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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesJohn Deane Of Nottingham: Historic Adventures By Land And Sea - Chapter 34. Hurricane In The British Channel...
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John Deane Of Nottingham: Historic Adventures By Land And Sea - Chapter 34. Hurricane In The British Channel... Post by :Zoderami Category :Long Stories Author :William H. G. Kingston Date :May 2012 Read :1913

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John Deane Of Nottingham: Historic Adventures By Land And Sea - Chapter 34. Hurricane In The British Channel...

CHAPTER THIRTY FOUR. HURRICANE IN THE BRITISH CHANNEL--SIR GEORGE ROOKE TAKES GIBRALTAR--SEA-FIGHT OFF MALAGA

On reaching England once more our hero had great hopes of being able to get on shore to visit his own family, as well as to make inquiries about Elizabeth, of whose arrival he had not yet heard. He had actually obtained leave to go on shore, and was proposing to set off the following day, when he experienced the truth of the old saying, "There is many a slip between the cup and the lip."

On the 26th of November, while his ship lay in the Downs--the weather having hitherto been fine--about eleven o'clock, the wind began to blow most violently from the West South West. John Deane was the officer on watch. He had been walking the deck for some time, looking out on either side--for those were days when it was necessary for seamen to have their eyes about them--when he observed in the quarter from whence the wind was coming, bright flashes of lightning. Soon the sea appeared through the gloom covered with a sheet of foam. Every instant the lightning increased in vividness, and now loud roars of thunder reverberated through the sky. Clouds came rushing on in vast masses.

"Call the captain!" said Deane to the midshipmen of the watch. "We are going to have a night of it, and he's not the man to remain in his bed at such a time. All hands on deck!" he shouted immediately afterwards.

The crew came rushing up from below with a speed which would have astonished any one not knowing how quickly sailors can put on their clothes, many of them, indeed, bringing them up in their hands and dressing on their way.

"Strike topgallant-masts!" he cried out. "Mr Grummit, range another cable for the best bower-anchor. We shall want every anchor out to-night."

Scarcely had these judicious orders been given, when the captain himself came on deck and took the command, next ordering the top-sail-yards to be lowered and the top-masts to be housed.

Now, with a loud roar, the gale burst upon the fleet, which lay at anchor in that exposed situation. The sea rising rapidly, torn up by the furious tempest, caused the ships to pitch and roll in a fearful manner, as if it would wrench them from their anchors and drive them against the dangerous Goodwin Sands. As Jack looked out he could see, indeed, some of the ships torn away from their anchors, apparently, and driven hopelessly before the gale. Over others the sea was breaking furiously, sending the spray high above them, and seeming every moment about to carry them to the bottom. Those who had been in many a battle, and gone through many a storm, felt their hearts, for the first time perhaps, sinking with fear, as the thunder crashed above their heads and the lightning flashed about the masts, while the foaming seas dashed up and round them on every side. The position of the "Lennox" was indeed perilous in the extreme, and little comfort could her crew gain by watching the fate of others. A large ship lay within sight--she was the "Mary"--with Rear-Admiral Beaumont's flag flying on board. Sea after sea came dashing and breaking over her. Now those whose eyes were turned in that direction saw that she began to move.

"She is driving! she is driving!" exclaimed several.

An instant afterwards she was seen carried before the gale, and ere many minutes had passed was thrown helplessly upon the Goodwins. Scarcely had she touched the fatal sands when her masts, bending like willow-wands, went by the board. The seas leaped triumphantly over her, and in the short time of one hour, scarce a timber of the stout ship hung together, while those who looked on knew well what must be the fate of all her brave crew. Not a man could be expected to live in that foaming sea. The same fate might any moment be the lot of those on board the "Lennox."

Thus the whole night was passed, no one knowing whether the next hour would not be their last. For a long time the gale gave no signs of abating. The thunder roared as loudly as ever, and the lightning flashed round their heads. Sometimes, as the vivid lightning enabled them to pierce the otherwise surrounding gloom, they saw far off some noble ship torn from her anchors, or the masts of another disappearing beneath the waves.

