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Thread: The Battle of Martinique (1780)

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    Default The Battle of Martinique (1780)

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    The Battle of Martinique, also known as the Combat de la Dominique, took place on 17 April 1780 during the American Revolutionary War in the West Indies between the British Royal Navy and the French Navy Battle of Martinique (1780)

    Origins.

    In January 1780, the Comte de Guichen was sent to the French base at Martinique in the West Indies with a large squadron. He was opposed by the British admiral Sir George Rodney, who reached the British base at St. Lucia in late March.

    Guichen sailed from Martinique on 13 April 1780, with a fleet of 23 ships of the line and 3,000 troops. His objective was to draw Rodney out, and then withdraw and make an attack on either St. Lucia or the British base at Barbados. Rodney sailed out at once upon being informed that Guichen had sailed. On 16 April, his sentinels spotted Guichen on the leeward side of Martinique, beating against the wind. Rodney gave chase, but was unable to close in time for battle that day. Rodney maintained contact with Guichen and held his line throughout the night.

    Battle.

    The fleets began manoeuvring for the advantage of the weather gage on the morning of 17 April. By 8:45, Rodney had reached a position to the windward of Guichen, in a relatively close formation. To escape the danger to his rear, Guichen ordered his line to wear and sail to the north, stringing out the line in the process. This forced Rodney to go through another series of manoeuvres to regain his position, which he did by late morning. At this point, he hoped to engage the rear and centre of Guichen's elongated line, concentrating his power to maximize damage there before Guichen's van could join the action. The signal that Rodney issued was for each ship to engage the appropriate ship it was paired with according to the disposition of the two fleets. He issued this signal with the understanding that his captains would execute it in the context of signals given earlier in the day that the enemy's rear was the target of the attack.
    Unfortunately for the British, Robert Carkett (the commander of the lead ship HMS Stirling Castle) either misunderstood the signal or had forgotten the earlier one, and moved ahead to engage Guichen's van; he was followed by the rest of Rodney's fleet, and the two lines ended up engaging ship to ship.


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    View of the battle by Thomas Luny.

    Thanks to the orderly fashion in which De Guichen's subordinate squadron-commanders dealt with the crisis, especially the third-in-command Comte de Grasse's rapid closing-up of the battle-line, Guichen managed to extricate himself from a difficult situation and instead turn a narrow defeat to a drawn battle, although his and Marquis de Bouillé's objective to attack and seize Jamaica was thwarted.

    During the battle, both Rodney's Sandwich and Guichen's Couronne were temporarily cut off from their respective fleets and bore the brunt of the battle.

    Aftermath.

    Rodney felt that the failure to properly attack the French rear cost the British an opportunity for a significant victory, and assessed blame to Carkett and others who did not properly follow his signals. Others assigned the blame to Rodney, for failing to inform his captains in advance of his intended tactics.

    David Hannay, the author of the biography on the Comte de Guichen in the 11th edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica, stated that Guichen had shown himself very skillful in handling a fleet throughout the campaign, and although there was no marked success, he had at least prevented the British admiral from doing any harm to the French islands in the Antilles.

    Both fleets avoided further action prior to the hurricane season. Guichen returned to France with many of his damaged ships in August, and Rodney sailed for New York.
    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.

    British fleet.

    Ship Name


    Guns

    Commander


    Notes

    Sandwich 90 Admiral Sir George Rodney
    Walter Young
    Princess Royal 98 Rear-Admiral Hyde Parker
    Harry Harmood
    Torbay 74 John Lewis Gidoin
    Cornwall 74 Timothy Edwards
    Terrible 74 John Leigh Douglas
    Albion 74 George Bowyer
    Suffolk 74 Abraham Crespin
    Magnificent 74 John Elphinstone
    Elizabeth 74 Frederick Maitland
    Resolution 74 Lord Robert Manners
    Grafton 74 Thomas Newnham
    Conqueror 74 Thomas Watson
    Vengeance 74 John Holloway
    Alfred 74 William Bayne
    Montagu 74 John Houlton
    Ajax 74 Samuel Uvedale
    Yarmouth 64 Nathaniel Bateman
    Trident 64 John Thomas
    Intrepid 64 The Hon. Henry St John† CO Killed
    Stirling Castle 64 Robert Carkett
    Vigilant 64 Sir George Home
    Medway 60 William Affleck
    Centurion 50 Samuel Wittewronge Clayton
    Venus 36 James Ferguson
    Andromeda 28 Henry Byrne
    Greyhound 28 Archibald Dickson
    Pegasus 28 John Bazely
    Deal Castle 20 William Fooks



    French fleet.


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    A French ship of the line at the Battle of Martinique

    White and Blue Squadron.

    Ship Name Guns
    Commander

    Notes

    Destin

    7
    4
    Vengeur 64
    Saint Michel 60
    Pluton 74
    Triomphant 80 Squadron flagship
    Souverain 74
    Solitaire 64
    Citoyen 74 Alexandre de Thy (Comte d'Ethy)


    White Squadron
    , Luc Urbain de Bouëxic (Chevalier de Saint Louis).

    Ship Name Guns Commander Notes

    Caton
    64
    Victoire 74 Albert de Saint-Hippolyte
    Fendant 74 Marquis de Vaudreuil
    Couronne 80 Luc Urbain de Bouëxic, comte de Guichen Fleet flagship
    Palmier 74
    Indien 64
    Actionnaire 64



    Blue Squadron
    .

    Ship Name


    Guns

    Commander

    Notes
    Intrépide 74 Louis Guillaume de Parscau du Plessix
    Triton 64
    Magnifique 74
    Robuste 74 Chevalier François-Joseph Paul de Grasse (Comte de Grasse) Squadron flagship
    Sphinx 64 Comte de Soulanges
    Artésien 64 Charles Sochet (Seigneur Des Touches)
    Hercule 74 Claude-Marguerite François Renart de Fuchsamberg (3rd Marquis d'Amblimont)
    Unengaged.
    .

    Ship Name Guns Commander Notes

    Dauphin Royal
    74
    Last edited by Bligh; 10-21-2018 at 04:17.
    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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    Admiral George Brydges Rodney.

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    George Brydges Rodney was born either in Walton-on-Thames] or in London, though the family seat was Rodney Stoke, Somerset. He was most likely born sometime in January 1718. He was baptised in St Giles-in-the-Fields on 13 February 1718. He was the third of four surviving children of Henry Rodney and Mary (Newton) Rodney, daughter of Sir Henry Newton. His father had served in Spain under the Earl of Peterborough during the War of the Spanish Succession, and on leaving the army served as captain in a marine corps which was disbanded in 1713. A major investment in the South Sea Company ruined Henry Rodney and impoverished the family. In spite of their lack of money, the family was well-connected by marriage. It is sometimes claimed that Henry Rodney had served as commander of the Royal Yacht of George I and it was after him that George was named, but this had been discounted more recently.

    George was sent to Harrow School, being appointed, on leaving, by warrant dated 21 June 1732, a volunteer on board Sunderland.

    Early career.

