Sidebilder
PDF
ePub
[graphic][merged small][merged small]

directed from their land-batteries and battering-ships, on the one hand, and, on the other, the incessant fire from the various works of the garrison, exhibited a scene of which neither the pen nor the pencil can furnish a .competent idea. It is sufficient to say that upwards of four hundred pieces of the heaviest artillery were playing at the same moment—a power of 'ordnance which up till that time had scarcely been emoployed in any siege since the invention of those wonderful engines of destruction.

After some hours' cannonade, the battering-ships were found to be no less formidable than they had been represented. Our heaviest shells often rebounded from their tops, whilst the thirty-two pound shot seemed .incapable of making any visible impression upon their hulls. Frequently we flattered ourselves that they were on fire; but no sooner did any smoke appear, than, with the most persevering 'intrepidity, men were observed applying water from their engines within, to those places whence the smoke issued.

Though vexatiously annoyed from the isthmus, o our artillery directed their sole attention to the battering-ships, the furious and spirited opposition of which served to excite our people to more animated exertions. A fire more tremendous, if possible, than ever, was therefore directed upon them from the garrison. • Incessant showers of hot balls, carcasses, and shells of every species, flew from all quarters; yet, for some hours, the attack and defence were so equally maintained as scarcely to indicate any appearance of superiority on either side. The wonderful construction of the ships seemed to bid defiance to the powers of the heaviest 'ordnance.

In the afternoon, however, the face of things began to change considerably. The smoke which had been observed to issue from the upper part of the flag-ship appeared to prevail, notwithstanding the constant application of water; and the Admiral's second was perceived to be in the same condition.

As night came on, the flames fairly gained the ascendant. The confusion which reigned on board of these vessels soon communicated itself to the whole line. The fire of the batteringships gradually •slackened : that of the garrison, on the contrary, seemed to become more animated and tremendous.

It was kept up during the entire night. At one in the morning, two of the ships were entirely a prey to the flames. It was not long before the others also caught fire, either from the operation of the red-hot balls, or, as the Spaniards afterwards alleged, because they set them on fire themselves, when they had lost all hope of saving them. It was then that trouble and despair broke out in all their violence. Every moment the Spaniards made signals of distress, and fired off rockets to implore assistance.

All their boats were immediately sent off, and surrounded the floating gun-ships, in order to save their crews—an operation •executed with extreme intrepidity, in spite of perils of every sort. Not only was it necessary for the men to brave the artillery of the besieged: they had also to expose themselves to almost 'inevitable burning in approaching the flaming vessels. Never, perhaps, did a spectacle more horrible—more deplorable - present itself to the eyes of men. The profound darkness that covered the earth and the sea intensified, by contrast, the lurid flames; and the shrieks of the victims were distinctly heard by the garrison, in the intervals of their cannonade.

A fresh incident arose to .interrupt the succour carried to them, and to redouble the terror and confusion. Captain Curtis, a sailor as daring as he was skilful, suddenly advanced with his gun-boats, which had been constructed to confront those of the Spaniards, and each of which carried in front an eighteen or twenty-four pounder. Their fire at water-level rendered them exceedingly .formidable ; and they were disposed by Captain Curtis so as to take the line of floating batteries in flank.

From that moment the position of the Spaniards became terribly critical. The boats no longer dared to approach them, but were constrained to abandon those enormous machines, so lately the objects of their admiration, to the flames, and their companions in arms to the mercy of an enraged enemy. Several of them were seen to founder. Others only escaped by forced rowing. A few sought shelter by the land during the night; but, on the appearance of daylight, they were easily captured by the English.

Then was witnessed, in all its horrors, a scene, the most harrowing features of which had hitherto remained concealed. In the midst of the flames appeared unhappy wretches, who, with loud shrieks, implored compassion, or 'precipitated themselves into the waves. Some, on the point of drowning, clung with weakened grasp to the sides of the burning vessels, or floated at hazard on fragments which they chanced to encounter, and, in the agony of desperation, 'convulsively implored the compassion of their victors.