When morning broke at length, fearful was the scene of destruction which met their gaze. Here and there fragments of wreck could be distinguished on the Goodwins, while many other ships which had escaped the hurricane presented a shattered and forlorn appearance. By seven o'clock providentially the wind began to fall, and in a short time it ceased almost as rapidly as it had commenced. Sad was the number of ships which had foundered. Among those in the Downs was the "Northumberland," not one of her company having escaped. The "Stirling Castle" had also gone down, seventy of her men only having got on shore in their boats or on pieces of the wreck. Of Admiral Beaumont's ship, one man alone was saved on a piece of wreck, having been tossed about all night till at length he was cast on shore. The "Mortar" bomb-vessel had all her company lost. The number of sailors lost on the Goodwin Sands during that fatal night, and on all parts of the coast, many more being cast away in those few hours of the gale, amounted to fifteen hundred and nineteen. Thirteen men-of-war were totally wrecked, besides many others greatly injured. The newly-erected Eddystone Lighthouse was also blown down and entirely destroyed, the unfortunate men who had charge of it losing their lives. Several ships were forced from their anchors: among them was the "Revenge," which drove over to the coast of Holland, where she was nearly cast away. Happily, however, sail was got on her and she arrived safely in the river Medway. Another ship, the "Dorset," after striking three times, drove a fortnight to sea, where she was knocking about in an almost helpless state, till she was enabled to rig jury-masts and thus get safe back to the Nore.

In London the accidents which happened were numerous, and a large amount of property was destroyed. The gale blew down a multitude of chimneys, and even whole buildings; lifted the tops of houses, tore up a number of trees in Saint James's Park, in the Inns of Court, Moorfields, and at other places, by the roots, and broke off others in the middle. Several people were killed in their beds, among them Dr Kidder, Bishop of Bath and Wells, with his wife. A great number of vessels, barges, and boats were sunk in the river Thames, and the arches of London Bridge were stopped with the wrecks of them.

On the 12th of December the Queen published a proclamation for a general fast, which, on Wednesday, 19th January following, was kept with great strictness. The Order in Council also appeared in the _Gazette for an advance of wages to the families of those officers and seamen who had perished in the storm, in the same manner as if they had been killed in battle. The House of Commons also addressed Her Majesty upon this melancholy occasion, desiring her to give directions for repairing this loss, and to build such capital ships as she should think fit, and promising to make good the expense at their next meeting. Thus, great as was the loss, the British Navy was restored to that state of efficiency which it is most important that it should ever maintain.

John Deane had a great disappointment in not being able, after all, to leave his ship. As soon as the damages she received in the storm were repaired, she was ordered to rejoin the fleet under Sir George Rooke. That admiral had been directed to convey the Arch-Duke Charles of Austria to Lisbon. Before the fleet had reached Finisterre another violent storm arose, which dispersed the ships and drove them back into the Channel. The tempestuous weather prevented the admiral from sailing before the 5th of February, and on the 15th of the same month he arrived at Lisbon.

A short historical account is now necessary, that the cause of the long war in which England was engaged may be understood. The King of Spain, who died in 1700, declared by his will, real or pretended, the Duke of Anjou, grandson to Louis the Fourteenth, King of the whole Spanish monarchy. The Spaniards, finding themselves threatened with war by the Emperor of Germany, and by England, in conjunction with the United Provinces, delivered themselves up into the hands of France. In consequence, both the Spanish Netherlands and the Duchy of Milan received French garrisons, and the French fleet came to Cadiz. A squadron was also sent to the West Indies, so that the whole Spanish Empire fell into the hands of the French. The Duke of Burgundy then having no children, the King of Spain was likely to succeed to the crown of France, and thus the world saw that a new universal monarchy might possibly arise out of this conjunction. Hence arose the War of Succession in Spain. With the object above mentioned of placing the Duke of Anjou on the throne of Spain, Louis had sacrificed his charming and clever niece, the granddaughter of our King Charles the First and Henrietta Maria to an imbecile husband, the thought of whom was hateful to her, and he also had engaged in a variety of other intrigues with the same object. The Spaniards in general gave the preference to the Arch-Duke Charles, or Don Carlos, who was the legitimate heir of the Spanish monarchy, second son of the Emperor of Austria. The object of Louis was first to secure his own authority over the Dutch; secondly, to injure the trade of England, and also of Holland; and, thirdly, to overthrow Protestantism in all the countries under his influence.

