Page images
[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

the action. Several of the british captains also un-
derstood that to be the nature of the message deli-
vered to them by lieutenant Nicholson, just as he
was quitting the fleet for England. -
The french official accounts, really dictated by the
french emperor, but purporting to be the statement
of the french commander in chief, claimed the vic-
tory as theirs, and boasted that the combined fleet
had repeatedly chased the british fleet, and at
length compelled it to fly. These accounts, trans-
lated into English, and published in all the news-
papers of the country, rivetted the effect produced
by the admiralty bulletin, and spread far and wide
that spirit of discontent, which finally compelled sir
Robert Calder to demand a court-martial upon his
conduct. That court-martial, which sat on board the
Prince-of-Wales, in Portsmouth harbour, from the
23d to the 26th of December, “severely reprimanded”
the british admiral, for not having done his utmost
to renew the engagement on the 23d and 24th of
July; but the sentence admitted, that his conduct had
not been actuated either by cowardice or disaffection.
The preceding details, now for the first time so fully
given to the public, will enable even a landman to
form some opinion of the justice of the sentence pro-
nounced upon sir Robert Calder.
The following remarks of an eminent french
writer will show what he thought, as well of that
sentence, as of the “victory” which M. Villeneuve,
by his master's arts, had been made to say that he
had gained over the British. “ Admiral Calder,”
says M. Dupin, “with an inferior force, meets the
franco-spanish fleet: in the chase of it, he brings on a
partial engagement, and captures two ships. He is
tried and reprimanded, because it is believed that,
had he renewed the action, he would have obtained
a more decisive victory. What would they have
done with Calder, in England, if he had commanded
the superior fleet, and had lost two ships, in avoid-

ing an engagement which presented so favourable 1805, a chance to skill and valour 2 What would they T.’ have done with the captains 2*

We stated, a page or two back, that the french official accounts of the meeting between M. Willeneuve and sir Robert Calder were dictated by the french emperor. As this is a very serious charge we shall endeavour to substantiate it. The Moniteur pub-s lished two letters, as from admiral Villeneuve, i. giving an account of the action; one dated July 27, . in the paper of August 11; the other dated July 29, i. i. in the paper of August 14. Both letters, of course, ..." make a good story; and both commend (the last,” in set terms) the noble behaviour of admiral Gravina and the spanish ships. And yet a letter from Napoléon to his minister of marine, dated on the 13th of August, contains these sentences: “ De quoi donc se plaint Villeneuve de la part des Espagnols? Ils se sont battus comme des lions.”H Hence, the commendations in the published letters were not the sentiments of the nominal writer; nor, by a fair inference, could any of the mistatements in those letters be laid to the charge of M. Villeneuve. But the Moniteur of August 13 contained, along with a translation of sir Robert Calder's letter, very copious remarks upon every part of it. And Napoléon, in his letter to M. Decrès of August 11, after observing upon the statements in the british official account, proceeds thus: “L’arrivée de Villeneuve à la Corogne fera tomber ces gasconnades, et, aux yeux de PEurope, mous donnera l'air de la victoire: cela est beaucoup. Faites sur-le-champ une relation, et envoyez-la & M. Maret : voici comme je la concois.”f All that follows M. le comte Dumas has left blank. Enough, however, remains to show who penned the remarks in the Moniteur; and yet these very remarks, without, apparently, their real origin being

* For the original see Appendix, No. 4. t Précis des Evénemens, tome xii. p. 251. # Ibid. p. 248,


suspected, were translated into most of the London

[ocr errors]

Arrival of

prizes at Plymouth.

Sir Robert Calder off Ferrol.

On the 31st of July, after having been escorted by the fleet beyond the probable reach of the Rochefort squadron, the two prizes anchored in Plymouth Sound. The San-Rafaél was built at Havana in the year 1771, measured 2130 tons english, and mounted on her first and second decks the same nominal force as the french 80, No. 3, in the small table at p. 78 of the first volume, upon her quarterdeck and forecastle 10 long 8-pounders (two of them brass) and 10 carronades, 36-pounders, and upon her poop six 24-pounder carronades, total 88 guns; with a complement, on the morning of the action, of 800 men and boys, and 104 soldier-passengers. The Firme was built at Cadiz in the year 1754, and measured 1805 tons. Neither the San-Rafaél nor the Firme, as a proof how little their destruction would have been felt, was ever employed in the british service except as a prison-ship. When, at 8 P. M. on the 26th, he had seen his prizes to the prescribed latitude, sir Robert Calder, with his 14 sail of the line, wore and stood back to the rendezvous off Cape Finisterre, in the expectation of there being joined by the fleet under lord Nelson. On the 27th, at a little before noon, the wind changed to the north-west, and the vice-admiral shortly afterwards reached the rendezvous. Not finding lord Nelson there, sir Robert, with the wind at west, steered for Ferrol; and, arriving off that port on the 29th, sent in the Dragon to reconnoitre. On a report from the latter, that the combined fleet had not entered Ferrol, sir Robert concluded that M. Villeneuve had proceeded to the southward, and he resumed the blockade of the port.

