1806 - British squadrons sent in pursuit of French squadrons


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Naval history of Great Britain - Vol. IV
William James
1806 British and French Fleets 186

About the middle or latter end of January, after having been detained several days by foul winds, these squadrons sailed - Sir John Warren's from St.-Helen's, Sir Richard Strachan's from Cawsand bay. Sir John's instructions were to proceed to the island of Madeira, and there endeavour to gain intelligence of the route of the French squadron : if that intelligence did not substantially controvert the supposition of its having gone to the West Indies, the British admiral was then to hasten to Barbadoes ; whence, if no tidings could be heard, he was, after leaving a portion of his force with Rear-admiral Cochrane, to run down to Jamaica. There he was to consult with Vice admiral Dacres, and, if the latter should have nothing to communicate respecting the route of the French, he was to augment the force on the Jamaica station to four sail of the line, and, with the remaining ships of his squadron, return to Spithead. Sir Richard Strachan, with his six sail of the line, was to proceed straight to the island of St.-Helena, in search also of the above French squadron. Not finding it there, he was to make the best of his way to the Cape of Good Hope, to reinforce the expedition which had been sent to effect the capture of that important settlement. Let us now return to the two French admirals.

On the 15th, in the afternoon, latitude 46 8' north, longitude 12 14' west, a British convoy of 23 sail, from Cork to the West Indies, under the protection of the 38-gun frigates Arethusa, Captain Charles Brisbane, and Boadicea, Captain John Maitland, and 18-gun ship-sloop Wasp, Captain Buckland Stirling Bluett, fell in with both French squadrons to leeward ; the nearest of which, being that of M. Leissegues, was steering to the westward, with a north-north-east wind, and the other, which was only visible from the mast-head, appeared to be steering to the southward. The squadron under M. Willaumez was, in fact, then in pursuit of a convoy from Gibraltar, in charge of the Polyphemus 64 and Sirius frigate, and the French succeeded in capturing one or two transports ; with which the Volontaire was immediately detached to Teneriffe. Four of the French ships, of which the Veteran was one, chased the Sirius for nearly two hours, and compelled her to part company.

Early on the morning of the 16th, when the character of the only squadron now seen by Captain Brisbane and his companions became clearly ascertained, 17 of the convoy, by signal from the Arethusa, steered south-west, and the remaining six sail, with the three men of war, tacked and stood to the northwest. The French squadron immediately did the same, and

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