Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

NEUTRALITY AT GENOA.

tory or flag, complaints were so repeatedly made against his squadron that, he says, it seemed a trial who should be tired first; they of complaining or he of answering their complaints. But the question of neutrality was soon at an end. An Austrian commissary was travelling from Genoa towards Vado; it was known that he was to sleep at Voltri, and that he had £10,000 with him--a booty which the French minister in that city, and the captain of a French frigate in that port, considered as far more important than the word of honour of the one, the duties of the other, and the laws of neutrality. The boats of the frigates went out with some privateers, landed, robbed the commissary, and brought back the money to Genoa. The next day men were publicly enlisted in that city for the French army ; 700 men were embarked, with 7000 stand of arms, on board the frigates and other vessels, who were to land between Voltri and Savona ; there a detachment from the French army was to join them, and the Genoese peasantry were to be invited to insurrection-a measure for which everything had been prepared. The night of the 13th was fixed for the sailing of this expedition. The Austrians called loudly for Nelson to prevent it; and he, on the evening of the 13th, arrived at Genoa. His presence checked the plan ; the frigate, knowing her deserts, got within the merchants-ships, in the inner mole, and the Genoese Government did not now even demand of Nelson respect to

neutral port, knowing that they had allowed, if not connived at, a flagrant breach of neutrality, and expecting the answer which he was prepared to return, that it was useless and impossible for him to respect it longer.

But though this movement produced the immediate effect which was designed, it led to ill consequences, which Nelson foresaw, but for want of sufficient force was unable to prevent. His squadron was too small for the service which it had to perform. He required two seventy-fours, and eight or ten frigates and sloops ; but when he demanded this reinforcement, Admiral Hotham had left the

command. Sir Hyde Parker succeeded till the new commander should arrive ; and he immediately reduced it almost to nothing, leaving him only one frigate and a brig. This was a fatal error. While the Austrian and Sardinian troops, whether from the imbecility or the treachery of their leaders, remained inactive, the French were preparing for the invasion of Italy. Not many days before Nelson was thus summoned to Genoa, he chased a large convoy into Alassio. Twelve vessels he had formerly destroyed in that port, though 2000 French troops occupied the town ; this former attack had made them take new measures of defence, and there were now above 100 sail of victuallers, gun-boats, and ships of war Nelson represented to the admiral how important it was to destroy these vessels, and offered, with his squadron of frigates, and the Culloden and Courageux, to lead himself in the Agamemnon, and take or destroy the whole. The attempt was not permitted ; but it was Nelson's belief that, if it had been made, it would have prevented the attack

upon

the Austrian army which took place almost immediately afterwards.

General de Vins demanded satisfaction of the Genoese Government for the seizure of his commissary; and then, without waiting for their reply, took possession of some empty magazines of the French, and pushed his sentinels to the very gates of Genoa. Had he done so at first, he would have found the magazines full ; but, timed as the measure was, and useless as it was to the cause of the allies, it was in character with the whole of the Austrian general's conduct; and it is no small proof of the dexterity with which he served the enemy, that in such circumstances he could so act with Genoa as to contrive to put himself in the wrong. Nelson was at this time, according to his own expression, "placed in a cleft stick." Mr. Drake, the Austrian minister, and the Austrian general, all joined in requiring him not to leave Genoa. If he left that port unguarded, they said, not only the imperial troops at St. Pier d’Arena and Voltri would he losti, hut

DEFEAT OF THE AUSTRIANS.

73

the French plan for taking post between Voltri and Savona would certainly succeed ; if the Austrians should be worsted in the advanced posts, the retreat by the Bocchetta would be cut off; and if this happened, the loss of the army would be imputed to him, for having left Genoa. On the other hand, he knew that, if he were not at Pietra, the enemy's gun-boats would harase the left flank of the Austrians, who, if they were defeated, as was to be expected from the spirit of all their operations, would very probably lay their defeat to the want of assistance from the Agamemnon. Had the force for which Nelson applied been given him, he could have attended to both objects; and had he been permitted to attack the convoy in Alassio, he would have disconcerted the plans of the French, in spite of the Austrian general. He had foreseen the danger, and pointed out how it mighti be prevented ; but the means of preventing it were withheld. The attack was made, as he foresaw; and the gun-boats brought their fire to bear upon the Austrians. It so happened, however, that the left flank, which was exposed to them, was the only part of the army that behaved well; this division stood its ground till the centre and the right wing fled, and then retreated in a soldierlike manner.