On the 31st the vice-admiral sent the Malta to England to get refitted. Taking due advantage of this circumstance, one of the french writers gravely asserts, that almost every ship of admiral Calder's fleet was obliged to return to an english port to get repaired;” and Napoléon, as soon as he learnt that 1805. the Windsor-Castle and Malta had been ordered ‘T.’ home, directed his minister of marine, in his letter of condolence to the prince of peace on the loss of the San-Rafaél and Firme, to acquaint the latter, “ que deux vaisseaux ennemis sont arrivés coulant bas a Plymouth.”: Respecting these two “ sinking” ships, the Windsor-Castle did not enter the harbour of Plymouth, but refitted herself in Cawsand bay, and in three weeks was again at sea; and the Malta would have been only half that time in port, had she not required to be newly coppered. On the 1st of August, in the forenoon, sir Robert Aug. Calder was driven by a strong south-westerly windsir R. far to the north-east of his port. On the 2d, at .



noon, agreeably to his orders from admiral Corn- o wallis, the vice-admiral detached, to resume the ...” blockade of the now vacant port of Rochefort, rearadmiral Stirling, with four sail of the line ; and, on the same evening, with his remaining nine sail, regained his station off Ferrol. On the 10th, at 3 P. M., the Dragon reconnoitred, in a very gallant and effec- Dratual manner, the neighbouring ports of Ferrol and ...: Corunna, and found lying at the entrance of the lat-com. ter harbour M. Villeneuve's fleet; making, with the . ships at anchor in the harbour of Ferrol, 29 french Ferroi and spanish sail of the line, ready for sea. In this. state of things, sir Robert, with his nine sail of the line, abandoned the blockade, and on the 14th joined admiral Cornwallis off Ushant.

It has already on more than one occasion appeared, that M. Villeneuve's primary destination, after quitting the West Indies, was the harbour of Ferrol; there to effect a junction with the rear-admirals Grandallana and Gourdon and their respective squadrons. Accordingly, after losing sight of the british fleet on the evening of the 24th, the com- July. bined fleet steered as direct a course for Ferrol as

* Victoires et Conquêtes, tome xvi. p. 144. t Précis des Evénemens, tome xii. p. 246.

1805, the prevailing north-east wind would permit. M.
†. Villeneuve, no doubt, soon found that the masts
M. and yards of many of his ships were not in a state to
... withstand a strong head or beating wind and a heavy
anchor sea; moreover, it became necessary that the sick
o** and wounded should be landed as early as possible,
Under these circumstances, the french admiral acted
wisely in bearing up for the bay of Vigo; where, on
the evening of the 26th, he came to an anchor with
his fleet.
Buona. In Napoléon's instructions to vice-admiral Wille-
*...* neuve, of May 8, was contained an alternative that,
in... if by events in America, or in the course of his
*..., homeward voyage, the latter should find himself in
Ville a situation not immediately to appear before Brest
“ or enter the Channel, he was to order away upon
a cruise rear-admiral Gourdon's squadron, accom-
panied by three or four of the fastest sailing ships
out of the squadron of vice-admiral Grandallana;
and that then, joining himself to the remainder of the
latter’s ships, and to the Rochefort squadron, he was
to proceed off Cadiz, and enable the squadron from
Carthagena to enter that port. With his powerful
fleet, M. Villeneuve was next to occupy the Straits
of Gibraltar, strip the road of its shipping, and (a
feasible plan, indeed!) the town of its stores and
provisions. Having effected all this, he was to steer
for the Channel, and endeavour to perform the last,
and in Napoléon's estimation the only important,
article in his instructions.” -
Lat. . The first step taken by M. Villeneuve on reaching
... Vigo, was to despatch a courier to Ferrol, as well to
pro- . - - - -
food- apprize the two rear-admirals of his arrival, as to be
W." put in possession of any fresh instructions which
they might have to communicate. Meanwhile the
french admiral proceeded to disembark his sick and
wounded, also the prisoners made on the voyage.
M. Villeneuve then took on board a supply of water,
and, as may be supposed, (for it is not acknow-

* Précis des Evénemens, tome xi. p. 254.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »