Admiral Linois, from the specimen he had had of the determined perseverance of the British commander-in-chief, had no wish to try another contest; nor was it possible for him to escape the risk of one, either by lying under the protection of the Spanish batteries, or by proceeding to Cadiz. He lost no time, therefore, in sending an express to the Spanish Admiral Mazzaredo, and the French Rear-admiral Dumanoir, who, with Commodore Le Ray and other officers and men, had previously arrived in two frigates at Cadiz for the purpose of equipping the Spanish fleet, imploring the assistance of a squadron to convoy them to Cadiz, before the English ships under Sir James Saumarez could be refitted; adding in his despatch, "I have just received advice that the enemy intends burning us at our anchorage. It is in your power to save for the Republic three fine ships of the line and a frigate by merely ordering the Spanish squadron to come and seek us."
This demand, through the influence of Admiral Dumanoir, was immediately acceded to by Mazzaredo, who ordered Vice-admiral Moreno to proceed with five sail of the line, three frigates, and a lugger, accompanied by the San Antonio, manned partly with French and Spaniards, in which Admiral Dumanoir hoisted his flag. The movements of these ships were observed by Captain Keats in the Superb, who, in consequence of information he had received from an American, returned with the Thames and Pasley off Cadiz.
At daylight, on the 9th, this squadron put to sea, except the San Antonio, which, being unable to fetch out, came to an anchor in the road. The rest made sail up the Straits, preceded by the Superb, Thames, and Pasley; and, the wind being fair, the former reached Algeziras about four P.M., while the latter, as already stated, anchored in Gibraltar Bay, to unite their efforts in refitting the shattered ships. On the next morning, the San Antonio, with Admiral Dumanoir's flag, arrived at Algeziras.
As the object of this overwhelming force could be no other than to conduct in safety the three French ships, and their prize the Hannibal, to Cadiz or Carthagena, the exertions of the British officers and men were redoubled in getting the damaged ships ready to meet the enemy. They accomplished what has been justly acknowledged, one of the most extraordinary undertakings ever known.
The Pompee was in too bad a state to leave any hopes that she could be got ready in time; her men, therefore, were distributed to assist in repairing the other ships: and all idea of refitting the Caesar was on the point of being abandoned!
The following account given by Captain Brenton will be read with much interest: "Sir James now expressed the greatest anxiety to have as many of his little squadron as possible ready for action, that he might avail himself at any moment of the motions of the enemy to make an attack upon some part of them; and despairing, from the state of the Caesar, that she could possibly be got in readiness before the departure of the ships from Algeziras, he expressed a wish that the deficiencies in the other ships might be made up from the crew of the Caesar; but on my entreaty for permission to keep them while a possibility remained of getting her in a state to receive his flag again, he consented, hoisting it for the time on board the Audacious.
"On communicating to the people what had passed, there was a universal cry, 'All hands all night and all day until the ship is ready!' so earnest were they to carry the flag of their beloved Admiral again into battle, and so sanguine in the expectation of victory, notwithstanding the disparity of force,—nearly two to one! This I could not consent to, as they would have been worn out and incapable of further exertion; but I directed that all hands should be employed during the day, and that they should work watch and watch during the night. They immediately commenced their various duties, with all the energy and zeal that could be expected from men under such powerful causes of excitement. The new main-mast was got in forthwith, and extraordinary efforts made to refit the rigging.
"On Saturday, the 11th, the enemy showed symptoms of moving; and the Admiral, fearing they might get out in the night, again suggested that the people from the Caesar should be distributed, and every idea of getting her ready abandoned; but I entreated, and obtained permission to keep them during that night, under the promise that they should be held in readiness at a minute's warning to proceed to the ship pointed out to receive them.
"The enemy having anchored again, the Admiral went to dine with the governor; and, on his return on board, was greatly delighted at beholding the ship apparently ready for sea, although much yet remained to be done."
We must here pay a just tribute to the professional abilities and conduct of Captain (now Sir Jahleel) Brenton. He was, in the first place, well aware of the magnitude of the labour which the men had to perform, and saw the danger of allowing his brave crew to be worn out with fatigue in attempting that to which the human frame is unequal. He therefore decided that, instead of working on until the labour was finished, according to the seamen's laudable wishes, they should have such a portion of rest as would enable them to resume their labour with renewed energy. In the second place, he knew that without system, the exertions of the men would be in vain; but the admirable directions he gave employed every man in what he was best able to perform without impeding his neighbour, whilst every part of the labour advanced simultaneously. There has, indeed, never yet been on record an instance of a ship performing such a task so well and in so short a time.
Although the services going on required many men to be on shore for gunpowder and other stores, to replace what had been expended, there was not a single complaint of any one absenting himself from his duty, or of being intoxicated; though the inducement must have been great, from the number of wine-houses on the Rock: but such was the desire of these brave fellows to be avenged for the loss of the Hannibal, that they would not allow any temptation to induce them to swerve from the duty they had to perform.
The extraordinary anxiety of mind, and the multiplicity of duty he had to perform, did not divert the attention of Sir James from the situation of the unfortunate crew of the Hannibal, especially the wounded, who were suffering as well from want of proper surgical care as from the treatment they had received. He once more made a strong, but fruitless attempt for their exchange, by addressing the following letter to Admiral Linois:
Caesar, off Rosia Bay, 10th July 1801.
I am impelled by motives of humanity again to renew my application in behalf of the men unfortunately wounded on board his Britannic Majesty's ship Hannibal, and to request they may be permitted to come to this garrison without delay. A proposition so conformable to the laws of civilised nations I trust cannot be rejected; but, should you further refuse to comply with it, you must take upon yourself the impression all the world must have of so cruel a proceeding as to deny those unhappy people the benefit of their own hospital, where they would receive surgical assistance, and not be subjected to the severe treatment they have so long experienced in their present situation.
I am, sir, Your most obedient humble servant, JAMES SAUMAREZ.
Rear-admiral Linois, &c. &c. &c.
No answer having been given to this application, the correspondence ended, to be resumed under more favourable circumstances.
Sir James now added to the duplicates of his despatches (which had been sent in charge of Lieutenant Janvarin, by way of Tangier,) the following letter to his brother:
Caesar, Gibraltar, 10th July 1801.
You will, I hope, receive the letters I have written to you on the subject of the enterprise of our squadron against three ships of the line and a frigate, at anchor in Algeziras Bay, last Monday; for a more particular account of which I must refer you to my public letter. But as my friends, with their usual anxiety on my account, will naturally wish further information from me, I must assure them in justice to myself and for their satisfaction, that everything was done that depended on myself, both in the planning and executing the business; but I cannot be accountable for the accidents that prevented its success. Even within an hour from our first engaging, and before any of our ships had sustained much injury, the Pompee, which was remarkably well placed against the inner ship, which proved to be the French Admiral, had at one time nearly silenced her, and must have done so in less than ten minutes, had not an unfortunate flaw of wind broke her sheer; and from that moment she was unable to bring one of her guns to bear on the enemy's ship.
A short time after, the Hannibal got a fine breeze of wind, and was lying up in the handsomest manner for the French ship; but unfortunately, wishing to go between her and the shore, got aground. Surely in either of these instances I was not concerned.
I had, before this, cut our cables, to profit by a favourable breeze to close the other two ships; but before we got near them it failed us, as well as the Audacious, and with the current we drove close to the island battery, where we remained a considerable time before either of the ships could clear a shoal close to it. At length a fine breeze sprung up, which gave the most favourable hope of carrying us close to the enemy's ships, and, by silencing them, to extricate the unfortunate Hannibal.
