|Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
||British and French Fleets
a station to the westward of Cape Finisterre, while Admiral Cornwallis himself, with the Channel fleet, was to cruise between Ushant and Finisterre. By 9 a.m. the admiralty messengers were on their way to Portsmouth and Plymouth, and on the 11th, as already mentioned, Admiral Cornwallis received his orders. Such promptitude on the part of the British admiralty could not be credited by Napoléon. " Ce ne que le 20 messidor " (July 8), says he, " que le brick le Curieux est arrivé en Angleterre. L'amirauté n'a pu se décider dans les vingt-quatre heures sur les mouvemens de ses escadres : dans ce cas, il n'est pas probable que l'ordre à l'escadre devant Rochefort soit arrivé en trois jours. Je mets donc en fait que cette escadre a levé sa croisière par des ordres antérieurs à l'arrivée du Curieux à Londres. " *
On the 20th Vice-admiral Ganteaume received orders to put to sea, and endeavour to form a junction, first with the Rochefort squadron of five sail of the line, off the Lizard, and then with M. Villeneuve. On the 29th the news of the latter's action with Sir Robert Calder reached the Channel fleet, and on the 14th of August Sir Robert himself joined the fleet with eight sail of the line ; as, on the following day, the 15th, did Lord Nelson from his long western cruise, with 11. The departure of his lordship on the 16th, with two or three ships left the admiral with a force of 34 sail of the line. On the 17th on intelligence arriving that the Franco-Spanish fleet, numbering 27 or 28 sail of the line, had been seen off Ferrol, Admiral Cornwallis detached to that station Sir Robert Calder, with 18. † On the 20th the Captain 74, from Plymouth, joined the Channel fleet, which then amounted to 17 sail of the line.
The affair off Cape Finisterre, being considered to have entailed an equal loss of ships upon the British and the combined fleets, was not allowed to interrupt the grand design, in which the latter had been allotted to take so important a part. On the 20th of August, a little before the time when, as it was conjectured, Vice-admiral Villeneuve would be off the port, Vice-admiral Ganteaume received orders to quit Brest road where the fleet had recently been lying, and anchor in Bertheaume. On the same day, at about 6 h. 30 m. p.m., the French advanced squadron began to get under way, but not unseen by the British 44-gun frigate Indefatigable, Captain John Tremayne Rodd ; who, accompanied by the 38-gun frigate Niobe, and two or three smaller vessels, was reconnoitring the harbour, and for that purpose had taken a station about four miles south by east of the Black Rocks. On the following morning, the 21st, at 6 a.m., the whole French fleet, consisting of the following 21 sail of the line, five frigates, one ship
* Précis des Evènemens, tome xii., p. 243.
† Napoléon either thought, or affected to think this to be an egregious folly " insigne bêtise" on the part of Admiral Cornwallis. Précis des Evènemens, tome xii., p. 258.
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