HotFreeBooks.com
Memoirs and Correspondence of Admiral Lord de Saumarez, Vol. I
by Sir John Ross
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

"The next morning the gale had considerably abated, and we were enabled to set some sail. The Admiral hailed me that he intended to proceed for Orestan Bay, in the island of Sardinia, and directed me to make the land, which we discovered at noon: but the wind would not enable the Vanguard, in her disabled state, to reach it before night; and Sir H. Nelson altered his intention for this bay, which we reached yesterday morning, though not without having passed a most anxious night: the Alexander having the Vanguard in tow, within three miles of a most dangerous coast, where there existed no possibility of anchoring, and with which we were totally unacquainted. This is a very safe harbour, sheltered from any wind, very happily for us; as the weather has continued very unsettled since we are here. St. Pietro is a very small town; and the island, as well as this part of Sardinia, appears very uncultivated.

"The governor sent an officer to the Admiral this morning, who very civilly informed us that by a late alliance with France he was not permitted to admit us in the port; at the same time observing that, as he could not prevent it, we might do as we pleased, but that he could not give us pratique.

"We are going on in the equipment of the Vanguard with all expedition; and we hope the three ships will be ready to sail by next Sunday, Sir H. Nelson is happily very well, and has not lost his usual spirits.

"Friday, 25th.—Whilst I was on shore this morning to have some conversation with the governor, a sail was discovered off the island, and my signal made to prepare to proceed after her, supposing she was an enemy. We are however disappointed, it being a neutral vessel from Cagliari, the principal port in Sardinia; and I am now returning to the anchorage. I have great hopes my having been on shore this morning will be attended with a good effect; the governor having promised to supply us with oxen, sheep, and as much poultry as can be procured by to-morrow.

"Sunday, 27th May.—This morning my signal was made to chase a vessel, which I came up with and captured: she proved a Spanish brig from Cagliari, laden with wheat. It was in contemplation to set fire to her; we, however, finally determined to send the people on shore, and, if they bring off the value of the corn, we shall restore her to them. The Vanguard, being repaired of her damages, got under way this morning with the Alexander. I was happy to find my negotiation with the governor succeeded; and we have been supplied with the articles I mentioned, on moderate terms, both for the ships' companies and officers, which is a seasonable relief, as Gibraltar supplied us with nothing whatever excepting fowls.

"I am not free from great anxiety lest the account of the gale we encountered may reach England before that of our safety shall arrive, and give you some uneasiness; but the experience you have had how nugatory all such fears are, will, I hope, make you banish them for ever.

"Monday, 29th.—The Spaniard not having come off as was expected, the Admiral determined on sending the prize to Gibraltar. I hazarded a line by her for Mr. Le Mesurier; but we form no great expectation of her safety, from the great number of the enemy's gun-boats. A vessel we spoke yesterday, from Marseilles, informs us that the French fleet put to sea, the 20th, from Toulon, with all their transports, &c.: as it was that evening the gale of wind came on, we have no doubt but they must have suffered severely. By this vessel we have also several papers from Paris, the latest dated the 16th instant: they contain extracts from the English papers, which to us are very interesting, viz. the capture of the Hercule, the defeat at Marcon, Sir Sidney Smith's escape, and other important news, which, on the whole, are favourable to the welfare of the country, particularly as regards the unanimity which appears to prevail in England.

"I dined, together with Captain Ball, on board the Vanguard: we all form great expectations of our future success, which, I trust, will be realized. Certain it is that no ships could be ordered on a more promising service.

"Sunday, 3rd June—Nothing particular has occurred these last days. Yesterday a vessel was spoken with, which mentioned having seen eleven sail of the line, a few days ago, supposed to be English. We are at a loss what conjectures to put on this intelligence. We are at present off Toulon: unfortunately, none of our frigates have joined us, and we are apprehensive they have returned to Gibraltar.

"Tuesday.—La Mutine brig joined us this morning, with the very interesting intelligence of the arrival off Cadiz of the reinforcement under Sir R. Curtis; and that Captain Troubridge, with eleven sail, was on his way to join us: we look for him with the utmost impatience, trusting in the Divine Providence to be in time to baffle the designs of the enemy, who, we understand, are certainly gone to Naples with their numerous army. I shall now go on with this journal with great glee, inasmuch as our proceedings are becoming of such very great import.

"Thursday, 7th.—Nothing can equal our anxiety to fall in with the reinforcement. Our squadron has been, these two days, detached in all directions, without falling in with them; and there is strong reason to fear they think us returned to Gibraltar. This morning the Alexander and myself chased two vessels, one of which we have just taken possession of; she proves a Spanish vessel from Genoa, not very valuable: the other the Alexander is still in chase of.

"Friday, 8th.—As this is in some degree to be a faithful account of our transactions, I must not conceal from you the deep distress I have been under at finding myself this morning parted from the Vanguard, and the Alexander almost out of sight; knowing how important and very material it was, for the good of the service we were upon, that the squadron should not be separated. It was not till this afternoon I was relieved from the most acute anxiety I have ever suffered, by the Leander joining me, with the very satisfactory account that Sir H. Nelson, while we were in chase, fell in with the expected ships under Captain Troubridge, and which occasioned our separation. I am now under full sail to join them; and have not the least doubt of being in time to add my endeavours to promote the tranquillity of Christendom by the destruction of the enemy's fleet, which, I firmly believe, cannot now escape us.

"Our prize requiring more men than I can at this time conveniently spare to navigate her, I have consented to her being ransomed for ten thousand dollars, although, I dare say, worth more than five times that sum. She had thirty-six ex-Jesuits (Spanish priests), who, after having been banished from Spain, had resided thirty-one years in Italy, 'et a present prevoyans le bannissement menace des ex-Jesuites Espagnols des nouvelles republiques Italiennes, retournoient chez eux.' Thus these poor wretches are driven about according to the prejudices of the times. She had also on board Swiss recruits for the Spanish army, eight of whom have entered volunteers in Captain Savage's corps, which I consider an acquisition: but no captured vessel ever gave so much uneasiness as she has caused me; and I have often wished we had never seen her, even had she been worth a million of money.

"Sunday, 10th June.—I had the great satisfaction yesterday to join Sir H. Nelson with the reinforcement; and this morning the Alexander joined us, after having captured the prize she chased, which I understand to be a valuable ship, also from Genoa.

"We are now fourteen sail of the line, with La Mutine brig only; our present anxiety is to gain information of the enemy's fleet, and to find them where we can attack them. I hope to give you soon good intelligence of them, and speedily be the bearer of the good news in person, as Sir H. Nelson has orders to send the Orion home, when he can spare her. What a blessing if our present endeavours should be crowned with success, and I have the good fortune to proceed to England immediately after; which at present is really intended, having seen the order from the commander-in-chief.

"Tuesday, June 12th: off Elba.—We have reached this distance without having been enabled to obtain any information of the enemy, who we have reason to think are not far from our squadron: the winds have been very favourable to us, as at this time of the year calms are very prevailing. Although a long period has elapsed since I was on this station, I derive great advantage, as well as satisfaction, from my recollection of the different places we have passed. We are at present between Corsica and Leghorn, about fifteen leagues from the latter: if we do not hear anything of the French fleet before we get to Naples, we shall rendezvous at that place; and, we hope, in time to save that country from the hands of our rapacious enemy.

"Thursday, 14th.—The Admiral has this morning made the signal of his having gained intelligence of the enemy, and that they were off Syracuse in the island of Sicily. This information has been communicated by a Moor that the Leander has spoken with. We are now in full sail, with a fresh breeze of wind; and to-morrow we hope to get sight of Naples, in order to obtain more certain accounts of them. The officers and crews in the several ships are all in the highest spirits; and I never remember going into action with more certain hopes of success.

"Friday, 15th.—I dined with Sir Horatio to-day, and find his intelligence only extends to the enemy's fleet having been seen off Sicily. As he has sent Captain Troubridge in La Mutine to Naples, we may expect to-morrow more certain accounts of them; but we have reason to suppose them gone for Alexandria, the distance from which to the Red Sea is only three days' journey. They may soon be transported thence by water to the East Indies, with the assistance of their ally and our inveterate enemy, Tippoo Saib; and with their numerous army they expect to drive us out of our possessions in India. This profound scheme, which is thought very feasible, we hope to frustrate by coming up with them before they reach the place of their destination; and, as we know them to have great numbers of troops embarked in their men-of-war, they will become an easier prey to us.

"Saturday, 16th.—Calms and baffling winds since yesterday have prevented our getting within sight of Naples, although all the time within a few miles of that beautiful place; which you must suppose has been mortifying to an extreme. We are looking out for the Mutine. As soon as she joins us we expect to proceed in search of the enemy. Our route lies through a passage often celebrated by the ancients, "the famous Scylla and Charybdis." We shall have sight of Mount AEtna and other volcanoes, particularly Mount Strombolo, and other small islands formed by subterranean eruptions. We are at present in sight of Vesuvius, at the foot of which Naples is situated; but we are at too great a distance to observe its fiery eruptions.

"Sunday, June 17th. The wind has favoured us this morning, and given us a good sight of the Bay of Naples; but at too great a distance to see much of the city. The country around it, as well as several of the islands that form the bay, are beautifully interspersed with towns and villages; the whole presenting a most delightful scene. At 6 P.M. La Mutine joined us; and, from what I can understand from Sir H. Nelson, brings him some information of the enemy's fleet. He has just hailed me to say they were seen eight days ago, but I could not distinguish at what place. We are again making all possible sail after them.

"I regret much not having been able to send a letter I had written to you, and carried on board the Admiral this morning; mais tu sais bien qu'il ne se met guere en peine d'ecrire lui-meme, and he is so full of mystery at this time that he seems unwilling any letter should be sent but those he writes to Government. It shall go some other opportunity.

