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Desperate effort of Napoleon in the West Indies with the Rochefort squadron—Keats and the Superb-—Sir1 John Duckworth sails for and arrives off Cadiz—Hears of the Rochefort squadron, and goes in pursuit of it—List of ships which accompanied him—He falls in with it, chases, and is compelled to quit, and rejoin his own ships—Sends home despatches— Orders the Powerful to the East Indies, and steers for Barbadoes—Arrives there—Goes to St. Kitt's—Joins Sir A. Cochrane and hears of the enemy—Activity and zeal of Captain Ni D. Cochrane—Sir J. Duckworth goes in pursuit and falls in with the enemy—Battle of St. Domingo—Capture of three ships of the line.—Destruction of two others—Letter of Sir J. Duckworth—Official returns—Remarks—Rewards to the officers—Conclusion.
Ai-THouGHjthe important victory obtained at Trafalgar, had destroyed for a time the naval power of our enemies, France still possessed a few ships, with which, like a desperate gambler, Napoleon was resolved to make one more hazard; if he succeeded he had so much gain, if he failed he could npt be in a worse condition on the ocean than he was at the end of November, 1805. There was a tide of victory flowing in upon our happy shores, and a good fortune attending our naval operations, which called forth, in an .extraordinary degree, the national gratitude to Providence, while it stimulated every class of our fellow-subjects in the active performanceof their duty, j .' ;.» It will be remembered that, on the 18 th of August, the Superb, after having shared the cruises of Nelson, off Toulon, from the beginning of the war to his return from the West Indies, accompanied the hero to Spithead, where Captain (now Admiral Sir R. G.) Keats was ordered to refit his ship, with all possible speed, and to rejoin Lord Nelson off Cadiz, as soon as her repairs were completed. It was late in the year before she was ready, although no means were neglected to accelerate her equipment. The Rochefort squadron, that constant torment of our ministers and our commerce, was again at sea, and with its usual good fortune seemed to bid defiance to the most diligent search of its pursuers.
The Superb sailed from Portsmouth, and on her way down Channel, called at Plymouth, where the Royal George had been preparing for the flag of Sir John Duckworth, who was to join Lord Nelson off Cadiz; but the ship not being ready, Captain Keats was directed to receive the Vice-admiral's flag, and proceed with him to his destination; and under these orders the Superb sailed alone, from Plymouth sound, on the 2d of November, four days before the account of the battle of Trafalgar reached London. • On the 15th she arrived off Cadiz. Lord Collingwood was then refitting his ships at Gibraltar, and Sir John Duckworth took upon him the command of the few ships he found off Cadiz, and continued to cruise there tintil the 1st of December, when the Lark sloop of war brought him information, that the
Rochefort squadron had recently fallen in with, and dispersed or taken, a small convoy, off the Salvages, a cluster of rocks between Madeira and TenerifFe. The Vice-admiral taking with him the Superb, as his flag-ship; Canopus,* eighty guns, Rear-admiral Sir Thomas Louis; Spencer^ seventy-four guns, Honourable R. Stopford; Donegal,f seventy-four guns, Pulteney Malcolm; Powerful, seventy-four guns, R. Plampin; and Agamemnon, sixty-four guns, Sir Edward Berry; Acasta, R. D. Dunn, and Amethyst, frigates; quitted the coast of Spain and ran for Madeira ; made and communicated with that island on the 5th, with TenerifFe on the 15th; made the Cape de Verds, and continued till the 25th in those latitudes, looking for the enemy; when, at daybreak, in latitude 30° 45' N. and longitude 19° 48' W. six sail of the line, and two frigates, were seen in the E. S. E. directly to windward, and on the larboard tack, the tops of their hulls just seen on the horizon from the decks of our ships. The signal for a general chase was immediately made, but the enemy had the advantage of the breeze, while our squadron was nearly becalmed, and increased their distance. The chase continued with unremitting perseverance, till twenty minutes past one, p. M. on the 26th, the British squadron losing and gaining sight of them occasionally, and the Superb still keeping the lead. The enemy now attempted a
* Detached previously to the battle of Trafalgar, with convoy, t FittiDg at Gibraltar at that time.
ruse de guerre: during the night, when their ships of the line were out of sight from ours, they sent a frigate to leeward, to make signals in an opposite direction to that in which they were running, but Sir John Duckworth and his Captain knowing how to reason on such conduct, continued the chase, and gained rapidly on them. Unfortunately none of the British ships sailed as.well as the Superb, which had got within five miles of the enemy, when the Spencer and Amethyst were as many astern of her, the Agamemnon nearly hull down, and only one other ship in sight from the masthead. Under these circumstances, the Admiral felt it his duty to give up the chase, and to collect his squadron, which he fortunately effected about five o'clock. The computed distance between, the Superb, and the sternmost ship of her squadron, in this chase, was about forty^five miles, by meridian observation. Sir John Duckworth remained a short time in the situation where the enemy was first discovered, after which. he despatched the Amethyst to England, and the Powerful to. the East Indies, to reinforce the squadron in that part of the world; and having done this, he steered with all the sail he could carry for Barbaddes, where he arrived on the 12th of January, 1806; looked into Martinique on the 16th, and arrived at St. Kitt's on the 20th. Here he was joined by Sir Alexander Cochrane, in the Northumberland, of seventy-four guns, and Captain Pym, in the Atlas, of seventy-four guns: thewater was immediately completed; and never indeed was celerity more required, or more successfully applied. The enemy, after having eluded the pursuit of Sir John Duckworth, had also gone for the West Indies. A Danish schooner had arrived at St. Thomas's, and the master stated, that he saw them steering for the city of St. Domingo. The Scotch.house of King and Company, at St. Thomas's, with very laudable zeal, instantly forwarded the important intelligence to Tortola, where it fortunately reached Captain Nathaniel Dey Cochrane, of his Majesty's sloop the Kingsfisher, whose vessel was at the time in, all the confusion of a refit; this made no difference to the youthful Captain, who in ten minutes was under sail. He left Tortola at eleven at night, and was so much favoured by the wind, which suddenly, and contrary to the usual course, changed from east to west, that he reached Antigua in thirty hours. Here Captain Cochrane learnt that Sir J. Duckworth was at St. Kitt's; and did we not know the facts, and the honour of the gallant young officer, we should be almost afraid to state, that the wind now as suddenly changed again to east, in favour of the Kingsfisher. Young Cochrane immediately made all sail for St. Kitt's, where he found the Vice-admiral, and w^& the happy means, by his vigilance and good fortune, of leading the way to another brilliant victory. Sir John Duckworth sailed immediately for/ the island of St. Domingo.; and-at daylight, in t&e morning of the 6th of February, the city of St.