France faced impending famine as summer 1794 approached after the harvest had failed, and with its ports under British blockade. A convoy crossing the Atlantic with grain from the United States promised potential salvation. A British fleet under Admiral Howe was despatched to intercept the convoy, and a French fleet under Admiral Villaret-Joyeuse set out from Brest to secure its safe arrival. The fleets clashed in the Atlantic south of Ireland. Rather than an attritional long-range artillery exchange Howe, unusually, determined on a direct assault on the French line. Unfortunately, many of his command misunderstood – or demurred – at the instruction. As a result, only a handful of his ships pierced the French line, like Howes flagship Queen Charlotte and the Defence. In fierce close engagement, seven French ships were captured or sunk. With no British losses, it was a victory on the day for Howe, but Villaret rallied to see the grain convoy safely to port.
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