"Tuesday, 19th.—This morning has presented to us a delightful view of Mount Strombolo, from the top of which we plainly discern constant columns of smoke; and, although at the distance of at least six leagues from it, I can assure you, without assuming the privilege of travellers in general, that I am very sensible of the sulphureous vapour produced by the volcano: at the same time, it may be necessary to observe, that the wind blows directly towards the ship. Strombolo is a remarkably high island, of a regular conical form, and may be seen at the distance of twenty leagues. It is about ten miles in circumference, and, I understand, is inhabited by a few fishermen. Unluckily, the weather is too hazy to admit our seeing much of the beautiful coast of Calabria, which is at no great distance from us.

"Wednesday, 20th.—We have now a pleasant breeze, which will soon waft us through the Straits of Messina, so famous for being the terror of the ancients. An old pilot is just come on board, who reminds me more of the poet's description of old Charon than of a modern human being. I hope he is not come to ferry us across the Styx. The whole of his crew have the same grotesque appearance. We can now discern the famous AEtna disgorging columns of smoke. Some distance below its summit it appears covered with snow, whilst we are here melting with heat. It has indeed a most stately appearance; and the whole country of Sicily answers everything that has been reported of it for its fertility, as well as for the varied beauty of its scene: but I must recommend you to read Brydone's travels through Sicily and Malta, a writer who, I recollect, gives a lively description of these different places.

"We have this day been regaled with a most enchanting prospect in passing through the Faro of Messina. It is not more than three miles distant, and on each side lies the most picturesque and lovely country that can be described. The ship was within a mile of the beautiful city of Messina, where I distinctly observed some of the ruins occasioned by the earthquake in the year 1783.

"From what I have been able to learn from old Charon (who has just left us in perfect safety), the French fleet are still off Malta; and it appears their formidable armament is directed against that island. As it is a place of great strength, and as we are within two days' sail of it, with a favourable wind, I hope we shall be in time for its relief, and add still more important exploits to many that have formerly been achieved in fighting for its defence.

"Thursday, 21st.—The wind has proved rather contrary for the squadron since yesterday. We are still in sight of Mount AEtna, and only a few leagues from the nearest part of Sicily: the ancient city of Syracuse is discernible from the ship. To-morrow I think will bring us in view of the enemy's fleet, which will be a far more desirable sight.

"June 22nd.—I am just returned from on board the Admiral, where I had the mortification to learn that a vessel, which sailed yesterday from Malta, gives the very unpleasing account that the island had surrendered to the French, and that their fleet left it six days ago. This intelligence has more than ever left us in perplexity as to their further destination. On the supposition that Alexandria, as we first conjectured, was what they had in view, we are crowding sail for that place; but the contrast to what we experienced yesterday is great indeed, having made sure of attacking them this morning. At present it is very doubtful whether we shall fall in with them at all, as we are proceeding upon the merest conjecture only, and not on any positive information. Some days must now elapse before we can be relieved from our cruel suspense; and if, at the end of our journey, we find we are upon a wrong scent, our embarrassment will be great indeed. Fortunately, I only act here en second; but did the chief responsibility rest with me, I fear it would be more than my too irritable nerves would bear. They have already been put to the trial in two or three instances this voyage.

"I should observe that we saw three French frigates this morning, but they were not considered of sufficient importance to run the risk of separating the squadron in chasing them. The island of Malta will prove a great acquisition to the French; as well for its excellent harbour as for the immense wealth it contains: they will also get a few ships of war and a considerable quantity of naval stores. D'ailleurs, the suppression of a useless order that encouraged idleness will be no real detriment to the cause of Christianity.

"Sunday, June 24th.—The last two days we have not gone less than a hundred leagues; and, as the wind continues favourable, we hope to arrive at Alexandria before the French, should their destination be for that place, which continues very doubtful. At the same time, if it should prove that our possessions in India is the object of their armament, our having followed them so immediately appears the only means of saving that country from falling into their hands. I therefore hope that credit will be given us for our intentions at least. We have hitherto been certainly unfortunate, which has chiefly arisen from the reinforcement not joining sooner; the French armament sailed from Toulon five days before Captain Troubridge left Lord St. Vincent: another circumstance has been the separation of all our frigates, which deprived us of the means of obtaining information. The day we were off Naples the French fleet left Malta, and it was not until we arrived off that island, six days after, that we heard of its being taken, and that the French fleet had left it; and then without the least intimation which way they were going.

"Sir H. Nelson consulted with some of the senior captains, who agreed with his opinion, that, in the uncertainty where the enemy were gone, the preservation of our possessions should be the first consideration. It may be worth remarking that our squadron was sent, on the application of the King of Naples, for the protection of his dominions. On our arrival there, and requiring the co-operation of his ships, the reply was, that, as the French had not declared war against him, he could not commence hostilities; that if the Emperor declared war, he would also join against France. Should his territories be attacked, he has to thank himself for the event.

"We must hope that in England affairs prosper better than in this country; they are certainly en fort mauvais train in this part of the world.

"Tuesday, 26th.—We are now within one day's sail of Alexandria, so that we hope soon to know whether the French fleet are in this direction; but having seen no appearance of any of their numerous convoy, we begin to fear they are gone some other way. I was this morning on board the Admiral; he has detached La Mutine for information. I hope she will not find the plague there, to which that country is very subject.

"Friday, 29th.—The weather did not permit us to get near Alexandria before yesterday. La Mutine's boat went on shore; and I find this morning from the Admiral that they took us for the French fleet, having had some intimation of their coming this way. We have now to use all despatch in getting back towards Naples; it is probable we shall learn something of them on our passage. The squadron has captured a French ship this afternoon, which we suppose to be from Alexandria. I have passed the day on board the Vanguard, having breakfasted and staid to dinner with the Admiral.

"Sunday, 1st July.—The wind continues to the westward, and I am sorry to find it is almost as prevailing as the trade-winds. The vessel captured the day before yesterday was set on fire, after taking out what could be useful for firewood.

"Sunday, 29th July: off Candia.—A small vessel, captured yesterday by the Culloden, gave some information of the enemy's fleet. The Admiral having made the signal that he had gained intelligence of them, we are proceeding with a brisk gale for Alexandria. If at the end of our voyage we find the enemy in a situation where we can attack them, we shall think ourselves amply repaid for our various disappointments. The Alexander also spoke a vessel which gave information; but, having had no communication with the Admiral, we have not been able to learn the different accounts: we are however satisfied with the purport of the signal he made yesterday.

"Monday.—I find from Captain Ball that the enemy were seen steering towards Alexandria thirty days ago, and we are once more making the best of our way for that place. I also understand that two of our frigates were seen a few days since at Candia; it seems decreed we shall never meet with them. I am rather surprised the Admiral did not endeavour to fall in with them, as they probably have certain information where the enemy's fleet are, from vessels they may have spoken with, and they otherwise would be a great acquisition to our squadron."

It may now be stated, that in the mean time the French expedition had landed the troops and taken possession, not only of Alexandria, but Cairo; and that their fleet, consisting of thirteen sail of the line, four frigates, two brigs, and several bombs and armed vessels, had taken up a position in the Bay of Aboukir, in which, according to the opinion of their admiral, they could "defy the British navy."

As a particular list of both fleets will be given in a subsequent place, I need now only mention that the force of the British fleet was fourteen ships of seventy-four guns, one of fifty, and the Mutine brig. The fleet was manned with 7,000 men; but as the Culloden, which was not in the action, must not be included, the actual force may be estimated 6,300 men and 872 guns, while the enemy's force, actually opposed, may be reckoned 8,000 men, and 1,208 guns throwing a broadside of one-half more weight than the British.

On the junction of the squadron, the following orders were given by the Admiral:

Vanguard, at sea, 8th June 1798.

GENERAL ORDER.

As it is very probable the enemy may not be formed in regular order on the approach of the squadron under my command, I may in that case deem it most expedient to attack them by separate divisions; in which case, the commanders of divisions are strictly enjoined to keep their ships in the closest order possible, and on no account whatever to risk the separation of one of their ships. The captains of the ships will see the necessity of strictly attending to close order: and, should they compel any of the enemy's ships to strike their colours, they are at liberty to judge and act accordingly, whether or not it may be most advisable to cut away their masts and bowsprits; with this special observance, namely, that the destruction of the enemy's armament is the sole object. The ships of the enemy are, therefore, to be taken possession of by an officer and one boat's crew only, in order that the British ships may be enabled to continue the attack, and preserve their stations.

The commanders of divisions are to observe that no consideration is to induce them to separate in pursuing the enemy, unless by signal from me, so as to be unable to form a speedy junction with me; and the ships are to be kept in that order that the whole squadron may act as a single ship. When I make the signal No. 16, the commanders of divisions are to lead their separate squadrons, and they are to accompany the signal they may think proper to make with the appropriate triangular flag, viz. Sir James Saumarez will hoist the triangular flag, white with a red stripe, significant of the van squadron under the commander in the second post; Captain Troubridge will hoist the triangular blue flag, significant of the rear squadron under the commander in the third post; and whenever I mean to address the centre squadron only, I shall accompany the signal with the triangular red flag, significant of the centre squadron under the commander-in-chief.

2d. Div. 1st. Div. red. white with red stripe. 3d. Div. blue.

Vanguard. Orion. Culloden. Minotaur. Goliath. Theseus. Leander. Majestic. Alexander. Audacious. Bellerophon. Swiftsure. Defence. Zealous.

Vanguard, at sea, 8th June 1798.

GEN. MEM.

As the wind may probably blow along shore when it is deemed necessary to anchor and engage the enemy at their anchorage, it is recommended to each line-of-battle ship of the squadron to prepare to anchor with the sheet-cable in abaft and springs, &c.—Vide Signal 54, and Instructions thereon, page 56, &c. Article 37 of the Instructions.

HORATIO NELSON.

To the respective Captains, &c.

