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1808 Lord Collingwood and Admiral Ganteaume 7

April, M. Ganteaume found an accession to his force in two fine frigates, the Pénélope and Thémis, which had arrived since the 28th of the preceding month. These frigates had escaped from the road of Bordeaux on the 21st of January, cruised off Madeira and the African coast until the middle of March, passed the Straits on the 17th, anchored at Ajaccio on the 23d, and sailed thence on the 26th for Toulon ; having captured or destroyed British vessels to the alleged value of six millions of francs, including four or five straggling West-Indiamen from a homeward-bound convoy under the protection of the British frigate Franchise.

What the British admiral was about, to suffer a French fleet to traverse the Mediterranean in all directions, and to possess a whole month's command of the Adriatic, has been a question often asked. Our researches have enabled us to collect a few facts, that may throw some, although a very faint, light upon the subject. When the French fleet, on its way to Corfu, was rounding Cape Passaro, Lord Collingwood, with the following five sail of the line, was at anchor in the port of Syracuse

Gun-ship

98

Ocean

Vice-admiral (r.) Lord Collingwood.

Captain Richard Thomas.

80

Canopus

Rear-admiral (b.) George Martin

Captain Charles Inglis.

Malta

Captain William Shield.

74

Repulse

Captain Hon. Arthur Kaye Legge

Montagu

Captain Robert Waller Otway.

On the 24th of February, the day after M. Ganteaume had arrived at Corfu, the British admiral, with the Ocean, Canopus, Malta, and Montagu, sailed from Syracuse, bound to Palermo. On that very evening a line-of-battle ship was seen standing into Syracuse from the eastward. This was the Standard, from off Corfu, with the important intelligence that the French fleet was in that neighbourhood. Unfortunately the Standard could not see Lord Collingwood's squadron under the land ; and, still more unfortunately, his lordship could not be persuaded, that there was the least necessity for communicating with Captain Harvey. The Standard entered Syracuse in the dark, and was unable, owing to the state of the wind, to sail out again for two or three days. Immediately on the 64's arrival, Captain Legge, who, as we have seen, had been left in the port, sent an express to Cape Passaro, but the admiral had passed to the westward.

On the 2d of March, when about 11 leagues to the north-westward of the island of Maritimo, Lord Collingwood was joined by Vice-admiral Thornborough and Rear-admiral Sir Richard Strachan. This reinforcement augmented his lordship's force to 15 sail of the line and two or three frigates. On the next day the British fleet steered towards Palermo, still without any knowledge that the French Toulon fleet was even at sea,

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