1806 - Cruise of M. Willaumez


 
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Naval history of Great Britain - Vol. IV
by
William James
1806 British and French Fleets 204

Martinique, and steered for the island of Montserrat, to windward of which he found himself on the following day. The squadron having here separated, two of the ships appeared before the harbour, and demanded and took three English merchant vessels which were at anchor within it. Meanwhile information had been sent to the islands of Nevis and St.-Christopher, time enough for a part of the homeward-bound convoy, amounting to 65 sail, collected off Sandy Point at the latter island, to put to sea, under the protection of the 28-gun frigate Carysfort, Captain Kenneth M'Kenzie, and Dolphin armed store-ship, Lieutenant William Hodge ; who, with their charge, stood away to leeward, unseen by the enemy. Nine sail, however, from Nevis, and from Basse-Terre, St.-Christopher's, which had missed the convoy, were obliged to take refuge under the batteries of Brimstonehill, on the last-named island. These nine sail of merchantmen, about sunset on the 3d, were attacked by the remaining four French sail of the line, on their return from Nevis, where they had captured three ships and a brig. Owing, however, to the heavy cannonade opened by the fort on Brimstone-hill and by a battery near the beach, the French ships, one of them with some damage to her rigging, were compelled to retire without effecting their object. All this occupies a very small space in the French narrative of the proceedings of M. Willaumez's squadron. " Elle se dirigea vers Mont-Serrat, et rançonna (rather a strong word for all that was done) cette colonie. L'amiral Willaumez visita encore plusieurs rades ennemies, où il fit des prises."

On the 4th, early in the morning, the two ships that had been at Montserrat joined the four which had been foiled at St.Christopher's, and the squadron stood towards the island of Tortola, in high glee at the prospect of capturing the greater part of the immense fleet of deeply-laden English ships there assembled, ready to proceed on their homeward-bound voyage. It so happened, however, that, at daybreak on the 6th, at a short distance to the south-east of the west point of the island of St.Thomas, and at about nine miles to windward of the French squadron, was cruising a British squadron, under Rear-admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane, consisting of the three 74s named in the preceding page, the 64-gun ship Agamemnon, Captain Jonas Rose, and the frigates Ethalion, Seine, Galatea, and Circe, together with some sloops and schooners.

Since the 4th Sir Alexander had heard of the arrival of M. Willaumez off Montserrat, and, with a laudable zeal, was proceeding to endeavour to rescue the convoy from his grasp. Almost immediately on perceiving the British squadron, the French squadron, as if desirous to avoid a contest, bore up and ran through the Channel between St.-Thomas and Passage island, followed, until 2 P.M., by Sir Alexander ; who then steered for Drake's bay, Tortola, and anchored there on the

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