Mem. P.S.—To be inserted in pencil in the Signal-Book, at No. 182. Being to windward of the enemy, to denote that I mean to attack the enemy's line from the rear towards the van, as far as thirteen ships, or whatever number of the British ships of the line may be present, that each ship may know his opponent in the enemy's line.

No. 183. I mean to press hard with the whole force on the enemy's rear.

The proceedings of Sir Horatio Nelson's squadron are now brought down to the moment when their united, ardent, and anxious wishes were to be realized. The disappointments they had met with during their hitherto fruitless pursuit,—the state of anxiety, of alternate hope and despair, in which they had been kept, had raised their feelings of emulation to a pitch far beyond description; this was soon to be manifested by the endeavours of each to close with the enemy.

Never could there have been selected a set of officers better calculated for such a service; Nelson was fortunate in commanding them, and they in being commanded by him. It is true, indeed, that his particular favourite, Captain Troubridge, was intended for his second-in-command, instead of Sir James Saumarez; and the latter would no doubt have been sent home, according to the orders he had received: but, with the chance of such an engagement as that which they anticipated, the well-tried captain of the Orion and his highly disciplined crew could not be spared; and, although Nelson carefully concealed his feelings towards Saumarez, they were but too manifest by the chary manner in which he expressed himself on this and on former occasions.

In consequence of the before-mentioned information, the fleet bore up for Alexandria; and on the morning of the 1st of August the towers of that celebrated city, and Pompey's Pillar made their appearance. Soon after was discerned a forest of masts in the harbour, which they had previously seen empty; and, lastly, the French flag waving over its walls. A general disappointment was caused for a short time by a signal from the look-out ships that the enemy's men-of-war did not form a part of the vessels at anchor there; but this was soon dispelled by a signal from the Zealous that the enemy's fleet occupied the Bay of Aboukir in a line of battle, thirteen ships, four frigates, and two brigs, in sight on the larboard bow. At half-past two P.M. the British fleet hauled up, and steered directly for them with a fine N.N.W. breeze, carrying top-gallant sails.[13]

[13] In allusion to this memorable event, Sir James writes—"When on the morning of the 1st of August the reconnoitring ship made the signal that the enemy was not there, despondency nearly took possession of my mind, and I do not recollect ever to have felt so utterly hopeless, or out of spirits, as when we sat down to dinner; judge then what a change took place when, as the cloth was being removed, the officer of the watch hastily came in, saying—'Sir, a signal is just now made that the enemy is in Aboukir Bay, and moored in a line of battle.' All sprang from their seats, and only staying to drink a bumper to our success, we were in a moment on deck." On his appearance there his brave men, animated by one spirit, gave three hearty cheers, in token of their joy at having at length found their long-looked-for enemy, without the possibility of his again eluding their pursuit.

When the Admiral made the signal to prepare for battle, at half-past three, the signal to haul the wind on the starboard tack, and for the Colossus to cast off her prize, the Swiftsure and Alexander, which had been recalled from looking out off Alexandria, were carrying all sail to join. At five, the Admiral made the signal that it was his intention to attack the van and centre of the enemy as they lay at anchor, which was repeated by the Orion. At forty-five minutes past five, he made the signal to form the line as most convenient. The fleet then formed in the following order:—Goliath, Zealous, Vanguard, Minotaur, Theseus, Bellerophon, Defence, Orion, Audacious, Majestic, and Leander. The Culloden was then astern the Swiftsure, and the Alexander to leeward, tacking to clear the reef. The Admiral hove to, to pick up a boat, and also the four next ships astern of the Vanguard, which gave the Orion an opportunity, by standing on and passing them, to get up with the Zealous at about half-past six.

In ten minutes afterwards the signal for close action was made, and repeated by most of the fleet; at the same time, the Goliath, having passed round the enemy's headmost ship, anchored on the quarter of the second; while the Zealous took her position on the bow of the former ship; both anchoring by the stern. The batteries on the island of Bequir or Aboukir, and the headmost ships, opened their fire as the leading ship approached; and they in return opened theirs on rounding the advanced ship of the enemy's line.

The Orion, after giving that ship her broadside, passed round the Zealous and Goliath; and, as she was passing the third ship of the enemy, the French frigate Serieuse approached, began to fire on her, and wounded two men. In reply to an observation of one of the officers, who proposed to return her fire immediately, Sir James said, "Let her alone, she will get courage and come nearer. Shorten sail." As the Orion lost way by shortening sail, the frigate came up; and, when judged to be sufficiently advanced, orders were given to yaw the Orion, and stand by the starboard guns, which were double-shotted. The moment having arrived when every gun was brought to bear, the fatal order to fire was given; when, by this single but well-directed broadside, the unfortunate Serieuse was not only totally dismasted, but shortly afterwards sunk, and was discovered next morning with only her quarter above water.

On discharging this fatal broadside the helm was put hard a-starboard; but it was found that the ship would not fetch sufficiently to windward, and near to the Goliath, if she anchored by the stern. She stood on, and, having given the fourth ship her starboard broadside, let go her bower anchor, and brought up on the quarter of Le Peuple Souverain, which was the fifth ship, and on the bow of Le Franklin, the sixth ship of the enemy's line. The third and fourth ships were occupied by the Theseus and Audacious on the inside, by passing through; while they were attacked on the outside by the Minotaur, Vanguard, and Defence.

By the log of the Orion it was forty-five minutes past six o'clock when that ship let go her anchor, and, in "tending," poured her starboard broadside into the Franklin and L'Orient. The fire was then directed on Le Peuple Souverain, until she cut and dropped out of the line, totally dismasted and silenced.



EXPLANATION.

BRITISH. FRENCH.

A—Audacious. 1—Guerrier. B—Bellerophon. 2—Conquerant. C—Culloden (aground). 3—Spartiate. D—Defence. 4—Aquilon. E—Majestic. 5—Peuple Souverain. F—Alexander. 6—Franklin. G—Goliath. 7—L'Orient. L—Leander. 8—Tonnant. M—Minotaur. 9—Heureux. O—Orion. 10—Mercure. S—Swiftsure. 11—Guillaume Tell. T—Theseus. 12—Genereux. V—Vanguard. 13—Timoleon. Z—Zealous. 14—Serieuse. +*—Serieuse, dismasted by 15—Artemise. the Orion, and sunk at 14. 16—Justice. I—Island of Aboukir. 17—Diane. Y—Shallow water.

At seven o'clock the headmost ships were dismasted; a fire-raft was observed dropping down from them on the Orion. Her stern-boat having been shot through, and the others being on the booms, it was impossible to have recourse to the usual method of towing it clear: booms were then prepared to keep it off. As it approached, however, the current carried it about twenty-five yards clear of the ship. About half-past eight, just as the Peuple Souverain, which had been the Orion's opponent, had dropped to leeward, a suspicious ship was seen approaching the Orion in the vacant space which the vanquished one had occupied. Many on board were convinced of her being a fire-ship of the enemy, and Sir James was urged to allow the guns to be turned upon her. Happily he himself had stronger doubts of her being such than those who pressed the reverse. He ordered a vigilant watch to be kept on her movements; and when the darkness dispersed, she was discovered to be the Leander. Distinguishing lights were hoisted, and the Orion continued to engage Le Franklin from fifty minutes past six o'clock to a quarter before ten. The action was general, and kept up on both sides with perseverance and vigour, when the enemy's fire began to slacken, and the three-decker was discovered to be on fire. At ten the firing ceased; the ship opposed to the Orion having surrendered, as also all the van of the enemy.

Preparations were now made to secure the ships from the effects of the expected explosion.—The ports were lowered down, the magazine secured, the sails handed, and water placed in various parts to extinguish whatever flames might be communicated. The unfortunate ship was now in a blaze; at half-past eleven she blew up, and the tremendous concussion was felt at the very kelsons of all the ships near her. The combatants on both sides seemed equally to feel the solemnity of this destructive scene. A pause of at least ten minutes ensued, each engaged in contemplating a sight so grand and terrible. The Orion was not far off; but, being happily placed to windward, the few fiery fragments that fell in her were soon extinguished. Her vicinity to the L'Orient was the happy means of saving the lives of fourteen of her crew, who, in trying to escape the flames, sought refuge in another element, and swam to the Orion, where they met a reception worthy the humanity of the conquerors. The generous, warm-hearted sailors stripped off their jackets to cover these unfortunate men, and treated them with kindness, proving that humanity is compatible with bravery.

About the middle of the action Sir James received a wound from a splinter, or rather the sheave from the heel of the spare top-mast on the booms, which, after killing Mr. Baird, the clerk, and wounding Mr. Miells, a midshipman, mortally, struck him on the thigh and side, when he fell into the arms of Captain Savage, who conducted him under the half-deck, where he soon recovered from the shock it gave him: but although he acknowledged it was painful, and might in the end be serious, he could not be persuaded to leave the deck even to have the wound examined; and the part was so much swelled and inflamed on the next day, that he was not able to leave the ship.

After the pause occasioned by the dreadful explosion, the action continued in the rear by the ships dropping down which were not too much disabled; and Sir James had given orders to slip and run down to the rear, when the master declared that the fore-mast and mizen-mast were so badly wounded, that the moment the ship came broadside to the wind, they would go over the side, particularly the fore-mast, which was cut more than half through in three places. It was therefore determined to secure the disabled masts and repair other damages, while the action was renewed by those that were not so much disabled.

As soon as the battle ceased in the van, by the capture of the enemy's ships, Sir James, who was the senior captain of the fleet, ordered Lieutenant Barker on board the Admiral for the purpose of inquiring after his safety, and of receiving his further instructions. He shortly returned with the melancholy detail that Sir Horatio was severely wounded in the head. At this period, several of the ships of the squadron were still warmly engaged with the centre and part of the rear of the enemy's fleet. Sir James therefore sent a boat to such ships as appeared to be in condition, with directions to slip their cables and assist their gallant companions. These orders were immediately put in execution by that distinguished officer Captain Miller, of the Theseus, and by the other ships that were in a state to renew the action. It has been already stated that the masts of the Orion were too much damaged to admit of that ship getting under way. In the course of the day the whole of the enemy's fleet had surrendered, excepting two ships of the line and two frigates, which escaped from the rear.

