Resolved, unanimously, that the freedom of this city, with a sword of the value of one hundred guineas, be presented to Rear-admiral Sir James Saumarez, Bart. Knight of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, as a testimony of the opinion this court entertain of the eminent services rendered by him to his country.
Resolved, unanimously, that the thanks of this court be given to the several captains, officers, seamen, and marines, for their brave exertions on the days of the above celebrated victories.
Resolved, unanimously, that the Right Honourable the Lord Mayor be requested to transmit the above resolutions to Sir James Saumarez, and to request him to communicate the same to the officers, seamen, and marines of his squadron.
Resolved, unanimously, that the Right Honourable the Lord Mayor be requested to provide the sword on this occasion.
Signed, by order of the Court, EDWD. BOXLEY.
His Majesty's ship Caesar, Gibraltar Bay, 6th January 1802.
I have received the letter your lordship has done me the honour to write to me, transmitting the unanimous thanks of the lord mayor, aldermen, and commons of the city of London, in common council assembled, for the successful attacks made by the squadron under my orders upon the superior forces of the enemy, on the 6th and 12th of July last, off Algeziras, and at the entrance of the Straits of Gibraltar.
I beg leave to return my most grateful acknowledgments for so flattering a mark of distinction; more particularly for the high honour conferred upon me in the freedom of the city of London, and permitting my name to be enrolled with its loyal and brave citizens.
I also beg to offer my sincere thanks for the present of a sword, which I shall ever consider it my greatest pride to have been found deserving of; and I trust to use it with every success in the service of my King and country on any future opportunity requiring its being unsheathed. I shall not fail to communicate to the captains, officers, and men under my orders the resolutions you have been pleased to enclose to me; and I beg to express how truly gratifying it is to me to have the honour of being nominated a brother liveryman in the worshipful company of salters, of which your lordship is a member.
I have the honour to be, With sentiments of the most respectful regard and esteem, Your lordship's most obedient and most humble servant, JAMES SAUMAREZ.
To Right Honourable the Lord Mayor, &c. &c. &c.
The inhabitants of the channel islands, justly proud of their heroic countryman, were not behind in acknowledging the high sense they entertained of his services. The following is a copy of the resolution of the States of the island of Jersey:
Aux Etats de l'ile de Jersey.
L'an Mil huit cent un, le vingt-deuxieme jour d'Aout, les Etats, a leur premiere tenue depuis la nouvelle de la victoire qu'a remportee l'Amiral Sir James Saumarez sur la flotte combinee de la France et de l'Espagne, dans les Passages de Gibraltar, ont un devoir de manifester la joie et la satisfaction que leur inspire cet heureux evenement. Les divers exploits qui ont signale les armes de sa Majeste ont toujours excite la plus vive allegresse dans le coeur des habitans de cette ile. Mais ce qui releve infiniment a leurs yeux le prix de cette derniere victoire est la consideration qu'elle est due a un natif de l'ile de Guernesey, a laquelle ce pays se sent etroitement attache par les liens d'une commune origine, de la proximite, de l'amitie. Cette assemblee n'a pu manquer de remarquer les actions eclatantes qui ont distingue la carriere navale de Sir James Saumarez dans sa qualite de capitaine. Elle voit enfin que, parvenu au premier rang, il a su y briller d'un nouveau lustre, et s'y acquerir de nouveaux droits a la reconnaissance de la patrie. On a surtout admire l'etonnante celerite avec laquelle cet amiral a repare les damages de son escadre apres la sanglante journee d'Algeziras; l'intrepidite avec laquelle il a ose poursuivre une flotte doublement superieure par le nombre, la grandeur, et l'equipement parfait des vaisseaux; la promptitude avec laquelle il a saisi le moment favorable de l'attaque dans l'obscurite d'une nuit orageuse; et finalement le succes decisif qui a couronne ces nobles efforts. Considerant tout ce qu'a d'honorable pour l'ile de Guernesey d'avoir mis au jour un de ces grands hommes qui ont illustre leur nation en la defendant, et dont la Providence s'est servie pour reprimer l'insatiable ambition de l'ennemi, les Etats ont unanimement resolu d'offrir dans cette occasion aux habitans de la dite ile leurs sinceres et cordiales felicitations; et, afin de leur faire connaitre la part que prend cette assemblee a cet evenement memorable, le greffier est charge de transmettre le present acte a Robert P. Le Marchant, ecuyer, bailli de Guernesey, pour qu'il veuille bien le communiquer a ses compatriotes de la maniere la plus convenable.
JEAN DE VEULLE, Greff.
The address of the loyal inhabitants of the Channel islands was followed by a liberal subscription for the wounded, and the widows and orphans of those who fell in the actions. Large sums were also subscribed for the same purpose in Great Britain; while the island of Guernsey presented Sir James with a very handsome silver vase, being the second time the high sense entertained of his services had been thus expressed. The inscription on the first vase, which has not been before given, is as follows:
Presented to Sir James Saumarez, Knt. of his Majesty's frigate the Crescent, by the subscribers to the fund for encouraging the capture of French privateers, in testimony of their sense of his gallant conduct in the action of the 20th October last with La Reunion, French frigate, of considerable force, and the protection thereby afforded to the commerce of Great Britain. London, 14th Nov. 1799.
On the second vase the following inscription:
The Inhabitants of Guernsey to their gallant countryman, Rear-admiral Sir James Saumarez, Bart. and K.B. whose suavity of manner and private virtues have long engaged their esteem and affection, and whose brilliant achievements have not only immortalized his name, but will for ever reflect lustre on his native isle, and add to the glory of the British empire. June 1802.
Sir James disappointed in not returning home.—Extract of a letter to his brother.—The French send ships to the West Indies.—Squadron detached after them.—Death of General O'Hara.—Sir James receives orders to superintend the evacuation of Minorca.—Arrival of H.R.H. Duke of Kent.—Sir James arrives at Minorca.—Definitive treaty of peace.—Proceedings there.—Island given up to Spain.—The Caesar arrives at Gibraltar.—Proceeds to England.—Anchors at Spithead.
Destined to remain with his squadron at Gibraltar, Sir James suffered a severe disappointment in being prevented from returning home. He occasionally visited Tetuan; and, after the preliminaries of peace were signed, he had communication with the Spanish authorities. On the 19th of January he was surprised by the appearance of four French line-of-battle ships in the eastward, which passed through the Straits of Gibraltar; on which he wrote a letter to his brother, whence the following is extracted:
Caesar, Gibraltar, 20th January 1802.
I had the pleasure yesterday to receive your affectionate letter, by way of Malaga, which, although of an old date, was very acceptable. The letter it enclosed from our brother Sir Thomas was the first I have seen from Guernsey for several months. Our accounts from England extend to the 6th instant, by way of Lisbon. Although no public despatches have been received, we have reason to expect the next arrival will bring the news of the definitive treaty being signed; at the same time it is rather surprising to see the French detaching ships from all their ports. Yesterday, four sail of the line and a frigate appeared to the eastward, which unquestionably must be Gantheaume's squadron. I detached the Phaeton with the intelligence, and am preparing four ships to follow them to the West Indies, taking it for granted they are going to St. Domingo.
I enclose a letter for Nicholas, who I hope has arrived before this time. It is satisfactory to be informed that Ceylon is a healthy situation. I hope before many years we shall see him amongst us in the enjoyment of good health and a competent fortune, for few are more deserving than he is.
Nothing has joined from Lord Keith since my last; but I understand his lordship is expecting his orders of recall, which will leave me no chance of going to England for some months. I have no apprehensions of being ordered to Jamaica; but, if I should, I hope none of my friends will suffer uneasiness on my account. My chief dislike to the station would be its prolonging my absence from home, as, in other respects, I would as soon be there as in any other station whilst I remain employed.
I am well pleased with the motto ("In Deo spero") you have substituted. It is the one I had fixed upon before; but wishing to have reference to the action made me adopt the other, though not without much consideration, as I allow it appeared as if I no longer had that TRUST which I hope will never forsake me in any event through life.
On the 21st of January Sir James detached the Warrior, Defence, Bellona, and Zealous, of 74 guns each, to follow the French squadron to the West Indies. These ships were placed under the command of Captain Tyler, of the Warrior, who was senior officer, and had directions to proceed to Jamaica and join Sir John Duckworth, the then commander-in-chief on that station: at the same time the Phaeton, Captain Morris, was despatched to England with the intelligence of the above circumstances. The Leda, Captain Hope, had been sent to Cadiz to receive for safety the specie belonging to the merchants, and to obtain information respecting the movements of the ships in that harbour. It was then ascertained that the French ship Duquesne, of 80 guns, had arrived there in distress, having parted from a convoy bound to St. Domingo. She was accompanied by a French frigate; and, both having troops on board, no doubt could be entertained of their destination, as well as that of the squadron under Rear-admiral Gantheaume. Several transports and troop-ships arrived from Malta and Egypt, having on board part of the army employed on the reduction of Alexandria, and were despatched to England.