General de Vins gave up the command in the middle of the battle, pleading ill-health.

“ From that moment,” says Nelson, “not a soldier stayed at his post-it was the devil take the hindmost. Many thousands ran away who had never seen the enemy; some of them thirty miles from the advanced posts. Had I not, though, I own, against my inclination, been kept at Genoa, from 8000 to 10,000 men would have been taken. prisoners, and, amongst the number, General de Vins himself; but, by this means, the pass of the Bocchetta was kept open. The purser of the ship, who was at Vado, ran with the Austrians eighteen miles without stopping; the men without arms, officers without soldiers, women without assistance. The oldest oflicer, say they, never heard of so complete a defeat ; and certainly without any

D*

reason.

Thus has ended my campaign. We have established the French Republic, which, but for us, I verily believe, would never have been settled by such a volatile, changeable people. I hate a Frenchman; they are equally objects of my detestation, whether royalists or republicans; in some points, I believe, the latter are the best.” Nelson had a lieutenant and two midshipmen taken at Vado. They told him, in their letter, that few of the French soldiers were more than three or four and twenty years old, a great many not more than fourteen, and all were nearly naked. They were sure, they said, his barge's crew could have beat a hundred of them; and that, had he himself seen them, he would not have thought, if the world had been covered with such people, that they could have beaten the Austrian army.

The defeat of General de Vins gave the enemy possession of the Genoese coast from Savona to Voltri ; and it deprived the Austrians of their direct communication with the English fleet. The Agamemnon, therefore, could no longer be useful on this station ; and Nelson sailed for Leghorn to refit. When his ship went into dock, there was not a mast, yard, sail, or any part of the rigging, but what stood in need of repair, having been cut to pieces with shot. The hull was so damaged that it had for some time been secured by cables, which were served or wrapped round it.

75

CHAPTER IV. Sir J. Jervis takes the Command-Genoa joins the French-Bonaparte begins his Career-Evacuation of Corsica-Nelson hoists his Broad Pendant in the Minerve-Action with the Sabina-Battle of Cape St. Vincent-Nelson commands the Inner Squadron at the Blockade of Cadiz-Boat-actior in the Pay of Cadiz—Expedition against Teneriffe-Nelson loses an arm--His sufferings in England, and recovery.

SIR JOHN JERVIS had now arrived to take the command of the Mediterranean fleet. The Agamemnon having, as her captain said, been made as fit for sea as a rotten ship could be, Nelson sailed from Leghorn, and joined the admiral in Fiorenzo Bay. “I found him," said he, " anxious to know many things, which I was a good deal surprised to find had not been communicated to him by others in the fleet; and it would appear that he was so well satisfied with my opinion of what is likely to happen, and the means of prevention to be taken, that he had no reserve with me respecting his information and ideas of what is likely to be done.” The manner in which Nelson was received is said to have excited some envy. One captain observed to him, “ You did just as you pleased in Lord Hood's time, the same in Admiral Hotham's, and now again with Sir John Jervis ; it makes no difference to you who is commander-in-chief.” A higher compliment could not have been paid to any commander-in-chief than to say of him that he understood the merits of Nelson, and left him, as far as possible, to act upon his own judgment.

Sir John Jervis offered him the St. George, 90 guns, or the Zealous, 74 guns, and asked if he should have any objection to serve under him with his flag. He replied that, if the Agamemnon were ordered home, and his flag were not arrived, he should, on many accounts, wish to return to England ; stiH, if the war continued, he should be very proud of hoisting his flag under Sir

« ПредишнаНапред »