1805 - Sir Richard Strachan's Action


 
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Naval history of Great Britain - Vol. IV
by
William James
1805 British and Franco-Spanish Fleets 110

west-south-west, the Santa-Margarita joined the Cæsar and her three companions; and at 7 h. 30 m. A.M. Cape Ortugal appeared in sight, bearing south-east half-east distant 36 miles. At 9 A.M. the French ships again showed themselves in the north-north east ; and the British ships, spreading every thing they could set, immediately chased in that direction. At 11 A.M. the Namur, preceded by the Phoenix, and followed at some distance by a frigate which afterwards proved to be the Révolutionnaire 38, Captain the Honourable Henry Hotham, appeared far astern using every effort to get up. At noon the French ships were about 14 miles distant, and in the same line of bearing as when first seen, the wind south-south-west, blowing strong. Toward 3 P.M. the Santa-Margarita, by her superior sailing, became the leading ship in the chase ; and the Phoenix, upon joining in the evening, was despatched ahead, to assist the former in harassing the enemy's rear. To the great mortification of her officers and crew, the Bellona had by this time parted company.

On the 4th, at daylight, owing to the indifferent sailing of the Formidable, aided by the partial influence of the wind in its fluctuations throughout the night, and which now blew moderately from the south-east, the British ships had gained so far in the chase, that scarcely six miles intervened between the Cæsar, still the leading line-of-battle ship of her squadron, and the Scipion, the rearmost ship in the French line. Such also, during the preceding night's chase, had been the zeal and activity on board the Santa-Margarita, that, by 5 h. 45 m. A.M. this frigate got near enough to fire her starboard foremost guns at the Scipion ; who, in a quarter of an hour afterwards brought her stern-chasers to bear, and presently killed the boatswain, and badly struck the hull, of the Santa-Margarita. At 9 h. 30 m. A.M. the Phoenix got up, and opened a fire from her larboard guns into the Scipion's starboard quarter. In this way the two British frigates, practising every feasible manoeuvre to keep clear of the broadsides of their formidable opponents, continued to harass the French rear. Meanwhile the Cæsar, Hero, and Courageux, now formed in line ahead, and just favoured by a shift of wind to south-south-east, were rapidly approaching, to give a more decided feature to the combat.

At about 11 h. 45 m. A.M., finding an action unavoidable, the French admiral threw out the signal for his ships to take in their small sails, and haul up together on the starboard tack, with their heads to the north-east by east. This they presently did, and then fell into a line ahead in the following order Duguay-Trouin, Formidable, Mont-Blanc, Scipion. From the last-named ship the Cæsar at this time bore about south by west rather more than a mile distant: consequently she was well on the weather quarter of the French rear. The Namur and Révolutionnaire had been great gainers by the slight change in the wind. They were now running with it upon the quarter, and

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