An unexpected event now plunged the garrison of Gibraltar into deep affliction. The gallant and highly-respected governor was seized with a malignant illness, which terminated his life in five days. With this mournful intelligence Sir James despatched the Penelope frigate to England, and another frigate to Lord Keith, at Malta. The following is a copy of his letter to Mr. Nepean on that occasion:
I request you will be pleased to inform my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty that I have thought it necessary to despatch the Penelope to England, in order that the King's ministers may be apprised as speedily as possible of the loss his Majesty's service has sustained in the death of Governor O'Hara, who departed this life early this morning. I cannot on this occasion refrain from expressing my deep concern at the loss of an officer from whom the naval service in particular has always experienced the utmost attention.
I am, sir, Your obedient humble servant, JAMES SAUMAREZ.
General Burnet succeeded, pro tempore, to the command of the garrison; and Captain Gaskill, the late governor's aide-de-camp, was the bearer of the despatches to Government. It was about this time that the 54th regiment, commanded by Colonel Ross, arrived from Egypt to relieve the Cambrian Rangers, part of which went home in the Penelope, and the remainder in the Dido, troop-ship.
The colours were hoisted half-mast on board all the ships until the 3rd of March, when General O'Hara's funeral took place; on which occasion the boats of the squadron, joined by those of the foreign men-of-war, rowed in procession to the Ragged Staff, while minute-guns were fired by the flag-ship and the garrison. The solemnity of this scene could not but be rendered more impressive by the recollection of the investiture of Sir James with the Order of the Bath, in which the venerable and gallant general had performed so distinguished a part only a short time before.
This event was followed by one of the same mournful description, namely, the death of Admiral Brenton, father to the gallant captain of the Caesar, a venerable and highly-respected officer. As family affairs required Captain Brenton's presence in England, he exchanged with Captain Downman, of the Dorothea, by mutual consent, and with permission from the Admiral. This exchange accordingly took place on the 17th March 1802, when Captain Downman joined the Caesar.
On the 22nd of March Sir James received orders from Lord Keith to proceed with the Caesar to Minorca, for the purpose of superintending the various duties that might become necessary on the evacuation of that island; but as the order was grounded on a report which had reached his lordship from Toulon and Marseilles that the definitive treaty of peace was signed, which proved to be premature, Sir James postponed his departure until more authentic information should arrive, and he acquainted the Lords of the Admiralty of this circumstance by a letter to the secretary, dated on the following day. Lord Keith himself, however, arrived in the Foudroyant, from Malta, on the 26th of March, and, being in expectation of orders to proceed to England, he did not interfere with the duty of the squadron.
On the 24th of April, there being no doubt that Minorca would soon be given up to Spain, Sir James received the following orders from Lord Keith, appointing him to conduct that service:
By the Right Hon. Lord Keith, &c.
Whereas orders may be immediately expected for the evacuation of the island of Minorca, and as I think it indispensable that that service should be conducted by an officer of rank, ability, and experience, you are hereby required and directed to proceed thither in his Majesty's ship the Caesar, to be in readiness to take upon you the charge and execution of that duty, following such directions in that behalf as I have already forwarded to the senior officer there, copies of the most material of which are herewith enclosed, and such other instructions as you may hereafter receive from me; communicating with me or with Rear-admiral Sir Richard Bickerton, at Malta, on all occasions when the necessity of the service on which you are employed may so require.—Given on board the Foudroyant, Gibraltar, 24th April 1802.
The following is a copy of the orders alluded to:
In the event of orders being received by you over land, or the arrival of instructions by sea which may not have reached me, for the evacuation of the island of Minorca, you are hereby specially instructed to carry them into effect in the manner most consistent with the directions which you shall receive. You will enter into immediate communication with the officer commanding his Majesty's land forces, and co-operate with him on all necessary occasions for carrying the evacuation into effect; and you will furnish to him, and to other officers of rank and their families, the best accommodation of which the disposable room in the ships will admit. In such case it will be incumbent on you to obtain, without a moment's loss of time, an exact estimate of the tonnage that will be required as well for the embarkation of the troops as of the stores, &c.
The above will be sufficient to show the arduous duty Sir James had to perform. The number of troops to be embarked at Minorca was 5,247; at Malta, 6,529; at Elba, 418; and at Egypt, 4,631; in all, 16,845. These were destined partly to England, and partly to Ireland; to transport which, men-of-war and merchant-ships were collected from all quarters.
On the same day Sir James received from Lord Keith a copy of a letter from the secretary of the Admiralty, dated 1st April 1802:
I transmit to your lordship herewith, by command of my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, for your information, a Gazette Extraordinary, containing an account of the signature of the definitive treaty of peace at Amiens, on the 27th of last month, by the Plenipotentiary of his Majesty, and the Plenipotentiaries of France, and Spain, and the Batavian Republic. If no unforeseen event should happen, their lordships think it probable that the ratification will be exchanged in the course of three weeks from this time; but, whenever it shall take place, the earliest notice thereof shall be given to your lordship, &c.
The same despatch brought information that his Royal Highness the Duke of Kent (father of her present most excellent Majesty) had been appointed governor of Gibraltar; and, in consequence, the following orders were issued by Lord Keith:
Foudroyant, Gibraltar, 28th April 1802.
When his Royal Highness the Duke of Kent, who is expected at Gibraltar, arrives in this bay, the flag-officers and captains then at the anchorage are to attend in their boats with their flags and pendants hoisted, and to row in succession, the flag-officer or officers following the commander-in-chief, and the captains next, two by two, according to seniority; and, as soon as his Royal Highness shall have landed, the officers are at liberty to return to their ships.
When the royal standard is hoisted in the boat in which the Prince is to land, the ship he came in is to fire twenty-one guns; and, as the boat passes the flag-ship, twenty-one guns shall be fired from all the ships commanded by post-captains, beginning when the Foudroyant shall have fired her second gun; the guards to be turned out, and the drums to beat a march, but the ships' yards are not to be manned.—By order of the commander-in-chief.
We need scarcely add that his Royal Highness was received with every mark of respect due to his illustrious name, and to the high situation in which he had been placed.
The Caesar sailed from Gibraltar about the 1st of May, and on the 6th arrived at Mahon. When Sir James entered upon his important mission, he communicated immediately with General Clephane on the subject of the evacuation of the island of Minorca; and measures were taken for the embarkation of the troops and stores as soon as the ratification of the treaty of peace arrived, which took place on the 17th of May. Sir James at the same time received the welcome information that he was, with the Caesar, to carry the last division to England. It was determined to send the Dreadnought and Genereux with the first division of transports, consisting of ten sail, in which were the 79th regiment and ordnance-stores, under command of Captain Cornwall Berkeley, of the Genereux. These were to proceed to Gibraltar; but the Dreadnought, Captain Vashon, had orders to proceed direct to England with the second battalion of the 40th regiment, which was embarked in that ship at the same time the troops at Porto Ferrajo and Elba sailed on the 2nd of June. Some of the transports having returned from Gibraltar, the embarkation continued, and the island was finally given up on the 16th June. The orders given on this occasion, will be perused with interest.
Copy of articles agreed upon between Rear-admiral Sir James Saumarez and General Clephane, for the evacuation of the island of Minorca, and for delivering it to the authorities of his Catholic Majesty the King of Spain.
Rear-admiral Sir James Saumarez, Bart, and K.B., Commanding his Britannic Majesty's squadron in the port of Mahon, and Major-general William Douglas Maclean Clephane, commanding the troops upon the island of Minorca, being duly authorised on the part of his Britannic Majesty by his royal sign manual, and Don Juan Miguel de Nines y Felia, &c. having communicated his power and authority to receive the same, have agreed to the following arrangements, viz.
1st. Brigadier-general Moncreiffe is appointed to arrange with his Excellency the Captain-general, &c. &c. the speediest time for admitting his Catholic Majesty's troops by the gate at Ciudadela, and the troops of his Britannic Majesty will evacuate at the same time by the gate of Mahon.
2nd. On the following day Major-general Clephane will be ready to receive his Excellency the Captain-general upon the glacis of Fort George, and deliver the keys thereof in due form; immediately after which the British troops will embark.
3rd. The fort of Fornells, and the towers on the coast, will be given up in due time to the engineer, Don Raman.
4th. Captain Framingham, Royal Artillery, will deliver up the ordnance and the ammunition found on the island at the time of the capture thereof as nearly as possible, and now collected at the following places, viz. Fornells, Buffera, Adaya, and Fort George.
5th. The royal arsenal shall be given up in its present state. Two line-of-battle ships' lower-masts and bowsprits, British property, will be left in store until means be furnished by the British Government to remove them.
6th. The papers found in the secretary's office will be restored.
7th. The revenues of the island are to belong to his Catholic Majesty from the 23rd day of May last, that being the day appointed by the definitive treaty for the cession of the island. In consequence of the judge and other civil officers having been employed by the British Government, their salaries have been paid up to the 17th June.
Signed and sealed at Mahon, the 14th day of June one thousand eight hundred and two.
Caesar, off Port Mahon, 16th June 1802.
