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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol II
1797 Pursuit of the French Fleet 21

west, and, blowing strong, carried the British fleet, by noon on the 20th, to latitude 48 7' north, longitude 5 49' west, or to a spot at about equal distances (13 to 14 leagues) from Ushant and the Saintes. In the morning of this day the squadron of Rear-admiral Villeneuve from Toulon made its appearance to windward, and was chased, in almost a gale of wind, by the Impétueux, Minotaur, Bellerophon, Marlborough, and some of the frigates ; but, owing in a great degree to the haziness of the weather, the French admiral, with his five sail of the line and two (having parted company with one) frigates, effected his escape, and on the 23d entered Lorient. On the day previous the Révolutionnaire had joined Vice-admiral Colpoys ; but, several of his ships having suffered in the gale and been obliged to part company, the admiral soon afterwards bore away for Spithead ; where he arrived on the 31st with only six sail of the line under his command.

It was on the 20th of December, late in the evening, that Sir Edward Pellew, in the Indefatigable, anchored in Carrig road, Falmouth; and from him, or from the Duke-of-York lugger, which may have arrived a few hours earlier, the British government became apprized of the escape of the French fleet from Brest. As a proof that no time was lost in forwarding orders to Spithead, Lord Bridport, on the 25th, got under way with his fleet ; but a series of accidents prevented him from sailing, and became, as we shall see, the principal cause of his missing a strong division of the fleet, whose capture or destruction was the sole object of his putting to sea. The Prince 98, as was no uncommon thing with her, missed stays, and, paying round off, ran foul of the Sans-Pareil abreast of the starboard gangway, thereby doing herself so much injury, that she was obliged to remain behind to be docked. The Formidable got on board the Ville-de-Paris, by which a mutual injury was sustained; and the Atlas grounded. Having at length succeeded with eight line-of-battle ships in reaching St.-Helen's, the admiral was prevented from sailing by a sudden change of wind ; which, although favourable for his getting to sea, was directly on the bows of the ships coming to join him from Spithead. This made it the morning of the 3d of January before the fleet, consisting of 14 sail of the line, six frigates, a fireship, and a cutter, got away from the anchorage.

Lord Bridport, pursuant to his instructions, proceeded straight for Ushant, and in two days arrived off the island. Thence he stretched across to Cape Clear, and on the 9th looked into Bantry bay, but of course saw nothing of the enemy ; although, had the fleet sailed on Christmas-day, or even the day after, the British admiral would probably have given the French admiral something else to complain of than bad weather. On the 10th the British fleet, as already mentioned, chased unsuccessfully the Révolution and Fraternité. On the 11th, in the morning,

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