But here, again, it most unhappily failed us; and although we had, at different times, opened a heavy fire upon them, we were still not sufficiently near to silence them effectually; and, the wind all the time leading us farther off, I was constrained to abandon all hopes of success, and proceeded with the squadron to this anchorage.
The Superb yesterday joined us, with the Thames. Captain Keats, having seen the enemy coming out of Cadiz, appeared with the signal of their being in sight, and they soon after came round Cabrita Point. Two are three-deckers, and three are seventy-fours, with three frigates. If it draws this force to the Mediterranean, some good may come from it. A squadron is hourly expected from Lord Keith, and probably some ships may soon join us from England. We shall have all the ships in readiness; and the junction of a few ships, would make us again superior to the enemy's force. I must not forget to mention that Captain Brenton has shown himself a brave and most able officer.
It is with difficulty I have found a leisure moment to write this. All I request of my friends is, to feel assured that the failure of this enterprise has in no instance proceeded from myself; and every one is ready to acknowledge that I did, in every respect, all that depended on me. This, you will perceive, is written in the midst of much bustle and a most active scene.
The despatches contained accounts of the arrival of the Spanish squadron, and of Sir James's determination to attack them if they attempted to put to sea, even with the force under his command. He also sent despatches to Lisbon to delay any convoys which might be sailing; and to Lord Keith, in the Mediterranean, to inform his lordship of all the circumstances we have related. The Plymouth lugger had already sailed, the wind being fair, with Captain Ferris, who, as well as Lieutenant Hills, were bearers of the interesting details.
The intense interest which these circumstances created on the Rock of Gibraltar is far beyond description; nor do we know whether the kind and sympathising reception which the suffering heroes met with on their return from Algeziras was more worthy of praise than the unparalleled exertions made to renew the conflict. On the one hand, had the squadron arrived after the most complete and glorious victory, they could not have been received in a manner more gratifying to their feelings; while, on the other hand, it was evident that every man was worthy of such generous and such noble conduct.
The attention of the governor, the garrison, and the inhabitants, although themselves in a state of privation, was unremitting. We shall leave them for the present preparing to take farewell of each other on the evening before the Admiral's departure, to meet what must have appeared to every spectator an overwhelming foe!
Occurrences at Gibraltar.—Determination of Sir James to attack the combined squadron.—Caesar rehoists the Admiral's flag.—Sir J. Brenton's description of that interesting scene.—His account of the battle.—Destruction of two Spanish three-deckers.—Capture of the St. Antonio.—Action between the Venerable and Formidable.—Public letters.—Private letters.—French details of the battle.—Spanish ditto.—Orders of sailing.—Remarks.
General O'Hara the gallant governor, and the brave garrison of Gibraltar, had beheld from the Rock, which is only four miles from Algeziras, the long-contested, severe, but unfortunate conflict of the 6th of July. They had witnessed the bravery of their countrymen. Their intense anxiety for the success of the Admiral's daring attack had been changed into sympathy for the loss his squadron had sustained; and, fully convinced that not only no honour had been sacrificed, but that the character of the nation had been gloriously maintained, the unsuccessful were received at the Rock, as if they had returned from a victory. The garrison beheld with admiration the wonderful efforts which were made to meet a still more formidable foe. Every day marked the progress of the Herculean labours in preparation for that event; the exertions, zeal, and intrepidity of Sir James's officers and crews increased in proportion to the multiplied force of the enemy, which, to men of any other cast, would have appeared overwhelming!
After one of the severest engagements on record, the British squadron, in the short space of five days, had repaired its damages, and sought the enemy, whose force had been nearly tripled by the junction of six ships and three frigates from Cadiz. With such men, and in such a cause, victory seemed certain, notwithstanding the great disparity of force between the belligerents, and the exertions of the enemy proved, that he expected a tremendous struggle. Every circumstance contributed to render the approaching contest more eventful. Their late unsuccessful attack only served to animate the officers and crews with a noble enthusiasm, and a desire to put their valour to another but a fairer trial; and they well knew that their Admiral would lead them to the combat with that consummate skill, and deliberate courage which had so justly rendered his name illustrious.
At length the moment arrived. The enemy, whose force almost tripled that of the English, were seen under sail; the wind was fair, and the weather fine. The Caesar, having rehoisted the Admiral's flag, made the signal to prepare for battle!
For a description of the intensely interesting and animating scene which followed, we gladly avail ourselves of a communication kindly made to us by Sir Jahleel Brenton, the gallant captain of the Caesar on that memorable occasion.
"12th July 1801.—At daylight the enemy were seen making every preparation for sailing; and in the course of the forenoon were getting under way, and working out of the bay with a fresh wind from the eastward. As they required to make several tacks for this purpose, it was past one o'clock before the headmost ships could clear Cabrita Point, when they brought to, to wait for the others to join them.
"At half-past two the Caesar hauled out of the Mole, her band playing "Cheer up my lads, 'tis to glory we steer!" which was answered by the military band on the Mole-head with "Britons, strike home!" At the same moment the Admiral's flag was rehoisted on board the Caesar; and sail being made upon her, she weighed amidst the deafening cheers and acclamations of the garrison, and the whole assembled population, carrying with her the sincerest and most ardent wishes for victory.
"She took her station off Europa Point, with the signals for her little squadron to close round her, and to prepare for battle. We then returned the salute which had been fired by the garrison on entering the bay on the 6th; and which, in consequence of being immediately engaged with the enemy, we could not do at the time. It was delightful during this and the preceding days to witness the calm, but decided manner of the admiral. He had evidently calculated the awful responsibility under which he was placed; and this, at the same time, was self-imposed; for it was by no means incumbent on him as a duty, with only five sail of the line, viz. the Caesar, Superb, Spencer, Venerable, and Audacious, to attack an enemy with six fresh ships, of which number two mounted one hundred and twelve guns each, one of ninety, and three of seventy-four, in addition to the three French ships we had already engaged, and their prize, the Hannibal. But our chief had counted the cost, and made up his mind to the enterprise. His intention was to throw his whole force upon whatever part of the enemy's line he might be able to reach; depending upon the talents of his captains, and the discipline of his ships, to make up for the disparity of force, especially in a night action.
 While off Europa point, and probably at the distance of more than half a mile, a boat with two men was observed pulling towards us, and, on coming alongside, the men proved to be two of our own people, who had been wounded in the action of Algeziras, and sent to the hospital at Gibraltar. On seeing the ship under sail, with the evident intention of attacking the enemy, these gallant fellows asked permission of the surgeon to rejoin their ship, and being refused, on account of their apparent unfitness, they made their escape from the hospital, and taking possession of the first boat they could find, pulled off to the ship.
Two other seamen belonging to the Pompee, who had not been selected as part of the reinforcement to the crews of the other ships, secreted themselves on board the Caesar, and the day after the action presented themselves on the quarter-deck, with a request that intercession might be made for them with their captain, telling their story in the following quaint manner:—"Sir, we belongs to the Le Pompee, and finding our ship could not get out, we stowed ourselves away in this ship, and, in the action, quartered ourselves to the "10th gun, and opposite —— on the lower deck," referring, at the same time, to the officer in command of this division of guns, for the truth of their statement.
