1803 - General Decaen's mission to India


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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
1803 British and French Fleets 176

In the road of Brest were lying four ships of the line : nine others were in the docks, repairing and nearly ready ; and these were ordered to be expedited by all possible means. Three were on the stocks, nearly finished ; and five lay in the inner harbour, waiting their turns to be docked ; making a total of 21 serviceable line-of-battle ships in the port of Brest. There were also, laying up in the harbour, six or eight old and worn-out ships, including the Invincible and Terrible three-deckers.

In the port of Lorient were three ships on the stocks, expected to be launched in November; and two additional ones were ordered to be laid down. At Saint-Malo a 74 was ordered to be built; and at Nantes four frigates, exclusive of two Dutch-built 74s, intended for the Scheldt squadron. At Bordeaux another of the latter was ordered to be built. At Rochefort three line-of-battle ships were building, and nearly ready: three others were now ordered. At Toulon there were eight ships of the line afloat, two on the stocks nearly finished, and two others about to be commenced. At Marseilles the last of the 10 Dutch-built 74s for the Scheldt squadron was ordered to be laid-down. At Genoa a 74-gun ship and frigate were immediately to be put in hand, from draughts prepared at Brest. * There were also nine French line-of-battle ships at, or coming from, the island of St.-Domingo, and one, the Marengo, on her road to the East Indies; making a total of 66 ships, including 47 afloat, or soon expected to be so.

If it were not quite clear, from the very nature of these formidable preparations, thus carried on in the midst of peace, that a renewal of the war with England was contemplated, no doubt could exist, on a perusal of the instructions which, since early in February, Buonaparte had drawn up for the guidance of General Decaen. On the 6th of March this officer sailed from Brest, in the Marengo 74, for the French settlements in India, of which he had been appointed governor-general ; and whither the Marengo, and the frigates Atalante, Belle-Poule, and Sémillante, and transports Côte-d'Or and Marie-Françoise, were carrying for the alleged purpose of taking possession of Pondicherry agreeably to the third article of the treaty of Amiens, about 1350 troops.

It appears by one or two paragraphs in the document alluded to, that the first-consul did not anticipate an actual rupture before the month of September. War was, however, declared by England, virtually on the 16th of May, when letters of marque and general reprisals were ordered, and formally in two days

* Précis des Evénemens Militaires, &c. par M. Le Comte Mathieu Dumas, Lieutenant Général des armées du Roi. A Paris, 1822 ; tome xi., p. 189.

See p. 166 ; also Appendix, No. 21.

For the original of which see Appendix, No. 22.

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