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wait to ascertain the size of the approaching ships. His courage was beyond all dispute, and, as Hyde Parker had said, he was among the most distinguished of French officers; but, like his comrades, he was dominated by the faulty theory of his government.
The captain of the Janus died a natural death during the encounter. It may be interesting to note that the ship was given to Nelson, who was recalled for that purpose from the expedition to San Juan, Nicaragua, one of the minor operations of the war. His health, however, prevented this command from being more than nominal, and not long afterward he returned to England with Cornwallis, in the Lion.
Three months later, Cornwallis was sent by Parker to accompany a body of merchant ships for England as far as the neighborhood of Bermuda. This duty being fulfilled, he was returning toward his station, having with him two 74's, two 64's, and one 50, when, on the morning of June 20, a number of sail were seen from north-east to east
(a); the British squadron (aa) then steering east, with the wind at south-south-east. The strangers were a body of French transports, carrying the six thousand troops destined for Rhode Island, and convoyed by a division of seven ships of the line — one 80, two 74's, and four 64's — under the command of Commodore de Ternay. Two of the ships of war were with the convoy, the other five very properly to windward of it. The latter therefore stood on, across the bows of the British, to rejoin their consorts, and then all hauled their wind to the south-west, standing in column (bb) towards the enemy. Cornwallis on his part had kept on
(b) to reconnoitre the force opposed to him; but one of his ships, the Ruby, 64, was so far to leeward (b') that the French, by keeping near the wind, could pass between her and her squadron (b,b,b'). She therefore went about (t) and steered southwest, on the port tack (c'), close to the wind. The French, who were already heading the same way, were thus brought on her weather quarter in chase. Cornwallis then wore his division (w), formed line of battle on the same tack as the others (c), and edged down towards the Ruby. If the French now kept their wind, either the Ruby (c') must be cut off, or Cornwallis, to save her, must fight the large odds against him. De Ternay, however, did not Leep his wind but bore up, — yielded ground (cc). "The enemy," wrote Cornwallis, "kept edging off and forming line, though within gunshot. At 5.30 P.m., seeing we had pushed the French ships to leeward sufficiently to enable the Ruby, on our lee bow, to join us, I made the signal to tack." As the British squadron went about to stand east again (d), the French, heading now westsouth-west (cc), hoisted their colours and opened fire in passing. The Ruby kept on till she fetched the wake of the British column (d'), when she too tacked. The French then tacked also, in succession (d), and the two columns stood on forawhile in parallel lines, exchanging shots at long range, the British to windward. Cornwallis very properly declined further engagement with so superior a force. He had already done much in saving a ship so greatly exposed.
The account above followed is that of the British commander, but it does not differ in essentials from the French, whose captains were greatly incensed at the cautious action of their chief. A French commissaire in the squadron, who afterwards published his journal, tells that de Ternay a few days later asked the captain of one of the ships what English admiral he thought they had engaged, and received the reply, "We have lost our opportunity of finding out." He gives also many details of the talk that went on in the ships, which need not be repeated. Chevalier points out correctly, however, that de Ternay had to consider that an equal or even a superior force might be encountered as Narragansett Bay was approached, and that he should not risk crippling his
squadron for such a contingency. The charge of six thousand troops, under the then conditions, was no light responsibility, and at the least must silence off-hand criticism now. Comment upon his action does not belong to British naval history, to which the firmness and seamanship of Captain Cornwallis added a lasting glory. It may be noted that fifteen years later, in the French Revolution, the same officer, then a ViceAdmiral, again distinguished himself by his bearing in face of great odds, bringing five ships safe off, out of the jaws of a dozen. It illustrates how luck seems in many cases to characterise a man's personality, much as temperament does. Cornwallis, familiarly known as "Billy Blue" to the seamen of his day, never won a victory, nor had a chance of winning one; but in command both of ships and of divisions, he repeatedly distinguished himself by successfully facing odds which he could not overcome.
The year 1780 was uneventful also in European waters, after Rodney's relief of Gibraltar in January. The detachment of the Channel Fleet which accompanied him on that mission returned safely to England. The "Grand Fleet," as it still was styled occasionally, cruised at sea from June 8th to August 18th, an imposing force of thirty-one ships of the line, eleven of them three-deckers of 90 guns and upwards. Admiral Francis Geary was then Commander-in-Chief, but, his health failing, and Barrington refusing to take the position, through professed distrust of himself and actual distrust of the Admiralty, Vice-Admiral George Darby succeeded to it, and held it during the year 1781.
The most notable maritime event in 1780 in Europe was the capture on August 9th of a large British convoy, two or three hundred miles west of Cape St. Vincent, by the allied fleets from Cadiz. As out of sixty-three sail only eight escaped, and as of those taken sixteen were carrying troops and supplies necessary for the West India garrisons, such a