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of battle on the starboard tack, at one cable interval." It is mentioned in the log of the Canada, 74, Captain Cornwallis, that that ship brought-to in her station, fourth from the rear, at 7 o'clock. By 10 o'clock the line was formed, and the ships hove-to in it. At 10.45 the signal was made to fill [to go ahead], the van ships to carry the same sail as the Admiral, - topsails and foresails, — followed, just before noon, by the order to prepare to anchor, with springs on the cables. The French, who were steering south, on the port tack, while the British were hove-to, went about as soon as the latter filled, and stood towards them in bow and quarter line.” At noon the British fleet was running along close under the high land of Nevis; so close that the Solebay, 28, one of the frigates inshore of the line, grounded and was wrecked. No signals were needed, except to correct irregularities in the order, for the captains knew what they were to do. The French were approaching steadily, but inevitably dropping astern with reference to the point of the enemy's line for which they were heading. At 2 P.M. de Grasse's flagship, the Ville de Paris, fired several shot at the British rear, which alone she could reach, while his left wing was nearing the Barfleur, Hood's flagship, and the vessels astern of her, the centre of the column, which opened their fire at 2.30. Hood,
1 The times and general movements are put together from Hood's Journal and the Log of the Canada, published by the Navy Records Society. “Letters of Lord Hood,” pp. 64, 86.
* When ships were in order of battle, or column, close to the wind, if they all tacked at the same time they would still be ranged on the same line but steering at an angle to it, on the opposite tack. This formation was called bow and quarter line, because each vessel had a comrade off its bow — to one side and ahead — and one off its quarter — to one side but astern. The advantage of this, if heading towards the enemy, was that by tacking again together they would be at once again in column, or line ahead, the customary order of battle.
trusting to his captains, disregarded this threat to the rear half of his force. Signals flew for the van to crowd sail and take its anchorage, and at 3.30 P.M. the leading ships began to anchor in line ahead, (Fig. 1, a), covered as they did so by the broadsides of the rear and the rear centre (b). Upon the latter the French were now keeping up a smart fire. Between the Canada and her next astern, the Prudent, 64, − which was a dull sailer, — there was a considerable interval. Towards it the French admiral pressed, aiming to cut off the three rear vessels; but Cornwallis threw everything aback and closed down upon his consort, — a stirring deed in which he was imitated by the Resolution and Bedford, 74's, immediately ahead of him. De Grasse was thus foiled, but so narrowly, that an officer, looking from one of the ships which had anchored, asserted that for a moment he could perceive the Ville de Paris's jib inside the British line. As the rear of the latter pushed on to its place, it cleared the broadsides of the now anchored van and centre, (Fig. 2, a), and these opened upon the enemy, a great part of whom were strung out behind the British column, without opponents as yet, but hastening up to get their share of the action. Hood's flagship, (f), which anchored at 4.03, opened fire again at 4.40 P.M. Thus, as the Canada and her few companions, who bore the brunt of the day, were shortening sailand rounding-to, (b), still under a hot cannonade, the batteries of their predecessors were ringing out their welcome, and at the same time covering their movements by giving the enemy much else to think about. The Canada, fetching up near the tail of the column and letting go in a hurry, ran out two cables on end, and found upon sounding that she had dropped her anchor in a hundred and fifty fathoms of water. The French column stood on, off soundings, though close to, firing as it passed, and then, wearing to the southward in succession, stood out of action on the port tack, (c), its ineffectual broadsides adding to the grandeur and excitement of the scene, and swelling the glory of Hood's successful daring, of which it is difficult to speak too highly. Lord Robert Manners, the captain of the Resolution, which was fifth ship from the British rear, writing a week later, passed upon this achievement a verdict, which posterity will confirm. “The taking possession of this road was well judged, well conducted, and well executed, though indeed the French had an opportunity — which they missed – of bringing our rear to a very severe account. The van and centre divisions brought to an anchor under the fire of the rear, which was engaged with the enemy's centre (Fig. 1); and then the centre, being at an anchor and properly placed, covered us while we anchored (Fig. 2), making, I think, the most masterly manoeuvre I ever saw.” Whether regard be had to the thoughtful preparation, the crafty management of the fleet antecedent to the final push, the calculated audacity of the latter, or the firm and sagacious tactical handling from the first moment to the last, Nelson himself never did a more brilliant deed than this of Hood's." All firing ceased at 5.30. Naturally, an order taken up under such conditions needed some rectifying before further battle. As the proper stationing of the fleet depended in great measure upon the position of the van ship, Hood had put a local pilot on board her; but when the action ceased, he found that she was not as close to the shore as he had intended. The rear, on the other hand, was naturally in the most disorder, owing to the circumstances attending its anchorage. Three ships from the rear were consequently directed to place themselves ahead of the van, closing the interval, while others shifted their berths, according to specific directions. The order as finally assumed (Fig. 3) was as follows. The van ship was