Victory, in Wingo Sound, 23rd May 1811.
I request you will please to inform the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty that Major-General Baron Tawast, commander-in-chief of the Swedish forces at Gothenburg and the coast adjacent, in the absence of his excellency Count Essen, having yesterday come on board his Majesty's ship Victory, under a flag of truce, for the purpose of entering into an arrangement with me for the exchange of prisoners, and other points connected with the present state of affairs between our respective nations, informed me, that he was instructed to communicate to me, in the most confidential manner, that it was the earnest wish of the Swedish Government to keep up the most amicable terms with Great Britain; and that it was not intended, under any circumstances, to commit any acts of hostility whatever; that the supplies of water and fresh provisions for the use of the squadron should be facilitated both at Hano Bay and Gothenburg, for which purpose picquets should be withdrawn from the points the most convenient for these articles to be received; that the correspondence, both by post or by courier, should be continued unmolested; and that, in the event of any British subjects being made prisoners on any part of the coast, they would be immediately liberated, for which purpose the cartel intended to be ratified had been proposed. That the appearance of any hostile measure was only intended for demonstration, and in order to elude the vigilance of French spies, who might be dispersed in the country.
With respect to the late transaction at Carlshamn in landing the cargoes from the Russian or Danish vessels, it was in retaliation for the Swedish property sequestered last year in the ports of those nations, but that the measure was not intended to operate against merchandise belonging to British merchants under any other flag, the whole of which would be secured, and the underwriters, secretement, indemnified for the value of the cargoes that were insured in England.
I strongly represented to Baron Tawast that the merchandise and colonial produce on board the Russian vessels were positively the property of British merchants trading to the Baltic, under licences from one of his Majesty's principal Secretaries of State, and which had been left in one of the ports of Sweden upon the strength of the declaration made to me in the month of November last year, that the property of British merchants would be secured to them, notwithstanding the imperious necessity which Sweden had been under of declaring war against England; and that his Majesty's Government would doubtless expect the same to be restored; or that the merchants would be indemnified for the full value of the cargoes landed from the vessels under the Prussian flag; and I requested him to put in writing what were the real intentions of the Swedish Government upon that subject; but this he positively declined, nor would he allow Mr. Consul Smith, who was present when this discussion took place, to insert any part of it in writing. I signified to Baron Tawast, for the information of the Swedish Government, that it was far from my intention to commit any act of hostility against Sweden, and that I was confident it was the wish of my Government to keep upon an amicable footing as long as circumstances would possibly admit; that I received instructions to allow the coasting trade of Sweden to pass unmolested, and that I had reason to hope it might be extended to the ports in Swedish Pomerania, on which the Baron laid so great a stress, but that I was very apprehensive that the late measures adopted against the British property at Carlshamn, and the want of more satisfactory explanations than he appeared instructed to make to me upon that subject, could not fail being very ill received by my Government.
Baron Tawast was particularly solicitous that the communication which he made to me should be considered in the strictest confidence, and expressed his hopes that the whole of the conference would be kept a profound secret, which I assured him I should take particular care to signify in the statement I transmitted for the information of Government.
I have, &c. &c. &c. Jas. Saumarez.
To J.W. Croker, Esq. &c. &c. &c.
On the 24th May, the Author being sent confidentially by the Admiral to insist on some written document to explain the views of the Swedish Government in the sequestration of British property at Carlshamn, he obtained a promise, in presence of Mr. Smith, that the demand should be complied with after the arrival of the Stockholm post that evening; and accordingly on the following day the Baron Tawast transmitted what he termed the substance of his verbal communication with Admiral Saumarez.
1. That the ships under Prussian colours loaded with colonial produce were detained as reprisals for Swedish ships detained and confiscated in Prussian ports.
2. That the same step has been taken with the Danish ships, in consequence of their having captured vessels belonging to Sweden.
3. That Sweden has been forced by imperious demands to confiscate all colonial produce found at Carlshamn under whatever flag, that the cargoes are put into safe stores, and that the ships are permitted to depart paying nothing, and that these steps are taken to avoid great inconvenience and to hope for better times.
4. We engage to indemnify all merchandise insured in England, therefore, only those merchants who have neglected to insure will lose.
5. Colonial produce belonging to Swedish subjects will not be seized or confiscated.
6. Ships having made false declarations, and found loaded with warlike stores, will be confiscated, as also in time of peace.
7. It is engaged to give every possible facility for watering and supplying the English fleet with provisions: the same shall be given to Admiral Reynolds at Hano.
The above explanations stating the substance of the conference, according to Baron Tawast, being by no means satisfactory to Sir James, and indeed at variance with what he had inferred from it, he wrote the following letter to Mr. Smith:
Victory, in Wingo Sound, 25th May 1811.
I have to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of this date, enclosing Baron Tawast's explanations of the late transactions at Carlshamn. With regard to the first article, it does not appear that any indemnification is held out for the property landed from the vessels under the Prussian flag at Carlshamn, which is represented as an act of retaliation for similar cargoes, belonging to Sweden, having been confiscated in the Prussian ports. Neither does the 4th article hold out any indemnification but to such property as may have been insured in England, it stating that the loss would fall only upon those merchants who have neglected to insure their cargoes. I request you will be pleased to report to Baron Tawast, what I had before the honour of stating to him, that Government will naturally expect that the British merchants will be indemnified for whatever property belongs to them which has been landed from vessels in Sweden, trading under licences from one of his Majesty's principal Secretaries of State, at the same time informing him that I shall transmit by the earliest opportunity to Government, under strict secrecy, a copy of the document you enclosed to me, and you will also be pleased to express to him my acknowledgments for the facility with which the supplies are proposed to be conveyed to the squadron at this anchorage and in Hano Bay.
I have, &c. &c. &c. JAMES SAUMAREZ.
To J. Smith, Esq. Gothenburg.
Sir James at the same time enclosed the document to the Secretary of the Admiralty, as a confidential communication to the Board. He also wrote a private letter to Mr. Yorke, which we prefer inserting, as it gives a more full and explicit detail of all the circumstances of the transaction, and because it is an answer to the following letter from him which precedes it, and which was received by Sir James at that moment.
Admiralty, 21st May 1811.
I had the honour to receive your letters of the 3rd, 4th, and 11th inst. and am glad to hear that the first divisions of your squadron made so favourable a passage to their rendezvous in Wingo Sound. The four ships with Linzee, which have been ready for some days, have been detained by the strong easterly winds; and though they sailed from St. Helen's the day before yesterday, I should not wonder to hear that they have put back again. Impetueux is getting forward, and we shall send her to you as soon as we can spare her from the reserve. Fisguard ought to be ready, but is to call at Deal for M. de Begenhas, Minister from Portugal to Russia, whom you will have the goodness to land as well as you can at Gothenburg, that he may find his own way forward.
