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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

Hyder Ali had already been many times disappointed


An unsuccessful battle delivered

against Hood and Rodney by Admiral de Grasse restored for a while the pride of the English. A good sailor, brave and for a long time successful in war, Count de Grasse had many a time been out-manoeuvred by the English. He had suffered himself to be enticed away from St. Christopher, which he was besieging, and which the Marquis of Bouille took a few days later; embarrassed by two damaged vessels, he would not abandon them to the English, and retarded his movements to protect them. The English fleet was superior to the French in vessels and weight of metal; the fight lasted ten hours; the French squadron was broken, disorder ensued in the manoeuvres; the captains got killed one after another, nailing their colors to the mast or letting their vessels sink rather than strike; the flag-ship, the Ville de Paris, was attacked by seven of the enemy's ships at once, her consorts could not get at her; Count de Grasse, maddened with grief and rage, saw all his crew falling around him. "The admiral is six foot every day," said the sailors, "on a fighting day he is six foot one." So much courage and desperation could not save the fleet, the count was forced to strike; his ship had received such damage that it sank before its arrival in England; the admiral was received in London with great honors against which his vanity was not proof, to the loss of his personal dignity and his reputation in Europe. A national subscription in France reinforced the fleet with new vessels: a squadron,
commanded by M. de Suffren, had just carried into the East Indies the French flag, which had so long been humiliated, and which his victorious hands were destined to hoist aloft again for a moment.

As early as 1778, even before the maritime war had burst out in Europe, France had lost all that remained of her possessions on the Coromandel coast. Pondicherry, scarcely risen from its ruins, was besieged by the English, and had capitulated on the 17th of October, after an heroic resistance of forty days' open trenches. Since that day a Mussulman, Hyder Ali, conqueror of the Carnatic, had struggled alone in India against the power of England: it was around him that a group had been formed by the old soldiers of Bussy and by the French who had escaped from the disaster of Pondicherry. It was with their aid that the able robber-chief, the crafty politician, had defended and consolidated the empire he had founded against that foreign dominion which threatened the independence of his country. He had just suffered a series of reverses, and he was on the point of being forced to evacuate the Carnatic and take refuge in his kingdom of Mysore, when he heard, in the month of July, 1782, of the arrival of a French fleet commanded by M. de Suffren. Hyder Ali had already been many times disappointed. The preceding year Admiral d'Orves had appeared on the Coromandel coast with a squadron; the Sultan had sent to meet him, urging him to land and attack Madras, left defenceless; the admiral refused to risk a single vessel or land a single man, and he returned without striking a blow to Ile-de-France. Ever indomitable and enterprising, Hyder Ali hoped better things of the new-comers; he was not deceived.


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