

 1708 to October 1709.—Sir George  September 1710.—Captain George Martin
   Byng left behind by Leake,         takes Port Royal, and Nova Scotia
   winters at Minorca, taken by       from the French.
   Stanhope. He returned with
   convoy in October 1709, leaving
   Whitaker with a squadron.
   Whitaker was succeeded by
   Baker, and then by Norris,
   till war ended.

                                    April to October 1711.—Disastrous
                                      expedition under Sir Hovenden
                                      Walker against Quebec.

These two lists are not exhaustive. They do not include minor
operations against the French coast in the Channel, nor do they mention
all the subordinate parts of the colonial expeditions. It is also
necessary to bear in mind that the Grand Fleets were the fleets of the
allies, not of England alone. The Dutch always contributed a part of
the strength, and their share of the common force was nowise inferior
in spirit, or skill, to ours. In one of the elements which go to make
efficiency they were not rarely superior. Their health was too often
better, since, to the deep discredit of British administrations of that
time, we did not on the average feed our men as well as the Dutch. The
colonial expeditions were our own, and the work was done at an awful
cost of life by disease.

In these circumstances the cruises of the allied Grand Fleets could
only be the successive exercises of an overwhelming superiority,
directed against an enemy whose resistance must needs be passive, with
rare and fitful efforts at retaliation. Year after year the great
combined naval armaments of England and Holland sailed south in the
spring. Before the Peace of Ryswick (1697) they went once to aid the
Spaniards, who were contending feebly against the French in Catalonia.
After the renewal of the war, they went repeatedly to aid the Hapsburg
pretender, who was endeavouring to drive the Bourbon King of Spain,
Philip V., from the throne he occupied by right of inheritance and
the will of Charles II., the last of the Austrian dynasty. They
also served to cover the movements of English and Dutch commerce by
mewing up the only fleet which Louis XIV. endeavoured to maintain in
Toulon. Incidentally they enabled us to secure what Cromwell had hoped
for, and what our Charles II. endeavoured to obtain by his marriage
treaty—namely, a port of war near the Mediterranean, where an English
fleet could keep its stores, repair damages, and find a safe anchorage
without being dependent on the goodwill of an ally.

The interest of a conflict between strength and weakness cannot be
in proportion to the importance of its results. These campaigns must
therefore (considerations of space being also of much weight) “speak by
their foreman”; by the typical examples. None seem more representative
than the first great cruise into the Mediterranean in 1694, and that
expedition of ten years later which put us in possession of Gibraltar.

It has been said above that the Grand Fleet had gone to sea in the
spring of 1694 under the command of Russell. He was also the chief of
the “commission for executing the office of Lord High Admiral”—and
therefore combined the whole civil and military authority in his own
person. The fleet consisted of fifty-two English and forty-one Dutch
ships of the line, with their attendant fireships and small craft, when
all were collected at St. Helens. When he was sure that the French had
no fleet in Brest to assist in the defence, the admiral returned to St.
Helens on the 23rd May, and sailed with his whole force on the 29th.
On the 6th June the force designed to carry out the already mentioned
raid on Brest was detached, and Russell sailed for the south in pursuit
of the French with thirty English and twenty-two Dutch. He was off the
Rock of Lisbon on the 25th June. Here he was reinforced by ships both
English and Dutch, and his force was raised to sixty-three. A little
later he was burdened by the co-operation of nine very inefficient
Spaniards.

In July Russell entered the Mediterranean, to the great relief of
the palsied Spanish Government, now trembling in impotence before
the French army of invasion in Catalonia and the French fleet in the
Mediterranean. The enemy retired as the allies worked their way slowly
up the coast and finally took refuge in the roadstead of Hyères, to
the east of Toulon. Russell and his Dutch colleagues were then able to
cover the Spanish forces in Catalonia and the Spanish coast trade from
French attack. As autumn approached, they prepared to return; but King
William wisely came to the decision that there was no better way of
protecting English and Dutch naval interests at home than by keeping
the French fleet shut in the Mediterranean. Russell therefore received
orders to winter in Cadiz. He had to struggle with the unreasonable
requests of the Spanish Government, which expected its allies to do
everything for it, and could itself do little or nothing. Yet, as they
were well supplied with money, stores, and even artificers from home,
the allies passed the winter abroad at no greater cost than would have
been incurred in their own ports.

In the spring of 1695, English troops were sent out under Brigadier
Stewart, and a Dutch contingent under the Count of Nassau. The allies,
after delays attributed to the dilatory preparations of the Spaniards,
moved up the coast, and reached Barcelona on the 19th July. Stimulated
by Russell, the Spanish viceroy of Catalonia resolved to take the
offensive against the French, who were in possession of the northern
part of the principality. It was decided to besiege Palamos, a coast
town just south of Cape San Sebastian. English and Dutch soldiers
were landed to aid the Spaniards, who for their part signally failed
to keep the promises they had made to supply tents and tools for work
in the trenches. Yet the siege, which began on the 9th of August, was
making fair progress, when it was suddenly broken up by the decision
of Russell himself. The Duke of Vendôme, who commanded the French army
in Catalonia, put false information in his way, to the effect that a
French fleet of sixty-five sail was fitting for sea at Toulon. Hereupon
Russell re-embarked his soldiers, advised the Spanish viceroy to
renounce all hope of retaking Palamos, and sailed to find the French.
This measure has been praised, in view of the danger that the fleet
from Toulon might have interfered with the siege. Yet if Russell was
confident of his capacity to meet King Louis’s ships in battle—and
if he was not it was a gross blunder to form the siege at all, and
another to sail for the purpose of meeting a superior fleet—he had it
in his power to force on an action by pressing the attack, and waiting
till the enemy came to interrupt him. By sailing in response to a mere
rumour, he enabled the French to effect their purpose of raising the
siege at no cost. Moreover, he did not secure the battle he sought.
The French having nothing to gain by an action, did not indulge him
with a meeting. The weather proved stormy, and in the end the allies
returned in September to Cadiz without Palamos, and without a battle.
Russell then sailed for home, and reached England after a prosperous
voyage early in November, leaving behind him a squadron under the
command of Rear-Admiral David Mitchell. The impotent conclusion of
the attack on Palamos leaves us in some doubt whether Russell was not
rather a fortunate than a spirited man. Yet his continuance abroad for
a year and a half, his wintering at Cadiz, and his two cruises in the
Mediterranean, did serve to prove that the allies had clearly gained
the upper hand at sea. They could not have remained for so long, nor
have cruised undisturbed, if the French had been in a position to use
their fleet.

The end of these operations was somewhat tame. Sir David Mitchell
had been left with sixteen ships of the line of the middle and lower
rates. On the 15th October Sir George Rooke arrived from England with
a squadron, and the total force of the allies was raised to thirty
sail, exclusive of the small craft. Information, no more accurate than
the false report which drew Russell away from Palamos, led Rooke to
believe that a powerful French fleet was coming to sea. He took refuge
in Cadiz harbour, and there spent the winter. Sir David Mitchell was
once sent out in search of some French vessels said to be lying in
Lagos Bay, but they were not found, and the allies were otherwise
quiescent. Meanwhile, King Louis was indeed preparing to make an
attack, or rather a double attack, on King William. During the early
days of 1696 Sir John Fenwick’s assassination plot was hatching in
England, to the knowledge and with the approval of the French sovereign
and the exiled King James. Troops were collected at Calais to be pushed
over so soon as the murder of King William was known to have been
achieved. In the meanwhile a fleet of fifty-one sail was being prepared
at Toulon with considerable difficulty, partly through the penury
of the French Government, partly because of the pertinacity of its
sailors in resisting or evading service. The object of this armament
was to provide a force which should be at hand to take advantage of
the confusion expected to ensue on the violent death of King William.
It is known to all that this complicated scheme of combined murder
and military operations broke down. Fenwick’s plot was revealed to
the Government. The great ships which had come home with Russell in
the autumn were hurried to sea in February, and the French coast was
patrolled and orders were sent to Rooke to return at once.

These orders reached him at a time when his mind was much exercised
by reports of the approach of the French fleet from Toulon. He put to
sea in the early days of March. The enemy had already sailed under the
command of Châteaurenault. It is one more illustration of the rather
modest standard of efficiency expected from the ship of the time,
that to send a fleet to sea so early as March was counted hazardous.
The result went to show that the estimate was not wholly unjust.
Both fleets were scattered in a storm, and suffered damage. They
returned to port, but again put to sea so soon as their injuries were
made good. Rooke, who had the start, reached home on the 22nd April.
Châteaurenault ran into Brest about a fortnight later—not unobserved,
but unopposed. This escape of his fleet was added to the list of naval
miscarriages of which Parliament was constantly complaining. Rooke
and Mitchell were called to account, but no blame appears to have
been thought to attach to them. Indeed, the error lay mainly in the
Government. It ought to have kept a more powerful force in the Straits
if it wished to prevent the French from leaving the Mediterranean.
Fenwick’s plot was the last resolute effort made by the enemy against
the Government established by the Revolution. Peace was becoming an
absolute necessity for France, and it was made at Ryswick in 1697.

For a brief space both sides took breath, and then the struggle began
again—the main cause being the resolution of the allies to prevent
Louis XIV. from establishing a grandson of his own on the Spanish
throne on terms which would practically have annexed the vast
possessions of the Spanish monarchy to the crown of France. England was
drawn into the struggle with reluctance, and was in fact only provoked
to fight when the French King, subordinating his duties as a sovereign
to his feelings as a gentleman, recognised the son of the exiled James
II. as King of England.

The accession of Queen Anne brought one change to the government of the
navy. It had been the intention of King William in the last days of
his rule to re-establish a Lord High Admiral. The Earl of Pembroke was
chosen for the place, and the admirals who were to act as his advisers
were named. By the king’s death all commissions were annulled, but his
intention was carried out, though with a change of persons. The office
of Lord High Admiral was revived in favour of the queen’s husband,
Prince George of Denmark, who was provided with a council. Some fault
was found with the legality of this measure, but it passed without
serious opposition—thanks to the popularity of the queen, and the fact
that public attention was turned elsewhere.

The war, though essentially a continuation of the former struggle, was
begun, in so far at least as the naval side of it was concerned, in
somewhat changed conditions. A grandson of King Louis now sat on the
throne of Spain. It was the object of the allies, by whom, however,
he had been at first recognised, to compel him to resign. Therefore
it was sure that he would be their enemy to the extent of his power.
An inevitable consequence of this change was that the allied English
and Dutch fleets could no longer rely on being allowed to use Spanish
ports. One of the earliest measures taken by the Queen’s Government was
to send an officer, Captain Loades, to Cadiz to bring away the naval
stores kept there for the use of our ships serving in the Straits and
the Mediterranean. It shows to what an extent we had made use of this
port, that the stores left there amounted to more than Loades could
stow in the vessels with him. He was therefore compelled to sell part
of them to the Spaniards at a loss. Two hulks belonging to us, and used
for the purpose of “heaving down,” that is, lightening, and pulling
on one side ships which it was necessary to clean when they returned
foul from a cruise, were towed out to sea and sunk. An experience of
this kind must have quickened our desire to obtain possession of a port
entirely our own.

Though Philip V. had been accepted by the Spaniards as their king, a
party in favour of the Hapsburg dynasty was known to exist, and to be
strong in the coast provinces. So upon the outbreak of the war in 1702,
a fleet of fifty sail, of which thirty were English and twenty were
Dutch, was sent to Cadiz under Rooke, carrying with it a strong force
of soldiers under the Duke of Ormonde. It cleared the Channel on the
21st July, and after looking into Corunna went on to the south. On the
12th August it left Lisbon, which, since the Spanish ports were shut
to us, and the King of Portugal was among the allies, had become our
house of call and store magazine, as it had been in the Commonwealth
wars. Very shortly the fleet was before Cadiz. The work to be done
required, above all things, tact. It was the duty of the expedition
to assail the Spaniards in so far as they were the armed supporters
of King Philip V., but to propitiate them in so far as they were the
potential supporters of the Hapsburg party. The chiefs so managed
matters that they took no effectual steps against the armed forces
of King Philip, while they allowed grievous wrong to be inflicted on
the people of the country. Cadiz was bombarded to the injury of the
inhabitants. Meanwhile the Puerto de Santa Maria, on the other side of
the bay, was occupied by the English and Dutch, who applied themselves
to drunkenness, the rape of women, and deliberate insults to the Roman
Catholic religion—three kinds of violence exquisitely adapted to excite
the scorn and hatred of the people of Andalusia. After a month and a
little more of wrangling with one another, the chiefs, who could agree
on nothing else, agreed to come away.

On the way home, information was received that several Spanish treasure
galleons returning from America under protection of a French squadron
commanded by Châteaurenault had put into Vigo. Here was a definite
object offering a plain aim both to public spirit and private greed.
Dissensions ceased. Sailor and soldier united in vigorous co-operation.
There is a spacious outer bay at Vigo, and a convenient, though
smaller, inner anchorage reached through a narrow entry. A boom had
been laid across this, and the French and Spaniards were anchored
within. On the 12th October, the allies, led by Admiral Hopson,
dashed at the boom while soldiers landed for the purpose turned the
fortifications on shore. The French warships and Spanish galleons were
either destroyed by the allies or by their own crews. The Government
treasure had been disembarked and was far inland, but a good deal of
miscellaneous pillage no doubt fell to the squadron and the troops. On
the 19th the expedition sailed away, and reached England on the 7th
November. Its doings added another chapter to the dreary history of
parliamentary debates on “naval miscarriages.”

In 1703 a Grand Fleet went out to the Mediterranean under command
of Cloudesley Shovell. It swept the coasts of Spain and Provence,
endeavouring to quicken the Hapsburg party in Spain and to send help
to the Protestants of the Cevennes, who were in revolt against King
Louis—with no success in either case. But the following year saw
operations of another order, forming a fruitful campaign—movements of
large hostile armaments over a great area, a balance of forces, and a
clash of conflict leaving permanent results.

At the close of 1703 the Archduke Charles, the Hapsburg claimant of
the Spanish throne, was brought over to this country by Rooke from
Holland. It was the purpose of the Government to send him south with
such a force as would enable him to vindicate his rights. After delays
caused by bad weather he sailed under the protection of Rooke on the
12th February 1704. The English admiral had with him only ten sail of
the line, five English and five Dutch, but was accompanied by a swarm
of transports and trading ships. He did not reach Lisbon till the 25th
February. On the 2nd March reinforcements reached him under command
of Sir John Leake, and on the 9th he went to sea in order to cruise
for the outgoing Spanish trading fleet bound to the West Indies, which
he did not meet though he took several other prizes. Orders were sent
him to proceed up the Mediterranean for the purpose of forwarding
the Hapsburg cause and aiding the coast towns of our ally the Duke
of Savoy. Rooke left Lisbon with thirty-seven sail, but no troops,
and was off Cape St. Vincent on the 29th April. He now went on to
the Mediterranean. On the 8th May he was off Cape Palos, north-east
of the Spanish port of Carthagena. Here a small squadron of French
ships was seen and chased. They were on their way to Cadiz. Complaints
were made that though they were overtaken they were not attacked, and
strong blame was thrown on Captain Andrew Leake for the failure. On
the 10th the detached squadron rejoined the admiral, and on the 19th
the fleet was off Barcelona. The Prince of Hesse-Darmstadt, who was
with Rooke, had been governor of the province for King Charles II.,
and he was convinced, rightly enough as subsequent events proved, that
the sympathies of the townsmen were with the Hapsburg cause. He wished
to make an effort to induce them to rise, but Barcelona was held for
King Philip by a strong garrison under the command of Don Francisco
de Velasco, a man of rigorous character. The Catalans, like our own
ancestors whether Whig or Jacobite, were too prudent to rise against
regular soldiers till they were assured of solid support. This Rooke
could not give. He had no troops with him, and he held himself bound to
go on to the Riviera to aid the Duke of Savoy. A few hundred English
and Dutch marines were landed, but no movement followed in the town,
and they were re-embarked. Rooke therefore left the coast of Catalonia,
and steered towards Provence.

The French fleet had left Brest early in May. It consisted of
twenty-three vessels, under the command of the Count of Toulouse, a
bastard son of the king’s, and a simple-minded honest man of no great
faculty. The strain on the French king’s resources had not allowed him
to equip great fleets in 1702 and 1703, but the events of those years
showed him that an effort must be made. In 1704 he ordered squadrons
to be prepared both in Brest and Toulon. The object was to unite them
in the Mediterranean, where they could cut short further intrigues
with the insurgent Huguenots, and give both moral and material support
to his grandson in Spain. The English Government was aware of the
preparations, and in April a strong fleet was collected in the Channel
under Shovell. He had orders to retire up Channel, bringing with him
the store ships loaded for the squadron at Lisbon, if the enemy came
on in great force. If, however, he heard that Toulouse had gone to the
Mediterranean, he was to follow with not more than twenty-two sail,
taking care to leave a sufficient force for the protection of trade in
the home waters. On the 12th May Shovell obtained information that the
French had gone south, and he therefore detached Sir Stafford Fairborn
with light ships to Kinsale to act as a trade guard, and followed the
enemy to the coast of Portugal.

The Count of Toulouse had a long start, and was nearing the
neighbourhood of Rooke by the time Shovell reached Lisbon. In the
latter days of May the position was this. On the 25th Rooke was joined
by frigate, with the news that a French fleet had passed the Rock of
Lisbon steering to the south. The frigate passed through the enemy
at sea, and knew that they had entered the Mediterranean. Rooke also
learnt from other sources that the towns of the Duke of Savoy were in
no danger. A council of war was held, and it was resolved to return
to the Straits. If the French fleet was met on the way it was to be
engaged. The Count of Toulouse, with twenty-three sail of the line, was
cutting across the route of the allies and heading for Toulon. Another
French squadron was getting ready in that port somewhat tardily.
Shovell was still distant, but was making his way out to join and put
himself under the orders of Rooke. All these forces were converging by
devious routes to a final clash of battle.

Important events were to take place before they met. On the 27th of May
the ships of Toulouse were sighted by the look-out vessels of Rooke’s
fleet. But the abounding caution of the commanders of that generation
was shown once more. The average speed of the French ships was better
than that of the allies, yet it would have been possible to bring them
to action by ordering all the ships to sail at their best rate of
speed in a “general chase,” when the quickest of the allies could have
overtaken the slowest of the French. But to do this appeared dangerous
to the flag officers of 1704, since it might subject them to attack
in detail, and they pursued in a body, regulating their speed by that
of the slowest sailer among them. Thus the Count of Toulouse kept and
improved his lead. On the 29th the allies were within ninety miles of
Toulon. Then, fearing that all the French forces would unite and put
them at a disadvantage, they returned down the Mediterranean. On the
14th June Rooke and Shovell united their forces in the Straits.

So far nothing very brilliant had been done, and the escape of Toulouse
with his far inferior fleet was even discreditable to the allies.
But now strong pressure was put on Rooke and his colleagues to act.
Hitherto the conduct of the naval war had been of a somewhat peddling
order. The buccaneering achievement at Vigo stood alone as a feat of
any brilliancy. In the beginning of the war the failure of an officer
named Munden (brother of him who retook St. Helena from the Dutch) to
stop some French ships at Corunna, and his acquittal by a somewhat
complacent court martial, had roused fierce anger in the country. There
had since been a shameful business in the West Indies. The nation was
becoming thoroughly tired of “naval miscarriages,” and the ministry
was resolute that something should be done. Something doable lay at
the very hand of the allied fleet. After hesitation, and discussions
in the inevitable councils of war, it was resolved to make an attempt
on Gibraltar, which Cromwell had indicated as a good post for us to
hold half a century before. Though Rooke only acted under pressure,
his conduct now compares very favourably with that of Russell in 1695.
If he was slow and very cautious, at least he was resolute and exact.
He did not allow the mere wind of the French fleet at Toulon to draw
him off, but stood on guard with the bulk of his force, and sent in
a squadron under George Byng to bombard the town, while a body of
marines was landed under command of the Prince of Hesse, on the neck
of the peninsula, to cut the garrison off from relief, at any rate,
by small parties. Gibraltar even then was strong. Its fortification
mounted a hundred guns, but its garrison of 150 men was ridiculously
inadequate. On the 23rd the bombardment took place—the Spaniards making
such reply as was possible to 150 men. The mole was swept by the fire
of the ships’ guns, and then stormed by the sailors. An explosion,
either deliberately caused by the Spaniards, or produced by one of our
own men who dropped a light into a magazine, did considerable harm to
the stormers, and for a moment there was a panic. But the Spaniards
were too few to take advantage of the chance, or indeed to man the
walls. Next day the governor promised to surrender, and the town was
delivered on the 25th. The total loss of the allies was 60 killed and
217 wounded, nearly twice the number of the Spanish garrison, and
almost all English. They shed their blood honourably and profitably in
adding this noble fortress to the “patrimony of St. George”—happier men
than the thousands of their comrades who perished miserably in these
wars, fever stricken in filthy ships, rotten with scurvy, starved, or
poisoned by bad food.

Gibraltar newly taken, and shattered by the attack, was not as yet
capable of serving as a port of war for the fleet. Not even water
could be found in sufficient quantities. Twelve hundred marines were
landed to form a garrison capable of repelling any sudden attack from
the land, and a magazine was made up out of the stores of the ships.
Then the allies stood over to Tetuan, and sought for provisions and
water among the Moors. On the 9th August they had obtained what they
wanted, when the captain of the =Centurion=, who had been on the watch
to the eastward, came in with the news that the French fleet was at
hand. Though the course to be followed in the event of such a foreseen
occurrence as this might have been maturely considered already, a
council of war had to be held. It was decided to work up towards the
enemy, and give battle. If the Count of Toulouse, who, being to the
eastward, had the weather-gage in the easterly wind blowing at the
time, had been well advised, he would have forced on battle at once.
But he manœuvred to avoid action, and even fell back towards Malaga.
This gave the allies time to re-embark half the marines they had landed
at Gibraltar. The meeting of the fleets was delayed till the 13th
August. By that date the allies had got to windward of the French who
were now between them and the fortress. Both fleets were heading to the
south. At ten o’clock in the morning the allied line bore down on the
French. Sir Cloudesley Shovell and Leake led the van. Rooke commanded
in the centre with Dilkes and Wishart. The Dutch formed the rear of
the line. In number of guns and ships the two fleets were fairly
equal, but the allies were short handed, and in want of ammunition.
The course of the battle presented little of interest. Van was opposed
to van, centre to centre, and rear to rear. They hammered each other
with their guns, and the valour shown was great. Sir John Leake, if his
Life is to be trusted, did wish to do more than fire and be fired into.
He commanded the leading squadron in the allied line and was opposed
to the French admiral, the Marquis de Villette Mursay. The French
officer’s ship, the _Intrépide_, caught fire in the poop, and he bore
out of the line to extinguish the flames. This movement was understood
as a signal by the ships of his squadron, and they followed him to
leeward. Leake now wished to pursue and break through the French line,
but that fatal article in the Fighting Instructions, which prescribed
the maintenance of one order throughout the action, interfered. He was
told to remain where he was—and was reduced to be a spectator of the
rest of the action, which took the form of a persevering exchange of
blows between the centre and rear divisions of the two fleets. They
separated at four in the afternoon, both much damaged. The battle of
Malaga was one of the most bloody ever fought at sea. Nearly 3000 men
fell in the allied line, and the loss of the French, who however only
acknowledged 1500, cannot well have been much less. On their side, too,
an extraordinary number of officers of distinction were slain.

For two days the fleets remained near one another. The wind shifted to
the west, and gave the French the weather-gage, but they made no use of
it to renew the battle. In the allied line many ships already depleted
by the bombardment of the 23rd July, and the drafts made upon them to
supply the Prince of Hesse with a magazine, had fired away almost all
their powder. Some had run short in the action. They were prepared to
accept battle if it was forced upon them, with the resolution to board
the enemy, and settle it with cold steel since they could not use their
guns. But in their hearts they were relieved—and no shame to them,
and no credit to him—when Toulouse filed away northward to Toulon.
Then they returned to Gibraltar Bay, where they remained till the 24th
of August. The marines drawn from the garrison were again landed and
damages made good as far as might be. On that day Rooke sailed. On the
26th he told off a squadron to remain on the coast of Portugal with
Leake, and sailed with his battered ships and sorely tried crews for
England, which he reached on the 25th September.

Gibraltar having been taken was to be held, and as it was not yet
sufficiently settled to be able to rely for long on its own strength,
its salvation depended on Leake’s squadron. Sir John was hardly a great
commander, yet from the day that he relieved Londonderry his conduct
was always marked by a certain alacrity in action. During the winter of
1704-05, he stood by Gibraltar loyally and with energy. The Spaniards
had collected an army to retake the town, and early in October the
Prince of Hesse called for help. Leake came at once from Lagos with
stores and encouragement. On hearing that a French naval force was
approaching, he put to sea. Uncertainty as to the strength of the
enemy and some damage received by bad weather induced him to return to
Lisbon to refit, but he was back reinforced by the 29th October and
had the deserved good luck to capture three French warships. Leake now
remained by Gibraltar till the 21st December. On both these visits
his guns relieved the pressure on the town by firing into the camp of
the besiegers. Then he again went back to Lisbon. During his absence
a French squadron under M. de Pointis arrived to form a blockade.
On the 10th March, Leake was back again, and this time he destroyed
five Frenchmen including the flagship in Gibraltar Bay. The remainder
of Pointis’ ships fled to Toulon. Leake now remained till March.
The besieging army broke up its camp in despair, and Gibraltar was
safe. Leake was able to sail for England and reached it in April. As
Gibraltar had been taken, so it was saved by the fleet, for the sake of
which we hold it, and on which in the last resort it depends.

It is a striking coincidence that the year of the taking of Gibraltar
was also the year of Blenheim. The superiority passed to the allies on
land as well as on sea. Henceforth the French king could do less and
less with his navy. Year after year the Grand Fleets poured out of the
Channel in spring, and swept like a great tidal wave round the coasts
of the Peninsula, and into the Gulf of Lyons. They made the capture of
Barcelona, and its relief, possible. It was they who enabled General
Stanhope to take Port Mahon which, together with Gibraltar, remained
in our hands at the end of the war. They kept the Hapsburg cause alive
in Spain for a space. Yet their operations present only a repetition
of similar incidents, and enforce always the same lessons: that where
the road lies over the sea, the ships only can stop it for an invader,
or open it for invasion—an obvious but apparently an easily forgotten
truth.

Writing in 1704, Josiah Burchett, the Secretary of the Admiralty, had
occasion to acknowledge the ill success of an expedition sent to the
West Indies during the reign of King William; “but,” he went on, “when
had we an opportunity, or at least when was there any attempt made by
us from the beginning of the last war, to this very time, where the
advantage proved in any degree equal to the charge and inconveniences
that did attend it? The injuries we did to the French when Sir Francis
Wheeler commanded in the West Indies were inconsiderable, and what have
our successes been before and after that expedition? I doubt it was
found that our squadrons came home in a much worse condition than when
they set forth, both as to men, and all other circumstances; and not
having the good fortune to do any sensible injuries to our enemy, they
(_i.e._ the enemy) had the satisfaction of knowing what inconveniences
we involved ourselves in.” The cruises carried out after 1704 might
be summed up in much the same terms. As we were then engaged against
the Spaniards as well as the French, a change was made in the scope of
our operations. The peculiar character of Spanish trade with the new
world, in which the most valuable portion of the home-coming cargoes
was the bullion brought from the mines of Mexico and Peru, gave us
an opportunity to achieve one success of a kind highly profitable to
the officers and men engaged. In 1709, Sir Charles Wager captured a
treasure ship, and he also inflicted loss on her companion ships, which
was most injurious to the Spaniards. But this action stands almost
apart in a long series of cruises of little interest, and no important
result.

The nature of these operations can be shown by a brief account of
the first. When the war began in 1689 it was felt that the French
plantations in America, and more especially those in Hispaniola,
represented a portion of the enemy’s resources which it was desirable
to diminish. The English officers in America were ordered to molest the
French to the utmost of their ability. In order that they might be the
better able to perform this duty they were reinforced by a squadron
from Europe. It consisted of one third rate, seven fourth rates, one
fifth rate, and of two fireships, and was commanded by Captain Lawrence
Wright, an officer of some five-and-twenty years’ standing, who had
been in the West Indies before. His orders were to ship the Duke of
Bolton’s regiment of foot at Plymouth, and to sail for the Leeward
Islands, that is the more northerly of the Lesser Antilles which
stretch from the Virgin Islands to Dominica. Here he was to co-operate
with Colonel Codrington, the governor, whose headquarters were at
Antigua. The governor was to add what forces he could, and attacks were
then to be made upon the French. Elaborate directions were given to
Wright—that he was to be guided by a council of war, to act in so far
as operations on shore were concerned, under the general direction of
the military officers, to spare what sailors he could for operations on
land, and not to send ships from his squadron without consent of the
governor and council, lest the islands should be “exposed to insults.”

Thus directed, and with these limited powers, Captain Wright sailed
from Plymouth on the 8th March 1690 with a number of merchant ships
under his protection. Storms scattered the convoy immediately after it
left the Channel, but it arrived safe at Madeira on the 2nd of April.
On the 11th May it reached Barbadoes. Though only two months had passed
since the squadron had left England, and it had stopped at Madeira,
the crews were so sickly, presumably from scurvy, that Captain Wright
was compelled to land many of his men to be cured, and could not sail
till the 27th May. On the 30th of the month he reached Antigua. Colonel
Codrington joined him with some soldiers, and a series of buccaneering
operations was begun against the French at St. Christopher, and St.
Eustatius to the west of Antigua, and at no great distance. Men were
landed, forts taken, plantations plundered and burnt, negroes carried
off. No attempt was made to hold the French islands, and this form of
purely destructive warfare went on till about the middle of July. The
hurricane months (July, August, and September) were now upon them,
both sailors and soldiers were sickly, and the expedition returned to
Antigua. Wright went out to Barbadoes, and there remained till the 6th
October. The island lies out of the usual track of the hurricane, and
that danger is considered to be “all over” in October, though there
have been some notable and destructive exceptions to these rules.

On the 6th October, Wright again sailed to join Codrington at Antigua,
and a plan was laid for attacking the French island of Guadaloupe. It
is to be noted that Wright’s crews having been sorely diminished by
sickness, he had been compelled to press sailors from the merchant
ships at Barbadoes. While the English squadron was collected for the
purpose of attacking St. Christopher, the French privateers sailing
from Hispaniola, Martinique and Guadaloupe, had been very busy. They
were known to have captured numbers of our merchant ships, and the
trade was threatened with ruin. Some of them cruised at their ease
within sight of the shore at Barbadoes, taking the small vessels
employed to bring from Virginia the bacon and maize which were the
provisions needed for the negro slaves. There was even danger of
famine. At Antigua, Wright was called off by orders to sail for
England, and did actually come back as far as Barbadoes. Here, however,
counter-orders were sent him to remain, and promises of reinforcements.
In January of 1691 store ships, and one man-of-war, reached him. This
addition to his force, small as it was, was yet welcome, for he had
been compelled to detach vessels on convoy service, doubtless in answer
to the loud outcries of the merchants. In February he again joined
Codrington, and the scheme of attacking Guadaloupe was resumed. On the
27th of that month, Marie Galante, a little outlying island just south
of Guadaloupe, was raided with the usual details of plunder and arson.
Then a landing was effected on Guadaloupe, but in May these unworthy
operations were brought to an end by the report that a French squadron
had reached Martinique from Europe, and was coming on. At once the
troops were re-embarked, not without signs of panic, and a council of
war decided to return to Barbadoes. Wright and Codrington had come
to open quarrel. At Barbadoes the naval chiefs health broke down. He
resigned his command, and sailed for home. Some of the ships followed
him with a convoy. Others remained in the West Indies.

Wright, who left Barbadoes amid a chorus of jeers and accusations of
cowardice, may fairly be considered to have had hard measure. He was
never again employed at sea, though he held some dock-yard posts.
There is nothing to show that he was a man to rise above adverse
circumstances, but the bare narrative of the events of the cruise given
above is his best excuse. Let us look at the facts, bearing meanwhile
in mind that what is to be said of them applies in different degrees,
but always to some extent, to every expedition we sent to the West
Indies from the beginning of the war in 1689 down to the peace of
Utrecht. In the first place the material force given to the commander
was inadequate to the work he had to do. It was not sufficient to
capture the principal French posts, yet he was ordered to make attacks
on the enemy’s territory. The inevitable result was that, while he had
his ships concentrated for miserable burning and plundering raids, the
French privateers cruised unchecked. The blame for this rests mainly
on the Government. It repeated in the West Indies the very mistake of
ordering attacks on coast towns with insufficient forces, which as
we have seen it was also making in the Channel. Then these material
forces, too weak in themselves to begin with, suffered from causes
serious enough to have paralysed greater powers. It was a brutal and
greedy generation, callously indifferent to the well-being of the
men. The younger Hawkins, and Lancaster—the captain of the East India
Company—had shown how to keep crews healthy on long voyages even in the
tropics. We had the example of the Dutch to guide us. Yet the chiefs of
the navy allowed their men to rot from scurvy and perish by fever, not
from want of knowledge, which they could have acquired at once if they
had looked for it, but from mere hardness of heart and selfishness. The
destruction of life by disease in our fleets was everywhere great, and
in the West Indies it was enormous. Of the superior officers who sailed
with Admiral Nevill in 1696-1697 only one captain lived to return home.
The pestiferous squalor of the lower deck avenged the sailors. At the
close of Captain R. Wilmot’s expedition of 1695 one vessel was lost on
the reefs of Florida, from sheer want of men to handle her sails. The
sailors followed the example set them, and were affected by the spirit
of their time. They found consolation for the hardships of life afloat
in excesses on shore. Burchett assures us that the harbours of the West
Indies were more fatal to the men than the sea.

In this atmosphere, as of a town smitten by plague where men hasten
to enjoy while they can, sailors and soldiers were sent to plunder.
Each soon began to suspect the other of attempting to defraud, and
the passions of disappointed gamblers were added to the professional
rivalry of men who in that generation were rarely honest enough to
subordinate their passions to the general good of “the king’s service.”
The fierce feuds of sailor and soldier flamed up in these expeditions,
but the case of Admiral Benbow shows that a British admiral of that
generation could not always rely on loyal and honest support even from
his subordinates. Add to this, that jarring soldier and sailor elements
were constantly called upon to combine in councils, and that they were
both subjected to a vague check by the governors and councils of the
islands. In such conditions effective operations were not possible.

While the Grand Fleets were cruising, often unopposed and never
effectually checked by the French, while the colonial expeditions
sailed year after year to fail, or at the best to achieve half
successes, by their own defects rather than from the strength of their
enemy, the allies suffered severely at sea from the enterprise of
the corsairs who won for France nearly all the glory and profit she
gained from these naval wars. This side of the struggle is of peculiar,
indeed it may be said to be of contemporary, interest. French writers
are fond of dwelling on the success of their privateers in the later
seventeenth, and early eighteenth centuries. They argue that it proves
their national aptitude for swift destructive attacks on trade, and
draw the deduction that if ever war breaks out again between them and
us, they must revert to the methods of the men who, if they could not
disturb the movements of the great allied fleets, did at least make the
conflict costly to English and Dutch commerce. It is their belief that
if they can only do what those adventurers did on a somewhat larger
scale, then England, which is far more dependent on trade than she then
was, and is now under the obligation to import large quantities of
food, which was not then the case, will find her superiority in fleets
of no avail. We are looking then at what concerns us directly when we
turn our attention to the doings of the French corsairs between 1689
and 1712.

Owing to a combination of circumstances the _guerrillero_, or partisan
war of the sea, was then conducted in exceptionally favourable
conditions. When they have been detailed, and the results reached
have been summed up, we shall be in a position to judge how far those
conditions, favourable as they were to the corsairs, were also of
advantage to our enemy. This failure of the French fleet had a double
effect. French coasting trade conducted in small vessels, fitted
to hug the shore and take refuge under coast batteries, went on,
disturbed, but not destroyed. But French oversea commerce was almost
wholly suspended. Thus numbers of men were thrown out of employment,
and the shipowners were driven to look elsewhere for profit. Both were
inevitably turned to privateering. We had seen the same consequence
ensue in Elizabeth’s reign, when the Spanish war interrupted our chief
oversea trade. Again, so soon as the great fleets had no longer to
be manned for cruising, the king had a strong motive to find other
employment for his sailors and his officers. Therefore he allowed
them to go on privateering voyages, and even hired out his vessels
for the purpose or entered into partnership with the owners. Here
again our own Elizabethan precedent was closely, if unconsciously,
followed. Similar causes produced similar results, and as Elizabeth
became the partner of “adventurers” on plundering expeditions to the
West Indies, or to Cadiz, so King Louis entered into contracts with
his _armateurs_ for similar ventures. Finally, the French leaders of
that generation were of much the same stamp as our Elizabethans. M. de
Pointis, the Chevalier de Saint Pol, the Count de Forbin, Jean Bart,
and Duguay-Trouin were the French equivalents of Raleigh, Cumberland,
Drake, Frobisher, and Hawkins. Some of them won their way to social
position, and the royal service, by good fighting in the privateers.
Others were king’s officers lent for the work.

While Tourville kept the sea, the share of the privateers in the war
was small, and the harm they did very trifling in comparison to the
injury inflicted on the Smyrna convoy by the French fleet in 1693. Only
a part of their total later activity in the war directly concerned
us. Jean Bart, a Fleming of the Flemish town of Dunkirk, cruised
mainly against the Dutch in the North Seas. The two greatest single
achievements of the French privateers, the capture of Carthagena by
M. de Pointis in the reign of King William (1697), and the capture of
Rio de Janeiro by Duguay-Trouin in the reign of Queen Anne (1711),
were directed against the Spaniards and the Portuguese respectively.
They were very similar to Drake’s raid on the West Indies in 1585.
The Dunkirk privateers preyed on our commerce after their town had
become French, as they had done while it formed part of the Low Country
possessions of the King of Spain. We blockaded it with indifferent
success. Other ports also sent out their corsairs. Our chief interest
is with the Breton town of St. Malo, and with the activity of its
hero Réné Duguay-Trouin. He used other ports, Dunkirk or Rochelle
occasionally, and Brest often. He co-operated with other men, notably
with the Count of Forbin, but St. Malo was his headquarters and also
the typical corsair town, while he was the central dominating figure of
the corsair war. Jean Bart died in the middle of the conflict. Forbin
had other activities. Saint Pol, Nesmond, and many more who could be
named, were subordinate. Following the scheme of this book, I take him
as the characteristic illuminative example.

The Breton town of St. Malo stands on the northern coast of the Duchy
towards the eastern end, and close to Normandy. It is on the eastern
end and at the mouth of the Rance. At that time it was still an island,
not yet turned into a peninsula by a causeway. It was surrounded by
ancient mediæval walls of less extent than the present fortifications.
The population were seamen, traders in peace, corsairs in war. There
were local leaders, burgesses not counted as nobles, but in the odd old
French phrase “living nobly” as merchants and shipowners, not by retail
trade, nor manual labour. The approach to the Rance is dangerous,
through reefs and over a bar, but there is good anchorage inside. The
privateers of St. Malo had been recognised as a useful force, and their
organisation had been controlled by the crown since the fifteenth
century. It had been finally fixed by Colbert. The captains sailed with
a recognised commission and large powers, extending even to life and
death, for the maintenance of discipline. The crews were recruited by
free enlistment, and received wages, which might go to fifteen crowns
for the _course_ or cruise of four months. Custom, embodied in royal
ordinances, regulated the division of the prize. After payment of legal
expenses, and of ten per cent. to the Admiralty of Brittany (a separate
office from the Admiralty of France), two-thirds belonged to the owner,
and the remaining third was divided among the officers on a fixed
scale, while the men were rewarded at discretion by gifts in addition
to their wages. When the king lent the ship he took a fifth of the
prize, after the deduction of legal expenses, and admiral’s fees. The
adventurers who helped to fit the vessel out, with their officers and
the crew, divided the remainder.

Among the _armateurs_, merchants, and shipowners of St. Malo “living
nobly,” the family of Trouin had a conspicuous place. Luc Trouin de
la Barbinais, father of the corsair, had himself served against the
Dutch and Spaniards. Réné, who afterwards added Duguay to his name to
distinguish himself from his elder brother, was a younger son of a
large household. His parents had intended him for a priest, and he had
some schooling from the Jesuits at Rouen. But he was not made for the
church. When the war opened in 1689 he was seventeen years old, and his
family allowed him to follow his natural bent. He began his career as
a volunteer in one of the ships of the firm. These were light craft,
provided with guns, but relying mainly on their large crews. It was
not their interest to destroy their prize, so whether she was a small
warship (a large one they would naturally avoid) or a merchant vessel,
their method was always the same, namely, to run alongside, or to run
the bowsprit over the waist of their opponent, and to carry her at a
rush. A very short apprenticeship was considered enough for one of
the owners’ family. In his second year the young Réné was already in
command of a light cruiser. In 1692 he captured an English convoy. In
1693 he cruised at the mouth of the Channel in the _Hercule_, 30, and
took two rich English prizes. In 1694 he commanded the _Diligente_,
36, and after some success was captured by an English squadron. He was
carried as prisoner to Plymouth, but escaped by the help of a pretty
shop girl who had a lover among the gaolers. At that time he was in
peril of severe treatment, for he had broken the laws of war, out of
bravado, by firing a derisive shot at a heavy English vessel before
hoisting his own flag and sailing off. After his escape his brother
gave him the _Francois_, 48. In this vessel he took part in the capture
of an English convoy protected by two men-of-war, the =Sanspareil= and
the =Boston=. Here we have to note that a change—a very significant
change—came over the corsair war about this time.

In the first three years of the war the privateers cruised alone,
picking up what straggling merchant ships they met. But the allies
answered by sending their trade under protection of warships in
convoys. It therefore became necessary to make the attack with forces
capable of overcoming the guard. So the corsairs began to cruise in
well-appointed squadrons of four, six, or ten ships, in part commonly
supplied by the king. These forces flew at far higher game than
the straggling merchant ship. Their course was identical with that
following in the ensuing century by Hawke, when he assailed Desherbiers
de l’Etenduère, namely, to fall upon the warships first. When the
French were in sufficient numbers both to throw a superior force on
the men-of-war, and to spare vessels to capture the merchant ships at
once, they did so; when this was not the case they disposed of the
armed guard. They made no attempt to form a precise order themselves,
but swept down on the guardships of the convoy, attacking always by
two or more against one, and overpowering their enemy in detail. The
protecting English and Dutch ships made many gallant fights, but they
showed little readiness to meet attack by counter-attack. It was their
custom to form a line and wait to be assailed. This passive attitude
left the Frenchman free to make his arrangements as he pleased.
Duguay-Trouin, and his colleagues, still relied much upon large crews,
and upon boarding. Yet an alert, well-handled ship could often avoid
being grappled. For instance, we often hear how a French corsair swept
down on the side of some Englishman or Dutchman, but failed to grapple
because the wary opponent had “thrown all aback,” that is to say, had
pulled the yards round so as to present the front of the sails to the
wind. This would stop his motion, and begin to make him move backwards.
If now the attacking ship, which by the necessity of the case would be
going with the impetus of high speed, ranged up alongside she might
miss her aim, or the large iron hooks called grappling-irons, which
she threw out to take hold of her prey, might not get fixed; or again
they might, but the ropes to which they are fastened broke under the
strain of the diverging masses. Then the assailant would shoot ahead,
and the vessel attacked would have a chance to cross her path, and
sweep her with a broadside. In order to have something more than the
boarders to rely on, the corsairs increased the size of their vessels
and broadsides, till they sailed with ships of fifty-six guns. Still
the favourite method of the corsairs was to rush to close quarters, on
both sides at once when they could, and throw an irresistible force of
boarders on the enemy’s deck.

Many hot fights of this kind took place in both divisions of the war.
One of the most desperate was fought in 1697 between Duguay-Trouin and
the Dutch Bilbao convoy under Baron Wassenaer. The years from 1693 to
1697 were, on the whole, at least in so far as we were concerned, the
most profitable to the corsairs. Our navy was still staggering from the
administrative vices of King Charles’s reign, and the Government was
hampered by financial embarrassments. The merchants complained that the
protection was insufficient, and was supplied late, so that they lost
the season, and the market, and were put to heavy expense while waiting
for their guard. Officials replied that they did what they could, and
accused the merchant captains of bringing misfortunes on themselves
by leaving the protection of the warships, to hurry on as they neared
home. There was truth on both sides. It is certain that merchant
skippers both then, and for long afterwards, were often tempted to run
risks by the hope of getting in early, and well ahead of competitors
in the market. Yet the constant successes of the privateers show that
the navy was not well handled.

We renewed the war in more favourable conditions, and with a better
experience. On the whole, the corsairs had far less success.
Nevertheless, even in this period, Duguay-Trouin hit us some shrewd
blows. In 1705 he took a large English man-of-war, the =Elisabeth=. In
1707 he sailed in combination with Forbin, at the head of a squadron
of twelve vessels. Their orders were to intercept a convoy of military
stores which the English Government was sending to Spain under the
protection of three large men-of-war, the =Devonshire=, 80, the
=Cumberland=, 80, and the =Royal Oak=, 74, with the =Chester= and the
=Ruby= of 50 guns. It was met, and scattered off the Lizard on the 10th
October after very hard fighting. The English captains fought most
bravely, but no more can be said in their favour. Though our squadron
was outnumbered it contained three vessels far superior in strength
to any among the French. Moreover, they were divided when the action
was begun by Duguay-Trouin who rushed straight at us. Yet Captain
Richard Edwards who commanded did not attempt to do more than present a
defensive barrier between the merchant ships and the oncoming French,
who were thus able to concentrate as they pleased, and crush him in
detail. As a captain he did his duty manfully, fighting his ship, the
=Cumberland=, till she was dismasted, and unable to resist further.
The =Chester= and =Ruby= were also taken. The =Devonshire= fought till
evening, when she blew up with the loss of all her crew, except three,
and of three hundred soldiers she was carrying out to Spain. While this
fierce conflict was in progress, the transports and merchant ships made
their escape, and most of them reached Lisbon.

Here we might leave Duguay-Trouin, for his later services did not
greatly concern us. Yet it belongs to our story to record that in the
following year he cruised with ten ships, hired by, or belonging to,
himself and his brothers. No prize was met, and the expense of keeping
so many vessels at sea to no purpose nearly brought the house of Trouin
to ruin. This fact in his career supplies an opportunity for summing up
the corsair war. It brought him, we see, fame but not profit, and it
may be added that this is what it did for France. Looking at it as a
whole we note that it gives no support to the often-renewed contention,
that attacks by cruisers on sea-borne trade can of themselves bring a
maritime power to submission. The work, often tried, has never been
better done, and we may feel sure never will be better done than by
Duguay-Trouin, and the men he represents here. Yet we see that it
did not stop the march of the Grand Fleets of the allies for a day,
nor did it ever dam up the main stream of their commerce. Again, the
achievements of this famous corsair do by no means prove that single
ships, however swift, can destroy commerce. It was while trying to prey
on our shipping single-handed that Duguay-Trouin became a prisoner at
Plymouth. Precisely the same experience befell Jean Bart, and Forbin
at Portsmouth. Their successes were gained in well-appointed squadrons
able to meet the shock of battle. The moral of the story is that a
maritime power can always defeat the attacks of single ships on its
trade by giving convoy. The protecting squadron can only be overpowered
by a force like itself, and we come at once to operations of war far
beyond the power of the mere corsair or commerce destroyer who relies
on his speed only. Success in these operations must finally fall to
whichever side possesses the most numerous, and the best-appointed
squadrons.



CHAPTER III

THE MEN AND THE LIFE

 AUTHORITIES.—This chapter has been founded mainly on: _Rooke’s
     Journal_, published for the Navy Records Society; the Minutes
     of the Court-Martial on Stucley and Brookes of the =Milford=;
     Lillingston’s _Reflections on Mr. Burchett’s Memoirs_, and
     Burchett’s _Justification of his Naval Memoirs_, published
     separately, but sometimes found together; Maydman’s _Naval
     Politics_; and William Hodge’s _An Humble Supplication of the
     Seamen’s Misery_.


When the war of the Spanish Succession came to an end, the navy held
perhaps an even higher place than it has occupied since. At the signing
of the Peace of Utrecht, Great Britain was not so much the greatest
naval power in the world as the only power. Holland had been overtaxed
by the necessity of taking a foremost place in the war on land; France
was bled nearly to death; Spain had ceased to possess even the show
of a fleet. The Scandinavian nations and Russia were confined to the
Baltic. Elsewhere there was nothing. In the midst of this general
prostration we ruled at sea, not only without an equal, but without a
second.

There was a great danger in a supremacy of this nature. In the
kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king, and he who is the
best because the others are very bad may himself be far from good.
The truth concerning the British navy during the earlier eighteenth
century is that it owed at least as much to fortune as to its merits.
At heart it was sound, and moreover it existed by a necessity, and in
conformity with the nature of things, since it was for this country the
indispensable instrument not only of power but of safety. Therefore
it could not absolutely fail till the nation behind it withered. None
the less it was hampered by defects, which might well have proved
all but ruinous, had our enemy been more capable. Yet that he sank
so completely by his own weakness was perhaps, in the long run, a
misfortune to us. A sound beating at some not vital point, which could
have been demonstrated to be the result of maladministration, would
probably have roused the nation into taking the Admiralty and the
navy in hand, and would have been for our good. No such lesson was
inflicted, and we drowsed on in rather ignoble toleration for a dull
half-century. A sound beating at some not vital point which could have
been shown to be the result of pedantic adherence to a stupid method of
fighting might have stung the navy itself into intellectual activity.
Again no such lesson was given, and the navy drowsed on in brainless
acquiescence to the Fighting Instructions. Great then as our position
was, when compared with our neighbours’, we were yet at a level from
which we could not have sunk without becoming dangerously bad.

It is a significant fact that the mere quality of our ships was poor.
The superiority of the French shipbuilding, already noticeable in
the reign of Charles II., was maintained for long. When Spain began
to revive under the Bourbon dynasty she also constructed vessels far
superior to ours. In the year after the renewal of warfare in 1739
a Spanish 70-gunship, the _Princesa_, which however only mounted 64
guns, was taken by three English vessels of the same rate. It cost
them five hours and a half of fighting to get her, and although this
no doubt speaks well for her captain and crew, her long resistance to
apparently overwhelming force was largely due to her fine build. She
was of 1709 tons, whereas English vessels of the same rating were only
of 1225; therefore she would be stronger and could carry a heavier
battery. Her lower deck ports were higher out of the water, and could
be worked when ours had to be closed in bad weather. The inferiority
of our ships, rate for rate, to the French and Spanish had been noted
before, and had produced some effect, but the capture of the _Princesa_
gave a much needed stimulus. Nor was it only in size, and what depends
on size, that our ships were inferior. Their lines were poor, so that
they were crank (_i.e._ liable to overturn) and sailed badly. To some
extent this inferiority of our models was due to economy. The Admiralty
made its vessels of weak scantling, that is with a minimum of timber,
and preferred to patch up old ships rather than build new ones, and
therefore perpetuated inferior types. This was also part of the general
slackness of the time. We were content to be guided by routine, and to
leave the building of our ships in the hands of shipwrights who were
mere artisans going by traditional rule of thumb.

The difficulty of knowing what sort of men the officers and crews
of our old navy were is very great. They have left small record of
themselves, and they were too remote from the general life of their
time to come under the notice of ordinary witnesses. The pictures
we do possess of them are mostly drawn by satirists of whom one
only, Smollett, was a man of genius and had personal experience.
Unfortunately his spirit was bitter, and his purpose led him to pick
out mainly the most extravagant and worst parts of his subject. Records
of courts martial, again, tell a good deal, but it is necessary to
remember they also are of the nature of selections of the worst. It was
the bad not the good officer who came before a court martial. Pamphlet
controversies reveal something, but once more it is the worst. That our
navy sailed the sea in such bad ships with comparatively few disasters
is proof of its seamanship. That its fighting was on the whole
successful, in spite of absurd rules and of defective intelligence in
leadership, shows that though the head lay wrong, the heart was right.
All the materials were there, they only wanted better handling.

The evils afflicting the navy are easy enough to see. First among them
was brutality. The times were hard. A glance at the trials which arose
out of General Oglethorpe’s agitation against the management of some of
our prisons will show how callous our ancestors could be in the early
eighteenth century. The navy produced no General Oglethorpe. Though
many officers sat in Parliament, none of them made a serious attempt
to check the unquestionable ill-usage of the sailors. From that we may
draw the deduction that they wanted humanity to incur the ill-will of
the Admiralty by insisting on reform, or that they were indifferent
to the miseries of others; or finally that, like the Roman Prefectus
Castrorum, who had been a common soldier, and who was known to the men
as “Bring another,” because he was for ever breaking sticks on their
backs and calling for more, they were all the harder because they
themselves had suffered.

Here is one brief passage of naval manners in the early eighteenth
century, written by a naval pen in the Journal of Rooke’s expedition to
Cadiz in 1702:—

 “At six this evening Captain Norris coming on board this ship [the
 flagship] my Lord Hamilton, Captain Ley, Captain Wishart, and Captain
 Trevor, were standing on the quarter-deck, and as Captain Norris came
 up, Lord Hamilton asked him if he had taken any more wine or brandy.
 This means whether he had captured a ship laden with this kind of
 cargo. The other answered No; upon which Captain Trevor asked the
 price of his claret, whether he might have any at 4 li a hogshead.
 Norris said he would have 6 li or salt water, and then Captain Ley
 said he would rather the prizes were ashore than he would give the 6
 li the hogshead; upon which Captain Norris said he was a rascal that
 he wished his prizes ashore; the other replied he was a rascal if he
 called him so; and then Captain Norris struck Captain Ley and threw
 him over the gun, which Mr. Hopsonn hearing, as he and I were in my
 cabin, ran out, and upon inquiry found he [Norris] had hurt Captain
 Ley, and by the admiral’s directions ordered him to be confined, upon
 which Captain Norris drew his sword, and offered to stab Captain Ley,
 but Admiral Hopsonn, holding his hand, ordered him to be disarmed, and
 confined in Mr. Rayney’s cabin.”

It is a scene of huckstering and violence on the very quarter-deck of
the flagship. Yet though Ley died soon afterwards, perhaps from the
effect of the blow, Norris was never called to account, and lived to be
the most distinguished officer of the reign of George I. and the early
years of George II.

The same Journal, under an earlier date, makes mention of one Captain
William Moses of the =Milford= who accused his lieutenant and one of
his midshipmen of attempting to murder him. It turned out on inquiry
that he had wounded himself, in order to bolster up charges which he
was bringing against these officers. They were brought to a court
martial, the lieutenant was acquitted, and the midshipman let off with
a mild rebuke. The story of this latter, whose name was Cæsar Brookes,
is worth quoting from the minutes of the court martial.

The witnesses, who disagree in many details, are at one in saying
that in the middle watch of a certain night, when the ship was on the
coast of Africa, the captain, one Mr. Mite a passenger, and various
officers, were sitting together on the quarter-deck drinking wine. Here
the agreement ceases. Mr. Cæsar Brookes joined the party, and then,
according to the captain, he voluntarily, without provocation, and out
of pure native arrogance, advanced the proposition that he could fight
any two men—nay, he swore he could. For this he was rebuked by the
captain, who told him he might perchance meet one who was a better man
than himself. To this Mr. Brookes, flaming into outrageous disrespect,
answered, “Well, damme, you’re not,” and was thereupon justly confined
for his mutinous behaviour. Brookes gives a very different version of
the affair. According to him, he was only arguing that in defending
narrow passages one man, if conveniently placed, could fight two—a
scientific question of shock tactics, in fact, very proper for an
officer to discuss. For this he was first abused and then put under
arrest, though his carriage throughout was of the most respectful
kind. The witnesses do not, with two suspicious exceptions, support
the captain’s version of what took place. The exceptions are sailors
who tell the same tale like parrots. One of them had been let out of
irons by the captain, although he had beaten the gunner, after the
quarter-deck scene be it observed. If the court martial thought that
Captain Moses had been attempting subornation of perjury, it was not
without excuse. Now follows a scene in the captain’s cabin, in which,
_teste_ Captain Moses, he was bearded by his extra midshipman; but Mr.
Brookes says it was otherwise, and that he was assaulted. Certain it
is that the midshipman remained in confinement for six mortal months
in the sweltering heat of the Guinea Coast. At Cape Coast Castle,
Captain Moses had reason to believe that his life was threatened by
the implacable and unbridled Brookes. It seems that Mr. Donnidge the
surgeon went to have a conversation with the imprisoned midshipman, and
by way of telling him something really worth hearing, let him know
that the captain had taken medicine and that it had done no good. Mr.
Brookes, on hearing that physicians had so far been in vain, remarked
that if he could meet the captain on shore he would give him two pills
that should move him. Hereupon Mr. Donnidge rushed out, and finding the
captain’s boat manned alongside, warned the crew to keep a good watch,
for he believed that their commander’s life was threatened. Something
of Mackshane the toady surgeon in Smollett’s _Roderick Random_ seems to
hang about Mr. Donnidge. Then there is another story of an anonymous
letter found in the captain’s cabin, warning him that the lieutenant
and the midshipman were plotting to raise a mutiny and run away with
the ship. The letter was either an impudent practical joke or another
device of this remarkable naval captain’s, much on a level with the
wound on his leg. The notes are but brief, and many clues were not
followed up; but one ends with the conviction that the court martial
came to a sound and humane decision. It told Mr. Brookes that he had
plainly been too free with his tongue, but that six months’ arrest
on the coast of Africa was quite punishment enough, and it dismissed
the captain’s rigmarole story of conspiracy to murder and mutiny as
frivolous and vexatious.

The name of Captain Moses may serve as connecting link to another tale
of the sea life of that time. It was told in 1704 by an army officer of
the name of Colonel Luke Lillingston, in the course of a controversy
with Burchett, the Secretary of the Admiralty, and historian of the
naval wars of King William and Queen Anne.

In 1695 an expedition left England to harass the French West Indies.
The squadron was commanded by Captain Robert Wilmot, and the soldiers
were under the command of Colonel Lillingston. As a military operation
it was of no importance, and its character has been sufficiently
described in the previous chapter. Our subject here is naval human
nature as it was displayed towards the close of the seventeenth
century and remained for two generations. Lillingston had served as
Lieutenant-Colonel of Foulkes’s regiment in the expedition of Sir
Francis Wheeler in 1692, and had, he tells us, seen instances of
the “arbitrary behaviour” of naval officers. So extreme was this,
and so much was it resented by military men that in 1695 they were
most reluctant to subject themselves to “the ill usage and insolent
behaviour of commanders at Sea, especially to officers of the army.”
Lillingston moved, he assures us, by a sense of duty, agreed to go
with Wilmot. A regiment was made up for him by drafts from others, and
the expedition sailed at the end of January. The naval commander, who
as senior captain was called commodore, carried two women with him,
in defiance of the regulations, and, so the soldier asserts, was on
various occasions “pleased to be very drunk.” He touched at Madeira,
and on the way there had the following conversation with Lillingston.
The men had not been on good terms, and we see clearly that the soldier
expected the sailor to be brutal, and was on the watch for instances of
“arbitrary behaviour.”

 “He (_i.e._ Wilmot) told me he found I was a little strange to him,
 and [that he] should be glad we might understand one another better.
 I told him, I thought if there was any strangeness it was on his
 side, and as we had both promised His Majesty to maintain an entire
 confidence, and a friendly correspondence, it should not be my fault
 if we did not, and so offered, forgetting all that was past, to
 begin a more sociable agreement from that time, and so we drank to
 one another again. ‘But,’ says the Captain, ‘our agreement is very
 necessary on our own accounts, for if it be not our own faults we
 may both make our fortunes in this voyage, and provide for ourselves
 as long as we live.’ With all my heart said I, I shall endeavour not
 to be wanting to myself provided the King’s business be done too.
 ‘Damn the King’s business,’ says he, ‘we will do the King’s business,
 and our own too. But I’ll be free, with you,’ says the Captain, ‘I
 had the misfortune to kill a man (and I think named him) and it has
 almost ruined me, for it has cost me above a thousand pound, and I am
 resolved this voyage shall pay for it, and if you will join with me in
 such measures as I shall propose, this voyage shall make up all our
 losses.’”

Lillingston refused, and Wilmot went off in the sulks, growling:—

 “Well well” says he “if you don’t think fit to join with me you may
 let it alone, but I am resolved to make myself amends. I won’t go to
 the West Indies to learn the language. I’ll take care of myself, let
 the King’s business go how it will.”

When the squadron reached Madeira, Wilmot endeavoured to get rid of
the military officers. He seized an opportunity to sail while most of
them were ashore buying provisions. A sudden gale was his pretext.
Fortunately his ships were scattered in a storm; one of them came
back to Madeira, and the officers were picked up. At a council of
the officers of both arms, Wilmot had refused to allow Lillingston’s
captain-lieutenant to sit, alleging that no officer under the rank of
captain had a right to a seat. Now the captain-lieutenant, according
to the military customs of the time, commanded what was counted as
the colonel’s company and ranked as the senior captain. Wilmot was
induced to see reason by the arguments of the commissary Murray; but
Lillingston, not unfairly, quotes his conduct as an example of pure
arbitrary insolence. He had turned the captain-lieutenant out of the
cabin “with a rudeness that I had never seen among gentlemen.” At
the Leeward Islands Wilmot was again “pleased to be very drunk,” and
went the length of offering to give away commissions in Lillingston’s
regiment. The military and naval elements came, in fact, to open
quarrel. From the Leeward Islands this jarring expedition went on first
to San Domingo, where some Spaniards, then our allies, joined us. There
was delay, wrangling, and an incessant conflict between soldier and
sailor. Wilmot, says Lillingston,

 “loitered away six days in the Bay. During this time how his people
 were employed I know not, but as for himself he spent the time in
 diversions every day rowing about the bay in his barge with the
 Ladies, and attended by trumpets and all the music of the fleet in
 other boats to recreate himself and the women, with the pleasantness
 of the country.”

When at last the expedition got to its work of plundering the French
settlements in Haiti, Captain Wilmot, who had been joined by various
Jamaica privateers, kept ahead of the troops as they marched along on
shore, and applied himself to robbing the plantations, particularly of
their negroes, who were then very valuable booty. At Port de Paix the
commodore made his last attempt to induce the colonel to come to an
understanding for their common advantage:

 “But smiling he takes me by the hand and leading me aside he told
 me he wanted to speak with me, and now he showed himself in his own
 colours a second time and made his last attempt to bring me over to
 him; he told me he would comply with all the orders of our council of
 war, and assist me with all the men he could spare, and do everything
 he could to forward the service if I would but join with him in one
 thing, and allow a second. The first was I should consent to his
 having an equal share of the plunder with me in case the fort should
 be taken.

 “To this I made him no answer but asked him what was his second
 proposal. ‘Why,’ says he, ‘if you will join with me when the fort is
 taken and all done that can be done on the island we will carry these
 three Spanish men-of-war away with us to Jamaica, for,’ says he, ‘the
 dogs have got a great many of the negroes, and other plunder, and if
 you will consent,’ says he, ‘we’ll make them pay us well before we
 part with them.’ [Lillingston objected that this would be dishonest
 and would certainly get them into trouble at home.] ‘’Tis no matter
 for that,’ says the commodore, ‘we are a great way off England, and
 it may be long enough before the news of it will come there. We may
 make it worth our while and may easily make it up when we come home.’
 I told him I could not concern myself in such a thing unless the
 Spaniards gave us some just occasion. ‘Occasion,’ says he, ‘there is
 occasion enough, for they have got away our negroes, and it is easy
 enough to pick a hole in their coats on that account, and answer it at
 home.’”

Wilmot’s confidence that news took a long time to come home from the
West Indies, and that accusations were easily answered by people who
had money in their pockets, was not unfounded. Strange things happened
in those waters. It may well have been within the commodore’s memory
that in the reign of Charles II. a man-of-war sent out to suppress the
buccaneers had gone over to them, after her captain had run his master
through the body, and had then fled.

It is unnecessary to dwell much more on this story. Port de Paix fell,
and then the fever broke out among the sailors and soldiers, both the
allies separated and returned to their own ports. Lillingston became
very ill, and while in bed, and as he thought dying, was pestered
by several of the captains, William Moses being one of them, to
sign certain papers which were meant, he supposed, to exculpate the
commodore. The military officer asserts that Wilmot stopped on the
north side of Jamaica, and there sold the negroes he had plundered, for
twenty pounds a head, putting the money into his pocket. Lillingston
remained ill in Jamaica, and the ships returned home by the Straits of
Florida. The fever went with them. One vessel was lost on the Florida
shoals from want of men to handle her sails. Some of her crew were
brought off. Others were left to perish in the surf because they had
broken into the spirit-room, and were hopelessly drunk. Wilmot died
of fever, and so did Captain Lance who succeeded him. The command
fell to Captain Butler who brought the squadron home. In England
the commodore’s widow, Ruth Wilmot, accused Butler of having broken
into her husband’s desk, and of having stolen his plunder. A lawsuit
followed which ruined both. In the course of the suit affidavits were
produced by both sides, and one of these, made on behalf of Captain
Butler, for the purpose of discrediting the witness of Ruth Wilmot,
gives a curious picture of the discipline of the navy at that time. It
deals with the moral characters of one Theophilus Buxton and others.

 “Theophilus Buxton during such his employment (of steward to wit)
 was a person guilty of frequent drunkenness, abominable profaneness,
 execrable oaths, blasphemy, thieving and embezzlement, and the said
 Buxton and John Heath having, in one of their drunken fits at sea,
 set a candle on a jar of oil in the steward’s room next to the powder
 room, by which means the oil took fire, the said ship with all that
 was in her had in all probability been burnt or blown up had not the
 second lieutenant of the ship, with much difficulty and hazard, put
 out the fire, for which offence the said Buxton, and John Heath had
 about forty lashes apiece given them by order of Captain Butler, then
 commander of the said ship, and after the said Buxton came into the
 harbour he ran away from the said ship. And these deponents further
 say, that they likewise well know John Brinley, mariner in the said
 =Dunkirk=, who was a person very negligent of his duty, and very
 seditious, and at Portsmouth threatened his said Captain, and to kill
 one of the lieutenants of the said ship, and attempted to head the
 ship’s company in an open mutiny, and these deponents believe that
 the said Buxton, Heath, and Brinley are such profligate persons that
 they will swear anything that their malice and desire of revenge can
 dictate to them.”

It must not be supposed that the navy captain, who was a mere brute,
was always a man of obscure birth. In August 1742 a court martial was
held at Spithead for the trial of an officer, who, if long descent,
rank, and family connections were always, and not only as a rule,
enough to form a gentleman, ought assuredly to have been one. This was
the Honourable William Hervey, third son of the first Earl of Bristol
of the name. He had been captain of the =Superb=, 60, in the fleet
which sailed for the West Indies under Sir Chaloner Ogle in 1740,
and he was proved to the satisfaction of a court composed of brother
officers, and presided over by Admiral Cavendish, to have been guilty
of conduct surpassing anything Smollett has described in his grim
pictures of the navy. His first and second lieutenants, the gunner
and purser of his ship, swore that he beat an old seaman named White
so brutally that the man was carried insensible to his hammock, and
died there accusing the captain of being the cause of his death; that
he often beat the quarter-masters from the wheel with a cudgel, and
had on one occasion actually endangered the ship in this way, during
a paroxysm of rage; that he once threw a paper under the table of his
cabin, ordered a subordinate to pick it up, and kicked him while on his
knees, to the peril of his life; that he injured his gunner seriously
by a foul kick; that he thrashed his purser on the deck at Kinsale;
that he threatened to beat all his officers, “from the first lieutenant
to the cook’s boy,” and that he not only abounded in abusive terms,
but enforced them by insulting gestures. Captain Hervey’s defence
consisted of the plea that he was never violent in word or action
except when he was provoked, and in an unsupported counter-charge of
cruelty to certain Spanish prisoners against his first lieutenant,
which the court dismissed. It is consistent enough that while violent
captains behaved with a brutality never heard of now except among the
roughest and most ignorant class of the community, officers of weak
character had some difficulty in obtaining ordinary respect from their
subordinates. The discipline of the navy, in the highest sense of the
word, was bad, though its mere drill might be sound. There was not as
yet a standard of conduct, a prevailing spirit of honour to control and
inspire all alike.

Men with whom the loyal discharge of duty is not the first aim, want
only temptation and opportunity in order to disgrace themselves in the
very presence of the enemy. The charge of cowardice was frequently
made at this time. It was indeed one of the regular taunts brought
against bad commanders. We may believe that in a sense it was often
unjust. Brutal men are not seldom endowed with animal courage, and
do not always fail from mere fear. Indeed that weakness would hardly
be common among those who, by their own choice, followed a dangerous
profession. What, however, we might expect to discover among officers,
who agreed with Wilmot in the resolution to look after their own
business, and to make themselves easy for life, was a want of the
sense of honour which feels a stain like a wound. They would easily be
guilty of avoiding battle when no profit was to be expected, not out
of pusillanimous tenderness for their personal safety, but because to
their base minds there was no advantage to be secured by running risks.
If by any chance the cupidity which restrained them from obeying honour
and duty was stirred to active malignity by hatred of a comrade or of
a superior, if, moreover, they were far away from home and might hope,
even foolishly, to escape punishment, such persons would be capable
of sinking to well-nigh any excess of baseness. By keeping these
conditions in mind, we can understand that most shameful passage in the
history of the Royal Navy, the betrayal of Benbow by his captains in
August 1702.

Not much is known of the early life of John Benbow, about whom some
legends have accumulated and who has a higher reputation than his
recorded services justify, partly perhaps because his name strikes
the ear, and partly because of his melancholy end. His origin is
uncertain. That he was trained to the sea in the merchant service is
known. He served in a subordinate place in the navy for a time, and
he attracted the notice of James II. by making a manful defence of
the trading ship he commanded against a Barbary pirate. That he cut
off the heads of his prisoners, put them into a bag with salt, and
tumbled them out on the floor of the custom house at Cadiz may or may
not be true. It is a credible tale of one who assuredly was a thorough
Tarpaulin, and also it may well have been invented of such a man, or
transferred to him, from some older legendary sea hero. Common report
says that he had a rough tongue, and we may accept its testimony. The
“gentlemen captains” of the time would no doubt have defined him as a
“Wappineer Tar,” the abusive equivalent of Tarpaulin. His reputation
must have been good, for he was chosen to command a squadron in the
West Indies after the Peace of Ryswick, and was sent back again in
1701 to intercept the Spanish plate ships which afterwards fell into
our hands at Vigo. His movements are of little interest till August
1702. In that month he sailed to intercept a French squadron commanded
by M. du Casse on the Spanish Main. On the 19th he discovered his
opponent with a squadron of ten ships, and immediately attacked with
the eight vessels he had with him. His line was formed in the usual
way, his flagship, the =Breda=, being in the centre, and the others
ahead and astern of her. Two of his ships, the =Defiance=, Captain
Kirkby, and the =Windsor=, Captain Constable, fairly ran soon after
the action opened. If the French admiral had pushed his advantage
he must have destroyed Benbow’s squadron. But M. du Casse was on
treasure-carrying duty, and did not care to incur the hazard of having
his ships crippled. After doing some damage to the =Breda=, he drew off
at night. Benbow now rearranged his line, putting the =Breda= at the
head, and placing the misbehaving ships, the =Defiance= and =Windsor=,
immediately behind her, in the hope of shaming their captains into some
sense of honour. But example is wasted on men resolved to misbehave.
For four days the admiral followed the French, but his captains, with
the exception of the officer commanding the =Ruby=, Captain George
Walton, took every opportunity to fall behind. On the fifth day of the
pursuit, and the sixth since he had got touch of the enemy, Benbow had
his ships together, and renewed the action. Again he was shamefully
ill supported. A cannon shot shattered his right leg. He had his cot
brought up on deck, summoned his captains on board the flagship, and
made a last appeal to their honour. Encouraged in all probability by
their confidence that the wound would be mortal, and that they could
tell the tale in their own way, the misbehaving captains insisted on
returning to Jamaica. Even the officers who had done their duty joined
in recommending retreat, from a belief that their comrades would desert
them. The squadron went back to Jamaica, but though Benbow’s wound was
mortal he lived long enough to do the Royal Navy one signal piece of
service. He brought his disloyal officers to a court martial. The heart
of the navy was still sound in spite of the vices on the surface, and
the misconduct of these men had been too gross for pity. Sentences of
death or dismissal were passed on all, and the offenders were sent
home for execution. Kirkby, and Wade of the =Greenwich=, were shot on
board the =Bristol= at Plymouth. Hudson of the =Pendennis= died before
trial, else he would have shared their fate. Constable of the =Windsor=
was dismissed the service, and imprisoned. Even the officers who had
reluctantly joined in the recommendation to retreat were sentenced to
dismissal, and were pardoned only by the intercession of the admiral.
It was said, apparently by way of palliation for Kirkby and Wade, that
they had behaved well before, and were less cowards than traitors.
There is probably this amount of force in the pitiful excuse, that they
were greedy men chiefly intent on pelf, who in their foolish cunning
hoped to revenge themselves on their rough chief by ruining his chance
of gaining glory. To end before a firing-party was their proper fate.
It has been the good fortune of the navy that the nation has always
been very serious where it was concerned, and that in the worst of
times there has always been within its own ranks the capacity to apply
the last indispensable sanction of the code of honour.

The condition of the great dim mass of seamen, whose fate so often
depended on the bad commander, is not easy to realise. But we have
every reason to believe that it was hard, even in comparison with
that of other sailors. The word is used here of all the elements
forming the crews of our ships, though the “sailormen” to use
their own expression—that is to say those bred from boyhood to the
sea—never formed a majority, and even rarely amounted to a third of
the complements. The majority was always made up of soldiers and
landsmen. This proportion of one-third sailors and two-thirds landsmen
was enforced on the privateers. Taking the whole body of those who
lived in the warships, and by the sea, they suffered from two standing
grievances throughout the whole of the eighteenth century,—the amount
of their pay, and the system of payment. Though the establishment of
William III. doubled the pay of the officers, and the new establishment
of 1700 did not make very material reductions, nothing was done for
the sailors. They continued to receive 20s. a month for a month of
twenty-eight days in the case of able seamen, and less for others. To
the true sailors this was peculiarly hard. The first effect of a war
was to send up the wages in merchant ships to 45s. and 50s. a month,
while as much as £7 would be paid to the colliers for the voyage from
the Tyne to London, though it might last only six or seven weeks.
It was for this reason that the press was needed to man the navy.
Landsmen, waisters, and marines were found with no great difficulty.
Not being trained sailors they were not sought by shipowners. But the
real sailors were. Therefore it was necessary to draw them to the navy
by offers of bounties to make up the bad pay of the state, and when
this temptation failed, as it invariably did, to attract a sufficient
number, then to drive them in by the press.

Nor was the bad pay all, or even the worst. Their wretched 20s. or less
a month were paid to the men on a system both wasteful to the state and
cruel to its servants. At home the payment was made by a commissioner
who went round with a staff of clerks, and held an inspection on each
ship. Then he held another, named a recall, in the dockyards, to take
in the men overlooked, or absent during the first. The process was
long, and it led to an absurd outlay on travelling expenses and clerks’
wages. Such as it was this system applied only to the ships at home.
It was long before the crews abroad, including the officers, were paid
till their return to England. If the men had remained always with the
same ship the evil, though severe enough, would not have been so great.
But they were shifted about from vessel to vessel, and had often to
present “pay tickets” for four or five different ships. In the later
seventeenth century, before it became usual to maintain large squadrons
abroad for years, the wrong was not so acutely felt. But in the
eighteenth it became a monstrous oppression. The discontent it caused,
after leading to many minor mutinies, culminated in the great outbreak
of 1797. If the sailors had not been unorganised and unrepresented in
Parliament, and if it had been impossible to obtain them by force, a
remedy must have been found earlier. A bad system has always indirect
bad consequences, and one result of this was a sheer waste of public
money. Funds voted for a given ship could not be paid till the proper
claimants appeared. Meanwhile the money lay in the hands of the
treasurer of the navy, who received the interest. If he left office he
was still responsible for the unclosed accounts, and the money remained
with him. It is even said that far into the eighteenth century the
accounts of ships commissioned in the reign of Queen Anne had not been
wound up. For the sailors themselves the system worked out in downright
robbery. When they could get their pay tickets they were driven to sell
them to speculators at enormous discounts. In order to protect them
against this their tickets were kept in the hands of the captains—with
the result that they might never reach the proper owner. It was a
common accusation against bad commanders that they robbed their men in
combination with the purser.

One practice of the old navy certainly lent itself to fraud. The
captain was allowed four servants for each hundred of his ship’s
company, and was accustomed to count this among the perquisites of
his office. Indeed the total of their wages is sometimes spoken of as
part of his pay. A captain was fully entitled to employ men shipped on
these terms as servants, and he had a good claim to the patronage which
the power of selecting them gave him. He could for instance provide
for a son, or the son of a friend, by bringing him to sea, rating him
captain’s servant, and training him to become an officer. Many of the
best of our chiefs, Nelson himself being one of them, served their
apprenticeship or part of it in this very way, and where the captain
was an honourable man who used his patronage on a high principle the
state was the gainer. The history of our navy in the last century shows
that a large proportion of our captains did use their privilege in
this spirit. But here there is no question of money profit. That could
only be got in two ways, of which the first was mean and the second
fraudulent. A captain could take servants to sea, on the understanding
that he was to draw their pay, and give them what part he chose of
the ten pounds a year allowed for them by the state. He could also
keep false musters, that is, return boys or men as present when they
were not in the ship. This was an offence punishable by dismissal, but
it was habitually committed. In its least criminal form it was done
to allow a boy, who was still at school, to be borne on the books of
a ship in order to shorten the time he would have to serve at sea,
according to regulations before passing for lieutenant. A distinguished
officer who died in our own time, Sir Provo Wallis, had had his name on
the books of a ship for some years before he joined. At its worst it
was the offence of keeping false musters, pure and simple. The names
of imaginary persons or of lads, who never meant to go to sea, were
entered on the roll of the ship’s company, and their wages drawn by the
captain. In the old slang phrase they were known as “Captain’s Hogs”
and it is said that as many as thirty or forty of them drew pay in a
single ship. At ten pounds a head this made a material addition to the
commander’s salary.

Bad pay, badly given, did not sum up the wrongs of the sailors. The
constant infliction of the lash was, as far as we can see, not felt as
more of a grievance by sailors than by schoolboys. But the bad food
they did resent, and there can be no doubt that the rations supplied
were frequently inferior, while the practice of putting six men on the
allowance of four, in long voyages, caused the amount supplied to be
insufficient. It may be that the men did not realise how much the want
of ventilation and the prevalence of dirt was against their interests.
But they suffered from them none the less. It must be repeated that the
administration did not sin from want of knowledge. There was a standing
order to keep the ships properly aired. But a writer of the time,
Henry Maydman in his _Sea Politics_, has explained why this regulation
was not applied. Captains frequently took the steerage, the space
of the main-deck in front of their cabins, for themselves, forcing
the officers, who ought to have had it, further forward, so that the
after-hatchway was shut to the men. Thus only the fore-hatchway was
left to the crew, or for the purpose of establishing a draught. When
the ship was at sea, and the ports closed, the air below grew foul,
and turned food and drink bad. It is to this we have to look for the
explanation of the frightful ravages of fevers during the cruises of
the time. A few weeks at sea even in European waters commonly made
the ships sickly. At the close of the century a long cruise at sea
was relied on to make them healthy. In the interval a great internal
revolution had been wrought in the navy, dating from about the end of
the War of the Austrian Succession, and carried on partly by Captain
Cook, partly by Dr. Gilbert Blane, who accompanied Rodney to the West
Indies in 1782, but caused originally by the influence on the naval
officers of the great revival of intelligent humanity in the country.



CHAPTER IV

THE TWO COLONIAL WARS

 AUTHORITIES.—Beatson, _Military Memoirs_; Campbell’s _Lives of the
     Admirals_; Schomberg’s _Naval Chronology_; Burrows’ _Life of Hawke_.


From the signing of the Peace of Utrecht in 1713 till the beginning
of the colonial war with Spain in 1739, the Royal Navy was used as
an instrument in the hand of diplomacy to keep the peace, or as the
police of the seas. Europe was disturbed in the North by the last
stages of the struggle between Peter the Great of Russia and Charles
XII. of Sweden, in the South by the foolish ambitions of Philip V., the
first Bourbon king of Spain, and his second wife, Elizabeth Farnese.
But the statesmen who controlled the policy of Western Europe during
most of these years, Sir Robert Walpole in England and Cardinal Fleury
in France, were unwearied in warding off another war. Once, in 1718,
a strong fleet sent into the Mediterranean, to put a stop to one of
the Italian ventures of Philip V., destroyed a much weaker and very
ill-handled Spanish fleet off Cape Passaro, in Sicily. As a rule, the
appearance of our ships was enough. Now and then an officer found some
chance of distinction in service against the pirates, largely recruited
among the privateers of the war, who swarmed in distant seas. The most
signal example was the suppression of a noted adventurer of this class,
named Roberts, by Sir Chaloner Ogle, on the West Coast of Africa in
1722. Meanwhile war on a vast scale was being prepared by two causes—on
the Continent by the rivalries of France and Austria in Germany, and
Spain and Austria in Italy, together with the ambition of the rising
kingdom of Prussia and its great King Frederick; and on the sea by the
collision of England with Spain and France in America, and with France
in India. Great Britain was drawn into the Continental War by the
Hanoverian interests of the royal family and the desire to maintain the
balance of power. Here the navy played an indispensable but secondary
part. But in the colonial struggle it was the foremost combatant, and
exercised a decisive influence.

A common interest drew France and Spain into alliance against us,
but the causes of hostility were various. As regards Spain, they go
back to the reign of Charles II. From the time of our settlement in
Jamaica it had been our constant wish to secure the right of trading
with the Spanish colonies, while firmly refusing the Spaniards all
access to our own. The buccaneer wars, in so far as they were more
than plundering raids conducted by miscellaneous scoundrels, were
the attempts of private adventurers to carry out this policy. By
the Peace of Utrecht we secured the right to share in the trade of
Spanish America. Agents were allowed to establish themselves at
Carthagena on the Eastern, and Panama on the Western side. We secured
an _asiento_, or contract for the supply of negroes. We were also
authorised to send one trading ship of 500 tons burden laden with
manufactured goods to the Spanish Main in each year. This arrangement
led, as it was bound to lead, to much smuggling. As Spain revived,
under the more intelligent administration of the Bourbon dynasty,
the abuse of English treaty rights was resented. The Spaniards said
that the treaty ship was continually supplied with fresh goods by
tenders, and complained that other smugglers haunted their coast, and
were guilty of many excesses. To protect themselves, they insisted
on searching English vessels found near their coast, and condemning
those they considered guilty, and Spanish adventurers retaliated by
piracy. Hence arose a long angry conflict of claims and counter-claims
between England and Spain, complicated by political disputes in Europe,
and only prevented from ripening into war by the resolute peace
policy of Walpole. The Parliamentary Opposition, composed largely of
disappointed office-seekers, and, as they afterwards proved, incapable
administrators, took up the cause of the West India traders. There
was much general denunciation of the atrocities of the Spaniards. The
best known instance given was that of a certain John Jenkins, master
of a trading vessel called the =Rebecca= of Glasgow. Jenkins asserted
that in 1730 his vessel had been boarded by a Spanish _guarda costa_,
or revenue cutter, in the West Indies, and that the Spanish captain,
who is habitually described as “the infamous Fandino,” had cut his ear
off. His vessel was undoubtedly searched near Havana, but was allowed
to proceed on her voyage, and there is no evidence for the story that
his ear was cut off except his own word. As the country grew tired of
the long predominance of Walpole, and was worked into a pugnacious mood
by the Patriots, use was made of Jenkins’s case to appeal to popular
sentiment. A theatrical scene was arranged before a Committee of the
House of Commons, and the man was prompted to declare “that he had
recommended his soul to god, and his cause to his country” when he was
subject to the violence of Fandino. At last Walpole, seeing that the
country was resolved on war, yielded, dishonestly, to what he believed
to be a mistaken policy for the sake of keeping office. War with Spain
was declared in July 1739.

The Colonial quarrel with France arose in another way—and one more
honourable to us. The trade of her colonies was less worth striving for
than the Spanish, and she was too strong to be hectored. The aggression
came from her. In America her agents endeavoured to unite her
possessions, in Canada and Louisiana, by annexing the valleys of the
Ohio and the Mississippi, which were first explored by her brilliant
and daring adventurers. The result would have been to confine the
growing British colonies between the Alleghanies and the Atlantic. In
India the French Company was bankrupt. It endeavoured to gain the means
of expelling its prosperous English rival, by acquiring political power
among the native princes. For a time the Colonial conflict with France
was postponed by the great European war arising over the scramble for
the heritage of the house of Austria on the death of Charles VI. It was
our exceeding good fortune that, when the decisive struggle for trade
colonies and supremacy at sea had to be fought out, the attention and
the resources of France were mainly employed on an attempt to acquire a
predominant position in Central Europe.

This was the happier for us because years were to pass before we could
afford to dispense with any of the help fortune gave us. Never was the
Government of England less able than during the fag end of Walpole’s
rule and the administration of the so-called Patriots. Never, save
during the last ignoble days of Charles II., was the navy less fit to
meet the calls of a great war. Its paper strength was indeed imposing.
There were 124 ships of the line—of from 100 to 50 guns each, and 104
of lesser rates—that is, of 40 guns each or less. The total was 228,
and it exceeded the united navies of France and Spain in everything
except the quality of the individual ships. But it was suffering
from the moral and intellectual diseases spoken of in the previous
chapter. The long peace had afforded no opportunity of testing the
quality of officers. In the earlier years its chiefs were worn-out and
commonplace, or brutal and noisy. All those years did for us was to
bring forward the men who were to lead gloriously in after times. From
the point of view of the navy, the struggle waged under various names,
the Spanish War, the War of the Austrian Succession, and the Seven
Years’ War from 1739 to 1763 with an eight years’ truce in the middle,
was one and the same war. Fortunately for us, if we were bad, our
enemies were worse. Spain was languid, brainless, and could only fight
on the defensive. France was overtaxed, distracted by a multiplicity
of aims, drifting to bankruptcy, corrupt at heart and frivolous. Great
Britain was a mighty force, healthy, though afflicted by bad habits,
but capable of reform, and even at its worst advancing on sound lines.
Therefore it could bear its administrative scum as a mighty river
carries driftwood and rubbish on its surface. This floating trash may
make a block and delay the current for a short space, but the moving
water flows below, and accumulates in irresistible pressure till one
day it sweeps the obstruction out of its path.

In describing this struggle only a brief space need be given to the
early years, and in them what is best worth looking at is the promise
of better times. Vernon in the West Indies and Mathews and Lestock in
the Mediterranean are the dominant figures of the first period—and
the types of all the navy had to succeed in shedding, or to perish.
Beside them we see the gradual rise of Anson and Hawke, and with their
predominance the triumph of the good over the bad.

The Spanish War, or War of Jenkins’s Ear as it came to be called when
the rage of the country was over, began by attacks on the possessions
of Spain in the New World. A rigid blockade of our enemy’s ports at
home and invasion of his territory in Europe would have brought him to
terms more effectually. But we had no sufficient army, and the navy,
besides being hardly yet fit for prolonged blockade in stormy seas,
much preferred colonial expeditions rich in prize and plunder. To the
country nothing seemed more likely to be effectual than the seizure of
Spanish colonies—or more lucrative. During the long peace, in 1726,
’27, a powerful fleet had been sent to blockade the port of Porto Bello
for the purpose of stopping the sailing of the treasure-ships, and so
depriving King Philip V. of the means of being mischievous in Europe.
Admiral Hozier who commanded, his successor, and many thousands of
officers and men died miserably of fever. The memory of this sacrifice
to Walpole’s peace policy rankled, and an expedition to Porto Bello was
sure to be popular. It was the port of lading for the treasure from
the South Seas, and the headquarters of the _guarda costas_ employed,
as we said, to destroy our trade—but as the Spaniards put it, to stop
our smuggling. An attack on it had been vehemently supported by the
Patriots, and particularly by a sailor who was very conspicuous among
them.

Edward Vernon had been a captain in the navy since 1706 and was the son
of a Secretary of State. He owed his rapid rise to family influence,
and no conspicuous service is recorded of him. During the peace he
had been for several years member for Ipswich, and had been among
the loudest-mouthed of those who first assailed the “profligate”
administration of Sir R. Walpole, and then imitated him in everything
except his love of peace and his admirable finance. The navy now and
then produces a person who “has the gift of the gab ‘although’ he was
bred to the sea,” and is continually playing the British seaman to the
gallery. Vernon was the example of the type in his generation. He was
as brave as any man, but too proud of what he ought to have taken for
granted. He was clever, but far too conscious of his cleverness. Withal
he was arrogant, had no control over his temper, and was afflicted with
an insatiable vanity. Already he had boasted that he would take Porto
Bello with six ships. When the war began, he was sent with nine vessels
to keep his promise. Vernon left in July 1739, and reached Jamaica late
in October. On the 20th November he sailed into Porto Bello with six
ships, and took it almost without resistance. The fortifications were
not complete, nor were all the guns mounted. The garrison was crippled
by tropical fever and was seized by a panic. They ran from their guns
under the fire of our ships, and the town was captured with less loss
than has often accompanied the taking of a sloop. Vernon behaved with
humanity when in possession of the place. This easy success threw the
nation into a delirium of joy, and turned Vernon’s head completely.
He became convinced that all fortifications could be taken by merely
rushing at them. In the position of unchecked authority he held in his
own squadron, surrounded by men who deferred to him in obedient silence
even when they did not toady him, his arrogance and self-assertion
swelled till they grew to the proportions of mania. Vernon made an idle
demonstration off Carthagena on the 6th March 1740, but nothing else
was done.

Meanwhile the country was preparing to follow up the first success.
After changes of plan, hesitations, and much administrative confusion,
it was finally decided to make a double attack on Spanish America. A
small squadron under Anson was to go round Cape Horn and range the
west coast of South America as far north as Panama, while a great
expedition carrying a body of troops under command of Lord Cathcart was
to sail to the West Indies, join Vernon, and other troops drawn from
the British possessions in America, and then the whole was to fall on
the Spaniards. The actual point of attack was left to the discretion
of the chiefs. Anson’s justly famous voyage may be left aside for the
present with the observation that as part of a combined operation it
was a failure through the delays shown in dispatching the expeditions.
According to the original plan, Lord Cathcart was to have reached
the West Indies at the end of October 1740 under protection of six
warships. But the Government heard that the Spaniards were sending
out a fleet. France was also beginning to move for the purpose of
supporting Spain. The Government delayed the expedition till a more
powerful fleet could be collected. It left England under the care of
25 warships commanded by Sir C. Ogle on 26th October, at which date it
ought to have been on the field of operations. On the 19th December
it reached Dominica, where Lord Cathcart died, and was succeeded
by General Wentworth. It was not at Jamaica till the 7th January.
Meanwhile the enemy had not been idle. The attention of France, still
nominally at peace with us, was drawn off by the death of the emperor
and the opening of the Austrian Succession. Spain was left to her own
resources, which, however, proved greater and were better handled than
we had expected. Don Rodrigo de Torres sailed on the 10th July, reached
the West Indies unmolested by us, sent part of his ships to reinforce
Carthagena under Don Blas de Leso, and then went on, still unmolested
by us, to Havana. It may be added that he finally brought the Spanish
trade home unseen, and even unsought by us.

