When we look back at the Age of Sail our view is often overshadowed by Napoleon’s control of continental land and Nelson’s climactic battles at sea. Each in their own way built a legend of invincibility on land and sea respectively. This hindsight however pushes the early strugglesof the French revolution into the background and causes us to view earlier sea battles against later Nelson’s success, often on the basis of the number of prizes taken.
In the early years of the French Revolutionary War things were far less clear cut and of course nobody knew they were embarking on almost two decades of conflict. On land France was going through the convulsions of the Terror under Robespierre and at sea the Royal Navy, which had suffered defeats during the American War of Independance, notably causing the surrender of Cornwallis at York Town, was still gathering it’s forces.