I beg to acquaint you, for the information of my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, that the island of Minorca has been this day given up to the Spanish Government; and Major-general Clephane, with the last division of troops, embarked immediately after having put them in possession of Fort George. I shall proceed with all despatch to Gibraltar with his Majesty's ship Caesar, and the Pomone, and Port Mahon brig; and have detached the Camelion to Barcelona, to land Major-general Clephane's and my despatches.
I have detached to the island of Malta 3,250 tonnage of transports not required for the services of this island; and I have given directions to Captain Bowen, of his Majesty's troop-ship Alligator, to remain in Mahon harbour ten days from the time of the embarkation, and then proceed for Malta, and follow the orders of Rear-admiral Sir Richard Bickerton.
I herewith have the honour to enclose, for their lordships' information, a copy of the articles agreed upon with his Excellency Don Juan Miguel de Nines y Felia, the Spanish Captain-general; and I have the satisfaction to observe that the utmost good order and harmony has prevailed between the forces of our respective nations.
I have the further satisfaction to inform their lordships that, during the arduous service of embarking the numerous stores from Minorca, in which the seamen of the ships of war and transports have borne a considerable share, there has not been the smallest cause of complaint of any irregularity whatever having been committed.
Enclosed is a return of troop-ships and transports destined for Ireland, which embarked the last division of troops.
Major-general Clephane takes his passage to England on board the Pomone. I have to express my acknowledgments to that officer for the alacrity with which the embarkation of the various stores from the different ports of the island has been effected.
I am, sir, Your most obedient humble servant, JAMES SAUMAREZ.
To Evan Nepean, Esq.
By the Right Honourable Lord Keith, K.B. Admiral of the Blue, and Commander-in-chief.
Whereas I have obtained permission from the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to return to England, and have been authorised by their lordships to leave such directions for the governance of the station till their further commands are ascertained as I shall judge fit and proper for the execution of the Board; you are hereby required and directed, after my departure, to regulate the service in this bay, and pay attention to the instructions that follow, viz.—You will, on all proper and necessary occasions, communicate with his Royal Highness the Duke of Kent, governor of this garrison, and in particular yield all the accommodation of which ships passing from Minorca or Elba can admit for the reception of parties of the 5th regiment of foot, which are ordered to return to Britain from hence.
When the Acasta returns from Malta, she is not to be detained, the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty having expressly directed her return; and, as she will be able to accommodate a considerable number of men, I recommend that she receive part of the 5th regiment; and also; the Diane and Carriere, if they arrive here, and that you forthwith direct them to proceed.
Captain Dundas, of the Solebay, has my orders to repair to Lisbon to receive for Britain part of the troops who are there; and the accompanying order, addressed to Captain Hope, directs him to proceed with the Leda on the same; service. Captain Beanes, of the Determinee, and Captain Provost, of the Bonne Citoyenne, are instructed to proceed to Britain forthwith.
You will order the Milbrook to Lisbon with the letters from hence by the next Levant wind, and from thence to Spithead. The Pigmy will return to you with the first English mail that arrives in the Tagus.
You will inform yourself, from the officers of the yard, of the quantity and species of stores that they may be desirous of sending home; and direct them to be embarked in his Majesty's ships and transports that are returning, in such proportions as can be conveniently received.
You will allow no ships to sail for Great Britain with more than six weeks' provision on board, till the agent victuallers shall be provided with a sufficient supply for the ships that remain here.
All transports, victuallers, and other vessels arriving here on the public account, are to be cleared with the greatest despatch; and, if any unnecessary delay appears on the master's part, you will cause protest to be made, and acquaint the transport board thereof.
As it is probable that Rear-admiral Sir Richard Bickerton may send down troop-ships to this place for the removal of the 5th regiment of foot, and as some part of the regiment is already embarked, and more of them may be forwarded by other opportunities, of which you may be able to avail yourself; it is my direction that such troop-ships, when they arrive, as they are not wanted for the conveyance of the 5th regiment, may be either returned to Malta or sent to Lisbon for the embarkation of troops under the command of Lieutenant-general Fraser, as existing circumstances may recommend as the most needful to be done. You will take care that no ships pass without having as many men as they can receive; and you will have the means of completing them by separate embarkations of the regiment above-mentioned, observing that the destination is the same; and, for your better guidance in this particular, I enclose herewith a state of the troop-ships, with the freights and the destinations appointed for them.
Till special orders are received from the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, the ships and vessels, as per list enclosed, are to remain upon the service of the station; and if any of them arrive with contrary instructions from Rear-admiral Sir Richard Bickerton, or Sir James Saumarez, before that was known, you are to retain them here accordingly.
You will open all public despatches which may be addressed to me, and carry them, as far as depends upon you, into effect at this place. Such as are addressed to Rear-admiral Sir Richard Bickerton you will forward to him at Malta. Maintain a correspondence with him, as the officer charged with the chief command on the station, by all convenient opportunities, and follow such orders and directions as you may receive from him.
Given on board the Foudroyant, Gibraltar, 15th June, 1802, KEITH.
Sir Jas. Saumarez, Bart, and K.B. Rear-admiral of the Blue; and, in his absence, To John Aylmes, Esq. Captain of H.M.S. Dragon.
List of ships to remain on the station till further orders:
Kent, Hector, Diana, Greyhound, Camelion, Dragon, Anson, Narcissus, Victorieuse, Weazle, Superb, Medusa, Thames, Cynthia, Delight, Triumph, Active, Maidstone, Port Mahon, Vincego.
N.B. Such others as may arrive here with troops may be sent to the destinations of the regiments.
No duty on which Sir James was ever employed was executed with more address, or more completely to the general satisfaction. The honour of the British flag was maintained in a manner which could not be questioned, being borne away mounted on a cannon, on which it was embarked without the necessity of striking it, when the keys of the fortress were delivered to the Spanish commander-in-chief, while the Spanish standard was hoisted at the flag-staff. The greatest decorum was preserved on both sides.
The Caesar left Mahon on the 17th June, with the last division of the troops, and arrived at Gibraltar on the 24th, when Sir James found that Lord Keith had already sailed, leaving orders for him to follow to England with the last division, which consisted of three sail of the line and six troop-ships.
After exchanging complimentary letters with his Excellency the Captain-general and Governor of Andalusia, Sir James took leave of his Royal Highness the Governor of Gibraltar. He sailed on the 30th of June, anchored at Spithead on the 23rd of July 1802, and reported in the usual manner the arrival of the Caesar to the Admiralty.
Commencement of Hostilities with France.—Sir James hoists his Flag at Sheerness.—Proceeds to Guernsey.—Flag in the Grampus.—Anecdote of Captain Caulfield.—Sir James visits Jersey, &c.—Diomede arrives as Flag-ship.—The Admiral examines the Defence of the Island.—Loss of La Minerve.—Attack and Bombardment of Granville.—Cerberus gets aground.—Narrow Escape from a Shot.—Public and Private Letters.—Blockade of the Coast.—Loss of the Shannon and Grappler.—Conclusion of 1803.
Hostilities with France were about to be resumed early in the year 1803, and Sir James was called into active service. On the 11th of March he hoisted his flag at Sheerness, on board the Zealand, in order to expedite the preparations that were going on in the Medway. Soon after this, the Zealand went to the Nore. She was at that time commanded by Captain, afterwards Admiral, William Mitchell, an officer who had risen to the rank of Rear-admiral by his good conduct, after having been flogged through the fleet for desertion.
The great preparations now making at St. Maloes rendered it probable that the intention of Bonaparte was to attack the Channel Islands; Sir James was therefore appointed to the command at Guernsey, and, proceeding from the Nore in the Kite brig, he fell in with the Grampus, which was destined, pro tempore, for his flag. Both ships arrived at St. Pierre's roads on the 19th of May. Here the Admiral's squadron consisted of six frigates, and six brigs and cutters, which were chiefly employed in blockading the adjacent coast, and in preventing the concentration of the enemy's force at St. Maloes and Granville, the two principal places whence it appeared an attack would be made.
The Grampus was commanded by Captain Thomas Gordon Caulfield, who had notions of discipline peculiar to himself, with which Sir James, who lived on shore with his family, did not interfere. The following anecdote will serve to show that these deviations from the laws and customs of the navy are seldom attended with success.
It was Captain Caulfield's positive instructions that no boatswain's mate, or other petty officer, should carry a cane, the usual emblem of their authority; and that he would not punish any man unless convicted by the testimony of two witnesses, while the man himself might bring others to contradict the assertion of the officer making the complaint: in short, that the single testimony of an officer could not be taken without a majority of evidence in its support. The ship had just been manned by impressed seamen, and her complement was completed from the prisons: it may therefore be supposed, that these regulations were not calculated to bring the ship speedily into a state of discipline. It must be remembered that the captain had not the power of administering an oath, and, when a complaint was made, men were soon found who would come forward, and prove, according to this system, that the accusation was groundless; and thus the culprit always escaped. The ship accordingly fell into a complete state of insubordination.