The great English expedition reinforced by troops from the North
American colonies, and by negroes to do the work of the trenches, left
Jamaica by the 26th January 1741, and after some further hesitation was
led against Carthagena. It reached its destination on the 4th March.
The town stands at the north end of lagoons, and can only be entered at
the western end by large ships at the Boca Chica, or Small Mouth. It
was not accessible from the sea front because of the shoal water and
the heavy surf. The Boca Chica was well fortified, and there were other
outworks dotted along the lagoons. These had to be beaten down before
the body of the place, which was further defended by a strong outwork
called the San Lazaro and a double wall, could be reached. From the
9th to the 26th March we were fighting up along the lagoons with good
success. Vernon accused the military men of sloth and incompetence,
and afterwards repeated his charges in a scolding pamphlet full of
provable misstatements of fact. At Carthagena he pestered his military
colleagues in a tone which revolted the pride of General Wentworth.
Still, by the end of March we were close to the town, and on the 1st
April, a fatal date, Vernon dispatched a vessel to England with a
report of victory. It was soon followed by another with authentic
tidings of disaster. The wet season begins at Carthagena at the end of
March, and the troops were already very sickly. Their condition was
aggravated by the fact that the admiral seized the only supply of good
water for the fleet. At last Wentworth, who was plainly a weak man
unfitted to contend with a bully, had the feebleness to allow himself
to be badgered into making an attempt to storm the unbreached San
Lazaro, and was repulsed with frightful loss. Vernon made no use of his
ships against the town, though there was ample depth of water for them,
as M. de Pointis had shown when he took the place in 1697.

It was now clear that Carthagena could not be taken without a regular
siege, an operation at that season, and with our resources, impossible.
A council of war was held in the cabin of the flagship. The soldiers
when asked what they proposed to do answered that they must first
learn what help they were to expect from the fleet. Vernon burst out
in an explosion of abuse, and was firmly answered by Wentworth. Then
he flung out of the cabin in a fit of shrewish rage, and remained
during the rest of the council in the stern gallery, bawling occasional
interruptions. There could be but one end to the debate. The expedition
retired with shame, and the odd hits, and the loss of several thousand
men.

Nor would there be any profit in going into the details of the war in
the West Indies. Few conflicts have ever been more insipid. Operations
similar in purpose to this at Carthagena but on a smaller scale were
carried out by Vernon and Wentworth near St. Jago de Cuba in the autumn
of 1741, and at Porto Bello in the spring of 1742. In 1743 a squadron
under Sir Charles Knowles was beaten off with severe loss in attack
on Puerto Cabello and La Guayra on the Main. Then the war died down
to mere privateering for a time, to revive slightly towards the end.
Knowles fought a moderately successful action with a Spanish force
near Havana in September 1748. But he was disliked by some of his
officers and accused of not doing enough, was tried by court martial,
and reprimanded. A feud arose among his officers, who fought it out in
duels. The West Indies in this war were destined to give us no glory,
and very doubtful profit. The honour of the flag was deeply stained by
Captain Cornelius Mitchell, who while in command of a superior English
force showed mere cowardice in the presence of the French in August
1746. For this he was only dismissed the service by a very weak court
martial. Some good did, however, come to the navy and the country from
this scandal. In 1749, after the conclusion of the war, it helped to
persuade Parliament to revise the Naval Discipline Act of Charles II.
The rest of the war in the West Indies deserves no further notice.
The Spaniards avoided battle except on the one occasion named, and
applied themselves to bringing home their trade, with fair success.
The French were too overtaxed elsewhere to appear in force. We not
being put on our mettle, drowsed on in sloth, quarrels, and scandals.
On both sides the privateers were active. Throughout the course of the
war we took from the Spaniards 1249 ships, and they from us 1360. Our
prizes included several treasure-ships, and were the more valuable. To
conclude this side of the subject, it may be added that after France
joined in the war against us we took from her 2185 ships, and she from
us 1878. The balance in our favour was therefore 196.

Here also may be put what remains to be said of Vernon. It is to
the honour of a man of whom little good can be told, that if he
was insolent to colleagues and harsh to his officers, he showed an
intelligent humanity to his crews. He reduced the excessive allowance
of rum given to men in the West Indies, and introduced the custom of
diluting it with water. The mixture is said by tradition to have got
its name of “grog” from his nickname of “Old Grog,” given him for his
practice of wearing a grogram boat-cloak. This is the only kindly
trait (for we cannot praise him for not behaving like a buccaneer at
Porto Bello) in an unamiable character. Vernon had offered to resign
after the failure at Carthagena, but was flattered into remaining by
ministers who were unwilling to see him among them till his tar-barrel
popularity had waned, as they no doubt began to see it would soon do.
He did return at the close of 1742. In 1744 his name was passed over
in a promotion of admirals, and he resented the slight in a letter of
incredible insolence to the Board. Yet in April 1745 he was promoted
Admiral of the White, and appointed to a home command during the
Jacobite rising. On service he began a course of violent wrangling
with the Admiralty, and finally threw up his post in a pet. Then he
appealed to the public in anonymous pamphlets with clap-trap titles,
consisting largely of official letters which he had clearly no right
to publish. When called to account for what was at the best a gross
irregularity, he refused to acknowledge his responsibility, and was,
by the king’s orders, struck off the list of admirals. He died on his
estate at Nacton, in Suffolk, on the 30th October 1757, forgotten and
obscure—an example of the worthlessness of mob popularity.

It is indeed a pleasure to turn from this story of loud talk and little
performance to Anson’s immortal voyage. Not that it was without dark
shades and disasters, not only because it ended in triumph, but because
there was at the head of it a hero, and round him a band fit to follow
a hero. Of Anson himself it may be said that in him English manhood
gave itself a witness amid the vulgar crowd of Vernons, Knowleses,
Mitchells, Mathews, and Lestocks. Stern but just, asking for no
affection, but deserving it, and commanding absolute confidence, he was
indeed “the flower and pattern of all bold mariners ... unchangeable
of purpose, crafty of counsel, and swift of execution; in triumph most
sober, in failure ... of endurance beyond mortal man.”

It had at first been intended to send two expeditions to the South
Seas, one under Anson to Manila, and another under Captain Cornwall
round the Horn. But the Government changed its mind. Anson alone
sailed, and was directed not on Manila but on Panama. There was delay,
as always at that time, and the squadron did not leave England till the
18th September 1740. It consisted of six ships:—

 +--------------+-------+-------+--------------------------+
 |              | Guns. |  Men. |                          |
 |              +-------+-------+                          |
 | =Centurion=  |  60   |  400  | George Anson, commodore. |
 | =Gloucester= |  50   |  300  | Richard Norris.          |
 | =Severn=     |  50   |  300  | Honourable Edward Legge. |
 | =Pearl=      |  40   |  250  | M. Mitchell.             |
 | =Wager=      |  28   |  160  | Dandy Kidd.              |
 | =Trial=      |   8   |  100  | Honourable G. Murray.    |
 +--------------+-------+-------+--------------------------+

There were two victuallers, transports to carry stores—the =Anna= and
=Industry=. The squadron was fairly provided, but was hampered by a
number of so-called soldiers who were in fact Chelsea pensioners,
sent on board in disregard of Anson’s protest. All who could walk
deserted. The others died before the ships entered the Pacific; among
them it is said that there was a veteran who had fought at the Boyne
for King William. On the 25th October the squadron was at Madeira, and
it reached St. Catherine, in Southern Brazil, on the 21st November.
Already the scurvy had broken out, and Anson stopped to restore the
health of his crews till the 18th January 1741. From St. Catherine
the squadron fought its way South through storms to Port St. Julian,
famous in the voyages of Magellan and of Drake. From thence it went
on to the Pacific by the Straits of Le Maire and the Horn. It was a
less dangerous route than the Straits of Magellan, but the incessant
tempest made it perilous. Through one unbroken fury of wind and wave
the squadron struggled on to the Pacific, but all did not reach it.
The navigation of the time was rude, there were no chronometers, no
means of finding the longitude. Two of the ships of the squadron, the
=Severn= and the =Pearl=, came up on the wrong side of South America,
and returned to England. Of the others the =Wager= rounded the Horn,
but was wrecked in the Golfo de Peñas. Anson did not reach Juan
Fernandez, the island of Robinson Crusoe, or at least of his original
Alexander Selkirk, till 10th June, with his crew reduced to a mere
handful by scurvy. The =Trial=, the =Gloucester=, and the =Anna= came
in one after the other. The last was broken up, and her crew taken into
the other vessels. It was September before the crews were sufficiently
revived for service. During the last months of 1741 and the first of
1742, Anson remained on the coast taking prizes and capturing Paita.
The =Trial= was condemned. His squadron was too weak to effect anything
against Panama, and he missed the heavily laden ship, which came yearly
from the Philippines to Acapulco, in Mexico. On the 28th April he left
the American coast and stretched across the Pacific. Storms and scurvy
raged round him again, and the =Gloucester= had to be sacrificed. The
=Centurion= now alone remained. With her, Anson reached Canton, 21st
November 1742, where he refitted. Then he took the sea once more
to look for the Manila treasure-ship. On the 20th June 1743 he met
and captured the _Nuestra Señora de Covadonga_, a prize of immense
value, off Cape Espiritu Santo, in the Philippines. As a feat of war
the achievement was naught, for the Spaniard had most of his guns
dismounted, and fought at hopeless disadvantage. Anson’s greatness
comes from this—that he conquered so much to be there at all. He
returned with his prize to Canton, sailed for home on the 15th October
1743, and reached Spithead on the 15th June 1744.

The naval operations carried out against Spain in Europe were in
themselves insignificant, and are only worth noticing because they led
to war with France. The actual declaration of war was not made till
1744, by France on the 20th March, by England on the 31st, but it was
a pure formality. Conflicts had already taken place on the sea between
the ships of the two nations; the battle of Dettingen, in which English
troops took part as allies of Maria Teresa, had been fought, and an
attempt had been made to cover an invasion of England in the interests
of the Jacobites. France was openly giving moral and material support
to Spain before actually joining her. While the great expedition to
the West Indies was preparing, Sir John Balchen was dispatched to the
Spanish coast with a small squadron. It was characteristic of our
half-hearted way of conducting the war that he was ordered out only to
capture the treasure-ships. They, however, were warned in time, and so
came safe home to Santander. Balchen was in some danger of falling in
with a much superior force sent out by the Spaniards to look for him,
and returned having effected nothing. Meanwhile Haddock was watching
Cadiz, not so vigilantly, however, but that a Spanish squadron got away
unimpeached by us, and reached Ferrol. The Spanish Government collected
troops on the east coast as if to threaten Minorca, and on the north
as if in preparation for an invasion of England, to be supported, it
was hoped, by help from the Jacobites. The apparent danger of Minorca
distracted Haddock, who was even short-handed till reinforced by a
squadron under Lestock. At home a powerful force was collected under
Sir John Norris to repel the threatened invasion. He sailed twice to
watch Ferrol, but was driven back by storms in July and August. When
1740 ended, we had certainly done nothing proportionate to our immense
numerical superiority. The Spanish fleets lay quiet in port, or slipped
away to the West Indies, and the Basque privateers were active even in
the Channel. In 1741 there was no change. Sir John Norris was again at
sea in the Channel and Bay of Biscay, but to little purpose. Haddock,
with his fleet reinforced by Rear-Admiral Lestock, continued to watch
Don José Navarro at Cadiz. In December the English fleet had become
very foul, and was compelled to go into Gibraltar and clean. Navarro
at once put to sea, and entered the Mediterranean. Meanwhile a French
fleet under M. de Court had left Toulon, and advanced south along the
coast of Spain. So soon as he knew that the Spaniards had passed him,
Haddock started in pursuit, but only came up in time to see the French
and Spanish fleets join, and to find himself in the presence of a very
superior force. It was notorious that M. de Court would support Navarro
if attacked, but since France was still endeavouring to make war and
keep peace at one and the same time, he would not attack us. Haddock
was allowed to go on to Minorca. The allies covered the passage of some
Spanish troops to Italy, and then went into Toulon. Here they remained
till February 1744. Haddock, old and worn-out, resigned his command to
Lestock at the close of 1741. In May 1742 Admiral Mathews came out with
a commission not only to command the fleet but to be Minister at the
court of Sardinia. It would have been difficult to make a worse choice.
He was stupid, boorish, illiterate, and of a violent temper, which
earned him in Italy the nickname of “Il Furibondo.” Moreover, he had
a long-standing quarrel with Lestock, and had asked that this officer
might be recalled. The Ministry did not consent, and Mathews revenged
himself by coarse insolence to his subordinate. A proud man would have
sought his own recall; but Lestock was only sulky and malignant.

During 1742 some service was done. In June a squadron of Spanish
galleys was burnt at St. Tropez by fireships under the command of
Captain Callis, who earned the last gold collar and badge given for
this kind of service. In August a detached squadron under Captain
Martin forced the Bourbon king of the Two Sicilies to withdraw the
troops he had sent to serve against our ally the Queen of Hungary by
threatening to bombard Naples. With these exceptions, 1742 and 1743
wore away, while Mathews was mostly at Turin, and his fleet lay at
anchor without practice at sea. Some acts of violence on the coast
of Italy are recorded against our captains. The British Minister
at Florence, Sir Horace Mann, who looked upon them, with the sole
exception of Captain Temple West, as “genteel porpoises,” asserts that
when some of our men robbed a church of a cross and of the sacrament,
Mathews hung the cross round the neck of his pet monkey, and stuck the
consecrated wafer on the beast’s forehead. The tardy determination of
France to take an active part on the sea gave a stimulus to the war in
the early days of 1744.

In this year she acted with some vigour both in the Channel and in
the Mediterranean. At the close of 1743 troops had been collected
at Dunkirk for an invasion again, in the hope of causing a Jacobite
rebellion. A fleet of twenty-four sail was armed at Brest, and put
under the command of M. de Roquefeuil. He sailed at the end of January,
was off the Eddystone on the 3rd February 1744, and had come as high as
Dungeness by the 24th. The peril served for a moment to calm the feuds
of the politicians, for the country was terribly frightened. English
soldiers and foreign mercenaries were called in from abroad, and we
applied to the Dutch for the contingent they were bound to supply by
treaty. A fleet was collected under Sir John Norris in the Downs, and a
battle seemed inevitable. But a succession of heavy gales from the east
and north-east drove the French out of the Channel back to Brest, and
the peril passed away.

While the wind and the inefficiency of the enemy were standing
our friends in the Channel, a transaction was taking place in the
Mediterranean which did us little honour and was the beginning of
infinite bitterness. It was known by the end of 1743 that France was
coming actively into the naval war. In January 1744 Mathews came
down from Turin, where he had been acting as Minister, and resumed
his functions of admiral. His fleet was at anchor in the roadstead
of Hyères, between the mainland and the islands of Porquerolles, and
there it remained till M. de Court and Don José Navarro put to sea
from Toulon on the 19th February. It consisted of twenty ships of
the line when he rejoined it, but was raised by reinforcements to
twenty-nine. The allies numbered twenty-eight, twelve of them being
Spaniards. One of the Spanish ships, the _Real Felipe_, carried 116
guns, and her fellows were fine ships. The French were somewhat
inferior, and the weight of metal as well as of numbers was in favour
of Mathews, but the battle which followed was a disgrace alike to the
discipline, the intelligence, and, with a few exceptions, even to the
manhood of the navy.

When the enemy was known to be at sea, we struggled out from Hyères,
foul from long lying at anchor, and clumsy from want of practice.
The code of signals, too, was arbitrary and poor. The same signal
was found both in the fighting and the sailing orders, and meant
different things in each. During the 10th February and the night of the
10th-11th Mathews’ fleet struggled towards the enemy in light breezes
and baffling currents. On the morning of the 11th it had got between
the enemy and Toulon. The van under Admiral Rowley and the centre
where Mathews was himself, were in a position to force a battle on the
allies, who lay in a line to the south and west of them, heading to
the west with the French in the van and centre, and the Spaniards in
the rear, and therefore nearest us. But the English rear under Lestock
had drifted apart in the night, and was five miles astern. In the
light breezes it could not come up in time to be of use. Yet Admiral
Mathews decided to give battle. We bore down at one in the afternoon,
so that the English van came into action with the French centre, and
the English centre with the Spanish ships behind M. de Court. If the
breezes had been stronger, or the French more alert, their van might
have doubled back, and have put our leading ships between two fires.
They did not, and Admiral Rowley maintained a lively cannonade with
M. de Court till the French admiral turned in the evening to help the
Spaniards, whom he believed to be hard pressed. At that part of the
line there had been not only failure but shame. Admiral Mathews brought
the Spaniards to an action. He would have made it close had several
of his captains not been “shy.” He himself in the =Namur= showed the
courage which is the redeeming quality of his type, and stood out of
his line with the signal for the line still flying in order to come
closer to the enemy. Captain Cornwall of the =Marlborough= fought the
great _Real Felipe_ nobly, being himself mortally wounded, and his
ship cut to pieces. Captain Edward Hawke in the =Berwick= set a fine
example, and compelled the Spanish _Poder_ to strike. But with these
exceptions nobody did brilliantly and several captains showed what, if
it was not actual cowardice, was the kind of confusion and stupidity
which keep a man well away from the enemy. These “cankers of a long
peace” proved once more that a loud voice, a blustering manner, and a
parade of brutality are no guarantees of courage. A notable feature
of the battle was that it gives the last example of the old practice
of using a fireship in action. One was sent down to burn the _Real
Felipe_, but the result showed the limitations of this old-fashioned
weapon. She was reduced to a sinking state by the well-directed fire
of the Spaniard, who also sent out a boat to tow her clear. It was
perhaps fortunate for us that she was shattered by an explosion, and
went down, since the enemy might possibly have turned her against the
=Marlborough=, then lying crippled where she had pushed in among their
own ships. Night and the confusion of both sides ended the battle, but
the allies had suffered some rough handling, and were chiefly intent on
retreat. Mathews might well have renewed the action when he was at last
joined by Lestock. He came, however, to the strange conclusion that
he could not follow the enemy, because it was his duty to protect the
coast of our allies in Italy—though it would surely have taxed a less
torpid intellect than his to say what that coast was to be protected
against, unless it were the very fleet he was refusing to pursue. The
enemy was actually allowed to recover the _Poder_, which he abandoned,
and to retire unmolested to Carthagena. The _Poder_ was then burnt by
us. Mathews returned to Mahon, where he solaced his feelings by putting
Admiral Lestock under arrest.

The failure off Toulon, coming as it did after a long succession of
repulses in the West Indies, and futilities in Europe where nothing
effectual had been done to intercept the Spanish fleets, stirred the
country to deep anger. The news came slowly, and it was not until
Lestock had returned under arrest, and Mathews had resigned and had
come home, that their recriminations began to bring out the whole
truth. Parliament took the matter up, and carried out a preliminary
inquiry during April and March of 1745. Lestock and others were heard
at the bar, and Mathews, who was a member, in his place. The debate
left him, according to Horace Walpole, “in the light of a hot, brave,
imperious, dull, confused fellow,” and it also left the House persuaded
that a court martial must be held on the whole battle. On the 18th
of April, the Commons with their Speaker waited on the king at St.
James’s Palace with a petition that a “court martial may be held in the
most speedy and solemn manner, to inquire into the conduct of Admiral
Mathews, Vice-Admiral Lestock, Captains Burrish, Norris, Ambrose,
Frogmore, and Dilk,” together with that of the lieutenants of the
=Dorsetshire=, who were accused of misleading their captain, Burrish.
The king granted the petition. The measure was somewhat irregular, and
might be represented as trenching on the rights of the Admiralty,—it
was so considered by Anson who was now on the Board,—but the case was
exceptional, and it was by no means certain that the Admiralty would
have acted if Parliament had not applied firm pressure. The action
it took is one more reminder that, in the dullest times, the country
has always been in earnest about its navy. It may, as Sir Charles
Pasley has said, have played with the army, which it long regarded
with jealous distrust and dislike, but where the navy was concerned
it knew that its very existence was at stake. Therefore, though
tolerant of much corruption in the naval, as in other branches of the
administration, it was roused to wrath, and the resolve to have the
whole truth out, by any failure on the sea.

A court martial, consisting of no less than twenty-four members, and
presided over by Sir Chaloner Ogle, began to sit on the 11th September
1745. First it tried the four lieutenants of the =Dorsetshire=, whom
their captain had accused in order to clear himself, and acquitted
them. Then it tried Captain Burrish, and condemned him to be cashiered.
Captain E. Williams of the =Royal Oak= was next tried and condemned,
but with less severity on the ground that he was old and nearly blind.
Captain John Ambrose of the =Rupert=, who had shown courage and zeal
in single ship actions, was yet condemned for misconduct at Toulon,
and sentenced to be cashiered during the king’s pleasure. He was
restored in rank, but never again employed, and died a superannuated
rear-admiral. Captain Dilk of the =Chichester= shared his fate. Captain
Frogmore of the =Boyne= died before the trial. Captain Norris of the
=Essex= did not dare to face a court martial. He fled into Spain from
Gibraltar, and was never heard of more. Five supplementary trials
were held on Captains Pelt, Sclater, Temple West, Cooper, and Lloyd.
The last three named were sentenced to be cashiered, but the finding
was generally considered unjust, and all three were restored. The
sentence of the court in this case is worth noting. Temple West and
his colleagues had been stationed in the van with Admiral Rowley, and
had taken steps to prevent the French ships, which stretched ahead of
our line, from doubling back and putting us between two fires. It is
doubtful whether the enemy had any such design, though his movements
seemed to show that he had, and the counter-measures of these captains
were correct. But they had acted without the express orders of their
superior. They were therefore to be punished, not for doing what was
wrong, but for doing what was right without orders. Observe that the
punishment inflicted on them for what at the worst was a pardonable,
even an honourable error of judgment, was identical with the penalty
imposed on Captain Burrish, who showed the white feather. We have to
come to the conclusion that, according to the principles of a court
martial at that time, it was better that an English fleet should be
defeated than that an officer should disregard an order no longer
applicable to the circumstances, or act with independent intelligence.
If this rule had continued to prevail, Nelson would have been cashiered
for his bold move at St. Vincent.

That some such rule did prevail in their dim minds is indeed obvious
from the result of the two great trials which followed on these small
ones. Vice-Admiral Lestock was tried in May 1746, and honourably
acquitted. The charges against him were, in substance, that on the
night before the battle, when the signal to form the line was flying,
the admiral signalled the fleet to lie to for the night. At that moment
Admiral Lestock’s squadron was separated from the main body of the
fleet. On any intelligent interpretation of the orders it is clear that
Lestock should first have joined the other ships, and should then have
lain to with them. He preferred to lie to at once, and drifted still
farther apart in the night. Next day he was five or six miles astern.
He pleaded that he could not come up, and that as the signal for the
line was flying he was bound to remain in a line even although that
kept him out of the action. One thing is abundantly clear from his
defence, and it is that whenever he saw a conflict of orders Lestock
habitually preferred that one of the two which kept him away from his
admiral, and well out of reach of the enemy. In after times Rodney, who
served in this fleet before the battle, and who knew the men, recorded
on the margin of Clerk’s _Naval Tactics_ his firm conviction that
Lestock had betrayed his admiral. Rodney was headlong in his judgments,
but his is the voice of one seaman of that time judging another, and
shows what charges were not thought incredible. Certain it is that
Lestock behaved like a man who was very glad of any excuse not to help
a superior whom he hated. Yet he was honourably acquitted.

There now remained nothing to be done but to try Admiral Mathews. He
appeared before a court martial in June 1746—and was sentenced to
be cashiered. That he was a stupid man, and was equally unfit to be
a minister plenipotentiary or an admiral, is true. In giving up the
pursuit of the allies, and so losing his chance to renew the battle,
he showed extreme dulness and even want of spirit. But in the action
he had fought manfully, and if his example had been well followed the
Spanish squadron would in all probability have been cut to pieces. His
great sin in the opinion of the court was that he engaged in such a
way as to make the maintenance of the line impossible while the signal
to preserve it was flying. Again we have to arrive at the conclusion
that, from the point of view of the court martial, it was better that
the enemy should not be brought to action than that the line should be
disordered. Such a result could only have been reached by men who had
never spent an hour in thinking out the methods of fighting a battle to
the best purpose, but had simply accepted the sixteenth article of the
Fighting Orders with the docility of pedants. The consequence of their
finding was to rivet the tyranny of a pedantic rule so firmly that it
required forty years of war, and an extraordinary combination of happy
circumstances at the end of them, to free the navy from its bonds.

In the course of these trials an incident took place which is of
interest, because it settled the question of the subordination of the
military to the civil courts. The President of the court martial formed
to try Admiral Mathews was Perry Mayne, Rear-Admiral of the Blue. It
happened that Admiral Mayne had sat on a court martial in the West
Indies to try a lieutenant of marines named Frye, and had sentenced
him to dismissal and imprisonment. Lieutenant Frye took proceedings
against the members of the court in England for acting beyond their
powers and for imprisoning him illegally. He gained his case, and £800
damages. In the course of these proceedings a writ was issued by Sir
John Willes, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, against Perry Mayne and
Captain Rentoul, another of Mathews’ judges, who also had sat on the
court martial. The other members of the court were extremely angry at
this interference with their President, and recorded a violent protest
against the action of Sir John Willes, in which they were encouraged
not only by the king, who was a German prince, and very ignorant of
English ways to the end of his life, but by the Lords of the Admiralty
and Corbet the Secretary, who ought to have known better. Sir John
Willes at once asserted his authority by attaching all the members of
the court for contempt. They were compelled to present a very humble
and public apology.

While the failures of the chiefs who had risen during the long peace
and their quarrels were filling the eyes and ears of the world, a great
work was beginning to be done for the Royal Navy, quietly and within
the walls of the Admiralty. It dated from December 1744, when Anson
was appointed as a member of the new Board, with the Duke of Bedford
as head. The duke was an indolent, great noble, who served the state
because public life was proper to a man of his rank. But he was honest
and sincerely patriotic. Though too much accustomed to a splendid and
pleasure-seeking life to be a hard worker himself, he supported Anson
steadily. Other politicians, and notably the Duke of Newcastle, were
too incapable, and too completely devoted to jobbery, to give any
active help, but self-interest made them understand that something
must be done for the navy. The country would not tolerate a repetition
of the miscarriages of the early years of the war, and efforts must
be made to bring about an improvement, if the eminent persons engaged
in the parliamentary, and court, scuffling of kites and crows, were
to be safe in their lives and estates. A good method of securing this
desirable end was to obtain the services of a competent workman, and to
let him labour unhampered. No better help could have been found than
Anson’s. The great seaman’s connection with the administrative work of
the navy began in 1744, and continued with brief interruptions till
his death in 1762. Until 1751 he served as a subordinate under Bedford
and Bedford’s successor, the Earl of Sandwich, who both trusted him.
After that date he was himself First Lord, almost continually. Anson
was not fitted to shine in the society of London. He could not shake
off the silent retiring habits formed during long years of cruising
in solitary command at a time when the chief was accustomed to keep
all subordinates at an awful distance. He was proud and shy, a little
hard too, and inclined to be grasping, as strenuous ambitious men
commonly are. It is therefore not surprising that he excited a good
deal of dislike, and laid himself open to the attacks of writers so
different, and so well able to make their voices heard, as Horace
Walpole and Smollett. We, whose ambitions he has not disappointed, and
whose advances he did not snub, can judge him by another standard. We
can remember that if he took care of his own fortunes, he also worked
hard to improve the quality of our shipbuilding, and, what was even
more important, to improve the quality of the senior ranks of the navy,
while he did a great deal to promote inquiry into, and reform of, the
corruptions of the dockyards.

Some years had to pass before the new spirit, hampered as it
necessarily was by inherited evils, could produce much effect. A glance
at the operations of 1744 will show from what a low level of energy
the naval administration had to be raised. Though the retreat of M. de
Roquefeuil before Sir John Norris and the February gales had shown the
weakness of our enemy, we yet called upon the Dutch to send the twenty
ships they were bound to supply by treaty. These vessels were duly
sent. Nothing effectual was done with the large force now collected.
In April and May Sir Charles Hardy with the Grand Fleet escorted the
Mediterranean trade as far south as Lisbon. The French, after the
failure of Roquefeuil’s cruise, had reverted to the plundering warfare
of the former war. Fourteen vessels were sent out in twos and threes
with orders to join at sea and attack our commerce, under the command
of M. de Rochambeau. Admiral Hardy protected the trade against his
attacks till it was safe in the Portuguese ports, and then returned
home. The return voyage was marked by an incident which gives no high
opinion either of the discipline of the fleet or of its intelligence.
On the 8th May a sail was seen to the northward, and Captain Watson
of the =Northumberland=, 74, was ordered to chase, but not to lose
sight of the fleet. He did lose sight. A mist came on, but a gun was
heard by the officers on deck, Captain Watson himself being in his
cabin, and was understood to be a signal of recall. The captain came
up, but continued to hold on, although a second signal was reported by
the midshipman on the forecastle. In the afternoon the mist lifted,
and the =Northumberland= was found to be close to two large French
warships, the _Content_, 60, and the _Mars_, 68, which had a frigate,
the _Venus_, 26, with them. At this time the =Northumberland= was not
cleared for action, nor indeed was she ever in proper order throughout
the fight. The master, James Dixon, implored the captain to get his
ship into better condition, but no notice was taken. A midshipman
named Best swore at the court martial that he heard the master say to
the chaplain that it was sad Captain Watson should take the ship into
action in the condition he was in. When asked what he understood by
this, he answered that he supposed the master to mean that captain
“was in liquor.” The evidence was not tested, though both the master
and chaplain were present. Captain Watson’s actions were certainly
not those of a sober man. He bore down on the two Frenchmen, passing
the _Content_, which was nearest and engaging the _Mars_, whereby he
enabled both to fall on him at once. The =Northumberland= was cut to
pieces. Captain Watson received first one wound and then a second.
He staggered to the accommodation ladder, and stood holding to the
railing and bleeding to death. The master, it was sworn, came on the
quarter-deck “with his hands in his breeches and his hat on, seemingly
in a surly mood.” He declared that there were no men to fight the ship,
and indeed the crew were running from the guns, while all the marines
on the poop who were not shot had escaped below. In these conditions
the flag was hauled down. The master gave the command after appealing
to the captain to surrender, in order to save the men from being killed
“like cows.” The first lieutenant, Craven, made a motion to hoist it up
again, and even spoke of blowing the ship up rather than surrender her
to the enemy. But his heroism did not go beyond words, and indeed the
=Northumberland= was in no condition to fight further. Yet he was the
superior officer, and, if he had wished to repeat the heroism of Sir
Richard Grenville, had all the necessary authority. The court martial
acquitted the lieutenant honourably, but sentenced the master to
imprisonment for life in the Marshalsea. It would have sentenced him to
death, but took the more merciful course in consideration of the good
advice he gave the captain, which, if it had been followed, would have
prevented the loss of the ship.

Here, by way of illustration, may be taken the case of another vessel,
lost in the following year. This was the =Anglesea=, 40, commanded by
Captain Elton. She was cruising on the south coast of Ireland, and fell
in, off the Old Head of Kinsale, with the _Apollo_, a French privateer
of 56 guns. Captain Elton rushed into action with all the folly of
Captain Watson. His decks were not cleared, nor his men properly at
quarters. The gunner could not as much as get the key of the powder
magazine till the last moment. So ill did Captain Elton handle his
ship that he allowed the Frenchman, who was to windward, to cross his
stern, rake him, and range up on the lee side. As the =Anglesea= was
one of the crank ships then common in our navy, she heeled over so
much that the water ran in at her ports. Thus she lay, with her upper
deck exposed to the small-arm fire of the Frenchman, her hull and
rigging at the mercy of a heavier broadside than her own. In twenty
minutes she was a beaten ship. Captain Elton fell, shot through the
body. Two of his men took him down to the surgeon, but on reaching
the main-deck from the quarter-deck found he was dead, and so left
him. The ship was surrendered by Lieutenant Baker Philipps. The court
martial found that the chief cause of the loss of the vessel was the
negligent and unofficerlike conduct of Captain Elton. Yet it sentenced
Philipps to be shot, though with a recommendation to mercy in which all
joined except the President. Baker Philipps was shot. Admiral Vernon
afterwards quoted this as a proof that naval courts martial did their
duty. The shocking contrast between the cruel severity shown to this
young officer and the scandalously light sentences passed on greater
offenders, had probably not a little to do with making Parliament see
that the naval court martial had to be taken in hand.

Sir Charles Hardy’s own work was half done. He returned home, leaving
M. de Rochambeau at sea. The Frenchman blockaded the merchant ships
in Lisbon. Among them were vessels on their way out with stores for
the garrisons and ships in the Mediterranean. The necessity for
action was pressing, and a fleet was sent out. It is a proof of the
little confidence felt in the senior officers of the day that the
work was entrusted to Sir John Balchen, a veteran of the wars of King
William and Queen Anne, who had fought some forty years before as
captain against Duguay-Trouin with more courage than success, and had
lately been appointed Governor of Greenwich Hospital as a reward for
long service. In spite of his great age (he was seventy-five), and
his claim to exemption, Balchen left his well-earned rest, and took
command of the fleet. He drove off Rochambeau, saw the trade safe to
Gibraltar, and returned home in September. On the 4th October the
fleet was scattered by a great storm at the entry to the Channel.
Balchen’s flagship, the =Victory=, disappeared during the night of the
4th-5th October with her crew of a thousand men. She was considered an
ill-built vessel and may have capsized, but Guernsey tradition asserted
that the sound of minute guns was heard from the Casketts through the
gale, and it was guessed that the =Victory= had been driven on the
rocks. In one way or the other the sea took its own.

During 1745 the fleets cruised unopposed. In the Mediterranean
Admiral Rowley, who had succeeded Mathews, blockaded the Spaniards
at Carthagena. He was so superior that he was able to send ships to
harass the French trade as far off as the West Indies, to watch Cadiz,
and to act against those Italian states in alliance with France. In
America a squadron sent from the Leeward islands under Commodore
Warren, covered the expedition from New England, a partly patriotic and
partly commercial speculation of the colonists, which took Louisbourg
in Cape Breton from the French in April, May, and June. Our enemies
were so incapable and so unenterprising that our fleet had little to
do. During the latter part of the year the interest of the country was
mainly turned on the Jacobite rising. The share of the navy in this
passage of our history was naturally important, since it had to prevent
the French from sending help to the Jacobites. But no serious move was
made by the French fleet, and no opportunity for service other than
patrolling the coast, and capturing single ships which endeavoured to
slip in with money and stores for the Prince, presented itself. The
navy did indeed contribute materially to make the rising less serious
than it might have been. Prince Charles had sailed from Nantes with two
vessels, the _Doutelle_, a small craft in which he himself sailed, and
the _Elizabeth_, a 64-gun ship employed to carry the bulk of his arms.
When on the 47th parallel and thirty-nine leagues west of the Lizard,
they were met by the =Lion=, 58, commanded by Piercy Brett. He had been
one of Anson’s lieutenants, and had been appointed by him captain of
the =Centurion= at Canton. As the commodore was not authorised to have
a captain under him the Admiralty refused to confirm the commission.
Anson, in great anger, had refused to accept promotion to the rank of
the rear-admiral. The ministerial change of December 1744 had brought
him back, and Brett, who had been made captain in the interval, was
allowed to date his seniority from his appointment at Canton. He now
attacked the _Elizabeth_, and the two fought one of the fiercest of
recorded single ship actions. They were so well matched that they beat
one another to a standstill, but the substantial fruits of victory
remained with the =Lion=, for the _Elizabeth_ was compelled to put
back. The _Doutelle_ went on and reached Scotland.

In 1746 the success of the Colonial expedition against Louisbourg,
encouraged the Government to fit out an imitation of it to attack
Quebec. Lestock, who retained a very ill-deserved reputation for
capacity, was appointed to command the ships, and Lieutenant-General
St. Clair, the troops, consisting of some engineers and artillery with
six regiments of foot. The preparations were delayed till the season
was passed for a voyage across the Atlantic. It was therefore sent to
the French coast on raiding expedition. Nothing need be recorded of it
save that it did not sail till the 14th of September, that troops were
landed cleverly enough to the west of Port Louis on the southern coast
of Brittany, and then re-embarked when it was found that they had no
means of taking the town of L’Orient, which lies a little behind Port
Louis and further up the river Blavet. L’Orient was the dockyard of
the French East India Company, and its destruction was much desired by
us. After failing at L’Orient, the expedition went on to Quiberon Bay,
where it again landed soldiers, and again found that there was nothing
to be done. Finally the transports carried the soldiers to Ireland, and
Lestock returned to Portsmouth.

In the following year, 1747, the new spirit at the Admiralty began to
tell. The fleet was employed with vigour on well-selected services,
and was rewarded with proportionate success. It was no longer used to
convey insufficient military expeditions to besiege towns they had not
the means of taking, or to invade countries they were not numerous
enough to occupy. The French Government was stung by the fall of
Louisbourg, and by the news from India, into making efforts to use its
fleet to better purpose, and the increase of activity on both sides
gave an energy to the naval war it had not as yet possessed. In spring
it was known that two squadrons were to sail from France together and
were to divide at sea—one, commanded by M. de la Jonquière, was then
to steer for America, and the other, of which M. St. George was the
chief, was to sail for India. They were composed of eight king’s ships,
and of six of the vessels of the French East India Company. Transports
and merchant vessels were to go under their protection. A squadron of
sixteen ships of from 40 to 90 guns were formed to intercept them, and
Anson took the command while still retaining his seat on the Board. It
is characteristic of the prevailing jobbery of the time that this force
was not got together without the necessity of defeating an intrigue.
Two of the vessels selected to serve under Anson were the =Defiance=,
60, Captain Grenville, and the =Bristol=, 50, of which William
Montagu, commonly called Mad Montagu, a brother of Lord Sandwich, was
captain. Neither of these officers was wanting in spirit. Grenville
was killed in the action of the 3rd May, fighting most gallantly, and
whatever could have been said against the sense of Mad Montagu, a
noisy violent man of much deliberate eccentricity whose rôle it was to
play the rattlepated Jack Tar, his courage was above dispute. But both
would have preferred to cruise alone, and pick up prizes. Grenville
belonged to the famous “cousinhood” of the name, and his cousin George
Grenville, who was on the Board, attempted a little manœuvre on his
behalf. An order to Anson not to keep the =Defiance= and =Bristol= with
him for more than seven days was put into a letter which the Duke of
Bedford was expected to sign without looking at it. The Duke did detect
the trick, and refused to sign, declaring that “they should deserve to
be hanged for it if it was done.”

Anson sailed for his station off Finisterre on the 9th April, sent his
look-out sloops to watch Rochefort, and stretched his fleet out in a
line abreast, each ship a mile from the other, in order to diminish
the risk that the enemy would pass undiscovered. In the early morning
of the 3rd May the =Falcon= sloop brought the news that she had seen
the French the day before steering for the west. Anson called in all
cruisers, collected his ships, and steered to cross the presumed route
of the enemy. Between nine and ten the French squadron was seen to
the S.W. It was at first not possible to estimate its strength, for
warships and transports were all sailing together, and the one could
not be distinguished from the other. Anson therefore kept his fleet
in a body lest he should meet an equal enemy whom it would be rash to
attack in disorder. As the space between the two fleets was reduced,
it was seen that the French had divided. Nine vessels were formed in a
line to meet our attack, while the others were making off to leeward.
La Jonquière and St. George had, in fact, no more than that number
of vessels fit to meet line-of-battle ships. When the inferiority of
the enemy’s force was seen, Anson ordered a general chase. The English
captains went into action at their best speed, attacking the enemy
on both sides. The French fought brilliantly, but the superiority of
force against them was so overwhelming that they could do no more
than sacrifice themselves bravely in order to give their charge time
to escape, which many of the merchant ships did succeed in doing. Six
of the French king’s ships and four of the Company’s were taken. Yet
the French sold their defeat dear. Five hundred and twenty men were
killed and wounded in our ships. The loss of the enemy was about seven
hundred. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon when the first of
the English ships—Anson’s old ship the =Centurion=, now commanded by
his former lieutenant, Denis—came up with the rear of the French ships
as they were edging away to leeward, and hoping to delay our attack by
showing a firm front till the night should come. The action was over at
seven. Anson was made a peer for the victory, which filled the country
with well-grounded delight. Our superiority in numbers and weight of
ships was great, and as a battle the action of the 3rd May was not
glorious, but here was a success won by foresight, good management, and
activity against a gallant enemy. It was the first time that so much
could be said since the war began in 1739, and it was the promise of
greater things to come.

On the 21st-22nd June, some six weeks after Anson had ruined the French
expeditions to America and India, Captain Thomas Fox, who was cruising
with a small squadron on the 47th degree of North Latitude, met and
scattered the valuable convoy coming home from San Domingo. Forty-eight
prizes were taken by our ships, and the injury inflicted went beyond
the material loss, for the disaster showed how little able the French
were to protect their sea-borne commerce against the British Navy. They
were too weak to keep the road open, in face of energetic direction
given to our forces by the new Admiralty. Before the close of the year
a third blow drove the lesson well home, and did a great deal to bring
France to recognise the necessity for making peace. The outward bound
trading ships to the French West Indies were collected at Rochelle. A
strong squadron of eight line-of-battle ships of the French Royal Navy,
and of one 64-gun ship belonging to the Indian Company, was told off
to protect them. The Chef d’escadre, or Rear-Admiral, Desherbiers de
l’Etanduère, was in command, with his flag flying in the _Tonnant_, 80,
a noble vessel. Indeed l’Etanduère’s squadron was a stronger one than
La Jonquière’s, and the vessels composing it were superior in build and
strength to our ships of the same nominal force. A powerful squadron
was prepared to intercept this convoy. What was wanted in quality of
ships we made up in number, and fourteen vessels were sent to overpower
the French nine. The command was given to Rear-Admiral Edward Hawke,
the captain of the =Berwick=, whose gallantry had stood out brilliantly
against a background of blundering and pusillanimity in the battle of
Toulon five years before.

Being fixed by the necessity they were under of reaching the West
Indies soon after the end of the hurricane season in October, the
enemy’s time of sailing could be calculated. Hawke left England on the
9th August for his cruising ground, the latitude of from 46° to 48°
N. The enemy was sighted on the 14th October. The ensuing action was
an almost exact reproduction of Anson’s engagement with La Jonquière.
Hawke has had an affectionate biographer in our time, and the glory he
won twelve years after this meeting with the convoy reflects back on
all his life. Therefore he has naturally been credited with displaying
great originality, but the truth is that he followed the pattern given
him by Anson six months before, down to the details. The English ships
approached in order, till they were near enough to estimate the enemy’s
inferior numbers. Then they went ahead in general chase, attacking
on both sides, and crushing their opponent by weight of numbers. As
l’Etanduère’s squadron was stronger than La Jonquière’s, it made a
harder fight. The French flagship, the _Tonnant_, proved too much for
any of our vessels, and in company with the _Intrépide_, commanded by
the Count of Vaudreuil, broke her way through and escaped. Captain
Philip Saumarez in the =Nottingham=, 60, who pursued the two for a
time, was killed. But six of the eight French were taken. They did
not surrender till they were thoroughly wrecked. As his own vessels
were severely cut up, Hawke made his way home and reached port on the
31st October. Meanwhile the French merchant ships, protected by the
_Content_ and a frigate, had continued their voyage and had escaped for
the time being. Hawke, however, took the precaution to send a sloop
to the West Indies with the news, and many of the French vessels were
captured by our cruisers when nearing their destination.

It will be observed that on both these occasions the French officers
secured the escape of the vessels put under their protection. The
substantial victory may therefore, in a sense, be said to have been
theirs, since they did what they were sent out to do. The question then
arises whether Anson and Hawke could not have done better, since they
were sent out to interrupt the enemy’s commerce, and since they had a
superiority of nearly two to one in fighting ships. They might have
detached four sail to pursue the trading vessels, and still have left
themselves a superiority over the French squadron of twelve to nine on
the 3rd May, and of ten to eight on the 9th October. Yet the policy of
making the destruction of the fighting force of our enemy as near as
might be a certainty was the sound one, since, if his fleet was once
driven off the sea, his convoys could not sail at all. Moreover, it
is to be remembered that in 1747 the general bad quality of our ships
might well lead our admirals to think that they could not afford to
dispense with any superiority of numbers over the French.

With Hawke’s victory the naval war in Europe came to an end. In the
East Indies, however, it continued. One of the few relieving features
in the dulness of this war—or these wars, the Spanish and the French—is
the extension of the activity of our fleet into the remote east.
Hitherto when the Royal Navy had gone to the Indian Seas it had been
on particular missions, but from 1744 it acted there continuously, and
in squadrons, for so long as the countries were at war in Europe. Not
that anything the navy did there was very flattering to our pride.
Rather the contrary, indeed, since the dispensation by which it was
arranged that while we were bad, our enemy should be even worse, was
nowhere more conspicuously to our advantage. Yet it marks one step in
the growth of the navy that it is found taking over its duties on the
other side of the world.

In 1744 a squadron of 4 ships, two of 60, one of 50, and one of 20
guns, was sent to the Eastern Seas under Commodore Curtis Barnett.
Here at once there is occasion to note how well we were served by
the folly of our opponent. A man was then at Paris who was admirably
qualified to defeat any enterprise we might undertake against the
French posts in India. This was Bertrand Mahé de la Bourdonnais,
governor of the French islands of Bourbon and Mauritius. He had not
been trained as a king’s officer, though the rank of Capitaine de
Frégate was conferred upon him. He was a native of St. Malo, a merchant
skipper and trader. But he had acquired all the knowledge needed to
make a skilful naval commander, and had shown great faculty in his
government. La Bourdonnais was convinced that England would attack
the French settlements in the East, and he laid a scheme before the
king’s ministers for forestalling us. His plan was accepted, and he was
promised a squadron of five vessels. But La Bourdonnais, most happily
for us, had excited the hostility of the French East Company by his
self-assertive character, and his exposures of its corruptions, and
his talent for scornful retort. The company opposed his scheme, and
had influence enough to get it laid aside. It persuaded itself and
the king’s ministers that it would be possible to maintain neutrality
with the English East India Company. Neither thought fit to consider
the probable action of the British Government, which might very well
decline to be guided by the company. Being deprived of the force
promised to him, La Bourdonnais was driven back on his own resources,
and on those he could draw from the islands.

Commodore Barnett sailed from Spithead on the 5th May 1744, and after
touching at Porto Praya in the Cape Verd islands, went on to the Indian
Ocean. After rounding the Cape, he visited Madagascar, where fresh meat
could always be got from the natives, and then stood over to the coast
of Sumatra. He detached two of his vessels to take post in the Straits
of Malacca, between Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula, and himself went
through the Straits of Sunda, between Sumatra and Java, and took up his
station in the Banca Straits, between Sumatra and Borneo. He was thus
on the trade route between China and the European possessions on the
coast of Coromandel. On the 25th January 1745 three French China ships
of great value sailed right into his hands. In these far seas he did
not trouble to look for an Admiralty Court, but carried his prizes into
Batavia, sold them to the Dutch for £92,000, and divided the proceeds
at the capstan head. Then he came across to Madras.

The relations between the English and the French Company did, to some
extent, justify those who held that a neutrality could be maintained if
the traders only were considered. The English Company was flourishing,
and asked nothing better than to be allowed to trade in peace. The
French Company was not so well off, and therefore was much more lean,
hungry, and disposed to adventure. But it was not strong on land, and
at sea had so far no force. A tacit arrangement was made by which
the French promised to abstain from attacking us by land, so long as
Barnett did not assail them from the sea. The Company persuaded the
commodore to accept this arrangement, and 1745 passed in insignificant
movements. Barnett died in the spring of 1746 at Fort St. Davids.

The command now fell to the senior captain, Edward Peyton, and its
fortunes in his hands have caused the death of Barnett to be esteemed
a misfortune. The arrival of reinforcements from home and arming of a
prize taken from the French had raised the number of the squadron to
six, one of 60, three of 50, one of 40, and one of 20 guns. It had,
therefore, a total of 270 guns, and all the vessels, with the exception
perhaps of the French prize, were built for war. The quality of the
squadron must be taken into account in estimating what followed. While
our ships were idly parading the Bay of Bengal, La Bourdonnais was
straining every nerve to fit out a squadron at the Île de France,
now Mauritius. In the spring of 1746 he had scraped together, by all
kinds of devices and makeshifts, eight vessels, one of them being a
man-of-war mounting 70 guns, and the others converted merchant ships
of from 26 to 36 guns. The total was 292, and most of the pieces were
small. The vessels were indeed full of men, but a large proportion
of them were Lascars and Caffres. La Bourdonnais sailed on the 29th
March, and after nearly suffering total shipwreck on Madagascar left
it for the Coromandel coast in May, and arrived there in June. On
the 25th of this month, before he had touched at any of the French
settlements, he met the English squadron at sea between Fort St.
Davids, at Cuddalore, and Negapatam, to the south of Pondicherry, the
chief French port. Knowing his inferiority in artillery La Bourdonnais
tried to come to close quarters and overpower the English by the number
of his men. Peyton baffled this effort by keeping well to windward, and
the encounter resolved itself into a distant cannonade, by which one of
the French ships was crippled and very little harm was done to us. That
little was enough to deprive Peyton of all desire to meet the French
again. He held a council of war next morning, and by its advice sailed
away to Trincomalee, leaving La Bourdonnais free to continue his voyage
to Pondicherry. The decision was without excuse, for if Peyton had used
his eyes at all during the cannonade of the day before, he must have
learnt that he had to deal with ships of very inferior armament. But
some of his own vessels were in no good condition, and he could think
of nothing but of their defects, and of the excuse afforded him for a
retreat.

La Bourdonnais anchored at Pondicherry on the 9th July, and began at
once to prepare for attacks on our settlements. The history of his
quarrels with Dupleix, the governor-general, does not concern the naval
operations, since they did not prevent him for carrying out his attack
on Madras. He was at sea again on the 4th August to look for Peyton,
and met the English commander coming back from Ceylon. From the 8th
to the 11th August the two squadrons were in sight of one another,
but so convinced was Peyton of the inferiority of his squadron that
he not only avoided action but sailed away to Bengal. La Bourdonnais
now returned to Pondicherry, picked up soldiers, and sailed for Madras
on the 15th August. The action of Peyton was again unpardonable,
for even if he felt too weak to engage the French at sea, he could
have contributed men and guns to the defence of Madras. The help his
mere presence on the coast would have afforded is proved by the fact
that when in the middle of the siege La Bourdonnais received a false
report of the appearance of large English ships, he was preparing to
re-embark his men. But the French commander was not one of those who
are to be drawn off by mere rumours. He waited for confirmation, and
when it did not come, he pushed the siege, and the place surrendered
on the 29th September. This event and its consequences, the breach of
the capitulation made by La Bourdonnais and the seizure of the town
by Dupleix, were the beginning of the great fight between the two
companies. At the change of the monsoon in October, which suspended
naval operations for sailing ships, La Bourdonnais returned to his own
government in the islands, and appeared no more in those seas. He was
compelled to return home, was accused of corruption by his opponents
of the company, and died ruined and broken-hearted. Once more our best
help came from our enemy.

In the following year, 1747, Peyton was superseded by Rear-Admiral
Griffin, who is accused of treating his predecessor with great
brutality. It is very possible, for Griffin was one of the bad officers
who then infested our navy, insolently tyrannical to his subordinates,
and shy before the enemy. His own conduct was no better than Peyton’s,
for he allowed M. de Bouvet, with a much inferior squadron from
Mauritius, to revictual the French garrison of Madras, and did nothing
against him either coming or going.

Now, however, the East Indies began to profit by the revival of
energy and intelligence at the Admiralty. A squadron of ten ships,
of which six were of the line, was sent out at the end of 1747 under
the command of Edward Boscawen, one of the new race of officers who
were being brought forward by Anson and Bedford. Boscawen owed much
to family influence, for he was a brother of the Viscount Falmouth,
who once cowed a recalcitrant secretary of state by significantly
saying, “Remember, sir, we are seven,” that being the number of pocket
boroughs owned by the Boscawen family. But the admiral was a man of
ability, who would have won promotion at any time when it was to be won
by merit. He sailed in November, but did not reach Fort St. Davids,
which since the loss of Madras had become the Company’s chief station
on the Coromandel coast, till the 29th July 1748. The length of the
voyage was due partly to delay at the Cape to recruit the health of
the crews and partly to an unsuccessful attempt to land at Mauritius.
The force collected under Boscawen was the greatest seen as yet in
eastern waters, for it consisted of ten English line-of-battle ships,
and five smaller vessels, together with armed vessels belonging to
our own Company and the Dutch. The French had nothing to oppose to
this armament on the sea, and as the admiral had brought 1500 soldiers
with him, it would seem that it ought to have been easy to sweep the
French from the coast of Coromandel altogether. But the military forces
were of inferior quality, consisting of independent companies raised
for the service of the Company, and had as yet no military spirit.
The scientific branches, and in particular the engineers who were of
the first importance for siege work, were very poor. The siege of
Pondicherry, undertaken in revenge for the capture of Madras, was badly
managed, and turned out a complete failure. Boscawen, who directed
the operations on shore, was no general, and was badly served by his
engineers. A bombardment by the fleet took place on the 26th September,
but it was little better than a farce, for the shallow water made it
impossible for our ships to approach near enough for their fire to
be effective. At a later period in the fighting in the Carnatic the
Company’s soldiers found that they were being fired at with the cannon
balls then wasted on Pondicherry. After lasting from the 8th August to
the 30th September, after not a few panics among the raw soldiers of
the army and the sailors landed to work the guns, the siege was raised
with a loss of 1065 Europeans.

Peace had now been made in Europe, and Madras was restored in return
for Louisbourg. The war indeed was only beginning between the
Companies, but henceforward it was carried on ashore, and in the name
of the native princes. Boscawen returned in the following year.



CHAPTER V

THE SEVEN YEARS’ WAR TILL 1758

 AUTHORITIES.—See Chapter IV.; Mr. J. Corbett, _Seven Years’ War_;
     Barrow, _Anson_ and _Howe_.


It may appear that I have given undue prominence to the corruption and
bad spirit of the navy in these years. But the insistence has been
deliberate, for the great work which had to be done from 1744 onwards,
for a generation, was to raise the standard of conduct expected from
officers, not only by public opinion working from without, but by their
own code of honour working within the ranks of the service. This would
only be effected by bringing forward new men. If rules and regulations
could have saved the navy from discredit and mismanagement, it had
all it needed in the code of the Duke of York. The evil lay not in
the laws but the men. Till they were better there was no real hope of
reform. That one was wanted was beyond all question. In 1749 Sandwich,
now First Lord, acting perhaps at the instigation, and certainly with
the hearty approval, of Anson, made an Admiralty visitation of the
dockyards. It was the first ever held by the Lords of the Admiralty or
even by the administrative officers of the Navy Board. According to
Sir John Barrow, who condensed the report in his life of Anson, they,
_i.e._ the Lords of the Admiralty, “found the men generally idle,
the officers ignorant, the stores ill-arranged, abuses of all kinds
overlooked, the timber ill-assorted, that which was longest in store
being undermost, the Standing Orders neglected, the ships in ordinary
in a very dirty and bad condition, filled with women and children,
and that the officers of the yard had not visited them, which it was
their duty to do; that men were found borne and paid as officers who
had never done duty as such, for which their Lordships reprimanded the
Navy Board through the comptroller; that the store-keepers’ accounts
were many years in arrear, and, what was most extraordinary, that
the Navy Board had never required them;—in short, gross negligence,
irregularities, waste, and embezzlement were so palpable, that their
Lordships ordered an advertisement to be set in the various parts of
the yards, offering encouragement and protection to such as should
discover any misdemeanours, committed either by the officers or
workmen, particularly in employing workmen or labourers, on their
private affairs, or in any other abuse whatever.”

The abuses noted, and for a time amended by the Commission of James I.
and by James II., had sprung up again to their old height under the
favour of negligence and self-seeking at headquarters. It was idle to
hope to deal with these evils by sporadic visitations and encouragement
to the common informer. What was wanted was constant watching, and it
was long before this was supplied. Lord Sandwich’s visitation was not
repeated, and it was not till 1770 that Sir Edward Hawke ordered one
to be held every two years. Even this measure proved of little effect,
and the first years of the nineteenth century were reached before the
old element of slovenly corruption had become intolerable and Lord St.
Vincent was able to begin a thorough reform.

The preliminary to cleaning out the dockyards was the bringing of the
navy’s combatant branches up to the due level. It was a matter of life
and death for England that this should be done. The great weakness of
France at sea and the decadence of Spain, allowed us to escape disaster
in the War of the Austrian Succession. The same conditions were
repeated in the war which began in 1755. But if we had met the great
American War in 1778 with the navy in the condition in which it was in
1739, and then had been called upon to face the revived naval power of
France, the somewhat improved navy of Spain and the Dutch, irreparable
disaster must have followed. We could not have endured that strain with
Mathews, Lestock, Vernon, Knowles, Griffin, Peyton, Cornelius Mitchell,
Watson, and Elton.

In 1746 the Government took steps to regulate promotion to flag rank.
It had hitherto been the custom to select the officers for the higher
commands from any place in the list of captains, though they were
naturally taken from towards the top. The captains passed over were
left in the same rank and on their scanty half pay of ten or eight
shillings a day. Though the state was undoubtedly entitled to take
competent men where it could find them, it was felt that this practice
of passing over old officers who might have to serve under juniors, or
were left in poverty, inflicted a hardship. It also had the obvious
drawback that it left the list of captains crowded with men who were
beyond work. An Order in Council, issued on the 3rd June 1747, decided
that when old officers in the rank of captain were passed over by the
promotion of the younger men to flag rank, they were to “be appointed
by commissions from the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to be
rear-admirals in general terms.” The effect of the order was this.
The active list of admirals consisted of those who belonged to one of
the squadrons—Red, White, or Blue. When then a captain was meant to
serve at sea he was promoted Rear-Admiral of the Blue. The captains
senior to him were named merely rear-admirals. This gave them no right
to command. They were superannuated with a rear-admiral’s pension,
in order that they might “retire with honour and have a competent
subsistence in their old age.” It was the introduction of the modern
system of allowing men to retire with a rank above that which they
hold when their active service ends. The benefits of the order were
limited to old officers who had served at sea since the beginning of
the war with Spain in 1739, but the hardship inflicted on those not so
qualified was confined to one generation. In future the old officer
who was passed over because of his “great age and other infirmities”
knew that he would “retire with honour.” The disadvantage of the system
was that when the state wished to reach some capable officer well down
on the list it had to make a great addition to what is now called the
non-effective vote, that is to the pensioned men who are doing no work.
But the advantages of putting a stop to an old grievance, of giving
security and content to the officers, and of enabling the Admiralty to
bring on younger men, were cheaply bought at this price.

Another piece of work taken in hand was the improvement of the quality
of the ships. The inferiority of our vessels was seen so soon as they
came to be compared with the Spanish and French. Inquiry showed that
though schemes had been drawn up in 1706 and 1719, and attempts had
been made to improve the ships later, they had all been habitually
neglected. Our vessels had been built, not only on bad principles, but
not on any regular scale, so that vessels of the same rate were of
different sizes, and the fittings of one could not be used for another.
Here as elsewhere there was waste. A new scheme was made in 1746 and
modified in 1751 without bringing complete amendment.

The scandals of the navy had also shown the necessity for a revision of
the laws regulating the discipline of the service. Hitherto the Navy
Discipline Act had been that passed in the thirteenth year of Charles
II. (1661). It conferred the right of holding courts martial, but under
inconvenient limitations. The jurisdiction of the court was confined
to offences committed on the high seas, and in the main rivers of His
Majesty’s possessions below bridges. There was thus no power to punish
offences committed ashore or in foreign countries. This was conferred
in 1720, and some further amendments were made in 1745 and 1748. The
worst defects of the old system remained and they were serious. The
power to hold a court martial was given only to the commander-in-chief,
that is the admiral or captain acting as commodore, with a separate
command. If he died, or was compelled to come home by bad health,
another commission had to be sent out to his successor. When Vernon
came home from the West Indies, his successor, Sir Chaloner Ogle, was
left for a whole year without power to hold a court martial, as the
first vessel sent out with his commission was captured. Neither could
the power be delegated by the commander-in-chief to any officer whom
he detached. It was alleged in the course of the debates in Parliament
in 1749 that, during the late war, a captain serving on the coast of
Portugal had put his first lieutenant in irons. He went into Lisbon
where there were several other warships, and the imprisoned officer
applied for a court martial, but as the commander-in-chief was not
present none could be held. The vessel left for England with the first
lieutenant still in irons. On her way a French man-of-war was met. The
captain then gave such visible proofs of derangement of mind, that the
other officers shut him in his cabin and released the first lieutenant
who took command of the ship. When she reached home an inquiry was
made, and it was found that the captain was insane.

In another respect there was room for amendment. The commander-in-chief
was himself president of the court, which consisted of all the
post-captains in sight when the court-martial flag was hoisted.
The want of a limitation in the number made the tribunal often
of a most unwieldy size. It was also obviously in the power of a
commander-in-chief to pack a court, by sending away all the captains
whom he could not trust to acquit or condemn “by order.” As he was the
only authorised president he was there to give the order himself. When
it is remembered that every admiral had then, and afterwards, a number
of “followers,” officers who had served under him, and whom he always
made interest to have with him, and who for their part looked to him
to push their fortunes, when too we remember the brutal temper of such
men as Mathews, Lestock, and Griffin, it will be seen that this was no
imaginary danger, indeed bitter complaints were made of the partiality
of the courts martial.

The new act of 1749—the 22nd George II.—corrected these defects. It
provided that the right to hold courts martial should go with the
command, thereby removing the risk of such a break as occurred in the
case of Vernon and Ogle, and that it could be delegated to officers
commanding detachments. Further, it took away the right to act as
president from the commander-in-chief and gave it to the second in
command. It limited the number of officers sitting in the court to not
less than five, or more than thirteen. It also limited the court’s
power of inflicting imprisonment for any offence to two years, and for
contempt to a month. The cases of the master of the =Northumberland=
and of Lieutenant Frye of the Marines had no doubt their share in
bringing about this change.

The most famous of the alterations made in 1749 was that inserted
in the 12th and 13th articles of the Articles of War which were
incorporated in the Act. The 12th article provides the punishment to
be inflicted “on Every Person in the Fleet who through Cowardice,
Negligence, or Disaffection, shall in Time of Action withdraw or
hold back, or not come into the fight or Engagement, or shall not do
his utmost to take or destroy every ship which it shall be his Duty
to engage, and to assist and relieve all and every of his Majesty’s
Ships or those of his Allies which it shall be his duty to assist and
relieve.” The 13th Article deals with him who hangs back in chase or
does not “relieve or assist a known Friend in View to the utmost of his
Power.” Originally the court had a discretion, but by the terms of the
new Act the only punishment a court martial could inflict was death. At
a later period the severity of this penalty was considered excessive,
and in 1779 the power to inflict a lesser penalty was restored to the
court martial, but in 1749 Parliament had just heard from the mouth
of Vernon that the savage punishment of poor young Baker Philipps was
just, and it knew how austere the court had been with humble James
Dixon, the master of the =Northumberland=. It also knew what bowels of
compassion had been found for the captains of Toulon and for Lestock
and Mitchell. If Parliament was resolved that what was law for obscure
and friendless men should also be law for the chiefs of the navy, it
may have been stern but it was not unjust. The Bill was introduced by
ministers who had the advice of Anson, and we may fairly conclude that
he did not disapprove of the change.

From 1748 to 1756 the country remained at peace, but it was of the
kind compatible with continuous “military operations.” Both in the
East Indies and on the continent of North America and among the
islands of the West Indies, the British Government of that time had
to deal with a more violent version of what we have seen happen in
our day in the valleys of the Nile and the Congo. The main outlines
of the struggle were given at the beginning of the last chapter. On
the frontier of Nova Scotia the two states were in peculiar contact
of irritation. The frontier had never been clearly marked, and the
French strove to delimit it in their own favour by a characteristic
mixture of pertinacious diplomatic pettifogging and violence. In
the East the intrigues of Dupleix with the native princes of the
Carnatic aimed at ruining the commerce of the English company by
cutting off the establishments on the coast of Coromandel from access
to the interior. On the continent of America the seventy thousand
or so French in Canada and Louisiana were incessantly endeavouring,
not only to recover the greater part of Nova Scotia, but to bar the
million and a half of English settlers from access to the valleys
of the Ohio and the Mississippi. Resolute action on the part of the
British Government would probably have averted war, but the Duke of
Newcastle, who was the prevailing politician of the day, was intent on
Parliamentary management. The king too was rendered nervous by fears
for his hereditary dominions in Hanover. From sheer want of vigorous
direction on our own part we drifted, through a succession of small
conflicts, into open though unavowed war in 1755, and into formally
declared war in 1756. The situation was that of 1739, with differences.
Then we had begun with the Spaniards, and had only come into collision
with the French later on. Spain, in this case, did not intervene till
the very close, and in an hour of folly. Once again, too, France became
entangled in a great European land war, and was unable to devote her
whole attention to the sea. We engaged in the land war as allies of
Frederick of Prussia and in defence of Hanover, but our main attention
was devoted to the sea and to our colonies.

The first serious hostile movement made by the British Government was
directed towards the East. The India Company had soon occasion to
regret that it had parted so easily with Boscawen’s squadron. In 1753
it was calling on the Government for naval help, and in February 1755
a squadron was despatched under the command of Rear-Admiral Charles
Watson. It was delayed at Kinsale by a storm, and two vessels were
seriously damaged. They were replaced, and Watson reached Bombay in
November with four sail of the line, and two small vessels. He brought
a reinforcement of troops and Colonel Clive. His first piece of
service was not against the French. The Royal Navy was now beginning
to take permanent hold on the Eastern seas. No more pressing duty
awaited it than to put a stop to piracy. This had always flourished
on the western or Malabar coast of India, and had never been
effectually checked by the Portuguese, the Dutch, or by ourselves.
By far the most formidable of these pirates belonged to a branch of
the Mahrattas, which had gained possession of the island of Geriah,
had become independent, and had transferred its native practice of
robbery from the land to the sea. These pirate Mahrattas infested
the coast in vessels called “grabs” and “gallivats”—the first a
species of magnified lighter armed with guns, the second light rowing
and sailing galleys. Sporadic attacks had been made on them by the
company, and by occasional ships of the Royal Navy. Mathews had served
against them. But hitherto nothing effectual had been done. In 1755
the presence of a well-appointed squadron and of a disposable body of
troops encouraged the company’s agents at Bombay to make an effort to
root out the pirates of Geriah. On the 7th of February 1756 Watson
sailed from Bombay, carrying the soldiers under command of Clive with
him, and in co-operation with a body of Mahratta troops supplied by
one of the princes of that nation, who wished to reduce Angria, the
chief of the pirate state, to obedience. They proved to be of little
value, for they were chiefly intent on plunder, and had secretly more
sympathy with their piratical kinsmen than with their allies. Angria
showed little spirit. The vigour of Admiral Watson who battered down
the fortifications of Geriah on the 12th February, and the firmness of
Clive who took possession of the place, disappointed the Mahrattas. Our
squadron and the troops divided £150,000 of prize money.

On the 30th April Watson and Clive went on from the coast of Malabar to
that of Coromandel on the east. By the 20th June they reached Madras.
The French Government, not being as yet ready for war, had recalled
Dupleix and had brought a pause in the conflict of the companies.
Watson’s next service was to carry Clive to Bengal to revenge the
Black Hole of Calcutta, and to begin the conquest of India. But as
this service became rapidly connected with the war against France, and
as the operations in the eastern seas lay very much apart, I shall
turn from them till they can be taken up again, and connected with the
general movements of the world-wide conflict.

While Admiral Watson’s squadron was recruiting from its long voyage at
Bombay, warlike operations, the forerunners of open war, were beginning
on the Atlantic. The appeals of the colonists who found themselves
unable to expel the French from the post they had established on
the Ohio—Fort Duquesne on the site of what is now Pittsburg—had at
last induced the British Government to take action. In December 1754
Commodore Keppel, a gentleman of the Albemarle family, who had sailed
as midshipman with Anson and was destined to play a prominent part in
coming years, left the Downs with a body of troops under command of
Braddock. The expedition reached Hampton Roads by the 20th February
1755. Its disastrous end, in an ill-planned and worse-directed attack
on Fort Duquesne in July of this year, is a well-known episode of
our colonial history. The sending of Braddock stimulated the French
Government to reinforce its garrisons in Canada. On the 3rd May of
1755 the Lieutenant-General Count de Macnémara sailed from Brest with
nine sail of the line fully armed and seven frigates. He had under his
protection eleven sail of the line fitted as transports and full of
troops. These vessels were armed with 24 or 22 guns only, or as the
French expression has it, _en flûte_. To be armed _en flûte_ was to be
armed like a flyboat with guns only on the upper deck. Macnémara saw
his charge well out into the ocean, and then returned to Brest with six
of the liners and three of the frigates. The other warships and the
transports held on to Canada under the command of Dubois de Lamotte.

Meanwhile the news that the French were in motion stirred the British
Government to counter action. Boscawen was ordered to sail for America
with instructions to intercept the French by force. He left on the
27th April, with eleven sail of the line, and two small vessels. After
he had gone the cabinet received further reports which gave them an
exaggerated idea of the French strength. Admiral Holburne was ordered
to follow Boscawen with six sail of the line, and a frigate. He left
on the 11th May, and joined his chief on the banks of Newfoundland on
the 20th June. But Boscawen had already failed to stop the French.
When Dubois de Lamotte approached Newfoundland he divided his squadron
and convoy into two. One division was steered to enter St. Lawrence
by the Straits of Belleisle, on the north of Newfoundland. The other
took the commonly used route to the south between Cape Ray and Cape
Breton. Boscawen had stationed himself off Cape Ray. On the 9th June
the French were sighted, but the weather was foggy and covered them
soon from view. Next day the fog lifted for a space, and three of the
French ships were seen. They were the _Alcide_, 64, the _Lys_, armed
_en flûte_ with 22 guns, and the _Dauphin Royal_, another of the
man-of-war transports. The _Alcide_ was commanded by M. d’Hocquart who
had already been twice prisoner of war to Boscawen. In 1744, when he
was captain of the _Medée_, 26, he had been taken by the =Dreadnought=.
This was Boscawen’s first ship, and from it he got his name of “Old
Dreadnought” among the sailors. Again M. d’Hocquart had struck to
Boscawen in Anson’s battle of 3rd May 1747. When the English officer
commanded the =Namur= and he himself the _Diamant_, M. d’Hocquart’s
ill fortune pursued him. The _Alcide_ was overhauled, hailed by Howe
in the =Dunkirk=, 60, and told to stop. The French captain asked
whether it was peace or war, and was told that he had better prepare
for war. D’Hocquart made all the defence he could, but the =Dunkirk=
was reinforced by Boscawen’s ship, the =Torbay=, 74, and he became a
prisoner for the third time. The _Lys_ was taken by the =Defiance=, and
the =Fougueux=. The _Dauphin Royal_ escaped in the fog. No other prizes
were taken, so that Dubois de Lamotte carried two fully armed liners,
three frigates, and ten transports with their men and stores safe into
the French American ports. Boscawen’s expedition was therefore, in the
main, a failure. The jail fever was raging in his squadron. It had
been manned, according to old custom, in haste on the approach of war,
by the press, from the slums and the prisons. Boscawen took his ships
to Halifax in the hope of restoring the health of his crews, but with
the result that he infected the town. Meanwhile the French commanders,
finding the coast clear, sailed for home on the 15th August and reached
Brest on the 21st September. Boscawen returned in the autumn, reaching
England in November.

While fighting had begun in America we were at home in a state of
war which was no war. The Duke of Newcastle was driven by dread
of unpopularity to appear to do something. The country, thoroughly
persuaded that the time had come when it must make the decisive fight
for its trade and colonies, was burning for war. But continental
complications, and above all his own vacillating timid character, made
Newcastle shrink from vigorous action. There was indeed an immense
bustle of preparation. Ships were ordered into commission by the
score from the beginning of the year, and the work of putting the
fleet on a war footing was accompanied by the inseparable offers of
bounty and press-warrants. On the 23rd January 1755 there came out
one proclamation offering a bounty of thirty shillings to every able
seaman between twenty and fifty years of age who would volunteer, and
twenty shillings to every ordinary seaman. On the 8th February another
followed recalling all seamen serving abroad, and raising the bounties
to £3 and £2, while the common informer was stimulated by rewards of
£2 to whomsoever would tell where an able seaman was in hiding, and of
£1, 10s. to the betrayer of an ordinary. A hot press went on in all
the ports. The war was a merchants’ war, and the traders of London
and the outports offered bounties in addition to those given by the
state. By this combination of persuasion and force the fleet was manned
after a fashion. Yet the mere fact that the competition for men sent
up the wages of merchant seamen by leaps and bounds made the work
of filling up the warships very difficult. It was necessary to have
recourse to the prisoners in the jails, who were allowed to volunteer
into the navy, or were sent there as punishment. Parliament suspended
the provisions of the Navigation Laws, which limited the number of
foreigners who could serve in a British ship to one-fourth. It even
tempted them to serve under our flag by allowing them to obtain letters
of naturalisation at the end of two years, instead of the usual limit
of eight. By this act the Crown was empowered to suspend the manning
clauses of the Navigation Laws whenever war should break out in future.

The dire need for men led to the adoption of two measures, one of
private enterprise, which did good work in its time, one administrative
of which we feel the benefit to this day. In 1756 was founded the
Marine Society. This body was formed to take charge of destitute
boys, whom it fed, clothed, and sent into the navy, where they were
trained as seamen. The spring of 1755 is a notable epoch in the history
of the Royal Navy, for it saw the foundation of the present corps of
Marines. The regiments raised hitherto had always been “disbanded”
or “broken” at the end of the wars. They had never held a properly
settled position, and there had been a constant tendency to rob the
force of its best men by rating them as able seamen so soon as they
had been long enough at sea to learn the business. At the end of the
War of the Austrian Succession the Duke of Cumberland had recommended
the formation of a permanent military corps to be placed entirely
under the authority of the Admiralty. Nothing, however, was done till
the 3rd April 1755, when the Lords Justices, who governed during the
absence of the king in Hanover, issued a warrant authorising the
formation of fifty companies of one hundred men each, which were to
have their headquarters at Chatham, Portsmouth, and Plymouth. The value
of the Marines (the title Royal was not granted till 1802) was rapidly
demonstrated, and their numbers were increased. Thirty companies were
added before the end of 1755. Twenty more were ordered to be raised in
July 1756, and another thirty in March 1757. Two years later, on 3rd
March 1759, one lieutenant, one corporal, one drummer, and twenty-three
privates were added to every company. By the end of the war the total
strength of the force was 18,000.

All this stress of preparation was presided over by mere infirmity
of will. In July the Ministry, still guided by Newcastle, sent Sir
Edward Hawke to sea with twenty-one sail of the line, but with no
definite orders to begin hostilities. He was told to intercept a French
squadron from the West Indies and to capture French merchant ships.
The squadron put into Cadiz, got warning which enabled it to avoid the
English fleet, and reached Brest safely. But 300 merchant ships manned
by 8000 men were taken, and carried into our ports. This seizure of
trading ships in a time of nominal peace gave the French Government
an opportunity to denounce us to Europe as pirates. Many Englishmen
thought it would have been more for our honour to make war openly,
since we were about making it at all. Yet the French had little right
to complain after the example they had set in India and America. The
vessels were not condemned as prize, and as they were largely loaded
with fish their cargoes rotted, so that it was necessary to tow them
out to sea and sink them. Hawke returned to port, ill pleased with the
work he had been set to do, and was replaced in the Channel command
by Admiral Byng. Then Byng was sent out to convince the country that
something was being done. He took a French line-of-battle ship, the
_Esperance_, but still war was not proclaimed. The French Government
professed a wish to keep the peace. Yet at the end of 1755 and the
beginning of 1756 it marched troops down to the Channel. As the Duke of
Newcastle had succeeded for a time in infecting the nation with his own
cowardice, we were thrown into an unutterably shameful panic by fear
of invasion, though we had a powerful fleet in commission at home, and
the French had not the means of fitting out a dozen ships at Brest.
Under cover of this diversion the French invaded Minorca in April. Then
at last the Government was brought to confess that war was war. Our
proclamation appeared on the 17th May, and was answered by the French
on the 9th of June.

The panic of the country in the early months of 1756 was to some extent
justified. Yet its underlying belief, that if it could only find a
man to rule it had the strength to assert its maritime and colonial
supremacy, was well founded. In point of mere material force the navy
was far superior to the French. At the beginning of 1756 we had,
including the 50-gun ships which were still counted as fit to lie in
a line of battle, 142 liners. The smaller vessels were 125, taking
frigates and sloops together. When the bombs, fireships, and other
craft such as hospital ships were included, the total was 320. The
quality of our vessels, though still not all it ought to have been, had
improved greatly under the new establishment of 1745. The discipline of
the navy had bettered with the vessels. Some of the old leaven still
remained, and in one respect much was left to be done. We had yet to
learn how shameful it was that a fine squadron should be paralysed by
disease as Boscawen’s had been. But we were on the right path. The
intellect of the navy was awake, and was beginning to apply itself to
improving its armament and its discipline. There was as yet no revolt
against the Fighting Orders.

Want of numbers was the least of the evils which weighed on our enemy.
In 1754 the navy of France included only 60 line-of-battle ships. Of
these, 8 were in need of thorough repair, and 4 were still in the
stocks. During the brief administration of M. de Rouille efforts
were made to reinforce this list. Fifteen new line-of-battle ships
were launched by 1756. We may suppose that they included the vessels
building in 1754. If the eight in need of repair were thoroughly
overhauled by the same date, this would give France 71 line-of-battle
ships. But the French did not include the 50-gun ships, of which they
had 10, in the list, and they had therefore about 81 vessels to oppose
to our 142. Of ships of 20 to 44 guns they had only some 40 to oppose
to our 83. Their navy was therefore about one-half as numerous as ours.
It must be remembered that at this time France still held Canada and
important stations on the coast of Coromandel. She was under the same
obligations as ourselves to scatter her forces all over the world, and
that with the prospect of being everywhere outnumbered. With such a
task to overcome, the French had need of the very highest efficiency in
every branch of the naval service. But their navy had as much to seek
in quality as in quantity. The corrupt and careless government of Louis
XV. had allowed the storehouses to become nearly empty. During the
years of peace no attempt had been made to give the officers practice.
In 1756 it was calculated that of 914 officers 700 had nothing to do
except mount guard for twenty-four hours in the dockyards eight or
ten times a year. The old feud between the Pen and the Sword—that is,
the civil and military branches of the navy—raged furiously. On the
ships there was mutual hostility between the officers of the regular
corps and the supplementary officers taken in on the outbreak of war,
and known as _officiers bleus_. None of the corporations of the old
French monarchy was more aristocratic or more jealous than the _Corps
de la marine_. The so-called despotic King of France had far less
power of choosing his officers than the constitutional King of Great
Britain. M. de Rouille endeavoured to revive the professional spirit
of the officers, dulled by years of dawdling about the dockyards, by
establishing the Académie de la marine, with the well-known writer on
tactics, Bigot de Morogue, as its first head. But it was years before
this could bear fruit, and France began the Seven Years’ War with all
the conditions internal and external against her. How came it, then,
that her navy was not mewed up in port at once? The answer is easy.
Because the British Navy had its arms tied behind its back by the
incapacity of the men who ruled, till Pitt freed it.

The first great operation of the war was conducted under a fatal
combination of administrative stupidity in London and of the old
leaven in the fleet. Reports that the French were preparing a powerful
squadron at Toulon began to reach England before the end of 1755. The
orders to prepare had been given in August, but in the destitution
of the French dockyards eight months passed before it was ready. The
boasted _classes_ failed to produce men, and the French were driven to
offers of bounty, and to attempts to recruit Italian sailors at Genoa.
It was long before the urgent representations of our Consul at Genoa,
and of General Blakeney at Minorca, could make the Ministry see that
the island was in danger. Blakeney was a gallant old Anglo-Irishman
born in 1672, who had fought against the Rapparees in 1690, and served
under King William and Marlborough, had been at Carthagena with Vernon,
and had defended Stirling Castle against the Jacobites in the ’45. He
commanded the place, though bedridden with gout, in the absence of Lord
Tyrawley the Governor, who according to the easy practice of the day
drew his salary at home. It was not less characteristic of the time
that many officers of this threatened garrison were absent on leave
when the French invaded the island.

Richelieu landed with 14,000 men at Ciudadela on the 19th April. After
many delays and much confusion, the Ministry had at last been brought
to see that Minorca was in danger, and a squadron of ten ships had
sailed to relieve it on the 6th April. The command of the squadron was
given to an officer whose name has a tragic interest unique in the long
list of British admirals. John Byng was the fourth son of that George
Byng, Viscount Torrington, whose active subordinate share in the
Revolution of 1688, and command in the Mediterranean in 1718, have been
already mentioned. The son was born in 1704, and had gone to sea at
the age of thirteen. He served under his father at the battle of Cape
Passaro, and became post-captain at the age of twenty-three. He had
gained no distinction, nor had he sought any, on those remote unhealthy
stations where the most arduous work of the navy was being done. His
portrait is that of a handsome, refined, but plump and easy-going young
man, and compares ill with his father’s. George Byng has the lean,
eager face of one who though of gentle birth had to climb by his own
efforts. John Byng has the air of one whose father was born before
him, and who did not rise, but was carried up with no effort of his
own by the fortune another had made. He had sat in Parliament, and had
not escaped the corrupting influence of the factious, selfish, jobbing
spirit of the political world of his generation.

Byng was selected to carry the reliefs to Minorca on the 11th March,
but nearly a month passed before he sailed. Though we had a great fleet
commissioned and commissioning, much difficulty was found in manning
the ten ships assigned him for the service. The Admiralty refused to
draft men from well-manned vessels on the ground that they were needed
at home. Some part of the blame for this must be put on Anson and
Boscawen, who were on the Board. The great responsibility lay on the
mere politicians and borough-mongers whose folly was paralysing the
strength of England, but it must be confessed that Anson in dealing
with political chiefs and colleagues did not show the courage he had
never failed to display in fighting the storm or the broadsides of the
enemy. As Byng was to reinforce the garrison of Minorca, he carried
with him both the officers who were at home on leave and Lord Robert
Bertie’s regiment of foot. By a piece of blundering, for which Anson
cannot be held blameless, the marines were landed to make room for the
soldiers. If now they were landed in Minorca, the squadron, already ill
manned, would have been dangerously weakened. As the French were known
to have a fleet at sea, Byng was thus put at a serious disadvantage,
and an angry sense of ill-treatment rankled in his mind, not
unnaturally, but fatally, for it had a share in causing him to adopt a
line of conduct which brought discredit to his country and a shameful
death to himself. It never occurred to him that if he beat the enemy’s
fleet soundly he could safely land the soldiers who had taken the place
of his marines.

His orders were dated the 1st April. He was told to sail to the Straits
of Gibraltar. If on arriving there he heard that the French had sent
vessels into the Atlantic bound for America, he was to detach part of
his squadron under his second in command, Rear-Admiral Temple West, to
follow them, and proceed with the remainder to Minorca. If he found
that the island was being attacked, he was to render what help he
could, and if not, then to blockade Toulon. There is a certain futility
in these orders, for they take no notice of the contingency that even
if Byng was able to beat off the French warships, or found none to
fight, the relief he brought might not be sufficient to enable Blakeney
to resist the troops already landed under Richelieu. But he would do
much if he could cut the French off from Toulon, and however feeble the
measures of ministers may have been, it was not the less his duty to do
his utmost. Byng, unhappily for himself, and for us, drew the strange
deduction, that since he was not supplied with the means of relieving
the garrison altogether, he was justified in making a feeble use of his
ships. Orders were also sent to General Fowke, who was in command at
Gibraltar, to spare a part of his garrison for Minorca if he felt that
he could part with them safely.

The voyage out to Gibraltar was tedious. It was not till the 2nd May
that Byng reached the Rock, where he was joined by Commodore Edgcumbe
with the =Princess Louisa=, 60, and the =Fortune= sloop, part of a
small squadron which had been cruising in the neighbourhood of Minorca
when it was invaded. The =Deptford=, 50, and the =Portland=, 50, joined
shortly afterwards. At Gibraltar Byng also heard of the landing of
the French, of their strength, and of the distressed position of the
English garrison shut up in Fort St. Philip, at the mouth of Mahon
Harbour. On the 4th May he sent off a dispatch which is of extreme
importance as illustrating the state of mind he was in, and as
explaining his conduct. In it he says:—

 “If I had been so happy as to have arrived at Mahon before the French
 had landed, I flatter myself I would have been able to have prevented
 their setting foot on that island; but, as it has so unfortunately
 turned out, I am firmly of opinion, from the great force they have
 landed, and the quantity of provisions, stores and ammunition of all
 kinds they have brought with them, that the throwing men into the
 castle, will only enable it to hold out a little longer time, and add
 to the number that must fall into the enemy’s hands; for the garrison
 in time will be obliged to surrender, unless a sufficient number of
 men could be landed to dislodge the French or raise the siege.”

After thus declaring that all efforts must be useless, he promised to
go on to Minorca to do what he could, and in case it should turn out
to be nothing, then he would return to Gibraltar to cover that place.
This letter, which was sent home overland, gives the measure of the
man. It may be compared with the letter which Herbert had sent up
to London on first sighting Tourville’s fleet off the Isle of Wight
in 1690. Both men were plainly under the influence of a mischievous
delight on contemplating the embarrassment which a national disaster
would be likely to bring on the ministers who had sent them out with
insufficient fleets. Herbert had the excuse that he was in the presence
of a much superior force. Byng makes no mention of inability to fight
the French fleet. He was prepared to retire without a battle if he
could not get security that the French troops would also be driven off
by the reinforcement he had brought, and this he had already declared
to be impossible. In the same letter he speaks of the chance that the
French would come on to Gibraltar when they had got all the vessels
ready they possibly could. He neither contemplated the possibility of
attempting to beat them in detail before they were all ready, nor the
effect likely to be produced on Richelieu if his communications with
France were cut. Yet a strong fort open to relief from the sea might
have made a prolonged defence, and could have given time for further
reinforcements from England. When they arrived, the total surrender of
the French would be inevitable. It was natural that when this letter
reached England the Ministry concluded that Byng did not mean to exert
himself to relieve Minorca, and that foreseeing a disaster, they took
measures to turn popular rage against the admiral. They would have been
more than human if they had not, and Byng was a foolish man indeed if
he did not know that they were very basely human.

The squadron, now increased from ten to thirteen sail, left Gibraltar
on the 8th May. General Fowke, with a weakness equal to Byng’s,
declined to part with more than 250 men. There had been councils and
confabulations of weak men, all ending in agreement that the enterprise
was hopeless. So Byng reluctantly approached “the post of the foe.”
On the 19th he was in sight of Minorca at the south-easterly point
where St. Philip stands at the mouth of the long land-locked harbour
of Mahon. The French fleet was not then in sight. The =Phœnix= frigate
commanded by Captain Hervey, with the =Chesterfield= and =Dolphin=,
were sent on ahead with the officers belonging to the garrison, and
orders to communicate with General Blakeney. Before they could reach
the harbour mouth the French fleet was sighted to the south-east,
and Byng recalled the frigates. It was an unnecessary measure, due
to excess of caution, for the frigates were not indispensable to the
fighting power of the fleet, and the military officers they carried
would have been of great value to the garrison.

The rest of the day passed in manœuvres, and without a battle. Byng’s
squadron was outsailed, but he showed no zeal to force on an action,
and confined himself to endeavouring to remain to windward. During
the night the fleets parted, and at daybreak were not in sight of one
another. They were from 30 to 40 miles off the island. It was hazy,
but cleared up about ten, when the enemy was seen a long way off to
the south-east. The wind was from the south-west. By midday the two
fleets were approaching one another, both close hauled, the French on
the port, the English on the starboard tack, in two lines forming an
obtuse angle. About one we weathered the head of the French line, and
Byng afterwards boasted of having gained the weather-gage. If he did it
by fair sailing, his ships cannot have been so inferior in quality to
the enemy as he pleaded they were when he had to excuse himself. As
the French habitually preferred to engage to leeward, which left their
line of retreat open, it is probable that he attributed to his own
skill what was the deliberate act of the enemy. About two o’clock the
English had passed to windward, and to the south of La Galissonière,
our last vessel being nearly abreast of his first. We were thirteen of
the line, and the French twelve. Being now in the position to force on
a battle, Byng brought his fleet round, all ships turning together, so
that we headed in the same general direction as the French, and ordered
the =Deptford= to leave the line so that we might be ship to ship
with the enemy. It was a strange action in an admiral who complained
bitterly of the inferiority of his fleet, but was doubtless due to mere
pedantry. Byng, who was a martinet in the fopperies of his profession,
had no idea of fighting a battle except by the orthodox pattern, van to
van, centre to centre, rear to rear, and having one ship more than his
opponent, did not know what to do with her. Here are the two fleets in
the order in which they engaged:—

 ENGLISH

 =Defiance=              60 Capt. Andrews.
 =Portland=              50  "    Baird.
 =Lancaster=             60  "    Edgcumbe.

 =Buckingham=      }
   (flagship of    }     68  "    Everitt.
   Admiral West)   }
 =Captain=               64  "    Catford.
 =Intrepid=              64  "    Young.

 =Revenge=               64  "    Cornwall.

 =Princess Louisa=       60  "    Noel.
 =Trident=               64  "    Durell.
 =Ramillies= (flagship}  90  "    Gardiner.
   of Byng)           }
 =Culloden=              74  "    Ward.

 =Kingston=              60  "    Parry.

 FRENCH

 _Lion_                  64 Capt. de Saint-Aignan.
 _Triton_                64  "    de Mercier.
 _Redoutable_   }
   (flagship of }
   Commodore    }        74  "    de Vilarzel.
   de Glandèvez)}
 _Orphée_                64  "    de Raymondis.

 _Fier_                  50  "    d’Herville.
 _Guerrier_              74  "    Villars de
                                    Labrosse.
 _Foudroyant_       }
   (flagship of     }    80  "    Froger de
   La Galissonière) }             l’Eguille.
 _Téméraire_             74  "    de Beaumont
                                  Lemaître.
 _Hippopotame_           50  "    Rochemore.
 _Content_               64  "    de Sabran
                                  Grammont.
 _Couronne_ (flagship }
   of Commodore       }  74  "    Gabanous.
   de La Clue)        }

 _Sage_                  64  "    Durevest.

When the order to engage was given, the fleets were not parallel, but on
lines converging to form an acute angle ahead of them. Thus the leading
English ship was nearer the leading ship of the French than the rear
was to their rear. So if each bore down on the Frenchman opposite to
it at the time, the vessels in the van would come into action first,
and would be exposed to a converging fire, while it would depend on the
enemy’s decision to stay still and be attacked, whether the centre and
rear of the English fleet ever got into action at all.

Admiral West came down on the Frenchmen briskly, and then hauled up
with the heads of his ships in the same direction as theirs. Meanwhile
the other English vessels were steering to come into action while
carefully preserving their relative positions to the vessels in the
van. In the French line vessels here and there stood out, and ran to
leeward. Our men cheered, thinking they had forced the enemy to flee,
but the movement was the result of design. As these vessels ran to
leeward, those astern “let all draw” and shot ahead. Thus a movement
in advance was given to the whole French line, and the distance which
the English ships of the centre and rear had to cover before reaching
their proper opponents was constantly increased. In any case, the
French admiral would almost certainly have succeeded in filing past the
leading English vessels, crippling their rigging, and then running down
to form a new line to leeward. But he was helped by a piece of bungling
in our squadron. The =Intrepid=, the sixth ship, lost her foretop-mast.
As she was before the wind, this ought to have been no great disaster,
but she was so badly steered that she came right round and lay across
the path of the following ship—the =Revenge=. According to all rule,
tradition, and honour, the =Revenge= ought to have passed between the
crippled =Intrepid= and the enemy—that is to leeward. But she tried to
pass to windward, could not do so, and then backed her topsail to stop
her way and prevent a collision. The vessels behind did the same thing,
and thus our fleet broke in two. The five ships ahead of the =Intrepid=
followed the enemy with Admiral West, while the others remained behind.
It was about this time that the flag-captain, Gardiner, pointed out
to Byng that if he stood out of his line he could bring the Frenchman
then running past him to closer action. The admiral answered that
Mathews had been broken for not taking his fleet down in a body, and
that he would not incur the same fate. Rather than offend against the
superstition of the line of battle, he would let the enemy get off
unhurt. La Galissonière did get off with little damage, leaving us with
three ships badly crippled in their rigging, and the whole fleet in
scandalous disorder.

