|Naval history of Great Britain
||Escape of French Frigates
ships as France, will any one say that, in point of maritime enterprise, physical strength, and means of annoyance, the latter did not rank far above them ? Hence, so far from the British navy, in March, 1806, being to the French navy, in ships of the line, as 12 to one the difference in reality, was but as two to one ; and, so far from France being, at the time referred to, the seventh naval power in Europe, she was, as she long had been, the second.
The command of the British naval forces, on the extensive station of the Mediterranean, was still in the able hands in which we last year left it. * Early in the month of February Vice-admiral Lord Collingwood, while cruising off Cadiz, received information that five of the four frigates which, with other ships of the late discomfited Franco-Spanish fleet, had sought refuge in the port after the Battle of Trafalgar, were ready for sea, and intended to sail the first opportunity. By way of inducing the French frigates to do so, in the hope to intercept them soon after they quitted port, Lord Collingwood with his squadron, retired to a station about 10 leagues distant from the harbour where he lay out of sight, leaving the 38-gun frigate Hydra, Captain George Mundy, and 18-gun brig-sloop Moselle, Captain John Surman Carden, close off the port, with orders to keep a watchful eye upon any vessels sailing from it.
On the 23d of February a strong easterly wind began to blow, and by the 26th had driven the British squadron as far to the westward as Cape Sta.-Maria. Informed of this by the signal posts along the coast, M. La Marre-la-Meillerie, on the same evening, put to sea with the Hortense, Hermione, Rhin, and Thémis, and brig-corvette Furet, the frigates with six months' provisions and a number of troops on board. At 9 h. 15 m. P.M. the Hydra and Moselle, then about three miles west of Cadiz lighthouse, standing in-shore, discovered and chased the French squadron, which, with a wind so strong and favourable, had already got outside of them. The British frigate and brig immediately bore up after the four French frigates and brig, Captain Mundy intending to steer a parallel course, to watch their manoeuvres. At 11 P.M., observing that the French squadron continued a steady course, Captain Mundy detached the Moselle in search of the commander-in-chief, and, with the Hydra alone, gallantly continued the pursuit.
On the 27th, at 2 h. 30 m. A.M., in consequence of the French commodore having altered his course a point to the westward, the British captain found that he had considerably neared the squadron, particularly the brig, which was at some distance astern of the frigates. The object now was, to cut off this brig ; and at length, after a two hours' further chase, the Hydra overtook her. The Furet, mounting 18 long 8-pounders, with a
* See p. 107.
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