On one occasion a man was brought up on the quarter-deck in a state of intoxication, when the captain, as if he could not believe his own eyes, thought it necessary to call two of the officers as witnesses. The man was put into confinement; and next morning, at eight, he was brought up to be punished at the gangway. The offender being tied up, and the article of war under which he had fallen being read, the captain took the opportunity of assuring his assembled crew, that when legally convicted they were sure of punishment; but that no man should be struck.
At this moment the sentinel on the forecastle called out that "a prize was driving towards the ship." The danger of collision was the more imminent, inasmuch as a heavy gale was blowing at the time. The master, who sprang forward, called aloud, "Veer away the small bower-cable, or she will be on board of us!" The pause which had been made in the captain's speech was broken by orders from him to veer away the cable quickly. "Down, my lads, veer away!" was repeated by every officer; but the men, not aware of the fatal consequence, and knowing that they could not, after what the captain said, be started, moved very leisurely to perform the duty, which, to save the ship, it was absolutely necessary should be done with the utmost alacrity. Meanwhile, Captain Caulfield, looking over the back of the culprit, and viewing the supineness of the men, who were totally regardless of his repeated injunctions to veer the cable quickly, began to be indignant; and when the master repeated, "If you do not veer away at once, we shall lose the bowsprit and all the masts," he called to the officers in the waist "to start the rascals down to the cable:" but, as it may be supposed, their unarmed endeavours would not have been successful, had he not, as the crisis approached, jumped down himself among the men, and, with the end of the thickest rope he could find, become the transgressor of his own laws, of the absurdity of which he was now so fully convinced, that he acknowledged he was wrong, and completely reversed his system.
No ship ever had a more narrow escape of being wrecked; the prize drifted so close to the Grampus as to carry away her spritsail yard, and, drifting on the rocks, about three cables' length astern, was totally lost, and every man perished, among whom were a midshipman and four of the Grampus's crew. Had the prize, which was a large Dutch ship, came athwart-hawse of the Grampus, both, instead of one, would have been wrecked. No alternative was therefore left to Captain Caulfield but the rope's end, which he employed in violation of his own rules of discipline.
Sir James was extremely averse to innovations of this kind, and he took occasion to point out the propriety of officers being supported in the execution of their duty, and the danger of interfering with the excellent laws enacted for the government of the navy.
In the Grampus, Sir James visited the island of Jersey, and, after cruising to examine the coast of France adjacent to the islands, he returned to Guernsey; soon after which, the Grampus, being a new ship, was selected to convoy the East India fleet, and was relieved by the Diomede of fifty guns, Captain Thomas Larcom, on board which ship the flag was shifted, on the 19th of June, 1803.
As the summer advanced, the preparations of the enemy became more formidable, and the island was minutely examined by Sir James. The following anecdote may serve to prove how much officers may be mistaken as to the natural defences of a sea-coast.
Some differences of opinion having arisen respecting the possibility of the enemy landing on the south side of Guernsey, where the land is high, it was proposed to put the question to the test by actual experiment. Sir James, and the Governor (Sir John Doyle), accordingly proceeded to the spot with the boats of the squadron. On arriving at the alleged inaccessible position, Sir James proposed that the seamen should be landed, and ordered to ascend what appeared to be a precipice; when, to the astonishment of the General, the whole body of men mounted to the top with apparent ease: it was consequently found advisable to fortify that, as well as other points which had been before deemed unnecessary.
About this time (3rd of July) the Minerve, Captain Brenton, one of Sir James's squadron, stationed off Cherbourgh, got aground in a fog, from a mistake of the pilot, and, after a gallant resistance, was taken by the enemy. The account of this unfortunate circumstance is so fully detailed in Captain E.P. Brenton's work, that it need only be mentioned here as having given great concern to the Admiral, who had the highest regard for his former companion in arms.
A considerable flotilla of armed vessels, destined for the invasion either of the Channel Islands or of England, had assembled at Granville; and Sir James, having shifted his flag from the Diomede to the Cerberus of thirty-two guns, Captain W. Selby, sailed with a small squadron, consisting of the Charwell, eighteen, Captain Phil. Dumaresq; the Kite, eighteen, Captain Philip Pipon; the Terror and Sulphur bombs, Captains McLeod and Hardinge; Esling, Lieutenant Archbold; and Carteret, Lieutenant Burgess.
On the 14th September, the frigate having anchored as near as the tide would admit, and the other ships taking their stations, the bombardment began on the harbour of Granville, and lasted from eleven till five in the afternoon. On the 15th another attack of the same kind was made with more effect, as will be seen by the following official letter to the Secretary of the Admiralty, dated
Cerberus, off Granville, 15th Sept. 1803.
I beg you will be pleased to inform my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, that, having been joined by the Terror bomb on the 8th instant, and the Sulphur on the 12th, I embarked on board the Cerberus, and sailed from Guernsey roads the following morning, with the Charwell and Carteret cutters in company.
It blowing a strong breeze from the eastward, it was not until Tuesday evening I was enabled to get off Granville; when, having had an opportunity to reconnoitre the enemy's gun-vessels and other craft within the pier, and the different batteries by which they were protected, I anchored the Cerberus as near the shore as the tide would admit, having only sixteen feet at low-water. At eleven, the Terror came up, but, having grounded, it was not until two o'clock that Captain Hardinge was able to place his ship in the position assigned; this he now did in a most judicious manner, and opened a brisk fire from his two mortars; which was returned from the mortar and gun-batteries on the heights near the town, and also from some guns on the pier, and the gun-vessels placed in the entrance.
From the number of well-directed shells thrown from the Terror into the pier and parts of the town, I am persuaded they must have done very considerable damage. The fire was kept up till after five o'clock, when I thought it advisable to recall the Terror, and anchored with this ship and the Charwell a short distance from the town. The Sulphur bomb, whose bad sailing prevented her from beating up, joined shortly after, and also anchored. The loss on this occasion was two men wounded by splinters on board the Terror.
A few shells were thrown in the evening, but the tide prevented the ship getting sufficiently near to be attended with much effect.
This morning the squadron was under sail before dawn of day, and all circumstances concurred to enable them to take their respective stations with the utmost precision. The two mortar-vessels opened a brisk and well-directed fire soon after five o'clock; which was unremittingly kept up till half-past ten, when the falling tide rendered it necessary to withdraw from the attack. Twenty-two gun-vessels, that had hauled out of the pier, drew up a regular line, and kept up a heavy fire, jointly with the batteries around the port, without doing much execution.
The Cerberus, after getting under sail, grounded on one of the sand-banks, and remained about three hours, before she floated: nine of the gun-boats, perceiving her situation, endeavoured to annoy her, and kept up a heavy fire upon her for some time; but were silenced by the Charwell and Kite, and also by the fire of the Sulphur and Terror bombs, and by the carronade launch of the Cerberus, under the orders of Lieutenant Mansell, assisted by the Eling and Carteret, which obliged them to take shelter in their port.
In the performance of this intricate service, I cannot too highly applaud the zeal and persevering exertions of all the officers and men under my orders; and I should not do justice to the merits of Captain Selby, were I not to acknowledge the able assistance I have received from him since I had the honour of being in his ship: the steadiness and good conduct of all the officers and men in the Cerberus, during the time the ship was aground, do them infinite credit. The various services in which Capt. McLeod of the Sulphur, and Hardinge of the Terror, have been employed this war, are already sufficiently known: but I will venture to assert, that in no instance can they have displayed greater zeal and gallantry than on the present occasion. Great praise is due to Lieutenants Macartney and Smith, and the parties of artillery embarked on board the respective bomb-vessels.
It is not possible to ascertain the damages the enemy has sustained; but, as a very few of the shells missed taking effect, they must have been very considerable.
During the period the Cerberus was aground the tide fell six feet, and at one time she was in the greatest danger of upsetting; the topmasts were immediately struck, and the vessel shored up by the lower yards and spare spars. While heeling over more than forty-five degrees, the bottom of the ship was exposed to the shot of the enemy, and was struck in several places. Sir James himself had a very narrow escape from a shot, which grazed his legs as he was standing on the gangway with the purser and the secretary, whose dismay and quick retreat from so dangerous a situation only produced a smile from the Admiral, who would not listen to proposals subsequently made to him for quitting the Cerberus while in that situation. The coolness with which he gave his orders, and his presence of mind on this trying occasion, tended materially to save the ship, by exciting the officers and men to exert themselves; while the most perfect order was maintained under circumstances which often cause disorder and confusion.
The Cerberus received no material damage in the bottom from being aground: she was soon repaired, and returned with the squadron to Guernsey on the 17th, when the flag was again hoisted in the Diomede.
We subsequently learned that the flotilla at Granville was so much damaged as to delay its arrival at Boulogne, which was its ultimate destination, until a late period of the year; and that many of the vessels were lost in and near the Race of Alderney, on their passage, by a storm in which they were overtaken.
The following is extracted from a letter which Sir James wrote to his brother, describing this action:
Cerberus, off Granville, 15th Sept. 1803.
