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1812 Escape of M. Allemand from Lorient 41

16 to 20 sail of the line and eight or nine frigates and smaller vessels, evinced, several times, an inclination to put to sea, but was too narrowly watched by the indefatigable officer that cruised off Flushing, Vice-admiral Sir Richard John Strachan. Towards the end of the year, however, a want of men, owing to the frequent draughts made to supply the army, contributed to keep the French fleet stationary. A squadron of seven, and latterly of nine, sail of the line in the Texel threatened also to sail out, but was restrained from the attempt, by the dread of encountering the British force stationed off that port. At Amsterdam, in the beginning of October, the keels of two 74-gun ships, the Audacieux and Polyphème, were ordered to be laid down, to commemorate the entry of Buonaparte into Moscow ; but, before probably a timber belonging to either ship was set up, the French emperor's forced exit from the Russian capital had also taken place.

The French squadron at anchor in the port of Lorient, consisted of five line-of-battle ships, one only of which, the Veteran, had ever been at sea. This ship had, but when we are unable to state, managed to effect her escape from the neighbouring port of Concarneau, where she had been so long blockaded. In the months of February and March, four of those ships, the Eylau, of 80, and the Guilemar, Marengo, and Vétéran, of 74 guns, with two ship-corvettes, under the command of Vice-admiral Allemand, lay watching an opportunity to elude the vigilance of a British squadron, of the same numerical force, under Captain Sir John Gore, of the 80-gun ship Tonnant, having with him the 74-gun ships Northumberland, Colossus, and Bulwark, Captains the Honourable Henry Hotham, Thomas Alexander, and Thomas Browne. On the 9th of March, early in the afternoon, leaving her three consorts lying to off the island of Hedic, the Tonnant made sail and worked up through the Taigneuse passage against a fresh north-east wind, in order to reconnoitre the port of Lorient. At 6 p.m. Sir John discovered that M. Allemand had effected his escape; and at 8 p.m. the Tonnant anchored for the night off the south-east point of Groix. At daybreak on the 10th the Tonnant weighed and made sail towards Lorient ; and at 8 a.m. clearly observed that there was no ship of war in the port, except a two-decker, with topgallantmasts pointed and rigged, fitting at the arsenal. Having now ascertained, beyond all doubt, that the French admiral had sailed, Sir John bore up to join his squadron, then just visible in the south-southwest.

M. Allemand had, in fact, put to sea on the night of the 8th ; and, but for his extraordinary good fortune, might, as we shall presently see, have terminated his cruise in Portsmouth or Plymouth, instead of in Brest, whither, it appears, he was bound. On the 9th, at 1 p.m., when about seven leagues to the southward of the Penmarks, these four French sail of the line

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