So ended the battle of the 20th May. It was first and foremost an
example of what must happen so long as our navy continued to be bound
by the stupid pattern set up in the Fighting Instructions for all
actions against an enemy of equal, or approximately equal, force—so
long, in fact, as we continued to engage to windward, ship to ship,
leaving the enemy his line of retreat open, and depriving ourselves of
the power to push the attack home, by making it a rule to adhere to the
formation in which we began the fight. In these conditions decisive
results were not to be achieved. But Byng did ill even according to
this stupid model. He ought to have arranged his fleet parallel to the
enemy before he bore down, and he ought not to have begun firing, as
he did, when at such a distance that he could do no harm. Yet the lame
and impotent conclusion of the battle and his own bungling might both
have been forgiven, or even passed unnoticed, but for what followed.
The fleet was satisfied that it had made the enemy run, and the nation
would have been satisfied too, if there had been any effort to help
Fort St. Philip in the days following the battle. There was none.
For four days Byng loitered near the scene of the action, repairing
the vessels crippled on the 20th. He said it was not easy to do, and
indeed, from first to last, showed a marked disinclination to attempt
anything that was not “easy.” Then a council of war came to the
conclusion, which is always so welcome to weak men weakly led, that
nothing more could be done. The fleet returned to “cover” Gibraltar,
leaving Minorca to its fate. Before the complacent dispatch in which
Byng announced his decision could reach home, the news of the failure
had been given by La Galissonière’s boastful letter to his own king. It
was published in Paris, and sent on from thence. In truth the French
admiral was very nervous, constantly expecting the reappearance of the
English in superior force, and was only kept from retiring to Toulon by
the incessant driving of Richelieu. The honour both of the defence and
of the attack in this campaign belongs wholly to the soldiers. When the
result of the meeting of the two fleets was known, there burst out a
storm of rage of which the echoes can be heard to this day. It is not
pleasant to hear a people howling for the life of a man, whether he be
the great and terrible Strafford or poor, weak, self-satisfied John
Byng. The manifestations, too, were vulgar. The mob hanged the admiral
in effigy, the City of London sent deputations asking for his life, the
Prime Minister gabbled promises that he should be punished. Meanwhile
Byng had returned to Gibraltar on the 19th June. He found there a
reinforcement of five line-of-battle ships under Commodore Brodrick,
who had arrived on the 15th from England. Preparations were being made
to return to Mahon when Hawke came into Gibraltar to take command and
also to send Byng home for trial together with the witnesses. Fowke was
also recalled. The admiral heard of his supersession with unaffected,
or at any rate with remarkably well-simulated, indignation. He wrote
a furious self-laudatory letter on the 4th July, all but claiming a
statue for his exertions. On the 9th July he sailed a prisoner in the
=Antelope=, and reached England on the 19th August.

He was first imprisoned at Greenwich, and then sent to Portsmouth for
trial. In the sentimental reaction of coming years, it was said that he
could not expect fair treatment in the prevailing rage of the nation,
and that he was made a sacrifice by base-minded politicians. But nobody
can read the minutes of the court martial without seeing that the
admiral had a perfectly fair trial, and was condemned on his merits,
while the politicians who had an interest in securing his condemnation
had left office before the court martial began, and remained out till
after his execution. Newcastle had been replaced by the first short
administration of Pitt. The court martial began to sit on the 17th
December 1756, and sentence was given on the 28th February 1757. The
court found that the admiral had offended against the 12th Article in
that he had not done his utmost against the enemy. Therefore, though
it acquitted him of cowardice or disaffection, it found him guilty of
negligence, and condemned him to the only punishment it was authorised
to inflict, which was death. Attempts were made to save his life. The
House of Commons even passed a Bill to relieve the officers forming the
court martial from the obligation to preserve secrecy as to what had
passed in their private decision on the sentence. It was hoped that
they might have something to say which would avail the prisoner, but
when questioned by the House of Lords they could answer nothing to the
purpose. The Upper House rejected the Bill, and the admiral was shot
to death on the deck of the =Monarque= on the 14th March 1757. He died
with dignity, and protesting to the last he had been made a victim.

In the changes of things and in the usual reaction by which Englishmen
habitually atone for the fury of their rage, he came indeed to be
thought of as a victim, yet the sentence was just. Coward, in the sense
that he suffered from the pitiable cowardice which makes a man sick and
giddy at the approach of personal danger, he was not. Neither was he
disaffected, in the sense that he was scheming to upset the Government
he served. As these were the forms of cowardice and disaffection
contemplated by the Act, the court very properly acquitted him under
these heads. But he was a coward in the intellectual sense. Having a
dangerous piece of work to do, and one in which the very errors of
the Government rendered it only the more incumbent on him to make all
wants good by his own exertions, he thought chiefly of doing it at
the least risk, and was resigned to failure. The excuses he made were
pitiable. All through he insisted on the inferiority of his fleet.
Yet he had thirteen ships to twelve. It is true that the French were
better vessels, the _Foudroyant_ with her 80 guns, for instance, being
superior in real strength to the =Ramillies= with her 90. Yet the
_Foudroyant_ afterwards surrendered to a much smaller ship than the
=Ramillies=. He harped on the lesser weight of his guns, and it is true
that the 42-pounders carried on the lower deck of some French ships
were heavier than any of ours. Yet he had 834 guns to the Frenchman’s
806, and the 42-pounder was afterwards rejected from our navy as too
lumbering for ship-work. All through he kept insisting on the risk of
doing this or that, till he brought upon himself the scathing answer
of Blakeney: “I have served these sixty-three years, and I never knew
any enterprise undertaken without some danger; and this might have been
effected with as little danger as any I ever knew.” It was monstrous
that men should think they could make war without hazard. Therefore
the court justly found Byng guilty of “negligence,”—that is to say,
all that deficiency to do enough, all that hanging back from strenuous
effort, which are due to want of spirit, to a selfish regard of what
the soft-minded man thinks are the interests of his safety, to the
moral cowardice which falls short of mere physical poltroonery, and the
disaffection which stops on this side of deliberate treason. The law
had been made stern after the experience of the last war. Byng knew the
conditions of his servitude. They were in the Act by which he exercised
his own authority, and he sinned against the light.

Brutal as the wrath of the nation was, it was founded on a sound
sentiment. If England was to take her place in the world, there had to
be an end of Mathews and Lestock, of Peyton, Griffin, and Cornelius
Mitchell. Voltaire’s famous jest that the English shot an admiral to
encourage the others suffers from the worst defect a scoff can have.
He meant it for a _reductio ad absurdum_. It was a perfectly accurate
statement of fact. The shooting of Byng did encourage the others.
Henceforward there might be errors and stupidities, and failures here
and there. So there always will be while men remain men, but a service
is to be judged by its general spirit, and by the view it takes of
errors and failures. Nobody who looks critically at the history of
the British Navy in the eighteenth century can fail to note a vast
difference between the years before and those after 1757. And we insult
the memory of the seamen of the eighteenth century if we suppose that
this is so only because the wrath of the nation drove them to greater
exertion, or that they did not think the execution of Byng just. Some
did not. His second in command, Temple West, resigned rather than
continue to serve if he was to be liable to punishment for “an error of
judgment.” West by the use of that phrase gave currency to a sophism
which has often been used to obscure the real significance of this
great sacrifice. But the navy had not protested against the change in
the Naval Discipline Act of 1749. The officers who tried Byng did not
shrink from applying the law though it cut them to the heart to send a
brother in arms to a shameful death. If they had been dishonest men,
they might have acquitted him of negligence, but they saw the truth
and they did their terrible duty. There is nothing to show that the
seamen, whether on the quarter-deck or before the mast, did, as a body,
think the sentence unjust. Indeed, the whole navy was now burning with
a spirit which asked for nothing better than to be relieved of such
leadership as Byng’s.

Three months after the admiral met his fate, the great administration
of the elder Pitt was formed. At last the power of England was about
to be directed, not by pettifogging and parliamentary intrigue, but by
genius and passion. Yet the full effect of the change could not be felt
for a space, and until 1758 was well advanced the work of Newcastle
may be said to overlap that of Pitt. We may look for a moment at the
interval before the power of the navy was fully free to act.

When Hawke superseded Byng in July 1756 it was too late to save
Minorca, and no means were at hand for its recovery. He cruised
unopposed by the French till December, and then returned home, leaving
the command to Admiral Saunders. The interest on both sides was
centred now in North America. The French had to reinforce and support
their colonies. Our aim was to intercept their succours, and to make
ourselves masters of the French port at the mouth of the St. Lawrence,
as preparatory to the conquest of Canada. At home our Channel fleet
was to watch Brest, and our Mediterranean fleet to keep a check on
Toulon; while in America preparations were making to attack Cape Breton
upon the arrival of a naval force from England. The work of watching
the French ports was not uniformly well done. In April a squadron of
four sail under the command of M. Durevest escaped Saunders in the
Straits of Gibraltar after a slight brush, and held on to America. In
May, Vice-Admiral Henry Osborn came out with reinforcements, and took
over the command. The total force was thirteen of the line and two
50-gun ships, a much larger force than the French ships at Toulon could
hope to face in open battle. Osborn was a good representative of that
large body of naval officers whose names are associated with no single
action of great renown, but who did much and varied service, and who
contributed to the glory of more fortunate rivals by weary cruising
and vigilant watch far away from the scene where more brilliant
reputations were being earned. He was also a very typical officer of
his time, when the life of the chief was one of stern solitude, and
his exercise of authority was harsh. By nature Osborn was of a cold,
saturnine disposition. He made no friends, and if he did not actively
make enemies his hand weighed on all under his command with oppressive
severity. But his vigilance, his strenuous discharge of duty, and
his severe exaction of their utmost from his subordinates fitted him
admirably for the work he had to do in the Mediterranean, in 1757 and
the early months of 1758.

The loss of Minorca imposed a heavy disadvantage on the British admiral
who had to watch Toulon. The nearest port at which vessels could be
docked was Gibraltar, and this was a serious consideration before
the use of copper sheathing had been introduced, and when ships grew
rapidly foul. In December, when Osborn was at the Rock, M. de la Clue
left Toulon with five sail of the line and one 50-gun ship, in the
hope that he might elude his opponent and follow Durevest to America.
But Osborn was on the watch in the Straits, and La Clue put into the
Spanish port of Carthagena. Here he was watched rather than blockaded.
Two more liners and a frigate succeeded in slipping in and joining him.
On the 5th February 1758 he put out to meet reinforcements promised
him from Toulon, and went as far as Palos; but his friends did not
appear, and fearing to have the whole British squadron on his hands,
he returned to Carthagena. On the 25th February a reinforcement did
appear off the port. It consisted of the _Foudroyant_, 80, commanded
by Captain Duquesne, who had with him the _Orphée_, 64, and the
_Oriflamme_, 50. Duquesne declined to come within the island of
Escombrera, which lies at the mouth of Carthagena harbour, and waited
outside to be joined by La Clue. A squall drove him to sea, where
his little squadron was sighted, scattered, and chased by Osborn. The
_Orphée_ struck to the =Revenge= and the =Berwick=. The _Oriflamme_
was driven on shore, but succeeded in getting off and joining La Clue
in Carthagena. A noble story is connected with the fortunes of the
_Foudroyant_.

Among the ships under Admiral Osborn’s command was the =Monmouth=, 64,
a poor little liner of our starved model, but a quick sailer. She was
commanded by Arthur Gardiner, who had been flag-captain to Byng in
the miserable battle of Minorca, and his first lieutenant was Robert
Carkett, one of those officers who rose from before the mast. Little
is known of Gardiner, save that he had been chosen by Byng to be his
flag-captain, which implies that he was a “follower” of his admiral and
was under obligations to him. In the battle he had given Byng good and
manly advice, and in the court martial his evidence had told severely
against his chief. The memory of that day had rankled in Gardiner’s
mind. Now La Galissonière’s flag had flown in the _Foudroyant_ in
the battle, and the English captain had come to regard her with a
concentrated hatred. He is reported to have said that whenever he
met her he would attack her, at all odds, and either take her or
perish. Charnock, to whom the traditions of the navy of that time came
directly, quotes a letter telling how “Two days before he left his port
(viz. Gibraltar) being in company with Lord Robert Bertie, and other
persons, he with great anguish of soul told them, that my Lord Anson
had reflected on him, and said he was one of the men who had brought
disgrace upon the nation; that it touched him excessively, but it
ran strongly in his mind, that he should have an opportunity shortly
to convince his lordship how much he had the honour of the nation at
heart, and that he was not culpable.”

When now, on the morning of the 28th February 1758, Gardiner found
himself among the chasing ships of Osborn’s squadron, and saw the
French ships in flight, he singled out the mighty _Foudroyant_, and
crowded sail in pursuit. The =Swiftsure= and the =Hampton Court=
accompanied him, but they were heavy sailers and soon fell behind.
The chase began early in the morning, and was prolonged till evening,
when the _Foudroyant_ and the =Monmouth= were alone. As he pressed
on the chase, Captain Gardiner, so tradition recorded by Charnock
tells, said to a military officer who was with him, “Whatever becomes
of you and me, this ship (pointing presumably at the _Foudroyant_)
must go into Gibraltar.” Also he called his crew aft, and said, “That
ship must be taken, she appears above our match, but Englishmen are
not to mind that, nor will I quit her while this ship can swim, or
I have a soul left alive.” Finding that he could not shake off his
pursuer, and feeling not unreasonably confident that the other English
ships were too far off to act against him, Captain Duquesne turned
on the =Monmouth=. If M. Troude, the most careful historian of the
French Navy, is right, the _Foudroyant_ suffered from a weakness which
was infinitely dishonourable. Her crew was so mutinous that Captain
Duquesne could not use the guns of his second deck. The men ran below
very soon after the action began. This goes far to explain the action.
The _Foudroyant_, a larger vessel than our three-deckers of the time,
carried a broadside at least twice as heavy as the =Monmouth’s=,
and ought, if properly handled, to have made a wreck of her in two
broadsides. The bad conduct of Duquesne’s men does not diminish in any
way the credit due to Captain Gardiner, who could not know how ill
his opponent would be supported, and it does go to prove the moral
inferiority of the French Navy at that period. The engagement began
about seven o’clock between these two opponents so ill matched in
material strength, and lasted till about midnight before help came to
the =Monmouth=. Her mizen-mast was shot away and about a hundred of her
men fell killed or wounded, but the mainmast of the bulky Frenchman
was brought down on the fore, and he became an unmanageable wreck. At
last the =Swiftsure= and the =Hampton Court= came up, guided by the
sound of the cannon, and at one in the morning Duquesne surrendered,
insisting, with chivalrous politeness, on giving up his sword to the
officer commanding the =Monmouth=. This was not now Captain Gardiner.
He had been wounded early in the action, but refused to leave the
deck. Later he was mortally struck, and handed over the command to
Lieutenant Carkett with a last exhortation not to let go his hold of
the Frenchman. He died with the supreme consolation of knowing that no
one could ever again accuse him of disgracing his country.

La Clue remained at Carthagena till he found an opportunity to slip
out and escape to Toulon in April. The attempt to send help to North
America had broken down before the watch of the English admiral. It
was Osborn’s last service. An attack of paralysis reduced him to the
necessity of coming home in July. He was thanked by the House of
Commons, and acknowledged its thanks in the words which sound best in
the ears of Englishmen, protesting that he had done no more than his
duty, and hoping that his services might be “the most inconsiderable
that shall be thus honoured.” The command in the Mediterranean devolved
on Admiral Brodrick, but the war in that sea died down till it revived
in the _annus mirabilis_ of 1759.

The share of the work thrown on the Channel fleet was not so
successfully done. Until the superiority of the navy had been more
fully established, and St. Vincent had organised his system of
sleepless blockade, winter and summer, Brest was a bad port to watch,
opening as it does on the wide and stormy Atlantic, not, as Toulon
does, on the fierce and fickle but not formidable Mediterranean. In
January of 1757 M. de Beauffremont left Brest for America with a
squadron. It was too early to venture to enter the St. Lawrence, and
he sailed first for the West Indies. Thence he made his way to Cape
Breton in June, carrying with him a large convoy of merchant ships. At
Cape Breton he found M. Durevest with the four vessels which had eluded
Admiral Saunders in April. Another reinforcement joined him under
the command of M. Dubois de Lamotte, who had left Brest on the 3rd
May with nine sail of the line. The total force under Beauffremont’s
command now amounted to eighteen sail of the line and five frigates.
An admirable opportunity was offered him of doing some service, but
he effected nothing of the active order. His mere presence on the
coast had put a stop for the time to a scheme of Lord Loudoun for an
attack on Louisbourg. In so far he did some good to his side in a
passive way, and with that he was content. And with that he continued
to be content. Admiral Holburne sailed from St. Helen’s on the 16th
April, picked up some troops at Cork, and reached Halifax in July.
His purpose was to join with Lord Loudoun and the colonial forces in
an attack on Louisbourg. But the French were judged to be in too great
strength to allow of success, and the combined operation was given up.
Admiral Holburne, with his fleet of sixteen sail of the line and three
frigates, paraded past Louisbourg in August and dared Beauffremont
to battle. But the Frenchman would not come out. Holburne returned
to Halifax, was reinforced by four sail of the line, and resumed the
blockade of Louisbourg, but on the 24th of September a hurricane of
extraordinary violence scattered his fleet, and he was blown home. The
most severely damaged vessels were sent back at once. The admiral came
on with the others, and the trade from Halifax. When the coast was
clear Beauffremont came out at the end of October, and reached Brest in
November.

We are now at the end of the preliminary period of the Seven Years’
War, and on the eve of the great campaigns which left the Royal Navy
the uncontested mistress of the seas, and Great Britain the dominating
power in Asia and America. A few words may be devoted to the moral and
intellectual qualities of the two navies opposed to one another. It
will be seen that from 1755 till well in 1758 our operations had not
on the whole been successfully conducted. But when we look close it
appears that, except in the notorious case of Byng, the fault lay with
the rulers who did not use the fleet with vigour. In one respect the
navy had still a good deal to learn. Its blockades were not maintained
with the severity of later times. Our admirals, or perhaps it was
rather My Lords at the Admiralty, shrank from the risks of a blockade
of Brest in winter and spring. But even in the Mediterranean the method
of conducting a blockade inevitably diminished its effect. A fleet
was kept together outside an enemy’s port till it was all in want of
water and a refit. Then it was taken back in a body, with the result
that for the time being the blockade was raised. In the Mediterranean
this was of less importance, because there always remained the chance
of catching the enemy in the Straits. Yet the temporary absence of
our fleet allowed M. de la Clue to escape first from Toulon, and then
from Carthagena. On the ocean this periodical raising of the blockade
rendered any effectual watch in Brest impossible. Yet our navy did,
in the main, endeavour to keep close to the enemy’s ports in order to
be in a position to attack him whenever he came out, and the aim it
steadily pursued was to bring on battle with the French and beat their
squadrons at sea. So it gained steadily in skill by prolonged cruising,
and it grew no less steadily in confidence and daring.

When we turn to the French we find a great difference. With them the
constant aim was to fight as little as might be when fighting was
necessary, and to achieve their purpose without fighting, if possible.
La Galissonière did not follow up his success against Byng, though
he had ocular demonstration of the clumsiness and timidity of his
opponent. Beauffremont had declined battle with Holburne, though
numbers were on his side. Yet the French spoke of the glory of La
Galissonière, and Beauffremont was held to have done right. It would
be a very silly national vanity which sought the explanation of the
difference in any want of personal courage among the French. Though a
nervous and excitable they are a valiant people, and the history of
their navy is full of the heroic fights of individual ships against
long odds. What explains their inferiority in enterprise is the
principle upon which they acted. It has been stated with simplicity
by one of their writers on the art of war at sea, Ramatuelle. He says
gravely that the French Navy did not aim at destroying a few of the
enemy’s ships, but at a more serious object, namely, the execution
of its mission. On the face of it this seems absurd, for what more
serious object can any fleet have than to defeat its opponent and make
itself master at sea? The French answered, that given the great number
of the English warships it was idle to suppose that they would ever
be destroyed wholly in battle, and that they themselves would be worn
out long before a decisive result could be obtained. Therefore when a
French admiral sailed to relieve a colony, or save some particular post
from attack, or land men to be used against a British possession, he
was to avoid battle as far as he could, and if forced to fight then to
engage to leeward, cripple as many as he could of the enemy’s spars,
and slip away. In short, his aim was always to keep his own fleet
intact, and not to destroy the enemy’s. There is a superficial air of
ingenuity about all this, but it was in the long run a fatal method of
conducting wars. It left us free to direct our blows where we pleased.
It made it certain that our fleets would never be seriously crippled.
It made it inevitable that sooner or later we would break down the
French defence, since that which attacks and wears away will always in
the end break through a passive opposition. But its worst consequence
was the degrading moral effect it had. The French Navy was taught that
to be brought to battle was a misfortune, and thus it came to have a
predisposition to give way, to avoid, to seek shelter, to run. We grew
accustomed to look upon our opponent as one who feared our blows, and
to take it for granted that the French would never stand in the face
of an equal force. The working of these two widely different ideals of
conduct will be seen in the following years of the war.



CHAPTER VI

THE YEARS OF TRIUMPH

 AUTHORITY.—See last Chapter.


The privateer who plays so conspicuous a part in the maritime history
of France is but a dim and subordinate figure beside the great
disciplined and triumphant navy of this country. We can generally
afford to neglect him and his doings altogether. Yet in the Seven
Years’ War he does for one moment come forward in a manner so
characteristic and instructive, that we may look at him very briefly
before turning to the operations of honest warfare. Ever since the
reign of Henry VIII. it had been the custom to favour these skimmers
of the sea in Acts for the Encouragement of Seamen, which invited
all sorts and conditions of men to set out armed ships to plunder
the enemy. In the age of Elizabeth their part was honourable, for
the privateers then were often gallant gentlemen—Raleigh or the Earl
of Cumberland—who fitted out warships against the national enemy, as
their ancestors had raised bands of spearmen and archers to follow King
Edward or King Harry. But as the State grew in power and resources,
such men found their proper place in the regular forces. The privateer
tended more and more to become a mere vulgar plunderer. His competition
with the navy for men had made him a nuisance, as far back as the time
of the Commonwealth. The private ship with its slovenly discipline,
and the greater chances of earning booty it offered, attracted all
the restless spirits to whom the order of the navy was grievous. “A
regular built privateer” became the naval officer’s phrase for a dirty,
ill-managed, inefficient ship. The last great age of the privateer
was the War of the Austrian Succession, when the navy was bad and
incapable of blocking the enemy’s ports. In the Seven Years’ War, when
the navy was equal to its work, the innate tendency of men, whose sole
aim was plunder, to sink into mere pirates was rapidly shown. As French
commerce soon disappeared off the sea, the privateers were driven to
choose between starvation and the robbery of neutrals or even of their
own countrymen. They made the choice which might have been expected of
them. Very soon the outrages of the privateers in the Channel became a
downright pest. They took to boarding neutral vessels, and to extorting
booty or blackmail. At last the complaints of friendly states drove the
British Government to adopt vigorous measures of repression. Extreme
offenders found their way to Execution Dock, and in 1759 an Act was
passed limiting the right to receive a “letter of marque” to vessels
of over one hundred tons, belonging to owners who could give some
guarantee of good conduct. An exception was made for small vessels
belonging to the Channel Islands, which did some useful piloting and
scouting work. The privateers are only mentioned here because the
measures taken to restrain them show that the navy was growing in power
to discharge its proper function, and that the country was coming to
realise that it ought to leave the duty of representing it on the sea
to a disciplined force with a code of honour.

It has been said already that some time passed, after the formation
of Pitt’s great ministry in June 1757, before the naval and military
powers of the country could be co-ordinated for definite and profitable
purposes. One of the uses to which they were put reflects little
honour on the sagacity of the Great Commoner. He reverted to futile
expeditions against the coast of France. By the inevitable working of
unvarying conditions these revivals of old errors produced identical
results. They do not deserve that more time should be spent on them
than is necessary to record that they took place, and came to an
unavoidable failure. In September of 1757 Hawke sailed with a strong
squadron, carrying a detachment of troops under General Mordaunt, for
the purpose of taking Rochefort. He sailed on the 8th of that month,
and by the 6th October he was back, and Rochefort was not taken. We
did plunder the poor little island of Aix, and that was all—all
except the ensuing court of inquiry and wrangle. Yet it was decided to
make another and more serious effort next year, for Pitt clung with
persistence to this part of his military policy. His critics called it
breaking windows with guineas, but he valued it for two reasons. He
hoped that the pressure on their coast would constrain the French to
withdraw part of their troops from Germany where they were threatening
the king’s electorate of Hanover, and were weighing on our ally the
King of Prussia. It was a bad reason, for if an effectual diversion
was to be made we ought to have landed a substantial army, capable of
establishing itself in France. The second and perhaps better reason was
given in 1759 by Captain Hervey of the =Monmouth=, who was serving in
the Brest blockade, under Hawke, when he landed on the little island
of Molines and levied a contribution on the inhabitants. The priest
appealed to him to spare their poverty, and Captain Hervey answered,
“That he was sorry to distress the poor inhabitants, but what he now
did was to show the enemy and all Europe that the French could not
protect their people in their own sight, much less dare the invasion of
England.” After the shameful panic of 1756, there was something to be
said for the policy of showing that our fleets could sweep along the
French coast, and that the enemy would not dare to give them battle.
This purpose at least was achieved to the full by the great combined
expedition which made three sorties in 1758. A fleet of twenty-four
sail of the line under Anson convoyed 14,000 troops under the Duke
of Marlborough to St. Malo in June. The place proved too strong, and
the expedition came back to the Isle of Wight. A scheme for attacking
Cherbourg was defeated by a storm, and the expedition returned. The
Duke of Marlborough was now replaced by General Bligh, a veteran called
over from Ireland to take up the “buccaneering” work when officers
of more interest had come to regard it with weary disgust. A second
sortie was made, and Cherbourg was taken on the 6th August. This was
our only genuine success, for several privateers were destroyed and
some guns were brought away. As it was thought that more might have
been done, the expedition sailed on its third sortie in September to
make another attempt on St. Malo. But by this time we had achieved
our purpose of inducing the French to withdraw troops from Germany and
look to their own coast. The soldiers landed to invest the town were
assailed by superior numbers, and driven to re-embark in the Bay of St.
Cas with heavy loss. The military management was not good, but no skill
could have secured success. The naval work of transport and convoy was
thoroughly well executed.

It is a satisfaction to be able to turn to scenes where the navy
was more effectually employed. In March of 1758 a squadron of small
vessels, under the command of Captain Holmes, drove a French and
Austrian garrison out of Embden, a port belonging to our ally the King
of Prussia. This was a most useful piece of service, since it helped
us to retain the power to land soldiers on the continent for the
defence of Hanover and the prosecution of the war in Germany. In the
following month of April Hawke was allowed to use a squadron in a way
much better calculated to convince the French of our superiority at
sea, and of their inability to invade, than any number of mere sporadic
raids on their coast, since it gave them no chance of retaliating as
they did in the Bay of St. Cas. Pitt, who was always well informed of
the enemy’s movements, learnt early in the year that a great convoy
was being prepared in the Basque Roads for America, and was to sail
under protection of a small squadron. Hawke was sent to intercept it
with seven sail of the line and three frigates. He found five French
line-of-battle ships and several frigates, with forty merchant ships
carrying 3000 troops to reinforce the American garrisons, starting or
about to start from the Basque Roads and the Pertuis d’Antioche, the
anchorages on the mainland just opposite the islands of Oléron and Ré.
Between the 4th and 6th of April he broke up the convoy and drove it
into the mud. In their anxiety to escape to Rochefort up the Charente
the Frenchmen threw their guns overboard and started their water to
lighten the ships. When it is remembered that they were five to seven,
and on their own coasts, the prompt flight of the French liners speaks
aloud of the little spirit of their navy at this period.

On the 7th of the same month of April Captain John Campbell of the
=Essex=, 64, and a fireship, the =Pluto=, Captain James Hume, fell
in with and scattered a convoy of twelve French merchant ships from
Bordeaux under protection of a frigate and a large privateer. The two
armed ships were taken after a resistance which cost Captain Hume his
life. Such pieces of service as these were not glorious, but they were
typical examples of the work done by the fleet to sweep the enemy off
the sea.

Far beyond the waters of Europe the navy was beginning to apply itself
to the task of rooting out the French settlements. The operations of
1758 were preparatory for the great undertaking of the following year;
one of them makes us acquainted with the oddest figure of all this war,
the Quaker Thomas Cumming. This man was a trader on the west coast
of Africa, who had elaborated a scheme for expelling the French from
all their stations. When asked how he reconciled his active share in
hostilities with his religious principles, he answered with ingenious
casuistry by saying, that if his scheme had been executed with the
force he thought necessary there would have been no resistance, and
therefore no fighting. Mr. Cumming had been busy from early in 1757 in
urging his ideas on Ministers, but it was not till he secured a hearing
from Pitt and in the following year that he saw his advice put in
practice, though on a smaller scale than he wished. In the interval a
French squadron, commanded by M. de Kersaint, had made an unsuccessful
attack on Cape Coast Castle. This event may have served to awaken
ministers to the need there was for putting our settlements on a safer
footing. The fortunes of M. de Kersaint may be followed for the sake
of one name with which they make us acquainted, and also because they
show how wide-ranging are the movements of war at sea. Having failed at
Cape Coast Castle the French officer stood across the Atlantic to the
West Indies. At Cape Français, now called Cape Haytiën, in Hispaniola,
he was engaged on convoy work, when he had an action with a British
squadron under Commodore Forrest on the 21st October. The English and
French accounts cannot be reconciled. According to our version three
of our ships engaged most gallantly with a much stronger French force
and got the better of them. Our story runs that M. de Kersaint, having
shown a disposition to engage, Commodore Forrest consulted his two
subordinate captains, and one of them answered that it would be a
pity to disappoint the Frenchman. The officer to whom this spirited
reply is attributed was Captain Maurice Suckling, to whom we owe the
introduction into the navy of the heir of all its past labours, and the
most famous of all its chiefs, his nephew, Horatio Nelson. The action
need not be discussed. It was counted a gallant affair long before
Nelson, with whom it was always a cherished memory and the 21st October
a fateful day, was known to fame. Beyond confirming our growing sense
of superiority to the French it produced no effect, for the convoy got
away. If, as the French deny, M. de Kersaint was in much greater force,
he no doubt acted on the rule of his service described above, and threw
away his chance of overpowering the three British ships in order to
fulfil his mission to see the merchant vessels safe to port.

It was in March 1758 that Mr. Cummings saw his idea put into practice.
A small squadron, under Captain Henry Marsh, sailed on the 9th of that
month, carrying the Quaker with it. On the 30th April (the month in
which Hawke scattered the French convoy in the Basque Roads), St. Louis
de Senegal was taken, and the supply of slaves for the French colonies
much reduced. An attack on the island of Gorée in May failed, and then
the commodore sent on to the West Indies with the trade, which in plain
English meant the kidnapped negroes.

So far the enterprise had been successful enough to encourage a
repetition and to earn Mr. Cummings “the gratification of a handsome
pension.” It was decided to complete the conquest begun by Commodore
Marsh. The officer chosen for the task was Keppel. On the 26th October
he sailed from Cork with four line-of-battle ships, one 50-gun ship,
six smaller vessels, and a body of troops. He was driven back by bad
weather, but started finally on the 11th November. On the way out
the 50-gun ship, the =Lichfield=, was lost on the coast of Morocco.
The loss was of no great importance to the squadron, but it is to be
mentioned because we afterwards, and that at a time when Pitt took
a tone of haughty superiority to the civilised powers of Europe,
condescended to pay the bloodstained savage, whom we termed Emperor of
Morocco, a heavy ransom to save the crew from slavery. It was one of
the worst passages in our long ignominious toleration of the pirates of
Barbary. On the 14th December Keppel was at the Canaries, and on the
28th he reached Gorée a little island near the Cape de Verd. The French
post soon surrendered under the combined pressure of bombardment by
the ships from the sea and attack by the troops under Colonel Worge on
shore. Worge remained as governor of Senegal, and Keppel returned home.

While Marsh and Keppel were expelling the French from the
slave-producing region of West Africa, the navy had taken a foremost
share in delivering the first great blow at the French dominion
in North America. Boscawen and Amherst had taken Louisbourg, and
had thereby cleared the way for the capture of Quebec by Wolfe and
Saunders in the following year. The incapable Government of France was
now fairly launched into a war in Germany, and could spare neither
attention nor adequate forces for the defence of its colonies.

A squadron of six line-of-battle ships and five frigates left early
in the year for Louisbourg and arrived in safety. Three of the liners
were armed _en flûte_, and were practically mere transports. Such a
handful of vessels as this was not even a match for the English ships
which had wintered at Halifax. Our squadron in North American waters
was now under the orders of Sir Charles Hardy, who came out in the
=Captain= in early spring. M. Drucourt, the naval officer who was
governor of Louisbourg, foreseeing that he would be seriously attacked,
could only use the vessels in the port to strengthen his defences of
the place. Three frigates, the _Biche_, the _Echo_, and the _Fidèle_,
were sunk to block the entrance to the harbour. The measures taken to
prevent the English from coming in had one good effect for the French.
They prevented the useless sacrifice of more of their ships than were
already in harbour. On the 29th May Captain Duchaffault de Besné, who
had left Rochefort on the 2nd with four liners, one armed _en flûte_
and three frigates, appeared outside Louisbourg. Finding the entrance
closed he landed the soldiers he brought with him and went on to
Quebec, where he remained a helpless spectator of the disaster.

Boscawen meanwhile had left Spithead on the 18th February with a
powerful fleet, escorting 13,000 troops under the command of Amherst,
who had Wolfe with him as one of his subordinates. The soldiers were
distributed in 150 transports. This great armament sailed first to
Halifax, where Boscawen collected the whole naval force in those
waters, now amounting to twenty-three sail of the line and eighteen
frigates. When the necessary arrangements had been made at the base of
operations soldiers and sailors started, “well combined in mutual love
to each other and common resolution against the enemy,” on the 29th of
May, just when Duchaffault was landing the last French reinforcement.
On the 2nd June the fleet reached Gabarus Bay, on the south-eastern
coast of Cape Breton, below the place where a heap of ruins marks what
was once the site of Louisbourg. The combined operations lasted till
the 26th July, when Drucourt beat the _chamade_ after a stout fight.
As there was no enemy at sea the bulk of the work fell to the army,
and was performed in a fashion presenting a welcome contrast to the
futility of Carthagena and Pondicherry. Amherst was a capable general,
and Wolfe, besides being the most exact of officers in all matters of
detail, had the calm and rapid mind of the born leader in war, and
that zest for the joys of battle which makes the supreme fighter. To
the navy it fell to land the troops, to supply them, to assist in the
bombardment by which some of the French ships in the harbour were
destroyed, and to do one dashing piece of work in its own line.

The steady bombardment from land and sea had greatly reduced the
French squadron in the harbour, but two of their ships remained in a
condition to aid in the defence as late as the 24th of July. These were
the _Prudent_, 74, and the _Bienfaisant_, 64. Boscawen resolved to cut
them out, that is, to send in armed boats to board them and bring them
away. At noon of the 24th a barge and a pinnace or cutter from every
ship, each commanded by a lieutenant and a mate or midshipman, met at
the flagship. The command of the whole was given to George Balfour of
the =Etna= fireship, and John Laforey of the =Hunter= sloop, the two
senior commanders of the fleet. The commander was, and is, the captain
who is not of full, or “post” rank. It might have given a thinking
Frenchman some ground for reflection if he had known that of these
officers Balfour was a Scotchman, and therefore one of a people which
had once been the old ally of France, while Laforey’s name is only the
anglicised form of La Foret, and he was of Huguenot descent, one of the
thousands whose swords and skill were turned against their persecutors
by the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. The boats collected at
evening round the flagship of Sir Charles Hardy, who commanded the
advance ships at the mouth of the harbour. At midnight they put off in
a thick fog with muffled oars and in strict silence. The steady fire
from our batteries attracted the attention of the French, who were on
the ramparts in expectation of an immediate assault, and were keeping
up a constant musketry fire. Laforey and Balfour led their boats past
the battery at the mouth of the harbour unseen and unheard. They had
carefully marked the place of the French ships during the day, and were
able to take a sweep out into the harbour and advance through the night
and the fog, till the hulks of the _Prudent_ and the _Bienfaisant_
loomed up through the darkness. Then the uncontrollable love of the
British seamen for shouting broke out into wild cheering, and all
the boats dashed alongside the liners. Laforey carried the _Prudent_
and Balfour the _Bienfaisant_. One of them is said by tradition to
have made his way into the bows of the French ship by a place more
convenient than seemly. The actual taking of the vessels was not
difficult, as most of their crews were ashore aiding in the defence.
But the noise in the harbour drew the fire of the land batteries,
and the duty of taking the prizes out was one of great hazard. The
_Prudent_ was aground and could not be moved, so that Laforey had to
set her on fire, but the _Bienfaisant_ was towed away in spite of the
fire from the batteries. It was next day that M. Drucourt surrendered.
The total loss of the French Navy was four line-of-battle ships burnt
and one taken, four vessels sunk to block the entry to the harbour
and frigate taken. Only one vessel, the _Comète_ frigate, found an
opportunity to slip through the blockade and escape to France.

After the fall of Louisbourg, Sir Charles Hardy was despatched to the
mouth of the St. Lawrence with a body of troops, commanded by Wolfe, to
destroy some French ports and intercept the squadron of Duchaffault,
who, it was calculated, would endeavour to get away before the
winter. The destruction was effected, but the ships escaped. Boscawen
returned home with the bulk of the fleet, leaving Rear-Admiral Durell
to winter in Halifax, and resume the blockade of Quebec in spring. The
victorious British fleet and the French squadron were making their
way home in the stormy autumn weather by the same route. On the 27th
October, when Boscawen’s ships were much scattered by gales and he
had only four liners—one being the captured _Bienfaisant_—and some
frigates with him, he fell in with Duchaffault, seventy miles to the
west of Ushant. The French squadron consisted of four of the line and
one 56-gun ship belonging to the American company. It had just captured
the =Carnarvon=, East Indiaman. The stormy weather prevented a close
action, which was fortunate for the Frenchman, for two of his liners
were only armed _en flûte_. Duchaffault’s vessels scattered after some
confused firing. He himself got to the Basque Roads, the =Carnarvon=
was retaken, and the other vessels, with one exception, reached home.
The unlucky ship which did not was the _Belliqueux_, 74, commanded by
Captain Martel, who seemingly became confused between the bad weather
and the British fleet. He lost his course completely, came up on the
wrong side of the Land’s End, and was embayed in the Bristol Channel.
While at anchor under Lundy, he was sighted by the =Antelope=, 50,
Captain Thomas Saumarez. According to our account the _Belliqueux_
surrendered, and was a valuable prize, for she was found to be full of
fine furs. The French will have it that she was unfairly taken, her
captain having appealed to the humanity of our officer on the ground of
the distressed state of his ship, and having also cited cases in which
English vessels had been helped at French ports in war. The incredible
tale is still told to illustrate the “disloyalty” of the English.

It goes much further to prove how much the French warships were used
as transports and traders, partly by the Government, but also by their
own officers, who made up for bad and irregular pay by what they called
_la pacotille_, _i.e._ commercial ventures. If Captain Martel did, as
his countrymen say, propose to go into Bristol and throw himself on the
“loyalty” of the English for relief, it is also highly probable that
he meant to get money for his furs from the Bristol merchants.

We have now come to the _annus mirabilis_ of the Seven Years’ War,
1759. It was a year of extraordinary events and changes of fortune,
and was also emphatically the year of the navy. From first to last the
fleet was our main weapon, but both before and after 1759 it met with
no worthy adversary at sea, and was mostly employed in co-operating
with troops. In this year it had to contend with other fleets, and the
tale to be told is one of true naval warfare.

The experience of 1758 had not been wholly lost on the French
Government, incapable as it was. It had been brought to see that its
fleets must be better used if its colonial possessions were not to
fall one by one before such expeditions as had taken Louisbourg. To
meet the English everywhere was plainly impossible, but there was one
course which, if followed with success, would bring swift and decisive
victory. England itself might be invaded. A blow struck home to her
heart would be mortal, and would at once undo all the effect of her
successes in distant seas. The ministers of King Louis XV. were the
more encouraged to try the venture because they were convinced that
the British fleet would be so weakened by distant enterprises as to
be unable to collect a superior force in the Channel. So a plan such
as had been laid before by Louis XIV., and was to be laid again by
Napoleon, was drafted. Troops were collected on the coast of Normandy,
and at Vannes in the Morbihan, on the south side of Brittany. To clear
the way for them the fleet was to be used in a fashion which shows
that the boasted originality of Napoleon’s genius was in this, as in
so many other fields, largely mere imitation of the methods of the old
monarchy. The first object was to draw off and distract the British
fleet. A squadron was to be prepared at Dunkirk, and put under the
command of Thurot, a very brave and honest privateer captain, who
had made for himself a reputation. It was to sail north and draw off
our ships by menacing the coasts of Scotland and Ireland. The main
French fleet had its headquarters at Brest, and was to be led by M.
de Conflans, Vice-Admiral and Marshal of France. La Clue was to sail
from Toulon, pass the Straits and join the fleet at Brest. The two
were then to cover the passage of the army under the Duc d’Aiguillon,
which again was to come out from Vannes in transports, and from the
coast of Normandy in flat-bottomed vessels building at Havre. It will
be seen that this is essentially Napoleon’s plan in a simpler and less
hazardous form, with the further merit that it was to be executed
by the French fleet alone, and not with the co-operation of a most
inefficient and reluctant ally. His scheme could not have come within
measurable distance of success save by miracles of good fortune and
the help of incredible ineptitude on our side on which he had no right
to calculate. Of this one it may be said that if the French fleet had
been efficient, and the chiefs prompt and bold, it might at least have
driven us hard in the Channel. But it needed these conditions, and
also that the naval resources of England should have been less than
they were, and her admirals less vigilant and resolute. As every one
of these conditions was wanting, the invasion scheme broke down in a
long succession of failures and disasters. Pitt met it by effectual
counter-measures in European waters, and did not for one instant
slacken in his efforts to sweep the French from the continent of North
America, the West Indies, and the Eastern Seas. Every aggressive French
naval force in Europe was faced by an opposite more powerful than
itself, and meanwhile Wolfe and Saunders sailed to Quebec, while Moore
and Hodgson acted in the West Indies. In those waters the French Navy
did appear, represented by a squadron under M. de Bompart, who sailed
early and came back late, in time to be one of the causes which hurried
on the final disaster of the great invasion scheme.

In all this year the sun looked down, as the world rolled round on its
diurnal course, first on Pocock and D’Aché contending on the coast
of Coromandel, then on the mobile, elastic, and impenetrable barrier
drawn by the fleets of Boscawen and Hawke round the coast of France,
then on the British squadron helping to break the French dominion in
America to pieces. All else went on behind the home fleets, and was
dependent on them, and as no narrative can be simultaneous, but must
needs be consecutive, the first place is to be given to the operations
of the war in Europe. At the most northerly point of the line we had
to defend, Commodore Boys was stationed to watch Thurot’s squadron in
Dunkirk. Admiral Smith was stationed with Piercy Brett in the Downs,
and between them and Boys, Rodney watched the flotilla preparing at
Havre de Grâce. Hawke, with the grand fleet, took in hand the blockade
of Brest, while the duty of preventing the junction of La Clue with
Conflans, by blockading Toulon, or by holding the Straits of Gibraltar,
was entrusted to Boscawen. A glance at the map will show that the
advantage of position lay with us. The hazards and uncertainties of war
at sea are always many—and they were more numerous in the times when
the ships depended on sails and the wind. Yet the balance of chances
was on our side, since it was more probable on the whole that Hawke
and Boscawen could combine, if either failed to stop his immediate
adversary, than that Conflans or La Clue could. On the supposition,
however, that Boscawen was eluded and left behind, so that Hawke was in
peril of having both French fleets on him at once, he could still fall
back on, or be joined by, the ships in the Downs. Then he would be able
to give battle, while Boscawen could follow, and either make our force
overwhelming, or bring up a fresh squadron on the French when newly
damaged by battle. Our squadrons had in fact the advantage of having
shorter distances to go than the French in order to join forces, and
even if driven back they would be driven back on the support of friends.

In order of time the first effectual blow struck by our navy at the
French as they endeavoured to unite for the invasion of England was
the bombardment of Havre, on the 2nd July, by Rodney. Flat-bottomed
boats were being constructed there, and we poured bombs on them, with
good effect, for a whole day. In order to direct the service the
better, Rodney transferred his flag from the =Achilles=, 60, which
drew too many feet of water to come close in on that shallow coast, to
the =Venus= frigate, commanded by Captain Samuel Hood. This service
brought together two men of strong and widely different character,
who will be found acting together at a great crisis twenty-two years
later—not, however, for the first time, for Hood had been a subordinate
with Rodney in the =Ludlow Castle= long before. The bombardment was
effective, and so was a stroke struck at some of the French boats
as they endeavoured to slip down the coast later on. Meanwhile Boys
watched Thurot at Dunkirk so closely that the Frenchman had no chance
to escape till the very end of the year. The first ruinous blow at the
complicated French scheme was given far to the South.

Boscawen sailed from Spithead on the 14th April with eight sail of the
line and frigates to take over the command on the Mediterranean. He
joined Brodrick, who was already blockading Toulon, off Cape Sicié, on
16th May. The fleet now consisted of fifteen ships of the line, with
twelve frigates and sloops and two fireships. La Clue, who had been
unable to drive off Brodrick’s smaller force, could do nothing against
Boscawen. His squadron was not yet ready for any service. The blockade
lasted till the 8th July, when want of water and the necessity for
cleaning his ships compelled Boscawen to return to Gibraltar. While
before Toulon he had made an unsuccessful attempt to destroy two French
frigates under protection of the coast batteries. He reached Gibraltar
on the 4th August, after taking in fresh water on the neutral coast of
Spain, and began to clean and refit. Frigates were stationed on the
Spanish shore and the coast of Barbary to give notice of any attempt of
the French to pass the Straits.

The retreat of our squadron opened the way to the French, and if La
Clue had thought himself able to act at once, he might have passed
the Straits while Boscawen’s ships were taking in their water on the
coast of Spain. But the sense of inferiority, material and moral, which
plainly weighed on the minds of all French naval officers in this
year, made him hesitate. Having that to do which could only be done
by extreme promptitude, he did not leave Toulon till the early days
of August, when the British admiral was already at Gibraltar, and in
a position to intercept him in the Straits. During the night of the
16th-17th of August the French fleet approached the passage leading to
the Ocean. It was sighted by Captain M‘Cleverty, of the =Gibraltar=
frigate, who was cruising between Estépona and Ceuta Point, and who
reported at once to the admiral. Boscawen’s fleet was still at work
refitting, and in the flagship, the =Namur=, the sails were unbent—that
is, not fixed to the yards. But such good speed was made that by ten
o’clock at night the ships were all out. They went as they were ready
and as place served, with no pedantic attention to the fopperies of
order. Boscawen had with him the =Warspite=, =Culloden=, =Swiftsure=,
=Intrepid=, =America=, =Portland=, and =Guernsey=. Admiral Brodrick
could not clear the bay till later than his commander-in-chief, and
followed him with the other ships. There was an interval of some miles
between them, but the wind was easterly, and Brodrick was certain of
being able to join his chief if the leading ships were able to overtake
the enemy. Both pressed eagerly along the route they calculated that
the enemy must have followed.

Meanwhile the French admiral, who had with him twelve sail of the line
and three frigates, had headed his pursuers, and as the British ships
were leaving Gibraltar Bay had got as far as Cape Spartel, and had
cleared the current which runs from the ocean into the Mediterranean.
At ten at night he had his ships about him, though not in good order;
for some of them were bad sailers, and were lagging behind his flagship
_L’Océan_. Yet he believed that he could communicate his orders, or at
least show the course he meant to follow. So he headed W.N.W., and then
put out the guiding light of the flagship in order to conceal his route
from the English frigates. The calculation that his own captains would
see and understand, in the darkness and the excitement, was rash—and
all the more because when he left Toulon it was understood that if the
Straits were passed the fleet was to head for Cadiz, anchor there, and
make another start. It was a foolish plan, because it invited another
blockade. La Clue, therefore, was absolutely right in making for the
open sea. But now was seen the influence of that miserable theory, that
war can be waged effectually by hasty runs from one cover to another
and by evasion. Five of the French line and all the frigates were at
some distance from the flagship. When La Clue and the six vessels so
close to him, that they had no shadow of excuse for not seeing what he
was doing, steered to the W.N.W., the laggards acted on the supposition
that the obvious course was to run for cover, and headed nearly due
north for Cadiz. Thus all through the night the two sailed on diverging
lines, and when day broke the French admiral found himself with seven
sail only of his fifteen about him, and saw that five of his line and
all his frigates had vanished in what direction he knew not, though he
might well have guessed, under the horizon.

At this moment the best course he could have followed might well have
been to steer for Cadiz, whither it was probable that his lost vessels
had gone, and where they were indeed waiting for him. The next best
course might have been to keep on straight for Brest. But he remained
where he was, looking about for the liners which had parted company.
Some sail were seen on the horizon, and La Clue headed towards them
in the hope that they were his friends. They turned out to be Swedish
merchant-ships. Then other sails were seen behind, and for them also
the Frenchman steered only to discover that they belonged to the fleet
of Boscawen. Nothing now remained to be done but to flee for refuge,
and in the circumstances the only cover La Clue had any chance of
reaching was the neutral coast of Portugal, to the North.

When the French were seen on the forenoon of the 18th August, the
British fleet was still in two divisions: Boscawen was leading with
one, and Brodrick was some distance astern. The easterly breeze was
stronger near the land than out at sea, and when the presence of the
enemy was signalled, Brodrick crowded on sail, and rapidly reduced the
space between himself and his admiral. It is a proof of the superiority
of our officers and men in seamanship, the art by which the utmost is
made of a ship, that although the French vessels were as a rule better
built for speed than ours, and although those with La Clue were swift
and their crews had every motive to make haste, yet the van of the
British fleet forced on action early in the afternoon. The French would
only make a running fight, as their pursuers overtook them, one by
one, and ranged themselves on either side. Captain de Sabran-Grammont,
of the _Centaure_, 74, the last ship in the French squadron, and the
first to be overtaken, showed the virtue which redeemed the follies
and vices of the nobles of his country, a flawless personal valour.
He made a gallant effort to cover the flight of his brother-captains.
Though Boscawen and two others attacked him at once, he made so fierce
a resistance that the _Centaure_ did not surrender till long after
dark, when the captain was dead, 200 of her men had fallen, and she was
so shattered that the prize crews had the utmost difficulty in keeping
her afloat. Boscawen’s flagship the =Namur= lost her mizen-mast, and
the admiral had to transfer his flag to the =Newark=. But for errors of
management on the part of individual captains, the whole of the French
squadron must have been taken. Some of our captains were awkward in
handling their ships, and allowed other vessels of ours to get between
them and the enemy. Others who came up on the lee side of the French
did so at such a distance that they were never able to force a close
action. These mistakes provoked Boscawen into declaring when all was
over, that “It was well, but that it might have been a great deal
better.” No French vessel was taken on the 18th except the _Centaure_.
During the night two, the _Guerrier_ and the _Souverain_, turned to
the west, and escaped in the dark. Both reached Rochefort. The four
remaining with the admiral took refuge in the waters of Portugal at
Lagos. The flagship _L’Océan_ and the _Redoutable_ ran ashore, the
_Téméraire_ and the _Modeste_ anchored some distance out, in reliance
on Portuguese neutrality. But Boscawen would not allow that to be any
protection. Both were taken, and the two which had been beached were
burnt. La Clue, who had lost a leg by a cannon-shot in the action of
the day before, died at Lagos. For the breach of Portuguese neutrality
we afterwards apologised, but no rebuke was given to Boscawen.

The Toulon fleet’s share in the great invasion scheme had completely
failed. Boscawen returned home with part of his fleet and a large
convoy of merchant-ships. Admiral Brodrick remained to blockade the
French, who had taken refuge in Cadiz. A storm drove him off in January
1760, and they were able to escape to Toulon.

Though a combined operation was no longer possible, after the disaster
of the 18th and 19th August, the French still clung to the hope that
an invasion might be carried out from Brest, where M. de Conflans lay
with the main fleet. All through the fine-weather months he was keenly
watched by Hawke. The French force was of twenty-one sail of the line,
the English of twenty-five, and the difference was enough to convince
the ministers of Louis XV. that it was useless to expect a victory
from the use of open force. Yet they would not renounce the hope of
carrying out an invasion by means of a fleet confessedly unequal to the
hazard of giving battle on the way to our shores. The situation must
have arisen in any case, for even if La Clue had escaped Boscawen’s
pursuit, it was to be supposed that the English admiral would follow
him, and thereby bring his own ships to reinforce Hawke. The two would
have formed a very superior force to the combined fleets of Conflans
and La Clue, even if the second, after evading Boscawen, had also
avoided running into Sir Edward’s much stronger fleet outside of Brest.
If he had steered for Rochefort, the French admirals would still have
been divided. When this combination was ruined by the defeat of La
Clue, by the capture and destruction of five of his best ships and
the imprisonment of most of the others at Cadiz, all hope of invading
England ought to have been resigned. But the French king and his
ministers could not reconcile themselves to failure. So they hit upon
a scheme of folly such as would be incredible in other than men too
ignorant to understand the task they had undertaken, too vain to allow
themselves to be taught, and so reckless in their selfish frivolity
that rather than allow themselves to be blamed for doing nothing they
would do what in all probability would bring ruin to the officers and
men at their orders.

In substance it was that M. de Conflans was to wait till bad weather
drove Sir Edward Hawke away from Brest. Then he was to slip out, pick
up the transports and troops collected for the invasion at Vannes,
and convoy them to some point on the coast of Great Britain. The
calculation was that even if Conflans was intercepted by Hawke, he
would be able to cover the transports, which could go on to their
destination, or at the worst could come back safe. Yet the French
ministers had the means of knowing that there was a British squadron
in reserve behind Hawke in the Downs, and that the events at Lagos had
set free Boscawen. We still hear of invasion schemes no wiser than
this, and it is no waste of space or time to insist on the folly of
this historical plan. Conflans, who was visibly unequal to the duty of
giving Hawke battle, was to go to sea hampered by a convoy and there
run the hazard of being brought to action. The convoy, notoriously
incapable of defending itself, was to be supposed to go on even when
its protecting ships were assailed, though there were other British
ships than Hawke’s, and he could have spared part of his fleet for the
purpose of pursuing the transports, and yet have left himself equal to
Conflans. If Napoleon had not laid plans equally fantastic, if projects
for the invasion of England every whit as absurd were not elaborated by
soldiers of the kind called “scientific” to-day, we should be tempted
to think that the plan of campaign drafted at Paris in 1759 could only
have been the work of the feather-headed harlot who managed the languid
debauchee on the French throne, and of the men who got office by her
favour.

With most naval battles we can afford to treat the sea as an open plain
needing no description. But this is not the case with the battle of
Quiberon. The lie of the land is as necessary to be kept in mind as the
shape of the country is for the proper understanding of Oudenarde or
Salamanca. It has been said above that while Conflans lay blockaded at
Brest, the troops for the invasion of England were collected at Vannes,
in the Morbihan, on the south side of the Breton Peninsula. From the
Pointe de Penmarch, the south-westerly headland of Finisterre, the
coast runs to the east, but with a slope to the south, till it reaches
the entry of the river Vilaine. Here it turns wholly to the south, and
stretches down to the Pyrenees and the coast of Biscay. It is mostly
foul on the southern side of Brittany, and fringed with islands. At
two-thirds or so of the distance from the Pointe de Penmarch to the
mouth of the Vilaine, the peninsula of Quiberon juts out to the south,
in shape something like a lobster’s claw with its hook turned to the
east. On the eastern side is the bay of Quiberon. The anchorage is fine
where the bottom of sand mud and shells is free from rocks, but in
many places it is foul, and of its total breadth of nine miles, only
five or six are really safe for large vessels. Following the line of
the mainland on the north side, we reach the entry to the tangle of
islands, deep passages, shallows, and lagoons named the Morbihan, to
the north of which is the town of Vannes. In this refuge the transports
had been collected to wait till the fleet came round from Brest and
secured them a safe passage to the sea. The Morbihan is closed on the
south side by the peninsula of Rhuis. The coast goes eastward from
Rhuis to the Vilaine, and then runs south in a rolling line to the
Pointe de Croisic, at the northern side of the Loire, beyond which it
need not now be followed. The peninsula of Quiberon, the entry to the
Vilaine, and the Pointe de Croisic form roughly a right angle. Now draw
a line from Croisic to the Pointe de Conguel on the north-west, which
is the southern extremity of the peninsula of Quiberon. All along that
line, with openings of clear water here and there, are piled the perils
of the Breton coast, innumerable and thrown together in inextricable
confusion. In front of Croisic and at low tide a number of black rocks
at distances of from three and a half to five and a half miles show
the position of the mass of sunken reef called the Plateau du Four. To
the west of the Four there is an open passage closed on the outer side
by the rocks called the Grands Cardinaux. From them stretches to the
north-west an unbroken column of islands and rocks, separated from the
Pointe de Conguel by the passage known as La Teignouse. The approach
to this is made perilous on the west by the Plateau de Mirvideaux. To
the south and west of the small islands between Les Grands Cardinaux
and La Teignouse lies the Fair Island, Belleisle. The entry to Quiberon
by La Teignouse being hazardous, the bay is approached from the
south-east—that is to say, between Les Grands Cardinaux and Pointe de
Saint Jacques on the peninsula of Rhuis, which is due north of them.
This opening is ten miles across. When a fleet was coming in from the
open sea, it would pass to the south of Belleisle and of Les Grands
Cardinaux. Then it would turn first to the north, and afterwards bend
to the north-west, till it reached the clean anchorage inside the
peninsula of Quiberon. The triangle of perils and barriers here roughly
described was the scene of the most heroic achievement in the long
history of the Royal Navy.

Hawke established the blockade of Brest early in June. No serious
attempt to drive him off was made by the French. On the 2nd July
Conflans tried to do by trick what he dared not venture to do by force.
The bulk of Hawke’s fleet lay some distance off at sea, while an
inshore, or advanced, squadron under Captain Hervey watched the French
fleet at anchor in Camaret Bay, just outside the entrance to Brest.
This was the Augustus John Hervey, afterwards third Earl of Bristol,
who was the son of the Lord Hervey so savagely attacked by Pope, and
of the beautiful Molly Lepel. He maintained the well-established
reputation of his family for immoral ability. His marriage to, and
collusive divorce from, the notorious Elizabeth Chudleigh, bigamous
Duchess of Kingston, are conspicuous events in the scandalous chronicle
of the time. But though his private life was always disorderly and
occasionally ignominious, he was a very brave and skilful naval
officer. All through the summer of 1759 he and Captain Keppel were
the eyes and hands of the fleet. When on the 2nd July four French
line-of-battle ships stood out of Camaret Bay to drive him off, Hervey
did not hesitate to engage for a moment, though he had with him only
two of the line and some frigates. He well knew that the sound of
his guns would soon bring up Hawke’s fleet, and it did. The French
drew back immediately under the protection of their batteries. Their
intention had been, after driving off Hervey, to go round to Quiberon,
chase away the small squadron under Captain Reynolds, of the Firm, and
liberate the transports at Vannes—a proposal worthy of the intelligence
they showed all through the year. The sub-blockade of Quiberon remained
unbroken. When the =Firm= became foul, Reynolds was relieved by Captain
Duff, of the =Rochester=, 50, who remained in possession of the waters
of the French bay with four 50-gun ships and some frigates till he was
swept into the great hurricane of wind and battle of the 20th November.

The fine weather and the energy shown by Pitt in supporting the
fleets at sea made it possible to keep the crews well supplied with
provisions. They enjoyed a good health of which there were few examples
in the previous history of the navy. Yet the blockade was tedious work,
relieved only by such events as this action of the 2nd July, by the
cutting out of the _Modeste_ from under the French batteries, a gallant
feat of Hervey’s, or by the unsuccessful attempt of Captain Barrington
of the =Achilles= to destroy some French ships in the Morbihan.
Meanwhile there was growing impatience at Paris with the timidity
of Conflans, who showed extreme reluctance to go to sea without an
express order. Conflans had served with some credit, but he owed his
command to court favour, and had no reputation as a manœuvrer in the
French Navy, while all his words and actions show him to have been
light and ostentatious, with no firmness of character. The instructions
he issued to his captains when he did go out are full of a pretence of
confidence which was ridiculous after the timidity of the summer, and
more ridiculous when read by the light of the final disaster. He wrote
as if he feared that Hawke would not give him a good chance to fight.

On the 9th November a gale, and the needs of the blockading fleet,
did for the French what they could not do for themselves. Hawke was
compelled to bear up for Torbay. Frigates were left to watch Brest. The
westerly gale which had forced Hawke to draw off from the dangerous lee
shore of Brest, brought home the French squadron of M. de Bompart, now
coming back from the West Indies. To his surprise and relief, he found
the way to port open. His safe arrival convinced Conflans that Hawke
must be gone. Taking the crews out of Bompart’s ships to reinforce his
own, the marshal put to sea on the 14th November, when the wind had
moderated, and the last great effort of the French to carry out the
invasion began.

On the same date Hawke left Torbay to resume the blockade of Brest.
On the 16th he was met by the news that the French had been seen
twenty-four leagues to the north-west of Belleisle, steering to the
south-east. There could be no doubt in Hawke’s mind that they were
bound for Quiberon, and he instantly headed in pursuit. The news that
the French were at sea spread rapidly over England, and produced an
outburst of popular anger against Hawke, which gives the exact value
of the most sweet voices of the mob. It ought to have rejoiced to hear
that the enemy was out, and had only to look at the measures taken by
Government to see that there was no peril. The troops and militia were
put to some disturbance, which was unnecessary, save for the purpose of
quieting the national nerves. A more rational measure was the formation
of a reserve squadron of six ships of the line under Rear-Admiral Geary
to reinforce Hawke. In these days, too, Vice-Admiral Saunders reached
the mouth of the Channel on his way back from the conquest of Quebec.
He had but three liners with him, and they were much tried by service,
yet without a moment’s hesitation he sailed to join the Channel Fleet.
It is true that he did not arrive in time to be of service, but it was
fine conduct, and an instance of the noble spirit now animating the
navy which of itself was enough to calm all fears.

While the hubbub was raging at home, Hawke was straining to overtake
Conflans. The wind between the 14th and the evening of the 19th
November either fell calm or blew from the east, hampering both fleets.
On the evening of the 19th it began to blow strong from the west, and
there was every sign of a coming gale. Conflans was to the south-west
of Belleisle, and Hawke behind him. Fearing that the force of the wind
would cause him to make the land during the night, the French admiral
carried little sail. Hawke, who was farther out, had less motive for
caution, and was able to carry more sail than his opponent, thereby
reducing the distance between them. When the late November daybreak
came, this was the position; out at sea was Hawke with twenty-three
sail of the line. Ahead of him, and just so far ahead of him as to
be under the horizon line, was Conflans with twenty-one sail and
five frigates or sloops. Both were flying before a rising gale from
the W.N.W. and heading to enter Quiberon Bay by the passage between
the Grands Cardinaux and the Plateau du Four. Ahead of Conflans was
the =Vengeance= frigate of 28 guns, whose captain, Nightingale, was
carrying all the sail he could bear, and was firing signal guns rapidly
to warn Commodore Duff at anchor in Quiberon Bay that the French fleet
was at hand. Duff at once ordered the cables to be cut and all speed
to be made to sea, for there was not a moment to be lost if his little
squadron was to escape from between the land and an overwhelming
enemy. The surest road to safety was round the Pointe de Conguel, and
through La Teignouse to the north of Belleisle. But to beat through
that channel, all scarred as it is with rocks, in the face of a gale
blowing right down from the W.N.W., was a feat which only one of his
ships could achieve. The others were compelled to take the frightfully
perilous course of running down the east side of Belleisle and rounding
it to the south. Every yard of the road brought them nearer to the
French fleet, which was coming up from the west and south. It was a
question of minutes whether Conflans’ ships would or would not cut the
path of escape. Never since the fleet of Bazan was seen stretching
across the roadstead of Flores in the Azores had an English squadron
been in greater peril than Duff’s, and the men knew it well. Therefore
it was that when the lookout-man at the masthead of the =Rochester=
hailed to report that he saw Hawke’s sails to windward of the enemy, a
wild shout of joy went up, and the men threw their hats into the sea at
the French, in a horseplay of defiance. It was the gesture of the boxer
or single-stick player at a country fair who gave a challenge. It was
now about eight o’clock in the morning. The reader will bear in mind
that Duff’s ships were just about to be pinned to the south coast of
Belleisle, that the French ships were closing in on them from the sea,
and that the topsails of Hawke were rising over the horizon against
the grey November sky. The clouds were driving furiously overhead. The
Norsemen, whose descendants were numerous in the English fleet, and not
absent from the French, would have seen the Valkyries riding, and would
have heard the voices of the “choosers of the slain.” Here is the list
of the ships and the captains:—


THE FLEET OF HAWKE

 =The Royal George=   100   { Sir E. Hawke.
                            { Capt. Campbell.

 =Union=               90   { Sir C. Hardy.
                            { Capt. J. Evans.

 =Duke=                90   T. Graves.
 =Namur=               90   M. Buckle.
 =Mars=                74   Commodore James Young.
 =Warspight=           74   Sir John Bentley.
 =Hercules=            74   E. Fortescue.
 =Torbay=              74   Hon. A. Keppel.
 =Magnanime=           74   Lord Howe.
 =Resolution=          74   H. Speke.

 =Hero=                74   Hon. G. Edgecumbe.
 =Swiftsure=           70   Sir T. Stanhope.
 =Dorsetshire=         70   P. Denis.
 =Burford=             70   J. Gambier.
 =Chichester=          70   E. S. Willet.
 =Temple=              70   Hon. W. Shirley.
 =Revenge=             64   J. Storr.
 =Essex=               64   L. O’Brien.
 =Kingston=            60   T. Shirley.
 =Intrepid=            60   J. Maplesden.
 =Montagu=             60   J. Rowley.
 =Dunkirk=             60   R. Digby.
 =Defiance=            60   P. Baird.


Duff’s Ships and the Frigates

 =Rochester=           50   Capt. R. Duff.
 =Portland=            50   M. Arbuthnot.
 =Falkland=            50   Fr. S. Drake.
 =Chatham=             50   J. Lockhart.
 =Minerva=             32   A. Hood.

 =Venus=               36   T. Harrison.
 =Vengeance=           28   G. Nightingale.
 =Coventry=            28   F. Burslem.
 =Maidstone=           28   D. Diggs.
 =Sapphire=            32   J. Strachan.


FLEET OF CONFLANS

 _Soleil Royal_     80 { Conflans
                       { Capt. de Chézac.
 _Tonnant_          80   Chevr. de Beauffremont, Chef d’escadre.
 _Formidable_       80   Saint-André Duverger, Chef d’escadre.
 _Orient_           80   Guébriant de Budez, Chef d’escadre
 _Itrépide_         74   Chasteloger.
 _Magnifique_       74   Bigot de Morogues.
 _Glorieux_         74   Villars de Labrosse.
 _Thésé_            74   de Kersaint.

 _Héros_            74   Vicomte de Sanzay.
 _Robuste_          74   Marquis de Vienne.
 _Northumberland_   74   Chevr. de Belingant.
 _Juste_            70   Saint Allouarn.
 _Dauphin Royal_    70   Vicomte d’Urtubie.
 _Inflexible_       70   Chevr. de Caumont.
 _Dragon_           70   Levassor de Latouche.
 _Eveillé_          70   Chevr. de Laprévalais.
 _Sphinx_           70   Chevr. de Coutance-Laselle
 _Solitaire_        70   Vicomte de Langle.
 _Brilliant_        70   Boischateau.
 _Bizarre_          70   Chevr. de Rohan.

     Frigates:—_Vestale_, _Aigrette_.
     Corvettes:—_Calypso_, _Prince Noir_.

The first report that he was approaching the enemy was given to Hawke by
the signal of the =Maidstone= at about half-past eight. But it was not
until a quarter to ten that Howe in the =Magnanime=, who had been sent
on to make the land and guide the fleet, was able to signal that the
French fleet was ahead, and to report its force. Meanwhile the French
admiral, who was at first incredulous of the approach of his opponent,
had been convinced at last that the British fleet was indeed upon him,
and had begun to collect his ships, which had been scattered in pursuit
of Duff. He endeavoured to form a line, and appeared resolved to give
battle. When Howe’s signal was seen, Hawke gave the order to form the
line abreast, and for the heavy sailers which were lagging behind
to set more sail and come up to his flag. As the British ships rose
above the horizon both fleets were much scattered, and the admirals
were endeavouring to bring them together. It was not a rapid process
with sailing-ships, which could not spread much canvas in stormy
weather. The whole forenoon slipped away before a shot could be fired,
and all the vessels were still to the west and south of Belleisle at
midday. Duff joined Hawke at eleven o’clock. The French admiral was
now able to measure the strength of the force about to fall on him. He
estimated it at thirty sail of the line, which even when the 50-gun
ships of Commodore Duff were counted in was an exaggeration, only to be
accounted for by fear, or by a dishonest wish to excuse the weakness of
his conduct to his superiors. Losing all confidence, Conflans decided
not to give battle, but to make for Quiberon Bay. He therefore hoisted
the signal for retreat, and set the example by leading the way in the
_Soleil Royal_. He did not believe that Hawke would follow him into
the narrow and broken waters of the bay, but he calculated that if the
English admiral did take this bold course, he himself could work up
towards the peninsula of Quiberon, and so gain the weather-gage and
the advantage of position over an opponent embayed on a hostile and
unfamiliar coast. This is what he said in his exculpatory dispatch,
but it has much the look of an afterthought, and the probability is
that Conflans really hoped to reach the enclosed waters of the Morbihan
before being overtaken.

Had he been opposed to a commonplace officer, he would probably have
succeeded. Hawke was too bold a man to turn his mind to considerations
of superfluous prudence in the presence of an enemy who was manifestly
seeking to avoid battle. The signal for the line abreast was hauled
down and replaced by another, for the vessels nearest the French to
pursue, to overtake, and to bring the enemy to action, and for all
others to come on at their best speed, pressing into battle where
and how they could. The two fleets swept on past Belleisle, rolling
and pitching in the rising sea. It was shortly after two in the
afternoon that the French admiral led his flying force round the Grands
Cardinaux, and already the battle had begun with the ships behind him.
The =Warspight=, Sir John Bentley, and the =Dorsetshire=, Captain P.
Denis, were the first of the English ships to come up with and open
fire on the enemy. They were soon joined by the =Revenge=, =Magnanime=,
=Torbay=, =Montagu=, =Resolution=, =Swiftsure=, and =Defiance=. Thus,
when the French ships ran between the Grands Cardinaux and Plateau du
Four, all those at the end of their line were already mingled with
their pursuers, and both the fleets came in together locked in a savage
embrace of battle.

Never in the long history of war was the truth that the timid is also
the dangerous course more convincingly shown than in this battle. As
the English ships overtook the French, ranging up on both sides, they
did not linger by the first they met, but pushed on ahead, leaving
the work of destruction to be completed by their comrades coming
on behind. Thus the French rear ships were successively assailed by
superior numbers firing into them from right and left. It must also
be remembered that when the ships turned round Les Grands Cardinaux
and headed to the north and north-west, they turned their left sides
to the wind and were pressed over to the right. The slope, or list,
given to them was so great that it was impossible to open the ports of
the lowest tier of guns on the lee side. When any English captain came
up on the lee side of a Frenchman, he himself had the full use of his
weather battery, while his opponent could not fire his heaviest and
most effective tier of guns. Conflans, in fact, had so managed matters
that he gave Hawke’s superiority of numbers an effect it could not
have had if the French fleet had accepted battle outside Belleisle, in
good order, and in a united body. The rear of his line was miserably
crushed. The _Formidable_, 80, the flagship of the Chef d’Escadre
Saint-André Duverger, was shattered to pieces by our fire. Duverger
himself and 200 of his men were slain, and his ship surrendered. The
_Thésée_, 74, filled and went down with all hands, unquestionably
because her captain, M. de Kersaint, opened his lower deck ports to
fire and allowed the water to rush in. Keppel on the =Torbay= all but
incurred the same fate by running the same hazard, but his ship freed
herself of the water in time.

A detailed description of the battle is an impossibility. The wind
shifted suddenly from W.N.W. to N.N.W., and increased in violence as
it travelled round, adding to the already frightful confusion of the
forty and odd great ships manœuvring in the confined triangle of water
bounded by the coast and the islands. The sea was heaving underfoot,
driven in great waves before the wind, and dragged seaward by the
ebb. The storm howled through the rigging. The ships under reduced
canvas made short tacks to avoid the rocks all around. Conflans, after
stretching up to Quiberon Bay, turned back to the help of the ships
behind him, and the two fleets were mingled in a wild whirl of storm
and battle. Collisions were incessant between enemies and friends, but
the English, as being the more practised seamen, avoided them better,
and suffered from them less. To the French admiral it suggested itself
as a possibility that he might fight his way out again, and get once
more to windward of Belleisle. Signals followed one another rapidly
from the _Soleil Royal_, but they were not, and they could not be
obeyed. The rolling of the ships rendered their fire ineffective, and
the danger of wreck compelled the captains to think constantly of the
safety of their vessels. Sunset, too, came early, and the dark put a
stop to all manœuvring. Thus there was neither time nor opportunity to
take many prizes. One other French ship, the _Superbe_, shared the fate
of the _Thésée_, and the _Héros_, dismasted and riddled by the English
fire, hauled down her flag and dropped anchor. But the enemy was none
the less completely beaten. Seven of his ships found refuge in the
Vilaine by grovelling over the mud bar of the river. Others fled down
the coast to the south, where one of them, the _Juste_, was stranded
near St. Nazaire. Her first and second captains, the brothers Allouar,
had both fallen. Conflans himself ran inside the Point du Four, and
anchored off Croisic. When darkness came down, Hawke made the signal to
anchor. It was, according to the code of the time, two guns fired to
leeward, and was naturally not distinguished while cannon were being
fired on all sides. Several of the English ships kept under way all
night, but most anchored between the Grands Cardinaux and the little
island of Dumet, which lies to north-east towards the mouth of the
Vilaine. Two English ships, the =Essex= and the =Resolution=, were lost
on the Four in the dark. The captain of the _Héros_ finding that he was
not boarded by an English prize crew, took advantage of the darkness to
cut his cables and allow his vessel to drive ashore near Croisic, when
Conflans had anchored in the _Soleil Royal_. In the morning the admiral
found himself alone, with the bulk of Hawke’s fleet at anchor a few
miles off. Hopeless of escape, he ran his flagship ashore to prevent
her from falling into our hands.

Judged by the fighting alone, the battle of Quiberon was less arduous
than many we have fought with the French and all we have fought with
the Dutch. But the fighting was in this case the least of the battle.
It stands in the first rank, if not at the head of all the heroisms
of the fleet, because it was won over the storm, the sea, and the
rocks, as well as over man. The boldness of Hawke in flying at his
enemy before his own force was thoroughly united, and the magnificent
seamanship of his captains in circumstances of unparalleled difficulty
set this battle apart. Although the French had but one vessel taken and
five destroyed, they were utterly routed. The seven ships which fled
into the Vilaine were lost for all practical purposes, and the spirit
of their navy was broken for the rest of the war. There is a legend
which tells how the sailing master of the =Royal George= expostulated
when ordered to take the ship among the rocks of Quiberon, and how
Hawke answered that his subordinate had done his duty by pointing out
the danger and was now to obey the order. If this story has not an
actual, it has a mythical, truth. What gives its peculiar character to
Hawke’s victory at Quiberon was its magnificent military quality. To
the mere seaman there was something like madness in rushing just before
dark into the most frightful of the possible perils of navigation.
But the admiral, though a finished seaman, was also a great fighting
leader, and to him the occasion seemed one on which to use his skill,
not to avoid but to incur dangers, for a great purpose. Nothing equal
in conduct will be met for twenty-two years, and until we come to
Hood’s fine, though unsuccessful effort to save the island of St. Kitts
from the Comte de Grasse. Indeed the whole passage of the blockade of
Brest and the battle of Quiberon was without precedent in the history
of the navy, and without an equal successor for forty years. The
tenacity with which the fleet kept its watch into the stormy winter
months would have appeared the excess of temerity to the naval officers
of former times, who thought it dangerous to leave the great ships at
sea after September. What also was without precedent was the success
with which the crews were kept in health by the determination of the
admiral that they should be regularly supplied with fresh meat and
wholesome beer. After Quiberon the stormy weather made the service of
the victuallers difficult, and there was a change for the worse which
is recorded in the navy’s one contribution to epigrammatic literature—

    “Ere Hawke did bang
    Monsieur Conflans
      You sent us beef and beer;
    Now Monsieur’s beat
    We’ve nought to eat
      Since you have nought to fear.”

It adds a grace to the heroic figure of Hawke that he was tender of the
lives and of the health of his men. But his good sense taught him that
sickly crews must needs make a crippled fleet.

The history of the invasion year may be concluded with a brief notice
of the fate of Thurot. He escaped from Dunkirk with five ships on the
17th October, and made his way to the coast of Norway. From thence
he came down to the Hebrides early in 1760. Two of his vessels were
disabled by weather at different times and left him. On the 20th
February he appeared off Carrickfergus in the north of Ireland, and
took the place. On the 28th of the same month Captain Elliot of the
=Eolus=, with two other frigates, fell in with the three Frenchmen and
took them after a sharp fight, in which Thurot, a brave humane man
worthy of a better service and a better fate, lost his life. And so
went out the last spark of the French scheme for the destruction of
England.

When darkness closed down on the Bay of Quiberon on the 20th November,
the great operations of naval warfare came to an end, for there was
no longer any fleet to meet ours at sea. The navy had duty to do
both during 1759 and afterwards in co-operating with the army in the
conquest of French possessions. But its work, however indispensable,
was ancillary, and a repetition of the same tale with the same moral
would be tedious. I shall therefore, as in the case of the operations
of the reigns of King William and Queen Anne, simply give a list of the
expeditions.

 +----------------------------------------------------+----------+------------+
 |                 Expedition.                        |   When   |  When      |
 |                                                    |   Begun  |  Ended     |
 +----------------------------------------------------+----------+------------+
 | Commodore Moore and Major-General Hopson           |  End of  | May 1759.  |
 | attack Martinique unsuccessfully, and Guadaloupe   | November |            |
 | successfully. The arrival of Bompart’s squadron    |  1758    |            |
 | compelled Moore to concentrate his ships, which    |          |            |
 | gave the French privateers an opportunity to do    |          |            |
 | considerable injury to our trade. Their activity   |          |            |
 | confirmed the British Government in its intention  |          |            |
 | to deprive them of their ports of supply by taking |          |            |
 | all the French islands. No action took place       |          |            |
 | with Bompart.                                      |          |            |
 |                                                    |          |            |
 |Vice-Admiral Saunders and Wolfe sail from           |17th      |18th October|
 |Spithead, pick up the ships left on the American    | February | 1759.      |
 |coast, and take Quebec on the 17th August.          | 1759.    |            |
 |Saunders sailed for home two months later.          |          |            |
 |                                                    |          |            |
 |Commodore Keppel and Major-General Hodgson          |29th March|7th June    |
 |take Belleisle.                                     | 1761.    | 1761.      |
 |                                                    |          |            |
 |Commodore Sir James Douglas and Lord Rollo          |4th June  |8th June    |
 |take Dominica in the Antilles. They sailed from     | 1761.    | 1761.      |
 |Guadaloupe.                                         |          |            |
 |                                                    |          |            |
 |Rear-Admiral Rodney and Major-General               |8th       |26th        |
 |Monckton complete the conquest of the French        | January  | February   |
 |settlements in the West Indies, except those in     | 1762.    | 1762.      |
 |Hayti.                                              |          |            |
 |                                                    |          |            |
 |After Spain had joined France, a great combined     |5th March |11th August |
 |expedition under Sir G. Pocock, with Lord Albemarle | 1762.    | 1762.      |
 |as General, sailed from home, and, after            |          |            |
 |collecting forces in the West Indies, took Havana.  |          |            |
 |                                                    |          |            |
 |In the East Indies Admiral Cornish and Colonel      |1st August|6th October |
 |Draper took Manila.                                 | 1762.    | 1762.      |
 +----------------------------------------------------+----------+------------+

While the campaigns of 1758 and 1759 were being fought out in Europe
and America, the rivalry between France and England in the Eastern
Seas was decided to our advantage. In this struggle the navy played
a very essential part. The scene of its labours and final triumph,
was on the eastern or Coromandel coast of the Indian Peninsula. Here
the course of the war was dictated to a very large extent by certain
physical conditions. From March to October is the season of the S.W. or
rainy monsoon. Then the wind is favourable to all ships entering the
Bay of Bengal. It blows away from the land and renders the coast safe.
Immediately under the land, however, there is a belt of water subject
to variable winds, which blow alternately on to the land from the S.E.
and off it from the S. or W. When the wind is from the S.E. the sea
becomes rough, and the coast, being very ill provided with harbours, is
dangerous. All currents during this season flow strongly to the north.
Thus the tendency of wind and water alike is to carry all ships into
the Bay, and to make the Coromandel coast safe. After October and
till the end of February comes the season of the N.E. monsoon, which,
blowing on to the land, makes a rough sea and a dangerous coast, and
also tends to blow all ships out of the Bay of Bengal. Thus in the
ordinary course of trade vessels would come in with the S.W. monsoon,
and arrange to start so as to get the help of the N.E. monsoon on
their homeward voyage. Thus too the period of operation for fighting
fleets would be during the S.W. monsoon, since at that time the coast
was safe, and both sides would take the opportunity to send out
reinforcements to its garrisons on shore, while its commerce would be
coming in at the beginning and going out at the end of the period. With
the N.E. monsoon all sails disappeared from the Bay of Bengal—those of
commerce on their homeward voyage, those of war to their respective
ports, which for the French meant the island of Mauritius, and for the
English, Bombay on the western or Malabar coast. Here, as in Europe,
we had an advantage of position. The Malabar coast is nearer the
Coromandel than is the Mauritius, and therefore the British squadron,
when directed with common energy, could always be at the scene of
operations before its opponent, and could be placed so as to intercept
all French forces on their way to Pondicherry.

Mention has already been made of the co-operation of Admiral Watson
and Clive in the suppression of Geriah early in 1756. They reached
Madras on the 20th June, one day before the taking of Calcutta by
Suraj-ud-Daulah and the tragedy of the Black Hole. The vengeance for
this outrage is one of the most famous stories in our history. But it
belongs to the history of the East India Company rather than to that
of the navy. Against an enemy who possessed no ships, the fleet could
only act by providing for the transport of troops, covering their
landing, attacking forts on the coast, and landing stores or naval
brigades. Admiral Watson did his share in the work actively in the
early months of 1757, and he was passively consenting to the fraud
by which his name was forged for the purpose of cheating Omichand. A
small naval brigade shared in the battle of Plassey. In any case the
sudden extension of British power which came out of the overthrow of
Suraj-ud-Daulah, would probably have led to a renewal of the conflict
with the French Company, but hostilities were precipitated by the
European and American quarrels of the two countries. In March 1757 the
French fort at Chandernagore, just above Calcutta, was occupied after a
sharp fight, in the midst of the complicated negotiations and conflicts
with the Nabob of Bengal. Admiral Watson did not live to take part in
the naval conflict with the French, but died in September of 1757. He
was succeeded by Rear-Admiral George Pocock, to whom it fell to command
at sea in the decisive struggle for supremacy in India.

No attempt will be made here to describe the series of battles
fought during 1758 and 1759. These actions present little more
than a weary repetition of examples of the working of the pedantic
Fighting Instructions. Though Pocock was unquestionably a man of great
energy, strong mind, and the utmost zeal for the service, he wanted
the originality and independence of intellect to break away from
the traditional method. Thus action after action presents the same
monotonous picture. The British squadron works to windward to secure
the power to force on battle, and comes down in line to engage the
enemy from end to end. The French wait for the attack, fire to cripple
the rigging of those of our vessels which present themselves first to
its blows, and then slip away, damaged more or less severely, but never
so seriously that they cannot reach the port they are steering for,
while our crews are knotting, splicing, and replacing ropes and spars.
It was by no single well-delivered blow, by no telling victory that we
finally forced our opponent out of the Indian Seas, but by persistence,
by a better average of practical seamanship, by the possession of
greater resources—by, as it were, slowly pushing him in front of us as
by a steady application of weight.

The conflict on the sea blazed up in 1758. The French Government had
realised the necessity for making an effort to preserve its East
Indian possessions in 1757. A squadron was fitted out at Brest under
M. D’Aché, and sailed on the 6th March. It was driven back by bad
weather, and two of the vessels belonging to it were taken to serve
in America with M. Dubois de Lamotte. On the 4th May M. D’Aché sailed
again with one king’s ship and five belonging to the Company, carrying
with him a body of troops under the headlong and passionate Lally, the
most unhappy and one of the least wise of the Irishmen who have been
the enemies to this country. The dates of D’Aché’s cruise illustrate
the slow progress of fleets at that time. He reached Rio on the 23rd
July, and remained there for two months to recruit the health of his
crews—no unusual stoppage in the Indian voyages of the period. He
reached the Île de France on the 28th December, and sailed for India
on the 27th January 1758. On the 26th April he reached the coast of
Coromandel—little less than a year after he had left Brest. While
D’Aché was slowly sailing to the East, Pocock had been reinforced in
March by Commodore Charles Stevens, and his squadrons had been raised
to seven vessels of from fifty to sixty-four guns. He knew that a
French force was on its way and must be now approaching the coast of
Coromandel. On the 17th April he sailed from Madras and worked to the
southward in search of the enemy, but did not succeed in meeting him.
D’Aché had passed unseen and had anchored at Carical, a French post to
the south of the English station of Cuddalore, which is to the south
of Pondicherry. Pondicherry itself is well to the south of Madras.
The French officer had with him eight vessels—for he had found some
at the Île de France—one more than Pocock, but only his flagship the
_Zodiaque_, 74, was a warship. The other seven were vessels belonging
to the French East India Company, were built for trade as well as
fighting, and even if they carried their full nominal armaments
of forty-four, fifty, or fifty-four guns, inferior in solidity to
Pocock’s. The one ship more of the French would barely put them on an
equality with our squadron.

From Carical D’Aché sent on Lally to assume his government at
Pondicherry, and he himself struck at the English station of Cuddalore.
He had the good fortune to cut off two small vessels, the =Triton=
and =Bridgewater=, which were driven ashore under the citadel of the
place, Fort St. David. Meanwhile Pocock was coming back from his
unsuccessful cruise to the South. On the 29th April the two fleets
sighted one another, and a confused action ensued. The dull rules of
the Fighting Instructions were badly executed by some of Pocock’s
captains, and one of D’Aché’s officers showed downright cowardice.
After the usual cannonade the two fleets separated in the customary
respective conditions of British and French squadrons after an action
fought according to rule. The French, whose ships were crowded with
Lally’s soldiers, had a heavy list of killed and wounded, because we
preferred to fire at our enemy’s hull. In the British squadron several
vessels were so crippled in their rigging as to be unmanageable. D’Aché
anchored at Alamparva, north of Pondicherry, where one of his vessels
became a wreck in the surf. Pocock went on to Madras to refit and bring
three of his captains to court martial. One was dismissed the service,
and the other two sentenced to lesser penalties. The incident is an
example of that wholesome severity which, by assigning to every man a
definite responsibility and calling on him to answer for every failure,
has established the magnificent discipline of the Royal Navy, and has
been the austere parent of its splendid efficiency.

From Alamparva D’Aché went to Pondicherry and landed his soldiers and
his numerous sick and wounded. At the close of May Pocock appeared
off the port. The French Admiral, whose squadron was ill fitted, had
recourse to every device to avoid action, and all the rabid driving
of Lally could not make him incur risks. As the authorities at Madras
were rendered nervous for their safety by the strength of the French
military force they recalled Pocock, and thus enabled D’Aché to
co-operate with Lally in the capture of Fort St. David in June. In
July, however, the admiral was back off Pondicherry seeking battle.
D’Aché would fain have avoided a meeting and have returned at once
to the Île de France. Prayers and threats from the authorities and
Lally induced him to stay, and to play a game of hide-and-seek in
the calms and varying inshore winds of the coast. On the 3rd August,
after infinite confusing movements and varying breezes, another barren
cannonade took place off Negapatam. Again both admirals anchored,
Pocock at Carical and D’Aché at Pondicherry. On the 3rd September the
Frenchman sailed for the Île de France, and the sea being now clear
of enemies, Pocock went round to Bombay to avoid the storms of the
north-easterly monsoon.

This campaign has certain features of interest. Though Pocock’s arms
were tied by the Fighting Instructions, he showed a vigour in attack
and a persistency of effort which promised final victory over his timid
opponent. But the working of those instructions is full of warning.
It has been ingeniously argued by the late Admiral Colomb that the
presence of an effective naval force, for which he invented—or to
which he adapted—the name of “Fleet in Being,” on a given coast will
of itself so act as to stop all operations against that coast on the
part of an enemy. Yet in this case, though the British squadron was
at least a full match for the French, and Pocock’s will to strike
was of the best, we see that he failed both to prevent D’Aché from
landing soldiers at Pondicherry and from co-operating in the taking
of Cuddalore. He failed partly because of the timidity of the Council
which called him back to Madras, but mainly because he was tied by
formal rules of battle which did not allow him to develop freely the
whole strength of his command. Had he been free to take his fleet
always where he thought best, and to use it unbound by foolish laws,
had he been one of those great and original captains who have the moral
and intellectual courage to break away from worn-out traditions, there
can be no doubt that his campaign of 1758 on the coast of Coromandel
would have been marked by a decisive battle. It might well have been
far more costly than the two engagements actually fought, but we may
assert, without undue patriotic confidence in our own navy, that it
would have broken the French naval forces in those seas to pieces. As
it was, the balance of advantage was rather with the French than with
us. The moral of the story is surely, that it is not enough for a fleet
to be “in being” if it is not also in action, and that there is but
little use in action which is not allowed to drive its blows home to
the heart.