"The squadron was soon assembled off Europa, and we beheld that of the enemy forming their line off Cabrita, about five miles to leeward, waiting for the Hannibal, which was the last ship to leave Algeziras. Sir James now made the interrogatory signal to know if all the ships were ready for battle, which was most properly answered in the negative, as all had much to do. The time which the combined squadron took to get into the order of battle and sailing was invaluable to all of us, by enabling us to complete the arrangements so necessary upon so momentous an occasion. At length, every ship having announced her readiness for action, the Admiral made the signal for them to be prepared to follow his motions. He had already communicated with his captains his plan of attack, and no other signal was made, or was necessary.
"At eight o'clock the Hannibal, unable to work out of the Bay, was observed to anchor again at Algeziras, and the enemy bore up through the Straits; the Caesar's helm was instantly put up, a blue light being burned at the same time for the squadron to follow. At 8h. 40m. the Superb was gaining fast upon us, and the Admiral ordered me to hail Captain Keats, directing him to engage the ship nearest to the Spanish shore. The enemy was retreating in two lines abreast, thus:
(Representation of illustration follows)
2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10
the three French ships in the van, the Spanish squadron in the rear. Had the Hannibal succeeded in getting out of the bay, she was to have taken the station ahead of the French ships, at the place marked with a cross H, in order to put her in the greatest security, and to preserve their trophy.
"At five minutes past eleven the Superb opened her fire; and, very shortly after, the two sternmost ships of the enemy were seen to be in flames. We were rapidly approaching them, and orders had been sent down to the officers at their quarters to fire as soon as the guns would bear.
"I was at this time standing on the poop ladder, near the Admiral, when he seized me by the shoulder, and, pointing to the flames bursting out, exclaimed, 'My God, sir, look there! the day is ours!' A more magnificent scene never presented itself, as may be easily imagined, than two ships of such immense magnitude as the Spanish first-rates, on board of each other in flames, with a fresh gale, the sea running high, and their sails in the utmost confusion. The flames, ascending the rigging with the rapidity of lightning, soon communicated to the canvass, which instantly became one sheet of fire. A very general feeling of regret and sympathy seemed to be quickly experienced around us when we beheld the Spanish colours brilliantly illuminated by the dreadful conflagration, instead of the French. The unfortunate Spaniards, having become at once the tools and the victims of France, were objects of our sincere commiseration.
"The Superb was now seen a little way on the starboard bow, engaged with one of the enemy's ships, while several others were in sight at a distance ahead. We kept on our course, and after having fired a broadside into the Superb's opponent, (which, however, was already nearly silenced), continued the chase, followed by the Venerable; but, when nearly the length of Trafalgar, our wounded masts complained so much, that we were under the necessity of close-reefing the main-top-sail, and taking in the fore-top-sail. The Admiral was also anxious to get his squadron round him, that he might, with his collected force, reach Cadiz before the morning, and cut the enemy off from the only port in which they could find security.
"The easterly wind, which, although blowing with great violence in the Straits, is seldom felt close in shore on either the Spanish or African coasts, entirely failed us as we hauled round Cape Trafalgar, and left our ship rolling heavily in the swell, to the great danger of our masts. At half-past twelve o'clock one of the Spanish three-deckers blew up, with a tremendous explosion, and soon after the other. They had previously separated, after their masts had fallen, and the rigging was consumed; and they were seen for some time burning at a distance from each other, before their fatal termination.
"As the Admiral and myself were looking over the chart together, in order to shape our course for Cadiz, we heard an alarming cry of 'Fire!' and, running out upon deck, were enveloped in a thick sulphrueous smoke, which seemed to pervade every part of the ship. Soon, however, we found it clear away, and ascertained the cause to be, that we had run into the column of smoke and vapour arising from the explosion of the Spanish ship, which, being too dense to rise, lay along the surface of the water. We gradually emerged from this, and were relieved from our apprehensions of sharing the fate of our unhappy enemies.
"At the dawn of day we saw the Venerable close to a French line-of-battle ship, and drawing up with her by the aid of a light air off the Spanish shore. At five o'clock the Venerable opened her fire upon the enemy. The breeze dying away, the two ships were enveloped in a cloud of smoke. The Caesar, at the distance of about a mile and a half, was perfectly becalmed. The boats were sent ahead, in hopes of being able to tow her within gun-shot of the enemy. In the course of a short time, a light breeze having dispersed the dense cloud of smoke which the fire of the two ships had occasioned, we discovered the Venerable with her main-mast gone, and her opponent availing herself of the air from the eastward to draw away, and pursue her course for Cadiz, firing her stern-chasers at the Venerable. The remainder of the enemy's squadron, consisting of five sail of the line and one frigate, in which both the French and Spanish admirals were embarked, were discerned in the N.W., at a considerable distance, coming down with a westerly wind.
"The Superb having secured the prize, was approaching us from the S.E., and the Spencer and Audacious were also to the southward. Such was the relative situation of the squadrons, when, at eight minutes past eight, the Venerable made the signal of having struck on a shoal. The Admiral, very apprehensive of her falling into the hands of the enemy, sent me with discretional orders to Captain Hood, that, should he not be able to get her off the shoal, he might put his men into the Thames, and burn the Venerable, making the signal at the same time for the Thames to close with the Venerable as soon as possible. I had scarcely left the Caesar when I saw the Venerable's fore-mast go over the side; and before I reached her the mizen-mast followed. I found her, on going on board, a perfect wreck, striking on the shoal, and the shot from the stern-chase guns of the Formidable, her opponent, going over her. The gallant Hood was seated on a gun on the quarter-deck, cheerfully waiting for the assistance which he knew the Admiral would send to him as soon as the wind would enable him, and ready to take advantage of any circumstance that might occur.
"Having delivered my message from the Admiral, he said, 'Tell Sir James I hope it is not yet so bad with the old Venerable; I hope to get her off soon. Let the Thames stay by me, in readiness to receive our people. These rascals shall not have her.' I returned to my ship; the breeze sprung up; and the Thames closing with the Venerable, enabled her to heave off the shoal, and the enemy availed himself of the wind to get into Cadiz. The Venerable was soon under jury-masts and in tow of the Spencer, steering for Gibraltar, followed by the rest of the squadron; where we all anchored, with our prize, the San Antonio, of seventy-four guns, at 6 P.M. on the 14th.
"The scene before us, on anchoring, was of the most animating description. Every point of the Rock overhanging the shore was crowded with people, and the acclamations of the troops and inhabitants which rent the air resounded throughout the bay! Here, indeed, was a triumph for our hero, who, only a week before, had been towed in from Algeziras with his crippled and defeated squadron, with the loss of a ship of the line; but now entering victorious with the same squadron, reinforced, it is true, by the Superb, but diminished by the loss of the Hannibal, while the disabled state of the Pompee had prevented her leaving Gibraltar; after having engaged and defeated an enemy of more than double his force, and having burnt two of their first-rates, and taken from them a ship of the line.
"From the nature of the attack and retreat, there was not much hard fighting on this occasion, and consequently little opportunity for any display of that valour and skill which is so constantly manifested in severe actions. The Superb and Venerable had the greatest, and almost the only share. But the conduct of the Admiral, I will venture to say, when all the circumstances are taken into consideration, must be deemed fully equal to anything that has adorned the pages of England's naval history. Instead of the recklessness of despair, to which some might have attributed an attack with crippled ships against a force every way so greatly superior, he manifested a calm and resolute determination. His intentions were expressed with so much clearness that, as I have already observed, signals were rendered unnecessary. He waited with much patience and firmness for the enemy to bear up, which would place them in a situation the least favourable for resisting a simultaneous attack upon any portion of their squadron.
