1804 - Intended cruise of Admiral Villeneuve


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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
1804 Intended cruise of Admiral Villeneuve 241

as a dépôt for the French cruisers and their prizes in that quarter of the globe; while, with 10 sail of the line and frigates, and the remainder of the troops, M. Villeneuve was to steer for Cayenne. Having there taken on board the celebrated General Victor Hugues, the French admiral was to proceed off Surinam, and effect a junction with a squadron of five sail of the line and four frigates, under Rear-admiral Missiessy, M. Villeneuve's successor at Rochefort ; and who, it was supposed, would already have fulfilled the first part of his mission. This was, with 3500 men under General Legrange, to proceed to Martinique and Guadaloupe ; and, after leaving 1000 men at each of those islands, to attempt, with the remaining 1500, the capture of the island of Dominique, and, if possible, of Sainte-Lucie. Having garrisoned the captured islands, Rear-admiral Missiessy was to proceed off Surinam, and await the arrival of Admiral Villeneuve ; who, with his force now augmented to 15 sail of the line, seven or eight frigates, and full 5000 men, was to possess himself of Surinam, and the other Dutch colonies in this quarter. That done, the French admiral was to place under contribution all the British West-India islands, enter the different roadsteds, and capture or burn the vessels lying there ; leaving in the Antilles, purposely to harass British commerce, the greater part of his corvettes, of which as many as possible were to quit Toulon with the expedition. He was, next, to leave 1200 men with General Ferrand at the city of Santo-Domingo, raise the blockade of Ferrol, and, taking out the five ships in that port, appear off Rochefort with 20 sail of the line. Here Vice-admiral Villeneuve would receive directions at what point he was to join Vice-admiral Ganteaume and his 30 sail of the line, * in order to fulfil the ultimate object in view, the descent upon England.

Napoléon, it appears, had wavered in his choice of an admiral for the Toulon command between MM. Bruix, Villeneuve, and Rosily. Owing to this or to some other delay, Vice-admiral Villeneuve did not hoist his flag on board the Bucentaure until the 6th of November, a few days anterior to which Lord Nelson had returned to his station from Agincourt sound ; whither, since the 18th of the preceding month, the want of wood, water, and provisions, had driven the British fleet. On the night of the 14th of November Lord Nelson received intelligence of the seizure of the Spanish frigates, and had, in consequence, a part of his attention directed to a squadron of five or six sail of the line at anchor in Carthagena. On the 25th of December the Swiftsure joined Lord Nelson ; and on the 31st, in the evening, the British fleet, owing to the absence of the Superb, reduced again to 10 sail of the line, besides two frigates and a bomb vessel, cruised about six leagues to the southward and eastward

* See p. 217

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