You will be glad to find that, thanks to Providence, the business of Granville has gone off as well as possible, although we have not succeeded in entirely destroying the enemy's gun-vessels. I have to regret that, in the execution of my orders, many of the harmless inhabitants of the town, and their dwellings, must have suffered very considerably; having bombarded it nearly four hours on Wednesday, and six hours this morning, with scarcely any intermission. This ship (the Cerberus) was for three hours on shore, and the tide left her six feet less than she drew. She was at the same time assailed by some of the enemy's gun-boats, but without great mischief. A shot was very nearly taking off both Mr. Champion and myself: how our legs escaped is inconceivable, having come through the part of the quarter-deck close to which we were standing.
Our friends Dumaresq and Pipon were in company, the former having joined early this morning. I am quite exhausted with fatigue, having had no rest since I left the island. Lady S. was unapprised of what was going forward, as well as yourself; but you must approve of the motives which urged me to conceal it from you. I am on my return to the island, which I hope to reach to-morrow evening.
 Before commencing the bombardment, Sir James sent in a flag of truce, to inform the governor of it, and requesting that he would send the women, children, and inoffensive inhabitants away from the scene of action.
The blockade of the French coast between Havre-de-Grace and Ushant, which was intrusted to Sir James, was kept up with rigour; and the Channel islands put into such a state of defence, as to defy all the projects of the enemy. In the performance of this service, the Admiral had to regret the loss of the Shannon, which was wrecked on the 10th December in a gale, under the batteries of Cape La Hogue; and of the Grappler, which was lost on the 31st, at the Isles de Choisey: the crews of both these vessels were saved, but made prisoners.
The Diomede was sent to refit at Portsmouth; and, at the end of 1803, Sir James's flag was flying on board the Cerberus, while he lived at his own residence on shore with his family, carrying on the duty as a port-admiral.
1804 to 1806.
Sir James continues in the command at Guernsey.—Proceedings of his Squadron.—Letter from Lord Nelson, dated two days before he was killed.—Capture and destruction of La Salamandre.—Sir James's benevolent conduct at Guernsey.
The year 1804 is remarkable in the annals of the empire for the extraordinary exertions made by the First Consul of France to collect a powerful flotilla at the ports between Flushing, Cherbourg, and Boulogne, with the avowed intention of invading England. The vessels so collected were intended to convey the "Army of England," as it was called by Bonaparte, across the channel. We have already mentioned the fate of the Granville flotilla, after the attack made on it by Sir James. Early in this year it was discovered that one of the vessels belonging to it, a brig of 200 tons, had been driven on shore in the Bay of Dillette, adjacent to Alderney; that the enemy had succeeded in drawing her up to repair, and that she was nearly ready for launching. The commander of the Carteret cutter, who first discovered this, having represented it to Captain Bennet of the Tribune, (senior officer of the detachment which Sir James had placed off Cherbourg,) proposed to take advantage of the first nocturnal spring-tide, either to launch her, if ready, or to destroy her. The Carteret was accordingly reinforced by two midshipmen and ten men from the Tribune; a landing was effected, and the guard defeated: but the brig was found to have a plank out on each side of the keel, and she was therefore destroyed. This service was performed with the loss of one of the Carteret's men, Mr. Parker (a midshipman), and two men of the Tribune; while the enemy's loss was five killed and ten prisoners, who were afterwards released.
 It is worthy of remark, that the French commanding officer, who was killed, had in his pocket a watch belonging to the commander of the Carteret, of which he had been robbed when taken prisoner in 1800.
The Diomede, of fifty guns, having been refitted at Portsmouth, returned to take Sir James's flag. Her former commander, Captain Thomas Larcom, died at Portsmouth; and Captain Hugh Downman, who had succeeded Captain Brenton in the Caesar, was, at Sir James's request, appointed his flag-captain. The Cerberus was sent to refit at Portsmouth, and on her way thither she captured a gun-boat.
During the years 1804 and 1805 the following vessels were taken and destroyed by the squadron:
31st January.—The Hydra and Tribune captured four gun-boats.
17th March.—The Loire captured the Brave of St. Maloes, of sixteen guns and 110 men.
18th March.—The Tartar lugger captured the Jeune Henri, twelve, and 64 men.
— April.—The Sylph destroyed several gun-vessels in the Race of Alderney, in which she had one man killed and two wounded.
The Hydra captured a privateer off Cherbourg.
On the 9th October, the Albicore, Captain Henniker, destroyed five French gun-vessels near Grosnez de Flamanville, without any loss in men, although considerably damaged in the rigging and hull.
In the course of this eventful year, Sir James kept up a constant correspondence with his friend Lord Nelson, whose glorious career was now near its close. Availing himself of the opportunity of a vessel from Guernsey bound to Gibraltar, he sent his lordship a supply of wines and other good things which that fertile island produces, together with newspapers, &c. These reached the Victory only a few days before the memorable battle of Trafalgar; and Lord Nelson's answer, which we here transcribe, was dated only three days before the action, and is probably the last but one ever written by him.
Victory, off Cadiz, Oct. 18th, 1805.
MY DEAR SIR JAMES,
You may rely upon it that, when I can, I will remove Lieutenant Fisher of the R.M. into a frigate; at present, I fear the frigates are full, and the line-of-battle ships empty: but in whatever manner, my dear Sir James, I may be able to meet your wishes, I desire you will let me know. Our friends at Cadiz are ready to come forth, and I hope they will not again escape me: the career of the Rochfort squadron, I think, has been several days stopped by Sir Richard Strachan, but I wish his force had been more equal to the contest. I have to thank you for your great attention about my wine, and for recommending me some excellent champagne. I beg my most respectful compliments to Lady Saumarez; and, believe me ever, my dear Sir James, your most faithful and obliged friend,
NELSON & BRONTE.
To Sir James Saumarez, Bart. & K.B.
Since writing my letter, I have to thank you for your packet of newspapers and your letter of October 1st; nothing could possibly be more acceptable. I hope we shall see Bonaparte humbled. The Guernsey vessel has made a very valuable recapture of a vessel loaded with cloths, bound to Lisbon.
Your's faithfully, Nelson & Bronte.
The above was probably finished on the 19th, the day on which the Penelope frigate left the fleet with despatches for England,—the last his lordship ever sent.
During the year 1805 Sir James continued in the command at Guernsey, having his flag in the Diomede, and occasionally on board a frigate in her absence. The preparations of the French for invasion, which were continued with unremitting vigour, made this station of more importance than it would otherwise have been. Spain, having declared war early in January, joined Napoleon in the grand object of invading England; and it was calculated, including the Dutch fleet, that the united force, which could be ready in the month of April, would amount to seventy-five sail of the line, fifty frigates, and 2,300 smaller vessels; and that the invading army would consist of 200,000 men.
It was evident that, without a junction of all his naval forces in the British Channel, Napoleon had no chance of being able to make a descent on the adjacent coast; and, to effect this, it was necessary to draw off a part of our blockading fleets. With this view the Toulon fleet went to the West Indies, whither it was pursued by Nelson; and, after an action with the squadron under Sir Robert Calder, it entered the port of Cadiz. The effectual blockade of that port and of Brest, together with the interruptions his flotilla met with in its progress towards Boulogne, defeated Napoleon's plans; and the Channel islands, which were now in a complete state of defence, continued unmolested. The only losses on this station were the capture of two gun-brigs, after a very gallant defence, by a flotilla of very superior force, off Granville; and the Pigmy cutter, which was wrecked near Jersey.
The memorable battle of Trafalgar at once put an end to all the speculations of the ruler of France. The projected invasion was now impossible; and, consequently, the force which had been requisite for the station Sir James occupied, was no longer necessary. The Diomede, of fifty guns, and several other vessels, were withdrawn, and Sir James shifted his flag to the Inconstant. The year 1805 terminated without any other remarkable occurrence.
During the year 1806 the enemy's convoys were proceeding in a westerly direction; the victualling the French fleet at Brest, which had considerably increased, being the principal object, the squadron under Sir James was actively employed in intercepting these convoys. On the 9th of September the Constance, Captain Burrowes, fell in with Le Salamandre, French frigate store-ship, of twenty-six guns; and, assisted by the Strenuous and Sharpshooter, drove her on shore under a battery; and, believing her destroyed, returned to Jersey. It was, however, ascertained that she was floated off; and, returning to St. Maloes, repaired her damages. On the 12th of October, when again attempting to make her passage, she was attacked by the Constance, Sheldrake, and Strenuous, and having taken shelter under the fort of Equi, in the Bay of Brehat, the engagement, in which the gallant Captain Burrowes was killed, became severe. Le Salamandre, after running on shore, was compelled to strike, and was taken: but the wind began to blow hard directly on the land; the Constance parted her cables, which had been damaged by the shot from the batteries, and drove on shore. It became therefore necessary, after taking out the men, to burn both the Constance and the prize. In this affair ten men were killed, and twenty-three wounded, exclusive of thirty-six men made prisoners in the unsuccessful attempt to save the Constance. The captain (M. Saloman) of the Salamandre and twenty-nine men were killed; but of the wounded there is no account, excepting of nine, who were among the prisoners taken on board the Sheldrake. Captain Thicknesse, of that sloop, was made post-captain on this occasion.