I think we ought not to listen for a moment to any Swedish projects on Norway; my own opinion is that Bernadotte is playing us false, and at any rate I, for one, should dread to see a consolidation of the Swedish and Norwegian power, such as it is, in his, or indeed in any hand.
Since the arrival of the accounts of the landing the cargoes at Carlshamn, and the accompanying measures, considerable distrust appears to prevail here about alternate views of the Swedish Government. A little more time will develop their plans in all probability; in the mean time it seems very desirable that the bulk of your efficient force should remain where it is (in the Sleeve) to be ready to receive the requisite orders. Admiral Young has taken his station off West Cassel, and has fifteen sail of the line. Enemy, eleven in the Scheldt, three in Texel, and two at Helvoet. When the Impetueux joins, you will have eighteen, which is as many as we shall be able to give you for some time at least.
The public letters will have apprised you of the views of the Board of Trade and of the Government in the several points on which it was important that you should be informed. The Swedes should be gently but steadily convinced that it is in our power to resent this ill usage, and to turn the consequence of perfidy on the inventors; but the evil day should be postponed as long as possible and every practicable chance should be given them of remaining in the right path.
Accounts have been received this morning from Oporto via Bristol in eight days, which give us reason to suppose that Massena has had a good beating near Almeida on the 3rd, 4th, and 5th inst., and has been obliged to retire towards Salamanca, with the loss of four thousand killed, and seven hundred prisoners. The British loss is stated at twelve hundred. It is very probable, as when the last accounts came away a battle was shortly expected.
I have, &c. &c. &c. C. Yorke.
To Vice-admiral Sir James Saumarez, Bart., K.B. &c. &c.
Victory, in Wingo Sound, 28th May 1811.
I have received the honour of your letter of the 21st, and I beg to assure you that I shall pay particular attention to that part of it which relates to the measures to be pursued with this country. With the exception of the affair at Carlshamn, which took place previously to my arrival, nothing has occurred to cause any interruption to the same intercourse as was held last year. The usual supplies are continued, and the places pointed out whence they can be most readily received. There certainly appears great prevarication on the part of the Swedish Government relative to the property landed from the neutral vessels at Carlshamn; and in an object of such importance, I beg to suggest the expediency of one or two persons, duly authorised by the merchants and underwriters concerned in the Baltic trade, repairing to Stockholm for the purpose of asserting their claims, and seeing how far this Government may be disposed to indemnify them for the property sequestered. The sooner such a measure is adopted the better, as should it be delayed, and any alteration take place betwixt the two Governments, the whole will be lost. From what passed between Baron Tawast and myself, I have reason to believe that Sweden would accede to this proposal.
In my letter to the Board I have recommended that the two bomb vessels that were intended for this station, should be expedited; their appearance alone would have the best effect in intimidating the Swedes to a compliance with our just demands. I am in hourly expectation of seeing the ships from Spithead; the addition of the Impetueux will, I hope, make us sufficiently strong in line-of-battle ships, but two or three good frigates are much required.
I beg to offer you my sincere congratulations on the continued success of the army under Lord Wellington, and I trust the accounts from Spain will prove equally splendid.
With the highest regard, I have, &c. &c. &c. JAMES SAUMAREZ.
The Right Hon. Chas. Yorke.
P.S.—I have received no further accounts from Mr. Smith relative to the rupture between Russia and France, which makes me apprehend that the reports have not been confirmed.
It now became Sir James's duty to make a strong remonstrance to the Swedish Government. Anticipating the worst, he had made dispositions of the force under his command, which were at least sufficient to ensure respect. This was well known to Baron Tawast, whose visit was probably, in addition to other objects, to ascertain whether or not resistance could be effectually made in the event of hostile measures being taken. The following is the remonstrance alluded to.
His Britannic Majesty's ship Victory, Wingo Sound, 30th May 1811.
I have the honour to inform your excellency that intelligence having been received by his Majesty's Government, that the cargoes belonging to British subjects, and that have been insured to a considerable amount in England, embarked in vessels belonging to Prussia, Denmark, Mecklenburg, and other States, have been landed in Sweden by order of the Swedish Government, under pretext of making reprisals for the Swedish property said to have been confiscated in Prussia and Denmark,—I have been directed to remonstrate in the strongest manner against measures so deeply affecting the interest of his Majesty's subjects, and at the same time to signify to the Swedish Government that I cannot permit such proceedings, under whatever pretext they may be disguised, and that if acts of so injurious a tendency are persevered in, I shall be obliged to depart from that indulgent course I have hitherto pursued towards Sweden.
In requesting your excellency will be pleased to make known the above communication to your Government, I beg to renew the assurances of the perfect consideration with which I have the honour to be, Sir, &c.
To his Excellency M. General Baron de Tawast, Commander-in-chief, &c. Gothenburg.
Baron Tawast's reply to this letter was a simple assurance that no hostile act was intended, and that the Swedish Government had been compelled to act as it had done. He had no doubt but eventually the English merchants would be indemnified, and he trusted that Sir James would not insist on sending his remonstrance to Government as he had no doubt that Baron Von Essen, who was expected in a few days, would explain all to his satisfaction, and that a rupture would thereby be avoided. The same assurances were given to Mr. Consul Smith, but their proceedings had so evidently the appearance of gaining time that Sir James firmly insisted that his remonstrance should be transmitted to Government through the medium of Baron Essen, and in reply to a note from Consul Smith and Baron Tawast he wrote the following:
Victory, in Wingo Sound, 6th June 1811.
I request you will signify to Baron Tawast, that I can have no objection to the letter I had the honour to address to him on the 30th ultimo being communicated to the Swedish Government through the means of his Excellency Count Essen; but having received directions from England to make the remonstrance it contained on the very unexpected measures adopted against the property of the British, I hold it my indispensable duty to require that it should be transmitted to the Government at Stockholm.
It could never be expected by this country that England would pass with indifference a measure so seriously affecting the interests of British merchants; and Government will naturally expect some satisfactory explanation upon the subject. Those made to me by Count Rosen and Baron Tawast have been transmitted without delay, and I hope those in reply to the remonstrance I have made by order of Government will prove of a satisfactory nature.
I have, &c. &c. &c. JAMES SAUMAREZ.
To J. Smith, Esq., Gothenburg.
