페이지 이미지

were within range, the latter at once hauled up to reply. Suffren, in the centre, wishing closest action, signalled them to keep away again, and himself bore down wrathfully upon Hughes to within pistol-shot; in which he was supported closely by his next ahead and the two next astern. The rear of the French, though engaged, remained too far distant. Their line, therefore, resembled a curve, the middle of which — four or five ships — was tangent to the British centre (B). At this point the heat of the attack fell upon Hughes's flagship, the Superb, 74 (C., d), and her next ahead, the Monmouth, 64. Suffren's ship, the Héros, having much of her rigging cut, could not shorten sail, shot by the Superb, and brought up abreast the Monmouth. The latter, already hotly engaged by one of her own class, and losing her main and mizzen masts in this unequal new contest, was forced at 3 P.M. to bear up out of the line (m). The place of the Héros alongside the Superb was taken by the Orient, 74, supported by the Brillant, 64; and when the Monmouth kept off, the attack of these two ships was reinforced by the half-dozen stern chasers of the Héros, which had drifted into the British line, and now fired into the Superb's bows. The conflict between these five ships, two British and three French, was one of the bloodiest in naval annals; the loss of the Superb, 59 killed and 96 wounded, and of the Monmouth, 45 killed and 102 wounded, equalling that of the much larger vessels which bore the flags of Nelson and Collingwood at Trafalgar. The loss of the three French was 52 killed and 142 wounded; but to this should be added properly that of the Sphin.r, 64, the Monmouth's first adversary: 22 killed and 74 wounded. At 3.40 P.M., fearing that if he continued steering west he would get entangled with the shore, Hughes wore his ships, forming line on the port tack, heading off shore. The French also wore, and Suffren hoped to secure the Monmouth, which was left between the two lines; but the quickness of a British captain, Hawker, of the Hero, ran a tow-rope to her in time, and she was thus dragged out of danger. At 5.40 Hughes anchored, and Suffren did the same at 8 P.M. The total British loss in men on this occasion was 137 killed and 430 wounded; that of the French 137 killed, and 357 wounded. The exhausted enemies remained at anchor in the opensea, two miles apart, for a week, repairing. On the 19th of April the French got under way and made a demonstration before the British, inviting battle, yet not attacking; but the condition of the Monmouth forbade Hughes from moving. Suffren therefore departed to Batacalo, in Ceylon, south of Trincomalee, where he covered his own convoys from Europe, and flanked the approach of his adversary's. Hughes, on the 22d of April, got into Trincomalee, where he remained till June 23d. He then went to Negapatam, formerly a Dutch possession, but then held by the British. There he learned that Suffren, who meanwhile had captured several British transports, was a few miles north of him, at Cuddalore, which had surrendered to Hyder Ali on April 4th. On the 5th of July, at 1 P.M., the French squadron appeared. At 3 P.M. Hughes put to sea, and stood south during the night to gain the wind, - the south-west monsoon now blowing. Next morning, at daylight, the French were seen at anchor, seven or eight miles to leeward. At 6 A.M. they began to get under way. One of their sixty-fours, the Ajar, had lost her main and mizzen topmasts in a violent squall on the previous afternoon, and was not in the line. There were therefore eleven ships on each side. The action, known as that of Negapatam, began shortly before 11, when both fleets were on the starboard tack, heading south-south-east, wind southwest. The British being to windward, Hughes ordered his fleet to bear up together to the attack, exactly as Suffren had done on the 12th of April. As commonly happened, the rear got less close than the van (Position I). The fourth ship in the French order, the Brillant, 64 (a), losing her mainmast early, dropped to leeward of the line, (a'), and astern of her place (a"). At half-past noon the wind flew suddenly to south-south-east, — the sea-breeze, – taking the ships a little on the port bow. Most of them, on both sides, paid off from the enemy, the British to starboard, the French to port; but between the main lines, which were in the momentary confusion consequent upon such an incident, were left six ships – four British and two French — that had turned the other way (Positions II and III)." These were the Burford, Sultan (s), Worcester, and Eagle, fourth, fifth, eighth and tenth, in the British order; and the Sévère (b), third in the French, with the dismasted Brillant, which was now towards the rear of the fight (a). Under these conditions, the Sévère, 64, underwent a short but close action with the Sultan, 74; and with two other British ships, according to the report of the Sévère's captain. The remainder of the incident shall be given in the latter's own words.