Nothing else worthy remark, connected with the subject of this memoir, happened during the year 1806: and Sir James had now enjoyed the society of his family and friends at his native island for three years; during which time his mind was not only actively employed in the performance of his duty as commander-in-chief on this important station, and in rendering his native island more capable of defence, but also in the establishment and support of its charitable institutions.
Sir James is called into active service.—Joins the Channel Fleet as second in command.—Shifts his Flag from the San Josef to the Prince of Wales.—His decisive conduct.—Anecdote of the Prince of Wales' Men.—Change of Ministry.—Sir James leaves the Channel Fleet, and returns to Guernsey.—Is offered the Command in the East Indies.—Letter on that occasion.
Early in the year 1807 Sir James was called into more active service. The enemy's fleet at Brest had again become formidable. Earl St. Vincent was appointed to command the Channel fleet, and immediately applied for Sir James to be second in command. To make him eligible for this, he was promoted to the rank of Vice-admiral; and on the 7th of January he received orders to hoist his flag, blue at the fore, on board the San Josef, of 112 guns. As the noble Earl was unable from ill health to keep the sea in the Hibernia, his flag-ship, the whole responsibility fell on Sir James.
The San Josef, one of the finest ships in the navy, had been taken in the battle of the 14th of February 1797; and, having since that period been almost constantly employed, was in need of a thorough repair. In February she became so leaky, that Sir James was obliged to shift his flag into the Prince of Wales, Captain Bedford, and send the San Josef into Plymouth to be repaired; and, it being ascertained that it would take more than a year before she could be ready, the officers and men were turned over to the Ville de Paris, which was ordered to fit for his flag.
Sir James's activity in blockading the enemy was unremitting. The fleet consisted of twenty-seven sail of the line, nine of which were three-deckers. It was his custom, every day that the weather permitted, to stand towards the Black Rocks in a line of battle, and off in a line of bearing, always communicating with the in-shore squadron.
On one occasion, while the weather had been thick for several days, the signal was made from the Hibernia for the enemy's fleet to leeward. The English fleet bore up in chase; and, although the Prince of Wales was the worst-sailing ship in the fleet, by carrying a great press of sail she became the headmost. The wind was from the west, and the fleet was standing in for Brest, the French coast being a lee shore. Captain Bedford, who was not so well acquainted with the coast as Sir James, represented the danger that the fleet was running into, as it was blowing hard at the time; when Sir James replied, "There is good anchorage in Douvarnenez Bay," and continued his course: but it was soon after discovered that the strangers were the Plantagenet and in-shore squadron, and the fleet was still able to weather Ushant.
Captain Bedford, who, like other promoters of a religious feeling on board ship, was liable to be imposed upon by hypocrites, had on board the Prince of Wales a set of individuals among the seamen, who, taking advantage of his desire to encourage piety among the crew, ingratiated themselves so far by their outward manifestations as to induce him to appropriate a convenient berth in the ship, where they might sing psalms and perform other devotional exercises unmolested. This place virtually served as a depot for the hypocrites, who had for a long time unsuspectedly committed divers acts of depredation. Just before the ship went into port, either to refit or replenish the water and provisions, the secretary's gold watch disappeared, as well as a considerable sum of money; and the complaint being made by him to the Admiral, the latter commanded the captain to call all hands on deck, and make a strict search for the stolen property.
The men being reported on deck by the officer who had charge of the lower decks, Captain Bedford said, "Where shall we begin to search?" to which the lieutenant replied, "My cabin, sir; then your's; and then the religious berth." This answer drew forth a rebuke for even suspecting these "good Christians," as the captain emphatically called them. The examination was however persisted in: the officers went to the berth, the keys were demanded, and could not be found; but an iron crow-bar was effectually substituted; and the whole of the missing property, besides many other stolen articles, were discovered in the chests of these miscreants, to the surprise and mortification of the worthy Captain Bedford, who did not fail immediately to make his report to the Admiral then on the quarter-deck.
Before punishment of criminals takes place in a flag-ship, it is usual for the captain to carry the particulars to the Admiral. It was the practice of Sir James Saumarez to examine these reports minutely, and convince himself of the necessity of the punishment before giving it his sanction; which was always done with that painful reluctance so natural to his humane disposition. In this instance, however, his feelings of indignation were more than usually roused: he emphatically said, "Captain Bedford, I desire that you will immediately give each of these wretches such a punishment as will effectually put a stop to this unparalleled wickedness."
We need scarcely add that his orders were implicitly obeyed; and such was the indignation of the crew, that there was no necessity for urging the boatswain's mates to do their duty, while Sir James, who never could witness punishment without extreme pain, retired to his cabin. He did not fail, however, to point out to every one how much the offence of theft had been aggravated by being committed under the cloak of religion, for which no punishment within the limited power of the captain could be too severe.
A change of ministry having taken place, Lord Gardner was appointed to command the Channel fleet; and, as his lordship chose the Ville de Paris for his flag, Captain Conn and the other officers were turned over to the Hibernia: three of Lord St. Vincent's officers were superseded; and Sir James joined his new flag-ship at sea. During the summer, when the wind came from the westward, and blew strong, the fleet bore up for Torbay. On one of these occasions Sir James showed much decision. The captains and officers of the fleet had sent their chronometers on shore to be cleaned and regulated, not expecting that there would be much occasion for them: it happened, however, that the fleet was blown off the coast by a strong north-east wind, which lasted more than a week. During this the ships, by chasing and performing various evolutions, had lost the reckoning, which differed from the true position by the chronometer of the Hibernia, which happened to be the only one in the fleet. After the easterly wind, a heavy westerly gale came on; and before Ushant could be made, the weather became thick, and the signal was made to bear up for Torbay, and at the same time for the longitude.
Sir James had now to decide: if the reckoning was right, the course by chronometer would have wrecked the fleet in Bigberry Bay; and if the chronometer was right, the course by reckoning would have carried the fleet on the Bill of Portland. Under these circumstances Sir James carefully examined both, and at once decided on following the course by chronometer; and the fleet safely anchored in Torbay in the middle of the night.
Lord Gardner took a house near Brixham, and Sir James continued for some time to carry on the duty as usual; till at length Lord Gardner apprised Sir James that he had applied for his old friend, Sir John Duckworth, to be his second in command: on which Sir James wrote to be superseded; and in August, the same year, he struck his flag, to rehoist it on board the Inconstant at Guernsey. His old flag-ship was during the winter prepared for him, and in February 1808 he proceeded to Guernsey.
During this period, war with Russia broke out. Affairs in the north wore a serious aspect, and it was evident that the Baltic must soon become the seat of war.
Sir James received the following letter from Lord Mulgrave, offering him the command in the East Indies, which was the most lucrative station; but prize-money was always a secondary consideration with the Admiral. He declined accepting the offer, as will be seen by his answer.
Admiralty, January 23rd, 1808.
MY DEAR SIR,
Sir Edward Pellew having expressed a wish to be relieved from the command in the East Indies, I am desirous (before I think of another arrangement) to learn whether that station would be agreeable to you; in which case I should have great satisfaction in giving you that appointment.
I have the honour to be, with sincere regard and the highest esteem, Dear sir,
Your most obedient and faithful servant, MULGRAVE.
To Vice-admiral Sir James Saumarez, K.B. &c.
Guernsey, 30th January 1808.
MY DEAR LORD,
I am honoured with your lordship's private and confidential letter, and I cannot sufficiently express my grateful acknowledgements for the obliging manner in which your lordship has been pleased to propose to me the command in the East Indies, which I should be most happy to profit by, did the state of my health hold out any prospect of my fulfilling so important a trust with satisfaction to myself or to the benefit of my country. I am therefore, though reluctantly, compelled to decline this mark of your lordship's kindness.
I have the honour to be, &c. &c. James Saumarez.
To Earl Mulgrave.
State of Affairs in Sweden.—Alarm of the King.—Sir James selected to command the Baltic Fleet.—Correspondence with Lord Mulgrave.—Sir John Moore's Expedition.—Arrives at Gothenburg.—Capture and Destruction of a Danish seventy-four.—Sir John Moore goes to Stockholm.—Is arrested, and escapes.—Expedition returns to England.—Disposition of the Fleet.—Sir James proceeds to Carlscrona.—Rescue of Romana's Army.—Sir James proceeds to the Gulf of Finland.—Capture and Destruction of the Russian seventy-four, Sewolod.—The combined Swedish and English Fleet off Baltic Port.—Reconnoitres the Russian Fleet in the harbour, and determines to attack them.—Prevented by change of winds.—Proceeding off Baltic Port.—Letter to the Emperor of Russia.—Fleet returns to Carlscrona.