    After serving aboard Sunderland, Rodney switched to Dreadnought where he served from 1734 to 1737 under Captain Henry Medley who acted as a mentor to him. Around this time he spent eighteen months stationed in Lisbon, a city he would later return to several times. He then changed ships several times, taking part in the navy's annual trip to protect the British fishing fleet off Newfoundland in 1738.

    He rose swiftly through the ranks of the navy helped by a combination of his own talents and the patronage of the Duke of Chandos. While serving on the Mediterranean station he was made lieutenant in Dolphin, his promotion dating 15 February 1739. He then served on Namur, the flagship of the Commander-in-Chief Sir Thomas Mathews.

    Captain.

    The War of the Austrian Succession had broken out by this point and in August 1742 Rodney had his first taste of action when he was ordered by Matthews to take a smaller vessel and launch a raid on Ventimiglia where the Spanish army had stockpiled supplies and stores ready for a planned invasion of Britain's ally the Republic of Genoa, which he successfully accomplished. Shortly after this, he attained the rank of post-captain, having been appointed by Matthews to Plymouth on 9 November. He picked up several British merchantmen in Lisbon to escort them home, but lost contact with them in heavy storms. Once he reached Britain his promotion was confirmed, making him one of the youngest Captains in the navy.

    After serving in home waters learning about convoy protection he was appointed to the newly built Ludlow Castle which he used to blockade the Scottish coast during the Jacobite Rebellion in 1745. Two of Rodney's midshipman aboard Ludlow Castle were Samuel Hood, later to become a distinguished sailor, and Rodney's younger brother James Rodney. In 1746 he obtained command of the 60-gun Eagle. After some time spent blockading French-occupied Ostend and cruising around the Western Approaches, where on 24 May he took his first prize a 16-gun Spanish privateer, Eagle was sent to join the Western Squadron.

    Battle of Cape Finisterre.

    The Western Squadron was a new strategy by Britain's naval planners to operate a more effective blockade system of France by stationing the Home Fleet in the Western Approaches, where they could guard both the English channel and the French Atlantic coast.

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    The Second Battle of Cape Finisterre in October 1747.

    Eagle continued to take prizes while stationed with the Squadron being involved directly, or indirectly, in the capture of sixteen enemy ships. After taking one of the captured prizes to Kinsale in Ireland, Eagle was not present at the First Battle of Cape Finisterre when the Western Squadron commanded by Lord Anson won a significant victory over the French. While returning from Ireland, Eagle fell in with a small squadron under Commodore Thomas Fox which sighted a French merchant convoy heading for the Bay of Biscay. In total around 48 merchantmen were taken by the squadron, although Rodney ignored an order of Fox by pursuing several ships which had broken away from the rest in an attempt to escape managing to capture six of them. Afterwards Eagle rejoined the Western Squadron now under the command of Edward Hawke.

    On 14 October 1747 the ship took part in the Second Battle of Cape Finisterre, a victory off Ushant over the French fleet. The French were trying to escort an outgoing convoy from France to the West Indies and had eight large ships-of-the-line while the British had fourteen smaller ships. Rodney was at the rear of the British line, and Eagle was one of the last British ships to come into action engaging the French shortly after noon. Initially Eagle was engaged with two French ships, but one moved away and for next two hours battle Rodney engaged the 70-gun Neptune until his steering wheel was struck by a lucky shot, and his ship became unmanageable. Rodney later complained that Thomas Fox in Kent had failed to support him, and testified at Fox's court martial. The British took six of the eight French ships, but were unable to prevent most of the merchant convoy escaping, although much of it was later taken in the West Indies.

    The two Battles of Cape Finisterre had proved a vindication of the Western Squadron strategy. Rodney later often referred to "the good old discipline" of the Western Squadron, using it as an example for his own views on discipline. For the remainder of the war Rodney took part in further cruises, and took several more prizes. Following the Congress of Breda, an agreement was signed at the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle ending the war. Rodney took his ship back to Plymouth where it was decommissioned on 13 August 1748. Rodney's total share of prize money during his time with Eagle was £15,000 giving him financial security for the first time in his life.

    Commander.

    On 9 May 1749 he was appointed governor and commander-in-chief of Newfoundland, with the rank of Commodore, it being usual at that time to appoint a naval officer, chiefly on account of the fishery interests. He was given command of Rainbow and had two smaller ships under his overall command. It was extremely difficult for naval officers to secure commands in peacetime, and Rodney's appointment suggests that he was well regarded by his superiors. Rodney's role as Governor was rather limited. Each summer a large British fishing fleet sailed for Newfoundland, where it took part in the valuable cod trade. The fleet then returned home during the winter. Rodney oversaw three such trips to Newfoundland between 1749 and 1751.

    Around this time Rodney began to harbour political ambitions and gained the support of the powerful Duke of Bedford and Lord Sandwich. He stood unsuccessfully in a 1750 by-election in Launceston. He was elected MP for Saltash, a safe seat controlled by the Admiralty, in 1751. After his third and final trip to Newfoundland in the summer of 1751 Rodney sailed home via Spain and Portugal, escorting some merchantmen. Once home he fell ill, and was then unemployed for around ten months. During this time he oversaw the development of an estate at Old Alresford in Hampshire, which he had bought with the proceeds of his prize money.

    In 1753 he married his first wife, Jane Compton (1730–1757), sister of Charles Compton, 7th Earl of Northampton. He had initially been undecided whether to marry Jane or her younger sister Kitty whom he had met in Lisbon during his various visits to the city, where their father Charles Compton was consul. The marriage proved happy, and they had three children together before she died in January 1757. From 1753 Rodney commanded a series of Portsmouth guard ships without actually having to go to sea before the onset of the Seven Years War.

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    Portrait of Rodney by Joshua Reynolds showing him after his appointment as a rear admiral in 1759.


    .Seven Years' War.

    The first fighting broke out in North America in 1754, with competing British and French forces clashing in the Ohio Country. Despite this fighting formal war wasn't declared in Europe until 1756 and opened with a French attack on Minorca, the loss of which was blamed on Admiral John Byng who was court-martialled and executed. He was shot on the quarterdeck of Monarch, which until recently had been commanded by Rodney. Rodney excused himself from serving on the court martial by pleading illness. While Rodney disapproved of Byng's conduct, he thought the death sentence excessive and unsuccessfully worked for it to be commuted.

    Louisbourg.

    Rodney had in 1755 and 1756, taken part in preventive cruises under Hawke and Edward Boscawen. In 1757, he took part in the expedition against Rochefort, commanding the 74-gun ship of the line Dublin. After an initial success, the expedition made no serious attempt on Rochefort and sailed for home. Next year, in the same ship, he was ordered to serve under Boscawen as part of an attempt to capture the strategic French fortress of Louisbourg in North America. He was given the task of carrying Major General Jeffery Amherst, the expedition's commander to Louisbourg. On the way Rodney captured a French East Indiamen, and took it into Vigo. This action saw the beginning of criticism of Rodney that he was obsessed with prize money ahead of strategic importance, with some claiming he spent two weeks or more in Vigo making sure of his prize money instead of carrying Amherst to Louisbourg. This appears to be untrue, as Rodney sailed within four days from Vigo.

