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Ill news flowed in apace from all quarters during the recess. The Marquis de Bouill had surprised and retaken St. Eustatia. The new conquests in Demerara and Essequibo had also been retaken. Bouill having secured St. Eustatia, next turned his arms against the old and valuable island of St. Kitt's. He then landed eight thousand men at Basseterre, the capital, whose movements were protected by the fleet under De Grasse. General Fraser and Governor Shirley took post on the rugged heights of Brimstone Hill, and made a stout defence, whilst Sir Samuel Hood, who had followed De Grasse from the Chesapeake, boldly interposed between the French admiral and the French troops on shore. Hood twice beat off De Grasse; but the British fleet and army were much too inconsiderable to maintain the conquest. The island was finally taken, and after it the smaller ones of Nevis and Montserrat, so that of all the Leeward Islands we had only Barbadoes and Antigua left.

Charles, wrought up to the highest pitch of agony at the prospect of being compelled to abandon the splendid design of entering London in triumph, continued to expostulate and entreat the whole day. The Duke of Perth and some of the Irish officers, moved by his distress, gave way, and called on the other chiefs to yield; but they remained immovable, and the prince, seeing the case hopeless, at length gave up the contest, and, in deep dejection, assented to the retreat. But, as if he deemed the relinquishment of the march on the metropolis the ruin of the whole enterprise, he declared that henceforth he would summon no more councilsbeing accountable only to God and his father, he would not again either seek or accept their advice.

It might have been imagined that this magnificent and destructive repulse would have convinced the allies that the siege was hopeless, but they were pretty well informed that General Elliot had well nigh exhausted his ammunition in this prodigal death-shower, and they had still their great combined fleet, snug in the narrow bay, with scouts in the Strait to prevent the carrying in of supplies. But on the 24th of September news arrived at Madrid that the fleet of Lord Howe was under weigh for Gibraltar. Howe's fleet of thirty-four sail-of-the-line, six frigates, and three fire-ships, though in the neighbourhood of one of fifty sail-of-the-line, besides a number of frigates and smaller vessels, managed to get into the bay of Gibraltar all safe, amid the wildest acclamations of soldiers and inhabitants. By the 18th of October all the store-ships had discharged their cargoes, and had passed through the Strait, and on the 19th Lord Howe followed them with his fleet. The enemy's fleet then came out after him, and the next day they were in the open ocean, and Howe proceeded to their leeward to receive them. Some of their vessels had suffered[296] in the late gales, but they had still at least forty-four sail to Howe's thirty-four, and, having the weather-gauge, had every advantage. But after a partial firing, in which they received great damage from Howe, they hauled off and got into Cadiz bay. Howe, then dispatching part of his fleet to the West Indies and a second squadron to the Irish coast, returned home himself. The news of the grand defence of Gibraltar produced a wonderful rejoicing in England; thanks were voted by Parliament to the officers and privates of the brave garrison; General Elliot was invested with the Order of the Bath on the king's bastion in sight of the works which he had preserved, and on his return, in 1787, at the age of seventy, he was created a Peer as Lord Heathfield of Gibraltar.