|The Other Armada Pt. 1: The Battle of Corunna
May 15, 1779
"I had you, by God, I had you...", muttered Admiral Richard Graves as the French surgeon carefully extracted the splintered fragments of wood from his shoulder, his words almost lost in the noise of the building storm. "Five more hours and-"
"So you did," agreed Lieutenant Henri Brueghel. Privately, he wished the Admiral would finish writing his report to His Majesty, King Louis...the British admiral was, he gathered, a surly, ill-tempered man, and being plucked from the deck of his sinking flagship, wounded, next to the body of his second-in-command, hadn't improved matters. But, publically, he had to put a good face on matters. "But what happened, happened..."
"Yes, yes...", agreed Graves angrily. His strike at the French fleet waiting off Corunna had been a really good idea, one that he had fully expected to succeed: His thirty-three ships of the line had outnumbered the expected French force slightly, and he considered British ships, weight for weight, the finest in the world. And they'd been winning the battle, too, two French ships sunk and three with colors struck, to only one of his sunk and one surrendered. (The Victory had been a fine ship, he'd been sorry to see it go...)
Until the Spanish arrived, with the wind behind them and with twenty ships. Blowing the British directly into the French guns, surrounding them to prevent any chance of escape...he had lost _seven_ ships to enemy action, with a good five more captured, and still more scattered to the four winds. With God knew how many blown against the Isles of Sisargis to the west, where he'd ordered the fleet to sail before a lucky French ball had severed the main mast of his flagship, sending it crashing across the bridge.
His ships had fought hard, yes, and tasted their share and more of French and Spanish blood...but d'Orvillers (he understood the Spanish commander, d'Arce, had drowned in a small boat accident in April, so d'Orvillers commanded both fleets now) had a good fifty-five ships under his command now, at the least. He SHOULD have taken that American command, and not let Hardy take all the credit...
"Comte de Broglie, I trust you are suitably impressed
with the performance of our fleet?", inquired d'Orvillers as he absently
ate an orange. King Charles of Spain had visited Cuba in the decade
previously, and actually viewing scurvy and other colonial diseases had
inspired him to mandate lemons and limes and
"Indeed I am," said the old man, the Foriegn Minister of France, and the author of the strategic plan that had brought the Franco-Spanish fleet to this day...or so he told himself, anyway. "Had Graves not been so fool-hardy as to attempt to bring you to battle, or if the Spanish had been late..." de Brogile shrugged, and smiled at the Admiral, and raised his glass. "We had best drink quickly, with the storm coming...what shall we drink to? Victory? Ourselves?"
D'Orvillers thought for only a moment, before responding, "Next year, in London..." Both men laughed heartily as they drank...
1. Richard Graves, remembered as a reasonably poor Admiral fighting in North America in this era, wound up in command of the defense of the English coastline in this TL. He is more aggressive than OTL's Hardy, and tries to force the French to battle, rather than waiting for them.
2. The Spanish commander d'Arce, who really hated the French and
wanted to screw them over, died while preperations were still being made.
3. Both the French and Spanish navies are protected against scurvy,
though not much else in terms of disease, unlike in OTL. Also, both the
French and Spanish navies got off the ground faster and better organized
in this TL, because d'Brogile's plan for the invasion of England was agreed
on, rather than debating and switching to Vergennes.
The Other Armada Part Two: Reactions and Reform
May 1779-August 1779
The news of Corunna rockets like a shot across
the warring nations of Europe: At a stroke, Quiberon (the major naval battle
of the last war) has been reversed, and British power in the Channel has
been temporarily broken. As May turns into June, and the summer continues,
D'Orvillers' fleet grows to a full sixty-five ships of the line, substantially
outnumbering the twenty-two British SoL's forming up in the Bristol Channel.
(Graves' replacement as Commander of the Channel Fleet is Augustus Keppel.
Though he was being tried for his failure to stop the French at Ushant,
he is hurriedly cleared after the disaster at Corunna. He may have only
fought them to a draw, but he's the best Britian has at the moment.)
