1801 - Buonaparte's attempts to relieve his Egyptian army, Escape of Admiral Ganteaume from Brest


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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
1801 Invasion Flotilla 87

The squadron at the same time stood in to cover the boats from the fire of the military and of five field-pieces, posted behind some sand-hills on the beach. In spite of this opposition, the British succeeded in bringing off three of the French boats, and would have brought off the others, had they not been scuttled ; they were, however, damaged as much as the time would admit. The loss of the British on this occasion amounted to no more than one seaman killed, and one midshipman (Thomas Hamblin), and three seamen wounded. The captured flats were each about 45 feet long and 18 or 20 broad, and mounted one brass 8-inch howitzer.

After his repeated promises to send supplies and reinforcements to the army he had left in Egypt, Buonaparte must have felt sorely aggrieved that almost all his endeavours to do so had been frustrated, by the vigilance of British cruisers : even the offer of large rewards to the equippers of merchant vessels or privateers that should first reach a port of Egypt with provisions and military stores, served only to augment the number and enhance the value of Lord Keith's prizes.

Hitherto the efforts to relieve the Egyptian army had been confined to such frigates and smaller vessels, as might be able to escape from Toulon or some other French Mediterranean port; but, no sooner did the first-consul learn the real destination of the army under General Abercromby, than he contemplated the forwarding of a reinforcement upon a grander scale. That reinforcement was to consist of seven two-deckers, the elite of the Brest fleet, having on board 5000 troops under the command of General Sahuguet.

The officer intrusted with the charge of this secret and hazardous mission was one of the ablest at this time belonging to the republic, Rear-admiral Ganteaume; and the following were the ships of which his squadron was composed:




80 Indivisible Rear-admiral Honoré Ganteaume
Captain Antoine-Louis Gourdon.
80 Indomptable Commodore ---------- Moncousu.
80 Formidable Captain Joseph Allary,
74 Desaix Commodore Jean-Anne Christy-Pallière.
74 Constitution Captain Gilbert-Amable Faure.
74 Jean-Bart Captain Francois-Jacques Meynne.
74 Dix-Août Captain Jacques Bergeret.
40 Créole Captain Pierre-Paul Gourrege.
36 Bravoure Captain Louis-Auguste Dordelin.
Lugger, Vautour

On the 7th of January this squadron sailed from Brest, and anchored in the road of Bertheaume ; and about the same time, in order to draw the attention of the British cruisers in a different direction, the French ships at anchor in the minor ports of the Channel and bay of Biscay made demonstrations of putting to sea. In the hope to profit by this ruse, Rear-admiral Ganteaume,

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