1805 - Admiral Villeneuve off Cape Finisterre, Lord Nelson at Gibraltar


 
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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
1805 British and Franco-Spanish Fleets 340

vessels, with all the rum and sugar and coffee on board, were in flames. A French writer confirms the fact ; calling by mistake the two sloops " frigates," and seeming to be unapprized of the ruse that was practised. *

On the 30th of June, when about 20 leagues to the north-east of the island of Corvo, the northernmost of the Azores, M. Villeneuve was rejoined by his five frigates. On the same day the Didon captured and burnt an English privateer, of 14 guns and 49 men. On the 3d of July the fleet recaptured the late Spanish galleon Matilda, with treasure on board to the estimated value of from 14 to 15 millions of francs ; and at the same time captured the privateer, the Mars, of Liverpool, who had made prize of the galleon, and was conducting her to an English port. The privateer was set on fire, and the galleon taken in tow by the Sirène frigate. Nothing further of consequence happened to the combined fleet until it arrived off Cape Finisterre on the 9th of July ; on which day a violent gale of wind from the north-east carried away the main topmast of the Indomptable, and otherwise slightly damaged some of the ships. The wind moderated, but continued to blow from the same adverse quarter, until a day or two before the 22d ; when, with a favourable change of wind, occurred an event, the account of which had best be deferred till we have brought up the proceedings of the chasing fleet.

After quitting Antigua on the 13th of June, Lord Nelson, still with no more than his own discretion for a guide, hastened towards Europe, and on the 17th of July came in sight of Cape St.-Vincent; " making, " observes the admiral in his diary, " our whole run from Barbuda, day by day, 3459 miles. Our run from Cape St.-Vincent to Barbadoes," he adds, " was 3227 miles ; so that our run back was only 232 miles more than our run out, allowance being made for the difference of the latitudes and longitudes of Barbadoes and Barbuda ; average per day 34 leagues wanting nine miles. " On the following day, the 18th, being on his way to Gibraltar for provisions for his fleet, Lord Nelson fell in with Vice-admiral Collingwood, with the Dreadnought 98 and two other sail of the line ; but who had not the slightest information to communicate beyond what his own sagacity, and that was of no common kind, suggested. Vice-admiral Collingwood considered the voyage to the West Indies in the right point of view, merely as a means of drawing off the British force from the Channel, to admit of an attack upon Ireland ; and, it will be recollected, a disembarkation on Ireland was one of the preliminary steps in Napoléon's plan.

On the 19th of July the British fleet anchored in Gibraltar bay; and " on the 20th," says Lord Nelson in his diary, " I went

* Victoires et Conquêtes, tome xvi., p. 128.

See p. 334.

See p. 217 ; also a letter from Vice-admiral Collingwood to Lord Nelson on this subject, Appendix, No. 37.

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