"When the governor, the garrison, and the inhabitants of Gibraltar, who had passed the night with painful anxiety beheld the approach of the victorious squadron, their joy and exultation knew no bounds. Even the wounded at the hospitals, when they heard of the glorious success which had attended their brethren in arms, raising their stumps, joined in the general burst of acclamation. On the arrival of the Caesar, the royal standard was hoisted, twenty-one guns were fired at the King's Bastion, and the whole of this noble fortress was brilliantly illuminated in honour of the victory."
After the termination of this contest,—a contest which may be said to have lasted seven days, in which two battles had been fought under peculiar disadvantages, and which ended in adding another brilliant ray to the naval glory of Britain,—Sir James, with that humility which had ever formed a distinguished feature in his character, returned thanks to the great Giver of all victory for crowning his exertions with success.
The following general memorandum was given out to the squadron, on their return to Gibraltar:
Caesar, Rosia Bay, 15th July 1801.
Rear-admiral Sir James Saumarez has the happiness to offer his most heartfelt congratulations to the captains, officers, and men of the ships he had the honour to command, on the signal success with which it has pleased Almighty God to crown their zealous exertions in the service of their country. To the discipline and valour of British seamen is to be ascribed their great superiority over the enemy, who, although more than triple the force of the English squadron in number of guns and weight of metal, have been so signally defeated.
The Rear-admiral has not failed to transmit in his late despatches a report of the unparalleled exertions of all the officers and men in refitting his Majesty's ships after the battle of Algeziras, where their conduct and bravery were equally conspicuous, and which has led to the late glorious success.
To the respective Captains, &c.
Lieutenant Dumaresq, of the Caesar, was now despatched in the Louisa brig to England, with the following official accounts of the action from the Rear-admiral, and from Captains Keats and Hood:
Caesar, off Cape Trafalgar, 13th July 1801.
I request you will please to inform my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty that it has pleased the Almighty to crown the exertions of this squadron with the most signal success over the enemies of their country.
The three French line-of-battle ships disabled in the action of the 6th instant off Algeziras, were, on the 8th, reinforced by a squadron of five Spanish line-of-battle ships, under the command of Don Juan Joaquin de Moreno, and a French ship of seventy-four guns, wearing a broad pendant; besides three frigates, and an incredible number of gun-boats and other vessels; and got under sail yesterday morning, together with his Majesty's late ship Hannibal, which they had succeeded in getting off the shoal on which she struck.
I almost despaired of having a sufficient force in readiness to oppose to such numbers; but, through the great exertions of Captain Brenton, and the officers and men belonging to the Caesar, the ship was in readiness to warp out of the Mole yesterday morning, and got under way immediately after, with all the squadron except the Pompee, which ship had not had time to get her masts in.
Confiding in the zeal and intrepidity of the officers and men I had the happiness to serve with, I determined, if possible, to obstruct the passage of this powerful force to Cadiz. Late in the evening I observed the enemy's ships to have cleared Cabrita Point; and, at eight, I bore up with the squadron to stand after them. His Majesty's ship Superb being stationed ahead of the Caesar, I directed Captain Keats to make sail and attack the sternmost ships of the enemy's rear, using his endeavours to keep in-shore of them.
At eleven, the Superb opened her fire close to the enemy's ships; and, on the Caesar's coming up and preparing to engage a three-decker that had hauled her wind, she was perceived to have taken fire; and the flames having communicated to a ship to leeward of her, both were soon in a blaze, and presented a most awful sight. As no possibility existed of affording the least assistance in so distressing a situation, the Caesar passed, to close with the ship engaged by the Superb; but, by the cool and determined fire kept up on her, which must ever reflect the highest credit on the discipline of that ship, she was completely silenced, and soon after hauled down her colours.
The Venerable and Spencer having at this time come up, I bore up after the enemy, who were carrying a press of sail, standing out of the Straits; and lost sight of them. During the night it blew excessively hard till daylight, and, in the morning, the only ships in company were the Venerable and Thames, ahead of the Caesar, and one of the French ships at some distance from them, standing towards the shoals of Conil, besides the Spencer astern, coming up.
All the ships immediately made sail with a fresh breeze, but, as we approached, the wind suddenly failing, the Venerable was alone able to bring her to action; which Captain Hood did in the most gallant manner, and had nearly silenced the French ship, when his main-mast (which had been before wounded) was unfortunately shot away, and, it coming nearly calm, the enemy's ship was enabled to get off without any possibility of following her. The highest praise is due to Captain Hood, the officers, and men of the Venerable, for their spirit and gallantry in this action, which entitled them to better success. The French ship was an eighty-four, with additional guns on the gunwale. This action was so near the shore that the Venerable struck on one of the shoals; but was soon after got off, and taken in tow by the Thames, though with the loss of all her masts.
The enemy's ships are now in sight to the westward, standing in for Cadiz; the Superb and Audacious, with the captured ship, are in sight, with the Carlotta, Portuguese frigate, commanded by Captain Crawford Duncan, who very handsomely came out with the squadron, and has been of the greatest assistance to Captain Keats in staying by the enemy's ship captured by the Superb.
I am proceeding with the squadron for Rosia Bay, and shall proceed, the moment all the ships are refitted, to resume my station before Cadiz; and shall immediately detach the Thames to cruise off Cape St. Mary's.
No praises that I can bestow are adequate to the merits of the officers and ships' companies of all the squadron, particularly for their unremitted exertions in refitting the ships at Gibraltar; to which, in a great degree, is to be ascribed the success of the squadron against the enemy.
Although the Spencer and Audacious had not the good fortune to partake of this action, I have no doubt of their exertion, had they come up in time to close with the enemy's ships.
My thanks are also due to Captain Holles of the Thames, and to the Honourable Captain Dundas of the Calpe, whose assistance was particularly useful to Captain Keats in securing the enemy's ship, and enabling the Superb to stand after the squadron in case of being enabled to renew the action with the enemy.
I have the honour to be, sir, Your most obedient humble servant, JAS. SAUMAREZ.
To Evan Nepean, Esq. &c. &c. &c. Admiralty.
Caesar, off Cape Trafalgar, 14th July 1801.
I herewith enclose, for their lordships' further information, the statement I have received from Captain Keats, to whom the greatest praise is due for his gallant conduct in the service alluded to. Captain Hood's merits are held in too high estimation to receive additional lustre from any praise I can bestow; but I only do justice to my feelings, when I observe that in no instance have I known superior bravery to that displayed by him on this occasion.
I have the honour to be, sir, Your most obedient servant, JAS. SAUMAREZ.
To Evan Nepean, Esq. Admiralty.
Superb, off Cape Trafalgar, 13th July 1801.
Pursuant to your directions to state the particulars of the Superb's services last night, I have the honour to inform you that, in consequence of your directions to make sail up to, and engage, the sternmost of the enemy's ships, at half-past eleven I found myself abreast of a Spanish three-deck ship, (the Real Carlos, as appears by the report of some survivors,) which, having been brought with two other ships, in nearly line abreast, I opened my fire upon them at not more than three cables' lengths. This evidently produced a good effect, as well in this ship as the others abreast of her, which soon began firing at each other, and, at times, on the Superb. In about a quarter of an hour, I perceived the ship I was engaging, and which had lost her fore-top-mast, to be on fire; upon which we ceased to molest her; and I proceeded on to the ship next at hand, which proved to be the San Antonio, of seventy-four guns and seven hundred and thirty men, commanded by Chef-de-division Le Ray, under French colours, wearing a broad pendant, and manned, nearly equally, with seven hundred and thirty French and Spanish seamen, and which, after some action, (the chef being wounded,) struck her colours.
