commander-in-chief of this formidable armament was Buonaparte, having under him, as his generals of division, Kléber, Desaix, Regnier, Bon, Duqua, Menou, Vaubois, Dumuy, and Dumas, besides 11 generals of brigade. The fleet was commanded by Vice-admiral Brueys, having under him Rear-admirals, Villeneuve, Blanquet, and Decrès, and, for his captain of fleet, Commodore Ganteaume. The admiral had his flag on board the 120-gun ship Orient, as the ci-devant Sans-Culotte was now, in reference to the object of the expedition appropriately named, and in her General Buonaparte embarked, accompanied by the principal part of his suite.
On the 19th of May, in the morning, the whole of this numerous fleet, except a portion of the transports, that were to join on the passage, got under way from Toulon road with a strong wind from the north-west, and, running along the coast of Provence, stopped off Genoa, to be joined by the division of transports in that port ; then stood straight across to Cape Corse, which was signalled on the 23d, at daybreak. The fleet remained in sight of the eastern coast of Corsica until the 30th and then stood leisurely along the island of Sardinia, in the expectation of being joined by the convoy from Civita-Vecchia ; which convoy, it was known, had left that port on the 28th.
On the 3d of June, Buonaparte received intelligence, that three English ships of the line and two frigates had been seen off Cagliari. A division of French ships proceeded in that direction, but saw nothing and returned. Having waited in vain for the junction of the expected convoy from Civita-Vecchia, the fleet proceeded without it, and on the 7th passed within gun-shot of the port of Mazara in Sicily, having in view on the opposite side the small island of Pantellaria. On the 8th an English brig, captured by one of the look-out frigates, gave intelligence that Admiral Nelson's squadron. sent in Pursuit of the French Fleet, was not very far astern. This news, erroneous as it was, gave great uneasiness to the commander-in-chief. * On the same night the expedition quitted the coast of Sicily, and, steering to the south-east, gained, at 5 h. 30 m. a.m. on the 9th, a sight of the islands of Goza and Malta ; off which the admiral was joined by the Civita-Vecchia division of transports numbering 70 sail.
The fate, which soon befel this, as a Mediterranean possession, important island, will be in some degree elucidated by a short account of the measures France had previously taken to undermine its independence. Since the month of January in the present year, M. Poussielgue, secretary to the French legation at Genoa, had been sent to sound the knights and grand-master of the order of St.-John of Jerusalem, as to their inclination to permit a French squadron to approach the shores of their island ;
* Victoires et Conquêtes, tome ix., p. 10.
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