North's ministry clings on by the skin of its teeth, mostly with the direct
support of King
In France and Spain, the people are overjoyed. Songs and broadsheetsmocking the sailing ability, courage, and general competence of the British are the newest fad, with even great French composers of the era writing the little ditties. D'Orvillers and de Broglie look very good indeed, and de Broglie returns to Paris to help plan the invasion, now set to begin sometime in the month of October. D'Orvillers, meanwhile, sails up and down the Channel, sinking merchant and naval ships unfortunate enough to cross his way, letting the French and Spanish fleets learn how to work together in combat. The Spanish never do get a chance to stop for resupply (they have only the resources to fight until September) , and so they buckle down for a lean summer.
In America, news of Corunna does not arrive
until early July. With many of the Royal Navy ships withdrawing to Britian
to reinforce Keppel's fleet,
The Other Armada Part Three: The Turning of the Leaves
September 16, 1779
Major General John Provost saluted General Benjamin Lincoln and Admiral Valerie D'estaing smartly as his men filed by, into American captivity. Savannah, his post, had fallen to the Americans. They'd be marching on Augusta soon enough...he'd be very surprised if Georgia stayed in British hands until December. There was no shame, he thought, in losing to the Frenchman, but Lincoln was long-known as one of the less outstanding generals in the Rebel Army. "You moved faster than I expected," Provost said, restraining his bitterness. "Were we that tempting a target?"
"Our cause is on the move," said Lincoln, hiding
a smile behind the mask of courtesy for a defeated foe. "Corunna, Stony
Point, Paulus Hook...why
"Captain Jones, I am pleased to meet you at last," said Admiral D'Orvillers. Jones had no French and he little English, so they both spoke with an interpreter. He knew something of the Welshman's history, his career as a British sea captain, the murder of the mutineer, the flight to America...and, of course, the raids on the British seacoast, the burning of coastal villages on the North Sea...and, of course, the taking of the Serapis.
"And I you, Monsieur Admiral," said Jones respectfully. He was ambivalent to the French, as he was toward most people, but his friend Benjamin Franklin had written glowing reports about the French in general and this admiral in particular...and besides, they HAD saved his bacon. If that squadron hadn't shown up while he was fighting the Serapis and the Alliance was just causing him more trouble, he certainly wouldn't have his ship anymore...or even his life, probably. "I will be pleased to serve alongside you, in the coming months."
D'Orvillers smiled slightly, recognizing Jones'
verbal ploy. "Indeed. Your ships will give us..." He paused and calculated
quickly. "Seventy ships...yes, we finally do have seventy ships to sail
against the British, who have thirty at most, if they're fortunate..."
The Admiral looked about the ship. "But this is not a time for strategizing,
not yet. My staff tells me you have done us more good than any three of
our own commerce raiders. Please, show me the ship and the crew that have
done so much to help the cause of..." He'd almost said liberty, in solidarity
with the Americans...but decided that his notions of it must vary substantially
from that of Jones. "Of our victory," he said with the smile of a man experienced
in the ways of the French Court.
"Often considered a predecessor to the Romantic movement, Franciso Goya was a relatively uninspired Spanish court painter until the late 1770s. A favorite of the King, he was sent along with Admiral d'Caballero to paint a pictorial record of the planned invasion of Britian.
His first painting to have the marks of his later greatness is "Ships by Night", from the "Des Invasions" series of 1779-1781. The swift blackness of the French and Spanish ships as they bear down upon the beach at Hastings suggests wolves or eagles swooping down upon prey, though the red and black clouds over the coast of Hastings suggest that Britian is no home of angels itself. The painting is taken virtually from life, Goya was on board the Saint Jeanne when it helped escort its contingent of the 30,000 invasion troops of 1779 to Hastings..."
The Other Armada Pt. Four: Frost Begins
November 1779-Spring 1780
November 10, 1779, one month after the invasion
of the United Kingdom begins, sees France and Spain in an excellent position
indeed, despite the loss of their commander, comte de Vaux, in a riding
accident on the second day. Seventeen thousand troops are on the ground
in Kent, and the beach-heads at Hastings,
Admiral Augustus Keppel, commander of the Channel Fleet, has a decision to make. With forty-two major ships scraped together from all over the British Isles and North America, he has a very respectable armada...especially because the French fleet has shrunk quite a bit since the invasion began. One ship was lost during a raid on Plymouth, two more were seized at anchor in Spitshead Channel by a bold Royal Marine raid. In addition, most of the Spanish contingent is in port for resupply, leaving only fifty French ships to guard the Channel. Keppel decides he will swing north around the Isle of Wight, going through Spitshead Channel, grabbing a few more smaller ships out of Portsmouth harbor, and catch the French off of Hastings.