The object of William and the British government, on the other hand, was--first, to exclude Louis from the Netherlands and West Indies; secondly, to prevent the union of France and Spain in the person of the Duke of Anjou or his posterity; and, thirdly, to maintain the Protestant religion wherever it was established, including the Vaudois provinces. With these objects, William had exerted his utmost energies to form the grand alliance of England, Austria, and the States-general against France. To these were afterwards added some of the Italian states and Portugal.

The War of Succession lasted, from first to last, fifteen years. It ended by the accession of the Arch-Duke Don Carlos to the imperial throne of Germany, and Philip the Fifth, Duke of Anjou, was then acknowledged by all European sovereigns King of Spain, on the condition of renouncing all claim to the throne of France for himself and his descendants. The war had now continued for about two years. The chief exploit which had hitherto been performed was the capture of the galleons in the harbour of Vigo, which has already been described. The Arch-Duke, having landed at Lisbon, marched into Spain with a considerable body of troops, but was not able to make any progress for a considerable time. Sir George Rooke, with the fleet, proceeded into the Mediterranean and made an attack on the important, town of Barcelona. The fleet at length anchored in the roads of Tetuan, when, on the 17th of July, Sir George Rooke called a council of war, and placed before the members a plan he had devised for attacking the fortress of Gibraltar. Strong as it was, he believed that there was a prospect of capturing it, having received information that the garrison at that time was but small. It was a place, also, likely to prove of infinite importance during the war then going on, and it was hoped that the attacking this fortress would give a lustre to Queen Anne's armies, and possibly induce the Spaniards to favour the cause of King Charles.

As no time was to be lost, the fleet sailed in consequence of this resolution for Gibraltar, and, prepared for battle, took up a position in the bay on the 21st of July. As the British gazed up on the lofty rock surmounted by cannon, they might well have felt that it would require all their bravery and hardihood to conquer the place.

"It must be ours!" exclaimed John Deane, as he looked up at it while he walked the quarter-deck.

"It shall be!" observed Captain Jumper, who overheard him. "Deane, you shall accompany me on shore; and I hope before the world is much older, you and I shall find ourselves inside those walls."

"Or buried under them," said Deane. "For my part, however, I would as lief be on the top of them."

Meantime the marines, English and Dutch, to the number of eighteen hundred, were landed on the isthmus by which the rock is joined to the mainland, to cut off all communication between the town and the continent.

It was only of late that this fine body of men had been organised and received the name of marines, their duty being especially to serve on board ships. They were under command of the Prince of Hesse. His Highness, having taken post on the isthmus, summoned the governor to surrender, but that brave officer returned an answer, that he would defend the place to the last. On the 22nd, the admiral, at break of day, gave orders that the ships which had been appointed to cannonade the town, under the command of Rear-Admiral Byng and Rear-Admiral Vanderdosen, as also those which were to batter the South Mole Head, commanded by Captain Hicks of the "Weymouth," should arrange themselves accordingly. The wind, however, blowing contrary, they could not get into their places till the day was well-nigh spent. In the meantime, to amuse the enemy, Captain Whitaker was sent in with some boats, and a French privateer of twelve guns was burned at the Old Mole.

On the 23rd, soon after break of day, the ships being all placed in their stations, the admiral gave the signal for beginning the cannonade; and now the guns opened with a furious fire. The shot, like hail, flew against the Spanish batteries. The British seamen firing as fast as they could load, in five or six hours upwards of fifteen thousand shot were calculated to have been discharged against the town, and the enemy were driven from their guns, especially at the South Mole Head. Seeing this, the admiral sent an order to Captain Whitaker to attack the town with all the boats of the fleet. In the meantime, however, Captain Jumper, who saw what was necessary to be done, and Captain Hicks, who both lay next the Mole, had pushed on shore with their pinnaces and some other boats before the rest could come up. John Deane and two other lieutenants accompanied their captain. They, rushing forward as British seamen always will do when led by their officers, took possession of the fort with great bravery, but not without sustaining a considerable loss. As they, with swords and pistols in their hands, were rushing on, suddenly a fearful noise was heard. The earth seemed to lift up beneath their feet, and forty men and two lieutenants were carried up, fearfully burned and shattered. The survivors, among whom was John Deane, undaunted by this disaster, fought their way on and took possession of the grand platform, where they remained until reinforced by a body of seamen who had come in the boats under Captain Whitaker. The whole body then advanced and took a redoubt half-way between the Mole and the town, possessing themselves also of many of the enemy's cannon. The admiral then sent in a letter to the governor, and at the same time a message to the Prince of Hesse, directing him to send a peremptory summons, which His Highness accordingly did.