P.S.—You will be pleased to signify to his Excellency Count Rosen and General Baron Tawast, that I have not replied to the confidential communications they have done me the honour to make, as you would more fully convey to them any sentiments upon the subject to which they relate, and at the same time express to them my most ardent hope that the amicable intercourse that has existed between both countries, may not be interrupted by the present unfortunate altercation.
His Britannic Majesty's ship Victory, in Wingo Sound, 6th June 1811.
Vice-admiral Sir James Saumarez has the honour to signify to M. General Baron Tawast that he has lost no time in transmitting to his Government the note his excellency has been pleased to address to him on the 4th inst. in reply to his letter of the 30th ultimo, remonstrating by order of his Government against the late measures pursued in Sweden upon the British property landed from the neutral vessels in the Swedish ports, and which Baron Tawast was requested to communicate to his Government.
Notwithstanding the reasons assigned by Baron Tawast for wishing to delay transmitting to Stockholm the remonstrance above mentioned, the Vice-admiral thinks it his indispensable duty (having received instructions from his Government to that effect) to request that it should be communicated either through the means of his Excellency Count Essen, or direct to the Ministers at Stockholm, according as Baron Tawast may judge most advisable; and the Vice-admiral hopes that the reply from the Swedish Government will be of a nature to convince England of the uprightness of its intentions in the proceedings adverted to, and that the amicable course hitherto pursued will meet with no further interruption.
The Vice-admiral requests Baron Tawast will receive the assurance of his perfect consideration.
At the same time Sir James sent a detail of his proceedings to the Admiralty, with a disposition of the fleet, which was now prepared for the worst. He recommended that proper persons should be sent to Sweden for the purpose of making claims for the merchants and underwriters, and he also desired that bomb-vessels might be sent to him, which would show that his remonstrance was serious. By letters from Mr. Foy at Stockholm, and from Mr. Consul Fenwick at Helsingburg, Sir James learnt that the amount of property confiscated at Carlshamn amounted to 500,000l., about half of which was insured; that the measure of confiscation was very unpopular in Sweden, but that every one relied on his moderation and forbearance. From this time forward the situation of Sweden was extraordinary beyond precedent, as fully represented in the following extract of a letter which the Swedish Admiral Krusenstjerna subsequently wrote to the Author:
I know nothing, says he, of politics, but I find our situation very singular. Our friends the French and Danes express their friendship to us with unremitted zeal in capturing and robbing from us our merchant vessels, whilst our enemies the English let them pass unmolested from one port to another. We did not suffer by one hundred times as much from these two nations, the time we were at war against them, as we do now when they call themselves our friends and allies.
The Danes, not content with attacking ships passing through the Sound and Belt, had the audacity to send their privateers to the coast of Sweden, only eight leagues to the southward of Wingo, where the Victory was at anchor. Information being given of their position, a small one was surprised and taken without resistance by two of the Victory's boats under Lieutenants Ross and Brenton. In September, accounts were obtained that two of superior force had taken a position among the small islands ten leagues to the southward of Gothenburg, when Lieut. D.L. St. Clair and Mr. E. Purcell, midshipman, were detached from the Victory in search of them. The Danes, not calculating on the prowess of British officers and men, left their vessels in a small creek, probably as a decoy, landed their guns, and planted them on an eminence which commanded them, and on the approach of the Victory's boats had promised themselves the capture of a part of the crew and the boats of the English commander-in-chief. But Lieutenant St. Clair, to the astonishment of the enemy, pushed directly for the battery, and ascending the hill gallantly stormed and carried it at the point of the sword, the Danes having fled on the approach of the assailants. Few prisoners were made, but both privateers were taken and carried to the Victory on the following morning.
Sir James duly appreciated the bravery of these officers, and having represented their gallant conduct to the Lords of the Admiralty, Lieut. St. Clair was promoted to the rank of commander, and subsequently employed in the Baltic and coast of Spain. Mr. Purcell, who had particularly distinguished himself, was made Lieutenant, and is now a Captain of the Royal Navy.
Sir James's remonstrances had at length the desired effect. After several confidential interviews which the Author had with Count Rosen, it was agreed that the Count should come privately on board the Victory, to explain everything to the commander-in-chief, which he did on the 25th of June. The following letter to Mr. Yorke will show the happy result of Sir James's wise conduct and well-timed firmness in this important crisis.
Victory, Wingo Sound, 26th June 1811.
If I could have had any further doubts upon my mind relative to the sincerity of the intentions of this Government, they have been perfectly removed by the conversation I had yesterday with Count Rosen, who came on board the Victory, by desire of the Crown Prince, in consequence of my remonstrance upon the affair at Carlshamn, as will appear by my public letter. Count Rosen assured me that it was the earnest desire of the Crown Prince to render Sweden independent of France whenever he could do so consistent with her security, but they are so apprehensive that, in the event of the difference between Russia and France being settled, Bonaparte will bring that country to act against Sweden, they dare not openly avow that sentiment. I informed Count Rosen that so long as Sweden acted up to the system he mentioned to be intended towards England, I had every reason to believe that his Majesty's Government would be satisfied with it; but that if it should be deviated from, I had the authority, and they might be assured I would exert the utmost in my power to resent any aggression on the part of Sweden, with which he was perfectly satisfied, and informed me that he would communicate to the Crown Prince precisely what I stated to him. There have been very serious commotions in Scania on account of the conscriptions, wherein several of the peasantry have lost their lives, and about three thousand guards under the Prince, and a strong body of troops, have been ordered to that province to restore order. I have had the honour to receive your letter of the 14th by the Impetueux, and since that one of the 8th, with a commission for Mr. Delisle, for which I beg to return my thanks.
I have, &c. &c. &c. JAMES SAUMAREZ.
To the Right Hon. Chas. Yorke, &c. &c. &c.
Soon after this letter was despatched, Sir James received information that Russia had determined not to accede to the terms of Bonaparte, and that a rupture was likely to take place; the situation of Sweden, therefore, became every day more critical. She had now to determine whether she would throw herself into the arms of France for protection, or still depend on England for independence, Had hostilities actually commenced, the former would, doubtless, have been her decision, and it is impossible to say what might have been the consequences. On the one hand the restoration of Finland was the probable result of an alliance with France, while the whole force of Russia was employed in repelling the invaders; and on the other hand, Norway might be added, as an indemnification for the loss of Pomerania.
Trusting in the honour of the British Admiral, the Crown Prince of Sweden did not hesitate to place the most implicit confidence in Sir James. The negotiation for a treaty of peace, and for a coalition against the tyrant of France, only wanted the presence of an accredited Plenipotentiary to make it complete.
