1794 - Lord Howe on the 29th of May


 
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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol I

1794

British and French Fleets

136

kept rather off, instead of close to the wind ; or, in other words, from the enemy, instead of towards him. At a few minutes before 1 p.m., just as the Terrible, the third French ship from the rear, by heavy pitching, had carried away her fore topmast, the Queen wore, and, rounding to under her second astern, luffed up, so as to open a distant fire on the third ship of the French van. The Queen then passed along the French line, and, by the time she had reached the centre ship, became closely engaged.

The signal to engage and cut through the enemy's line, hoisted at 1 h. 15 m. p.m., was then flying ; but the Queen had sustained too much damage to haul up, for that purpose, and at 2 h. 45 m. made the signal of disability. At 3 h. 25 m. p.m., having passed the last ship in the French line, the Queen ceased firing, and with difficulty wore round on the larboard tack. Neither the Russel nor the Valiant, both of which had wore, succeeded in getting very near to the enemy. The Royal-George was the first ship that tacked ; and the Invincible took the earliest opportunity of wearing under her stern : they both luffed up on the starboard tack, but, on account of the progress then made by the French fleet, could only succeed in bringing to action the two rearmost French ships, the Tyrannicide and Indomptable.

It is now time to attend to the Queen-Charlotte. The small quantity of sail carried by the Cæsar, namely, treble-reefed topsails and foresail, with the main topsail part of the time unbent on account of a split in it (yet her signal to set more sail had been twice made), and some unexplained cause of delay in the Majestic, rendered it very difficult for the Queen-Charlotte to keep astern of her leader, and drove her, in consequence of the small sail she was obliged, to carry, considerably to leeward of the line ; which line, from these causes, had become very loose and irregular.

In this state Lord Howe, observing that the Queen was suffering greatly from the enemy's fire, and apprehensive that, owing to the Cæsar's inattention to the signal to carry more sail, the French ships, all of which carried their mainsails, and the greater part of them single-reefed topsails, would pass so far ahead as to defeat his intended manúuvre, resolved himself to set the example of breaking through the enemy's line.

Accordingly, at 1 h. 30 m. p.m., carrying now double-reefed topsails, courses, jib, and maintopmast staysail, the Queen-Charlotte tacked, and hauled up to east-south-east, passed astern and to windward of the Cæsar, then steering east by north, she passed astern and to leeward of the Orion, who had not yet gone about. Stretching boldly on, heedless of the fire opened upon her from the French line, the Queen-Charlotte arrived abreast of the opening between the sixth and seventh ships from the rear ; but, doubtful if she could pass through

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