1806 - Cruise of M. Willaumez


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Naval history of Great Britain - Vol. IV
William James
1806 British and French Fleets 206

some other vessels, he cruised a short time in the Mediterranean. One would suppose that this promotion was sufficiently rapid to satisfy even a royal mind. Before, however, he had been a capitaine de frégate seven months, Jérôme wanted to make himself a capitaine de vaisseau. About this time his vagaries, and his total disregard of the rules of the service, notwithstanding all the allowances made to him as the brother of the emperor, created so much disgust in the French navy, that complaints were forwarded to Napoléon ; who, in a letter of June 16, 1805 says to his minister of marine: " M. Jérôme Buonaparte cannot be a capitaine de vaisseau : it would be a fatal innovation to suffer him to give himself rank. In this point of view, his conduct betrays an unexampled levity, and his justification has no reason in it. Not only has Jérôme not the right to make an enseigne a lieutenant, but I annul the appointment : this conduct is altogether ridiculous. When he shall have fought and captured an English line-of-battle ship, he will not have the right of giving rank, but simply of recommending those who may have distinguished themselves. " *

It may easily be conceived what a plague this, in court Language, illustrious personage was to an enterprising officer like M. Willaumez. Doubtless the admiral had received from the emperor the most solemn charge to avoid every risk of placing his headstrong brother in the hands of his enemies. If so, there is less difficulty in accounting for the apparently shy conduct of Rear-admiral Willaumez in retreating, as well from Sir John Duckworth with an equal, as from Sir Alexander Cochrane with an inferior force. In short, the Cruise of M. Willaumez, like the generality of those planned by the French emperor, had for its object an attack upon the defenceless commerce, rather than upon the armed ships and batteries, of his enemy.

After the squadron had cruised for some days longer upon the Bahama bank, in the listless and unprofitable manner already mentioned, the impatience of the admiral's protégé could hold out no longer ; and accordingly, on the night of the 31st of July, the Vetéran contrived to part company. With the aid of his first lieutenant, and of the other able officers that were no doubt placed around him, Captain Jérôme bent his course towards Europe. On the 10th of August, in latitude 46° 31' north, longitude 350 15' west, he was fortunate enough to fall in with a homeward-bound Quebec fleet of 16 sail, under the protection of the 22-gun ship Champion, Captain Robert Howe Bromley. After a gallant but unsuccessful attempt to draw the French 74 in chase of herself, the Champion saw six of her convoy captured and burnt. According to Jérôme's account, three others shared the same fate ; but the " two frigates "

* For the original of this letter, see Appendix, No. 18.

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