Abbildungen der Seite

they had frequently the mortification of seeing the fruits of much time and ingenuity destroyed in a few hours, by the weight of fire from the batteries, and their chagrin was insensibly increased by a sally of the besieged, in which they lost three pieces of cannon. These circumstances, together with the vexation of being baffled by a handful of men, inspired the besiegers with a project which soon occasioned much trouble to the garrison. This was the framing a number of gun-boats which might carry very heavy cannon and mortars for the

purpose of bombarding the town, whilst their own lowness and the difficulty of perceiving objects would necessarily preserve them from the fire of the garrison, But the effect of these floating, batteries was not fully experienced till the ensuing year.

In the mean time the court of Madrid was fully occupied in devising schemes for replenishing an exhausted treasury, and for prosecuting a war which seems to have been founded entirely upon Bourbon principles, in opposition to the general will of the nation. The influence of the ministry, and a jealousy of national honor, however, induced several cities, communities, and even individuals to contribute largely to the exigency of the state. The archbishop of Toledo, in particular, appropriated the whole of his vast revenues to the support of the war, during the time of its continuance. Historical justice obliges us to add, that the British prisoners received the most distinguishing marks of kindness and respect from the generality of the Spanish grandees. This year the Spaniards effected the reduction of fort Mobille, and the junction of their fleet with that of France threat


ened the British islands in America with immi. nent danger: but a raging sickness, which broke out among their troops, and the heavy loss which their squadron sustained, by a hurricane, in its way to West Florida, damped the ardor. of their commanders, and retarded their opera, ticns. Pensacola, however, was, about this time, added to their conquests. Eager to recover the important for

A.D. tress of Gibraltar, which had recently received fresh supplies from England,

1782 the Spaniards lavished their treasures with an unsparing hand, and the whole labour of the nation seemed exhausted in the stupendous works which were now raised before that place. One hundred and seventy pieces of can. non of the heaviest metal discharged their tremendous torrents of fire, at once, upon that narrow spot, and the bombardment was continued for such a considerable time, without intermission, that not only the fortress but the rock itself was actually menaced with destruction. It has been said, that the view of this scene was dreadfully sublime and splendidly magnificent from the neighbouring hills of Spain and Barbary, du, ring the night; especially in the beginning, when, the cannonade being returned

with equal power and fierceness by general Elliot, the whole rock seemed to disgorge a tremendous mass of fire, and all distinction of parts was lost in fame and smoke.

Notwithstanding the unprecedented fury of this attack, the loss of the garrison was much Jess than could have been imagined, even with out considering the narrowness of the ground they defended, its elevated situation above the


works, and the great proportion of men who were continually exposed in the duty or relief of guards. The town and its inhabitants, how. ever, received the whole weight of the cannonade and bombardment, and a scene of carnage took place there, to which the most animated description must be inadequate. Mothers and children, locked in each other's arms, were socompletely blown to pieces by the bombs, that their shattered fragments seemed rather annihilated than dispersed; whole families were crush ed beneath the ruins of their houses; wretched fugitives who ran for shelter to the more remote parts of the rock were overwhelmed by the fires from the adjacent; and ladies of the most delicate habits and constitutions deemed it the greatest felicity to find a temporary security? and repose in the casemates, which resounded with the noise of a crowded soldiery, and the heart-rending groans of those who had been dangerously wounded in defending the works.

Hitherto, general Elliot had acted with extreme caution, not only out of tenderness for the lives of his men, but also to prevent a waste of his ammunition. But as he now perceived that the Spanish works had arrived at their highest state of perfection, he considered this as the proper season of attempting their destruction. Accordingly, at an appointed hour, a strong detachment issued from the garrison, and divided itself into three columns, by which means the besiegers' works were every where attacked at the same instant, and then the fuiy of the assailants proved totally irresistible. Confounded by this vigorous and unexpected attack, the Spaniards gave way on every side, and gazed in

silent horror on the ruin of those prodigious works, in which the hopes of all Spain were centered. The most wonderful exertions were made, in the mean time, by the English, whose pioneers and artillery-men spread their fires with such rapidity that, in half an hour, two mortar batteries, with all the lines of approach, traverse, and communication, were in flames; the mortars and cannon were spiked; their care riages and platforms destroyed; and the magazines blown up in regular succession. The assailants then returned to the garrison with very inconsiderable loss.

After a long and obstinate resistance, fort St. Philip was surrendered to the combined armies of France and Spain; but as the conquest resulted entirely from the sick and reduced state of the garrison, their governor obtained all the honours of war on his capitulation. gical a spectacle, and at the same time so glo. rious to the sufferers (says an elegant writer) has not often been beheld, as the poor remains of this garrison exhibited in their march through the Spanish and French armies, which were drawn up in opposite lines for their passage. Six hundred old, emaciated and decrepid soldiers were followed by one hundred and twenty of the royal artillery and two hundred seamen; and about twenty Corsicans with a somewhat greater number of Greeks, Moors, and Turks, closed the procession.” When the battalions came to the place appointed for laying down their arms, the soldiers energetically exclaimed that they surrendered them to God and not to the enemy. The Spaniards seem to have been deeply affected upon this interesting occasion;


66 So tra

and their subsequent behaviour towards the prisoners reflected the highest honor on their humanity.

Ambition, honor, pride and revenge now concurred in urging the Spaniards to the utmost exertions of power and of skill for the reduction of a place which had hitherto defied their most vigorous assaults, and baffled all their projects. It was, therefore, with extreme pleasure that Charles listened to the plans of chevalier de Arcon, a French engineer of great reputation, and the Spanish courtiers were so confident of success that they seemed to expect the annihilation of the fortress, in case the garrison should persist in their obstinacy.

The subsequent preparations were beyond example; for no less than twelve thousand pieces of heavy ordnance were accumulated before the place for the numerous intended purposes

of attack by sea and land; the quantities of military stores and ammunition were so immense as to exceed credibility; eighty gun-boats and bomb. vessels, besides a floating battery and five bomb ketches on the usual construction, were appointed to second the efforts of the great battering ships ; nearly all the frigates and smaller armed vessels of the kingdom were assembled to af, ford requisite assistance; and the combined fleets of Fratice and Spain, amounting to about fifty ships of the line, were to cover and support the attack.

Nor were the preparations by land any way inferior to those by sea. The duke de Crillon was assisted by a prodigious number of able officers, and gallant volunteers, who had been drawn, by the length and celebrity of the siege, from every


« ZurückWeiter »