Page images
PDF
EPUB

of Monsieur de Barras's squadron*, and convoy, from Rhode Island; when he returned with his feet to the Chesapeak, and anchored across, so as to block up the passage. This decided the fate of Lord Cornwallis.

Sir Samuel Hood returned with his squadron to the West Indies in the month of December (1781), and arrived, on the 5th, at Carlisle Bay, Barbadoes ; but not finding any of the stores necessary to refit his ships, he was obliged to dispatch the Fortunée frigate to Antigua, for all that could be spared from that island. In addition to this, he discovered that the contractor's agent at Barbadoes had not a sufficient supply of bread, to enable the ships of the squadron to go to sea with twenty day's provision for each.

In the beginning of the month of January (1782) Comte de Grasse, with 33 ships of the line, having landed 8000 men on the island of St. Christopher's, under the command of the Marquis de Bouillée, General Fraser with his small garrison of 6oo men, retired to Brimstone Hill. Sir Samuel Hood's feet at Barbadoes consisted at this time of only twenty ships of the line. However, on the 14th of January, this persevering and intrepid commander, notwithstanding the great superiority of the enemy, most gallantly determined on a measure of unusual boldness for the preservation of that valuable island. Instead of waiting their approach, he resolved to confound the enemy at once by an immediate attack, and to engage them at anchor. Accordingly touching at Antigua he took General Prescott, and the few troops which could be spared, on board ; and having previously

The Comte de Barras sailed from Rhode Island with seven line of battle ships:

Comte de Barras,
Duc de Bourgogne

84

Baron de Durfort,
Neptune

74 M. Destouches,
Conquerant

74 M. de la Grandiere, Eveillé

64 M. de Tilly,
Provence

M, Lambart,
Jason

M. de la Clocheterie,
Ardent

M, de Marigny. Barras joined de Grasse on the irth of September, after making a circuit 13 far as Bernuda.

64

64

64

given his instructions to the commanders of the respective ships, that they might clearly comprehend his wishes, he proceeded thence in the evening for Basseterre Road, where the enemy lay at that time. Early on the 24th of January Admiral Hood formed his line of battle, for the purpose of bearing down to the attack; when the untoward accident of the Alfred's running on board the Nymphe arrested the prosecution of this well.concerted design, and the fleet were obliged to lie to for a day to repair the damages which the Alfred had received.

In the evening of the same day Comte de Grasse quitted his anchorage and put to sea, that his ships might have full room to act, and thus secure the advantages of their superiority in point of number. On the ensuing morning, Janu. ary 25, the enemy were full in view forming the line of battle ahead. Sir Samuel Hood, in forming his compact Line, shewed the strongest indication of an immediate and vigorous attack. Having thus with great dexterity drawn the enemy farther from the shore, he then made directly for Basseterre Road, and took possession of the anchoring ground which De Grasse had quitted the preceding evening. The superior judgment and Seamanship aisplayed in this masterly inanceuvre, excited the astonishment, and called forth all the spirit of the enemy; whilst the probable consequence of their being thus cut off from all communication with the army on shore, afforded room for the most serious apprehensions. But let this gallant and indefatigable offic:r speak for himself :

“At day-light, says Sir Samuel in his letter to Mr. Stephens, we plainly discerned thirty-three sail of the enemy's ships ; twenty-nine of which, of two decks, formed in a line ahead. I made every anpearance of an attack, which drew the Comte de Grasse a little from the shore; and as I thought I had a fair prospect of gaining the an. chorage he left, and well knowing it was the only means I had of saving the island, if it was to be saved, I pushed for it, and succeeded by having my Rear, and part of my Centre engaged.” In another paragraph of the same letter, he thus nobly expresses the sentiments of a British seaman :-“Would the event of a battle have determined

the fate of the island, I would without hesitation have attacked the enemy; from my knowledge how much was to be expected from as English Squadron commanded by men, amongst whom is no other contention, than who should be most forward in rendering services to bis king and Country. Herein I placed the utmost confidence, and fully trust I should not have been disappointed."--Ideas similar to these have been adopted, and are congenial with those of Lord Nelson, who was early trained in Lord Hood's tactics and system; and who since has always professed the highest veneration for that Good OLD SCHOOL.

