|Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
On the 31st of August Buonaparte became apprized of the departure of the combined fleet from Ferrol and Corunna, as he hoped, for Brest. This reanimated, in some degree, the hopes of the emperor; and on the 22d Marshal Berthier, the minister of marine, by Napoléon's directions, writes thus to General Marmont, the commander-in-chief of the army of Holland : "Je vous préviens, général, que l'escadre de l'empereur est partie du Ferrol le 26 thermidor (14 août) avec l'escadre espagnole. Si ces escadres combinées arrivent dans la Manche, l'empereur fait de suite l'expédition d'Angleterre ; mais si, par des circonstances de vents contraires, ou enfin, par le peu d'audace de nos amiraux, * elles ne peuvent se rendre dans la Manche, l'empereur et roi ajournera l'expédition à une autre année, parce-qu'elle n'est plus possible." ‡ The marshal then directs the general to be ready, at a moment's notice, to disembark his troops, estimated at 20,000, and proceed with them to Mayence, &c. † In about four days after the date of this letter the fatal news arrives that M. Villeneuve, having quitted Ferrol with 29 sail of the line, had steered for Cadiz instead of the Channel, where the emperor and his army had been so long anxiously expecting him.
Thus had the crisis arrived for adjourning the expedition against England to another year. By the end of August, the troops that had been encamped at Ostende, Ambleteuse, Boulogne, and Montreuil, were making forced marches to the banks of the Rhine. On the 4th of September the emperor quitted Boulogne for Paris, having left orders with Rear-admiral Lacrosse to send out occasionally a division of gun-boats to manœuvre, and to maintain the utmost discipline and good order among the officers and men. The greater part, if not the whole, of the gun-vessels at all the dépôts but Boulogne, were, in a short time, dismantled and laid up. It was the intention of Napoléon to keep a body of troops encamped upon the heights of Boulogne, partly, in conjunction with the gun-vessels in the basin and road, to deceive the British, but chiefly, as it was a remarkably healthy spot, to have an army of 30,000 or 40,000 men ready to act on any emergency. The operations against the remnant of the flotilla were now confined to Boulogne ; and, although in September and November two attempts were made to destroy the line of gun-vessels at anchor in the road, the
* This reflection upon the admirals is only to be found in the quotation from the letter contained in the text of M. Dumas (tome xii., p. 122) : it is wholly omitted in what purports to be the entire copy inserted among the "Pièces Justificatifs." We may conclude from this, that the author made his extract from the original, without reflecting upon the meaning or tendency of the passage alluded to, but that, when he or another for him, came to transcribe the letters for the Appendix, the discovery was made, and the offensive words omitted.
† Précis des Evènemens, tome xii., p. 334
^ back to top ^