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A new day for His Majesty ‘s admirals (I)


Nothing equals the beautiful order of the English at sea. Never was a une drawn straighter than that formed by their ships; thus they bring all their fire to bear upon those who draw near them."

This admiring comment on the Royal Navy's battle formation was made by a French admiral in 1666. It was an accurate description of the tactics that made England supreme on the seas for 100 years—and then failed her utterly at the Battle of Ushant and most importantly at a critical juncture during the American Revolution.

As Keppel had demonstrated so unhappily off Ushant, the essential tactic was the line ahead. The French admiral had described it most accurately: the formation consisted of a perfectly straight line of sailing warships presenting a moving wall of fire against the enemy. In the constantly changing circumstances of naval battle, the line ahead had many advantages. It concentrated the fleet's firepower in one direction. It prevented such accidents as ships of the same fleet firing on one another or firing past or through an enemy ship at a friendly vessel. Most of all, it gave each captain clear and simple directions: he was to hold his place in line and focus his fire on the enemy ship opposite his own.

The first Fighting Instructions had been issued in 1653 under Oliver Cromwell, who was an early and ardent advocate of a powerful navy. The rules were revised and expanded in 1703, but the basic tactics remained the same. And of the orders laid down in the Fighting Instructions, the most sacrosanct decreed: "All the ships of every squadron shall endeavour to keep in line with the chief," Moreover, the penalty for not holding such a line was "severe punishment"-which could mean anything for a captain from a public reprimand to death, depending on the circumstances. The Fighting Instructions reiterated, "None of the ships of the fleet shall pursue any small number of the enemy's ships till the main body be disabled or run.-

So the Royal Navy concentrated on its single majestic and overpowering line ahead. Even after the frustrating standoff against the French of Ushant, the Admiralty remained certain that traditional methods would be more than enough to win the naval engagements of the American Revolutionary War. For one thing the American navy was scarcely worthy of the name. As an organization, it had been bungled from the start. Shipbuilding contracts were let for political reasons and construction was delayed. The first American captains were no match for their Royal Navy counterparts. The statistics tell the sad story of America's first navy. Of the 50 warships built and bought for the Continental Navy during the war, all but one were lost to enemy action—having been either sunk, captured or scuttled. Meanwhile, the Americans took only five small ships of the Royal Navy.

The only significant damage done to the British by the Americans at sea was accomplished by the more than 1,600 privateers that were commissioned and sent out to harass British shipping. They captured something like 1,000 British merchantmen and caused an astronomical rise in shipping insurance rates. But they were little more than a nuisance to the Royal Navy, which destroyed even more American shipping. One officer in the Continental Navy managed in 1779 to bring the war info England's home waters. But sensational as was John Paul Jones's victory in the Bonhomme Richard over the Serapis, it amounted to little more than a psychological Blow to the Royal Navy. The real challenge, once again, came from across the Channel.

The belligerency of France in 1778 turned the American Revolution from a shifting series of land battles into a truly maritime war. The armies—British, Hessian, American and French—fought on from the Canadian border to South Carolina. But the ultimate outcome was decided by the Navies of Great Britain and France.

The Battle of Ushant not only demonstrated that the line-ahead formation was outdated, it also showed that the French Navy of 1778 was superior in a number of respects.

This dramatic change could be accounted for in London as well as in Paris. During the 12 years of peace between the Seven Years' War and the American Revolution, the Royal Navy had been victimized by false economies at the Admiralty and profiteering by the Navy's suppliers. Meanwhile, King Louis XV's powerful adviser, the Duc de Choiseul, rallied Frenchmen in a campaign to rebuild their navy. Fund drives supplemented the royal treasury with money to construct new ships. They were named after the groups and towns that contributed, the most impressive being the 104-gun Ville de Paris. It was Choiseul who inaugurated the academies of marine architecture that were responsible for the better designed, faster sailing French men-of-war. Under Choiseul's direction, a corps of 10,000 Naval gunners was organized and rigorously drilled in the art of accurate naval fire. By 1770, when Choiseul left office, France had 64 ships of the line and 50 frigates. By 1778, when France entered the war on America's side, she had 80 ships of the line. In the following year, Spain honored the Bourbon family compact with France by declaring war on England, adding 60 ships of the line to the combined force confronting England. The Royal Navy had about 150 major ships to counter these 140, but not all were fit for sea.

