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1781. several stores. The British had two commissioned offi
cers and 46 privates killed; eight officers (some of
We now proceed to the relation of more capital and
The destination of count de Graffe to a co-operation with the Americans was known by the British ministry time enough for their sending orders to Sir George Rodney to counteract him. The count in prosecuting the fixed resolve of the French court to give effectual affiftance to the United States, failed with his whole fleet and a large convoy from Martinico on the 5th of July, and arrived at Cape Francois by the middle of the month, where he was reinforced by five ships of the line.
In the beginning of August he failed from the Cape with a prodigious convoy, which having seen out of danger, beside touching at the Havannah for money, he directed his course for the Chesapeak with 28 fail of the line and several frigates. Admiral Rodney, designing to return to Great Britain, concluded upon sending Sir Samuel Hood with only 14 fail of the line, fome frigates, and a fire ship, to the Chesapeak; and forwarded dispatches to New York, to acquaint the British commanders with de Graffe's motions and Hood's destination, which however were not received in time. Sir Henry Clinton dilcovered by intercepted letters, that Rochambeau had marched with the French troops from Rhode Isand; that their battering train and stores for a siege were left at Providence under little more than a militia guard; and that their fleet remained in Rhode Illand. He upon that planned an expedition against them, and proposed
it to adm. Graves. . Graves however failed on a cruise 1781. before Boston. When he returned on the 16th of August, the proposal was renewed: but it was now become neceffary to refit one of his ships, and to repair others, so that his fleet could not be ready in season. Mr. de Barras failed with the train and stores from Rhode Island on the 25th ; concluding from de Grasse's own dispatches, 25. that he must be then at the Chesapeak. De Barras was at liberty to have undertaken any other service : but though he was an older officer than de Graíse, he voluntarily chose to put himself under his command, to ensure an object, the attainment of which was of such immense consequence to the allied arms of France and America. On the day of his failing, Sir Samuel Hood arrived off the Chesapeak, where he expected to have met Graves with the squadron from New York; but being disappointed, he sent a frigate to that commander with the news of his arrival. Had they formed a junction at this period and place, they might have secured the Chesapeak, and have prevented de Graffe's entering it a few days after. Sir Samuel having examined the bay, praceeded to the capes of Delaware, and not seeing or hearing any thing of de Graffe, made the best of his way to Sandy Hook, where he arrived on the 28th. 28. On that day, the commanders at New York received intelligence, that Barras had failed three days before to the fouthward. Notwithstanding the hope of intercept- ; ing his squadron before it could join de Grasse, must have been a new incentive for exertions; it was three
31. days before Graves could be in readiness to proceed from New York with five bips of the line and a fifty gun to the Hook, and from thence with the whole fleet
1981. under his command to the southward. The day before
he failed, de Grasse arrived in the Chesapeak. On his
The French admiral after blocking up York river,
fleet (nor they of his approach) till they were discovered
anchor, to the number of 24 fail of the line, just within
the British fleet, treated the French van so roughly, that 1781. they bore away, while de Grasse with the centre edged up
in order to cover their retreat. The weight of the action fell principally upon the British van, the centre coming in for a more moderate share, and seven sail never being able to get within a proper gun-shot distance of the French: from these circumstances Drake's division suffered severely. The engagement ended about fun-set. The slain on board the British amounted to 90, and the wounded to 230. The Shrewsbury and Intrepid bore more than a proportionable share of this lofs. Capt. Robinson of the former loft a leg, and capt. Molloy of the latter gained great honor, by the gallantry with which he fuccoured and covered the Shrewsbury, when overborne and surrounded by the French. According to the French accounts, no more than 15 ships on each side were engaged. Admiral Graves used all measures to keep up the line during the night, with the design of renewing the action in the morning. But he discovered that several ships of the van, and the Montague of the centre, had suffered so much in their mafts, that they were in no condition for renewing the action, till the same were secured. The Terrible was so leaky as to keep all her pumps going, and the Ajax was in little better condition. The hostile fleets continued for five successive days, partly repairing their damages, and partly manoeuvring in sight of each other; and at times were very near. The British were so mutilated, that they had not speed enough to attack the French; and these showed no inclination to renew the action, though they had it often in their power, as they generally maintained the wind of Graves. De Grasse fearing left by
1781. fome favorable change of it, the British should get beSept.
fore him to the Chesapeak, returned thither on the roth, The Richmond and Iris, of 32 guns each, which had been sent to cut away the buoys of the French anchors, fell into his hands. His putting to sea, and continuing there after fighting the British, was probably the saving of de Barras ; for during de Grasse's absence *, the other arrived in the bay with eight French line of battle fhips, beside frigates, transports and victuallers, bringing with him the artillery and stores indispensably necessary for the siege of York Town. The American officers were in great pain about him, when they heard of Graves's having put to fea, lest he should fall in with the latter, be over-powered, and thereby all their hopes of capturing lord Cornwallis be disappointed. De Barras had taken a wide circuitous course to avoid being intercepted; but that very precaution might have proved his ruin, had not de Grasse left the Chesapeak on the 5th, and engaged and maneuvred with Graves. In the mean time, a fresh gale and a head sea so increased the damage and danger of the Terrible, that it was found necessary to evacuate and then burn her. This was done on the 11th, and about nine at night, Graves bore up for the Chesapeak; but upon information’s being brought him, that the French fleet were all anchored within the Cape, so as to block the passage, it was determined by a council of war, to return to New York, where the fleet arrived the 20th of September.
* See count de Grasse’s letter to the chevalier de Luzerne, Sept. 13, and the Baltimore News-paper of Sept. 18, 1781.