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Thread: The Battle of Les Sables-d'Olonne.

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    Default The Battle of Les Sables-d'Olonne.

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    Background.

    In 1809 the Royal Navy was dominant in the Atlantic, the French Atlantic fleet trapped by close blockade in the French Biscay ports by the British Channel Fleet. The largest French base was at Brest in Brittany, where the main body of the French fleet lay at anchor under the command of Contre-amiral Jean-Baptiste Willaumez, with smaller French detachments stationed at Lorient and Rochefort. The squadron at Lorient comprised three ships of the line and five frigates under Commodore Amable Troude, watched by its own blockade squadron of four ships of the line under Captain John Poo Beresford.

    In February the Brest fleet put to sea for an operation against the British forces in the Caribbean planning an attack against the French colonies in the Caribbean. In late 1808, the French learned that invasion was planned of Martinique and orders were sent to Willaumez to concentrate with the squadrons from Lorient and Rochefort and reinforce the island. Willaumez was only able to escape the blockade when winter storms forced the British fleet to retreat into the Atlantic, his ships passing southwards through the Raz de Sein at dawn on 22 February with eight ships of the line and two frigates. A single ship of the line, HMS Revenge, had remained on station off Brest, and sailed in pursuit.


    The Chase.


    Willaumez's fleet discovered Beresford's ships off Lorient at 16:30 in the afternoon and Willaumez ordered his second-in-command, Contre-amiral Antoine Louis de Gourdon, to drive Beresford away. Gourdoun brought four ships around to chase the British squadron of HMS Theseus, HMS Triumph and HMS Valiant, with the remainder of the French fleet following more distantly. Beresford turned away to the northwest, and his objective achieved, Gourdan rejoined Willaumez and the fleet sailed inshore, anchoring near the island of Groix, with the route to Lorient clear.
    Early on 23 February Willaumez sailed again, taking his fleet southwards towards the Pertuis d'Antioche near Rochefort after sending the schooner Magpye into Lorient with orders for Troude to follow him to the rendezvous. Troude found that the tide was too low to sail at once, and so sent a squadron of three frigates ahead, under the command of Commodore Pierre Roch Jurien. These frigates were the 40-gun Italienne, Calypso and Cybèle, which sailed together on the evening of 23 February southwards in the direction of Belle Île. Their departure had been observed by Beresford's force, which remained off Lorient to watch Troude but sent the 38-gun frigate HMS Amelia under Captain Frederick Paul Irby and 18-gun brig-sloop HMS Doterel under Commander Anthony Abdy in pursuit.

    At dawn on 24 February, near the Île de Ré, Amelia closed on Cybèle, forcing the other French frigates to fall back in support and open fire, driving the pursuers back. As Irby dropped off, sails appeared to the south. This was a British squadron from the Rochefort blockade commanded by Rear-Admiral Robert Stopford with the ships of the line HMS Caesar, HMS Defiance and HMS Donegal. Stopford had been stationed off the Chassiron lighthouse when Willaumez had passed, and he had sent the frigate HMS Naiad under Captain Thomas Dundas north to notify the rest of the British Channel Fleet that was in pursuit. Naiad sighted Jurien's squadron and signaled Stopford, who set a course to cut Jurien off from Willaumez, leaving the frigates HMS Amethyst and HMS Emerald to watch the French fleet.


    The Action.

    Jurien recognised immediately that his force was severely outnumbered and steered for the coast in search of a safe anchorage. The best available was the town of Les Sables-d'Olonne, which had a small harbour protected by gun batteries. At 09:10 Amelia was in range to fire on Cybèle's stern before the British frigate dropped back to join Stopford's rapidly advancing force. The French then anchored under the batteries of the town with "springs" on their anchor cables, a system of attaching the bow anchor that increased stability and allowed the ships to swing their broadsides to face an enemy while stationary.

    Stopford was not intimidated and at 10:30 his squadron bore down on the French in a line of battle led by Defiance and followed by Caesar, Donegal and Amelia. At 11:00 Defiance, with the lightest draught of the ships of the line, was able to close to within 600 metres (660 yd) of the French squadron. The British ship opened fire and took fire in response from the frigates and batteries. At 11:20 Caesar and Donegal joined the attack, followed at 11:30 by Amelia. The concentrated fire of the large British ships was far too heavy for the French and at 11:50 Cybèle and Italienne cut their anchor cables and drifted away from the British and onto the shore. Neither crew was able to continue in the fight as burning wadding had drifted from Defiance and set them on fire. At about this time Caesar withdrew to deeper water to avoid grounding and Defiance veered anchor cable to turn its fire onto Calypso.

