"Matters having now come to a crisis, and a decided plan to be determined on, I was obliged from the shortness of Count De Grasse's promised stay on this coast, the apparent disinclination of their naval officers to force the harbor of New York, and the feeble compliance of the States with my requisitions for men hitherto, and the little prospect of greater exertions in future to give up all ideas of attacking New York, and instead thereof to remove the French troops and a detachment from the American army to the Head of Elk, to be transported to Virginia for the purpose of coöperating with the force from the West Indies against the troops in that State."
During the night, at 2 A.M. of April 12th, the Zélé and de Grasse's flagship, the Ville de Paris, 110, crossing on opposite tacks, came into collision. The former lost both foremast and bowsprit.
Extensive preparations were in fact on foot for the reduction of Jamaica, frustrated six months before by De Grasse's mishap.
The arrival of De Grasse's fleet cut off all hope of retreat by water. He made but a show of opposition during the eight days employed by the Americans in bringing up their ordnance and making other preparations. On the 9th the trenches were completed, and the Americans began the bombardment of the town and of the British frigates in the river.
At 2 P.M. de Grasse's flagship, the Ville de Paris, fired several shot at the British rear, which alone she could reach, while his left wing was nearing the Barfleur, Hood's flagship, and the vessels astern of her, the centre of the column, which opened their fire at 2.30. Hood, trusting to his captains, disregarded this threat to the rear half of his force.
Virginia had suffered extremely in the course of the campaign; the inhabitants were clamorous for the appearance of Washington in his native State, and hailed his arrival with acclamations of joy. Washington and Rochambeau immediately repaired on board de Grasse's ship in order to concert a joint plan of operations against Cornwallis.
Rodney had sent word from the West Indies that ten ships were the limit of Grasse's numbers and that even fourteen British ships would be adequate to meet him. A British fleet, numbering nineteen ships of the line, commanded by Admiral Graves, left New York on the 31st of August and five days later stood off the entrance to Chesapeake Bay.
At this moment, Rodney in the centre, and Hood in the rear, favored by a change of wind, were breaking through the French line. The Russell's course carried her toward them, and consequently, in the mêlée which followed, she had the distinguished honor of engaging De Grasse's flag-ship, and of being in action with her when she surrendered.
The next step in promotion then fixed, and still fixes, the seniority of a British officer, and the Tisiphone's mission led him straight to it. Easily outsailing the unwieldy mass of enemies, he reached Barbados, and there learned that the British fleet, under Sir Samuel Hood, was anchored off the island of St. Christopher, then invaded by a French army supported by De Grasse's fleet.
Drake fell in with the main body of the French, and of course had to retire, fortunate in regaining his commander-in-chief unmolested. De Grasse's movement had become known in Barbados, and as soon as Drake appeared Rodney sailed with the fleet, but upon arriving off Tobago, on June 5th, learned that it had surrendered on the 2d.