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DESPATCHED TO THE MEDITERRANEAN. 101 to relinquish, for that purpose, the blockade of the Spanish fleet, as a thing of inferior moment; but, if he should deem a detachment sufficient, “I think it almost unnecessary,” said the First Lord of the Admiralty, in his secret instructions, “to suggest to you the propriety of putting it under Sir Horatio Nelson.” It is to the honour of Earl St. Vincent that he had already made the same choice. The British Government at this time, with a becoming spirit, gave orders that any port in the Mediterranean should be considered as hostile, where the governor, or chief magistrate, should refuse to let our ships of war procure supplies of provisions, or of any article which they might require.
The armament at. Toulon consisted of thirteen ships of the line, seven 40-gun frigates, with twenty-four smaller vessels of war, and nearly 200 transports. Mr. Udney, our consul at Leghorn, was the first person who procured certain intelligence of the enemy's design against Malta ; and, from his own sagacity, foresaw that Egypt must be their after-object. Nelson sailed from Gibraltar on the 9th of May, with the Vanguard, Orion, and Alexander, seventy-fours ; the Caroline, Flora, Emerald, and Terpsichore, frigates; and the Bonne Citoyenne, sloop of war, to watch this formidable armament. On the 19th, when they were in the Gulf of Lyons, a gale came on from the N.W. It moderated so much on the 20th, as to enable them to get their top-gallant-masts and yards aloft. After dark, it again began to blow strong ; but the ships had been prepared for a gale, and therefore Nelson's mind was easy. Shortly after midnight, however, his main-topmast went over the side, and the mizen-topmast soon afterward. The night was so tempestuous that it was impossible for any signal either to be seen or heard ; and Nelson determined, as soon as it should be daybreak, to wear, and scud before the gale; but at half-past three the foremast went in three pieces, and the bowsprit was found to be sprung in three places. When day broke, they succeeded in wearing the ship with a remnant of the
spritsail. This was hardly to have been expected ; the Vanguard was at that time twenty-five leagues south of the islands of Hieres, with her head lying to the N.E., and, if she had not wore, the ship must have drifted to Corsica. Captain Ball, in the Alexander, took her in tow to carry her into the Sardinian harbour of St. Pietro. Nelson, apprehensive that this attempt might endanger both vessels, ordered him to cast off, but that excellent officer, with a spirit like his commander's, replied he was confident he could save the Vanguard, and, by God's help, he would do it.' There had been a previous coolness between these great men ; but, from this time, Nelson became fully sensible of the extraordinary talents of Captain Ball, and a sincere friendship subsisted between them during the remainder of their lives. “I ought not,” said the Admiral, writing to his wife, “I ought not to call what has happened to the Vanguard by the cold name of accident ; I believe firmly it was the Almighty's goodness, to check my consummate vanity. I hope it has made me a better officer, as I feel confident it has made me a better
Figure to yourself, on Sunday evening, at sunset, a vain man walking in his cabin, with a squadron around him, who looked up to their chief to lead them to glory, and in whom their chief placed the firmest reliance that the proudest ships of equal numbers belonging to France would have lowered their flags; figure to yourself, on Monday morning, when the sun rose, this proud man, his ship dismasted, his fleet dispersed, and himself in such distress that the meanest frigate out of France would have been an unwelcome guest.” Nelson had, indeed, more reason to refuse the cold name of accident to this tempest than he was then aware of; for, on that very day, the French fleet sailed from Toulon, and must have passed within a few leagues of his little squadron, which was thus preserved by the thick weather that came on.
In the orders of the British Government to consider all ports as hostile where the British ships should be refused supplies, the ports of Sardinia were excepted. The con
REFITS AT ST. PIETRO.
tinental possessions of the King of Sardinia were at this time completely at the mercy of the French ; and that Prince was now discovering, when too late, that the terms to which he had consented for the purpose of escaping immediate danger necessarily involved the loss of the dominions which they were intended to preserve.