I learn, from the very few survivors of the ships that caught fire and blew up, who, in an open boat, reached the Superb at the time she was taking possession of the San Antonio, that, in the confusion of the action, the Hermenegildo, (a first-rate ship,) mistaking the Real Carlos for an enemy, ran on board of her, and shared her melancholy fate. Services of this nature cannot well be expected to be performed without some loss; but though we have to lament that Lieutenant Edward Waller, and fourteen seamen and marines, have been mostly severely wounded, still there is reason to rejoice that that is the extent of our loss. I received able and active assistance from Mr. Samuel Jackson, the first lieutenant; and it is my duty to represent to you that the officers of all descriptions, seamen and marines, conducted themselves with the greatest steadiness and gallantry.
I have the honour to be, sir, Your most obedient humble servant, R.G. KEATS.
To Sir James Saumarez, Bart. &c. &c. &c.
List of the Spanish and French squadrons which sailed from Algeziras on the 12th July 1801, under command of Don Juan Joaquin de Moreno, Lieutenant-general (or Vice-admiral), and the French Vice-admiral Linois:
SPANISH. Ships' names. Guns. Captains. Where built. Year.
Real Carlos* 112 Don J. Esquerra Havanna 1793 Hermenegildo* 112 Don J. Emparran Do. 1789 San Fernando 96 Don J. Malina Do. 1765 Argonauta 80 Don J. Harrera Ferrol 1798 San Augustin 74 Don R. Jopete Guarnizo 1768 Sabrina 40 _ 514 * Burnt.
Ships' names. Guns. Captains.
Brought over 514 Formidable 84 Amable-Gilles-Troude. Indomptable 84 " Callende. Dessaix 74 Jean A. Chirly-Palliere. San Antonio 74 Julien Le Ray (Commodore), taken. Libre 40 Indienne 40 Muron 40 Vautour 12
Total 962 & Hannibal, 74 not in the action, 1036.
The Spanish and French admirals were on board the Sabrina frigate.
List of the British squadron, commanded by Rear-admiral Sir James Saumarez, which defeated the above combined squadron, 12th July 1801, in the Straits of Gibraltar:
Ships names. Guns. Captains.
Caesar. 84 Captain Jahleel Brenton. Spencer 74 " Henry D'Esterre Darby. Venerable 74 " Samuel Hood. Superb 74 " Rich. Goodwin Keats. Audacious 74 " Shuldham Peard. Thames 36 " A.P. Holles.
Total 416 In favour of the} enemy. } 546
The Rear-admiral had his flag on board the Caesar, 84.
The guns of the enemy's ships being much heavier, increased their weight of metal to triple that of the squadron.
The Superb had Lieutenant Waller, and fourteen seamen and marines, wounded. The Venerable had Mr. J. Williams (her master), fifteen seamen, and two marines, killed; Lieutenant Thomas Church, Mr. Snell (boatswain), Messrs. Massey and Pardoe (midshipmen), seventy-three seamen, and ten marines, wounded.
In the French and Spanish accounts of this action, which will be given hereafter, it will be seen that the loss of the enemy has not been accurately enumerated; but, out of two thousand men that were in the Real Carlos and Hermenegildo, only three hundred were saved. Commodore Le Ray, of the San Antonio, was wounded; but his loss in men, which must have been severe, has not been ascertained.
We shall here give some interesting extracts from private letters from Sir James, written at the close of the battle:
Caesar, 13th July 1801, 8 A.M.
I shall leave you to judge of the difference of my feelings to those when I sat down to write the letter of this day week. To an all-merciful PROVIDENCE is to be ascribed the wonderful and most awful event of last night, which will ever be remembered with terror by the nations it concerned, and by me with infinite gratitude for so peculiar a token of Divine mercy vouchsafed towards me.
 See page 388.
Two days after the action of last Monday, a strong squadron was sent to Algeziras from Cadiz, to protect the disabled French ships, and to convoy them to the latter port, with the Hannibal, which ship they had succeeded in getting off the shoal whereon she had unfortunately grounded. It may be supposed that no exertion was wanting on my part to get the squadron in a state for service; and, beyond all expectation, owing to the great activity and zeal of every officer and man in the squadron, we were in a state to put to sea yesterday, on the enemy's getting under sail from the Bay of Algeziras; the Pompee excepted, which had not sufficient time to get in new masts.
Late in the evening I observed that the enemy's ships, consisting of ten sail of the line and four frigates, had succeeded in clearing the bay; and at eight o'clock I made sail after them. Captain Keats, who, in the Superb, had been much mortified at not having shared in the former affair, being near the Caesar, I directed him to endeavour to bring the rear ships of the enemy to action; myself following with the Venerable, and the other two ships, some distance astern.
It was near midnight when the Superb succeeded in engaging the enemy; and, as we came up, a three-deck ship hauling up for us after having fired at the Superb, by some accident, in the moment we were going to give her our broadside, took fire, which communicating to a ship which we perceived close to her, both were almost instantly in a blaze. So awful a scene I never yet have witnessed. We then closed with the Superb, which had nearly silenced her opponent, when she struck.
Think what a change then took place in the inequality of force with which we began the action! I left the Superb to take care of the prize, and proceeded after the other ships; the Audacious and Spencer having now joined. It came on to blow excessively hard till daylight, when I found the Venerable and Thames a small distance ahead, and one of the French ships standing for the shore. We immediately crowded all sail, and made sure of taking her, when the wind failed us, and the Venerable only was able to engage her; but, being at the time close to the shore, she very unfortunately got aground, and we were obliged to leave her, after sustaining very great damage.
We are now about seven leagues from Cadiz, and I see the remainder of the enemy's squadron going into port. I am as yet ignorant of the ship's name that struck her colours last night. She is, however, one of those that came from Cadiz with the Spanish squadron, but under French colours, and had a broad pendant. We are proceeding to Gibraltar.
The following extract is from a letter to Richard Saumarez, Esq.:
Caesar, off Cadiz, 13th July 1801.
I intend to send Phil. D. with my despatches. You must refer to him for the particulars of the wonderful events since yesterday.
After detailing these events exactly as in the above, he adds, respecting the Venerable:
It was as severe an action as I have known, and must reflect the highest credit on Captain Hood; but having his main-mast shot away, and it falling nearly calm, he was obliged to leave the enemy. We were at this time close to the shoals off the coast, on which the Venerable got aground; but she was afterwards got off, and was taken in tow by the Thames. I fear she has sustained great loss in men. What a surprising change, my dear Richard, to the events of last Monday! To the Divine mercy I entirely ascribe this signal success, who never forsakes those who place their confidence in him! I mean to send the Louisa, which joined me yesterday from Minorca, with Phil. Dumaresq, and doubt not but he will be a welcome messenger. We see the remainder of the enemy's squadron. They are standing for Cadiz, &c.
Sir James subsequently wrote to his eldest brother, residing in Guernsey; and, as his letter will be found to contain additional matter of much interest, we herewith insert it.
Caesar, Gibraltar, 16th July 1801.
MY DEAR BROTHER,
I hope that the several letters I have had the pleasure of writing to you at different opportunities, will arrive safely; and that you and all my friends will not be kept in suspense on events which, thanks to the Divine Providence! have terminated so successfully to the squadron. Although I always trusted some favourable turn would take place, I never could have formed any hopes equal to what has actually occurred. The possession of one or two of the disabled ships, besides the recovery of the Hannibal, was the utmost that could have been expected; but our present success far exceeds that. The destruction of two first-rates, and the capture of a seventy-four, completely cripples the force in Cadiz, and places the squadron with me superior to all the force the enemy can collect; and this, without any loss whatever to this ship, and trifling to the Superb. The men, wounded on board the latter, suffered from the explosion of cartridges in their own ship.
