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L E T T E R XIV.
JParis, December S, I73„\ Friend G.
THE Dutch fleet'having returned to the Tcxel, and the British convoy trom the Baltic being out of danger, the ships sent to the Downs to attend the motiuns of the Dutch, returned to accompany the British fleet in their expedition to Gibraltar. Upon the junction [Sept. Jl.] lord Howe sailed from ■Portsmouth, with 33 ships of the line, several frigates and fireships, a fleet of transports, victuallers and store-ships, with a body of troops on board, for the relief of the garrison. He was accompanied by admirals Barrington, Milbank, Hood, and! Sir R. Hughes, by commodore Hotham, and an able, brave set of naval officers.
After the reduction of Minorca, the duke tie Crillo.n was appointed captain-general of the Spanish forces, and was destined .to attempt the recovery of Gibraltar. No mean was neglected nor expencc spared to insure success. Ambition, honor, pride, 'revenge, all united in urging to the utmost exertions for the conquest of the place,; and as all former ones had failed, the Invention and application of such as were hew became accessary. The; •chevalier.D'Arcon, -aErcnch engineer, was confided in as being equal to the service. A plan had been proposed by him in the latter part of the preceding year. The preparations, though vast, and extremely expensive, were nearly completed; and the reduction of the place was not only deemed certain, but the powers to be used were so prodigious a'nd formidable, that little less (ban the annihilation of the fortress was expected to be the consequence of any great obstinacy of defence in the garrison. The J' >lan of the chevalier was to construct, from ships, floating bateries that could not be sunk or fired. They were to be secured rora sinking by the extraordinary thickness of timber with which .their keels and bottoms were to be fortified; and which was tu •reirder them proof, in that respect, against all external or internal violence. Thev wpre to,be defended from being fifed by Jhaving their sides secured with a strong wall, composed of timier and cork, long soaked in water, and including between them a large body of wet sand; the whole of such a thickness that tin. cannon ball should penetrate within two feet of the inner par•fition. A constant supply of water was to keep the parts exposed to tire, always wee; aud the cork was to act as a sponge in relaifiirrg the moisture,
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Ten great ships, from 600 to 1400 tons burden, were cutdowa to the state required by .the .plan, and 200,000 feet of timber worked into their construction. To protect them from bombs, and the men from grape or descending shot, a hanging roef was contrived, to be worked up and down by springs, afrpleasure. The roof was made of a strong rope-work netting, laid over with a thick covering of. wet hides; its-sloping position ws* calculated to prevent the shells from lodging,, and to throw them off into the sea before they could take effect. The batteries were covered with new brass cannons of great weight,- and about half the number of spare guns, of the same kind, were kept ready,, instantly to supply the place of those which might be over-heated or otherwise disabled. That the fire of these gunsmight be the more instantaneous and effective, the chevalier had contrived, a kind of match by which all the guns on the battery were to go off together. Red hot shot from the fortress was what the Spaniards most dreaded. To restrain its effect, there was a contrivance for communicating water in every direction. A great variety of pipes and canals perforated all the solid workr manship in snch a manner that a continued succession of water was to be conveyed, to every part of the vessels; a number of pumps being adapted to the purpose of an unlimited supply. By this mean it was expected that the red hot shot would operate to the remedy of its own mischief, and procure its immediate extinction by cuttingthrough the pipes. . /
The preparation was enormous in other respects. About 120Q pieces of heavy ordnance had been brought to the spot, for the numerous intended purposes of attack by sea and land. The quantities of every kind of military stores were immense. The gun-powdej only, is said to have exceeded 83,000 barrels. Forty gun-boats, with heavy artillery, as many bomb-boats, with 12 inch mortars,, beside a large floating battery and five bombketches on the usual construction, were appointed to second the efforts of the great battering vessels. Nearly all the frigates and smaller armed vessels of tire kingdom were assembled, to afford such aid as they might be capable of; and'between 2 and 300 large boats were collected,, which, with those already in the vicinity, were to minister to the fighting vessels during action, and to land troops as soon as the fortress was dismantled. The combined fleets of France and Spain, amounting to about 50 ships pf the line, were to cover and support the attack, while they heightened the terrors and magnificence of the scene.
