1800 - Loss of the Repulse


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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
1800 British and French Fleets 4

As the best means of carrying into effect these new regulations, a board of admiralty was appointed, resembling that of England as nearly as national customs and prejudices would admit. One of the state-papers, published on this occasion, represented the French navy to consist of 48 sail of the line at sea and in the different ports of France, and 13 building, of which eight were nearly ready for launching, and 42 ship and brig corvettes. The gun-brigs and smaller vessels, down to 177 flat-bottomed boats, constructed for the descent on England, were stated to amount to 243, making a grand total of 398 ships and vessels. A very large proportion of this total, consisting of non-cruising and insignificant vessels, may fairly enough be compared with the largest total, 757, in the abstract of the British navy for the commencement of the present year.

Among the first diplomatic acts of Buonaparte at his assumption of the chief-consulship was a letter, dated the 25th of December, 1799, addressed to the King of England, containing proposals for a general peace.* To this letter Lord Grenville replied, stating the terms to be inadmissible; and the negotiation was broken off. It was considered to be merely a plan of the subtle chief to induce England to grant an armistice by sea, of which immediate advantage was to be taken, in the transit of troops and the entry of convoys with provisions and naval stores.

At the commencement of the present year the British Channel fleet, composed of 28 sail of the line, under Admiral Sir Alan Gardner in the Royal-Sovereign, cruised off the port of Brest, blockading the combined French and Spanish fleet, composed, as already mentioned, of 45 sail of the line.

On the 9th of March the 64-gun ship Repulse, Captain James Alms, having been detached by Sir Alan Gardner to cruise off the Penmarcks, for the purpose of intercepting some provision-vessels expected at Brest, experienced a violent gale of wind; in the height of which Captain Alms, by the rolling of the ship, was thrown down the companion-ladder, and so seriously injured as to be incapable of doing any further duty on deck. For two or three days previous the weather had been so thick as to render it impracticable to take an observation; and on the 10th, at about 10 P.M., the Repulse, then going about six knots an hour, struck on a sunken rock, supposed to be the Mace, about 25 leagues south-west of Ushant. After beating on the rock for nearly three quarters of an hour, during which the water rushed in so fast that the lower deck was flooded, the Repulse got off, and, by great exertions, was kept afloat long enough to be able to approach and run aground upon the French coast, near Quimper.

On the 11th, at 10 h. 30 m., A.M., Captain Alms, and his

* For a copy of the original letter, see Appendix, No. 7.

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