1804 - Lord Nelson Off Toulon


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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
1804 British and French Fleets - Mediterranean 236

Between February 1st and 8th the fleet cruised in the neighbourhood of the French coast, and then anchored near the island of Cabrera. On the 19th Lord Nelson again put to sea and remained out until the 25th of March ; having, on the 15th been joined by the 100-gun ship Royal-Sovereign, Captain Pulteney Malcolm, from England. Weighing again on the 3d of April, the fleet passed between the island of Elba and Cape Corse, and on the 9th, in the morning, took a station about midway between the capes Sicie and Sepet. On the same afternoon the French batteries at the latter place fired several shot at the Amazon, while taking possession of a prize-brig in-shore ; and three French frigates came out of Toulon, and stood towards her. On this the 74-gun ship Donegal, Captain Sir Richard John Strachan, and 38-gun frigate Active, Captain Richard Hussey Moubray, closed the Amazon; whereupon, at 6 h. 30 m, P.M., the French ships, including four others that had just rounded Cape Sepet, tacked and put back.

On the 10th of May the Leviathan, 74, Captain Henry William Bayntun, accompanied by three bomb-vessels, joined the fleet, which, on the day following, anchored among the Magdalena islands. On the 14th the Gibraltar rejoined from Naples, and on the 19th the British fleet weighed and steered for Toulon. By this time the French fleet had also received an accession of force : the 80-gun ship Bucentaure had been launched, and, with seven other line-of-battle ships, lay in the outer road ready for sea. A few other ships were in nearly the same state of readiness in the inner road ; and the whole were still under the command of Vice-admiral La Touche-Tréville, who had now the new 80 for his flag-ship.

On the 24th of May, in the forenoon, as the Canopus, Donegal, and Amazon, having been detached from the fleet, then out of sight in the offing, were standing upon the larboard tack, with a light air from the south-west, close to the eastward of Cape Sepet, for the purpose of reconnoitring the fleet in Toulon, a French line-of-battle ship and frigate were observed under sail between the capes Sepet and Brun, which form the entrance to the harbour. At half-past noon, when about three miles from the shore, the Amazon, Donegal, and Canopus tacked in succession. No sooner had the Canopus put about, than several French gun-boats swept from under Cape Sepet, and, profiting by the calm state of the weather, opened a distant fire upon her and the Amazon. The Canopus, in return, discharged a few of her lowerdeck guns, and stood on to the south-east by east, with the wind, now a moderate breeze, from west-north-west.

On hearing the firing, two French ships of the line and two frigates had slipped their cables and made sail, to assist the line-of-battle ship and frigate already outside. At 2 h. 30 m. p.m., two more sail of the line slipped, and followed the others ; making now five sail of the line and three frigates that were in chase of

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