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CHAPTER IV. Sir J. Jervis takes the command—Genoa joins the French-Buonaparte begins his career—Evacuation of Corsica—Nelson hoists his broad pendant in the Minerve-Action with the Sabina—Battle off Cape St. Vincent--Nelson communds the inner Squadron at the blockade of Cudis—Boat Action in the Bay of Cadiz—Expedition against Teneriffe— Nelson loses an
ArmHis 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, ninety, or the Zealous, seventy-four, 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 : still, if the war continued, he should be very proud of hoisting his flag under Sir John's command. cannot spare you,” said Sir John, “either as captain or admiral.' Accordingly, he resumed his station in the Gulf of Genoa. The French had not followed up their successes in that quarter with their usual celerity. Scherer, who commanded there, owed his advancement to any other cause than his merit: he was a favourite of the directory; but, for the present, through the influence of Barras, he was removed from a command for which his incapacity was afterwards clearly proved, and Buonaparte was appointed to succeed him. Buonaparte had given indications of his military talents at Toulon, and of his remorseless nature at Paris : but the extent, either of his ability or his wickedness, was at this time known to none; and, perhaps, not even suspected by himself.
Nelson supposed, from the information which he had obtained, that one column of the French army would take possession of Port Especia; either penetrating through the Genoese territory, or proceeding coastways in light vessels; our ships of war not being able to approach the coast, because of the shallowness of the water. To prevent this, he said, two things were necessary,—the possession of Vado Bay, and the taking of Port Especia : if either of these points were secured, Italy would be safe from any attack of the French by sea. General Beaulieu, who had now superseded de Vins
in the command of the allied Austrian and Sardinian army, sent his nephew and aide-de-camp to communicate with Nelson, and inquire whether he could anchor in any other place than Vado Bay. Nelson replied, that Vado was the only place where the British fleet could lie in safety : but all places would suit his squadron; and wherever the general came down to the sea-coast, there he should find it. The Austrian repeatedly asked, if there was not a risk of losing the squadron ? and was constantly answered, that if these ships should be lost, the admiral would find others. But all plans of co-operation with the Austrians were soon frustrated by the battle of Montenotte. Beaulieu ordered an attack to be made upon the post of Voltri :-it was made twelve hours before the time which he had fixed, and before he arrived to direct it. In consequence, the French were enabled to effect their retreat, and fall back to Montenotte; thus giving the troops there a decisive superiority in number over the division which attacked them. This drew on the defeat of the Austrians. Buonaparte, with a celerity which had never before been witnessed in modern war, pursued his advantages; and, in the course of a fortnight, dictated to the court of Turin terms of peace, or rather of submission ; by which all the strongest places of Piedmont were put into his hands.
On one occasion, and only on one, Nelson was able to impede the progress of this new conqueror. Six vessels, laden with cannon and ordnance-stores for the siege of Mantua, sailed from Toulon for St. Pier d'Arena. Assisted by Capt. Cockburn, in the Meleager, he drove them under a battery,
pursued them, silenced the batteries, and captured the whole. Military books, plans, and maps of Italy, with the different points marked upon them where former battles had been fought, sent by the directory for Buonaparte's use, were found in the convoy. The loss of this artillery was one of the chief causes which compelled the French to raise the siege of Mantua : but there was too much treachery, and too much imbecility, both in the councils and armies of the allied powers, for Austria to improve this momentary success. Buonaparte perceived that the conquest of all Italy was within his reach : treaties, and the rights of neutral or of friendly powers, were as little regarded by him as by the government for which he acted : in open contempt of both he entered Tuscany, and took possession of Leghorn. In consequence of this movement, Nelson blockaded that port, and landed a British force in the Isle of Elba, to secure Porto Ferrajo. Soon afterwards he took the Island of Capraja, which had formerly belonged to Corsica, being less than forty miles distant from it; a distance, however, short as it was, which enabled the Genoese to retain it, after their infamous sale of Corsica to France. Genoa had now taken part with France: its government had long covertly assisted the French, and now willingly yielded to the first compulsory menace which required them to exclude the English from their ports. Capraja was seized, in consequence : but this act of vigour was not followed up as it ought to have been. England at that time depended too much upon the feeble governments of the continent, and too little
upon itself. It was determined by the British
cabinet to evacuate Corsica, as soon as Spain should form an offensive alliance with France. This event, which, from the moment that Spain had been compelled to make peace, was clearly foreseen, had now taken place; and orders for the evacuation of the island were immediately sent out. It was impolitic to annex this island to the British dominions; but, having done so, it was disgraceful thus to abandon it.
The disgrace would have been spared, and every advantage which could have been derived from the possession of the island secured, if the people had at first been left to form a government for themselves, and protected by us in the enjoyment of their independence.
The viceroy, Sir Gilbert Elliott, deeply felt the impolicy and ignominy of this evacuation. The fleet also was ordered to leave the Mediterranean. This resolution was so contrary to the last instructions which had been received, that Nelson exclaimed :-“Do his majesty's ministers know their own minds? They at home,” said he, “ do not know what this fleet is capable of performing-any thing and every thing. Much as I shall rejoice to see England, I lament our present orders in sackcloth and ashes, so dishonourable to the dignity of England, whose fleets are equal to meet the world in arms: and of all the fleets I ever saw, I never beheld one, in point of officers and men, equal to Sir John Jervis's, who is a commander-in-chief able to lead them to glory.” Sir Gilbert Elliott be. lieved that the great body of the Corsicans were perfectly satisfied, as they had good reason to be, with the British government, sensible of its advan