On November 11, Keppel sets sail, bound and
determined to bring the French to battle. At first, everything goes well:
His force catches a 1,000 man French
On that same day, in Plymouth, a small dinghy carrying a French officer and his Royal Marine guards sinks in the storm, only a few hundred yards from land...the guards drown, the French officer does not. Lieutenant Paul Sidot was actually an intelligence officer, sent to foment discontent among the Irish, who successfully impersonated a ship's helmsman when pulled out of the water by a British ship. He has managed to figure out Keppel's plans in a vague way, in that Keppel is heading east...the French fleet must be warned. Sidot manages to steal a horse, and rides like heck fo Kent. In one of those epic rides that makes the 18th century so interesting, he, going through two horses, dodging Royal Army and militia patrols, manages to reach French lines outside Maidstone on November 25th, the day before Keppel sails from Bournemouth.
It takes a few days for him to reach Admiral D'Orvillers and to convince him of the truth of his story...but D'Orvillers seizes his chance. Moving with incredible speed for a man in his seventies, the French admiral gathers a forces of twenty-three ships by the 28th, the day he sails to intercept the British fleet. The remainder of his ships, he gives orders to sail for the Channel ports...
At the Battles of Spitshead (December 1-December 7, 1779) D'Orvillers' gamble pays off. Even with 2 to 1 odds, the British fleet has been sufficiently shocked by Ushant and Corunna to be far less aggressive than they should: While D'Orvillers' fleet loses six ships to the British three in the first two days of the battle (a slow, running fight up Spitshead), the British do not press their advantage enough, and take shelter in Portsmouth in December 3.
When Admiral Augustus Keppel looks out his telescope on the cold morning of December 4...he sees his undoing. The Spanish ships and the rest of the French fleet have arrived: Keppel's thirty-nine ships are trapped in Portsmouth harbor, as winter sets in...
Not much happens in the winter of 1779-1780,
it is one of the coldest in a century. Washington and the Continental Army
suffer through the winter at
On January 6, though, the bombshell drops in Europe. The Netherlands enters the war against the United Kingdom, and adds their fleet and troops to the French and Spanish contingents. When campaigning season begins again, there are over 40,000 French, Spanish, and Dutch troops in England, and a full fifty ships blocking the Royal Navy up in Portsmouth (Now under George Rodney, who had been called back from the Carribean just after his successes there, when many of fleets were withdrawn to Europe), with thirty more raiding and burning essentially at will and down the English coast.
The Other Armada Pt. Five: The Thaw
April 4, 1780
Nathanial Greene watched as the city burned, shaking his head sadly. It was all so unnecessary...the British had been fairly defeated, there was no reason for them to burn the city upon their surrender. They'd have to find who had given the order to do it, punish them fairly, or turn them over to Rhode Island authories. Rhode Island was his home state, and he was honored to be given the assignment to liberate it.
His revierie was interrupted by the arrival of his new aide. "At ease, Captain Hamilton. How goes the fighting?" "Very well, sir. Colonel McLynn reports the fires have been confined to the dock areas, sir, and Captain d'Estrees says his shore parties should have the fires out within the hour."
Greene nodded. Hamilton was new to his staff,
on loan from General Washington's, but he had alreay made himself indispensable.
"Yes, very good...we'll have them out of Rhode Island and Connecticut within
the month...", he said, his mind already on the future. He'd been studying
Arnold's attempt against Canada four years earlier, surely he could do
Francisco Goya looked up from his work irritatably,
but relented slightly when he saw it was only Lieutenant Santiago. Santiago
had been his minder since Hastings, and had actually saved him from a roving
band of English "militia" outside of Ashford in February. "Good afternoon,
Lieutenant. Are we on the move
Santiago glanced over the recent battlefield, wondering how Goya could stand to paint the slaughter this maize field had been only a few days before. "Yes, Senor Goya. Captain Gomez tells me our destination may be..." He hesitated, wondering how much to tell the artist..."London. If the British allow us..."