    Rodney and his ship played a minor role in the taking of Louisburg, which laid the way open for a British campaign up the St Lawrence River the following year, and the fall of Quebec. In August 1758 Rodney sailed for home in charge of six warships and ten transports carrying the captured garrison of Louisbourg who were being taken to Britain as prisoners of war.

    Le Havre.

    On 19 May 1759 he became a rear admiral, and shortly afterwards he was given command of a small squadron. The admiralty had received intelligence that the French had gathered at Le Havre, at the mouth of the River Seine, a large number of flat-bottomed boats and stores which were being collected there for an invasion of the British Isles. After drawing up plans for an attack on Le Havre, Lord Anson briefed Rodney in person. The operation was intended to be a secret with it being implied that Rodney's actual destination was Gibraltar. This soon became impossible to maintain as Rodney tried to acquire pilots who knew the Normandy coast.

    Rodney received his final orders on 26 June, and by 4 July he was off Le Havre. His force included six bomb-vessels which could fire at a very high trajectory. In what become known as the Raid on Le Havre, he bombarded the town for two days and nights, and inflicted great loss of war-material on the enemy. The bomb ships fired continuously for fifty two hours, starting large fires. Rodney then withdrew to Spithead, leaving several ships to blockade the mouth of the Seine. Although the attack hadn't significantly affected French plans, it proved a morale boost in Britain. In August Rodney was again sent to Le Havre with similar orders but through a combination of weather and improved French defences he was unable to get his bomb-vessels into position, and the Admiralty accepted his judgement that a further attack was impossible. The invasion was ultimately cancelled because of French naval defeats at the Battle of Lagos and Battle of Quiberon Bay.

    From 1759 and 1761 Rodney concentrated on his blockade of the French coast, particularly around Le Havre. In July 1760, with another small squadron, he succeeded in taking many more of the enemy's flat-bottomed boats and in blockading the coast as far as Dieppe.

    Martinique.

    Rodney was elected MP for Penryn in 1761.[20] Lord Anson then selected him to command the naval element of a planned amphibious attack on the lucrative and strategically important French colony of Martinique in the West Indies, promoting him over the heads of a number of more senior officers. A previous British attack on Martinique had failed in 1759. The land forces for the attack on Martinique were to be a combination of troops from various locations including some sent out from Europe and reinforcements from New York City, who were available following the Conquest of Canada which had been completed in 1760. During 1761 Martinique was blockaded by Sir James Douglas to prevent reinforcements or supplies from reaching it. In 1762 he was formally appointed commander-in-chief of the Leeward Islands Station.

    Within the first three months of 1762, Monckton and he had reduced the important island of Martinique, while both Saint Lucia and Grenada had surrendered to his squadron. During the siege of Fort Royal (later Fort de France) his seamen and marines rendered splendid service on shore. Afterwards Rodney's squadron, amounting to eight ships of the line joined the British expedition to Cuba bringing the total number of ships of the line to 15 by the end of April 1762. However he was later criticised for moving his ships to protect Jamaica from attack by a large Franco-Spanish force that had gathered in the area, rather than waiting to support the expedition as he had been ordered.

    Following the Treaty of Paris in 1763, Admiral Rodney returned home having been during his absence made Vice-Admiral of the Blue and having received the thanks of both Houses of Parliament. In the peace terms Martinique was returned to France.

    Years of peace.


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    George Brydges Rodney, by Joshua Reynolds in 1789

    In 1764, Rodney was created a baronet, and the same year he married Henrietta, daughter of John Clies of Lisbon. From 1765 to 1770, he was governor of Greenwich Hospital, and on the dissolution of parliament in 1768 he successfully contested Northampton at a ruinous cost. When appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Jamaica Station in 1771, he lost his Greenwich post, but a few months later received the office of Rear-Admiral of Great Britain. Until 1774, he held the Jamaica command, and during a period of quiet, was active in improving the naval yards on his station. Sir George struck his flag with a feeling of disappointment at not obtaining the governorship of Jamaica, and was shortly after forced to settle in Paris. Election expenses and losses at play in fashionable circles had shattered his fortune, and he could not secure payment of the salary as Rear-Admiral of Great Britain. In February 1778, having just been promoted Admiral of the White, he used every possible exertion to obtain a command to free himself from his money difficulties. By May, he had, through the splendid generosity of his Parisian friend Marshal Biron, effected the latter task, and accordingly he returned to London with his children. The debt was repaid out of the arrears due to him on his return. The story that he was offered a French command is fiction.

    American War of Independence.

    In London he suggested to Lord George Germain that George Washington could "certainly be bought – honours will do it".

    Moonlight Battle.

    Rodney was appointed once more commander-in-chief of the Leeward Islands Station late in 1779. His orders were to relieve Gibraltar on his way to the West Indies. He captured a Spanish convoy off Cape Finisterre on 8 January 1780, and eight days later at the Battle of Cape St. Vincent defeated the Spanish Admiral Don Juan de Lángara, taking or destroying seven ships. He then brought some relief to Gibraltar by delivering reinforcements and supplies.

    Battle of Martinique.

    On 17 April he fought an action off Martinique with the French Admiral Guichen which, owing to the carelessness of some of Rodney's captains, was indecisive.

    Capture of St Eustatius.

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    Admiral George Brydges Rodney, 1st Baron Rodney, by Jean-Laurent Mosnier, painted 1791.

    Following the outbreak of the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War between Britain and the Dutch Republic Rodney, acting under orders from London, captured the valuable Dutch island of St Eustatius on 3 February 1781. Rodney had already identified several individuals on the island who were aiding the Americans, such as "... Mr Smith at the House of Jones - they (the Jews of St. Eustatius, Caribbean Antilles) cannot be too soon taken care of - they are notorious in the cause of America and France..." The island was also home to a Jewish community who were mainly merchants with significant international trading and maritime commercial ties. The Jews were estimated to have been at least 10% of the permanent population of St. Eustatius.

    Rodney immediately arrested and imprisoned 101 Jews in the warehouses of the lower city. He treated them harshly, summarily deporting 31 heads of families without mercy or word to their dependents. Rodney looted Jewish personal possessions and even tore out the linings of the clothes of his captives in search of hidden valuables; this alone yielded him 8,000 pounds. When Rodney realised that the Jews might be hiding additional treasure, he dug up the Jewish cemetery. Even large quantities of non-military trading goods belonging to English merchants on the island were arbitrarily confiscated. This resulted in Rodney being entangled in a series of costly lawsuits for the rest of his life. Still, the wealth Rodney stole on St. Eustatius exceeded his expectations.

    Controversy and Yorktown.

    Rodney wrote to his family with promises of a new London home; to his daughter "the best harpsichord money can purchase". He confidently wrote of a marriage settlement for one of his sons and a soon-to-be purchased commission in the Foot Guards for another son. Rodney also wrote of a dowry for his daughter to marry the Earl of Oxford and noted he would have enough to pay off the young prospective bridegroom's debts.