The citadel of Turin was now occupied by French troops; and his wretched court feared to afford the common rights of humanity to British ships, lest it should give the French occasion to seize on the remainder of his dominions—a measure for which it was certain they would soon make a pretext, if they did not find one. Nelson was informed that he could not be permitted to enter the port of St. Pietro. Regardless of this interdict, which, under his circumstances, it would have been an act of suicidal folly to have regarded, he anchored in the harbour, and, by the exertions of Sir James Saumarez, Captain Ball, and Captain Berry, the Vanguard was refitted in four days; months would have been employed in refitting her in England. Nelson, with that proper sense of merit wherever it was found, which proved at once the goodness and the greatness of his character, especially recommended to Earl St. Vincent the carpenter of the Alexander, under whose directions the ship had been repaired ; stating that he was an old and faithful servant of the Crown, who had been nearly thirty years a warrant carpenter; and begging most earnestly that the commander-in-chief would recommend him to the particular notice of the Board of Admiralty. He did not leave the harbour without expressing his sense of the treatment which he had received there, in a letter to the Viceroy of Sardinia. “Sir," it said, “having, by a gale of wind, sustained some trifling damages, I anchored a small part of his Majesty's fleet under my orders off this island, and was surprised to hear, by an officer sent by the governor, that admittance was to be refused to the flag of his Britannic Majesty into
When I reflect that my most gracious Sovereign is the oldest, I believe, and certainly the most faith
ful ally which the King of Sardinia ever had, I could feel the sorrow which it must have been to his Majesty to have given such an order ; and also for your Excellency, who had to direct its execution. I cannot but look at the African shore, where the followers of Mahomet are performing the part of the good Samaritan, which I look for in vain at St. Peter's, where it is said the Christian religion is professed."
The delay which was thus occasioned was useful to him in many respects; it enabled him to complete his supply of water, and to receive a reinforcement, which Earl St. Vincent, being himself reinforced from England, was enabled to send him. It consisted of the best ships of his fleet: the Culloden, 74 guns, Captain T. Troubridge ; Goliath, 74_guns, Captain T. Foley; Minotaur, 74 guns, Captain T. Louis ; Defence, 74 guns, Captain John Peyton; Bellerophon, 74 guns, Captain H. D. Ē. Darby; Majestic, 74 guns, Captain G. B. Westcott; Zealous, 74 guns, Captain S. Hood ; Swiftsure, 74 guns, Captain B. Hallowell; Theseus, 74 guns, Captain R. W. Miller; Audacious, 74 guns, Captain Davidge Gould. The Leander, 50 guns, Captain T. B. Thompson, was afterwards added. These ships were made ready for the service as soon as Earl St. Vincent received advice from England that he was to be reinforced. As soon as the reinforcement was seen from the mast-head of the admiral's ship, off Cadiz Bay, signal was immediately made to Captain Troubridge to put to sea ; and he was out of sight before the ships from home cast anchor in the British station. Troubridge took with him no instructions to Nelson as to the course he was to steer, nor any certain account of the enemy's destination ; everything was left to his own judgment. Unfortunately, the frigates had been separated from him in the tempest, and had not been able to rejoin. They sought him unsuccessfully in the Bay of Naples, where they obtained no tidings of his course ; and he sailed without them.
The first news of the enemy's armament was that it had surprised Malta. Nelson formed a plan for attacking
IN SEARCH OF THE FRENCH FLEET.
it while at anchor at Gozo ; but on the 22nd of June intelligence reached him that the French had left that island on the 16th, the day after their arrival. It was clear that their destination was eastward—he thought for Egypt; and for Egypt, therefore, he made all sail. Had the frigates been with him, he could scarcely have failed to gain information of the enemy; for want of them he only spoke three vessels on the way : two came from Alexandria, one from the Archipelago, and neither of them had seen anything of the French. He arrived off Alexandria on the 28th, and the enemy were not there, neither was there any account of them ; but the governor was endeavouring to put the city in a state of defence, having received advice from Leghorn that the French expedition was intended against Egypt after it had taken Malta. Nelson then shaped his course to the northward, for Caramania, and steered from thence along the southern side of Candia, carrying a press of sail, both night and day, with a contrary wind. It would have been his delight, he said, to have tried Bonaparte on a wind. It would have been the delight of Europe, too, and the blessing of the world, if that fleet had been overtaken with its general on board. But of the myriads and millions of human beings who would have been preserved by that day's victory there is not one to whom such essential benefit would have resulted as to Bonaparte himself. It would have spared him his defeat at Acre—his only disgrace ; for to have been defeated by Nelson upon the seas would not have been disgraceful; it would have spared him all his after-enormities. Hitherto his career had been glorious, the baneful principles of his heart had never yet passed his lips ; history would have represented him as a soldier of fortune, who had faithfully served the cause in which he engaged, and whose career had been distinguished by a series of successes unexampled in modern times. A romantic obscurity would have hung over the expedition to Egypt, and he would have escaped the perpetration of those crimes which have incarnadined