William Charles Henry Wood.

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The dreaded invasion never came off; and the only two French fleets
that did get out were destroyed: the one from the Mediterranean off
Lagos in the south of Portugal, and the one from the west coast of
France in Quiberon Bay.

Boscawen's fleet was refitting and taking in stores at Gibraltar when
one of his look-out frigates signalled up to the Governor's house,
where Boscawen was dining, that the French were slipping through the
Strait by hugging the African shore under cover of the dark. The
British flagship had her sails unbent (that is, unfastened altogether).
Every vessel had her decks and hold lumbered up with stores. Half the
crews were ashore; and if a spy had taken a look round he would have
thought the enemy could never have been overhauled. But the Navy is
never caught napping. In the twinkling of an eye Gibraltar was full of
British blue-jackets racing down to their ships, leaping on board, and
turning their skilful hands to the first job waiting to be done.
Within two hours Boscawen was off hotfoot after the French, hoisting in
boats, stowing the last of the lumbering stores, and clearing decks for
action. Overhauling La Clue near Lagos, off the coast of Portugal, he
ranged up alongside, flagship to flagship. But the French, fighting
with equal skill and courage, beat him off. Falling astern he came
abreast of the gallant _Centaure_, which had already fought four
British men-of-war. Being now a mere battered hulk she surrendered.
Then Boscawen, his damage repaired, pushed ahead again. La Clue, whose
fleet was the smaller, seeing no chance of either victory or escape,
chose shipwreck rather than surrender, and ran his flagship straight on
the rocks, with every stitch of canvas drawing full and his flag kept

[Illustration: The _ROYAL GEORGE_]

Quiberon and Quebec go together, like "the eye of a Hawke and the heart
of a Wolfe"; for Hawke's victory at Quiberon made it certain that
Wolfe's victory at Quebec could not be undone. The French were trying
to unite their west-coast fleets at Morbihan for an invasion of England
or at least a fight to give some of their own shipping a breathing
spell free from blockade. Their admiral, Conflans, was trying to work
his way in under very great difficulties. He was short of trained men,
short of proper stores, and had fewer ships than Hawke. Hawke's
cruisers had driven some of Conflans' storeships into a harbour a
hundred miles away from Brest, where Conflans was trying hard to get
ready for the invasion of England. The result was that these stores
had to be landed and carted across country, which not only took ten
times longer than it would have taken to send them round by sea but
also gave ten times as much trouble. At last Conflans managed to move
out. But he had about as much chance of escape as a fly in a spider's
web; for Hawke had cruisers watching everywhere and a battle fleet
ready to pounce down anywhere. Conflans had been ordered to save his
fleet by all possible means till he had joined the French fleet and
army of invasion. So he is not to be blamed for what he tried to do at

On the 20th of November he was sailing toward Quiberon Bay when he saw
the vanguard of Hawke's fleet coming up before a rising gale. With
fewer ships, and with crews that had been blockaded so long that they
were no match for the sea-living British, he knew he had no chance in a
stand-up tight in the open, and more especially in the middle of a
storm. So he made for Quiberon, where he thought he would be safe;
because the whole of that intricate Bay is full of rocks, shoals,
shallows, and all kinds of other dangers.

But Hawke came down on the wings of the wind, straight toward the
terrific dangers of the Bay, and flying before a gale which in itself
seemed to promise certain shipwreck; for it blew on-shore. Conflans
ran for his life, got into the Bay, and had begun to form his line of
battle when some distant shots told him that his rear was being
overhauled. Then his last ships came racing in. But the leading
British, like hounds in full cry, were closing on them so fast that
before they could join his line they were caught in the fury of the
fight. Within a few desperate minutes two French ships were so badly
battered that they had to surrender, while three more were sent to the
bottom. Then the gale shifted and blew Conflans' own line out of
order. He at once tried to move into a better place. But this only
made matters worse. So he anchored in utter confusion, with wrecking
rocks on one side and Hawke's swooping fleet on the other. Once more,
however, he tried a change - this time the bold one of charging out to
sea. But Hawke was too quick for him, though the well-named
_Intrépide_ rushed in between the two racing flagships, the _Royal
George_ and _Soleil Royal_. This was the end. The gale rose to its
height. Darkness closed in. And then, amid the roaring of the battle
and the sea, the victorious British anchored beside all that was left
of the French.