The Other Armada Pt. Six: Things Heat Up
April 1780-June 1780
As the campaigning season of 1780 begins, the
British forces are hammered in western Kent: The French take Ashford on
April 15, while the Spanish break
Gillingham falls on the eighth of May, and D'Orvillers' fleet drives the Royal Navy from the Thames Estuary in a rapid campaign of two weeks. London is in a panic now, Parliment has fled to Coventry, along with most of the government. George III has finally taken the advice of his Court, and finally joins them there on May 14. And not a moment too soon, either.
The Battle of Streatham Hill (May 16-17) sees a hastily-raised London militia combined with the survivors of the Kent campaign of the last month, pitted against veteran French, Dutch, and Spanish troops. The outcome is really never in doubt, it is only a question of how long the British hold out...and the two days they buy for the evacuation of London gives the defenders of Streatham Hill near-legendary status in British military history.
But even heroism is not enough against the weight of men, material, and skill of the enemy, and the defenders finally break after heavy artillery bombardment destroys their cavalry formations on the second day of fighting....
On May 19, slightly over one year to the day
since Corunna, troops from France, Spain, and the Netherlands enter the
city of London. Spanish cavalry
The only exception to the peaceful taking of London
is Parliment House itself. Survivors of Streatham Hill make a vow that
they will not let the home
The fall of London is cataclysmic for British morale...though the government continues to fight, many people don't. The Mayor of Woking leads his town, and several others, in openly surrendering to the French during the rest of May, until French, Spanish, and Dutch troops control everything as far west as Basingstoke, and as far north as Luton by the middle of June. Militia units are organized everywhere, and Oxford University fortified for battle...but there is a general sense of failure, that many have let them down. Enemy ships raid and damage pretty much every coastal city on the British Isles, John Paul Jones leads a squadron of five ships that sail completely around Britian, damaging everywhere from Norwich to Inverness to Cork to Fishguard to Bournemouth. The French decide to strike against Coventry in July.
In the Caribbean, the British have been driven from everywhere save Jamacia, and the French and Spanish are planning an invasion there. In the Floridas, Benjamin Lincoln is preparing the fourth attack against West Florida, which continues to hold out. Lincoln just isn't up to it, though he is at this point the hero of Savannah, so no one quite questions him...
In the Americas, April and May see one of the
most successful campaigns in modern history. Striking westward from Rhode
Island, Nathanial Greene gradually batters Cornwallis and the British further
toward New York City, until they finally must evacuate to Long Island on
May 20, with some of the last Royal
They move north the same day the French do...
The Other Armada Pt. 7 Fields of Greene
August 1, 1780
Captain Joseph Plum Martin ducked as a volley of British artillery tore overhead, smashing into the river bank below. The boats General Greene had seized when Montreal surrendered had gotten them this far quickly, but now the Brits were dug in and ready for battle. Quebec was becoming, he'd heard, a bigger fortress than it had been in the last major war...the enemy knew they were coming, and they would be ready.
Martin trusted General Greene, the way all
of his men did. Half-formed plans he'd made to write some sort of autobiography,
an account of what he'd seen, had been reinforced at Montreal, where he,
Martin, had won his promotion to Captain after subduing a British cavalry
company that hadn't heard about
John Paul Jones stepped aboard the British ship carefully. While they had surrendered without firing a shot, one never could be too careful with these things. Despite the success of Rodney's breakout the week before, more than one Royal Navy ship had chosen to take an enemy ship with it before going down...the destruction of Coventry had had that effect on people.
Jones saluted the captain, as he always did on the taking of a prize. He'd taken a full seven ships and sunk five more since he arrived in England..."Captain Blount, Captain John Paul Jones, you may consider yourself..." As Jones read through the standard speech given to the captain of a taken vessel, he couldn't help but notice two small children, two boys, walking out on deck, escorted by a woman who had to be their mother, and at least a company of Royal Marines, all of them unarmed...
Jones' suspicions were confirmed a moment later.