    Other Royal Navy officers scathingly criticised Rodney for his actions. In particular, Viscount Samuel Hood suggested that Rodney should have sailed to intercept a French fleet under Rear Admiral Francois Joseph Paul de Grasse, travelling to Martinique. The French fleet instead turned north and headed for the Chesapeake Bay of Virginia and Maryland.

    Rodney's delay at St. Eustatius was not the first time he had taken the opportunity to capture prizes over the immediate and expeditious fulfillment of his military duties. During the Seven Years' War, Rodney delayed transporting Major General Jeffrey Amherst to pursue prizes. Later, Rodney had been ordered to Barbados to link up with Admiral Sir George Pocock and the Earl of Albemarle for an attack on Cuba. Instead, Rodney sent valuable ships off in search of prizes. In 1762, Rodney, after the fall of Martinique, quarreled with the army over prize money. During Rodney's command in Jamaica, 1771–1774, the Earl of Sandwich feared that Rodney might provoke a war with Spain to obtain prize money.

    Plundering the wealth of St. Eustatius and capturing many prizes over a number of months, Rodney further weakened his fleet by sending two ships-of-the-line to escort his treasure ships to England, though both were in need of major repair. Nevertheless, he is both blamed and defended for the subsequent disaster at Yorktown. His orders as naval commander in chief in the eastern Caribbean were not only to watch de Grasse but also to protect the valuable sugar trade. Rodney had received intelligence earlier that de Grasse would send part of his fleet before the start of the hurricane season to relieve the French squadron at Newport and to co-operate with Washington, returning in the fall to the Caribbean. The other half of de Grasse's fleet, as usual, would escort the French merchantmen back across the Atlantic. Rodney accordingly made his dispositions in the light of this intelligence. Sixteen of his remaining twenty-one battleships would go with Hood to reinforce the squadron at New York under Sir Thomas Graves, while Rodney, who was in ill health, returned to England with three other battleships as merchant escorts, leaving two others in dock for repair. Hood was well satisfied with these arrangements, informing a colleague that his fleet was "fully equal to defeat any designs of the enemy." What Rodney and Hood could not know was that at the last moment de Grasse decided to take his entire fleet to North America, leaving the French merchantmen to the protection of the Spanish. The result was a decisive French superiority in battleships during the subsequent naval campaign, when the combined fleets of Hood and Graves were unable to relieve the British army of Charles Cornwallis, who was then establishing a base on the York River. This left Cornwallis no option but to surrender, resulting a year later in British recognition of American Independence. Although Rodney's actions at St. Eustatius and afterwards contributed to the British naval inferiority in the Battle of the Chesapeake, the real reason for the disaster at Yorktown was the inability of Britain to match the resources of the other naval powers of Europe.

    Battle of the Saintes.

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    Battle of the Saintes, April 1782
    painting by François Aimé Louis Dumoulin


    After a few months in England, restoring his health and defending himself in Parliament, Sir George returned to his command in February 1782, and a running engagement with the French fleet on 9 April led up to his crowning victory at the Battle of the Saintes off Dominica, when on 12 April with thirty-five sail of the line he defeated the Comte de Grasse, who had thirty-three sail. The French inferiority in numbers was more than counterbalanced by the greater size and superior sailing qualities of their ships, yet four French ships of the line were captured (including the flagship) as well as one destroyed after eleven hours' fighting.

    This important battle saved Jamaica and ruined French naval prestige, while it enabled Rodney to write: "Within two little years I have taken two Spanish, one French and one Dutch admirals." A long and wearisome controversy exists as to the originator of the manoeuvre of "breaking the line" in this battle, but the merits of the victory have never seriously been affected by any difference of opinion on the question. A shift of wind broke the French line of battle, and the British ships took advantage of this by crossing in two places; many were taken prisoner including the Comte de Grasse.

    Recall.

    In a 15 April letter to Lord Germain, who unknown to Rodney had recently lost his position, he wrote "Permit me most sincerely to congratulate you on the most important victory I believe ever gained against our perfidious enemies, the French". The news of Rodney's victories boosted national morale in Britain and strengthened the pro-war party who wished to carry on the fight. George III observed to the new Prime Minister Lord Shelburne that he "must see that the great success of Lord Rodney's engagement has so far roused the nation, that the peace which would have been acquiesced in three months ago would now be a matter for complaint".

    Nepotism and self-interest.

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    Monument of George Brydges Rodney in Memorial in Spanish Town

    Rodney was unquestionably a most able officer, but he was also vain, selfish and unscrupulous, both in seeking prize money, and in using his position to push the fortunes of his family, although such nepotism was common (not to say normal) at the time. He made his son a post-captain at fifteen, and his assiduous self-interest alienated his fellow officers and the Board of Admiralty alike. Naval historian N.A.M. Rodger describes Rodney as possessing weaknesses with respect to patronage "which destroyed the basis of trust upon which alone an officer can command." He was accused by his second-in-command, Samuel Hood, of sacrificing the interest of the service to his own profit, and of showing want of energy in pursuit of the French on 12 April 1782]. It must be remembered that he was then prematurely old and racked by disease.

    Retirement and death.

    Rodney arrived home in August to receive unbounded honour from his country. He had already been created Baron Rodney of Rodney Stoke, Somerset, by patent of 19 June 1782, and the House of Commons had voted him a pension of £2000 a year. From this time he led a quiet country life until his death in London. He was succeeded as 2nd Baron by his son, George (1753–1802).

    In 1782 Rodney was presented with the Freedom of the City of Cork, Ireland. The National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, holds the gold presentation box that the City of Cork gave him on 16 September 1782.

    Rodney died in 1792, and was buried in the church of St Mary the Virgin, Old Alresford in Hampshire, which adjoins his family seat.
    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.

  4. #4
    Admiral of the Blue.
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    Captain Walter Young.



    Died 1781.

    He was commissioned lieutenant on 1 November 1765 and promoted commander on 28 February 1779. In May 1779 it was reported that he had left the Orkney Islands in command of the armed ship Lion to search for a north-west passage to the Southern Ocean, but this voyage was clearly terminated.

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    Captain Young claimed much credit, perhaps deservedly so, for the indisposed Admiral Rodney’s victory at the Moonlight Battle in 1780.

    Having been employed as an agent for transports at Deptford, he was posted captain on 1 October 1779 and appointed flag-captain aboard the Sandwich 90 to Admiral Sir George Brydges Rodney, the commander-in-chief designate of the Leeward Islands. Leaving England on 29 December with the fleet to relieve Gibraltar, he was present at the capture of the Spanish convoy on 8 January 1780 and the Moonlight Battle off Cape St. Vincent on 16 January. During this period Rodney was suffering from ill health which often confined him to his cot, and he gave his orders through Young, who had also assumed the duties of captain of the fleet. This led to Young privately claim a good deal of credit for his admiral’s successes, and indeed many felt that he had some justification in doing so.
    On 13 February 1780 the Sandwich parted company for the West Indies with four sail of the line, joining Rear-Admiral Hyde Parker at St. Lucia on 27 March. Young was present at the Battle of Martinique on 17 April where the flagship lost eighteen men killed and fifty-one wounded. He was one of five captains who received a certificate from the cantankerous commander-in-chief praising their efforts to the detriment of others who in the Rodney’s eyes had not done so well. Continuing in the Leeward Islands campaign, he also took part in the inconclusive actions in May although the Sandwich did not suffer any casualties.