Impelled by every motive, whether of defeating the design, or of avenging the ruse de guerre, which Sir Samuel Hood had so ably played off, De Grasse without delay fell with the utmost fury on Commodore Affleck, who commanded the rear squadron, not without hopes of cutting off his dis vision; but that brave officer, and his two seconds, Lord Robert Manners, and Captain Cornwallis, kept up so unceasing a fire as to cover the other ships in the rear, whilst getting into their stations, with little injury to themselves. The Prudent had her wlieel shot to pieces the first broadside, which occasioned her loss to exceed that of any other ship. After a short conflict the French were obliged to stand off, having many of their ships considerably damaged; but they retreated with angry retrospeclion. De Grasse, during the night, summoned whatever energy he could to his assistance; and we may suppose him, as it were, in the language of Milton, thus addressing his officers :

“ Consult how we may henceforth most offend
Our enemy, our own loss how repair,
How overcome this dire calamity!
What reinforcement we may gain from Hope,

If not, what resolution from despair !" By eight, the next morning, The British Line was attacked fron Van to Rear at once, by the whole force of the enemy. After a desperate action of two hours, in which the French were not able to make the smallest impression, they again stood off, the second time, to Sea.

Not yet discouraged, De Grasse renewed the action with fresh spirit in the afternoon, chiefly directing his attack

against the Centre, and Rear Divisions, but he was again repulsed by the British Admiral, with considerable loss; and was obliged to stand out, the third time, to Sea. The Ville de Paris was upon the heel all the next day, covering her shot holes; and by information, which the admiral received afterwards from the shore, the enemy's ships sent to St. Eustatius upwards of icoo wounded men. The loss of the English squadron, in all the attacks, amounted to 42 killed, and 244 wounded.

As soon as Sir Samuel Hood had thus gained possession of The Anchorage, one of the first objects with him, and General Prescott, was to dispatch an officer * with an account of their situation and proceedings to the commanders at Brimstone Hill. This was successfully performed, and the officer returned in safety: both the governor and brigadier general placed too sanguine a reliance on the strength of the place.

Sir Samuel Hood, on receiving information of the confidence and spirit which prevailed in the garrison, proposed to the general, that if he thought a post could be maintained on shore, he would land two battalions of marines, of 700

rank and file each ; which, with the regular troops, would compose a body of near 2,406 men. General Prescott did not think it practicable to maintain such a post; but on the 28th of January was eager to be put on shore with the Antigua troops, and the 69th regiment; when a smart skirmish immediately took place, in which our troops had the advantage. On the following morning, the Marquis de Bouille having brought 4000 men from Sandy Point, General Prescott and his troops reimbarked in the evening of that day, without interruption from the enemy.

The surrender of Brimstone Hill, and consequent capitulation of the whole island, on the 13th of February (1782) rendered Admiral Hood's continuance at the anchorage of Basseterre highly dangerous. His subsequent escape from Captain J. N. Inglefield, who afterwards conin

nimanded the Centaur, and is dow Commissioner at Gibraltar.

tol. ll.

מ

that road, notwithstanding the vigilance and decided super riority of the enemy, who had thirty-four ships of the line, against twenty-two, is so meritorious and enterprising, that it can alone be equalled by the masterly manœuvre, which secured so strong a position to our squadron, when it was an object for the protection of the Island. This being no longer in view, Sir Samuel Hood considered only in what manner he could best preserve his squadron whole, and in a perfect state, for the junction with Sir George Rodney; wliose arrival from England, with a reinforcement, was daily expected, and which in fact took place on the 19th of February, (1782). Deeply sensible of the importance of this duty, Sir Samuel Hood, during the night after the cao pitulation, gave the necessary orders, for the ships of his squadron, at the same moment to cut their cables *, and put instantly to Sea. The darkness of the night favoured the boldness of the design ; and though the enemy's fleet were then lying within five miles, with their lights full in view of the British squadron, this daring project to their astonishment was accomplished.

Mr. John Clerk, of Eldin, in his able Essay on Naval Tadics, and while under the immediate impression of the enthusiasm excited by the merit of this maneuvre t, bears the most respectable testimony to Sir Samuel Hood's persevering courage, and superior Seamanship:

The singularity, or rather novelty, of this affair, so very important in all its consequences, cannot be passed over without endeavouring to give it a full consideration.

Sir Samuel disappointed in his intended attack, but confident that the obtaining a communication with, and supporting the same, was the only chance left him of saving the island, by a daring stroke in seamanship, seldom before ihis time attempted, in the face of this enemy, and even while in the act of sastaining a furious attack from the

• Sir Samuel Hood having about sun-set made the signal for all his captains, to come on board, gave them instructions to set their watches precisely with his chronometer, and at ten o'clock to have their axes ready to strike the first Blow, or the cables of their respedive ships,

+ Vol. ii. page 8, of part 4.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »