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Jervis
Jervis
358

tion to the West Indies in the autumn of 1793. He had attained the rank of vice-admiral on 1 Feb. 1793. With his flag in the Boyne of 98 guns he reached Barbadoes in January 1794. The force at his disposal, co-operating with the troops under General Sir Charles (afterwards first earl) Grey [q. v.], was far in excess of any the French then had in the West Indies, and Martinique and Guadeloupe were captured in a short series of brilliant operations during March and April [cf. Faulknor, Robert]. The chief share of these fell to the army. The most cordial goodwill was maintained throughout, and the work being accomplished, the squadron, and with it Sir Charles Grey, retired to St. Christopher's, where Jervis received permission to return to England on account of bad health. Almost at the same time came the news of a powerful French force having landed at Guadeloupe, and the Boyne sailed at once to render what assistance might be possible. But the English troops, after a disastrous repulse at Pointe à Pitre, and being fearfully reduced by fever, were driven into Fort Mathilde; the enemy's batteries commanded the sea-approach, and all that could be done was to land a party of seamen as a reinforcement to the garrison [see James, Bartholomew]. In November Vice-admiral Caldwell [q. v.] came out to relieve Jervis, who forthwith sailed for England in the Boyne. She arrived at Spithead in February 1795, when Jervis struck his flag. On 1 July he was made admiral.

As early as May it seems to have been intimated to him that he was to go to the Mediterranean as commander-in-chief [cf. Hood, Samuel, Viscount; Hotham, William, Lord]; but it was not till November that he hoisted his flag on board the Lively frigate for the passage out. On 29 Nov. he joined the fleet on the coast of Corsica, and at once commenced the inculcation of that system of rigid discipline which opened a new career of glory to the English navy. At the same time the war was prosecuted with vigour, the French fleet was shut up in Toulon, and the coasts closely blockaded. But when, towards the close of 1796, the French became masters of Italy, neutrality was forced on Naples. Spain thereupon sent its fleet to co-operate with that of France, and Jervis found himself opposed to vastly superior numbers, without friendly harbours in the Mediterranean, excepting only those of Corsica. On 25 Sept. he received orders to evacuate that island and retire from the Mediterranean. A squadron which had been stationed off Cadiz under Rear-admiral Mann failed through some misunderstanding to rejoin him, and Jervis was obliged to withdraw. He left Corsica on 2 Nov., and after waiting some time at Gibraltar, finally took up his station in the Tagus.

The alarm in England was at this time very great. It was known that the French and Spanish were supreme in the Mediterranean. It was believed that they would make a strenuous effort to obtain the command of the Channel, and to give effect to their long-talked-of scheme of invasion. Jervis realised that at all hazards he must prevent any fleet from the Mediterranean passing to the north to effect a junction with the French at Brest. In this determination he posted himself off Cape St. Vincent in the early days of February 1797. He had intelligence that the Spanish fleet had sailed from Cartagena, and day by day he received news of its approach. On the morning of St. Valentine's day it was in sight, consisting of twenty-seven sail of the line. Of the English there were only fifteen, but most of these had during the past year been subjected to the most severe discipline, and were in exceptionally good order; while the Spanish ships, newly commissioned, with ignorant officers and untrained crews of landsmen, were utterly inefficient. Their fleet was in straggling disorder when, a few minutes past noon, the English in close line of battle passed through it, cutting off and forcing to leeward about one-third of its numbers, and tacked in succession towards the larger division, which at once hauled to the wind and virtually fled. It is quite certain that Jervis was aware of the Spaniards' inefficiency (Nicolas, i. 312), but it would seem that he did not fully realise his superiority; otherwise he would have signalled his ships to tack all together or to chase, and the victory must have ended in the total destruction of the Spanish fleet, which, as it was, would have escaped, disorganised indeed, but without serious loss, had not Nelson, in the rear of the line, on his own responsibility thrown himself in their way and, by hindering their flight, given time for the leading English ships to come up. The battle thus resulted in the capture of four Spanish ships; the rest made good their escape, though many of them were very severely handled. At home, however, the government and the public were in no critical mood. The threat of invasion was at an end, and Jervis was the hero of the hour. The news arrived in London on the afternoon of Saturday, 3 March. On the evening of the same day Dundas, the secretary of war, proposed, and Fox, the leader of the opposition, seconded, a vote of thanks, which the House of Commons passed at once