Page:American History Told by Contemporaries, v2.djvu/642

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614
[1781
End of the War

at noon the French fleet was on the beam of the English flagship. The English began a very distant fire, to which the French paid no attention till the English bullets went far beyond them. The convoy had lain to the windward of Diamond Rock, and when the action began it continued its route to its destination, without the loss of a single vessel from its leaving Brest.

The English fleet, while fighting, crowded sail ; the admiral sent orders by the frigates for each French vessel to engage the English vessel opposite, and for the surplus with the four vessels from the road stead of Fort Royal, as a light squadron to turn the English line and get it between two fires. This order was not executed. Of the English fleet only three vessels of the rear guard were ever engaged, because the French van which served as rear guard, instead of bearing down, according to all the signals, kept the wind constantly with light sails, while, on the contrary, the rear guard became van, bore down on the enemy and engaged them vigorously. Thus the English fleet could always bear away in order ; and at six o'clock there were only thirteen out of the twenty-four French vessels in pursuit of the seventeen English ; these covered the retreat of the Russell, 74, which then ran before the wind to St. Eustatius, where it arrived with seven feet of water in the hold, and much cut up ; the Centaur, the Torbay, the Intrépide, were not less so. . . .

The naval and military commanders lost no time in their operations ; it seems that they wished to undertake nothing the execution of which was not certain, before the 1st of July, since they decided to attack the isle of Tobago, the only one that interrupted the communication of the French Windward Isles with the Spanish mainland. This communica tion, established from isle to isle, secured fresh provisions, not abundant on the islands, and deprived the hostile cruisers of all refuge in those ports. . . .

The enemy were still at St. Christopher's ; but on the 22d news came that they had sailed and were manœuvring to windward. The French fleet again set sail on the 25th, to go and cover the attack on Tobago. The French had landed there on the 24th, and the artillery of the vessels had soon silenced the batteries which defended the anchorage ; the fleet came in sight of the island on the 30th ; it perceived six hostile vessels with a convoy, destined, doubtless, to carry in supplies ; but they renounced their project by a prompt flight. On the 31st the fleet landed the Marquis de Bouille, with a corps of troops, at Courland Bay,