There were no such sea fights on the coasts of Canada, where the
British were in overwhelming naval strength. But never was there a
joint expedition which owed more to its fleet than the one that took
Quebec this same year (1759). The fact that the battles were fought on
the land, and that Wolfe and Montcalm both fell in the one which
decided the fate of Quebec, has made us forget that sea-power had more
to do with this and the other American campaigns than all the other
forces put together. The army did magnificently; and without Wolfe's
and the other armies the conquest could never have been made. But the
point is this, that, while each little army was only a finger of the
hand that drew the British sword in Canada, the fleet which brought the
armies there and kept them going was part and parcel of the whole vast
body of British sea-power united round the world.

Pitt planned to give French Canada the knockout blow in Empire Year.
So, holding the extreme east and west at Louisbourg and Fort Duquesne,
he sent a small force to cut the line of the Lakes at Niagara, a much
larger one to cut into the line of the St. Lawrence from Lake
Champlain, and the largest and strongest of all up the St. Lawrence to
take Quebec, which, then as now, was the key of Canada. Niagara was
taken; and the line of Lake Champlain was secured by Amherst, who,
however, never got through to the St. Lawrence that year. But the
great question was, who is to have the key? So we shall follow
Saunders and Wolfe to Quebec.

Wolfe's little army of nine thousand men was really a landing party
from Saunders' big fleet, which included nearly fifty men-of-war
(almost a quarter of the whole Royal Navy) and well over two hundred
transports and supply ships. The bluejackets on board the men-of-war
and the merchant seamen on board the other ships each greatly
outnumbered the men in Wolfe's army. In fact, the whole expedition was
made up of three-quarters sea-power and only one-quarter land.

Admiral Durell, who had been left at Halifax over the winter, was too
slow in getting the advance guard under way in time to cut off the
twenty-three little vessels sent out from France to Montcalm in the
spring. But this reinforcement was too small to make any real
difference in the doom of Quebec when once British sea-power had sealed
the St. Lawrence. Saunders took Wolfe's army and the main body of his
own fleet up the great river in June: a hundred and forty-one vessels,
all told, from the flagship _Neptune_ of ninety guns down to the
smallest craft that carried supplies. It was a brave sight off the
mouth of the Saguenay, where the deep-water estuary ends, to see the
whole fleet, together at sunset, with its thousand white sails, in a
crescent twenty miles long, a-gleam on the blue St. Lawrence.

The French-Canadian pilots who had been taken prisoners swore that no
fleet could ever get through the Traverse, a tricky bit of water thirty
miles below Quebec. But, in the course of the summer, the British
sailing masters, who had never been there before, themselves took two
hundred and seventy-seven vessels right through it with greater ease in
squadrons than any French-Canadian could when piloting a single ship.
The famous Captain Cook, of whom we shall soon hear more, had gone up a
month ahead with Durell, and, in only three days, had sounded,
surveyed, and buoyed the Traverse to perfection.

When once the fleet had reached Quebec Montcalm was completely cut off
from the outside world, except for the road and river up to Montreal.
His French-Canadian militia more than equalled Wolfe's army in mere
numbers. But his French regulars from France, the backbone of the
whole defence, were not half so many. Vaudreuil, the French-Canadian
Governor, was a fool. Bigot, the French Intendant, was a knave. They
both hated the great and honest Montcalm and did all they could to
spite him. The natural strength of Quebec, "the Gibraltar of America,"
was, with his own French regulars, the only defence on which he could
always rely.

