1794 - Sailing of Lord Howe


 
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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol I

1794

Sailing of Lord Howe

125

ships were fitting, and new ones constructing, to add such a force to the already formidable fleet in Brest water, as could not fail, it was thought, to make a serious impression upon the strongest fleet that England had in her power to send to sea.

The British Channel fleet, although it had lain at anchor during the winter months, was ready for a start, the moment intelligence should arrive from the numerous cruisers off the French coast, that the Brest fleet had put to sea. As the spring advanced, two objects, exclusive of fighting the latter, rendered it necessary that Lord Howe should quit port. One was to see the East and West India and Newfoundland convoys clear of the Channel; the other, to intercept a French, or rather a Franco-American convoy, amounting, as was alleged, to 350 sail, and known to be returning from the ports of the United States of America, richly laden with the produce of the West India islands ; particularly with provisions and stores, of which the republic stood greatly in need ; so much so, that the horrors of famine were beginning to be felt.

On the 2d of May, the whole of the merchant-vessels being assembled at St. Helen's, and the wind having shifted from the southward to the north-east, the fleet and convoy, amounting together to 148 sail, including 49 ships of war, of which 34 were of the line, weighed, and by noon got clear of the anchorage. On the 4th, Lord Howe, having arrived off the Lizard, directed the different convoys to part company, detaching Rear-admiral Montagu, with six 74s and two frigates, to protect them to the latitude of Cape Finisterre;* Captain Peter Rainier, with the Suffolk 74, a 64-gun ship, and four or five frigates, having previously been ordered to see them safe through the remainder of the passage. This reduced the Channel fleet to 26 sail of the line, seven frigates (including one that joined afterwards), one hospital-ship, two fireships, one brig sloop, and two cutters of which the following are the names

Gun-ship.    
100 (D) Queen-Charlotte Admiral (union) Richard Earl Howe. 1
Captain Sir Roger Curtis.  
Captain Sir Andrew Snape Douglas.  
Royal-George Vice-adm. (r.) Sir Alex. Hood, K.B. 3
Captain William Domett.  
(E) Royal-Sovereign Vice-adm. (r.) Thomas Graves. 2
Captain Henry Nichols.  
98   Barfleur Rear-adm. (w.) George Bowyer. 4
Captain Cuthbert Collingwood.  
Impregnable Rear-adm. (w.) Benj. Caldwell. 5
Captain George Blagden Westcott.  
Queen Rear-adm. (w.) Alan Gardner. 6
Captain John Hutt.  
Glory Captain John Elphinstone.  

* Captain Brenton (Nav. hist., vol. i., p. 246) says, " Lord Howe, after seeing the convoys to the southward of Cape Finisterre, detached Rear-admiral Montagu, with six ships of the line, to protect the trade still further, while his lordship returned and cruised 100 leagues to the westward of Ushant. A singular mistake to be made by a writer, who shows (p. 250) that he had the Queen-Charlotte's log to refer to.

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