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Hood would not fire without orders. These ships therefore rejoined their main body unharmed. At 8.30 the French hoisted their colours, and shortly afterwards the vessels which had cleared Dominica tacked and stood south, opposite to Hood. De Grasse now had recognised that he could not escape action, if the convoy kept company. He therefore directed the two 50-gunships, Erpériment and Sagittaire, to accompany it into Guadeloupe, where it arrived safely that day (Position 1, dd); and he decided that the fleet should ply to windward through the channel between Dominica and Guadeloupe, nearly midway in which lies a group of small islands called Les Saintes, – a name at times given to the battle of April 12th. By this course he hoped not only to lead the enemy away from the convoy, but also to throw off pursuit through his superior speed, and so to accomplish his mission unharmed. The French ships, larger, deeper, and with better lines than their opponents, were naturally better sailers, and it may be inferred that even coppering had not entirely overcome this original disadvantage of the British. At the very moment of beginning his new policy, however, a subtle temptation assailed de Grasse irresistibly, in the exposed position of Hood's column (h); and he met it, not by a frank and hearty acceptance of a great opportunity, but by a half-measure. Hood thoroughly crushed, the British fleet became hopelessly inferior to the French; Hood damaged, and it became somewhat inferior: possibly it would be deterred from further pursuit. De Grasse decided for this second course, and ordered part of his fleet to attack. This operation was carried out under the orders of the Marquis de Vaudreuil, the second in command. The ships engaged in it bore down from the windward, attacked Hood's rear ships, stood along northward (f) on the weather side of his column at long range, and, having passed ahead, tacked (t) in succession and formed again in the rear, (so) whence they repeated the same manoeuvre (Positions 1 and 2). Thus a procession of fifteen ships kept passing by eight, describing a continuous curve of elliptical form. They were able to do this because Hood was condemned to a low speed, lest he should draw too far away from the British centre (a) and rear (c), still becalmed under Dominica (Position 2). The French, having choice of distance, kept at long gunshot, because they were deficient in carronades, of which the British had many. These guns, of short range but large calibre, were thus rendered useless. Could they have come into play, the French rigging and sails would have suffered severely. This first engagement (Position 1) lasted, by Hood's log, from 9.48 to 10.25 A.M. It was resumed in stronger force (Position 2) at 14 minutes past noon, and continued till 1.45 P.M., when firing ceased for that day; Rodney hauling down the signal for battle at 2. Between the two affairs, which were identical in general character, Hood's column was reinforced, and great part of the British centre also got into action with some of the French main body, though at long range only. “Except the two rear ships,” wrote Rodney to Hood that night, “the others fired at such a distance that I returned none.” The injuries to the British ships engaged were not such as to compel them to leave the fleet. The Royal Oak lost her main topmast, and that of the Warrior fell two days later, not improbably from wounds; but in these was nothing that the ready hands of seamen could not repair so as to continue the chase. Rodney, therefore, contented himself with reversing the order of sailing, putting Hood in the rear, whereby he was able to refit, and yet follow fast enough not to be out of supporting distance. This circumstance caused Hood's division to be in the rear in the battle of the 12th. One of the French ships, the Caton, 64, had been so

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U” Basse Terre RODNEY AND DE GRASSE & 47 Positiox 2. MARIE 9th April, 1782 12 M. - GALANTE

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injured that de Grasse detached her into Guadeloupe. It must be remembered that a crippled ship in a chased fleet not only embarrasses movement, but may compromise the whole body, if the latter delay to protect it; whereas the chaser keeps between his lame birds and the enemy. During the night of the 9th the British lay-to for repairs. The next morning they resumed the pursuit, turning to windward after the enemy, but upon the whole losing throughout the 10th and the 11th. At daylight of the 10th the French, by the logs of Hood and Cornwallis, were “from four to five leagues distant,” “just in sight from the deck.” During that night, however, the Zélé, 74, had collided with the Jason, 64; and the latter was injured so far as to be compelled to follow the Caton into Guadeloupe. At sunset of that day Rodney signalled a general chase to windward, the effect of which was to enable each ship to do her best according to her captain's judgment during the dark hours. Nevertheless, on the morning of the 11th the French seem again to have gained, for Hood, who, it will be remembered, was now in the rear, notes that at 10 A.M. twenty-two French sail (not all the fleet) could be counted from the masthead; Cornwallis, further to windward, could count thirty-three. Troude, a French authority, says that at that time nearly all the French had doubled The Saintes, that is, had got to windward of them, and it looked as though de Grasse might succeed in throwing off his pursuer. Unluckily, two ships, the Magnanime, 74, and the Zélé, 74, the latter of which had lost her main topmast, were several miles to leeward of the French main body. It was necessary to delay, or to drop those vessels. Again, trivial circumstances conspired to further a great disaster, and de Grasse bore down to cover the crippled ships; so losing much of his hard-won ground, and entailing a further misfortune that night. Rodney hung doggedly on, relying on the chapter

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