The preparations of the French in Brest were completed towards the end of March, and on the 22d of that month Rear-Admiral de Grasse sailed, having a large convoy under the protection of twenty-six ships of the line. A week later six of the latter parted company, five under Suffren for the East Indies and one for North America.
"No," he returned, smiling down on her. "The building of Fortress Monroe was not begun until 1817. However, there was a small fort built on Point Comfort in 1630; also, shortly before the siege of Yorktown, Count De Grasse had some fortifications thrown up to protect his troops in landing to take part in that affair."
There is most excellent grasse within a quarter of a league hence, for our horses as well to feede them in pasture, as to mowe and make hay, whereof wee stoode in great neede, because our horses came hither so weake and feeble. They eate the best cakes that euer I sawe, and euery body generally eateth of them. They haue the finest order and way to grinde that wee euer sawe in any place.
When the logs were cut and hewn I went away, horseback, to Canton for a jug of rum. I was all day and half the night going and coming, and fording the Grasse took me stirrups under.
"Ah, that's your gallant faith, and no doubt you are right, but go on with your tale of the hounds," said Lord Mallow. "Your honour, as the hounds went away with Michael Clones there was greater applause than I have ever seen in the island except when Rodney defeated De Grasse.
Finally learning that Admiral de Grasse with a major French fleet had left France for America, he suggested Cornwallis move across the James from Portsmouth and find a suitable site on the peninsula for both an army and the British fleet. He suggested Old Point Comfort. His proposal was examined by Cornwallis and rejected as undefendable.
You will ever remember the Gorge du Loup with its seven-arched viaduct and stream of vivid green and the white foam that pours between its piers. On the road which leads from Nice to the town of Grasse, where are located the famous perfumeries, you will pass orange orchards, flower farms, and charming meadows with patches of wild broom lying iii vast sheets of gold.
At 11.33 Rodney signalled the van to tack, but the delay of an hour or more had given the Russell a start over the other ships of her division "towards the enemy" which could not be overcome. To restore the order, and to connect the fleet again, it was decided to re-form on the leewardmost ships; and several signals to this effect were made by de Grasse. They received but imperfect execution.
On arriving at Martinique de Grasse had an excellent opportunity to beat Hood, who had an inferior force; but like his predecessors, d'Estaing and de Guichen, he was content to follow a defensive policy, excusing himself on the ground of not exposing his convoy. While at Cape Haitien he received messages from Rochambeau and Washington urging his coöperation with the campaign in America.
On reaching the Capes, September 5, he found de Grasse guarding the entrance to the bay with 24 ships of the line, the remaining four having been detailed to block the mouths of the James and York rivers. To oppose this force Graves had only 19 ships of the line, but he did not hesitate to offer battle.