Moreover, French gunners were by then more accurate than the British and were at their best at long range. That was important because of the new French strategy of avoiding pitched battle with any enemy force that was not clearly inferior in numbers. The Royal Navy was about to meet its match, but the Admiralty did not yet realize the situation.

Up until now, the Royal Navy had not yet actually lost a battle at sea. The new French tactics of hit-and-run had so far thwarted every British attempt to force a line-to-line slugging match. In one battle after another the British admiral would stubbornly form his line ahead; the French would cut up his rigging and sail away to fight again. In strictly naval terms the situation might be called a standoff. The effects were felt on the battlefields of North America, since the French Navy was increasingly able to deliver reinforcements to the Americans and to the French sol­diers who had joined them.

One of those who could see the advantage of the new French naval strategy was General George Washington. For the first four years of the war, with nothing but the ineffectual Continental Navy for support, the American war had gone badly. Now the French Navy was helping to turn the tide. In the summer of 1781, Washington thought he could see the makings of a devastating combined American-French operation. A large French fleet was in the West Indies endeavoring to take advantage of Britain's preoccupation with the colonies and to recapture some of the islands France had lost in the Seven Years' War, 18 years before. If that force, or part of it, could come north to support a campaign that Washington and the French general, the Marquis Gilbert du Motier de Lafayette, were planning, the colonists might win one of the most important victories of the war.

Major General Earl Cornwallis, with more than 7,000 of Britain's finest troops, was encamped in Yorktown, on the Virginia shore of Chesapeake Bay. If a French fleet could block the narrow entrance to the Bay, thereby cutting off Cornwallis' supply line, the Americans and French could launch a pincers attack and wipe out Britain's best army in the colonies. Washington wrote a letter to the French minister to the colonies, the Chevalier de la Luzerne, stressing what the American general saw as the "essential importance" of naval superiority in the war, and pleading for the French fleet to come north.

The commander of the French fleet in the West Indies was Rear Admiral Comte François Joseph Paul de Grasse, an aristocrat born in a feudal castle in the Alpes-Maritimes, now 59 years old and quite an imposing quarter-deck figure at six feet two inches tall—"six feet six inches on days of battle," one admirer claimed. De Grasse responded to the call from the colonies with his entire fleet. En route north he lost two of his ships to the same bizarre type of accident: a sailor doling out the ration of tafia, the brandy that was the French equivalent of grog, knocked over a candle and set the ship afire. First the 74-gun Intrepide and then the 40- gun Inconstante were destroyed this way, and de Grasse ordered that thereafter a responsible officer must preside over every issue of tafia.

Still, de Grasse had 28 ships of the line to take north. Crowded aboard the men-of-war were three regiments of French infantry, 100 dragoons and 350 artillerymen-2,500 soldiers in all to reinforce Lafayette's troops. Their equipment and artillery were carried aboard 15 merchantmen that de Grasse chartered with money from his personal fortune. To avoid detection by British frigates in the Atlantic, de Grasse led his fleet through the treacherous, shoal-dotted Bahama Channel between Cuba and the Bahamas. By mid-August of 1781 the entire armada was riding north in the Gulf Stream off Florida, and on the evening of August 29, the fleet dropped anchor inside the entrance to Chesapeake Bay, picking off in the process a few British frigates that had not been quick enough to slip out of the Bay.

It happened that de Grasse's serpentine approach to the colonies had served him in a way he did not know. His departure from the West Indies had been discovered by the British, and Rear Admiral Sir Samuel Hood left Antigua on August 10 with 14 ships of the line to search for him. By sailing a straight-line course instead of cutting between Cuba and the Bahamas, Hood was off the American coast ahead of de Grasse. On August 25, four days before the French fleet arrived, Hood looked into Chesapeake Bay, found that all was clear and sailed on to New York.

Comte François Joseph Paul de Grasse, who boldly outmaneuvered Graves at the Chesapeake, was also noted as a supremely tenacious fighter when the occasion demanded. At the Battle of the Saints in 1782 his aides implored him to surrender because they were out of ammunition. Though he eventually had to strike, it was not before he ordered, "Melt my silver plate and have it made into bullets."

 

The commander of the British fleet in New York, Rear Admiral Thomas as Graves, had no news of de Grasse. He was more concerned at the report that another French force, a squadron of eight warships under Commodore Comte de Barras, was transporting a shipment of siege artillery from Newport, Rhode Island, to the French and Americans surrounding Cornwallis at Yorktown. Graves and Hood agreed to join forces and, with 19 ships of the line, to sail for Chesapeake Bay to head off de Barras. While they were about it, they took along supplies and 2,000 troops to reinforce Cornwallis.

