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In examining the merits of the affair between sir 1805. Robert Calder and M. Villeneuve, we shall take each
July day's proceeding by itself. The battle was fought, as has already been shown, between 14, or, gratui. tously 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 Relathe French have enumerated frigates as a part of tive the force opposed to them. Here, be it observed, the there were seven on one side, and two only on the parties other: those seven frigates had also been ordered, as will hereafter be made manifest, to take a part 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, Jet 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 ? If the density of the fog obstructed the French and Spaniards in their mancuyres, 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
* See vol, ii, p. 269,
1805. made and so few seen or understood; and who ac-
tually performed the evolution, which brought on the
It may throw some light upon the proceedings of
since he last quitted Toulon, if we transcribe a por-
I would even avoid him in order to get to my destin-
closely pressed, and to take her in tow or otherwise 1805. assist her.* No shyness betrays itself here; an July. 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 Reforce, stood nearly the same.
The combined fleet on sehad been reduced from 20 to 18 ships, and the cond british from 15 to 14, But the one had its seven meetfrigates ready to act upon any service; while the ing. 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-Rafaël, 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 advantage 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,
* For the original of this curious production, see Appendix, No. 3,
1805. pursued its route, as if the other were not present,
or that no hostility existed between them.
“ Notre intention est que vous fassiez votre joncVille-, tion en évitant le combat,” says Napoléon, in his
instructions to M. Villeneuve; and, in another place,
l'escadre de Brest, vous devez tenter de le faire
perior. Sir Robert Calder knew that the very ships
combined fleet on his first meeting it: he himself,
solely for his departure, to slip out and join M.
* Précis des Evénemens, tome xi. pp. 248, 252, and 276.
+ See Minutes of the court-martial upon sir Robert Calder, rear-admiral Stirling's evidence.
in official letter.
of the preceding day had been fought. Moreover, 1805, sir Robert had been ordered by the admiralty, and July. 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
pressed 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 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 paragraph was this: “At the same time it will behove 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
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.