The Oberon sloop of war arrived with an officer of distinction, who proceeded through Sweden to the Continent, and soon after several Russian noblemen arrived from St. Petersburg with despatches of importance. The despatches received by the Oberon contained instructions respecting the affair of Carlshamn; and notwithstanding the opinions and assurances of Sir James to the contrary, the Ministers continued to suspect the Crown Prince of Sweden to be insincere. Being, however, still desirous of remaining at peace with Sweden, Sir James continued his friendly and courteous policy. The bomb-ships he sent for had arrived, and his force, both within and without the Baltic, being formidable, gave Sweden a good excuse for not proceeding to hostilities, although she had declared war.
Sir James having declared that he "would not fire the first gun," things went on as usual, and the restrictions which he found necessary to put on the Swedish trade, to prevent supplies being thrown into Norway, was also a good proof to Bonaparte that Sweden was not favourable to England. During this summer the Tartar frigate was lost, and two gun-brigs were captured by the Danes, from whom several privateers and gun-boats were taken, and an exchange of prisoners was made. At length it was communicated that war between France and Russia was inevitable, and Sweden having refused to permit French troops to pass into Norway, ostensibly for the invasion of Scotland, determined to join England; but it was advisable to keep this state of affairs a profound secret.
In the mean time the negotiations for an offensive and defensive alliance continued, and were ready for ratification when the Oberon arrived with Mr. (now Sir Edward) Thornton. This ship, on leaving Portsmouth, was supposed to be bound for the West Indies, and letters were actually on board her for the Leeward Islands; but on opening her sealed orders, Capt. Murray, her commander, found he was destined for Gothenburg, and that he was to have no communication on his passage with any other ship. Being unacquainted with the coast of Sweden, and having no pilot on board, his ship unfortunately ran on shore in a thick fog; the guns were thrown overboard, and every exertion made in vain to get the ship off. It is scarcely possible to describe the anxiety of Mr. Thornton (who had been hitherto supposed to be a passenger for the West Indies) until the morning gun of the Victory informed them that their ship was on the rocks to the northward of Wingo Beacon, over which the flag of the Victory (white at the fore) could be plainly distinguished, and in an hour afterwards he was safe in the Admiral's cabin.
The utmost caution was still necessary in communicating with Count Rosen, and so strictly were the orders given by the commandant of the castle complied with, that several attempts to get Mr. Thornton on shore were unsuccessful. He was at length smuggled into the fort as a servant of the Author, who had, from his knowledge of the Swedish language, no difficulty in passing the gates as a Swedish officer. Thus were all differences happily adjusted: it was determined to keep up the appearance of war without committing any act of hostility on either side.
We shall now turn to the situation of the fleet. Admiral Reynolds had been stationed at Hano, which is near Matvick, where the convoys assembled, and which were with very little loss protected through the Belt. On the 9th of November, the St. George sailed from Hano with the last homeward bound convoy, which had been put back by a gale on the 1st.
The account of the disasters that befel this unfortunate fleet, which, as a prelude to the losses which afterwards took place, must be interesting to every reader, will be best given from the lamented Admiral's own report to Sir James, which has not before appeared in print.
St. George, off Nystad, bearing N.N.E. 1/4 E., 19th November 1811.
It gives me inexpressible concern to inform you of the sad disaster which has befallen his Majesty's ship St. George, bearing my flag. I have already detailed to you, sir, the gale of the 1st instant, which caused the merchant ships to return to Matvick for shelter, and transmitted you convoy lists of one hundred and twenty sail, which sailed from Hano Bay with us on the 9th instant, besides twelve more which had no instructions.
On the evening of the 10th we had severe weather, and anchored between Moen Island and Dars Head. On the morning of the 12th we weighed, and (the wind heading us before dark) anchored off Nystad with the convoy pretty well collected. At the close of the evening of the 15th, the weather was remarkably fine, but about ten at night it began to blow strong with a heavy, swell from W.S.W., and we veered to a cable and half on the small bower. The gale increasing, we veered to two cables, and should probably have rode the gale out safe had not a large ship of the convoy drove athwart hawse and parted our cable. The best bower was immediately let go, and veered to two cables, which did not check her. We then let go the sheet anchor and gave her two cables on that also, but she would not look at it. By this time we had shoaled our water from ten to eight fathoms, and the fury of the gale increasing, we continued to shoal into seven and six fathoms, when the pilots and officers advised the cutting away the masts as the only means of saving the ship and the lives of the people. I resisted their advice for some time, in hopes that a favourable lull might bring the ship up; but when she had drifted into a quarterless five, and still driving before a tempest of wind and rain, I ordered the axe to be laid to the mast, and soon after they were over the side: the ship struck violently several times, and the rudder was torn away with a tremendous crash. About four in the morning the strength of the gale abated, and her shocks were less violent. Every officer and man in the ship were now employed erecting jury-masts, hoping that by lightening her we should be able to float her off; and at daylight I telegraphed Captain Pater of the Cressy to prepare us a Pakenham rudder; and it still blowing too strong for boats to come to us, I made signals for the Rose and Bellete to anchor a cable's length from us and from each other, upon our larboard bow, that when it moderated we might send hawsers to them to endeavour to heave us off. Nystad now bore N.N.E. 1/2 E. distant about five miles, and Skielbye church E.N.E., and the ship lay in four fathoms water. On the 16th we were busily employed rigging jury-masts. Towards the evening it moderated, and about four in the morning of the 17th we had the cheering happiness to find she had swung to her anchor. The hands were instantly turned to the capstan, and we hove short on the sheet cable. The night signal was then made for the assistance of boats, and having happily succeeded in warping her into deep water, we made sail (with which we steered her) with a fine breeze from the eastward, and anchored near the convoy in eleven fathoms.
I have much pleasure in acquainting you, sir, that the officers and ship's company merit my warmest praise for the constant exertions and cheerful obedience with which they conducted themselves throughout this distressing scene. Captain Guion was unwearied and indefatigable, and his abilities could never have been better shown than on this trying occasion. It is no small consolation to me that in the awful moment of the masts going over the side, and throughout the whole terrific gale, not a man was hurt.
I have now, sir, to acquaint you that out of one hundred and twenty sail which were at anchor here when the gale began, only seventy-six are now remaining; twelve are seen wrecked upon the Danish coast and in the enemy's possession; two ran foul of each other, and both went to the bottom, and in the midst of the gale several of the smaller vessels were observed dismasted, and the sea making an entire breach over them; it is much to be feared they foundered at their anchors. Many remaining here are so much disabled that I doubt whether they will be able to proceed with us, although they have had every assistance from his Majesty's ships which could be given them.