    Having sailed north in search of the French fleet, the Leeward Islands fleet spent the hurricane season from September – November in North America waters. Captain Young would thus have been party to the infamous dispute between Rodney and his junior, the local commander-in-chief, Vice-Admiral Marriot Arbuthnot. The fleet arrived back in the Caribbean in December where on 3 February Rodney seized St. Eustatius and other Dutch settlements.

    Captain Young died of fever at St. Eustatius on 2 May.

    He was notorious for making detrimental and disloyal comments about Rodney, often sharing these with his patron, Charles Middleton, the influential comptroller of the navy and future Admiral Lord Barham. Contrarily, the difficult Rodney appears to have admired Young’s seamanlike abilities and bravery, and he felt able to rely upon him as he did so few others.
    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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    Vice-Admiral Sir Hyde Parker, 5th Baronet.

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    (25 February 1714 – 1782) was a British naval commander.


    Parker was born at Tredington (which was then in Worcestershire). His father, a clergyman, was a son of Sir Henry Parker. His paternal grandfather had married a daughter of Alexander Hyde, Bishop of Salisbury. He began his career at sea in the merchant service. Entering the Royal Navy at the age of 24, he was made lieutenant in 1744, and in 1748 he was made post-captain. In his royal navy career, he captured a Spanish Galleon that was worth £600,000 . This gave his family his wealth. At the current moment, his family live in the south-wing of Melford Hall.

    Seven Years War.

    In October 1755 Hyde Parker commissioned the newly-launched post ship HMS Squirrel. A year later, in her he captured the French privateeer Très Vénėrable.
    During the latter part of the Seven Years' War he served in the East Indies, taking part in the capture of Pondicherry in 1761 and of Manila in 1762. In the latter year Parker with two ships captured one of the valuable Spanish plate ships in her voyage between Acapulco and Manila.

    American War of Independence.

    In 1778 he became Rear-Admiral and went to North American waters as second-in-command. For some time before George Rodney's arrival he was in command on the Leeward Islands station, and conducted a skilful campaign against the French at Martinique.

    In 1781, having returned home and become Vice-Admiral, he fell in with a Dutch fleet of about his own force, though far better equipped, near the Dogger Bank on 5 August 1781. After a fiercely contested battle, in which neither combatant gained any advantage, both sides drew off. Parker considered that he had not been properly equipped for his task, and insisted on resigning his command.

    In 1782 he accepted the East Indies command, though he had just succeeded to the family baronetcy. On the outward voyage his flagship Cato was lost with all on board.
    He was succeeded by his older son Harry, the sixth Baronet. Parker's second son was Admiral Sir Hyde Parker (1739–1807).
    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 Harry Harmood.


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    1739-1809.



    Having graduated from the Naval Academy at Portsmouth, Harmood was commissioned lieutenant on 19 February 1759 and appointed to the Aquilon 28, Captain Chaloner Ogle. In 1771 he became the first lieutenant of the Arethusa 32, Captain Andrew Snape Hamond, in which frigate he served in home waters and in North America, prior to being appointed third lieutenant of Vice-Admiral Lord Howe’s flagship Eagle 64, Captain Henry Duncan, on the North American station in 1776.

    He was promoted commander of the sloop Falcon 14 at New York on 16 February 1777 and during the summer cruised successfully off Newport, capturing the privateers Mehitabel and General Arnold in a boat attack at Sandford, Connecticut on 24 June 1778. On 7 August 1778 the Falcon was sunk at Rhode Island to both prevent capture by the French fleet and to act as a block ship to prevent their landing, although she was later salvaged and recommissioned.

    Harmood was posted captain on 17 October 1778, joining the Conqueror 74 with the broad pennant of Commodore Thomas Graves and sailing to the Leeward Islands in December with Vice-Admiral Hon. John Byron’s fleet. Flying the flag of Rear-Admiral Hyde Parker, he commanded the Conqueror at the Battle of Grenada on 6 July 1779 but his was one of the few ships not to suffer any casualties as she saw barely any action because of Byron’s poor tactics. Upon Parker’s elevation to the position of commander in chief following the return home of Byron and the wounded Vice-Admiral Hon. Samuel Barrington he transferred with the admiral to the Princess Royal 90 in August. He commanded this vessel at the Battle of Martinique on 17 April 1780, losing five men killed and fourteen wounded, and remained in the Leeward Islands for the remainder of the May-July campaign, although his ship did not suffer any casualties during the fleet skirmishes in the former month.

    Returning to Europe in July aboard the Medway 60 with Parker’s flag following that officer’s fall-out with Admiral Sir George Rodney, Harmood commanded the Cumberland 74 in an acting capacity for Captain Joseph Peyton in the Channel fleet campaign that autumn. After recommissioning the Medway 60 in January 1781 he commanded her at the relief of Gibraltar on 12 April, in the Channel fleet campaign of June-November, and in Rear-Admiral Richard Kempenfelt’s brilliant attack on the Comte de Guichen’s convoy on 12 December. A day later he took the privateer Généreuse, and he left the Medway during the following year..

    In March 1783 he was appointed to commission the new Ardent 64, commanding her as a guardship at Portsmouth until she was paid off in March 1786.

    Harmood became an ‘extra commissioner’ in December 1793 which role entitled him to a handsome salary, whilst also serving as the commissioner at Gibraltar and Malta. On 25 June 1796 he became a commissioner without special function, and in the same year assumed the role of commissioner at Sheerness. He was commissioner at Chatham from 1801-6, and became a director of Greenwich Hospital.

    Harmood died at his residence in Grosvenor Square, London in the early part of 1809.

    He was married in 1782 and had issue a son and a daughter.
    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 John Lewis Gidoin.



    Died 1796.


    Gidoin was commissioned lieutenant on 19 January 1755 and promoted commander in September 1759, at which time he had been captaining the storeship Port Royal 12 for six months and would continue to do so until July 1761. From April 1762 he had the brig Zephyr 10 off the coast of Portugal, and in July 1763 recommissioned the Jamaica 10, going out to New England in November 1763 and spending most of his time on that station before paying her off in February 1767.

    He was posted captain of the Surprise 20 for purposes of rank only on 26 May 1768, and during the Falklands Islands dispute of 1770-1 he was the captain of the impress service at Falmouth.

    Having been recommissioned at Chatham in March 1776, Gidoin took the Richmond 32 out to North America in September. He commanded her in Vice-Admiral Lord Howe’s fleet during 1777-8, serving in the North River and the Philadelphia Campaign of August-November. After wintering in the Chesapeake the Richmond was present in the defence off New York in July 1778 and operations off Rhode Island in August. He captured the rebel privateer Black Prince on 15 August and remained on that station over the ensuing winter before returning to England.