The misfortune to the Venerable was more serious; but this was subsequently to the attack on the enemy's force, and was mainly attributable to the untoward circumstance of the wind failing this ship when we were very close to her.
It is inconceivable the eclat with which we have been received by this garrison, and the distinguished honours paid to the squadron; indeed their marked attention, after the attack of Algeziras, does them great credit; as, after the failure of that business, we exposed Gibraltar to all the inconvenience of a blockaded port; and yet the whole garrison received us as if we had obtained a victory. You must suppose my distress must have been great during the interval: convoys long expected were liable to fall into the enemy's hands, whilst the increasing force at Cadiz would soon have put it out of my power to cope with them.
The St. Antoine has scarcely suffered: my intention is to take her into the service; and in two weeks, I expect, she will be partly manned, and fit for sea. Yesterday, almost all the Hannibal's men were sent in, which will make up our deficiencies, and partly man that ship, when in a fortnight she shall proceed on a particular service.
These are trifling advantages compared to those that result from both actions. The three ships were to have proceeded direct to the Bay of Casquays, at the entrance of the Tagus, where the troops with them were to have taken possession of the batteries, which would have given them complete possession of the trade to and from Lisbon. I have despatched the Spencer and Audacious, and shall join them with this ship, the Pompee, and Superb, the first easterly wind, and cruise before Cadiz with this force, far superior to any the enemy can put to sea. I shall soon be joined by ships from England.
We have, as yet, no accounts since we sailed. You will have the pleasure of mentioning to the relations of the young men I have, that they have all behaved most nobly, and are perfectly well: it is a particular circumstance that, out of six ships, three masters should have been killed, and not one lieutenant hurt out of the whole number.
I hope the benevolence of the public will be extended to the sufferers in these actions: some are piteous objects; indeed, no less than three brave men with the loss of both arms.
I send this by a vessel belonging to Jersey. My dear brother, most sincerely yours, JAS. SAUMAREZ.
John Saumarez, Esq. Guernsey.
P.S.—I am under great concern at the uneasiness you must all suffer at our unsuccessful attack off Algeziras; but this will, I hope, soon remove it. Messrs. Le Mesurier, jointly with Mr. Tucker, Lord St. Vincent's secretary, are appointed agents.
The following letter to Lady Saumarez is dated 17th July, on board the Caesar, at Gibraltar; and gives a detailed account of his proceedings after his arrival there.
Since our arrival here on Tuesday afternoon, every distinguished attention which can be thought of has been paid to the squadron. The day following, the royal standard was hoisted; at noon the garrison saluted; and, in the evening, the most splendid illuminations took place in every habitable part of this famous Rock. Yesterday the governor gave a dinner, and he intends to invite the ladies to a ball on this occasion. We have, also, invitations from the different corps for every day we are likely to remain here: but what has afforded me more satisfaction, is the manner we were received after the attack of Algeziras, which, from the arrival of the Spanish squadron, subjected the garrison to every inconvenience of a port blockaded. The St. Antoine I have ordered to be purchased into the service; and I propose to appoint officers to her. She is a very good ship, and has suffered so little that I expect to have her fit for service in less than a fortnight. The Spencer and Audacious I detached off Cape St. Mary's, and I shall join them with the Pompee and Superb the first easterly wind, and resume my station before Cadiz, where they cannot have more than four ships ready for sea; and, I may venture to pronounce, the Spanish ships will not come out, except the French take possession of the batteries and compel them. We have almost daily accounts from thence, describing the disagreements between the French and Spaniards as most serious. They also describe the two French ships as being in a very shattered condition, and there being no materials in store to repair them.
I think my first accounts will reach you by way of Lisbon; but I hope Dumaresq, with the subsequent ones, will make his appearance very soon after. I am very impatient to hear from England. I require small vessels very much, as I have not been able to convey the accounts of our success to Lord Keith.
When am I to hear from you? and when shall I be assured you have not suffered from the relation of these events? The governor and others talk to me of honours being conferred; but, unless Parliament furnish the means to support them with dignity, I might as well be without them. The only ladies I have yet seen are, Lady Ann Niel and Mrs. Edwards, whose husbands have regiments here; they are very amiable people: besides, Mr. Fyers, whose daughter was married the evening of the illumination,—an ominous day you will think. Captain Brenton will draw you some excellent views of both actions, without partiality. I am most highly indebted to him, in getting this ship so soon refitted, and, indeed, throughout the whole of our important service. A large shot passed through the cabin, which filled it with splinters, and demolished the tables and chairs, besides the glass. Fortunately, my papers and wardrobe escaped. We are now quite refitted; as well, I may say, as we were a fortnight ago.
I am in want of nothing whatever, but letters from you. Let me have favourable accounts of yourself and of our precious children, and I shall be satisfied. I hope to send a box of Malaga raisins for the young tribe. James will be overjoyed to hear of his father's victory.
The following is the account of the above action, from the French commander-in-chief, dated at Cadiz, 16th July 1801.
CITIZEN MINISTER.—General Moreno has returned into harbour. General Linois will give you an account of the sailing and passage of the squadron. I shall only mention to you the chagrin which I have experienced at not seeing the French ship, St. Antonio, and the two three-deckers, the Real Carlos and the Hermenegildo: a marine, saved with forty-five men from the Real Carlos, has informed us that about midnight the squadron having been attacked by the English, the Real Carlos and the Hermenegildo took each other for enemies. A very smart engagement ensued, the two vessels being nearly foul of each other. A fire broke out on board the Real Carlos, which soon blew up, and set fire to the Hermenegildo, which shared the same fate. The St. Antonio, in consequence of her station, was near the latter vessel, and this station gave me the greatest uneasiness; yet I have been assured that there were only two explosions. I have reason to conclude that, to get at a distance from the conflagration, Captain Lenny proceeded towards the coast of Africa, where the calms and currents carried him away from the squadron, which, at the break of day, was six leagues west of Cadiz. The day before yesterday the British ships were descried from the coast, and a French ship in the Strait; but the latter did not appear to be captured. This may give us some hope, if the signals are correct. Nothing remains to me but uncertainty, with a great deal of fear; I do not know what opinion to entertain.
After having spoken of our losses, it gives me great pleasure to state to you the new glory with which Le Formidable, commanded by Captain Troude, has been covered. During the night cannonade, in the middle of the Strait, this ship received the fire of her friends and enemies; but with intrepid coolness the captain would not return the fire, lest he should increase the disorder, and, keeping close to the Spanish coast, he retired from the combatants. He was followed by a division of the British fleet of three ships, and a frigate: and, at break of day, being in sight of Cadiz, and five leagues distant from the squadron, he was attacked by three ships, with which he was engaged half-an-hour, and obliged two of them to retire: the third endeavoured to attack Le Formidable on the quarter, while the frigate cannonaded her in stern. But, notwithstanding the bad state of his masts, Captain Troude approached within musket-shot of the British ship, the Pompee, which, having lost her mast, after an engagement of an hour and a half, made haste to get away, being taken in tow by a frigate. Some time after, both of her masts came down, and the vessel had the appearance of having yielded; but, as the two other ships and the frigate were at a short distance, Captain Troude would not take possession of her: he expected to be attacked again. The enemy, disconcerted both in their fire and their bravery, suffered him quietly to pursue his course.