The operations of 1759 bear some likeness to those of the previous
year, but with a marked difference. Our squadron well supplied,
strictly disciplined, grew in strength, efficiency, and confidence.
D’Aché was joined at the Île de France by ships of the navy from Europe
commanded by Froger de l’Eguille, who had taken part in the action with
Byng. But his very numbers were an embarrassment to him. The French
islands were too poor to feed the crews of the squadron. They were
only kept from starvation by sending some of the ships to buy food
at a great cost from the Dutch at the Cape of Good Hope, and others
to live from hand to mouth on the coast of Madagascar. Stores were
almost wholly wanting, and the work of refitting the vessels was either
not done at all, or was done by sacrificing one necessary to serve as
makeshift for another. It is therefore not surprising that whereas
Pocock was back from the Malabar coast and was cruising in the Bay of
Bengal in April, D’Aché was unable to leave the islands till the middle
of July. He was near Batacaloa on the east coast of Ceylon at the end
of August. He had eleven ships to Pocock’s eight, but many were weak,
all were badly fitted, and there was little heart or confidence in
officers or men. To a large extent his crews were natives. The utmost
he felt able to do was to carry some reinforcements to Pondicherry, and
his ambition did not reach beyond effecting this service without being
brought to battle if he could. When then he was sighted by Pocock on
the coast of Ceylon, he applied himself to slipping away and succeeded.
The British admiral, having lost sight of him, hastened to cut his road
at Pondicherry, and another scene of cannonading, of damaged rigging
for us, and of final escape for the French, took place on the 10th
September. D’Aché reached Pondicherry while our ropes and spars were
being repaired at Negapatam. During the rest of the month the British
admiral made successive attempts to provoke his opponent to battle. The
furious Lally, whose one idea of government was to lay about him with
a flail, strove hard to get service out of his naval colleague. But
D’Aché, who was deep in the ruinous intrigues of the French settlement,
would do nothing. He would not even stay on the coast though prayed
to do so by his countrymen. His officers were as eager to be gone as
himself. At the end of September he sailed for the islands, and the
French flag disappeared from those seas. When his opponent was gone
Pocock went round to Bombay. From thence he sailed for home with a
great convoy, and arrived on the 22nd September. The naval war was at
an end in the East Indies by the utter collapse of the French. Their
possessions being cut off from help, fell before the superior forces of
the English company.

Pocock was rewarded by the immensely lucrative command of the fleet
which sailed in the combined expedition against Havana in 1762, when
Spain, in a moment of Royal folly, was dragged into the war against us.
On that enterprise and of the contemporaneous expedition which Pocock’s
successor in the East Indies command, Cornish, led against Manila,
no more will be said here than that they were marked by a loyalty of
co-operation between sailor and soldier which was then a novelty.



CHAPTER VII

THE AMERICAN WAR TILL 1780

 AUTHORITIES.—See authorities for previous years; Mundy’s _Life
     and Correspondence of Lord Rodney_; Barrow’s _Life of Howe_;
     Chevalier, _Histoire de la Marine Française pendant la guerre
     d’independence Americaine_; _Parliamentary History_; _Annual
     Register_.


The interval of fifteen years which separates the end of the Seven
Years’ War from the beginning of the American War in 1778 saw no
change in the organisation of the navy. An improvement in their
half pay was given to the captains in 1773. In 1715 the right to
enjoy half pay when not on active service, which had hitherto been
limited to twenty-five officers of this rank, was extended to all.
The amount had come to appear insufficient by 1773, and the captains
petitioned Parliament for relief. Their case was stated by Howe, who
was then member for Dartmouth. Lord North, the Prime Minister, began
by opposing the motion, on the ground that it affected the revenue,
and ought therefore to have been made by a minister. But the sympathy
of the house was with Howe and his clients. A committee of inquiry
was appointed, and on its report Parliament decided that the increase
ought to be granted. A sum of £7000 was finally voted, and the scale
of half pay was fixed at 10s. a day for 50 captains, 8s. for 30, and
6s. for all the others, in their order of seniority. Howe and the more
fortunate naval officers, who were members of the House of Commons
and who gave him support, acted an honourable part on behalf of their
brothers in arms. They would have done still better if they had gone on
to represent the far more cruel grievances of the men. Had they acted
with spirit for those fellow-seamen who did not belong to their own
class, they might have secured a hearing, and have saved the navy from
the long list of mutinies which were to disgrace the coming war. But so
much magnanimity and foresight was perhaps not to be expected in those
years of the eighteenth century. Nothing was done for the sailors. The
isolated mutinies were sometimes suppressed with severity, but were
sometimes concealed from public knowledge, and condoned. A long course
of neglect and weakness, with now and then a spasm of ferocity, bore
its natural fruit in the combined mutiny at Spithead in 1797.

The discipline of the navy continued to benefit by the admirable
work done in the Seven Years’ War by the great chiefs and the less
famous officers whom they inspired. Their influence and example went
on bearing good fruit, and have indeed never ceased to be felt, but
have been carried from one generation to another of their successors.
Remote from the corruption of the dockyards and the fury of political
factions on shore, on solitary voyages, in long cruises, in blockades,
in battle and storm, the admirals and captains who were trained in the
schools of Anson and Hawke, Pocock and Boscawen, and were themselves
to train the admirals and captains of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic
Wars, went on perfecting the seamanship and fighting efficiency of the
fleet. An anonymous officer, who wrote in 1788, could declare in answer
to those who boasted of the ancient discipline of the navy, that “if
we compare the past practices and methods, as they have been explained
to us thirty years ago by old seamen in the service, with the present,
we shall find, that in no one thing under the British Government has
there been so much improvement as in the art of fighting, sailing,
and navigating a British ship of War.” The reason he gives is full of
instruction, and deserves to be quoted at length:—

 “The old method of enforcing discipline was without method, by
 main strength and the frequent use of the rattan, without which no
 officer, from the captain down to the youngest midshipman, ever went
 upon deck. Even twenty years ago there was much of this discipline
 (if it can be called by the name) remaining in the service. Last war
 [_i.e._ between 1778 and 1783] there is no doubt that the internal
 discipline of His Majesty’s ships in general was brought to as great
 a degree of perfection, almost, as it is capable of receiving; I say
 in general. There were indeed exceptions; but in captains bigoted
 to the old customs, and whose ships might always be distinguished by
 their awkwardness and inactivity and by the indifferent figure they
 cut in action, though commanded with bravery. This general improvement
 proceeded from a method adopted in every branch of an officer’s and
 sailor’s duty, by dividing and quartering the officers with the men,
 and making them responsible for the performance of that portion of the
 duty allotted them, without noise, or the brutal method of driving
 sailors like cattle with sticks. Whether it were to make or shorten
 sail, to manœuvre the ship, to keep the men clean clothed, clean
 bedded, and berthed, this method was practised.”

The writer attributes the efficiency of the crews and the good
health they enjoyed even in the West Indies, while under the command
of Rodney and Hood, to this more humane and intelligent system. He
claims that there were cases when out of twenty-two sail of the line
cruising together, there were not twenty-two men who could not come to
quarters. The reader who compares this with the terrible ravages made
by fever and scurvy in the naval expeditions of Queen Anne’s reign and
the beginning of the Seven Years’ War will see how vast had been the
change for the better. The example of Captain Cook and the exertions
of Rodney’s doctor, Gilbert Blane, brought about improvements in the
diet of the men which saved thousands for the service of their country,
who would have been thrown to the sharks in former times. All this
reform was the spontaneous work of the navy. There was so little about
it of Admiralty system that no universal system of quartering men and
dividing work was established till far into the nineteenth century.
Captains followed the practice of the officers under whom they had
first served, with improvements of their own. The perfected discipline
of the navy was the result of the labours of hundreds of officers, many
of whom are completely forgotten, thinking, experimenting, and toiling,
each in his own sphere, but all with the same noble love of good work.
Therefore it had, and has, a grand life of its own, incomparably
higher, and far more enduring than the mechanical order enforced by
a minister or king. “It is the service” was the most emphatic praise
a naval officer could give, and “It is not the service” his most
severe condemnation. “The Service” was the formula standing for that
combination of smartness, of cleanliness, of precision of movement, of
exactness of stroke, of resolution to endure, and of intrepidity to
venture, which is the glory of the navy, its strength, and the real
explanation of its triumphs. It is of this too that the nation has
the best reason to be proud. There is something rather servile and
more than rather blind in the habit of attributing all success to the
commander. In the long run the Roman Legion will wear down Hannibal,
and it is a greater feat for any people to produce the organism which
is animated by the virtue of tens of thousands of its sons, than the
exceptional leader, whose genius does not always last even for the
whole of his own life. We do well to put up monuments to Nelson, and
it would be to our honour to remember other admirals more fully than
we do. The navy itself is the living memorial raised to the generation
of forgotten men whose names have passed into forgetfulness, but whose
work lives to this day on the quarter-decks and forecastles of every
ship flying the cross of St. George.

While the seamen were steadily perfecting the discipline of the navy,
their rulers on shore were allowing the administration to drift back to
the corruptions of Walpole’s time. The cause of this unhappy reaction
is easily stated. George III. came to the throne with the determination
to be king. This meant that he would not consent to be a puppet in the
hands of the Whig oligarchy of Revolution families, who had dominated
his grandfather. He could not crush them by the use of force, and was
consequently compelled to fight them with their own weapons, which were
interest and corruption. Interest meant that he bought the obedience of
Members of the House of Commons by bribery. Every branch of the public
service, and the Royal Household also, suffered because places were
given to buy votes, and no reform could be effected without losing the
support of members of Parliament who profited by the abuse. The evil
was particularly bad in the navy. Parliamentary boroughs and dockyard
seats were regularly filled with henchmen of the king’s ministers, on
the understanding that they gave their help to suppress inquiry. Money
voted with a great appearance of precision for specific purposes was
not applied to the ends for which it was in theory granted. What became
of it nobody was ever able to discover. On paper the system of accounts
was so rigid that fraud might have appeared to be impossible, but its
very severity made it cumbersome, and the men in office were not even
honest. When taxed with misuse of the nation’s money they were in the
habit of boasting that they did not take it for themselves. It is
probable that they did not put it directly into their own pockets, but
their defence was sophistical. Corruption was needed to keep them in
place—and place was lucrative. Every department had its own treasury.
The money paid out by the Exchequer was put to the account of the
minister. The bankers paid interest on it, and this interest was the
perquisite of the members of the ministry. It was their interest to
delay payments and conceal the actual use made of the funds. Brougham
repeats a story which illustrates the spirit of the politicians of that
generation. When Lord North was appointed Paymaster of the Forces he
found that he had to divide the emoluments with another politician. His
disgust was great, and he revenged himself by a characteristic jest. A
dog made a mess in the passage outside his room. Lord North sent for
one of the servants, ordered him to carry the offensive matter away,
and take care that his colleague received his due share, for said he,
“Mr. Cooke is to have half of everything that comes into the office.”

When the war with France came in 1778 the mischief had been in full
swing for seven years under the administration of Lord Sandwich, which
began in 1771. During that period he had received for the building and
equipping of the navy £6,472,072, besides large sums charged on the
debt. This was nearly twice as much as had been voted between 1755 and
1762, and considerably more than a million beyond the votes of 1763 to
1771. These sums did not cover the whole expense of maintaining the
navy. The supplies were voted under three heads. There was the Ordinary
of the Navy, which meant the maintenance of the dockyards, care of the
ships not in commission, and half pay. Then there was the Extraordinary
of the navy, the “building, rebuilding, and repairs” and all “extra
works over and above what was meant to be done upon the heads of wear
and tear in ordinary.” The third vote was for so many men at £4 a head
per month of twenty-eight days. Of this sum £1, 16s. was for wages of
all ranks, 19s. for rations, and the balance covered current expenses
in replacing rigging and ammunition. This was naturally the largest
sum of all. The votes for 1779 for example were respectively: for the
Ordinary, £369,882, 6s. 1d.; for the Extraordinary, £579,187; and
for 70,000 men “for 13 months, including ordnance,” £3,640,000. The
£6,472,072 supplied to Sandwich between 1771 and 1778 did not include
the vote for men. Though the sum was so considerable, the Admiralty was
unable to find fifty line-of-battle ships for sea in the summer of 1778.

Why so much money produced such unsatisfactory results was well shown
in the course of a discussion in the Commons on the 13th January of
this year. Mr. Temple Luttrell quoted figures to show that as much
had been voted for the repairs of the =Namur=, the =Defence=, and the
=Arrogant=, as would have built them new from the keel at the most
extravagant rate. Yet they were not fit for service. An even more
scandalous case was that of the =Dragon=, 74. She had been launched in
1760 in the heat of the Seven Years’ War, and was one of the vessels
then hastily constructed of green timber to meet a pressing need. They
were rotten by 1771, and Sandwich was in the habit of taking credit
to himself for his exertion to replace them by better ships. What had
happened with the =Dragon= was this—that between 1771 and 1778 the
Admiralty came to Parliament for successive sums, amounting to £27,000,
for her repairs, and £10,273 for her stores. Yet in the latter year
she was notoriously lying in a rotten state at the head of Portsmouth
Harbour, and not one penny of this money had ever been spent upon her.
The facts were not disputed. All that the Sea Lords, who answered
for the Admiralty, could say was, that they had not pilfered the
money themselves, and that this sort of thing had always been done.
The answer was, that it was directly contrary to the representation
of the House of Commons in 1711. It was on this occasion that Burke
threw the book of the estimates across the Speaker’s table, knocking
over a candle, and all but breaking the shins of the Treasurer of
the Navy, Welbore Ellis. He said, that it was “treating the House
with the utmost contempt, to present them with a fine gilt book of
estimates, calculated to the last farthing, for purposes to which
the money granted was never meant to be applied.” Burke was right,
but the Whig Opposition had done nothing to amend the evil in its
days of power, and had little right to take a lofty moral line with
its successors. Contempt was the exact word for the attitude taken
towards all criticism by Sir Hugh Palliser and Lord Mulgrave, the
naval representatives of the Admiralty in the Lower House. Palliser
was arrogant and laconic, lying as to the state of the fleet with a
burly assurance. Lord Mulgrave, the Irish peer, better remembered as
the Captain Constantine Phipps, with whom Nelson made his early voyage
to Spitzbergen, was fluent, jocular, and insolent. A docile majority
supported them by voting “the previous question” as the most convenient
way of stifling inquiry.

Indignant contemporary critics declared that accounts made in this
fashion were in fact deliberately designed to “envelope in utter
darkness the true appropriation of the immense sums they (the Ministers
to wit) extort thereupon from the public.” The respective shares of
deliberate design and mere convenient use and wont in producing the
disorder present a nice question. What is beyond dispute is, that when
the gilt book of the estimates showed the expenditure of such and such
sums for repairs and stores, and when the money was devoted to other
purposes, and the vessels named were lying rotten and unfit for sea,
it must have been impossible even for the best informed officials
to know the effective strength of the navy. Indeed, nothing is more
difficult than to find what was the real available force of the fleet
at this crisis. The common printed authorities, Beatson’s _Naval and
Military Memoirs_, Schomberg’s _Chronicle_, and Derrick’s _Memoirs of
the Royal Navy_ (all good books in their different ways), contradict
one another. It is only natural they should, for there were no accurate
sources of information. It was not till 1773 that the Admiralty itself
began to try to take stock of its vessels. In that year it was ordered
that a return, to be known as the “Progress of the Dockyards,” should
be made every week, showing what ships of all classes were under the
care of the officials. There was also a monthly list of ships in full
sea pay. It ought to have been possible to make an exact return of the
strength of the navy by adding the one to the other. But these papers
were avowedly untrustworthy. A ship in full sea pay, or commission,
might go into the dockyard for repairs. She would then appear in the
Weekly Progresses, and if the totals alone were looked to, she would be
counted twice. Then a vessel was considered to be in full sea pay when
her captain was appointed, but months might pass before he joined her,
and in the meantime she lay unmanned. So she, again, would be included
twice. The Weekly Progresses were drawn up by the clerks of the Navy
Office, and the monthly lists by the Admiralty officials. They were
independent and might not agree. Some allowance must be made for mere
blunders. It is obvious, too, that the dockyards returned such rotten
hulks as H.M.S. =Dragon= among the ships under their charge, while
the fact that a man-of-war was in full sea pay hardly established a
presumption that she was manned, rigged, or as much as in good repair.
These official papers are therefore but blind guides. When the great
reform of the navy administration was begun in the early years of the
nineteenth century, a manuscript book called the “Progress of the Navy
from 1765 to 1806” was compiled in the Admiralty. The author warns all
who may use it that his sources were untrustworthy, but he professes to
have done his best to get at the truth and to have made the necessary
deductions. It may be accepted as giving the nearest attainable
approach to an exact statement of the paper strength of the navy during
the years which it covers.

According to this authority, the total nominal force of the Royal Navy
in January 1778 was 399 vessels, of which 274 were in full sea pay, or
commission, while 125 were in ordinary, or reserve. The usual phrase of
the time was “lying by the walls”—that is to say, in the dockyards. The
advance during the war will be seen from the following list:—

 +------------------+---------------+--------------+
 |                  | Vessels in    | Total of all |
 |                  | Full Sea Pay. |   Vessels.   |
 +------------------+---------------+--------------+
 | 1st January 1778 |      274      |     399      |
 |  "    "     1779 |      317      |     432      |
 |  "    "     1780 |      364      |     481      |
 |  "    "     1781 |      396      |     538      |
 |  "    "     1782 |      398      |     551      |
 |  "    "     1783 |      430      |     608      |
 +------------------+---------------+--------------+

This, however, is paper strength. It includes battered hulks fit only
for harbour duty, prizes needing a refit, yachts and ships building.
Even at the very end of the war such authorities as Keppel and Howe
could not agree as to the number of vessels really available for
service. Ships were put into commission simply in order to please
supporters by conferring professional favours on them, their relations,
or clients. A great display of pennants might be made by this device,
but it was a show out of all proportion to the effective strength.
Then, as in much later times, it was the dishonest official practice
to include vessels building in the list of the navy. Thus, in the
last year of the war, it was said that we had four first-rates of 100
guns. In reality there had been three, which were reduced to two by
the sinking of the =Royal George= at Spithead. Another was ordered to
replace her, and a fourth, the =Queen Charlotte=, which afterwards
carried Howe’s flag on the 1st June, was also begun. They were not
ready for years, but they were counted in to make up the tale of four.

Where our evidence is confessedly not sound, it is idle to make
confident assertions about the strength of the fleet. But the sea pay
lists represent what was the utmost claimed by the Government as ready
for immediate service. The figures for the beginning and the end of
1778 will show what was the disposition of the fleet, and also what was
the first effect of the outbreak of hostilities with France.

       January 1778.               December 1778.

   Station.         Number.    Station.        Number.
 East Indies           6      East Indies           5
 Jamaica              22      Jamaica              21
 Leeward Islands.     19      Leeward Islands      10
 North America        92      North America        85
 Mediterranean         6      Mediterranean         5
 Newfoundland         13      Newfoundland         15
 Convoy and Cruising  22      Convoy and Cruising  36
 Ships at home        94      Ships at home        97
                      ——      Western Squadron     43
                     274                           ——
                                                  317

The difference between the two lists is partly accounted for by
transfer of vessels from one station, or duty, to another. The high
figure of the North American station came from the use of numbers
of small craft to co-operate with the troops employed against the
insurgents from 1775 onwards. In the main, however, the second list
differs from the first by the addition of the Western Squadron—that
is, the great force of battleships collected under Keppel to meet the
French at Brest.

It will be seen that there is an increase in the vessels employed on
“Convoy and Cruising.” We tell only half the service of a navy in war
when we confine ourselves to the movements of the squadrons and the
battles. The other half consists in the patrol duty done to protect
trade and keep down the enemy’s attacks on commerce. To explain it
by narrative would be tedious and confusing to the reader, but the
following list of the warships of various classes employed in this way
at and about home when the war began will help the reader to realise
how the duty was provided for:—

CRUISERS

 Ship.                Guns.     Disposition.

 =Thetis=                 32   To come to Plymouth. }
 =Actæon=                 44        "     Spithead. } Channel
 =Seaford=                20        "     Falmouth. } Islands.
 =Hyæna=                  20        "     Spithead .}
 =Cygnet=                 16 }
 =Grasshopper=            14 } To the Downs.
 =Pheasant=                8 }
 =Boston=                 28   To cruise between Belfast Lough and the Mull of Cantyre.
 =Stag=                   28   To cruise in the Irish Channel.
 =Squirrel=               20   To cruise between the Dodman and the Land’s End.
 =Harpy=                  18 } To convoy the trade from
 =Wolf=                    8 }   Ireland to England.
 =Wasp=                    8   At Plymouth.
 =Beaver’s Prize=         14   To cruise between Flambro’ Head and Yarmouth.
 =Merchant A. S.=         20 } To cruise from Flambro’ Head to Shields.
 =Content A. S.=          20 }
 =Queen A. S.=            20   North Shields.
 =Heart of Oak A. S.=     20   Liverpool.
 =Three Sisters A. S.=    20 } Leith.
 =Leith A. S.=            20 }
 =Three Brothers A. S.=   20   Bristol.
 =Satisfaction A. S.=     20   Greenock.
 Cutter =Meredith=        6·10 To cruise from Beachy Head to Portland.
 Cutter =Sherburne=       6·8  To cruise from Portland to Ram Head.

CONVOY

 Ship.        Guns.          Disposition.

 =Belleisle=      64   To proceed to St. Helena to
                         convoy the East India trade
                         home.
 =Jupiter=        50}  To cruise on coast of Spain
                    }    and Portugal till the 20th
 =Medea=          28}    October, and return with the
                    }    trade.
 =Warwick=        50   To convoy the trade to Canada
                         from Cork, and return to
                         Spithead.
 =Chatham=        50}  To cruise between Stromness
 =Portland=       50}    and the isle of Bona, for the
 =Jason=          28}    protection of the Hudson’s
                    }    Bay trade, and repair with
 =Atalanta=       16}    it to the Nore.
 =Montreal=       32   To convoy trade to the Mediterranean
                         and repair to Spithead.
 =Hussar=         28   To cruise between Oporto and
                         Lisbon.
 =Pelican=        24   To cruise between Finisterre
                         and Lisbon.
 =Fly=            14   To convoy trade to Holland
                         and return with it to the
                         Nore.
 =Savage=         14   To proceed to New York with
                         dispatches and return to
                         Spithead.
 =Hawke=          10   To proceed to Newfoundland
                         with dispatches and return
                         to Plymouth
 =Endeavour=      10   To proceed with dispatches to
                         Jamaica.
 =Ranger=          8   To attend the Yarmouth Herring
                         Fishery and return to
                         the Nore.
 =Resolution=  12·12″}
 =Discovery=    8·8″ } In remote parts.

The letters A.S. stand for “Armed Ship.” These were merchant craft
bought into or hired for the navy, and armed with small guns. The
=Resolution= and =Discovery= were the ships of Captain Cook, then on
his last voyage. It must be remembered that these lists represent the
cruisers and convoy ships at home or sent directly from home. On every
station the admiral would detail part of his command for such duties as
these.

The manning of the navy continued to present the old difficulties,
aggravated by the fact that we had lost the services of the thousands
of American seamen who had been found in our ships in the last war.
They were now manning the privateers which preyed on our commerce as
far abroad as the Channel and the Mediterranean. All the old complaints
were heard of the cruelty, the unconstitutional character, and the
inefficiency of the press. A Bill to abolish it was introduced and
favourably received in the House of Commons, but went no further. The
fact is that the press was indispensable. We would not train men in
peace. The merchant seamen would never enlist of their free will in
the navy, and were the less likely to do so because the first effect
of a war was to send up wages in the trading-ships. But the press was
not only needed for the sailors. They indeed were sought by it with
particular zeal, because their skill was indispensable in the ships
as riggers and to set an example to other men in handling masts and
sails in all conditions of weather. It was on them, too, that the
captain relied in the greater perils of navigation. But they never
formed the bulk of the crews of our warships, nor was it possible they
should. In a debate on the Bill to abolish the Press, held on 11th
March 1777, Lord Mulgrave declared that the total number of seamen
in the country was only 60,000, while the number required for the
navy in war had sometimes risen to 80,000. If the whole body of our
merchant seamen had been swept into the navy and their places in our
trading-ships taken by foreigners who swarmed in to earn the high war
wages, there would still have been a deficiency. In truth we never
secured all the merchant sailors. The list of men rated as seamen was
made up by taking landsmen, who either volunteered or were impressed,
and were not uncommonly vagabonds and jail-birds. Though all might
be known officially by the same name, a wide distinction was always
made among the crews themselves, and in the opinion of the officers,
between the “prime seamen” who had served their apprenticeship in the
long sea voyages and could turn their hand to anything, and the mere
“man-of-warsman,” who had not been bred to the sea and had only been
taught the work of his particular station. It was inevitable that in
crews composed in this fashion there should have been wide differences
of quality and that some of their elements were worthless and criminal.
Neither was it denied by the representatives of the Admiralty that
this was the case. On the 11th November of 1777, Mr. Temple Luttrell
said in the Commons, “Your bounties procure few good seamen, and your
press warrants, though enormously expensive, fewer still, while great
numbers are daily deserting from your ships and hospitals to commit
robberies and murders in the interior counties.... I am assured that
fifty have lately deserted from the =Monarch= while in dock, forty
from the =Hector=, and twenty-five from the =Worcester=, six of these
are confined at Winchester for felonies, and there are two committed
to Exeter jail on a charge of murder.” Lord Mulgrave’s answer was that
fifty men had indeed deserted, from the =Monarch=, because Captain
Rowley was humanely unwilling to treat his men as slaves, and that the
deserters were not to be regretted, because “the health of the rest
was preserved, as the service was freed from a number of men not to be
depended on.” No reply was given on other points. Lord Mulgrave’s tone
of jaunty flippancy was characteristic of the incompetent Government
which led the country unprepared into the most disastrous of its wars.

Yet in 1777 the navy was beginning to reap the benefit of the General
Press warrant issues in October 1776, when the king and his ministers
were at last forced to recognise that the rebellion in America was very
serious. It was now possible to lay hands on good men by force. Until
this was the case, our ships were not uncommonly manned in the fashion
described in the following letter from Captain Price of the =Viper=
sloop on the North American station in 1775, as quoted by Beatson in
his _Naval and Military Memoirs_:—

 “I am very much distressed for Petty officers, as well as Warrants. My
 Carpenter infirm and past duty, my Gunner made from a livery servant,
 neither seaman nor gunner; my Master a man in years, never an officer
 before, made from a boy on board one of the guardships, he then
 keeping a public house at Gosport. Petty officers I have but one, who
 owns himself mad at times. A Master’s Mate I have not, nor anyone I
 can make a Boatswain’s mate. I have not one person I could trust with
 the charge of a vessel I might take to bring her in.”

What complication of slovenliness and jobbery there was behind that
master who had been borne as a boy on a guardship and yet kept a
public-house at Gosport, we do not know, but it must be allowed that
H.M.S. =Viper= differed vastly from the smart British man-of-war with
her crew of fine seamen which is supposed to have represented the navy
of the eighteenth century. It is probable, however, that she only
differed in degree from the average vessel in commission at a time when
jobbery was common, and there was no press at work to sweep in the
thoroughbred seamen.

When our navy was weakened by corrupt administration and political
faction, it was about to be matched against more formidable foes
than it had met since the Dutch wars of the seventeenth century. The
Americans were only privateers, but they were active and skilful. The
French joined battle with us in 1778, the Spaniards in the following
year, and the Dutch in 1780. Of these the first and second were not
only more numerous but far more efficient than they had been in the two
previous struggles. The disasters of the Seven Years’ War had stung the
pride and patriotism of the French, and they had made serious efforts
to restore their strength at sea. Public subscriptions had been opened
to supply ships, and though the money promised was not always paid,
they did something to supply the Government with funds. Choiseul, who
was minister at the end of the war, tried hard to restore the naval
service. Some of his changes and intended reforms were fantastic and
could not last. Yet he did not a little to provide ships and to give
the officers opportunities for practice. When he was driven from office
by the king’s fear that he meant to provoke another war with England,
his work was for a time lost. But after the death of Louis XV. and
the accession of Louis XVI. the French Navy became again an object
of attention to the Government. With the encouragement of the young
king, two able ministers, Turgot and M. de Sartine, strove hard to
make it worthy of the rank of France among nations. These efforts were
greatly increased as the progress of the American insurrection began to
afford hope that an opportunity would be found to take revenge for the
disasters of past years. In 1778 the French Navy consisted, according
to official papers, of 122 vessels, of which 73 were of the line. A
very large proportion of these were new, and were admirably built. The
French naval officers had studied hard, and were animated by pride,
both patriotic and professional, and the desire to retrieve their
reputation.

Spain was a nerveless power, as Burke said years afterwards, and
had not recovered even in the mere number of her population, still
less in intellect and character, from the terrible exhaustion of the
seventeenth century. Yet her king, Charles III., had tried seriously
to supply his dominions with a navy. Happily for us, he was a man of
limited intelligence, and made the common mistake of supposing that
numbers constituted strength. In 1778 his navy presented a list of
141 vessels, in all of which 62 were of the line. Though his liners
were with few exceptions two-deckers of 60 and 70 guns, they were
fine ships. Some of them had been built by English shipwrights in
the Spanish service. If Charles III. had been content with forty
line-of-battle ships, and had spent the money economised on the
building vote on giving practice to his squadrons and on forming a
good corps of seaman gunners, his navy would have been a more serious
opponent than it was. Still, the addition of the sixty-two Spanish
liners with all their defects to the French seventy-three constituted a
combination able to try the resources of our navy to the utmost.

The Dutch Navy had fallen far below the standard of its great days. In
1780, when the United Provinces joined the alliance against us, they
had only twenty-six line-of-battle ships of from 50 to 76 guns, and
twenty-nine lesser vessels. Great efforts were made to add to this
short list during the course of the war, but the additions were made
too late to have any considerable effect. Holland, too, though it had
not withered to the same extent as its old enemy Spain, had sunk from
its former energy. Yet the seamanlike skill of the Dutch crews, their
steady gunnery and phlegmatic valour, made them rank higher in the
opinion of our navy than the French, and far higher than the Spaniards.
The best contested battle of the war took place between an English and
a Dutch squadron.

The beginning of the great naval war with France in the spring of 1778
was preceded by three years of warlike operations. They were mainly
of an ancillary character, and the scope of this book does not allow
them to be told in detail. It must suffice to say that they may be
divided into two classes. On the Atlantic seaboard and the American
lakes our officers and men were engaged in supporting the military
forces employed to subdue the insurgents, or to repel inroads on
Canada. Captains Douglas and Pringle did good and gallant service
both in aiding Sir Guy Carleton to repel the invasion of Montgomery
and Arnold, and in clearing the way for Burgoyne’s advance into the
valley of the Hudson during the autumn of 1777. Here it was possible
to force the enemy to action with the advantage of better discipline
and larger resources in our favour. Less success was achieved along
the far-stretched seacoast of the plantations. The fault lay to a
very great extent with the Ministry, which would not recognise the
magnitude of its task. It estimated the case so ill that in 1775, the
year of Lexington and Bunker Hill, and of the publication, on the 23rd
August, of the proclamation for “Suppressing Rebellion and Sedition
in North America,” it reduced the establishment of the navy. The vote
for men was cut down by 2000, and the total estimate was lowered from
£2,104,917 to £1,674,059. From this figure it rose to £5,001,895 in
1778. In October 1776 the General Press warrant was issued. The bounty,
though raised to twelve guineas, failed to draw volunteers. At that
date there were on the muster books at home 8933 men. By the December
of 1778, and under the strain of stern compulsion, the complements of
our ships had been collected, at least on paper, on an adequate scale.
The return for the 1st January 1778 is 62,719, and from that level the
navy advanced to the 107,446 men borne on its books on 1st January 1783.

During the three years from 1775 to 1778 the admirals successively
commanding on the American station, Samuel Graves, Shuldham, and Howe,
were endeavouring to overawe hundreds of miles of seacoast swarming
with active seamen who were thrown out of work by the interruption
of trade. In the summer of 1775 Graves had at his disposal four
line-of-battle ships and twenty-one smaller vessels. If he had been
able to make free use of all of them, they still would have been
inadequate to the work to be done, but he was compelled to keep the
bulk of them together at Boston to support General Gage. Reinforcements
gradually brought the station up to the nine liners, 64- and 50-gun
ships, and eighty or so small craft of all kinds which were under the
flag of Howe, who assumed command in July 1776. But he was bound to
attend mainly to the duty of helping his brother, Sir William Howe,
during the advance to, and occupation of, Philadelphia.

The result was precisely what any competent naval adviser would have
predicted. Our admirals were always able to cover the movements of
troops and to carry out punitive expeditions against seaports. Of
these there were many, and they were justified by the attacks made by
the inhabitants on our boats’ crews and small cruisers. But they were
wretched expedients, for they exasperated the enemy without crushing
him into submission. Meanwhile American armed vessels intercepted
supplies, cut off our boats, and captured transports—all the more
easily because these last usually sailed without convoy. On one
occasion, in August 1775, the insurgents actually landed in Bahama, and
carried off a hundred barrels of gunpowder—a very seasonable supply to
General Washington.

Out of this weakness at home came the second task thrown on the navy.
Quick-sailing American privateers were soon swarming all over the
Atlantic. The French and Spanish Governments professed to maintain
strict neutrality, and did occasionally take measures to stop the use
of their ports by the Americans, when the king’s Ambassadors were
energetic in protesting, and could quote a definite instance. But
they saw our growing embarrassments with glee, and encouraged the
privateers under hand. With this secret support to help them, and the
even more effectual aid due to the unprepared condition of our navy,
the privateers cruised with signal success. In 1777 they did heavy
damage in the West Indies, and it was found necessary to appoint a
convoy for the Irish linen trade with England—a precaution we had never
been compelled to adopt in the Seven Years’ War. It was calculated in
February 1778 that the insurgent corsairs had then taken 739 British
ships. Of these, 174 had been released or recaptured, but the net loss
was £2,600,000.

Counter captures of American ships engaged on the coast and West
India trade were made to about equal numbers, but the loss and the
retaliation were alike injurious to the commerce of the empire. The
number of American privateers known to exist was 173, carrying 2556
guns and about 14,000 men. We had captured 34, but they were promptly
replaced, and were reinforced by Frenchmen who fitted out their ships
almost without disguise in French ports.

On the 13th March 1778, the Marquis de Noailles, then French Ambassador
in London, made the momentous but not unforeseen announcement, that
his master had signed a treaty of commerce and friendship with the
United States, which he considered as already in possession of their
independence. He added the ironical diplomatic expression of a hope
that this alliance with the king’s American rebels, as our ministers
were bound to consider them, would not disturb the friendly relations
between the countries; but both sides knew that war was come. If the
fighting did not begin immediately, the explanation of the delay is
simply that M. de Sartine had not yet been able to bring the French
Navy into thorough order, while King George’s ministers were, if I may
use an expression which some of their successors have not scrupled to
apply to themselves with a strange inverted pride, “muddling through.”

Had the house of Bourbon which ruled in France and Spain, and was
resolved to abate the power of England, been in a position to adopt the
most effectual method of attack, it would have thrown an overwhelming
force into the Channel at once, thereby paralysing us all the world
over. But King Louis XVI. was hardly ready, and Spain, according to
her custom, was not ready at all. King Charles III. maintained a show
of neutrality till the following year, and was allowed to do so by the
British Government, which continued till the last moment to profess the
belief that he would not intervene. Had Lord North and his colleagues
been ready to meet a danger foreseen by everybody else, one British
fleet would have been promptly off Brest, while another would have been
detached to the Mediterranean to blockade Toulon. Neither side having
its squadrons fit for immediate use, there was an interval of pause.
One French fleet was prepared at Brest under the Comte D’Orvilliers,
a very old officer who had commanded the training squadron during
peace, and had in that position proved himself a good instructor and
a shrewd judge of character. Its purpose was to menace us at home,
and so limit the force which could be detached to America. Our answer
was the formation of the Western Squadron. The command was given to
Keppel under pressure of public opinion. This admiral was then the
most distinguished survivor of the leaders of the Seven Years’ War.
Lord Hawke, Boscawen, Pocock, and Saunders were dead or in retirement.
Rodney, who was as yet comparatively unknown, had ruined himself by
gambling and electioneering, and had taken refuge from his creditors in
Paris, where he had accumulated a new load of debt. The character and
position of Keppel had an important influence on the early stages of
the war. He was by family connection a strong Whig. Burke, who loved
him, has recorded in the “Letter to a Noble Lord,” that “though it was
never shown in insult to any human being, Lord Keppel had something
high. It was a wild stock of pride on which the tenderest of all hearts
had grafted the milder virtues.”

From early in 1777 Sartine had begun to prepare a squadron at Toulon.
It was got ready with difficulty, for the Treasury was always in
straits, and the _classes_ then, as ever, worked ill. The purpose it
was to serve was to carry help to the Americans. The command was given
to the Comte d’Estaign, a great noble of the Rouergue, now known as
the department of Rodez. D’Estaign had been bred a soldier, had served
in the East Indies, and had held a governorship in the West Indies. He
was accused by us of having shown sharp practice when a prisoner of
war to the East India Company. His bold, undertaking disposition had
induced his sovereign to impose him on the corps of naval officers,
which was discredited by the failures of La Clue and Conflans in
1759, and the timidity of D’Aché. That he was our ostentatious enemy
was another strong recommendation. From his conduct in command we
may gather that his daring was born of a heat of the blood, and
not of a settled resolution of mind. He was therefore subject to
fits of depression under the weight of responsibility. D’Estaign,
whose destination was well known, was allowed to sail unmolested.
Reinforcements were sent to Howe under the command of Admiral Byron.
Byron, the grandfather of the poet, had all the knightly virtues of
his brilliant cavalier house. He had sailed with Anson, had shared
the wreck of the =Wager= to the south of Chiloe, had recorded his
adventures of starvation among savages, or in friendship and love among
the Spaniards of Chili, in a fine narrative, and had been the commander
of a voyage of circumnavigation singularly barren of discovery. He was
a brave, steady officer, but without original faculty for the higher
parts of war, and so persistently unfortunate in meeting storms that
the sailors had nicknamed him “Foul Weather Jack.”

The first movement was made by D’Estaign, who left Toulon on the 13th
April with a squadron of twelve sail of the line and four frigates.
Baffling winds, the unskilfulness of his crews which contained few
seamen, and the bad sailing qualities of some of his ships delayed his
progress, and it was not till the 15th May that he was able to clear
the Straits of Gibraltar. The series of operations which opened with
his appearance off the Delaware on the 9th July was long, and ranged
from New England to the southern limit of the West Indies. While it
was beginning, the main fleets of England and France were coming to
battle in the Channel. It will tend to make a narrative which runs
the danger of being confused from the number of contemporary events
somewhat clearer if we turn to the first meeting between Keppel and
D’Orvilliers, noting only that Byron left Plymouth with thirteen
sail of the line and a frigate on the 9th June to reinforce Howe, and
therefore race D’Estaign across the Atlantic in a parallel and more
northerly course. How he lost the race we shall see.

Amid delays and the wrangling of opposition with ministerial orators,
the grand home fleet, or Western Squadron, was slowly made ready. On
the 12th June, Keppel sailed from Plymouth with twenty sail of the
line, and was joined later by two more. When on his way to his station
off Brest, and at a distance of some twenty miles to the west of the
Lizard, he met the French frigates _Belle Poule_ and _Licorne_. There
was as yet no formal declaration of war, but the absence of this mere
ceremony only served to give an air of irregularity to his actions.
The French frigates were ordered to come under the admiral’s lee. The
_Licorne_ being overtaken by the =Hector= 74, obeyed, but not without
firing a broadside as she hauled her flag down—a mean demonstration
very much on a level with our exercise of the rights of war while we
denied that war as yet existed. The _Belle Poule_ was summoned by
the frigate =Arethusa=, a vessel of equal strength. Her captain, La
Clochetterie, naturally refused to obey an order which Captain Samuel
Marshal of the =Arethusa= had no right to give. A smart action ensued.
The =Arethusa= rigging was cut to pieces, and the _Belle Poule_ made
off on the approach of fresh British ships.

Keppel returned to St. Helens on the 27th June, having learnt that the
French fleet at Brest was stronger than his own. On the 9th July, the
very day by the calendar on which D’Estaign was seen off the Delaware,
he again went to sea with thirty sail of the line and six frigates.
His second in command was Sir Robert Harland, and his third was Sir
Hugh Palliser, the member of Sandwich’s Board of Admiralty who has been
already named. D’Orvilliers had left Brest on the previous day with
thirty-two sail of the line and fourteen frigates. He was endowed with
large powers to punish or reward, and carried energetic instructions
from Sartine to repair the misfortunes and errors of the past. The
minister gave him clearly to understand that the king might pardon his
officers for being beaten, but not for failing to fight hard.

On the 23rd July the fleets sighted one another 90 miles W.N.W. of
Ushant in a westerly wind. We were between the enemy and the land,
and therefore to leeward. The French admiral did not avail himself
of his windward position to force on a battle, but followed the
cautious tradition of his service and kept aloof. Four days of thick
unsettled weather followed, hiding the opponents from one another. In
this interval two of D’Orvilliers’ ships, the _Bourgoyne_, 80, and
the _Alexandre_, 64, had separated and returned to Brest. Thus he was
reduced to equality of numbers with Keppel, and to real inferiority
of force, for one of his ships was of only 56 guns—a tolerably sharp
warning of what may happen to officers who miss opportunities. At 9
a.m. on the 27th the French were seen eight miles to the W.S.W. with
the wind at S.W. They were on the port tack, and heading to seaward.
Keppel at once pressed in chase, while D’Orvilliers brought his fleet
round to the starboard tack, and continued to hold his wind as if
wishing to avoid battle. It was Keppel’s object to bring one on, and he
headed for the rear of the French line. His own rear showed the usual
tendency of a long line to straggle, and signals were made to Palliser,
who commanded, to urge him on. Shortly after ten we were coming close
on the rear of the French. A squall of both mist and rain swept over
both fleets, hiding them from one another. When it cleared, the French
admiral was seen to have turned his fleet again, and was heading to
the west, still to windward, but so close that he would pass within
cannon shot on the opposite tack. To Keppel this was a disappointment,
for he actually avowed his belief that if the Frenchman meant to fight
seriously he would have remained where he was. In other words he was of
opinion that D’Orvilliers ought, as a man of honour, to have allowed
his rearguard ships to be overtaken one after another, and crushed by
the fire of the English as they came up in succession. By taking this
absurdity for granted, Keppel gave the measure of his own intelligence
as an admiral, and of his inferiority to D’Orvilliers as a manœuvrer.

The much debated battle of Ushant was in fact little more than a feeble
parade. The fleets were going at the rate of five miles an hour, or at
a combined speed of ten miles; allowing 150 feet for the average length
of a ship this meant that each individual vessel would be abreast of
the passing enemy for about a minute. A little more than an hour was
employed by the whole of the two forces in sweeping alongside from end
to end. During this brief period of cannonading, made up as it was
of much briefer flashes of combat between their component parts, the
French gunners did more execution than ours. They pierced some of our
ships on the water line where they were exposed as they lay over to
leeward, and seriously crippled the rigging of many of them. As the
two lines began to pass clear, D’Orvilliers ordered his van, nominally
commanded by the Duc de Chartres afterwards known to infamy as Philippe
Egalité, to turn and engage Keppel’s rear division on the lee side,
meaning to turn his centre and rear at the same time, thus putting Sir
Hugh Palliser between two fires. But he was ill obeyed by the Duc de
Chartres, whom common fame accused of cowardice, and finding that his
plan could not be executed, he ran down to leeward and formed his fleet
on the starboard tack heading to the east, and in the same direction as
ours. Keppel had wished to turn his fleet also, but many of his ships
were severely crippled in hull and rigging, and the order could not be
executed. One of the most injured was the =Formidable=, 90, flagship
of Sir Hugh Palliser. We therefore remained on the same tack. With
both heading in the same direction, and we to windward, an opportunity
might appear to have offered itself for our favourite manœuvre of
bearing down, and engaging from end to end. But in the course of these
twistings and turnings, the van and centre, which were less injured
than the rear, had gone further to leeward and were nearer the French.
Palliser found the =Formidable= unmanageable, and his division remained
about him. Thus Keppel could not get his whole force together, and
would not attack with a part. When night fell D’Orvilliers left two
quick sailing vessels to show a light in order to produce the erroneous
impression that he was still there, and steered for Brest where he
anchored on the 29th. Keppel, concluding on reflection that he had many
ships injured, that the enemy was better able to repair damage than
he was, and that Brest was a dangerous lee shore, decided to return
home, and anchored in Plymouth on the 31st July. On the 23rd August
he was at sea once more, and on the 28th October back at Spithead.
D’Orvilliers came out on the 18th August and was home again at Brest on
30th September. Our fleet took several French prizes, but there was no
meeting, while our trade was fortunate in escaping French cruisers. And
this was the summer campaign of 1778 in home waters.

I would prefer to say nothing of the shameful service and national
quarrel which arose out of this poor battle, but it is too full of
warning, and had too much influence on the history of the coming years
to be passed over. We know from a letter of Samuel Hood, who was then
Commissioner of Portsmouth dockyard, that as early as the 4th of August
it was common knowledge that the chiefs of the fleet were on bad terms.
Keppel, in his public letter, had praised both Harland and Palliser,
but in truth he was fiercely angry with the second, whom he accused
in his heart of having deliberately prevented the action of the 27th
from becoming a real victory. It is obvious from his recorded words
and his whole tone, that he believed Sir Hugh Palliser had acted as
the agent of Sandwich in the execution of a conspiracy for his ruin.
The solitary dignity of his quarterdeck left him unchecked to brood
over this imagination till he was in the state of mind of some unhappy
victim of the mania of persecution. I fear we must add that there were
sycophants under his command who fed his delusions. We still possess a
toadying acrid letter from no less a man than John Jervis, then captain
of the =Foudroyant=, and at all times a strong Whig, which shows him
busy in the mean work of making bate. Being answered according to his
folly, Keppel grew so wise in his conceit that he reached the point
where he became convinced that there was a plot to cause the overthrow
of the British fleet, in order to discredit such an eminent Whig as
himself, that Sandwich was the author, and Palliser the agent thereof.
It was not sane, and it was the kind of insanity to which only a dull
intelligence would have been liable when exasperated by soured vanity.
But “the spirit of faction” was so rampant in England at the time, and
had so thoroughly aroused one of the worst faults of our character, a
tendency to loud-mouthed and contentious hectoring, that he did not
want kindred spirits to fool him to the top of his bent.

The press, animated as it was by the malignant spirit of Junius, whose
voice had only just fallen silent, took up the tale. Whigs bragged
that their admiral had saved the state from the ministerial treason
of Sandwich. Ministerial papers replied that their vice-admiral had
baffled the Whig traitor. Charge and counter-charge came thick and grew
more specific. On the 15th October the _Morning Intelligencer_ made
a poisonous attack on Palliser, fortified by details which must have
come from Keppel’s partisans, and would not have been given without
his approval. Sir Hugh, being hot-headed, by no means a clever man,
and probably ill advised, called upon Keppel for a contradiction. He
ought to have been silent or to have sued the paper for libel, and
to have produced his admiral in the witness box. Keppel, who shirked
taking responsibility all through, would not write an answer. In an
interview he took a high and mighty tone, and spoke of the dignity of
despising the press. Sir Hugh, again most foolishly, made a public
answer to _The Intelligencer_, and allowed himself to be entangled in a
controversy with “the bronzed and naked gentlemen of the press.” Both
men were members of Parliament, and they met in the debate of the 2nd
December. Palliser spoke to vindicate himself, Keppel to injure his
subordinate. He got over the question why he praised Sir Hugh in his
public letter, by saying that he meant only to refer to his personal
courage, which was undoubted, and that this was the most important
quality of an officer. If we could suppose that he meant what he
said, these words might again be quoted as giving the measure of his
intelligence. But his excuse was a subterfuge. For the rest he would
say nothing definite. He would sneer. He would insinuate. He would give
to be understood. He would do anything except show candour. He wished
Sir Hugh to be condemned for gross misconduct, and while forwarding
the condemnation with cunning, he wished to maintain a fine attitude
of magnanimity and of regard for the king’s service, thus escaping the
inconvenience of having to prove his charges at a court martial.

To suppose that Sandwich wished to produce his own utter ruin by
causing the defeat of the Western Squadron, would be to put ourselves
on the moral and intellectual level of Keppel, his sycophants in
the fleet, and his friends of the opposition. But the First Lord was
as pure an intriguer as many of them. There can be little doubt that
he encouraged, and none that he allowed, Palliser to bring his chief
to a court martial on charges of mismanagement of the fleet in the
battle. Keppel had shown the poorest commonplace of the dull tactics
of the time, but he had been orthodox in a brainless way. The hope,
no doubt, was that public opinion would be turned against the Whig.
The exact contrary result followed. First a body of admirals headed by
the veteran Lord Hawke, now nearly at the end of his honourable life,
protested against the decision of the Admiralty to allow an inferior to
accuse a superior. It is a necessary consequence of the respect which
all disciplined men have for authority, that the higher ranks must
always be protected from being proved to be in the wrong by the lower,
lest the indispensable spirit of subordination should suffer. That the
chief is in error is to be deplored, but not demonstrated. Then the far
from ignoble sympathy of the mass of Englishmen for a supposed victim
was aroused on behalf of Keppel. His court martial, which lasted from
the 7th January to the 11th February 1779, ended inevitably in his
acquittal. His friends made much of his sufferings from persecution,
but they were allowed to make his poor health the excuse for a private
bill to exempt him from the necessity of being tried on the flagship in
Portsmouth. His triumph took place in the more comfortable surroundings
of the governor’s house. The London mob, always ready for riot in
the 18th century, celebrated the finding of the Court by rabbling
the houses of Palliser and Lord North, and burning the gates of the
Admiralty in Whitehall, under the leadership of the Duke of Ancaster
and, as it is said, of the youthful William Pitt.

Palliser resigned and demanded a court martial. Though Keppel still
refused to appear as accuser, the trial was held on the flagship
between the 12th April and 3rd May. It ended in an acquittal with the
qualification that Palliser ought to have made the admiral acquainted
with the condition of the =Formidable=. Sir Hugh retired to the
Governorship of Greenwich Hospital. Keppel was so popular that the
Admiralty did not dare to remove him. But he was now in love with his
parts of martyr and factious politician. He began to wrangle over
orders, and to find offence where none was. At last he was allowed to
haul down his flag at his own request. In his place in Parliament he
was not ashamed to sneer at a brother officer, who, in the course of
1779, had to retire up Channel in face of an enemy twice his strength,
and to insinuate that he himself would have been bolder in such a
pass than he was with the equal fleet of D’Orvilliers, and the coast
of Brest under his lee in July 1778. For a time he, with the help
unhappily of Howe, an incomparably better man, set the disgraceful
example of refusing to serve because what they were pleased to call
their honour was not safe with Sandwich. His tar barrel popularity
was clamorous for a space, and he succeeded Vernon on many tavern
signboards, but by 1783 Rodney and Hood had arisen, and the patriot
hero of 1779 had become the “Cautious Leeshore.”

While the battle of Ushant was being half fought, and the subsequent
quarrel was dragging its slow length along, a brilliant campaign
was being conducted on the coasts of America. D’Estaign, it will be
remembered, had cleared the Straits of Gibraltar on the 16th May. His
squadron consisted of the _Languedoc_, 80 (Flagship), _Tonnant_, 80,
_César_, 74, _Zélé_, 74, _Hector_, 74, _Marseilles_, 74, _Protecteur_,
74, _Guerrier_, 74, _Vaillant_, 64, _Provence_, 64, _Fantasque_, 64,
and _Sagittaire_, 64, with the frigates _Chimère_, _Engageante_,
_Alcmène_ and _Aimable_. Some of them were bad sailers, and as the
crews had been completed by drafting soldiers, they were awkward. The
neglect of the past weighed on the French fleet, and the nerve of the
Admiral. D’Estaign spent much time in practising his raw crews, a wise
precaution no doubt, but one which was fatal to rapidity of movement.
He added gratuitously to the causes of delay by turning aside to chase
prizes. On the 8th July he reached the Delaware, and landed M. Gérard
de Rayneval, the French Minister to Congress, whom he had brought with
him. Even then he would not make haste to begin his attack on the
British squadron. On his way north to New York, and on the 10th July,
he actually lost sight of his fleet because he employed his mighty
flagship, the _Languedoc_, in chasing a trumpery British vessel named
the =York=, of 10 guns and 60 men. These were not the methods to
employ against the wary, resolute, and thorough antagonist he was about
to encounter.

Howe had been informed early in May of the coming intervention of
France. Her entry on the scene made it absolutely necessary to withdraw
our troops from Philadelphia and concentrate at New York. Of the total
force of eleven ships of the line and sixty-eight smaller craft under
the admiral’s command, some were at our naval port Halifax, others
were at New York, and others in Rhode Island, then held by a body of
British troops under General Pigott. Howe called all the ships which
could be spared from local duties to his flag, and set about covering
the retreat of the army now led by Sir Henry Clinton. Transport to
convey the troops by sea were wanting, and it was also thought to be
the more dignified course to march through the Jerseys. On the 18th
June the army had crossed the Delaware under cover of the squadron,
and made its way to Navesink, harassed, but not seriously impeded by
Washington. Howe reached Sandy Hook on the 29th June, and waited to
cover the entry of Clinton into New York. Here he was informed of the
sailing of D’Estaign, and of the reinforcements destined for himself,
which had left Plymouth under Byron so late as the 9th June. On the
30th June Clinton’s army appeared on the heights and was passed over to
New York by the 5th July. Barely was the passage concluded when Captain
Gardner, of the =Maidstone= frigate, sent a lieutenant with the news
that D’Estaign had been seen to enter the Delaware. On the 11th July
the =Zebra= sloop ran in with the news that the Frenchman was close at
hand. If D’Estaign had taken less than nearly two months to make the
run from Toulon, the concentration of our forces at New York would have
been defeated, for Howe was far too weak to give battle, and must have
been shut up in the Delaware.

The force actually with Howe consisted of six 64-gun ships, three
of 50, two of 40, frigates, and small vessels. The 40-gun ships
being wholly unfit to lie in a line of battle, Howe was practically
outnumbered in the proportion of two to one by the fine squadron of
D’Estaign. Outnumbered as he was, he had no resource but to stand on
the defensive, and the anchorage at Sandy Hook happily afforded him
an admirable position. Sandy Hook had once been a peninsula, but
the sea having broken through the narrow isthmus connecting it with
Navesink, it was already an island running due north and south, and
so forming a natural mole to the anchorage. Outside it is the Middle
Bank, and to the north is the East Bank. There are two entries from
the sea to the roadstead—one between the Middle Bank and Sandy Hook,
which is too shallow for big ships at the northern end, and the other
between the Middle Bank and East Bank, which is rendered uncertain by
a bar. Batteries were thrown up at the north end of Sandy Hook. The
squadron was then anchored in a line from the extremity of Sandy Hook
to the west, in this order. The =Leviathan=, a store ship turned into a
floating battery, =Ardent=, =Nonsuch=, =Trident=, =Somerset=, =Eagle=
(Flagship), and =Isis=. Frigates were brought inside to the south,
while the =Vigilant=, =Phœnix=, and =Preston= were posted behind the
bar between the Middle and East Banks. Fireships and gunboats were
placed where they could threaten the flank of the French fleet if it
crossed the bar. The ships in the line were anchored with a spring on
the cable—that is, with a cable carried out from the stern and fastened
to the cable of the anchor so that their broadsides could be worked
round to bear on an approaching enemy. If then D’Estaign attacked,
every means possible had been provided to crush his ships in detail as
they cleared the Middle Bank, and came under the fire of the batteries
at the extremity of Sandy Hook and of Howe’s line. Our squadron was
short-handed, but the deficiency was promptly made good by the eager
zeal of the sailors in the merchant ships and transports. Though they
habitually avoided the press when they could, there was no hanging
back at this crisis, and the volunteers outnumbered the call made by
the admiral. As many of them must have served at one time or another,
and all were “sailormen” able to set up rigging and splice ropes, they
were not mere raw recruits. The officers and men of Clinton’s army came
forward readily to serve as marines.

The hazard before D’Estaign was not trifling. Yet had he attacked
at once when he appeared off Sandy Hook on the 12th July, he would
have found Howe’s dispositions still incomplete. Even later he ought
beyond all question to have stood in. The total destruction of Howe’s
squadron would have given so severe a blow to the material strength
and the prestige of England that it would have been cheaply purchased
by the sacrifice of half D’Estaign’s ships. So would have reasoned his
subordinate the captain of the _Fantasque_, Suffren. But again the past
weighed on the unstable mind of D’Estaign. He anchored four miles from
Sandy Hook, off Shrewsbury, and remained till the 21st examining the
bar, and communicating with the Americans. The risk of grounding on
the bar seemed too great to him to be run, and in all probability he
asked himself, what would happen if the British reinforcements arrived
and found him amid the wreck of Howe’s ships with a crippled squadron?
On the 22nd he made a show of falling on, and then sailed away to the
south. A small convoy fell into his hands, and he had the satisfaction
of blockading a British port for ten days.

Howe at once dispatched frigates to watch the enemy. Observation and
rumour led him to believe, rightly, that D’Estaign meant to proceed
to co-operate with an American force in an attack on Sir R. Pigott
on Rhode Island. But for some days he was too weak to move. On the
26th July the =Renown=, 50, joined him from the West Indies. She had
passed through the French squadron on her way, unmolested and perhaps
unobserved. Misled by bad information from home, Howe had been under
the impression that Byron was bound for Halifax. He had sent thither
for news, and on the 26th his messenger returned with the report
that nothing was known there of the reinforcements, but that the
Commissioner, Captain Fielding, was sending on the =Raisonable=, 64,
and =Centurion=, 50, which had refitted. They joined the flag at Sandy
Hook safely. On the 30th July the =Cornwall=, 74, came in from Byron’s
squadron with a depressing story.

The admiral had met his accustomed fortune in weather when he was least
able to contend with his implacable enemy. He had left Plymouth on
the 9th June with one 90-gun ship, eleven 74, one of 64, and a single
frigate. If numbers were all in war, while speed and efficiency were
little, his squadron had been more than enough to sweep D’Estaign
from the coast of America. But Byron sailed late, and his ships were
ill provided in all ways. The crews had been made up by drafts
of prisoners who brought the jail fever with them. So bad was the
condition of the fleet that it was unable to contend with a summer
storm which broke on it in the middle of the North Atlantic on the 3rd
July. Some of the ships returned home, and all were scattered. Byron
himself struggled on alone toward Sandy Hook till the 18th August, when
he sighted the French fleet, and turned back to Halifax, where he found
one only of his command. Except the =Cornwall=, none reached Howe’s
flag in time to be of service. Those which limped in later, and by
degrees, were crippled in rigging, and foul with putrid fevers.

On the 29th July, the day before the =Cornwall= joined his flag, Howe
heard that D’Estaign had been sighted off Rhode Island, to the east
of New York. The object of the Frenchman was manifestly to co-operate
with the insurgents in attacking the British force then occupying the
island, under the command of General Pigott. Howe was the last man in
the world to be deterred by mere inferiority of numbers from exerting
himself in the king’s service, and outmatched as he still was, he
prepared to support General Pigott. Contrary winds detained him at New
York till the 6th August. On the 9th he was off the southern end of
Rhode Island. Rhode Island is one of several which nearly block up a
great oblong bay opening to the south in the coast, which here runs
nearly due east and west. It is separated from the mainland on the east
by the Sakonnet Channel, and from the island of Conanicut on the west,
by the Eastern Passage. The Western Passage divides Conanicut from the
mainland, and leads to the land-locked waters of Narragansett Bay. The
town of Newport stands nearly at the south-western end of Rhode Island,
and here General Pigott had concentrated his troops when the American
general, Sullivan, passed over from the mainland to attack him.
D’Estaign had anchored within Brenton’s Ledge, at the south-western
point of Rhode Island, on the 29th July. He sent two frigates up the
Sakonnet Channel and two liners up the Western Passage to Narragansett
Bay, and then entered the Eastern Passage on the 8th August, anchoring
above the town of Newport, at Goat Island, between Conanicut and Rhode
Island. His appearance in overwhelming strength sufficed to gain him a
naval success without fighting. A small British flotilla, consisting
of the frigates and sloops =Orpheus=, =Lark=, =Juno=, =Flora=, and
=Falcon=, was caught at hopeless disadvantage, and was burnt by the
commanding officer, Captain Brisbane, to prevent it from falling into
the hands of the French. The crews were added to the garrison of
Newport.

Howe was off Brenton Point on the 9th. He had a difficult game to play,
for he was still inferior to his opponent by a third, and he had to
take the offensive. Everything depended on precision of movement, and
the British admiral transferred his flag to a frigate in order that
he might keep his whole squadron always under his eye. The question
whether the proper place for an admiral was in the midst of a battle
or outside of it was argued in the eighteenth century, and has been
debated since. It really resolves itself into the other question,
whether the admiral is best employed in setting an example or in
directing the operations of which he must needs lose sight from the
moment that his flagship is involved in the fire and smoke of battle.
Tradition and the point of honour dictated the first course. Sound
judgment agrees with them—whenever the example is of more moment than
the direction. But there are times when it is not, and the early days
of August 1778 off Rhode Island was one of them. Yet only an officer of
Howe’s established reputation for cool intrepidity could have afforded
to break away from old usage, and it is said that he was so far
impressed by the fear of being thought shy that he intended to return
to his flagship if a battle had to be fought.

D’Estaign credited his opponent with more energy than he had himself
shown at Long Island. He was seriously afraid of being attacked by
fireships at anchor—and indeed they had been prepared, and would have
been used. When, therefore, the wind shifted from south to north-east
on the morning of the 10th, he came at once to sea, cannonading
Pigott’s batteries at Newport as he passed, and calling in the two
liners sent to Narragansett Bay. Though he had numbers and the wind
in his favour, he made no attempt to force on a battle, and manœuvred
to keep the weather-gage. Howe strove to win it, intending to fall on
the Frenchman and to use his fireships. He succeeded, but a furious
gale scattered both fleets on the 11th, and they were not rallied
till the 17th. In the interval, the French had suffered more from the
storm than our ships. Three of them, the _Languedoc_, _Marseilles_, and
_César_, were attacked while crippled by the =Renown=, =Preston=, and
=Isis=, smaller vessels, but under complete command. None of them were
taken, thanks to the timely arrival of help. Howe reunited his squadron
at Sandy Hook, and then returned to Rhode Island on hearing that the
Frenchman had reappeared. But D’Estaign had lost all confidence, and
was oppressed by a sense of the need for stores and repairs. He sailed
away to Boston. Sullivan withdrew from Rhode Island, exploding against
his ally in terms of rude and taunting reproach. Howe found the French
too strongly posted in Boston to be assailed, and after reconnoitring
their position on the 30th, returned to New York. Byron’s scattered
ships now began to drop in, but Howe’s service was over for the time
being. On the 25th September he handed over his command to Gambier, and
sailed for home. On his return he refused to serve under Sandwich, who
had supported him so ill. The reason was a bad one, and was not excused
by the fact that the minister’s hacks endeavoured to throw blame on the
admiral. An officer who pleads a personal offence as an excuse for not
fighting his country’s enemies sets an example which is only just short
of mutinous.

Gambier was soon superseded by the arrival of his superior Byron.
“Foul Weather Jack” made haste to refit his ships at New York, and on
the 18th October went to look into Boston. Storms blew him about, he
lost vessels, and was forced to take refuge in Newport, Rhode Island.
D’Estaign in the meantime had been striving with the ill-will of the
Bostonians, a people described by the English historian Beatson as of
“a sour, morose, and sullen temper.” They were very angry with the
French for not giving more support to Sullivan at Rhode Island, and
showed their ill-will by making riotous attacks on the sailors of their
allies. One of D’Estaign’s officers, M. de Saint Sauveur, was actually
killed in a savage conflict between the townsmen and the French boats’
crews. The admiral was nevertheless able to refit his squadron mainly
with our own naval stores, captured and brought into port by the active
American privateers. The approach of winter made campaigning hazardous
on the stormy Northern coast, and on the 4th November D’Estaign sailed
for the West Indies, where the French wished to recover their losses in
the previous war. All through this war the main fleets will be found
leaving the Antilles when the hurricane months begin in July, and the
summer favours them in the North. Then, as winter approaches, and the
hurricane season is over in October, they will be found streaming
back to take part in the defence or conquest of the islands round the
Caribbean Sea. The change in the scene of conflict had been foreseen
by us. On the 4th November, the very day that D’Estaign left Boston,
Hotham sailed from New York with two 64-gun ships, three of 50, and
three frigates, carrying 5000 men of the army in North America, which
was already too weak for its work. They were destined for Barbadoes
first, and then for the general protection of the Sugar Islands. So
close did Hotham and D’Estaign come to one another on the passage
that a Newfoundland dog belonging to an English officer, which fell
overboard, is said to have been picked up swimming by the French
flagship the _Languedoc_, but there was no meeting.

Though to follow the cruise of D’Estaign and Byron to its close will
compel us to overlap contemporary operations elsewhere, an even
greater degree of confusion would be created by making an arbitrary
break in the narrative of one continuous series of movements. Yet it
is necessary to go back for a brief space to explain what the rival
admirals found waiting for them, when they came escaping from the
snowstorms and icy cold of the North to the unfailing easterly trade
winds, the baffling land breezes, the sun, and the purple seas of the
West Indies.

The French possessions in those waters consisted of part of San
Domingo, of Guadaloupe, Martinique, and Marie Galante. Dominica,
between Martinique and Guadaloupe, was in our hands. Next to the
South came Santa Lucia, a French island, and beyond it St. Vincent
and Grenada, English possessions. The whole of the Lesser Antilles
constituted the Leeward Station, so called because they lie to leeward
of Barbadoes. The reader may be reminded that as the easterly trade
wind is permanent in the West Indies, and is therefore called “the true
breeze,” to leeward always means to westward, and to windward is to
eastward for the Creole and the seafaring man. During the early months
of 1778 there had been the usual examples of breaches of the law of
nations on both sides, and the consequent mutual accusations, very loud
and very futile. The French had no naval force at hand except a few
frigates and sloops. Our own squadron consisted of one 74-gun ship, one
70, with frigates and sloops to the number of fourteen. From the month
of June onwards they were under the command of Samuel Barrington, a
member of the well-known Irish family. Barrington remained at Barbadoes
waiting to see what the French would do. In September he discovered.
The Marquis de Bouillé, Governor of Martinique, collected a flotilla
of frigates, sloops, and trading-craft, embarked troops and Creole
volunteers, and soused down on Dominica. It fell at once, and the
history of its fall is highly characteristic of our management in
those days. Forts had been built and guns landed for the defence of
the island. Nothing was wanting except a garrison. There was no force
in Dominica save parts of two companies of the 48th and a handful of
artillerymen—not enough to hold a small fort. Having nothing else to
do, they surrendered. Barrington complained that he was misinformed as
to the strength of the enemy. If he had not kept his line-of-battle
ships idle at Barbadoes, he could have found out for himself, and one
of them cruising round Martinique would have stopped Bouillé. It was
quite in keeping with this sloth and this dependence on information
supplied by governors that Barrington joined the noble band of officers
who refused to serve in responsible places under Sandwich because their
honour was not safe with him. Having allowed Dominica to go for want of
support, he left Barbadoes in order to see after the safety of Antigua,
to the north of Guadaloupe. It was our naval dockyard in the Leeward
Islands. Antigua having a competent garrison was in no danger. Then
he returned to Barbadoes, and waited till he was joined on the 10th
December by Hotham with the ships and soldiers from New York.

The combined squadrons at once proceeded to give the French a Roland
for their Oliver by seizing Santa Lucia. The French island was not much
better prepared for defence than Dominica, and when it was attacked
on the 13th and 14th of December the Governor retired to one of the
hills in the interior, while the coast fell into our hands. Barrington
anchored in the Cul de Sac, a bay on the western side of the island
opening on to the Caribbean Sea, while the troops besieged the French
Governor. Next day D’Estaign appeared with his more powerful squadron.
He had anchored at Fort Royal, in Martinique, on the 9th December, and
it had been his intention to assail Barbadoes. The danger of Santa
Lucia compelled him to change his plans. He shipped Bouillé and his
troops, and on the 15th made his effort to rescue the island. It proved
but feeble. Barrington had placed his seven ships across the mouth of
the Cul de Sac, throwing up shore batteries to cover his flanks. If
he was wanting in foresight and enterprise, he was stout. D’Estaign
behaved as he had done at Sandy Hook, making mere shows of attack, and
excusing himself by pleading that the treacherous breezes under the
land hampered his movements. They presented real difficulties, but in
the opinion of D’Estaign’s best officers he was too easily disconcerted
by such obstacles. Bouillé landed with his troops, but failed to shake
the hold of the British troops on their positions. Then D’Estaign heard
by a privateer that Byron was on his way from North America. Instead of
judging as his countryman Mahé de la Bourdonnais had done at Madras,
that the approach of relief for his enemy was a reason for making an
instant and strenuous effort, he re-embarked the troops on the 28th,
and next day anchored at Fort Royal in one of the fits of depression
and self-pity which alternated with his outbursts of energy. M. Micoud,
the French Governor of Santa Lucia, surrendered on the 30th, he having
also nothing else to do, and the island remained with us, to serve as
Rodney’s headquarters in the great crisis of the war.

Byron had indeed left Newport in Rhode Island, on the 14th December,
after a desperate struggle with his old enemy the storms, which very
nearly drove one of his liners on shore, and did considerable damage to
the spars of others. With twelve sail of the line he struggled through
the winter weather, and reached Barbadoes on the 7th January 1779. Then
he pushed on to Santa Lucia, which he made his headquarters for the
watch on D’Estaign at Fort Royal. The French admiral now outnumbered,
was cautious, and would risk nothing. He only came out to go in again.
In February Byron was reinforced by Rear-Admiral Rowley. Though this
officer was stationed to windward of Martinique, to intercept any
reinforcements coming to D’Estaign, he failed. The French admiral
was successively joined by the Comte de Grasse, Rodney’s opponent on
a future date, from Brest, by Vaudreuil from the coast of Africa,
and by La Motte Picquet from Toulon. They brought his strength up to
twenty-five sail of the line and twelve frigates, which gave him a
distinct superiority of numbers over Byron.

The next passage in the naval campaign illustrated at once some of
the burdens laid on our admirals, Byron’s poorness of judgment in
the greater operations of war, and the miserable character of the
principles on which the French were content to act. In June the
West India convoys were collected for their return to Europe. The
meeting-place of the ships was St. Christopher, to the north-west of
Guadaloupe. Commerce was so essential to England that no admiral could
have neglected to give it protection. Nor could the country, which was
suffering severely from the strain of the war, have endured the entire
stoppage of the West Indian trade for the year in order to leave the
fleet free—a measure occasionally taken by the military and autocratic
Government of France. But Byron could have secured the convoy from
danger by blockading the French at Fort Royal. He did not know of the
arrival of La Motte Picquet, and had every reason to believe himself
still superior to D’Estaign. Even if he were not, and the Frenchman
came out to give battle, this was precisely what an English admiral
ought to have desired. But Byron sailed away to Saint Christopher to
mother the convoy, leaving the road open to his enemy. If D’Estaign had
been a truly bold man, and not only a gentleman of showy daring in “the
imminent deadly breach,” which indeed he was, he would have sought out
Byron at once after the junction of La Motte Picquet’s squadron. But
he was content to dwell in the traditional French policy of avoiding
battle and grabbing at ports. Freed from Byron’s watch, he swooped on
small game. St. Vincent was carried by an expedition of irregulars
under a bold partisan of the name of Trolong de Rumain, a lieutenant in
the French Navy. Trolong was helped by the Caribs, and even more by a
quarrel then raging between the English Governor and his Council. St.
Vincent having been secured, D’Estaign on the 2nd July fell on Grenada
with his great fleet and Bouillé’s troops.

Byron having seen the convoy on its way home, returned to Santa Lucia
on the 1st July—to learn that St. Vincent was gone, that D’Estaign was
at sea, and that some other of our possessions was menaced. He was ill
informed as to the strength of his opponent, and remained in doubt for
two or three days as to what the Frenchman was doing. While preparing
to attempt the recapture of St. Vincent, he heard of the danger of
Grenada, and came down to its assistance—too late. On the 6th July a
battle was fought off the island which marks the very nadir of the
pompous futile tactics developed under the old Instructions. Byron
had with him twenty-one ships to his opponent’s twenty-five, and was
to windward. D’Estaign, at anchor when the Englishman appeared, stood
out, keeping to leeward, and waiting to be attacked. We came down in
a slanting line, the leading English ship steering for the leading
Frenchman. Of course our van came into action unsupported, and was
cut to pieces. Then D’Estaign made no attempt to push his advantage,
but whisked round, and returned to his anchorage. Byron picked up
the fragments, and seeing that Grenada was gone, sailed away to St.
Christopher again. A few weeks of mere parade followed. D’Estaign made
motions as if to force on a battle, but did nothing effectual. Byron
was ready to fight again, if his opponent would provide him with a
battle. In August he left for home, handing over the command to Admiral
Parker. D’Estaign, after touching at San Domingo, sailed for the coast
of America to join General Lincoln, in the unsuccessful attempt to
retake Savannah, occupied by us during the previous autumn. The siege
was raised in October, and the French admiral left for home followed by
the growls of the discontented Americans.

While these operations were running their course on the American coast
and in the West Indies with various fortunes and no striking display
of ability, in the later months, an amazing example of the essential
weakness of England’s enemies was being given at home. Spain joined
France in the summer of 1779, bringing to the aid of her allies the
unwieldy bulk of her nerveless fleet. The Courts of Paris and Madrid
came to the decision to attempt an invasion under the protection of
their united squadrons. French troops and transports were collected
at Havre and St. Malo. On the 3rd June, D’Orvilliers sailed south to
meet the Spaniards with twenty-eight of the line, nine frigates, and
eight small vessels, and by direction of his Government stationed
himself at the Sisargas, twenty miles west of Corunna. Slothful and
unready as ever, the Spaniards had not fully joined till the 26th July,
and four days more were spent in settling signals and other details
of business. D’Orvilliers had no confidence in the success of the
lumbering armament he was called upon to direct. He thought that the
sixty-six liners of which it was composed made too large a force to
be manœuvred. The Spaniards might be brave and willing, but were in
his opinion neither officers nor seamen. Don Luis de Córdoba, their
commander-in-chief, a man of seventy-five, is described as having “no
personal existence,” and as having seen no service except against the
Moors. His individuality was displayed only in senile obstinacy and
vanity. Provisions were ill supplied, the health of the fleet was bad
and grew worse. D’Orvilliers’ heart was broken by the death of his only
son, an officer in the flagship, who fell a victim to the pest. In
these miserable conditions, material, moral, and mental, the new Armada
sailed from the coast of Galicia.

On one side reinforcements had been sent to North America under
Arbuthnot in the early months of the year, and an attack on the Channel
Islands had been beaten off. Sir Charles Hardy, an old officer, was
drawn from retirement and appointed to succeed Keppel, when he and
other admirals refused to serve. Hardy sailed with the grand fleet of
thirty-five sail to the West on the 16th June, and remained at sea
covering the trade and watching for the enemy. With bolder management
he might easily have delivered a crushing stroke at D’Orvilliers at the
Sisargas during the fifty mortal days while the French were waiting
for the lagging Spaniards. D’Orvilliers and Córdoba reached as high as
Plymouth on the 14th August, and their presence caused a lively panic
in the country. But nothing came of it all, except the capture of the
=Ardent=, 64, which fell into their hands by the bad management of her
captain. First the allies were paralysed by calms, then the wind turned
easterly on the 17th, and blew them out westward. They sighted Hardy,
but failed to bring him to action or to prevent him reaching Spithead,
and by the 14th September had broken up and had turned back to their
respective homes. The four days’ command of the Channel for which
Napoleon was to sigh had been theirs, but they did nothing with the
opportunity.



CHAPTER VIII

THE AMERICAN WAR TILL THE FALL OF YORKTOWN

 AUTHORITIES.—As before.


The course of the war in 1780 was dictated by the political conditions.
France, disappointed by the futile end of the great demonstration in
the Channel in 1779, did not renounce naval warfare in European waters,
but was turning her attention towards giving more effectual aid to
the Americans, and to efforts in combination with the Spaniards for
the entire expulsion of England from the West Indies. Spain watching
Minorca, and blocking Gibraltar, was prepared to co-operate with France
in Europe and the Antilles, while making an effort to recover Florida.
Don Bernardo de Galves, sailing from Havana, did achieve success in
this minor and isolated operation. The most effectual defence for us
would have been to blockade Brest, Ferrol, Cadiz, and Toulon. But with
an equality of numbers against us and the peremptory obligation to
give naval support to the army in America—the cancer which drained our
strength in all these years—the high line could not be taken. Moreover,
the rigid enforcement of our belligerent rights against neutrals at
sea was steadily bringing us into collision with Holland, to the
verge of a conflict with the Northern Powers, Russia, Prussia, and
the Scandinavian States, and this would have been sheer ruin; for the
revolt of the plantations had cut us off from the supply of American
naval stores, and we were dependent on the Baltic for timber, pitch,
and hemp, without which our fleets could not have been fitted for sea.

D’Orvilliers and Luis de Córdoba having shrunk away from the Channel in
September 1779, we were at liberty to set about defending our remoter
interests, the relief of Minorca and Gibraltar, and the strengthening
of our naval position in the New World. Mention has been made of
the sailing of Arbuthnot in June. He had with him a convoy of 400
merchant-ships with stores for General Clinton at New York. Having
turned aside to defend the Channel Islands, he sent his convoy into
port to wait for him. A shift in the wind delayed his departure from
the Channel, and though he got away safe under the wing of Hardy’s
grand fleet, he did not reach New York till August. Here he took
over the command from Sir John Collier, who had superseded Gambier,
and he co-operated in December 1779 with Cornwallis in the taking of
Charlestown, in Carolina, after the retreat of D’Estaign from before
Savannah. In the West Indies Hyde Parker had a superiority of force
over D’Estaign’s successors, the Comte de Grasse and La Motte Picquet,
and was able to confine them to Fort Royal.

At the close of 1779 measures were taken to relieve Minorca and
Gibraltar and to reinforce the West Indies. A great convoy was
collected to carry stores and soldiers to the Mediterranean fortresses.
It sailed under the guard of twenty-two line-of-battle ships and many
frigates. The command was given to Rodney, who after relieving the
fortresses was to go on with part of the fleet to the West Indies,
and there supersede Parker. With Rodney a new spirit entered into the
conduct of the naval war. He was the ablest officer, except Howe,
who had yet hoisted his flag, and was indeed a man of quite another
stamp from Keppel, Byron, Parker, Hardy, or Arbuthnot. In the Austrian
Succession and Seven Years’ Wars he had gained a reputation in the
service for ability and zeal, had been captain under Mathews and
Hawke, had commanded in the Leeward Islands, and had been bitterly
disappointed when he was superseded by Pocock during the capture of
Havana. He was eager, was not satisfied with the prevailing formal
application of the Fighting Orders, and had turned his intellect to
the conduct of war. His defects were that he was no longer young,
and that his health was ruined by diseases which were, at least in
part, the result of early dissipation. It was his misfortune to be
too deeply conscious of the fact that he represented an ancient
family of Somersetshire gentry and was closely connected with the
ducal house of Chandos. His brother-officers appeared to him in the
light of middle-class persons of inferior breeding who lived mostly
in the ports when on shore. The naval habits of the time kept the
captain and admiral in great seclusion, since it was hardly thought
consistent with their dignity to speak with subordinates except on
matters of duty. Under the influence of pain and social arrogance,
Rodney carried this isolation to an extreme. He had ruined himself
by gambling and bribery at elections, and had taken refuge from his
creditors in Paris when the American War began. A loan from the French
Marshal Biron saved him from imprisonment as a debtor in the Bastille.
On his return to London he sought for employment, and the refusal of
other admirals to serve opened the way for him to his great but tardy
opportunity. The jobbery and favouritism of the age had by no means
left him untouched. During his famous command in the West Indies he
made his own son a post-captain at the age of seventeen, and he drove
his subordinate, Isaac Coffin, into flat revolt by forcing mere lads on
him as lieutenants. When he sailed for Gibraltar in December 1779, two
influences were at work in his mind, a noble and ignoble. He burned to
gain glory for himself and victory for his country by vigorous conduct
of the war, and he was deeply concerned to repair his shattered fortune
by prize money.

Rodney sailed on the 27th December 1779, taking with him both the
reliefs for Minorca and Gibraltar, and a convoy of merchant-ships
bound for the West Indies. The trade was seen clear of the Channel,
and sent on its way on the 7th January 1780. The main fleet now went
on to Gibraltar with the stores and reliefs, and on the 8th, when
300 miles E.N.E. of Finisterre, fell in with and captured a Spanish
convoy of one 64-gun ship, seven frigates and sloops, and fifteen
merchant-ships, bound for South America. This prosperous beginning of
the service was soon followed by a more signal success. Storms in the
Straits had distressed the awkward Spanish blockading fleet, and the
greater part of it had been forced to take refuge in harbour. But a
squadron of eleven ships of the line under the command of Don Juan de
Lángara was stationed off Cape St. Vincent to intercept the relieving
force which the Spanish Government was convinced would not exceed ten
liners. On the 16th January Rodney swept down on this inferior force,
in a brisk breeze rising to a gale from the west. He steered between
them and the land as they endeavoured to escape, overtook them in the
night, and destroyed them completely. Six were taken, one of the prizes
being Lángara’s flagship, and a seventh blew up with the loss of all
hands. Two of the prizes were recaptured by their Spanish crews during
the storm following the action, but as Barceló, the Spanish admiral,
did not venture to leave the protection of the forts at Algeciras,
there was no further opposition to the relief of Gibraltar. Rodney’s
subordinate, Digby, went up the Mediterranean to Minorca with stores.
On the 14th the admiral left for the West Indies with six sail of the
line, and four days later Digby, leaving four ships to aid in the
defence of the fortress, took the others, and the empty storeships,
back to the Channel unopposed by Frenchman or Spaniard. This handsome
success, the just reward of intelligent measures vigorously executed,
raised the spirit of the nation, and Rodney sprang at once from
comparative obscurity, outside his own profession, into universal
popularity.

I will again treat the operations in West Indies and on the coast of
North America as the main stream of the war, and therefore follow
Rodney’s flag for the present. He reached Santa Lucia on the 27th March
to find Sir Hyde Parker anchored at Gros Islet Bay, and menaced in his
turn by a superior French force. Until the middle of the month, Sir
Hyde had been engaged in watching La Motte Picquet and the Comte de
Grasse at Fort Royal, and in covering the arrivals and departures of
the merchant-ship convoys. In common with all other naval commanders
on the West Indian stations, he looked forward to taking a share in
the recapture of our lost islands and in the conquest of the French
possessions. About the middle of March he was expecting to be joined by
transports conveying troops under General Vaughan from North America,
and therefore took port to windward—which is to eastward—of Martinique
to meet and protect them. On the 21st the junction was effected,
and at the same time Parker heard that the French were expecting
reinforcements from Europe. He left Commodore Collingwood with four
sail of the line to look out for them, and returned to Santa Lucia
with the other twelve of his command, and General Vaughan’s troops.
The French at Fort Royal had in the meantime divided. Part had gone
to San Domingo with La Motte Picquet. The Comte de Grasse remained
with the others to wait for the fleet coming from France. Immediately
after Parker anchored at Choque Bay, in Santa Lucia, his look-out ships
reported that they had seen a great French convoy entering Fort Royal.
On the top of this report Commodore Collingwood ran into Choque Bay
with his detached squadron, and the news that he had been chased by
sixteen French sail of the line, had escaped them, had met four sail
of Rodney’s squadron which that officer had sent on, and had sent them
back to their admiral with the information that the French were in
force.

The newcomers were the powerful fleet fitted out at Brest, and they
came under the command of Luc Urbain de Bouëxic, Comte de Guichen,
a man of sixty-two, and one of the most interesting figures in the
French Navy of the day. He represented at once all that was best in
the French _noblesse_ of his generation, its virtues of good breeding,
high personal honour, and loyalty—all that was most accomplished in
the scientific training of the French naval officer of the eighteenth
century, and all that was most fatal in their theories of the conduct
of war. No man handled a fleet with more precision or with greater
elegance, and no man manœuvred with more dexterity not to injure his
opponent, but to baffle that opponent’s attempts to injure him. We
shall see why he fairly divided the honours of the coming encounter
with Rodney, but it was characteristic of his school, and was its
condemnation, that his active career was to end in the Bay of Biscay
two years later in failure and discredit, simply through the breakdown
of the manœuvring he loved under the direct thrust of Kempenfelt. On
the 23rd March he joined Grasse at sea to windward of Martinique.
Having now twenty-four sail of the line to Parker’s sixteen, he
prepared for the reconquest of Santa Lucia, and appeared to leeward
of the island on the 24th. He was not quick or energetic enough to
prevent Parker from covering the entry of another convoy of troops
from Barbadoes, which came in round the north end of the island, on
that day; nor did he intercept Rodney, who joined Parker on the 27th,
raising the total British force to twenty-two of the line, and taking
up the command.

On the 2nd April Rodney put to sea in search of Guichen. The French
admiral followed the usual course of officers of his service. Though
equal in number to his opponents, he declined battle, remained at
anchor under the guns of Fort Royal, and waited till the absence
of the British fleet should offer him an opportunity to strike at
one of the British Antilles. Rodney returned to Gros Islet, leaving
frigates to watch. On the 15th April, Guichen came out, having with
him a detachment of troops commanded by Bouillé. Rodney was instantly
informed of his movements, and started in pursuit. On the 16th April he
sighted the French twenty-four miles west of the Pearl Rock, a little
island outside Fort Royal. On the following morning he was to windward
of his enemy, having twenty sail of the line to Guichen’s twenty-two.
The French had stood off to the N.W. when sighted, and had been
followed by the British. Both fleets were to leeward of Martinique.
At 6.45 a.m. Rodney signalled that he intended to attack the enemy’s
rear, and at 7 a.m. ordered his line to close till the ships were
at one cable’s length from one another. The order to bear down was
given at 8.30. Both fleets were heading to the N.W., and the French
were very much extended. There was a gap between their rear and their
centre. Guichen seeing that his rear division was in peril, at once
reversed the order of his van and centre, and stood to the south to its
assistance. He thereby closed the gap, and as his rear turned also to
the south, it became the van. Rodney was thus baffled, and drew off,
resuming his course to the north. Guichen then turned his fleet in the
same direction, and the two again stood to the northward side by side
out of gun-shot. At 11 a.m. Rodney hoisted the signal to engage. It was
his intention that his fleet should steer for the enemy’s rear with the
ships at a cable’s length apart. His captains unfortunately understood
the signal to attack the rear as applying only to the first movement.
Brought up in the old faith of the Fighting Instructions, they fought
as they had been trained to fight—steering van to van, centre to
centre, and rear to rear. Rodney’s plan to concentrate his whole
force on a part of the enemy was spoilt, and the battle to leeward of
Martinique ended as many others had done, with a great deal of damage
to the spars of the British ships and the retreat of the French little
hurt.

This failure remained a subject of bitter regret to Rodney. At the time
and afterwards he attributed it to the deliberate misconduct of his
captains, who, he said, let the French escape in a factious spirit of
opposition to the king’s Government. More credible explanations are:
the influence of unintelligent rules of tactics; and his own partly
valetudinarian and partly arrogant solitude. If he had explained to
his captains the principles on which he meant to fight, his orders
would not have been misunderstood, and it would have been impossible
that they should have been disobeyed. The merit of his proposed plan
is manifest when it is compared with the mechanical rules of the
Fighting Orders. Yet that merit may be, and has been, exaggerated. Such
a concentration as he designed could always be answered by an enemy
who was prompt to reverse his order and to close his line, as Guichen
showed in the early hours of the day. So long as the British fleet
engaged to windward, there could be but indifferent security that the
enemy would not cripple its rigging and slip away. Rodney, in short,
set the example of innovating on the formal tactics of the time, but
before great results could be obtained much more had to be done than he
showed himself prepared to do on the 17th April 1780.

The operations following the battle were marked by no decisive event.
Rodney, after keeping for a few days between Guichen and Fort Royal,
returned to Choque Bay to refit. Several of his ships, and the flagship
among them, the =Sandwich=, had been severely damaged. Guichen, after
visiting the Dutch island of St. Eustatius to procure stores, stationed
himself to windward—that is, to the west of Martinique. His object was
to effect a junction with a Spanish squadron under Admiral Solano,
which was known to be on its way from Europe. Rodney followed him.
Exasperated by the want of support he had suffered from in the last
action, he put his fleet through a severe course of manœuvres, and drew
the reins of discipline tight with a severity which aroused the wrath
of his subordinate, Sir Hyde Parker, who on his return home was with
difficulty restrained by the advice of Sandwich from creating another
naval scandal. Twice Rodney came close enough to Guichen to bring
on partial actions—on the 15th and 19th May. But the Frenchman was
resolved not to be brought to close action. He had the weather-gage,
and kept it so carefully that only the van ships of the British line
came into action with the rear of the French as the two fleets passed
on opposite tacks. It was characteristic of the spirit and principles
of the French Navy of the time that Guichen was much praised for, and
was visibly proud of, his success in baffling Rodney’s attempts to
bring him to battle. Rodney, who might have cut off two or three of
the rearmost French ships if he had ordered his van to steer into the
enemy’s line, was not prepared to depart wholly from the old methods.
On the 21st May, Guichen, whose ships were in want of repairs, went off
to the northward, and Rodney lost sight of him. The French returned to
Fort Royal, and the English to Barbadoes.

At Carlisle Bay, in that island, on the 22nd May, Rodney was joined
by the =Cerberus= frigate. Her captain, Mann, brought news that when
cruising off Cadiz he had sighted a Spanish squadron of twelve sail
of the line on the 2nd May, with a convoy of merchant-ships. He had
followed it for days, had convinced himself that it was bound for
the West, and had left his station to warn Rodney. Sir George, who
received further information from Lisbon, put to sea to intercept the
Spaniard, who he concluded was bound for Martinique. But Don José
Solano steered a more northerly course, and on the 10th June effected
a junction with Guichen at Guadaloupe. Rodney had been reinforced by
five ships of the line while to windward of Martinique, but was now so
much outnumbered by the united Spaniards and French that he returned
to Gros Islet Bay and stood on his guard. Nothing was attempted by
the enemy. The Spaniards were horribly sickly and in no condition for
service, while several French ships were worn out. On the 5th July
the allies separated, Solano going to Havana, and Guichen to Cape
François, in San Domingo, from whence on the 16th August he sailed
for Europe. Rodney was joined at Santa Lucia by reinforcements under
Commodore Walsingham on the 12th July, but no opportunity for action
was presented by the enemy. The hurricane season, during which the West
Indies are dangerous, had begun, and the trade had to be seen safe to
Europe. Rodney sent off the merchant-ships convoyed by Sir Hyde Parker,
detached ten of the line under Rowley and Walsingham to Jamaica, and
sailed himself with ten ships of the line to North America.

On the North American station the British squadron had been commanded
since the latter part of 1779 by Rear-Admiral Marriott Arbuthnot,
a somewhat dull man of impracticable temper. During May he had
co-operated with Sir Henry Clinton in the occupation of Charlestown,
but during the rest of the year he had been checked by the appearance
on the coast of a French squadron of nine sail of the line under the
Chef d’escadre D’Arzac de Ternay. Ternay had sailed from Brest on the
2nd May, escorting 9000 troops under Rochambeau. On the 20th June,
near Bermuda, he fell in with four British sail of the line under
Cornwallis, who was escorting a flock of merchant-ships homeward bound
through the Florida Straits. The two squadrons cannonaded one another
feebly. Ternay having “his mission to fulfil,” would not stop to crush
Cornwallis, and went on to Rhode Island, which he reached on the 11th
July. Arbuthnot, who was reinforced by Graves on the 13th July, made
preparations to co-operate with the army in an attack on the French;
but delays followed one another, and no attack was made. The brief
stay of Rodney on the station was not marked by any active operation.
Arbuthnot looked upon him chiefly as a competitor for shares of prize
money, and was angry at his intrusion. Sir George, whose health
suffered in the keen air of a northern autumn, reached New York on the
22nd September, and was back in the West Indies on the 12th December.

