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The Glorious First of June

England took up arms against the French Revolution when Louis XVI was executed. One of her actions was to blockade the French coast. In 1794, grain from America was being transported to France by convoy, and the French squadron based at Brest and commanded by Rear Admiral Villaret-Joyeuse went to escort the convoy in.

Four hundred miles west of Ushant they met a British squadron under Admiral Howe. Both squadrons consisted of 26 ships of the line, the largest being the French Montagne of 120 guns.

On the first day, May 28, only a few ships engaged, but on May 29, they formed into lines and Howe attempted to pass through the French line to get the weather gage. After 8 hours of broadsides, the French withdraw, and for the next two days, the British attempted to follow, but visibility was poor and there was no combat.

Finally, on June 1, the British caught up with the French, and they were upwind this time. Howe descended on the French line, breaking through it in several places. After hours of pounding, the French withdrew again, returning to Brest this time, but the British were in no condition to pursue.

The French lost 7 ships, with 7,000 casualties, while the British had 8 seriously damaged ships and 1,150 casualties.

Even so, the battle must be counted as a strategic victory for the French, since the grain convoy got by the otherwise-occupied British and reached Brest safely.