1804 - Catamarins at Calais, Lord Nelson Off Toulon


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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
1804 Invasion Flotilla 235

addition to their own crews, by the whole of the Conflict's crew, and by 10 seamen and half the marines belonging to the Cruiser. But the Conflict was found to be high and dry on the beach, and in complete possession of the enemy ; the fire from whose howitzers and field-pieces, besides greatly damaging the Griffin, in her advance, killed one and wounded seven of the party, including Acting-lieutenant Abraham Garland of the Cruiser most severely, having lost his right leg very high up. Two seamen had also been wounded in the previous cannonade.

On the 8th of December, in the evening, an attempt was made, under the direction of Captain Sir Home Popham of the 50-gun ship Antelope, by means of the Susannah explosion vessel and two carcasses, or catamarans, to destroy Fort Rouge, the advanced pile-battery at the entrance of the harbour of Calais ; but, if the French accounts are to be credited, little or no damage was effected by the single explosion, that of the Susannah, which took place. One carcass could not be fixed ; and the other, when fixed, would not go off. On the British side not a man was hurt; and it appears that the same good fortune attended the persons on shore. We must now quit, for a while, gun-boats and catamarans to attend to the operations of fleets of line-of-battle ships.

Among the advantages which the British government had contemplated by retaining possession of the island of Malta, its proximity to Toulon was not the least important ; and yet Lord Nelson often emphatically declared, that he would as soon the news of the sailing of the Toulon fleet reached him at St.-Helen's as at Malta. In proof of the force of that impression upon Lord Nelson's mind, the Mediterranean fleet had not once entered Valetta harbour since he had taken the command, the vice-admiral invariably, when he was compelled to seek a port, steering for Agincourt sound ; where, on the last day of the preceding year, we left him and his fleet at anchor. * Lord Nelson readily admitted, however, that the island of Malta was an important outwork to Egypt, and, through the latter to India ; and that England, by possessing it, acquired a decided influence in the Levant and over the whole of southern Italy.

On the 4th of January, leaving the 38-gun frigate Amazon, Captain William Parker, and some smaller vessels, to aid the Sardinians, in the event of an expected invasion from the neighbouring island of Corsica, the vice-admiral, with the remainder of his fleet, weighed and put to sea. On the 9th Captain Keats in the Superb was detached, to settle some dispute with the Dey of Algiers ; and, to give weight to the negotiation, Lord Nelson himself on the 17th made his appearance off the Barbary coast. The Superb having rejoined on the following day, the fleet stood back to Sardinia, and on the 27th at 5 P.M., again dropped anchor in Agincourt sound.

* See p. 185

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