In home waters the war was conducted with languor on both sides after
Rodney’s relief of Gibraltar. The British Government having to meet
calls all over the world, could only collect some thirty sail of the
line in the Channel, which were successively led by Admiral Geary, a
worn-out veteran, and Admiral Darby. Geary, after a cruise in June
and July, during which he made a few prizes of merchant-ships,
resigned in August. One object of his cruise was to see a large convoy
of ships bound to the East and West Indies safe out of reach of the
French and Spanish fleets. It was to be guarded when clear of European
waters by Captain Moutray in the =Ramillies=, 74, with the =Thetis=
and =Southampton= frigates. The convoy consisted of five East India
Company’s ships, of eighteen transports carrying a regiment to the West
Indies, and of forty West Indian merchant-ships. Moutray left Spithead
on the 29th July. He was allowed two other line-of-battle ships till
he was 300 miles beyond the Scilly Isles. He met Geary at sea, and
was escorted by the grand fleet till he was some 340 miles west. Then
he was left, the admiral thinking that he was now safe. But he was
running into extreme peril. The French had sent the Chef d’escadre
Bausset with seven of the line and the Spanish ships at Brest to join
Don Luis de Córdoba at Cadiz. While they were there, secret information
of the sailing of the convoy and of the weakness of Moutray is said,
by Spanish historians, to have reached the Prime Minister of Spain,
the Count of Floridablanca. He at once ordered Córdoba and Bausset to
sail and intercept the prize. They were right across Moutray’s route
when, on the 8th August, in Lat. 36° 40 N. and Lon. 15° W., their sails
were seen on the horizon at sundown from the masthead of Moutray’s
advance ship. Thinking the sails belonged to neutral ships, he held on
till night. Then the number of lights reported as seen ahead made him
alter his mind. He signalled to his convoy by gun-fire to lie to with
their heads to the west, and then, again by gun-fire, ordered them
to continue their course. It was his meaning that they should go as
they were then pointing. The captains of the Indiamen, transports, and
merchant-ships understood that they were to resume the course they were
on before they lay to, which was to the south. His signals had been
heard by the allies, who steered for the sound of the guns. So when the
sun rose on the 9th August, Moutray with his solitary 74 and frigates
was well out to the west and to windward. The sixty-three ships under
his charge were sailing right into the arms of a big French and Spanish
fleet, which closed on them, and carried them all into Cadiz. It was
the greatest disaster suffered by British commerce since Tourville had
scattered the Smyrna convoy. The necessity for satisfying the public
by making an example led to Moutray’s trial by a court martial, and he
was reprimanded. In truth, nothing he could have done would have saved
his convoy when once it was close to so great a force. He lived to be
appointed as Commissioner of the Dockyard at Antigua, and to have some
difficulties with Nelson.

The allies returned in triumph to Cadiz, and their success encouraged
the Spaniards to persevere in the war. A great fleet collected in the
port in October,—Spanish ships, Frenchmen from Brest and from Toulon,
and Guichen with a worn-out squadron from the West Indies; but it did
nothing, and scattered to winter quarters.

In 1781 the war grew in intensity. Disputes arising partly out of the
exercise by the British Government of its claim to take an enemy’s
goods out of a neutral ship, and partly out of the encouragement given
to the Americans by the city of Amsterdam, led to a declaration of
war on the Dutch Republic by Great Britain in December 1780. To guard
against an attack by the Dutch on the trade with the Baltic, from
whence our naval stores were mainly drawn, it was necessary to station
a squadron in the North Sea, which threw an additional burden on the
already heavily taxed navy. Every ship which could be patched up for
service had to be put into commission. The number of vessels in “full
sea pay” was 398, and 90,000 men, including 20,000 marines, were voted
to form the crews.

So many were the calls on the navy that it was not possible to collect
sufficient line-of-battle ships for service in home waters. The nominal
superiority of the allies was overwhelming, but the difference between
paper and real strength has rarely been better shown than in this year.
The Dutch were not ready. The French, though incomparably the most
formidable of our enemies, could not man and officer all their ships
effectively. The Spaniards were miserably inefficient. France and Spain
alike were intent on pushing the war in America, or in endeavouring to
recover Minorca and Gibraltar. Both dreaded the dangers of the Channel.
Thus no resolute effort was made to assail Great Britain itself. In
America our enemies gained, by the intelligent use of their fleets,
the success which established the independence of the United States.
In European waters the British Government was compelled to leave the
garrison of Minorca to its fate. After a siege begun on the 18th August
1781, it surrendered on the 4th February 1782. Yet the foundations of
our power were not only not shaken, but were not seriously menaced.

Before taking up the story of the war in American waters, it will be
convenient to show how the heart of the empire was guarded, and how
the forces on both sides started for operations in distant seas. The
British Government had to provide first of all for the free movement of
its trade—a task greatly complicated by the war with Holland. Then it
had to reinforce its squadrons in America, to endeavour to strengthen
its general position by seizing the Dutch possessions at the Cape,
and by providing for the safety of Gibraltar. The great fortress was
on a superficial view a mere burden on the fleet throughout the war.
Three great armaments had to be sent for its relief first and last.
Two of them were provided only by leaving the Channel with small or
no protection. Some English public men were of opinion that it might
be profitably exchanged for an island in the West Indies. Yet it
attracted a large part of the enemy’s forces which might have been
employed with more damaging results to us elsewhere. It is true that
for this we have to thank the want of intelligence of our opponents.
To recover Gibraltar was an object for which the King of Spain was
prepared to make every effort, and he could think of no other way of
taking it than by direct siege. His Ambassador in Paris, the Count of
Aranda, had sagacity enough to see that it might be recovered “in the
heart of Jamaica.” Aranda could, however, secure no hearing. So long
as our opponents were intent on mastering Gibraltar by bombardment and
blockade, the obvious interest of England was to keep it from capture.
Nor could the pride of the nation be reconciled to the surrender of
this trophy of former wars. Its importance to the ultimate interests
of the naval power of Great Britain was to be amply proved in the next
war.

To provide for the free movement of the trade a small squadron of one
line-of-battle ship and a few frigates was stationed early in the year
on the east coast of Scotland. Privateers, American and French, had
already been active in those waters, and were now to be reinforced
by the Dutch, who, when once at war, set vigorously to work to make
up for the neglect of their fleet in previous years. Commodore Keith
Stuart, who was in command of the small protecting force, found it
insufficient. The history of the war in the North Sea during 1781 shows
with what difficulty and at what a cost trade is carried on when the
command of the sea is disputed. The =Artois= frigate was appointed
to protect the merchant-ships bound to the Baltic. During the spring
200 merchant-vessels collected in the Firth of Forth. They were
detained at first by weather, and then by orders from the Admiralty,
which feared that they would be captured by Dutch frigates. Their
provisions were consumed and heavy expenses incurred. In the meantime
another flock of trading-ships had been collected on the east coast,
and was sent to the Firth of Forth under the protection of a squadron
commanded by the Vice-Admiral Parker whose services in the West
Indies have been mentioned. He came up from the Downs collecting the
traders on his way. On the 10th June he had collected his charge, 500
merchant-ships in all, at Leith. Before he could see them on their way,
the homeward-bound convoy from Jamaica came in—seventy trading-craft
under the protection of four sail of the line, one 50-gun and one
44-gun ship—much battered by storms, and infested with scurvy after a
long voyage. The West Indiamen stopped only to obtain fresh vegetables,
and then continued their voyage to the South. On the 27th June Parker
sailed, saw his convoy safe to the Baltic, and then cruised in the
North Sea, waiting for the homeward-bound ships.

The condition of Parker’s squadron shows that the Admiralty had indeed
been driven to sore straits to provide protection for the North Sea
trade. After he had been joined by Stuart with the =Berwick=, 74, he
was able to make up a line of seven vessels in all, but it was only
by including two which were not line-of-battle ships—the =Preston=,
50, and the =Dolphin=, 44. The =Princess Amelia=, 80, was nominally
a strong ship, but she was so crazy with age that it had been found
necessary to reduce her armament. She carried only 24-pounders on
the lower deck instead of 32-pounders, and the rest of her guns were
18-pounders and 9-pounders. Parker’s flagship, the =Fortitude=, 74, and
the =Berwick= represented the solid part of his command. If the Dutch
had been able to send an equal squadron of strong ships, it would have
gone hard with “Vinegar” Parker. Happily for him and for the interests
of British trade, the Dutch had to make shift with the old and weak
when they needed the new and strong. On the 20th July a squadron of
seven ships, to form the line, and a number of frigates sailed from
the Texel with a large fleet of merchant-ships under their protection.
The admiral in command was the Schout-bij-nacht Johan Arnold Zoutman,
an elderly officer, of the same stamp as his English opponent, an
excellent practical seaman beyond doubt, and a stout-hearted man, but
nothing more. His line of seven was made by including three ships
of 54 guns and one of 40. The largest of his ships was the _Admiral
Generaal_, 74, commanded by Captain Kinsbergen. Zoutman’s flag was in
the _Admiraal de Ruiter_, 68, and one 64-gun ship, the _Holland_, made
up the tale. Other two ships were sent out to accompany the convoy, but
were not available for an action with the British squadron.

Contrary winds and the usual obstructions inseparable from the task
of convoying a swarm of clumsy merchant-ships delayed Zoutman’s
movements. It was not till the first days of August that he was clear
of the shallows of the Dutch coast. In the meantime, the British trade
homeward bound from the Baltic had collected behind Parker. On the 5th
August the Dutchman bound northward, and the Englishman southward,
sighted one another on the Dogger Bank, in a north-westerly wind—Parker
being to the windward and westward. Each admiral sent his convoy on its
way, and both prepared for a fair trial of strength.

The battle which followed has an almost pathetic interest. It was one
of the last fought on the old traditional rules, and it was fought
by men who played the game with a single heart. Therefore it showed
what was best in those rules, their downright manhood, and what was
weakest, their hidebound pedantry. Zoutman seeing that Parker had
the weather-gage and the option of battle, lay to on the port tack,
heading to the north. Sir Hyde Parker bore down to engage from van to
rear, every man to take his bird. His flagship was in her orthodox
place, the middle, which in a line of seven was the fourth. Zoutman
was the fifth in his line. Now the proper opponent for an admiral
is an admiral. Parker therefore laid the =Fortitude= alongside the
_Admiraal de Ruiter_. But as there were three ships ahead of him and
three astern, while there were four ships ahead and two astern of
Zoutman, it followed that there were three English to four Dutch in
the van, and three to two in the rear. The last ship of Parker’s line
had consequently no opponent. In the van the =Berwick=, 74, was very
rightly laid alongside the leading Dutchman, the _Erzprinz_, 54. The
second English ship tackled the third Dutchman, and the third the
fourth. Therefore the second Dutchman had no opponent. Yet every ship
was kept in its position, since the signal for the line was flying. Not
a shot was fired by the Dutch as their enemies came down to the attack.
They lay quiet, with their marines admirably pipeclayed drawn up on
their poops. When the other sportsman was comfortably in his place,
Zoutman opened fire. English and Dutch pounded one another with stolid
resolution. The loyalty of the seamen of the time to the superstition
of the line of battle was wonderfully shown in the van. Commodore
Stuart had rightly closed with the leading Dutch ship to prevent her
from getting to windward and doubling on the head of our line. The
=Berwick= being a far heavier ship than the _Erzprinz_, was able to
drive her to leeward. In following up the attack the =Berwick= fell
to leeward, and then finding herself out of her proper place, tacked
back to resume her station. The battle was a cannonade of three hours
and a half. At the end of that time the Dutch drew off, and Parker did
not pursue. His ships were severely damaged, and his casualty list,
111 killed and 318 wounded, was a more severe loss than any suffered
in action with the French in this war, in proportion to the number
engaged. Zoutman returned to port, and Parker continued his voyage
home. The safe arrival of the Baltic convoy was a subject of very
natural rejoicing, and much was made of Parker’s “victory,” though
victory there was none. He for his part was discontented, and resigned
his command, saying, we are told, that he wished the king younger
admirals and better ships. At a later period he was chosen to command
in the East Indies. He sailed in the =Cato=, 50, for his station. His
fate is unknown, for he never reached his destination, and no trace of
him was left, save a vague story that a great ship, which may have been
his, had been wrecked on the coast of Malabar, and that the survivors
of the crew had been massacred by the natives.

While these operations were running their indecisive course in the
North Sea, two great armaments had sailed from Spithead and from Brest,
each on a distant mission, and each carrying with it subordinate
squadrons to be detached for still more remote destinations. On the
13th March Admiral Darby sailed from Spithead with twenty-eight
line-of-battle ships. Some were to be detached to the West Indies, and
others to sail for the Cape of Good Hope and take it from the Dutch,
when Darby’s immediate service was performed. He had also with him the
outward-bound East Indiamen. His orders were to collect the vessels
laden with provisions in Irish ports for the use of the garrisons of
Gibraltar and Mahon, to convoy them to the fortresses, to detach the
reinforcements for the West Indies, and the squadron destined to the
Cape with the East Indiamen under its charge, and to return to the
Channel. To meet the victuallers, he steered for the south coast of
Ireland, and was there delayed till they joined him from Cork. While
Darby was waiting on the south coast of Ireland the Comte de Grasse
left Brest on the 22nd March, with twenty sail of the line, bound for
the West Indies, and having with him a small squadron to be detached
for an attack on the British settlements in the East Indies. Darby,
having collected his victuallers, went on his way, and Grasse on his
without a meeting. The strenuous futility which is conspicuous in the
operations of all parties in this war was never more visible than in
this misuse of two great fleets. If Darby had fallen on Grasse and had
driven him back to Brest, the Americans would have been deprived of
the aid which enabled them to take Yorktown at the close of the year.
If Grasse had been joined by even six or eight Spanish ships in an
efficient state, and had fought a whole-hearted battle with Darby off
the Old Head of Kinsale, it is possible that the entire naval defence
of Great Britain might have been ruined, and it is eminently probable
that the relief of Gibraltar would have been stopped—in which case the
fortress must have fallen for it was at the end of its resources. But
the rulers in London and Paris had their eyes on the end of the earth
and could not see that victory at home would mean success all over the
world.

The web of naval warfare covered the North Atlantic, the threads
crossed, the shuttle flew to and fro. All were players in the same game
and each acted on the other. The squadrons detached to the Cape and
the Indian Ocean by Darby and Grasse went into a wider field and acted
apart. The North Sea was a field by itself, but the other fleets and
squadrons from Newport in Rhode Island, down the East Coast of America
to the West Indies, across the Atlantic to the Straits of Gibraltar,
and north to the Channel, worked together, and on one another in
harmony or in conflict. Let us see how the players stood when Darby
sailed from the south of Ireland for Gibraltar, and Grasse steered from
Brest for the West Indies.

When the year began the French squadron of seven sail of the line and
two frigates lay at Newport. It was commanded by Chevalier Destouches,
who succeeded to the command on the death of Ternay, on the 15th
December 1780. Arbuthnot was in command of the British squadron of
eight ships of the line, two 50-gun ships, and twenty-three frigates,
with his headquarters at Long Island. His ships had to patrol the
coast and to co-operate with the British forces acting in the southern
Colonies. In January he sailed to reconnoitre the French, but on the
23rd his squadron was beaten back by a violent gale. The =Culloden=,
74, was lost on the end of Long Island, and the =Bedford=, 74,
dismasted. The =America=, 74, was driven out to sea, and did not rejoin
his flag for weeks. Washington throughout the year was striving to
bring about a concentration of French and American forces on either the
northern or southern parts of the divided British. He urged Destouches
to put to sea while Arbuthnot was disabled. But the Frenchman was
oppressed by anxiety lest the stormy weather should be as fatal to
him as to his opponent. He sent Le Gardeur de Tilly with one 64 and
two frigates to fall on the British transports of Arnold’s force in
Virginia. The French officer found that they had taken refuge in
Elizabeth River, and returned. On his way to Rhode Island he captured
the =Romulus=, 44, and a number of prizes. Meanwhile Arbuthnot lay at
Gardiner Bay in Long Island. Under the steady driving of Washington,
Destouches got to sea on the 8th March, with seven of the line and two
frigates—one of them the captured =Romulus=, and 1500 French soldiers
under Viomesnil, to reinforce the Americans in Virginia. On the 10th
Arbuthnot followed him with eight ships of the line and two frigates.
The two steered for the Chesapeake in squally weather, mists, and
driving rain. The English squadron was the quicker of the two. On
the 16th March it overtook the French between forty and fifty miles
N.E. by E. of Cape Henry. It was in the power of Arbuthnot to put
himself to leeward of Destouches, and between him and the coast in the
north-easterly wind. But faithful to tradition he let the Frenchman run
to leeward of him, and then made two rushes at him in the old style.
The Frenchman as usual fired to dismast and slipped away. Yet Arbuthnot
was the more pertinacious of the two. After an inconclusive action
he anchored at Lynn Haven in the Chesapeake, and Destouches, finding
the road still barred, went back to Rhode Island. Arbuthnot came back
to Long Island, having at least baffled the enemy’s attempt to carry
reinforcements to Virginia, so that at the close of March both were
again “as they were” at Long Island and at Newport.

Meanwhile events of no very honourable character had occurred in the
West Indies. Rodney had returned to his station, the Leeward Islands,
from North America on the 12th of December 1780. He was soon joined by
Samuel Hood with reinforcements from Europe. Hood, when the war began,
had been commissioner of the dockyard at Portsmouth. The acceptance
of this post was by custom held to mark an officer’s final retirement
from active sea service. But the Admiralty wished to supply Rodney
with a second in command who would work more harmoniously with him than
Parker. Hood had served under Rodney’s eye at the beginning of his
career. He had been captain of the =Vestal=, from which Rodney directed
an attack on a French flotilla in 1759. The refusal of many flag
officers to take commands while Sandwich remained First Lord supplied
another reason for departing from usage. Hood, who was no political
partisan, or who at least was no Whig, was included in a promotion
of flag officers, and was sent with reinforcements and a large trade
convoy to the West Indies. Soon after he joined, the =Childers= sloop
brought news of the outbreak of the war with Holland.

No more welcome message could have reached the ear of Sir George,
for it brought to a very embarrassed man the hope of infinite prize
money. The Dutch Island of St. Eustatius, lying high up in the Lesser
Antilles, had been used for the purpose to which the British port of
Nassau in the Bahamas was put in the American Civil War. It had become
a great dépôt of contraband, by which the French profited largely. It
was also the seat of an unwonted trade of more legitimate character.
The West Indian planters were under the necessity of buying all the
food for their slaves in the North American colonies. As the supply
could not be stopped without producing ruin to the British Islands,
Government was compelled to relax the rigour of its navigation laws,
and permit the planters to obtain supplies through neutral ports. This
authorised trade concentrated at St. Eustatius. Maize and pork were
brought from America, and British goods were brought to pay for them.
Long rows of warehouses sprang up on the usually empty shore of the one
landing place of the Dutch island.

The news that St. Eustatius was fair prize reached Rodney on the 27th
January. On the 3rd February he seized the island. The neighbouring
port of Saba was taken at the same time, and a Dutch convoy was
followed and captured. From that moment and for the ensuing weeks
Rodney became blind to the interest of his country and to his own
honour in the contemplation of the stupendous mass of booty which was
at last to make him a rich man. A part of his force was to have sailed
to seize the Dutch possessions on the mainland of South America. The
admiral would not part with a ship. Essequibo and Surinam were left
to be taken by a swarm of privateers. There was no French force in
the Leeward Islands except four of the line at Fort Royal. Lest they
should come to molest him at St. Eustatius Rodney stationed the bulk
of his fleet outside that port. In vain did Hood, who was detached
for the blockade, point out that the belt of calm under the land of
Martinique, the fitful breezes, and the westerly set of the current
in the Caribbean Sea made it impossible to lie close up to the land
and intercept reinforcements coming to the French from Europe. In vain
did he ask leave to cruise to windward of Martinique on the track of
any French force which might be coming. Rodney, reduced to the moral
level of a buccaneer, would think of nothing except that if Hood were
to windward of the island, the French at Fort Royal might slip out
and recapture the booty at St. Eustatius. There he himself remained
superintending the sorting and packing of the spoil. In that position
they were at the end of April when Grasse was seen coming round the
south end of Martinique on the 28th April.

While the French admiral was crossing the Atlantic Darby had carried
out the relief of Gibraltar. He saw the ships ordered to the East
Indies safe on their way, and on the 11th April was off Cadiz. His
look-out frigates counted thirty-six Spanish sail of the line at anchor
in the port. They had grown foul while blockading the fortress, and
had run out of stores. They were in fact “wanting in everything at the
critical moment,” as Wellington was to find the Spanish armies at no
distant day. Córdoba, their admiral, was a man of childlike faith and
piety. When a French officer came to expostulate on the scandalous
spectacle presented by a fleet of thirty-six sail which allowed a
weaker force to relieve the fortress under its eyes, he left his cabin
with his rosary in his hand. He listened to the carnal arguments of the
Frenchman, and then replied with saintly unction, that it had pleased
God to make the English stronger on the present occasion, but that he
would doubtless give the superiority to the Spaniards in his own good
time. He then went back to his prayers. Darby was allowed to carry
his convoy into Gibraltar, and to despatch others to Mahon not yet
besieged. He met no opposition from the Spaniards except from a few
rowing gunboats, which fired at him from a respectful distance, when
the breeze had fallen. On the 19th April he sailed for home—his work
done. He swept close by Cadiz, “lifting his leg on the Spaniards” as
Horace Walpole puts it, but they would not come out.

On his way back he missed a piece of service which would have given
him a well-earned reward. While he was to the south the convoy which
Rodney had taken from the Dutch, together with much of his booty, was
on its way home. Another rich convoy was due from Jamaica. The French
Government had news of them, and sent six sail of the line and four
frigates and sloops to intercept them. La Motte Picquet fell in with
Rodney’s prize convoy about sixty miles to the west of the Scilly
Isles. They were under the protection of Commodore Hotham with two
line-of-battle ships and three frigates. Seeing the superiority of the
French, Hotham ordered his convoy to disperse, and drew his warships
into a line. But the Frenchman followed the booty and Hotham was not
alert enough to molest him. Twenty of the convoy were taken. La Motte
Picquet, satisfied with his gains, now turned home to Brest. It was
well for him that he did. Darby was informed of the capture of Hotham’s
convoy, and at once sent Rear-Admiral Digby with a squadron to effect
its recapture. But Digby never sighted the chase. The look-out ship
of the main force with Darby, the =Nonsuch=, 64, commanded by Captain
Sir James Wallace, fell in with one of La Motte Picquet’s ships, the
_Actif_, 74, commanded by M. de Boades, and the two fought a desperate
action, which lasted through hours of the night of the 14th May.
Both were severely mauled. The =Nonsuch= lost twenty-six men killed,
and sixty-four wounded; the _Actif_ fifteen killed and thirty-eight
wounded. The action may be quoted to prove that there was at this time
no difference in efficiency between the best ships in the French navy
and our own. La Motte Picquet took his prizes into Brest, and with them
the fortune of Rodney. Little was left to the admiral except a ruinous
series of lawsuits, brought against him by British merchants engaged in
the authorised trade at St. Eustatius, whose goods he had impounded
without discrimination. The Jamaica convoy got safe to port. Darby
anchored at Spithead on the 22nd May.

On that very day Rodney was hurrying from Antigua to Barbadoes to make
good the consequences of his mismanagement in March and April. On the
28th April the Comte de Grasse was seen coming round the southern end
of Martinique, and now began a series of operations in which all the
movements of the British fleet were dictated by the French admiral,
and all led up to loss. Hood, held back to leeward by Rodney’s orders,
the wind, the calm, and the current, could do nothing to prevent
his opponent from hugging the shore and reaching Fort Royal with
his warships and convoy. On the 29th Grasse was joined by the four
line-of-battle ships in the fort. On that day, on the 30th and on the
1st May, encounters took place between the two fleets. Grasse, having
ulterior objects to achieve, would not allow himself to be drawn into
close action. The well-trained French captains of guns made excellent
practice. Several of Hood’s ships suffered severe damage in their
spars, and one, the =Russell=, 74, was badly injured on the water-line.
All of course were proportionately disabled for working to windward.
Hood, finding himself outmatched in force and his fleet diminished by
damage, drew off to the north and sent the injured =Russell= into St.
Eustatius. She reached it on the 4th May, and brought Rodney the first
news that Grasse had reached Martinique. He sailed to join Hood on the
6th with the two ships of the line he had kept with him, and on the
9th joined his subordinate between Montserrat and Antigua. Injuries to
ships and want of stores made it necessary for him to take the whole
fleet to the dockyard at Antigua.

Grasse, having the Caribbean Sea open before him, free to go where he
pleased and strike where he chose, left Fort Royal on the 9th May to
retake Santa Lucia. The attack was made on the 11th and 12th without
success. The strength of the British posts on Pigeon Island, the Morne
Fortuné, and the Vigil enabled General St. Leger to hold out. He was
aided by a small squadron under Commodore Linzee. The discovery that
the British posts were strong, and apprehension that Rodney might
appear, induced the French admiral to embark the soldiers he had landed
and return to Fort Royal. Rodney was indeed at sea, and had steered to
assist Santa Lucia. He received news of the retreat of the enemy when
near Barbadoes on the 23rd May. As that island was ill prepared for an
attack, and his fleet still in need of stores with many sick in the
crews, Rodney anchored in Carlisle Bay. Grasse had decided to fly at
lesser game, and was content to retake Tobago. An advance squadron of
his fleet first appeared off the island. It had been detached before
the attack—which the French historians, with some economy of truth,
call a false attack—on Santa Lucia. Colonel Ferguson, the Governor of
Tobago, appealed for help to Rodney, and the admiral, who received the
message on the 27th May, sent Rear-Admiral Sir Samuel Drake on the
29th with three ships of the line, three frigates, and three sloops to
his assistance. Hardly was Drake out of sight before news came that
Grasse had sailed on the 22nd from Fort Royal apparently bound for
Tobago. Rodney was in no small anxiety for his subordinate, but Drake,
who sighted the whole French fleet off Tobago on the 30th, retreated
in time. The French had landed at Great Courland Bay on the 24th, and
Ferguson, who had but four hundred men and some armed blacks, retreated
into the hills, hoping to hold out till Rodney could come. But Bouillé
arrived on the 31st May. He was ever a partisan of “thorough,” and well
knew there was no time to waste. By his orders two plantations were
fired _in terrorem_, and the clamours of the planters, who formed a
large part of his force, compelled the governor to surrender on the 2nd
June. When Rodney came from Barbadoes on the 3rd the mischief was done.
Until the 9th both fleets manœuvred along the string of small islands
called the Grenadines, till Rodney, finding that he could not bring his
enemy to close action, returned to Barbadoes, and Grasse went north to
Fort Royal.

Strenuous futility continued to be the note of the operations on both
sides. The end of all this display of force by Grasse had been the
transfer of a small island from England to France. In Paris there was
indeed a very general belief that Grasse had not done enough. His
nephew, who carried home his despatches reporting the operations off
Fort Royal from the 29th April to 1st May, had a very cold reception
from the king. The admiral’s excuse that the British ships were all
coppered and sailed better than his own was grimly received. If we
are to accept it the French officer deserved high credit for baffling
Rodney’s efforts to bring him to battle between the 3rd and 9th
June—credit, that is, for skill if not for high spirit. The English
reader may be excused for not accepting it at once, for, if it is well
founded, Rodney was grievously to blame for allowing himself to be
baffled. But this lament of want of speed is heard on both sides, till
we are almost forced to regard it as a standing excuse. Sir George’s
failure can be sufficiently explained by the fact that his mind had
been clouded by a passion of avarice at St. Eustatius, and that his
health was breaking down. He was not free either in body or mind to
give minute attention to his command. His solitary habits grew on him,
and his second in command, Hood, angered by the distant hauteur of his
chief, paid sullen and exact obedience to orders and held his peace. In
his letters he repaid himself by scornful invective.

On his return to Fort Royal Grasse prepared for the vigorous campaign
which was to redeem his reputation and to decide the war in North
America. All through the war Washington had been eagerly pressing for
a combined attack on the British forces either in New York or in the
South, and Grasse had orders to co-operate. Washington would have
preferred the first, but when he found that the French preferred the
second he accepted the alternative. Grasse left Fort Royal on the 5th
July for Cape Français (now Cape Haytien) in San Domingo, taking with
him a convoy of 200 merchant ships. At Cape Français he received the
pressing appeals of Washington and the French authorities to come on
to North America with ships, troops, and bullion. The ships he had,
and he increased them by taking the vessels already at Cape Français
which were destined to convoy the trade home. The merchant ships were
ordered to remain in the colony till the next season—a bold measure,
which would probably have been beyond the courage of a British
admiral who served a commercial state. Three thousand two hundred
troops with ten field pieces and a siege train were lent him by M. de
Lillancourt, governor of Saint Domingo. Bullion he could not obtain
in the French colony. An appeal to the Spaniards at Havana produced
about £60,000. On the 28th July Grasse sent the _Concorde_ frigate with
the announcement that he was coming, and on the 5th August he sailed
through the Bahama Channel for the Chesapeake, carrying the troops in
his warships so as not to be hampered by transports.

Rodney was informed by Captain Forde of =La Nymphe=, who had seen the
French at sea on the 5th July, that Grasse had sailed. He at once
concluded that the French admiral was bound to the coast of America,
and he prepared to reinforce the British squadron on the station.
For himself he could not go. His health had broken down, and it was
impossible for him to face an autumn campaign in the searching cold
of the North. He handed over his command to Hood with orders to take
fourteen sail of the line to America, and then on the 1st August sailed
with a convoy for Europe.

All now began to move to the decisive point at Yorktown. Arbuthnot had
resigned his command and had gone home on the 2nd July. His successor,
Rear-Admiral Graves, began by sending information to Rodney that the
French fleet was believed to be coming from the West Indies. Then
leaving Captain Edmond Affleck at New York he went to sea himself with
six ships of the line, to intercept reinforcements from Europe for the
enemy, to cover the movements of our own convoys, to watch Boston,
and, if possible, to meet whatever ships Rodney might send him from
the West Indies. Sir George had acted, as we have seen, on his own
initiative, and had sent the sloop =Swallow= to report the approaching
arrival of Hood. The =Swallow= reached New York on the 27th July, and
was sent on by Affleck to meet Graves at sea. She unhappily fell in
with two privateers, by whom she was driven on shore and destroyed. The
=Active=, sent by Hood to report that he was coming, was also taken,
and neither message reached Graves. Hearing nothing, and being in want
of stores, the admiral returned to Sandy Hook on the 16th August.
Hood in the meantime had sailed from Antigua on the 10th August, and
on the 27th he was off the Chesapeake. Finding no British force there
he went on to Sandy Hook on the 28th. Forty-eight hours after he had
gone Grasse arrived with twenty-eight sail of the line, and two 50-gun
ships. He anchored at Lynn Haven. Thus Lord Cornwallis, who had been
compelled to evacuate the Carolinas, and had marched through Virginia
to Yorktown, where all his troops were collected by the 22nd August,
was cut off from communication with New York by sea, while Washington,
with the American troops, and Rochambeau, with the French, were
gathering round him by land.

Whether he could have been saved from the superior forces collecting
about him is perhaps doubtful. Whatever chance he had was lost through
want of aid from General Clinton in New York, who continued to believe
that he, and not Cornwallis, would be attacked. The violent controversy
between the generals does not require to be dealt with here. On the
return of Graves, Clinton urged him to attack the French squadron at
Newport. The admiral had, however, to reprovision his ships, and he
received two pieces of information in quick succession which disposed
of any plan for an attack on Newport. On the 16th August =La Nymphe=
joined him with the report that Hood was on his way, and a few days
later he learnt that the French squadron, commanded since the 6th
May by the Chef d’escadre Barras de San Laurent who had superseded
Destouches, had sailed to the southward. When Hood appeared off the bar
of Sandy Hook, Graves came out to join him on the 1st September, and
their united forces steered for the Chesapeake to intercept Barras.
On the 5th September the British fleet of twenty-one sail of the line
was off Cape Henry, and the advance ship, the =Solebay=, signalled the
presence of a French fleet in Lynn Haven. Admiral Graves formed his
line of battle and stood on. Grasse shipped his cables and stood out
with twenty-four of the line, forming his array as he went. When the
two were nearly opposite one another, the British to windward in a fine
breeze from the N.N.E., Graves wore his fleet together, and bore down
on the enemy, both lines being on the port tack and heading to sea. A
sudden shift of the wind and a shoal called the Middle Ground hampered
the movements of the fleets. The British line was not all brought into
action, for it struck on the enemy at an angle, thus only the van under
Rear-Admiral Drake was closely engaged. The rear under Hood might have
brought the enemy to close action if it had been allowed to break
the line. But Graves adhered to the old rule which prescribes the
maintenance of the same formation throughout a battle. So the French
were once more allowed to slip away after crippling several ships of
the British van, and damaging one, the =Terrible=, 74, so severely that
it was found necessary to take her men and stores out, and set her on
fire on the 11th. Both fleets remained out for some days without again
coming to action. On the 9th Grasse returned to Lynn Haven. During
his absence Barras had slipped in with six sail of the line, bringing
with him the battering train about to be used against Cornwallis at
Yorktown. He found two British frigates, detached by Graves to cut away
the buoys left by Grasse on his anchors, and captured them both. After
destroying the =Terrible=, Graves looked into the Chesapeake again,
and finding the enemy too strong to be attacked, sailed away to Sandy
Hook, which he reached on the 19th September. Cornwallis was left to
his fate. Graves was joined on the 24th by Rear-Admiral Digby with
three sail of the line, and the news of his appointment to the Jamaica
station, and a few days later by two other ships from the West Indies.
He sailed on the 17th October on a forlorn effort to save Cornwallis,
who had been forced to surrender on that very day. The British fleet
looked again into the Chesapeake, saw that all was over, and returned
to Sandy Hook. Graves then handed over the command to his successor,
Digby, and left for his new station.

The fall of Yorktown was the practical end of the war in North America.
While Cornwallis’s army was undergoing its fate, the allies had made
another idle demonstration at the mouth of the Channel. Thirty-six
sail of the line, under Don Luis de Córdoba, appeared at its entrance
early in August, while thirteen others cruised on the coast of Ireland
to intercept trade. Darby, weakened by the departure of Digby for
America, was with difficulty reinforced to thirty sail, and had to
lie at anchor in Torbay. The allies, who had come on the very tardy
reflection that the best way to prevent relief to Gibraltar or Minorca
was to watch the mouth of the Channel, did not dare to attack him. They
feared to be crushed in detail if they attacked in line ahead, and were
persuaded they had no room (they might have been persuaded that they
had no seamanship), to attack in line abreast. On the 14th September
Darby put to sea to make an effort, and found the enemy gone. They had
in fact separated on the 5th September in wretched health. The French
went home to Brest, the Spaniards to Cadiz, whence eighteen of the
least inefficient of them sailed under Don Miguel Gaston to escort the
treasure ships from America. In the absence of an enemy the service was
successfully performed. Darby remained at sea till November to protect
trade.



CHAPTER IX

THE CLOSE OF THE WAR AND THE EAST INDIES

 AUTHORITIES.—_Naval and Military Memoirs of Great Britain_, by
     Beatson; _Naval Chronology_, by Isaac Schomberg; _Memoirs
     and Correspondence of Lord de Saumarez_, by Ross; _Life and
     Correspondence of Rodney_, by Mundy; _Life of Viscount Keppel_,
     by T. Keppel; _An Essay on Naval Tactics_, by Clerk; _Naval
     Battles of Great Britain_, by Ekins; “Letters of Sir Samuel
     Hood,” by Hannay, in _Navy Records Society Publications_;
     _Naval Researches_, by White; _Plans of Battles of the War_, by
     Matthews; _Life of Howe_, by Barrow; _La Marine française_, by
     Chevalier; _Batailles navales de la France_, by Troude; _Journal
     de Bord du Bailli de Suffren_, by Moris; _Histoire du Bailli de
     Suffren_, by Cunat; _Siege of Gibraltar_, by Drinkwater; _Sea
     Power in History_, by Mahan; _Het Nederlandsche Zeewezen_, by De
     Jonghe; _Marins et Soldats français en Amerique_, by the Vicomte
     de Noailles; _La Marine Militaire de la France sous le règne de
     Louis XVI._, by Lacour-Gayet.


The independence of the United States had been secured and a great
blow struck at England by the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown. The
allies had now to secure prizes for themselves. Gibraltar was to be
taken in Europe and Jamaica conquered in the West Indies. On the 4th
November 1781 Grasse sailed from the Chesapeake for Martinique, where
he anchored on the 25th. On that day his unresting military colleague,
Bouillé, pounced in his characteristically feline style on St.
Eustatius. He landed where no landing was expected. The red coats of
the Irish regiment of Dillon, which formed part of his force, disarmed
suspicion, all the more easily because no watch was kept. The Governor
was splashing in his bath when the French came down upon him, and so
the loss of St. Eustatius was added to the chapter of regrettable
incidents. Grasse and Bouillé were now free to push their enterprises
against the British West Indies, opposed for the time being only by the
inferior fleet under Hood, who had sailed from Sandy Hook on the 11th
November and had reached Barbadoes on the 5th December. The French
officers had been instructed to expect reinforcements to be brought
to them from Europe by Vaudreuil. If strengthened in the way promised
they would have held a commanding position. The French Government took
measures to keep its word, but its plans were shattered by a brilliant
stroke of vigilance and activity delivered by the British Navy.

It was known in London that a great force was in preparation at Brest,
and measures were taken to intercept it at its starting place. On the
2nd December, Kempenfelt, who had succeeded Digby as second in command
in the Channel, left Spithead with twelve sail of the line and one
50-gun ship. The calculation was sound, and Kempenfelt sailed in good
time, but the force given him might well have proved insufficient.
Guichen left Brest on the 10th December with nineteen sail of the line
and a convoy carrying troops. His orders were to detach Vaudreuil to
the West Indies with five sail and the transports, to send two to the
East Indies, to post La Motte Picquet with two others where he would
meet the trade coming home from San Domingo, and to take the others
to Gibraltar. Kempenfelt had been delayed by the weather, but on the
12th December he sighted the French 150 miles to W.S.W. of Ushant.
They were to the southward of him in a south-easterly wind. Guichen
and the warships were ahead on Kempenfelt’s lee or starboard bow as
he came down on the port tack. The transports and merchant ships were
directly behind Guichen and were therefore uncovered. Haze and fog,
with clear intervals, surrounded both fleets and hid the approach of
the English, but the French admiral’s disposition was unpardonable. He
ought to have kept his convoy to leeward of him. If Kempenfelt had been
an unenterprising man he might have hesitated to attack where he was
menaced by a superior force, but he was as bold as he was seamanlike,
and he did not hesitate to punish his opponent for his error. He
dashed straight on in a general chase, each ship going at her best
speed with frigates and two deckers ahead, swept past the stern of the
French warships, and broke into the convoy. Fifteen transports were
captured, with 1062 soldiers on board. The rest scattered in terror.
Guichen, confused by the consequences of his own want of foresight,
and perhaps by the fog, allowed his opponent to collect his warships,
which had been separated by the chase, and to round up his prizes
before night. Kempenfelt detached Captain Caldwell in the =Agamemnon=
with =La Prudente= to pursue the convoy. Five more fell into Captain
Caldwell’s hands. Guichen returned rather piteously to Brest, and the
blow delivered to the W.S.W. of Ushant was felt by Grasse in the West
Indies. Kempenfelt anchored at Spithead on the 20th December.

He was a man to be remembered for this fine feat, for a long career of
good service, and for his efforts to provide the navy with a better
code of signals. He is remembered because he was the admiral whose
flagship, the =Royal George=, went down at Spithead on the 29th August
1782, carrying with her Kempenfelt, most of his officers, hundreds
of seamen, and also very many women with some children, the families
of the men. They were allowed to remain on board while the ship was
fitting for sea. The =Royal George= was receiving a parliamentary heel,
that is to say she was weighed down on her side at the anchorage in
order to clean her partially below the water line. According to the
explanation which satisfied the Admiralty, she sank because the water
ran in at the ports. But the navy, which indeed was rarely charitable
in its judgment of the Admiralty, was of opinion that a piece fell
out of her side under the strain, for she was notoriously rotten. It
was said that the decision not to attempt to raise her was due to the
prudent resolution of My Lords that the truth should not be revealed.
She had been built in 1756.

Though disappointed of the reinforcement promised him, Grasse was
still much stronger than Hood. He could collect twenty-nine sail,
while the English officer could only hope to muster twenty-two—until
Rodney returned from Europe. On the 5th January 1782 he left Fort
Royal on an expedition against the British islands, St. Christopher
and Nevis. Hood at Barbadoes was informed on the 8th that the French
were at sea. Scouts were despatched to observe their movements, but it
was not till the 14th that a letter from General Shirley, Governor of
St. Christopher, told Hood that they had been seen off Nevis, and that
their destination became clear. Hood sailed at once for Antigua. He
had twenty-one sail of the line with him, but expected to be raised
to twenty-two by the junction of the =President=. With this force,
inferior in number as it was to the French fleet, “I beg you will
assure their Lordships,” so he wrote to Sandwich on the 20th January,
“I will seek and give battle to the Count de Grasse, be his numbers
as they may.” The promise was given on the 20th January. On the 21st,
Hood was at Antigua. On the 22nd, he embarked General Prescott with a
detachment of troops, and sailed in search of the French.

The little island of Nevis lies directly west of Antigua. To the north,
and separated from it by the shallow strait appropriately called the
Narrows, is the larger island of St. Christopher, commonly called St.
Kitts. The capital of St. Kitts, Basseterre, is on the south-western
side of the island. Here Grasse had anchored on the 11th January and
had landed soldiers, who drove Governor Shirley and General Fraser, the
officer in command of the troops and island militia, to take refuge on
Brimston Hill, close to the shore north-west of Basseterre. During the
night of the 23rd Hood rounded the south point of Nevis, running before
the easterly trade. It was his intention to fall on the van of the
French at daybreak on the 24th, and crush it at anchor. But during the
night a careless officer of the watch in the =Alfred= ruined himself
and the admiral’s plan by running into the =Nymphe=. The =Alfred= was
damaged, and delay was caused by the necessity to repair her. Before
Hood could approach the anchorage of Grasse he was seen, and the
Frenchman put to sea with his twenty-nine sail of the line. Hood, whose
first object was to land =Prescott=, anchored his fleet on the tail
of a bank to the south-east of the position just left by Grasse. As
his ships stood in they were attacked by the French in a half-hearted
way. The operation was carried out on the 25th, after a day and night
of weary manœuvring, in which Hood kept the advantage of position, and
Grasse put his fingers to the plough as if he thought it would burn
them. On the 26th he made two feeble attacks on Hood, and then stood
off. Reinforcements came in and raised his force to thirty-six sail of
the line, but he did not come on again. He only remained cruising and
watching till the 14th February.

In the meantime Prescott had landed and had made an effort to relieve
Brimston Hill. He was beaten back by Bouillé with superior numbers. As
it was obvious that they could do nothing, the troops were embarked on
the 29th and sent off to Antigua. Hood maintained his anchorage till
all hope was gone. The planters of St. Kitts had suffered severely by
Rodney’s confiscations at St. Eustatius, and were sulky. They had not
even mounted the twelve 24-pounders and two mortars given them for
their protection. These pieces fell into Bouillé’s hands, and were used
against Brimston Hill. When the Frenchman found the siege of the hill
slow work, he took to his usual course of burning the plantations. The
planters raised a clamour, and under pressure from them Shirley offered
to capitulate on the 13th February. On the 14th, Hood having done all
that in him lay, summoned his captains to the flagship, instructed them
to set their watches by his, and to get under way at ten that night.
The fleet slipped off quietly, and without interruption from Grasse,
round the north end of St. Kitts. There is no finer passage of combined
caution and daring in the war. We had lost the islands, but Grasse had
thrown away the chance to crush the English ships. He no doubt wished
to preserve his own ships for their ulterior purpose, the conquest
of Jamaica. While tendering them he inevitably allowed the escape of
Hood’s ships, which were to have a conspicuous share in ruining that
ulterior purpose in the following April. Between such opponents, only
the fitting occasion was required to show beyond all peradventure where
the superiority lay.

The occasion was at hand. Hood reached Antigua on the 19th February. On
the 22nd he left for Barbadoes, and met at sea Rodney, who had reached
that island on the 19th. Rodney had left Plymouth on the 14th January
with twelve sail of the line. He had beaten out of the Channel in the
teeth of the wind, and had rounded Ushant in a gale which sent the
waves over the deck of his flagship, the =Namur=. He came back to his
command somewhat restored in health by an operation he had undergone at
Bath, but more aged, more secluded, than ever, and he had to bring with
him a private doctor, Gilbert Blane. Blane should be mentioned with
honour in every history of the navy, for he did much excellent work in
introducing into our ships that cleanliness which means health, which
again means efficiency and the power to endure. The improvement in this
respect was already great. Our fleets in the West Indies presented
a spectacle such as would have filled the seamen of Queen Anne with
amazement. They were showing that it was possible to keep the crews
long at sea on that sickly station and yet preserve them more free from
disease than in port and at home.

Rodney took his united command to Gros Islet Bay, in Santa Lucia, and
there settled down to watch Grasse, who had returned to Fort Royal on
the 26th February. The next move of the French was a secret to nobody.
Grasse was to ship Bouillé with his soldiers, to go to San Domingo and
there pick up more French ships and soldiers. Then he was to be joined
by the Spaniards from Cuba, and the whole force was to fall on Jamaica.
The success of this large scheme depended wholly on the ability of
Grasse to get away with his ships and men from Martinique. It was
Rodney’s duty to see that he did not, and under the veil of disease
and premature age weighing on him, he was resolute to do that duty. He
did not forget the exhortation of Sandwich, that he carried the fate
of the empire in his hands, and he meant to bear his charge worthily.
Therefore he kept strict watch. Neither man nor officer landed except
on duty, and a line of frigates kept the French under observation. The
watch lasted till the 8th April, when Captain Byron of the =Andromache=
frigate came into Gros Islet Bay with the news that the French were
getting to sea. Before noon the fleet was at sea, and standing to the
north in pursuit of the enemy.

Of the two fleets about to engage in the greatest and the most decisive
encounter of the war, the English was the stronger. Sir Charles
Douglas, Rodney’s captain of the fleet, did indeed endeavour to show
by comparisons of tonnage and guns that the French though outnumbered
were materially stronger than ourselves. But our guns were heavy enough
to shatter our enemy, and there were more of them. Moreover, the great
improvements in gunnery introduced by Douglas himself, and other
captains, constituted an element of superiority far more valuable than
any mere weight of the pieces. The average skill of our officers and
men was higher than the French. Finally, and this was a very important
consideration indeed, the French admiral was hampered by a great
convoy. He was compelled to detach the two 50-gun ships out of his
total force of thirty-three ships of the line, to guard his transports.
Two of his liners were disabled by accident on the evening of the 11th
April. Rodney’s thirty-six ships of the line were all free for fighting
alone, and he lost none by mismanagement.

During the night of the 8th April the two fleets stood to the north,
past the island of Martinique, and along the west side of Dominica. On
the morning of the 9th, fifteen of the French ships of the line had
worked clear of the land, and were in the “true breeze” blowing through
the Saints Channel—the straits between Dominica and Guadaloupe. The
others and the transports were in the belt of calms under the west side
of the island. Sir Samuel Hood with nine ships of the English van had
worked up as far as the leading French. The others were becalmed under
the land. The Comte de Grasse had now a magnificent opportunity to
crush a part of his opponent’s fleet when it could not be supported. He
made, however, only a very half-hearted attack on Hood, cannonading his
ships at a respectful distance from windward, and doing little damage
except to the spars. As the other British ships worked up he grew still
more timid, and the evening came before any decided result had been
obtained. From the evening of the 9th to the evening of the 11th the
two fleets continued to struggle with the wind or want of it, rather
than with one another. Grasse succeeded in working his convoy out from
under the shadow of Dominica, and sending it to Guadaloupe protected
by the two 50-gun ships. Two of his liners were disabled by bad
seamanship. Yet on the evening of the 11th he had so far succeeded in
his manœuvres to avoid battle that the bulk of his ships were through
the passage. Rodney prevented his attempt to get away by ordering “a
general chase.” His quickest vessels were allowed to sail at their best
speed, and soon overtook the laggards among the French. Grasse was
compelled to call his whole fleet back to cover the menaced vessels,
and at nightfall both fleets were to westward of the passage again.
During the night the _Zélé_, 74, ran into the French flagship, and was
severely damaged. It was necessary to send her in tow of a frigate to
Guadaloupe. When day broke on the 12th, the fleets were so placed that
Grasse could no longer avoid a battle. The French were to the north of
Rodney, and both fleets were in the easterly trade wind. Ships were
sent from the British van to pursue the crippled _Zélé_ on her way to
Guadaloupe. Grasse, to cover her, called down the ships to windward of
his flag, and began to form his line. Sir George, who had been roused
in the morning by the flag-captain with the welcome news that “God
had given him his enemy on the lee bow,” made prompt answer to the
preparations of the Frenchman. Time would have been lost by waiting
for the return of the ships pursuing the _Zélé_. The rear, therefore,
was ordered to lead into action. The last ship in the line stretched
up towards the French, the next fell in behind her, and so on till the
order of the fleet was reversed; the rear became the van and the van
the rear, the pursuing ships taking their places as they returned. The
fleets approached one another on a converging line forming an obtuse
angle, the French having the wind on the port, and the British on the
starboard side. Rodney’s order to engage the enemy close to leeward was
hoisted at about 8 a.m. The leading ship of his line reached the third
in the French at 7.45 a.m., and then bearing up, began to pass along
the French line on the lee side. Others followed in their order, and
the two went past one another slowly, the English in excellent order,
firing rapidly and steadily, the French in ragged disorder, fighting
gallantly but at a growing disadvantage. When the leading English ship
had just passed the last French, and the two lines were side by side
from end to end, there occurred the movement which gives this battle
its peculiar importance in naval history.

The action had lasted for about two hours, and the confusion in the
French fleet had been increased by the shift of the wind to the
southward, which forced the head of the line towards the English. A
great gap was formed in the formation of the French astern of the
seventeenth ship. Sir Charles Douglas, who saw the opening, urged
Rodney to pass through it and cut the French line. The movement was
easy, for the English ships were not close-hauled, and by putting the
helm down could pass to windward through the opening. Sir George
hesitated before assuming the responsibility of departing from the
rule that an admiral should not alter the formation in which he began
an action. On the second and urgent appeal of his captain of the
fleet, he consented to make the movement. The helm of his flagship,
the =Formidable=, 100, was put down, and she passed through the enemy,
followed by the vessels immediately astern of her. One of the vessels
ahead, the =Namur=, 90, followed the admiral’s example. All the ships
of the English line, counting from the last of the centre to the rear,
passed through another gap in the French, in the smoke, without knowing
what they had done till they found themselves to windward of the enemy.
Thus the fleet of the Comte de Grasse was broken into three fragments.
The van bore on to the south. Six ships cut off in the centre turned
westward. The rear ships were headed off from the isolated fragment of
the centre.

The wind now fell, and the two fleets remained for a space motionless.
When it rose again, the English streamed down on the isolated Frenchmen
in the centre. They were surrounded, overpowered, and compelled to
surrender. The flagship, the _Ville de Paris_, 100, was surrendered by
Grasse after a long and gallant fight. It was the general opinion in
the fleet that an insufficient use was made of the victory, and that
twenty prizes might have been taken if Rodney had been more energetic.
Sir Samuel Hood, a bitter judge of his superior, had some difficulty in
obtaining leave to follow the enemy on the 18th April. He took three
other prizes in the Mona Channel on the following day.

The battle of the 12th April, or of the Saints, or of Dominica, for
it is known by all names, may be said to have been the end of the
naval war in America; for no operations of any consequence took place
there till the peace of the following year. The discontent of Rodney’s
captains was not made public. To the nation which had seen no such
success in the war hitherto, the victory appeared wholly glorious,
and was a very natural subject of triumphant satisfaction. Rodney was
made a peer of Great Britain, and Sir Samuel Hood received an Irish
peerage. In naval history the battle is chiefly remarkable because it
marked the end of the old formal, or rather pedantic, style of fighting
established in the seventeenth century. It showed naval officers by
practical example that the way to win decisive victories was to break
into the formation of the enemy, even if they did thereby sacrifice
their own, and so bring about a mêlée in which individual superiority
would have full play.

The war can now be wound up by a brief account of the final relief of
Gibraltar and of the contemporary naval campaigns in the East Indies.

During September of 1782 Gibraltar received, and had repelled with
ease, the last attack of the Spaniards and their French allies.
Floating batteries, from which much had been expected, were brought
against the fortress in vain. But as the allies were masters of the
Straits, the garrison was in danger of being reduced by starvation.
Reliefs of stores and men were urgently needed. The British Government
was hard pressed to find ships for the service. A Dutch squadron was
known to be ready for service in the Texel, and as the concentration of
French and Spanish warships in front of Gibraltar made the employment
of a large force necessary, the Ministry was in no small perplexity
lest, while Gibraltar was being relieved, the coast of England
should be attacked. But the Dutch were timid. The naval advisers of
the Government, of whom Keppel, then at the head of the Admiralty,
was one, convinced it that the risk was not great. Public opinion,
too, would not have tolerated further delay. On the 11th September,
two days before the final attack of the allies, Howe left Spithead
with thirty-four sail of the line, eight frigates, and a number of
fireships. He had under his protection a convoy of transports carrying
provisions, military stores, and two regiments of infantry, the 25th
and the 59th. Every effort had been made to provide the admiral with
the best force the country could collect. But the navy was severely
taxed to meet the calls made upon it. Many of the ships had been fitted
out with difficulty, and though the best officers and men available
were sent on the service, complaints were heard that the crews were
made up by the inclusion of inferior elements. At a later period the
condition of Howe’s fleet was the subject of an undignified squabble
between him and Keppel.

Bad weather delayed the progress of the relieving fleet. Howe was off
Faro on the 9th of October. Here he heard of the failure of the attack
on Gibraltar, and that the fortress was safe so far. Skilful management
was still required to carry the transports into the harbour in face of
the superior numbers of the enemy, and the obstacles caused by currents
and winds. His iron nerve, his seamanship, and his mastery of the
details of a great fleet qualified Howe for the work admirably. Yet
even he could not have succeeded at all against efficient opponents,
nor against such enemies as he had, if he had not been to some extent
beholden to fortune. The help fortune gave him came in a shape which
in no way diminished the honour due to his fleet. On the night of the
10th October it blew a heavy gale from the west. The awkward French
and the more than awkward Spaniards suffered severely at their station
in Algeciras Bay. One Spaniard was driven ashore, and lost, under the
guns of Gibraltar. Some were dismasted, others were swept into the
Mediterranean. The good seamanship of Howe’s officers and men showed
once more that the winds and waves are in favour of the more skilful
navigator. They contended successfully with the gale. By the evening
of the 11th October the transports had been brought to the entrance
of Gibraltar Bay, and the warships were to windward of them for their
protection. A few only entered. The great bulk of the transports,
unable to bear up against the westerly wind and the current which sets
into the Mediterranean, were “back-strapped”—that is to say, they were
carried past Gibraltar into the inland sea. Howe had to follow his
charge as far as Fuengirola on the 12th. He collected the transports at
the Zaforina Islands, and placed his warships to protect them. Don Luis
de Córdoba, the Spanish admiral who commanded the allies, followed the
English into the Mediterranean, not to seek battle, but only to cover
those of his ships which had been driven to the eastward. Fog, rain,
and the heavy groundswell following on the storm put the seamanship of
naval officers and skippers of the transports to a severe test, but
they were equal to their task. The wind had shifted to the N.E. during
the night of the 15th. By the 18th victuallers and transports were
safe in Gibraltar. On the 19th the enemy were seen to windward. Having
relieved the fortress, Howe did not think proper to accept battle in
the narrow space between Ceuta and Europa Points. He stood into the
Atlantic. Next day the allies, who were still to windward of him, made
a feeble attack on the van and rear of his line. They then drew off.
Howe, who had not absolute confidence in all his captains, and who
was by nature rather resolute and exact than adventurous, played his
game with caution. On the 21st the allies went off, and gave him no
opportunity to strike with advantage. He remained cruising till the
28th October, when he detached Sir Richard Hughes with eight sail to
the West Indies, and then steered home. He anchored at Spithead on the
14th November. He had done an admirable piece of service. If it was
rather a triumph in the handling of a fleet and in seamanship than such
a triumph in fighting as Nelson would have won twenty years later, we
must remember that much had happened in the interval to give British
officers a well justified confidence.

When the war died down on the Atlantic and in the West Indies, it was
still being fiercely waged in the Bay of Bengal. In those waters it
had flamed into energy only as it drew towards its final crisis and
end elsewhere. Until 1782 the Eastern seas presented a languid scene.
In 1778 England and France were alike feebly represented at sea to
the east of the Cape. When the Company, hearing that war had begun
in Europe, resolved to seize the French settlement of Pondicherry,
it had a squadron at hand. One line-of-battle ship, the =Ripon=, 60,
three small men-of-war of the Royal Navy, and one armed ship of the
Company’s, constituted the whole force commanded by Sir Edward Vernon.
The still weaker French squadron was at the Île de France. Vernon
blockaded Pondicherry on the 8th August, in order to support Sir Hector
Munro’s besieging army. On the 10th the French squadron appeared. It
consisted of the _Brillante_, 64, two small ships of the king’s, and
two armed merchant-vessels. A feebly conducted action ended by the
separation of the combatants. The French commander, M. de Tronjolly,
anchored at Pondicherry, and remained there till the 21st August. He
brought no effective help, and when Vernon began to threaten him again,
he slipped away, leaving Pondicherry to resist as it best could, till
it was forced to surrender on honourable terms on the 16th October.
The French had ceased to be rivals of England in the East Indies, and
would in all probability never have reappeared there, if the Company
had not found a new and a most formidable enemy in Hyder Ali, the great
Sultan of Mysore. Their few ships remained, partly by necessity, but
not a little by the free choice of their officers, at and about the
Cythera of the French Navy, the Île de France. Tronjolly was replaced
in 1779 by M. D’Orves, who brought a 74-gun ship with him, _L’Océan_.
In January 1781, D’Orves made a transient appearance on the coast of
Coromandel. His tardy arrival and prompt departure served only to
disappoint and anger Hyder Ali.

Vernon’s successor, Sir Edward Hughes, who came out in 1779 in the
=Superb=, 74, had no French enemy to consider; but when the Dutch
joined the enemies of England he co-operated with the Company’s forces
in capturing all their posts on the Coromandel coast. On the 11th
January 1782 he aided in the taking of Trincomalee, in Ceylon, where a
capture of Dutch trading-ships laid the foundation of the great fortune
he won during his command. On the 8th February he was back at Madras,
and on the following day he was joined by Captain Alms, who brought
with him the =Monmouth=, 64, =Hero=, 74, and =Isis=, 50, and also the
news that a new and unwonted opponent was about to intrude on the
solitary reign of the British forces in the Bay of Bengal.

It has been noted above that when Admiral Darby sailed from Spithead
on the 13th March 1781 to relieve Gibraltar he had with him a squadron
and a convoy carrying troops which were to be sent on for more distant
service. These were the eight men-of-war commanded by “Governor”
Johnstone, and the transports carrying troops under General Meadows.
Their immediate object was to conquer the Dutch settlement at the Cape.
The Dutch, aware of their own weakness, had appealed to the French
Government for support. The French, willing to support their allies,
and also hoping to inflict a severe blow on England by co-operating
with Hyder Ali, gave their aid. When the Comte de Grasse sailed for
the West Indies from Brest on the 22nd March 1781 he had with him five
ships of the line and transports carrying troops which were to be
detached—in the first place to rescue the Cape, and then to aid Hyder
Ali. The French squadron was commanded by the only officer of whom
it can be said that he was the only “great captain” our navy had been
called upon to meet since it had fought the Dutchman De Ruyter one
hundred and ten years before.

Pierre André de Suffren de Saint-Tropez, born in 1729 at St. Cannat in
Provence—in the modern department of the Bouches du Rhone—was the third
son of the Marquis de Saint-Tropez. Like many other younger sons of
Provençal families, he was provided for by being placed in the Order of
Malta (_i.e._ St. John of Jerusalem), and also in the French Navy. He
became a Garde de la marine in 1743, and from that day till 1781 had
been in almost constant service either in the French Navy or in “the
caravans of the Religion,” as the cruises of the galleys of Malta in
the Levant and on the coast of Africa were officially called. He had
taken part in nearly all the few successes and the most conspicuous
disasters of the French Navy for some forty years. His reputation
as a good practical seaman and vigorous officer was undisputed. His
experience had given him a fiery scorn for the pedantic tactics of his
generation. They were in his opinion merely decent cloaks for timidity.
In 1781 he was still only Knight of the Order, and had not as yet
received the dignified office of Bailli of Provence, from which came
his popular name of “the Bailli.”

On the 29th March, Suffren parted from the main fleet of the Comte
de Grasse when in the latitude of the Azores. He was soon aware that
Commodore Johnstone was ahead of him. A Portuguese fishing-boat spoken
by one of his squadron informed him that the English squadron had
passed. It must have appeared very doubtful to Suffren whether he
could hope to overtake and pass it. Several of his transports were
heavy sailers, and some of his ships were in want of water. In order
to procure more, it was necessary to make for the Portuguese island
St. Iago, in the Cape de Verd Islands, and to anchor at Porto Praya,
on the south side. On the 16th April the French squadron came round
the south-east point of the island in straggling order. One of their
ships was towing a transport. As the harbour came in sight the leading
French vessel saw that it was full of ships and that several of them
were men-of-war. Johnstone had, in fact, anchored at Porto Praya on
the 11th of the month, in a slovenly and unofficerlike way, with his
transports and warships confusedly mingled. If Suffren had been an
orthodox French officer of the stamp of Guichen, he would have seen an
excellent opportunity to “fulfil his mission,” and would have hurried
on, prepared to risk suffering from want of water, in hope to reach
the Cape first. Suffren reasoned as Hawke would have done. What he saw
was an admirable opportunity to cripple Johnstone, and he attacked.
That his own squadron was not in hand was to him a small matter. It
was ten in the morning, and he calculated that many of the English
sailors would be ashore in search of water and stores. The confusion of
Johnstone’s squadron was obvious. Suffren saw that the rain was falling
on the just and the unjust, and he struck his blow. For the neutrality
of Portugal he showed no more respect than had been shown by Boscawen
when he pursued La Clue into the waters of Lagos, where Suffren, then a
lieutenant in _L’Océan_, had been taken prisoner.

The action of Porto Praya is one which is at once difficult to tell
in detail but easily summed up. Five vessels composed his command—_Le
Héros_, 74 (flagship), _L’Annibal_, 74, _Le Vengeur_, 64, _L’Artésien_,
64, and _Le Sphinx_, 64. When he stood in at the head of his squadron,
_L’Annibal_ and _L’Artésien_ were close to _Le Héros_. Suffren could
not lie to for the _Vengeur_ and _Sphinx_, lest he should be carried
to the leeward by wind and current. He struck in at once among the
huddle of Johnstone’s squadron, composed of the =Hero=, 74, =Monmouth=,
64, =Romney=, 50 (flagship), =Jupiter=, 50, and =Isis=, 50, and three
frigates, which were mixed with East Indiamen and transports. There
was a wild scene of cannonading, collisions, boardings and attempts
to board, in which the three ships which were closely engaged did,
and suffered, much damage. They were not in force to overpower
Johnstone, and the _Sphinx_ and _Vengeur_ not only came up late, but
did not press their attack close. After a couple of hours’ hot work,
Suffren cut his cables and left the anchor he had dropped to hold him
in position during his attack. He was followed out by the _Annibal_
and _Artésien_ and the East Indiaman =Hinchinbroke=, which had been
captured. Johnstone followed his opponent at leisure and timidly. The
=Hinchinbroke= was retaken, but no zeal was shown to renew the action.
Johnstone, a blustering, pamphleteering man of no reputation as an
officer, made an attempt to conceal his own want of conduct and spirit
by bringing Captain Sutton of the =Isis= to a court martial, by which
he was honourably acquitted, and the two fought a series of lawsuits.

Though his attack failed to achieve victory, it showed the English
naval officers that in Suffren they had an opponent of an enterprising
spirit rare in the accomplished service to which he belonged. He had so
far gained his object that Johnstone remained at Porto Praya repairing
damages till the 1st May. In the meantime the French officer pushed
on, and reached the Cape on the 21st June. The troops he landed under
the command of Count Conway were sufficient to garrison the Dutch
settlement against the English expedition. While Suffren was refitting
at False Bay, the English squadron appeared on the coast. It made no
attempt to assail the French squadron or the colony, but several Dutch
East Indiamen which had anchored in Saldanha Bay were captured on the
22nd of July. After cruising for a time off the Cape, Johnstone sent
Captain Alms to India, and went first to Saint-Helena, and then home.
On the 26th August Suffren left the Cape for Port Louis, which he
reached on the 25th October.

The French squadron, composed of the ships already in the islands
and those brought out by Suffren, sailed from Port Louis on the
7th December 1781. It consisted of _L’Orient_, 74, _Le Héros_, 74,
_L’Annibal_, 74, _Le Sévère_, 64, _Le Bizarre_, 64, _Le Vengeur_, 64,
_Le Sphinx_, 64, _L’Artésien_, 64, _L’Ajax_, 64, _Le Brillant_, 64, _Le
Flamand_, 64, together with seven frigates, sloops, and gunboats. The
command was held by M. D’Orves; but Suffren, who though only _capitaine
de vaisseau_, had local rank in the Indies as _Chef d’escadre_, was
appointed to succeed on the death or resignation of his superior.
D’Orves, whose health was ruined, broke down in the Bay of Bengal,
resigned his command on the 3rd February 1782, and died on the 9th. On
the 3rd, therefore, Suffren was again in command. His struggle with the
naval power of England lasted till the news of the peace reached him on
the 29th June 1783. During those seventeen months he fought the five
actions on which the French dwell with pride, for they constitute the
most glorious passage in the history of their navy. It is true that
he took no English ship in any of them and that he failed to achieve
the object he fought for. Yet we cannot but see the greatness of the
man. “Brave Suffren must return from Hyder Ally and the Indian Waters;
with small results; yet with great glory for six _non defeats_; which
indeed, with such seconding as he had, one may reckon heroic.” Carlyle
includes Porto Praya to make the tale of six, and he says the final
word of any just judgment on “the Bailli.” If ever a man lived who
justified Napoleon’s maxim that war is an affair not of men but of a
man, it was he. It was by his personal merit that his squadron came to
the very verge of winning a triumphant success. That he failed was due
to the fact that the French Navy, in spite of the tardy efforts of the
ministers of Louis XVI., was honeycombed by the intellectual and moral
vices which were bringing France to the great Revolution—corruption,
self-seeking, acrid class insolence, and skinless, morbid vanity. On
its way from the islands the squadron fell in with and captured the
English =Hannibal=, 50. One of her officers was placed as a prisoner on
parole in the mess of the French _Bizarre_. An officer of the regiment
of Austrasie, which was being carried by the squadron to aid Hyder Ali,
the Chevalier de Mautort, says in his Memoirs that this officer was a
cheerful young gentleman who did not speak four words of French, but
made himself very pleasant. Withal he showed his professional zeal by
keeping an alert watch on all that went on about him, and, adds the
Frenchman, he cannot have been greatly impressed by the way our work
was done. A man can gain no higher praise than this, that he raised
the institution he belonged to above itself—and so much Suffren did.
The English force opposed to him was to show how the virtues of an
institution can atone for the deficiencies of a commonplace chief and
baffle the genius of an enemy. When the great captain is found in
command of the superior force, then we have the victories of Nelson.

The object of the French officer was to obtain such a position on the
coast of Coromandel as would strengthen the hands of his Government
when the time came to make peace. In order to do this, he aimed first
at destroying the squadron of Hughes, then at obtaining possession of
a port or ports where he could land men, both those he had with him
and those whom he knew to be coming from Europe to aid Hyder Ali, and
also to refit his own ships. On the 13th February 1782 he appeared off
Madras with twelve sail of the line—the eleven which had come from
the Île de France, and the =Hannibal= taken from the English, and now
turned into a French warship. Hughes was at anchor there with nine sail
of the line. To have attacked him at anchor would have been dangerous
and unnecessary, since the departure of the French to the south, as if
to attack Trincomalee, would be sure to draw the English admiral out.

Suffren acted on that calculation with success. He stood to the south,
and was followed by Hughes. One of the subordinate French captains
in charge of the convoy of transports and prizes accompanying the
French fleet was so careless as to allow them to fall to leeward of
the battleships, where they were between Suffren and Hughes. Six of
them, including one which carried 300 soldiers, were captured. On the
17th February Suffren, who was to windward of the English squadron,
which was heading to the south, bore down on it from N.E. He led his
squadron and ranged along the weather-side of the English till he
reached the fifth ship. It was his wish and his order that those of his
vessels which could not find room on the windward side of their enemy
should pass to leeward, and so put him between two fires. He was ill
obeyed. Only two of his rear ships did as they ought, and several never
came into action. Yet he did carry out a concentration of superior
on inferior numbers. The fifth English vessel which he engaged was
the =Superb=, 74, Hughes’ flagship. She and the ships astern of her
suffered severely. The last ship in the English line, the =Exeter=, 64,
carrying the broad pennant of Commodore King, was cut to pieces. The
conduct of the commodore partly explains why the good management of
Suffren was balked of its reward. He had been covered by the blood of
his flag-captain, Reynolds, who was cut in two by a cannon-shot at his
side. His ship was battered by two enemies, and a third appeared to be
about to join them. One of his officers asked him what was to be done.
“There is nothing to be done,” said King, “but to fight till she sink.”
The rest of the explanation must be sought in the fact that, as Suffren
told the Minister of Marine in a moment of bitterness, the French
officers who had spent years in the Cythera of the Île de France,
leading idle, self-indulgent lives ashore, and intent on trading
ventures called “la pacotille” (peddling), were neither officers nor
seamen. Finding that he was not backed up as he should have been,
Suffren drew off at dark. He had to some extent attained his object.
The =Superb= and the =Exeter= were so badly mauled that Hughes went off
before the northerly wind then blowing to refit at Trincomalee. While
he was absent, Suffren went to Porto Novo to establish relations with
Hyder Ali on the 21st February, and on the 4th April the troops he had
landed took Cuddalore. This is a passage in naval history which should
be remembered when we hear of the necessity for naval bases. It shows
that a victorious fleet will soon supply itself with a base.

While Suffren was making himself master of Cuddalore, Hughes was
endeavouring to secure the safety of Trincomalee. He left it on the 4th
March, came to Madras, when he was reinforced by two of the line, and
went back with soldiers and stores. Suffren having put matters on as
good a footing as he could at Cuddalore, followed Hughes to Ceylon. On
the 12th April, the date on which Rodney defeated Grasse in the West
Indies, another battle was fought in the east. Again Suffren attacked,
and this time, more as it seems by accident than from good management,
he concentrated a superior force on an inferior, falling with three
vessels on the =Superb=, and the ship ahead of her, the =Monmouth=, 64.
Both were severely cut up, but as on the former occasion several of the
French captains were shy or awkward. The fleets separated without loss
of a ship on either side, and anchored near one another on the coast
of Ceylon. Suffren was first at sea on the 17th, and offered battle on
the 19th; but Hughes declined. Then the Frenchman went to Batticaloa to
refit, and thence back to the Coromandel coast. Hughes, after stopping
at Trincomalee, followed him. The two continued watching and waiting
an opportunity till the 6th July, when Hughes, for the first and
last time, attacked his opponent. The battle, which was fought near
Negapatam, was notable for the fact that it may be said to have been
blown out by a sudden shift of the wind, which headed both fleets,
and threw them into complete confusion. In the disorder of the close
the French _Sévère_ was surrounded by English ships, and her captain,
M. de Cillart, ordered his flag to be struck. It was hoisted again by
his subordinates, and the _Sévère_ renewed her fire. The incident was
an ugly one, and led to an angry correspondence between the admirals.
Cillart was suspended by Suffren, and was afterwards dismissed the
service.

After the action in July, Hughes went to Madras. He was expecting
reinforcements, and so was Suffren. But the Frenchman showed greater
alertness. On the 21st August he was off Batticaloa, where he met
his reinforcements, and on the 25th he attacked Trincomalee, which
surrendered on the 31st. Hughes, who had not left Madras till the
20th, did not appear off Trincomalee till the 3rd September. Another
engagement followed, Suffren attacking from windward and Hughes edging
away. Again he was ill supported, and his irritation provoked him into
an explosion of hot Southern rage. Impatience with the pottering of his
captains led him to plunge into action in a disorderly way, which gave
Hughes an advantage. In spite of that, and though a shift of the wind
transferred the weather-gage from the French to the English officer,
and though our naval historians speak currently of the defeat of
Suffren, it is certain that Hughes did not feel sufficiently victorious
to pursue when his opponent drew off.

The two fleets withdrew to their respective bases—Hughes to Madras,
and Suffren to Trincomalee. He lost one of his 74’s when entering the
harbour—the _Orient_—by the bad seamanship of her captain, and another
when he returned to Cuddalore. The change of the monsoon suspended
operations for a time. Hughes having lost the excellent harbour of
Trincomalee, could not remain on the east coast, and therefore had to
go round to Bombay through storms which damaged his ships severely. He
missed Sir Richard Bickerton, who was coming out with stores, and who
had a stormy passage in and out of the Bay of Bengal, as he sought,
and followed, his superior to Bombay. If Suffren’s captains had had
their wish, and if the Minister in Paris had been obeyed, the French
squadron would have returned to its Cythera. But “the Bailli” knew that
if he returned to the islands, Hughes would be able to forestall him in
the Bay, when the monsoon changed again. He took the responsibility of
remaining where he was, and wintered at Achin, in Sumatra, which was
under the supremacy, if not actually in the possession, of the Dutch
his allies. Therefore he was on the scene of operations two months
before Hughes could come round from Bombay.

On the coast of Ceylon he met Bussy, a once famous fighter in India,
who had been sent from Europe to take the general command in the East,
with troops. The reinforcements provided for Suffren were generally
sent in small bodies, and were frequently intercepted. But his fleet
had now been raised to fifteen sail, and was the mainstay of the
enemies of the Company. Hyder Ali was dead, but his son Tippoo Sultan
continued the war, though it was going against him. The struggle
concentrated around Cuddalore, where Bussy was assailed by a superior
army. Hughes, whose fleet had now been brought up to eighteen sail,
co-operated with the besieging army. His superiority in number of ships
was discounted by the ill-health of his crews, which were very sickly.
The last encounter between the old opponents took place on the 20th
June, and was of the commonplace eighteenth-century order—save for two
details. The French fleet of fifteen sail attacked the British fleet
of eighteen from windward—and it was the British fleet which retired.
Then Suffren had received an order from home—an order inspired by the
capture of the Comte de Grasse in the battle of Dominica—to hoist his
flag in a frigate and direct his line from outside. He obeyed, and it
perhaps throws some light on the question whether the proper place for
an admiral is in his line, where he can set an example, or outside of
it, where he can see and direct the whole, that on this occasion the
French fleet came into action in far better order than in previous
engagements.

The retreat of Hughes left the army besieging Cuddalore in a dangerous
position. It depended on transport by sea for most of its provisions,
and might have been driven to a disastrous retreat. But at this moment
the news that the preliminaries of peace had been signed in Europe on
the 20th January reached India, and was communicated to Suffren on
the 29th June. He returned to Europe to die of apoplexy in 1788, and
when next the French and English fleets met, the outbreak of the great
Revolution had made another world.



CHAPTER X

THE FIRST STAGE OF THE WAR

 The authorities for the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars are
     numerous. An English writer will naturally give the first place
     in the list to _The Naval History of Great Britain_, by William
     James, a trustworthy, laborious, and indispensable, but dry and
     too often unintelligent chronicle, which covers the whole story
     from 1793 to 1815. The _Naval Chronology_ of Isaac Schomberg
     ends at the Peace of 1801. Captain Mahan’s _Influence of Sea
     Power upon the French Revolution and Empire_ is a survey of
     the principles rather than the mere events of the whole war.
     On the French side we have Troude, _Batailles navales de la
     France_, the chronology quoted for earlier chapters; Chevalier,
     _Histoire de la Marine française sous la première République_,
     a history up to 1799; Rouvier, _Marins français sous la
     République_; Moulin, _Les Marins de la République_; Lecène,
     _Marins de la République et de l’Empire_. The _Naval Chronicle_
     (1799-1818) did not begin with the war, but it looks back on
     events antecedent to its own beginning. Brenton’s _Naval History
     of Great Britain from 1783 to 1836_, first published in 1823
     and recast in 1837, professes to be a general history, but is
     chiefly valuable for the writer’s personal reminiscences and
     the traditions of the service which he repeats. An excellent
     study of one of the most important episodes of the early years
     of the war is Cottin, _Toulon et les Anglais en 1793_. For the
     battle of the 1st of June the main authority now is Rear-Admiral
     Sturges Jackson’s _Logs of the Great Sea Fights 1794-1805_,
     edited for the Navy Record Society. Sir N. H. Nicholas’ _Letters
     and Despatches of Lord Nelson_ is a mine of information from the
     operations at Toulon till 1805. Biographies of officers first
     become abundant at this period. Those which are of most value
     for the opening stage of the war are:—Burrows’ _Howe_, Ross’s
     _Saumarez_, Osler’s _Exmouth_, Tucker’s _St. Vincent_, Lady
     Bourchier’s _Codrington_; and for the operations in the West
     Indies, Collier Willyams’ special work on the subject, which is
     the basis of the account given by Bryan Edwards in his _History
     of the West Indies_.


When England was dragged into the war already raging between France
and the German powers, against the wish of her rulers, and by the
deliberate action of the revolutionary authorities in Paris on the
1st February 1793, she came in as the ally of all Central and Western
Europe. By the spring of 1795 she was left to fight single-handed on
the sea. The French armies had overrun Holland in January of that
year. Prussia, hampered by an empty treasury and distracted by her
anxiety to secure a share in the third partition of Poland, made peace
at Bâle on the 5th April. Spain, weak, exhausted, and ill governed, was
eager for peace. France, which had no cause to fear her and was anxious
to withdraw the troops serving on the Pyrenean frontier, to reinforce
the armies in Italy, on the Rhine, and in the Low Countries, gave her
favourable terms. A treaty of peace, which was the preliminary to a
treaty of alliance, was signed, also at Bâle, on the 22nd July. From
the 1st February 1793 to the Franco-Spanish treaty of Bâle, 22nd July
1795, makes the first period of a war which was destined to last, with
two brief intervals, for another twenty years. It was on both sides a
struggle for existence. Revolutionary France fought to secure her new
social order. To protect the gains of the Revolution, she strove to
secure her “natural limits”—the Pyrenees, the Alps, the line of the
Rhine. To guard herself against the hostility which this increase of
power was sure to arouse in her neighbours, she had to gain possession
of advanced guards and outlying fortresses to cover her new frontier,
to subjugate Holland, and keep Spain in a dependence which must also
include Portugal. But with the coast of Europe and its resources,
from the Texel to the Maritime Alps, in the possession of France, the
position of England would have been one of extreme danger. Therefore,
in order that she herself might be safe, she had to endeavour to force
France back into her old limits, and since France was resolved to
secure her “natural limits” for her own security, she was committed to
an endeavour to subjugate England. The fight could not end till one
side was fairly beaten, and France was not vanquished, and shut once
more within her frontier of 1790, till the Peace of Paris of the 20th
November 1815 was signed. All Europe had to combine to bind her; for
the causes which drove her to dominate Holland and Spain, as a defence
against England, operated to compel her to seek other outworks and
subdue other possible assailants beyond the Rhine and the Maritime
Alps. In this mighty struggle of forces and principles it was the
part of England to dominate the sea. Her strength on the sea made her
the one power whom the French armies could not strike to the heart.
Therefore she was the permanent enemy of France, the constant ally
of her foes, and in the end the controlling member of the European
Coalition which dictated the Treaty of Paris.

The part which England played was to herself glorious and profitable,
and to Europe advantageous. It was also arduous. But the student of
the history of the time, if he approaches the subject with a just
determination to see it in a dry light and to judge by the evidence,
must soon be convinced that if the nation was called upon to make great
efforts and endure much, the burden was not imposed on it by the naval
forces of its enemy. If we are to realise the real character of the
task and estimate the true merit of the performance, we must first come
to a sound understanding of the condition of the French fleet, which
was our one serious opponent. The other navies thrown or dragged into
the conflict served to do little more—if we put aside the gallant fight
of the Dutch at Camperdown—than to multiply the number of posts which
required to be watched, and so to add further severity to the already
cruel strain of blockade.

When our squadrons began to get to sea in the summer of 1793, they
found in front of them an enemy disorganised by four years of
administrative destruction and attempted reconstruction, and morally
ruined by four years of progressive anarchy.[1] The _ordonnance_ of
Louis XIV. had never been honestly carried out. The _classes_ had been
cruelly worked. The compensations promised to the seafaring population
had never been given. Bad food, no pay, and nakedness were the lot
of the sailors in the king’s ships. Therefore they hated the king’s
service, and fled from it when they could. The State punished them by
billeting soldiers on their families, and the outrages perpetrated by
these men on the women and girls were notorious. It has been already
said that the French officers of the regular, or grand, corps were
nobles. Being nobles, they insisted on equality among themselves to
the injury of discipline, and were perfectly insolent to all men who
were not of their own class. None of the many ignorant things said
of the French Revolution is more ignorant than the assertion that it
gave Frenchmen their love of equality. What it did was to declare
that all Frenchmen should be equal, and that there should be an end
of the division of the people into nobles above, who were equal among
themselves, and the _roture_, or non-noble, below, who also were equal
among themselves. As the grand corps had never been sufficiently
numerous to officer the fleet on a war footing, it had been found
necessary to employ supplementary officers drawn from the merchant
service. These men, who were known as the “blue officers,” because
their uniform had not the red facings and knee-breeches of the grand
corps, were not allowed to reach the higher ranks. They had to endure
much impertinence.

It follows that no part of the French nation was better prepared to
join the revolt against class privilege and in the demand for universal
social equality than the sailors. A memory of long suffering and of
bitter wrong rankled among the crews. Ulcerated pride, and the vanity
which is peculiarly sensitive in the Frenchman and is easily driven to
ferocity by wounds, exasperated the non-noble officers, and made them
the natural leaders of revolt. In front of these elements of rebellion
were the officers of the grand corps, very good sort of gentlemen
individually in most cases, but even at their best quite unable to help
showing their inbred hereditary conviction that they were of a finer
clay than their comrades who were not of their class. It is a belief
which can be shown with the most irritating insolence by an assumption
of exact politeness.

In 1786 the Government had acknowledged the necessity for a change.
The Marquis de Castries, then Minister of Marine, simplified the old
ranks, and abolished the _Gardes de la marine_. He proposed to recruit
the corps of officers in future by _élèves de la marine_, who might be
of non-noble birth. But while breaking down the old exclusive rule,
he still made a distinction. _Élèves_ who came from the schools of
Vannes and Alais, which were confined to the nobles, could become
lieutenants at once. All other _élèves_ had to pass through a rank
of sub-lieutenant, and were therefore put at a disadvantage from the
beginning. It was an excellent example of the kind of concession which
provokes, and does not satisfy. When, in 1789, the king summoned the
States General, he made a tacit confession that the absolute monarchy
had brought France to financial ruin and administrative collapse, and
could itself find no remedy. In fact, the monarchy abdicated, and the
spontaneous anarchy of the Revolution broke out. It raged with extreme
violence in the dockyards and the fleet. As early as March 1789 an
outbreak, immediately provoked by the sufferings of the workmen and
the sailors from the scarcity of that severe winter and bad harvest
of 1788, took place at Toulon. Count d’Albert de Rions, _commandant
de la marine_, was attacked, and nearly murdered. After the fall of
the Bastille on the 14th July 1789, disorders broke out at Brest,
and spread to Rochefort and L’Orient. The details need not be given
here. The essential in all of them was that the workmen and sailors
understood liberty and equality to mean that they were not to be
ordered about by their old masters; that the stronger had the right to
command, and that the nation was now the stronger; that the privileged
corps were the natural enemies of the nation. The French Navy was well
represented in the States General, or National Assembly, and many
debates on it took place. In April 1790 a scheme of reorganisation
was drawn up. It was in the main a sound one, and did in fact lay
the foundation of the modern French Navy. But its details may be
omitted, since years were to pass before it could even begin to be
applied. The essential of the case here is that the General Assembly
had to begin by reorganising the existing corps of officers; that it
was in fear of a reaction and counter-revolution; that it distrusted
the _civisme_, or loyalty to the Revolution, of the noble officers;
that it dared not check the zeal of the workmen of the dockyards and
the sailors; and when that zeal took, as it did from the first, the
form of mutinous attacks on the Grand Corps, the Assembly did not
venture to punish offenders who were its eager partisans. After each
explosion of violence, it ordered an inquiry, and then decided that
everybody concerned had acted from a good motive, including the unhappy
officers who had been threatened with “the lantern,”—that is to say,
the halter,—mobbed, kicked, and thrown into prison. The position of
these officers became intolerable. The majority fled abroad, where
they formed a regiment, in the emigrant army of Condé. It has been
calculated that three-fourths of the old corps were lost to France.
Those who remained included a few who were convinced partisans of
the Revolution; others remained because their poverty gave them no
means of escape. Admiral Trogoff de Kerlessi, the Breton noble who
surrendered the ships at Toulon to Lord Hood in 1793, was one of these.
But loyal or not loyal to the Revolution, they were alike oppressed and
distrusted. The place of the emigrants was taken by men whose chief
merit came to be their _civisme_, which was manifested by blatant
pot-house oratory, self-assertion, and intrigue. The evil which the
anarchy of 1789-93 did to the French fleet was not made good till the
fall of the Empire. The inward and spiritual forces of discipline
were killed. Even under the emperor, orders on such vital things as
the gunnery drill of the crews were constantly met with outward and
visible signs of neglect and disobedience. Perhaps because the best
of the French nation does not naturally tend to the sea, it is also
an undeniable fact that the French Navy produced no equivalent for
the multitude of capable men from the ranks, and the non-commissioned
officers, who replaced the emigrant aristocratic officers in the army.
They had as good an opportunity on the water as on the land, but they
did not come.

The old monarchy had left the Revolution the materials of a noble
fleet. The calculation of James in his _Naval History_ is allowed to be
sound. He puts the relative strength of the French and English navies
in line-of-battle ships at

 +---------+---------+---------+-------------+
 |         | Number  |  Number |  Aggregate  |
 |         |of Ships | of Guns.| Broadsides. |
 +---------+---------+---------+-------------+
 | English |   115   |   8718  |   88,957    |
 | French  |    75   |   6002  |   23,057    |
 +---------+---------+---------+-------------+

The proportion in frigates was nearly two to one in our favour.

The Royal Navy was suffering from internal evils which broke out in
1797, but none of them were fatal, or beyond comparatively easy
cure. In the interval between the Peace of 1783 and February 1793
three powerful fleets had been commissioned—in 1786, in consequence
of the disturbed state of Holland; in 1790, on the prospect of a war
with Spain—the Spanish armament; and in 1791, when intervention in
the East appeared to be likely to become necessary. No fighting had
ensued, but the efficiency of the dockyards had been tested. There was
nothing to delay the vigorous use of the fleet in February 1793 except
the old-standing difficulty always found in passing suddenly from a
reduced peace establishment to a war footing, when the crews had to be
collected by the press. It was, however, so serious that though Lord
Howe, who was appointed to command the Channel fleet, “kissed hands” at
court on his appointment on the 6th February, he did not leave London
till the 27th May, and did not sail from St. Helens till the 14th July.
An interval of six months, therefore, passed between the declaration of
war and the appearance in home waters of the fleet which was to protect
our shores. Lord Howe’s command was indeed not the first to be ready
for service. France was to be attacked at three points—in the Channel,
in the Mediterranean, and in the West Indies. The squadron appointed
for the West Indies, and commanded by Sir John Jervis, was not able
to sail till the very close of the year; but the Mediterranean fleet,
under Lord Hood, sailed in detachments during April and May.

That it was safe to send Hood with his twenty sail of the line to the
Mediterranean before the home fleet was ready is a signal proof that
the Government felt it could rely on the disorganisation of the enemy
to serve as our defence for a time. France had been at war since the
previous year, and the contending portions of Girondins and Jacobins
in Paris had alike been deliberately provoking a war with England.
If they had been wise, they would have had a part at least of their
fleet in a condition to act at once. But if wisdom can be attributed
to the dominant elements in the National Assembly, the praise can be
given only on the ground that a universal war was needed to confirm
the triumph of the revolutionary parties. The ruin of their finances
and the whirlwind of the social Revolution precluded all possibility
of immediate effective action at sea. If we look only to the number
of ships in commission and their distribution, France was in fairly
good position to strike at once. There were three sail of the line and
seven frigates at San Domingo, five frigates at Martinique, and two
sloops at Cayenne. The Mediterranean fleet, recently reinforced from
the Channel, consisted of eighteen sail of the line, sixteen frigates,
and a number of small craft. In the Channel and on the Atlantic coast
there were seven ships of the line at Brest, one at Cherbourg, three
at the isle of Aix, together with seven frigates and other small
vessels. The Vendéens were in arms for the king, and the authorities
at Paris were well aware of the necessity for cutting them off from
foreign support. On the 8th March, Admiral Morard de Galle, an officer
of the old grand corps, was ordered to sea to cruise on the coast
with three sail of the line. Bad weather drove him back to port, or
served as an excuse for his return with his ill-appointed and mutinous
ships. With feverish energy, and perhaps in the sincere though frantic
belief that revolutionary energy would atone for the want of other
elements of strength, the National Assembly commissioned fresh vessels,
drove them to sea, and collected a squadron in Quiberon Bay under
Villaret-Joyeuse. Morard de Galle took command of the whole on the 22nd
May, seven days before Howe left London. By the 1st August he had with
him nineteen sail of the line—four less than left St. Helens with Howe
on the 14th July.

The operations in the Channel till the close of 1793 are without
interest. Howe sighted the French hull down off Belleisle on the 31st
July. Calms, squalls, and thick weather, the shyness of the enemy and
the rawness of his own force, hastily manned and commanded by officers
grown somewhat rusty in peace, combined to prevent an engagement.
Till the close of the year the English admiral was either cruising
in search of the enemy, and to protect trade, or was coming back to
Torbay with sprung masts and split topsails to refit, and for stores.
In November the French squadron of Vanstabel escaped his pursuit by
sheer superiority of sailing due to the finer lines of their hulls and
the more scientific cut of their sails. Morard de Galle did not dare
to force an engagement. That he was outnumbered was a sound reason
for avoiding battle. And he had still better cause in the state of his
crews. Unpaid, unclothed, fed on insufficient rations of salted meat
only, and infested by scurvy, they had good cause for discontent. A
worse cause of weakness than even these paralysed him. The crews were
in the full fever of revolutionary disorder, and had acquired a settled
habit of mutiny. They were distrustful of the _civisme_ of their
admiral, and maddened by the fear of treason. After many clamours,
they forced their admiral to return to Brest on the 28th of September.
The delegate of the National Assembly, Tréhouart, who accompanied
the fleet, recognised the necessity for the return; but as usual the
blame was laid on the want of _civisme_ of the chiefs. Morard de Galle
was dismissed and imprisoned. Several captains were sent before the
revolutionary tribunal, and most of them were put to death.

