Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 11.djvu/174

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cates with what skill and ability they are conducted, besides keeping the coast in constant alarm, causing a general suspension of the trade and harassing a body of troops employed in opposing him.'

Perhaps the most extraordinary of Cochrane's exploits in the Impérieuse was the defence of the castle of Trinidad, which commanded the town of Rosas, then besieged by the French. On 22 Nov. the castle was judged to be no longer tenable; Captain Bennett of the Fame had withdrawn the marines with which he had strengthened the garrison, and the governor had made up his mind to capitulate. It was at this juncture that the Impérieuse arrived. Cochrane was of opinion that the place might still hold out; and having discretionary orders, with which Bennett, though his senior, would not interfere he landed a party of seamen and marines from the Impérieuse; and there, for the next fortnight, he maintained himself against the thousands of assailants, supported by a heavy battering train. It was not till the town had been occupied by the French, and the citadel was capitulating, that Cochrane thought it necessary to evacuate the castle, which he did on 5 Dec., embarking the whole of the little garrison without loss, and blowing up the shattered fortifications by a carefully laid train.

Early in February 1809 Cochrane received permission to return to England. His health was beginning to suffer; he wished to call attention in parliament to the iniquitous jobbery of the Maltese prize court; and hoped to carry on a war of harassing attacks on the west coast of France. He was always of opinion that had he been entrusted with the command of a small squadron for this purpose, 'neither the Peninsular war nor its enormous cost to the nation from 1809 onwards would ever have been heard of. It would have been easy ... so to harass the French coast as to find full employment for their troops at home, and thus to render any operations in western Spain, or even in foreign countries, next to impossible.' Towards the end of March the Impérieuse arrived at Plymouth, and Cochrane was immediately summoned to attend at the admiralty. The French had been permitted to collect the whole of their western fleet in Aix roads ; it was now contemplated to attempt an attack on it there, and Cochrane was led to hope for an important command in the projected expedition. At the admiralty, however, he found that this was not quite the case. Lord Gambier, who commanded in the Bay of Biscay, had written that though 'the enemy's ships lie much exposed to the operation of fireships, it is a horrible mode of warfare, and the attempt hazardous if not desperate.' Cochrane was pressed to give his opinion on this matter. He was told by Lord Mulgrave, then first lord of the admiralty, that 'the present was no time for professional etiquette,' and that 'the board was bent on striking some decisive blow before the French squadron had an opportunity of slipping out.' Thus urged, Cochrane submitted the outline of a plan for such an attack 'which, if seconded by the fleet, must certainly result in the total destruction of the French squadron.' Lord Mulgrave expressed his own satisfaction and that of the board, and asked him 'if he would undertake to put it in execution.' Cochrane naturally demurred; he represented that, being a junior officer, his doing so would excite a great deal of jealousy; that Lord Gambier might consider it presumptuous, and might not impossibly deem the plan still more desperate and horrible than that to which he had already objected. It was only after repeated and urgent solicitation that he consented to undertake the service, Lord Mulgrave saying, 'Make yourself easy about the jealous feeling of senior officers; I will so manage it with Lord Gambier that the amour propre of the fleet shall be satisfied.' But no attempt to allay this jealousy was made, and Cochrane on his arrival in the fleet found himself exposed to the indignation of every officer senior to himself. Lord Gambier virtually refused to have anything to do with the undertaking, while Admiral Harvey told Cochrane that as he himself had volunteered for that service, he could only consider his being specially sent out as an insult to the fleet. The work which Cochrane had immediately before him was the conduct of the fireships. He urged Gambier not to wait the arrival of those which were to be sent from England, but to fit up some transports actually with the fleet. To this Gambier consented, and several ships were accordingly got ready, Cochrane personally superintending the preparation of some as 'explosion vessels,' each of which was charged with fifteen hundred barrels of powder closely confined by heavy logs, hundreds of shell, and wedges. In Cochrane's own words, they 'were simply naval mines, the effect of which depended quite as much on their novelty as engines of war, as upon their destructiveness. It was calculated that, independently of any mischief they might do, they would cause such an amount of terror as to induce the enemy to run their ships ashore as the only way to avoid them. This expectation was fully answered, but no ade-