1805 - Lord Gardner off Brest, Lord Gardner and M. Ganteaume, Napoléon's plan of operations for his fleet


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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
1805 Lord Gardner and M. Ganteaume 299

by successive arrivals, had been augmented to 16 sail, the departure of five, under Vice-admiral Sir Robert Calder, to the station off Ferrol and Corunna, left the admiral again, for a short time, with only 11 sail. The perseverance with which, during a period of 22 months, including two boisterous winters, Admiral Cornwallis had maintained the blockade of Brest, affected his health, and obliged him to suspend his arduous labours, and seek a few weeks' relaxation on shore. Accordingly, on the 20th of March, the Ville-de-Paris anchored at Spithead, and in the course of the day struck the flag at her main. The command of the Channel fleet devolved upon Admiral Lord Gardner, whose flag was flying on board the Trent frigate at Cork. In the mean time the fleet, cruising off Ushant and numbering 17 sail of the line, had been left in charge of Vice-admiral Sir Charles Cotton, in the 112-gun ship San-Josef.

On the 3d of April Admiral Lord Gardner, in the new first-rate Hibernia, arrived off Ushant, and relieved Sir Charles Cotton in the command of the fleet, then consisting of 2l sail of the line. On the 11th a gale of wind drove the British fleet from the French coast. On the 13th, in the afternoon, Lord Gardner, with 17 sail, regained his station ; and, the next morning, the 14th, in consequence of some intelligence received from his lookout frigates, he despatched the Warrior 74 to reconnoitre the harbour of Brest. At 5 h. 30 m. p.m. Captain William Bligh rejoined, with the signal flying, that the French ships were getting under way. Upon this the British ships formed in line of battle to be ready to receive them. On the following morning, the 15th, the French van-division, composed of nine sail of the line, appeared in sight off the Black Rocks, and was presently joined by the main body, forming a total, as counted, of 40 sail of vessels, including 21 of the line. This formidable fleet had on board 2000 troops, and was provisioned for six months. The British admiral, whose force in the course of the day amounted to 24 sail of the line, strove his utmost to bring the French fleet to action ; but the latter, after manœuvring for a few hours between Bertheaume and Camaret bays returned into port.

Unlike a few former shifts of position and manœuvres in Brest and Bertheaume roads, and which served the double purpose of exercising the crews, and of enabling the Moniteur to insert a boastful paragraph, about offering battle to, and chasing away, the blockading force, this was a real attempt to put to sea. Vice-admiral Villeneuve had sailed from Toulon, and Napoléon's object now was, that the two fleets should effect their junction in the West Indies, and, after ravaging the British possessions there, return to the Channel, augmented, by the Rochefort squadron on the route, and by the combined squadron at Ferrol on appearing off that port, to 56 sail of the line. It

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