|Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
||Squadrons in search of M. Ganteaume
might be hourly expected in pursuit from the westward, Rear-admiral Ganteaume steered for the gulf of Lyons, and on the 19th anchored with his squadron in the road of Toulon. After a captivity of only five days, during which every attention was paid to their comfort by Rear-admiral Ganteaume and those about him, all the British officers and men were permitted to depart in a cartel for Port-Mahon; where, on the morning of the 26th, they safely arrived.
It is now time to see what steps had been taken, in consequence of the escape of this French squadron from Brest, by the commander-in-chief of the Channel fleet, Admiral Earl St.-Vincent. On the 3d of February the Concorde anchored at Plymouth with the account of her engagement with the Bravoure ; and, in a day or two afterwards, Rear-admiral Sir Robert Calder, with seven sail of the line, two frigates, and a brig, was detached from the Channel fleet in pursuit of M. Ganteaume not, however, to the Mediterranean, but, owing to a lack of information on the subject, to the West Indies.
Nothing can afford a stronger proof of the national confidence, as well as fairness, in naval warfare, than the sending in pursuit of an enemy's squadron a British squadron of the same numerical force; but we cannot help asking, what was the use of selecting six of the fastest two-deckers from the Channel fleet, when the flag-officer in command of them was to take his passage in a three-decker ? The question of force offers no obstacle, for both the Cæsar and the Malta were fully equal to the Prince-of-Wales. The total number of three-deckers possessed by France at this time was six; and of these two only were in a serviceable state; whereas England had actually at sea 18 three-deckers, 13 of which, at this very time, were cruising off Brest. The superior accommodations of a three-decker have, we know, been alleged as a reason for retaining so many of them in the service, especially to carry flags ; but, in a fighting ship, the comfort of the commanding officer, whether admiral or captain, ought always to be a secondary consideration.
The only British force, in a situation to molest Rear-admiral Ganteaume, was the squadron of Rear-admiral Sir John Borlase Warren, composed of the 80-gun ship Gibraltar, Captain William Hancock Kelly, 74-gun ships Renown (flag), Captain John Chambers White, Dragon, Captain John Aylmer, Généreux, Captain Manley Dixon, and Hector, Captain John Elphinstone, 64-gun ship Haerlem, with only a portion of her lowerdeck guns on board, Captain George Burlton, and two or three frigates and smaller vessels.
It was on the 8th of February, while cruising off Cadiz with a part of this squadron, that the rear admiral received the first intelligence of the squadron of M. Ganteaume. Sir John immediately steered for Gibraltar ; and, arriving there on the
^ back to top ^