The preparations by land were no less considerable. Twelve thousand. Erench troops joined the Spaniards. The duke de.Ciit
*ft>n«was assisted by a number of the best officersof both countries, »rrd particularly of the best engineers and artillerists of his own'. The fame of-these extraordinary preparations drew volunteers from every part of Europe to the camp before Gibraltar; and not'only the nobility-of Spain, but of other countries-assembled, either to display their valor, or to gratify curiosity in .beholding* *such a naval and military spectacle, as had scarcely beer* before exhibited. The Count deArtois, the French king's brother, and 4hs cousin-the Duke de Bouibon* seemod eager to immortalize their names by partaking ia the glory of recovering Gibraltar tothe crown of their kinsman and ally.. Their arrival increased, the splendor of the scene; and afforded an-oppoi tuniry for the .■'.display of that politeness^ and the exercise of those civilities* Ivy Jwhich the refined manners-of modern Europe, lwvc divested-war <)f many parts of ancient barbarity. Some -packetSi containing a. number of letters directed to- the officers in* Gibraltar, hav-tng fallen into the hands of the Spaniard*, were- transmitted-to Madrid,-where they lay when the count de Artois arrived at that -^capital. The prince, in the true spirit of generosity, obtained' the packets from the Spanish king, and-conveyed- them under -his own care to the camp^
The transmission of the packets to- Gibraltar$• afforded -an opportunity to the duke de Crillon of accompanyisg them with a> ^letter to gen. Elliot., in which-, besides informing- him of.the-ar*i-» val of the French princes, and of.-this particular mark of atte-n-tion shown by the count, he further acquainted iiim, .that-hewa» "charged by them respectively, to convey to the general the strongest expressions of their regard and-esteem for.his person and? Character. The duke expressed his ows in the most flattering terms. He also requested in the most obliging manner, that the. general would accept of a present of fruit and -.vegetables Sox his own use, and of some ice and patridges for the gentlemen of 'liis household ; furtherentreating,that as he new the general lived ■entirely on vegetables, he would acquaint him with the particular kinds which he liked best) with a view to his regular suppjv. 'The whole letter may be viewed as a model of military politeness. ^ General Elliot was not less polite or obliging in his*answer+ whether with respect to the duke himself or to the princes. But ■4ie informed the duke, that in accepting the present, he had brok, en through a resolution, which he had invariably adhered to from the commencement of the war, which was, never to receive, or procure by any mean whatever, any provisions or other coxnmodi'ty for his own private use. He declared that every thing was *oid publicly in thegarrisorij so that thejrivate soldier, it he.kad
money, might become purchaser with the same facility as the1 governor; and that he made it a point of honor to partake of both plenty and scarcity, in common with the lowest of his brave fellow soldiers. He therefore entreated the duke, not to heap, aip any more favors of the same kind upon him, as he could not in future apply them to his own use.
The French princes arrived at the camp about the middle of August; and after examining the state of the preparations by land,, leviewed the new and extraordinary machines contrived by the Chevalier D'Areon : in doing it they were accompanied by ail the, principal commanders of both nations, whether in the land or; naval service. The. confidence afterward placed in the effect to? be produced by these machines was extravagant; and the im
fatience of the combined forces both by sea and land for actionecame excessive. The apprehension of Lord Howe's arriyaj> served .to quicken the determinations of the Spanish court, and to accelerate the operations of the fleet and army.
While gen- Elliot observed the gathering storm, he could obs tain only some general knowledge of the mighty preparations that were making. He was, utterly in the dark as to the nature, construction and mode of operation of the new, invented batteries.-n He provided however for every circumstance of. dagger which could be imagined, and for the reception of every enemy, whatw ever,might be his mode of operation. Observing that the Spanish works on the land side were nearly completed, the general; de* termined on, trying how tar a vigorous cannonade and bombard-* ment, with red-hot balls, carcasses and shells might operate ta ihpir destruction. A powerful and well directed firing, was.cooj-i-:: menced [Sept^-S.] by the garrison at seven in the morning,, and supported through the day with admirable skill and dexterity. DBy ten, two of the Spanish batteries were in flames, and by five in the evening entirely consumed, together with their gun-car-» • liages, platforms and magazines, although the latter were bomb* proof. A great part of the communications to the eastern, parallel, and of the. trenches and parapet for musketry were like wisa destroyed, and a large battery near the bay.much damaged. The enemy's works were on five in fifty places at the same instant,/ "*•"
This attack appears to have been resented by the allied com* inanders, so as to have precipitated their measures. A new battery of 64 heavy cannon was opened by break of day the next morning, which with the cannon in their lines, and above 6U mortars, continued to pour their shot and sheiis upon the gairisyn without intermission, through the whole day. At the sametimej June ships of the line, with some.frigates. and smaller vessels, tak#..
Jng the advantage of the wind, passed slowly by the works, and discharged their shot at the south bastion, continuing their can-r nonade until they had passed Europa-Point. They then formed and came to the attack of the batteries on Europa-Point, and commenced a heavy fire, which lasted tilLthey were entirely passed.
The small British marine force at Gibraltar, under capt. Cur-» tis, being shut up by the superiority of the enemy from exer-, tion on their proper element, was formed into a distinct corps, under the name of the marine brigade, and Curtis held the rank; and title of brigadier as their commander. The defence of the batteries on Europa-Point was committed to him and his corps. They discharged their trust so well, that having repeatedly struck' the enemy at the first attack, the vessels were afterward kept at a safe distance.
The firing from the isthmus was renewed on the 10th of September, and continued the succeeding days, at the rate of 650& eannon shot, and lOSOshells, in every 24 hours. The gun and mortar-boats were also added' to the other instruments of destrue-r tionj Their combined force produced little effect, either with* respect to the loss- of men in the garrison, or the damage done to the works. At length the combined fleets arrived at AlgezU ras, and with those already on the spot, amounted to 44 sail of the line, beside three inferior two deckers. The new invented battering vessels were likewise in readiness. Their batteries ■were covered with 142 pieces of new heavy brass cannon. The Pastora, the admiral's vessel, had 21 guns mounted,, and teH irt reserve. The prince of Nassau's was of the same force. Thirty-six artillery men and volunteers from the Spanish and French, armies were alotted to the service of each gun; these being ex-, elusive of the officers and seamen who navigated the vessels, the whole" number on board was estimated at between 6 3nd 'JOOO men. The gun and mortar-boats, with the floating bat* teries and the bomb-ketches, were to carry on their attacks in every possible direction, while the fire of the battering ships was,pointed against their destined objects. By this mean, and by the fire of near 300 cannon, mortars and howitzers from the isthmus, it was intended, that every part of the works being attacked at the same instant, and every quarter- presenting a similar face of danger, the resistance of the garrison should become generally ineffective, and totally unequal to the accumulated weight and force of the grand attack.
At eight in the morning [Sept. 13.] theten battering ships,comjuajided by adm. Don Buenvcntura Moreno, were put in motion* oi and