The bombardment of Quebec from across the narrows of the St. Lawrence
("Kebec" is the Indian for "narrows") went on without much result
throughout July; and Wolfe's attempt to storm the Heights of
Montmorency, five miles below Quebec, ended in defeat. During August a
squadron under Holmes, third-in-command of the fleet, kept pushing up
the St. Lawrence above Quebec, and thus alarming the French for the
safety of their road and river lines of communication with Montreal,
the only lines left. They sent troops up to watch the ships, and very
wearing work it was; for while the ships carried Wolfe's landing
parties up and down with the tide, the unfortunate Frenchmen had to
scramble across country in a vain effort to be first at any threatened

From the 3rd of September to the famous 13th Wolfe worked out his own
splendid plan with the help of the fleet. Three-fourths of the French
were entrenched along the six miles of North Shore below Quebec, to
please Vaudreuil, who, as Governor, had power to order Montcalm. The
rest were in or above Quebec; and mostly between Cap Rouge, which was
seven miles, and Pointe-aux-Trembles, which was twenty-two miles,
above. Wolfe's plan was to make as big a show of force as possible, up
to the very last minute, against the entrenchments below Quebec and
also against the fifteen miles of North Shore between Cap Rouge and
Pointe-aux-Trembles, while he would really land at what we now call
Wolfe's Cove, which is little more than one mile above Quebec. If he
could then hold the land line west to Montreal, while Holmes held the
river line, Montcalm would be absolutely cut off in every direction and
be forced to fight or starve. Montcalm's secret orders from the King
being to keep any other foothold he possibly could if Quebec was taken,
he had to leave stores of provisions at different points toward the
West and South, as he intended to retire from point to point and make
his last stand down by New Orleans.

Quebec was, however, to be held if possible; and everything that skill
and courage could do was done by Montcalm to hold it. He even foresaw
Wolfe's final plan and sent one of his best French battalions to guard
the Plains of Abraham. But Vaudreuil withdrew it four days before the
battle there. Again, on the very eve of battle, Montcalm ordered the
same battalion to ramp for the night in defence of Wolfe's Cove. But
Vaudreuil again counter-ordered, this time before the men had marched
off, thus leaving that post in charge of one of his own friends, a
contemptible officer called Vergor.

Wolfe knew all about Vergor and what went on in the French camp, where
Vaudreuil could never keep a secret. So he and Saunders and Holmes set
the plan going for the final blow. The unfortunate Frenchmen above Cap
Rouge were now so worn out by trying to keep up with the ships that
Wolfe knew they would take hours to get down to Quebec if decoyed
overnight anywhere up near Pointe-aux-Trembles, more than twenty miles
away. He also knew that the show of force to be made by Saunders the
day before the battle would keep the French in their trenches along the
six miles below Quebec. Besides this he knew that the fire of his
batteries opposite Quebec would drown the noise of taking Vergor's post
more than a mile above. Finally, the fleet kept him perfectly safe
from counter-attack, hid his movements, and took his army to any given
spot far better and faster than the French could go there by land.

With all this in his favour he then carried out his plan to perfection,
holding the French close below and far above Quebec by threatening
attacks from the ships, secretly bringing his best men together in
boats off Cap Rouge after dark, dropping them down to Wolfe's Cove just
before dawn, rushing Vergor's post with the greatest ease, and forming
up across the Plains of Abraham, just west of Quebec, an hour before
Montcalm could possibly attack him. Cut off by water and land Montcalm
now had to starve or fight Wolfe's well-trained regulars with about
equal numbers of men, half of whom were militia quite untrained for
flat and open battlefields. Wolfe's perfect volleys then sealed the
fate of Quebec; while British sea-power sealed the fate of Canada.

The rest of the war was simply reaping the victories Pitt had sown;
though he left the Government in 1761, and Spain joined our enemies the
following year. The jealous new king, George III, and his jealous new
courtiers, with some of the jealous old politicians, made up a party
that forced Pitt out of the Government. They then signed the Treaty of
Versailles in 1763 without properly securing the fruit of all his

But Canada had been won outright. The foundations of the Indian Empire
had been well and truly laid. And the famous Captain Cook, who
surveyed the Traverse for Saunders and made the first charts of British
Canada, soon afterwards became one of the founders of that British
Australasia whose Australian-New Zealand-Army-Corps became so justly
famous as the fighting "Anzacs" throughout our recent war against the


Written when the news arrived (September, 1782).

The _Royal George_, Hawke's flagship at the Battle of Quiberon Bay, the
battle which confirmed the conquest of Canada, was a first-rate
man-of-war of 100 guns. On the 29th of August, 1782, while at anchor
off Spithead, between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight, her guns broke
loose with the rolling and she went down with all hands.