While this was taking place, John Deane, who had previously surveyed the rock, got leave from Captain Juniper to lead a body of men up a part of the cliff which the Spaniards had never thought it possible any human beings could climb. Deane, however, had often scrambled over the nearly perpendicular rock on which Nottingham Castle stands, and up its old rugged towers which yet remain. He had no lack of volunteers, with two or three midshipmen, ready to accompany him. Stealing away unperceived by the enemy, they got to the foot of the cliff. With their pistols in their belts and swords between their teeth they commenced the perilous ascent. Many who saw them thought they would never succeed, but they had resolved to persevere. Slowly but surely they proceeded up, hanging on by each craggy projection, aided by the shrubs which here and there grew from between the crevices of the rock. At length, when one after the other they reached the summit, they saw before them a chapel filled with women, with a vast number of others coming in and going out of it. These poor creatures had come out of the town, prompted by their superstitious notions, to implore the protection of the Virgin, to whom the chapel was dedicated. Jack and his followers, springing forward, threw themselves between the chapel and the road which led to the town. By gestures more than by words, he endeavoured to persuade the frightened matrons and damsels that he and his followers would do them no harm. With difficulty, however, he could make them understand this, though he signified by signs that they were all to get inside the chapel again. Their fears were somewhat overcome when they found that no insult was offered to any of them. He allowed, however, one of them to go back into the town to inform the governor that they had fallen into the hands of the English. The governor, finding that the forts were in possession of the English and that a large number of women had also fallen into their hands, consented to agree to the terms proposed by Admiral Rooke. Hostages were accordingly exchanged, and the capitulation being concluded, the Prince of Hesse marched into the town in the evening and took possession of the land and North Mole gates and the outworks. The Spanish troops were allowed to march out with all the honours of war, and provisions for a six days' march. Such inhabitants and soldiers who were willing to take an oath of fidelity to Don Carlos the Third were allowed to remain. The Spaniards were also to discover all their magazines of powder and other ammunition or provision and arms in the city. All subjects of the French King were, however, excluded from any part of the terms of this capitulation.

The town was found to be extremely strong, with a hundred guns mounted facing the sea and the narrow pass towards the land. It was well supplied with ammunition, but the garrison consisted of only a hundred and fifty men. However, in the opinion of officers who examined the works, fifty men might have defended them against thousands, so it was acknowledged that the attack made by the seamen was brave almost beyond example.

The British lost sixty men killed, including two lieutenants and one master, and two hundred and sixteen wounded, including one captain, seven lieutenants, and a boatswain. It is but justice to the naval part of the expedition to remark that as this design was contrived by the admiral, so it was executed entirely by the seamen, and therefore the whole honour of it was due to them. Nothing, indeed, could have enabled the seamen to take the place but the cannonading of it in a way which obliged the Spaniards to quit their posts.

After leaving as many men as could be spared to garrison the place, under the command of the Prince of Hesse, the fleet sailed for Tetuan, in order to take in wood and water. Immediately the fleet had watered, it stood out again towards Gibraltar, when on the lath of August about noon, the enemy's fleet and galleys were discovered to the westward, near Cape Malaga, going free. The allied fleet accordingly bore after them in a line of battle. On the morning of the 13th of August they were within three leagues of the French, and then brought to, with their heads to the south, the wind being east, and lay in a posture to receive them. In the English line, Sir George Rooke, with Rear-Admirals Byng and Dilkes, were in the centre. Sir Cloudesley Shovel and Sir John Leake led the van, and Vice-Admiral Calemburg and Rear-Admiral Vanderdosen commanded the ships in the rear.

The English fleet consisted of forty-five ships of the line, and eighteen smaller vessels. The Dutch had only twelve ships of the line, while the French fleet consisted of fifty ships of the line, eight frigates, and eleven smaller vessels, the line-of-battle ships alone carrying 3530 guns, while the English ships together only carried 3154 guns, and the Dutch ships about 1000 guns.

