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to Santa Lucia on the 1st, and there had heard of the loss of St. Vincent, with a rumor that the French had gone against Grenada. He consequently had put to sea on the 3d, with the force mentioned. The British approach was reported to d'Estaing during the night of July 5th. Most of his fleet was then lying at anchor off Georgetown, at the south-west of the island; some vessels, which had been under way on look-out duty, had fallen to leeward." At 4 A.M. the French began to lift their anchors, with orders to form line of battle on the starboard tack, in order of speed; that is, as rapidly as possible without regard to usual stations. When daylight had fully made, the British fleet (A) was seen standing down from the northward, close inshore, on the port tack, with the wind free at north-east by east. It was not in order, as is evident from the fact that the ships nearest the enemy, and therefore first to close, ought to have been in the rear on the then tack. For this condition there is no evident excuse; for a fleet having a convoy necessarily proceeds so slowly that the warships can keep reasonable order for mutual support. Moreover, irregularities that are permissible in case of emergency, or when no enemy can be encountered suddenly, cease to be so when the imminent probability of a meeting exists. The worst results of the day are to be attributed to this fault, Being short of frigates, Byron had assigned three ships of the line (a), under Rear-Admiral Rowley, to the convoy, which of course was on the off hand from the enemy, and somewhat in the rear. It was understood, however, that these would be called into the line, if needed. When the French (AA) were first perceived by Byron, their line was forming; the long thin column lengthening out gradually to the north-north-west, from the confused
1 To the westward. These islands lie in the trade-winds, which are constant in general direction from north-east.
cluster' still to be seen at the anchorage. Hoping to profit by their disorder, he signalled “a general chase in that quarter,” as well as for Rear-Admiral Rowley to leave the convoy; and as not more than fourteen or fifteen of the enemy's ships appeared to be in line, the signal was made for the ships to engage, and form as they could get up.”” It is clear from this not only that the ships were not in order, but also that they were to form under fire. Three ships, the Sultan, 74, the Prince of Wales, 74, and the Boyne, 70, in the order named, - the second carrying Barrington's flag, — were well ahead of the fleet (b). The direction prescribed for the attack, that of the clustered ships in the French rear, carried the British down on a south-south-west, or south by west, course; and as the enemy's van and centre were drawing out to the north-north-west, the two lines at that time resembled the legs of a “V,” the point of which was the anchorage off Georgetown. Barrington's three ships therefore neared the French order gradually, and had to receive its fire for some time before they could reply, unless, by hauling to the wind, they diverged from the set course. This, and their isolation, made their loss very heavy. When they reached the rear of the French, the latter's column was tolerably formed, and Barrington's ships wore (w) in succession, — just as Harland's had done in Keppel's action, — to follow on the other tack. In doing this, the Sultan kept away under the stern of the enemy's rearmost ship, to rake her; to avoid which the latter bore up. The Sultan thus lost time and ground, and Barrington took the lead, standing along the French line, from rear to van, and to windward. Meanwhile, the forming of the enemy had revealed to Byron for the first time, and to his dismay, that he had been deceived in thinking the French force inferior to his own. “However, the general chase was continued, and the signal made for close engagement.”" The remainder of the ships stood down on the port tack, as the first three had done, and wore in the wake of the latter, whom they followed; but before reaching the point of wearing, three ships, “the Grafton, 74, the Cornwall, 74, and the Lion, 64 (c), huppening to be to leeward,” sustained the fire of the enemy's whole line, as it passed on the starboard tack.” It seems clear that, having had the wind, during the night and now, and being in search of an enemy, it should not have “happened ” that any ships should have been so far to leeward as to be unsupported. Captain Thomas White, R.N., writing as an advocate of Byron, says,” “while the van was wearing . . . the sternmost ships were coming up under Rear-Admiral Hyde Parker. . . . Among these ships, the Cornwall and Lion, from being nearer the enemy than those about them (for the rear division had not then formed into line), drew upon themselves almost the whole of the enemy's fire.” No words can show more clearly the disastrous, precipitate disorder in which this attack was conducted. The Grafton, White says, was similarly situated. In consequence, these three were so crippled, besides a heavy loss in men, that they dropped far to leeward and astern (c,' c"), when on the other tack. When the British ships in general had got round, and were
1 Admiral Keppel, in his evidence before the Palliser Court, gave an interesting description of a similar scene, although the present writer is persuaded that he was narrating things as they seemed, rather than as they were — as at Grenada. “The French were forming their line exactly in the manner M. Conflans did when attacked by Admiral Hawke.” (Keppel had been in that action.) “It is a manner peculiar to themselves; and to those who do not understand it, it appears like confusion. They draw out ship by ship from a cluster.”
* That is, towards the ships at anchor, – the enemy's rear as matters then were.
* Byron's Report. The italics are the author's.