1803 - Invasion-flotilla


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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
1803 British and French Fleets - Channel 178

The summer passed, and the year nearly closed, without any material change in the relative positions of the Brest and Channel fleets. On Christmas-day, however, the strong south-west gales, which, with short intermissions had blown for some weeks, increased to so alarming a height, that the blockading ships, one and all, were compelled to retire from the French coast, and seek safety in Plymouth and other British ports. At this time lay in the outer road of Brest, ready for sea, the Vengeur three-decker, bearing the flag of Vice-admiral Laurent-Jean-Francois Truguet, an 80, with Rear-admiral Ganteaume's flag, and six 74s, attended by about an equal number of frigates and corvettes, but they made no attempt to sail.

Before the end of the year there were several other of the continental ports opening into the ocean, which, besides Brest, contained French ships of the line, and in sufficient number when united to excite some attention. At Rochefort had recently arrived, along with some frigates, two of the nine sail of the line, already mentioned as at, or coming from, the island of St.-Domingo when the war broke out. In Ferrol and Corunna were lying five other of those line-of-battle ships, and a sixth ship (making the eighth in the whole), the Aigle, 74, had put into Cadiz. To guard all these ports, except the last, was a part of the duty of the command commander-in-chief of the Channel fleet; and, as soon as practicable, they were watched by British squadrons corresponding in force with the French squadrons within them.

Although a single gun-boat is not of a force to excite alarm, several scores of such vessels, united in a fleet, are sufficiently formidable to call for the fullest attention of an enemy. With this view the British government, very soon after war was declared, stationed cruisers, commanded by active and experienced officers, in front of all those ports along the Channel frontier of France, from Ostende to Cape La Hougue, and thence to Granville, at which divisions of gun-vessels were known to be constructing or fitting out. Buonaparte's plan, for the employment of this apparently insignificant description of force in the invasion of England, was not matured until the ensuing year ; but, in the mean time, considerable activity prevailed among the different entrepots along the above line of coast. On most occasions, when any of the flotilla ventured from under the protection of their batteries, they were met, and either captured or driven back, by the blockading force; and were sometimes attacked with success, even when moored, as they considered, beyond the reach of British enterprise. We mean now to imbody the most interesting of the skirmishes that ensued, during the present year, between British cruisers and the French invasion-flotilla.

On the 14th of June, in the morning, the British 18-pounder 36-gun frigate Immortalité, Captain Edward William Campbell

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