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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol I


Description of Toulon


betrayed a total unacquaintance with the subject. A fleet chasing in line of battle must not be expected to accomplish the best rate of sailing of the best sailer ; for if one ship is inferior to the rest, the whole fleet must be detained, in order that the slowest ship should keep her station. The proverbial character of French ships renders it probable that the slowest sailer of the Brest fleet could have outsailed the swiftest sailer of Lord Howe's ; especially upon a wind, in a light breeze, as was the case in the rencounter off Belle-Isle. In that of Cancale Bay, the French ships evidently got away by dint of superior sailing, aided by the thick and squally weather, and by the accidents which befel many of the leading British ships, and obliged their to discontinue the chase.

The refusal of M. Morard-de-Galles to come to an action with Lord Howe, where the forces were numerically equal, may have arisen from one or all of the following causes: an idea, founded on the reports of neutral and other vessels, met at sea, that the British admiral had upwards of 20, instead of 17 sail of the line ; the orders of the French government, not to risk an engagement unless with such odds in his favour as would ensure success, or unless the expected provision-laden convoy from America, the object of solicitude to all France, should require his protection. Of this convoy we hear nothing during the present year ; but Rear-admiral Sercey, who had been detached to escort it home, brought safe to the port of Brest, in the early part of November, his three 74s, the Eole, America, and Jupiter.

Having closed our year's account of the proceedings of the hostile fleets cruising in the Channel, we have next to attend to those stationed in the Mediterranean ; on the northern coast of which is situated the second naval depôt belonging to France. Toulon lies about 10 French leagues east from Marseille, 24 south-west from Nice, and 125 in the same direction from Paris. The sea-front is well defended by batteries, that flank all the avenues. However, as this port is likely, in the course of our narrative, to become a very interesting spot, we shall borrow an able description of it from the work of a contemporary.

" The engineer who constructed the dock at Toulon had great difficulties to encounter; the ground was full of springs, and constantly undermined his foundation ; he was therefore obliged to make an inverted arch of solid materials, which has answered the intended purpose: the French, build their largest and best ships here. Besides the inner harbour which encloses the arsenal, they have an outer harbour and a road. The inner harbour is a work of art, formed by two jetties, hollow and bomb-proof, running off from the east and west sides of the town, and embracing a space large enough to hold thirty sail of the line, stowed in tiers very close together, as many frigates, and a proportion of small-craft, besides their mast-pond. The arsenal is

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