1794 - Lord Howe on the 1st of June


 
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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol I

1794

Lord Howe on the 1st of June

169

over proportion to the wounded, in all probability exaggerated. The Scipion, notwithstanding she was in this deplorable state, and notwithstanding there were so many comparatively untouched ships yet remaining in the British fleet, managed to rig herself with jury-masts and join her admiral.

After having, in this surprising manner, recovered four of his crippled ships, two of the number without a stick standing except the bowsprit, M. Villaret put away to the northward, and by 6 h. 15 m. p.m., with the whole of his remaining 19 Iine-of-battle ships, and all the rest of his fleet, except a frigate left to reconnoitre, was completely out of sight of the fleet which had been engaged with him. The state of many of the ships composing that fleet, and of the prizes in its possession, was such, that it took until 5 a.m. on the 3d before Lord Howe could make sail. His lordship then steered to the north-east, and, without any further occurrence worth notice, anchored at Spithead at 11 a.m. on the 13th ; having with him his six prizes, and the whole of his fleet, except nine sail of the line, which he had ordered to Plymouth.

Our attention is now called to Rear-admiral Montagu, whom, with six sail of the line and a frigate, we left cruising to intercept the French convoy from America ; and which was escorted, not by four sail of the line, as the rear-admiral had been led to suppose, but by two, the Tigre and Jean-Bart, as already mentioned.* The Rear-admiral's orders were to cruise until the 20th, and then, if unsuccessful in his object, to rejoin the commander-in-chief ; but, from the prospect held out by the intelligence he had received, the rear-admiral was induced to wait over the prescribed period some days, especially as the Venus had not returned to him. While thus waiting, Rear-admiral Montagu recaptured some vessels of the Lisbon convoy, that had escaped from the Channel fleet, and from them learnt that the Brest fleet was at sea, and, equally with himself, seeking the expected Franco-American convoy. Having exceeded, by four or five days, the time he had been directed to cruise to the north ward of Cape Ortugal, and finding, by one of the recaptured ships, that Lord Howe, instead of being at the appointed rendezvous off Ushant, was as far to the westward as the longitude of l4, and in probable Pursuit of the French Fleet, Rear-admiral Montagu, in compliance with the spirit of his orders, made the best of his way into port, and, on the 30th of May, anchored in Plymouth Sound.

The interception of a provision-laden convoy of upwards of 100 sail, in the present distressed state of France, being of the utmost importance to England, the British admiralty, on the very day, June 2d, on which the board received the account of Rear-admiral Montagu's arrival in port, sent back orders for him

* See pp. 127, 28.

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