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sIR ROBERT CALDER’s ACTION. 13
In examining the merits of the affair between sir 1805. Robert Calder and M. Villeneuve, we shall take each of day's proceeding by itself. The battle was fought, as has already been shown, between 14, or, gratuitously adding the Dragon, (for she was not engaged till at the very close,) 15 british, and 20 french and spanish sail of the line. Cases have occurred, where Rela. the French have enumerated frigates as a part of..., the force opposed to them. Here, be it observed, i.” there were seven on one side, and two only on the part" other: those seven frigates had also been ordered, as will hereafter be made manifest, to take apart in the action, and one frigate did, for a short time, along with other ships, engage the Windsor-Castle. If, between the four 80-gun ships in the combined fleet and the four 98-gun ships in the british, any allowance is expected for the nominal (for it is not real%) superiority of the latter, let four of the five surplusage frigates be added to the former; which will be leaving three opposed to the british two, because one of the latter, the Egyptienne, mounted 24-pounders on her main deck. When also it is considered, that, from the weight of metal and number of men she carries, a french 74 is of greater force than a british 74, no objection, on the part of the French or Spaniards, can be urged against an estimate which, grounded on the numerical line-of-battle strength on each side, fixes the ratio of force in their favour as four is to three.
With, then, the inferiority of one fourth in point of force, the British succeeded in capturing two ships out of the adverse line. If these were slow sailers and bad workers, how many slow sailers and bad workers did the british fleet contain 2 If the density of the fog obstructed the French and Spaniards in their manoeuvres, what effect must it have had upon the British, to whom, in spite of all that has been urged to the contrary, so many signals were
1805. made and so few seen or understood; and who ac-
* See p. 13.
closely pressed, and to take her in tow or otherwise 805. assist her.” No shyness betrays itself here; an’s.’ additional proof that, in his apparent disinclination to close with an inferior force, vice-admiral Villeneuve was acting a compulsory part. On the 23d of July the parties, in point of relative ... force, stood nearly the same. The combined fleet . had been reduced from 20 to 18 ships, and the *: british from 15 to 14. But the one had its seven meet. frigates ready to act upon any service; while the * other had its two frigates employed in towing the prizes of the preceding day; and which prizes, in the attention they otherwise claimed, impeded the british fleet in its progress, and prevented it from attempting any manoeuvre whereby an advantage might be gained. Considering the little value of . the vessels, the San-Rafaél, a ship of 34, and the Firme, a ship of 51 years old, and both battered to pieces, their destruction would have been not only a justifiable measure, but, under circumstances, the most eligible that could have been devised. With respect to the power of commencing the action, a continuance of the same wind kept it where it had been on the day previous; yet, with the exception of an hour's demonstration, or show-off, as it may be termed, the party possessing that power declined to use it. On the 24th a change of wind, to nearly an on opposite point of the compass, produced a corre-third. sponding change in the position of the two fleets; but still they approximated no nearer. The truth is that, since the close of the first day’s proceedings, sir Robert Calder, unless some unlooked-for adwantage should offer itself, did not intend to be a second time the assailant: he would neither attack nor retreat; nor would he deviate one point from the course necessary to convoy his crippled ship and his two worthless prizes beyond the reach of danger. Each fleet, therefore, on the afternoon of the 24th,
s: For the original of this curious production, see Appendix, 0, 3,
1805, pursued its route, as if the other were not present, J. or that no hostility existed between them. M. “ Notre intention est que vous fassiez votre jonc...tion en évitantle combat,” says Napoléon, in his ...”instructions to M. Villeneuve; and, in another place, ... “Si vous prenez le parti de faire votre réunion avec l'escadre de Brest, vous devez tenter de le faire sans combat.” Buonaparte, also, when writing to M. Decrès, asks, “A quoi aboutissait une bataille 7” and immediately answers the question himself“ A rien.” If one admiral, therefore, had the misfortune to act under orders that forbade him to fight unless with such odds in his favour as would ensure success, the other was also controlled, in some degree, by extraneous circumstances; sufficignt, if not to excuse him for declini” to assail o equal force, to justify him in acting a o Čautious part, when himself assailed by a force decidedly superior. Sir Robert Calder knew that the very ships ‘... composing his fleet had been abstracted from watchimpo- ing as many enemy’s ships, as had composed the : combined fleet on his first meeting it: he himself, Sir Ro-with 10, had been ordered from off a port in which 3. lay 15, waiting, as he had every reason to believe, solely for his departure, to slip out and join M. Villeneuve. Rear-admiral Stirling, also, with five ships, had been called from off another port, out of which he knew, and informed sir Robert, that five french ships had been seen getting under way, just as the blockading squadron was disappearing from the coast; +and which five ships, sinceknownto have sailed on the 18th, were endeavouring to effect their junction, either with M. Villeneuve at sea, or with rearadmiral Gourdon at Ferrol. So well grounded were sir Robert Calder’s apprehensions on this head, that, on the 23d of July, rear-admiral Allemand, with his squadron, was on the very spot on which the battle
* Précis des Evénemens, tome xi. pp. 248,252, and 276. . . t See Minutes of the court-martial upon sir Robert Calder, rear-admiral Stirling's evidence.
of the preceding day had been fought. Moreover, 1805, sir Robert had been ordered by the admiralty, and J.' by the commanders in chief of the Channel and of the Mediterranean fleets, to be on his guard in case of a junction between the fleet of M. Villeneuve and the squadron from Ferrol; whose united force would have been at least 35, and, if the Rochefort squadron had joined, 40 sail of the line. Matters would have passed off, and sir Robert Calder's success, in having, with a fleet of 15 sail of the line, captured two out of an enemy's fleet of 20 sail of the line, been taken as an earnest of how much more would have been effected, had the parties met on fairer terms. But the accounts on shore Supmarred all. The british admiralty suppressed an o important paragraph in sir Robert's letter to admiral graph Cornwallis; taking care that the published extract; (to confirm the delusion, stated to be a “copy” letter. of the official letter) should end where hopes were held out of a renewal of the engagement; thus: “They are now in sight to-windward; and, when I have secured the captured ships and put the squadron to rights, I shall endeavour to avail myself of any opportunity that may offer to give you a further account of these combined squadrons.” The suppressed o was this: “At the same time it will beove me to be on my guard against the combined squadrons in Ferrol, as I am led to believe they have sent off one or two of their crippled ships last night for that port;” therefore, possibly I may find it necessary to make a junction with you immediately off Ushant, with the whole squadron.” The admiralty, it is true, may have acted thus upon the oral information of the officer bearing the despatches; and which, in every version of it, conveys an absolute intention on the part of sir Robert Calder to renew
* This may have arisen from the Defiance's signal of the preceding day at noon having been for 22 “ sail of the line,” when on the morning of the 23d, 18 only were counted.
VOL. IV. C