1809 - Lord Gambier at Basque Roads

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1809 Lord Gambier at Basque Roads 129

trial of the French officers, may be comprised in a few words. Had the facts disclosed on that trial, respecting the actual position and defenceless state of several of the grounded ships, been known to the court-martial which sat upon, and honourably acquitted, Admiral Lord Gambier, the members would certainly have been better qualified to judge of the merits of the case submitted to their consideration ; but we cannot persuade ourselves that, even in that case, the court, composed as it was, would have pronounced a sentence more consonant to justice, and, as it would then in reality have been, " to the welfare of his majesty's service. " *

We have looked into the account of the business of Basque roads, as it stands in the work of a contemporary ; but the partiality, visible in every line of the few pages devoted to the subject, excites in us so much disgust, that we shall notice it no further than to mention, that the Jean-Bart, wrecked six weeks before the fire-ships were sent into Aix road, is declared to have been " lost on the Pallais shoal a few days after, in consequence of this attack, " † and that, among the half a dozen captains, upon whom the writer bestows his commendation, is Captain "Prouse," or Prowse, who was not present, nor even in command of a ship.

We will now take a brief view of the state in which the fleet of M. Allemand was left, at Lord Gambier's departure from Basque roads. The Océan and Foudroyant were moored a full league up the river, and there lay aground ; the latter with only 26 of her guns on board, and the former with scarcely as many. The Océan was also in a very leaky and insecure state, from the opening of her seams by the straining she had previously undergone and was still suffering. The Cassard, Tourville, Régulus and Patriote, with the three frigates, were at anchor off Rochefort, and were to remove back to the road of Aix, as soon as they could be supplied with guns and anchors from the imperial foundry, and from among those set apart for the ships on the stocks at Rochefort, consisting of two three-deckers, the Jéna and Ville-de-Vienne, and a 40-gun frigate. A fine 80-gun ship, the Triomphant, had recently been launched, and was fitting for sea.

To protect the anchorage of Aix, as soon as he should be in a state to return to it, M. Allemand had ordered the construction of a fresh boom, composed, in part, of the chains taken out of the wrecks of the fire-ships. There was also to be a second boom, within the principal one ; and both booms were to be protected by a numerous flotilla of heavy gun and mortar boats. By way of encouraging the sailors selected to man them, the minister of marine promised very high rewards to those who should board

* See p, 125

† E. P. Brenton, The Naval history of Great Britain from the Year 1783-1822, London, 1836, Volume IV, p.287.)

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