Toll for the brave -
The brave that are no more:
All sunk beneath the wave,
Fast by their native shore.
Eight hundred of the brave,
Whose courage well was tried,
Had made the vessel heel
And laid her on her side;
A land-breeze shook the shrouds,
And she was overset;
Down went the _Royal George_,
With all her crew complete.

Toll for the brave -
Brave Kempenfelt is gone,
His last sea-fight is fought,
His work of glory done.
It was not in the battle,
No tempest gave the shock,
She sprang no fatal leak,
She ran upon no rock;
His sword was in the sheath,
His fingers held the pen,
When Kempenfelt went down
With twice four hundred men.

Weigh the vessel up,
Once dreaded by our foes,
And mingle with your cup
The tears that England owes;
Her timbers yet are sound,
And she may float again,
Full charg'd with England's thunder,
And plough the distant main;
But Kempenfelt is gone,
His victories are o'er;
And he and his eight hundred
Must plough the wave no more.
- _Cowper_.




The rights and wrongs of this Revolution are not our business here.
But British sea-power is. So we should like to tell the whole story of
the Navy in that unhappy time; because most books say little about it
and do not say that little well. But, as we have no time for more than
the merest glance, all we can do is to ask those who want to learn the
truth in full to read _The Influence of Sea-Power on History_, by that
expert American, Admiral Mahan.

The Revolution was not a fight between British and Americans, as we and
they are apt to think it now, but a British civil war that divided
people in Britain as well as in America. In both countries there were
two parties, the Government and Opposition, each against the other; the
only difference, though a very great one, being that while the
Opposition in America took up arms the Opposition in Britain did not.
Both countries were then parts of the same British Empire; and so this
war was really the link between the other two great civil wars that
have divided the English-speaking peoples. Thus there were three civil
wars in three successive centuries: the British Civil War in the
seventeenth, between Roundhead and Cavalier in England; the
British-American Civil War in the eighteenth, between the King's Party
Government and the Opposition on both sides of the Atlantic; and the
American Civil War in the nineteenth, between the North and South of
the United States.

The American Opposition had no chance of winning their Independence,
however much they might proclaim it, so long as the Royal Navy held the
sea against them. Washington knew this perfectly well; and his written
words are there to prove it. The Revolutionists fought well on land.
They invaded Canada and took the whole country except the walls of
Quebec. They also fought well at sea; and Paul Jones, a Scotsman born,
raided the coasts of Great Britain till nurses hushed children by the
mere sound of his name.

But no fleet and army based on the New World could possibly keep up a
war without help from the Old; because, as we have seen all through
Pitt's Imperial War, the Old World was the only place in which enough
men, ships, arms, and warlike stores could be found. Stop enough
supplies from crossing the Atlantic, and the side whose supplies were
stopped would certainly lose. And more than that: whichever side
commanded the sea would soon command the land as well. Quebec held out
under Carleton till relieved by a fleet in the spring. But, even if
Quebec had fallen, the American invaders would have been driven out
again by the mere arrival of the fleet. For whichever side lost the
use of the St. Lawrence lost the only means of moving, feeding, arming,
and reinforcing an army in Canada well enough to stand the strain.

The turn of the tide of fortune came, and only could come, when all the
foreign navies in the world took sides against the King's party in this
British civil war. France, Spain, and Holland were thirsting for
revenge. So when they saw a vile creature like Lord George Germain
bungling through a war Pitt never would have made; when they saw
British generals half-hearted because belonging to the party that
opposed the King's; when they saw how steadfastly Washington fought;
and, most of all, when they saw how much the Royal Navy was weakened by
the Opposition in Parliament, who stopped a great deal of money from
being voted for the Army and Navy lest the King should be too strong
against the Americans; when foreigners whose own navies had been beaten
by the British saw such a chance, they came in with navies which they
had meanwhile been strengthening on purpose to get their revenge.

France, Spain, and Holland all fought on the side of the Revolution,
their big navies joining the little one formed by Paul Jones; while
Russia, Sweden, Denmark (which then included Norway), Prussia, and the
Hansa Towns, all formed the Armed Neutrality of the North against the
weakened British Navy. The King's Party Government thus had nine
navies against it - four in arms and five in armed neutrality; and this
checked the British command of the Atlantic just long enough to make
Independence safe for the American Revolutionists.

