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squadron for such a contingency. The charge of six thousand troops, under the then conditions, was no light responsibility, and at the least must silence off-hand criticism now. Comment upon his action does not belong to British naval history, to which the firmness and seamanship of Captain Cornwallis added a lasting glory. It may be noted that fifteen years later, in the French Revolution, the same officer, then a ViceAdmiral, again distinguished himself by his bearing in face of great odds, bringing five ships safe off, out of the jaws of a dozen. It illustrates how luck seems in many cases to characterise a man's personality, much as temperament does. Cornwallis, familiarly known as "Billy Blue" to the seamen of his day, never won a victory, nor had a chance of winning one; but in command both of ships and of divisions, he repeatedly distinguished himself by successfully facing odds which he could not overcome.
The year 1780 was uneventful also in European waters, after Rodney's relief of Gibraltar in January. The detachment of the Channel Fleet which accompanied him on that mission returned safely to England. The "Grand Fleet," as it still was styled occasionally, cruised at sea from June 8th to August 18th, an imposing force of thirty-one ships of the line, eleven of them three-deckers of 90 guns and upwards. Admiral Francis Geary was then Commander-in-Chief, but, his health failing, and Barrington refusing to take the position, through professed distrust of himself and actual distrust of the Admiralty, Vice-Admiral George Darby succeeded to it, and held it during the year 1781.
The most notable maritime event in 1780 in Europe was the capture on August 9th of a large British convoy, two or three hundred miles west of Cape St. Vincent, by the allied fleets from Cadiz. As out of sixty-three sail only eight escaped, and as of those taken sixteen were carrying troops and supplies necessary for the West India garrisons, such a disaster claims mention among the greater operations of war, the success of which it could not fail to influence. Captain John Moutray, the officer commanding the convoy, was brought to trial and dismissed his ship; but there were not wanting those who charged the misadventure to the Admiralty, and saw in the captain a victim. It was the greatest single blow that British commerce had received in war during the memory of men then living, and "a general inclination prevailed to lay the blame upon some individual, who might be punished according to the magnitude of the object, rather than in proportion to his demerit." 1
During the year 1780 was formed the League of the Baltic Powers, known historically as the Armed Neutrality, to exact from Great Britain the concession of certain points thought essential to neutral interests. The accession of Holland to this combination, together with 6ther motives of dissatisfaction, caused Great Britain to declare war against the United Provinces on the 20th of December. Orders were at once sent to the East and West Indies to seize Dutch possessions and ships, but these did not issue in action until the following year.
Towards the end of 1780 the French Government, dissatisfied with the lack of results from the immense combined force assembled in Cadiz during the summer months, decided to recall its ships, and to refit them during the winter for the more extensive and aggressive movements planned for the campaign of 1781. D'Estaing was sent from France for the purpose; and under his command thirty-eight ships of the line, in which were included those brought by de Guichen from the West Indies, sailed on the 7th of November for Brest. Extraordinary as it may seem, this fleet did not reach its port until the 3d of January, 1781.
1 Beatson, "Military and Naval Memoirs."
NAVAL CAMPAIGN IN WEST INDIES IN 1781. CAPTURE OF ST. EUSTATIUS BY RODNEY. DE GRASSE ARRIVES IN PLACE OF DE GUICHEN. TOBAGO SURRENDERS TO DE GRASSE
RODNEY, returning to the^West Indies from New York, reached Barbados on December 6th, 1780. There he seems first to have learned of the disastrous effects of the great October hurricanes of that year. Not only had several ships — among them two of the line — been wrecked, with the loss of almost all on board, but the greater part of those which survived had been dismasted, wholly or in part, as well as injured in the hull. There were in the West Indies no docking facilities; under-water damage could be repaired only by careening or heaving-down. Furthermore, as Barbados, Santa Lucia, and Jamaica, all had been swept, their supplies were mainly destroyed. Antigua, it is true, had escaped, the hurricane passing south of St. Kitts; but Rodney wrote home that no stores for refitting were obtainable in the Caribbee Islands. He was hoping then that Sir Peter Parker might supply his needs in part; for when writing from Santa Lucia on December 10th, two months after the storm, he was still ignorant that the Jamaica Station had suffered to the full as severely as the eastern islands. The fact shows not merely the ordinary slowness of communications in those days, but also the paralysis that fell upon all movements in consequence of that great disaster. "The most beautiful island in the world," he said of Barbados, "has the appearance of a country laid waste by fire and sword."