While the French were dismissing and beheading their officers, public
opinion in England as represented by the Press, was condemning Howe. He
was violently abused in the blackguard newspaper style of the time, and
was ridiculed in highly coloured caricatures. One by Isaac Cruikshank
shows “How a great admiral, with a great fleet, went a great way, was
lost a great while, saw a great sight, and then came home for a little
water.” The admiral chants piteously—

    “Oh Lord when I get to Torbay,
    How folks will gape and stare;
    Are non come back the Lord knows how
    And been the Lord knows where.”

Another, drawn with the genius of Gillray, and inspired by all his
brutality of rancour, shows Howe blinded by a shower of gold coins, and
standing on a gold shell. He is saying, “Zounds! the damned hailstones
hinder one from doing one’s duty. I cannot see out of my eyes for them.
Oh it was just such another cursed peppering as this, that I fell in
with on the coast of America in the last war, and a deuce of a thing
it is, that whenever I am just going to play the devil I am either
hindered by these confounded French storms, or else loose (_sic_) my
way in a fog.”

Here we have the English counterpart of the French popular fury which
doubted the _civisme_ of Morard de Galle and suspected him of treason.
But the Government of England was strong, and upheld its admiral.

The contemporary operations in the Mediterranean began by a success
which seemed to promise a speedy end of the war. By the middle of
July Hood was on the coast of Provence with twenty-one sail of the
line. He met the Spanish fleet at sea near to Iviça on the 6th, and
found it in a miserably inefficient state. But the French fleet at
Toulon was in a still worse condition than the Brest fleet. It had
not dared to tackle even the feeble Spaniards. When orders were given
to go to sea, the crews refused, saying that they were to be sold by
treason, and would not sail in order to reach a foreign prison. The
Admiral Trogoff de Kerlessi was a Royalist, whom his poverty alone
had prevented from following other officers of his opinions into the
emigration. The Royalists were strong in the south of France, though
divided among themselves into those who wished the king to govern with
the constitution of 1791, and those who aimed at the restoration of the
absolute monarchy. The country was in open opposition to the Jacobin
Government at Paris, and was bubbling with intrigue. Hood established a
communication with the Toulonese Royalists through a Lieutenant Cooke,
who was sent in on the pretext that he came to arrange an exchange
of prisoners. Cooke, who has been erroneously described as a son of
the discoverer, was afterwards killed as captain of the =Sybille= in
her action with the _Forte_. On the 28th August the Toulonese were
terrified by hearing that the Jacobin army which had just destroyed
Lyons had occupied Marseilles, and was about to march on their own
town. In the panic which the news caused, the Royalists combined to
surrender the town, with dockyard and ships, to the English admiral,
who was in co-operation with the Spanish fleet of Don Juan de Lángara,
the officer who had been defeated and taken prisoner by Rodney in the
relief of Gibraltar in 1780. In the course of the 28th and 29th they
took possession. The sailors from Brest who were Jacobin in sympathy
and the Jacobins in the town were over-awed.

The occupation of Toulon seemed to promise a speedy counter revolution
in at any rate the south of France, or failing that, then the entire
ruin of the French naval power in the Mediterranean by the permanent
retention of the port. Both hopes were disappointed. Political causes
which must be passed over here weakened the allies and their French
friends. Toulon is a difficult town to defend on the land side. No
sufficient force for the purpose could be collected by the allies.
The Austrians would send no soldiers. The Spaniards who were sent
proved untrustworthy. The Neapolitans, who came in some numbers, were
worthless. The only solid elements in the garrison, the Piedmontese
and the English soldiers, were too few. When, therefore, the Jacobin
army was put under the command of Dugommier, an excellent officer,
and its artillery was directed by Napoleon Bonaparte, who here first
came conspicuously forward, it soon gained command of high ground from
which it could bombard the harbour and render the anchorage untenable.
On the 19th December Toulon was evacuated. The evacuation, which was
complicated by the necessity for bringing away thousands of French
refugees, was a scene of horror, and the preliminary to other scenes of
horror when the Jacobins gained possession and took vengeance on their
countrymen. Hood brought away as many of the French ships and as much
of the naval stores as he could, and endeavoured to destroy the rest by
fire. The task of destruction was entrusted to Captain Sidney Smith,
who had joined the fleet as a volunteer in a small vessel purchased and
armed by himself in the Levant. Smith, a very vapouring, but also a
very stirring and quick-witted man, did his best, and made the most of
what he did in his reports. The ill-will of the Spaniards, who perhaps
wished to preserve a French naval force as a counterbalance to the
English, and the rapid advance of the French, prevented the destruction
from being thorough. Yet the allies carried off four sail of the line
and burnt nine. They burnt fifteen frigates and carried off five. The
English troops who might have prevented the retaking of Toulon were
in Flanders under the Duke of York, or were about to sail to the West
Indies in the expedition convoyed by Jervis, and commanded by Sir
Charles Grey.

The war in the West Indies is one of the most instructive and
interesting parts of the great revolutionary struggle. It was
only begun by the capture of Martinique in 1794, and will be most
conveniently dealt with as a whole, and together with the ancillary
services of the navy. For the present I think it most convenient
only to note that in April Santa Lucia and Guadaloupe, together with
some smaller posts, were occupied. In June the arrival of French
reinforcements at Guadaloupe gave an entirely new character to the war
in this region. Only a few days before this expedition intervened,
there had been fought in European waters the great battle which was
to decide whether England was or was not to be free to continue her
conquests in distant seas.

The fact that this expedition had sailed from Rochefort on the 25th
April, unseen by British look-out ships, and had reached the West
Indies before warning was given to Sir John Jervis, would seem to
indicate some want of vigilance in the English blockading squadrons
and look-out ships. The question whether the watch maintained on the
French ports in the early stages of the war was well conducted has
been much debated. Every reader of naval controversy has heard of the
respective merits of the kind of blockade preferred by Howe, and the
course followed by Jervis when he had become Earl St. Vincent and was
in command in the Channel. Under St. Vincent the blockading fleet was
expected to remain outside the enemy’s port in all seasons, save when
the westerly gales drove the heavy ships to take refuge at Torquay,
from whence they could return rapidly to their station when the wind
shifted. During the absence of the heavy ships an inshore squadron of
picked vessels remained at anchor on the French coast just outside of
the range of French guns. Howe preferred to keep his ships at anchor in
English ports, leaving frigates to watch the enemy, and report if they
came to sea. The method of St. Vincent, which had been adopted before
him by Hawke, imposed a very severe strain on both men and ships.
Howe’s course was the milder, the more endurable to officers and crews.
But it was open to the criticism that it allowed the enemy too good a
chance of getting to sea unobserved, when it naturally followed that
there was a difficulty in discovering what course he had taken, and in
bringing him to action. On that ground alone St. Vincent’s blockade
must be judged to be superior, and it had the further advantage that
it tended to keep the fleet in better training though at a cruel cost
to humanity. Yet we need not forget that even when St. Vincent’s
rules were most strictly enforced, individual French ships and small
squadrons did get to sea, while the torpor of their main fleet was
deliberately enforced by the Government which had renounced the policy
of meeting the English fleets in battle, and fitted out its own with
no more aspiring ambition than the wish to impose a burden on England
by forcing her to keep up trying blockades. It would be rash to assert
that such a French expedition as that of 1794 would not have sailed
successfully at any stage of the war.

The course of events in European waters during that year can hardly be
quoted as a case in point against Howe’s method. It is true that he
wintered in home ports, and did not sail from St. Helens till the 2nd
May; but he was off Brest before the main French fleet was at sea, and
if he did not remain outside that port the reason must be sought in the
nature of the task set him. The French harvest of 1793 had been very
bad, and this failure of the home supply of food was aggravated by the
disorder of the country, which hampered industry. France was in serious
danger of famine, and the Government had directed its diplomatic agent
in the United States, M. Genêt, to purchase foodstuffs, hire American
vessels, and send them to Europe in a convoy. On the 24th December
1793, Rear-Admiral Vanstabel sailed from Brest to act as escort to
the trading-ships, with two sail of the line and four frigates. The
French Government had given its cruisers an order to impound all food
on its way to England in neutral vessels, and the British Government
had retaliated by declaring all food designed for the use of Frenchmen
to be contraband of war. When, therefore, Lord Howe sailed from St.
Helens, his orders were to intercept the convoy. The French, who were
aware that the British fleet would if possible stop the grain-ships,
had sent Rear-Admiral Nielly to meet them with five sail of the line,
300 miles to the west of Belleisle. Nielly left Brest on the 10th
April, the day before Vanstabel left the Chesapeake with his hundred
and twenty grain-ships.

It is self-evidently true that if Howe had been outside Brest by the
beginning of April, Nielly could not have sailed. But the British
Government was in some anxiety for its own trade, and Howe was ordered
to take with him nearly a hundred merchant-ships, which could not be
collected sooner, and to see them clear of the Channel. The whole swarm
of vessels which left the Isle of Wight with him amounted to 148 sail,
of which 49 were men-of-war, and 34 were ships of the line. Howe took
the convoy to the Lizard, and then sent the merchant-ships on under the
protection of eight ships of the line. Six of these, under the command
of Rear-Admiral Montagu, were ordered to accompany the convoy to Cape
Finisterre, and then cruise between Cape Ortegal and Belleisle till the
20th, when they were to join the flag off Ushant. Two were to accompany
the merchant-ships to their destination. Howe with twenty-six sail of
the line and seven frigates steered for Brest to discover whether the
main French fleet had put to sea. It was discovered at anchor.

This fleet, now commanded by Villaret-Joyeuse, a member of the old
Royal Navy, and a comparatively young man, was within one of the same
strength as the English—twenty-five sail of the line. Great exertions
had been made by the French Government to fit it out thoroughly.
Sailors had been brought from Toulon, and the crews were filled up by
levies of landsmen. Every effort had been made to rouse the patriotism
of the crews and confirm their confidence by eloquent appeals to
their emotions. As a security that the officers would be kept up to
the mark, and also as a precaution against the recurrence of the
mutinous disorders which had disturbed the fleet of Morard de Galle,
the Government had sent down two delegates with large powers of reward
and punishment—Jean Bon Saint André, and Prieur de la Marne. The name
of Jean Bon was freely used by wits in England as a Turk’s Head, or
chopping-block for satire. They expatiated at large in prose and
verse on his absurdities and cowardice. But Jean Bon was by no means
an absurd man. He had been a sailor in his youth, before he became a
Protestant preacher in his native town, Montauban. In the Convention
he had been distinguished by Jacobin zeal and a great command of the
windy rhetoric of the time. But he was neither fool nor coward. At a
later period he did good service for Napoleon as Prefect at Mayence,
and left the reputation of an honest and able official. His influence
in the fleet was exercised on the side of energy, and his absurdities
were superficial. If he dictated to the admiral, he had begun by making
the crews understand that mutiny would no longer be tolerated. That
Villaret-Joyeuse was better obeyed than Morard de Galle had been was
mainly due to the presence of a representative of the dreaded Committee
of Public Safety and to the decision of Jean Bon. The Republican fleet
which lay at Brest in 1794 was in truth a better force than France was
able to send to sea later in the war, when the spirit of the crews
had been damped by defeat, when they had ceased to believe in the
possibility of victory, and when long periods of stagnation in port
had rendered them awkward and timid. It was indeed far from being
efficient. Most of its captains and officers were merchant seamen
who had no experience of naval military work. Its crews were largely
landsmen. The Government was well aware of its want of training, for
they instructed Villaret-Joyeuse to take the opportunity, afforded by
his cruise for the protection of the convoy, to drill his men. They
were to be taught the rudiments of their business at the very moment
when they were about to meet an enemy. On the other hand, it must not
be forgotten that the English officers had not yet reached the level
of skill they attained later. Howe had to complain of the awkwardness
of some of his captains. The proportion of men who were at sea for
the first time in their lives was large in his fleet also. The “prime
seamen,” impressed for the fleet in 1793, had been largely sent to the
Mediterranean or West Indies. There were vessels under his command
which counted but a low proportion of men bred to the sea in their
complements. No doubt the level of skill was higher in the English than
in the French ships. But the superiority of Howe’s force was not what
the superiority of the crews of coming years was to be. It was based
less on training than on a better spirit of discipline, and the quality
of its cadastre of officers—commissioned, warrant, and petty. Defoe’s
maxim that “good officers presently make a good army,” holds true of
fleets, though, no doubt, more time is required to make a man useful
in a ship than to drill a soldier.

When Howe saw the French at anchor on the 5th May he might have judged
it wiser to remain off Brest, so as to prevent them from getting out
to cover the arrival of the convoy. But he could have no security that
the convoy would make for Brest, and if it had reached the French
ports to the south while he was blockading Villaret-Joyeuse, the main
purpose of his cruise would have been lost. He therefore stood to sea
to seek for Vanstabel and his charge on and near the 47th degree of
latitude—the course which would naturally be followed by merchant ships
on their way to Europe. He remained sweeping the trade route without
seeing a sail, till he came off Brest again on the 19th, to which he
returned since he had ordered Admiral Montagu to meet him off Ushant
on the 20th. The weather had been foggy, so foggy that on the 17th the
French fleet, on its way out, had passed Howe’s ships close enough to
let the Frenchmen hear the fog signals struck in the English fleet.
The watch bell was tolled on the starboard, and a drum beaten on the
port, tack. The English fleet did not detect the neighbourhood of the
enemy, and on the 18th the fleets were out of sight of one another.
Villaret-Joyeuse had left Brest on the 16th, and after so narrowly
avoiding a collision, he steered for the west to meet Nielly at his
rendezvous, three hundred miles west of Belleisle. Howe, on the 18th,
was returning to the east, and on the 19th his frigates reconnoitred
the anchorage and discovered that Villaret-Joyeuse was at sea. On
the same day the =Venus= frigate joined him with important news from
Montagu. On the 15th the rear-admiral had fallen in with and captured
the French corvette, _Maire Guiton_, and several merchant vessels. They
belonged to an English Newfoundland convoy protected by Captain Thomas
Troubridge in the =Castor= frigate. The =Castor= and the vessels she
was convoying had all fallen into the hands of Nielly, who had sent
them off as prizes. Montagu learnt from the Englishmen in the crews
of the recaptured ships, that Nielly was waiting to join Vanstabel.
As their united force would have outnumbered his, he informed the
admiral, and asked for reinforcements. Howe, who also knew that
Villaret-Joyeuse was at sea, realised the danger that his detached
squadron might be overwhelmed, and at once steered to the south-west
to afford it protection. On the 21st he fell in with a number of
Dutch merchant vessels, just captured by Villaret-Joyeuse, and retook
them. From the men on board and the logs of the ships he learnt that
the French admiral was steering to the west to meet Nielly, and in a
direction which would carry him away from Montagu, who was therefore
in no danger. The main English fleet went in search of the Frenchman.
Montagu, for his part, came to the rendezvous off Ushant on the 20th,
and, not finding Howe there, returned in a few days to the Channel, an
act of weakness which he and his apologists endeavoured to justify,
but which had no valid excuse. It was an oversight on the part of Lord
Howe that he did not take measures to call Montagu’s six line-of-battle
ships to his flag. If they had been with him in the coming battles the
result could not well have failed to be more decisive.

From the 21st to the 28th of May, Howe was diligently seeking the
French between the 47th and 48th parallels of latitude. On the
morning of the 28th they were seen directly to the south of him,
and to windward in the brisk south-westerly wind then blowing.
Villaret-Joyeuse, who had been joined by the _Patriote_, 74, from the
squadron of Nielly, had now exactly the same number of ships as Howe.
When the English topsails were first seen by the French they were
supposed to be perhaps the convoy or the ships of Nielly’s squadron. He
therefore bore down till he was near enough to recognise the English
fleet, which he did when it was separated from him by a space of ten
miles. The first duty of the French admiral was to manœuvre to secure
the safety of the convoy. The more effectual course would have been
to force on a close battle and drive Howe away. Villaret-Joyeuse was
far too painfully conscious of the defects of his command to take the
bold line which would have commended itself to his old chief, Suffren,
with whom he had served in the East Indies, but was contrary to the
general tradition of the French Navy. Therefore, like the plover, which
endeavours to draw the intruder away from the place where its nest
is, the French admiral manœuvred to tempt his opponent away from the
route of the grain-ships. There was in truth little risk that he would
not be followed, to say nothing of the fact that it was impossible to
know exactly where Vanstabel would be at a given moment. The wholesome
tradition of our navy was to destroy the fighting force of the enemy.
When his opponent was in front Howe fixed upon him. The operations of
the following five days were performed in the space of the Atlantic
stretching around the point 47° 34′ N. and 13° 39′ W., and to 47° 48′
N. and 18° 30′ W. A line drawn west from Belleisle, and another drawn
south from Lion’s Bank in the North Atlantic, meet on the field of the
operation of the 28th and 29th of May and the 1st of June.

When he knew that Howe was to leeward of him the French admiral
ordered his fleet to come to the wind on the port tack, and stood to
the westward, in the south-westerly wind. But the inexperience of his
captains and crews prevented the quick formation of a good line. Some
of his vessels fell behind and to leeward. A little after one o’clock
he tacked his ships in succession—one after the other, each tacking
where her leader tacked—came back to pick up and cover the isolated
vessels, and then stood to south-east. When the French were seen
the English fleet pressed to windward, and at a quarter to ten the
signal was made to prepare for action. As it had to work to windward
its approach was naturally slow, and the whole day might have passed
without an encounter but for the bad handling of some of the French
ships. As it was, the first shot was not fired till about half-past
two. To tack a fleet of the size of the French, in succession, was an
operation requiring some two hours for its due performance. The last
of the line had not reached the turning point when the first of the
English came within striking distance. At that moment the French were
to the south-east and the windward of the English, and all, except the
ships which had not returned, were heading to the east-south-east.
Howe had told off a squadron of his best sailing ships to harass
the enemy’s rear, seize hold of his skirt, as it were, and stop his
attempt to get away. This squadron consisted of Rear-Admiral Pasley’s
flagship, the =Bellerophon=, 74, Captain William Hope; the =Russell=,
74, Captain John Willet Payne; the =Marlborough=, 74, Captain the Hon.
G. Cranfield Berkeley; and the =Thunderer=, 74, Captain Albemarle
Bertie. Though the average speed of a French fleet was commonly better
than our own, the quickest English ships sailed better than the slowest
of the French. As Villaret-Joyeuse was compelled to keep his ships
together he had to regulate his speed by that of the worst sailer among
them. Admiral Pasley’s squadron would probably have overtaken him even
if his evolution had been completed by half-past two. At the moment of
the first intact the English fleet was heading to the westward towards
the French rear. At about three o’clock, as the enemy completed his
evolution, it also began to tack in succession, and to follow, still
heading for the rear of Villaret-Joyeuse’s line, and still to leeward,
in pursuit of the opponent who was slipping away to the eastward. The
=Russell=, =Marlborough=, and =Thunderer=, with the frigates, held on
longer than the others to get into the wake of the French, and then
turned. Both fleets now stood eastward, the French ahead, while the
leading English ships kept up a bickering fire with the end of their
line. At about five o’clock the _Revolutionnaire_, 110, fell back
from her place in the line and took post at the rear. Her great bulk
and solidity fitted her to stand battering. Her captain, Vandongen,
fought her stoutly and was killed in the action. As the darkness came
on the _Revolutionnaire_ fell behind and put before the wind. She was
engaged by the =Bellerophon=, the =Russell=, the =Thunderer=, the
=Marlborough=, the =Leviathan=, 94, Captain Lord Hugh Seymour, and
the =Audacious=, 94, Captain William Parker. She suffered severely,
and it was believed in the English fleet that she had surrendered.
It is probable that she would have been taken if Howe, who did not
trust all his captains sufficiently to welcome a night action, had
not recalled the ships engaged at about eight o’clock. She continued
to be engaged on the =Audacious= till nearly ten. Captain Vandongen
fell at nine-thirty. His first and second lieutenants had been killed
or disabled. The third lieutenant, Renaudeau, was wounded immediately
after taking over the command. The _Revolutionnaire_ staggered out of
action a wreck, under her fourth lieutenant, Dorré. But she had put
her mark on most of the ships which engaged her, having damaged the
=Bellerophon= severely, and shattered the rigging of the =Audacious=
so thoroughly that the English 74 was compelled to put before the wind
and return to Plymouth. The _Revolutionnaire_ reached Brest (where her
officers and crew were sent to prison on a charge of treason) under the
escort of the _Audacieux_, 74, from Nielly’s squadron, which joined
Villaret-Joyeuse on the 29th but was detached to help her.

During the night the two fleets continued standing to the eastward on
the starboard tack. Next morning the French were seen to windward,
about six miles off, on the starboard bow of the English. The
_Audacieux_ was standing across our route some distance ahead to join
her admiral, who, as has just been stated, sent her off to help the
_Revolutionnaire_. At seven o’clock Howe ordered his ships to tack in
succession, and menace the rear of the enemy as on the day before. By
this movement he also manœuvred to set to windward. At about eight
o’clock the =Cæsar=, 74, and the =Queen=, 74, the leading ships of
Howe’s line, now heading westward, began to cannonade the rear ships
of the French who were still standing to the east. Villaret-Joyeuse,
seeing his rear ships menaced, and being anxious lest some of them
should be cut off as on the day before, wore his fleet in succession,
turning them, that is to say, before the wind, and bringing them nearer
the English. The result of this movement was to bring the French on to
the same tack as the English, but nearer them though still to windward,
and the two fleets stood on to the west, cannonading one another at
some distance, for the French hung back from a close engagement. At
half-past eleven Howe signalled to his fleet to tack in succession
and pass through the enemy, but deciding, on consideration, that the
order was premature he annulled it, and then repeated it at half-past
twelve. The smoke made it difficult to see the order, and when it
was seen it was ill obeyed. The leading ship of the English line,
the =Cæsar=, was commanded by Captain Molloy, who had commanded the
=Intrepid=, 64, in Graves’ action with Grasse, off the Chesapeake, in
the previous war, and had then fought with signal gallantry. But in
the actions of 1794 he suffered, according to his own account, from
a persistent course of misfortunes, and, according to others, from
a want of zeal, which brought on him great discredit in the fleet,
and condemnation by a court martial. The =Cæsar= was too far from the
enemy, and when she was ordered to tack, she wore, and so went further
than before, running to leeward of her own friends. The =Queen=, 98,
Captain John Hutt, the flagship of Rear-Admiral Alan Gardner, the ship
next to the =Cæsar=, did tack and so did those immediately behind
her, but partly because they were damaged in the rigging, and partly
because the French line was well closed, they failed to break it at any
point. They ran along it on the leeside between it and the centre and
rear of the English fleet. The result of Howe’s manœuvre so far had
been to throw his own fleet into confusion. Seeing that if he waited
to tack till his turn came, he might be too late to reach the enemy,
he tacked his flagship, the =Queen Charlotte=, 100, and broke through
the French line ahead of the fifth ship from the rear. Then he tacked
again and stood in the same direction as the French, who were now to
leeward of him. He was followed by his fleet, but in a confused swarm.
In the prevailing disorder and the smoke, the English could hardly
tell whether their broadside would go into a friend or an enemy. Yet
Howe gained the essential advantage he had aimed at. He forced to
windward of the French fleet, and gained the weather gage. The two
ships in the rear of the French line, the _Indomptable_, 80, Captain
Lamesle, and the _Tyrannicide_, 74, Captain Dordelin, were cut off and
surrounded. Seeing their peril Villaret-Joyeuse wore out of his line
to support them. He was followed by the centre and rear of his fleet,
and he rescued the two ships. He even threatened the =Queen=, which had
been much mauled and had fallen behind. His van had followed him. The
=Queen= was promptly supported. Both fleets were in much confusion, and
at five o’clock the fire ceased.

The action of the 29th May had ended to the notable advantage of Howe.
Though several of his ships were damaged, none were too disabled to
serve. On the other hand Villaret-Joyeuse had lost the _Indomptable_,
which was so much damaged that he felt constrained to send her home
under escort of the _Mont Blanc_, 74. The _Montagnard_, 74, left
the fleet without orders. The fleet which had sailed from Brest was
therefore diminished by loss of four of its ships. Moreover, it had
lost the weather gage, and with it the power to delay a decisive
action. When the action of the 29th ended the French admiral wore
again, but his fleet on the port tack rejoined his van and stood to
the west followed by the English fleet. The _Montagnard_, which had
separated from the fleet, fell in with Admiral Vanstabel and the
convoy. On the day following the action, the 30th May, Vanstabel, with
his grain-ships, sailed across the water where it had been fought, and
while Howe, who had come out to intercept him, and the Brest fleet,
which was there for his protection, were sailing to the west, continued
on his way to France.

The wind was still south-westerly, but it had diminished in strength.
The weather became foggy, and the hostile fleets not only lost sight
of one another, but it was often not possible for the ships in each
to see their friends. On the 30th May Villaret-Joyeuse had a piece of
extraordinary good fortune. He was joined by the _Trente-et-un Mai_,
74, Captain Honoré Ganteaume, from Concale, and by Rear-Admiral Nielly,
with the _Sans Pareil_, 80, Captain Courand; the _Trajan_, 74, Captain
Dumourier; and the _Téméraire_, 94, Captain Henry Morel. His fleet was
therefore again brought up to twenty-six sail. During the 30th and 31st
May the two fleets continued sailing to the west, sighting one another
in glimpses through the fog. By the evening of the 31st the air had
cleared. The French were then to leeward of the English at a distance
of four or five miles. It was somewhat of a surprise to Howe’s officers
to find their opponent undiminished in numbers and so little damaged.
Howe, who was no more inclined than before to fight a night battle,
and who knew that the French could not now get away, was content to
continue on the same tack with them during the night. At dark they were
on his lee quarter. When full daylight had come on the 1st June they
had so far gained on him that they were on his lee bow.

The battle now about to be fought is among the most important in the
history of naval war. Its significance is to some extent obscured by
the fact that we see it in the perspective of time—that is to say,
across subsequent events of an apparently greater order, with which
we naturally, though unfairly, make our comparisons. But the just
comparison is with what went before. I have endeavoured to show how
the British admirals of the eighteenth century had been compelled, and
were for the most part content, to fight on the poor model provided by
the Duke of York’s Fighting Instructions. They bore down on the enemy
from windward, engaged van to van, centre to centre, rear to rear. And
they complied with Instruction XVI.: “In all cases of fight with the
enemy the commanders of his majesty’s ships are to keep the fleet _in
one line_, and (as much as may be), to preserve that order of battle,
which they have been directed to keep, before the time of fight.” The
result had been to produce such formal and inconclusive actions as
were fought by Pocock and D’Aché in the East Indies, by Keppel and
D’Orvilliers off Ushant, and in many other places. About the time of
the American War of 1778-1783 a general impatience had begun to be
felt with this established system. A witty French minister declared
that what a naval battle meant was the meeting of two fleets, a great
expenditure of powder and shot, and a separation—after which the sea
was never a whit the less salt.

Arbuthnot’s action with Destouches off the Capes of Virginia, Parker’s
fight with Zoutman on the Dogger Bank had exasperated the navy. Then
came Rodney’s victory off Dominica, when he broke his own line in
defiance of Instruction XVI. and with brilliant results. We cannot say
with certainty how far the speculations of Clerk influenced the minds
of naval officers. They have commonly denied him any influence at all.
His ingenious plans for forcing on decisive actions are open to the
criticism of Captain White, who, in his notes on Rodney’s battle, said
that Mr. Clerk would not have found it so easy to manœuvre real ships
on real water, as to move his models on the dining-room table. The
late Rear-Admiral May, when Captain of the College at Greenwich, once
observed to me, while looking at Clerk’s scheme for an attack on the
enemy’s rear from windward, that it was very pretty if the enemy was
fool enough to let you carry it out. There are no _bottes secrètes_ in
war—no lunges which cannot be parried. Any attack is effective only
when the better fighter tries it on the less good. And here we come to
the root of the matter—to that dominating idea of Clerk’s book which
remains sound whatever may be the value of his applications.

It is essential to know what that idea really was. I do not think
that it is to be found in his ingenious plans for concentrating a
superior number of ships on an inferior number of the enemy’s. Every
such attempt to concentrate can be countered and baffled by an alert
opponent. The real value of Clerk’s speculations lies in the truth of
the hypothesis on which he reasoned, and the general recommendation,
or exhortation, he founded thereupon. They are to be read in the
introduction to his book on Tactics. He said to naval officers that
they and their crews were superior in quality to their enemies, and had
proved that superiority in single ship actions, yet their great battles
had commonly led to no decisive result, and why? Because they allowed
themselves to be tied by pedantic rules. These rules were useful to
the side which wished to avoid a decisive action. To the stronger, who
had every reason to wish for a chance to develop his strength, they
were bonds and obstructions. Therefore, he urged, use your formation
as a means of bringing your ships into action. Then it has served its
purpose, and you can let it go, break into your enemy’s formation, and
allow free play to your individual superiority. With or without his
help, or spontaneously, and with stimulus from him, these opinions
had been spreading in the navy. On the 1st June 1794 the time and the
opportunity for their application had come. Howe’s claim to rank among
the great captains is based on the fact that he did apply them.

He would hold his place, even if it could be shown that he did not do
the best he could have done. The prevailing authorities are agreed that
he did not, and the more friendly plead his sixty-eight years, and
the strain which had been laid on him, as excuses. It had been severe
since the 2nd May, and heavy indeed since the morning of the 28th. The
obligatory remark that Nelson would have done far otherwise is rarely
omitted. I shall not undertake to prove a negative. Being the younger
man, Nelson might have had the strength to do more than Howe if he had
ever met an opponent who had capacity and opportunity to manœuvre. Let
us leave easy and barren assumptions aside, and see what were the facts
with which Howe had to deal.

In the first place he knew, by his experience on the 29th, that the
fleet on his lee-bow could and would manœuvre. Villaret-Joyeuse had
shown, by wearing out of his line to extricate the _Indomptable_ and
the _Tyrannicide_, that he was not the man to lie idle while part of
his fleet was assailed by superior numbers. The French admiral was
quite capable of countering any attempt at concentration. On the other
hand, Howe could not rely on the intelligent execution of his orders
by all his captains. The simpler the task he set them the better would
it be executed. Then he knew that while the manœuvring power of the
French was not contemptible, their gunnery was bad. The loss of life in
his fleet had been small, and none of his ships had been so disabled
on the 29th as to be unable to take her place in the line on the 1st
June. Therefore it followed that so long as the ships of the two fleets
were fairly matched in size, a superior power would be developed by
each English ship by virtue of her better gunnery. What was required
was that the action should be close, and that the enemy should not
be allowed to practise the favourite French manœuvre of firing to
dismast, and then slipping away to leeward. The end could be obtained
by bearing down on the enemy, van to van, centre to centre, rear to
rear, not for the purpose of hauling up to windward and then keeping in
the same order, while the enemy went off on his open line of retreat,
but to break in on him, to pass through his line, to cut his retreat,
and so to force him to fight it out. The process of breaking through
would give opportunities to rake the enemy’s ships, a _mêlée_ would be
produced, and the individual superiority of the English ships would
have free play. When Howe decided on this departure from tradition, he,
with his sixty-eight years and his training in the strictest sect of
the Pharisees, showed a greater daring, a greater originality, than was
to be displayed by the men who followed him, who handled more practised
fleets, who benefited by the confidence he had inspired, who fought
enemies whose nerve he had broken. The battle of the 1st June was the
foundation of the later superiority of the English fleet, and by far
the most essential part of any building is its foundation.

Lord Howe signalled that he meant to attack the centre of the enemy’s
line, and then that he would break through and engage to leeward. His
line bore up at about a quarter-past eight, after a pause had been made
to allow the men to have breakfast. The approach was slow, for the
opportunity was taken to rectify the order of the ships so that they
should be fairly matched. The course steered was to the north-west, the
ships advancing on oblique lines to assail the enemy who was on their
bow, and who lay in very good order awaiting the attack, in a line
ahead from west to east. The wind, though less strong than on previous
days, was still from the south-west, and the sea was calmer than it had
been for the last few days.

It was nearly half-past nine when Howe’s fleet came within range of
the French guns and the enemy opened fire. For a few moments none of
his ships answered. They were waiting till they were in a position to
answer with effect. If the admiral’s orders had been exactly obeyed
each of his captains would have steered for the space astern of the
Frenchman corresponding to himself in the hostile line, and would
have passed through it, and would have engaged to leeward. But the
order was not exactly obeyed, sometimes because the French closed
their line and no open space was left; sometimes because the rapidly
gathering cloud of smoke deprived zealous officers of the power to see;
sometimes because an effective effort to obey was not made. The signal
to pass through the enemy’s line was accompanied by a superfluous
and mischievous note to the effect that the captain who could not
find a place to pass was at liberty to engage without passing. It was
superfluous, because there was surely no necessity to tell any man that
he was not expected to do the physically impossible, and mischievous,
because this official recognition of the alternative gave the weaker
sort an excuse for not doing their utmost. There were those who did
not. The =Cæsar= hauled up too far to windward, exposed herself to
the concentrated fire of the leading French ships, was damaged, made
distracted vacillating movements, was of no use, and yet suffered
more loss of life than some vessels which really contributed to the
victory. Following the line from west to east, the =Bellerophon=
engaged the _Gasparin_ to windward, but close and hotly, till the
Frenchman, together with his next ahead, the _Convention_, flinched,
bore up and ran to leeward, heading to the east. The rigging of the
=Bellerophon= was cut to pieces, and she could not follow. Yet she
lost fewer men than the =Cæsar=. But Admiral Pasley, who lost his
leg, was among the wounded. The =Leviathan= engaged the _America_ to
windward to good purpose, pushing her hard, driving her out, following
her, and swinging round to leeward of her as she strove to follow her
leaders to the eastward. Old habit had fixed the French captains in
the faith that a naval battle was to be fought by firing to dismast
and then slipping away to form a new line to leeward. The =Russell=
engaged the _Téméraire_ till this French ship also slipped away. Then
she pressed on, and falling in with the _America_ helped to take her.
The =Royal Sovereign= fought the _Terrible_, drove her out of the line,
and then joined in overwhelming the _America_. The =Marlborough= broke
through the French line astern of the _Impétueux_, the next behind the
_Terrible_, became entangled with the former and the _Mucius_, her next
astern, so that the three fell aboard one another, and the English ship
was severely mauled. The =Defence= cut the line between the _Mucius_
and the _Eole_, suffering much. The =Impregnable=, =Tremendous=, and
=Barfleur= engaged the _Tourville_, _Trajan_, and _Tyrannicide_ to
windward—not as closely as Howe would have wished. The =Barfleur= was
the flagship of Admiral Bowyer, who also was wounded, and her captain
was Cuthbert Collingwood, the most calmly intrepid of men. No want of
goodwill can have restrained him. In the smoke her crew could see only
a short distance. They believed, and for a time Collingwood himself
believed, that a French ship beside them had sunk. “Up jumped the
Johnnies on the guns and cheered,” so Collingwood records, but they
were mistaken. The =Culloden= and =Gibraltar= fired from windward, not
closely, nor to the purpose. The =Queen Charlotte=, Howe’s flagship,
was steered to break the line astern of the French flagship, the
_Montagne_. As she came down she took the fire of the _Jacobin_ and the
_Achille_, the next French vessels, without reply. The captain of the
_Montagne_—or the Admiral Villaret-Joyeuse—understood her aim, backed
their sails, and endeavoured to bar her road. Gassin, the captain of
the _Jacobin_, saw it too, and, letting all draw, shot ahead to close
the line. He took the officer-like course, but he took it too eagerly.
The _Jacobin_ nearly ran into the stern of the _Montagne_, and to avoid
a collision had to port her helm, and was carried on till she ranged
up on the leeside of the flagship. The =Queen Charlotte= swept through
the space left by her advance. The flag of the _Montagne_ flapped
against the shrouds of the English flagship, so closely did she pass.
Her broadside was delivered with shattering force, and then she ranged
up between the _Montagne_ and the _Jacobin_. If either had been laid on
her bow she must have suffered, if not disaster, still great injury.
But the _Jacobin_ soon stood on, and then so did the _Montagne_, which
had made little or no reply to the English fire. The =Brunswick= headed
to pass through the gap left by the _Achille_ which had followed
the _Jacobin_, but Captain Renaudin, of the _Vengeur_, stood on and
barred the way. Then Captain John Harvey, of the =Brunswick=, obeyed
the admiral’s signal in the spirit since in the letter he could not.
He ran into the French ship, his three starboard anchors hooking the
Frenchman’s port fore-shrouds and fore-channels. When his master, Mr.
Stewart, asked if the anchors should be cut away he answered, “No,
we have got her, and we will keep her.” The two ships turned before
the wind, and drifted to leeward, grappled one to the other. The
=Valiant=, the =Orion=, the =Queen=, the =Ramillies=, the =Alfred=,
the =Montague=, all engaged to windward more or less closely—some of
them notably rather less than more. The =Royal George= broke through
between the _Républicain_ and the _Sans-Pareil_. The =Majestic= engaged
to windward. The =Glory= broke in among the ships of the French rear,
and the =Thunderer= passed behind the last of them, and so entered the
mêlée.

These movements which must needs be told consecutively, were
contemporaneous, or nearly so. As the French ships pushed on to close
spaces ahead of them, a westerly movement was given to the line, and
the English vessels furthest to the east had the greater distance to
go and so came later into action. Though Howe’s orders were not fully
obeyed the French formation was broken, and the English were mingled
with the enemy’s vessels in confusion. Out of that confusion order
was again evolved. The general movement to leeward carried most of the
French clear, and among them the _Montagne_, which shook off the =Queen
Charlotte=, crippled by the loss of her main topmast. When the two
fleets were disentangled, Villaret-Joyeuse was able to form a line to
leeward, but ten of his ships were surrounded by the English. He came
gallantly back to their assistance and rescued four, the _Républicain_,
the _Mucius_, the _Scipion_, and the _Jemmapes_. Two of the English
ships were put in peril by his return—the =Queen=, which had eagerly
pushed through the broken French rear, and the =Brunswick=, which had
drifted away locked to the _Vengeur_. Their strife was furious, and
carried to a decisive conclusion. Captain Harvey was mortally wounded,
but the _Vengeur_, shattered by the fire of the =Brunswick= and other
English vessels, sank, carrying part of her crew down with her, but not
before she had surrendered.

The return of Villaret-Joyeuse alarmed the captain of the fleet, Sir
Roger Curtis, and he urged the admiral to call his ships about him lest
the Frenchman should take his revenge. Howe, so exhausted by four days
of strain that he nearly fell from fatigue, yielded to his importunity.
The English ships were recalled, and before two o’clock the action
ceased. We remained in possession of six prizes, the _Sans-Pareil_,
_Juste_, _America_, _Impétueux_, _Northumberland_, and _Achille_. The
total loss of life from the 28th May to the 10th June was but 290
killed. The wounded were 858. The casualty list of the six French ships
taken was greater—1266 in all, and the total loss must have been very
much heavier.

The operations of the campaign did not end when the fleets drew apart
on the afternoon of the 1st June. Admiral Montagu was not allowed to
remain in Plymouth Sound. When the =Audacious= brought news on the 3rd
June that the fleets were in contact, he was ordered out again, and he
sailed on the 4th with nine sail of the line. On the 8th June he was
off Brest where he found himself in the midst of enemies. A reserve
squadron had been fitted out in the port, and two at sea. It was weaker
than Montagu’s, and retired before him to Bertheaume Bay. But on the
9th the fleet of Villaret-Joyeuse, diminished, but still formidable
to Montagu’s squadron of nine, hove in sight. He slipped between the
two, and retreated to Plymouth where he anchored on the 12th. In the
meantime, Vanstabel, who, after crossing the scene of the action of the
29th May, had anchored at Penmarch, came into Brest under cover of the
French fleet, and the great food convoy was safely housed. The main
English fleet made for home when it lost sight of the French on the 1st
of June. Part of the ships were left at Plymouth, but the majority and
the prizes anchored at Spithead on the 13th of June.



CHAPTER XI

THE WAR TILL THE END OF 1797

 Authorities.—See the list of Authorities in the previous Chapter.
     Also, _Projets et Tentatives de Débarquement aux Îles Britanniques_
     by Captain Desbrière.


The victory of the 1st of June was followed by an interval of more
than two years marked by no great naval conflict. The French Navy
was at once too completely disorganised and too ill-directed to act
with effect. It was indeed driven to exertions injurious only to
itself by the Jacobin rulers in Paris, who were themselves driven on
by such passions as the “beastly froth of rage” which caused them to
issue their decree of the 24th May 1794—the decree forbidding their
armies and fleets to give quarter to Hanoverians or Englishmen. It
was repealed on the 30th December, five months after the fall of the
Terrorists on the 27th of July, and when experience had shown the
French that not they but their enemies were to have the more frequent
opportunities to refuse quarter. The English fleet had no substantial
opponent at sea at whom to strike, and was, moreover, but poorly led
for the most part.

In the Channel, Howe, who continued to hold the command though his
health never recovered from the strain of the campaign of 1794, cruised
from September till the end of the year.[2] But he continued to prefer
his own system of watching the French from an English channel port by
means of a lookout maintained by frigates. His infirmities and age were
in fact disqualifying him for active service. He would willingly have
retired, and indeed was never at sea after the spring of 1795, though
he was compelled, by the unwillingness of the Government to allow him
to resign, to retain the nominal command. Lord Bridport, brother of
Lord Hood, who first acted for him at sea and then succeeded him in the
Channel command, held the same views as to the best way of using the
fleet, and applied them with far less energy and faculty.

The Admiralty did not as yet impose a more vigorous line of action on
its admirals. Between the growing weakness of Howe, the natural want
of energy of Bridport, and the lack of intelligent direction from
Whitehall, the movements of the Channel fleet went somewhat by fits
and starts. In November, the =Canada=, 74, Captain Hamilton, came into
Torbay, where Howe was at anchor, with the news that he had barely
escaped from a French squadron which had taken his colleague, the
=Alexander=, 74, commanded by Captain R. R. Bligh, a different man
from the officer whose name is for ever associated with the mutiny of
the =Bounty=. Howe went at once to cruise off Ushant, believing that
the main French fleet was at sea. But it was only a small squadron
commanded by Nielly, which had taken the =Alexander= as she and the
=Canada= came back from convoy duty. Howe’s fleet, which included four
Portuguese liners, was much blown about and damaged by rough weather.

If the English ships, and to a greater extent our Portuguese friends,
suffered from the rough weather of the Channel in autumn and winter,
the French fleet at Brest was all but finally ruined. Villaret-Joyeuse
was hounded out to sea on the 24th December with thirty-five sail of
the line. Six of these were to form a detached squadron under Renaudin,
who had been promoted to Rear-Admiral for his gallant defence of the
_Vengeur_. He was to take his command round to Toulon. So great was
the distress of all France, and particularly of its poorest province
(Brittany) for food, that it had not been found possible to provision
any of these thirty-five ships except the six of Renaudin’s command
for more than three weeks. The hostility of all Europe and the penury
of their Government combined to deprive the French of naval stores.
Their ships were patched up by makeshift devices and with inferior
material. Half a century after 1795, the Prince de Joinville noted
that as the French maritime population was very poor and ill fed, the
men drawn from it for service in the fleet were inferior in size and
strength to the seamen of the north of Europe—including, of course,
Great Britain. He found that these men did not gain strength till they
had been well fed and well looked after in the navy for some months. In
1795 the French seacoast population was even poorer than about 1840,
and the men drawn from it were not sufficiently clad, and were fed
on almost starvation rations in the fleet. We must remember that our
successes were gained against overstrained and patched-up ships, with
inferior spars fished with bad material and sails of poor cloth; manned
by crews not only raw from want of practice, but weak from downright
want of food, and depressed by a sense of inferiority in knowledge
and force. Our ancestors rejoiced in looking at caricatures of the
starving French reduced to mere scarecrows by hunger, and in comparing
them with the typical Englishman, a mass of fat and brawn. The French
had made themselves hateful by their aggressions and plunderings, and
we resented their arrogant claim to impose regeneration and freedom
on their neighbours while they were themselves in a squalid welter of
bloodstained anarchy. Yet they were gallant men who faced storm and
battle in such destitution—and we shall not again have to meet enemies
enfeebled as they were.

Villaret-Joyeuse had to face a December gale with such a fleet when
he obeyed his orders on the 24th of December in 1794. It drove the
_Républicain_ on the rocks, and his fleet had to anchor in Camaret
Bay. He sailed on the 30th, only to suffer a month of misery. The
_Neuf Thermidor_ (the _Jacobin_ of the 1st of June renamed), the
_Scipion_, and the _Superbe_ sank. The _Neptune_ was driven on shore.
By the 2nd February the weakened fleet was back at Brest. The news
that the French were at sea brought Howe out for his last cruise, to
intercept them if possible, and to cover the trade. The stormy weather
disposed of Villaret-Joyeuse, who, however, captured a hundred of our
merchant-ships, and the =Daphne=, a 20-gun ship, and Howe returned to
Spithead after looking into Brest to be sure that the French fleet was
not at sea. If he had been outside Brest on the 24th of December, the
French might have been spared a disaster. Yet the weakness of his
method of watching from afar off and starting to pursue from a distance
was clearly demonstrated immediately after his return to Spithead.
Renaudin sailed with his six line-of-battle ships on the 22nd of
February, and reached Toulon unmolested by us, on the 2nd April, but
having suffered much from the weather, and with a long sick list.

The French took advantage of the absence of a blockading fleet off
Brest to send out squadrons to protect their own coast trade and attack
our commerce. In May an English watching squadron of five sail of the
line under Cornwallis was off Ushant. It saw and pursued a French force
of three liners under Rear-Admiral Vence, then engaged on convoy duty.
Vence fled to the Penmarchs, pursued by Cornwallis, who took part of
his convoy on the 8th and 9th of June. The danger of Vence brought
Villaret-Joyeuse out from Brest with nine sail. Cornwallis was pursued
and overtaken on the 16th, but so poor was the gunnery of the French
that though they attacked his rearmost ships on both sides, they did
little harm, and suffered not a little themselves. Cornwallis got safe
to Plymouth with his prizes, and his retreat was highly praised for its
steadiness and good management. Bad weather forced the French back to
Belleisle, and when they turned again to Brest on the 19th June they
fell in with another and a stronger opponent.

The Vendéens were still fighting for the royal cause in France, and
were calling for help to the Royalist exiles and for the presence of a
prince to lead them. An expedition had been prepared in England, which
was to have been commanded by the Count d’Artois—in after times King
Charles X. It included 200 exiled officers of the old French Navy,
and sailed on the 11th June from Spithead under the protection of Sir
John Borlase Warren, who had his flag in a frigate, but had three
line-of-battle ships and fifty transports. Lord Bridport accompanied
the expedition with fourteen sail of the line to protect it from the
Brest fleet. Warren’s mission was to land the Royalists at Quiberon. On
the 19th June Bridport dispatched him to Quiberon, and steered himself
for Brest. Immediately after Warren had parted from Bridport on his
way south-east to Quiberon, he sighted Villaret-Joyeuse on his way
back from Belleisle to Brest. He retreated, warned Bridport, and the
two rejoined on the 20th. Bridport took the three liners of Warren’s
squadron, and pursued Villaret-Joyeuse. On the 23rd June there was a
confused encounter about the island of Groix, which lies north-west
of Belleisle. The French admiral was ill obeyed by his overtaxed
subordinates, who disregarded signals, and fled to L’Orient, on the
mainland opposite Groix. Three of his ships were overtaken and captured
after a gallant resistance. The dangers of the coast and a fog added to
the disorders of the fight. The French admiral complained bitterly of
the conduct of his captains. Bridport, who had three prizes to show,
the _Alexandre_ (the English =Alexander= taken by Nielly on the 7th
November of the previous year through her bad sailing, and now retaken
for the same reason), the _Tigre_, and the _Formidable_, renamed by
us the =Belleisle=, was praised for his victory. But the opinion of
his fleet and the verdict of history was adequately expressed by
Codrington, then captain of the =Babet= frigate in his fleet. “It is
greatly to be regretted that His Lordship called the ships out of
action, as they could of course go where the large French three-decker
did. He might have captured or destroyed all the ships of the enemy.”
Warren remained on the coast till September a helpless eye-witness of
the dreadful fate of the French Royalists at Quiberon. Nearly all the
200 naval officers among them perished in the water, in action, or
before the Republican firing parties. Frenchmen who were prepared to
assert that Perfidious Albion had contrived the whole disaster in order
to secure the destruction of the dreaded royal corps, have not been
wanting. The French ships at L’Orient remained till the close of the
year, unmanned partly by desertion, partly by the disbanding of crews
which could not be fed. During the last days of 1795 and the first of
1796 they were remanned after a fashion, and slipped away to Brest and
Rochefort.

In the meantime the French armies had overrun Holland at the close
of 1794, had driven out the army of the Duke of York, and had set up
a subject republic. Our ally became our enemy, and a squadron had to
be told off to watch the Texel under Duncan, in company with a dozen
very ill-found Russian warships. But from the date of Lord Bridport’s
victory till the close of 1796 there was little for the fleet to do in
the Channel and North Sea but to watch. Want of funds compelled the
Republican Government to follow the example given by Louis XIV. after
1693—to lay up its main fleets and take to commerce destroying.

The operations in the Mediterranean from December 1793, when Hood was
forced to retreat from Toulon, till Jervis evacuated the Mediterranean
in December of 1796, correspond with the campaigns in the Channel—with
the exception that they include no 1st of June.

When he had withdrawn his ships filled with French refugees from
Toulon, Hood paused for a time at Hyères. The refugees had to be
provided for at Leghorn, from whence most of them returned home
after the fall of the Terrorists. The remnant of the French fleet
at Toulon could not move for months. An opportunity for dealing a
severe blow to France was presented by the state of the island of
Corsica. The Corsicans had not wholly renounced the hope of achieving
independence of the French, who had conquered them some thirty years
earlier. One party among them was deeply offended by the irreligion
of the French Republicans. It had for chief the famous Pasqual Paoli,
who had fought against the French conquest, and had for years been
a pensioner in England. He had returned to Corsica by favour of the
Revolution, and was now in the possession of great influence over his
countrymen. Paoli, who hoped to secure the independence of Corsica
under English protection,—which meant to govern the country himself
with our support,—offered his co-operation. Hood sailed from Hyères on
the 24th of January 1794, bringing with him the British troops under
Sir David Dundas. A storm forced the fleet to Elba and caused delay.
But the occupation of the island with the help of Paoli was an easy
undertaking. The few French troops took refuge in the coast towns of
Bastia and Calvi. Dundas declined to co-operate at Bastia on the ground
that he had no adequate force. But Bastia was taken between the 4th of
April and the 21st of May by the seamen, the marines, and the soldiers
appointed to serve as marines, who were under Hood’s orders. Calvi was
besieged on the 19th June, and surrendered on the 10th of August. The
fact that Nelson, the only one of our admirals whose personality has
stamped itself on the memory and imagination of the English people,
was concerned in these sieges and lost his right eye at Calvi, has
given them an undeserved prominence. The garrisons were cut off from
supplies by sea and land, and must have surrendered when they did,
if no shot had been fired against them. On the 14th June Corsica was
declared a kingdom, with George III. for its sovereign, and coins were
struck in his name. But our hold on the island was weak. It depended
in reality on the continued support of Paoli and on his retention of
influence over his countrymen. Sir Gilbert Elliot, our Commissioner
first at Toulon and then in Corsica, ruined the whole foundation of our
position. Sir Gilbert was a high-minded and able man, a conspicuous
member of that portion of the Whig Opposition which was shocked by the
French Revolution into allying itself with Pitt. He would not consent
to govern by the advice of Paoli, and would endeavour to introduce
clean-handed methods of administration, impartial justice, and the
British jury among a people divided by irreconcilable family feuds.
With the best intentions in the world, he mortally offended our only
possible friends, the Paolists, who hoped for a self-governing Corsica
administered by them, and he entirely failed to placate our enemies.
The calm and perfectly right-minded manifestation of the innate and
comprehensive superiority of Englishmen on the part of our officers,
did not fail to produce its unfailing effect. It exasperated the
Corsicans beyond endurance. We were soon universally hated, and our
tenure of Corsica was certain to end whenever a serious attack could be
made on us from outside. A very few months of English virtue converted
the population into partisans of the French. A far larger army than we
could spare, frequently reinforced, would have been required to hold
the island.

The attack came by the end of 1796. Until then we were employed in
beating back successive feeble sorties of the French from Toulon, and
in co-operating with the Austrian armies in Northern Italy. The efforts
of the French to maintain their hold on Corsica by expeditions from a
ruined dockyard were begun with a promptitude highly honourable to
their energy. As early as the 5th June, just over six months after the
expulsion of the allies, Admiral Martin sailed with seven ships of
the line. He met with a slight measure of success, for he retook the
_Alceste_, a frigate carried away in December, and assigned to Sardinia
as her share of the prizes. But when Hood, warned by his frigates, took
up the pursuit of the French squadron, it could but retire and seek
refuge in the Golfe Juan, commonly called by English sailors Gourjean.
Hood, who had an old experience of attacks on fleets at anchor, laid
a plan to fall on the French two upon one. But it was delayed by
unfavourable weather till Martin had fortified his ships by batteries
on shore. A scheme for using fireships was given up as impracticable.
Martin was blockaded by a combined English and Spanish squadron under
Hotham till a storm drove the watchers off, and he escaped to Toulon on
the 2nd of November. It would seem that the allies might as well have
been off Toulon in May. But the method of watching from afar, which in
the Mediterranean meant from San Fiorenzo or Leghorn, was as much a
favourite with Hood as with Howe. In November, Hood went home on leave,
and on the understanding that he was to return. But he could not agree
with ministers, and did not go to sea again.

Hotham, his successor, an easy-going gentleman, was not the man to
change a method of conducting war which gave him much time at anchor at
San Fiorenzo or Leghorn. He had gone to Leghorn to cover convoys which
could have been much better covered by a close blockade of Toulon, when
Martin put to sea again, on the 2nd March, with fifteen sail of the
line. The 12,000 men required to make up the crews of these vessels
had been found only by drafting 7500 soldiers into them. Martin had
only 2300 sailors in addition to officers and petty officers. A gleam
of good fortune was again allowed him. On the 7th March he took the
=Berwick=, 74. Her masts had been rolled out of her by the carelessness
of her officers, and she was following Hotham to Leghorn under jury
rig. But this small advantage was all Martin could gain. Hotham, who
sailed from Leghorn on the 9th, was informed of the whereabouts of the
French by his frigates on the 10th. He pursued in baffling breezes
and calms. On the 13th and 14th an encounter took place between them
which has some resemblance to Bridport’s action near Groix. The French
straggled, and the French admiral was ill obeyed. Two French vessels,
the _Ça Ira_, 80, and the _Censeur_, 74, were taken after a stout
resistance. Some vague cannonading on opposite tacks took place between
the fleets. It is to the credit of the French that they inflicted a
loss of 74 killed and 284 wounded on the English vessels most exposed
to their fire. The =Illustrious=, 74, Captain Frederick, lost 90
of the total. Hotham had with him a Neapolitan 74, the _Tancredi_,
commanded by a man whose name is associated closely with the Royal
Navy for another reason, the unhappy Carracciolo. When the fragmentary
battle was over, Hotham excited the wrath of his subordinate Nelson by
placidly putting aside advice to pursue with vigour on the ground that
two vessels had been taken and they had done very well.

An admiral of this kidney was not the man either to intercept Renaudin,
who joined Martin at Hyères on the 4th April, or to keep the French
confined to Toulon. They were almost ruined there by a mutiny of
starving, unpaid men, but got over the difficulty, and were at sea
again on the 7th June. The second sortie was even feebler than the
first. Martin chased Nelson, who had been detached to Genoa, back on
Hotham, at San Fiorenzo. Though reinforced by Renaudin, he was weaker
than the English admiral, who had been joined by Admiral Mann with nine
sail of the line on the 14th June. There was nothing for it but another
retreat, another ineffectual distant cannonade—the final retreat of
Martin to Toulon, and the return of Hotham to San Fiorenzo.

As the English admiral moved periodically from San Fiorenzo to Leghorn
and from Leghorn back to San Fiorenzo, there was obviously nothing to
prevent Richery from leaving Toulon on the 24th September with six of
the line and three frigates on a cruise to America. He did so, passed
the Rock of Gibraltar, and on the 7th October fell in with an English
convoy of thirty-one merchant-ships under the protection of two 74’s
and the French prize _Censeur_ armed _en flûte_. Richery retook the
_Censeur_ and captured nearly all the merchant-ships. Spain having
made peace with France in July, Richery was able to take his prizes
into Cadiz, where he was promptly blockaded by Rear-Admiral Mann with
six ships, and so remained for months. Hotham, again, was not the man
to prevent Honoré Ganteaume from leaving Toulon for a cruise in the
Levant on the 10th October. He did sail with one of the line and five
frigates, released some scattered French vessels watched by us, did
considerable damage to Russian and English trade, escaped the pursuit
of Troubridge, and was back at Toulon on the 5th February 1796. Hotham,
worn out by his exertions, resigned his command to Sir Hyde Parker on
the 1st November 1795, and sailed for home, to be rewarded by an Irish
peerage. Sir Hyde Parker was superseded by Sir John Jervis on the 30th
of the month.

During 1796 the new admiral could do little, for the French fleet was
paralysed by penury in the Mediterranean as in the Channel. He had to
look on almost helplessly while Napoleon, who took command of the army
of Italy in March, was conducting the first and perhaps the greatest of
his campaigns. It was at least a campaign which showed what genius and
enthusiasm, even if it be only enthusiasm for a full belly and plenty
of plunder, can do against professional pedantry and routine. By June
his victories had cowed Naples into deserting the coalition, and her
help, such as it was, was lost. On the 28th June he seized Leghorn,
and a source of supply to the fleet was lost, an opening for British
trade was closed. The loss of Corsica was seen to be at hand, and on
the 10th July Elba was seized as an alternative storehouse. Jervis’
fleet hampered the French coast trade, and captured a battering-train
on its way to the siege of Mantua. But Spain, whirled about by every
folly under the rule of Godoy, was seen to be coming into the war.
On the 25th August, Jervis received orders from home to evacuate
Corsica. Nelson was appointed to superintend the evacuation on the 26th
September, and when he withdrew from before Leghorn to execute the
order, a French expedition under General Gentili crossed to the island
on the 19th October, on the very day we retired somewhat harassed by
the partisans of France.

While we were withdrawing from Corsica, the movements of the fleets
seemed to be leading to a clash of battle. On the 29th of July, Jervis
wisely desirous to concentrate his forces, had recalled Mann from
before Cadiz. He came, but without stores, and Leghorn being now shut
to us and Corsica unfriendly, he had to be sent down to Gibraltar
to fill up. While he was absent, Richery had sailed on a plundering
expedition to Newfoundland, escorted by Don Juan de Lángara with a
Spanish fleet on the 7th August. Spain did not declare war till the 5th
October, but the declaration was then as always a mere formality. After
seeing Richery on his way, Lángara returned, and on the 29th September
left for Toulon with nineteen sail. On the 1st October he met Mann,
and chased him into Gibraltar. Then he went on towards Toulon, picking
up seven more ships of the line, which raised his force to twenty-six
sail. Mann, moved by reasons which pass all understanding, called a
council of war, which as usual agreed with the commanding officer,
and sailed for England. His withdrawal weakened Jervis vitally. In
after days the admiral said that if Mann had rejoined him, the battle
which was to be fought off Cape St. Vincent on the following 14th
February would have been fought in the Mediterranean. Yet it is to be
observed that Jervis fought at St. Vincent with fifteen ships against
twenty-seven. Now, when Lángara was seen off Cape Corso on the 5th
October with twenty-six sail, Jervis was near at hand in Mortella Bay
with fourteen. He had many responsibilities on him—the troops to be
withdrawn from Corsica, the garrison at Elba, and the French not far
off at Toulon. On the 14th February of next year he was free to make
play with his admirable squadron. Yet it can hardly be doubted that
if he had struck on the 15th October, as he did on the 14th February,
the absence of Mann would not have prevented him from gaining a
victory which would have dashed the Franco-Spanish naval coalition to
pieces. He judged the risk too great, and sailed for Gibraltar on the
2nd November. From Gibraltar he went by order of the Government to
Lisbon. We had left the Mediterranean, which was not to see an English
fleet again till the summer of 1798. Lángara, much troubled by gales,
formidable to his unseamanlike fleet, reached Toulon on the 26th
October. He left it again on the 1st December with a French squadron of
six sail under the command of Villeneuve. Lángara put in to Carthagena,
but the Frenchman went on to Brest. He passed the Straits on the 10th
December. Jervis had not yet left for Lisbon, and the French squadron
was sighted, but could not be pursued. A storm which blew right into
the anchorage at Gibraltar was raging at the time. One of Jervis’ ships
was driven on shore, and two were damaged. The admiral could do no
more than send a frigate home with the news that a French squadron had
escaped from the Mediterranean. Villeneuve went on to Brest. On the
21st December he was seen and chased by the blockading fleet of Admiral
Colpoys, but though forced to turn from Brest, he reached L’Orient
safely on the 23rd. Villeneuve’s was not the only reinforcement
received at this time by the French forces in the Channel and the Bay.
Richery, after doing considerable damage in Newfoundland, had reached
the island of Aix on the 5th of November, and had gone on to Brest
with part of his squadron. A part, detached on the coast of America,
had preceded him. Richery was swept into the most determined, and by
far the most nearly successful, of the efforts made during this war to
invade the British Isles in force.

The very nature of the struggle they had provoked taught the French to
dwell on the hope of delivering the much threatened blow at the heart
which was to bring their enemy to the ground. Schemes of invasion
abounded, and may still be read with interest (or amusement) in Captain
Desbrière’s history of _Les Projets et Tentatives de Débarquement aux
Îles Britanniques_ between 1793 and 1805. Some were only foolish.
Some, without ceasing to be foolish, were ferocious. The most notable
of these were the plans for carrying a _chouannerie_ into the British
Isles. A _chouannerie_ was a warfare of atrocious brigandage. It took
its name from the desperate Royalist partisans who, when no longer
able to oppose the Republican armies in the field in Brittany, betook
themselves to highway robbery, housebreaking, murder and torture of
political opponents, or even only of defenceless people who possessed
property. As they naturally preferred to act by night and by surprise,
they were known as the _Chouans_—the brown owls. In the fury of their
hatred the French planned to let loose hundreds of insubordinate
soldiers and common criminals on the English coast as a measure of
revenge for the evils which, so they argued, the support given by
England to the Royalist partisans had brought upon France. Soldiers
who were in prison for acts of indiscipline were formed into a corps
under the name of the _Légion des Francs_. Another corps, aptly
surnamed the _Légion Noire_, was formed of common criminals. The two
were to be landed on the English coast to burn, murder, and plunder.
The calculation made was that France stood to win in any case. If the
two legions did murder and pillage, loss would be inflicted on England.
If the English shot or hanged every man of them, France would be rid of
hundreds of violent blackguards. The calculation was silly, in spite
of its specious air of cunning. The _Chouans_ in Brittany knew the
country and the language, and had friends. The legions would have been
perfectly helpless in England—and so they proved in February 1797. In
that month a French naval expedition of two frigates, a corvette, and
a lugger, escaped unobserved from Brest, and landed about 1500 of the
_Légion des Francs_ and the _Légion Noire_ at Fishguard, in Pembroke.
Captain Castagnier, who commanded the ships, had hardly sailed out
of sight before these intended _Chouans_ with their leader, Tate, a
rascally American adventurer, surrendered to an inferior force of Welsh
militiamen under Lord Cawdor. They had no intention of losing their
lives in a frantic attempt to do mere mischief. The English Government
then called on the French to exchange a number of its English prisoners
for these cowardly ruffians. When the French refused, they were brought
to their senses by a threat to land the legionaries on the coast of
France without exchange. The mere prospect created a panic, and the
British Government had its way. The end of the Fishguard invasion was
therefore that hundreds of useful Englishmen were exchanged against
men who were a danger and a burden to France, while other hundreds
of honest Frenchmen who were capable of serving their country well
remained in prison for months.

Before the Fishguard Invasion ended in sour pleasantry, a more sane and
manly attack had failed, partly through mismanagement, but to a far
greater extent because of the protection which the superhuman powers
governing this universe have not seldom afforded to England. When the
war in La Vendée had fairly come to its close by June 1796, the general
commanding the Republican army, Lazare Hoche, urged that the large
army of 117,000 men left free by the submission of the Royalists should
be used for an invasion of the British Isles. His Government was ready
to approve, but for a time it distracted its general by double-minded
schemes. The belief that our empire in India was the cause, and not,
as in truth it was, the consequence, of our strength, was general in
France. The French Navy, conscious of its inability to contend with the
concentrated force of the Royal Navy in the four seas of Britain, and
longing for the warm seas and abundant prize money of the East, was
eager for an expedition to India. So the Government at Paris played
with dreams of a great expedition to the East Indies which was to drop
a body of French troops in Ireland on its way, and the naval officers
at Brest obstructed all other plans. The good sense of Hoche saw that
division of aim must be fatal to success, and he at last persuaded
his superiors to consent to attempt a vigorous invasion of Ireland.
An invasion of England in force would have inflicted the worse blow,
but it was rightly judged to be, if not impossible, yet so hazardous
that it was not entertained. What Castagnier was able to do with four
small vessels and a few hundred cut-throats in February 1797, might
conceivably have been done by ten line-of-battle ships and several
thousand good soldiers in 1796. But a Government which was ready to
risk a few small vessels and a flying column of men whom it would
willingly have seen at the bottom of the Channel was not disposed to
run an equal hazard with valuable ships and fine soldiers. An invasion
of Ireland would cause great, perhaps paralysing embarrassment to
England. The country was on the verge of rebellion, France was full of
Irish exiles who promised the co-operation of their countrymen. So an
invasion of Ireland was undertaken.

All through the summer preparations were made. The English Government
was well served by its spies in France. Some of them were among the
Irish exiles. But it could learn nothing definite as to the exact aim
of the invasion which was known to be in preparation. The vacillations
of the French Government served it in one way. No definite information
could be obtained where no definite plan was adopted. Nothing could be
done save stand on guard and watch. The measures of defence taken were
sufficient if they had been more effectually applied. A force kept at
about fifteen sail of the line cruised off Brest. A western squadron
of five, under Curtis, watched beyond the Brest blockade. The grand
fleet, under Bridport, lay at Spithead to support and reinforce. But
Spithead was too difficult to leave against head-winds and too far off
to give an adequate support to the Brest blockade, and the blockade
itself was somewhat slackly kept. Our measures were half measures. We
had partially dropped Howe’s plan of watch from afar, but had not yet
adopted St. Vincent’s close watch on the spot.

On the 15th December 1796 the French expedition drew out from the inner
harbour of Brest to the outer roadstead. Some collisions took place
among the vessels on their way, but they were not more serious than the
similar misfortunes which were to befall Bridport’s ships a few days
later. On the 16th the French fleet was ready to start. It consisted of
seventeen sail of the line, fourteen frigates, two corvettes, one brig,
and three luggers, with transports, and it carried 14,750 soldiers
under the command of Hoche. The French admirals—Morard de Galle,
Bouvet, and Nielly—had hoisted their flags in frigates, which they had
the option to do; but Richery had his flag in the _Pégase_, 74. Morard
de Galle was with Hoche in the _Fraternité_. The wind was from the
east, the weather frosty and clear. The orders were to steer through
the Raz du Sein, the southerly passage through the rocks which on that
side bound the roadstead of Brest. This course was adopted in order
to avoid the English blockading force the better. But on the 16th our
ships under Admiral Colpoys, who had just taken up the command, were
some fifty miles away to the west, too far off to strike quickly, with
the east wind against them—too far off also to be quickly warned by Sir
Edward Pellew, who with his own frigate, the =Indefatigable=, 44, and
others, was close to the French port. When through the Raz the French
were to steer for 120 miles W.¼S.W. and then head for Bantry.

A detailed account of their cruise belongs rather to the history of
the French than of the English Navy, which, for reasons about to be
given, as good as vanished for the next few days. But the fate of the
invasion cannot be left untold. As the day grew on on the 16th, the
wind drew round to the S.E., and became unfavourable to a fleet passing
the narrow Raz du Sein. With an unpardonable want of foresight, Morard
de Galle had not provided for this highly probable contingency. So when
he suddenly decided in the afternoon to take the direct course to the
west through the wide Iroise, and steered in that direction himself, he
was followed only by the _Nestor_, 74, and the _Romaine_ and _Cocarde_
frigates. The rest of the ships either followed Bouvet through the Raz
du Sein or hesitated and made movements which are now uncertain. One,
the _Séduisant_, was wrecked on the Grand Stevenec. Pellew, who watched
the French closely, added to their confusion by false fires and signals
of no meaning. He sent the =Phœbe= frigate to warn Colpoys, and when
assured of the direction the French were taking, went himself in search
of his admiral.

The French, therefore, were divided from the beginning, and so
remained. On the 17th Bouvet had with him the vessels which had
followed him through the Raz du Sein, eight line-of-battle ships and
eight frigates. The wind in drawing round to the S.E. had become
milder, bringing with it a drizzle of rain and fog. He steered for
Bantry, and on the 18th crossed the track of the _Fraternité_ which
was standing to the south to look for him. Thus the French naval and
military commanders-in-chief went roaming out to the Atlantic, looking
for their command, which was steering away from them. On the 19th,
Bouvet was joined by Nielly and Richery with six sail of the line and
two frigates. In variable and gusty winds they pushed on for Bantry.
The wind was from the west when he sighted Mizen Head on the 21st, but
it swung round to the east, and drove him to leeward of Bantry Bay,
and to the point of Dursey Island. Only eight of the line-of-battle
ships and six frigates succeeded in tacking into the bay with Bouvet,
where they anchored between Bear Island and the southern side, instead
of going into Beerhaven, between the island and the northern bank,
where they would have been safe. The others remained beating to and
fro outside. On the 24th the weather was fine, and there were 6000
soldiers in the ships with Bouvet. A landing could easily have been
effected, and as there were few troops in the south of Ireland, the
French might well have occupied Cork, where lay an immense mass of
military and naval stores. But the command in the absence of Hoche was
in the hands of Grouchy, whose name is associated with a still greater
French disaster eighteen years later. He hesitated. No landing was
made, and on the 25th the wind settled in the east, and blew with fury
down the bay. Bouvet was forced to sea in his frigate, lost heart, and
made for Brest, which he reached on the 1st January 1797. Bedout, of
the _Indomptable_, 80, to whom the command now fell, held on till the
29th, when he too cut his cables and fled seaward before the easterly
wind. All hope was not given up even yet, and some of the French
vessels went to the mouth of the Shannon, which had been named as the
alternative landing-place. They found nothing to do, and so turned
home to France. Meanwhile the two commanders-in-chief had been groping
for their commands. The _Fraternité_ had been lost in fog and tossed
in storm. She had sighted the lights of Bouvet, had mistaken them for
those of an enemy; had turned away; had been chased, compelled to throw
guns overboard to lighten herself for flight, and to alter her course
again and again; had returned off Bantry Bay on the 29th, only to find
the _Révolution_, 74, endeavouring to save the crew of the sinking
_Scévola_ frigate, and had finally steered for France. The wrecks of
the French armament reached home between the 11th and 14th January.
_Afflavit Deus et dissipati sunt._

One of the line-of-battle ships carried into Bantry Bay by Bouvet
was destined not to escape. The _Droits de l’homme_, 74, commanded
by Captain Baron La Crosse, had been among the vessels which went
to the mouth of the Shannon. While cruising there, she captured the
=Cumberland= letter of marque—that is to say, trading-ship, which
carried a commission authorising her to act as a privateer. The
=Cumberland= had on board thirty soldiers on their way home from the
West Indies. La Crosse took the English passengers and crew into his
own ship, and sent the =Cumberland= to France with a prize crew. Then
he headed for home, after looking once more into Bantry. He lost sight
of the Irish coast on the 9th, and on the 13th, in strong westerly
winds and thick hazy weather, calculated that he was seventy-five
miles to the west of the Penmarchs. Early in the afternoon two
vessels were seen to windward in the haze, and Captain La Crosse
steered to the S.E. to avoid them. At about 3.30 two other vessels
were seen to leeward cutting off his road to France. They were the
=Indefatigable=, 44, Captain Sir Edward Pellew, and the =Amazon=, 36,
Captain Reynolds. Captain La Crosse had to fight his way home between
them. In conversation with an English army officer, taken prisoner in
the =Cumberland=, Lieutenant Pipon, he had declared that he would sink
rather than surrender. His conduct was to show that these were not
words of idle boasting. The _Droits de l’homme_ was indeed a 74 and
her opponents were frigates, but though one 74 was adjudged more than
a match for two frigates, she was at a disadvantage. She was so built
that her lower deck ports were fourteen French inches—nearly sixteen
English—nearer the water than in other vessels of her class. While
under a press of sail to throw off the pursuit of the ships seen to
windward, she lost her fore and maintop. Having no sufficient spread of
sail aloft to steady her she rolled heavily, and the water poured on
to her main-deck. It ran down the cables on the English prisoners who
had been sent to the cable tier to escape the shot of their friends.
So Captain La Crosse was not able to make use of the 36-pounders on
his main deck but had to rely on the 18-pounders and smaller guns of
his upper decks, firing from a high and most unstable platform. The
_Droits de l’homme_ had in fact the use of a lighter broadside than
the =Indefatigable=, a very heavy frigate, armed with 24-pounders on
her main deck. Her sole advantage was that she carried 700 soldiers in
addition to her crew, and could replace the 250 casualties she suffered
in the action.

It began at 5.30. The _Droits de l’homme_ was steering to the west for
the coast of France. The =Indefatigable= overtook her, and tried to
rake her. The French captain baffled the attempt, and then Pellew shot
ahead, risking and receiving a raking broadside, which did his frigate
little harm, and placing himself on the Frenchman’s bow. At a quarter
to seven the =Amazon= came up and took her station on the other bow.
At 7.30 the two English frigates shot ahead, the =Indefatigable= to
repair damage to her rigging, the =Amazon=, because the press of sail
she carried to gain her station had given her so much way that she
could not stop. Then the action was resumed, to be again suspended to
repair damage at 10.30 and once more resumed. It lasted through the
night. The English crews fought with fine manhood and skill, often
up to their waists in water on the main decks. Guns broke from their
fastenings and had to be made secure again—as often as four times. They
were often filled with water after being loaded, and the charges had to
be withdrawn before they could be reloaded and safely fired. Repairs
had to be done in the rigging, and the =Amazon= used up every inch of
spare rope. The Frenchman fought with a heroism which surmounted the
loss of all hope of victory, or even of escape, manœuvring to board
so long as his ship could answer her helm, and always baffled by the
English frigates, which were under perfect control. At 4.30 the moon
broke through the clouds for a moment, and Lieutenant George Bell,
on the forecastle of the =Indefatigable=, saw the land. None of the
three ships could know where they were. It was only certain that they
were on a lee-shore, the wind blowing strong and the sea running high.
The =Indefatigable= was turned to the north, and was followed by the
=Amazon=. Just before daybreak breakers were seen on the lee-bow. The
=Indefatigable= was brought round to the south, but not the =Amazon=
which was unmanageable, and was driven on shore. As the =Indefatigable=
stood southward in the first light of day, her crew saw they were in
Audierne Bay, and _Droits de l’homme_ lay on her side in front of
Ploxevet with the sea breaking over her. Her mizen-mast, the lower
foremast, and bowsprit had gone. The cable of the only anchor she had
left was cut by English shot, and after a manful effort to reeve a new
one had been made, and the anchor had failed to hold, she drove ashore.
The position of the =Indefatigable= was terrible, for her one chance
of escape was to round the Penmarchs at the south point of Audierne
Bay, and she was damaged. But her crew and officers showed “their full
value,” as their captain gratefully acknowledged. She cleared the rocks
and gained the open sea.

The _Droits de l’homme_ lay without possibility of help, for two
days, in the breakers, and two more passed before the last survivors
were taken from the wreck. The story may be read in the narrative of
Lieutenant Pipon. The English prisoners were called up from the cable
tier with the cry _Pauvres anglais! Pauvres anglais! Montes Bien vite.
Nous sommes tous perdus_. When the boats were lowered some women and
children, who were among the English prisoners, were given the first
chance of escape. But the boats were shattered alongside, and they
all perished. The _Droits de l’homme_ lay breaking up, and the crew
perished slowly, one brave man, the sailmaker, Lamende, nearly lost his
life in an attempt to swim ashore with a line, and an army officer who
followed him was drowned. The English worked manfully in the common
cause, one of them, a merchant skipper, going over the side fourteen
times to save the people in the boats. They could get neither food
nor fresh water. The pangs of hunger can be outlived but not those
of thirst. Many drank urine and salt water and went mad. Of the 380
who remained on the wreck on the fourth night half were dead in the
morning. The French Government released the English prisoners freely,
and gave several of them rewards in money. The shipwrecked crew of the
=Amazon= were well treated. La Crosse survived and was promoted. The
loss of the _Droits de l’homme_ was an incident in a campaign, but
skill and manhood, heroism, humanity, and devotion to duty are noble
and immortal things. We cannot look at them too carefully or too long.

In all these events fortune had a great share, but excepting the
activity of a few frigates, the Royal Navy had little part. When
Admiral Colpoys heard from the captain of the =Phœbe= that the French
were at sea, his fleet was in want of stores, and he knew not where
the enemy was gone. So he bore up for Spithead, and, dropping part
of his ships at the western ports on the way, reached it on the 31st
December with six sail. Bridport, urged to get quickly to sea when the
Government learnt that the French were out, had started on the 25th,
four days after Bouvet reached Bantry. But he met difficulties. The
=Prince= ran into the =Sans-Pareil=, and the =Formidable= into the
=Ville de Paris=. The =Atlas= grounded. Then he was stopped in a gale,
and he did not sail with his fourteen ships of the line till the 3rd
January 1797. He cruised about, from Ushant to Cape Clear, chased
the much chased _Fraternité_ on the 9th, and intercepted nothing. He
was fifty-seven miles west of Ushant when the last of the returning
French ships entered Brest. Before he returned to Spithead on the 3rd
February, he detached Rear-Admiral Sir W. Parker to join Jervis with
the =Prince George=, =Namur=, =Irresistible=, =Orion=, =Colossus=, and
=Thalia= frigate. They were to be usefully employed, for it was this
reinforcement which enabled Jervis to fight the battle of Cape St.
Vincent.

The five line-of-battle ships and the frigate were sent to join Jervis
at his rendezvous at Cape St. Vincent in fulfilment of a promise that
the squadron carried off by Mann should be replaced, and his force
brought up again to twenty sail. They served to bring him up to the
fifteen he had had a few weeks before they joined him on the 6th
February. The =Courageux=, 80, had been lost, and the =Gibraltar=, 80,
driven on the Pearl Rock during the furious gale of the 10th December,
in which Villeneuve escaped from the Mediterranean. Shortly after
Jervis left Gibraltar for Lisbon on the 16th December, the =Zealous=,
74, struck on a rock in Tangier Bay, and was badly damaged. As he
entered Lisbon on the 21st, the =Bombay Castle=, 74, ran ashore and was
lost. When he left it on the 18th January to escort a Portuguese convoy
out of danger and to observe the Spaniards, the =St. George=, 98, after
running into and dismasting a Portuguese frigate, grounded heavily on
the great Cachop. His command had therefore been brought down to ten by
the 6th February. To complete the tale it may be added that the fifteen
were nearly reduced to fourteen or even thirteen while it was still
dark on the morning of the 12th, when the =Culloden=, 74, ran into the
=Colossus=, 74, because the second, after holding her wind too long
while the fleet was tacking in succession, suddenly bore up across the
bows of the first, and tore her fore-rigging badly.[3] The energy of
Captain Troubridge of the =Culloden= brought his ship quickly into
trim, and she took a leading part in the coming battle.

Lángara had been superseded by Don José de Córdoba at Carthagena, and
the Spanish fleet under its new admiral came on in pursuit of a wild
scheme to sail to Brest, join the French ships there, now under the
command of Villeneuve, then join a Dutch force in the Texel and renew
the attempted invasion of England. The scheme was wild on many grounds,
but particularly because of the utter want of quality in the Spanish
fleet. It has already been said, when speaking of the American War,
that the Spanish Government had endeavoured to form a great fleet by
building more ships than it could afford, and had never had money to
spend on training officers and men. Every evil it suffered from in 1779
had been intensified under the imbecile government of King Charles IV.
A mass of fine ships was heaped up, but they were manned with crews
which hardly included a tenth of seamen, and commanded by officers who
had had little practice. Nothing had been done to improve it since the
wars began in 1793. On the contrary, neglect, failure to pay or even
feed the men, made the service odious, and it grew even worse. The best
officer in the Spanish navy, Jose Mazaredo, had refused to take the
command unless the Government bound itself to commission no more ships
than it could man. He had been arrested, to punish him for questioning
the wisdom of his superiors. Every officer in the Spanish fleet knew
its unfitness to meet the English.

Every English officer knew its weaknesses too, and nobody better than
Jervis. He was aware that the narrow failure of the invasion of Ireland
had shaken the nerve of the country. The discontent in the fleet, which
was just about to break into mutiny, was not unknown to him. A victory
was very necessary to England. A weak man would have looked to numbers
alone, and would have been cautious. Jervis looked to the quality of
the enemy, and the greatness of the crisis. He saw how much better it
would be that every one of his fifteen ships should go to the bottom if
only she could take a Spaniard with her, than that Córdoba should reach
Brest. Therefore as Hood sailed from Antigua resolved to fight Grasse,
be his number what they might, so Jervis waited at Cape St. Vincent,
resolute to give battle whatever numbers the Spaniards might bring
against him.

On the morning of the 13th February he was joined by the =Minerva=,
36, which had just sighted the Spaniards, and had been chased by
them. Nelson had been sent up the Mediterranean in her to bring away
Sir Gilbert Elliot from Porto Ferrajo, whither he had retired after
the evacuation of Corsica. He now hoisted his commodore’s pennant
in the =Captain=, 74. At four in the afternoon the signal was made
to clear for action, and during the night the fleet remained under
reduced canvas, keeping its post of watch. The signal guns of the
Spaniards were heard at half-past one on the morning of the 14th, and
at half-past two, a Scotchman, Captain Campbell, in the Portuguese
service, who commanded the _Carlotta_ frigate, spoke the flagship, and
informed Jervis that the Spaniards were fifteen miles to windward—that
is, to the west of him. Daylight came on the 14th with fresh breezes
from the west and a thick haze. At six, reefs were shaken out and
the search for the enemy began. By seven, strange sails were seen in
the haze to the S.S.W. stretching across our route to the S.E. The
reconnoitring frigates and sloops reported their numbers, which were
discovered to be greater as the air cleared. At 8.20 the signal was
made to prepare for battle, and at 9.20 the =Culloden=, =Blenheim=,
and =Prince George= were ordered to chase. When at 9.47 the =Bonne
Citoyenne= sloop reported seeing more vessels to the S.W., the
=Irresistible= and =Colossus= were ordered to join in the chase. The
=Orion= joined without orders and was not recalled. About ten the air
cleared, and the two fleets were fully revealed to one another.

The Spaniards were aware of the approach of Jervis, and two of their
look-out frigates had actually seen part of his ships, but they
underestimated his strength. Their national carelessness, intensified
perhaps by the desperation of men who knew they were devoted to a
hopeless task, was never more conspicuous. Their ships were wandering
in two confused shoals, one of nineteen sail was to windward and
westward of the English, another of six was to leeward and eastward.
The two were trying to join, but there was a wide interval between
them. A twenty-sixth Spaniard was seen outside the windward division,
and a twenty-seventh was coming up from leeward. Jervis at once headed
from the open space between the two divisions. At 10.57 the order was
given to form in a line of battle ahead and astern of the flagship as
most convenient.

As the ships fell in to their places the line was formed thus:—

 =Culloden=        74   T. Troubridge.

 =Blenheim=        90   T. L. Frederich.

 =Prince George=   98  { Rear-Admiral W. Parker.
                       { T. Irwin.

 =Orion=           74   Sir J. Saumarez.

 =Irresistible=    74   G. Martin.

 =Colossus=        74   G. Murray.

                       { Admiral Sir J. Jervis.
 =Victory=        100  { Captain-of-Fleet R. Calder.
                       { Flag-Captain G. Grey

 =Barfleur=        98  { Vice-Admiral W. Waldegrave.
                       { J. R. Dacres.

 =Goliath=         74   Sir C. H. Knowles.

 =Egmont=          74   J. Sutton.

 =Britannia=      100  { Vice-Admiral Thompson.
                       { T. Foley.

 =Namur=           90   J. Whitshed.

 =Captain=         94  { Commodore Nelson.
                       {    "    Miller.

 =Diadem=          64   G. H. Towry.

 =Excellent=       74   C. Collingwood.

The manifest confusion of the enemy, added to their knowledge of his
want of discipline, gave the British seamen a boundless confidence.
His numbers were naught, and Jervis’s men could dismiss that vain
show in the spirit of Alaric’s scoffing answer to the threats of the
Romans, “The thicker the hay the better the mowing.” There were fine
ships in the Spanish fleet, there was personal courage which might have
been trained to efficiency, there were some officers who could have
handled good instruments if they had had them. There was nothing else.
Therefore as the naval historian, James, puts it with more than his
usual liveliness, our seamen “rattled through the business, more as if
it were a game of harmless sport, than one in which the hazard thrown
was for life or death.”

It was half-past eleven when the =Culloden= opened fire, and by midday
the head of the line had cut into the gap between the disorderly shoals
of Spaniards. If it had stood on it would have passed, and the enemy
would have been free to unite behind it. At 12.8 Jervis signalled the
order to tack, and the =Culloden= came round to fall on the rear of the
Spaniards who were huddled to windward heading to the north to pass
our line as it went south. The =Blenheim= and =Prince George= tacked
in succession to follow the =Culloden=. Tacking in succession was not
only a slow movement, but if it had been carried out the fleet must
have fallen behind the weather division of the Spaniards. To keep them
permanently divided our line should have turned together, or should
have begun to turn in succession from the rear. At about 1 o’clock the
Spaniards had passed down our line to the rear. Their lee division
made a feeble effort at 12.30 to break through the line ahead of the
=Victory=, and join the ships to windward. Their road was barred,
and they were headed off in confusion by her heavy fire. One only
passed down the line to leeward—it was supposed she was the _Oriente_,
74—exchanged broadsides with the closing ship, the =Excellent=, and
joined the main body. As she passed the rear she was fired into by our
frigates which were in their station to rear and to leeward of the
line, and returned their fire without doing them any harm.

So far there was nothing to show that the battle would differ very
materially from many previous encounters of fleets passing in opposite
directions. It would not have differed if literal obedience had been
paid to the signal made by Jervis at 12.51—“To take suitable stations,
and engage as arrive up in succession,” which implied that the ships
were to continue following one another. But just before, or just at,
or just after this moment,[4] Nelson made a movement which altered
the whole character of the battle. He brought the =Captain= round on
her keel, passed astern of the =Diadem=, the vessel next behind him,
and ahead of the =Excellent=. Then he threw himself ahead of the
Spaniards, who were trying to pass the rear of the line, and turned
them off. He turned his ship from being the third from the rear into
being the first of the van, for as he came round he fell on the enemy
ahead of the =Culloden=. The =Captain= was hotly pressed, but was
relieved first by the =Culloden= then by the =Blenheim=, which passed
between her and the enemy, and pushed on. Other vessels turned and came
up to press on the enemy. The rear ships of the line did not follow the
example of the =Captain= till Jervis, who had tacked the =Victory=,
and was standing to the north, ordered them to do so. All then fell
on the retreating Spaniards, of whom four were taken. Meanwhile the
enemy to leeward had worked to windward, formed a line, and came up
to support the main body, falling into position to rear of it. Jervis
called his ships together to cover his prizes, and the battle ceased at
five o’clock. The circumstances of the capture of two of these prizes,
the _San Josef_ and _San Nicolas_, which were boarded and captured by
Nelson, are famous, but the details belong to his biography.

St. Vincent was a famous victory, and, moreover, it was a most timely
one. Therefore the joy it caused in England was thoroughly justified,
and Jervis nobly earned his earldom. It may seem ungracious to make
reservations, and yet some independence of judgment may be exercised
even on Jervis. When we have fully recognised the political courage he
showed in giving battle when he would not have been blamed for caution,
and for the strength of mind which enabled him to scorn vain shows, we
are free to ask whether the actual fighting of the battle on his part,
and the use made of it, justify us in thinking him “a great captain.”
I venture to suggest that they do not. But for the independence of
Nelson the battle might well have ended in a passage on opposite tacks
and an artillery duel. On the day following the battle he was in sight
of twenty-three Spaniards, and he was content to cover his prizes. In
his fleet only the =Captain= had been seriously injured, and the loss
acknowledged was only 300 men. He is reported to have said that if the
enemy came on he would have burnt his prizes—but why not burn them
and attack? He was between the Spaniards and Cadiz, and could have
forced on a battle. Their quality being what it was he could surely
have destroyed them utterly. Much has been said of Rodney’s failure to
follow up his victory on the 12th April 1782. We have heard a great
deal of Howe’s weakness on the 1st of June. Everyone has laughed at
Hotham, who was too much at ease in Zion, and has applauded Nelson’s
impatience with his easy-going ways. Yet Jervis cuddled his prizes as
tenderly as ever did Rodney, Howe, or Hotham. Four was a small part
of twenty-seven. Still Nelson said nothing, and Jervis stands as a
monument of energy. But Nelson was too busy glorying in his triumph,
and claiming to have done more than the fine thing he actually had
done, even at the expense of brother officers—(witness his acrid tone
to Parker, who called his attention to the fact that the =Captain= had
been early and well supported by the =Prince George=)—and Jervis was a
bully. The Spaniards were allowed to reach Cadiz, and Jervis went to
Lagos, where he began a new series of operations.

The battle of St. Vincent had ruined the left wing of the great
combined Spanish-French-Dutch army of invasion. The French, though as
resolute as ever to invade, were not ready so soon after the failure
of Morard de Galle to make another attempt. For the rest of the year,
therefore, the first part fell to the Dutch fleet. Since Holland
had been overrun by the French armies at the close of 1794, and had
established the Batavian Republic in February 1795, the Dutch had had
many reasons to regret the change. Their French friends fleeced them at
home, and England occupied their colonies and swept their trade off the
sea.[5] Although the French had dragged Holland into war with England,
the hostility of the Dutch was strong and spontaneous. They fretted
under the dictation of the French, but they had an active hatred of
England, which, after joining with Prussia to impose the rule of the
Stadtholder on them by force in 1786, had dragged him into war with
France, had failed to give him effective military support, and when the
country was overrun by France had at once—on the 19th January—begun
to embargo Dutch ships and cargoes lest they should fall into French
hands. We acted with reluctance and under the pressure of necessity,
but the Dutch, who lost the goods, attributed our action to greed and
malignity.

Therefore they entered readily enough into schemes for invading
England, but still with caution. They refused to ship French troops
in the fleet they prepared in the Texel, being afraid of their
allies. The French co-operation was dropped for this, and for other
reasons. The French Government of the day was very jealous of its
most famous generals, and at that moment of Hoche in particular. It
would gladly have seen him sail in search of glory on any venture, the
more desperate the better. The general, who perfectly understood the
real meaning of all this tender care for his glory—ended by declaring
that he would not play Don Quixote on the sea for the benefit of men
who would gladly see him at the bottom of it. The combined Dutch
and French army of invasion dwindled into a purely Dutch army, and
finally disappeared altogether. Daendaels, the general who was to
have commanded it, had an hereditary Dutch understanding of maritime
things, and he saw that the preliminary to an invasion of England was
the defeat of the English fleet in the North Sea. But it was not till
October 1797 that the Batavian Republic ordered its naval forces to act.

