|Naval history of Great Britain - Vol. IV
||Sir John Duckworth and M. Leissegues
troops. The ships then set about repairing their damages, and, by the 6th of February, had so far completed them, as to be nearly ready to get under way and proceed upon their voyage.
At 7 h. 30 m. A.M., observing the force that was approaching them, the French ships slipped their cables and made sail to the westward, in the direction of Cape-Nisao, having a light breeze at about north-north-west. They soon formed in line of battle in the following order : Alexandre, Impérial, Diomède, Jupiter, and Brave, with the Félicité and Cornéte frigates, and Diligente corvette, in a second line in-shore of the line-of-battle ships. The course of the British was immediately shaped so as to cross the leading French ships ; and Sir John telegraphed, that the principal object of attack would be the admiral and his two seconds. At 8 A.M. the British squadron, in two divisions, was in tolerably compact order. The starboard and weather line consisted of the Superb, Northumberland, Spencer, and Agamemnon ; the larboard or lee one, of the Canopus (just a-beam of the Spencer), Donegal, and Atlas. The Acasta and Magicienne frigates, Kingfisher sloop, and Epervier brig, in the mean while, had taken their stations to windward of the line-of-battle ships.
Soon after 8 A.M. the inequality of sailing among the British ships began plainly to show itself. By 10 A.M. the Agamemnon had dropt considerably astern, and the Canopus, the leading ship of the lee line, was now no further advanced than the former. The three leading ships of the weather line were in close order, and gaining fast upon the French squadron ; the ships of which, at about 9 h. 45 m. A.M., hoisted their colours, and, owing to the wind having shifted to north-east by east, were now steering with it about a point upon the starboard quarter. At 10 h. 10 m. A.M. the Superb, having shortened sail, opened a fire from her starboard guns upon the Alexandre ; as, in three minutes afterward, did the Northumberland upon the three-decker, the Impérial. In another five minutes the Spencer, who was close on the Northumberland's starboard quarter, joined in the cannonade, taking the Diomede as her more immediate opponent, but firing occasionally at the three-decker ahead of her ; and all the engaged ships kept running nearly before the wind, at the rate of about eight knots an hour.
Either by accident or design, the Alexandre, after the exchange of three broadsides, suddenly hauled up on the larboard tack, and passed astern of the Superb and Northumberland in quick succession ; leaving the Impérial in close action with the latter, and at a somewhat greater distance with the Superb, who, about this time, signalled her friends in the rear to engage more closely. At 10 h. 25 m. the Alexandre attempted to cut through the narrow interval between the Northumberland and Spencer ; but the latter, after pouring in a raking fire, crossed
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