1805 - Escape of a strong division of Brest fleet, Invasion Flotilla


 
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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
1805 Invasion Flotilla 305

former, indeed, owing to the close position she took, lost three men killed and six wounded. The Montagu had the heel of her fore topmast shot away, but does not appear to have sustained any loss in men. Of the French ships, the whole of which by 2 p.m. had reanchored, the Alexandre, who was the Cæsar's principal opponent, is represented to have had her mizen topmast shot away, and, with two or three of the other ships, to have sustained some damage in rigging and sails. With respect to loss, the French accounts give it in the gross, merely stating ; that about 20 men were placed hors de combat by the fire of the British ships.

Admitting that this was an affair in which the French advanced squadron alone had retired from the fire of the British, still the two fleets were wholly in sight of each other, and M. Ganteaume had but to stand from under the protection of his batteries to bring on a general action. Considering that he had 21 sail of the line to oppose to 17, we cannot suppose that the French admiral would have declined a battle, had he, from the nature of his orders, been permitted to engage. To know that he was so restrained, and yet be compelled to keep his orders secret, must, to a brave officer like Vice-admiral Ganteaume, have been a sorry compensation for the public obloquy of the transaction, glossed over even as it was, by imperial command, in the columns of the Moniteur.

On every succeeding day, from the 23d to the 30th of August, some of the French ships got under way and manúuvred about, but the Brest fleet made no serious attempt to put to sea. Matters remained in this inactive state until the 13th of December ; when, taking advantage of a brisk gale from the north-east and the absence of the blockading fleet, which had retired into port to victual and refit, a division of the French fleet, consisting of 11 sail of the line, four frigates, and a corvette, quitted the anchorage outside the goulet, and put to sea. A succession of gales of wind, during the few days that remained of the year, prevented Admiral Cornwallis from regaining his station off Ushant, and concealed from his knowledge any positive information of the sailing of so large a division of the Brest fleet.

As we have done on other occasions, so we shall here, give some account of the different actions of the year fought between the British cruisers stationed off the French coast and the Invasion Flotilla. In the course of the spring the corps of Marshal Davoust, encamped in the neighbourhood of Ostende, proceeded to join the grand invading army, of which it formed the right wing. This occasioned a corresponding movement in the Gallo-Batavian flotilla ; and accordingly the port of Ambleteuse was fixed upon as the point of rendezvous for the different divisions stationed at Ostende, Dunkerque, and Calais. Admiral Ver-Huell, whom, in the preceding spring, we left at Ostende, whither in the we left at Ostende, whither

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