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11th of May, between St. Kitts and Antigua, he joined Rodney, who, after hurried repairs to the Russell, had left St. Eustatius on the 5th, with that ship, the Sandwich, and the Triumph.
It is somewhat difficult to criticise positively the conduct of Hood and of de Grasse in this affair. It is clear that Hood on the first day seriously sought action, though his force was but three-fourths that of his foe. He tried first to take the offensive, and, failing that, to induce his enemy to attack frankly and decisively. Troude is doubtless correct in saying that it was optional with de Grasse to bring on a general engagement; and the writer finds himself in agreement also with another French authority, Captain Chevalier, that "Count de Grasse seems to have been too much preoccupied with the safety of his convoy on the 29th, Admiral Hood having shown himself much less circumspect on that day than he was on the next. Notwithstanding our numerical superiority, Count de Grasse kept near the land until all the convoy were safe." He represents Hood as fencing cautiously on the following day, keeping on the field, but avoiding a decisive encounter. This differs somewhat from the version of Hood himself, who mentions signalling a general chase to windward at 12.30 P.m. of the 30th. The two statements are not irreconcilable. Hood having coppered ships, had the speed of the French, whose vessels, being partly coppered and partly not, sailed unevenly. The British commander consequently could afford to take risks, and he therefore played with the enemy, watching for a chance. Hood was an officer of exceptional capacity, much in advance of his time. He thoroughly understood a watching game, and that an opportunity might offer to seize an advantage over part of the enemy, if the eagerness of pursuit, or any mishap, caused the French to separate. From any dilemma that ensued, the reserve of speed gave him a power of withdrawal, in relying upon which he was right. The present writer adopts here also Chevalier's conclusion: "Admiral Hood evidently had the very great advantage over his enemy of commanding a squadron of coppered ships. Nevertheless, hom.'age is due to his skill and to the confidence shown by him in his captains. If some of his ships had dropped behind through injuries received, he would have had to sacrifice them, or to fight a superior force." This means that Hood for an adequate gain ran a great risk; that he thoroughly understood both the advantages and the disadvantages of his situation; and that he acted not only with great skill, but warily and boldly, — a rare combination. The British loss in this affair was 39 killed, including Captain Nott, of the Centaur, and 162 wounded. The French loss is given by Chevalier as 18 killed and 56 wounded; by Beatson, as 119 killed and 150 wounded.
Rodney, having collected his fleet, proceeded south, and on the 18th of May put into Barbados for water. Much anxiety had been felt at first for Santa Lucia, which Hood's retreat had uncovered. As was feared, the French had attacked it at once, their fleet, with the exception of one or two ships, going there, and twelve hundred troops landing at Gros Ilet Bay; but the batteries on Pigeon Island, which Rodney had erected and manned, kept them at arms' length. The works elsewhere being found too strong, the attempt was abandoned.
At the same time, two French ships of the line and thirteen hundred troops had sailed from Martinique against Tobago. When de Grasse returned from the failure at Santa Lucia, he learned that the British were at sea, apparently bound for Barbados. Alarmed for his detachment before Tobago, he again sailed with the fleet for that island on the 25th of May, accompanied by three thousand more troops. Rodney learned at Barbados of the attempt on Tobago, and on the 29th dispatched a squadron of six sail of the line, under RearAdmiral Francis Samuel Drake, to support the defence. On the 30th he heard that the French main fleet had been seen to windward of Santa Lucia, steering south, evidently for Tobago. On the same day Drake and de Grasse encountered one another off the latter island, the French being to leeward, nearest the land. Drake necessarily retired, and on the morning of June 3d was again off Barbados, whereupon Rodney at once sailed for Tobago with the whole fleet. On the 4th the island was sighted, and next morning information was received that it had capitulated on the 2d.
The two fleets returning north were in presence of one another on the 9th; but no engagement took place. Rodney, who was to windward, having twenty sail to twenty-three,1 was unwilling to attack unless he could get a clear sea. The strength of the currents, he said, would throw his fleet too far to leeward, in case of reverse, into the foul ground between St. Vincent and Grenada, thus exposing Barbados, which had not recovered sufficiently from the hurricane to stand alone. He therefore put into Barbados. De Grasse went to Martinique to prepare the expedition to the American continent, which resulted in the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown. On the 5th of July he sailed from Fort Royal taking with him the "trade" for France, and on the 26th anchored with it at Cap Francois in Haiti, where he found a division of four ships of the line which had been left the year before by de Guichen. There also was a frigate, which had left Boston on the 20th of June, and by which De Grasse received dispatches from Washington, and from Rochambeau, the general commanding the French troops in America. These acquainted him with the state of affairs on the continent, and requested that the fleet should come to either the Chesapeake or New York, to strike a decisive blow at the British power in one quarter or the other.
1 One French ship had left the fleet, disabled.
NAVAL OPERATIONS PRECEDING AND DETERMINING THE FALL OF YORKTOWN. CORNWALLIS SURRENDERS
HAVING now brought the major naval transactions in the West Indies to the eve of the great events which determined the independence of the American States, it is expedient here to resume the thread of operations, both sea and land, on the American continent, so as to bring these also up to the same decisive moment, when the military and naval blended and in mutual support forced the surrender of the British army at Yorktown under Lord Cornwallis.
It has been said that, to support the operations of Cornwallis in the Carolinas, Clinton had begun a series of diversions in the valley of the James River.1 The first detachment so sent, under General Leslie, had been transferred speedily to South Carolina, to meet the exigencies of Cornwallis's campaign. The second, of sixteen hundred troops under Benedict Arnold, left New York at the end of December, and began its work on the banks of the James at the end of January, 1781. It advanced to Richmond, nearly a hundred miles from the sea, wasting the country round about, and finding no opposition adequate to check its freedom of movement. Returning down stream, on the 20th it
1 Ante, p. 153.
occupied Portsmouth, south of the James River; near the sea, and valuable as a naval station.
Washington urged Commodore des Touches, who by de Ternay's death had been left in command of the French squadron at Newport, to interrupt these proceedings, by dispatching a strong detachment to Chesapeake Bay; and he asked Rochambeau also to let some troops accompany the naval division, to support the scanty force which he himself could spare to Virginia. It happened, however, that a gale of wind just then had inflicted severe injury upon Arbuthnot's squadron, three of which had gone to sea from Gardiner's Bay upon a report that three French ships of the line had left Newport to meet an expected convoy. One seventyfour, the Bedford, was wholly dismasted; another, the Culloden, drove ashore on Long Island and was wrecked. The French ships had returned to port the day before the gale, but the incident indisposed des Touches to risk his vessels at sea at that time. He sent only a sixty-four, with two frigates. These left Newport on February 9th, and entered the Chesapeake, but were unable to reach the British vessels, which, being smaller, withdrew up the Elizabeth River. Arbuthnot, hearing of this expedition, sent orders to some frigates off Charleston to go to the scene. The French division, when leaving the Bay, met one of these, the Romulus, 44, off the Capes, captured her, and returned to Newport on February 25th. On the 8th of March, Arnold reported to Clinton that the Chesapeake was clear of French vessels.
On the same day Arbuthnot also was writing to Clinton, from Gardiner's Bay, that the French were evidently preparing to quit Newport. His utmost diligence had failed as yet to repair entirely the damage done his squadron by the storm, but on the 9th it was ready for sea. On the evening of the 8th the French had sailed. On the 10th Arbuthnot knew it, and, having taken the precaution to move