1796 - Nelson at La÷na, &c., Evacuation of Leghorn


 
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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol I

1796

British and French Fleets

310

on the morning of the 27th, in bringing away the English and emigrants, or such of them as were desirous to quit Tuscany ; also 23 merchant ships and brigs, and 14 tartans, lying in the mole ; the chief part of the valuable effects in the warehouses, and 240 oxen which had been purchased for the use of Sir John Jervis's fleet. At noon the French entered the town ; and at 1 p.m. the batteries opened on the Inconstant, who immediately got under way, and with the only vessel that remained, a brig laden with ship-timber, escaped without any damage or loss. Commodore Nelson, in the 74-gun ship Captain, to which he had just been promoted, anchored off the Malora, to be ready to stop any ships that might be uninformed of the change that had taken place. The remainder of the British squadron in this quarter, under the orders of Captain Lord Garlies, in the 32-gun frigate Lively, proceeded, with the merchants and emigrants, to San-Fiorenzo bay, where the British fleet was then lying.

It being well understood that one of the objects of France, in taking forcible possession of the neutral city of Leghorn, was to afford her the additional means of recovering possession of Corsica, no doubt could exist as to her intentions upon the neutral fortress of Porto-Ferrajo, in the isle of Elba, also belonging to the Grand Duke of Tuscany. To frustrate the attempt Sir Gilbert Elliot, the viceroy of Corsica, in conjunction with Sir John Jervis, made proposals to the governor of the town ; and on the 10th of July, in the morning, Commodore Nelson, with the Captain 74 and a small frigate-squadron, on board of which was Major Duncan of the engineers, with a detachment of troops, took quiet possession of Porto-Ferrajo, a place mounted with 100 pieces of cannon, and garrisoned by 400 regulars, exclusive of militia. Every preparation had been made to storm the town, had the governor refused the terms offered, among which was an assurance that the Tuscans should receive no injury whatever in their persons or property.

On the 19th of August a treaty of alliance, offensive and defensive, between France and Spain, was signed at Madrid ; in one of the articles of which it was stipulated, that, within the space of three months, reckoning from the moment of the requisition, the power called on should hold in readiness, and place at the disposal of the power calling, 15 sail of the line and 10 heavy frigates and corvettes, properly manned, armed, and victualled. It might easily have been guessed which would be the "calling" power ; and France did not even wait until the negotiation had produced its result ere she demanded a Spanish fleet to escort the squadron of M. Richery clear of that of Rear-admiral Mann, which was supposed to be hovering off Cadiz to intercept it.

On the 4th of August the French squadron in question, consisting of the 80-gun ship Victoire, and 74s Barras, Berwick,

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