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Nelson in the Mediterranean, before the peace of Amiens. Dissatisfied with the policy of the Italian princes, and the appointment of Sir Sidney Smith, with a broad pendant, Nelson had long been discontented with his situation: the letters of Lord St. Vincent shew, that he was with difficulty prevented from resigning in the preceding year. Malta, after the landing of Captain Ball, and the surrender of Goza, had been declared part of the Sicilian dominions; yet, though in a state of famine, while Sicily, the "granary of the world," was in abundance, the government denied the exportation of its corn to the loyal Maltese and their faithful British allies. Captain Ball, one of the brightest of our naval characters, partaking of the indignation of Nelson and Trowbridge, sent Lieutenant Harrington, in the Alexander, with orders to bring out from the port of Messina, a certain number of vessels, loaded with grain. This manly and decided conduct, relieved the wants of Malta; and the court of Palermo or Naples did not venture to remonstrate on this act of justifiable violence.
The arrival of Lord Keith in the Mediterranean, as Commander-in-chief, in the year 1800, completed the mortification of Nelson, who considered himself the rightful successor of Lord St. Vincent. He preferred returning home by land, and pursued his journey in the spring from Leghorn to Vienna. The towns of the Continent, uncontaminated by the presence of the French armies, vied with each other in shewing honour to the hero of the Nile. He embarked in the Elbe, and landed at North Yarmouth, where he was received by his countrymen with the highest marks of admiration and esteem; and, on his arrival in London, his Majesty and the government heaped on him every honour and kindness, which his heroic deeds deserved.
While Lord Keith, in the month of March, was on shore at Leghorn, concerting with the Allies for the prosecution of the campaign, he sent Captain Todd, in the Queen Charlotte, to reconnoitre the island of Cabrera. On the 17th, at six o'clock in the morning, the ship, when about four leagues from Leghorn, took fire under the halfdeck, by some loose hay, as it was supposed, being accidentally thrown upon a match-tub; for although gun-locks were, at that time, in general use in the navy, every ship kept a lighted match during the night in a tub, under the care of the centinel, at the cabin-door.
The flames soon spread to the mast, catching the mainsail, which was, at that time, unfortunately set. The ship, in a few minutes, was in a blaze from the mainmast aft. The middle and lower decks, and the forecastle, only affording any space for exertion, all that prudence and fortitude could achieve, was done by CaptainTodd, and every officer and man in the ship, but in vain. Lord Keith was a spectator of the dreadful scene, and sent off every boat and vessel he could command, to the relief of his unfortunate crew, of whom only one hundred and sixty-seven were saved, out of eight hundred and forty. The last part of the ship which took fire was the forecastle, where the men having collected, jumped overboard and swam to the surrounding boats; some of which were kept at a great distance through fear of the guns, as they heated, and discharged among them. The surviving officers and men were honourably acquitted by the sentence of a court-martial; and we should have hoped, that the bravery, perseverance, and self-devotion of Captain Todd, who, to the last moment, gave orders to save the lives of his men, regardless of his own, would have secured his memory from the imputations cast on it by a contemporary historian,* who observes, that '■' the accident was not very creditable to the discipline of the ship." Every ship, however well regulated and conducted, is liable to these misfortunes; and when it is recollected, that a vessel of war is one mass of combustible materials, we are only astonished that they do not occur more frequently.
If the Earl of Sandwich or Captain DougIas,f deserved immortality for perishing in the flames of their own ships, why should the same honour be denied to the memory of the gallant Captain Todd, who fell at his post, freely sacrificing his own life to save his crew, and preserve the ship intrusted to his care?
* Mr. James's Naval History, vol. 2. p. 504..
t See Redhead Yorke's Naval History, vol. 2. pp. 374. 391.
Lord Keith, after this fatal event, had his flag in the Audacious and Minotaur; and on the return of Nelson to England, in May, shifted it to the Foudroyant.
The siege of Genoa, which in April had been invested by the combined forces of Britain and Austria, was conducted with extraordinary skill, and crowned with complete success; after the unfortunate inhabitants had been made to endure every species of privation, and to live on aliment the most abhorrent to our nature. The annals of war do not furnish a more perfect instance of military discipline, and devotion to the cause of one's country, than that which is to be found in the history of this siege. The Austrian forces, which formed the semicircular blockade on the land side, were commanded by Lieutenant-general Count D'Ott; the British fleet, under Lord Keith, prevented every article of food reaching the garrison; while the frigates, sloops, and gun-boats, carried their fire to the very walls of the town, and completed the misery of the wretched people. Famine began to make the most horrible ravages; and disease, its constant attendant, mercifully relieved the victims from intolerable suffering. The women and children were ordered to quit the town, but the cruel policy of war forbade it; and the helpless wretches were compelled to return to scenes of desolation and horror. The black flag displayed on the hospitals and houses, appointed for the reception of the sick and wounded, guided the artillery in respecting those asylums of woe; the only indulgence, that could be shewn to the most complicated misery.
On the 29th of April, it having been agreed between Lord Keith and the General, Count D'Ott, that a combined attack should be made on all sides of the city, it was begun at three in the morning, on the 30th. The Phoenix, Captain L. W. Halsted, of thirty-six guns, Mondovi, Entreprenante, and the launches of the squadron, supported a column of Austrians, who pressed the enemy under the walls of the town, on the sea-shore. General Ott took Diu Fratelli by escalade, and blocked up Diamonti, on the side of St. Martino. The French, who, from the fire of our squadron, in the day-time dared not follow the Austrians, regained in the evening all their posts, with the loss of about fifteen hundred men.
On the 2d of May, they made a desperate sortie, and repeatedly advanced to the very muzzles of our guns; nor did they retire till they had lost twelve hundred men, three hundred of whom were made prisoners.
Captain James Nichol Morris, of the Phaeton, took twenty sail of vessels loaded with corn, and seized a large dep6t of arms; he also galled the enemy's rear through several miles of their retreat along the sea-shore.
The French burnt their magazines at Alassio, and retired to Port Maurice.
On the 6th of May, the Colde Tende, a strong