The command of the English fleet in the North Sea was given to Adam
Duncan, then vice-admiral, who was soon afterwards promoted to admiral.
Duncan had been a follower of Keppel’s, was commonly known as Keppel’s
Duncan, and was by common consent an excellent officer. He had been
long unemployed, and it may be the case that he owed his appointment to
the command in the North Sea, not only to his reputation as an officer
and seaman, but to the fact that he was closely connected by marriage
with Dundas, afterwards Lord Melville, who held the vitally important
post of general manager of corruption, and distributor of patronage in
Pitt’s ministry. When he took up his command he had but four ships of
the line with him. It is true that he had the co-operation of a Russian
squadron, but it was in a most inefficient state, and proved of small
value. In fact it embarrassed our squadron, for it was in incessant
need of stores and repairs, while the necessity to flatter the touchy
vanity of our ally, the Russian Government, compelled us to treat
it with much respect. Duncan had to struggle with even another and a
worse defect, which is very exactly indicated in a letter written to
him in August 1796, by Sir C. Middleton, afterwards Lord Barham, one
of the Commissioners for the navy, who wrote: “My own wish is to have
your force very strong, but I plainly perceive, from the many irons we
have in the fire, that I shall be overruled. The same cause obliges
us to employ your frigates on many extra services, and which I have
charged the secretary to acquaint you with as often as it happens; but
necessary as this information is for your guidance, I am afraid it is
often forgot.”

The best ships were taken for the Brest blockade, the Channel, the
Mediterranean. Duncan’s own flagship, the =Venerable=, 74, leaked
continually, and was only kept in service by endless care. It is
therefore not to be wondered at that in February 1796 two Dutch
squadrons, commanded by Braak and Lucas, succeeded in escaping from the
North Sea to the West Indies and the Cape. During the middle of 1797
Duncan’s troubles were enormously increased by the mutiny at the Nore,
which will be dealt with in the next chapter.

On the 3rd October Duncan, who had been cruising for eighteen weeks,
was compelled to return to Yarmouth for stores with the bulk of
his fleet, leaving Captain Henry Trollope with the =Russell=, 74,
=Adamant=, 50, and several frigates and smaller vessels to watch the
Texel. On the 7th the Dutch came out under the command of Jan Willem de
Winter, who had been trained as a naval officer, had gone into exile in
1786, had served in the French Republican armies, and was a general in
the army as well as vice-admiral in the fleet. His fleet consisted of
the

                      { Vice-Admiral de
 _Vryheid_        94  {   Winter.
                      { Capt. van Rossern.

 _Jupiter_        94  { Vice-Admiral Reuntjes.
                      { Rear-Admiral Menses.

 _Brutus_         74  { Rear-Admiral Bloys.
                      { Capt. van Treslong.

 _States General_ 74   Rear-Admiral Storij.

 _Cerberus_       64   Capt. Jacobson.

 _Devries_        64   Capt. Zegers.
 _Gelykeid_       64    "    Ruysen.
 _Haarlem_        64    "    Wiggerts.
 _Hercules_       64    "    Van Rysvort.
 _Leyden_         64    "    Musquetier.
 _Wassenaer_      64    "    Holland.
 _Alkmaar_        50    "    Kraft.
 _Batavier_       50    "    Souters.
 _Beschermer_     50    "    Hinext.
 _Delft_          50    "    Verdoorn

with twelve frigates and other small vessels.

The Dutch were sighted at once by our look-out vessels, and news was
sent to Duncan, who left Yarmouth in pursuit. As De Winter was known to
be heading to the south, and the wind was northerly, ranging from N.E.
to N.W. and W. by N., Duncan stood over the North Sea from Yarmouth to
the Texel, to put himself between De Winter and his port, and to gain
the weather-gage, which gave him the means of forcing on a battle.
The Dutch, well observed by our look-out vessels to whose crews they
appeared to be somewhat awkwardly handled, stood over to Lowestoft, and
then returned to their own coast. They were seen at about half-past
eight on the morning of the 11th October by our fleet, which was coming
down from the north with the wind at W. by N.

The ships with Duncan were—

 =Venerable=    74   { Admiral Duncan.
                     { Capt. W. G. Fairfax.

 =Monarch=      74   { Vice-Admiral R. Onslow.
                     { Capt. E. O’Brien.

 =Russel=       74      "    H. Trollope.

 =Montagu=      74      "    J. Knight.

 =Bedford=      74     Sir T. Byard.

 =Powerful=     74     Capt. W. O’Brien Drury.

 =Triumph=      74     Capt. W. Essington.
 =Belliqueux=   64      "    J. Inglis.
 =Agincourt=    64      "    J. Williamson.
 =Lancaster=    64      "    J. Wells.
 =Ardent=       64      "    Burgess.
 =Veteran=      64      "    G. Gregory.
 =Director=     64      "    W. Bligh.
 =Monmouth=     64      "    J. Walker.
 =Isis=         50      "    W. Mitchell.
 =Adamant=      50      "    W. Hotham.

with eight frigates and small vessels.

Elaborate comparisons have been made to show that one fleet was
stronger than the other, but they are idle in view of the simple fact
that some of the English did not come into action, and some of the
Dutch got out of it sooner than was becoming. Physical obstructions and
fortune played a part—and every man who wears a blue coat is not a hero.

As Duncan came down in pursuit his ships were scattered, the best
sailors in front, the worst behind. It would have been possible to
unite them all, only by causing the more advanced ships to lie to till
the laggards came up. At eleven the advanced ships did shorten sail to
unite the fleet. But the Dutch, who were in a line heading from S.W.
to N.E., with their heads towards the Texel, were gradually drawing
towards their own coast. Camperdown, in North Holland, was about nine
miles from them. Delay on Duncan’s part would have given them a chance
to slip off to the Texel. Therefore his plan for fighting the battle
was not, and could not, be carried out. His intention was to form his
fleet on the starboard line of bearing, which, with the wind at W. by
N., would be a line from S.W. to N.E. parallel to the Dutch. Then he
meant to act as Howe had meant to do on the 1st June, break through the
enemy from windward to leeward, all along from van to rear. As the day
wore on towards the early dark of October and the Dutch drew nearer
the land, the impatience of Duncan, which was patent to his officers,
grew beyond control. He renounced all attempt to form a line, ordered
Onslow, who was to the south and leeward of him, to break through the
enemy’s rear, and the whole fleet to break through. Then first Onslow,
and next the admiral went down on the enemy, setting an example to the
ships about them. Duncan, an old friend and correspondent of Clerk, was
penetrated with his confidence that the proper policy for an English
fleet was to break into the enemy’s formation and produce a mêlée.
Moreover, we have his actions to prove how well he understood that
whatever the fate of the English ships was to be, the country would be
served if the Dutch were left in no condition to invade for the next
six months.

The battle began at 12.40, and at 3 it ended. The two hours and a half
while it lasted were the hottest hours of battle in the whole war. The
Dutch were awkward in fleet manœuvres from want of practice, but they
were more phlegmatic, more solid, better gunners, and better ropemen
than the French. They reserved their fire till our ships were close,
and their two first broadsides, as English officers experienced them
confessed, “were terrible.” Onslow, who cut through the line astern
of the Dutch between the _Jupiter_ and the _Haarlem_, and Duncan, who
cut the line behind the _States General_, were both heavily pounded,
and so were the vessels which followed them. If there was final
concentration of English ships on the Dutch centre and rear, there
had been a preliminary concentration of Dutch ships on the English
leaders. Three vessels lost more than a hundred men each. The =Ardent=,
64, which belonged to Duncan’s division and was closely engaged with
the _Vryheid_, lost no less than 148 killed and wounded—more than a
third of her crew. Her captain, Burgess, and her master, Don, were
both slain. The total loss was officially stated to be 825, but the
committee appointed to distribute a public subscription for the wounded
and the families of the dead put it at 1040. The eleven Dutch ships
taken were so shattered as to be of no further use. Admiral De Winter
was taken prisoner. The ships in the Dutch van escaped too soon, after
doing too little to help the others. On our side all did not come
equally well into action. Captain John Williamson, of the =Agincourt=,
had hung about the outskirts of the fight in a very feeble way. In
1779 he had been a lieutenant with Captain Cook, and had witnessed the
murder of his commander from a launch, not only without attempting to
save him, but without attempting to rescue his body. He was brought to
a court martial and, though acquitted of cowardice, was sentenced to be
put at the bottom of the list of post-captains for misconduct.

Nelson once complained that actions fought near home were more thought
of than those fought far off. Camperdown is an exception to the rule—if
rule there be. It was early half forgotten, and is much neglected among
our battles. Yet it was a great deliverance from fear of invasion at
the time, and the quality of the enemy we conquered must place it far
above St. Vincent as a battle. At Trafalgar a far better appointed
fleet than Duncan’s fought a much less formidable enemy, on the same
method as he fought the Dutch. Much pedantry has been expended in
inquiring whether both admirals did or did not alter their first
plans—as if it could ever be a reproach to a leader of men that he
adapted his actions to the circumstances. That Duncan did not waste
time in forming the starboard line of bearing, and thereby give the
Dutch an opportunity to slip away, is manifestly true—and to a plain
man it appears that he did alter his plan. Nelson at Trafalgar may have
done what he had meant to do all along, but he had Duncan’s battle to
show the advantage of doing it. Yet Duncan is commonly spoken of to-day
as a brave old fellow who blundered on a victory, and nobody has noted
how little originality was required in 1805 to do what had been already
done in 1797. I know of no reason why Duncan is not to be credited with
sense enough to foresee, and intend, the consequences of his acts.



CHAPTER XII

THE MUTINIES

 AUTHORITIES.—In addition to the general histories and biographies
     of officers named already, two pamphlets ought to be consulted
     for the mutinies. _A Narrative of Occurrences which took
     place during the Mutiny at the Nore in May and June 1797_, by
     Rear-Admiral Charles Cunningham, 1829; and _The Natural Defence
     of an Insular Empire_, by Admiral Phillip Paton, 1810.


The year of St. Vincent and Camperdown was also the year of the great
mutinies which mark a turning-point in the history of the navy. They
were the culmination of long-standing grievances caused by old evils.

If we could reconstruct a crew (supposing the thing to have been done
fairly and without beautifying), the spectacle would surprise, and
somewhat disenchant, the spectator. To do it fairly we must take not
a crack frigate commanded by a popular officer with a good reputation
for luck in prize-taking, but one of the ordinary vessels, liners or
less, which did the bulk of the heavy work of the old wars. If the
date chosen had been well on in any of our naval wars, and certainly
if it had been taken in the midst of the last and greatest, the
figures of wax or wood—which we suppose to be properly ticketed—would
tell a curious tale. It would be startling to see how many foreigners
there were, how many landsmen, how many boys, how many quota-men, and
state-the-case-men. The quota-men were those whom each county of the
United Kingdom was called upon at one period in the old war to supply
for the fleet. Of course they all came from the Cave of Adullam, and
were, in fact, the scamps of every neighbourhood, tempted by high
bounties. Their character is sufficiently well indicated by the fact
that Parker, who headed the mutiny at the Nore, was a quota-man from
Perth. The state-the-case-man is more complicated. As the press-gang
swept all fish into its net, a great many were seized who were, or
believed themselves to be, exempted. They were for ever appealing to
the Admiralty for release, and the Department kept writing to the
captains about them. For convenience, these letters were marked outside
“State the case.” Hence the expression a “state-the-case-man,” as
applied to the poor forced complaining creatures, of whom every captain
would have been delighted to get rid, if only he could have kept his
complement up without them. Of such material our crews were largely
formed in the most triumphant times; for the navy was not popular
with the real sailors, and least of all with the best. Although the
prime men who were the real nerve of a crew were supposed to form a
third only of the complement, they contributed more to the list of
deserters than the ordinary seamen, landsmen, boys, and marines put
together. Every ship carried a proportion of landsmen, who were not
expected to do real sailor’s work. This perversity of the seamen was a
sore grievance to officers. Admiral Cunningham, who was captain of the
frigate =Clyde= during the mutiny at the Nore, and wrote an account
of it, was very severe on them. He thought that they were as happy
as mortal sailor could expect to be. But they were of another way of
thinking.

This wrongheadedness of theirs, too, was an old story—as old as the
seventeenth century—and, in spite of Admiral Cunningham, was thoroughly
intelligible. It was a question of pay, both in amount and manner. As
far back as the reign of William III., Captain Saint-Lo put the whole
thing into a nutshell. The wages of A.B.’s were then 23s. a month for
a month of twenty-eight days, which is 25s. a month on the year. This
rate of pay remained unchanged, in spite of the fall in the value of
money, till the mutiny at Spithead scared Parliament into greater, but
still very measured, liberality. Now in Captain Saint-Lo’s time the
average wages of a good man in the merchant service during war were
50s. and 60s. a month. In the eighteenth century they were known to
go as high as £4. The men who manned the coal-ships in the North Sea
earned as much as £6, £7, or £8 the run. Here was a contrast which the
A.B. naturally perpended. But what had equal, or even greater, weight
with him was the reflection that, whereas a man in the merchant service
was sure of his money at the end of the voyage, the man-of-war’s man
could never know when he would be paid. Admiral Cunningham quoted
as one of the blessings of the sailors that the Admiralty had done
all human wisdom could do to see that each man got exactly his right
amount; but, unluckily, it was precisely the fatherly care of “My
Lords” which constituted the grievance. The treatment given to the
seamen had indeed been improved in the course of the eighteenth
century. In 1758, George Grenville, who was then Treasurer of the Navy,
persuaded Parliament to pass “an Act for the Encouragement of Seamen
employed in the Royal Navy; and for establishing a regular method
for the punctual, frequent, and certain payment of their wages; and
for enabling them more easily and readily to remit the same for the
support of their wives and families; and for preventing frauds and
abuses attending such payments.” But these fine promises of the title
of the Act were spoilt by many limitations. A man who volunteered was
to receive an advance of two months, and could assign part of his
pay for the support of his family. All men who had served for a year
and upwards were entitled to be paid the wages due to them (less a
deduction of six months, which was kept back as a guarantee against
desertion) whenever the ship they were in came into a home port where
there was a Commissioner of the Navy. But pressed men got no advance,
and none of the men were paid when serving abroad, or at a home port
other than a naval dockyard. The deduction of six months was calculated
in a way which the sailors complained of. Their wages were paid by
months of four weeks, but the deductions were made in calendar months.

In practice the men got their wages not in hard coin on board, but
in pay-tickets, which had to be presented at an office, and were
only cashed when all the red tape had been duly complied with. As a
ship’s commission in war-time might last four years, we can easily
imagine what this might mean for a man who had been pressed out of a
home-coming merchant-ship at the beginning of hostilities, and also
what it meant for his wretched wife and family. But even this was not
all. It frequently happened, when there was great need to keep fleets
at sea, that when a ship was “paid off” and her crew had received
their “tickets,” they were bodily turned over to a fresh ship, with
their paper money in their hands, and sent off on another four years’
cruise. Admiral Ekins, who wrote after the great war, when something
had been done for the men, says that he heard of a case of one who had
served fourteen years without touching a penny of actual pay. This
he gives as mere report; but he adds that, to his own knowledge, men
often served nine years without the receipt of wages. After that, one
understands what Nelson meant when he said that his heart was with
the men who mutinied at Spithead. After all, their main demands were
that their pay should be raised above the figure fixed in Charles
II.’s time, when money was worth twice what it was in 1797, and
that they should be paid whenever a ship returned to England—which
assuredly were moderate requests. The practical results of the old
system were horrible. For one thing, as the men had to buy their
clothes, they were actually reduced to nakedness and rags for want
of money. When a crew were turned over in the style described above,
the Jews (by race or occupation) were allowed on board. To them the
sailors sold their tickets at the price they were likely to get in a
forced market. On these occasions a certain latitude was allowed by
the humanity of officers. Liquor was winked at, and the “wives” of
the sailors were allowed on board. The scenes which followed on the
mess decks reproduced the animalism of the South Sea Islands without
the picturesqueness. But it was not only by the “Jews,” and on board,
that the unfortunate sailor was pillaged. William Hodges, who in 1695
made a pathetic representation of their grievances to Parliament,
draws a dreadful picture of the misery inflicted on the whole class
by the monstrous system on which they were paid. Hodges does not
measure his language, and was plainly one of those good men in whom
zeal for justice has eaten up moderation; but his statements are too
substantially in agreement with probability to be rejected. From
him we learn that when the sailors’ tickets were sent home to their
families to be cashed, the poor women were compelled to come up to
the pay office for their money, even from Scotland, and then if they
were ignorant of the forms to be complied with, or a “Q” (query) was
put against any name, which he declares was often done on frivolous
pretexts, they were put off, and had their journey for nothing. Of
course they sold the tickets to traders, who made a business of
speculating in them. Hodges takes great credit to himself for having
bought large quantities at the very moderate discount of half a crown
in the pound. It is probable that, allowing for all risks—stoppage of
deserters’ wages and Government delays—he did not make much profit.
Still, his boast shows that a sailor’s family was thought lucky if it
only lost 12·5 per cent. on his wages. Hodges may be believed when he
says that in one small precinct of London he found a thousand, besides
children, belonging to seamen’s families in absolute destitution.

There must have been a great fund of loyalty and discipline in England
in the eighteenth century; otherwise all this would not have been
endured for over a century by armed men, who again and again had the
country, apparently at least, at their mercy. It is noteworthy that it
was mainly against this that the fleet mutinied at Spithead. The Nore
business was the work of political agitators—quota-men, themselves
supported by quota-men. Little was said of the cat, which may, we
venture to think, be taken as evidence that the cat was never the
grievance it has been called. Admiral Cunningham asserts that the good
men considered it a protection against the bad. The grievance of the
pay, and the inhumanly long detention on shipboard, explains why the
real seamen, who knew how valuable they were to the merchant-skipper,
avoided the navy as much as they could. It is said by Admiral Ekins
that, when Captain Manley Dixon was commissioning a ship for the
Mediterranean, his crew was made up by men turned over from a ship
which had just come home. A body of them came to him to represent
that they had not been ashore for nine years, and to ask that, if he
could, the captain would give them a run. Manley Dixon gave them his
promise that he would, and kept it; nor had he any cause to regret his
humanity. Captains of this stamp did much to alleviate the hardship
of the system, but it sufficiently explains the straits to which we
were driven to get good men. They were, indeed, extreme. Prisoners of
war, smugglers, debtors, boys, old men, convicts, anything that could
stand on two legs—all were taken. When Manley Dixon himself laid the
=Lion= across the bows of the _Guillaume Tell_ outside of Malta, he
was not only short-handed, but the large majority of his crew were
boys—which explains why he did not allow himself to be boarded by the
Frenchman, who had some two thousand seasoned fighters on board. There
is an absolutely comic story told of Sir Home Popham, who was going on
a foreign station as Admiral. He complained to the Admiralty that his
crew were mere boys. In reply, he was told that his books showed that
he had received his due proportion of A.B.’s—which is, by the way,
a pleasing illustration of the trustworthiness of official papers.
Popham was not to be fobbed off in this style. He weighed his crew,
and found that they averaged under jockey-weight. Then the Admiralty
did scrape together a hundred grown men for him. A crew of boys with
a stiffening of seasoned seamen was not unpopular with captains, for
it was active and amenable to discipline. The convicts were another
story, yet even with them something could be done. It is said by Ekins
that one captain received a batch of fifty at once. He called them aft,
and made them a pregnant speech. He said that he knew their record,
but was resolved to consider them as men of fair character, subject to
this one proviso—if any of them misbehaved, he was to be punished twice
as severely as another man. It was noted that the convicts generally
behaved particularly well, and no doubt came back reformed characters.
Perhaps it may be said that this is not only a disenchanting picture,
but that it starts the question how, with such materials, we contrived
to do so well? To this question several answers may be made. The human
animal, even when he is a quota-man, state-the-case-man, or convict,
is indefinitely improvable by discipline, particularly when it can
be promptly and efficaciously enforced by the cat. Our discipline
was good, and the cat was not, as a rule, abused; such officers as
Pigot and Corbet being, in spite of foolish talk to the contrary, the
exception and not the rule. Then there was always a proportion of men
who preferred the order of the navy, and its life of adventure, to
the pay of the merchant service. These seasoned the lump. Then there
was the captain, with his harsh standard of efficiency and his nearly
absolute power, to keep everybody up to the mark. We had an admirable
cadre of officers, and under them a good body of warrant officers.
They, with a proportion of really fine seamen, and the steady corps of
marines, supplied a mould so strong and so admirably built that a great
deal of inferior material could be run into it without too much risk.

It was impossible that discontent should not be rife, and its existence
was shown by the mutinies in individual ships which occurred during
the American rebellion. They were generally hushed up, and quieted
by concessions to the mutineers; but there was no general removal of
grievances. With the outbreak of the Revolutionary war the grievances
of the men were renewed and intensified. The press needed to supply
the immense fleets then armed was severe. A rise of thirty per cent.
in the price of all necessaries reduced the already inadequate pay to
a starvation level. Minor grievances were more keenly felt because of
the increase in the great one. It was the custom of the Admiralty to
give the men only fourteen ounces for a pound in their rations, in
order to prevent what was called leakage of stores. The medical stores
were insufficient and bad; indeed, the whole medical department was
ignorant and corrupt. The Greenwich Hospital pension was only £7, as
compared with the £13 given at Chelsea. Then, too, the experiments of
Captain Cook, and the reforms in diet by which Blane kept Rodney’s
fleet in the West Indies in perfect health, had taught the sailors that
fresh vegetables were an effectual protection against scurvy. Yet the
Admiralty persisted in serving out flour to the squadrons when they
were in harbour in England. The seamen felt—and they would have been
made of strange flesh and blood if they had not felt—bitterly aggrieved
that they, who were necessarily exposed to great hardships for the
defence of their country, should also be unnecessarily subjected to
a loathsome disease for want of what the Admiralty could easily have
supplied. Here, then, were all the elements of mutiny. Legitimate
discontent among the men, felt most keenly by the prime seamen, who
exercised a great influence over their less skilful comrades, but
also felt by the ordinary seamen, landsmen, and marines; and at
the Admiralty an authority which was obstinate in neglecting real
grievances, and had shown itself weak in dealing with insubordination
in the last war. It was certain that as soon as a general combination
could be formed—always a difficult thing to do among ships on active
service—there would be an outbreak. Admiral Patton had predicted one as
far back as ’92.

In the winter of 1796 a combination was formed in the Channel fleet
then cruising off Brest under Bridport. It seems to have been confined
to the prime seamen, who calculated, rightly, as it turned out, that
their comrades would follow their lead. Four anonymous petitions
were sent to Howe—“Black Dick,” as the sailors called him—who had
been compelled by gout to resign the command of the Channel fleet,
and was recruiting at Bath. Howe sent them to the Admiralty, which,
finding them in the same handwriting, dismissed them as the work of
an “ill-intentioned person,” and of no importance. This neglect was
taken by the men as a proof that even Howe, who was very popular with
them, could or would do nothing for them. They decided to act, and
the opportunity came when Bridport anchored at Spithead in the early
spring of 1797. It was known that the fleet would go to sea on the 16th
of April, and the men were resolved that the order to weigh should
not be obeyed till their grievances were redressed. By some means,
which have never been revealed, news of this decision was given to
Captain Patton of the Transport Office at Portsmouth on the 12th, and
by him carried to the Port-Admiral, who at once forwarded it to London
by semaphore. The Admiralty recognised the gravity of the danger at
last, but could think of no way of dealing with it except to order the
fleet to sea at once. Bridport hoisted his signal accordingly, but the
men were ready with their plan and their determination. They manned
the yards with cheers, hoisted the red flag—which was the recognised
signal for battle—at the main, and took the command out of the hands
of the officers. There are some features of this mutiny which are
altogether exceptional. No man’s name is associated with it as leader;
it was absolutely unanimous, the marines joining eagerly with the
sailors; no officer was hurt; the admiral’s flag was not hauled down;
the discipline of the ships went on as before—so much so that some
bad characters, who took the opportunity to get drunk, were soundly
flogged by their own comrades; but the crews would not get up anchor.
A committee of thirty men—two delegates from each ship—was appointed
to state their grievances to the king and both Houses of Parliament.
It met in the cabin of Howe’s old flagship, the =Queen Charlotte=,
and there drew up its petitions. They are excellently worded, quite
free from bombast, and contain only a demand—firmly enough made, to
be sure—that the pay of the A.B.’s might be raised to a shilling a
day, and that of all others in proportion; that their grievances as to
pension and rations should be removed, and that reasonable leave should
be given to men in home ports to see their families. The delegates also
insisted on a free pardon from the king, to be given in all the forms.

The devil in whom it had refused to believe being now raised, the
Admiralty behaved after the unchanging pattern of authorities, who
are obstinate when they might have yielded with credit. It became
frightened. The position was, indeed, a dangerous one enough; for,
though little memory of the fact remains, the spirit of the army was
not much better than that of the fleet. The military pay had also
remained stationary since the reign of Charles II., and in 1797 there
was a serious danger that the garrisons near London would break out as
the sailors had done. Fortunately, the Duke of York used his influence
with success. The War Office was induced to be wise in time, and
military discipline was saved from the shock of forced concessions
to mutineers. There being no Duke of York to speak for the sailors,
things had been allowed to drift to the pass they had now reached. By
this time it was clear that the whole fleet was discontented. In the
circumstances the use of force was perhaps impossible. There remained
the alternative of instant, frank, and unreserved compliance with
demands which, after all, were very moderate. Concession ought to have
been the easier because it was universally felt in the country that the
men were only asking for what should have been spontaneously granted at
the outbreak of the war. The Admiralty took the weak man’s favourite
middle course, which combines all the evils of the other two, and
misses the good in them. The Board went down to Portsmouth and began
to negotiate with the delegates. It showed a distinct tendency to make
scapegoats of the subordinate officers, but refused for days to promise
the rise of pay. The result of this line of action hardly needs to be
told. The delegates refused to abate a jot of their demands. They even
increased them by adding a demand that the grievances of particular
ships should be corrected—in other words, that officers accused of
tyrannical conduct should be dismissed. After ten days of useless
talk, “My Lords” surrendered at discretion, promised everything,
and took themselves off, having done their best to consolidate the
power of the delegates, and not a little to weaken still further the
authority of the officers. The red flag was hauled down, the Committee
was dissolved, everything appeared to have returned to the old order,
and the mutiny to be at an end. It was promised that the fleet should
not go to sea till the House of Commons had voted the money for the
increase of pay, and the king’s proclamation of pardon was published.
Though it appeared difficult for the Admiralty to add to the blunders
it had already committed, it contrived to do so. Some delay took place
in the publication of the king’s proclamation, and the introduction of
the vote for the wages in the House of Commons. As days passed, and
nothing was heard of the proclamation or of the vote, the suspicions
of the men were aroused. They knew the danger in which they stood,
and began to fear that the Admiralty meant to cheat them. It was an
absurd enough suspicion, but a not unnatural one. The Admiralty ought
at least to have foreseen that it could only be removed by the utmost
promptitude and openness, since there was no power at hand to control
the fleet. Yet it kept silence, and delayed the execution of its
promises from day to day. At Spithead discipline seemed to be restored.
The bulk of the squadron moved round to St. Helens, leaving Colpoys’s
flagship, the =London=, and the =Marlborough= at Spithead. Whether
order would have remained unbroken is perhaps doubtful; but just at
this moment the Admiralty took a step which set the whole mutiny
flaming again. An order was sent down to the captains of ships which
was a masterpiece of folly. It began by instructing the officers to
be more careful in superintending the issue of stores to the men, and
then proceeded to give them a number of directions as to the course
to be taken for the preventing of future mutinies. The first part,
which by implication accused them of pilfering—a charge never made
by the delegates—caused profound indignation among the officers. The
second, of which the substance was immediately known to the crews,
converted their suspicions into certainty—and they instantly broke out
again. With this outburst began the second and distinctly criminal
stage of the great mutiny. Hitherto the conduct of the men had been as
innocent as the nature of the work they were doing permitted. Now they
were about to illustrate the universal tendency of all revolt against
authority to degenerate into sheer violence and rebellion.

This order was to be inserted in the general instructions between the
clauses providing for the reading of the articles of war and for the
rating of the ship’s company. Among other things, it directed the
captain to “see that the arms and ammunition belonging to the marines
be constantly kept in good order and fit for immediate service as well
in harbour as at sea.” At the end was a general direction to officers
to be ready “on the first appearance of mutiny to use the most vigorous
means to suppress it, and to bring the ringleaders to punishment.”
Hitherto the inspection of the marines’ arms had been left to the
marine officer. That a change should be made at this moment was not
unnaturally considered an ominous sign by the men. The purpose for
which it was made was clear enough to crews which were from the very
nature of the case in a state of “preternatural suspicion.” Neither the
arrival of the order nor its purport could be wholly concealed, though
the captains were as reserved as they possibly could be. Rumours leaked
out in an exaggerated form, and had the very worst effects on the minds
of the men, who were already angry at the apparent delay on the part
of Parliament to vote the money required to make good the promises of
the Admiralty. This delay was undoubtedly a mistake. Pitt, looking
too exclusively to the dignity of the Government, had decided that it
would be the more becoming course to grant the money by a silent vote.
As a mere matter of Parliamentary manners he was probably right;
but it argued a certain want of imagination on his part that he did
not realise the effect the silence of the House would produce on the
sailors. The necessary forms of business might have made it impossible
to bring the motion in sooner, but some notice might have been taken of
the petition of the sailors to the Commons. Pitt decided otherwise, the
Admiralty acted in its own injudicious way, and the mutiny broke out
again at St. Helens just two days before Parliament voted the £372,000
required to provide for the increase of pay.

The disturbance began in the =Duke=, a three-decker, which had been the
vessel immediately ahead of Rodney’s flagship in the line of battle in
the great battle off Dominica in 1782. The crew forced their way into
Captain Holloway’s cabin, and insisted on seeing the menacing Admiralty
order. Holloway had destroyed it, foreseeing the effect it was likely
to produce if made public. The crew were not to be stopped. They seized
Holloway, and sent a message to the admiral demanding a copy of the
order, with the threat that they would hang the captain or inflict “a
degrading punishment”—in other words, flog him—if it was not produced.
This was mutiny pure and simple, but Bridport was helpless, and the
order was given up. Of course, it was instantly sent round the fleet to
exasperate the prevailing ferment. This happened on the 5th or 6th of
May. On the 7th, Bridport, having heard that the French fleet at Brest
had dropped down to the outer harbour, hoisted the signal to proceed
to sea. Thereupon the scene of the previous 15th April was repeated.
The red flag was hoisted, ropes were reeved at the yardarm as a threat
to “traitors” who should fail to support their fellow-members of the
crews, and the officers were disarmed. The fleet was divided. The bulk
of it was at St. Helens, while Admiral Colpoys, with his flagship, the
=London=, and the =Marlborough= remained at Spithead. From the deck
of the =London= the coming and going of the boats among the ships at
St. Helens was distinctly visible. Judging rightly that the mutiny had
broken out afresh, Colpoys decided to make a fight for his authority.
He turned up his crew, and asked them whether they had any complaints
to make. They answered they had not. Whether Colpoys overrated the
meaning of the answer or not, he certainly decided to fight. The men
may only have meant that, unlike the crew of the =Marlborough=, who had
particular grievances, they had no complaint to make of their officers.
It did not follow that they were disposed to break away from the rest
of the squadron. The question was soon put to the test. Boats were
seen coming into Spithead from the ships at St. Helens. They could
only be bringing the delegates on their way to demand the adhesion of
the =London=. Colpoys at once paraded the marines on the quarter-deck,
stationed sentries at the sally-ports, and gave orders that the boats
were to be fired on if they insisted on coming alongside. Then he
ordered the sailors below. Some obeyed, but it was noted as a bad
sign that among those who went below were the three warrant-officers,
the boatswain, the gunner, and the carpenter. A portion of the crew,
including, as would appear, most of the real sailors, collected in a
group forward, and stood there facing the admiral, who remained with
his officers and the marines on the quarter-deck. The delegates came
alongside, and were warned off by the sentries. They then appealed
to the crew, and with effect, for the men in the forecastle began
to stir, and some of them started to unlash one of the forward guns
and train it on the quarter-deck. Bover, the first lieutenant of the
=London=, threatened to fire if they did not desist. Some of the men
were cowed, but one of them, made of stouter and more dangerous stuff,
dared the lieutenant to fire. Bover took him at his word, fired, and
shot him dead. If the crew had been really wavering and the marines
steady, this act of vigour would probably have quelled the mutiny.
But, in the spirit they were in, it had a directly contrary effect.
The whole crew broke out at once. The men forward rushed aft; those
below rushed on deck; the marines broke from their ranks and mingled
with the sailors. As might be expected in such a scene, different
accounts were given of what happened. There was certainly a fight,
in which several of the mutineers, a midshipman, and the officer of
marines were more or less severely wounded. As a matter of course, the
officers were soon overpowered. It is extraordinary that no harm was
done to Colpoys himself. He attributed his escape to the fact that
he faced the mutineers all through. They seem to have preserved some
respect for him personally. According to one story, a mutineer who
called him “a d——d b——y rascal” was silenced by his fellows with the
threat of being thrown overboard; and another, who aimed a musket at
him through a grating, had his weapon knocked out of his hands. But
the men appeared determined to go to all lengths against Bover. He was
dragged to the forecastle, and a rope prepared to hang him at the yard
arm. The noose was actually round his neck, when Colpoys manfully came
forward and declared that the lieutenant had acted by his orders. It
shows how strong the tradition of discipline was among the crews still,
that this was accepted as a justification. One of the topmen is also
said to have appealed to the mutineers to spare Bover because “he was a
brave boy.” The admiral and the topman contrived between them to save
his life. Of course the =London= now joined the other ships, and the
=Marlborough= with her. Colpoys and Bover were, after some discussion
whether they should not be tried on board, sent on shore for trial. The
coroner’s jury which sat on the mutineer found a verdict of justifiable
homicide. The wounded midshipman and marine officer were carried to
Haslar, but the sick and wounded seamen in the hospital showed such a
savage determination to do them a damage that the authorities found it
necessary to transfer them to a private house.

This second phase of the mutiny lasted from the 7th to the 15th of May,
and was in all ways worse than the first. Many of the officers were
set on shore by the men, and among them, Admiral Alan Gardner, who
had, idly enough, drawn his sword on the delegates in the cabin of the
=Queen Charlotte= during the first stage of the mutiny. It is said that
when told that a cutter was manned to take him on shore, he replied
that he should at least be allowed his barge, and that the barge was
allowed him. When the news of the mutiny reached London, the Admiralty
had recourse to the officer to whom it might well have appealed at the
beginning. It sent Howe down on the 10th with the Act just passed by
Parliament for the increase of pay, and the king’s pardon. It was the
admiral’s last piece of service, and a more disagreeable one could
hardly have been found, for he had in fact to notify the surrender of
Government to the mutineers. It was a duty, however, which he could not
possibly refuse, for there were no means of coercing the men, and they
would apparently not be convinced that no deceit was intended except
on the word of “Black Dick.” Howe did the work in his usual solid way.
He met the delegates on board the =Queen Charlotte=, and persuaded
them to promise that the fleet should return to duty. The promise was
kept. The squadron went to sea at once, and there was an end of what
is commonly called the mutiny at Spithead, but was in fact the double
mutiny at Spithead and St. Helens. If the disorder had ended here, the
movement would have stood altogether alone among military seditions.
Certainly no body of mutinous men was ever provoked by more genuine
grievances, and none ever behaved with greater moderation on the whole.
But it was not in the nature of things that it could stop here. The
men had tasted the pleasure of defying authority, which is of itself
corrupting. During the second outbreak they objected by name to over a
hundred officers of all ranks from Colpoys down to two masters-at-arms.
All these officers were left on shore when the squadron put to sea.
The Admiralty did not try them, and it did keep them on full pay; but
it did not restore them to their ships. This was, of course, a very
bad example, and could only serve to convince all crews that they
could get rid of any officer they pleased. If the prime seamen had
preserved their influence throughout the fleet, the agitation might
have died quietly. But these men soon made the discovery commonly made
by any class which has headed a revolt against one above. It had set
an example to those below. In the Channel, where the quality of the
crews appears to have been above the average, there was no more open
disorder, though the mutinous feeling continued to require watching. On
other stations, where the quota-men and the convict element were more
fully represented, the example set at Spithead was followed, and this
time the leaders were seditious agitators of the stamp of Parker and
Bott.

The end of the mutiny at St. Helens overlapped the beginning of the
mutiny at the Nore. This more criminal movement began on the 12th May,
three days before Howe received the submission of the delegates of the
Channel fleet. At that date the North Sea squadron was at sea, under
command of Admiral Duncan, watching the coast of Holland. There were at
the Little Nore some half-score frigates and small vessels, together
with two 64-gun ships—the =Inflexible=, commanded by Captain Ferris,
and the =Director=, commanded by Captain Bligh. This was the Bligh of
the =Bounty=, he who was afterwards deposed from his governorship of
New South Wales by Major Johnston of the 102nd Foot. It would have
been strange if there had been mutiny to the fore, and he not there.
The flagship of Buckner, the Port-Admiral, was the =Sandwich=, 90,
which was not armed for sea-service, having only her upper-deck guns
on board. She was, however, full of men, and of prime seamen. For fear
that they would desert, these men were not allowed on shore. Buckner,
who wished to preserve them for Duncan, would not even give them to
the frigate captains who applied for some of them by name to fill the
petty officers’ berths. We can understand that there was much sulky
indignation among them, and that the news of the outbreak at Spithead,
which filtered in, set up some ferment on the flagship’s lower deck.
There was a man on board her who was admirably fitted, by training and
character, to turn discontent into mutiny. In France, as it had been
four years earlier, this man would probably have played a considerable
part. By us he is only remembered as Richard Parker the Mutineer, who
ended his life at the yardarm of the =Sandwich=. He was the son of a
tradesman at Exeter, and he began life in the position of a gentleman,
as midshipman on board the =Culloden= in 1786. He was discharged from
her, and then from the =Leander=, for immoral conduct, and for setting
a bad example to his messmates. In 1793, when he had finished his time
as midshipman and was rated mate, he was broken by court martial for
insubordination, was sent before the mast, and thence invalided into
hospital. For a space he disappeared. When he reappeared, he was in
prison for debt at Edinburgh. He had married, and had attempted the
trade of schoolmaster. To escape from prison, he took the bounty, and
came into the navy again as quota-man from Perth. He had only been
drafted to the =Sandwich= six weeks before the mutiny broke out. This
is not unlike the early career of many heroes of the French Revolution.
Whether Parker belonged to one of our native revolutionary societies
of the time is not certain. It was afterwards asserted that he did,
and was sent on board as being, from his training, a likely person to
foment a mutiny. This, however, is so much the kind of story which
would be told that it cannot be accepted as evidence. On the other
hand, it is not intrinsically improbable. He himself had the grace
to “die game,” and without betraying his associates on shore, if he
had any. All we can be sure of is, that he was very much the stamp of
man who did belong to Jacobin societies, and that his training had
qualified him admirably for the part he played. On board the ships at
the Nore he had to his hand plenty of the kind of material which the
demagogue loves. The London police had been in the habit of sending
its criminals on board for some time, and among them undoubtedly were
members of the Corresponding Society and United Irishmen. Men of a
better stamp felt the common grievances, and there was a feeling among
them—very wrong-headed, but not wholly base—that it would be mean in
them not to back up their fellow-seamen at Spithead.

That Parker had been active in fomenting the mutiny is clear from
the fact that he appears as leader from the very beginning. It broke
out on the =Sandwich= while most of the captains were on board the
=Inflexible=, attending a court martial on a Captain Savage. As had
been the case at Spithead, no violence was done to the officers. In the
course of the day an incident happened which showed the difference of
the two movements. The =San Fiorenzo= frigate arrived from Portsmouth.
The mutineers cheered her as she came in, believing perhaps that she
came to ask her help for the Channel fleet. But the =San Fiorenzo= was
a loyal ship. Her captain, Sir Harry Burrard Neale, seeing from the
look of the ships at the Little Nore that something must be wrong, gave
orders that the cheers should not be answered. This was a bad sign for
the mutineer leaders, and in the course of the day they learnt that
the crew of the =Clyde= frigate, commanded by Captain Cunningham, was
also loyal and would obey their officers. This was a warning to Parker
and his associates of the dangerous nature of the game they were
playing. Their one chance of success was the unanimity of the fleet;
but they had gone too far to go back now. It was decided to coerce the
recalcitrant ships. On the 13th the =Inflexible= ranged up alongside
the =San Fiorenzo=, and threatened to fire into her if the crew did
not cheer. With the consent of Captain Neale, the sign of adhesion was
given. It is one of the comic incidents of the mutiny that, when the
men took the command from Captain Ferris, they rated him midshipman to
show that there was no ill-feeling. A similar course was taken with the
=Clyde=. But though these ships were forced to appear to join, and to
accompany the mutineers when they went out from the Little Nore to the
Nore, they remained loyal to their officers. The men of the =Clyde=
did so far show themselves mutinous as to insist on getting rid of the
doctor and the sergeant of marines. The latter was, perhaps, a bully,
and the medical department was, as we have said before, exceptionally
and intensely unpopular among the men. Cunningham would have stood
by his officer; but the doctor became frightened, and begged to be
allowed to go. The sergeant of marines was discharged regularly to
save appearances, and replaced by a man appointed in the ordinary way.
The conduct of the men of the =Clyde= and the =San Fiorenzo= is worth
noting, because it shows what it was that finally brought about the
ruin of the mutineers. This fleet was not unanimous. These two vessels
were forced into the mutiny against their will, and on board all the
other vessels there was a loyal minority. The daily proceedings on
board were not noted with detail on the logs, for good reasons; but it
is known that on several vessels there were officers who defied the
mutineers all through and withstood Parker to his face; yet they were
protected from outrage by a minority of the men.

There were two stages in the mutiny at the Nore. The first lasted
from the 15th to the 31st of May. During this period the only ships
engaged were those already mentioned. On the 31st vessels began to
drop in from the North Sea, and they continued to come till the 6th
June. These were the ships which aroused the intense indignation of
the whole country by first deserting their admiral in the presence of
the enemy in the Texel, and then attempting to blockade the Thames.
During the first fortnight the mutinous ships moved out to the Nore,
dragging the reluctant =Clyde= and =San Fiorenzo= with them. The red
flag was hoisted, and Admiral Buckner’s flag was hauled down. Day after
day Parker with his committee of delegates and a mob of mutineers
several hundred strong landed at Chatham and paraded the streets with
red banners. Buckner was helpless. The only garrison in the town was
a handful of invalids, and they, it was noted, began, “when elevated
with drink,” to express the intention to appoint delegates of their
own and to demonstrate for themselves. Parker was abundantly insolent
to Buckner personally, but, on the whole, there was no great violence
shown. A committee from the fleet visited the hospital, and used such
strong language that the assistant-surgeon, a certain Mr. Safferay,
committed suicide in a fit of terror by shooting himself. The boatswain
of the =Proserpine=, who had made himself hateful to the men, was
seized and dragged off to the =Sandwich= to be hanged. But he pleaded
the orders of his superiors, and, strange to say, the excuse was
accepted, as it had been in the case of Lieutenant Bover. The mutineers
did not, however, let the boatswain off altogether. They paraded him
round the fleet with two large swabs tied to his shoulders and a rope
round his neck, while a boatful of drummer boys beat the rogue’s
march. There was as yet more vacant horseplay and noise than violence
among the mutineers. So little did the crews appear to be in earnest
that they allowed eight days to pass before they presented their
list of demands. When it was handed in, it was found to begin with a
superfluous demand that, whatever had been given to ships at Spithead
should be given to those at the Nore, and then to contain a demand that
a ship’s company should have a right to object to an officer, and that
the articles of war should be revised. It was now becoming clear that
there must be no paltering with this mutiny. Lord Spencer, the First
Lord, with his colleagues, Lord Allan and Admiral Young, came down to
Chatham with an offer of pardon to those who would return to duty at
once, but resolved to direct resolute measures against the disorderly
ships. The militia was called out, and steps taken to put Chatham in a
state of defence. An attempt to bring the men to reason quietly was
made on the 28th May, when the king’s proclamation of pardon was read
on all the ships. It was not without effect. On the =Brilliant=, at
least, the mutinous party only kept the upper hand with difficulty.
Throughout the fleet the loyal minority was encouraged, and some of
the mutineers shaken. Parker did not improve his popularity by causing
one of the sailors of the =Brilliant= to be ducked for speaking
disrespectfully of the delegates. Still the mutineers kept possession
of the squadron. The first serious blow was given them by the escape
of the =Clyde= and the =San Fiorenzo=. Cunningham and Neale decided to
make a push for freedom, and would have done it sooner if they had not
had hopes of bringing off the =Director=. Cunningham was sure of his
own men, who had refused to put him on shore, though Parker came with
the demand himself, and had stood at quarters all through the night of
the 28th with the guns cast loose, expecting every moment to be fired
into. On the 29th, Cunningham took an opportunity while the ships were
swinging in the tide, so that he was not actually under the guns of a
mutinous ship. He cut his cables and made a dash for Sheerness. The
mutineers fired on him as soon as their guns would bear, but he escaped
serious damage, and after tacking twice, contrived to turn into safe
anchorage under the guns of the forts. Sir Harry Neale was less lucky.
A pilot, who had been smuggled on board the =San Fiorenzo= through the
mutineers’ guard-boats, cut his cable too soon, and she cast the wrong
way. There was nothing for it but to run through the mutinous ships,
which Sir Harry did successfully, though fired into right and left.
The =San Fiorenzo= was carried over to the coast of Essex, and thence
to Portsmouth. On her way out she sighted the first of the ships which
had deserted Duncan standing into the Thames with the red flag flying.
Neale kept the red flag up himself as long as he was in any danger, and
then went on to Spithead, where he arrived not only safely, but with a
French privateer, which he picked up on his way down.

The desertion of Duncan by his squadron was the culmination of the
great mutiny. It was also the event which proved to the country and to
the better stamp of men throughout the fleet what the consequences of
insubordination inevitably are. None were made more indignant by it
than the crews in the Channel, who refused to have any dealings with
Parker, and even volunteered to assist in reducing the mutineers to
order. News travelled slowly in those times, and it is probable that
the crews in the North Sea had only a very vague notion of what had
been the end of the Spithead outbreak; but they did know that there was
a Dutch force in the Texel getting ready for an invasion of England,
and they did their best to leave it an open road. As might be expected,
the conduct of these men was throughout wanting in the moderation shown
at Spithead. Among the demands which they made was one that in future
a common sailor should be a member of every court martial by which a
foremast man was tried. The revolutionary flavour of that demand was
beyond dispute. When the ships actually reached the Nore, some of their
crews not only committed acts of savage violence on officers, but were
guilty of downright piracy.

The trouble in Duncan’s ships began in Yarmouth Roads on the 27th of
May, the day before the =Clyde= cut her cable and ran for Sheerness.
On that day the crew of the =Venerable=, 74, the flagship, who are
said to have been instigated by Parker, and who must in any case have
known what was happening at the Nore, ran into the rigging and began
cheering in a disorderly manner. They had to deal with a body of
officers who were not to be trifled with. Duncan called the marines
under arms, and sent his officers among the men with orders to bring
them down. The order was obeyed, and the men mustered in the waist.
Then the admiral gave them a little address, the point of which was
that he would go all lengths before he would allow the command of the
ship to be taken out of his hands. When one of the men cried out that
this was precisely what they meant to do, the admiral drew sword on
him, and would have cut him down if his arm had not been held by the
chaplain. Then he ordered all who meant to stand by their officers to
go over to the starboard side, and was instantly obeyed by all the
crew except six. These six were at once put in irons in the wardroom.
They were, obviously, entirely surprised by the turn their adventure
had taken, and sent a humble message begging for pardon. Duncan, with
what would have been weakness in another man, forgave them. It was not
credible that the crew of the =Venerable= was the only one infected by
the mutinous spirit, and the admiral called on his captains to report
whether they had seen any sign of disaffection among their men. With
the single exception of Captain Hotham, of the =Adamant=, 50, they
replied that they had seen none. Duncan went on board the =Adamant=
and mustered the crew. There was a repetition of the scene on the
=Venerable’s= deck; one of the crew of the =Adamant= told the admiral
that they meant to dispute his authority. Duncan was, as his pictures
remain to prove, a man of great height, and his physical strength was
immense. He seized the impudent fellow, and swung him over the side of
the ship. Then, holding him suspended by one hand, he asked the crew to
look at this fellow who dared to dispute his authority. The Adamants
cheered with delight, and no more was heard of their discontent. For a
moment it appeared as if the admiral’s personal influence would keep
his whole squadron steady; but the appearance was delusive. On the 29th
May he ordered his ships to sea, and they stood out; but no sooner
were they clear of the shoals off Yarmouth than all of them which had
been declared to be trustworthy deserted him, leaving him only his own
flagship and the =Adamant=, on which he had already faced and disarmed
the mutiny. Duncan’s further conduct is famous in our naval history.
He took the =Venerable= and the =Adamant= over to the Texel. There he
remained through the summer, announcing his intention to fight the
Dutch if they came out, and go down with the flag flying. As he had his
two crews now well in hand, it is credible that, if the enemy had put
to sea, our naval history would have included another last fight of the
=Revenge=.

The rest of the squadron now went off in detachments to the Nore, to
the number of ten or a dozen line-of-battle ships and frigates. On
board some of them, at least, disgraceful weakness was shown by the
officers. No one, perhaps, has the right to sneer at the commander who
quails before unanimous and violent mutiny, unless he has himself faced
that most dreadful of military dangers. But there is no excuse for
an officer who shrinks from doing his duty when a part of his command
is ready and even eager to support him. According to Brenton, who was
then one of his lieutenants, Captain Fancourt, of the =Agamemnon=,
was guilty of this weakness. He yielded to his crew at once, and not
only so, but when he was told by some of the petty officers, who sent
the message through Brenton, that, if he would order the marines to
act, a large part of the sailors would stand by him, he deliberately
refused, on the ground that there would be a fight, and that he could
not bear to see his poor men “writhing on the deck.” As was only
natural, no captain in the squadron was treated with more absolute
contempt by the mutineers than Fancourt. By the 6th of June the North
Sea ships had assembled at the Nore. Their arrival revived the spirit
of Parker and his associates, which had been greatly shaken by the
escape of the =Clyde= and the =San Fiorenzo=, and then further damped
by the subsequent escape of the =Serapis= and the =Discovery=, armed
transports, which succeeded in following the example set by the
frigates. The news, too, from the shore was very bad; but the leaders
still hoped to cow the country. A blockade of the river was ordered,
and the trade stopped. Parker still professed great loyalty. The
feasts on the Restoration Day, 29th of May, and the King’s Birthday,
the 4th of June, were observed with all the usual forms. On the 4th
of June, Parker sent on shore for the chaplain of the =Sandwich= to
preach the Birthday sermon. The chaplain, whose name was Hatherall,
came, and he had the courage to choose for his text Job xxvii. 5—“God
forbid that I should justify you; till I die I will not remove mine
integrity from me”—and to preach a loyal sermon on it. To the credit
of the men, he was allowed to land unhurt. Other incidents of these
days were not equally creditable. The surgeon of one ship was tarred
and feathered. Brenton, who does not give the names, says that this man
had been drunk in his cabin for five weeks, and he half excuses the
act as one of “wild justice.” On the =Monmouth=, whose captain, Lord
Northesk, afterwards third in command at Trafalgar, disliked the use
of the cat, the men flogged the second master, two masters’ mates, a
midshipman, and a sergeant of marines. They then shaved their heads,
and turned them ashore. Parties landed from the ships and plundered
the farmhouses. Trading vessels were overhauled and pillaged. In fact,
the fleet was rapidly drifting into mere piracy. Meanwhile the anger on
shore was growing daily. Troops and volunteers poured into Sheerness.
The forts at the mouth of the Thames were supplied with furnaces for
heating shot. Some vessels in the Long Reach were manned and got ready
for service. The whole body of merchant seamen, who were threatened by
the blockade of the Thames, were eager to serve against the mutineers.
On the 6th of June Parliament passed the Act for preventing the
seduction of sailors or soldiers, which made all communication with the
mutineers an indictable offence.

This Act really broke the backbone of the mutiny. It showed the men
that the country was not to be cowed. The timid or more moderate were
frightened, and those who had committed themselves too far began to
clamour for desperate courses. Parker talked of taking the ships over
to Holland, and surrendering them to the enemy. Whether, even if he
had induced the squadron to follow him, he could have got off is very
doubtful. Lord Keith, who had arrived a few days before to take command
of the naval operations against the mutineers, had removed the beacons
and buoys from the Swin and other shallows at the mouth of the Thames,
for the express purpose of cutting off their retreat. Without pilots,
whom they could not obtain, they could hardly have got the ships out.
But there was no inclination on the part of the men to follow Parker
they knew not where. He himself obviously felt that the game was going
against him, but an air of defiance was kept up painfully enough. Lord
Northesk was “ordered” on shore with a statement of grievances to be
given to the king. On the 7th the effigies of “Billy Pitt” and “Dundas”
were hung at the yardarm. Parker went round the fleet reading extracts
from what he called the king’s “foolish” proclamation, with seditious
comments; but on board the =Ardent=, 74, he was openly rebuked by a
Lieutenant Wardour for garbling it, and enough men stood by the officer
to save him from retaliation. In fact, the dislike of all Englishmen
for an upstart was beginning to tell against the mutineer leader. He
was openly jeered at as a “pretty admiral of the fleet.” It does
not appear that Parker ever called himself by this title, and the
story that he proclaimed a “floating republic” is a myth; but he did
exercise authority, and it soon became offensive. On the 10th June the
first-fruits of the combined disgust, fear, and repentance of the men
was seen in the escape of the =Leopard=. The captain had been landed,
but one lieutenant at least remained on board, with some subordinate
officers. This officer, whose name was Robb, learnt that he would find
support if he attempted to retake the ship. During the night of the 9th
June, he, with the help of some masters, mates, and midshipmen, trained
two of the wardroom guns forward and loaded them with grape-shot. Next
morning, when the tide was flowing, and therefore able to carry the
ship up the river, he threw open the door and unmasked his battery.
Then, leaving trusty men by the guns with orders to sweep the deck, if
necessary, he rushed out and ordered the mutineers to surrender. There
was a fight, but in the end Robb and his fellow-officers contrived to
cut the cable, to get enough sail set to give the =Leopard= steerage
way, and to carry her off, fighting fiercely all the time with those
of the mutineers who refused to submit. He brought her up the Thames
with the remnant of the mutineers under hatches. The =Repulse=, 64,
followed. Her crew spontaneously replaced the officers in command. She
ran on the Nore Sand and lay under the fire of the mutineers for an
hour and a half, but was at last got off, and carried into Sheerness.
From that moment till the final surrender of the =Sandwich=, one
vessel after another either cut and ran, or merely hauled down the
red flag and hoisted the blue—which the sailors called the “signal of
agreeableness.” On board the =Standard= the leader of the mutineers,
whose name, “strangely enough,” says Captain Cunningham, was William
Wallace, shot himself when he saw the game was up. A few of the more
desperate men seized a smack and fled across the North Sea. They ran
her ashore on the coast of Holland. Parker himself, whether from
irresolution or from what in a better man one might call magnanimity,
did not attempt to escape. He was surrendered by his messmates of the
=Sandwich=, and, as we have said, met his death at the fore-yardarm
like a man, having written the proper sort of letter to his wife,
expressed due contrition for his offences, and asked, as the leader
of an unsuccessful rebellion should, that his life might be accepted
as sufficient sacrifice. If it was all, or even partly, affectation,
at least it was the affectation of a man who knew the becoming thing
to do. There were in all eighteen mutineers executed, of whom four
were marines. The total number of men condemned to death was nearly
forty; but the Government was not disposed to be more severe than it
could help. When Duncan, at the head of a fleet consisting almost
wholly of ships which had been in the mutiny, gained the battle of
Camperdown, the king was advised to publish a general pardon. It was
long before the discipline of the navy wholly recovered the shock it
had received; but the great mutiny was over, and the State could afford
to be generous without fear that its generosity would be mistaken for
weakness.

The grievances of the men being universal, the conditions which led to
insubordination were found everywhere more or less. As the Government
in its dire need of men had gone so far as to send such known rebels
as United Irishmen into the crews of some of its ships—particularly
into those which had their headquarters at Beerhaven and to some of
the vessels with Jervis—there was no lack of agitators ready to profit
by the unrest of their comrades. Something, too, must be allowed for
the force of example. Men mutinied on one station when they heard of
a mutiny elsewhere. It was the report from Spithead which started the
outbreak at the Nore. It was the arrival of the =Alcmene= frigate from
the Nore which set going the ferment in Jervis’s squadron. The fatal
result of all successful insubordination is that it sets the worser
kind of man arguing that, if so much has been extorted already, more
can be obtained by the same method. Therefore spasmodic outbreaks
continued for a time to occur at home and abroad as the fire spread.
Some were of little importance, and may be briefly dismissed. Among
them was the insubordination at Plymouth which followed the mutiny
at the Nore. Lord Keith had been sent there from Sheerness when the
last of Parker’s followers surrendered. He was to hoist his flag in
the =Queen Charlotte= as second in command of the Channel fleet. The
outbreak was a comparatively slight one, and Keith quelled it by
firmness and tact. In October, so soon as the news began to arrive
from home, a very serious mutiny took place among the ships at the
Cape. This was suppressed mainly by the firmness of the governor, Lord
Macartney, and of Dundas, the general in command. They threatened to
sink the ships, which were few in number and were lying under the guns
of the forts. To this threat the men surrendered. Several of the more
active leaders were hanged or flogged.

The most dangerous and the best known aftermath of the great convulsion
at home was the so-called mutiny off Cadiz. The movement never went
beyond partial disorder and treasonable threats in individual ships.
Still, in view of Duncan’s experience at Yarmouth, it would be rash
to assert that if firmness and promptitude had not been shown, a part
at least of the Mediterranean fleet would not have broken away. It
does not appear that Jervis had cause to distrust the ships which had
fought under him on the 14th February, but as the summer wore on the
Government began to reinforce him. Not unnaturally, it selected for
this service such ships as it preferred to employ at a distance—namely,
those which had been conspicuous in the Spithead mutiny, or had been
noted for bad conduct in the squadron serving under Curtis on the
coast of Ireland. These ships were swarming with United Irishmen,
who formed a large proportion of the eleven to twelve thousand Irish
in the fleet. In Jervis’s own squadron the marines had been largely
recruited among Erse-speaking Irishmen. The admiral was early informed
of what had happened in the Channel, and took his measures with vigour.
All visiting from ship to ship was stopped, even the captains being
forbidden to ask one another to dinner. The marines were quartered
apart from the sailors, and the speaking of Irish was forbidden.
Jervis took the wise and bold course. He made no attempt to conceal
the news of the mutiny at home from his men. When the letter-bags were
found to contain circulars, written in a fair hand, inciting the crews
to mutiny, he ordered them to be delivered. He trusted to his own
vigilance and to the wholesome effects of occupation. The bombardments
of Cadiz were at least partly undertaken to keep the men busy. Being a
man of judgment, he looked to it carefully that his men were well fed.
He spared no pains to procure fresh food and vegetables from Morocco,
so that his squadron was better provisioned and was in better health
than many ships had been in home ports. Under an admiral of this stamp
mutiny had the least possible chance of coming to a head. Resolute
officers knew they would be supported, and the crews were saved from
the exasperation provoked by unfair treatment and unwholesome food.
Therefore Jervis never had to deal with a general outbreak, as Bridport
had at Spithead, but only with the rebellious element represented by
the United Irishmen, or rascals of the stamp of Bott of the =Princess
Royal=, an agent of the Corresponding Society. A little firmness was
enough to dispose of them. How completely this was the case was shown
by the fact that Maitland of the =Kingfisher= (afterwards Maitland
of the =Bellerophon=) suppressed disorder in his vessel by running
the first man who was mutinous to him through the heart, and Captain
Pearce of the =St. George=, with the help of his first lieutenant,
Halley, was able to seize and put in irons two agitators who were rash
enough to defy his authority. They were tried, condemned to death, and
hanged next day. The admiral’s determination and his power to keep
order were never doubted in his squadron. Among the vessels sent from
the Channel was the =London=, the vessel in which Lieutenant Bover had
shot the mutineer. Bover had returned to his post, and it does not
appear that the crew bore him any grudge. When the =London= came into
the Tagus, her captain, Purvis, went in his barge to report to the
admiral. While he was in the flagship, the =Ville de Paris=, one of his
barge’s crew, seeing a sailor looking out of a lower-deck port, sang
out to him, “I say there, what have you fellows been doing while we
have been fighting for your beef and pork?” The sailor of the =Ville
de Paris= gave him this friendly warning: “If you’ll take my advice,
you’ll say just nothing at all about all that here, for by G——d if
old Jarvie hears ye, he’ll have you dingle dangle at the yardarm at
eight o’clock to-morrow morning.” The crisis of the disorder was the
so-called mutiny of the =Marlborough=. This vessel had come out from
England, where an outbreak quelled with some difficulty had taken place
in her. A court martial was held on the principal mutineers, and one
of them was condemned to death. Jervis, who had a keen sense of the
value of an imposing spectacle, determined to make an example. He gave
orders that the execution should be carried out next morning, although
it was a Sunday, and by the crew of the =Marlborough=—not, as was the
custom, by a boat’s crew from another ship. Captain Ellison, of the
=Marlborough=, an old officer who had lost an arm in action, went to
the flagship to protest, and was received by Jervis very theatrically
on the quarter-deck of the =Ville de Paris=, in the presence of all
her officers. Jervis refused either to postpone the execution or to
allow it to be performed in the usual way. With a brutal ostentation of
authority, not unusual with him, he insulted Ellison by asking him if
he was afraid, by threatening to send an officer to supersede him, and
by jeering at his age. Ellison was compelled to endure the insolence
of the admiral. He returned to the =Marlborough=, and next morning the
execution took place in sight of all the fleet. A large force of armed
boats was sent under Captain Campbell of the =Blenheim= with orders
to lie alongside the =Marlborough= and fire into her if any disorder
took place on board. The mutineer was brought to the cathead, and
the rope was put round his neck. At eight o’clock the signal gun was
fired from the flagship, and the man was swung off. By some horrible
piece of neglect the tackle had been so badly fitted that it would
not work properly, and the man had to be lowered. For a moment it was
thought that the crew had broken into mutiny, and Campbell brought his
boats nearer. But the defect was quickly put right, and the execution
was completed. Then Jervis, who had been watching the scene from his
flagship, said, “Discipline is preserved, sir.”

No account of the year of mutiny would be complete without at least
some record of the story of the =Hermione= frigate. It was a case in
which a badly constituted crew was driven frantic by a captain of
manifestly inhuman violence and brutality. The mutiny occurred in
September in the West Indies. Pigot, the captain, was an officer of no
mark. He seems to have been one of those men in whom the exercise of
authority and seclusion from the check of criticism by equals permit
the development of moral putrefaction. It is difficult to write on
that subject without touching on things which are _tacenda_. There
was in the sea life of long confinement to the ship and long solitary
cruises an underworld of the brutal lust generated among segregated
men. The power to torture by flogging bred the foul love of inflicting
torture which is never far from lust. It is a stock, and as it seems,
a true story that Pigot, growing more and more frantic in cruelty,
ended by threatening to flog the last men off the yards when the sails
were handled. Two fell in their hurry to come down, and were killed by
their fall on the deck. Pigot ordered the bodies of “the lubbers” to
be thrown overboard. That night “hell broke loose” in the =Hermione=.
The crew rose in revolt. Pigot was beaten down in his cabin and hurled
overboard, all the commissioned officers were butchered—some of them
while piteously appealing for mercy for the sake of their wives and
children. The gunner, the carpenter, and one midshipman only were
spared. It is recorded that the boatswain was given over to be tortured
by the ship’s boys, and that they killed him slowly by scraping his
flesh from his bones with dumbscrapers. Then the mutineers took the
ship into La Guayra, and handed her over to the Spaniards.

It has been counted a signal example of the good fortune of England
that the French made no attempt to profit by the disorganisation of
the fleet during all these months of 1797. Some ridicule has been
directed in France against members of the Directory who thought
interference would be injudicious, since it would only tend to reunite
the English. Yet the Frenchmen who judged thus judged rightly. There
was no general disloyalty to the State among the mutineers. If there
had been, what could have prevented the mutineers from taking the ships
to Brest, or the Texel? If they shrank from going over to the enemy,
they could still have sailed to America, for they were provisioned
for long blockades, and there were men among them who could navigate.
In the United States they would have found a safe refuge in an
English-speaking community. They rose only against grievances. They did
not attain all they wished, but they obtained a part, and they shocked
their rulers into beginning to improve the conditions of their service.



CHAPTER XIII

THE NILE

 AUTHORITIES.—See Chapter XII., and _La Jonquière Expedition d’Egypte_.


The failure of Hoche, the defeat of the proposed combination with the
Spaniards by the battle of St. Vincent, the shattering of the Dutch
fleet at Camperdown, had proved that an invasion of the British Isles
was a venture only to be achieved by such a combination of good fortune
for the French, and bad management on our part, as no sane ruler of men
could expect. Yet during eight years, including the short fallacious
Peace of Amiens, the successive Governments of France, the Directory,
the Consulate, and the Empire continued to make the attempt. All their
efforts at sea and some of their enterprises on land were directed to
that end. The expedition to Egypt in 1798 was as much a part of the
invasion scheme as the raid of Humbert. It was meant to turn the flank
of England by assailing her in India. The Northern Coalition of 1801
was but another plot to turn England’s flank—promoted by the French,
and made possible by the help of her erratic ally, the Czar Paul. The
Boulogne flotilla was to have made the direct attack. It was all one
undivided story which ended in 1805—leaving behind it a heritage of
madness in the shape of Napoleon’s maniacal determination to conquer
England on the Continent—in other words, to make the independence
and well-being of Europe incompatible with the existence of his own
government. The army of England was not dissolved. It remained rather a
paper than an effective force, but still in existence as a possibility
and a threat. As if to emphasise their determination to strike at the
heart of England, the Directory appointed Napoleon himself as general
of the Army of England on the 26th October 1797. The nomination was
little more than a formality. Napoleon did not even visit his command
till early in February 1798, and then only in passing and on his way
to Belgium. The conqueror of Italy did not need his great sagacity to
see that the venture was insane with such resources as the Directory
could command. In the month of May their coast defence forces led
by Muskeyn were beaten in an effort to retake the Marcouf islands,
off La Hougue, where England had an advance post of observation held
by bluejackets and marines. Napoleon, who knew well enough that the
Directory feared him as a possible military despot, was no more
disposed than Hoche to play Don Quixote on the sea to please men who
would gladly have seen him at the bottom of it. He turned to the great
flanking movement which was to destroy England through India, leaving
lesser, and less fortunate, men to tilt at windmills.

The turning movement was essentially no less a delusion than the direct
attack, but it looked feasible, it offered promising vistas of glory
and adventure in the East, and it gave Napoleon a field wherein he
might do showy things to fascinate the French imagination, and withal
bide his time. It was indeed feasible up to a certain point, because
the British Mediterranean fleet was tied down to blockade Cadiz.
Jervis, content with heading off and driving back the Spaniards, had
retired first to Lagos, and then to Lisbon, carrying with him his four
prizes, the cherished reward of the toils and perils of officers and
men, to be divided in becoming proportions. What those proportions were
we can learn pleasantly from the estimate made by Nelson in a letter
to Lord Spencer dated 7th September, of what the shares due for three
French prizes he caused to be destroyed would have come to, if he had
ordered their preservation:—to the commander-in-chief £3750; to the
junior admirals each £1625; to captains each £1000; to the lieutenants
class each £75; to warrant officers each £50; to petty officers each
£11; to seamen and marines each £2, 4s. 1d. The men had their share to
a penny, and we can understand the jest of the Irish sailor who was
seen saying his prayers before Trafalgar. When asked by a lieutenant if
he was afraid, he answered that he was not, but was only praying that
the enemy’s bullets might be distributed on the same scale as the prize
money—the lion’s share to the officers. St. Vincent, as he must now be
called, did not leave Lisbon till the 31st March, and then applied
himself to watching the twenty-six or twenty-eight Spanish ships in the
port and to that repression of the spirit of mutiny described in the
previous chapter.

Cadiz was twice bombarded at night. On the 3rd and the 5th July
some damage was done to shipping and to houses. Some conflicts took
place with Spanish guard-boats and galleys, in one of which Nelson
was in great peril. News came that a Spanish treasure-ship had taken
refuge at Santa Cruz de Tenerife, and on the 15th July Nelson was
detached to seize it. He had with him his flagship the =Theseus=,
74, the =Culloden=, 74, the =Zealous=, 74, and the =Leander=, 50,
with the =Seahorse=, =Emerald=, and =Terpsichore=, 32-gun frigates,
and the cutter =Fox=. But he was not provided with the detachment
of troops he thought necessary. Mainly for want of them, the attack
failed disastrously. On the 22nd July an attempt was made to occupy
a height overhanging the town, but the post was too strongly held to
be carried by a mere landing party. On the evening of the 24th and
in the small hours of the 25th, a double direct attack on the mole,
and by the Citadel, was made with the =Fox= and boats. The =Fox= was
sunk by cannon-shot off the mole, and so were some of the boats with
her. Nelson lost his right arm. A few officers and men struggled on
to the mole only to be shot down by musketry. The attack near the
Citadel was no more fortunate. Troubridge, who commanded, succeeded in
landing through the surf which stove his boats, but only to find he was
helpless and to be compelled to purchase leave to return to the ships
by promising that no further attack should be made on the islands. We
lost in all 141 men and officers shot or drowned, and 105 wounded.
Nelson was compelled to return home to months of suffering. From April
1797 to May 1798 the Mediterranean was unvisited by an English naval
force, the French were free to cross it in every direction to fix their
grip on the Ionian Islands, their share of the plunder of Venice, and
to prepare for their great venture. Jervis, who spent much of his time
at Lisbon, was joined by a Portuguese squadron, but the necessity for
watching the Spaniards kept him to the west of the Straits.

Therefore did it seem feasible to the French to apply themselves to
the profitable task of turning the Mediterranean into “a French lake,”
by seizing Egypt, and then to revenge themselves on England by making
Egypt the starting place for an attack on India. Preparations were made
all through the earlier part of the year, and the expedition might have
sailed before it did if an alarm of renewed war with Austria had not
turned the attention of the French Government to another direction. The
English ministers knew that preparations were being made, but did not
know for what particular purpose. It seemed not improbable, though it
surely ought to have appeared unthinkable, that the fleet at Toulon was
going to try to run past Jervis and make for Ireland, where rebellion
had broken out. There were from thirty to forty French ships of the
line at Brest and other ocean ports, and the Army of England was still
in being, at least on paper. To go to see what was being done at Toulon
was the obvious course.

Nelson returned from home to the fleet off Cadiz on the 29th April
1798. Lord Spencer, the First Lord of the Admiralty, guided by his
own good sense and the advice of Sir Gilbert Elliot, Lord Minto,
had already selected him as the officer to be entrusted with the
duty of intercepting the Toulon armament. His judgment coincided
with the opinion of Jervis, who spontaneously detached Nelson on a
reconnaissance into the Mediterranean on the 2nd May. Nelson sailed
in his flagship, the =Vanguard=, 74, and on the 4th he picked up, at
Gibraltar, the =Alexander=, 74, the =Orion=, 74, the =Emerald= and
=Terpsichore=, and the =Bonne Citoyenne= sloop. On the 9th he sailed
for Toulon. On the 19th St. Vincent received orders from home to send
twelve line-of-battle ships into the Mediterranean to destroy the
French armament, and he was recommended to give the command to Nelson.
He was promised reinforcements to replace the ships he detached. They
reached him on the 24th, under command of Sir R. Curtis, and that night
the inshore squadron watching Cadiz, was replaced, under cover of the
dark, by the newcomers, and was detached up the Mediterranean so that
the Spaniards should see nothing to excite their suspicions and give
them news to report to the French.

In the meantime Nelson had gone ahead and had been off Cape Sicié on
the 17th. He learnt from a captured privateer that a great armament was
indeed in preparation, but could learn nothing of its destination. On
the 21st the =Vanguard= was dismasted in a north-westerly gale, which
had begun to blow on the 19th, and was compelled to anchor to refit
at San Pietro in Sardinia. His ships had been seen at a distance by
the French in Toulon, but they put to sea on the 19th by favour of the
north-west wind which drove him off. The armament consisted of twelve
sail of the line under Admiral Brueys d’Aigalliers, an officer of the
old French royal corps. The warships were crowded with Napoleon’s
troops, and accompanied by transports. The French warships as usual
had been manned with difficulty, and were short-handed. Though three
months’ provisions were carried for the soldiers, only two months’ were
carried for the crews, a fact which had an influence on the movements
of Brueys later on. Immediately after leaving Toulon the armament was
joined by a convoy from Genoa on the 21st May. The north-westerly gale
blew it on its course, and as it went down the eastern side of Corsica
and Sardinia it was sheltered from the violence of the storm. On the
27th it was joined at the mouth of the Straits of Bonifacio by another
convoy from Ajaccio, while a third from Civita Vecchia, followed a
parallel course, and joined the main body off Malta on the 9th June.
If the fleet of Jervis had not been tied down to watch Cadiz, it would
have been easy to prevent the army for the invasion of Egypt from
ever coming together. The possession of Malta, in the opinion of the
French, who share the common belief of mankind that whoever holds a
port commands the sea about it, would have gone far to forward their
scheme for making the Mediterranean a French lake. The Order of St.
John of Jerusalem, to which it belonged, had been nearly ruined by the
loss of its estates in France during the Revolution, and was too poor
to maintain troops. The French army took possession on the 13th June,
and on the 18th sailed on its way to Egypt, leaving a garrison in the
island.

While the French were profiting by the delay of the English to take
early measures to intercept them, Nelson was refitting at San Pietro.
On the 27th May, the day on which the Ajaccio Convoy joined Brueys and
Napoleon, he left San Pietro to resume his watch off Toulon. He was
back on his cruising ground on the 31st to learn that the armament
was gone to a destination he could not discover. On the 5th Captain
Hardy, of the =Mutine= brig, brought him the news that Troubridge was
coming with reinforcements, which would raise his command to fourteen
sail. On the 7th they joined him. In a time when the movements of ships
were controlled by the wind the seaman had certainties on which to
calculate. Nelson knew that a fleet hampered by a swarm of transports
could not have gone westward in the late north-westerly gale. Therefore
he sought them on the east of Corsica and Sardinia. When off Gianute
he was misinformed by a Moorish vessel, which told him that the French
were at Syracuse. At Naples, on the 17th June—four days after the
French had taken Malta—he learnt that the enemy had gone south past
Sardinia. At Messina, on the 20th, he heard of the capture of Malta and
Gozo. On the 22nd he was twelve leagues to the S.W. of Cape Passaro
in Sicily, and was there told by a neutral, who had seen them at sea,
that the French had left Malta on the 18th and were going to the east.
Napoleon was as little a friend to delay as Nelson. He knew since the
1st June of the presence of English ships at San Pietro, and that he
was liable to interruption. Knowing that he pressed on, but did not
take the normal course from Malta to Alexandria. He followed a route
to the north of it along the southern shore of Crete. When therefore
Nelson, concluding most justly that the French would not go east except
to attack Egypt, pressed on in pursuit along the shortest line, he
crossed the route of his enemy, and they sailed in parallel lines. On
the 25th, when the French were off Gozo di Candia, Nelson was directly
to the south of them, barely sixty miles away, near Cape Dernah, in
Africa. As he was not weighted by transports and was sailing on the
more direct route he headed his opponent, and reached Alexandria on
the 28th June to find the port empty, and the Turks wholly ignorant
that they were menaced by any danger. He was in a fever of excitement.
Of eager, vehement temperament, and by nature a striker of fierce
strokes, he had overshot the mark, and his blow had been wasted in the
air. His frigates had parted from him in the gale which dismasted the
=Vanguard=, and had not rejoined. He was groping for his foe in the
dark, and had missed him. His mind was agitated by his imagination. He
saw himself, in his first important command, chosen over the heads of
his seniors to meet a great crisis, and it seemed as if he had failed.
He already heard in fancy the howl of disappointment which would go up
in England, worded with all the ruffian fluency of the newspapers; and
he loved honour—he loved popularity. Agitation clouded his sagacity. He
could not consider how probable it was that his unhampered squadron had
passed the enemy, how unlikely it was that they were heading for any
other point than Egypt, an old object of French ambition, a post from
which India could be menaced. On the 29th he hurried away to the coast
of Anatolia, from the place where British interests could be injured,
to one where the French could have gone only in a fit of childish
folly. Forty-eight hours after he had left, and when his topsails were
hardly over the horizon to the north-east, the French were seen in the
west, and the invasion of Egypt began.

It was allowed to go on for a month undisturbed, and Napoleon was at
liberty to gain the victories which prepared the way for his rise to
despotic power in France. Nelson, meanwhile, had reached the coast
of Anatolia on the 4th July, had battled his way back against head
winds to Cape Passaro by the 18th, had obtained water and stores at
Syracuse by the connivance of the Neapolitan Government and in defiance
of its treaty with France, and had gone to sea again by the 25th,
still ignorant of the whereabouts of his enemies save that they were
somewhere in the Levant. On the 28th the Turkish Pasha at Coron, in the
Morea, told him that they had been seen four weeks before to the south
of Crete, heading to the south-east. That they had gone to Egypt did
not admit of a doubt. Nelson steered once more for Alexandria, and on
the 1st August the =Zealous= signalled that the French were at anchor
in Aboukir Bay to the west of the Rosetta mouth of the Nile.

Napoleon had preferred to keep the squadron on the coast to co-operate
with his army, though he gave the admiral conditional leave to sail
for Corfu, if he could not take his fleet into the old harbour of
Alexandria or find a safe anchorage elsewhere on the coast. Brueys
could not leave for Corfu even if the general had been honest in giving
him leave to go, for he was short of water and provisions, and most of
what the shore could supply was taken for the army. To get into the old
harbour was difficult. To get out of it in the face of a blockading
force would have been impossible. A squadron once shut in it might be
destroyed by bombs. So he sought for a safe anchorage and thought he
found it at Aboukir, to the N.E. of Alexandria. Aboukir, the ancient
Canopus, is the western point of the bay which lies west of the Rosetta
branch of the Nile, and it has a shallow harbour stretching from N.W.
to S.E. with an island at the N.W. point. Brueys, as an officer of the
old royal corps, serving revolutionary France from necessity, disliked
his captains as members of the class which had ruined and degraded
his own. He thought them boors, and knew them to be ignorant. He had
no confidence in his command, for his ships were all short-handed,
and several lacked a fourth or even a third of their complement. The
proportion of genuine seamen was small and the discipline bad. No
practice could be given while the ships were crowded with soldiers and
military stores. When the ships were cleared of the army there had
been little time to drill the men, and little will on their part to be
drilled, for the anarchical spirit of the Revolution was strong among
them, and it was difficult to secure obedience. Therefore Brueys was
justified in believing that his squadron was unequal to an encounter
with an English force of approximately the same strength. His wisest
course was to meet battle, if meet it he must, in conditions which
would put the least possible strain on its weakness. The measures he
took say little for the military intelligence of the famous royal
corps. He might have placed his ships at the N.W. corner of the bay,
close to the bank which lines the shore, and where the English could
not place ships on both sides of his. He did anchor them so far from
the bank that there was room for an enemy to pass between them and
the land, and he arranged them in a very obtuse angle, with its apex
pointing to the N.E. If an attack was made at either end, the other
would not be able to support the part assailed. The history of war
contains no more tragic example of a force weak in itself and so
handled that all the causes of defeat were heaped upon its weakness.
And this was done in the face of an English squadron trained in a fine
school of discipline, rendered confident by long success, perfected
by practice in nerve and judgment, led by that man of all men who
was best qualified to give its strength free play. One of the most
idle of idle discussions has chattered round the imaginary problem
whether the course of doubling on the head of the French line, actually
adopted by the English fleet, was taken by Nelson’s order or inspired
by the example of Captain Foley of the =Goliath=. It was perhaps
the greatest of Nelson’s great qualities, his truest claim to be a
consummate leader of men, that he lived in genial harmony with his
subordinates, discussing all possible contingencies with them, laying
down the principles, and leaving to every man the inspiring freedom to
co-operate within the just bounds of his duty, to act as circumstances
served in the spirit of his orders, as a free man, and not as one
bound to follow the letter like a mere instrument. Whether the French
line would be doubled on must depend on its position at the moment
of battle. The advantage of doubling and putting an opponent between
two fires had been obvious to average human intelligence from of old.
On a previous page of this book it has been shown how Tourville did
it at the battle of Beachy Head. The manœuvre, like all the work of
man, fell short of perfection. There was a risk that when two ships
were firing into a third placed between them they would fire into one
another. It was a risk which weighed with good officers, notably with
Captain Saumarez of the =Orion=. He thought that, given the superiority
of our gunnery, we developed a superior force whenever an English
ship came into action with a French ship of the same rate or one not
greatly superior in armament. It is possible that part of the loss
suffered by the English squadron was inflicted by English hands. It
is a not incredible might-have-been, that if our ships had stretched
along the outside of the French line, each anchoring as she came up and
covering the passage of the comrade behind, we might have reached their
rear ships before they got away, and so have taken them all. But the
advantages of the course followed were palpable. It was certain that
the French ships, attacked on both sides, would be rapidly crushed,
for their insufficient crews were overtaxed when compelled to fight
both broadsides. The nominal strength of the crews of the French ships
was 11,000 men. Their actual force was 7850. Twenty-five men per ship
were absent guarding the watering place on shore, and many were away in
the boats engaged in bringing off water when the English appeared.

They had sighted the coast of Egypt about Alexandria on the morning of
the 1st August. The =Alexander=, 74, Captain Ball, and =Swiftsure=,
74, Captain Hallowell, were sent in to reconnoitre, and reported
at 10 a.m. that they saw the harbour full of vessels, but that the
French squadron was not there. At 1 p.m. the =Zealous=, 74, Captain
Samuel Hood, signalled that the enemy was at anchor in Aboukir. The
=Swiftsure= and =Alexander= were recalled, and the squadron headed for
the enemy. By about 5.30 it was to the north of Aboukir Island, which,
from the battle of the night, was to receive the name of Nelson Island.
The Mediterranean charts of the time were generally untrustworthy,
and seamen had to rely on their own observation to learn the depths
of water. Nelson hailed the =Zealous= to ask of Captain Hood if he
thought the ships could turn with the security that they would clear
the shoal. Hood replied that he did not know, but would stand in and
try. The orders were to attack the enemy’s van and centre, and to
anchor. It was at six o’clock that the order was given to stand in,
and the squadron which had come from the west turned to the south to
throw itself on the French van. At that moment eleven ship were in
line. The =Goliath=, 74, Captain Foley; =Zealous=, 74, Captain Samuel
Hood; =Orion=, 74, Captain Sir James Saumarez; =Audacious=, 74, Captain
Davidge Gould; =Theseus=, 74, Captain Miller; =Vanguard=, 74, Nelson’s
flagship, of which Edward Berry was captain; =Minotaur=, 74, Captain
Louis; =Defence=, 74, Captain Peyton; =Bellerophon=, 74, Captain Darby;
=Majestic=, 74, Captain Westcott; and the =Leander=, 50, Captain
Thompson. The =Culloden=, 74, Captain Troubridge, always an unlucky
ship, was outsailed and was behind, and the =Alexander= and =Swiftsure=
were still further off.

The French squadron consisted of thirteen vessels and was anchored
as follows:—The _Guerrier_, 74, a very old ship, Captain Trullet,
was at the head, and lay nearly two miles to the south-east of
Aboukir island. Behind her and stretching to the south-east lay the
_Conquerant_, 74, Captain Dalbarade, a vessel so rotten with age that
her armament had been reduced, and manned by a crew of only four
hundred. The _Spartiate_, 74, Captain Eimeriau; the _Aquilon_, 74,
Captain Thevenard; and the _Peuple Souverain_, 74, Captain Raccord,
which was as much worn out as the _Conquerant_. The _Franklin_, 80,
Captain Gillet, the flagship of Rear-Admiral Blanquet Duchayla, and the
_Orient_, 110, the flagship of Admiral Brueys, whose flag-captain was
Casabianca, and who had with him Ganteaume as captain of the fleet.
The line turned to the south beyond the _Orient_, and consisted of the
_Tonnant_, 80, Captain Dupetit Thouard; the _Heureux_, 74, Captain
Etienne; the _Mercure_, 74, Captain Cambon; the _Guillaume Tell_, 80,
flagship of Rear-Admiral Villeneuve, whose flag-captain was Saunier;
the _Généreux_, 74, Captain Lejoille; and the _Timoléon_, 74, Captain
Léonce Trullet. Four frigates of forty guns were anchored inside the
line, and one of them carried the flag of Rear-Admiral Decrès. When
Nelson was sighted by the French at 2 p.m. a hasty council of war was
held in the _Orient_. There was discussion what ought to be done,
though lack of means and of time forbade the doing of anything save one
thing—that was to lie and wait for the English attack in the hope that
it would not be made till next morning, and with the expectation that
it would not be made on the van, though that, as being the windward
end of the squadron, was precisely the point at which attack would be
most effective, and least liable to interruption by the French ships to
leeward.

The attack was made that night, and was made on the van. At six
o’clock, just as the sun was touching the horizon, the =Goliath=
crossed the bow of the _Guerrier_, pouring in her fire with such effect
that the Frenchman’s foremast came down. The men on the deck of the
=Goliath=, who could see that they had drawn the first blood, cheered
the happy omen, and the cheer was taken up by the crews at the guns
below. The =Goliath= was to have been anchored with a spring at her
cable, abreast of the _Guerrier_, but the anchor did not hold, and she
was brought up abreast of the _Conquerant_. The =Zealous= followed
in her wake and took the place she had failed to hold abreast of the
_Guerrier_. The =Orion= followed, and, passing inside of the =Goliath=
and =Zealous= (so wide was the space between the French ships and the
shoal water), anchored by the _Spartiate_. The =Audacious= came along
the same track and anchored by the _Peuple Souverain_. The =Theseus=
passed astern of the _Guerrier_, through the overwide interval of 150
metres between the French ships, and ahead of the _Conquerant_, then
swept inside of her comrades and assailed the _Aquilon_. Nelson came
into action behind the =Theseus=, but passed outside the French line,
and, neglecting the already overpowered _Guerrier_ and _Conquerant_,
anchored on the starboard side of the _Spartiate_ which was already
attacked on the port side by the =Orion=. The =Minotaur= passed outside
the =Vanguard= and joined the =Theseus= in firing into the _Aquilon_.
The =Defence= came on behind the =Minotaur= and assailed the _Peuple
Souverain_. She had no colleague, but the French ship was so weak as
to be hardly able to fire her guns without danger to herself and was
no formidable antagonist. Thus eight English ships were in action with
five French, of which three were more or less unfit to be in a line of
battle. So the French van was rapidly crushed and the victory was won.

The destruction of the French squadron was not to be completed with the
same ease. The next in order to the _Peuple Souverain_ in the French
line was the _Franklin_, 80, next to her came the _Orient_, 110, and
the _Tonnant_, 80. These three powerful ships formed, as it were,
a central citadel to the French line, and our most severe loss was
suffered in action with them. The =Bellerophon=, which followed the
=Vanguard=, passed the _Franklin_, and came under the broadside of the
_Orient_. The =Majestic= went beyond the =Bellerophon= and came into
action with the _Tonnant_. Both were severely mauled. The =Bellerophon=
was shattered by the fire of the _Orient_, and drifted off down the
bay. The =Majestic= was fiercely dealt with by the _Tonnant_, fell
away from her, and became entangled with the next in the line, the
_Heureux_. The _Heureux’s_ captain, Etienne, had called up his men to
repel boarders, or to board, when the =Majestic= broke away and was
brought up beside the _Mercure_. These two ships suffered far more
severely than any of the others engaged. The =Bellerophon= lost 49
men killed and 148 wounded. The =Majestic=, 50, killed, including her
captain Westcott, and 143 wounded. Between them they suffered a greater
loss than all the ships of Jervis’s squadron at the battle of Cape St.
Vincent. But now the vessels which had not been near enough to take
part in the first attack began to come in. The =Swiftsure= attacked the
_Franklin_ and the =Alexander=, _L’Orient_. They were joined by the
little =Leander= which had been delayed by her efforts to drag off the
ever unlucky =Culloden=, which had grounded on the Aboukir shoal. The
=Leander= anchored ahead of the _Franklin_ and raked both her and the
_Orient_. As the fire in the French van ceased by the surrender of the
overpowered ships, our vessels dropped down and helped to crush the
enemy’s centre. They were aided by the frightful disaster which befell
the _Orient_. She caught fire and blew up. The French ships beyond
her cut their cables and drifted away. The isolated _Franklin_ fought
long and gallantly but was overpowered at last. In the French rear
Villeneuve, hesitating, contemplating difficulties, thinking of safety
and seeking it not by grasping the nettle, but by evasion, as he was to
do seven years later, did nothing to help his comrades. He thought it
much that he could escape next morning with his flagship the _Guillaume
Tell_, the _Généreux_ and two frigates. Nelson, who had been wounded
in the head by a langrage shot while engaged with the _Aquilon_,
thought, that if he had not been disabled, even they would have been
taken. But the case was indeed one for saying they had done very well.
During the night and the following morning all the French ships, except
Villeneuve’s four, were taken or destroyed. Brueys fell on the deck of
his flagship. The total loss of the French is difficult to estimate. It
has been put by themselves at 1451 killed and 1479 wounded. The loss in
Nelson’s squadron was 218 killed and 678 wounded, and to that total of
896, the =Bellerophon= and the =Majestic= contributed 390. Of the ships
which were active in crushing the van the =Zealous= lost only 1 killed
and 7 wounded, the =Theseus= 4 killed and 7 wounded, the =Defence= 4
killed and 11 wounded, while the =Leander= had only 14 men wounded and
none killed.

Six days after the great turning movement had been wrecked in Aboukir
Bay, the attack on England from the ocean ports of France began to be
put into execution. It was to be directed through Ireland, and was to
be double. One squadron under Savary was ordered to carry troops from
Rochefort, while another and stronger squadron was to carry a division
from Brest. Combined operations are liable to fail from obstacles which
upset the most promising combination, and this was no exception to a
common experience. Savary did indeed sail unseen from Rochefort on the
6th of August. He reached Killala Bay, between Sligo and Mayo, on the
21st. He had with him the _Concorde_, 40, the _Franchise_, 36, the
_Medée_, 36, and the _Venus_, 28, and they carried General Humbert, an
officer of much spirit and ingenuity, and 1150 soldiers. Now, as for
the raid Humbert made, the victory he won at Castlebar, his surrender
at Ballinamuck, and the difficulty he said he found in discovering a
real general among the many English officers of that title he heard of,
are they not written in the books of the chronicles of Ireland? The
story inspires a profound gratitude to the Providence which confined
the invasion to Humbert and 1150 men, and spared us Hoche with ten
times (or more) that number. Having landed his charge, Savary was
quickly away on the 23rd and anchored safely at Royan, in the Gironde,
on the 9th September, from whence he returned to Rochefort on the 20th.

