1804 - Rear-admiral Campbell and Toulon Ships, Amazon and Phoebe and Porquerolles


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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
1804 Rear-admiral Campbell and Toulon Ships 237

the reconnoitring ships. Shortly afterwards the French frigate, being on the weather quarter of the Canopus, opened a fire upon her and the Donegal, which these ships immediately returned. With so superior a force it was in vain to contend, and Rear-admiral Campbell directed his little division to make sail. At 3 h. 30 m. p.m., finding pursuit useless, the French ship tacked and stood back to their port ; and at 9 h. 30 m. p.m., and not before, the Canopus and her two companions joined the Victory and the fleet. *

On the 13th of June, in the afternoon, two strange ships having been signalled as under sail off the east end of the island of Porquerolles, Lord Nelson, who, with the in-shore or lee division, consisting of the Victory, Canopus, Belleisle, Donegal, and Excellent, lay off the Hyères, while Sir Richard Bickerton, with the weather division, also of five sail of the line, cruised about 20 leagues from the land, ordered the frigates Amazon and Phbe, the latter commanded by Captain the Honourable Thomas Bladen Capel, to proceed in chase. Light winds made it noon on the following day, the 14th, before the two frigates reached the entrance of the Grande-Passe ; and soon afterwards, it being signalled that the strangers were frigates, and known that batteries were near them, Lord Nelson directed the Excellent to lend her aid to the Amazon and Phbe. At 5 p.m. the two French frigates, Incorruptible and Sirène, and 18-gun brig-corvette Furet, were seen at anchor under the castle of Porquerolles. At 5 h. 30 m. p.m. one of the forts fired at the Phbe, but the shot did not reach her. In another quarter of an hour both British frigates having cleared for action, anchored with springs on their cables, just out of gun-shot of the northmost fort. Scarcely had the frigates done this, than the whole French fleet in Toulon road was discovered getting under way. The Amazon and Phbe immediately re-weighed, and stood out to sea. The Excellent, having also been recalled by signal, put about and rejoined her division ; which, since 4 h. 30 m., had bore up, with the wind at west-south-west, under all sail, for the Grande-Passe.

At 5 p.m., or soon after, the Victory and the ships with her, observing the French admiral coming out of Toulon with eight sail of the line and four frigates, shortened sail and hauled to the wind, in line of battle, on the starboard tack. At 8 p.m. Cape Sicie bore from the Victory north-west by west distant seven leagues ; and at 1 h. 30 m. a.m. on the 15th, having wore and tacked several times, the lee division hove to. At 3 h. 45 m. a.m. Lord Nelson again made sail, and at noon was only 11 miles to the westward of the north-west end of Porquerolles:

* The authors of the quarto " Life of Nelson, " by confounding this sortie with another that occurred three weeks afterwards, have entangled themselves and their readers in a labyrinth of mistakes. See Clarke and M'Arthur's Book, vol. ii., pp. 366-7.

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