Though the French endeavoured at first to avoid the battle, yet they had the advantage over the combined fleet, as they were superior in force, and all their ships were clean and fully manned. They had also the advantage of fighting on the coast, and near a harbour of their ally, and had the benefit of a large number of galleys. The confederates, on the contrary, besides being away from any friendly port, were thinly manned, and had a great deficiency of stores and provisions, while the foulness of their ships was greatly to their prejudice in the day of battle. Notwithstanding this they were eager for the engagement.

The action which was about to commence was likely to prove of far more importance than any in which Deane had hitherto engaged, and his heart beat high as he saw the ships of England bear down upon the enemy. His own ship the "Lennox" was among those under the command of the brave Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovel.

At about 10 o'clock, when nearly half-gunshot from the enemy, the French set all their sails at once, and seemed to intend to stretch ahead and weather the English fleet. Admiral Shovel, on discovering the enemy's intention, hauled his wind, and Sir George Rooke, seeing what would be the consequence if the van was intercepted, bore down upon the enemy with the rest of the confederate fleet, and put out the signal for a fight, which was immediately begun by Admiral Shovel. The battle raged with great fury on both sides till about two in the afternoon, when the enemy's van gave way. The Dutch engaged the enemy with the greatest courage and alacrity, and being provided with ammunition, continued firing something later than the rest, but night coming on put a stop to the engagement. Several of the French ships were compelled to quit the fight, long before it was over, to repair damages, some of them to stop leaks which would otherwise have caused them to founder. The French main body being very strong, and several ships of the admiral's and Rear-Admirals Byng and Dilke's divisions being also forced to go out of the line for want of shot, the battle fell very heavily on the admiral's own ship the "Saint George," as also on the "Shrewsbury." This being observed by Sir Cloudesley Shovel, he, like a good and valiant officer, immediately backed astern and endeavoured to reinforce the admiral. This act of valour and of good seamanship had two useful effects. First it drew several of the enemy's ships from the British centre, which was so hard pressed by a great superiority of strength and numbers, and secondly it drove them at length out of the line, for after they had felt the effects of the guns of others of the ships of Sir Cloudesley Shovel's division, which were astern of him, they considered it more prudent not to advance along his broadside. Being clean and better sailers, they set their split-sails, and with their boats ahead, towed away from him, without giving him the opportunity of exchanging a single broadside with them.

There can be no doubt that the British would have gained a complete victory had they not have been in want of shot. This had been expended by the vast number of guns fired at Gibraltar, though every ship had been furnished with twenty-five rounds the day before the battle, which would have been sufficient had they got as near the enemy as the admiral intended. As it was, every ship had expended her ammunition before night.

In the centre of the line a furious action was going on. The "Serieux," a ship in the French admiral's division commanded by Monsieur Champmelin, however, boarded the "Monk," an English ship commanded by Captain Mills. He, with great activity and courage, every time cleared the deck of the enemy, and made them at last bear away. The same French commander had his ship afterwards so disabled that he was obliged with others to quit the line. Captain Jumper also added laurels to those he had already gained, by engaging with his single ship three of the enemy's; and on this occasion, as he had done at Gibraltar, John Deane especially distinguished himself. Captain Jumper shook him by the hand, and thanking him for the aid he had afforded, promised him that he would not rest till he had recommended him for promotion to the admiral.

About seven in the evening, one of the French admiral's seconds advanced out of the line, and began a closer engagement with the "Saint George," commanded by Captain Jennings; but, although the "Saint George" had already suffered much, the French ship met with such rough treatment that she had great difficulty in rejoining the line, after the loss of both her captains and many of her men.

Among the actions of other brave commanders, that of the gallant Earl of Dursley, commander of the "Boyne," an eighty-gun ship, must be mentioned. He was but twenty-three years of age, yet he gave numerous instances of his undaunted courage, steady resolution, and prudent conduct.

The battle ended at the close of the day, when the enemy escaped with the help of their galleys to leeward. In the night the wind shifted to the north, and in the morning to the west, which placed the enemy on the weather side of the confederates. Their fleet lay by all day within three leagues of the French. At night the latter stood away to the northward. The English lost 687 men killed, and 1632 wounded. The loss of the French was a Rear-Admiral, five captains, and a number of other officers killed with 150 wounded, and upwards of 3000 men killed or wounded. Sir Cloudesley Shovel afterwards declared that this engagement was the most desperate that had ever taken place between two fleets in his time. Scarcely a ship escaped without being obliged to shift one of her masts, and many of them all.

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