1804 - Preparations for Invading England, Admiral Cornwallis off Brest


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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
1804 Preparations for Invading England 215

The number of commissioned officers and masters, belonging; to the British navy at the commencement of the year, was,

Admirals     41
Vice-admirals     32
Rear-admirals     50
Rear-admirals superannuated 23  
Post-captains     673
Post-captains superannuated 11  
Commanders, or Sloop-captains   409
Commanders, or Sloop-captains superannuated 48  
Lieutenants     2457
Masters     541

And the number of seamen and marines, voted for the year 1804, was 100,000. *

As soon as the commerce of France began to suffer from the vigilance and activity of British cruisers, the war acquired among the French, those especially who were engaged in trade and resident along the coasts of the Channel, a truly national character. The conduct of some of the king's ships, in firing upon small towns and defenceless places upon the French coast, excited in the inhabitants a strong feeling of indignation ; and some of the London journals betrayed a very ill taste when they extolled such exploits. It was this hostile spirit against the English that induced the first-consul, amidst his many plans for a vigorous prosecution of the war, to prefer that plan which had for its basis a descent upon the island that held him at defiance ; as if resolved, by a single campaign, to verify the assertion which he had publicly made, that England, unsupported, could not withstand the power of France.

To assemble an army deemed sufficient for the purpose, even though it should amount to 160,000 men, was not very difficult in a country that could boast of a population of thirty millions ; nor, with so much manual strength at command, and such high-wrought zeal in the cause, was the construction of 2000 prames, gun-vessels, and flat-bottomed boats, to contain that army, an inexecutable task. But some doubt existed, even in France, about the practicability of getting this formidable armament across the 20 or 30 miles of sea, which so provokingly flowed betwixt it and its destined shore. However, as it was with the reflecting, and not with the labouring, class of society, that any such doubt existed, the work of preparation still went on, and that with all the enthusiasm for which the French are so celebrated. Almost every department in the state voted a ship of the line, each of the larger villages a frigate, and every commune gave its prame, gun-vessel, flat-bottomed boat, or péniche. Vessels for the flotilla were constructing, not only in the great naval

* See Appendix, No. 25

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