    In May 1779 Gidoin was detached from Portsmouth in command of a small frigate squadron to protect the Channel Islands from a French threat, rendezvousing with the Experiment 50, Captain Sir James Wallace, who defeated a French squadron in Cancale Bay on 13 May.

    Transferring to the Torbay 74 which had began recommissioning in December 1779, he arrived in the Leeward Islands during July 1780 and was present at the occupation of St. Eustatius from 3 February 1781, and in the Battle of Fort Royal off Martinique on 29 April when his command was badly damaged. After repairs at Jamaica the Torbay sailed for North America but did not arrive in time to participate in the Battle of the Chesapeake on 5 September. Continuing in the Torbay, Gidoin fought at the Battle of St. Kitts on 25-26 January 1782 but did not suffer any casualties, and at the Battle of the Saintes on 12 April 1782, where she lost ten men killed and twenty-five wounded and helped bring about the surrender of the French flagship.

    On 17 October 1782 he was in company with the London 98, Captain James Kempthorne, when they fell in with the French Scipion 74 and Sibylle 40 off San Domingo. The London was faster in the chase and brought the Frenchmen to action at long-range, eventually going yardarm to yardarm with the Scipion. The French sail of the line then managed to rake the London and make good her escape but she sank in Samana Bay after striking a rock the next day.

    Gidoin was promoted rear-admiral on 12 April 1794 and vice-admiral on 1 June 1795. He died in the ensuing winter, being buried at St. George’s Church, Modbury, Devon on 15 February 1796.

    He married Mary Legassicke on 15 November 1763 and lived at Modbury then Mothecombe in South Devon. Rear-Admiral James Walker was his protégé.
    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 Timothy Edwards.



    1731-1780.



    He was the son of the Reverend William Edwards of Nanhoran, North Wales, and of his wife Frances Williams.

    Having first gone to sea in 1745 as a cabin servant aboard the new Chesterfield 44, Captain William Gordon, Edwards enjoyed further employment aboard the new Sphinx 24, Captain William Lloyd from 1748-50, going out to Nova Scotia. He was commissioned lieutenant on 26 February 1755, and saw some action in the Channel aboard the new and successful cruiser Tartar 28, Captain John Lockhart Ross.

    Promoted commander on 16 November 1757, Edwards immediately commissioned the new Favorite 16 which he took out with a convoy to Gibraltar in May 1758, assisting the St Albans 60, Captain Edward Vernon, in the capture of the French frigate Loire 36 in December. He commanded the Favorite in Admiral Hon. Edward Boscawen’s encounter with the French and Spanish fleets off Gibraltar on 18 August 1759, but had already been posted captain with effect from 5 August.

    During November 1759 he commissioned the recently captured Valeur 28 at Gibraltar in which he undertook a successful mission to the Dey of Algiers to seek recompense for piracy committed against a British vessel. He captured the French privateer Heureux Retour in July 1760, and early in the following year exchanged with Captain Robert Lambert of the Wager 20, later seeing duty in home waters. In May 1762 he commissioned the new Emerald 32, and he remained with her until she was paid off in March 1763, whereupon he retired ashore for the next fourteen and a half years to develop his inherited Welsh estate.

    In September 1777 he commissioned the new Europa 64, and he retained the command until April of the following year, during which period she was renamed the Europe. His next command, the Cornwall 74, formed part of Vice-Admiral Hon. John Byron’s fleet which left England on 9 June 1778 and was the first of the bedraggled force to reach New York, joining Vice-Admiral Lord Howe on 30 July but with three hundred men on the sick list. She took part in the actions with the French fleet commanded by the Comte d’Estaing in August 1778, and at that time was the largest ship available to Howe.

    Sailing for the West Indies later that year with Byron, the Cornwall fought at the Battle of Grenada on 6 July 1779, suffering casualties of sixteen men killed and twenty-seven wounded. The ship was one of three that were badly out of position at the start of the action and could well have been captured if the French had shown a little more enthusiasm. Thereafter Edwards commanded a small squadron that cruised off Martinique and took the French frigate Alcmene 30 on 24 October.

    Remaining with the Leeward Islands fleet under the new commander-in-chief, Admiral Sir George Rodney, the Cornwall fought in the Battle of Martinique on 17 April 1780 where she incurred the heaviest casualties in the fleet, losing twenty-one men killed and forty-nine wounded. Even so, the fact that she was late into the action did not please the pernickety admiral. The ship was repaired at sea, and continuing in the Leeward Islands campaign fought in the fleet skirmishes during May, losing when another seven men killed and fifteen wounded. By now the Cornwall was in a very poor condition and Edwards left her shortly afterwards to return home. She was finally scuttled at St. Lucia on 5 October 1780 having been deemed ‘unserviceable’.

    In the meantime, on 12 July 1780, the sickly Edwards had died on the voyage to England aboard the Actaeon 44, Captain Robert Keeler. His widow later erected a monument to his memory at Llangian Church in North Wales.

    Edwards married the heiress Catherine Browning of Pullox Hill, Bedfordshire, and had issue two sons and three daughters. His younger son, John Browning Edwards, entered the Navy and rose to the rank of captain. He inherited the Welsh estate of Nanhoran near Pwlheli in modern day Gwynedd where he spent a good deal of time and money improving the house and gardens, taking a great deal of personal interest in the trees and flora. It had been planned that on his return from the West Indies Edwards would enter the Houses of Parliament as the M.P for Aylesbury.

    He was known by his men as ‘Old Hammer and Nails’ for his propensity to nail his colours to the mast prior to going into action, and he was seen as brave if somewhat eccentric. On one occasion, having been struck down motionless on deck and taken for dead he astonished his men by suddenly leaping to his feet and extolling them to fight on.
    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 John Leigh Douglas.



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    1741-1810.

    He was the son of the Reverend Alexander Douglas of Baads in Midlothian, and of his wife, Isabel Houston.

    Douglas was commissioned lieutenant on 17 June 1760, and after being promoted commander of the Camelon 14 on 19 September 1777 went out to Jamaica in December. He appears to have retained the command until he was posted captain on 5 April 1779.

    Having been appointed to the Terrible 74 in December 1779, he commanded her at the Moonlight Battle off Cape St. Vincent on 16 January 1780, and took on board Captain John Harvey to pilot the relief fleet in to Gibraltar later that month. He then commanded the Terrible in Admiral Sir George Rodney’s action with the French fleet at the Battle of Martinique on 17 April, but his ship did not suffer any casualties. Nevertheless he was one of five captains praised by Rodney for his part in the action, much to the detriment of his divisional commander, Rear-Admiral Hyde Parker, who Rodney denigrated.

    As a result of the re-organisation of Rodney’s captains following the death of Captain Hon. Henry St. John in the Battle of Martinique Douglas transferred to the Venus 36, participating in the remainder of the Leeward Islands campaign from May to July 1780, and briefly flying the flag of Admiral Rodney. During the Great Hurricanes of October the Venus lost all her masts bar the mizzen, finding sanctuary in Antigua. Following the capture of St. Eustatius on 3 February 1781 the Venus returned home with despatches.