New Yorkers thereupon were given a firsthand example of Britain's press gangs at work as the Royal Navy rounded up 400 colonists to help man British ships. A press-gang officer recorded that the procedure "furnished us with droll yet distressing scenes—taking the husband from the arms of his wife in bed, the searching for them when hid beneath the warm clothes, and, the better to prevent delay taking them naked, white the frantic partner of his bed, forgetting the delicacy of her sex, pursued us to the doors with shrieks and imprecations, and exposing their naked persons to the rude view of an unfeeling press gang."

Early on the morning of September 5, as the British fleet approached the mouth of Chesapeake Bay, one of Graves's lookouts announced that there were some masts just inside the entrance. It looked as if de Barras and his squadron had already arrived; the eight French ships would be easy victims for Graves's 19. But as the British fleet drew Gloser to the mouth of the Bay, the lookouts reported a veritable forest of masts.

Graves did not know it at the time—and it would provide an even nastier shock in due course—but the Comte de Barras's eight-ship squadron was not among the vessels he was studying. De Barras was still en route from Newport laying a circuitous course south as far as the Carolinas to avoid detection by the British. These ships, as Graves would discover, were those of Admiral François de Grasse. There were 24 of them, four vessels having been sent on other missions, and as Graves would also discover, de Grasse was a brilliant tactician.

But for the moment, all the advantage—surprise, position, wind, tide, everything save numbers—lay with the British. De Grasse's fleet was anchored in Lynnhaven Roads along the southern shore and inside Cape Henry. As the British drew near enough to be identified, the French exploded into frantic activity, unfurling sails, slipping anchor cables and leaving them tied to buoys in the harbor. In utter confusion, they scrambled to clear the Bay for the Atlantic, where they could employ their tactics of firing at the British tops and running out to sea.

Graves was thereby presented with an even greater opportunity than he had anticipated on leaving New York. Here was a numerically superior French fleet virtually at his mercy. The wind was northeast, blowing into the Bay; the French were thus up against a lee shore, with an incoming tide against them as well. Nor could they maneuver into any fighting formation because of a shoal, called the Middle Ground, in the center of the Bay's entrance; the skip channel at this period was only three miles wide. All Graves had to do was send his 19 men-of-war down onto this scattered flock of 24 Frenchmen and pick them off one after another.

In fact, the French were in an even more parlous state than they appeared. Nearly 1,300 of de Grasse's officers and crewmen—close to half of the total—were ashore ferrying the troops and artillery they had brought from the West Indies. De Grasse's flagship, the Ville de Paris, was short 200 men. The 74-gun Citoyen did not have enough sailors to man her upper-deck guns. De Grasse had ordered the recall signal hoisted, but the boats were too far up the Bay and he had sailed without them.

At the moment, the situation looked hopeless for de Grasse. But soon he could cry out with delight at what Graves was doing—or rather not doing. Instead of sending a spreading net of ships to close the exit to the harbor, the British Admiral was leisurely keeping to the classic formation of the Fighting Instructions.

The Union Jack flew at the mizzen peak of Graves's flagship, the London, signaling "Line Ahead" as the stately procession moved down on the entrance to the Bay. By the time Graves, maintaining perfect formation, finally reached the Middle Ground at the mouth of the Bay, the fleeing French had largely cleared the entrance, and were in the process of forming a line of their own. Whereupon, still in precise formation, Graves laboriously maneuvered his entire fleet around in the same orderly line, heading back to sea. As if at a formal review, the British fleet sailed into and out of the entrance to Chesapeake Bay.

Each ship kept her place in the formation, without a break in the line. It was an impressive spectacle, precise, orchestrated, beautiful—and utterly worthless. What is more, by reversing his line, Graves had compounded the error: now his weakest ships, which had been in the rear, were in the van and would have to lead the attack, if there was one. He himself was the 10th ship in the line; the new leader was Captain Mark Robinson in the 74-gun Shrewsbury.

Following the Fighting Instructions, Graves intended to sail along the French line and bombard it to splinters—that is, once the French formed a line. But at this point the French had no line—and with no enemy line to oppose, Graves's single line was helpless.

