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On the 1110rning of the 29th, at nine o'clock, the enemy appeared in sight coming down between Point Salines and the Diamond Rock : Sir Samuel Hood made the signal for a close line, and to prepare for action. The enemy at the same time formed the line of battle. At twenty minutes past nine the Prince William, Captain Stair Douglas, with great exertions* and diligence, opportunely joined the Admiral from Gros Islet Bay; but at the very same time four ships of the line, and one of fifty guns, joined Comte de Grasse, thus giving him a superiority of six ships of the line.
Notwithstanding this great inequality of force, which would have daunted a common mind, Sir Samuel Hood, resolving on the attack, made every possible maneuvre to gain the wind, and bring the enemy to close action ; and in this he was gallantly seconded by the next in command, Rear Admiral Drake, and all the captains of his Fleet. At eleven the enemy's fire commenced, which Admiral Hood did not return until he observed their shot passed over his ships ; he then threw out the signal for engaging. De Grasse, having the option of distance, would not approach near enough to render the A&tion decisive, although Admiral Hood bravely invited him to come down by bringing.to the English squadron under their topsails.-In his letter to Sir George Rodney Sir Samuel remarks, that the action became general at half past twelve, but at too great a distance, and then adds: “ never was more powder and shot thrown away in one day before ; but it was with Monsieur de Grasse the option of distance lay, it was not possible for me to go nearer.
The Action had now lasted about three hours, when the British Admiral finding that not one shot in ten of the enemy reached, and that all his endeavours to gain the wind
Sir Samuel Hood thus expressed his grateful sense of it, in his letter of May the 4th_" Twenty minutes past nine, the Prince William joined me from Gros Islet Bay; and, as I sent for her but the night before, Captain Douglas's exertion must have been great, and does him much credit, to be with me so soon, having the greatest part of his crew to collect in the night."-Lord Hood never suffered the exertions of his officers to pass unnotised.
were fruitless, ceased firing; an example that was soon followed by Monsieur de Grasse.
Although The Engagement in point of firing seemed to be general, the distance preserved by the enemy, and the strenuous, though ineffectual efforts made on every occasion that offered, by the British ships, to close with the French, rendered it partial. The van, and nearest ships of the centre, from their unceasing attempts to get to windward, were exposed to a long and heavy fire, by which some of them suffered very considerably ; but this was more with respect to their masts, hulls, and rigging, than to any loss of men.
The Russell had received so many shot in her hull, that the water was over the platform of the Magazine, gaining considerably on all the pumps. Three of her guns also had been dismounted, besides other damages. At half past six on the evening of the 29th of April, Admiral Hood made her signal to come within hail; when Captain Sutherland, who commanded her, received his orders, if he could possibly keep the ship afloat, to proceed instantly to St. Eustatius, or any other port lic could make. He accordingly bore away for the former in the night, and with great difficulty preserved the ship from sinking in her passage. · On Monday, April 30, at day-light, the admiral discerned the Van, and Centre, of his squadron, separated at some distance from his own ship the Barfleur, and also the Rear, owing to baffling winds and calms during the night. The enemy's advanced ships were steering to the van of his squadron, indicating a disposition in them to bring the contest to that decisive conclusion they had before so much evaded. Admiral Hood made all possible said towards them, and threw out the signal for a close line of battle; the enemy's line being a good deal extended and scattered.
The unexpected maneuvre which Sir Samuel Hood afterwards made, shewed the uncommon powers of his mind as a Commander in chief, and is thus related by the first political writer of the age * : “ That judicious commander
Old Annual Register, vol. xxiv. p. 109.
seeing that the French line was very irregular, and that the Van, and a part of the Centre, were greatly separated from the rest, made one of those bold movements, which, by throwing the fleet into the greatest apparent confusion, would to a common eye have appeared full of danger; at the same time that it could only be directed by the greatest judgment. The object was to gain the wind, in which he was very near succeeding; and in that case he would have cut off, and destroyed, one half of the French fleet, before it could have been succoured by the other. Fortune, however, failed in her usual favour to bold enterprise. This movement totally changed the appearance of things, and the British fleet, instead of being on the defensive, carried the face of being the aggressor during the rest of the day."
