페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

volved, and the arbitrary methods pursued by him and by Vaughan, gave rise to much scandal, which was not diminished by the King's relinquishing all the booty to the captors, nor by the latters' professed disinterestedness. Men thought they did protest too much. Meanwhile, other matters arose to claim attention. A week after the capture, a vessel arrived from the Bay of Biscay announcing that eight or ten French sail of the line, with a large convoy, had been seen on the 31st of December steering for the West Indies. Rodney at once detached Sir Samuel Hood with eleven ships of the line, directing him to take also under his command the six left before Fort Royal, and to cruise with them to windward of Martinique, to intercept the force reported. Hood sailed February 12th. The particular intelligence proved afterwards to be false, but Hood was continued on his duty. A month later he was ordered to move from the windward to the leeward side of the island, and to blockade Fort Royal closely. Against this change he remonstrated, and the event showed him to be right; but Rodney insisted, saying that from his experience he knew that a fleet could remain off Fort Royal for months without dropping to leeward, and that there ships detached to Santa Lucia, for water and refreshments, could rejoin before an enemy's fleet, discovered to windward, could come up. Hood thought the Admiral's object was merely to shelter his own doings at St. Eustatius; and he considered the blockade of Fort Royal to be futile, if no descent upon the island were intended. "It would doubtless have been fortunate for the public," he remarked afterwards, "had Sir George been with his fleet, as I am confident he would have been to windward instead of to leeward, when de Grasse made his approach."

The preparations of the French in Brest were completed towards the end of March, and on the 22d of that month Rear-Admiral de Grasse sailed, having a large convoy under the protection of twenty-six ships of the line. A week later six of the latter parted company, five under Suffren for the East Indies and one for North America. The remaining twenty continued their course for Martinique, which was sighted on the 28th of April. Before sunset, Hood's squadron also was discovered to leeward of the island, as ordered by Rodney to cruise, and off the southern point, — Pointe des Salines. De Grasse then hove-to for the night, but sent an officer ashore both to give and to obtain intelligence, and to reach an understanding for concerted action next day.

The French fleet consisted of one ship of 110 guns, three 80's, fifteen 74's, and one 64, in all 20 of the line, besides three armed en flUte,1 which need not be taken into account, although they served to cover the convoy. Besides these there were the four in Fort Royal, one 74 and three 64's, a junction of which with the approaching enemy it was one of Hood's objects to prevent. The force of the British was one 90, one 80, twelve 74's,one 70, and two 64's: total, 17. Thus both in numbers and in rates of ships Hood was inferior to the main body alone of the French; but he had the advantage of ships all coppered, owing to Rodney's insistence with the Admiralty. He also had no convoy to worry him; but he was to leeward.

Early in the morning of the 29th, de Grasse advanced to round the southern point of the island, which was the usual course for sailing ships. Hood was too far to leeward to intercept this movement, for which he was blamed by Rodney, who claimed that the night had not been properly utilised by beating to windward of Pointe des Salines.2 Hood, on the

1 This latter is applied to vessels, usually ships of war, which are used as transports or supply ships, and therefore carry only a part of their normal battery.

2 Rodney said that Hood "lay-to" for the night. This is antecedently incredible of an officer of Hood's character, and is expressly contradicted by Captain Sutherland of the Russell. "At 6 P.m. (of other hand, said in a private letter: "I never once lost sight of getting to windward, but it was totally impossible. . . . Had I fortunately been there, I must have brought the enemy to close action upon more equal terms, or they must have given up their transports, trade, etc." Hood's subsequent career places it beyond doubt that had he been to windward there would have been a severe action, whatever the result; but it is not possible to decide positively between his statement and Rodney's, as to where the fault of being to leeward lay. The writer believes that Hood would have been to windward, if in any way possible. It must be added that the British had no word that so great a force was coming. On this point Hood and Rodney are agreed.

Under the conditions, the French passed without difficulty round Pointe des Salines, the transports hugging the coast, the ships of war being outside and to leeward of them. Thus they headed up to the northward for Fort Royal Bay (Cul de Sac Royal), Hood standing to the southward until after 10, and being joined at 9.20 by a sixty-four (not reckoned in the list above) from Santa Lucia, making his force eighteen. At 10.35 the British tacked together to the northward. The two fleets were now steering the same way, the French van abreast of the British centre. At 11 the French opened their fire, to which no reply was made then. At 11.20, the British van being close in with the shore to the northward of the Bay, Hood tacked again together, and the enemy, seeing his convoy secure, wore, also together, which brought the two lines nearer, heading south. At this time the four French ships in the Bay got under way and easily joined the rear of their fleet, it having the weather-gage. The French were thus 24

the 28th) our fleet tacked to the north, and kept moving across the bay (Port Royal) for the right (sic), in line of battle." Ekins, "NavalBattles," p. 136. The word "right" is evidently a misprint for "night." Rodney's criticisms seem to the author captious throughout.

[graphic]
« 이전계속 »