Sir James being unable, from the effects of his wound, to wait on the Admiral and offer his congratulations personally, sent him the following letter:

Orion, 2nd August 1798.

MY DEAR ADMIRAL,

I regret exceedingly being prevented from congratulating you in person on the most complete and glorious victory ever yet obtained,—the just recompense of the zeal and great anxiety so long experienced by you before it pleased Providence to give you sight of those miscreants who have now received the just punishment of their past crimes. You have been made the happy instrument of inflicting on them their just chastisement; and may you, my dear Admiral, long live to enjoy, in the approbation of the whole world, the greatest of earthly blessings!

I am ever your most faithful and obedient servant, JAMES SAUMAREZ.

To Sir Horatio Nelson, &c. &c. &c.

From the character which has already been portrayed of Sir James, the reader will not be surprised to find that the Orion was the first to hoist the pendant at the mizen-peak, and thereby to show an example to the fleet worthy of imitation, in returning thanks to the great Disposer of events and Giver of all victory for that which they had just obtained over their enemies. A discourse on this occasion was delivered by the clergyman of the Orion, which must have made a great and lasting impression on the hearers; but the circumstance, which is much easier to be imagined than described, of a ship's company on their knees at prayers, and offering up a most solemn thanksgiving for the Divine mercy and favour which had been so fully manifested towards them, must have excited feelings in the minds of the prisoners,—the demoralised citizens of the French republic,—which had never before been known to them; and we understand that they did not fail to express their astonishment and admiration at a scene of that kind under such circumstances.

At ten o'clock, when the action had entirely ceased, and the Admiral had received the congratulations of most of the captains of the fleet, the following general memorandums were issued:

Vanguard, 2nd of August 1798, off the mouth of the Nile.

The Admiral most heartily congratulates the captains, officers, seamen, and marines of the squadron he has the honour to command, on the events of the late action; and he desires they will accept his sincere and cordial thanks for their very gallant behaviour in the glorious battle. It must strike forcibly every British seaman how superior their conduct is when in discipline and good order, to the notorious behaviour of lawless Frenchmen.

The squadron may be assured that the Admiral will not fail, in his despatches, to represent their truly meritorious conduct in the strongest terms to the commander-in-chief.

HORATIO NELSON.

To the respective Captains of the ships of the squadron.

Almighty God having blessed his Majesty's arms with victory, the Admiral intends returning thanksgiving for the same at two o'clock this day; and he recommends every ship doing the same as soon as convenient.

HORATIO NELSON.

To the respective Captains, &c. &c.

Captain Ball, in pursuance of orders from the Rear-admiral, directed the negociation for landing the prisoners on parole. Such as were not Frenchmen were permitted to enter into the English service, for the purpose of conducting the prizes home.

We must refer our readers to the different accounts of this splendid action, which have been published by James, Brenton, Willyams, &c. for the particulars which do not concern the Orion. But we cannot forbear to mention the gallant conduct of Vice-admiral De Brueys, who, according to James and others, "had received two wounds, one in the face, the other in the hand; towards eight P.M. as he was descending to the quarter-deck, a shot cut him almost in two. This brave officer then desired not to be carried below, but to be left to die on deck; exclaiming in a firm tone, 'Un amiral Francais doit mourir sur son banc de quart.' He survived only a quarter of an hour." Commodore Casa-Bianca fell mortally wounded soon after the admiral had breathed his last. Captain Du-Petit-Thouars, of the Tonnant, had first both his arms, and then one of his legs shot away; and his dying commands were "Never to surrender!"

Neither must we leave unrecorded the heroic death of young Miells, the midshipman, who we mentioned had been mortally wounded by the same splinter which struck his gallant commander. His shoulder having been nearly carried off, and his life being despaired of, the surgeons were unwilling to put him to needless pain by amputation; but after some hours, finding he still lived, it was determined to give him a chance of recovery by removing the shattered limb. The operation was ably performed by Mr. Nepecker, the surgeon of the Orion, assisted by the surgeon of the Vanguard. The sufferer never uttered a moan, but as soon as it was over, quietly said—"Have I not borne it well?" The tidings were instantly conveyed to his captain, whose feelings may be better imagined than described, and who could only fervently exclaim "thank God!" But his joy soon received a check. Many minutes had not elapsed before he learnt that this amiable and promising youth had been seized with a fit of coughing and expired!

The captains of the Mercure and Heureux, who participated but slightly in the action, were both wounded; Captain Trullet, of the Guerrier, the ship most shattered, was unhurt, and Gantheaume escaped in a boat from the L'Orient.

By great care Sir James kept off the fever which threatened to be the consequence of his wound.

On the morning of the 3rd, Sir James, finding himself sufficiently recovered from the effects of his wounds to leave the ship, went on board the Vanguard to congratulate the Admiral in person on the glorious result of the battle. He found several of his brother officers on the quarter deck, discussing the merits of the action. Some regret having been expressed at the escape of the two sternmost ships of the French line, Sir James said to the Admiral, "It was unfortunate we did not——" and was proceeding to say, "all anchor on the same side." But, before he could finish the sentence, Nelson hastily interrupted him, exclaiming, "Thank God there was no order!" thus turning the conversation, he entered his cabin, and sent for Captain Ball.

While Sir James was receiving the congratulations of his brother captains on being the second in command, no doubt being entertained among them that the Admiral would make most honourable mention of his name as such,—an honour which he so highly deserved, and which is usual in similar cases,—Captain Ball came on deck, and interrupted the conversation by observing, "Nelson says there is to be no second in command; we are all to be alike in his despatches!"[14]

[14] We may here state that, on the preceding day, Captain Ball had paid a visit to Sir James; and as they were discussing the various points of the battle, he stated to Sir James, that "having been the second in command, he would, unquestionably, receive some mark of distinction on the occasion." Saumarez, in the enthusiasm of the moment, exclaimed, "We all did our duty,—there was no second in command!" meaning, of course, that he did not consider he had done more than other captains; and, not supposing that this observation would come to the ears of the Admiral. But, he afterwards thought, Nelson had availed himself of this conversation, to deprive him of the advantage to which his seniority entitled him, although he fully exonerated Captain Ball of having the slightest intention of communicating to the Admiral anything he could have supposed would be detrimental to his interest.

We need scarcely say that this was eventually the case; but we may relate the circumstances which induced Saumarez, without the least intention to offend, to make the observation at which offence was taken. It was the custom of Nelson, when in communication or in company with the captains under his command, to converse with them on the various modes of attacking the enemy under different circumstances; and, on one of these occasions, Sir James Saumarez, who had seen the evil consequences of doubling on the enemy, especially in a night action, had differed with the Admiral in that plan of attack, saying that "it never required two English ships to capture one French, and that the damage which they must necessarily do to each other might render them both unable to fight an enemy's ship that had not been engaged; and as in this case two ships could be spared to the three-decker, every one might have his own opponent."

It would perhaps be deemed invidious to mention the individual cases of English ships which fired on each other in this action; but that this did actually happen, and that many of our brave men fell by our own shot is a fact too notorious to be disputed. Moreover, had the four sternmost ships of the enemy's line done their duty as they ought, by slipping their cables soon after the action commenced, and making sail to windward, they would have made an easy capture of the Culloden as she lay aground; and afterwards, by doubling on the Vanguard, they would probably have given a different turn to the affair. The enemy's ships being moored 160 yards apart, left space enough for the British ships to pass between them, and rake the ship on each side, as the Theseus did; whereas, by anchoring outside, our squadron had equally to suffer the raking fire of the enemy as they approached, without being able to retaliate in the same way, thereby losing the important effect of two double-shotted broadsides, besides the advantage of being anchored in shore, to prevent the possibility of the enemy doubling on a disabled ship, or of their running on shore and destroying those that were vanquished.

It has been insisted on that Nelson, in omitting to mention the name of his second in command, only followed the example of Earl St. Vincent; and this may have been the case; but it cannot justify his evident reluctance to acknowledge the position in which Sir James really stood. Every officer in the service must know that, if Nelson had lost his life, the command would have devolved on Sir James Saumarez: yet, in his public letter, he not only avoids mentioning him, but he endeavours to represent the captain of the Vanguard as his successor in that responsible situation. His great friendship for Sir Thomas Troubridge was, no doubt, the motive that occasioned the substitution, and led to this injustice, which he carried so far as to remonstrate, in his private letters to Earl St. Vincent and Earl Spencer, against any honours being conferred on Sir James Saumarez which were not equally bestowed on Sir Thomas Troubridge.[15] When Nelson's great popularity, at this period, is considered, it may appear less extraordinary that this request should have had weight. Yet it cannot but surprise an impartial reader, in after-ages, that no honours or distinctions, except on the commander-in-chief, should have followed a victory, which Mr. Pitt in the House of Commons pronounced to be the greatest on record.

[15] See Clarke and M'Arthur's Life of Nelson, vol. ii. p. 119.

On the 3rd of August, when Sir James returned from the Vanguard, the captains were assembled on board the Orion. He proposed the following resolution, which was agreed to unanimously:

The captains of the squadron under the orders of Rear-admiral Sir Horatio Nelson, K.B. desirous of testifying the high sense they entertain of his prompt decision and intrepid conduct in the attack of the French fleet in Bequir Road, off the Nile, August 1st, 1798, request his acceptance of a sword; and, as a further proof of their esteem and regard, hope that he will permit his portrait to be taken, and hung up in the room belonging to the Egyptian club now established, in commemoration of that glorious day.