    Within minutes Calypso had also veered its cable so that Italienne, now beached, could resume fire on the British squadron, but the frigate overcompensated and drifted stern-first onto the shore. The British ships continued their fire until the rapidly falling tide forced them to retire one by one, with Defiance being the last to retire at 12:15. The squadron then returned for one more pass, the final shots fired by Donegal, before Stopford ordered them to withdraw.

    Aftermath.

    The British ships at Les Sables-d'Olonne were not seriously damaged, with minor damage to the rigging of Donegal and Caesar and damage to the rigging and masts of Defiance. Three British sailors were killed and 31 wounded. French losses were more severe, with 24 killed and 51 wounded. Although Stopford's dispatch on the action makes clear that attempts to repair the French ships began almost immediately, it is widely reported in British accounts that three ships were destroyed. The French were in fact able to salvage two of the frigates. Cybèle was wrecked beyond recovery, her hull so much holed by rocks that she was sinking. Calypso and Italienne were brought into port, but the battering they had taken was too severe for repairs to be effective and Calypso was broken up, while Italienne was sold to private merchant concerns as unfit for further military service. Cocault was court-martialed for the loss of Cybèle and unanimously honourably acquitted on the 2nd June 1809, the court finding his conduct "worthy of the highest praise".

    Stopford had hoped that his attack on Jurien's squadron might draw Willaumez's fleet out of the anchorage in support, where they might be surprised and defeated by the British fleet. Willaumez however made no movement to prevent the destruction of the frigate squadron. Stopford returned to watch the French fleet from the anchorage at Basque Roads, where he was shortly after joined by the British fleet under Admiral Lord Gambier, and was present although not directly engaged in the Battle of Basque Roads in April at which the French fleet was defeated, losing five ships. Willaumez had been replaced in March by Zacharie Allemand, whose defensive positions were unable to prevent a major attack by fireships on 11 April followed by a bombardment by conventional warships. In the aftermath of the battle Gambier was accused of failing to effectively support the attack and faced a court-martial in July, although he was acquitted and returned to command.
    The Business of the commander-in-chief is first to bring an enemy fleet to battle on the most advantageous terms to himself, (I mean that of laying his ships close on board the enemy, as expeditiously as possible); and secondly to continue them there until the business is decided.

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    Order of battle.

    Commodore Juien's squadron
    Ship
    Rate
    Guns
    Commander
    Casualties
    Notes
    Killed
    Wounded
    Total
    Italienne
    40
    Commodore Pierre Roch Jurien
    6
    17
    23
    Driven ashore and badly damaged. Salvaged but sold out of French service.
    Cybèle
    40
    Captain Raymond Cocault
    8
    16
    24
    Driven ashore and badly damaged. Salvaged but damaged beyond repair and broken up.
    Calypso
    40
    Captain Louis-Léon Jacob
    10
    18
    28
    Driven ashore and badly damaged. Salvaged but sold out of French service.
    Casualties: 24 killed, 51 wounded, 75 total

    Rear-Admiral Stopford's squadron
    Ship
    Rate
    Guns
    Commander
    Casualties
    Notes
    Killed
    Wounded
    Total
    HMS Caesar
    80
    Rear-Admiral Robert Stopford
    Captain Charles Richardson
    0
    0
    0
    Rigging lightly damaged.
    HMS Donegal
    74
    Captain Pulteney Malcolm
    1
    6
    7
    Rigging lightly damaged.
    HMS Defiance
    74
    Captain Henry Hotham
    2
    25
    27
    Rigging and masts damaged.
    HMS Amelia
    38
    Captain Frederick Paul Irby
    0
    0
    0
    HMS Dotterel
    18
    Commander Anthony Abdy
    0
    0
    0
    Casualties: 3 killed, 31 wounded, 34 total
    The Business of the commander-in-chief is first to bring an enemy fleet to battle on the most advantageous terms to himself, (I mean that of laying his ships close on board the enemy, as expeditiously as possible); and secondly to continue them there until the business is decided.

