England in the Mediterranean: A Study of the Rise and Influence of British Power within the Straits 1603-1713 - Vol. 2

By Julian S. Corbett | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXXII
GIBRALTAR AND TOULON

By Rooke's stubborn fight, though the main hope of the naval campaign had not been fulfilled, the hold of the allies upon the Straits was secured. For the time at least they were one step nearer the goal, and England practically single-handed was clinging to it with an almost desperate grasp. When the battle-torn fleet anchored in the bay, the marines ashore fired a running salute round the shattered fortress, and, as evening closed in, lit up triumphant bonfires on its crumbling bastions. But for all the good face they put upon it the future was very dark, and the moment full of anxiety. The advanced troops of the Bourbon army were already crossing the neighbouring heights, the siege was about to begin, and the admirals knew the marines must face it alone. The state of the fleet made it impossible for it to remain. The condition in which the too drastic bombardment had left the fortress was almost as bad, but Hesse was as ready as ever to undertake its defence. All he asked was the marines of the fleet, sixty great guns and sixty gunners, and a detachment of carpenters and armourers to assist in the repair of the shattered works. All this, with six months' provisions, and two bomb-vessels with their tenders, the council-of-war agreed to give him. It was further resolved that all the ships that were fit for winter service should be formed into a squadron under Sir John Leake and be left on the station. The rest were to go

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