It was now mid-afternoon. Rounding Cape Henry, the French ships finally fell into a rough line as they hurried out into the ocean. This gave Graves his chance—but he lost it. Heading for the straggling French line, he kept his "Line Ahead" signal. So his straight, unwavering column brought the British up against the French at an angle, in a V instead of in parallel lines, with the result that only the British van, the lead ships of the line, came close enough to engage the French. Graves then used a combination of signals that was argued about for years thereafter. He hoisted a white pendant with a blue-and-white checkered flag beneath it, signalling: "Bear Down and Engage More Closely." But he also kept his "Line Ahead" signal flying.

"Bear Down" meant every captain could turn toward the enemy and attack the nearest French ship. But this would no longer be a line ahead. And most of Graves's captains, especially Hood, commanding the rear in the Barfleur, knew what the Fighting Instructions said about that: "Line Ahead" always superseded other signals. So Hood and the others in the center and rear stuck by the book. They kept their straight line.

Graves was thus attacking a superior force with only a part of his inferior force, and de Grasse's gunners shortly proved their mettle. As the converging fleets met at the point of the V, the leading Shrewsbury shook under the fire of the leading French ship Pluton. One shower of cannon halls swept the Shrewsbury's deck, ripping the left leg off Captain Robinson and killing the first lieutenant and 13 of the crew. Succeeding blasts from the Pluton killed 12 more of the Shrewsbury's sailors and injured 46. The Shrewsbury's mainmast and mizzenmast were shot through, and her sails and spars were so riddled and shattered that she had to fall out of the line.

When Captain Anthony Molloy tried to bring the second British ship, the 64-gun Intrepid, to the Shrewsbury's support, he came under even heavier fire from the French 74-gun Marseillais. With her main-topmast nearly cut in two, her sails in tatters, her rudder damaged, 19 shot holes between wind and water, and 21 killed and 35 wounded, the Intrepid also drifted out of the line.

De Grasses ships did not escape without damage. A broadside from the Princesse in the British van swept the decks of the Réfléchi, killing the captain. And the Auguste ran into a withering fire of British musketry as well as cannon. The Auguste' s foretop bowline was shot away, threatening to send the foretop crashing down to the deck, Two French sailors were shot as they climbed up to repair the bowline. A third Frenchman thereupon scrambled to the foretop, repaired it while shot flew around him, and then slid safely back to the deck. Admiral Comte Louis Antoine de Bougainville summoned the young man to the quarterdeck and offered him his purse. But the sailor replied: "You need not pay me for doing my duty, Admiral."

The opening guns of the battle had fired just after noon of September 5. It was almost dusk before Graves lowered his "Line Ahead" signal, which then permitted his captains to turn toward the nearest enemy. But it was too late. The faster French ships were in the Atlantic; de Grasse had escaped what should have been a calamitous trap without the loss of a single ship. In killed and wounded, he had inflicted 336 casualties on the British, while suffering 230 casualties himself.

The British were seething with recrimination. In an angry post-mortem aboard his flagship, the London, Graves demanded to know why Hood had not turned out of the line to engage the enemy.

Hood coldly replied, "You had up the signal for the line."

Graves turned to the man who had led the van into action: Rear Admiral Francis S. Drake, a descendant of the great Elizabethan hero. Why, Graves asked, had Drake engaged the enemy?

"On account of the signal for action," Drake replied.

Graves triumphantly turned back to Hood and asked, "What say you to this, Admiral Hood?"

Sir Samuel said calmly, "The signal for the line was enough for me."

    

Nineteen British men-of-war, accompanied by smaller frigates (upper panel, right), maneuver into a precise one of battle as they approach Chesapeake Bay on September 5, 1781, allowing the French time to compose their own line before escaping in the opposite direction. When the laggardly British finally turned to close with the enemy (lower panel), they did so at such an awkward angle that the French rear was never even engaged.

It did not help matters that Graves next allowed de Grasse to outmaneuver him again—this time to the disaster of Cornwallis and the British forces fighting at Yorktown. On September 6, seeking to prevent de Grasse from blockading Cornwallis, again Graves went after the French fleet, which was lying off Cape Henry. A merry chase it was. For five days, de Grasse led Graves on a wide circle out into the Atlantic and back toward Chesapeake Bay, slowing when the British fell behind, speeding up when they began to close, always remaining temptingly and infuriatingly near. It was a superb strategem. For while de Grasse was playing hare and hounds, the eight warships of his comrade-in arms, the Comte de Barras, arrived at Chesapeake Bay, as de Grasse knew they would, and proceeded to land their heavy artillery for the French and American troops besieging Cornwallis.