It did, not, however, stop the Navy from saving the rest of the Empire;
for Pitt and the Opposition in the Mother Country, who would not
strengthen the Navy against the Americans, were eager to strengthen it
against foreign attack. In 1782 Rodney beat the French in the
Atlantic, and Hughes beat them in the Indian Ocean; while Gibraltar was
held triumphantly against all that France and Spain could do by land
and sea together.




Nelson and Napoleon never met; and Wellington the soldier beat Napoleon
ten years after Nelson was killed at Trafalgar. Yet it was Nelson's
victories that made Napoleon's null and void, thus stopping the third
attempt in modern times to win the overlordship of the world. As Drake
stopped Philip of Spain by defeating the Armada, as Russell stopped Louis
XIV by the battle of La Hogue, as Jellicoe in our own day stopped the
Kaiser off the Jutland Bank, so Nelson stopped Napoleon by making British
sea-power quite supreme. Century by century the four mightiest warlords
of the land have carried all before them until their towering empires
reached the sea. But there, where they were strangers, they all met the
same Royal Navy, manned by sailors of the only race whose home has always
been the sea, and, meeting it, they fell.

[Illustration: NELSON]

Able men all, and mighty warlords, the might of three was much more in
their armies than in themselves. Cruel Philip was not a warrior of any
kind. Ambitious Louis and the vainglorious Kaiser were only second-rate
soldiers, who would never have won their own way to the highest command.
But Napoleon was utterly different. He was as great a master of the art
of war on land as Nelson was by sea; and that is one reason why Nelson,
who caused his downfall, stands supreme. But there are other reasons
too. Nelson, like Drake, fought three campaigns with marvellous skill;
but he also fought more seamanlike foes. Like Russell, he completely
destroyed the enemy fleet; but he never had Russell's advantage in
numbers. We might go on with other reasons yet; but we shall only give
two more: first, that magic touch of his warm heart which made his
captains "like a band of brothers," which made the bluejackets who
carried his coffin treasure up torn bits of the pall as most precious
relics, and which made the Empire mourn him as a friend; secondly, the
very different kind of "Nelson touch" he gave his fleet when handling it
for battle, that last touch of perfection in forming it up, leading it
on, striking hardest at the weakest spot, and then driving home the
attack to the complete destruction of the enemy.

Nelson was not the first, but the fifth, great admiral to command fleets
in the last French War (1793-1815). Howe, Hood, St. Vincent, Duncan,
Nelson: that is the order in which the victors came. Howe, Hood, St.
Vincent, and Duncan were all men who had fought in Pitt's Imperial War;
and each was old enough to have been Nelson's father. Howe was the hero
of the relief of Gibraltar in 1782, at the time that all the foreign
navies in the world were winning American Independence by taking sides in
a British civil war. Howe was also the hero of "the Glorious First of
June" in 1794, when he defeated the French off the north-west coast of

But it was under Hood, not Howe, that Nelson learnt the way fleets should
be used; and it was under St. Vincent that he first sprang into fame.


St. Vincent, with fifteen ships of the line (that is, big battleships)
was sailing south to stop a Spanish fleet from coming north to join the
French, when, on the 14th of February, 1797, the look-out reported "enemy
in sight." St. Vincent was walking up and down the quarter-deck with his
flag-captain, Hallowell, as the reports came in. "Ten ships of the line
in sight." Then "fifteen," the same number that he had himself. Then
"twenty" . . . "twenty-five" . . . and at last "twenty-seven." When this
total of twenty-seven was reported, the officer reporting said, in a
questioning way, "Pretty long odds, Sir?" But, quick as a flash, St.
Vincent answered, "Enough of that, Sir! the die is cast; and if they are
fifty I will go through them!" And he did. This victory, which broke up
the plans the French and Spaniards had made against Britain, was thought
so important that Jervis, as he then was called, was made Lord St.
Vincent, taking his title from the place near which he won the battle,
Cape St. Vincent, the south-west corner of Europe.

In October Admiral Duncan was made Lord Camperdown for destroying the

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Online LibraryWilliam Charles Henry WoodFlag and Fleet → online text (page 10 of 19)