To which Sir Horatio returned the following answer:

GENTLEMEN,

I feel most sensibly the very distinguished honour you have conferred upon me by your address this day. My prompt decision was the natural consequence of having such captains under my command; and I thank God I can say that in the battle the conduct of every officer was equal.

I accept as a particular mark of your esteem the sword you have done me the honour to offer; and I will direct my picture to be painted the first opportunity for the purpose you mention.

I have the honour to be, gentlemen, with the highest respect, Your most obliged, HORATIO NELSON.

We shall conclude this chapter with the extract of a letter written to Lady Saumarez by Sir James, which we have no doubt will be perused with much interest:

Thursday, 2nd August 1798.

Happy am I in being enabled, through the mercy of Divine Providence, to acquaint you with our having obtained the most glorious and complete victory ever yet recorded in the annals of the world.

Yesterday afternoon we discovered the enemy's fleet at anchor a short distance from Alexandria. Although our squadron was not collected,—the Alexander and Swiftsure being at a considerable distance from having been detached to reconnoitre the port, and the Culloden a great way off from having had a prize in tow,—Sir Horatio deemed it of such importance to make an immediate attack on the enemy, that he made sail for them without waiting for those ships.

At sunset the action began upon the van and centre of the enemy's line, and in rather more than two hours six of their ships were completely dismasted, and the L'Orient, of 120 guns, blown up. The action was continued all night with the enemy's rear by the Alexander and Majestic; and this evening the whole, except three, have fallen into our hands, and a frigate, which they dastardly set fire to, and escaped on shore.

The loss sustained has been considerable in some of the ships. I have to regret the loss of poor Miells, and of Mr. Baird, my clerk, and of several good men. I received a contusion in the side, which, though at first painful, is doing as well as possible, and does not even prevent my going on with the usual duty of the ship. Poor Captain Westcott is killed, and several other officers.

The enemy have now obtained the just chastisement of their past crimes, and Sir Horatio Nelson has the happiness of being the fortunate instrument of inflicting their just punishment; in which happiness all his squadron partakes. Fourteen of the Frenchmen, who had the good fortune to swim on board the Orion from the L'Orient after she was on fire, report that their army were all landed three weeks since, and are at present in possession of Grand Cairo; and that they have frequent severe skirmishes with the Turks.

Our worthy friend Mr. Le Cras will lament with me the loss of Mr. Miells. A better young man I think never existed. He lived until this evening, and was the whole time perfectly resigned to his fate, saying, "he died in a good cause." Mr. Richardson is also badly wounded, and my servant John Lewis, who you recollect waited on us at Portsmouth; but I hope they will both recover.

I should observe that the Culloden, not having been able to get to us before night, unfortunately ran aground; by which accident we were deprived of the assistance of so fine a ship, and of the exertions of Captain Troubridge.



CHAPTER XI.

1798.

Fleet repair damages.—Sir James receives orders to take a detachment of six ships of the line, and five prizes, under his command.—Sails for Gibraltar.—Journal of his tedious voyage.—Arrives off Candia.—Decides to pass through a perilous passage, and escapes the dangers.—Falls in with the Marquis of Nisa, and summons the French garrison at Malta.—Puts into Port Auguste, in Sicily.—Sails from thence.—Tedious passage.—Letters from Earl St. Vincent and Nelson.—Arrives at Gibraltar.—Reception there from the Admiral, Governor, &c.—Sails thence.—Arrives at Lisbon.—Sails thence.—Arrives at Spithead.—Paid off at Plymouth.—Remarks on his treatment, and explanation of it.

The fleet was employed in repairing the damages it had received, and in fitting the prizes that were deemed worthy of being sent to England. This occupied the whole week after the battle. On the 5th, the Leander, having on board Captain Berry with the Rear-admiral's despatches, sailed for England; and, on the 12th, the Emerald, Alcmene, and Bonne Citoyenne arrived. On the same day Sir James received the following order:

(1st Order.) By Sir Horatio Nelson, K.B. &c. &c. &c.

You are hereby required and directed to take the ships named on the margin[16] under your command, their captains having orders for that purpose; and to proceed with them with all possible despatch down the Mediterranean. On your arrival near Europa Point, you will send a boat on shore to the Commissioners' office to receive any orders that may be lodged there for your further proceedings. In case you find no orders at Gibraltar, and learn that the commander-in-chief is off Cadiz, or at Lisbon, you will join him at either place with all possible expedition.

To Sir James Saumarez, &c. &c. &c.

[16] The captains of his Majesty's ships to take charge of the prizes as under:

Orion to take charge of Le Souverain Peuple. Bellerophon do.} Majestic do.} Le Spartiate. Minotaur do. Aquilon. Defence do. Franklin. Audacious do. Conquerant. Theseus do. Tonnant.

To the captains of above-mentioned ships. H.N.

(2nd Order.) By Sir Horatio Nelson, K.B. &c. &c. &c.

You are hereby required and directed to take charge of the prize ships; putting a sufficient number of men on board each to navigate the said prize, with six weeks' provisions. You are never to separate from her without orders in writing from the officer under whose command you are for the time being; and you are hereby required and directed to put yourself and the prize under the command of Captain Sir James Saumarez; and follow all such orders and instructions as you may receive from him from time to time for his Majesty' service.

Given on board H.M.S. Vanguard, Mouth of the Nile, 12th August 1798. By command of the Rear-admiral. J. CAMPBELL.

Thus were Sir James's wishes and anticipations, mentioned in his journal of the 10th June, completely realized. After a distinguished share in effecting the destruction of the enemy's fleet, he is returning home triumphant with the hard-earned fruits of his labours; which were, however, not yet at an end, as will be seen by the following journal of his tedious and hazardous voyage:

"Orion, at sea, 18th August 1798.

"After having so well completed the journal I sent by Captain Berry, you will not doubt the great pleasure I must feel in beginning the present, particularly when situation and many other circumstances combine to render it so interesting. But I have more to relate than you are aware of; and in which I have been most particularly favoured, as you will see, when it comes in its proper place to be mentioned.

"First, I sailed from Bequir Road last Tuesday morning, with seven sail of the line and six of our prizes; leaving the Admiral with the Culloden, Alexander, Zealous, Goliath, and Swiftsure, and the three remaining French ships, which it was intended to destroy after taking out their stores and landing the prisoners. The Alcmene, Emerald, and Bonne Citoyenne had at last joined us. As, however, they had not been with the fleet, but had remained all the time in search of us, we were disappointed of our letters, and they at finding themselves 'the day after the fair.'

"In falling light winds, we came again to an anchor, Tuesday noon, about five miles from the squadron; which gave the ships an opportunity to get completed for sea, and afforded a night's repose to the men. At eleven I was waked from a sound sleep with the account that a brig which joined the Admiral in the afternoon was from Tunis, and had on board a hundred men belonging to L'Aigle, which had been lost some time before on her way to join the squadron; and it was added, 'there is a large packet of letters for the different ships.' I soon had them sorted, and out of about twenty for myself I selected four from you, which were read with an avidity you will better conceive than I can describe; before I had finished a page of one I flew to another, and so for near an hour, till at last I found their date, and endeavoured to read them regularly; but it was not till daylight that I could bring myself to a sufficient degree of composure. Never were letters more welcome—never did any yield greater joy and comfort; they have since formed my chief happiness, and will continue so to do until the end of our voyage. Had we unfortunately sailed one day sooner, I should have lost these precious letters: judge then how fortunate I think myself, particularly so at their having been preserved from the wreck of the poor L'Aigle; as I find that several packages, &c. for this squadron, with the good things you sent me, shared the fate of the poor ship; Captain Hay having written to me from Gibraltar that they were put on board her.

"Sir Horatio Nelson wrote to me that he had not heard from his family; but, as Captain Nisbet came in the brig, he will give him accounts from Lady Nelson.

"I now come to the sequel of our voyage, having accounted for my being so unseasonably disturbed from a sound sleep."

Sir James now received the following letters.

August 15th, 1798.

MY DEAR SIR JAMES,

I am not very anxious to receive any persons of the description you mention; they will all eat our meat, and drink. As they choose to serve the French, there let them remain. I have not a line from home, all lost in L'Aigle. You will get off in good time, I dare say. I am sure you will not lose a moment off Cape Bronte; the shoal extends six miles. If you favour me with a line, direct it for Naples, where I am going to join the Portuguese squadron. Zealous, Swiftsure, and the two frigates, I have kept here as long as possible. Nisbet thanks you for your inquiries. I send you a copy of my letter intended to be sent to Mr. Nepean; keep it quiet till you get off. Wishing you health, and good passage,

Believe me ever, Your obliged, HORATIO NELSON.

To Sir James Saumarez.

I hope Lady S. and all the little ones are well.

(Copy.)

Secret, for Sir James.

SIR,

Six of the prizes sailed yesterday with Sir James Saumarez; three others, viz. Guerrier, Heureux, and Mercure are in the act of repairing. In this state I received last evening Earl St. Vincent's most secret orders, and most secret and confidential letters. Thus situated, it became an important part of my duty to do justice between my King and country, and the brave officers and men who captured those ships at the Battle of the Nile. It would have taken one month at least to fit those ships for a passage to Gibraltar, and not at a great expense to government, but with the loss to the service of at least two sail of the line. I therefore feel confident that the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty will, under the present circumstances, direct that a fair value shall be paid for those ships. I have farther thought it my duty to tell the squadron the necessity I am under, for the benefit of the King's service, to order their property to be destroyed; but that I had no doubt but that government would make a liberal allowance. I have therefore directed such stores as could, without taking too much time, be saved from them, and ordered the hulls to be burned.

I have the honour to be, &c. HORATIO NELSON.

To Evan Nepean, Esq.

The journal of Sir James is thus resumed:

"We again weighed anchor, Wednesday noon; and although with a contrary wind, and ships in a crippled state, we had the good fortune to clear the land in the night without accident, and next day lost sight of our ships in the Nile. Since that period we have not made any great progress; but we have no reason to complain, and I trust a favourable wind will in due time waft us down the Mediterranean.

