Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

plosion of many thousand barrels of gunpowder, on board of the Iris frigate, lying in the inner road, stunned at once the pursuing and the flying, and inflicted a transient stupor upon everything then and there living. The solid ground reeled under the unstable foot, and the waves of the sea undulated menacingly as if they would overwhelm the trembling land. The scene could have been likened only to the horrors of an earthquake, combined with a volcanic eruption.

Below were the tottering and falling houses, the crash of glass, and the cries of the maimed and crushed ; above was one vast canopy of lurid fire, from which were descending bursting bombs, fragments of burning timber, and every description of fiery-pointed missiles,—the whole interspersed with flashes of intense and variously coloured light. Every one near the spot seemed to be threatened with instant destruction.

Fortunately, however, only three of Sir Sidney's party lost their lives on this terrible occasion.

It is a lamentable thing, and history will confirm the assertion, that in all combined movements, where men of different nations have to carry them into effect, the most egregious blunders will ensue. The Spaniards have always

W

been reckoned to be a gallant and brave peoplebut with more than their share of that parent of all mistakes and misfortunes, obstinacy. A party of these self-willed Spaniards, who were too proud fully to consider the purport of their positive and distinct orders, or too treacherous to obey them, were the cause of all this terror and calamity. They were commanded to go and scuttle and sink the powder-laden frigate—they went and set fire to her.

Now the reader must understand that, up to this period, Sir Sidney went first into the innerharbour, where he destroyed all the shipping he found there, and afterwards repaired on a similar service on shore to the arsenal. When he had completed the destruction of everything in his reach, to his astonishment he first discovered that our fear-paralysed or perfidious allies had not set fire to any one of the ships then lying in the basin before the town; he therefore hastened thither with his boat, to counteract the treachery or the cowardice of the Spaniards. But he was too late. Already had the republicans gained possession of these vessels ; already had the boom been laid across the entrance to the basin ; already he found that those but just now defenceless hulks were converted into formidable batteries. He was forced to desist from his endeavours to cut the boom, from

voi. I.

F

the incessant volleys of musketry directed upon his boats from the French flagship and the wall of the royal battery.

Much of the proceedings that followed, and the causes that produced them, must for ever remain enveloped in mystery. Recriminations and charges, many and bitter, have taken place between the English and Spanish, concerning these atrocities. Perfidy and treachery have been openly alleged against our allies. For ourselves, we are rather inclined to suppose that the Spaniards and Italians were so confounded at the novel situation in which they found themselves, that, in doing they knew not what, they left undone that which it was their imperative duty to do, and thus, through their fear-impelled commissions and omissions, they seemed to be treacherous when they were only cowardly.

The grounds of affixing the black stigma of treachery upon the Spaniards are principally these. Early in the occupation of the place, the Spanish admiral communicated to Lord Hood the very bold intelligence that his Catholic Majesty had appointed him, Langara, to be sole commanderin-chief. This, of course, Lord Hood resisted; but whether the treason (if any) sprang from this quarrel, or this quarrel was but the arranged commencement of the treason, we will not pretend to

determine. However, the Don took up a very menacing attitude, for he placed his twenty-one ships of the line so that he completely enclosed the British fleet, consisting only of ten, placing his own ship alongside the Victory, and one threedecker on her bow, and another on her quarter.

The next indication of treachery was an insidious proposal to Lord Hood that the combined fleets should depart from Toulon, and make a diversion in favour of Paoli in Corsica, thus leaving the place at the mercy of the Republicans. He then wished to tempt the English admiral away on an expedition against Tunis; and finally endeavoured to raise a quarrel, because some Corsican men-of-war were riding in the roads with their national flag at their mastheads.

Now, when we look at the supineness of the Spaniards, and consider it in reference to the whole course of their proceedings, though we may not fully condemn, yet we certainly must hesitate to acquit them. Unfortunately the spirit of the two antagonist principles of monarchy and democracy ran so high at this time, that the evidence of the writers of that day, even as to the simplest facts, cannot be relied on. A work was published in France, and translated into English, which distinctly stated that Robespierre said, in one of his official despatches, “ Arguments of weight, and especially golden arguments, seldom fail of having some effect. The Spanish admirals and generals in the Mediterranean had instructions rather to watch than to act with the English.” And also, “ It was at one time determined to withdraw the army from before Toulon, and retire on the other side of the Durance; when, fortunately, the Spanish courier arrived, and everything was settled between my brother on our part, and Major S. on the other, with respect to Toulon.” This brother was one of the commissioners attached to the army of Toulon. It is still further stated that Robespierre asserted, “ The Spaniards, in consequence of this agreement, fled on all sides, (being attacked at an appointed time,) and left the English everywhere to bite the dust ; but particularly at a stronghold called by them Fort Mulgrave. The ships which the Spaniards had to burn, they did not set fire to. The British ships had more than one escape at this period. Conformably to the agreement, the Spaniards were to attempt the destruction of some others, by cutting the cables, and by blowing up some old French men-of-war, laden with powder, in the harbour. This, indeed, they did, but too late to cause any damage to the English; and in this instance alone have we any reason to complain of the Spaniards."

« AnteriorContinua »