|Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
||British and French Fleets - Channel
ports and in the small harbours along the coast, but upon the banks of every river that contained more than three feet of water; no matter whether that river emptied itself directly into the ocean, or first united its waters with those of the Seine, the Loire, the Garonne, or the Rhine. Even Paris became, for a time, a maritime arsenal: two slips were erected there, and many vessels of the small kind were launched from them. A due share of attention was also bestowed upon vessels of a more warlike class. At Anvers, or Antwerp, on the river Scheldt, for the first time during a great many years, the keels of ships of the line were laid down. The dock-yards of Brest, Lorient, Rochefort, and Toulon, also displayed the new-laid keels of several ships of force and magnitude.
Our attention must now be directed to what is going on at the first of the four last-named ports. At the close of the preceding year, the port of Brest was left, owing to the extreme severity of the weather, without a blockading force. Before, however, the new year was many days old, a favourable change enabled Admiral Cornwallis to regain his station off Ushant, and to assemble, by the 12th of January, 13 of his ships. Three or four more subsequently joined. Such had been the exertions in Brest Harbour during the winter months, that, by the latter end of April, 17 sail of the line, including two three-deckers, lay at anchor in the road, ready for sea.
The first day of the following month gave birth to a set of directions, framed by Napoléon himself, for the improvement of his fleet in Brest water. He begins by complaining, that the enemy should be permitted, with a small number of vessels, to blockade so considerable a fleet as the one at anchor in that port. He orders that the ships shall get under way every day, as well to exercise the crews, as to harass the British, and favour the passage of the flotilla coming from Audierne ; that 200 soldiers shall be placed on board each ship of the line; and who, besides being exercised at the guns and about the rigging and sails, are to row in the ship's launch. Premiums are to be given to those who excel in these matters; and nothing that can excite the emulation of either soldiers or sailors appears to have been overlooked. Every ship of the line is to be provided with a quantity of 36-pound shells for her lower battery, and the men are to be taught how to fire them off with effect. The captains are ordered not to quit their vessels to go on shore, and even the commander in chief is not allowed to lodge elsewhere than on board his ship. *
About ten days after the date of Napoléon's directions to the minister of marine, Vice-admiral Decrès, two sail of the line from the inner harbour joined themselves to the 17 already at anchor in the road. It does not appear, however, that any movement of consequence took place among the ships ; either because
* Précis des Evènemens tome xi., p. 195.
^ back to top ^