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vessels against d'Estaing's larger units. The instrument of the attack was a naval officer, of some rank but slender professional credit, who at this most opportune moment underwent a political conversion, which earned him employment on the one hand, and the charge of apostasy on the other. For this kind of professional arithmetic, Howe felt and expressed just and utter contempt. Two and two make four in a primer, but in the field they may make three, or they may make five. Not to speak of the greater defensive power of heavy ships, nor of the concentration of their fire, the unity of direction under one captain possesses here also that importance which has caused unity of command and of effort to be recognised as the prime element in military efficiency, from the greatest things to the smallest. Taken together, the three elements—greater defensive power, concentration of fire, and unity of direction — constitute a decisive and permanent argument in favor of big ships, in Howe's days as in our own. Doubtless, now, as then, there is a limit; most arguments can be pushed to an absurdum, intellectual or practical. To draw a line is always hard; but, if we cannot tell just where the line has been passed we can recognise that one ship is much too big, while another certainly is not. Between the two an approximation to an exact result can be made.

On his return to New York on September 11th, Howe found there Rear-Admiral Hyde Parker1 with six ships of the line of Byron's squadron. Considering his task now accomplished, Howe decided to return to England, in virtue of a permission granted some time before at his own request. The duty against the Americans, lately his fellow-country

1 Later Vice-Admiral Sir Hyde Parker, Bart., who perished in the Cato in 1783. He was father of that Admiral Sir Hyde Parker, who in 1801 was Nelson's commander-in-chief at Copenhagen, and who in 1778 commanded the Phoenix, 44, in Howe's fleet. (Ante, pp. 39,46.) men, had been always distasteful to him, although he did not absolutely refuse to undertake it, as did Admiral Keppel. The entrance of France into the quarrel, and the coming of d'Estaing, refreshed the spirits of the veteran, who moreover scorned to abandon his command in the face of such odds. Now, with the British positions secure, and superiority of force insured for the time being, he gladly turned over his charge and sailed for home; burning against the Admiralty with a wrath common to most of the distinguished seamen of that war. He was not employed afloat again until a change of Ministry took place, in 1782.

CHAPTER V

THE NAVAL WAR IN EUROPE. THE BATTLE OF

USHANT

1778

DURING the same two months that saw the contest between d'Estaing and Howe in America the only encounter between nearly equal fleets in 1778 took place in European waters. Admiral Keppel, having returned to Spithead after the affair between the Belle Poule and the Arethtisa,1 again put to sea on the 9th of July, with a force increased to thirty ships of the line. He had been mortified by the necessity of avoiding action, and of even retiring into port, with the inadequate numbers before under his command, and his mind was fixed now to compel an engagement, if he met the French.

The Brest fleet also put to sea, the day before Keppel, under the command of Admiral the Comte d'Orvilliers. It contained thirty-two ships of the line. Of these, three — a 64, a 60, and a 50 — were not considered fit for the line of battle, which was thus reduced to twenty-nine sail, carrying 2098 guns. To these the British opposed an aggregate of 2278; but comparison by this means only is very rough. Not only the sizes of the guns, but the classes and weight of the vessels need to be considered. In the particular instance the matter is of little importance; the action being indecisive, and credit depending upon manoeuvres rather than upon fighting.

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The French admiral was hampered by vacillating instructions, reflections of the unstable impulses which swayed the Ministry. Whatever his personal wishes, he felt that he was expected to avoid action, unless under very favourable circumstances. At the moment of sailing he wrote: "Since you leave me free to continue my cruise, I will not bring the fleet back to Brest, unless by positive orders, until I have fulfilled the month at sea mentioned in my instructions, and known to all the captains. Till then I will not fly before Admiral Keppel, whatever his strength; only, if I know him to be too superior, I will avoid a disproportionate action as well as I can; but if the enemy really seeks to force it, it will be very hard to shun." These words explain his conduct through the next few days.

On the afternoon of July 23d the two fleets sighted each other, about a hundred miles west of Ushant, the French being then to leeward. Towards sunset, they were standing south-west, with the wind at west-north-west, and bore north-east from the enemy, who were lying-to, heads to the northward. The British remaining nearly motionless throughout the night, and the wind shifting, d'Orvilliers availed himself of the conditions to press to windward, and in the morning was found to bear north-west from his opponent.1 Their relative positions satisfied both admirals for the moment; for Keppel found himself interposed between Brest and the French, while d'Orvilliers, though surrendering the advantage of open retreat to his port, had made it possible, by getting the weather-gage, to fulfil his promise to keep the sea and yet to avoid action. Two of his ships, however, the Due de Bourgogne, 80, and a 74, were still to leeward, not only of their own main body, but also of the British. Keppel sent chasers after them, for the ex

1 Testimony of Captains Hood, Robinson, and Macbride, and of Rear-Admiral Campbell, captain of the fleet to Keppel.

pressed purpose of compelling d'Orvilliers to action in their support,1 and it was believed by the British that they were forced to return to Brest, to avoid being cut off. They certainly quitted their fleet, which was thus reduced to twenty-seven effective sail. From this time until July 27th the wind continued to the westward, and the wariness of the French admiral baffled all his antagonist's efforts to get within range. Keppel, having no doubts as to what was expected of him, pursued vigorously, watching his chance.

On the morning of July 27th the two fleets (Fig 1, AA, AA), were from six to ten miles apart, wind south-west, both on the port tack,2 steering north-west; the French dead to windward, in line ahead. The British were in bow-andquarter line. In this formation, when exact, the ships of a fleet were nearly abreast each other; so ranged, however, that if they tacked all at the same time they would be at once in line of battle ahead close to the wind, — the fighting order.3 Both fleets were irregularly formed, the British especially so; for Keppel rightly considered that he would not accomplish his purpose, if he were pedantic concerning the order of his going. He had therefore signalled a "General Chase," which, by permitting much individual freedom of movement, facilitated the progress of the whole body. At daylight, the division commanded by Sir Hugh Palliser — the right wing, as then heading — had dropped astern (R); and at 5.30 A.m. the signal was made to seven of its fastest sailers to chase to windward, to get farther to windward by pressing sail, the object being so to place them

1 See note on preceding page.

2 A vessel is said to be on the port tack when she has the wind blowing on her port, or left side; on the starboard tack, when the wind is on the right side. Thus with an east wind, if she head north, she is on the starboard tack; if south, on the port.

■ See also note; post, p. 200.

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