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fire, and her whole broadside was discharged. This example was followed by the other ships, so that the engagement, instead of being close, was begun at half cannon-shot.
Owing to his measured and deliberate retreat, Hughes had his fleet now in thoroughly good shape, well aligned and closed-up. The French, starting from a poor formation to perform a difficult evolution, under fire, engaged in utter disorder (B). Seven ships, prematurely rounding-to to bring their broadsides to the enemy, and fore-reaching, formed a confused group (v), much to windward and somewhat ahead of the British van. Imperfectly deployed, they interfered with one another and their fire consequently could not be adequately developed. In the rear a somewhat similar condition existed. Suffren, expecting the bulk of his line to fight the British to windward, had directed the Vengeur, 64, and the Consolante, 36, to double to leeward on the extreme rear; but they, finding that the weather sides of the enemy were not occupied, feared to go to leeward, lest they should be cut off. They attacked the rear British ship, the Worcester, 64 (w), to windward; but the Monmouth, 64 (m), dropping down to her support, and the Vengeur catching fire in the mizzen top, they were compelled to haul off. Only Suffren's own ship, the Heros, 74 (a), and her next astern, the Illustre, 74, (i), came at once to close action with the British centre; but subsequently the Ajax, 64, succeeding in clearing herself from the snarl in the rear, took station ahead (j) of the Heros. Upon these three fell the brunt of the fight. They not only received the broadsides of the ships immediately opposed to them, but, the wind having now become light yet free, the British vessels ahead and astern, (h,s,) by luffing or keeping off, played also upon them. "The enemy formed a semicircle around us," wrote Suffren's chief of staff, "and raked us ahead and astern, as the ship came up and fell off with the helm to leeward." The two seventy-fours were crushed under this fire. Both lost their main and mizzen masts in the course of the day, and the foretopmast of the flagship also fell. The Ajax, arriving later, and probably drawing less attention, had only a topmast shot away.
The British total of killed and wounded was very evenly distributed throughout the fleet. Only the rear ship lost an important spar, — the main topmast. It was upon her, as already mentioned, and upon the two leading ships, the Exeter and Isis, that fell the heaviest fire, proportionately, of the French. From the position of the seven van ships of the latter, such fire as they could make must needs be upon the extreme British van, and the Exeter was forced to leave the line. The loss of the French that day was 82 killed and 255 wounded; of which 64 killed and 178 wounded belonged to the HSros, Illustre, and Ajax. The British had 51 killed and 283 wounded; the greatest number of casualties in one ship being 56. Singularly enough, in such a small list of deaths, three were commanding officers: Captains Watt of the Sultan, Wood of the Worcester, and Lumley of the Isis.
At 5.30 P.m. the wind shifted suddenly from south-west to east-south-east (C). The British wore together, formed on the other tack, and continued the fight. It was during this final act, and at 6 P.m., that the mainmast of the French flagship came down. The van ships of the French had towed their heads round with boats before 4, in order to come to the support of the centre, in obedience to a signal from Suffren; but the light airs and calms had retarded them. With the shift they approached, and passed in column (c) between their crippled vessels and the enemy. This manoeuvre, and the failure of daylight, brought the battle to an end. According to Hughes's report, several of his fleet "were making much water from shot-holes so very low down in the bottom as not to be come at to be effectually stopped; and the whole had suffered severely in their masts and rigging." Trincomalee being in the enemy's possession, and the east coast of Ceylon an unsafe anchorage now, at the change of the monsoon, he felt compelled to return to Madras, where he anchored on the 9th of September. Suffren regained Trincomalee on the 7th of the month, but the Orient, 74, running ashore at the entrance and being lost, he remained outside until the 17th, saving material from the wreck.
The break-up of the south-west monsoon, then at hand, is apt to be accompanied by violent hurricanes, and is succeeded by the north-east monsoon, during which the east coasts of the peninsula and of Ceylon give a lee shore, with heavy surf. Naval operations, therefore, were suspended for the winter. During that season Trincomalee is the only secure port. Deprived of it, Hughes determined to go to Bombay, and for that purpose left Madras on the 17th of October. Four days later a reinforcement of five ships of the line arrived from England, under Commodore Sir Richard Bickerton, who at once followed the Commander-in-Chief to the west coast. In the course of December the entire British force was united at Bombay.
In Trincomalee Suffren had a good anchorage; but the insufficiency of its resources, with other military considerations, decided him to winter at Acheen, at the west end of Sumatra. He arrived there on the 2d of November, having first paid a visit to Cuddalore, where the Bizarre, 64, was wrecked by carelessness. On the 20th of December he left Acheen for the Coromandel coast, having shortened his stay to the eastward for reasons of policy. On the 8th of January, 1783, he was off Ganjam, on the Orissa coast, and thence reached Trincomalee again on the 23d of February. There he was joined on the 10th of March by three ships of the line from Europe: two 74's and one 64. Under their convoy came General de Bussy, with twenty-five hundred troops, which were at once despatched to Cuddalore.