"A present, un petit mot sur ma sante. In the first place, too great exertion for two or three days after being under sail, certainly retarded my perfect recovery, and, added to the excessive heat of the weather, threw me into a sort of languor that required the three last days' rest and composure to shake off. I am now, thank God! as well as ever; and when I consider that every day shortens my distance from you, my happiness is daily increasing. I have much more to say, mais en voila assez pour le present; and as there is abundance of time before this can be despatched, il faut le remettre pour un autre jour: ainsi adieu!

"Sunday, August 19th.—I was indeed surprised to find Lyme the place fixed for your residence; and, on reflection, approve of it highly, as I believe it is a very healthy place; but more particularly as I hope to send you a line in going up Channel, and possibly take you to Spithead. Judge, therefore, the selfish motives by which I am actuated, and scold me if you can.

"I was happy our dear boy had reached home before the close of your last letter, and am charmed with your account of him. Having understood that there is a good school in Dorsetshire,—I think at Sherborne,—I shall not be surprised if you have placed him there for the summer, and shall not think it a bad plan to have him nearer to you. I am glad to find my letters from Gibraltar reached you, and hope that one or two stragglers will also have come to hand before those from the Nile arrive. These last will induce you to believe our cruise less unpleasant than you seemed to apprehend,—more particularly when you find it the means of bringing the Orion to England.

"Your P.S. of the 11th of June is considerably later than any accounts received in the squadron; indeed, I find very few letters have been received by any of the captains. The Lion, I understand, is on her way to join the squadron; but I have reason to believe she has nothing for me, as she sailed before L'Aigle.

"The accounts from Ireland are truly distressing; but I hope tranquillity has long since been restored in that distracted country. We have heard of the dreadful business off Cadiz; but as news from the fleet must reach home before we can be acquainted with them, I shall not enlarge on the subject. Captain Grey, I find, is gone to England, which will have been an agreeable surprise to his amiable lady.

"Now for some account of the Orion and her crew:—In the first place, Mr. Barker is on board Le Peuple Souverain, happier than a prince. Mr. Wells becomes first, in his room; and, as I found it necessary to send away Mr. —— at Syracuse, I should remain with only three lieutenants, but that, in virtue of my present command, I appointed, the day I left Admiral Nelson, our kinsman Dumaresq to that station, who acquits himself with great zeal and assiduity. He will receive pay for the time; but cannot be confirmed, from not having served the six required years.

"All the officers are in rapture at the share the ship had in the action, except her captain, who is never satisfied. The ship's company all healthy, and the wounded daily recovering. Sheep and poultry in abundance; but the fear of a long passage down the Mediterranean obliges us to be frugal, wishing, if possible, to avoid putting into any place before we reach the fleet off Cadiz,—a thing scarcely possible, and rendered still more improbable from our little progress the last five days: however,—patience!

"I have only two French officers on board; one was second captain of the Tonnant; they are both in the ward-room, and I occasionally invite them to my table. Of the six prizes four are fine ships, particularly the Franklin and Spartiate: the Souverain and Conquerant are both very old ships; Le Tonnant and L'Aquilon were built within these few years only. Both the former are quite new. But it is not what we have taken, but what we have destroyed. We have left France only two sail of the line in the Mediterranean, except a few bad Venetian ships and some frigates. A squadron of five sail leaves us masters of these seas, equal to protect our commerce, and with a few frigates destroy that of the enemy: these are the real fruits of our victory; and as to anything personal to ourselves, the approbation of our country, and possibly an additional medal, will be ample recompence to us. At present my chief solicitude is to find things go on well in England; and I think, when the account of our action arrives, it will set the minds of people at ease for some time at least.

"I shall have a great deal to say to you, in which you will acknowledge with me that the Almighty has been kind and bountiful indeed, beyond my merits or pretensions. You will infer from my late journal what I particularly allude to, wherein I mention the Orion having been intended to return to the fleet on the junction of the reinforcement; which was merely to favour Captain Troubridge, with whom I clashed from seniority. Very, very fortunately for me, the enemy's force would not permit Sir H. Nelson to part with me; and the sequel has shown the partiality of the Earl's proceeding: but of this 'ci-apres;' only, for the present, judge what must have been my feelings had I been thus deprived of my share in this action!

"My situation at this moment is exactly what I could wish,—the command of a respectable squadron escorting the trophies of our victory; and I am induced to hope that I shall proceed with them to England without considerable delay. We have just gained sight of Cyprus, nearly the track we followed six weeks ago; so invariably do the westerly winds prevail at this season; but I hope we shall not be subject to the tedious calms we experienced under Candia. Hitherto we have always had a good breeze, which has prevented any intercourse between the ships of the squadron, one day only excepted.

"I have not told you that we all voted a sword to the Admiral before we parted from the squadron; the captains having agreed to subscribe fifty pounds each to defray the expense, and to have his picture, which is to be put up in the room intended to hold the Egyptian Club, when we all meet in England. The overplus, which will come to about thirty pounds each, is to be applied for the relief of the widows and orphans of those who have nobly fallen in the action. All this shows unanimity at least, and I believe greater never existed in any squadron.

"Wednesday, 22nd.—This morning the wind has set in very favourably for us; but it is to the southward, and produces such a close, sultry, and damp air, that it is scarcely bearable; and, with all this, we have to encounter so strong a western swell, that the prizes and crippled ships, for want of more sail, can scarcely contend against it. What if we should have the good fortune to fall in with the four French ships! They are certainly on their way to Toulon; and, from the want of water and provisions, must have put into some of the ports in these seas. I dreamt so much of them last night that I really form great hopes of our falling in with them. This leads me to mention that all the captains agreed to share together in whatever may be captured till the 1st of October.

"It is now exactly three weeks since the Battle of the Nile; it appears almost an age; but when once we get in the fair track down the Mediterranean, every day will, I hope, shorten our distance. We have seen but one strange sail since we left Bequir, and that at too great a distance to speak with. I think it probable Sir Horatio may be on his way to Naples, as he proposed to sail soon to join the Portuguese squadron, taking with him the Culloden, Alexander, and Goliath. The Zealous, with Swiftsure, and the frigates, were to be left to block up Alexandria, and distress the enemy. What barbarous people we must be, after having done them so much mischief, still to add to their disasters!

"August 24th.—I have been right in my conjectures this morning, having fallen in with Sir Horatio, who obligingly sent the Bonne Citoyenne with letters, &c. for the ships with me, brought by the Seahorse, which joined him at Bequir. He has only the Culloden and Alexander with him, having left the rest of the ships for the good purposes before mentioned. This meeting has afforded me an opportunity of sending you a few hurried lines, which I have requested the Admiral to forward from Naples. I have no doubt that the letter will reach you some time before any other I can have an opportunity of sending you.

"I think the few last lines will not be the less acceptable for having been anticipated. I can assure you their purport is highly acceptable, as I now have the Earl's own assertion for the Orion being ordered to England upon his own terms, 'when I join him with the prizes.' Alas! they get on very slowly; but I am endowed with unparalleled patience, having scarcely uttered a murmur on their tardiness, so perfectly satisfied am I with the prospect before me.

"I understand the Seahorse has taken La Sensible, and the Lion a Spanish frigate: a propos, we have received intimation that a Spanish squadron is on its way to Leghorn, to convey his holiness Pope Pius the Sixth to some part of Spain; and, in case of our falling in with them, we are to treat him with all the ceremony and respect due to the sovereign pontiff.

"Sunday, 26th.—I went yesterday on board the Admiral, for half-an-hour; and was happy at finding him in perfect health. He will ever retain the mark on his forehead which he has so honourably acquired; mine is not quite in so distinguished a place, but I also expect to have a scar on my left side, or rather on the hip-bone, which was slightly grazed; but it is now perfectly healed, and I reflect with great gratitude on the very narrow escape I had: my only fear is, that it will give you great uneasiness when the account reaches you. I did not intend to have my name inserted in the return of wounded, but the Admiral desired it should; so that he must share the blame if it should have alarmed you.

"I cannot tell you all the fine projects I form for some months at least after my arrival in England. This last business has so shattered the poor Orion, that she will not, without considerable repair, be in a state for more service; and if I can be so fortunate as to obtain Le Franklin with my officers and men, she will be getting forward during the winter months, and I shall have the enjoyment of your society all that time: and I think, if it pleases God to bless our arms in England with success, the enemy will be brought to sue for a peace before the spring of next year. Their great inducement for carrying on the war was their hopes of success from this expedition, which is considered as entirely frustrated, as their army will be too much reduced to attempt to go to India without being reinforced from France; and they never will be able to prevail on more troops to embark for Egypt, even if they had the means of conveyance for them.

"The winds prove all this time very variable, et nous avancons fort lentement.

"The Admiral is still in sight, though we are not in company together. Had I not been certain of going to England, I should regret losing the opportunity of seeing Naples, particularly on this occasion; but everything is absorbed in that first consideration. The newspapers are at all times acceptable, and I was happy when you found opportunities to send them from Ryde; but as many of the squadron receive them, and they are always circulated to the different ships, I would not trouble you to send them. D'ailleurs, pour le present, j'espere que ce serait inutile.

"Monday.—We get on very slowly indeed, not having yet got sight of Candia; we must however have patience. Three days' fair wind will bring us the distance of Sicily. I have invited Captains Miller, Louis, and Gould to dine with me to-day. To the former I said that your ladyship had the pleasure of having made acquaintance with Mrs. Miller. Miller is an excellent man. Another day I shall have the other captains, Derby, Peyton, and Cuthbert, late first lieutenant of the Majestic.

"Whilst I am writing, a fine breeze has sprung up, which will get us as far as Rhodes at least. We have entirely lost sight of the Admiral; and I think, from the wind having favoured us, that we shall have considerably the start of his little squadron.

