1794 - Audacious and Révolutionnaire


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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol I


Audacious and Revolutionnaire


course, and encouraged by the proximity of their friends, whom they saw bearing down under all sail, stood athwart the crippled ship, and exchanged several shots with her. The two corvettes, however, soon dropped astern, but the Bellone, for upwards of an hour, hung on the quarter of the Audacious, harassing, but not materially injuring her.

Either feeling the effects of some of the 74's aftermost guns, or tired of a vain pursuit, the frigate, at about half an hour after noon, after making a signal to her consorts astern, left off chase, and hauled to the wind. In a little while afterwards the weather again became hazy, and the Audacious got once more out of sight of her pursuers. Having run 24 leagues directly to leeward, and being. unable to haul to the wind, the Audacious deemed it best to proceed straight into port, and accordingly, on the morning of the 3d of June, anchored in Plymouth Sound. Fortunately for the Révolutionnaire, she was soon found by the Audacieux; who, taking the dismasted three-decker in tow, conveyed her in safety to Rochefort.*

After the Audacious and Révolutionnaire had parted company from their respective fleets, both of the latter continued on the starboard tack during the remainder of the night, steering, under a press of sail, in a parallel direction. Every ship in the British fleet carried a light ; but none was observed to be carried by any of the French ships. † On the 29th, at daylight, the wind still fresh from south by west, with a heavy head sea, the rival fleets were about six miles apart ; the fleet of the French on the weather bow of that of the British. At a little after 4 a.m., a strange line-of-battle ship, on the larboard tack, was observed stretching into the French line. This was the Audacieux ; which ship, however, did not, as represented in most of the accounts, remain with M. Villaret, but was presently detached, as already mentioned, with a frigate, in search of the Révolutionnaire

At 7 a.m., when the chasing ships of the preceding night, in obedience to a signal made by the Queen-Charlotte, had fallen into their stations in line ahead and astern of her, as most convenient, Lord Howe, with the view of making some impression on the enemy's rear, directed the ships of the fleet, formed thus : Cæsar, Queen, Russel, Valiant, Royal-George, Invincible, Orion, Majestic, Leviathan, Queen-Charlotte, Bellerophon, remainder uncertain, to tack in succession. At 7 h. 30 m. a.m., the fleet being now on the larboard tack, a signal was made to pass

* The similarity of name in the ship that had fought and the ship that now succoured, the Révolutionnaire, threw a great deal of confusion into the accounts.

† And yet the following statement appears in a French account of this rencontre : "Il était nuit, et la flotte française avait hissé des fanaux à tous ses mâts d'artimon. Les Anglais finirent par imiter cet exemple, après avoir long-temps hésité à le faire, et les deux flottes purent enfin s'apercevoir." Victoires et Conquêtes, tome iii., p. 15.

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