To make matters infinitely worse for the hapless Graves, he was now faced with 32 French ships of the line, most of them in better shape than his vessels. And now his fleet was down to 18; the Terrible had been so weakened by the battle and subsequent chase that Graves had ordered her scuttled. The crowning blow came when the French took up a block-ing position across the entrance to the Bay.

There followed an icy exchange of notes between the London and the Barfleur. "Admiral Graves presents his compliments to Sir Samuel Hood," and "desires his opinion what to do with the fleet?" Reply: "Sir Samuel presents his compliments to Rear Admirai Graves," and "would be very glad to send an opinion, but he really knows not what to say in the truly lamentable state we have brought ourself." With resignation, Graves summoned another conference in his cabin. There was, all agreed, no alternative. The fleet would have to return to New York for repairs and reinforcements.

This sorry aggregation arrived on September 20. It was a month before a refurbished contingent of 25 ships of the line could sail again for Chesapeake Bay. They were too late. On October 19, just after the British fleet had departed New York, Cornwallis' band at Yorktown played "The World Turned Upside Down," and his troops marched out to surrender to General George Washington and his army.

The fighting on land continued for another year. But the war had been lost for the British at Yorktown, in considerable measure because of the failures of the Royal Navy and its outmoded line-ahead tactics. Ye' even this catastrophe did not destroy the Admiralty’s faith in traditional methods. For one thing, there seemed no suitable alternative—not one that the Admiralty wished to recognize, anyway. But in fact there was. In Edinburgh, Scotland, John Clerk, an amateur table top tactician, a landlubber playing with ship models, had already devised a new set of tactics that would help greatly in making the Royal Navy supreme once again though it would take awhile for his theories to penetrate the upper echelons of the Naval establishment.

In all his life, John Clerk never went to sea. He was 10 years old before he even saw his first ship, in the harbor at Leith, the seaport for Edinburgh.
But he had read the shipwreck saga Robinson Crusoe and had become fascinated by a ship model owned by some of his schoolmates. He soon thought of joining the Navy, but was forbidden to do so by his family, who, as he later explained it, "already had suffered heavy losses in both sea and land service."

Young John Clerk had to be satisfied with sailing small boats in Leith harbor and with hours spent on the pier studying the ways a sailing ship employed the wind. He returned home to build ship models, sail them on his father's pond and experiment with rudders and rigging. As he grew older, naval tactics became his hobby—and obsession. He covered his family's tables with charts and drawings of tactics. He carved dozens of wooden ship models, small enough to carry two fleets about in his pockets, so he could work out his formations whenever he found himself with a few spare moments and a table nearby.

He became an Edinburgh merchant. But he doodled endlessly with his battle diagrams, worked out innumerable combinations of ship-of-the line formations with his ship models, and analyzed and reanalyzed the Fighting Instructions.

With his fresh eye, John Clerk detected the most serious weakness in the line-ahead formation: it depended for success on the enemy's cooperation; he had to form a line of battle as well. For the most part, the enemy fleets had done so up to now. But with the French Navy adopting its new tactics of hit-and-run, unless the French had a numerical superiority, Clerk concluded that the time-honored line-ahead formation was usually worthless. And when he read about the widely publicized courts-martial of Keppel and Palliser after the Battle of Ushant, he was even more convinced. The issue at court was whether Keppel had formed a proper line ahead, while to Clerk it seemed clear that the French had escaped because Keppel had insisted on a line ahead and had waited too long to form it in any case.

This was too much for Clerk. He started to write a book decrying the old tactics and offering some novel ideas of his own. Entitled An Essay on Naval Tactics, John Clerk's study was intended as a textbook for Naval officers. It was packed with diagrams and charts, and its major proposition was concentration of fire—"directing the greater part of the force of fleet against a few ships, either in the van or the rear."

It was stunningly simple. Clerk advocated that instead of always parading properly and fighting one on one in gentlemanly fashion, the Navy concentrate on just a part of the opposing fleet, employing all of its ships against a few of the enemy's. The principle depended on a fundamental fact of fighting sail: a vessel's manoeuvrability was determined by the velocity and direction of the wind. Thus, for example, one could attack the rear section of a line of ships and devastate it before the leading ships could double back to the rescue. A ship of the line might take as long as half an hour or more simply to come about.