"Tuesday.—Nothing so uncertain and variable as the winds in this country. We are still off the island of Rhodes, which appears fertile and well cultivated. We have also sight of Candia at the distance of above thirty leagues. Our present route is different from any of the former, as we go to the northward of Candia, amidst the innumerable islands that form the archipelago. It is thought by many a dangerous navigation with our disabled ships, but I always consider que le bon Dieu nous guide.

"The Admiral has again joined us, but too far off for any personal communication. This evening we have effected a great object in doubling Rhodes, and we are now proceeding with a fine breeze. I hope in three days to congratulate you on our being in the fair track down the Mediterranean.

"Friday, 31st.—Events multiply and increase upon us, but not so favourably as they promised when I last took up my pen. After contending for three days against the baffling winds we had so often experienced, and by our perseverance gained a considerable distance, the wind increased so much against us yesterday morning, that I was compelled, from the disabled state of several of the ships, to abandon my intention of going to the northward of Candia; and, not without great risk, we ran through a passage imperfectly explored, and never known to ships of war till we found it practicable: at the same time, I almost shudder at the danger we escaped; nothing but a case of extreme necessity could have justified the attempt, and Providence was our guide;[17] at the same time warning us of the danger we ran, having actually seen the breakers, and escaped them by a trifling distance; and this was performed late at night, all the ships following and guided by our lights.

[17] Sir James displayed a remarkable instance of presence of mind and unhesitating decision in this unexpected case of extreme danger. Captain John Tancock, who was then lieutenant of the watch, and who, having served under Sir James during the whole of the war, enjoyed his perfect confidence, anticipated the captain's wishes in volunteering on this occasion to go up to the mast-head and look out for rocks, and thus considerably relieved his anxiety. The prizes were quite unable to beat to windward, and, in order to be extricated from the peril which the shift of wind had occasioned, their signal was made "to keep in the Orion's wake." Sir James having determined to push on, as the most probable means of saving his inefficient squadron, the "helm was put up," and orders given to steer through a passage between islands, which was marked "doubtful" in the charts, and in which shallow water was soon discovered by Mr. Tancock, who gave timely notice to the helmsman on their approach to each danger. The rest of the ships kept close in the track of the Orion, and in this manner the whole of the squadron and prizes passed between the islands and breakers without accident; and there can be no doubt that their safety was owing to the skilful and decisive conduct of Sir James. It is but justice to add, that, in approving of Mr. Tancock's very meritorious conduct, he emphatically assured him that "he should never forget that he had so fully anticipated his wishes."

"We are at present close to Candia, and the Admiral in sight; rather in advance of us, owing to the circumstance I have related. I now fear our voyage will prove very tedious, and that the want of provisions and other circumstances will compel us to put into some port; this may occasion great delay, which the approach of the equinox makes me very desirous to avoid. I really believe no ships in so bad a condition as those with me ever attempted so intricate a navigation.

"September 1st.—You are certainly unapprised of the Orion being on her way to England. Here have we been occupied for three weeks in effecting what might be accomplished in two days. Your wishes, I think, would prove more availing were you acquainted with the real state of things. This extraordinary delay makes me more fractious than can be imagined, and I begin to lose the character for patience which I had given myself by so tiresome a situation; besides which, I have Le Peuple Souverain to drag after me, that causes me more trouble than even the Spanish saints did after the 14th of February.

"Sunday.—I had almost determined not to resume my pen till we were entirely clear of this same island of Candia; but we have made such great progress since yesterday, and the prospect continues so favourable, that I cannot refuse myself the satisfaction of congratulating you thereon.

"I received last evening a letter from the Admiral, brought me by La Bonne Citoyenne.[18] He is desirous of having the Minotaur and Audacious detached to Naples after accompanying us as far on our way as Minorca. A vessel was yesterday spoken with that saw one of the French line-of-battle ships, with the loss of her main-mast, and towed by a frigate towards Corfu, only eight days since; so that, had the winds favoured us, we should have been at no great distance from them. I dined to-day in the ward-room; but I am sorry to say we had no church this morning; this is so very necessary a duty, that I am always grieved when it is omitted."

[18] MY DEAR SIR, Vanguard, September 1st, 1798. From what I have heard, and made up in my own mind, I feel it is absolutely necessary that I should order the Minotaur and Audacious to quit your squadron when you are in the fair way between Sardinia and Minorca, and join me at Naples; and also with as much salt provisions as can be got out of the ships victualled for six months, reserving only one month's at whole allowance. My squadron are at two-thirds of salt provisions, making the allowance up with flour; therefore you will direct the same in yours. I have put down the number of casks of beef, pork, and pease, which can be easily spared if the commander-in-chief's orders for victualling have been obeyed. Audacious is, I fancy, short of salt provisions, not knowing of coming so long a voyage. If you can manage to let those ships have any part of their officers and men, it will be very useful for the King's service; but of this you must be the best judge. Retalick will tell you all the news from Rhodes, and I was rejoiced to see you are this side of Candia.

Ever yours most truly, HORATIO NELSON.

To Sir James Saumarez, &c.

Your squadron evidently sails better than Culloden. The Bellerophon sails so well that Darby can take very good care of Conquerant; and Aquilon seems also to sail remarkably well. Remember me kindly to all my good friends with you.

Orion, at sea, 1st September.

MY DEAR ADMIRAL,

Captain Retalick has just joined me with your order respecting the Minotaur and Audacious, both which ships are to be detached for Naples so soon as we are in the fair way between Sardinia and Minorca, with as much salt provisions as can be spared from the ships victualled for six months; which shall be duly complied with. I shall also take from the prizes as many of the officers and men as can be replaced from the ships left with me, which I shall endeavour to be as near the full number as can be thought prudent. Wishing to use as little delay as possible, not to detain the Bonne Citoyenne,

I am very truly, &c. JAMES SAUMAREZ.

To Sir Horatio Nelson, K.B.

Orion, at sea, 1st September.

MY DEAR ADMIRAL,

After contending for three days against the adverse winds which are almost invariably encountered here, and getting sufficiently to the northward to have weathered the small islands that lie more immediately between the Archipelago and Candia, the wind set in so strong to the westward Thursday morning, that I was compelled to desist from that passage, and bear up between Sargeanto and Guxo, a narrow and intricate channel; but which we happily cleared without any accident, the loss of a few spars excepted, which are now replaced; and we are proceeding as fast as the wind will admit to our destination. The ships are all doing as well as possible; the fever on board the Defence fast abating, and the wounded in Bellerophon, Majestic, and Minotaur daily recovering. Seeing the Citoyenne on her way to us, I seize the opportunity to give you the information.

I am, my dear sir, &c. JAMES SAUMAREZ.

To Sir H. Nelson, K.B.

Orion, at sea, 5th Sept. 1798.

MY DEAR ADMIRAL,

Since the receipt of your letter of the 1st instant, containing an order for the Minotaur and Audacious to join you at Naples, I have been employed in making the necessary arrangements for the distribution of prisoners from the ships that remain with me. I fear the quantity that can be spared, after reducing ourselves to four weeks at whole allowance, will fall very short of what you mention. The order for the ships to be put to two-thirds' allowance was given the day after I received your letter. With regard to the men belonging to the Minotaur and Audacious on board the prizes, I hope to have it in my power to meet more fully your expectations, as I see no reason why these men should not be almost entirely replaced from the ships with me, the Bellerophon and Majestic having only fifty men each on board; the Spartiate certainly can spare the same number for Le Conquerant; and I hope to man the Aquilon from the other three ships, except the party of marines, which I shall direct to be left on board of them. We have had favourable winds the last three days, and I hope to-morrow to get sight of Mount AEtna. The enclosed report of a vessel boarded by the Theseus makes me regret the wind did not prove favourable a few days sooner, to have come up with the strayed sheep.

10 o'clock P.M.

Captain Renhouse, in the Thalia, has this instant joined me on his return from Bequir. I have taken his letters for the fleet, &c.: and as the Flora cutter is in sight, closing with the squadron, I have detained him till the morning, that he may take from her any despatches she may have for you. I am happy to learn from him that the Lion had joined the squadron off Alexandria. He also informs me that the Marquis de Niza was on his return from Aboukir, highly mortified at having lost the opportunity of distinguishing himself in the action. I am truly, my dear Admiral,

Your faithful and most obedient servant, JAMES SAUMAREZ.

To Rear-admiral Sir Horatio Nelson, K.B.

Orion, 6th September 1798. A.M. 7 o'clock.

MY DEAR ADMIRAL,

The Flora did not join me till this instant, owing to the commander's timidity. I was waiting for him the whole night. I thought it my duty to open one of Earl St. Vincent's public despatches, in case they might contain anything that might render necessary any alteration in my present proceedings. I find from them that Colossus is to the southward of Sardinia, with the Alliance and four victuallers: we shall of course keep a look-out for them. This information will enable me to keep rather a greater supply of provisions than I had made arrangements for, having scarcely reserved four weeks to each ship of the squadron. I have charged Captain Newhouse with the Flora's despatches, with orders to proceed in search of you immediately, and also indicated to him the track I mean to pursue, in case you should have occasion to send me further orders, in consequence of your letters from Earl St. Vincent.

I hope you will do me the favour to believe that I have acted to the best of my judgment for the good of his Majesty's service, and that you will approve my having opened one of Lord St. Vincent's public despatches; which it will be satisfactory to me to know from you.

With sincere and best wishes for your health and every happiness, &c. JAMES SAUMAREZ.

To Sir H. Nelson, K.B. &c.

"Thursday, 6th September.—The last four days we have got on remarkably well; and, what is still better, the wind seems now set in very favourably. Late last night the Thalia joined me, after cruising in all directions to fall in with Sir Horatio. I was not disappointed at receiving no letters by her: but this morning, having been joined by the Flora cutter, that left England the 26th July, and the fleet off Cadiz so late as the 12th August, I own it gave me concern to receive no tidings from you; but, on recollection that all the letters for this ship have been kept back, from our being expected down the Mediterranean, my disappointment ceases.

