1805 - Sir Robert Calder's Action


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Naval history of Great Britain - Vol. IV
William James
1805 Sir Robert Calder's Action 21

and directs his minister of marine to order out the latter, with the French ships alone (mon escadre," not "les escadres franco-espagnols," or "la flotte combinée"), upon a new expedition. M, Villeneuve is to proceed off Naples, and disembark, at some point on the coast, all the troops on board the French ships, in order that they may join the army under General Saint-Cyr. He is then to capture the English ship of the line (Excellent 74) and Russian frigate cruising in the bay of Naples ; to do all possible injury to the English ; to intercept an expedition (Sir James Craig's) which Napoleon supposes to be destined for Malta, and then to enter Toulon ; where M. Villeneuve was to find every thing necessary for repairing and revictualling his ships. Part of the plan, if not previously accomplished, was to call at Genoa for the new 74 Genois ; and then, with the Borée (launched at Toulon, June 26) and Annibal 74s, there would be a fleet of 21 sail of the line in Toulon. The emperor's brother Jérôme, who had been appointed to the 40-gun frigate Pomone, was also, with the assistance of the Borée, and of the Annibal, if the latter could be made serviceable, to do all possible mischief to the British in the Mediterranean.

But the most extraordinary part of this letter is Napoléon's apparent persuasion, that the "excessive pusillanimity" of M. Villeneuve would prevent him from undertaking the expedition. He therefore directs, that Vice-admiral Rosily be despatched to supersede M. Villeneuve in the command ; and who is to carry out orders to the latter to return immediately to France, to render an account of his conduct. "J'estime donc," says Napoléon, "qu'il faut faire deux choses:

1°. Envoyer un courrier extraordinaire à l'amiral Villeneuve, pour lui prescrire de faire cette manoeuvre;

2°.  Comme son excessive pusillanimité l'empêchera de l'entreprendre, vous enverrez, pour le remplacer, l'amiral Rosilly, qui sera porteur de lettres qui enjoindront à l'amiral Villeneuve de se rendre en France pour rendre compte de sa conduite."*

Harsh and very unmerited was this treatment of M. Villeneuve. The main point in the French admiral's instructions had always been, to avoid an engagement, and to bring his fleet fresh and entire into the English Channel. Doubtless M. Villeneuve had, from the first, been much retarded in his proceeding by the natural supineness of his Spanish friends ; and who, now that they knew the object of all this voyaging to and fro, must have felt less inclined than ever to co-operate with the French admiral.

On the 22d of August Vice-admiral Collingwood was reinforced by four sail of the line under Rear-admiral Sir Richard Bickerton ; but who subsequently shifted his flag from the Queen 98 to the Décade frigate, and proceeded to England for

*  Precis des Evènemens, tome xii, p 261,

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