I am happy, sir, to tell you that the St. George has her jury-masts rigged, and her rudder hung, and is in every respect as complete to proceed with the convoy (the first favourable wind) as hands can make her in our present situation.
Before I conclude this narrative, permit me to insert my public acknowledgments of the prompt and timely assistance I received from every Captain of his Majesty's ships under my orders, which accelerated our equipment much sooner than otherwise could be expected.
I have, &c. &c. &c. R.C. REYNOLDS.
Vice-admiral Sir James Saumarez, Bart. K.B. &c. &c. &c.
James received the above letter on the 29th of November, when he despatched a vessel with the disastrous intelligence to England. In his answer to Admiral Reynolds we find the following paragraph:
Greatly as I lament the severe injury sustained on board the St. George, and the melancholy loss of so many vessels of the convoy by the tempestuous weather, I am fully persuaded that every possible means, which judgment and skill could dictate, were employed by you for the safety of his Majesty's ships and the preservation of the convoy under such perilous circumstances, and I highly applaud the good conduct manifested by the officers and men of the St. George during the whole of so trying an occasion, and the alacrity and exertions displayed by them in having jury-masts erected during the continuance of the gale, which reflects the highest credit on Captain Guion, for the good order and discipline preserved in the ship. I also feel great satisfaction in observing your marked approval of the prompt and ready assistance you received from all the Captains of his Majesty's ships and vessels under your orders.
Accounts from Captain Dashwood informed Sir James that thirty out of the fifty-six vessels supposed to be lost had reached Matvick with the loss of their anchors and cables, and that he would take them under his convoy as soon as they could be got ready to sail.
Admiral Reynolds received assistance from Admirals Dixon and Bertie, who were stationed in the Belt, and the St. George with her convoy reached Wingo Sound in safety on the 2nd of December. As the season was so far advanced, it was proposed to leave the St. George at Gothenburg during the winter, but Admiral Reynolds entreated that he might be permitted to navigate the ship to England, which, he said in hearing of the Author, was "as fit to make her passage with the assistance of another ship of the line as any in the fleet." Sir James did not accede to his wishes until he had also taken the opinion of Capt. Guion; and it was at length determined that she should be attended by the Cressy, Capt. Pater, and the Defence, Capt. Atkins, while the Hero, Capt. Newman, took charge of the convoy.
During the stay of the fleet in Wingo Sound, court-martials were held on the Commanders and crews of the Manly and Safeguard gun-brigs, which had been captured by the Danes, and the crews exchanged; also on the boatswain of the Anholt Island, which had been considered a ship, but as the pendant had not been flying in the island, doubts had arisen in the minds of the members of the court, and reference was made to the Admiralty, with a request that the law officers of the Crown might be consulted as to the legality of holding a naval court-martial on the accused.
The St. George had topmasts as lower masts, and top-gallant masts as topmasts. Her temporary rudder was well fitted and secured. The Cressy, which had towed her from the Belt, was ordered to take her again in tow. Everything was prepared for the departure of the whole, but the wind and weather continued unfavourable, and Sir James again repeated his wish that the St. George should remain instead of the Ardent, into which Sir George Hope had hoisted his flag, having orders to remain in Wingo Sound until the Pyramus, Captain Dashwood, and Ranger, Captain Acklom, should arrive with the last convoy, which Captain Dashwood subsequently succeeded in bringing safely through the Sound, much to his credit, at that late season of the year.
On the 18th of December the wind came from the N.E. when the whole fleet weighed and made sail. The first squadron consisted of the Victory, Vigo, Dreadnought, Orion, Mercury, and Snipe; the second comprised the St. George in tow of the Cressy, the Defence, and Bellete, and the third the convoy under the Hero and the Grasshopper; but the wind coming too far to the northward to enable the convoy to weather the Scaw, the signal was made from the Victory for it to return into port. At sunset on the 19th the St. George was seen well to windward of that dangerous headland; but it appeared that she, with her division, bore up during the night, when the wind came to the westward of north, as will be seen by the following account of the proceedings of H.M.S. Cressy, given officially to Sir James by Captain Pater.
Narrative of the circumstances relating to the St. George since parting company with the Victory, on the 19th December 1811.
On the night of the 19th December, lost sight of the Victory, Dreadnought, Vigo, and Orion. On the 20th at half past eight A.M. signal from the St. George to wear; at ten A.M. the St. George cast off the tow rope; moderate breezes and hazy weather; hauled up to the S.E. to get soundings on the Jutland shore, in order to round the Scaw the better. During the night fresh breezes and hazy weather; a strong current from the S.W. setting to the N.E. swept the squadron close to Saloe beacon, on the Swedish coast. On the morning of the 21st light airs and hazy, a strong current setting about north at the rate of three miles per hour: very great difficulty in keeping the ships from falling on the rocks, they not being further than three miles off, with a heavy swell right on, and no wind to command the ships, or stem the current. Telegraph from the St. George to the Cressy about half past eleven, A.M. "What shall we do this night?" Cressy's answer, "In a few minutes I will give my opinion." At three quarters past eleven, A.M., telegraph from Cressy to St. George, "Anchor in Saloe if possible." About noon got a Swedish pilot from Saloe, brought by the Bellete. At one P.M. a strong breeze sprung up from N.N.E. and N.E. St. George, Cressy, Defence, and Bellete made sail (close-reefed the topsails, reefed courses, top-gallant masts struck) to the westward, and continued our course all night through the Sleeve. St. George steered and sailed very well about five knots per hour. At ten A.M. on the 22nd, saw the land on the lee beam, distance eight leagues; made the same known to the St. George. At half-past eleven made the signal to the St. George for the Holmes, bearing S.S.W. distance six or seven leagues. At four P.M. Bovenbergen bore south about seven leagues; stood to the westward all night; moderate weather, wind about N. or N. by W. On the 23rd, at nine A.M., Cressy to the St. George by signal, "Shall I take you in tow?" answered with the negative flag: observed one of her rudder guys gone, and the people repairing it. Wind had shifted to N.W. by W. the squadron wore about seven hours thirty minutes A.M. and stood to the N.E., with a view to open the Sleeve, the weather appearing to indicate a gale of wind from that quarter. At ten A.M. strong gales and squally with rain; St. George close-reefed courses and topsails, then stood to the N.E. At half-past eleven P.M. very strong gales split our foresail; St. George took in topsails and courses. At one P.M. strong gales; St. George set her foresail. At half-past two P.M. strong and heavy squalls of wind and rain from the N.W. with a heavy sea; observed the St. George to labour very much and roll very deep. St. George shortened all sail except the mizen-staysail and try-sail; St. George drifting to leeward so much as to oblige us to bear up three or four times in a watch, each time one mile, or three quarters at least, in order to keep to leeward of her; the land of Bovenbergen on her lee bow