This engagement took place in sight of Cadiz; and the glorious result of a combat so unequal, by covering our arms with glory, has filled the hearts of the Spaniards with the utmost degree of enthusiasm. Le Formidable was scarcely repaired after the battle of Algeziras, on the 6th,—top-gallant-mast served as top-masts; but, in this damaged state, the brave Troude, instead of flying from the enemy, who might have captured him without firing a shot, offered them battle, as by this manoeuvre, as prudent as bold, he first extricated himself from two ships, which he greatly damaged, and at last totally dismasted the Pompee, which fought him bravely for an hour and a half.
 M. Dumanoir le Pelley is in error here. The Pompee was not in this action. It has been seen that she was lying disabled at Gibraltar.
The combined squadron was at that time becalmed, at the distance of five or six leagues. I expected to see it, on the breeze springing up, come to take possession of this vessel, and give chase to capture the four British ships which were in sight; but I was far from having any idea of the misfortune which befel the two three-deckers, which no doubt occasioned the separation of the St. Antonio: and in the evening the squadron came to anchor.
Rear-admiral Linois was exceedingly sorry that he was not on board the Formidable; but he did not think proper to resist the earnest solicitations of General Moreno, who induced him to go on board his frigate that they might better concert their operations. My respectful salutations,
DUMANOIR LE PELLEY.
Report of Captain Troude, provisional commander of Le Formidable, to Rear-admiral Linois:
Cadiz, 15th July 1801.
I have the honour of communicating to you an account of the operations of Le Formidable, with the provisional command of which you entrusted me. Proud of the honourable charge of defending your flag, I endeavoured to execute your orders with the most scrupulous exactness. I immediately repaired on board to assume the chief command, and I put to sea as soon as you made the signal.
You observed, as well as myself, the movements of the enemy's squadron, which had retired to Gibraltar after the memorable battle of the 6th at Algeziras. Seeing the enemy set sail at the same time as the combined squadrons, and keeping to windward of us at the distance of about a league, I endeavoured to follow exactly your manoeuvres, and made all the sail possible to follow you; but the ship I had the honour to command, being absolutely disabled, having only jury-masts and the lower sails, I could not make that way which I wished. During the darkness of the night a strong breeze broke the small top-gallant-mast that served me as a fore-top-mast, and everything contributed to prevent me from following the combined squadron.
About midnight I sustained the fire of five English ships that had come up with me: they fired red-hot bullets. I escaped as fast as possible from the brisk cannonade which they maintained, hanging up the same lights as I observed them to have. I had only three men killed, and two wounded. As I was very near the combined squadron, I resolved not to engage, that I might avoid those fatal mistakes which too often take place in a night engagement. I was afraid lest I might fire into some of our own vessels, or that they might fire into mine; from which, fatal accidents must have resulted to the combined squadron. At one in the morning, not being able to observe or distinguish any more signals, I made for Cadiz, keeping close in with the Spanish coast, on a course N. or N.E., and by that means got at a distance from the squadron, which were steering large in a westerly direction.
At break of day I found myself attacked by four of the enemy's squadron,—three ships and a frigate,—which had pursued the same course. Though totally disabled, and the crew fatigued, having had no rest for three days, we returned their fire with courage: the frigate attacked us first, but a few shots well directed from our stern-guns made her abandon her object. The ship which followed, approached us, and kept up a brisk fire. We manoeuvred to get into a better position; I ran close to her until we were yard-arm and yard-arm, and maintained a terrible and well-supported fire: after being engaged an hour and a half, she was completely dismasted, making water in every part. The frigate which had attacked me astern, came immediately to her assistance; the other two vessels finding it necessary to sheer off after receiving some broadsides, not without damage, joined the frigate, and hoisted out all their boats to save the crew of the other vessel, and to take her in tow. They resigned to me the field of battle, and retired.
I expected, however, another combat. We were determined to make the most vigorous defence; but, as the enemy retired, and as I found myself in such a situation as to be unable to pursue them, I resolved to proceed to Cadiz, where I arrived at two in the afternoon.
I shall not attempt to give you any account of particular instances of bravery. The two staffs, the crew, and the troops who were passengers, vied with each other,—covering themselves with glory; for, besides the noble combat of the 6th, this proves that the valour which animated the brave men I have the honour to command, was carried to a degree which it is difficult to describe. Government will, no doubt, take the earliest opportunity of rewarding so much courage, and so great a devotion to restore the glory of the French navy. It would be just, also, to indemnify them for the losses they have sustained; their effects having been cut to pieces and absolutely destroyed.
I have now, Citizen General, to communicate to you a very fatal relation.—In the battle of this night, two of the ships which fired upon me, took fire and blew up. I supposed them to be English, presuming that the fire had been occasioned by the furnaces they had on board for heating their shot; but, on entering the harbour of Cadiz, I was assured they were Spanish. The darkness had led them into a mistake, which I had justly dreaded. They fired on each other, and on my vessel, at the moment when I formed the prudent resolution of avoiding a combat in which I could not distinguish the enemy. The names of these two vessels are the San Carlos and the Hermenegildo.
In the combat so severe as that of this morning, and against so unequal a force, I am happy in having to regret only twenty men killed, or severely wounded.
Accept, Citizen General, assurances of my zeal and most respectful devotion. TROUDE.
Letter from Rear-admiral Linois to the Minister of the Marine, giving an account of the action:
On the 9th of July a Spanish division, consisting of six sail of the line and three frigates, arrived at Algeziras from Cadiz, under command of his Excellency Lieutenant-general Moreno, in order to raise the blockade of four sail of the line and one frigate, which were under my orders, and to favour their escape to Cadiz. That officer accordingly gave me every assistance in his power in order to put my ships in a condition to put to sea, and to tow them out, in order to enable them to set sail. Our labour was continued day and night. General Moreno made his squadron anchor in a line N.E. and S.W. On the 12th, there was a tolerable fresh east wind, and it was determined to set sail at one o'clock in the afternoon, on account of the tide. The signal being given at that hour, the fleet set sail, the Spanish squadron being to windward of ours. The frigate L'Indienne towed the Hannibal, which we were sorry to perceive made very little way.
The calm which we experienced under Gibraltar necessarily deranged the regularity of our order; while the enemy, having a brisk gale at east, sailed from Gibraltar with five sail of the line, a frigate, a brig, and a Portuguese frigate, and formed the order of battle. As soon as the English Admiral had passed Europa Point, he made a signal, and immediately we saw to windward six sail, of which two had three masts. I was then with M. de Moreno on board the Sabina frigate. At sunset, the two last ships of our line doubled the Cape Carnero. Three only remained, with the Hannibal, which was under jury-masts, and which consequently could not carry much sail.
Night was coming on, and it was necessary to return to our anchorage, which afforded the enemy an opportunity of attacking us before we took a position. At all events every delay was dangerous, for the reinforcements which the enemy expected might arrive every moment. The breeze from the east becoming stronger, we were assured of the wind during the night. We determined to send the Hannibal back to Algeziras, and to pass the Strait with the combined squadron. We then manoeuvred so as to facilitate the rallying of two of our vessels, which had fallen into the rear in consequence of the calm. The three French vessels, which sailed better than could have been expected, were in the van; and in that order it was proposed to pass the Strait.
