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brought to an end, and the Government established on a basis which would restore peace to Europe.
This was the design, apparently the joint production of Pitt at the Treasury and of Hepry Dundas at the War Office, which the Ministry cherished most closely at heart, and to which they resolved to devote their principal energies. It was reckoned that the capture of the French West Indies would require ten thousand men. Preparations were therefore made to despatch that number, and the troops received their orders for foreign service in August, 1793. At about the same time, or perhaps somewhat earlier, Sir Charles Grey accepted the chief command of the land forces for the expedition, with Sir John Jervis for his colleague in command of the fleet.
All this was very well; but meanwhile the Government had already committed themselves in another direction. At the very outset of the war, in February, 1793, they had sent over every man who could be produced at short notice (the total number was eighteen hundred), and placed them under command of the Duke of York for the protection of Holland. They did so very reluctantly, and with every intention of withdrawing these troops almost immediately. But Austria and Prussia were already operating against France along the line of the Rhine from Basle to the German Ocean; and, moreover, Austria had lately won a great victory at Neerwinden, so that it was difficult to resist her appeal to join forces and aid her to put a summary end to the Convention in Paris. The Government therefore gave the Duke of York authority to act with the Austrians ; and if they had reinforced him with every soldier that could have been raised, and made a march on Paris the first object of the campaign, they would not have acted unwisely. But they did neither of these things. Only a handful of British troops were sent to the Duke, with injunctions that most of them would shortly be required elsewhere; the capture of Dunkirk was prescribed as the first object of the operations, so that the prize might be dangled before the British constituencies; and, finally, the strictest orders were given for the occupation of Ostend. Why so much importance should have been attached to Ostend is a mystery which we have been unable to fathom. In vain the generals on the spot urged that the place was of no military importance; that it could be held only on a very precarious footing at best; that Antwerp was their real base, and that it was most inconvenient to be obliged to guard two lines of communication. It was no fault of the Duke of York that he was driven back from before Dunkirk with the loss of the whole of his siege-artillery, but the Ministers were out of humour over the failure, so, without the least consideration for the Duke's military position, they peremptorily required him to send back four of his regiments at once for the West Indian expedition. The Duke complied, but added that he should now be forced to withdraw the garrison from Ostend ; whereupon Dundas, losing his temper completely, ordered Grey to sail at once with four battalions to Ostend to take over the command.
To Ostend, accordingly, he went, reaching the port on October 29, when, with proper management, he ought to have been on his way across the Atlantic. When he arrived he found nothing to do which could not perfectly well have been done without him, for, although the French had indeed advanced towards Ostend, the Duke of York had made effectual dispositions to compel their retreat in all haste. . Pray stir up the Austrians to take care of their own ports, * ' and leave me to capture French islands,' wrote Grey; but on his return to England after ten days' absence he found a fresh mortification awaiting him. The short voyage to Ostend had already proved to him that his transports were unfit for a voyage across the Atlantic, which meant, of course, vexatious delay; but now he discovered that the Government had decided to hand over half of his force to Lord Moira for a descent (which proved utterly abortive) upon the coast of France. The Ministers, in fact, under pressure of many calls for troops which their own folly made them unable to furnish, had completely lost their heads. Happy chance had lately placed Toulon in their hands, and it would have been worth their while to have withdrawn every man from Holland and England in order to have held it. If they preferred to pursue operations in the Low Countries they should have evacuated Toulon and concentrated all their force in that quarter. If they really thought the French West Indies to be the most important object, they had not a man too many in the whole army to capture them and to hold them effectually. But with inconceivable folly they scattered their scanty battalions in all directions, reaped disaster as a natural consequence, and then blamed the commanders. With feverish energy, but with no light heart, Grey
* Grey to Sir J. Murray, November 1, 1793.
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plunged into the final preparations for departure. With their usual bungling the Government had directed Moira's expedition as well as Grey's to fit out at Portsmouth; and had not Sir John Jervis, to Moira's huge disgust, appropriated every barge and lighter in the port for himself, much time would have been lost. The General and Admiral accomplished all that lay within their power; but hospital-ships and several ordnance-store ships were still wanting when, on November 26, they lost all patience and sailed from St. Helens lest they should lose a fair wind. Sir Charles took his passage with Jervis in H.M.S. Boyne,' for the pair were on the most affectionate terms; his son George was also on board as flagcaptain, and his son Henry as deputy quartermaster-general; while yet another son, William, and another relation, Thomas Grey, were on other of the ships bound westward. The voyage was a favourable one, but there was much to cause anxiety to the Commander-in-Chief. In the first place, he had started a month too late ; and in the second his force was by admission not strong enough to master Martinique, which was the key of the French Windward Islands. Dundas, most sanguine of men, had hinted his hopes that none the less Grey would capture the whole of the French West Indies in one campaign; and while leaving him a free hand, had suggested that he should deal with St. Domingo first, and then return to Martinique. Nothing could have served better to open Grey's eyes to the military ignorance of his employers. Operations were already in progress in St. Domingo; but to have taken that island first would have meant leaving the greater part of his force in garrison to hold it, and a subsequent loss of at least two months spent in beating back to Martinique, a thousand miles, in the teeth of the trade-wind. In fact, the only point in which the Government had striven to make his task easy was the division of captured booty and prize-money, for which they had furnished him with a series of precedents dating from 1697 onwards. Thereby there hangs a tale, which shall presently be told.
