|Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
||British and Franco-Spanish Fleets
stormy state of the weather, in the last case in particular, rendered them both abortive.
British and Franco-Spanish Fleets.
The declaration of war by Spain, followed up so quickly as it was by the hurried equipment of ships at all her principal dépôts in fulfilment of the secret treaty which she had concluded with France, * soon assembled a British naval force upon the coasts of the former. Off Ferrol, in which port lay, ready for sea, five French and seven Spanish sail of the line, exclusively of three of the latter fitting, cruised a British squadron of seven sail of the line, under Rear-admiral the Honourable Alexander Cochrane, in the Northumberland 74. In Cadiz one French and seven Spanish sail of the line were ready for sea, and four of the latter equipping ; and in Carthagena, six Spanish sail of the line were ready for sea. Off Cadiz was stationed a British squadron of five, and occasionally six sail of the line, under Vice-admiral Sir John Orde, in the Glory 98 ; and who, in conjunction with Vice-admiral Lord Nelson, whom, with 10 sail of the line, we left on the 31st of December cruising off Cape San-Sebastian, † kept an occasional eye upon the ships in Carthagena.
The junction of the six French and 20 Spanish sail of the line, ready for sea in Ferrol, Cadiz, and Carthagena, with the 11 French sail of the line, also ready for sea in Toulon, was a preliminary step towards the final success of the grand design which reigned the master-thought in the mind of him, who, such was the mean subserviency of Spain, had the whole 37 ships as much under his command, as if the French flag waved at the peak of every one of them. What efforts were made by the one party to accomplish, and by the other to defeat, the important object in agitation, will appear as we proceed in tile details upon which we are now about to enter.
Having detached the 38-gun frigates Active and Seahorse, Captains Richard Hussey Moubray and the Honourable Courtenay Boyle, to watch the port of Toulon, Lord Nelson on the 3d of January made sail from his station off Cape San-Sebastian towards the Magdalena islands, and on the 11th came to at his old anchorage in Agincourt sound. On the 15th the Superb rejoined from Algiers ; whither she had been sent to arrange some difference with the Dey. The force of Lord Nelson now consisted of 11 sail of the line, with scarcely a frigate or sloop to detach for intelligence.
On the 17th of January, early in the afternoon, the French fleet, consisting of the following 11 sail of the line, seven frigates, and two brigs, commanded by Vice-admiral Villeneuve, and having on board a body of 3500 troops under General Lauriston, put to sea from the road of Toulon, with a strong wind from the north-north-west :
* See p. 297
† See p. 241.
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