|Naval history of Great Britain
||Light Squadrons and Single Ships
of battle on the larboard tack. Finding, however, that the Mars was not in the least intimidated by the approach of four heavy French frigates, but was hastening on to engage them, M. La Marre-la-Meillerie failed in his resolution, and at 3 P.M. made off with three of his frigates, leaving the fourth to her fate. Having already run a distance of 150 miles, and the day being far spent, the Mars continued in pursuit of the nearest frigate ; when at 6 P.M., in the midst of a heavy squall of wind and rain, and just as the Mars, having gained a position on the frigate's lee quarter, had fired a shot and was preparing to open her broadside, the Rhin hauled down her colours.
Soon after the Mars had taken possession of the Rhin, the squall cleared up, and the Hortense, Hermione, and Thémis were seen standing to the south-east ; but the approach of night, the proximity of the French coast, and the stormy state of the weather, owing to which not more than a third of the prisoners could be removed, rendered any further pursuit impracticable. Captain Oliver, thereupon, accompanied by his prize, steered in the direction of his squadron ; and which, so far had he outrun it in 24 hours' chase, the Mars did not rejoin it until the forenoon of the 31st. Great credit was due to Captain Oliver for having persevered in the chase so long after he had got out of reach of support from any ship of his squadron ; and, had the four frigates been commanded by a Bergeret, a Bourayne, or one of many other French captains whom we could name, an opportunity would doubtless have been afforded to the officers and crew of the Mars, to show what could be effected, under such circumstances, by a well-appointed, well-manned British 74.
The Hortense and Hermione succeeded in reaching Bordeaux, and the Thémis appears to have entered Rochefort. What account of this transaction M. La Marre-la-Meillerie gave to the French minister of marine has not transpired. We may conjecture, however, that the force which put the French commodore to flight was described, not as " un seul vaisseau anglais, " but, as " une escadre de plusieurs vaisseaux anglais. " Who will say, that four French frigates, three, if not all of them, carrying long 18-pounders and 36-pounder carronades, with, between them, upwards of 1300 men, were not an overmatch for a single British 74 ? What, then, but a misrepresentation of the facts could have saved this French commodore from being cashiered ? And yet according to the " Etat Général de la Marine, " for January, 1822, M. La Marre-la-Meillerie is a peer of France and a chevalier of the order of St.-Louis.
Had a British officer in the command of four, or even of two, such frigates, run away from a French 74-gun ship, particularly when a comrade was likely to be cut off, our duty would have compelled us to expose him. But even a single British frigate, the large class, would have felt half-reluctant to fly from one French 74 ; and, if overtaken and attacked, would not have
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