At eight, the enemy showed a disposition to attack us. At nine we heard the reports of three cannon, and at the same time we saw fires at a considerable distance behind us. We presumed it might be some of the enemy's vessels making signals of their arrival. We congratulated ourselves upon seeing our squadrons so well collected together, and sailing so well, which made us confident that the plan of the enemy would not succeed.
At half-past eleven the wind was considerably increased. The night was very dark, and we heard a smart cannonade in the E.N.E.; and, soon after, we saw a conflagration, which made us apprehend that some of our vessels, in firing their stern guns, had taken fire, in consequence of the force of the wind. We thought also that they might be fire-ships of the enemy. We put about for a moment; but the vessel on fire approaching us, we continued our way, having constantly a light at our main-top-mast head, as a signal for rallying.
It could no longer be doubted that the enemy had passed the Strait, and had got into our wake. The cannonade became pretty general, but the wind was too strong to continue the action. We received several shots on board the frigate, which killed one man and wounded five. Several balls passed through our sails. We took down the signal we had at our mast-head, for fear the enemy would fall upon us. It was afterwards hoisted, in order to collect our ships. We made sail, directing our course to the W.N.W., not choosing to go more before the wind, lest the wind, which was very strong, would carry away our masts. We passed the night in the greatest disquietude, not knowing whether the vessels which were in sight were not enemies. At length the day dissipated part of our fears, and we found ourselves in the midst of our fleet, with the exception of the two ships of three decks, viz. the Hermenegildo and Real Carlos, and the Formidable and the St. Antoine. The wind having fallen calm, it became impossible to go in search of the vessels which had separated. We were then six leagues west of Cadiz.
At half-past four the Dessaix made a signal that she had sprung a leak, and that the water gained upon her thirty inches an hour. She demanded assistance, which was granted. At five o'clock we heard an action in the east, and perceived a smoke. The wind being then from the S.E., we made the signal for the line of battle to be formed as quickly as possible, without regard to places, in order to assist the vessel that was engaged. At half-past six the action ceased, and a most perfect calm succeeded. At eleven, the wind rising again, we perceived four vessels at a considerable distance from one another. We flattered ourselves at first that they were our ships, but we soon found by their manoeuvres that they were enemies. We also distinguished the Formidable close under the land, making the best of her way to Cadiz. We stood for the port, from which a felucca brought me a letter from the captain of the Formidable, which had been anchored in the Road of Cadiz, stating that in the morning he had engaged two ships of the line and a frigate, and that one of the ships of the line had been completely dismasted, and had been towed away by a frigate. We then anchored in Cadiz.
I must acknowledge the consummate experience and talents of General Moreno, as well as the zeal and care which he displayed for the success of his mission. If separations have taken place, they must be attributed to the darkness of the night, and the necessity which there was of getting away from the vessels that were on fire. That officer, on hearing at Cadiz of the destruction of two ships of his squadron, Hermenegildo and Real-Carlos, was justly struck with grief on the occasion. He had, by his wise instructions, provided against almost every possible case. I have since been informed that the two Spanish vessels which were destroyed, cannonaded and run foul of one another, each supposing the other to be an enemy. We are uncertain about the fate of the St. Antoine. The violence of the wind made it extremely dangerous to fire to windward.
Dated in Cadiz Harbour, 15th July 1801, on board the Formidable.
Admiral Moreno's orders to his fleet on the 11th July 1801:
Orders of sailing to be observed by the ships in my charge on their passage through the Straits of Gibraltar.
The three ships under the command of Rear-admiral Linois will form the vanguard, with the line abreast; the six ships under my charge will form astern of these, likewise formed in a line abreast, endeavouring, as much as possible, to keep opposite to the intervals of the French ships, so as not to impede their fire, according to the following disposition:
Indomptable. Formidable. Dessaix.
Augus- Ar- R. Herme- St. St. Fer- tin. ganauta. Carlos. negildo. Antonio. nando.
In case the enemy should attempt to follow and attack the combined squadron in the rear, besides the continual fire which we ought to make from the stern chasers, chiefly with a view to destroy the enemy's rigging, the squadron will form the line ahead, either with their heads to the Spanish coast, or to that of Africa, as will be determined by signal from the Admiral; and, in order that this might be more simple, in that case, he will only show the signal for the course, at the entire lowering of which the movements must be made. As their situation, from their local position, cannot be of long duration, consequently either by hailing (if near enough) or by signal to preserve the course, the squadron will proceed again to form the line abreast as formerly. It is of the utmost importance that the fire from none of the ships should interfere, or be embarrassed with that of others in this squadron, nor leave the three French ships in the rear.
As soon as the French ships get under sail, all those in my charge will do the same, following the track of each other, always observing to keep at a short distance from the French, till we weather the Point of Carnero, in order that if the enemy should get under sail, and find themselves in a situation to offer battle to our squadron before it is formed in the Straits with the line abreast as above directed, we may engage them with advantage; consequently, the least inattention or delay may produce the most unfortunate consequences.
I think the captains of the ships I have the honour to command are fully persuaded of this truth, and therefore I depend upon its efficacy; and I flatter myself that they are convinced everything will be performed on my part which can be inspired by my wish to add to the glory of his Majesty's arms, that of our corps in particular, and the nation in general.
Line of battle in natural order.
2nd Squadron. 1st Squadron. 3rd Squadron. St. Ferdinand, Formidable, Argonauta, St. Antonio, R. Carlos, Dessaix, Hermenegildo. Indomptable. St. Augustin.
Fr. frigate Sabina, Vautour.
A red pendant, under any other signal, signifies it is directed to the French ships only.
To those conversant in naval affairs, it must appear manifest that the disposition made by Admirals Moreno and Linois was one of the worst that could be devised. It was scarcely possible that nine ships, which had never sailed in company with each other, could maintain, for any length of time, a line abreast before the wind so exactly as to be able to form in a line ahead when required, especially in a dark night with a strong breeze; and it must be evident that any ship which advanced at all ahead of the others could never get into the line of battle when the signal was made to form it on either tack. Moreno seems to have been fully aware of the probability of the ships firing into each other, yet he made arrangements of all others the least likely to prevent it. Had he formed into two lines ahead, with the disabled ships in advance, he would have obviated the risk of firing into each other, while the one division, by shortening sail, might have given timely assistance to the other which had been attacked.
Nothing can equal the scene of horror which the sudden conflagration produced in these two ships. The collision in which the fore-top-mast of the Hermenegildo fell on board of the Real Carlos, added to the general dismay; and the agonising screams of the unhappy crews, deserted by their countrymen and allies in that dreadful hour, could not fail to pierce the hearts of the brave conquerors; but to render them any assistance while the hostile flag was flying was impossible. The duty of the Admiral was to "sink, burn, and destroy." Seven sail of the enemy's line were still flying from half their force, and he was obliged to leave the burning ships to their fate, and pursue his enemy until his destruction was complete.
The capture of the Hannibal, in which the Spaniards had so distinguished a share, induced a number of the young men of family to embark in the two Spanish three-deckers, in order to convey their trophy to Cadiz, never supposing that the half-demolished British squadron would dare to approach so formidable and so superior a force. This fatal event, while it plunged into distress the whole city of Cadiz, could not fail to create a sensation strongly unfavourable to their new republican allies as the originators of their misery.
END OF THE FIRST VOLUME.
PRINTED BY SAMUEL BENTLEY, Dorset Street, Fleet Street.
J.M. Frere has been corrected to "J.H." Frere. John Hookman Frere, (1769-1846), diplomatist, translator, and author was appointed in 1800 Envoy to Portugal, and was Ambassador to Spain 1802-4, and again 1808-9.