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    Commodore Pierre Roch Jurien

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    Born at Gannat in Allier, La Gravière entered the service under the name Jurien Desvarennes as a novice pilot on the corvette La Favorite in May 1786.

    Volunteer aspirant on the frigate La Flore 29 November 1787, aspirant, 1st class, and ship-of-the-line ensign on the corvette L'Espérance on November 1791 and January 1793, he was named ship-of-the-line lieutenant on 6 Vendémiaire, year III, and captain of a frigate on 24 Nivôse, year VI.

    He participated in the Entrecasteaux expedition, which Louis XVI and the Constituent Assembly directed to search for the earlier La Pérouse expedition, as well as conduct scientific research in the Pacific Ocean.

    In the year XI, he commanded La Franchise during the Léogane Affair. In his report, the vicomte de Rochambeau, general-in-chief of the Army of Saint-Domingue, made note of him as an officer distinguished by his intelligence and bravery and demanded he receive the rank of ship-of-the-line captain, which was granted on the 13th of Ventôse.

    In the year XII, he was made a French legionnaire in Pluviôse and an officer of the order on 25 Prairial. He received the latter again in February 1809. He fought in 1809 at the battle of Sables-d'Olonne, employing three frigates which were forced to retreat by three British ships-of-the-line.
    On 5 July 1814, La Gravière was named a knight of Saint Louis.

    On 13 November of that year, he was the commander of a division which went from Rochefort in order to take possession of Île Bourbon. On 10 February 1815, he reached the cape; on 6 April, he installed the new governor of the island; and on 27 August, he moored in the Roadstead of Brest.

    He was promoted to counter admiral on 28 October 1817, named president of the electoral college of Finistère on 10 March 1819, made a commander of the Legion of Honour on 28 April 1821, and commanded the French Brazil station the same year.

    Made a Commander of the Order of Saint Louis on 22 May 1825, he commanded the French station for the Antilles and the Gulf of Mexico. He was one of the commanders of the Baron Mackau's expedition to Haiti which forced it to provide reparations to former French slave owners from the island.
    He was named on 7 January 1827 as the naval prefect of the 4th arrondissement and on 5 November as the president of the electoral college of Charente.

    Vice Admiral and peer of France during the July Revolution, inspector general of the French Navy for the 2nd and 5th arrondissements in 1832, grand officer of the Legion of Honor on 22 April 1834, Grand Cross of the Order on 22 June 1841, Admiral Jurien was later made part of the 2nd section of the General Staff of the French Navy.
    He was the father of another French admiral, Edmond Jurien de la Gravière.

    He died in Paris on 14 January 1849.
    The Business of the commander-in-chief is first to bring an enemy fleet to battle on the most advantageous terms to himself, (I mean that of laying his ships close on board the enemy, as expeditiously as possible); and secondly to continue them there until the business is decided.

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    Captain Raymond Cocault.

    Born: 20 March 1768.

    Entered naval service either commercial or military position: 1781.

    Captain de fregate: 24 September 1803.

    Captain de vaisseau 2nd class: 12 July 1808.

    Member of the Legion d’Honneur: 14 June 1804.

    Wounds received while in the service of France: None.

    Died: 5 November 1839.
    The Business of the commander-in-chief is first to bring an enemy fleet to battle on the most advantageous terms to himself, (I mean that of laying his ships close on board the enemy, as expeditiously as possible); and secondly to continue them there until the business is decided.

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    Captain Louis Léon Jacob.

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    (11 November 1768 – 14 March 1854) was a French admiral.



    He was born at Tonnay, Charente, was educated at Rochefort, and volunteered from a clerkship in the marine bureau to the navy (1784). He was promoted to ensign in 1793, served as a lieutenant on the Ça Ira in her fight against a superior British force on 14 March 1795, and was taken prisoner when the ship was captured.


    After his release, Jacob was appointed to the frigate Bellone. He took part in the Battle of Tory Island and was again taken prisoner when Bellone surrendered to Ethalion.