    Somewhat surprisingly, Douglas finished his career as second-in-command in the Channel Fleet having barely been employed for the previous twenty years.


    In January 1782 Douglas recommissioned the Vigilant 64 to serve in the Channel Fleet, being employed under the orders of Rear-Admiral Richard Kempenfelt during the April – August campaign. He retained her for the rest of the year, serving at the relief of Gibraltar on 18 October and in a small cruising squadron commanded by Captain John Harvey immediately afterwards.

    For a short period from October to December 1794 he commanded the Irresistible 74 in succession to the promoted Rear-Admiral John Henry, this ship being paid off in the latter month.

    Douglas was advanced to flag rank on 1 June 1795, and was promoted vice-admiral on 1 January 1801. Despite his many years of unemployment he briefly served as second in command of the Channel Fleet under Admiral Hon. William Cornwallis with his flag in Hibernia 110, Captain William Bedford, during the time of Lord Barham’s stewardship of the Admiralty in 1805-6.

    Douglas became an admiral on 28 April 1808, and died in Montague Square, London, on 13 November 1810.

    He married his cousin Charlotte Douglas, the only daughter of John St. Leger Douglas of Chelmsford, Essex, who served as an M.P from 1768-83, and had property in the West Indies. The marriage produced no issue.
    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 George Bowyer.

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    1740-1800.

    He was born at Denham, Buckinghamshire, the third son of Sir William Bowyer 5th Baronet, and of his wife Anne Stonehouse, who was also the daughter of a baronet.

    On 13 February 1758 Bowyer was commissioned lieutenant, and on 4 May 1761 was promoted commander of the French-built cutter Swift 10, cruising in home waters before she was retaken by the French privateer Manley 22 off Ushant on 30 June 1761. On 28 October 1762 he was posted captain, all of these ranks being achieved with the benefit of his family’s ‘interest’, and for a brief period prior to the peace of 1763 he commanded the Sheerness 20.

    In October 1776 he recommissioned the Burford 70, serving off Ireland, and with which he was engaged with American privateers off Brittany in July 1777. He recommissioned the Albion 74 in May 1778, sailing for North America under the orders of Vice-Admiral Hon. John Byron on 9 June, but parting from his commander in the storms that badly affected their passage. Following the fleet’s transfer to the Caribbean at the end of the year he fought at the Battle of Grenada on 6 July 1779, and gave vital support to the Conqueror in the engagement with the French fleet under La Motte-Picquet on 18 December 1779.

    The Albion fought at the Battle of Martinique on 17 April 1780 as second to Rear-Admiral Hyde Parker, and Bowyer was one of five officers specifically complimented for their conduct by Admiral Sir George Brydges Rodney. She remained in the Leeward Islands for the remainder of the campaign from May to July but was severely handled in the week of fleet skirmishes during May, when she led the British van and fought alone until relieved by Rear-Admiral Joshua Rowley. During these engagements she lost twenty-four men killed and over one hundred and twenty wounded, and such was her damage that the Albion was forced to repair to Jamaica. Upon returning to England in convoy in 1781 she was condemned and paid off in December.

    In 1783 Bowyer, with the rank of commodore, joined the newly launched Irresistible 74, Captain Hon. George Murray, which served as a guard ship in the Medway, and a year into this appointment he was elected M.P. for Queenborough and nominated a colonel of marines. After leaving the Irresistible in 1785 he served upon a parliamentary committee investigating the state of the Portsmouth and Plymouth harbour defences, but bar a short period in command of the Bellona 74 during the Dutch armament in the autumn of 1787, and a few months during the Spanish Armament of 1790 when he commissioned the newly built Boyne 98 at Woolwich, he remained out of active service for a further eight years.

    On 1 February 1793 he was promoted rear-admiral, and flying his flag from June in the dull-sailing Prince 98, Captain Cuthbert Collingwood, he participated in the Channel fleet’s autumn cruise and the chase of Rear-Admiral Vanstabel’s squadron on 18 November. From December 1793 he flew his flag aboard the Barfleur 98, Captain Cuthbert Collingwood, and in the following summer, whilst leading the centre division of the Channel fleet, he had his leg shot from under him at the Battle of the Glorious First of June. Although his flagship suffered nine men killed and twenty-five wounded, she was considered to have engaged from too far to windward. Bowyer was created a baronet on 16 August, awarded the gold medal for the battle, and granted a pension of one thousand guineas.

    Retiring to his estate at Warfield Grove, Berkshire, he saw no further service but was promoted vice-admiral on 4 July 1794. Later in the same year he inherited his mothers’ family seat at Radley Hall, Berkshire, he further inherited his father’s baronetcy on the death of his brother in April 1797, he became an admiral on 14 February 1799, and died at Radley Hall on 6 December 1800.

    Bowyer was married firstly to Lady Downing, widow of Sir Jacob Downing, by whom he had no issue, and secondly to Henrietta, daughter of Admiral Sir Piercy Brett, by whom he had three sons and two daughters. His nephew was Captain Edward Cooke, and he used his influence to advance Cuthbert Collingwood’s career. He was MP for Queenborough in the Admiralty interest from 1784-90, and was a supporter of William Pitt, making some nine speeches relative to naval issues only.

    To this day Radley College flies the Union flag on 1 June in his honour, and his ghost is said to haunt the main staircase.
    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 Abraham Crespin.



    1731- 1786.

    He was the son of William Crispin of Newton Ferrars in Devon.
    Crespin was commissioned lieutenant on 20 January 1762, and from 1771-3 commanded the schooner Halifax 6 in North American waters. In early 1778 he was the senior lieutenant aboard Vice-Admiral John Montagu’s flagship Europa 64, Captain Francis Parry, and he was promoted commander on 13 May 1778 as a result of the Kings’ review of the fleet.

    In the same month he commissioned the bomb Vesuvius 8, seeing service off Africa where he was present at the capture of Goree on 4 April 1779, and later serving in the Leeward Islands.

    He was posted captain on 17 January 1780, and joining her in March he commanded the Suffolk 74 at the Battle of Martinique on 17 April where her casualties numbered twelve men wounded, and in the remainder of the Leeward Islands campaign from May – July, including the fleet skirmishes off St. Lucia in the former month when she suffered casualties of one man killed and twenty-one wounded. After continuing with the Leeward Islands fleet until coming home with a convoy from Jamaica in 1781 the Suffolk was paid off in September that year.

    Crespin did not serve again and died in the latter part of 1786.

    He married Martha Legassicke of Modbury Devon on 16 March 1776 and had one son and a daughter whilst residing in that town. There was some confusion over his family name, his father and brother spelling their surname ‘Crispin’.
    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.John Elphinstone.

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    1722-85.

    He was baptised in London, the only child of John Elphinstone and of his wife Anne Williams. The family originated from Lopness in the Orkney Islands.

    Having been commissioned lieutenant on 23 August 1746, Elphinstone was serving in this rank aboard the Royal Sovereign, 100, Captain William Boys, when in the early part of 1757 he was appointed to the buss London, engaged in conveying mail to the Netherlands.

