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BRITISH AND FRENCH FLEETS.
In the abstract which we have now to introduce,* is 1806. to be found the greatest number of british ships of war that ever was, or that perhaps ever will be ordered to be built within a single year. Considering what gigantic efforts, until the close of the year 1805, had been making by Buonaparte for the invasion of Great Britain, no surprise need be created, that efforts, corresponding in magnitude, should be made by the latter to frustrate the attempt. The extraordinary State increase of 21 ships in the commissioned line-of- brithe battle column, while the total of the sea-service navy. ships of the same rank exhibits an increase of only four, proves that effectual means had been taken for a present, as well as for a future, augmentation of force.
A reference to No. 13 abstract shows that, at the commencement of the year 1805, there were 33 ships of the line in ordinary, either repairing or to be repaired for sea-service. The greater part of these ships were in want of what is termed a thorough repair; that is, a repair that would have cost nearly as much money, and have occupied nearly as much time, as a rebuild. To obviate this, a measure was resorted to, which, since the year 1797, had been recommended to the admiralty by Mr. Gabriel Snodgrass, surveyor to the East India company. It was that of strengthening some ships by diagonal braces, doubling or sheathing others with plank, and, where the ships were in a still worse state, both bracing and doubling them. By this method 22 sail of the line, five 18-pounder frigates, and seven of a smaller class, were brought forward into
* See Appendix, Annual Abstract No. 14.
1806. active service. Every one of these ships, except
the Ganges, was at sea in the year 1805; several of the lipe-of-battle shipš took an active part in the different engagements which occurred in that eventful year; and, while none of the ships returned to port to be laid up in ordinary or repaired within two years, two remained out for nine, and several for six or seven years, after they had been thus expeditiously and economically converted from useless hulks to effective cruisers. *
Among the newly-built vessels of the year 1805, is the first regular ship of war belonging to the british navy constructed of teak, the Salsette, and at the top of the column of ordered ships stands a first-rate, the Nelson, similar in size and force to the Caledonia, and whose tonnage is about double that of the 18“ cruisers" grouped together at the bottom of the same column. Nothing further occurring in Abstract No. 14 worthy of notice in this place, it will suffice to refer to the customary lists of prizes made, and losses sustained, during the year 1805.7
The number of commissioned officers and masters, belonging to the british navy at the commencement of the year 1806, was, Admirals
56 superannuated 22 Captains
26 Commanders, or sloop-captains. 416
superannuated 46 Lieutenants
541 And the number of seamen and marines voted for the service of the same year was 120000.5
* A list of the ships, down to 18-pounder frigates inclusive, which were so doubled and braced, will be found in the Appendix. See No. 12.
+ See Appendix, Nos. 13, 14, 15, and 16.
In our last year's account of the proceedings of the 1805, Brest fleet, we stated that, on the 13th of December, Dec. a strong division of it, consisting of 11 sail of the line, Escape four frigates, and a ship-corvette, had escaped from fra the anchorage outside of the goulet; and that, in diviconsequence of the severity of the weather, admiral sion of Cornwallis, the commander in chief of the Channel fleet. fleet, was not apprized of the circumstance.*
On the 14th these 11 line-of-battle ships, which were the élite of the Brest fleet, separated into two squadrons; one of which consisted of the gun-ship 120 Imperial
S vice-adm. Corentin-Urbain Leissegues.
captain Julien-Gabriel Bigot. 80 Alexandre
commou. Louis-Marie Coudé. 74 Diomède captain Jean-Baptiste Henry. Jupiter....
Gaspard Laignel. Frigutes, Cornète and Félicité; ship-corvette Diligente.
This squadron, provisioned for six months, and Its sehaving on board about 1000 troops, was to proceed tion direct to Santo Domingo, and there disembark the into troops as a reinforcement to general Ferrand. Leissegues was then to cruise two months before the drons. island of Jamaica; and, if the British were too strong and inin that quarter, he was to proceed off the bank of tended Newfoundland; there “ manger jusqu'à son dernier biscuit," and then steer straight for Rochefort or Lorient.
The other squadron was under the command of rear-admiral Willaumez, and consisted of the gun-ship 80 Foudroyant ..
S rear-adm. Jean-Bapt.-Philibert Willaumez.
captain Antoine Henri.
Alain-Joseph Le Veyer-Belair. 74 Patriote
captain Louis-Gilles Prévost-de-Lacroix.
Jérôme Buonaparte. Frigates, Valeureuse and Volontaire; also two brig-corvettes, or avisos.
* See vol. iii. p. 442.
cruise of each.
1805. This squadron, provisioned also for six months, Dec. was to proceed off St.-Helena or the Cape of Good
Hope, at the rear-admiral's option; then to steer for Martinique or Guadeloupe to get supplies. M. Willaumez was then to touch at Cayenne for information, cruise off Barbadoes for a few months, and, having done all the mischief possible to british commerce in that quarter, was to return, by the way of Saint-Helena, to Europe. This cruise, it was supposed, would occupy a period of about 14 months.
It was not until the 24th of December, 1805, that intelligence reached the admiralty, and that was by a cartel from Gibraltar, of the escape from Brest
of a french squadron, stated to consist of seven, inBritish stead of 11, sail of the line and four frigates. Immedrons diately two british squadrons were ordered to put to sent in sea: one, of seven sail of the line, under vice-admiral pursuit
sir John Borlase Warren, as follows:
vice-adm. (b.) sir John Borlase Warren, bt.
captain John Chambers White.
hon. Alan Hyde Gardner.
Lawrence William Halsted.
hon. Arthur Kaye Legge.
James Bissett. The other, of the following six sail, under rearadmiral sir Richard Strachan :
rear-ad. (b.) sir Richard John Strachan, bt.
captain Charles Richardson. Centaur
sir Samuel Hood.
lord Henry Paulet.
John Erskine Douglas.
bay. Sir John's instructions were to proceed to the 1806. island of Madeira, and there endeavour to gain intelligence of the route of the french squadron: if that intelligence did not substantially controvert the supposition of its having gone to the West Indies, the british admiral was then to hasten to Barbadoes; whence, if no tidings could be heard, he was, after leaving a portion of his force with rear-admiral Cochrane, to run down to Jamaica. There he was to consult with vice-admiral Dạcres, and, if the latter should have nothing to communicate respecting the route of the French, he was to augment the force on the Jamaica station to four sail of the line, and, with the remaining ships of his squadron, return to Spithead. Sir Richard Strachan, with his six sail of the line, was to proceed straight to the island of St.Helena, in search also of the above french squadron. Not finding it there, he was to make the best of his way to the Cape of Good Hope, to reinforce the expedition which had been sent to effect the capture of that important settlement. Let us now return to the two french admirals.
On the 15th, in the afternoon, latitude 46° 8' 1805. north, longitude 12° 14' west, a british convoy of 23 Dec. sail, from Cork to the West Indies, under the
Squatection of the 38-gun frigates Arethusa, captain M. Charles Brisbane, and Boadicea, captain John Maitland, and 18-gun ship-sloop Wasp, captain Buckland chases Stirling Bluett, fell in with both french squadrons to-leeward; the nearest of which, being that of her M. Leissegues, was steering to the westward, with convoy a north-north-east wind, and the other, which was only visible from the mast-head, appeared to be steering to the southward. The squadron under M. Willaumez was, in fact, then in pursuit of a convoy from Gibraltar, in charge of the Polyphemus 64 and Sirius frigate, and the French succeeded in capturing one or two transports; with which the Volon- laumez taire was immediately detached to Teneriffe. Four chases of the french ships, of which the Vétéran was one, convoy