1804 - Intended cruise of M. La Touche-Tréville


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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
1804 British and French Fleets - Mediterranean 240

So states the letter which M. La Touche-Tréville thought it worth while to send to his government on so important an occasion.

On the 6th, the French squadron returned to Toulon, and the Belleisle and her five highly-honoured companions approached near enough to count seven of the ships standing into the harbour. On the 8th, in the evening, the Belleisle reconnoitred the port, and observed 10 sail of the line, six frigates, and one brig, at anchor in the road. On the same day, Lord Nelson, with his fleet, anchored in a bay in the island of Pulla ; where, he had been informed, excellent fresh water could easily be procured. " A very fine watering-place, " says his lordship in his diary, " found by Captain Hillyar, about five miles to the westward of Porto-Torres, with the springs about 200 yards from the beach, where 40 casks may be filled at the same time. "

On the 10th, the Vice-admiral * weighed and put to sea ; but, having by a severe gale of wind been blown under Cape San-Sebastian, was not able, until the 26th, to reconnoitre Toulon. In the outer harbour, the Victory counted 20 ship-rigged vessels, including 10 sail of the line ; and in the inner harbour, fitting, one sail of the line and one frigate.

On the 18th of August, in the night, Vice-admiral La Touche-Tréville died on board the Bucentaure ; † and the command of the fleet, until a successor should be appointed by Buonaparte, devolved upon Admiral Dumanoir-le-Pelley, whose flag, as already stated, was flying on board the 80-gun ship Formidable. The British fleet outside of Toulon, although the Conqueror, Spencer, and Tigre, had joined, still consisted of only 10 sail of the line, the Gibraltar, Kent, and Triumph, having parted company. Even had Lord Nelson's force been less, or the blockade of the port actually raised, the French rear-admiral, as will presently appear, had received no orders to quit port.

In a letter from Napoléon to his minister of marine at Brest, of date September 29, are contained directions, that Vice-admiral Villeneuve, then appointed to the command of, and supposed to have already joined, the Toulon fleet, should quit the road, if possible, before the 21st of October, having previously received on board about 6500 troops under General Lauriston. The fleet, stated to consist of 11 ships of the line and seven or eight frigates, was to sail out of the Mediterranean, call for the Aigle at Cadiz, detach two of its fastest sailers, along with four frigates and two brigs, having on board 1800 troops, to relieve Sénégal, retake Gorée, ravage the British settlements on the coast of Africa, and capture the island of Saint-Helena, wanted

* Since the first of the month, Lord Nelson had changed his flag from blue to white, as Sir Richard Bickerton had from white to red.

† " The French papers say he died in consequence of walking so often up to the signal-post upon Sepet, to watch us." - Letter of Lord Nelson, in Clarke and M'Arthur vol. n., p. 387.

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