1808 - Lord Collingwood and Admiral Ganteaume

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1808 British and French Fleets 8

On the 6th when off Cape St.-Vito, Lord Collingwood was joined by the Apollo, with the intelligence of M. Ganteaume's departure from Toulon a month back. The British fleet immediately stood across to the bay of Naples ; where the Standard's intelligence at length reached Lord Collingwood : who thereupon stood back to the southward ; but, instead of proceeding through the straits of Messina, his lordship sailed round the west end of Sicily.

On the 21st Lord Collingwood arrived off the harbour of Syracuse, and such of the ships as were in want of water went in and obtained it. On the next day, the 22d, the British fleet sailed towards the entrance of the Adriatic ; and on the 23d, having detached Rear-admiral Martin with three sail of the line to Palermo, Lord Collingwood was a few miles to the northward of Cape Spartivento, with 12, expecting every moment to meet Vice-admiral Ganteaume on his way from Corfu and Taranto. * On the 28th, by which time the British fleet had got within a few miles of Cape Rezzuto, information was received, that the French fleet, eight or nine days before, had quitted the Adriatic for the Mediterranean. The British ships immediately turned their heads to the westward, and on the 10th of April were abreast of the southern extremity of Sardinia. Between this island and Sicily Lord Collingwood cruised until the 28th ; when the 32-gun frigate Proserpine, Captain Charles Otter, joined with intelligence that M. Ganteaume was at anchor with his fleet in the road of Toulon. The British fleet then steered for that port, and on the 3d of May arrived off Cape Sicie.

It was certainly a very extraordinary circumstance that these fleets should have so missed each other. On the 16th of March, when M. Ganteaume sailed from Corfu, Lord Collingwood was about a degree to the northward of the island of Pantalaria. From these points the two fleets continued to approach each other, until the British fleet, directing its course for Syracuse, entered the bight formed by the capes Passaro and Spartivento, while the French fleet stood over to the coast of Tripoli, and, passing wide of the island of Malta, made Cape Bon. The time subsequently spent by M. Ganteaume, in cruising off Sicily and the eastern coast of Sardinia, might yet have been taken advantage of, had the British admiral steered straight for Toulon ; but, six days after M. Ganteaume had anchored in that road, we find Lord Collingwood putting back from the longitude of Minorca, to seek him on the coast of Sicily : nor was it until 17 days afterwards that the British fleet arrived off Cape Sicie.

Leaving Vice-admiral Thornborough with a sufficient force to

* As appears by a general order respecting the mode of attack to be adopted, which Lord Collingwood issued on that day ; and, for a copy of which, see Appendix, No. 5.

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