On January 6, 1794, Grey arrived at Barbados, the invariable starting-point for all West Indian expeditions before the days of steam, since the island is the most wind wardly of the whole Caribbean Archipelago. There he found matters in none too encouraging a state. In the first place, Dundas had again forgotten the trade-wind in giving his orders for the concentration of the troops already in the West Indies ; and, in the second, a sickly season had laid fifty-eight British
officers and more than ten times that number of men in their graves during the past six months. Grey was always most solicitous as to the health and comfort of his men, and he now wrote for a supply of Teneriffe wine so as to save himself from being reduced to furnish them with rum. The condition of the transports as they came dropping into Carlisle Bay increased his anxiety, for they showed altogether a sick-list of twelve hundred men. These were the first-fruits of the Government's neglect to provide him with hospital ships. Nevertheless, the Staff in Barbados had pushed all preparations on their side well forward, and had obtained excellent information, charts of the French ports, plans of the French fortresses, guides, and pilots. Martinique was no longer the Martinique which Monckton had conquered in 1761. The chief port, Port de France, had been strengthened since then by the building of a citadel of the most approved type under the eyes of the Marquis de Bouillé, who, poor man, since his lapse into a royalist refugee after the failure at Varennes, would have given his ears never to have designed it. Moreover, every landing-place was guarded by batteries, and the garrison was strong and efficient, under a brave and skilful officer, De Rochambeau. Grey reckoned that he could embark six thousand men for service-an inadequate force, for there were as many of one description and another in Martinique. Yet that island was the key to the rest; and to capture Guadeloupe and St. Lucia first would so weaken his force as to make any subsequent attempt on Martinique impossible. He took council with Jervis and resolved, at whatever hazard, to try his fortune first at Martinique. A month perforce spent at Barbados was utilised to the utmost in collecting negroes to perform fatigue duties, drilling a naval brigade, and above all in training the light companies to cope with a skulking enemy in a wild, rugged, and mountainous country. The American war had been the making of the British light infantryman of that period, just as the Boer war should be the making of him at the present time; and Grey was not the man to allow such useful teaching to perish. By February 3, 1794, all was ready, and fleet and transports sailed away to Martinique.
Of the operations which followed it is impossible without a map to give any detailed account; and it must therefore suffice to indicate the principles upon which Grey acted. Since his force was insufficient to meet the united troops of the enemy, it was essential to destroy that enemy in detail, and at the smallest cost to himself. He therefore attacked Martinique at three different points simultaneously, so as to keep the French divided. Always landing his troops so as to take the coast batteries in reverse, he captured one after another of them, together with their garrisons, with little loss; and where those batteries were situated on a peninsula he decided their fate immediately by drawing his troops across the neck of that peninsula and cutting them off from the mainland. Ascertaining that there was a position which commanded the only pass between the northern and southern portions of the island, he drove the French from it, and occupied it himself. He then proceeded to deal with the northern portion piecemeal, overpowering each stronghold by converging columns from three or more directions, and, when this was accomplished, he turned his whole strength against the citadel and forced De Rochambeau, after a most gallant defence of thirty-one days, to surrender.
Leaving a garrison of twelve hundred men to hold it, Grey, on the 30th, sailed for St. Lucia, some thirty miles from Martinique, having on the previous day made the parole ‘More,' and the countersign ‘Islands.' There he pursued the same tactics, and, since the island was weakly garrisoned in comparison with Martinique, reduced it in two days, not without fighting, but without the loss of a man of his force. This done he left a garrison, as before, and returned to Martinique. On April 7 be gave for parole the word "Two,' and for countersign More,' and on the 8th he sailed for Guadeloupe, which is so divided as to be practically two islandsGrande Terre and Basse Terre. Between the 11th and 13th Grande Terre was conquered, still by the same tactics; and Basse Terre, a stronger and more difficult country, between the 13th and 22nd.
The ease with which these conquests were achieved must not blind us to the skill of the commander or to the gallantry and endurance displayed by the troops. The losses of the British in killed and wounded throughout these operations did not exceed three hundred and fifty, but there was plenty of hard and fierce fighting, for the majority of the French defences were carried by storm, sometimes after a determined resistance. Some of them, however, were abandoned after only a feeble struggle, being either taken in reverse or surprised by one of Grey's favourite night attacks with the bayonet. Once, at least, the flints were removed from the muskets of the assaulting party; and, owing to Grey's predilection for the bayonet, it is probable that no