    He was promoted commander of the recently purchased fireship Salamander on 5 May 1757 and remained with her through the following year, initially going out to the Mediterranean and then serving under Commodore Hon. Richard Howe in his campaign against the French Channel ports during the summer of 1758. When superintending the embarkation following the attack on St. Cas he was captured with three other captains, Joshua Rowley, Jervis Maplesden and William Paston.

    After his release Elphinstone was posted captain into the Eurus 20 on 1 February 1759, taking her out to North America later that month and serving at the capture of Quebec. In April 1760 he moved to the Richmond 32 in succession to the late Captain George Hamilton, and he brought her back to England from the St. Lawrence that June. On 24 January 1761 the Richmond brought the French Félicité 32 to action off The Hague after an eleven hour chase, securing her surrender following a bitter fight that saw the enemy suffer a hundred casualties and both vessels drive ashore at Scheveningen. The Richmond was refloated whilst the French vessel was destroyed. Later in the year Elphinstone captured the French privateers Aucheur on 11 July, Epervier on 25 November, and Béarnoise 14 off Bayonne on 24 January 1762.

    In February 1762 the Richmond sailed out to the West Indies with orders for Rear-Admiral George Rodney. After acting as the superintendent of the transport service during the siege of Havana, Elphinstone was given command of the prize ship Infanta 70 which he brought back to Plymouth at the peace, arriving in May 1763.

    At the end of 1763 he commissioned the guard-ship Firm 60 at Plymouth, retaining her for three years, and he briefly commanded the Pearl 32 in 1768 before paying off in December at Plymouth.

    Elphinstone was one of a handful of British officers who joined the Russian service of Catherine the Great in the summer of 1769, and he was employed in the rank of rear-admiral. He also took his sons John and Samuel with him. In 1770 he commanded a squadron that sailed from the Baltic to the Mediterranean to join operations against the Turks. Whilst his ships were re-victaulling at Portsmouth he fell foul of Vice-Admiral Francis Geary, who ordered him to discontinue the practice of using signal guns to set the watch in Portsmouth Harbour.

    Upon arriving off Greece at the end of May Elphinstone attempted to bring about an engagement with a superior Turkish squadron in the Gulf of Naupila, but, although he initially forced the enemy to retreat and then attempted to attack them under the Nauplia batteries, his officers refused to continue the action and he was obliged to sail away. He participated in the defeat of a Turkish fleet in Chesme Bay on 5 July even though his preferred mode of attack was rejected, and he was later given undue credit for his efforts to the denigration of his contemporaries which included his fellow-Scots born Admiral Samuel Greig.

    During his time in their service Elphinstone regularly fell out over the limits of his authority with the senior Russian officers and in particular the commander-in-chief of the Mediterranean fleet, Count Aleksei Orlov. He was sent back to Russia on charges of negligence when his flagship Svyatoslav 80 was wrecked on a sandbank at the siege of Pelari, and he chose to wear a British rather than a Russian uniform when he appeared before the Empress. In short order he was obliged to abandon her service in July 1771, and subsequent Russian and British accounts of his time in Catherine’s navy were extremely contradictory.

    From 1774 Elphinstone commanded the guard-ship Egmont 74 at Portsmouth, engaging in the summer cruises of 1774 and 1775 before she was paid off in 1778.

    He commissioned the Magnificent 74 in the summer of 1778, sailing for the Leeward Islands with Commodore Joshua Rowley in December, and on 6 July 1779 he fought at the Battle of Grenada. Following Rear-Admiral Hyde Parker’s partial engagement with the French on 18 December he assisted Rear-Admiral Rowley in the capture of three French frigates from St. Lucia, with the Magnificent taking the Blanche 36. On 17 April 1780 the Magnificent fought in the Battle of Martinique, where she was stationed at the rear of the line and suffered only one man killed and ten wounded, and shwe was present in the subsequent Leeward Islands campaign, losing five men killed and twenty-three wounded in the fleet skirmishes during May. At the end of the year Elphinstone returned to England with the Jamaica convoy and the Magnificent was paid off and ultimately broken up. During the latter part of 1782 he commissioned the Atlas 90 but hostilities ceased before he could take her to sea and she was paid off in April 1783.

    Elphinstone died on 28 February 1785 in Broad Street, Carnaby Market, London.

    He married Amelia Warburton on 23 October 1750 and had six sons including John, a post captain, who died in 1801, Samuel William, who died as a captain in the Russian service in 1788, Thomas, who reached the same rank in the navy before his death in 1821, Robert-Phillip, who died as a post captain in 1822, and Major-General Sir Howard Elphinstone. He also had four daughters, the second of whom, Anna-Charlotta-Maria, married Captain Sir Francis John Hartwell.

    Although regarded as a brave and active officer, Elphinstone could also prove to be a difficult subordinate who sought to portray his own talents as superior to others, as highlighted by his time in the Russian service at the Battle of Chesme where he took the greater credit for the equal efforts of other British officers. He may have claimed the respect of Catherine the Great but she described him as mad, impulsive and illogical.
    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.

  13. #13
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    Captain Frederick Lewis Maitland.

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    (20 Jan 1730 - 16 Dec 1786)

    He was a distinguished officer of the Royal Navy.

    Maitland was born the sixth son of Charles Maitland, the sixth earl of Lauderdale and Lady Elizabeth Ogilvie. His younger brother Col the Hon. John Maitland successfully defended Savannah against a combined French and American siege in 1779. He was named after his godfather, Frederick, Prince of Wales.

    Naval career.

    He entered the Navy in 1748 serving as a midshipman on HMS Tavistock and HMS Speedwell He was promoted to lieutenant in June 1750, joining HMS Otter in Barbados. and commanding HMS Lively with distinction in October 1760 at the Battle of the Windward Passage. He moved to take command of HMS Elizabeth in 1778, and in 1782 found himself serving under Admiral George Rodney. His capable command of several Navy ships led to a period commanding the Royal yacht between 1763 and 1775. He was promoted to Rear admiral in 1786, but died before the news reached him.
    Family Life.

    Jamaica.

    His first family was in Jamaica, while he was stationed at Port Royal during the Seven Years' War (1754-1763). He formed a relationship with Mary Arnot.
    Scotland.

    He had married Margaret Dick, the heir in tail general to James Crichton, Viscount Frendraught, of Clan Crichton, who in turn was heir to Clan Makgill of Rankeilour. Through her the family came into the possession of the estates of Nether-Rankeillor. They had a number of children. The eldest son, Charles went on to inherit the estates on his father's death and assumed the surname Makgill. He married a woman named Mary Johnston and the union produced a son, David Maitland-Makgill-Crichton (1801–1851). This son had assumed the name Crichton in 1837, in recognition of his ancestor, James Crichton. He became a lawyer, and was called to the Scottish bar in 1822. He eventually played an important part in the formation of the Free Church of Scotland.

    His third son, also named Frederick Lewis Maitland, went on to follow his father in having a distinguished career in the Royal Navy, becoming a rear admiral, the post his father was never able to take up.
    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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