페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

by currents and the land; but when outside he brought-to, — stopped, by backing some of the sails, — to allow the enemy to attack if they would, they having the weathergage. On the following day, the 20th, towards sunset they bore down, and a partial engagement ensued; but it was wholly indecisive, and next day was not renewed. The British loss was 68 killed and 208 wounded; that of the allies 60 killed and 320 wounded. On the 14th of November the fleet regained Spithead.

The services rendered to his country by Howe on this occasion were eminently characteristic of the special qualities of that great officer, in whom was illustrated to the highest degree the solid strength attainable by a man not brilliant, but most able, who gives himself heart and soul to professional acquirement. In him, profound and extensive professional knowledge, which is not inborn but gained, was joined to great natural staying powers; and the combination eminently fitted him for the part we have seen him play in Delaware Bay, at New York, before Rhode Island, in the Channel, and now at Gibraltar. The utmost of skill, the utmost of patience, the utmost of persistence, such had Howe; and having these, he was particularly apt for the defensive operations, upon the conduct of which chiefly must rest his welldeserved renown.

A true and noble tribute has been paid by a French officer to this relief of Gibraltar:1

"The qualities displayed by Lord Howe during this short campaign rose to the full height of the mission which he had to fulfil. This operation, one of the finest in the War of American Independence, merits a praise equal to that of a victory. If the English fleet was favoured by circumstances, — and it is rare that in such enterprises one can succeed without the aid of fortune — it was above all the Commander-in-Chief's quickness of perception, the accuracy of his judgment, and the rapidity of his decisions, that assured success."

1 Chevalier, "Mar. Fran, dans la Guerre de 1778," p. 358.

To this well-weighed, yet lofty praise of the Admiral, the same writer has added words that the British Navy may remember long with pride, as sealing the record of this war, of which the relief of Gibraltar marked the close in European and American waters. After according credit to the Admiralty for the uniform high speed of the British vessels, and to Howe for his comprehension and use of this advantage, Captain Chevalier goes on: —

"Finally, if we may judge by the results, the Commander-inChief of the English fleet could not but think himself most happy in his captains. There were neither separations, nor collisions, nor casualties; and there occurred none of those events, so frequent in the experiences of a squadron, which often oblige admirals to take a course wholly contrary to the end they have in view. In contemplation of this unvexed navigation of Admiral Howe, it is impossible not to recall the unhappy incidents which from the 9th to the 12th of April befell the squadron of the Count de Grasse. . . . If it is just to admit that Lord Howe displayed the highest talent, it should be added that he had in his hands excellent instruments."

To quote another French writer: "Quantity disappeared before quality."

CHAPTER XIV

THE NAVAL OPERATIONS IN THE EAST INDIES, 1778-1783. THE CAREER OF THE BAILLI DE SUFFREN

THE operations in India, both naval and military, stand by themselves, without direct influence upon transactions elsewhere, and unaffected also by these, except in so far as necessary succours were intercepted sometimes in European waters. The cause of this isolation was the distance of India from Europe; from four to six months being required by a fleet for the voyage.

Certain intelligence of the war between Great Britain and France reached Calcutta July 7th, 1778. On the same day the Governor-General ordered immediate preparations to attack Pondicherry, the principal seaport of the French. The army arrived before the place on the 8th of August, and on the same day Commodore Sir Edward Vernon anchored in the roads to blockade by sea. A French squadron, under Captain Tronjoly, soon after appearing in the offing, Vernon gave chase, and on the 10th an action ensued. The forces engaged were about equal, the French, if anything, slightly superior; a 60-gun ship and four smaller vessels being on each side. As the French then went into Pondicherry, the immediate advantage may be conceded to them; but, Vernon returning on the 20th, Tronjoly soon after quitted the roads, and returned to the He de France.1 From

1 Now Mauritius.

[graphic]
« 이전계속 »