Bompard, who was to sail from Brest, was not so fortunate. His start
was delayed first by want of money, for the finances of France were
still in such a distressed state that the Government could not send
him so small a sum as £6000 to pay the soldiers, and the men refused
to sail without an advance. Then there was an alarm of an English
inroad into Holland, and troops were held back to meet that danger.
But the worst obstacle was the watch of the English blockading fleet.
Its frigates cruised in the Iroise, and the line-of-battle ships were
at hand. Bompard made one attempt to get away by the passage between
the Black Rocks and Ushant, saw Bridport ahead of him, and went back.
During the night of the 16th September he did get away, for though
the wind blew strongly from the N.E. off shore, Bridport had taken his
ships away to the northward of Ushant. So Bompard was free to sail out
through the Raz du Sein to the southward, under cover of the dark. Next
morning he was clear of the land in hazy weather, but he saw, and was
seen, by the =Ethalion= frigate, Captain Countess, who had with him the
=Boadicea= frigate, Captain R. Keats, and the brig =Sylph=, Captain
White. They were between him and the Bee du Raz. Captain Countess
attached himself to the French squadron, which consisted of the
_Hoche_, 74 (the old Pégase), the _Immortalité_, _Romaine_, _Loire_,
_Bellone_, _Coquille_, _Embuscade_, _Resolue_, and _Semillante_
frigates and a schooner. The squadron carried 3000 troops under
Generals Hardy and Ménage. Captain Countess despatched the =Boadicea=
to warn Bridport, who, after looking into the Iroise to obtain the
evidence of his own eyes, sent warning home that a French squadron had
escaped what a very polite fiction would call his vigilance.

The =Ethalion= followed Bompard, retiring when menaced, and coming back
again when the French went on. Bompard took the seeming cautious, but
in reality very rash, course of endeavouring to shake off his pursuer
by steering wide out to the south. He could hardly have provided
more effectually for his own defeat. His one chance of success (and
it was a poor one now that Savary’s success had aroused his enemy’s
vigilance and had turned his attention to the Irish Coast) was to head
an intercepting force. Every hour he added to his voyage increased
the danger that he would be intercepted, and he was. When Bridport’s
message reached England Sir J. B. Warren was sent from Cawsand Bay
to the west coast of Ireland to bar the road. He sailed on the 23rd
September, and on the 10th October was off Achill Head. If Bompard had
gone direct to his destination, Killala Bay, trusting, as from the
nature of his task he had to trust, to fortune, he would have been
off Tory Island some days before Warren was in a position to attack
him, and might have landed Hardy in Killala Bay. As he preferred to
try artful management, where speed and boldness were wanted, he was
sighted on the 11th October, near the Island, by Warren, who then had
with him the =Canada=, 74, =Robust=, 74, =Foudroyant=, 80, =Magnanime=,
=Ethalion=, =Anson=, =Melampus=, and =Amelia= frigates. The English
officer pursued and overtook his enemy on the following day. The
_Hoche_, Bompard’s one line-of-battle ship, was easily overpowered, and
six of the frigates with her were captured in a succession of fights
off the west coast of Ireland. The utmost audacity could have brought
no worse fate on Bompard and his command.

Isolated French ships reached the Irish coast—as, for instance, the
brig _Anacreon_, which in September visited the coast of Donegal,
went back on hearing of the surrender of Humbert, and returned to her
starting-point, Dunkirk, bringing a valuable prize with her. On the
12th October Savary sailed again from Rochefort with a larger squadron
and 1090 soldiers. He looked into Killala, found that a landing was
hopeless, and went back to Rochefort. He was chased and had to throw
guns overboard to lighten his vessels, but he got back safe.

The direct invasion scheme had broken down. Yet the whole story puts
these two questions—Did it break down because of the strength of our
guard? What does the failure teach us to expect in the future? No
fair-minded man can assert that fortune had no share in our success.
Hoche’s expedition would have succeeded as fully as the expedition
of Savary and Humbert, but for some measure of bad management on the
part of Morard de Galle, and the persistence of bad weather. Of the
expeditions of 1798, both of Savary’s reached the coast of Ireland and
returned in safety. So did the _Anacreon_. Bompard alone was defeated
at sea. The most obvious lesson of it all is of course that better
management than Bridport’s will always be needed, and the better the
enemy the greater the want. Other nations study these stories. We
must not take it for granted that a French Revolution will help us by
disorganising our foes.

The double failure in Egypt and on the coast of Ireland suspended all
schemes of invasion for a time. France and England alike had their eyes
fixed on Napoleon’s army in Egypt. The news of the disaster in Aboukir
Bay produced a profound effect throughout Europe. A storm broke out in
France against the Directory, who were accused of having “deported”
the best general and the best army of the Republic. Public men who had
been loud in promoting the expedition began to throw the blame for it
on one another. Public excitement and anger were aggravated by the
speedy discovery that a new coalition was forming, and that France
would again be called upon to fight for her very existence, at least
for all she had gained by the Revolution. To recover Napoleon and his
army became a leading object with the French. To keep them in Egypt
was no less the object of England. The best that could have happened
would have been that Napoleon should have made a serious attempt to
carry out his grand scheme of marching on the footsteps of Alexander
the Great, through Persia and Afghanistan to India. He would have
perished on his march, and Europe would have escaped years of misery.
But to keep him away from the battlefields of Europe was a real gain.
The most effectual of all ways of doing this would have been to retain
a large force on the coast of Egypt, and send out troops. It was not
the course taken. Nelson sent the =Leander= home with his despatches
carried by Captain Berry. She fell in with the _Généreux_ on the 18th
August, and was captured. On the 14th August Sir James Saumarez sailed
with the =Orion=, =Bellerophon=, =Minotaur=, =Defence=, =Audacious=,
=Theseus=, and =Majestic=, to escort the French prizes the _Franklin_,
_Tonnant_, _Aquilon_, _Conquérant_, and _Peuple Souverain_. Three of
the prizes were destroyed, and it would have been better that all
should have been burnt. But the just reward of the toils and dangers of
officers and men, and more especially of commanders-in-chief, junior
admirals, and captains, was not to be thrown away. So Saumarez made a
slow, painful voyage westward with his convoy of battered hulks. He
summoned Malta, was defied by the French general, and gave arms to the
islanders who had risen against the French, driven to desperation by
pillage and the violation of their women. Malta was blockaded by the
Portuguese ships which had served with Jervis, and the =Lion=, 64. On
the 19th Nelson sailed with the =Vanguard=, =Culloden=, and =Alexander=
for Naples. He left the =Zealous=, =Goliath=, and =Swiftsure=, the
=Seahorse=, =Emerald=, and =Alcmene= frigates, and the =Bonne Citoyene=
sloop to watch the coast of Egypt. He himself, in an evil hour, sailed
for Naples. It is not superfluous to point out that though Nelson
was ardently desirous to weaken the French in Egypt he landed his
prisoners, for whom he could with difficulty provide, and they afforded
Napoleon a welcome reinforcement for his army. If the prizes had all
been burnt after whatever stores were of use had been taken out of
them, if Nelson had sought a basis of operations in some Turkish port
in Crete or Cyprus, the prisoners could have been kept in one of those
islands and Egypt better watched.

Our ships would at least have been better employed than many of them
were destined to be on the coast of Naples. The operations in which he
was engaged till he left the Mediterranean occupy a justly promoted
place in the biography of Nelson. They need few words here, and those
few only to show that they were a pure waste of force. The kingdom
of Naples on the mainland was indefensible against a French army in
central Italy by naval force. The Government was rotten and the troops
were worthless. The obvious deduction from these facts was that we
ought to have confined ourselves to blockading Malta, and ought to have
warned the king of Naples that he was not to expect any help from us if
he plunged into adventures. What happened was that Nelson, acting under
influences which must be looked for in his biographies, egged on the
king of Naples to make an attack on the French force occupying Rome,
which brought on him an ignominious thrashing, and drove him to abject
flight to Sicily in November and December of 1798. Henceforth a British
squadron reinforced to eight sail of the line and four Portuguese were
employed looking on idly at the occupation of Naples, till the advance
of the Austrian and Russian armies in Northern Italy compelled the
French to retreat. Then they rendered superfluous assistance to the
Neapolitan Government to recover what could not be defended against
it. While they were so employed their separation from other English
forces in the Mediterranean helped to create a position of very serious
danger. Meanwhile, an English squadron, under Rear-Admiral Duckworth,
carrying troops under General Stuart, took possession of Minorca.
The Turks took up arms against the French, and Russia intervened.
The Ionian Isles, except Corfu, were regained from the French. The
Government at Paris was driven to see that an effort must be made in
the Mediterranean.

Lord Palmerston is credited with the shrewd saying that whenever a
man is heard to say that “something must be done,” it is safe to
calculate on his doing something foolish. To strike out with no
definite aim is rarely the way to deliver an effective stroke, though
it may at times, and with help from fortune, be a more hopeful course
than lying still. Whether the French Government matured any coherent
scheme during the last months of 1798 and the first of 1799 is highly
doubtful. We can only be sure as to what was actually done by them and
for them. It was in substance this, that their fleet at Brest was sent
into the Mediterranean, if not to do some definite thing, at least
to see what could be done. The Minister of Marine, Eustache Bruix,
came down from Paris to take command himself. He was well supplied
with money, and it was in his power to pay the sailors and dockyard
hands. Great and ardent exertions were made. The ships were better
appointed and far better manned than any French fleet had been during
the war. The admiral was popular with the men, and he had cause to look
with confidence on the force which he had equipped by the middle of
April. It consisted of the following ships of the line. The _Ocean_,
_Invincible_, _Républicain_, _Terrible_ of 110 guns; the _Formidable_
and _Indomptable_ of 84; the _Jemmapes_, _Montblanc_, _Tyrannicide_,
_Batave_, _Constitution_, _Révolution_, _Fongueux_, _Censeur_, _Zélé_,
_Redoutable_, _Wattignies_, _Tourville_, _Cisalpin_, _Jean Bart_,
_Gaulois_, _Convention_, _Duquesne_, _J. J. Rousseau_, _Dix Août_ of
74, together with ten frigates, sloops, and ships armed _en flûte_ as
store ships.

Bridport had joined the small squadron which was watching Brest in
April, and had with him sixteen sail of the line. He had looked into
the Iroise, and knew that the French were preparing for sea, but
according to his usual practice he cruised at some distance to the
W.S.W. of Ushant. On the very day on which he took up his position—the
25th April—Bruix sailed through the Raz du Sein. He was sighted by the
=Nymphe= frigate, Captain Fraser, who at once reported to Bridport.
The English admiral, punctual as ever in his own fashion, looked into
Brest once more on the 26th, and then went off to Cape Clear. He was
convinced that the enemy were bound for Ireland, and they confirmed his
belief by putting a small vessel carrying an officer entrusted with a
misleading dispatch in his way, an old but well-preserved stratagem.
Bridport sent warnings to Cadiz and to England, and Bruix was left at
liberty to go south.

The situation in front of him was nearly all he could wish. There was
indeed no French force he could join. The _Généreux_ was at Corfu, and
the _Guillaume Tell_ at Malta. Nine vessels taken from the Venetians
were scattered between Alexandria, Ancona, and Toulon, but they were of
no value. On the other hand, the Spaniards had a squadron of uncertain
number and certain inefficiency at Cadiz, which had to be watched by
the English, and was therefore of indirect help to Bruix. Nothing need
be said of the Russians and Turks, save that they were moving in the
Mediterranean. Bruix’ real opponents were the English, and they were
scattered. Fifteen sail of the line under Lord Keith were blockading
Cadiz. One was at Tetuan. Four were with Duckworth at Minorca. Nelson
had eight English sail of the line and four Portuguese, divided between
the blockade of Malta, the harbour of Palermo, where he himself lay
at the urgent prayer of King Ferdinand to calm the nerves of the old
women of both sexes in the runaway Neapolitan Court, and the coast of
Southern Italy, where the Royalists were gaining ground against the
Republic set up by the French. As the French troops had been called off
to meet the allies in Northern Italy, the Republic was collapsing from
internal weakness. Minorca was of real value as a basis for a strong
fleet blockading Toulon. As an isolated post hastily occupied by a
handful of soldiers, it was a mere burden. The whole disposition of our
forces was as unintelligent and as vicious as it well could have been.
Our naval forces in the Levant engaged in watching the coasts of Egypt
and Syria may be left aside as not being immediately affected, and as
being too far off to render prompt help.

On the 3rd May, Keith was told by the =Success= frigate that she had
sighted the French off Oporto coming south. With a big fleet coming
against him from the Ocean, and nineteen, or so, Spaniards more or less
ready for sea in Cadiz, his position looked hazardous. He had need for
steady nerve, but the admiral though not a brilliant nor quick-witted
man possessed that solid virtue in a useful degree. He waited, ready
for fight or retreat, till he saw what was going to happen. On the 4th,
in the morning, the French were sighted, thirty-three sail of them, in
the W.N.W. The wind was blowing hard from the west, rising to a storm,
and it drove curtains of confusing sea fog before it. As it blew right
into Cadiz Bay, the Spaniards could not move. Keith kept between them
and the French. His expert ships maintained their formation and lost
no spars in the stormy weather, which threw the French into confusion
and caused them much minor damage. The fleets lost sight of one another
in the fog, and on the 5th Bruix ran through the Straits before the
gale. Two or three of his liners had suffered damage by collision and
loss of spars, but he might have sent all three into Carthagena and
still have had twenty-two for a bold stroke. It was not till the 12th
that Nelson at Palermo heard of the inroad of the Brest fleet into the
Mediterranean. If Bruix had employed those seven days in steering for
Southern Italy, he had ninety-nine chances out of a hundred to souse
down on the vessels blockading Malta before they knew of his approach,
to capture them, to cut off Nelson at Palermo, leaving him to rage
single-handed with the =Vanguard= among the old women of both sexes
of the Neapolitan Court, to fall on the ships on the coast of Naples,
capturing, driving ashore, or driving off every one of them. Then he
might have gone on to the Riviera and Toulon by the east of Sardinia
and Corsica, after doing his cause a substantial service. He knew the
divided state of the English forces. He had laid some such plan as
this. But like his brother French admirals in this war, he was chilled
by the first check. The damage suffered by his ships on the 4th and
5th froze his ardour, and he steered piteously for Toulon, where he
anchored on the 14th May with his two crippled ships, the _Batàve_ and
the _Fougueux_. And now for two months these numerous fleets, French
and English, were engaged in missing one another in a game of blind
man’s buff.

St. Vincent saw the French pass the Straits on the 5th, and at once
summoned the =Edgar= from Tetuan, and Keith from his cruising ground
between Cadiz and Cape Spartel. On the 12th he followed Bruix—or
rather, he steered for Minorca to join Duckworth, who was in danger
of being cut off, and to cover the island, which in the absence of
a covering naval force might have been retaken by the Spaniards. He
joined Duckworth on the 20th, and had twenty sail of the line on hand.
On that day Nelson had concentrated his ships at Maritimo. On that day,
too, the Spaniards, who on finding the blockade of Cadiz raised by
the withdrawal of Keith, had come to sea hoping to be able to retake
Minorca, staggered into Carthagena half dismasted by the gale. On
the 22nd, St. Vincent left Minorca for Toulon, but hearing that the
Spaniards were coming round, put himself on their road to Toulon at
Cape San Sebastian on the 26th. On that day Bruix left Toulon for the
Riviera with twenty-two sail to co-operate with the French armies now
fighting in retreat before the allies. On the 30th May, St. Vincent
was joined by Rear-Admiral Whitshed with five sail of the line sent
out from home to reinforce him. On the same day he sent Duckworth
with four ships to join Nelson. He now moved up the coast towards
Toulon, but on the 2nd June he found his health unequal to the strain
of service at sea, and left the fleet for Minorca in his flagship the
=Ville de Paris=, 100—for he would not go, so he said, in a frigate
“like a convict,” and his regard for his dignity was strong enough to
make him weaken his successor by the loss of a very powerful ship.
Keith, to whom the command now fell, went towards Toulon, while Bruix
after convoying a fleet of transports with provisions to the French
garrison of Genoa, went to Vado, and anchored there on the 4th. His
movement to the east was revealed to Keith by the crew of a prize, and
he went in pursuit on the 5th. When off Cape Delle Melle, he received
orders from St. Vincent to detach two more ships to Nelson, and to
cruise off Rosas to intercept Bruix, who was, rightly enough, supposed
to be bound for Carthagena. If the commander-in-chief had abstained
from meddling, Keith would probably have met Bruix with twenty ships
against the Frenchman’s twenty-two. On the 8th June, Bruix left Vado
for Carthagena, which was what St. Vincent calculated he would do. If
he were bound in that direction, what need was there to reinforce the
distant squadron of Nelson at the expense of the immediately threatened
fleet of Keith, which was reduced by the detachment to eighteen sail
of the line? If to divide your forces in the presence of an enemy
is a blunder, and what Napoleon when criticising Cornwallis called
an “_insigne bêtise_” then St. Vincent committed that blunder, that
_insigne bêtise_. If Keith had obeyed his orders precisely, he would
in all probability have met Bruix with eighteen ships to twenty-two.
But Keith was aware of his inferiority in numbers, and he came to
Minorca to pick up the =Ville de Paris=. The Frenchman slipped through
the gap he left, and reached Carthagena on the 22nd June. While he was
going on his way, and the _Batàve_ and _Fougueux_, repaired at Toulon,
followed and joined him, Keith first picked up the =Ville de Paris= on
the 15th June, and went back to watch Toulon. On the 19th he secured
more reward for toils and dangers by capturing a small French squadron
of three frigates and two brigs under Rear-Admiral Perrée, who had
escaped from Syria and was on his way home. He cruised off Toulon from
the 20th to the 23rd, while Bruix was anchoring at Carthagena, while
Nelson was still watching for him, and while the Royalist forces were
completing the ruin of the Republicans at Naples. On the 24th he went
to Vado, just as Nelson, relieved from anxiety about Bruix, came into
the Bay of Naples in time to secure his dear King and Queen of Naples
a fine feast of hangings and torturings to console them for their
spasms of terror during the last few months. The Republicans had been
beaten without need of our help, but if Nelson had not been at hand to
see that due vengeance was taken on Jacobins, they would have saved
their lives by capitulation. On the 25th, Bruix sailed from Carthagena
with the refitted Spanish ships. Next day Keith went to Vado, and
from thence to the east end of Minorca. On the 27th June he wrote to
Nelson asking him to send such ships as he could spare to assist in
defending Minorca, and Nelson refused on the ground that the safety of
His Sicilian Majesty’s dominions must be secured. Bruix, the only enemy
who could have assailed either, was then on his way from Carthagena to
Cadiz, which he reached on the 11th July. On the 8th, Keith had been
joined near Minorca by Sir Charles Cotton, who brought twelve sail of
the line from home. On the 10th he left in pursuit of the French, of
whose presence at Carthagena he had been informed. On the 21st July,
Bruix sailed from Cadiz, dragging with him a reluctant Spanish squadron
which was forced to accompany him by its intimidated Government. When
Keith sailed from Gibraltar on the 30th July the Frenchman had a long
start, and it was lucky for him that he had. The French sailed ill,
and the Spaniards still more badly, so that when Bruix and his Spanish
colleague, Mazaredo, anchored in the roadstead of Brest they were just
ahead of Keith, who sailed a greater distance and started nine days
behind them.

Such was the famous cruise of Bruix—one of the passages of the great
Revolutionary war which best deserves study. The French gained a
material advantage, for they carried off a Spanish squadron, and so
secured a hostage for the obedience of the Spanish Government and
people, who were becoming restive under the disasters brought on them
by the Alliance. But what is to be said of the English officers who
allowed them to gain this advantage, such as it was? Bridport, who was
negligent, and was befooled, is defended by nobody. Can anything be
said for St. Vincent? for Nelson? even for Keith, the least responsible
of the three? St. Vincent made it inevitable that he would be weak in
the Straits of Gibraltar when he allowed so large a proportion of his
fleet to be detached to Naples. Nelson intensified the bad consequences
of the initial mistake when he egged the Neapolitan Government on to
make its silly attack on the French, thereby bringing down a torrent of
disasters. Two English liners and the Portuguese could have blockaded
Malta in the then prostrate state of the French. If six of the eight
ships of the line with Nelson had been in the Straits on the 5th May,
they with the sixteen already there would have been in a position to
give battle to Bruix at once, and thereby to give the best possible
protection both to Minorca and to Naples. When the French did appear,
St. Vincent divided his fleet by sending Duckworth to Naples, and then
weakened Keith by forcing him to detach two other vessels. And that he
did just when he was doing all that lay in his power to bring about
a battle with forces which he knew to be superior. The conduct of
Nelson can be explained, but is a commander to be held excused when we
say that he was but a fallible man, liable to be besotted by erotic
delusion and megalomania? We suffered no disaster. We only failed, and
for that escape from the natural consequences of our acts we have to
thank the Providence which had served us already by blowing Hoche and
Morard de Galle away from the coast of Ireland.

The escape of Bruix was followed within a month and a few days by the
escape of Napoleon from Egypt. As war, according to his own maxim, is
an affair not of men but of a man, this was a disaster of the first
magnitude for the enemies of France. Hood, who had been left to watch
the coast of Egypt in August, was superseded on the 2nd of February
1799 by Troubridge with the =Culloden= and =Theseus=. A month later—on
the 3rd March—Troubridge was in turn superseded by Sir Sidney Smith,
who brought with him the =Tigre=, 74, and some small craft. By a
piece of most eccentric management, Smith had been appointed Envoy
Plenipotentiary to the Porte in combination with his brother, Spencer
Smith, who already held the post. Being what our ancestors called a
“bold undertaking fellow” and we call a “very pushing man,” Smith gave
himself the airs of a commander-in-chief, to the extreme exasperation
of Nelson, who snubbed him with emphasis. All these officers
successively, or in combination, contrived almost, but not quite, to
cut off Napoleon from communication with France. They bombarded the
ships in Alexandria repeatedly with no great effect. From March to
the 21st of June, Smith was busily engaged in helping the Pasha of
Acre, Djezzar (the Butcher), to repel the attack of Napoleon, who had
marched out of Egypt to follow on the footsteps of Alexander the Great.
After his return to Egypt, Smith helped a Turkish army to land at
Aboukir—an adventure comparable with the Neapolitan advance on Rome,
and similar in its results. The Turks were cut to pieces on the 25th
July. Napoleon, who was informed of the renewal of the war on land in
Europe, was preparing to escape before the Turks landed at Aboukir. As
the vital work of confining him to Egypt had been subordinated to the
security of His Sicilian Majesty’s dominions, the blockading squadron
was small. The two liners, the =Tigre= and =Theseus=, Sidney Smith had
with him, were taken by him to Cyprus for stores on the 9th August.
On the 23rd Napoleon sailed from Alexandria, the coast being clear,
and got away. On the 1st October he touched at Ajaccio, and on the 9th
he landed at Fréjus. His return marks an epoch in the history of the
war, of Europe, and of mankind. It was followed by the overthrow of
the Directory and his assumption of despotic power as First Consul.
From that day all the power of France was directed by his great and
maleficent genius. He might have escaped in any case, but he was helped
to escape by the British Government and its admirals. They were loud in
proclaiming the necessity of imprisoning him in Egypt, but they kept an
insufficient force to blockade him, because they preferred to employ
their ships to peddle in the Bay of Naples, or to patrol round the
island of Minorca.



CHAPTER XIV

INVASION TILL THE CLOSE OF 1801

AUTHORITIES.—As before.


The retreat of Bruix from the Mediterranean and the return of Napoleon
were followed by a pause in the naval war. The French fleet was
exhausted by the effort it had made, and its return to Brest was
followed by an outbreak of discontent, mutiny, and desertion among
the crews. The Spaniards they had brought with them, sixteen sail,
were politically useful to France as hostages, but were of no military
value. The Spanish Ferrol squadron, which was to have joined Bruix
when on his way to the Mediterranean in April, had missed him, perhaps
deliberately, had then gone on to Aix roads, where they were attacked
to no purpose by the frigates and bomb-vessels of an English squadron
commanded by Rear-Admiral Pole on the 2nd July. They returned home in
the course of September, after an attempt to enter Brest. While the
French naval forces were thus exhausted, Napoleon was absorbed in the
discharge of obligations which were preliminary to the renewal of an
attack on England. He had first to make himself master of France by
the _coup d’état_ of the 18th Brumaire VIII (9th November 1799). Then
he had to beat the Austrians who were pressing on the south-eastern
frontier of France, and to bring about a separation between them and
the Russians, with whom they were on very bad terms. In the interval
the French could do nothing to help the army Napoleon had left behind
him in Egypt, except endeavour to send blockade runners with news and
stores. It became continually more difficult for them to do even this.
They were excluded from Italy, and Corfu had surrendered on the 3rd
March 1799 to the Turks and Russians.

When Keith left the Mediterranean in pursuit of Bruix, Nelson remained
in temporary command, but in the absence of an enemy he had nothing to
do save to tighten the blockade of Malta and keep an eye on Minorca,
which continued to be a burden and a cause of division of forces.
He did not cease to be absorbed in schemes for the promotion of the
interests of Their Sicilian Majesties—schemes which were superfluous
if the French were beaten in Northern Italy, and were certain to
be blown into space so soon as they were victorious. The English
Government being well aware by this time that Nelson had “Sicilified”
his conscience, decided to send Lord Keith back to his post as
Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean. It was his due, for he had
been sent out to be second in command to St. Vincent, and the duty had
been handed over to him by his chief. Keith was not a genius, but he
had common sense, he had not forgotten that he was the servant of King
George III., and he was impervious to the fascinations of the court of
Naples.

Keith sailed on the 20th November 1799 to resume the command, and
reached Gibraltar on the 6th December. In the absence of a French fleet
he had no duty to discharge except to superintend the blockade of Malta
and help our Austrian allies as far as he could. Malta had long been
cut off from communication with home. An attempt was made to relieve
the garrison on the 18th February. A small convoy was sent under the
protection of the _Généreux_, which had escaped from Corfu. The convoy
was commanded by the Rear-Admiral, Perrée, who had been taken by Lord
Keith in the previous year. The convoy was scattered, Perrée was
killed, and the _Généreux_ was taken by a number of vessels immediately
commanded by Nelson in his flagship the =Foudroyant=. On the 30th
February the _Guillaume Tell_, the last survivor of the French fleet of
the battle of the Nile, which was lying in Malta, made an attempt to
escape. She was sighted, pursued, surrounded by a swarm of enemies, and
was surrendered, after a most magnificent defence, by Admiral Decrès,
who held the superior command in her, and who was to be Napoleon’s
Minister of Marine. The fate of the garrison was now certain, but
General Vaubois held out till English troops had been landed to
reinforce the islanders, and till hunger compelled him to surrender on
the 5th September 1800.

The occupation of Malta was timely, for it coincided with the collapse
of the allies in Italy, and made us independent of ports on the
mainland. In spring the Austrians seemed to be making themselves
masters of Northern Italy, and the English Government appeared to
be about to support them with decision. Troops were sent to Minorca
under command of General Fox. Others followed, and were ordered to
follow, under the commandership-in-chief of Sir Ralph Abercromby, an
old officer who at least knew his business in the field, and had done
promising service in the West Indies and the Low Countries. But Austria
and England were preparing victory for France under a vain show of
energy. The Austrians had got rid of their Russian ally, the great
Suvarof, a real captain, whose habit of concentrating his men, striking
at the heart of his enemy, and wringing the last drop of gain out of
every success, shocked their pedantry. Moreover, it was their intention
to deliver Italy from French oppression and revolutionary principles
for the purpose of putting it into their own pockets. Therefore they
had no wish for the help of an associate who would cry halves. They
were going to work by the book of arithmetic, sagaciously besieging
and taking post after post, and thereby they allowed Napoleon ample
time to organise the army which was to wrench all their conquests from
them in one day of battle. The English Government was disposed to help
by sending soldiers to fight a little and then come away. Sir Charles
Pasley, author of a treatise on _The Military Policy of the British
Empire_, which appeared in 1808 and produced a great impression, said
epigrammatically that we worked with our navy and played with our army.
The operations before 1800, and on too many occasions afterwards, till
Spain gave us a safe footing in 1808, justify his scoff. It was too
much the custom of the English Government to overcrowd soldiers into
leaky transports where they were plagued by scurvy, and to keep them
hanging round the outskirts of the European conflict. Like an immortal
personage in a great English classic, our army was always making the
gesture of taking its coat off. When it was allowed to land, the
generals were carefully instructed to go no farther than they could go
back easily. They were to advance with their eyes over their shoulders.
In the autumn of 1799 we had made an inroad of this half-hearted kind
into Holland in co-operation with the Russians. It was badly led, for
the Duke of York, an excellent commander-in-chief at the Horse Guards
but a deplorable general in the field, was the leader. But the forces
employed were insufficient. We gained a naval advantage. The remains
of the Dutch fleet fell into our hands at the Nieuwe Diep, partly
through the bad management of their admiral, Storij, but mainly because
the Dutch sailors would not fight. They had an hereditary loyalty to
the house of Orange, and they were discontented with a life of unpaid
idleness under the Batavian Republic. And here it is not irrelevant
to record that the Dutch sailors were already swarming into our navy
and merchant ships. It was calculated that in 1800 as many as 20,000
Dutchmen were sailing under our flag. As the predominance of France
grew more and more oppressive, as she dragged one country after another
into her struggle with England, ever increasing numbers of foreign
sailors sought a refuge from ruin at home in our ports. They were
invited by the English law, which gave naturalisation and with it the
right to command a merchant ship to any foreigner who had served for
two years in our navy. Northern seamen were preferred, both because
they were hardier men, and because coming from kindred races Jansen
easily became Johnson, and Pieterzoon Peterson. Therefore it was that
we were able to man both our navy and our merchant service, which
doubled during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars.

Our share in the resistance to France in Northern Italy during the
command of Lord Keith was quite on the then prevailing model. It was
efficient in so far as it was naval, and in so far as it was military
it was pitiful. Abercromby came to Minorca in May, and we made the
gesture of taking off our coat to help the Austrians at the siege of
Genoa, where Massena was tenaciously holding out with the last French
army in Italy. But the coat was not taken off. The navy blockaded
vigilantly, helped to capture small French posts, and did some gallant
cutting out. The cutting out of the _Prima_ galley from the mole of
Genoa by Captain Beaver was as dashing a piece of work of that kind as
was done in the war. The galley slaves, of whom some were criminals,
but some were prisoners of war, rowed the galley out with alacrity when
Beaver had loosened the chains which bound her to the mole. The story
had a sickening sequel. It seems incredible that Keith, a man of honour
and humanity, should have sent the greater part of these poor wretches
back to Genoa, where they were butchered by Massena. But “such things
were,” to use a favourite phrase of Nelson’s. The incident was typical,
for at that time we were much in the habit of landing against the
French, inviting the help of the people, and then leaving them in the
lurch. “Such things” went far to put a meaning into Napoleon’s abuse of
Perfidious Albion, which used all men for her own advantage, and left
them to suffer for trusting to her word.

Massena was starved out by the 4th June, and next day the town was
occupied by the allies—Austrian soldiers and English ships. English
soldiers were going to come from Minorca, but did not. It was perhaps
fortunate they did not, for nine days after our vessels anchored
at the mole, Napoleon’s army smashed the Austrians at Marengo. A
beating usually extorted an armistice and large surrenders from
Austria. So it did now. An armistice was signed at Alessandria two
days after the defeat. The Austrians surrendered their conquests in
Piedmont wholesale, and on the 23rd Massena reoccupied Genoa with such
promptitude that the =Minotaur= was hardly able to warp out of the port
in time to escape capture.

Political necessities made it incumbent on Napoleon to return to Paris,
and the full harvest of Marengo was not gathered till the close of
1800. But a great wind of terror began to blow all along the Italian
Peninsula. The Queen of Naples went off to implore the Czar Paul to
save her dominions. Nelson went with her, and the English Minister at
Naples, Sir William Hamilton, who had been superseded after many and
flagrant proofs of dotage. Naples may be dismissed for the present
with a brief notice that the king continued to attempt to play a part,
and gain an increase of territory in Central Italy—at least to enrich
his collections of pictures and statues by the plunder of Rome. He
had an army, and it was handsomely tailored. But as King Ferdinand’s
cynical son and successor remarked when he was asked to approve of a
new uniform for his army, “You may dress them as you please, they will
always run away.” When war was resumed in the autumn, the Neapolitan
army bolted at the mere sight of a small French force, the cavalry
riding in panic over the panic-stricken foot at a slashing pace—and
King Ferdinand went down on all fours. It was a relief to be rid of
Naples, but the occupation of Malta in September had been timely.

After the return of Napoleon to Paris, there took place one of those
delusive negotiations in which he not uncommonly sought a military
advantage. He tried to turn the armistice with Austria into a naval
armistice with England. But as usual with him, the terms he offered
were excessively favourable to himself. He wished to retain the right
to send six frigates armed _en flûte_ to Malta and Egypt, and to obtain
security that they would not be examined or stopped. His intention
was to fill them with soldiers and stores to reinforce the garrison
and the army of occupation. The English Government would have been
guilty of incredible folly if it had accepted such a proposal. It
refused, and Napoleon resumed hostilities in October. On sea there had
been no suspension. We had taken Malta, and had defended Elba, and we
were at last preparing to intervene with vigour in Egypt. It was a
consideration of the first importance that the French should not be in
actual possession of the country when serious negotiations for peace
were begun.

Egypt would have been evacuated in January 1800 but for want of good
management on our part. On the 24th of that month Kléber signed a
convention with the Grand Vizier by which he undertook to evacuate
the country if his army was allowed to return home. Sidney Smith, who
commanded on the coast, did not sign the convention, but he agreed to
allow the Frenchmen to pass. When, however, he referred to Keith, who
had just returned from England, the admiral who had general orders not
to allow the French to go except as prisoners, refused his consent. His
refusal was notified to Kléber, who considered himself cheated, and
took his revenge not on us, whom he could not reach, but on the unhappy
Turks, who were perfectly innocent of any breach of faith. He fell
upon them, and defeated them with enormous slaughter at Heliopolis.
When the English Government heard the facts, it gave its consent to the
free return of the French army. But it was now too late. Kléber had
been murdered by a Mahometan fanatic. His successor, Menou, would not
confirm the convention, and nothing remained to be done but to send an
army and turn him out. It is customary to speak of the convention of El
Arish as a foolish business. Yet the Turks had a fair right to recover
their province when they could, and some ground to complain of us for
spoiling their chance. The British army would have lost one of the most
honourable passages in its history if the convention had been carried
out. But politically we had everything to gain by the evacuation of the
country. Kléber’s twenty thousand men were a chip in the porridge of
the half-million soldiers of France. Marengo and Hohenlinden were won
without them. Napoleon’s position would have been notably weaker after
Marengo if Egypt had been already lost. This was an advantage which was
ill replaced by the honour of the thing, and the feather in our cap.
Moreover, we could not know that Kléber would be murdered, and that
Menou would show military ineptitude.

The autumn of 1800 was rich in examples of the two ways of making war,
the right and the wrong. Napoleon left the command in the field to
his generals. On the 3rd December the defeat of the Archduke John by
Moreau at Hohenlinden brought Austria to the ground. She made peace for
herself, though bound by treaty and subsidies not to act apart from
us. Brune and Murat completed the subjugation of Italy. Naples became
a mere appendage of France by the treaty of Foligno, and the treaty of
Lunéville, signed by France and Austria on the 9th February 1801, left
England without an ally on the Continent. When he was rid of Austria
and dominator of Italy, Napoleon was free to concentrate his attention
on the war with England. As England had no sufficient army with which
to attack him at home, she was everywhere on the defensive—on the
superior defensive, no doubt, but on the defensive—except where it
was possible to assail an isolated body of French troops—to wit in
Egypt. Our utter inability to attack the bulk of Napoleon’s power was
well shown in June 1800. St. Vincent, who had hoisted his flag as
commander-in-chief of the Channel fleet on the 26th April, detached Sir
Edward Pellew with seven sail of the line on the 1st June to escort
5000 troops under General Maitland. They were to seize Quiberon, and to
revive the Royalists of Brittany and La Vendée to activity. St. Vincent
acted, of course, by orders of the Government, which was much inclined
to such expeditions, and had hopes of success in an attack on Brest,
which came to nothing. The expedition of Pellew and Maitland came to
as good as nothing. A small fort was taken, a number of small vessels
were captured or destroyed, a brilliant piece of cutting-out work was
done by Jeremiah Coghlan, a favourite and follower of Pellew. But as
the west of France was occupied by a strong army under Bernadotte,
General Maitland could make no impression, and could only re-embark
in haste. Pellew was eager to attack Belleisle, but as the island was
held by 7000 men and was powerfully fortified, a landing would have
been a costly folly. General Maitland very rightly refused to lead his
men to destruction. They were landed on the island of Houat, where
they remained till they were picked up at the end of July by Sir J.
B. Warren, who brought other troops with him under General Pulteney.
The whole force went south at the beginning of August to join Keith
and Abercromby, and to make up an army which was to be employed in
Egypt, the only field in which such a military force as we could then
muster could be used with effect. It was hoped that a stroke might
be delivered at the Spaniards on the way. The squadron of Admiral
Malgarejo, which had returned from the coast of France in the previous
September, was at Ferrol, the great Spanish arsenal in Galicia. Ferrol,
which lies on the north side of a land-locked harbour, is approached
by a fortified channel a mile and a half long. The navy did not force
the passage. It landed Pulteney’s soldiers and a naval brigade under
Pellew on Doniños beach to the north of the passage between Gabeiras
and Serantes or Golfin Points. Doniños is directly to the west of
Ferrol, and is separated from it by some miles of hilly country. The
soldiers drove back a small force of Spanish militia and advanced to
heights from which they had a clear view of Ferrol. Pulteney had a
walled town before him, and he knew that it was occupied by a garrison.
He appears to have exaggerated the numbers of the Spaniards. But there
was a garrison, and there were walls. As the navy had not forced the
passage, it could give him no help in attacking the town. He had no
battering-train, but only a few light field pieces which the sailors
had landed and dragged up for him. He came to the conclusion that time
and men must be spent to take Ferrol—and he had neither to spare. He
therefore re-embarked, and it is hard to say that he was wrong. His
failure has been much derided, and it has been usual to say that the
navy did its part. But the navy did not do its part, which would have
been to force an entrance to the harbour of Ferrol, and bring the water
front of the town under its guns. It asked the army to storm unbreached
fortifications.

After this futility, and another at Vigo, the combined expedition went
on to Gibraltar, and there joined Keith and Abercromby. Before it
went on its proper work, it made another such demonstration as that
at Ferrol. On the 4th of October the whole force was brought round to
Cadiz. The customary version of the story is that the Spanish governor,
Morla, appealed to the English commanders to spare the town, which was
suffering from a great epidemic of yellow fever, and that the gallant
Englishmen, ever generous to a suppliant foe, sailed away. This is
poetry. The prose of the story is well told by Keith’s captain of the
fleet, Philip Beaver. “Independent of the objection which a dreadful
malady, called by some the plague and by others the yellow fever,
opposed to our disembarking, the late season of the year, the danger
of the coast, and the difficulty of communication between the soldiers
and sailors were deemed sufficient by the two commanders-in-chief to
relinquish the attempt.” Abercromby had orders not to land unless he
was sure of being able to embark immediately in case of need. The
naval officers would not promise to be able to re-embark his men at
all times. Moreover, confusion had arisen when an attempt was made to
get the soldiers into the boats, and they were suffering severely from
scurvy after months of detention in wet and overcrowded transports, on
a diet of salt meat, and sleeping on dripping decks in their clothes
and blankets. But now at least the time of fumbling and pottering
was over. On the 5th November, Keith and Abercromby sailed for Malta,
leaving Warren with six sail of the line to watch the Straits. They
collected their command at Malta, and on the 20th December they sailed
to the Levant with resources sanely adapted to an attainable end.

Napoleon was well aware of the value of Egypt as an asset when the
time came for making peace. He strove hard to relieve the army of
occupation. He drew up elaborate schemes for reinforcing it by
squadrons of French and Spanish which were to combine by complicated
movements. What was more to the purpose was that he sent out frigate
after frigate crowded with men and stores from Toulon and the western
ports. When he heard of the concentration of Abercromby’s force at
Malta, he redoubled his efforts. Some of the vessels he sent reached
their destination. The _Egyptienne_ and _Justice_ frigates anchored at
Alexandria on the 3rd February 1801—four days after Abercromby, who
sailed from Malta on the 20th December 1800, had anchored in Marmorice
Bay, in Caramania, on the 31st January. The fleet of seven sail of the
line, frigates, and from 60 to 70 transports turned with relief from a
stormy sea to the land-locked harbour. Keith owed his knowledge of its
existence to Sidney Smith, so ill was the Levant known at the time. As
the leading vessel turned into the entrance between towering headlands
she seemed to the ships behind to be steered against a precipice. Here
the fleet lay recruiting the health of the soldiers, practising them
in landing, collecting stores, listening to the fluent and unfulfilled
promises of the Turk, till the 22nd February, when it sailed for Egypt.
It sighted the coast on the 1st March. On that day the last relief from
France reached Egypt. The _Régénérée_ frigate and _Lodi_ brig ran into
Alexandria parallel with Keith’s convoy. The _Régénérée_ had sailed
on the 13th February with the _Africaine_ from Rochefort. The history
of the _Africaine_ shows at what a cost this work of reinforcing an
isolated force oversea in face of a superior enemy had to be done.
She separated from the _Régénérée_, and on the 18th February, being
then near Ceuta, was sighted, chased, and overtaken by the =Phœbe=,
Captain Barlow. The _Africaine_ had in her 400 soldiers and officials
in addition to her crew of 350. Her captain, Saulnier, who had
commanded the _Guillaume Tell_ under Decrès, made a gallant attempt to
resist capture, and fell in the action. She could make no effectual
resistance, and when Saulnier’s successor, Magendie, struck his flag,
there were 343 dead and wounded out of 715 men packed into her. The
loss of the =Phœbe= was—1 man killed, 2 officers and 10 men wounded.

The history of the expedition to Egypt belongs to the army from the
8th March when it was landed by three detachments and in beautiful
order. The bad generalship of Menou aiding, our soldiers showed that
they could look the best soldiers of France (who yet fought valiantly)
in the face, and in the back too. In June Sir Home Popham, coming from
India, landed an Indian contingent at Kosseir on the Red Sea, which
crossed the desert to Cairo in June. The ships in the Mediterranean
rendered help and stood on guard. Their last service was to drive off
the belated squadron of Honoré Ganteaume which arrived on the coast on
the 7th June.

The doings of that squadron touch our own naval history closely.
Ganteaume was ordered to sail from Brest with three 80-gun ships and
four 74’s. Five thousand soldiers and officials were crowded into
his vessels. It was given out that they were bound for San Domingo.
This was done to spread a false impression, and not without effect.
Ganteaume went through the Raz du Sein on the 8th January, but, finding
his way barred by an English squadron, came back. St. Vincent had now
established his close blockade in the face of some sulky opposition
from officers accustomed to the easier ways of Bridport. He applied his
rule “always close up to Brest in the easterly winds.” It is therefore
a useful corrective to much we are told of the merits of that blockade,
to note that while a heavy gale was blowing from the N.E. on the 23rd
January, Ganteaume made a dash through the Iroise and got away clear to
the south. When St. Vincent heard of the escape of the French squadron
he was deceived as to its destination. Our numerous and capable spies
had no doubt reported the rumour that San Domingo was the aim, and St.
Vincent sent seven ships of the line to the West Indies. Ganteaume
bore on for the Mediterranean, much tried by the gale, and for a time
separated in his flagship, the _Indivisible_, from the rest of his
squadron. But he reunited them on the 1st February, and on the 9th he
ran through the Straits. On the 13th he captured the =Success=, and
learnt from her that Keith must by this time be close to Egypt. He
considered his mission hopeless, and steered for Toulon, very full of
complaints as to the damage done to his ships and other obstructions.
Warren, who could not stop him in the Straits, hurried to Minorca to
protect that perpetual clog and nuisance to the fleet. At Minorca he
heard that our late ally of Naples was being bullied into joining the
French against us, and sailed to Sicily to protect our interests. He
reduced his squadron, leaving one of his six liners to protect Minorca.
Such is the value of a basis of operations which the forces based upon
it dare not leave to its own resources. Ganteaume reached Toulon on
the 18th February, two days before Warren reached Minorca, and on the
19th March sailed again. On the 25th he sighted Warren coming back
from Sicily by the east side of Sardinia, and turned back to Toulon.
He had seven sail to five, and a fine chance to win honour. But he had
his mission to fulfil, and though he believed it to be incapable of
fulfilment, he was prepared to make it an excuse for avoiding action.
Warren, having lost sight of him, went hunting for him to south and
east. On the 5th April Ganteaume was back in Toulon. On the 25th he
was hounded out by Napoleon. He went down the coast of Italy, gave
some help to the French forces then endeavouring to drive out the
Anglo-Tuscan garrison which held Elba, left the three slowest ships
of his squadron at Leghorn, pushed, driven by the anger of the First
Consul to unwonted daring, through the Straits of Messina, and actually
sighted the coast of Egypt 210 miles west of Alexandria on the 7th
June. He detached the _Heliopolis_ brig to Alexandria, where the French
troops were still holding out, and waited for news. As none came as
soon as he expected, he concluded that the _Heliopolis_ was taken, and
so went next to Bengasi in Tripoli intending to land troops there on a
hopeful mission to march by the desert to Egypt. As a matter of fact
the _Heliopolis_ found the coast clear and got safely into Alexandria.
Keith, who had warning by the =Pique= frigate that Ganteaume was not
far off, had gone in pursuit of him. The Frenchman was actually
sighted, but cut his cables, and went off to Toulon. It is a tell-tale
comment on his incessant complaints of the state of his squadron that
he not only out-sailed Keith, but on the 24th sighted the =Swiftsure=,
Captain Keats, on his way from Egypt to Gibraltar near Cape Dernah,
overtook her, captured her, and carried her with him to Toulon, where
he dropped anchor on the 22nd July. The French ships were indifferently
fitted, the crews unpaid for a year, ill-rationed, and in rags. Yet
here we see one of their squadrons, timidly commanded, elude the
vaunted St. Vincent blockade, pass an English squadron unhindered in
the Straits of Gibraltar, range the whole length of the Mediterranean,
and end without disaster after capturing a line-of-battle ship and a
frigate, to say nothing of small craft destroyed. How would it have
been if the equipment had been better, and the chief had been Suffren
or Duguay Trouin?

The frigates and the cruise of Ganteaume’s squadron, were not the only
nor the most formidable efforts Napoleon made to preserve his hold on
Egypt. The formation of the Northern Coalition was in fact a part of
his policy, which aimed at securing her conquests for France. In theory
the coalition was an alliance signed on the 15th December 1800, by
Russia, Prussia, Denmark, and Sweden, to restrict England’s exercise of
her belligerent rights at sea. The immediate pretext was the capture
of the Danish frigate _Freya_, whose captain refused to allow merchant
ships under his protection to be searched, on the 25th July 1800. There
was much hypocrisy in the outcry over the alleged wrongs of neutrals.
No doubt they were annoyed, and to some extent injured, by England’s
assertion of her claim to capture her enemy’s goods in their ships.
But Sweden, in a recent war with Russia, had gone as far as England in
the exercise of belligerent rights. Russia had urged England to go to
all lengths against the shipping of revolutionary France, and Denmark
had profited largely by her position as a neutral. The real author
of the coalition was Napoleon, who worked on the admiration felt for
him by the erratic (perhaps the mad) Czar, Paul. Paul put pressure on
the northern powers, who dared not offend him. He was annoyed by the
occupation of Malta by England, for he had taken the island under his
own protection. As the coalition depended on him it was weak, for Paul
had made himself an object of hate and fear to all about him. His war
with England inflicted heavy loss on the wealthier classes in Russia.
A plot, of which the English Government was certainly not entirely
ignorant, was being laid against him. The English Government could not,
however, afford to wait till the Russians had rid themselves of their
mischievous ruler by the use of the so-called “Asiatic Remedy,” which
was in vulgar English, murder.

Therefore on the 12th March, Sir Hyde Parker, who had with him Nelson
as second in command, sailed from Yarmouth with fifteen sail of the
line, afterwards raised to eighteen. His mission was to coerce Denmark
and Sweden into leaving the coalition, if they could not be persuaded
to retire by Mr. Vansittart, afterwards Lord Bexley, who was sent to
Copenhagen on a diplomatic mission. The naval forces of the allies may
have amounted to forty-one sail of the line, but the Russians, who had
the most numerous fleet, were still shut up in the ice in Revel.

The English fleet was off the Naze of Norway by the 18th March. On the
23rd Mr. Vansittart, who had gone to Copenhagen, returned with the
news that the Danes would not surrender. On the 30th the fleet passed
the Sound, giving the Danish coast a wide berth, and not encountering
any opposition from the forts on the Swedish side. It anchored at
Hveen, an island in the Sound, about fifteen miles above Copenhagen.
Parker, Nelson, Rear-Admiral Graves, Domett the captain of the Fleet,
and Stewart, who commanded a contingent of soldiers carried by the
warships, reconnoitred the enemy’s position on the same day in the
lugger =Lark=. They soon saw that the Danes had not been negligent in
preparing to resist attack. The position to be assailed was a strong
one by nature. Copenhagen stands at the east end of the island of
Zeeland, on both sides of a narrow inlet running from N.E. to S.W. The
entrance to this inlet was (and is) covered by the Trekroner forts,
then mounting 68 guns. From the south side of the inlet the coast
runs to the south. The Danes had drawn up their floating defences,
line-of-battle ships without masts, frames and other vessels to the
number of thirty-seven, carrying 628 guns, along this bit of coast.
They were supported by batteries on shore, but as the sea is shallow
near the land the support was not very close. In front of the line was
the water of the King’s Deep (Konge-dyb) and beyond that the shoal
called the Middle Ground. On the eastern side of the Middle Ground is
the Hollander’s Deep (Hollaender-dyb). In the King’s Deep the water
is shallower on the eastern than on the western side. The admirals
were ignorant of this fact, for their pilots served them ill. These
so-called pilots were in fact mostly mates of merchant ships who had
traded to the Baltic. They knew just as much as was needed for their
trade, and proved both timid and untrustworthy. To fall on from Hveen
at the north end of the Danish line would have been to take the bull
by the horns, for the fleet must have begun by meeting the fire of
the Trekroner and of the heavy ships the Danes had placed close by
the forts. If the southern end was to be attacked then the fleet must
first go down the Hollander’s Deep, turn the end of the Middle Ground,
and work up the King’s Deep, where the navigable passage is barely
three-quarters of a mile wide. The waters were so little known that
our officers had no security that the thing could be done, and in any
case it was absolutely necessary to have the aid of a south-easterly
wind. The obstacles were so serious that when a council of war held
in Parker’s flagship, the =London=, on the night of the 30th, some
voices were for abstaining from attack. But Nelson was strong for
energetic action. He offered to give battle to the Danes, attacking by
the south end himself with ten ships. Sir Hyde Parker was persuaded
by his energy, gave his consent, and added two ships to the ten sail
asked for by Nelson. He did well to give them, but the naval position
of England would not be what it is if many of her admirals had been so
poor of spirit as to be ready to leave the peril and glory of battle to
subordinates.

On the 31st Nelson reconnoitred the Hollander’s Deep. On the 1st April,
the fleet weighed and anchored to the N.W. of the Middle Ground. In
the afternoon Nelson took the ships assigned to the south end of the
Ground and anchored for the night. His squadron was composed of the
=Elephant=, 74, Captain Foley, the flagship; =Defiance=, flagship
of Rear-Admiral Graves, whose captain was R. Retalick; =Edgar=, 74,
Captain Murray; =Monarch=, 74, Captain Mosse; =Bellona=, 74, Sir. T.
B. Thompson; =Ganges=, 74, Captain Fremantle; =Russell=, 74, Captain
Cuming; =Agamemnon=, 64, Captain Fancourt; =Ardent=, 64, Captain
Bertie; =Polyphemus=, 64, Captain Lawford; =Glatton=, 54, Captain
Bligh; and =Isis=, 50, Captain Walker. There were also eighteen
frigates, sloops, bombs, and fireships. The Danes, counting them from
south to north, were the _Prövesteen_, 56, a three-decker cut down
without masts; _Valkyrien_, 48, two-decker without masts; _Rendsborg_,
20, transport; _Nyborg_, 20, transport; _Jylland_, 48, two-decker,
without masts; _Suœrdfisken_, 20, floating battery, masted; _Kronborg_,
22, frigate, without masts; _Elven_, 6, sloop rigged; _Gerner_, 24,
battery, mastless; _Aggershuus_, 20, transport, mastless; _Sjcelland_,
7, two-decker, unrigged, _Charlotte Amalie_, 26, Indiaman; _Söhesten_,
18, masted, battery; _Holsteen_, 60, rigged line-of-battle ship;
_Infödstretten_, 64, two-decker, masted; _Hjeelperen_, 6, rigged
frigate; _Elephantin_, 70, line-of-battle ship without masts; _Maro_,
74, line-of-battle ship, mastless; _Denmark_, 74, rigged line-of-battle
ship; _Trekroner_, 74, ditto; _Iris_, 40, rigged frigate; _Tarpen_,
18, rigged brig; _Nidelven_, 8, ditto; and ten small craft of four
guns each. A glance at these lists is enough to show which of these
two forces was the more powerful. Even putting aside the ordnance
carried—which was 1014 pieces for the English, and 696 for the Danes,
including the Trekroner forts—our opponent marshalled a number of weak
little vessels quite unfit to meet the shock of the broadside of a
line-of-battle ship.

The night before the battle was spent by the English fleet in further
soundings in the unknown waters about it, and by Nelson in drawing up
his final dispositions. It was his intention to enter the King’s Deep
from the south, and advance as far as the Trekroner battery. It was
very naturally understood that Sir Hyde Parker should give his support
by attacking the north end of the Danish line with the ships which
remained with him. They were the =London=, 98, W. Domett, 1st captain,
Captain R. W. Otway, 2nd captain; and =St. George=, 98, Captain Hardy.
She was, properly speaking, Nelson’s flagship, but he left her for the
more handy =Elephant=, and Hardy accompanied on the day of battle. The
others were the =Warrior=, 74, Captain Tyler; =Defence=, 74, Captain
Lord Henry Paulet; =Saturn=, 74, Captain Lambert; =Ramillies=, 74,
Captain Dixon; =Raisonable=, 64, Captain Dilkes; and =Veteran=, 64,
Captain Dickson.

The wind blew fair from the S.E. on the morning of the 2nd April,
and the signal to attack was given at 9.30. The ships stood in with
various fortunes. The =Agamemnon=, which was to have led, had anchored
on the east of the Middle Ground, and was not able to round the point.
Her place as leader was taken by the =Edgar= which advanced till she
was abreast of the _Nyborg_, the fourth ship in the Danish line, and
then anchored by the stern. Then the =Polyphemus= anchored on the
port bow of the first Dane, the _Prövesteen_. The =Isis= passed the
=Polyphemus= and anchored on the quarter of the _Prövesteen_. The two
vessels which followed, the =Bellona= and the =Russell=, misled by the
mistaken belief that the water was deepest on the side of the Middle
Ground, went too near the shoal water and grounded. Their misfortune,
like the similar bad luck of the =Culloden= at the battle of the Nile,
acted as a warning to those behind. The first of these, the =Elephant=,
starboarded her helm, avoided the shallows, and took her station
opposite the centre of the Danish line, where she had only the _Elven_
and the _Dannebrog_ opposed to her. The =Glatton= and =Ardent= anchored
between the =Elephant= and the =Edgar=. The =Ganges=, =Monarch=, and
=Defiance= went ahead of the =Elephant=. The =Defiance=, the furthest
to the north of our ships, did not reach the northernmost point of
the Danish line. The English bombs were stationed behind the centre
of the line. Thus the Trekroner forts and the heavy ships near them
were attacked only by the frigates under Captain Riou, which suffered
severely. Parker detached three of the ships he had retained, the
=Veteran=, =Ramillies=, and the =Defence= to assail the Trekroner from
the north, but they had to tack against the S.E. wind, and could not
reach a position in which they could be of service in time. The action
began at 10 a.m. All the English ships were in position by 11.30, and
the action was of the hottest till about one o’clock. The Danes fought
very stoutly, and as men fell their places were taken by volunteers
from the shore.

Colonel Stewart has left a most lively account of the bearing of Nelson
in the midst of the conflict. In his narrative we see the small and
alert figure of the admiral pacing his quarter-deck, the stump of his
right arm leaping with a nervous movement, and his whole being uplifted
with exultation. The work was hot, he said, but not for the world would
he be elsewhere. It was the unaffected expression of the true nature
of a man to whom the _gaudia certaminis_ was no idle phrase. Yet the
=Elephant= had but feeble adversaries, and was among the least severely
tried ships in the line. Her 10 killed and 13 wounded was a trifling
loss beside the 24 killed and 51 wounded of the =Defiance=, the 31
killed and 111 wounded of the =Edgar=, the 30 killed and 64 wounded of
the =Ardent=, the 33 killed and 88 wounded of the =Isis=, an enormous
proportion for a 50-gun ship. All were surpassed by the casualty list
of the =Monarch=, the heaviest suffered by any of our line-of-battle
ships in the war, 56, including her captain, Mosse, killed, and 164
wounded, a full third of her crew. Seen from the deck of the =London=,
the position of the squadron looked more perilous even than it was.
Sir Hyde Parker, influenced perhaps by Captain Domett was early
inclined to hoist a signal of recall. There was a discussion between
Kim, Domett, and the captain of the =London=, Waller Otway. Finally
it was decided that Domett should go to the =Elephant= with a message
to Nelson telling him that he was free to obey the signal to retire
or to disregard it, as he judged fit. Domett did not go, for while he
was changing his dress Captain Otway, who is our authority for the
story, jumped into a passing boat to carry the message. He reached the
=Elephant= through many perils, but before he was alongside, the signal
had been hoisted and disregarded. Nelson, whose bearing shows that he
regarded the signal as an order and not as a permission, did not repeat
it. He gave expression to his derision by putting his telescope to his
blind eye and declaring that he could not see the signal.

The order was in fact foolish in the extreme, for the squadron could
only retire before the south-east wind through the narrow passage
in front of the Trekroner forts. The signal was disregarded by
Rear-Admiral Graves, and obeyed only by Riou’s frigates, which were
getting the worst of it in their engagement with the forts. They
retired, and Riou was killed in the retreat. Moreover, the fire in the
southern end of the Danish line was slackening. Vessels were silenced
and driven out of the line. In some cases the overpowered ships were
remanned from the shore and the fire resumed. There was nothing
irregular in this action of the Danes. They were perfectly entitled
to retake prizes if they could, and a ship was not even a prize till
possession was taken by the captors. But Nelson seized the opportunity
to bring the action to an end. He sent his letter to the Prince Regent
of Denmark, claiming a right to take undisturbed possession of the
vessels which had struck, and calling the Danes brothers. The Prince
Regent might well have treated the letter as a cry of distress. But he
had good reason to avail himself of the opportunity to put a stop to
the battle with credit. He knew that the Northern Coalition was in fact
dissolved before the battle began. He had been informed on the eve of
the 2nd April that the Czar, Paul, had been murdered in the night of
the 24th March, and he was well aware that the new Czar, Alexander I.,
would not be allowed to follow his father’s policy. Therefore he agreed
to arrange an armistice, and consented to stop his fire. Nelson took
possession of his prizes and hastened to evacuate the field of battle
he had won. The =Elephant= and =Defiance= grounded on their way out, a
pretty clear indication of what must have happened if Parker’s signal
had been obeyed under the fire of the forts. Nelson’s qualities as a
fighter of battles were never more conspicuously shown than in this
action, and they are not discredited in the least by the fact that,
as many great captains have done (and will do to the end of time), he
pieced out the hide of the lion by the skin of the fox.

The rest of the operations in the Baltic were of the nature of
formalities. The Swedes would not risk the six liners they had in
commission. While the fleet was in Kjöge Bay the Russians made
proposals for an armistice which it was much our interest to accept.
Sir Hyde Parker was recalled on the 5th May. Nelson, to whom the
command came, hurried to Revel in the hope of catching the Russian
squadron. He arrived on the 14th, eleven days after the Russians had
cut their way through the ice and had sailed to Cronstadt. The polite
letter he wrote to the Russian Government and his offer of a visit to
St. Petersburg, were met with the dry comment that his words were not
consistent with his actions, and a firm intimation that he must go
away. He growled, but he went, and on the 19th June he left the Baltic
at his own request.

The collapse of the Northern Coalition threw Napoleon into one of those
fits of convulsive fury in which he stormed with all the epileptic
rage of an Italian plebeian. He found what consolation he could in
accusing the English Government of having paid for the murder of the
Czar. But he still persevered in his efforts to send direct help to
his army in Egypt. As we have seen, he was driving Ganteaume hard all
through the spring. And he had another scheme on hand—a scheme which
was the forerunner of larger plans to be laid in the course of the
next few years. The French Government had purchased six Spanish ships
of the line then lying at Cadiz. They were to be manned by French
crews and commanded by Dumanoir Lepelley. The three French liners of
Ganteaume’s squadron, discarded by him at Leghorn, the _Indomptable_
and _Formidable_ of 80, and the _Desaix_, 74, were to sail from Toulon
to Cadiz. The nine were then to be joined by six Spaniards under Don
Juan Joaquin Moreno, and the fifteen were to sail for Egypt, picking up
soldiers in Italy on their way. It would be rash to say that Napoleon
would not have made movements corresponding to these with his armies.
He did many rash things with his armies, and while he was aided by
fortune and the timidity of his opponents his audacity was successful.
But on land his armies were handled by himself, were superior in
quality, and his opponents were nervous. At sea such daring was too
bold, for the superiority lay with the English. They knew it and were
confident. In this case the plan was particularly wild, because Sir
James Saumarez, an excellent officer, was cruising in the Straits, with
seven sail of the line, and was therefore at the very meeting-place of
these forces.

On the 13th June the three French ships named above, together with the
_Muiron_, 38, a frigate taken from the Venetians, left Toulon under
Rear-Admiral Durand Linois, carrying a detachment of troops, under
General Devaux. Ganteaume was in the midst of his rush to Egypt and
back. Warren, whose station was the Gulf of Lyons, was away looking for
him. Linois was able to leave the Gulf unopposed, but not unobserved by
the frigates Warren had left behind him. Those, and they are apparently
many, who suppose that a port can “command” a sea may observe that
Minorca proved no obstacle to Linois. His voyage was slow, and it
was not till the 1st July that he passed Gibraltar. He was informed
that there were only two English ships off Cadiz. On the 3rd July he
captured the brig =Speedy=, commanded by Lord Cochrane, afterwards the
famous Earl Dundonald, and learnt that there were in fact seven, and
that they were across his road. Napoleon had spoilt, or had materially
helped to spoil, his own plan for the relief of Egypt by his cunning.
He had spread a story that the united French and Spanish ships were to
attack Lisbon. His purpose was to draw the attention of the English
Government from the Levant. What he did was to convince his enemy that
Cadiz must be closely watched, for Lisbon was not only the capital of
our most trustworthy ally in Europe, but was a most important depôt
of English trade. Therefore Saumarez had been sent from England on
the 15th June with the =Cæsar=, 80, =Pompée=, 74, =Spencer=, 74,
=Hannibal=, 74, =Audacious=, 74, =Thames=, =Phæton=, frigates, and the
=Plymouth= lugger. He was joined in the Straits by the =Venerable=, 74,
and =Superb=, 74.

Here then was a warning example of what was likely to be the end of all
schemes for uniting squadrons which started from far distant ports,
and in the face of an alert enemy who operated on interior lines.
They could only succeed if these squadrons to be thus united had been
efficient. And then all this ingenuity would have been superfluous.
Saumarez could not have kept his station outside of Cadiz for
twenty-four hours if the thirteen Spaniards, then in the port, had been
more than the vain show of a squadron.

When he discovered what was in front of him Linois turned into
Algeciras Bay and anchored on the west side. On the south he was
covered by the Isla Verde, where there was a Spanish fort. On the
north he was supported by the battery Santiago. The shore is foul
with rocks. There were fifteen Spanish gunboats to give him help. He
anchored the _Formidable_ at the north end, opposite the Santiago fort;
south of her was the _Desaix_, and next to her the _Indomptable_. The
_Muiron_ was placed north-west of the Isla Verde. On the 5th July
Saumarez, acting on the established rule of the navy, attacked. He had
with him six of his seven liners, for Captain Keats of the =Superb=,
who had just been detached to the mouth of the Guadalquivir, was unable
to rejoin in time. The English squadron rounded Cabrita point at about
eight a.m., and fell on as well as they could. For fortune helped the
French greatly. The wind was light and erratic. The English ships could
not come into action either when or where they wished. Linois landed
soldiers to fight the ill-manned Spanish forts. The English ships at
the mercy of alternate puffs of wind and calms, could not come into
action together, and were badly mauled. The =Cæsar=, which engaged the
_Formidable_ and the _Desaix_, was nearly beaten to pieces. But the
worst fate befell the =Hannibal=, Captain Ferris, for she grounded, was
shattered thoroughly, and compelled to surrender. The French ships had
cut their cables and had beached themselves. Saumarez too had drawn
off, finding it impossible to press his attack thoroughly home.

The check was a shrewd one, for nothing could hide the fact that six
English ships of the line had attacked three French, supported by
batteries and gunboats it is true, and had drawn off with the loss of
one of their number. We had 121 killed and 240 wounded. The =Hannibal=
contributed 74 to the list of killed, and the survivors were prisoners.
The French confessed to 306 killed, and the wounded must have been more
numerous, but there is a doubt as to the numbers. The Spaniards too
lost men. Yet the allies could claim a success, though after all it
only helped to prove the essential weakness of Napoleon’s plan. Linois
was sure that he would be attacked by fireships, and appealed to his
friends at Cadiz for help. On the 9th the Spanish admiral, Moreno,
came round with six sail of the line to escort Linois. On the 12th the
nine, having their prize the =Hannibal= in tow, sailed for Cadiz. Their
fortunes before they got there showed how unfit they were to contend
with English squadrons at sea. Saumarez’ squadron had been refitted
with energy. The =Cæsar= was got ready by miracles of hard work on
the part of her crew and of seamanship on the part of her captain,
Jahleel Brenton. The =Superb=, at once rejoined, and the six followed
the nine allies, who went off in flight. During the night the pursuing
English squadron forced on an action. The enemy, going off in what was
to have been a line abreast, but rapidly became a confused huddle,
could only fight feebly in retreat. Two of the Spanish ships, the
mighty three-deckers, _San Hermenegildo_ and _Real Carlos_, caught fire
and blew up, with the loss of nearly all the 2000 men they carried.
The rest of the allies hurried as best they could to Cadiz, followed
by the English. Luck again helped the French, for the =Venerable=
grounded on the San Pedro rock while tackling the _Formidable_. But the
combination scheme had broken down, and Saumarez, in spite of the check
in Algeciras Bay, had, said St. Vincent, “put us on velvet.”

Turning movements, evasions, combinations, and coalitions had all
failed. The threat of direct attack was kept up till the armistice,
which was the preliminary to the Peace of Amiens, was signed on the 1st
October. Napoleon persevered in collecting small craft to be used for
the purpose of carrying an army to the shore of England. The scheme
was as old as the reign of Louis XV., and, as we have seen, had been
revived by the Directory in a feeble way. The invasion flotilla was
to be taken up again by Napoleon himself on a far larger scale two
years after 1801. It will be most appropriately discussed under the
later date. The policy of the First Consul in 1801 cannot be taken
as indicating a serious intention to attempt the invasion of England
at that time and with the resources then at his disposal. He brought
troops to the coast, and collected small transports, in order to
inspire fear in England, and thereby put pressure on her Government to
make the peace which was greatly desired by the country, tired as it
was by the strain of a long and laborious war. His aim was attained to
some extent. The seamen indeed treated the flotilla with contempt for
substantial reasons, which were excellently stated by Captain Beaver in
a paper which the reader will find printed as an appendix to his life
by Admiral Smyth. He pointed out that a swarm of small craft built
flat, so that they could work in shallow water and be beached, and
therefore leewardly, would be swept hither and thither in the currents
of the Channel. But the seamen failed to persuade their countrymen. It
has also been at all times impossible to convince soldiers that the
Channel and the North Sea cannot be crossed by an army as if they were
rivers. All the persons rudely described by St. Vincent as the “old
women” in and out of Parliament were greatly disturbed by the invasion
flotilla.

The Government was manifestly under an obligation to act against the
flotilla with vigour. It took the very best course it could find both
to quiet the mind of the country and to make sure that its directness
would be vigorously applied. It put Nelson in command of what may
be called a counter flotilla, operating from the coast between
Orfordness and Beachy Head, against the French flotilla, which was
being concentrated for the threatened dash at Boulogne. He hoisted his
flag in the =Medusa= frigate in the Downs on the 30th July, and went
instantly to work like the born fighter he was. The effectual course
would have been to land soldiers, take Boulogne, and burn the flotilla.
But our small army was quite unable to provide the 80,000 or 100,000
men needed for an offensive movement against the numerous troops of
Napoleon. There was nothing for it but to hit at his naval forces
with naval forces. The result of the manful efforts we made was no
surprise to the seamen. It was found to be impossible to prevent small
flat-bottomed craft, which could take the ground at low tide, and hug
the shore at high tide, from creeping along from creek to creek, and
shore battery to shore battery. The large vessels could not get near
enough to them on the shallow coast to do harm with the artillery of
the time, which had an effective range of about 1200 yards. With the
help of support from the shore they could generally deal with small
craft and boats. Therefore they could be concentrated at Boulogne. When
there they were collected at that point, and they could be protected.
The Boulogne flotilla was bombarded with some, but not much, effect
at its anchorage on the 4th August. We could not bring a sufficiently
heavy force near enough to do serious harm. But to bring the flotilla
to Boulogne was a useless preliminary to real work unless it could get
out. Its inability to make a sortie in open daylight, and with a good
wind, was confessed. What chance it had of succeeding in the venture,
in calm, fog, or long winter night, was shown on the 15th August.

A quadruple cutting-out expedition on a large scale was then despatched
by Nelson. It consisted of four divisions of armed boats, commanded
respectively by Captain E. T. Parker, Captain P. Somerville, Captain
Cotgrave, and Captain R. Jones. Parker reached the flotilla with his
division about midnight, but found that vessels swarming with men,
barricaded and swathed in boarding nettings, anchored head and stern,
fastened to one another by chains, constituted a floating fortress too
strong for his boats. He was himself mortally wounded, and his boats
repulsed with a loss of 21 killed and 42 wounded. The divisions of
Captain Cotgrave and Captain Somerville were more affected by the tide
than Parker’s. They reached the French anchorage later than he, and not
with their boats together. They too were repulsed with loss. Captain
Jones’ boats were swept to the eastward and failed to reach the enemy.
If this happened to the active, well-manned men-of-war boats, what must
have been the helplessness of the flat-bottomed craft of the flotilla
in the Channel currents. Our total loss was 44 killed and 126 wounded,
who all fell victims to the necessity for quieting the fears of the
“old women.”

The longing of both countries for peace could no longer be disregarded
by their Governments. An armistice was signed on the 1st October, and
a so-called peace was signed at Amiens on the 27th March 1802, though
Napoleon most assuredly did not mean it to endure, and no wise man in
England believed that it could last.



CHAPTER XV

TRAFALGAR

 AUTHORITIES.—The last and the most complete collections of the
     evidence for the events dealt with in this chapter will now
     be found in _Projets et Tentatives de Débarquement aux Iles
     Britannique_, and in the supplementary volume, _La Campagne
     Maritims de 1805—Trafalgar_, by Captain E. Desbrière. See also
     _Trafalgar and the Nelson Touch_, a series of articles with
     ensuing correspondence in the _Times_ for September and October
     1905.


The peace signed at Amiens in March 1802 served two useful purposes.
It gave the nation a breathing space, and it allowed Napoleon an
opportunity to convince all Englishmen who were not beyond being
taught by experience that with him no lasting peace was possible.
His annexations, his insolent denial to England of any right to a
voice in the affairs of the Continent, his dishonesty in the matter
of the withdrawal of the French troops from Holland, his persistence
in calling on England to evacuate Malta, and the hostile measures
against English trade which he adopted, soon convinced all but a few
that war with him was inevitable. There could be no peace with a ruler
who endeavoured to force England to adhere to the letter of a treaty
which he was himself violating daily in spirit and substance. He did
not believe that peace could be permanent, but trusted that it would
last till he had found the means to arm against us at sea. In the hope
that he could revive French shipping by means of a colonial trade, he
sent a great armament to reoccupy the French part of the island of San
Domingo, which had been lost by a revolt of the slaves. Another was
sent to the East Indies provided with instructions how to attack our
possessions. The English Government, urged by public opinion, defeated
his plans by forcing on war in May 1803.

The brevity of the suspension of hostilities allowed no time for
important internal changes in the navy, but this interval saw the
beginning of administrative reforms which were to produce their chief
fruits after 1815. St. Vincent, who had become First Lord in the
Addington Ministry in 1801, was profoundly conscious of the waste and
corruption which prevailed in the Navy Office. He persuaded, indeed
it may be said that he forced, his colleagues to pass the Act of the
43rd George III., which appointed Commissioners “for inquiring into
irregularities, frauds, and abuses in the Navy Departments, and in
the business of prize agency.” The Commissioners produced a series of
reports between 1802 and 1805, which revealed much mismanagement and
the existence of not a little pilfering. The Commission of 1802 was
succeeded in 1806 by another “for revising and digesting the civil
affairs of the Navy,” which also made reports in 1809. These documents
are full of instruction, but they cannot be analysed and extracted
here. Their immediate effect was good, for they terrified evil-doers
and aroused the temper of the country. But they produced their main
fruits as late as 1830, and during the administration of Sir James
Graham.[6] St. Vincent, intent on reform, was obstinate in refusing to
believe in the renewal of war with France. He was accused of allowing
the strength of the navy to fall to a dangerously low figure. His
enemies did their best to raise public anger against him, and Pitt
attacked him hotly in the House of Commons.

A little sober investigation reduces these charges to moderate
proportions. St. Vincent’s critics were as unmeasured, and as
indiscriminating in criticising him, as he and his followers were in
scolding the Navy Office. In Parliamentary and other public discussions
our English respect for truth is qualified by a lively sense of the
value of loud-mouthed and hectoring accusations of stupidity and
turpitude as instruments of controversy. In March 1803 there were
perhaps not so many vessels in commission as there might have been,
and it is possible that St. Vincent had carried economy too far in
the dockyards. But the French dockyards were empty, and Napoleon was
taken completely by surprise—as indeed he confessed. He had exhausted
his resources by fitting out the fleet sent to San Domingo, and his
naval arsenals had been stripped bare. Some of the vessels he sent out
were unable to reach French ports before the renewal of hostilities.
Six of the line took refuge in the Spanish port of Ferrol, and another
hid at Cadiz. Even including these seven, he had only thirteen sail of
the line ready for sea, and they in bad condition. We had thirty-nine,
and the superiority in frigates was much greater. Thus we were able to
blockade our enemy with overwhelming forces from the beginning. Nelson
took the command in the Mediterranean; Pellew off Ferrol; Cornwallis
off Brest; Sir Sidney Smith in the North Sea; while Keith took the
command of the reserve in the Downs. As for the condition in which
these squadrons were, we have the word of Sir Edward Pellew, a very
competent witness. Speaking in the House of Commons on the 15th March
1804, he said:—

 “I know, Sir, and can assert with confidence that our navy was never
 better found, that it was never better supplied, and that our men were
 never better fed or better clothed. Have we not all the enemy’s ports
 blockaded from Toulon to Flushing? Are we not able to cope anywhere
 with any force the enemy dares to send out against us? And do we not
 outnumber them at every one of those ports we have blockaded? It would
 smack a little of egotism, I fear, were I to speak of myself, but as a
 person lately having the command of six ships, I hope I may be allowed
 to state to the House how I have been supported in that command. Sir,
 during the time I was stationed off Ferrol I had ships passing from
 the fleet [_i.e._, the fleet in the Channel] to me, every three weeks
 or a month, and so much was the French commander shut up in that port
 deceived by these appearances that he was persuaded, and I believe is
 to this very hour, that I had twelve ships under my command, and that
 I had two squadrons to relieve each other, one of six inside, and one
 of six outside.”

When Pellew was speaking, a year after the war began, the whole
sea-going naval force at Napoleon’s disposal, including vessels
belonging to the Batavian Republic and stationed at the Cape or in the
Indian Ocean, did not exceed, and except on paper did not reach, 48
of the line and 37 frigates. At that time England had in commission
88 ships of the line, 13 ships of 50 guns, 125 frigates, and a swarm
of sloops, gunbrigs, cutters, and “armed ships”—hired merchant-ships
carrying guns. We had every means of collecting stores, and the French
had few. The disproportion of force in our favour was so overwhelming,
and was so well known, that it is hard not to feel some contempt for
the flushings of apprehension and spasms of clamorous terror into which
our fathers were thrown by the fear of invasion.

The disposition of our[7] forces was admirably calculated to place
concentric barriers, elastic, mobile, but tough and impenetrable,
between the shores of Great Britain and a Continental assailant. The
inner barrier consisted of the fleet under the command of Lord Keith,
who had his headquarters in the Downs. He had 21 sail of the line and 6
ships of 50 guns, 29 frigates, 26 sloops, 12 bomb-vessels, 25 gunbrigs,
32 cutters and luggers, 19 armed ships. These vessels watched the
coast of France, and the dependent Batavian Republic from Havre to the
Texel. There was on our own coast a swarm of armed boats:—135 between
Yarmouth and Leith; 149 between Southend and Orfordness; 181 between
Hastings and the mouth of the Thames; 138 from Poole to Newhaven; 21
at Liverpool, Glasgow, and Greenock; 114 on the coast of Ireland: in
all, 738. Keith’s fleet was also the reserve on which other fleets
could fall back in case of need. Next, outside of Keith, came the Brest
blockade under Cornwallis:—20 sail of the line, 5 frigates, 1 sloop, 5
cutters, or luggers, or schooners. Beyond Cornwallis was the squadron
watching Rochefort:—5 sail of the line, 1 frigate, 1 cutter. Then
came 7 sail of the line, 2 frigates, 1 sloop, 1 cutter, which watched
Ferrol. In the Mediterranean, Nelson had 13 sail of the line, 1 50-gun
ship, 11 frigates, 10 sloops, 3 bomb-vessels, 6 gunbrigs, 2 cutters. In
the East Indies were 6 sail of the line, 2 50-gun ships, 7 frigates, 5
sloops. In the West Indies were 8 sail of the line, 1 50-gun ship, 11
frigates, 20 sloops, and 15 small craft. The vessels doing convoy work
may be left aside at present.

As we had no such army as could assail Napoleon at home, this mighty
force could only cruise and watch till such time as the Emperor of the
French (to give him the title he assumed on the 18th May 1804) put
its strength to the test. He threatened invasion by arrogant word and
ostentatious deed. There were then, there are now, it is probable that
there always will be, disbelievers in the sincerity of his threats.
He wrapped himself in clouds of lies, and he is not to be believed
on his bare word, either when he said he would invade, or when he
declared that he had never seriously contemplated invasion. As he said
himself, he served a merciless taskmaster, “the nature of things,” and
it was in the nature of things that his empire was subject to attack
by the powers of Central and Eastern Europe. He cannot have meant to
attempt an invasion of England at a time when the armies of Austria
were actually marching against him. We know that during the last months
of 1804 and the first of 1805, when war with Austria seemed imminent,
he suspended his preparations for an invasion of England, and resumed
them only when a letter from the Emperor Francis II. gave him assurance
that he would not be interrupted. But though he was bound to bow to
necessity, and turn from England when the frontier of the Rhine was in
danger, it by no means follows that he would not have made the attempt
had it been at any time possible. He had promised the French to rid
them of their hereditary enemy England, and he could only make sure of
keeping his word by invasion. His power depended on his popularity, and
that depended on victory. He had risen to a towering height by running
great risks, and he went on running them to the end, to keep what he
had won. If he believed anything, he believed that his presence in
England at the head of an army would bring the country to submission at
once, and even to revolution. Assuredly he did mean to run the hazard
of making an invasion, subject always to the leave of “the nature
of things,”—if, that is to say, the forces at his command and the
circumstances around him allowed of the venture.

It is not necessary to produce reasons for believing that he never
meant to risk a crossing of the Channel with a flotilla alone. He
had given conclusive reasons for not running that hazard when the
Directory made him General of the Army of England in 1797. The swarm
of flat-bottomed boats he collected between the spring of 1803 and the
autumn of 1805, and the army he encamped at Boulogne, were never meant
to act by themselves. The flotilla might be used under protection of a
fleet. The army was very well placed to be drilled, and kept under his
own eye and influence for all service. His assurances that he meant
to invade with the flotilla and army by themselves were designed to
satisfy public opinion in France, and inspire fear in England. It
must not be forgotten that Napoleon was betrayed, and knew he was
betrayed, by people about him who dreaded the consequences of his rule
to France. Their identity is uncertain, though Talleyrand has been
supposed to have been one of them. Whoever they were, these persons
known as the “he-friend,” and the “she-friend,” and the “son of the
friend,” had access to Napoleon’s most secret papers, and communicated
the substance of them to a certain Count d’Antraigues, an exiled French
Royalist attached to the Russian mission in Saxony. Through Antraigues
the information came to the English Government. Napoleon, who knew he
was betrayed but could not detect the traitors, used countermines to
confuse and mislead them. Many of the minutes he made and the orders he
issued have much the air of having been designed to reach his enemies
and put them on a false scent.

When the preliminaries of October 1801 were signed, there were 250
flat-bottomed boats in existence of the model brought to France by
Muskeyn. In March 1803 only 136 were available. Napoleon began at once
to repair and strengthen this remnant. His first plan was to add a
moderate number of flat-bottomed boats, and to draw largely on fishing
and coasting craft for his transports. It was soon found that these
resources would be insufficient. By July 1803 he had adopted plans
for building 1410 flat-bottomed vessels, and in August the number was
fixed at 2008. They were to be divided into _frames_ of 110 feet by 25,
drawing 8 feet, rigged as barques; _chaloupes_ of 76 to 80 feet by 17,
drawing 5 to 6 feet, rigged as brigs; _bateaux cannoniers_ of 60 by 14
feet, drawing 4½ feet, rigged as luggers; _caiques_—small luggers and
schooners; bomb-vessels, and _péniches_, a species of fishing-boats.
All carried guns, from the twelve 24-pounders of the _frames_ down to
the single _obusier_ or shell-firing gun of the _péniches_. They were
built all along the north coast of France, at Paris, on the Rhine and
in Holland. They were brought to their headquarters at Boulogne, down
rivers and canals and by voyages along the coast from fort to fort and
creek to creek. Harbours were cleared for them, and batteries built for
their protection. The most determined efforts on the part of our naval
officers failed to prevent these craft from collecting in and about
Boulogne. But there Napoleon’s success with them ended. They could not
be sent to sea. The fine schemes for combining troops and transports
remained mere schemes. The ports cleared for the transports silted up
again as fast as they were made. When the vessels were anchored in
the harbours, they could only get out in driblets. When they anchored
outside, they were harassed by English attacks, and injured by gales.
Napoleon was eye-witness to the destruction of a number of them by
a gale in June 1804. It is true that we did them but little harm.
Our sea-going ships could not push their attacks home on a shallow
coast, and we did not build corresponding vessels for the purpose. An
attempt to make an end of them by a species of floating mines called
“catamarans,” much favoured by Mr. Pitt, proved a failure in October
1804. Yet the utmost they could do was to escape destruction. They
could not go out, as Napoleon knew from the first. His naval officers
told him the truth with perfect candour.

Something else must be done to clear the way for an invading army, and
there was only one thing which promised success. A force of sea-going
ships must be collected to protect the transports. Therefore, from the
end of 1803 till late in 1805, the correspondence of Napoleon is filled
with elaborate plans for concentrating a fleet in the Channel. These
plans of campaign and the letters written in combination with them
fill hundreds of pages in the vast compilation of Captain Desbrière.
This most competent French authority is inclined to believe that much
of the vast correspondence was meant to be betrayed and to mislead the
English Government. No other rational explanation can indeed be found
for the confusing way in which proposals for expeditions to Scotland,
Ireland, and the East Indies are mingled with plans for bringing
squadrons from Brest, Rochefort, Ferrol, Cadiz, and Toulon together in
the Channel. These alternative schemes, eccentric in every sense of the
word, were never acted on. If they were designed to deceive the British
Government, they failed.

The solid core of a mass of mere words was the design to concentrate
a strong fleet in the Channel. A squadron, or squadrons, of the ships
at Napoleon’s command was, or were, to cross the Atlantic in order
to distract the attention of the English Government and induce it to
send ships in pursuit. Napoleon’s intention was that his vessels should
come back and unite in the Channel, where they would have a superiority
over the English who, he calculated, would be weakened by detachments.
The English Government had early warning that this was in fact his
plan, and prepared to defeat it by a counter policy of concentration.
The penury of the French dockyards and the time required to build the
flat-bottomed boats compelled Napoleon to delay the application of
his plan. Seven of his ships were blockaded in Spanish ports, and his
relations to Spain were peculiar. She was bound by treaty to join him
in the war, but was allowed to compound for armed help by the payment
of a subvention. England might fairly have considered this contribution
to the funds of its enemy, and have declared war on Spain at once. But
it refrained until 6th October 1804, when it seized the home-coming
Spanish treasure ships in the Straits of Gibraltar. Spain declared war
in December. Napoleon’s plans may be divided into those laid before
and those laid after October 1804. It is enough to say of the first,
which were never put to the test, that after a variety of hypothetic
suggestions had been made and rejected, Napoleon decided in favour of
the comparatively simple scheme that Latouche-Tréville, who commanded
at Toulon, should elude Nelson and head for Rochefort, drive off the
English blockading squadron, and be then ready to co-operate with the
fleet at Brest. There was nothing impossible, or even very hazardous,
in this plan. Nelson made it his boast that he did not blockade Toulon.
He only watched the port by frigates, remaining on the coast of
Sardinia with his liners, hoping that the French would come out, and
that he would be able to bring them to battle. He had every right to
rely on victory if a battle could be secured; but, as the future was
to show, he was not entitled to calculate on meeting the Toulon fleet.
Success would depend on the receipt of prompt information from his
frigates, but Nelson remained far from Toulon, he allowed his squadron
to drive in the north-easterly winds, and was seldom at his rendezvous,
and so days often passed before the frigates could find his flag. It
was, too, a fixed idea of his, that if the French left Toulon, it
would be for the purpose of renewing their disastrous adventure in
Egypt. Napoleon, who read his mind with remarkable sagacity, and who
ranked his judgment low, had calculated on this very fixed idea of
the English admiral’s as an element in his own favour. It is by no
means improbable that the concentration at Rochefort might have been
effected if the resources of the Toulon yard had been greater. But the
squadron was fitted for sea with difficulty. Latouche-Tréville died on
the 20th August 1804. His successor had to be selected, and then came
the war between Spain and England, which brought a new element into the
problem. At that moment, too, there was a strong probability that war
would break out with Prussia and Austria. The invasion schemes were
hung up, and in September Napoleon was intent on organising attacks on
England’s colonies. Even these were designed to draw off English forces
from home waters and leave the road free for a push from Brest and
Boulogne. Their real purpose was known to the English Government, which
was warned by its secret agents, and showed itself well aware of its
enemy’s purpose.

Villeneuve was chosen to succeed Latouche-Tréville, mainly because
the emperor looked upon him as a lucky man, and because that was a
valuable quality in the prevailing dearth of capable admirals. On
the 12th December 1804 orders were sent to Villeneuve to prepare for
a great expedition to the West Indies, where he was to be joined by
Missiessy with the squadron from Rochefort. They were to capture
colonies, and after a stay of sixty days to come back to Rochefort.
Nothing was said of ulterior movements in the instructions to them.
But orders of nearly the same date were sent to Ganteaume at Brest to
get to sea, make a commerce-destroying cruise on the coast of Ireland,
go to Ferrol, pick up the French and Spanish ships there, and join
Villeneuve and Missiessy on their return from the West Indies. If the
concentration was effected, Napoleon would have, so he thought, that
command of the Channel which, as he told Latouche in July, would make
him master of the world. But he was trying to overreach his taskmaster,
“the nature of things.” Such a scheme could succeed only by a truly
wonderful combination of capacity on the part of his officers, of
incapacity on the part of the English officers, and of good fortune.
Two parts out of three of the scheme failed. Missiessy did indeed get
away from Rochefort on the 11th January 1805, reached the West Indies,
did considerable damage to our trade, and got safe back by the 20th
May. Ganteaume was unable to get to sea without a battle with the
blockading fleet, and he was forbidden to fight. Villeneuve got to sea
on the 17th January, when a north-easterly gale had forced the English
look-out frigates off the coast. The result did to some extent justify
Napoleon’s foresight. Nelson, who heard on the 19th that Villeneuve
was at sea, acted on his fixed idea that Egypt was the object of the
French, went to look for them in the Levant, and was not back to his
rendezvous in Sardinia till the 27th February. But Villeneuve had been
driven back on the 20th January by bad weather. On the 22nd he wrote a
letter to his friend the Minister of Marine, Decrès, which if Napoleon
had seen it and had known where to look for a more resolute officer
would have caused his instant dismissal. It can be compared only with
the piteous letter in which the Duke of Medina Sidonia implored Philip
II. not to give him the command of the Armada. Villeneuve declared
that he had always longed for a useful but not for a glorious career;
that this enterprise he was sent on could end in nothing but disgrace;
that his ships looked very well in harbour, but were helpless at sea;
that the troops given him to attack the English islands were a pest;
and that he wished the emperor would name his successor. Napoleon
was exasperated with the admiral’s “lack of decision.” Yet he had to
accept Villeneuve also as part of “the nature of things.” At first the
proposed combination was given up. Orders were sent to Missiessy to
consider himself independent, and they reached him. In a short time
Napoleon received assurance from Austria which convinced him that he
was for a time safe from molestation. In March the great combination
scheme was taken up again. Counter orders to wait for Villeneuve were
sent to Missiessy, but failed to reach him. On the 2nd March orders
were sent to Ganteaume to sail for Ferrol, pick up the French and
Spanish ships, go to Martinique to join Villeneuve, and then head
back for the Channel. On the same day orders went to Villeneuve to
sail to the West Indies, and wait for Ganteaume at Martinique for
forty days. If he failed to appear, Villeneuve was to return by San
Domingo and the Canaries, waiting for him there once more, and on
his failure to appear, was to go to Cadiz. All was to depend on the
success of Ganteaume in getting away. “The nature of things” was to be
overreached. But it is not so easy to overreach “the nature of things.”
The concentration broke down first because Missiessy did not receive
his counter orders, and therefore did not wait for Villeneuve, and then
because Ganteaume failed to leave Brest. He was too closely watched by
Cornwallis.

On the 30th March, Villeneuve got away from Toulon with eleven sail of
the line. Nelson’s policy of no-blockade produced the effect which some
naval officers at least had foreseen. The French fleet was sighted on
the 31st March, thirty-five miles south of Toulon, by the =Phœbe= and
=Active= frigates. The =Phœbe= went in search of Nelson, who was at the
Gulf of Palmas, in Sardinia, on that day; but she did not report to him
till the 4th April, for he had left Palmas on the 3rd to water at Pula.
Villeneuve, who had heard that Nelson was at Palmas, steered to the
west of the Balearic Islands, and was missed by him. It is strange that
the British Government knowing what it knew of Napoleon’s intentions,
and having adopted the proper counter-policy of concentration in the
Channel, had not ordered its admiral in the Mediterranean to disregard
the imaginary danger to Egypt. Once more Nelson manœuvred to protect
what the French were not attacking. He stretched his look-out ships
from the south of Sardinia to the coast of Africa, and went to Palermo.