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to 18. As their shot were passing over the British, the latter now began to reply. At noon Hood, finding that he could not close the enemy, shortened sail to topsails and hove-to, hoping by this defiance to bring them down to him. At 12.30 the French admiral was abreast of the British flagship, and the action became general, but at too long range. "Never, I believe," wrote Hood, "was more powder and shot thrown away in one day before." The French continuing to stand on, Hood filled his sails again at 1 P.m., as their van had stretched beyond his.
As the leading ships, heading south, opened the channel between Santa Lucia and Martinique, they got the breeze fresher, which caused them to draw away from the centre. Hood, therefore, at 1.34 made the signal for a close order, and immediately afterwards ceased firing, finding not one in ten of the enemy's shot to reach. The engagement, however, continued somewhat longer between the southern — van — ships, where, by the account of Captain Sutherland, who was in that part of the line, four of the British were attacked very smartly by eight of the French. The Centaur, Russell, Intrepid, and Shrewsbury appear to have been the ships that suffered most heavily, either in hull, spars, or crews. They were all in the van on the southern tack. The Russell, having several shot between wind and water, was with difficulty kept afloat, the water rising over the platform of the magazine. Hood sent her off at nightfall to St. Eustatius, where she arrived on the 4th of May, bringing Rodney the first news of the action, and of the numbers of the French reinforcement. During the 30th Hood held his ground, still endeavouring to get to windward of the enemy; but failing in that attempt, and finding two of his squadron much disabled, he decided at sunset to bear away to the northward, because to the southward the westerly currents set so strong that the crippled ships could not regain Santa Lucia. On the 11th of May, between St. Kitts and Antigua, he joined Rodney, who, after hurried repairs to the Russell, had left St. Eustatius on the 5th, with that ship, the Sandwich, and the Triumph.
It is somewhat difficult to criticise positively the conduct of Hood and of de Grasse in this affair. It is clear that Hood on the first day seriously sought action, though his force was but three-fourths that of his foe. He tried first to take the offensive, and, failing that, to induce his enemy to attack frankly and decisively. Troude is doubtless correct in saying that it was optional with de Grasse to bring on a general engagement; and the writer finds himself in agreement also with another French authority, Captain Chevalier, that "Count de Grasse seems to have been too much preoccupied with the safety of his convoy on the 29th, Admiral Hood having shown himself much less circumspect on that day than he was on the next. Notwithstanding our numerical superiority, Count de Grasse kept near the land until all the convoy were safe." He represents Hood as fencing cautiously on the following day, keeping on the field, but avoiding a decisive encounter. This differs somewhat from the version of Hood himself, who mentions signalling a general chase to windward at 12.30 P.m. of the 30th. The two statements are not irreconcilable. Hood having coppered ships, had the speed of the French, whose vessels, being partly coppered and partly not, sailed unevenly. The British commander consequently could afford to take risks, and he therefore played with the enemy, watching for a chance. Hood was an officer of exceptional capacity, much in advance of his time. He thoroughly understood a watching game, and that an opportunity might offer to seize an advantage over part of the enemy, if the eagerness of pursuit, or any mishap, caused the French to separate. From any dilemma that ensued, the reserve of speed gave him a power of withdrawal, in relying upon which he was right. The present writer adopts here also Chevalier's conclusion: "Admiral Hood evidently had the very great advantage over his enemy of commanding a squadron of coppered ships. Nevertheless, homage is due to his skill and to the confidence shown by him in his captains. If some of his ships had dropped behind through injuries received, he would have had to sacrifice them, or to fight a superior force." This means that Hood for an adequate gain ran a great risk; that he thoroughly understood both the advantages and the disadvantages of his situation; and that he acted not only with great skill, but warily and boldly, — a rare combination. The British loss in this affair was 39 killed, including Captain Nott, of the Centaur, and 162 wounded. The French loss is given by Chevalier as 18 killed and 56 wounded; by Beatson, as 119 killed and 150 wounded.
Rodney, having collected his fleet, proceeded south, and on the 18th of May put into Barbados for water. Much anxiety had been felt at first for Santa Lucia, which Hood's retreat had uncovered. As was feared, the French had attacked it at once, their fleet, with the exception of one or two ships, going there, and twelve hundred troops landing at Gros Ilet Bay; but the batteries on Pigeon Island, which Rodney had erected and manned, kept them at arms' length. The works elsewhere being found too strong, the attempt was abandoned.
At the same time, two French ships of the line and thirteen hundred troops had sailed from Martinique against Tobago. When de Grasse returned from the failure at Santa Lucia, he learned that the British were at sea, apparently bound for Barbados. Alarmed for his detachment before Tobago, he again sailed with the fleet for that island on the 25th of May, accompanied by three thousand more troops. Rodney learned at Barbados of the attempt on Tobago, and on the 29th dispatched a squadron of six sail of the line, under RearAdmiral Francis Samuel Drake, to support the defence. On the 30th he heard that the French main fleet had been seen to windward of Santa Lucia, steering south, evidently for Tobago. On the same day Drake and de Grasse encountered one another off the latter island, the French being to leeward, nearest the land. Drake necessarily retired, and on the morning of June 3d was again off Barbados, whereupon Rodney at once sailed for Tobago with the whole fleet. On the 4th the island was sighted, and next morning information was received that it had capitulated on the 2d.
The two fleets returning north were in presence of one another on the 9th; but no engagement took place. Rodney, who was to windward, having twenty sail to twenty-three,1 was unwilling to attack unless he could get a clear sea. The strength of the currents, he said, would throw his fleet too far to leeward, in case of reverse, into the foul ground between St. Vincent and Grenada, thus exposing Barbados, which had not recovered sufficiently from the hurricane to stand alone. He therefore put into Barbados. De Grasse went to Martinique to prepare the expedition to the American continent, which resulted in the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown. On the 5th of July he sailed from Fort Royal taking with him the "trade" for France, and on the 26th anchored with it at Cap Francois in Haiti, where he found a division of four ships of the line which had been left the year before by de Guichen. There also was a frigate, which had left Boston on the 20th of June, and by which De Grasse received dispatches from Washington, and from Rochambeau, the general commanding the French troops in America. These acquainted him with the state of affairs on the continent, and requested that the fleet should come to either the Chesapeake or New York, to strike a decisive blow at the British power in one quarter or the other.
1 One French ship had left the fleet, disabled.
NAVAL OPERATIONS PRECEDING AND DETERMINING THE FALL OF YORKTOWN. CORNWALLIS SURRENDERS
HAVING now brought the major naval transactions in the West Indies to the eve of the great events which determined the independence of the American States, it is expedient here to resume the thread of operations, both sea and land, on the American continent, so as to bring these also up to the same decisive moment, when the military and naval blended and in mutual support forced the surrender of the British army at Yorktown under Lord Cornwallis.
It has been said that, to support the operations of Cornwallis in the Carolinas, Clinton had begun a series of diversions in the valley of the James River.1 The first detachment so sent, under General Leslie, had been transferred speedily to South Carolina, to meet the exigencies of Cornwallis's campaign. The second, of sixteen hundred troops under Benedict Arnold, left New York at the end of December, and began its work on the banks of the James at the end of January, 1781. It advanced to Richmond, nearly a hundred miles from the sea, wasting the country round about, and finding no opposition adequate to check its freedom of movement. Returning down stream, on the 20th it
1 Ante, p. 153.