The success of Buonaparte in Austria and Prussia, by which he was enabled to force Denmark to join him against Great Britain, and which, in the preceding year, led to the capture of Copenhagen and to the possession of the Danish fleet, had now induced Russia to accede to the proposal of declaring England to be in a state of blockade: Sweden alone remained faithful. The preparations for invasion which were making at St. Petersburg having alarmed King Gustavus Adolphus, the most earnest solicitations were made for a large naval and military force to be sent from England for its protection. A fleet was accordingly ordered on that important service, and Sir James Saumarez was selected as the commander-in-chief best qualified to undertake it.
The Victory, which had been thoroughly repaired after the battle of Trafalgar, was commissioned at Chatham early in March, by Captain Philip Dumaresq, for Sir James's flag, which was soon after hoisted: Rear-admirals Sir Samuel Hood, R.G. Keats, M. Dixon, and A. Bertie, were placed under his command. The fleet consisted of sixteen ships of the line; and, including frigates, sloops, and gun-vessels, the number amounted to sixty-two sail.
Admiralty, February 20th, 1808.
I am in daily expectation of receiving accurate intelligence of the present state of the naval arsenal at Cronstadt. In the event of this information being as satisfactory as I have reason to hope, it is my intention to send a squadron into the Baltic, consisting of not less than twelve or thirteen sail of the line. If your health should be such as to admit of your taking the command of this fleet, I know of no arrangement which I can make that would be so satisfactory to myself, as to intrust the important service of attempting to destroy the Russian fleet, and of affording protection to his Majesty's firm and faithful ally, the King of Sweden, to your direction. It will not be necessary that you should come immediately to England, (in the event of your undertaking the command,) as all the necessary preparations may be forwarded beforehand; and your coming immediately over might tend to excite a premature suspicion of the object we have in view. I have not yet opened this project to any officer, but those on whom I have fixed my views to assist you, are Rear-admirals Sir Samuel Hood and Keats, who, besides their great professional merits, have the additional advantage of being well acquainted with the Baltic.
I have the honour to be, With great truth and regard, My dear sir, Your very faithful and obedient servant, MULGRAVE.
Guernsey, 27th February 1808.
I have had the honour to receive your lordship's private and secret letter of the 20th instant, and I feel most deeply impressed with the very obliging manner in which your lordship has been pleased to offer me the command of the squadron proposed to be sent to the Baltic. Although it is with great diffidence that I undertake a trust of so high and great importance, having ever made it the principle of my life to go upon any service where my exertions for my king and country would be deemed most useful, I cannot for a moment hesitate to comply with the commands of your lordship, and I shall hold myself in readiness to proceed from this station whenever called upon; requesting your lordship will have the goodness to allow me sufficient time to make such arrangements as may be required in London, previous to my going upon the proposed service. The two officers selected to co-operate with me, are possessed of the highest merit; and, of all others, those I should have been happy to apply for, had they not been previously appointed. I shall be obliged to your lordship to mention the ship intended for my flag, as also such further information as may be judged necessary for me to know, with the probable time that I may be required to go to London; all which shall be held by me in the strictest confidence.
I have the honour to be, With the highest regard, My dear lord, Your faithful and most obedient servant, JAMES SAUMAREZ.
The ships composing this force proceeded to Gothenburg (the general rendezvous) as they were ready to sail. The Victory arrived in April, and was followed by an expedition consisting of 10,000 troops, commanded by the gallant Sir John Moore, who arrived on the 17th of May.
In the mean time, the body of French and Spanish troops, which, as part of the army of Marshal Bernadotte, had marched to the shores of the Belt, were obliged to halt, in consequence of the interposition of the English fleet; and the Danish 74, Prince Christian Frederick, was taken and destroyed, after a gallant resistance, by the Stately, 64, Captain George Parker, and the Nassau, 64, Captain R. Campbell. On the other hand, the Russians, who had laid siege to Sweaborg, in the Gulf of Finland, which was justly called the Gibraltar of the North, had induced the governor, Admiral Count Cronsted, to sign a capitulation, that, if not relieved by the 6th of May, which was next to an impossibility, the fortress was to be delivered up, and as a compensation he was to receive an estate of great value in Russia. The reason which has been assigned for this act of treachery was, that, having refused to meet the English fleet under Lord Nelson, he had been superseded in command of the fleet at Carlscrona, and removed to Sweaborg, as a kind of banishment.
This unfortunate event paralyzed the plans of the King of Sweden; and Sir John Moore was sent for to Stockholm. As the King of Sweden would not give permission to land any of the troops which were on board the transports at Gothenburg, excepting a part of the cavalry, their detention was irksome; and the Admiral waited with much anxiety for the return of the General, when he heard of his having been arrested, or, at least, detained by order of the king at Stockholm. In a few days, however, Sir John made his appearance on board the Victory; when it was found that his Swedish Majesty had made several absurd propositions to him, such as an attack on Copenhagen and upon Cronstadt, for which his force was inadequate, especially since the arrival at the former place of several regiments of French and Spanish troops, and at the latter of the flotilla taken at Sweaborg. As Sir John declined to undertake these expeditions, he was ordered to remain at Stockholm until he had received instructions from England respecting the disposition of his troops. Thus circumstanced, Sir John begged permission to send his aide-de-camp, Col. Graham, (now Lord Lynedoch,) to the Admiral with despatches; which being granted, he changed coats with the aide-de-camp, proceeded to Gothenburg himself, leaving the colonel in his stead, and arrived safely on board the Victory, to the great joy of Sir James, who was no less alarmed for Sir John's safety, than puzzled as to what measures would be most advisable to effect his release from unwarrantable confinement.
The following extract of a letter from Sir James to his brother, written from Gothenburg, will afford the best account that can be given of the state of affairs at the time he arrived there:
14th May 1808.
I fear you will be disappointed at the little information I can give you; it will, however, be satisfactory to know that none of the enemy's troops have, as yet, been enabled to cross the Sound, or get a footing on any part of Sweden. The Danes have about 30,000 troops in the island of Zealand; and at Funen and Holstein there are about 30,000 French, Spaniards, and Dutch: but the Sound and Belts are so closely watched, that it will be very difficult for any number of vessels to escape our different cruisers stationed to intercept them.
The Swedish troops on the frontiers of Norway, under the orders of General Armfeldt, have had several skirmishes with the Danes, which have in general proved very favourable to the former; but nothing of importance has yet taken place, owing to the roads being almost impassable from the depth of snow and ice, which, even at this advanced season, cover them. Last Wednesday, accounts were received from Stockholm, of the surrender of Sweaborg! It was the more unexpected from the garrison having withstood two assaults, in which the Russians are said to have lost a great number of men. This event decides the fate of Finland. Sweaborg was considered a fortress of great importance.
The following extract, on the subject of Sir John Moore's detention and escape, shows the state of affairs up to his departure from Gothenburg on the 1st of July:
Victory, 30th June 1808.
You will have been surprised at the length of time we have been detained here, and particularly so when I inform you that the troops are returning to England, owing principally to this government not choosing to accede to the terms upon which it was proposed they should be employed in this country. It is truly to be lamented that so much delay should have taken place, and so much time lost, when their services might have been so well employed elsewhere. Between ourselves, much irritability has been shown by the King of Sweden in the different conferences Sir John Moore has had with him. Finding Sir John earnest in his intentions to return to England, he sent one of his officers to signify to him, he was not to leave Stockholm till his pleasure, which, of course, was considered as putting him under an arrest, a most unprecedented measure, and an outrage certainly offered to a friendly nation. Sir John, however, took a favourable opportunity to get away from Stockholm, and arrived here last evening.
I trust and hope this will not lead to a rupture between the two countries; but so unwarrantable and violent a proceeding cannot easily be settled. I own to you, I never formed any expectation that the troops would be of essential service in this country. They were too few in number to act separately; and it would not have been right to commit them with the Swedish army, at the will and disposal of the monarch.
Sir James writes thus to his son; Sir John Moore's expedition being still at Gothenburg.
Victory, Gothenburg, 23rd May 1808.
I trust that we shall be enabled to defend Sweden during the summer; but, when winter sets in, we shall be compelled to withdraw our ships from the Baltic: this will expose the country to the attack of the enemy from Zealand and the ports on the south of the Baltic. The Swedes are a brave and upright people; they are faithful to their prince, and are very averse to any change in their government, and still more so to French principles. I have been twice on shore; but being near ten miles from Gothenburg, makes it inconvenient: it is a place of great trade; at this time, at least twelve hundred sail of vessels of different nations are in the port.
The above is a sufficient proof of the good opinion Sir James had formed of the Swedish character, and which, he often said, he never had occasion to alter.
Sir James was now placed in one of the most anxious and arduous situations which it was possible to imagine. He had to protect the commerce of both nations in a dangerous and intricate navigation, with which his ships were but little acquainted, opposed on every side by Russians, Prussians, French, Danes, and Norwegians. It was requisite that his forces should be most judiciously disposed; and great tact and firmness were indispensable to conduct affairs under the existing circumstances. His conduct on this, as well as on every former occasion, was such as to deserve and obtain the high approbation of the government, and the people of both Great Britain and Sweden. The first letter Sir James received from Gustavus Adolphus was written in French, of which the following is an exact copy:
Chateau de Stockholm, le 6 Mai 1808.
