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defensive purely, with all the perplexities of him who waits upon the initiative of an opponent. Nothing came of them all, however, for the war now was but lingering in its death stupor. The defeat of de Grasse, partial though it was; the abandonment of the enterprise upon Jamaica; the failure of the attack upon Gibraltar; and the success of Howe in re-victualling that fortress, - these had taken all heart out of the French and Spaniards; while the numerical superiority of the allies, inefficiently though it had been used heretofore, weighed heavily upon the imagination of the British Government, which now had abandoned all hope of subduing its American Colonies. Upon the conclusion of peace, in 1783, Pigot and Hood returned to England, leaving the Leeward Islands' Station under the command of Rear-Admiral Sir Richard Hughes, an officer remembered by history only through Nelson's refusing to obey his orders not to enforce the Navigation Acts, in 1785.
HOWE AGAIN GOES AFLOAT. THE FINAL RELIEF OF GIBRALTAR
HE fall of Lord North's Ministry, besides occasioning the recall of Rodney, drew Lord Howe out of his long retirement, to command the Channel Fleet. He hoisted his flag on the 20th of April, 1782, on board the Victory, 100. Owing to the various directions in which the efforts of Great Britain had to be made, either to defend her own interests or to crush the movements of the many enemies now combined against her, the operations of the Channel fleet were for some months carried on by detached squadrons, – in the North Sea, in the Bay of Biscay, and at the entrance of the Channel; Howe having under him several distinguished subordinates, at the head of whom, in professional reputation, were ViceAdmiral Barrington, the captor of Santa Lucia, and RearAdmiral Kempenfelt. In the North Sea, the Dutch were kept in their ports; and a convoy of near 400 merchant ships from the Baltic reached England unmolested. In the Bay of Biscay, Barrington, having with him twelve of the line, discovered and chased a convoy laden with stores for the fleet in the East Indies. One of the ships of the line accompanying it, the Pégase, 74, surrendered, after a night action of three hours with the Foudroyant, S0, Captain John Jervis, afterwards Earl St. Vincent. Of nineteen transports, thirteen, one of which, the Actionnaire, was a 64-gun ship armed en flûte,' were taken; a weighty blow to the great Suffren, whose chief difficulty in India was inadequate material of war, and especially of spars, of which the Actionmaire carried an outfit for four ships of the line. After Barrington's return, Kempenfelt made a similar but uneventful cruise of a month in the Bay. Howe himself went first to the North Sea in the month of May. Having there held the Dutch in check during a critical moment, he was directed next to go to the entrance of the Channel, leaving only a division in the Downs. Information had been received that an allied fleet of thirty-two ships of the line, five only of which were French, had sailed from Cadiz early in June, to cruise between Ushant and Scilly. It was expected that they would be joined there by a reinforcement from Brest, and by the Dutch squadron in the Texel, making a total of about fifty of the line, under the command of the Spanish Admiral, Don Luis de Cordova. The Dutch did not appear, owing probably to Howe's demonstration before their ports; but eight ships from Brest raised the allied fleet to forty. To oppose these Howe sailed on the 2d of July with twenty-two sail, of which eight were three-deckers. Before his return, in the 7th of August, he was joined by eight others; mostly, however, sixty-fours. With this inferiority of numbers the British Admiral could expect only to act on the defensive, unless some specially favourable opportunity should offer. The matter of most immediate concern was the arrival of the Jamaica convoy, then daily expected; with which, it may be mentioned, de Grasse also was returning to England, a prisoner of war on board the Sandwich. On its voyage north, the allied fleet captured on June 25th eighteen ships of a British convoy bound for Canada. A few
days later it was fixed in the chops of the Channel, covering
1 Chevalier, following La Motte-Picquet's report, ascribes Howe's escape to greater speed. (“Mar. Fran. en 1778,” p. 335.) It must be noted that Howe's object was not merely to escape eastward, up Channel, by better sailing, but to get to the westward, past the allies, a feat impracticable save by a stratagem such as is mentioned.
mainder being trading ships for different parts of the world. With so extensive a charge, the danger to which had been emphasised by numerous captures from convoys during the war, Howe's progress was slow. It is told that shortly before reaching Cape Finisterre, but after a violent gale of wind, the full tally of one hundred eighty-three sail was counted. After passing Finisterre, the several “trades” probably parted from the grand fleet. On the 8th of October, off Cape St. Vincent, a frigate was sent ahead for information. It was known that a great combined force of ships of war lay in Algeciras Bay, - opposite Gibraltar, – and that an attack upon the works was in contemplation; but much might have happened meantime. Much, in fact, had happened. A violent gale of wind on the 10th of September had driven some of the allied fleet from their moorings, one vessel, the San Miguel, 72, being forced under the batteries of Gibraltar, where she had to surrender; but there still remained the formidable number of forty-eight ships of the line, anchored only four miles from the point which the relief ships must reach. This was the problem which Howe had to solve. More important still, though of less bearing upon his mission, was the cheering news brought by the frigate, when she rejoined on October 10th, that the longintended attack had been made on the 13th of September, and had been repelled gloriously and decisively. The heavily protected Spanish floating batteries, from which success had been expected confidently, one and all had been set on fire and destroyed. If Howe could introduce his succours, the fortress was saved. The admiral at once summoned his subordinate officers, gave them full and particular instructions for the momentous undertaking, and issued at the same time, to the masters of the supply-ships, precise information as to local conditions of wind and currents at Gibraltar, to enable them more