about three points, the Holmes right a head of her. The wind had at four P.M. shifted to the N.N.W.; the land on her lee beam, nine leagues, was that part of Jutland a few miles to the southward of Bovenbergen. At eight o'clock the Horn Reef, bearing S.S.W. distance forty miles; at this time a tremendous heavy sea was setting on the shore in the direction of E.S.E. At six lost sight of the Bellete; the last sight we had of the Defence she was standing with her head in shore, E.N.E. under storm mizen-stay-sail and try-sail. At nine P.M. the gale still increasing; St. George, as before, drifting about N.E. or N.E. by E. with storm mizen-stay-sail and try-sail only, appearing from some cause to be unable to wear, as she never attempted it, although it was the most safe and profitable tack to be upon, there being no possibility of getting off on the larboard tack, but on the contrary must inevitably go on shore; this I particularly remarked with great anxiety and concern from three o'clock that afternoon, and was constantly in expectation of his wearing, and carrying what sail he could on the starboard tack, in order, if possible, to clear the Horn Reef: although the clearing of the reef might be doubtful, it was the only chance left, and would at least have given him a longer drift; but from his not doing so, I am of opinion his masts had complained and were unable to carry any more sail, as well as the rudder, which certainly wanted securing. At ten P.M. as no steps were taken by the St. George to wear, and finding from our soundings and reckoning we were only nine leagues from the land on our lee beam, that we could not possibly clear the land on the larboard tack, and having drifted so far to the eastward, it became a doubt whether we should be able to clear the Horn Reef, and that there was no time to lose, on which to resolve either to cut away all our masts and try to hold on by our anchors, after having run into shoal water, which we have reason to believe was nearer than our reckoning gave us. Had we taken such a step our success would have been very doubtful, although we might previously have cut away our masts, and made the ship a complete wreck for that purpose, as we had only two bower anchors and two cables on each, (the bower cables in each being half worn,) no spare anchor to trust to, the sheet anchor being broken in the shank, and only an old worn-out bower cable (kept to be surveyed) which was bent to it. The Defence, I believe, was differently situated in this respect; but that is a mere conjecture. Thus the situation of the Cressy was very alarming, which had most sensibly struck every individual on board; the officers particularly, who had been so strongly impressed with our perilous situation for some time before, lamenting and verbally stating to me their opinion of our inability and impossibility of being able to render any service to the St. George, even in any way whatever, risk the Cressy as much as I would. I desired them all to consult and let me know their opinion in writing, which they did in the accompanying hasty scrawl: No. 1, delivered about ten o'clock, and No. 2, about quarter before eleven. Their sentiments and opinion being the same as my own on the subject, namely, that we could not be of any service to the St. George or to any person on board, whatever might be her fate under the existing circumstances, and that our destruction was certain if we lost any time in getting on the other tack,—I then (after having ordered every thing to be ready to cut away our masts) embraced the alternative to wear and carry sail to save the ship, which I did at half-past ten P.M. and passed close to the St. George with our reefed fore-sail only, in order to induce him to wear, and give him the opportunity of signifying his wish for me to remain with him, if he did not approve of what we did, which he might have done by four lights, in a diamond signal No. 30, or by firing three guns, also night signal No. 30, "Keep your wind on the larboard tack." Heavy and severe as the gale was, there was considerable light, as we had a moon; although not seen, yet it enlightened the atmosphere so as to enable us to see every mast, sail, or any object that was above her hammocks: we were so close in passing, that we could in moderate weather, at such a distance, have conversed with great ease; and were about a quarter of an hour in passing her; so that his not making any signal, and his still keeping the St. George's head on the same tack, I considered I had his approbation to use every endeavour to clear the land and save the ship from being wrecked on the lee shore.
The remainder of Captain Pater's narrative need not be given, as it relates only to the proceedings in his own ship, and his arrival in the Downs on the 30th December; neither need we give the opinions alluded to, as they are a repetition of that of the Captain, and signed by the five lieutenants, the master, the pilot, and the purser. The first account of the wreck of the St. George and Defence was received by a flag of truce, sent by the Danish General Tellequist from Randers, that on the night between the 23rd and 24th of December, a few miles to the southward of the Holmes, the fatal catastrophe took place. The Danish commander-in-chief, after expressing much sympathy and feeling on the sad disaster, informs Captain Maurice that the bodies of Captain Atkins and other officers had been found and interred with military honours, but they had not then discovered the body of the Admiral. It appeared from the account of the survivors, eighteen in number, (twelve belonging to the St. George and six to the Defence,) that the St. George struck about one o'clock on the morning of the 24th, and soon afterwards the Defence, a short distance to the northward of her. The anchors in both ships were immediately let go, and the masts cut away; the St. George came for a short time head to wind. About four she parted in the middle; the sea making a fair breach over the ships, many of the crew were washed overboard, while others were killed or frozen to death where they had tied themselves to the weather-railing, among whom were the Admiral and his young and gallant friend Captain Guion. It is related that one tremendous sea struck the Defence with such inconceivable force that it lifted the spare anchor out of its berth, threw it upon end, and in its fall it killed about thirty men! The fury of the waves had swept all before them; two of the men were saved in a little Norway yawl belonging to the Author, which his lamented friend Captain Guion had offered to take home for him, and which was the only boat that reached the shore; some were saved on the poop of the St. George when torn from her about five o'clock.
Captain Atkins and Mr. Royston, Secretary to the Admiral, were both picked up by the Danes ere life was quite extinct, but all the kindness and humane endeavours of that hospitable people failed in keeping up animation. It was affirmed by the survivors of the Defence, that on the Cressy wearing, the master went to Captain Atkins, and reported that the St. George must inevitably be wrecked, and that destruction would also attend the Defence if she did not follow the Cressy! To this Captain Atkins said, "Has the Defence's signal been made to part company?" and being answered in the negative, he replied, "Then I will not leave him." Such heroic sentiments, however worthy of the gallant Captain, cannot be justified when it was impossible to render assistance, and the sacrifice not only of his own men, but the valuable lives of seven hundred others, must have been the well-known consequence.
Captain Pater's conduct became the subject of a court-martial, by which he was honourably acquitted. Could he by staying longer with his Admiral have rendered him any relief he never would have quitted him, nor did he do so until it became his bounden duty to preserve his own ship and the gallant crew he commanded.