That he might not lose any more time in tempting the enemy to a close engagement, Sir Samuel Hood at length resolved to bear away for Antigua: added to the loss of the Russell from the line, he knew that the squadron had upwards of 1500 men sick, and short of complement. The Intrepid, and Centaur also, had received several shots between wind and water, and the lower masts of the latter were badly wounded. His sentiments on the occasion were thus expressed:
“ I judged it improper to dare the enemy to battle any longer ; not having the least prospect of beating a fleet of twenty-four sail of the line of capital ships, and knowing the consequence of my being beaten, would probably be the loss of all his Majesty's possessions in this country, I thought it my indispensible duty to tear up, and made the signal for it at eight o'clock.
The loss in men amounted only to 36 killed, and 161 wounded ; but The Service suffered considerably by the death of the brave Captain Nott of the Centaur, who, with his first Lieutenant Plowden, fell in the action.”
“ The conduct of the French, says Mr. Clerk *, in this affair with Sir Samuel Hood, is much the same with the two last of Sir George Rodney's. It is the third time, where, contrary to their established . practice, they have kept the wind. But, aware of the danger of this
Naval Tadics, part i. p. 99.
position, they approached so near the British only, as to be able to amuse them with a distant cannonade, while their merchant ships and , transports might, with sufficient security, get into port.
From this battle we may judge of the propriety of cannonading, even where there may be the smallest chance of reaching an enemy. For, notwithstanding the great distance of the two feets, and though the French were to windward, yet many of their shot took place in . the hulls of our ships, so far below the water-line, that three of them could with difficulty be kept afloat.”
On the 31st of July (1781) Admiral Sir George Rodney, having entrusted the command of his Majesty's feet at the Leeward Islands to Rear Admiral Sir S. Hood, sailed from St. Eustatius, on the following day, with the Gibraltar, Triumph, Panther, Boreas, two bombs, and a convoy for England. On the fifth of the same month, Monsieur de Grasse had gone with his whole fleet, and a large convoy for Martinico, and arrived about the middle of it at Cape François St. Domingo, where he was reinforced by five sail of the line. At the beginning of August he sailed from thence with his prodigious convoy, which having seen out of danger, he touched at the Havannah for money ; and then directed his course with twenty-eight sail of the line, and several frigates to the Chesapeak, where he arrived by the end of the month.
Sir Samuel Hood, having received intelligence of this, lost not a moment in hastening to the coast of America. On the 25th of August (1781) he arrived off Cape Henry, and from thence dispatched a frigate with intelligence to Rear Admiral Graves. Finding, however, that no enemy had appeared either in the Chesapeak, or Delaware, he proceeded off Sandy-Hook. On the very day of his arrival there, the, Commanders at New York received intelligence that Monsieur de Barras, who succeeded Ternay in the command at Rhode Island, had sailed three days before with his squadron to the southward. The intercepting of this squadron was an object of importance; and R. Admiral Graves, on the 31st of August, bringing out of New York to Sandy Hook five ships of the line, and one of fifty guns, took the command:
Sir Samuel Hood getting under sail at the same time, the fleets proceeded together to the southward.
The Cruisers placed before the Delaware by R. Admiral Graves could give no certain information, and the cruisers off the Chesapeak had not joined *. The wind being rather favourable, they approached The Chesapeak on the morning of the 5th of September, when the advanced ships made the signal for a fleet. A number of great ships, being twentyfour sail of the line, were soon discovered at anchor off Lynnhaven Bay, just within Cape Henry, extending across the entrance of The Chesapeak. They had a frigate cruising off the Cape, which stood in and joined them. As the British fleet approached, the French immediately + slipped their cables, turned out from their anchorage in some confusion, and formed without any particular regard to pre. scribed order, as they could come up.-Wind at N. N. E.
The British fleet amounted only to nineteen sail of the line, that of the enemy to twenty-four ; so that the French had a superiority of no less than five line of battle ships. The action commenced soon after four amongst the headmost ships, pretty close, and then was nearly partial, being general only as far as the second ship from the centre, towards the rear. It ceased a little after sun-set. Our feet had 90 men killed, and 230 wounded, chiefy belonging to Sir Samuel Hood's squadron. The French during the battle had 1800 seamen and go officers on shore.
The two fleets continued for five days in sight of each other, repairing their damages and maneuvring, until the French admiral had gained his object by covering the arrival
• Admiral Graves's letter.
+ “Certain French officers on board their own Acet, having received an invi. tation from the Admiral to dine with him, on sccing the British squadron approaching the Chesapeak in the morning, and dreading they might be at. tacked before they could be prepared for action, pleasantly said to an English gentleman, then prisoner on board, We have received an invitation from the admiralco dine with him to-day, but it must have been from your admiral, not our own." -Clerk's Tadics.