1805 - Departure of M. Villeneuve a second time from Toulo


 
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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
1805 Lord Nelson and M. Villeneuve 327

the morning, after one or two fruitless attempts to get out, the fleet weighed with a fine south-east wind, and passed between the island of Vache and the main ; or rather, the Victory and a few ships only went through this narrow channel, the remainder of the fleet passing on the outer side of Vache.

A continuance of fine weather brought into view, on the morning of the 12th, the high land over Toulon ; and on the 15th, in the evening, Lord Nelson gained his old winter station, a few miles to the eastward of Cape San-Sebastian. After detaching the Leviathan off Barcelona, to induce a belief that he was fixed on the coast of Spain, his lordship worked back to the eastward, and on the evening of the 25th, arrived close off the west end of the island of St.-Pietro. On the following day, the 26th, the wind shifted from south-east to south-west, and enabled the fleet ; on the 27th, to anchor in the gulf of Palma, where the victuallers and store-ships were lying. On the preceding day, Rear-admiral Thomas Louis had joined in the 32-gun frigate Ambuscade Captain William Durban, and now shifted his flag to the Canopus ; taking on board of her, in the room of Captain Conn, Captain William Francis Austen, who had accompanied the admiral from England. While Lord Nelson is provisioning and refitting his ships, let us turn our attention to the harbour of Toulon.

Vice-admiral Villeneuve used the utmost despatch in refitting his ships. The Annibal (late British Hannibal), being found unserviceable, was replaced by the new ship Pluton ; to whom, at the same time, the former transferred the whole of her officers and men. A similar exchange took place between the frigates Uranie and Hermione. As to the Incorruptible, she had suffered so much from her action with the Arrow, of which we shall hereafter give an account, as to be for the present laid up. The French fleet, therefore, consisted of 11 sail of the line, six frigates, and two brigs, * and still retained on board the 3500 troops under General Lauriston. The departure of Lord Nelson for the gulf of Palma enabled M. Villeneuve, on the evening of the 29th of March, to sail from Toulon road with the whole of his fleet ; which, on clearing Cape Sepet, steered south-south-west, with a moderate breeze from the north-east.

The wind on the following morning veered to north-north-west, and, instead of increasing, as had been expected, fell considerably. Owing to this the French fleet, during that and the succeeding day, made very little progress, and on the afternoon of the 31st, Cape Sicie bearing north distant 10 or 12 leagues, was discovered and recognised by the British frigates Active and Phoebe. These ships kept in sight of it until evening ; when the Phoebe bore up for the gulf of Palma, with a fresh breeze at west-north-west, and the Active, in order to keep company with

* Their names will be seen at p. 323, omitting the Incorruptible, and substituting the Pluton for the Annibal and the Hermione for the Uranie.

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