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      But Nelson had now tracked the French to their goal, and was preparing to annihilate their fleet. Admiral Brueys, unable to enter the harbour of Alexandria, had anchored his ships in the Bay of Aboukir, in a semicircular form, so close in shore that he deemed it impossible for ships of war to thrust themselves between him and the land. He had altogether thirteen ships of war, including his own flagship of one hundred and twenty guns, three of eighty, and nine of seventy-four, flanked by four frigates and a number of gunboats, with a battery of guns and mortars on an island in the van. Nelson had also thirteen men-of-war and one five-gun ship, but the French exceeded his by about forty-six guns, three thousand pounds' weight of metal, considerably more tonnage, and nearly five thousand men. No sooner did Nelson observe the position of the French fleet than he determined to push his ships between it and the shore. No sooner was this plan settled than Nelson ordered dinner to be served, and on rising from table said, "Before this time to-morrow I shall have gained a peerage, or Westminster Abbey." It was half-past five o'clock on the afternoon of the 1st of August, 1798, when this celebrated battle was commenced. As the British vessels rounded a shoal, to take up their position, the battery of the island played upon them; but this ceased as they came near the French line of vessels, lest they should damage their own countrymen. Unfortunately, Nelson lost the use of the Culloden, a seventy-four, commanded by Captain Trowbridge, which struck on a ledge of rocks, and could not be got off in time for the engagement. Nelson's own vessel was the first that anchored within half pistol-shot of the Spartiate, the third ship of the French line. The conflict immediately became murderous, and Nelson received a severe wound on the head, which compelled him to go below. The battle continued with a terrible fury till it was so dark that the only light the combatants had to direct their operations was the flashes of their own broadsides. At ten o'clock the Orient, Admiral Brueys' own great ship, was discovered to be on fire. He himself had fallen, killed by a cannon-shot. The stupendous ship continued to burn furiously, lighting up the whole scene of action. At eleven it blew up, with an explosion which shook the contending fleets like the shock of an earthquake, and with a stunning noise that caused the conflict instantly to cease. A profound silence and a pitchy darkness succeeded for about ten minutes. Nelson, wounded as he was, had rushed upon deck before the explosion, to order every possible succour to be given to the shrieking sufferers in the burning ship, and many of the crew had been got into boats and saved. The cannonade was slowly resumed, but when morning dawned two French ships and two frigates only had their colours flying and were able to get away, none[468] of the British vessels except the Zealous being in a condition to give chase. The two ships of the line and one of the frigates were afterwards intercepted by our Mediterranean fleet, so that of all this fine fleet only one frigate escaped. Had Nelson not been wounded, and had Captain Trowbridge been able to bring up his ship, probably not even that frigate would have got away. The British took eight vessels of the line; the rest were destroyed in one way or other. The loss of the British, in killed and wounded, was eight hundred and ninety-five; of the French, in killed, wounded, and prisoners, was nine thousand eight hundred and thirty. Brave Brueys, as has been stated already, was slain. Captain Westcott, of the Majestic, was the only commander of a ship who fell. Such was the victory of Aboukir; but "victory," said Nelson, "is not a name strong enough for such a sceneit is a conquest!" Fortunately for the French, Admiral Brueys had secured the transports and store-ships in shallow water in the port of Alexandria, where Nelson could not come at them for want of small craft. Half-a-dozen bomb ships would have destroyed them all, and have left Buonaparte totally dependent on the Egyptians for supplies. And these he must have collected by force, for now the news of the destruction of his fleet was spread over all Egypt by bonfires, kindled by the Arabs, along the coast and far inland. He was cut off from communication with France. On the 22nd of October the people of Cairo rose on the French, and endeavoured to massacre them; but the French took a bloody vengeance, sweeping them down with grape-shot, pursuing them into their very mosques, and slaughtering in one day five thousand of them.

      The Spaniards had at length made Lord Wellington Commander-in-Chief of the Spanish armies,[56] but this appointment was little more than nominal, for the Spanish generals continued as froward and insubordinate as ever; and the Spanish Government was poorer than ever, its remittances from the South American colonies, which were asserting their independence, being stopped. Wellington's dependence, therefore, continued to rest on his army of British and Portuguesesixty-three thousand infantry and six thousand cavalry.

      Calder had been sent after Nelson, with the hope that, if he missed Villeneuve and Gravina, he (Calder) might fall in with and intercept them. Scarcely was he under sail, when he discovered this fleet, on the 22nd of July, about thirty-nine leagues north-west of Cape Finisterre. Villeneuve and Gravina were congratulating themselves on having made their voyage in safety, when this British squadron stood in their way. They were twenty sail of the line, seven frigates, and two brigs; and Calder had only fifteen sail of the line, two frigates, and two smaller craft. The Spanish and French admirals endeavoured to give them the slip, and get into Ferrol; but Calder would not permit this. He compelled them to fight, and the battle lasted from half-past four in the afternoon till half-past nine in the evening. Calder captured two sail of the line, and killed and wounded between five hundred and six hundred men. He himself lost thirty-nine killed, and he had a hundred and fifty-nine wounded, and his ships, some of them, had suffered much damage. A thick fog parted the combatants for the night, and at daybreak the hostile fleets were distant from each other about seventeen miles. Villeneuve had the wind, and made as if he would renew the battle, but did not; and the same happened on the following day, when he sheered off, and Calder turned homewards without pursuing them. This action, though a victory, was regarded, both in France and England, as inferior to what was expected of British naval commanders. The French claimed a success; the English public murmured at Calder's conduct. They said, "What would Nelson have done had he been there?" Such was the popular discontent, that Sir Robert Calder demanded that his conduct should be submitted to a court-martial, and the verdict of the court confirmed the outcry:"This court," it said, "are of opinion that on the part of Admiral Sir Robert Calder there was no cowardice or disaffection, but error in judgment, for which he deserves to be severely reprimanded, and he is hereby severely reprimanded accordingly."[510] Buonaparte, however, was greatly exasperated at the result, and at Villeneuve putting into Ferrol instead of getting into Brest, where Napoleon wanted him to join the rest of the fleet. After this, endeavouring to obey the Emperor's positive orders to reach Brest, he put to sea, but was glad to run for Cadiz instead, on account of the union of Admiral Collingwood with Calder's fleet. In that harbour now lay five-and-thirty sail of the line, and Collingwood kept watch over them. Indeed, being soon reinforced, he kept a blockade on all the Spanish ports between Cadiz and Algeciras, in the Strait of Gibraltar. It was at this juncture that Napoleon came to the conclusion that it was hopeless to attempt the invasion of England.

      I do not know what report M. Gaudais has made to you, but family interests and the connections which he has at Quebec should cause him to be a little distrusted. On his arrival in that country, having constituted himself chief of the council, he despoiled an agent of the Company of Canada of all his papers, in a manner very violent and extraordinary, and this proceeding leaves no doubt whatever that these papers contained matters the knowledge of which it was wished absolutely to suppress. I think it will be very proper that you should be informed of the statements made by this agent, in order that, through him, an exact knowledge may be acquired of every thing that has taken place in the management of affairs. *


      *** Ibid., IX. 388.

      CHAPTER XIII. PROSECUTIONS AND PRESCRIPTIONS. Casson, in his Histoire du Montral, preserved in manuscript



      1657-1665. LAVAL AND MZY.