France, immense armament, was Vice-admiral Villaret-Joyeuse, having under him the Rear-admirals Bouvet, Nielly, Vanstabel, and Renaudin, and, as his colleagues and supervisors, the conventional deputies Faure and Tréhouart.
The folly of attempting to move so numerous and ill-provided a fleet in the midst of a peculiarly severe winter, and, above all, during the prevalence of a violent gale of wind, very soon showed its effects. The Républicain three-decker struck on the Mingan rock, which stands nearly in the centre of the goulet, and was entirely lost ; and the Redoutable 74, but for the skill and presence of mind of her captain, M. Moncousu, would have shared the same fate : as it was, the latter ship lost all her anchors and boats.
In consequence of these disasters, the remaining ships of M. Villaret's fleet came again to an anchor, and did not make a second attempt until the 31st of December. On this day the fleet, now, by the loss of the Républicain reduced to 34 sail of the line and frigates, weighed and stood out to sea; where we will leave the French ships to make the best of their way, while we recount a very dashing exploit in the reconnoitring way, which occurred during their absence.
On the 2d of January, early in the morning, an indistinct account of the sailing of the Brest fleet having reached Falmouth, a squadron of British frigates, consisting of the Flora, Captain Sir John Borlase Warren, Arethusa, Captain Sir Edward Pellew, and Diamond, Captain Sir William Sidney Smith, was despatched to the bay of Brest, to ascertain the truth of the prevailing rumour.
On the 3d the squadron arrived off the port ; and Sir John immediately sent the Diamond to look well into the harbour. With the wind at east, the frigate commenced beating up towards the entrance. At 2 p.m. Sir Sidney observed, also working in, three sail, evidently French ships of war. At 5 p.m., in order to be ready to take advantage of the next flood-tide, the Diamond cast anchor between Pointe Saint-Mathieu and Bec-du-Raz, and found lying, within about a mile from Saint-Mathieu and scarcely two from herself, a large ship, judged to be one of the three which had been seen beating to windward. At 11 p.m. the Diamond got under way, and continued working up under all sail.
On the 4th, at 2 a.m., Sir Sidney made out the vessel at anchor to be a ship of the line, and at 2 h. 30 m. a.m. passed close to windward of a frigate at anchor within Basse-Buzée. The ebb-tide had now made ; but the Diamond, that she might not drift to leeward or create suspicion, continued under sail, tacking between the roads of Bertheaume and Camaret.
The appearance of daylight at 7 a.m. brought to her view two ships coming through the goulet de Brest, 15 sail of small vessels at anchor in Camaret road, and a ship without her fore and mizen masts aground, as it appeared, on Petit-Menou point. This ship.
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