“Seeing the French squadron drawing off, - for all the ships except the Brillant had fallen off on the other tack, - Captain de Cillart thought it useless to prolong his defence, and had the flag hauled down. The ships engaged with him immediately ceased their fire, and the one on the starboard side moved away. At this moment the Sévère fell off to starboard, and her sails filled. Captain de Cillart then ordered the fire to be resumed by his lower-deck guns, the only ones which remained manned, and he rejoined his squadron.”

When the Sévère's flag came down, Suffren was approaching with his flagship. The Sultan wore to rejoin her fleet, and was raked by the Sévère in so doing. The Brillant, whose mainmast had been shot away in conflict with either the Sultan or the Burford, both much heavier ships, had at this later phase of the fight fallen under the guns of the Worcester and the Eagle. Her captain, de Saint-Félix, was one of the most resolute of Suffren's officers. She was rescued by the flagship, but she had lost 47 killed and 136 wounded, an almost incredible slaughter, being over a third of the usual complement of a sixty-four; and Suffren's ships were undermanned. These spirited episodes, and the fact that his four separated ships were approaching the enemy, and being approached by them, caused Hughes to give the orders to wear, and for a general chase; the flag for the line being hauled down. These signals would bring all the main body to the support of the separated ships, without regard to their order in battle, and therefore with the utmost expedition that their remaining sail power would admit. Two of the fleet, however, made signals of disability; so Hughes annulled the orders, and at 1.30 formed on the port tack, recalling the engaged vessels. Both squadrons now stood in shore, and anchored at about 6 P.M.; the British near Negapatam, the French some ten miles north. The loss in the action had been : British, 77 killed, 233 wounded; French, 178 killed, 601 wounded. On the following day Suffren sailed for Cuddalore. There he received word that two ships of the line — the Illustre, 74, and St. Michel, 60, with a convoy of supplies and 600 troops — were to be expected shortly at Pointe de Galle, then a Dutch port, on the south-west side of Ceylon. It was essential to cover these, and on the 18th he was ready for sea; but the necessity of an interview with Hyder Ali delayed him until the 1st of August, when he started for Batacalo. On the 9th he arrived there, and on the 21st the reinforcement joined him. Within forty-eight hours the supplyships were cleared, and the squadron sailed again with the object of taking Trincomalee. On the 25th he was off the port, and, the operation being pushed energetically, the place capitulated on the 31st of August. It is difficult to resist the impression that greater energy on Hughes's part might have brought him up in time to prevent this mishap. He reached Madras only on July 20th, a fortnight after the late action; and he did not sail thence until the 20th of August, notwithstanding that he apprehended an attempt upon Trincomalee. Hence, when he arrived there on the 2d of September, not only had it passed into the hands of the enemy, but Suffren had reëmbarked already the men and the guns that had been landed from his fleet. When Hughes's approach was signalled, all preparations for sea were hastened, and the following morning, at daybreak, the French came out. Hughes had been joined since the last action by the Sceptre, 64, so that the respective forces in the action fought off Trincomalee on September 3d were twelve of the line to fourteen, viz.: British, three 74's, one 70, one 68, six 64's, one 50; French, four 74's, seven 64's, one 60, two 50's. Suffren had also put into the line a 36-gun ship, the Consolante." While the French were getting under way from Trincomalee, the British fleet was standing south-south-east towards the entrance, close-hauled on the starboard tack, a fresh southwest monsoon blowing. When Hughes made out the hostile flags on the works, he kept away four points,” and steered east-south-east, still in column, under short canvas (A). Suffren pursued, being to windward yet astern, with his fleet on a line of bearing; that is, the line on which the ships were ranged was not the same as the course which

1 In the plan, Positions II and III, the second position is indicated by ships with broken outlines. These show the two lines of battle in the engagement until the wind shifted to south-south-east. The results of the shift constituted a third position, consecutive with the second, and is indicated by ships in full outline.

1 Previously the British East Indiaman, Elizabeth. * Forty-five degrees.

« 이전계속 »