|Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
||British and French Fleets - Mediterranean
the most distinguished in the service, whom he had previously met either as enemies or friends.
Of the importance of the supplies on board the Généreux and her convoy to the French garrison in Valetta, some idea may be formed, by the following prices of the principal articles of food a fowl 16 francs, a rabbit 12 francs, an egg 20 sous, a lettuce 18 sous, a rat 40 sous, and fish six francs per pound. In addition to this the typhus fever was making destructive ravages among the troops, and the only bouillé served to the sick in the hospitals was made of horse-flesh.* In this emergency General Vaubois determined to despatch Rear-admiral Decres, with the Guillaume-Tell, to announce to the first consul, that the place could not hold out longer than the month of June.
Shortly after the capture of the Généreux Lord Keith proceeded with the Queen-Charlotte to Leghorn; off which port that ship's fate was sealed in the distressing manner already detailed. In the early part of March Rear-admiral Lord Nelson, being indisposed (mentally, if not corporeally), retired to Palermo, and thence, by the way of Leghorn and Vienna, to England; leaving the blockading squadron off Malta in charge of Captain Troubridge of the Culloden. During the latter's temporary absence, the British naval force cruising off the island, at the latter end of March, consisted of the 64-gun ship Lion, Captain Manley Dixon, 80-gun ship Foudroyant, Captain Sir Edward Berry, 74-gun ship Alexander, Lieutenant William Harrington still acting for Captain Alexander John Ball, and the 18-pounder 36-gun frigate Penelope, Captain Henry Blackwood, accompanied by two or three sloops and smaller vessels.
On the 30th, at 11 P.M., the Guillaume-Tell, Captain Saulnier, bearing the flag, as already mentioned, of Rear-admiral Denis Decres, taking advantage of a strong southerly gale and the darkness that had succeeded the setting of the moon, weighed and put to sea from the harbour of Valetta. At 11 h. 55 m. p.m. the Penelope, whose commander had been ordered to keep under way between where the Lion lay at an anchor and the harbour's mouth, discovered the Guillaume-Tell on her larboard or weatherbow, under a press of sail, steering with the wind on the starboard quarter. The Penelope immediately despatched the Minorca brig, Captain George Miller, with the intelligence to the commodore, and apprized the latter by signal, that the chase was on the starboard tack. As soon as the French 80 had passed on, the British frigate tacked and stood after her. Half an hour after midnight, having arrived close up with the chase, the Penelope luffed under the Guillaume-Tell's stern, and gave her the larboard broadside. She then bore up under the larboard
* Victoires et Conquêtes, tome xiii., p. 142.
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