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part of Europe ; twelve thousand French troops were brought to diffuse their peculiar vivacity through the Spanish army; and the general enthusiasm was augmented by the presence of two French princes (the count de Artois, and the duke de Bourbon) who seemed particularly desirous of partaking in the glory of so illustrious an enterprise, as the recovery of Gibraltar to the Spanish crown.
The arrival of the French princes occasioned a display of politeness and generosity which we cannot persuade ourselves to pass over in silence.
-Some packets directed to the officers in Gibraltar, having fallen into the hands of the Spaniards, were transmitted to Madrid, where they lay when the count de Artois arrived at that capital. The prince conceiving this to be a pleasing introduction to a generous enemy, obtained the packets from his catholic majesty, and actually conveyed them, under his own care, to the camp. The duke de Crillon, also, sent a very polite letter, and a present of fruit and vegetables to governor Elliot. But, although that gentleman acknowledged those favours in the most polite manner, his resolution continued unshaken, and he even ventured, by sudden and unexpected insult, to provoke his combined enemies to the attack.
In the morning of the 8th of September, a vigorous cannonade, and bombardment with red.. hot balls, shells, and carcases, commenced from the garrison, and was supported through the day with such extraordinary skill and dexterity, that two of the Spanish batteries were entirely consumed, together with their gun-carriages, platforms, and magazines : great part of the comVol. XV.
munications to the eastern parallel, and of the trenches and parapet, were also destroyed; and the allied armies, in attempting to stop the progress of the flames, were thrown into complete confusion.
In consequence of this attack, the Spanish and French commanders resolved to precipitate their measures under the expectation of taking an ámple revenge. Accordingly a new battery of sixty-four heavy cannon was opened early on the next morning, which with the cannon in their lines, and about sixty mortars, continued to discharge their shot and shells against the garrison for the remainder of the day. At the same time, a squadron of nine ships of the line, with some frigates' and smaller vessels, dropped down from the head of the bay, and passing slowly along the works, discharged their shot at the south bastion and the ragged staff, continuing their cannonade till they had passed Europa Point, and got into the Mediterranean. Cap. tain Curtis, however, and his marine
corps, de fended the batteries on the point with such firm. ness and intrepidity, that the Spaniards were soon compelled to retire, and two of their ships were so materially damaged, that they were forced to send them to Algeziras to refit,
On the 13th of September, the combined fleets, consisting of twenty-seven Spanish, and twelve French ships of the line, arrived from Cadiz, and, with those already drawn up, amounted to forty. eight sail of the line. The battering ships were, also, in perfect readiness; and the cannon, mortars, and howitzers, on the isthmus, were so contrived, that every quarter might present a similar face of danger to the garrison, and that the
resistance might be rendered unequal to the force and weight of the grand attack. The adjacent hills, at the same time, were covered with anxious spectators ; and it seemed as if all Spain had assembled to witness the united powers of gunpowder and artillery, in the highest state of discovery and improvement.
Notwithstanding these tremendous preparations, general Elliot retained his accustomed firmness, and returned the attack with such fury, as utterly astonished the commanders of the allied armies. The number of red-hot balls, which the battering ships received in the course of the day, was estimated at upwards of four thousand, and while these vessels seemed to be the principal objects of vengeance, the whole extent of the peninsula seemed overwhelmed with the torrents of fire that were incessantly poured upon it.
The construction of the battering ships was so well calculated, for resisting the action of fire, that, for several hours, the prodigious cannonade írcm the garrison seemed totally ineffectual. About two o'clock, however, the admiral's ship, and that commanded by the prince of Nassau, were perceived to be in a perilous situation, and by the evening, the fire from the fortress had gained a decided superiority. This circumstance gave fresh animation to the besieged, who conti. nued their exertions with unabated vigor through the night; and about one o'clock in the morning, the two first ships were enveloped in flames, and the confusion became general. Numbers of rockets were now thrown up as signals of extreme danger, and all possible means were immedi. Biely used by the fleet to render the necessary
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assistance ; but those were only directed to bringing off the men, as it was deemed impossible to remove the battering ships, and the dana ger from those vessels appeared no less dreadful than the fire from the garrison.
At this important juncture, captain Curtis drew up his gun-boats in such a manner as to Aank the line of battering ships, which were now completely overwhelmed by incessant torrents of fire. This unexpected attack wrought up the scene to the highest point of calamity ; for the Spanish boats were compelled to retire, and to leave their wretched friends exposed to the devouring flames, or to the mercy of an irritated enemy.
It was supposed that nothing could have exceeded the horrors of the night; but the break of day disclosed a scene still more dreadful. Numbers of men were seen in the midst of the flames, wringing their hands and imploring succour; others floating upon pieces of timber, were exposed to an equal, though less shocking, fate; and even those in the ships, where the fire had as yet made little progress, expressed, by their looks and gestures, all the horrors of confirmed despair.
This was a glorious opportunity for the exertion of British humanity; and such exertions were soon made by the marine brigade, and their intrepid commander, as have conferred immortal honour on their names and nation. Upon the first appearance of the general distress, the firing from the garrison and gun-boats ceased; and the marine brigade (though exposed to the most imminent peril from the blowing up of the ships, as the fire reached their magazines, and from the
continual discharge of artillery, as the guns on every side became lieated) rushed on board the burning vessels, and dragged the distracted sufferers out of the midst of the flames. In these extraordinary efforts, captain Curtis was peculiarly distinguished; and his life was repeatedly in ex. treme danger. Providence, however, smiled on his humane intentions, and he had the matchless satisfaction of saving about four hundred individuals from impending destruction. Great num. bers, however, perished; and, it is supposed, according to the most moderate computation, that the Spaniards lost upwards of filteen hundred men, including the prisoners and wounded, in the naval attack. The loss sustained under the prodigious fire thrown upon the isthmus, during the whole time of attack, cannot be ascertained.
On the side of the garrison, the loss was much less than could have been supposed ; and was chiefly confined to the corps of artillery, and to , the marine brigade. Nor was the injury done to the works, sufficient to give any future apprehensioni, or to hold any proportion, with the immense weight of fire they had sustained.
The Spaniards now rested all their hopes on the defeat of lord Howe, who had been sent out with a fleet for the relief of Gibraltar : but va. rious causes prevented the designed engagement; and the British commander, after executing his commission, sailed back to England. The sad catastrophe of their armada
A.D. before Gibraltar, the repeated frustra
1783. tion of all their designs upon
Jamaica, and the very embarrassed stute of their finances, induced the Spaniards to put a termination to so long, expensize, and sanguinary a war. Ace