« 이전계속 »
Glorieur. The Barfleur, which was in the centre of this column of thirteen, opened fire at 9.25. At 10.45 she “ceased firing, having passed the enemy's van ships; ” that is, she was well on the weather side of the French fleet. Some of the rearmost of Hood's division, however, were still engaged at noon; but probably all were then to windward of the enemy. The British ships ahead of the Duke, the van and part of the centre, in all sixteen sail, had continued to stand to the northward. At the time Rodney broke the line, several of them must have passed beyond the French rear, and out of action. One, the America, the twelfth from the van, wore without signals, to pursue the enemy, and her example was followed at once by the ship next ahead, the Russell, Captain Saumarez. No signal following, the America again wore and followed her leaders, but the Russell continued as she was, now to windward of the French; by which course she was able to take a conspicuous share in the closing scenes. At 11.33 Rodney signalled the van to tack, but the delay of an hour or more had given the Russell a start over the other ships of her division “towards the enemy” which could not be overcome. The effect of these several occurrences had been to transfer the weather-gage, the position for attack, to the British from the French, and to divide the latter also into three groups, widely separated and disordered (Position 6). In the centre was the flagship Ville de Paris with five ships (c). To windward of her, and two miles distant, was the van, of some dozen vessels (v). The rear was four miles away to leeward (r). To restore the order, and to connect the fleet again, it was decided to re-form on the leewardmost ships; and several signals to this effect were made by de Grasse. They received but imperfect execution. The manageable vessels succeeded easily enough in running before the wind to leeward, but, when there, exactitude of position and of move
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 Glorieur, (g), Hector, (h), and César, (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 Glorieur, Hector, and César, 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' afterwards that the French fired very high throughout; and he cited in illustration that the three trucks 4 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 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
1 Ross, “Life of Saumarez," i. 71. * Circular pieces of wood which cap the top of the masts.