"I have seen nothing of Admiral Nelson since I last wrote; and, as our route now lies in a different direction, I do not expect to meet with him again. The information obtained by the above vessels is of a very satisfactory nature; and I trust things will soon, very soon, draw to a favourable crisis.

"The Thalia brought me from Bequir several intercepted letters from France, taken in a corvette going to Alexandria. I have read several of them, and find that their chief reliance was placed in the expedition to Egypt; which having failed so completely, must disconcert all their future projects. One bad piece of news I have learnt,—'that a Spanish vessel we took off St. Pierre, laden with wheat, has been recaptured by a French privateer.'

"I have been occupied for some days past in putting my cabin in good repair, which I hope to have fit for your ladyship's reception, so that, on my arrival in the Channel, I may have only to despatch the first vessel I fall in with to Lyme, with an invitation for you to partake of it, accompanied by one or more of the children, and any servants you may please to require to attend upon you. This has for some time past engaged my attention, and I trust nothing will intervene to thwart my expectations. Alas! they have been but too much disappointed already by the adverse winds, which still continue to weary our patience.

"I dined to-day on board the Minotaur, the weather having proved nearly calm; it is the first time since we left Bequir that I have consented to leave the ship. I hope to fall in with the Colossus and some victuallers, which I find, by the Flora, were on their way to our squadron, supposing us to have been off Malta, blockading the French fleet. Strange that at so late a period Earl St. Vincent had not obtained information of their having sailed from that island!

"Sunday.—The wind always continues contrary; but we get on, notwithstanding, by slow degrees. I made up for last Sunday, and had Divine service performed, and dined in the ward-room. We obtained a small supply of stock from the Thalia when she joined us; I should have told you that I despatched her and the cutter towards Naples, to meet Sir Horatio.

"Tuesday evening.—The wind has at last favoured us for a few hours, and to-morrow I hope to be in sight of Syracuse. A vessel was yesterday spoken with, that had an ambassador on board from Constantinople, going to the different states in Barbary, to direct them to arm against the French. An English frigate had arrived at the Sublime Porte with the news of the defeat of their fleet at Alexandria; but I am at a loss to conjecture what the frigate was. The French officers "sont indignes de cette insulte offerte a la grande nation."

"Thursday.—We at last gained sight of Mount AEtna yesterday evening; but the winds still prove very contrary, and I fear we shall be obliged, much against my inclination, to put into either Syracuse or Messina: we are at present off the former place. By a boat that has joined one of the ships, I find they only heard of the battle four days ago. They are disposed to give us a hearty welcome, but I hope we shall have no occasion for their well-meant intentions.

"Friday.—We last night fell in with the Marquis de Niza's squadron, on their return from the mouth of the Nile. The Marquis hailed me that he was very sorry he had not arrived a few days sooner. We were much better without him."

Sir James sent, by the Thalia, the following letters to Sir Horatio:

Orion, Port of Augusta, 16th September 1798.

MY DEAR ADMIRAL,

I fear you will be disappointed at finding that we are no further on our voyage than this place. We were three days in sight of Sicily, endeavouring to beat round Cape Pesaro; and, Friday afternoon, the wind set in so strong to the westward, that I was obliged to endeavour to get into Syracuse, but I found the wind directly out of the harbour, and stood again to the southward. It blew a gale all night; and in the morning, seeing no possibility of getting into Syracuse, I bore up for this place, where the squadron anchored yesterday afternoon. We are completing the water with all expedition, but I am disappointed that there is no wine to be had but at a very high price. We are supplied with bullocks and other articles the same as at Syracuse; and, as at that place, the people are exorbitant in their demands. Every possible attention has been shown by the governor. I paid him a visit of ceremony this morning with the other captains of the squadron. He appears a man of the first respectability.

I thought it proper to mention to him that I had seen Mr. Acton's letter, which stated that his Majesty's ships were to be received in the ports of this island; and I should do him great injustice, did I not observe to you, sir, his earnest endeavours that we should be supplied with everything we require on the most reasonable terms.

A vessel, which left Malta six days ago, reports that the inhabitants have revolted against the French, who are driven to the greatest stress by the want of provisions. They seem very anxious for the appearance of an English squadron off that island.

I hope to have the squadron completed in water by Wednesday next, and to put to sea the same evening. The Spartiate has caused us considerable uneasiness, having unfortunately got aground by bordering too near the light-house. She was however got off without sustaining any damage. All your friends, with me, desire their best compliments.

I am, my dear Admiral, Your ever faithful and obedient servant, JAMES SAUMAREZ.

To Sir Horatio Nelson.

Orion, Augusta, 20th September 1798.

MY DEAR ADMIRAL,

I feel great satisfaction in acquainting you that the squadron and all the prizes are completed with water, and will be ready to proceed to sea at daylight to-morrow morning. The westerly winds have prevailed ever since our arrival, and I fear still continue in the channel of Malta; but it is of such importance to get from this place before easterly winds set in, that not a moment has been lost in getting the ships forward, which must be evident to you when you consider our great demands for water, and that we have only four boats in the squadron to supply the ships. We have been abundantly supplied with fresh provisions, and each ship takes twelve or fourteen bullocks to sea; but wine was not to be had at any reasonable rate. We have found difficulty in obtaining cash for the articles purchased on account of Government in a place where there scarcely exists any trade, and where the inhabitants are extremely poor. The governor has offered us every possible assistance; and I must entreat you will represent to Mr. Acton the zeal and earnest endeavours he has shown to forward the King's service. I have the honour to be, &c.

JAS. SAUMAREZ.

To Sir Horatio Nelson.

"Saturday, 22nd September.—A whole week has elapsed since I closed the account of our voyage; having the following day been under the necessity, from the state of the weather, to put into Augusta, a port a few leagues from Syracuse. We sailed thence yesterday, after completing the squadron with water. We found abundance of provisions, and each ship has sailed with a dozen or fourteen oxen, besides sheep, fowls, &c. Augusta is a more modern town than Syracuse, having been rebuilt after an earthquake thirty years ago. It has no trade, and the inhabitants are extremely poor; the ships were visited by them daily, but we went to very few parties on shore. A few leagues from Augusta there is a considerable town called Catania. I regretted much it was not in my power to visit it, as there we might have had many things that would have been very acceptable in England.

"In passing Syracuse yesterday, several of the principal inhabitants came on board; and I was happy in sending a letter to you, enclosed to Admiral Nelson at Naples. I hope to be with you as soon as it arrives, having still every expectation of being in England in the month of October. My mind is much more at ease since we have obtained the last supplies, as a small quantity of salt provisions, which we can have from the fleet, will enable the ships to proceed for England without stopping at Gibraltar, or any other place; and if the Orion is not of the number, great will be my disappointment.

"Thursday, 27th of September.—I have been very much engaged on public business of great importance the last three days, which, I am sorry to say, has not turned out quite equal to my wishes. On Monday I fell in with the Marquis de Niza's squadron, which had been ordered off Malta by Admiral Nelson. On Tuesday a deputation of the principal inhabitants came on board the Orion, to solicit a supply of arms and ammunition; at the same time informing me that the French garrison were in the greatest distress, and that, if the town was summoned, they had good grounds to believe they would be induced to surrender. I waited on the Marquis de Niza, who readily concurred in sending a flag of truce with proposals to the French garrison. After three hours' deliberation they returned a very concise answer,[19] which although not satisfactory at this time, leaves little doubt that they will be compelled to surrender very shortly. Before I came away, I supplied the inhabitants, from the prizes, with twelve hundred muskets, and a great quantity of ammunition, of which they were in great want. I only regretted it was not in my power to stay a few days off the island. The Guillaume Tell and two frigates are in the harbour, and must fall with the garrison. A report prevailed that Le Genereux was lost; these ships form the remaining force that escaped us from the mouth of the Nile.

[19] See Appendix.

"We are now pursuing our voyage with slow steps; but, as the light winds lead us in the fair track, we must not complain. I was glad to learn from the Marquis de Niza that the Colossus was seen going to Naples, with four victuallers and a store-ship. A frigate is now in sight, joining me, by which I hope to receive good accounts.

"Friday morning.—The frigate proved to be the Terpsichore, from the Admiral, whom she left ten days ago going to Naples. The Terpsichore was going off Malta for intelligence, and to look out for the Colossus, with the victuallers. As I could satisfy the Admiral on both those points, I despatched her immediately for Naples. We have now a fine Siroc wind, attended with all its usual close dampness; but, as it wafts us down the Mediterranean, we readily put up with its disagreeable attendants, without the risk of hanging ourselves. I intend to part with the Minotaur and Audacious to-day, agreeably to my orders. Fortunately, I exchanged their men from the prizes two days ago, as it would have been attended with danger to do it in the present weather. We have taken our final leave of Sicily this morning.

"Sunday, 30th Sept. The weather has proved very unfavourable the last three days. Le Souverain has sustained some disasters, and causes me great uneasiness. I hope, in another week, to get the distance of Gibraltar, where we may all be better refitted. I cannot be too thankful for the supplies we obtained at Augusta; the squadron would otherwise have been much distressed for want of water and provisions. We are in sight of Sardinia, with every appearance of a favourable breeze. To-morrow we enter the ever propitious month. I still hope my expectations will be fulfilled; although I own that probability is against their accomplishment.

"Thursday, 4th October.—This month began most auspiciously with a fine breeze of wind, which continued all the following day; but yesterday morning we experienced a tremendous gale to the northward, with a very heavy sea, which still continues: the wind has again shifted favourably, and I hope this time will carry us through the Straits; but we have had so many disappointments that we must not trust to appearances.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7     Next Part
Home - Random Browse