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succession and formed again in the rear, (t2) whence they repeated the same manoeuvre (Positions 1 and 2). Thus a procession of fifteen ships kept passing by eight, describing a continuous curve of elliptical form. They were able to do this because Hood was condemned to a low speed, lest he should draw too far away from the British centre (a) and rear (c), still becalmed under Dominica (Position 2). The French, having choice of distance, kept at long gunshot, because they were deficient in carronades, of which the British had many. These guns, of short range but large calibre, were thus rendered useless. Could they have come into play, the French rigging and sails would have suffered severely. This first engagement (Position 1) lasted, by Hood's log, from 9.48 to 10.25 A.m. It was resumed in stronger force (Position 2) at 14 minutes past noon, and continued till 1.45 P.m., when firing ceased for that day; Rodney hauling down the signal for battle at 2. Between the two affairs, which were identical in general character, Hood's column was reinforced, and great part of the British centre also got into action with some of the French main body, though at long range only. "Except the two rear ships," wrote Rodney to Hood that night, "the others fired at such a distance that I returned none."
The injuries to the British ships engaged were not such as to compel them to leave the fleet. The Royal Oak lost her main topmast, and that of the Warrior fell two days later, not improbably from wounds; but in these was nothing that the ready hands of seamen could not repair so as to continue the chase. Rodney, therefore, contented himself with reversing the order of sailing, putting Hood in the rear, whereby he was able to refit, and yet follow fast enough not to be out of supporting distance. This circumstance caused Hood's division to be in the rear in the battle of the 12th. One of the French ships, the Caton, 64, had been so
injured that de Grasse detached her into Guadeloupe. It must be remembered that a crippled ship in a chased fleet not only embarrasses movement, but may compromise the whole body, if the latter delay to protect it; whereas the chaser keeps between his lame birds and the enemy.
During the night of the 9th the British lay-to for repairs. The next morning they resumed the pursuit, turning to windward after the enemy, but upon the whole losing throughout the 10th and the 11th. At daylight of the 10th the French, by the logs of Hood and Cornwallis, were "from four to five leagues distant," "just in sight from the deck." During that night, however, the Zele, 74, had collided with the Jason, 64; and the latter was injured so far as to be compelled to follow the Caton into Guadeloupe. At sunset of that day Rodney signalled a general chase to windward, the effect of which was to enable each ship to do her best according to her captain's judgment during the dark hours. Nevertheless, on the morning of the 11th the French seem again to have gained, for Hood, who, it will be remembered, was now in the rear, notes that at 10 A.m. twenty-two French sail (not all the fleet) could be counted from the masthead; Cornwallis, further to windward, could count thirty-three. Troude, a French authority, says that at that time nearly all the French had doubled The Saintes, that is, had got to windward of them, and it looked as though de Grasse might succeed in throwing off his pursuer. Unluckily, two ships, the Magnanime, 74, and the Zele, 74, the latter of which had lost her main topmast, were several miles to leeward of the French main body. It was necessary to delay, or to drop those vessels. Again, trivial circumstances conspired to further a great disaster, and de Grasse bore down to cover the crippled ships; so losing much of his hard-won ground, and entailing a further misfortune that night. Rodney hung doggedly on, relying on the chapter of accidents, as one who knows that all things come to him who endures. To be sure, there was not much else he could do; yet he deserves credit for unremitting industry and pluck. During the afternoon, the signals noted in the British logs — to call in all cruisers and for the fleet to close
— attest mutely the movement of de Grasse in bearing down,
— coming nearer.
During the night, at 2 A.m. of April 12th, the Zele and de Grasse's flagship, the Ville de Paris, 110, crossing on opposite tacks, came into collision. The former lost both foremast and bowsprit. It has been stated by John Paul Jones, who by permission of Congress embarked a few months later on board the French fleet as a volunteer, and doubtless thus heard many personal narratives, that this accident was due to the deficiency of watch-officers in the French navy; the deck of the Zele being in charge of a young ensign, instead of an experienced lieutenant. It was necessary to rid the fleet of the Zele at once, or an action could not be avoided; so a frigate was summoned to tow her, and the two were left to make their way to Guadeloupe, while the others resumed the beat to windward. At 5 A.m. she and the frigate were again under way, steering for Guadeloupe, to the north-west, making from five to six miles (Position 3, a); but in the interval they had been nearly motionless, and consequently when day broke at 5.30 they were only two leagues from the Barfleur, Hood's flagship, which, still in the British rear, was then standing south on the port tack. The body of the French, (Position 3), was at about the same distance as on the previous evening, — ten to fifteen miles, — but the Ville de Paris (c) not more than eight. Just before 6 A.m. Rodney signalled Hood, who was nearest, to chase the Zele; and four of the rearmost ships of the line were detached for that purpose (b). De Grasse, seeing this, signalled his vessels at 6 A.m. to close the flagship, making all sail; and he himself bore down to