that the signal had reference to the number, rather than to the apparent strength, of the French ships, and accordingly stood on nearer than he otherwise would. At 11 a.m., however, being too weak to offer battle to a force now so evidently superior, the British squadron hauled to the wind on the starboard tack under all sail, formed in line ahead thus : Brunswick, Royal-Sovereign, Bellerophon, Triumph, Mars.
At 2 p.m. the French fleet, then on the same tack as the British squadron, separated into two divisions ; one of which tacked and stood to the northward, in order to take advantage of the land wind, while the other continued its course to the southward. At 4 p.m. the British squadron tacked, and did so again at 5 p.m. At 6 p.m. the French north division tacked to the southward. Soon afterwards, as the French admiral appears to have expected, the wind shifted to the northward, and thus enabled the north division to weather, and the south division to lie well up for, the British squadron ; from the centre ship of which, the Bellerophon, the first division bore east by north, or upon her starboard quarter, distant eight or nine miles, and the second division south-east, or upon her larboard quarter, distant about ten miles.
The Bellerophon and Brunswick, the former in particular, had always been considered as excellent sailers ; but, owing to some error in their stowage, they were now quite out of trim. The consequence was, that, in the course of the night, to improve their sailing, these ships were obliged to cut away their anchors and launches and start a portion of their water and provisions ; and the Bellerophon had also to throw overboard her four poop-carronades, with their carriages, and a great quantity of shot.
Notwithstanding they had thus lightened themselves, the Bellerophon and Brunswick very much retarded the squadron in its progress : so much so, indeed, that at daylight on the 17th the French fleet was discovered coming up very fast, formed in three divisions. The weather division consisted of three ships of the line and five frigates, and was nearly abreast of the British rear. The centre division consisted of five ships of the line and four frigates ; and the lee division, of four sail of the line, five frigates, two brigs, and two cutters.
At about 9 a.m. the French van-ship, believed to have been the Zélé. Captain Magnae, opened her fire upon the rearmost English ship, the Mars ; who, hoisting her colours, as did the rest of the squadron, promptly returned it with her stern-chasers. One of the French frigates from the centre division, since known to have been the Virginie, Captain Bergeret, gallantly ran up on the larboard or lee quarter of the Mars, and yawing fired repeatedly into her. At 9 h. 30 m. a.m., wishing to cover the Bellerophon from the effects of the enemy's fire, neither that ship nor the Triumph being able to spare the loss of a sail, the vice-admiral ordered the former to go ahead.
The Bellerophon, accordingly, passed close under the lee of
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