    Jacob later took part in the campaign in Santo Domingo in 1801, was Captain at Granville (1805), helping Piémontaise in Saint-Servan, capturing two gun-brigs HMS Teazer and HMS Plumper near Chaussey, and after that served at at Naples (1806).
    in 1805 he introduced a system of semaphore signals which was long used in the French navy.

    He took part in the Battle of Les Sables-d'Olonne.

    He was made a rear admiral in 1812 and in 1814 defended Rochefort.


    He retired on the Restoration, reentered active service in 1820, was Governor of Guadeloupe from 1823 to 1826, prepared the expedition against Morocco and Algiers (1827), served on the Admiralty Board until 1834, when he became Minister of Marine, and was aide-de-camp to Louis Philippe until 1848.

    He died on the14th of March 1854.
    The Business of the commander-in-chief is first to bring an enemy fleet to battle on the most advantageous terms to himself, (I mean that of laying his ships close on board the enemy, as expeditiously as possible); and secondly to continue them there until the business is decided.

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    Rear Admiral Sir Robert Stopford.

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    Stopford was the third son of James Stopford, 2nd Earl of Courtown, and his wife Mary (née Powys). He joined the Royal Navy in 1780 and became a Lieutenant in 1785. Commander Stopford was captain of Ferret between December 1789 and October 1790. In 1790 he was promoted to captain at the age of 22 and was briefly captain of HMS Lowestoffe.



    Stopford fought at the Battle of the Glorious First of June in 1794, commanding the frigate HMS Aquilon (32). During the battle Aquilon had the task of standing off and repeating the signals from the flagship. Aquilon also towed the Marlborough out of the line of fire when she was dismasted, for which Lord Howe thanked him personally. One of Stopford's officers on Aquilon was Francis Beaufort, the inventor of the Beaufort Wind-Scale.

    On 10 March 1796, Stopford was captain of the fifth rate frigate HMS Phaeton, of 38 guns, when she engaged and captured the 20-gun French corvette Bonne Citoyenne of Cape Finisterre. Stopford took her back to England as his prize. The Royal Navy then bought her in as HMS Bonne Citoyenn, a sixth rate sloop of war. During his service in the Channel, Phaeton captured in all some 13 privateers and three vessels of war, as well as recovering numerous vessels that the French had taken.


    In 1799, Stopford was appointed captain of the 74-gun third rate HMS Excellent in the Channel Fleet. He sailed Excellent to the West Indies where he hoisted a commodore's pennant and served for eight months as the Commander-in-Chief of the Leeward Islands Station in 1802.


    In 1803, Stopford became captain of the ship of the line HMS Spencer (74), in Horatio Nelson's fleet.

    He became a Colonel of Marines in November 1805 and received a gold medal for his conduct at the Battle of San Domingo in 1806, while still in command of Spencer. Stopford was wounded during the battle; he recovered, but the wound would plague him for the rest of his life.





    He took part in the British invasions of the Río de la Plata and Battle of Copenhagen of 1806-07, and attacked Rochefort in 1808. Stopford played an important part in the Battle of the Basque Roads. He was appointed to command HMS Caesar (80), with a squadron of two ships of the line and five frigates. On 23 February 1809 he fell in the four French frigates under the batteries of Sable d'Olonne, an action which left them disabled. Stopford continued his blockade until Lord Gambier chased a fleet of ten French sail of the line into the Basque Roads and assumed command. In the summer of 1809 he was called as a witness at the Court-martial of James, Lord Gambier which assessed whether Admiral Lord Gambier had failed to support Captain Lord Cochrane. Gambier was controversially cleared of all charges.


    In 1810, he sailed to South Africa to become Commander-in-Chief of the Cape of Good Hope Station. He directed the operations that resulted in the capture of Java when on 8 August 1811, the Dutch settlement of Batavia capitulated to the British under Stopford and Lieutenant-General Sir Samuel Auchmuty. The British fleet consisted of some 100 vessels, including eight cruisers belonging to the East India Company. He was appointed
    Stopford became Rear-Admiral of the United Kingdom in 1834. His last active post, in his early seventies, was as commander-in-chief of the Mediterranean fleet during the Syrian War against the forces of Mehemet Ali. As Vice Admiral on board HMS Princess Charlotte (100) and subsequently HMS Phoenix, he was in command of the combined British, Turkish, and Austrian fleet during the bombardment of Acre on 3 November 1840. For his services in the Syrian War, Stopford was given the Freedom of the City of the City of London and presented with a commemorative "freedom box". The ornate silver and oak box is part of the collection of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. The following year he became Governor of the Greenwich Hospital at Greenwich, with the rank of Admiral.


