1804 - Intended cruise of M. La Touche-Tréville


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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
1804 Lord Nelson and M. La Touche-treville 239

on board his ships, presumed to be 10 of the line, ready for sea in the road. If seamen are wanted, the corvettes are to be disarmed, and press-gangs sent to the port of Marseilles. The order, about the employment of shells for the 36-pounders in the Brest fleet are here repeated, with an assurance that, if fired at a distance of not more than 200 or 300 toises, they will produce a much greater effect upon the hull of a ship than cannon-balls. *

M. La Touche-Tréville is then directed, after having, if possible, deceived Lord Nelson as to his destination, to put to sea, pass the Straits, sail wide of Ferrol to avoid being seen by the blockading squadron, and arrive off Rochefort ; where he is to be joined by the six sail of the line, including the new ship Achille then expected to be ready, in that port. With his 16 sail of the line and 11 frigates, the vice-admiral is then to proceed off Boulogne, either doubling Ireland, or otherwise, as circumstances may warrant. The Brest fleet, composed of 23 sail of the line, with a strong body of troops on board, is in the mean time to draw off the attention of Admiral Cornwallis, and to oblige him to keep close to the coast of Bretagne, to be ready to intercept it on its supposed route to the westward. The further destination of M. La Touche-Tréville is left to be communicated to him, when he arrives in the neighbourhood of Boulogne ; which, Napoleon conjectures, will be in the course of September, admitting the fleet to have sailed from Toulon, as he trusts it will, about the 28th of July.

For 16 or 17 days previous to the date last mentioned, a succession of heavy gales of wind had rendered it very difficult for Lord Nelson to keep his station; especially as scarcely more than half his ships were in a seaworthy state. † On the 19th of July the Ambuscade frigate, with eight sail of transports, joining from England, Lord Nelson wore and stood for the gulf of Palma, with the double object of unloading the transports and of sheltering the fleet. The station off Toulon, in the mean time, was left in charge of Captain William Hargood, of the Belleisle, having in company the Fisgard and Niger frigates, the Acheron bomb-vessel, and two transports.

On the 2d of August, when the violence of the wind had driven these ships out of sight of the shore, five French sail of the line and six frigates, under the orders of Rear-admiral Dumanoir-le-Pelley, in the Formidable 80, sailed out of Toulon, for the sole purpose, as alleged, of practising manœuvres. The division cruised within six or seven leagues of the port until the 5th when the Belleisle and her consorts, making their appearance, were telegraphed by the signal-posts on Cape Sepet as six sail of the line, " six vaisseaux ennemis ; " and the Neptune, of 80 guns, " pour rendre la partie égale," went out and joined M. Dumanoir.

* Précis des Evènemens, tome xi., p. 198.

See p. 214 .

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