by signal, to shorten sail. At 10 a.m. the French fleet, which consisted of 26 sail of the line * and five frigates, having approached within nine or ten miles, hauled to the wind on the larboard tack, and lay to. Three of the ships were observed to be shifting their main topsails, and one a maintopsail yard. After a considerable delay, during which a three-decker was seen to pass along the line as if to speak each ship, the French fleet formed an indifferent line ahead. At 10 h. 35 m. a.m. the British fleet, having, by signal from the Queen-Charlotte, wore round in succession, came to on the same tack as the French, and pressed to windward, in two columns, having the weather division already named as a flying squadron. At 11 h. 10 m. a.m. the signal was made, that there would be time for the ship's companies to dine.
At 1 p.m., or a little after, the French ships filled and made sail, and soon afterwards commenced tacking. At 1 h. 30 m. p.m. the British flying squadron was ordered to harass the enemy's rear-ships; and in a quarter of an hour afterwards, it appearing that the French were inclined to make off, Lord Hove threw out the signal for a general chase. This was almost immediately followed by another, to engage the enemy as arriving up with him.
At 2 h. 30 m. p.m. the Russel, being nearly a mile to windward of the other ships of her division, discharged a few shots at the enemy's sternmost ships as they were hauling on the starboard tack, and the latter fired in return. At a little before 3 p.m. the Bellerophon, just as the enemy's rear-ship, a two-decker, was right abeam, tacked ; as did, by signal, the whole of the British fleet, excepting the Russel, Marlborough, Thunderer, and frigates, which ships, for the purpose of getting into the wake of the French fleet, now close hauled in line ahead on the starboard tack, with the wind fresh and squally from the southward, stood on a little longer.
At a few minutes past 5 p.m. the French van and centre shortened sail, in order, as it appeared to the British, that the Révolutionnaire might exchange places with the rearmost two-decker. † At 6 p.m. the Bellerophon, notwithstanding that this day, from some defect in her trim, she was the slowest sailor of her division, got near enough, by having embraced the proper moment for tacking, to open her fire upon the gallant French three-decker, now, of her own choice, the rearmost and most
* The same that are named in pp. 127, 128, with the addition of the Patriote, as noticed at the bottom of the same page.
† According to M. Jean-Bon Saint-André's official report, this act of the French three-decker was not sanctioned by the admiral: "Un de nos vaisseaux, le Révolutionnaire par des motifs que nous ignorons encore, avait diminué de voile à 1'apparition de l'ennemi. Malgré les signaux que lui furent fans, il demeura sons le vent et de l'arrière de l'armée, en sorte qu'a l'entrée de la nuit, et lorsque nous ne pouvions plus l'observcr, iI fut engagé par plusieurs vaisseaux Anglais."
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