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ment was unattainable to ships in various degrees of disability, with light and baffling side airs. The French were never again in order after the wind shifted and the line was broken; but the movement to leeward left the dismasted Glorieux, (g), Hector, (h), and Cesar, (k), motionless between the hostile lines.
It has been remarked, disparagingly, that the British fleet also was divided into three by the manoeuvre of breaking the line. This is true; but the advantage remained with it incontestably, in two respects. By favor of the wind, each of the three groups had been able to maintain its general formation in line or column, instead of being thrown entirely out, as the French were; and passing thus in column along the Glorieux, Hector, and Cesar, they wrought upon these three ships a concentration of injury which had no parallel among the British vessels. The French in fact had lost three ships, as well as the wind. To these certain disadvantages is probably to be added a demoralisation among the French crews, from the much heavier losses resultant upon the British practice of firing at the hull. An officer present in the action told Sir John Ross 1 afterwards that the French fired very high throughout; and he cited in illustration that the three trucks2 of the British Princesa were shot away. Sir Gilbert Blane, who, though Physician to the Fleet, obtained permission to be on deck throughout the action, wrote ten days after it, "I can aver from my own observation that the French fire slackens as we approach, and is totally silent when we are close alongside." It is needless to say that a marked superiority of fire will silence that of the bravest enemy; and the practice of aiming at the spars and sails, however suited for frustrating an approach, substantially conceded that superiority upon which the issue
1 Ross, "Life of Saumarez," i. 71.
2 Circular pieces of wood which cap the top of the masts.
of decisive battle depends. As illustrative of this result, the British loss will be stated here. It was but 243 killed and 816 wounded in a fleet of thirty-six sail. The highest in any one ship was that of the Duke, 73 killed and wounded. No certain account, or even very probable estimate, of the French loss has ever been given. None is cited by French authorities. Sir Gilbert Blane, who was favourably placed for information, reckoned that of the Ville de Paris alone to be 300. There being fifty-four hundred troops distributed among the vessels of the fleet, the casualties would be proportionately more numerous; but, even allowing for this, there can be no doubt that the loss of the French, to use Chevalier's words, "was certainly much more considerable" than that reported by the British. Six post-captains out of thirty were killed, against two British out of thirty-six.
Rodney did not make adequate use of the great opportunity, which accident rather than design had given him at noon of April 12th. He did allow a certain liberty of manoeuvre, by discontinuing the order for the line of battle; but the signal for close action, hoisted at 1 P.m., was hauled down a half-hour later. Hood, who realised the conditions plainly visible, as well as the reasonable inferences therefrom, wished the order given for a general chase, which would have applied the spur of emulation to every captain present, without surrendering the hold that particular signals afford upon indiscreet movements. He bitterly censured the Admiral's failure to issue this command. Had it been done, he said: —
"I am very confident we should have had twenty sail of the enemy's ships before dark. Instead of that, he pursued only under his topsails (sometimes his foresail was set and at others his mizzen topsail aback) the greatest part of the afternoon, though the flying enemy had all the sail set their very shattered state would allow." 1
1 Letters of Lord Hood, p. 103. Navy Records Society.
To make signal for a general chase was beyond the competence of a junior admiral; but Hood did what he could, by repeated signals to individual ships of his own division to make more sail, by setting all he could on the Barfleur, and by getting out his boats to tow her head round. Sir Gilbert Blane unintentionally gives a similar impression of laxity.
"After cutting the French line, the action during the rest of the day was partial and desultory, the enemy never being able to form, and several of the [our] ships being obliged to he by and repair their damages. As the signal for the line was now hauled down, every ship annoyed the enemy as their respective commanders judged best." 1
For this indolent abandonment of the captains to their own devices, the correctest remedy was, as Hood indicated, the order for a general chase, supplemented by a watchful supervision, which should check the over-rash and stimulate the over-cautious. If Hood's account of the sail carried by Rodney be correct, the Commander-in-Chief did not even set the best example. In this languid pursuit, the three crippled French ships were overhauled, and of course had to strike; and a fourth, the Ardent, 64, was taken, owing to her indifferent sailing. Towards sunset the flagship Ville de Paris, 110,3 the finest ship of war afloat, having been valiantly defended against a host of enemies throughout great part of the afternoon, and having expended all her ammunition, hauled down her colours. The two British vessels then immediately engaged with her were the Russell and the Barfleur, Hood's flagship, to the latter of which she formally surrendered; the exact moment, noted in Hood's journal, being 6.29 P.m.
1 Mundy, "Life of Rodney," ii. 234.
* She is thus rated in the British Navy Lists published between the time of her capture and the receipt of news of her loss; but she seems to have carried 120 guns.
At 6.45 Rodney made the signal for the fleet to bring-to (form line and stop) on the port tack, and he remained lying-to during the night, while the French continued to retreat under the orders of the Marquis de Vaudreuil, who by de Grasse's capture had become commander-in-chief. For this easy-going deliberation also Hood had strong words of condemnation.
"Why he should bring the fleet to because the Ville de Paris was taken, I cannot reconcile. He did not pursue under easy sail, so as never to have lost sight of the enemy in the night, which would clearly and most undoubtedly have enabled him to have taken almost every ship the next day. . . . Had I had the honour of commanding his Majesty's noble fleet on the 12th, I may, without much imputation of vanity, say the flag of England should now have graced the sterns of upwards of twenty sail of the enemy's ships of the line." 1
Such criticisms by those not responsible are to be received generally with caution; but Hood was, in thought and in deed, a man so much above the common that these cannot be dismissed lightly. His opinion is known to have been shared by Sir Charles Douglas, Rodney's Captain of the Fleet;2 and their conclusion is supported by the inferences to be drawn from Rodney's own assumptions as to the condition of the French, contrasted with the known facts. The enemy, he wrote, in assigning his reasons for not pursuing, "went off in a close connected body,3 and might have defeated, by rotation, the ships that had come up with them." "The enemy who went off in a body of twenty-six ships of the line? might, by ordering two or three of their best sailing ships or frigates to have shown lights at times, and by changing their course, have induced the British fleet to have followed
1 Letters of Lord Hood, pp. 103, 104.
2 See letter of Sir Howard Douglas, son to Sir Charles; "United Service Journal," 1834, Part II, p. 97.
•Author's italics; Mundy, "Life of Rodney," ii. 248.