1805 - Lord Nelson's second chase of him


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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
1805 British and Franco-Spanish Fleets 328

the French ships, stood upon a wind to the south-west, but, after dark, saw no more of them. On the 1st of April, in the morning, a Ragusian vessel informed M. Villeneuve that, five days before, she had seen the British fleet to the southward of Sardinia. In consequence of this intelligence, which was correct, the French admiral, who, from previous information that Lord Nelson was off Barcelona (a proof that the ruse with the Leviathan had begun to take effect), had intended to pass to the eastward of the Balaric islands, was induced to alter his course and pass to the westward of them. The fleet accordingly kept close to the coast of Spain, and on the 6th, in a calm, arrived off the port of Carthagena ; where we will leave M. Villeneuve awhile, to show what effect his activity had produced upon the movements of him, to avoid whom was so principal a point in the instructions given to the French admiral.

Wanting water for his ships, Lord Nelson had, on the 1st of April, removed from Palma to Pulla bay ; whence he had again sailed on the morning of the 3d, steering to the westward, with a moderate breeze at north-east. On the following morning, the 4th, when a few leagues to the westward of the island of Toro, the wind shifted to the north-north-west ; and at 8 a.m., in the midst of hazy, unsettled weather and drizzling rain, the Phoebe made her appearance in the offing, with the exhilarating signal, that the French admiral was at sea. Cruisers were instantly despatched in all directions ; and, on the supposition that the French fleet had continued its course to the southward (as would have been the case, had the Ragusian vessel not crossed it), the British fleet lay to all night, and, on the morning of the 5th, was about midway between the coasts of Barbary and Sardinia.

After waiting in this narrow channel until the 7th, the fleet bore up for Palermo, in order to cover Sicily and the more eastern parts of the Mediterranean, should the French have passed to the northward of Corsica. Two more days having elapsed without the slightest intelligence, Lord Nelson, on the 9th, being then off the western end of Sicily, stood to the westward. Of this change of course to the westward, Napoléon was for a long time unapprized. Even so late as a fortnight afterwards he sent a courier to M. Villeneuve, with information that Lord Nelson was gone to Egypt; and, lest the latter should learn that the French fleet had passed the Straits, he ordered the insertion of a paragraph in the Dutch journals, to the effect, that a French fleet had landed 6000 men in Egypt ; that the admiral had made a feint of passing the Straits, but, in the night, had returned unseen along the African coast, and thereby deceived Lord Nelson. *

The line-of-battle ships making but slow progress against

* Précis des Evènemens, tome xi., p. 231.

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