From the testimony of the survivors of the St. George, who arrived on board the Victory in April 1812, we learnt that the St. George lost all her jury-masts and rudder before midnight, that she was many hours in nine fathoms water, and that the anchors were not let go until she struck the ground. We do not mean to argue on the probability, if she had anchored, that she would have brought up or rode out the gale, but after masts and rudder were gone, surely there was a chance. We mention it to call the attention of those who may be at some future period in a similar situation, and as a circumstance which appears by the following extract of a letter to have struck Sir James, who had often successfully depended on his anchors under trying occasions.
After a minute perusal of Captain Pater's narrative, I cannot but express my serious apprehension for the safety of the St. George upon so dangerous a coast and under such perilous circumstances; at the same time there still exists a hope that she may have been brought up at her anchors, and weathered the severity of the gale, of which I fervently pray their lordships may soon receive information.
We have dwelt longer on the mournful subject than we intended to do, in consequence of opinions having been entertained that Sir James had not consulted Admiral Reynolds and Captain Guion on the subject of the return of the St. George from Gothenburg, and that therefore some blame might be attached to him as commander-in-chief. Now, we are not only able from personal knowledge to contradict these reports, but to assure our readers that the opinions of these experienced and gallant officers were actually taken, and likewise those of Captains Pater and Atkins, immediately on the arrival of the ship at Gothenburg. The fleet having been detained at Wingo Sound by storms and westerly winds until the 18th, Admiral Reynolds repeatedly entreated Sir James to permit the ship to cross the North Sea, and in a conversation the Author had with Captain Guion, there was in his opinion not the smallest doubt of her capability of performing the voyage. So well did she sail that she beat many of the ships of the convoy that sailed at the same time, and on the morning of the 19th she was still in sight of the squadron. The loss of the Hero and her convoy, on the Hawk Sands off the Texel, took place on the same disastrous night, and with no less fatal consequences.
It appears from letters received from Sir George Hope, that this convoy returned to Wingo Sound in obedience to signals from the Victory, but sailed on the 21st with the same breeze, which induced the St. George to leave Saloe. She succeeded in getting out of the Sleeve, and having a fair N.W. gale, unfortunately shaped her course too far to the eastward. Captain Newman and all the crew, excepting about forty men, perished.
The account of this event, having been published by Capt. Brenton and other naval historians, need not be further dwelt on. The loss of the three ships and convoy, as well as that of the Saldanha, in which not less than five thousand men perished, was made a question in the House of Commons, when Mr. Yorke, first Lord of the Admiralty, touched on the mournful subject with so much feeling that it drew forth an elegant and well-merited expression from Mr. Whitbread, who observed, that "the calamities were the effect of misfortune alone, and that it was a consolation to reflect that no blame could be imputed to any one."
Although Sir James was conscious that such was really the case, it need scarcely be added that his mind was deeply affected when the melancholy news arrived, nor could he for many months conceal his affliction.
The last convoy under Captain Dashwood of the Pyramus, arrived safely. Instead of passing through the Belt as intended, he availed himself of a strong S.S.W. wind, and boldly pushed through the Malmoe Channel, led by the Ranger, Captain Acklom, who so much distinguished himself on this occasion as to gain his promotion to the rank of post-captain as a reward for his services.
This convoy consisted of one hundred and twenty sail, leaving only twelve vessels at Carlshamn, which were a part of the St. George's convoy that could not obtain anchors and cables. They were off Falsterbo on the 20th of December, when the wind, which had been northerly, shifted to the S.W.; on the 23rd they reached Elsineur Roads, and on the 28th Gothenburg, whence they sailed in company with Rear-admiral Hope in the Ardent, who had thus finished the service of the Baltic for the season.
Colonel Dornberg, who had been employed on the Continent confidentially, had ascertained that Prussia would be forced to join France against Russia, therefore the Government transports with arms intended for their assistance were sent back, and formed part of the Hero's unfortunate convoy.
The Victory, after parting with the St. George, was detained by baffling winds and thick weather. Fortunately on the 21st good altitudes of the sun were obtained for the chronometers, and thereby the situation of the fleet was determined before the storm began on the 22nd: at noon it blew a strong gale from N.W. (by compass); Leostoff bore N. 31, W. 203 miles, the Texel S. 136 miles; but an allowance of two points was made for what was called indraft, and the course steered was S.W. by W. On the 23rd the storm increased with inconceivable violence: the Victory was scudding under close-reefed main-top-sail. At noon the signal was made for longitude, when it appeared that the reckoning of the whole fleet was much to the westward of the Victory, particularly the Vigo, no less than eighty-four miles; but none of the ships had observations for the chronometers, and therefore the commander-in-chief determined on running by the reckoning of his own ship; and had he not done so, the whole fleet would have shared the fate of the Hero in the same spot! At ten P.M. soundings were struck on the broad fourteen, which cleared up all doubts on the subject; on the next day the gale moderated, the fleet passed the Gallopere light and anchored to stop tide; on Christmas-day passed down Channel, and in the evening anchored in St. Helen's.
I may here observe with propriety, that I have since found the deviation from the true course, which by pilots and masters of ships had been attributed to indraft, &c. was occasioned entirely by the deviation of the magnetic needle when steering to the S.W. the point on which the attraction found in almost every ship was, by a series of experiments, established to be, from one to two points; (see Ross's voyage 1818;) while it is notorious that if the ship was standing N.E. the opposite point, it had been always found that not only no allowance for indraft was necessary, but that the error in the reckoning was on the opposite way; and we therefore conclude that many ships have been lost for want of making the necessary allowance for the deviation of the compass in steering across the North Sea, in a storm from N.W.
A correspondence was carried on with the Captains of this squadron without leading to any satisfactory reason for the extraordinary errors in the reckonings of each ship, and it is mentioned here to warn those who may be in a similar situation, and to induce them to obtain the errors of their compasses, for which plain rules have been given, if they are not provided with Professor Barlow's apparatus.
On the arrival of the Victory at Spithead, Sir James applied for leave of absence, and arriving in town received the unqualified approbation of Ministers, and of his Royal Highness the Prince Regent, for his wise and firm conduct on this critical situation of affairs in the Baltic, and for the important service he had rendered the country in maintaining peace, and in supporting the dignity of the Crown and the best interests of the community.
