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before them to make it known to me, or the officer 1805. commanding on that station, to which they seem to
Aug. point their course.
At 10 A. M. the french squadron, which appears to have been lying to, was joined by a frigate and a brig from to-leeward. Ať 3 h. 30 m. P. M., being then distant from the Æolus about 12 miles in Æolus nearly the same direction as when first discovered, sight of the french squadron bore up and steered east-south-Rocheeast. At 5 P. M. the Æolus, still with her head to the north-east, lost sight of the french squadron. Shortly afterwards the frigate bore away to south ; but at 6 h. 40 m. bauled up on the starboard tack, and made all sail in search of the vice-admiral.
On the 7th, in the forenoon, the Æolus brought to Board an american ship from Bordeaux to Charlestown, Ameand learnt that, two days before, she had been rican, boarded, off Cape Prior, by the british 74-gun ship learns Dragon, captain Edward Griffith, cruising in company with eight other sail of the line. As this was bert is undoubtedly the squadron of vice-admiral sir Robert cruis
ing. Calder, the Æolus, then only 38 leagues distant from Ferrol, crowded sail in the direction of that port,
At 4 P. m., latitude at noon 43° 41' north, longi- Falls tude 10° 11' west, being close hauled on the larboard tack with a light breeze from the north-north-east, Didon. the Æolus discovered and chased a strange sail in the south quarter, standing under easy sail to the north-west. This was the french 40-gun frigate Didon, captain Pierre-Bernard Milius, two days from Corunna, in search of the squadron from Rochefort under rear-admiral Allemand, for whom she had important despatches. * At 4h. 30 m. P. M. the Didon Didon tacked towards the Æolus; but shortly afterwards, make on ascertaining that the latter had no connection with M. Allemand's squadron, the french frigate bore up south-west. The Æolus bore up also, and
where sir Ro
in with the
* See p. 23.
Guns, &c. of
1805. continued in chase until 7 h. 30 m. P. M.: when,
having approached near enough to discover that the
and royal yards rigged alost,” the Æolus shortened Æolus sail and hauled to the wind on the starboard tack: tinues that is, while the french frigate continued running
from the british frigate in the direction of south-west,
the larboard tack and resumed the course she was escapes steering when the Didon first hove in sight.
While, with light and variable winds, the Æolus is slowly making her way to the eastward, we will submit a few remarks upon the very extraordinary circumstance of two frigates, each belonging to a nation at war with the other, voluntarily parting without a contest.
Let us first see how far, on the score of relative
declining to engage the other. Could any circum-
and her class.
36-gun frigate 264, and to the 32-gun frigate 254, men 1805. and boys, including the three widow's men. At the time of her meeting the Didon, the Æolus, according to an entry in her log, mounted the 40 guns established upon her class; but she appears to have mustered at quarters, having probably manned one or two prizes, no more than 233 men and boys. - The Didon was a very fine frigate of 1091 tons, Guns, and mounted two more guns than the establishment Didon, of her class, as given at p. 78 of the first volume, or 46 guns in all; of which 10 were iron, (similar to those of the Topaze, *) and four the usual brass, 36-pounder carronades. The crew of the Didon, according to the deposition of her officers in reference to an action fought by her three days after she had parted from the Æolus, amounted to 330 men and boys. These minute but important particulars established, we may present the following as the
COMPARATIVE FORCE OF THE TWO FRIGATES.
20 372 233 919
23 563 330 1091
This figure-statement, compared with that in which Force appears the name of the Loire, a ship of the same two numerical force as the Didon,t shows the effect pro-ships duced in the broadside weight of metal of french pared. frigates by the substitution, to so great an extent, of 36-pounder carronades for long 8-pounders. In the present instance it gives a superiority of nearly three to two; whereas, in long guns only, the Didon is not superior to the Æolus by much above an eighth. But, according to that rigid law, the custom of the service, the larger of these differences, important as it is, does not excuse a british ship, even if aware that the odds are in that proportion against
+ See vol. ii. p. 202.
* See p. 202. VOL. IV.
of this case
1805, her, from bringing, or endeavouring to bring, an Aug. enemy to action.
Respecting the cause, whatever it may have been, which prevented the Æolus from continuing in pursuit of the Didon, we shall postpone any further inquiry, until we have brought down the proceedings of the Æolus to a somewhat later period, and have dipped a little deeper into a new and very importtant source of information, which the account of lord William's rencounter with the Didon, as it stood in the
first edition of this work, has recently opened to our Cause view. We may here explain how it happens that the
case of the Æolus and Didon, instead of being, as being in the old edition, mixed up with the affair between paper the latter and another british frigate, ranks in the consi- present under a distinct sub-head. It will be suffi
cient to remind the reader that, when first introducing the head of “ Light squadrons and single ships,” we stated our intention to notice under it, among others, every case wherein vessels met, “ between which, from the relative situation of the parties as to force and other circumstances, an action might reasonably have been expected."*
Pursuing her route towards the north-west coast
of Spain, the Æolus, on the 9th, at 6 h. 40 m. P. M., * Dragon Cape Prior bearing south-east half-east distant five
or six leagues, fell in with the Dragon, hastening to sir Robert Calder with the important information that the franco-spanish fleet had got into Ferrol and Corunna.t At 6 h. 50 m. the Æolus asked, by signal, the situation of the admiral, and communicated in the same manner, that she had been “ chased” (No. 406) by an enemy's squadron of five sail of the
line. The Dragon acquainted the Æolus by signal, Is by that the british admiral was in the north-east by east; ducted and in that direction the frigate immediately accomRobert panied the 74. At daybreak on the following day, Calder, the 10th, the 98-gun ship Neptune was fallen in with;
* See vol. i. p. 129.
Æolus falls in with
and, in an hour or two afterwards, the remainder of 1805. the vice-admiral's squadron. Captain Griffith now communicated to sir Robert the important result of his second reconnoitring visit to Ferrol, and lord Lord William delivered to the vice-admiral the letter or liam letters (for we believe there was a private one) with which he had been intrusted. Shortly afterwards, letters. taking his measures from the Dragon's information, sir Robert ordered the latter ship to cruise for a certain period, and then, with the remainder of the squadron, proceeded to join the commander in chief off Ushant. This the vice-admiral effected, as joins already mentioned, on the 14th ;* but the Æolus, Cornhaving for some cause or other parted company, did wallis. not join admiral Cornwallis until the forenoon of Eolus the 20th.
To view the case of the Æolus in the most favourable light, we must suppose that lord William, as in reply to our former remarks on his conduct he has since stated, did really imagine that he was the bearer, not of a letter which, comparatively, was of no consequence at all, but, of secret despatches of the utmost importance to the nation. We can probareadily conceive why a document, containing the rendezvous of a particular squadron, is inscribed that a on the envelope “ Secret.'
" Secret.” It is that the captain may not communicate the contents to any of his marked officers, nor they to the crew. Otherwise, in case of capture, should even the despatch itself be thrown overboard, the enemy might gain oral intelligence of the exact spot at which he could pounce upon an inferior force. Why not “ Rendezvous," with an understanding that it is to be kept within the captain's breast, substituted for the awfully mysterious word “ Secret”? And why should a common letter from one admiral to another, with one or more of which almost every vessel is charged that travels from station to station, be dignified with the name of “ despatch” ?
* See p. 21.