J'ai ordonne a mon aide-de-camp general de la marine, le Vice-amiral Baron de Rayalin de se rendre en Sconie, pour se concerter avec vous sur les operations des flottes Swedoise et Anglaise contre l'ennemi commun. Il est indispensable de deployer la plus grande activite et energie proportionnees au danger; le Baron Rayalin vous montrera un plan a cet effet, que j'ai arrete, et dont communication a ete faite au Ministre de sa Majeste Britannique, resident aupres de moi, qui'il a du vous envoyer. Je suis persuade que vous saisirez avec plaisir cette occasion pour remplir a ce que l'honneur et le devoir vous prescrivent. Et sur ce je prie Dieu qu'il vous ait, Monsieur l'Amiral, en sa sainte et digne garde; etant votre bien affectionne,
A l'Amiral commandant les forces navales de sa Majeste Britannique, dans le Sund.
Baron Rayalin having, with this letter, transmitted his expose of the situation of the Swedes since the capture of Sweaborg and the recapture of Gothland, states that the Russians and Swedes had each eleven sail of the line: it was agreed that the Swedish fleet should be reinforced by two ships, the Centaur of 74 guns, Rear-admiral Sir Samuel Hood, and the Implacable 74, Captain Byam Martin, and take a position at Hango-udde, a small, ill-fortified harbour at the north-west point of Finland, round which the Russian flotilla must pass to attack Abo and Aland; and that the English commander-in-chief should employ the rest of his fleet in blockading the enemy's coast from the Gulf of Finland to Norway, including the coasts of Prussia, Pomerania, Denmark, the Belt, and Sound, for the protection of commerce and the defence of the kingdom of Sweden.
These matters being arranged, Sir James left Gothenburg on the 2nd of July, in the Victory; and, passing through the Great Belt, visited the different stations where ships were to be placed. Having taken possession of the small island of Sproe, he proceeded to Carlscrona, the principal naval arsenal of Sweden, and arrived there on the 10th July.
The ensuing extract of a letter from Sir James to a friend, on leaving Gothenburg, will be read with interest, as it will throw some light on the important and difficult line of conduct he had to pursue on this occasion.
Victory, off Gothenburg, 2nd July 1808.
You will, I am persuaded, feel much concern at the untoward circumstances that have occurred, and the impossibility that must now exist of the troops being of any service in this country. Every arrangement is made for their sailing the moment the wind will enable the transports to get out of the harbour; and I shall proceed at the same time for the entrance of the Sound, off Helsinburg, which is the station whence I can most easily communicate with the different detachments, and at the same time receive the despatches from England.
The only part for me to act in the present state of things, is to uphold the honour of the country, and, as far as lies in my power, keep up the friendly intercourse that has hitherto been maintained with our only ally.
In what light the business will be taken up at home it is impossible for me to say. It is certain that a most flagrant outrage has been offered by the King of Sweden in the detention of Sir John Moore; and how far his Majesty can justify himself in the eye of our government for so great an insult to an officer of Sir John's rank, entrusted with the command of an army, ordered from England for the defence of Sweden, and who went to Stockholm to confer in a confidential manner on the measures to be adopted for putting the orders he had received into execution, is at present difficult to conceive.
He had doubtless, in his own opinion, good grounds for having taken so strong a measure, but which scarcely can be admitted when the whole transactions that may have led to it are known to our government. This misunderstanding is the more to be lamented at this time, that unanimity with our ally was the only point on which we could form our expectations of success; besides the advantage that the enemy may take of it, and the ridicule they will of course throw upon it.
Sir John Moore has been embarked with me since his return, besides General Hope. The former takes his passage on board the Audacious, which convoys the transports to Yarmouth.
During the months of June and July, Sir James had much correspondence with the ex-King and Queen of France, the Duchess d'Angouleme, and his old friend the Duc d'Havre. Some difficulty attended their transport to England; the Euryalus only being allowed to proceed on that service, and the suite of his majesty, and the royal family amounting to above a hundred persons. The correspondence, however, does not possess sufficient interest to dwell further on it; suffice it to say, that Sir James gave them all the assistance and accommodation in his power, and that they had left Carlscrona before the Victory arrived.
About this time Admiral Cederstroem, who had vanquished the Russians at Gothland, was called to Stockholm, and Rear Admiral Nauckhoff was appointed in his stead, with whom Sir James exchanged letters of congratulation. The King had gone to Aland; and, as no more was said about the affair of Sir John Moore, things went on smoothly: Baron Rayalin accompanied the King, and Mons. Gullenstolpe acted as adjutant-general of the marine.
The Swedish fleet now consisted of eleven sail of the line and five frigates, which were reinforced by the Centaur and Implacable; and proceeded to the station before agreed on.
Towards the end of July, Sir James was aware of the refractory conduct of the Spanish troops, under the Marquis of Romana, in the island of Funen, where they had been arrested in their progress to Zealand by the appearance of the English fleet. Rear Admiral Keats was ordered to communicate, if possible, with Romana, who was known to be disaffected since the news had reached him of the revolution of affairs in Spain, and to offer every assistance to rescue the troops under his command. It was a great satisfaction to Sir James, that, on the arrival of the next packet, he found he had anticipated the desire of government, from whom he received instructions to the same intent, after Sir Richard had been detached.
The address and tact which Rear-admiral Keats displayed on this occasion is well known. As soon as he had succeeded in rescuing the Marquis of Romana, by seizing on the vessels at Nyborg, and transporting his troops to the defenceless island of Langeland, he despatched a vessel to Sir James, who immediately sailed from Carlscrona, leaving behind Captain Hope, who went home in consequence of the illness and subsequent demise of his wife, Lady Jemima, and made all sail for the Belt. On this occasion Sir James gave a proof of the decision of his character, which could not but make a deep impression on all who were present.
The Victory, about sun-set, had doubled Dars Head, forming with the opposite point in Zealand the entrance of the Great Belt from the eastward. The wind was fresh and directly adverse, when Mr. Squire, master of the fleet, acquainted the Admiral that the ship must anchor for the night, as he could no longer take charge as pilot. Sir James, who had examined the chart, and could see no great risk in working as far as Femeren, where the channel became narrow and the soundings more regular, demanded his reason; which being unsatisfactory, he sent for Mr. Nelson, the master, and Mr. Webb, the north-sea pilot, but neither would undertake the charge, or give any satisfactory reason. Sir James immediately ordered the one master into the starboard, and the other into the larboard main channels, to see that the lead was correctly hove; and having directed the Cruiser brig, then in company, to keep right a-head, he kept the ship under sail till midnight, when she had worked up tack by tack to Femeren, a distance of six leagues. He was thus enabled to reach Sir Richard Keats's division on the following day in time to concert measures for the removal of Romana's army to Gothenburg.
The conduct of these inferior officers could only arise from a desire to make themselves appear of importance, especially in the absence of the captain of the fleet; and their messmates could not but rejoice at their failure, as it brought them sooner to the scene of action.
On the 14th of August, when the Victory arrived off the battery near the centre of Langeland, an officer was despatched to the head-quarters of the Marquis, who embarked on board that ship on the following morning, and before night the whole of his troops were afloat; the Marquis was then removed to the Superb, and the convoy proceeded to Gothenburg, under the orders of Sir Richard Keats. It was much to be regretted that the fine regiment of Asturias could not be rescued; but, having reached Copenhagen, they were disarmed by the Danes and French the moment the intelligence of Romana's rescue was known.
The following extract of a letter from Sir James to his brother gives an interesting account of the rescue of Romana's army:
Victory, off Langeland, 21st August 1808.
I returned to the Belt from Carlscrona, in consequence of information from Admiral Keats, which reached me on the 6th, that an overture had been made by a Spanish officer for their troops to be withdrawn from these islands. The following day the Musquito joined me from the Admiralty, with directions upon that subject, and to make trial if any thing could be done; fortunately, duplicates were sent to Admiral Keats, which he received in the Belt.
On the 14th, having been detained by contrary winds, I received accounts from Admiral Keats, that they had been withdrawn from the island of Funen, and landed on Langeland. I joined last Thursday, and the same evening an express reached me by the Mosquito, with the information that the Russian fleet from Cronstadt had sailed, and had been seen off Hango Udde, the station occupied by the Swedish squadron; these last having gone within the small islands to complete with water. Judge of my anxiety, particularly having detached those ships to join them, under Sir S. Hood, who received the advice at Carlscrona, in the Centaur, and was on the point of sailing to join the other two ships, who had proceeded some days before. I trust they will find their way to join the Swedes in safety; but it is an anxious moment.
I am proceeding with this ship and the Mars to endeavour to fall in with them; all the other ships here have the Spanish troops embarked on board them, and on board several small vessels taken at Nyborg. It certainly is of the greatest importance to have succeeded in withdrawing so large a portion of the Spanish army, upwards of 9,000. About 4,000 are left in Zealand and Jutland.