In the past, the ships in numerous sea battles had split into separate groups of combatants. But most of these situations had occurred by accident and not by design. The Admiralty had always felt uncomfortable about such instances.
John Clerk became a zealot. He travelled to London, and through friends of friends tried to peddle his ideas to the Admiralty and to any captain or admiral to whom he was introduced. Naval warfare was a popular subject in England in those days; any Royal Navy success brought cheering crowds into the streets, and a loss stimulated editorials, letters, petitions and similar outcries ail across the country. Clerk began to attract attention—at least among civilians. Enough friends, acquaintances and Navy buffs were interested in his book to permit a limited printing. But the Navy was something else again. Copies were sent to the Admiralty and to many admirals, only to be greeted with studied disinterest.

Many of the recipients, when asked, said they had not bothered to read the book. Others denied that they had even seen it. One admiral who publicly acknowledged the work and actually went so far as to praise it, did so with the patronizing comment: "And when I reflect that its ingenious author is only a military seaman in theory, I cannot sufficiently express my approbation of it."

But a number of admirals and captains were quietly reading Clerk's book in the privacy of their cabins and studies. One of them was a man who would soon make naval history.

George Bridges Rodney was autocratic, sybaritic, profane—and brilliant. He had been Naval commander in chief in the West Indies before the War of Independence. He had served as governor of Greenwich Hospital for old and infirm seamen when it was described as "a hotbed of the dirtiest conceivable jobbery and thieving." By 1774 Rodney's gambling debts had grown so huge that in order to escape bis creditors, he had fled to Paris during a rare period of peace between England and France. When more creditors in Paris threatened to close in on him, he was rescued by a friend: in a grand gesture of ancien régime chivalry, the wealthy Louis Antoine de Gontaut, Duc de Biron, proffered Rodney a loan that permitted him to return to London, where in 1779 the Admiralty reassigned him to the West Indies.

It was an even more important post than before. Not only was much of the naval warfare of the American Revolution being fought in the West Indies, but the area also served as the British base for naval actions off the North American coast. Rodney was therefore the recipient of much well-wishing and a great deal of well-meaning advice. According to John Clerk, it was through a mutual friend that Rodney was given a manuscript copy of Clerk's An Essay on Naval Tactics.

Admiral Rodney was a member of the conservative school of tactics and a supporter of the line-ahead battle formation. Yet he was also a man with an open mind. He did not comment directly to Clerk. But an acquaintance recalled an evening before Rodney's departure when the admiral sat at a dinner table demonstrating with cherry pits among the port glasses how he planned to break the French line. And when another friend asked Rodney what he thought of John Clerk's theories, the admiral had an oracular answer: "You shall see what I think of it the first time I meet the French fleet."

In fact, he did not employ Clerk's cut-the-line tactics the first time he met a French fleet—though he did depart somewhat from the orthodoxies of the day. En route to the West Indies with 22 sail of the line, he encountered an enemy squadron off the Portuguese coast, just below Cape St. Vincent. It was the Spanish contingent of a force blockading Britain's base at Gibraltar. In the so-called "Moonlight Battle" on January 16, 1780, in wintry gale winds, Rodney did not wait for the Spaniards to form a line or to form one himself. Ill with the gout, an aged man at 61, he gave his commands from his berth: "Lay me alongside the biggest ship you can, or the admiral if there be one." He did not cut the enemy's line because there was no line to cut. But he routed the Spanish fleet, capturing or destroying seven of the 11 ships.

The blockade of Gibraltar was lifted. Rodney became a national hero and was knighted. He continued on to the West Indies, where he fought two inconclusive battles with the French; in neither of them did he have the opportunity to go for the enemy's line. He remained there for a year, during which he amassed a fortune in prize money from privateers and from a looting expedition against the rich Dutch island of St. Eustatius in the Leewards. Then in the summer of 1781, in great discomfort from the gout and chronic prostate trouble, he returned to England to take advantage of the healing waters of Bath.

 

  

Without so much as toppling his topper, exemplary seaman goes through the knee-flexing bends and lunges of a ballet like drill designed to teach the fancy footwork that would make him deadly a cutlass. Genteel as the exercises may appear in this diagram issued by the Admiralty in 1813, they were followed in grim earnest by sailors who knew their skill with a blade would mean life or death upon the call for "Boarders away!

 

To be Followed