Next Page

Previous Page

10 Pages >>

10 Pages <<
Naval History of Great Britain - Vol II
1799 British and Franco-Spanish Fleets 258

74 Montagu Captain John Knight.
Northumberland Captain George Martin.
Marlborough Captain Thomas Sotheby.
Warrior Captain Charles Tyler.
Hector Captain John Elphinstone.
Defence Captain Lord Henry Paulet.
Majestic Captain Robert Cuthbert.

Immediately on, the receipt of this news the fleet, accompanied by one frigate only, the Success, got under way, and prepared for action. At 11 a.m. the Childers, with three transports under her protection, was despatched to Earl St. Vincent at Gibraltar. During the remainder of the day, and throughout the ensuing night, Lord Keith, with his 15 line-of-battle ships formed in line, continued to stand off and on the harbour, with the wind blowing fresh from the northward and westward.

On the 4th, at 8 h. 30 m. a.m., the French fleet was seen about five leagues off in the west-north-west. At 10 a.m. the Majestic signalled that the strange fleet numbered altogether 33 sail. The French ships then wore from the rear, and formed on the larboard tack, with their heads to the north-east ; and the British ships immediately formed on the same tack. Soon afterwards the French fleet again wore, and stood away to the south-west, the wind then a perfect storm. At 5 p.m. the town of Cadiz bore from the Barfleur, south-east by south distant five or six leagues, and the French ships, in the hazy state of the weather, had all disappeared. The gale, blowing right into the harbour of Cadiz, rendered it impossible for the Spanish ships to come out to join their friends in the offing, even had they been ready or disposed. The same wind blew fair for the Straits, and drove the French ships before it.

On the 5th, at daybreak, the town of Cadiz then only eight miles distant from the British fleet, four French ships of the line, standing on the starboard tack, with the wind fresh at south-west, showed themselves in the north-west. At 8 a.m. these ships, which, on account of the bad weather probably, had dropped astern of their companions, passed about seven miles to windward of the British fleet, and by 10 a.m. were out of sight. On the same day, at 5 p.m., in thick hazy weather, 26 French ships, of which 19 at least were ascertained to be of the line, were seen from the rock of Gibraltar, passing through the Straits into the Mediterranean. These were known to be the Brest fleet, as, early on the preceding day, the Childers had arrived with despatches from Lord Keith.

On the 6th the ships of war in Cadiz were observed with their topgallantmasts struck, and their topsails loosed to dry; a proof that they were not then, however they may have been before the gale commenced, ready to proceed to sea. At noon

^ back to top ^