As it was after sunset when the salutes were exchanged, and in order that there should be no mistake about it, the next morning, the 15th of February, Jones transferred his flag to the Independence, a small privateer, and deliberately sailed through La Motte Picquet's great fleet of towering line-of-battle-ships, saluting and receiving salutes again.
After nearly foundering in a heavy gale, being more than once chased by an enemy's cruiser, and narrowly escaping being run down by one of our own line-of-battle-ships, we reached Bristol, to which we were then bound, in safety.
The following morning the landing-party, a thousand strong, under the command of Captain Troubridge, was transferred to the frigates. The intention was to keep the line-of-battle-ships out of sight, while the frigates, whose apparent force would carry no impression of menace, approached near enough to make a dash during the night.
When steam was introduced, engines were fitted to these cruisers, and they were given a few knots superior speed to the line-of-battle-ships. To enable them to keep the sea for long periods without their bottoms becoming fouled by marine growths which decrease the speed their iron hulls were sheathed wood, which in its turn was covered by copper. Ships of this type were not armoured.
The wind blew generally from the eastward, at times so strong, that the line-of-battle-ships would be under a close-reefed maintop-sail and reefed foresail; and the weather was intensely cold: yet he went every morning to the mast-head, where he would remain making his observations for a considerable part of the day, one of the older midshipmen being usually with him.
This was the more incumbent because Rodney himself, writing to Admiral Parker in Jamaica on April 16th, said, "As the enemy hourly expect a great fleet in these seas, I have scarcely a sufficient number of line-of-battle-ships to blockade the island of Martinique, or to engage the enemy's fleet should they appear, if their number should be so large as reported," twenty-four.
I have applications from the different line-of-battle-ships for surveys on most of their sails and running rigging, which cannot be complied with, as there is neither cordage nor sails to replace the unserviceable stores, and, therefore, the evil must be combated in the best manner possible."
As we swing round to our moorings, we pass numerous line-of-battle-ships and frigates bearing the flags of England, France, and Sardinia, but look in vain and with disappointment for the star-spangled banner.