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to 18. As their shot were passing over the British, the latter now began to reply. At noon Hood, finding that he could not close the enemy, shortened sail to topsails and hove-to, hoping by this defiance to bring them down to him. At 12.30 the French admiral was abreast of the British flagship, and the action became general, but at too long range. “Never, I believe,” wrote Hood, “was more powder and shot thrown away in one day before.” The French continuing to stand on, Hood filled his sails again at 1 P.M., as their van had stretched beyond his. As the leading ships, heading south, opened the channel between Santa Lucia and Martinique, they got the breeze fresher, which caused them to draw away from the centre. Hood, therefore, at 1.34 made the signal for a close order, and immediately afterwards ceased firing, finding not one in ten of the enemy's shot to reach. The engagement, however, continued somewhat longer between the southern – van — ships, where, by the account of Captain Sutherland, who was in that part of the line, four of the British were attacked very smartly by eight of the French. The Centaur, Russell, Intrepid, and Shrewsbury appear to have been the ships that suffered most heavily, either in hull, spars, or crews. They were all in the van on the southern tack. The Russell, having several shot between wind and water, was with difficulty kept afloat, the water rising over the platform of the magazine. Hood sent her off at nightfall to St. Eustatius, where she arrived on the 4th of May, bringing Rodney the first news of the action, and of the numbers of the French reinforcement. During the 30th Hood held his ground, still endeavouring to get to windward of the enemy; but failing in that attempt, and finding two of his squadron much disabled, he decided at sunset to bear away to the northward, because to the southward the westerly currents set so strong that the crippled ships could not regain Santa Lucia. On the 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
Admiral Francis Samuel Drake, to support the defence.
1 One French ship had left the fleet, disabled.