    He is buried in Greenwich Hospital Cemetery. The cemetery was largely made into a pocket park in the late 19th century but his name is listed on the west face of the Officers in the centre of the park.
    The Business of the commander-in-chief is first to bring an enemy fleet to battle on the most advantageous terms to himself, (I mean that of laying his ships close on board the enemy, as expeditiously as possible); and secondly to continue them there until the business is decided.

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    Captain Charles Richardson.

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    Nationality British
    Roles Naval Sailor
    First Known Service1794

    Last Known Service17.12.1847
    Date of Death10.11.1850


    Event History

    Date from Date to Event
    1794 Royal George (100), Master's Mate
    1.6.1794 Glorious 1st of June
    4.8.1794 Lieutenant
    9.10.1802 Commander
    5.1803 1804 Alligator (28), Commander and Commanding Officer
    27.9.1804 Captain
    31.12.1804 1805 Centaur (74), Captain and Commanding Officer
    12.1806 1810 Caesar (80), Captain and Commanding Officer
    27.2.1809 Action at Sables d'Olonne
    28.7.1809 12.1809 Walcheren Expedition
    7.1810 8.1814 Semiramis (36), Captain and Commanding Officer
    24.8.1811 Action in the Gironde
    4.6.1815 Appointed Companion of the Order of the Bath
    7.1819 2.1822 Leander (58), Captain and Commanding Officer
    7.1821 5.1822 Topaze (38), Captain and Commanding Officer
    10.1.1837 Rear-Admiral
    29.6.1841 Appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath
    1847 Received the Naval General Service Medal with a clasp for the Defeat of the French Fleet, capture of six sail of the line and one sunk whilst serving on Royal George on 1794/06/01
    17.12.1847 Vice-Admiral


    Vice-Admiral of the White Sir Charles Richardson, K.C.B., joined the Royal Navy as Captain's Servant in H.M.S. Vestal (Captain R.J. Strachan), November 1787; after accompanying an embassy to China he removed with Strachan to H.M.S. Phoenix 36 guns and 'was present on the 19th of Nov. 1791, while cruising off the Malabar coast in company with the Perseverance frigate, in an obstinate engagement. This was owing to a resistance on the part of the French Captain of La Résolue of 46 guns to a search being imposed by the British upon two merchant vessels under his orders. La Résolue's colours were not struck until she had herself sustained a loss of 25 men killed and 40 wounded, and had imposed upon the Phoenix 6 killed and 11 wounded.
    Whilst serving on the East India station Mr. Richardson was for several months employed in the boats in co-operating up different rivers, with the army under Sir Robert Abercromby in its operations against Tippoo Saib. Having attained the ranks of Midshipman and Master's Mate and having fought with H.M.S. Royal George in Lord Howe's actions of 29th May and 1st June 1794, Richardson was appointed Lieutenant in H.M.S. Circe (Captain P. Halkett), August 1794, and serving in the said frigate he was promoted to First-Lieutenant during the great mutiny at the Nore; where his efforts in preventing the crew from acquiring the ascendancy gained him ( in common with his Captain and the other officers of the ship) the thanks of the Admiralty.
    The Circe forming one of Lord Duncan's repeater Frigates in the action off Camperdown on the 11th of Oct. 1797, Lieut. Richardson on that occasion carried out an important exploit. Fearing lest the Dutch Admiral, De Winter, after his own ship had been dismasted and silenced, should effect his escape on board some other vessel, he volunteered to go in an open boat and take him out. Succeeding in his object he had the honour of presenting him in person to the British Commander-in-Chief [Admiral A. Duncan]; who in consequence promoted him to his Signal Lieutenant in the Kent 74 (Captain W.M. Hope). In the following year Richardson was sent with the expedition to Holland, where he commanded a division of seaman, attached to the army under Sir Ralph Abercromby, from the period of the debarkation near the Helder until the surrender of the Dutch squadron under Admiral Storey.With the conclusion of the expedition Richardson was ordered home in charge of a Dutch 68 gun ship.
    After assisting Abercromby again, this time in Egypt, he transferred into H.M.S. Penelope (Captain the Hon. H. Blackwood) Following this he was nominated Acting-Commander H.M.S. Alligator of 28 guns, armée-en-flûte, in July 1802, Whilst aboard that ship Capt. Richardson directed the movements of the flotilla employed at the reduction of Demerara, Essequibo, and Berbice in 1803, and was highly spoken of in the public despatches for his exertions at the taking of Surinam in the spring of 1804. [London Gazette 1804, pp. 755, 761]. On the 6th of July in that year he was, in consequence, invested by Sir Samuel Hood with the command of the Centaur 74, the ship bearing his broad pennant, an act which the Admiralty confirmed on the 27th of Sept.
    Richardson returned to England in March 1805. Appointed to H.M.S. Caesar (bearing the flag of his old friend and patron Sir Richard J. Strachan), in January 1806, he was employed in the latter off Rochefort and subsequently in the Mediterranean, On the 23d of Feb. 1809, the Caesar, then bearing the flag of Rear-Admiral Stopford, but still commanded by Captain Richardson, assisted , along with the Defiance and the Donegal, at the destruction of three French frigates in the Sable d'Olonne. On that occasion his ship sustained considerable damage in her bowsprit and rigging, by the fire from several batteries under which the enemy had sought refuge.