"I fancy you do not know the prize you have taken, Captain.", said Blount
bitterly. "Or my failure...you
The Other Armada Pt. Eight: The Gang's All Here
September 1780-October 1780
By the end of August, 1780, the War of the American
Revolution seemed nearly over. Nathaniel Greene had Quebec under siege,
with General Carleton controlling only a few square miles of the city proper.
Benjamin Lincoln had finally taken West Florida, despite heavy losses,
and Sir Henry Clinton has begun plans to approach George Washington about
possible terms of surrender for the troops in New York City. If they knew
about the fall of Coventry and the
If they knew about Needles Channel, of course, they
would be less happy. When word arrived in Portsmouth that Coventry had
been taken by the French in
On September 31, after some of the fastest sailing in history...a fleet appears off New York City. The French blockading fleet is small, just enough to keep any British blockade-runners from Nova Scotia from supplying Clinton. They are no match for the twenty-three apocalyptically angry British ships...when George Rodney walks into Henry Clinton's headquarters, Clinton is prepared to rebuff him. While he is loyal to his government, he sees no honor in continiung a lost struggle: Not with the French armies landing off Manchester to catch the last remnants of the British government. Until, that is, Clinton is introduced to Rodney's most important passenger. King George III.
With them leaving just ahead of a fleet rushing
north from the coast of New Jersey, George Washington watches in frustration
as the British evacuate as much of Clinton's army as they can without losing
immediatly. A massed attack from Washington's troops forces Cornwallis'
surrender on October 3, 1780, but
The Other Armada Pt. Nine: The Waltz Begins
To Francois Joseph Paul, Comte de Grasse, Admiral commanding the fleet
off Our Shores, Jean Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, Comte de Rochambeau,
Halifax, Nova Scotia, October 10, 1780
GENTLEMEN: After pondering deeply the general trends of the world and
the actual conditions obtaining to Our Empire and Our Subjects today, We
We inform His Most Christian Majesty King Louis XVI, and his servants the Comte de Grasse and Comte de Rocheambeau, of the creation of the Kingdom of Nova Scotia, consisting of all territories occupied by our forces in the former province of Nova Scotia.
On a note predating that, We inform King Louis and his servants of the surrender of all forces of the Royal Army and Navy in Britain, the high seas, and abroad. This does not, of course, apply to the Kingdom of Nova Scotia, as it was created after the cessation of hostilities.
To Our Subjects: Our sincere desire was always to ensure the welfare
of Our Loyal Subjects, both at home and in the rebellious colonies abroad.
We did not
October 15, 1780
"It is arrogant of him, I agree," said the comte de Rochambeau, as he and the young cavalry commander rode along the seashore. "But the letter is addressed to King Louis as well, and I cannot act before knowing the opinions of my King on the matter, if he accepts the surrender as offered."
"You would be better off to have him here...or a Congress instead of a King, that lets its generals fight free," agreed General William Washington with a slight smile. Nephew of the commander-in-chief, he had proved to everyone's satisfaction that he had earned his post...time and time again. He had been Greene's left hand, commanding the strike through western Nova Scotia, while his commander struck at the most prosperous cities of Canada. "But you didn't call me out, practically in earshot of "Bastard" Tarleton," he said, pointing with his saber in the direction of the British commander holding the peninsula, "to tell me how arrogant King George is."
"No, I did not," agreed Rochambeau, matching
Washington's smirk with his own. "While I am sure he will have realized
it himself, when General Greene
The Other Armada Pt. Ten: The Curtain Is Drawn
November of 1780 saw the beginning of the last
major campaign of the War of the American Revolution, the invasion of eastern
Nova Scotia. The turbulent
With the Continental Congress at his back,
and with local overall command (Washington had already gone into winter
quarters at Yonkers), Greene began
At Elmdale, in the middle of Nova Scotia, Tarleton
finally catches Greene's force, and just ahead of the forces Clinton can
spare (Not many, Clinton was a notoriously slow commander), Greene and
Tarlteton fight the last big battle of the war in the Americas on November
21, 1780. By the time the battle is over, Tartleton is in American hands
(remembered as an excellent commander, and not at all as the fiend Americans
often portray him as),
The American and British forces in Nova Scotia suffer through a horrible winter...and when 1781 turns to spring, they arise from hibernation into a world with new boundaries....