Touched by this deplorable spectacle, the English listened to humanity alone, and ceased their fire, to occupy themselves

solely with the rescue of their enemies; a proceeding the more generous on their part, as they thereby exposed themselves to the most imminent hazard. Captain Curtis, in particular, covered himself with glory, by .prodigally risking his own life to save those of his fellow-creatures. Some of his own men were wounded in this honourable .enterprise; others were killed; and

[graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

SUBTERRANEAN GALLERY, EXCAVATED OUT OF THE SOLID ROCK.

(See Note 4, p. 16.)

he himself narrowly escaped from partaking the fate of a ship which blew up at the moment when he was about to board her. More than four hundred of the enemy's troops were rescued by this intrepid sailor from certain death!

The greater number of the famous battering-ships were either blown up or burnt. The Spanish Admiral quitted his flag-ship

a little before midnight, as did also D'Arçon, the French engineer, that on board of which he had embarked to witness the triumph of his .contrivances.

Meanwhile, the most intense 'anxiety as to the fate of Gibraltar prevailed in England. Admiral Howe had sailed from Portsmouth with a convoy containing fresh troops and provisions, and a fleet of thirty-four sail of the line. Relieved by the news of Elliot's brilliant victory, which he received off the coast of Portugal, he steered direct for the Straits, and succeeded in bringing the whole of his transports to their `destination, even in presence of the enemy's fleets. Thus Gibraltar was saved, and the continuance of the blockade till the peace (Jan. 20, 1783) was little more than a form.

accom'plish, perform'. defi'ance, contempt' for an, invin' cible, invulnerable. anni'bilated, destroyed'. enemy:

ord'nance, can'non. anxi'ęty, solicitude. destination, ha'ven. precipitated, cast. appli'ance, contriv'ance. destruc'tion, devasta'tion. prod'igally, gen'erously. armaments, for'ces. en'terprise, exploit'. recognized', acknowledged blockād'ed, invest'ed. ex'ecuted, performed'. reinforce'ments, fresh bril'iant, splen'did. for'midable, dān'gerous. troops. cannonade', sustained' fire. gigan'tic, stupendous. repulsed', driven back. cap'taring, seiz'ing. | imminent, threat'ening. requisi'tion, opera'tion. com'petent, ad'equate. import'ance, mo'ment.

, defeat'. contin'uance, prolonga'- inca'pable, una'ble. slack'ened, declined'. tion.

inces'sant, cease'less. sor'tie, sally. contrīv'ances, inven'tions. inev'itable, unavoid'able. tremen'dous, overwhelm'. convulsively, spasmod'- | inten'sified, made greater.

| ing. ically.

interrupt', hin'der. | unprecedent'ed, unpar’aldeci'sive, fi'nal.

intrepid'ity, dār'ing. leled. ' Gibral'tar.- Gibraltar is not so much a rocky fortress as a fortified mountain, with a town on one of its spurs. It occupies a remarkable tongue of land in the south of Spain, with which it is connected by a narrow neck of flat and neutral ground. The length of the peninsula

SP from north to south is under three miles ; its breadth nowhere exceeds three quarters of a mile. The north front of the rock rises perpendicularly from the neutral ground, and stretches across from sea to sea, with the ex

Trafalgar

Gibraltar ception of a narrow passage at the

Europa de western side. The mountain is continued in one

[graphic]

ST. OF GIBRALTAR unbroken ridge down the eastern side of the promontory. On the Mediterranean shore its rocky sides are steep

Tangier and inaccessible, rising in some parts to 1400 feet above the sea-level. On

A F R T CA its western side, the mountain shelves down by a series of terraces to the Bay of Gibraltar, a wide and deep inlet at the eastern extremity of the Straits. The town of Gibraltar is situated at the north-western corner

ti ifa

« ForrigeFortsett »