    He next served with Strachan in the expedition to the Scheldt, during which the town of Camvere offered it's surrender to Richardson, he being the senior naval officer being present on shore. Terms were agreed with him and Lieutenant-General Fraser, During the investment of Flushing he landed at the head of a brigade of seaman, and commanded a battery of six 24-pounders with much effect. His services throughout the operations were so important and his zeal and bravery so very conspicuous that he elicited the public praise of the Earl of Chatham, the Military Commander-in-Chief, and the high approbation of Lieutenant-General Sir Eyre Coote, who conducted the siege, and of Major-General McLeod, commanding officer of the Royal Artillery.
    Richardson exchanged into the frigate Semiramis, for service off Lisbon during April 1810. Whilst serving with the latter in company with H.M.S. Diana (Captain W. Ferris) at the mouth of the river Gironde, on the 25th of.August.1811, they discovered 4 sail under the escort of a brig of war.The Diana accounted for the Teazer (formerly a British vessel) whilst Richardson succeeded 'in driving on shore, and burning under the guns of the batteries at Royan, Le Pluvier a national brig of 16 guns and 136 men. The Semiramis suffered only 3 wounded, for which exploit Richardson again received the thanks of the Admiralty. Richardson then went on to capture a large number of prizes, including the Grand Jean Bart, privateer of 14 guns and 106 men. The Semiramis was paid off on the 29th of August,1814, and Richardson was shortly afterwards nominated for a C.B. as a reward for his meritorious conduct during a period of more than twenty-six years passed in active service at sea, and in co-operation with troops on shore in every quarter of the globe.
    After three years with H.M.S. Leander Richardson was appointed to H.M.S. Topaze, 'and proceeded in her from Pulo Penang to China, where 14 of his crew were dangerously wounded by the natives, while employed filling water at Lintin. Two Chinese having been killed by the Topaze's fire, disputes ensued with the authorities at Canton, which led to the suspension of all commercial intercourse, the embarkation of the British factory without passes, and the departure of all the Hon. Company's ships lying in the Tigris. At length, however, a Mandarin of high rank was sent on board the frigate to discuss this unpleasant affair; and he proving a sensible and moderate man, the business was satisfactorily adjusted, and matters restored to their former footing, in the spring of 1822. Richardson was invalided to the Cape of Good Hope in that same year.
    He was a Rear-Admiral in 1837, K.C.B. 1841, and Vice-Admiral of the White, December 1847. With his prize money which had made him a wealthy man, he purchased the estate of Painsthorpe Hall, East Yorkshire where he died, aged 81 in 1850.
    The Business of the commander-in-chief is first to bring an enemy fleet to battle on the most advantageous terms to himself, (I mean that of laying his ships close on board the enemy, as expeditiously as possible); and secondly to continue them there until the business is decided.

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