1795 - Junction of Admirals Villaret and Vence


 
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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol I

1795

British and French Fleets

238

When the news reached Brest, that Rear-admiral Vence had been chased into, and, as the account added, was blockaded at Belle-Isle, the nine ships of the line at anchor in Brest road were still waiting for a supply of provisions, before they could attempt to sail upon their distant missions. All other considerations were now to give way to the relief of this squadron, supposed to be in jeopardy at Belle-Isle : supposed, we say, because it was known to the more experienced among the French officers, that no blockading force could prevent Rear-admiral Vence from reaching Lorient ; and, in fact, the French admiral was not blockaded at all, Vice-admiral Cornwallis, as has been shown, having sailed for the mouth of the Channel to protect his prizes. However, the French minister was resolved ; and accordingly, on the 12th of June, nine sail of the line, two 50-gun rasés, seven other frigates, and four corvettes, under the orders of Vice-admiral Villaret-Joyeuse in the Peuple (late Montagne), attended by the two deputies Palasne-Champeaux and Topsent, and by Rear-admirals Kerguelen and Bruix, got under way and stood out, the ships still having on board, as it appears, only a 15 days' stock of provisions.

On the 15th, when a few leagues from Isle Groix, M. Villaret's squadron fell in with M. Vence ; who, in verification of what Rear-admiral Kerguelen and others had stated to be practicable, had quitted his anchorage at Belle-Isle without difficulty or molestation, and was now on his return from Brest. The French fleet, thus united, was composed of the following line-of-battle ships and frigates:

Gun-ship. Gun-ship Gun-ship
120 Peuple. 74 Fougueux. 74 Redoutable.
74 Alexandre. Jean-Bart. Tigre.
Droits-de-l'Homme. Mucius Wattigny.
Formidable Nestor Zélé.

Frigates,

Brave, rasé Insurgente. Cocarde.
Scévola, rasé Driade. Régénérée.
Virginie. Fraternité. Name unknown.
Proserpine. Fidelle.  

There were also three large ships and two brig corvettes, and two cutters ; making in all, 30 vessels.

On the 16th, at about 10 h. 30 m. a.m., while working off the land near the Penmarcks on his return to Brest, with the wind at west-north-west, M. Villeneuve Villaret discovered, directly to windward, the squadron of Vice-admiral Cornwallis, then making, the best of his way towards Belle-Isle, to reconnoitre the road in which he had left M. Vence and his squadron.

As the Phaëton, when as the look-out frigate of the British squadron she first discovered the French fleet, did not, after making the signal that the enemy was of superior force, haul her wind and return to the squadron, the vice-admiral concluded

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