State of Europe in 1812.—Critical situation of Sweden and Russia.—Advance of Buonaparte.—Sir James Saumarez resumes the command in the Baltic.—Attack on Anholt prevented.—Proceedings of the advanced squadron.—Arrival of the Victory at Gothenburg.—Capture and destruction of a Danish frigate and two brigs.—Captain Stewart's gallant conduct.—Official letters.—Capture of a ship in Pillau Roads.—L. Jones's gallant conduct.—Official letters.—Peace with Russia.—Correspondence with Mr. Thornton and Earl Cathcart, who is appointed Ambassador to the Court of St. Petersburg.—Proceedings of the hostile armies on the frontiers of Russia.—Admiral Byam Martin sent to co-operate.—Siege of Riga.—Diversion made by Admiral Martin in Dantzig Bay.—Capture and destruction of four French privateers.—Ratification of peace with Russia and Sweden.—Sir James named Knight Grand Cross of the Sword of Sweden.—His Swedish Majesty's letter and the answer.—Emperor Alexander sends the Russian fleet to England.—Defeat of the French at Polosk, Borodino, Moscow.—Retreat of Buonaparte.—Archangel fleet arrives.—Earl Cathcart.—Mr. Saumarez's tour to Abo and St. Petersburg, and return to the Admiral with despatches.—Afflicting news from England.—Sir James's conduct on that occasion.—He is relieved by Sir George Hope.—Returns to England.—Strikes his flag.
The state of Europe at the commencement of this year left no doubt that a severe struggle for independence was approaching. It was evident that under the pretence of conquering a maritime peace, Buonaparte's ambition was nothing short of continental empire; his armies had been gradually advancing, and, under various pretexts, taking possession of every fortress in Prussia, and towards the frontiers of Russia. Supposing himself in a position to enforce the ruinous demands which he well knew could not be granted, he looked forward with confidence to the subjugation of Russia, after which Sweden would become an easy conquest. Alexander saw that the existence of his empire depended on the exertions he was now compelled to make, and before the conclusion of the last year, his intentions of resistance were secretly made known both to the British and Swedish cabinets. It was now deemed fortunate that the wise and temperate policy of Sir James had been the means of forming that coalition, which was subsequently the saving of Europe.
So important did Government consider the continuation of Sir James as commander-in-chief in the Baltic, that while in London, at Tunbridge Wells, and other places where he resided, the whole of the correspondence passed through him, and as the spring advanced he was again entreated to finish the good work he had begun. As his force was now to consist of only ten sail of the line, he did not judge a Captain of the fleet to be necessary; but Rear-admirals Byam Martin and J.N. Morris were at his request appointed to serve under him, and it may be truly added that two officers better qualified to support his plans could not have been found.
Early in the spring, Captain Dashwood, who had so highly distinguished himself in carrying a valuable convoy through the Sound at the close of last year, was sent with a squadron of sloops to afford protection to the island of Anholt, which was again threatened by the Danes, but on the appearance of this detachment, the attempt, if ever intended, was abandoned. On this service the Fly sloop was unfortunately lost on Anholt Reef.
In April, Rear-admiral Morris was despatched with the advanced squadron and arrived at Wingo Sound about the middle of April, having been previously informed of the state of affairs in Sweden, and instructed to keep up the appearance of hostility without committing any positive act; in the mean time a fleet of line of battle ships was fitting out at Carlscrona, and strict orders were issued that in the event of their putting to sea they were not to be molested by his Majesty's ships. A correspondence was entered into with the Danish auditor-general respecting the exchange of prisoners, in which a demand was made for the release of all the Danish prisoners in lieu of all English, which would have been ten to one in favour of Denmark; but the chief object was the release of a Danish officer, who, after having struck his colours, attempted to destroy his ship, contrary to the laws and usages of war, and who had been detained in consequence. This request was at first refused, but in consequence of the kind treatment of the unfortunate crews who suffered shipwreck, and who were unconditionally liberated, the exchange took place.
Sir James hoisted his flag in the Victory on the 14th of April, and on the 28th sailed from the Downs. On the 3rd May he arrived at Gothenburg, having then under his command ten sail of the line, seven frigates, and fourteen smaller vessels. Admiral Morris, with a strong detachment, passed through the Belt to Hanoe, where he carried on the service relating to convoys, and the prevention of troops being sent across the Belt to the Danish islands, which were no doubt intended to menace Sweden into compliance with the demands and views of Buonaparte.
This campaign commenced with several brilliant naval actions, among which the following is most worthy of being recorded. During the spring the Danes had succeeded in stationing a large frigate and six large brigs on the coast of Norway, for the purpose of attacking our convoys in passing through the Cattegat, which, in order to protect the trade, had obliged Sir James to station the Dictator of sixty-four guns, and three brigs, off that part of the coast. The result cannot be more fully given than in the following extract of Captain Stewart's letter to Sir James:
H.M.S. Dictator, Sleeve, 7th July 1812.
I have the honour to inform you, that yesterday evening being off Mardoe, with the Podargus, Calypso, and Flamer, the mast-heads of the squadron were seen over the rocks, and Captain Robilliard of the Podargus, in the most handsome manner, volunteered to lead the squadron in to attack them, he having a man on board acquainted with the place; and as neither the pilots nor masters of either of the ships conceived themselves equal to the charge, I did not hesitate to accept his kind offer, well knowing the British flag would meet nothing but honour in such hands.
In the entrance of the passage the Podargus unfortunately took the ground, by which circumstance I was deprived of the valuable and gallant services of her commander during the remainder of the day, and was in consequence obliged to leave the Flamer to her assistance; but in Captain Weir, of the Calypso, I found everything that could be wished for, which in a great measure made up for the loss I had sustained in the Podargus and Flamer.
By this time, seven hours thirty minutes P.M. we had arrived within one mile of the enemy, who were running inside of the rocks under a press of sail. The Calypso, which had also grounded for a short time, was now leading us through the passage, and both she and ourselves engaged with the squadron and numerous gun-boats; however, at nine hours thirty minutes, I had the satisfaction, after sailing twelve miles through a passage in some places scarcely wide enough to admit of our studding-sail booms being out, of running the Dictator's bow upon the land with her broadside towards the enemy (within hail) as per margin, (Nayaden, Laaland, Samsoe, and Kiel,) who were anchored with springs on their cables close together, and supported by gun-boats, in the small creek of Lingoe, the Calypso most nobly following us up. In half an hour the frigate was literally battered to atoms, and the flames bursting forth from her hatchways; the brigs had also struck, and most of the gun-boats were completely beaten, and some sunk.
The action had scarcely ceased and the ship afloat, than we found ourselves again attacked by gun-boats, which had retreated on seeing the fate of their squadron, and were again collecting from all quarters; but Captain Weir, of the Calypso, having taking a most advantageous position, engaged them with the greatest gallantry and effect. Indeed I am at a loss how to express my approbation of the prompt exertion of this gallant and meritorious officer. The Podargus and Flamer, in the mean time, were warmly engaged with numerous batteries and gun-boats, both brigs being aground; but by the uncommon exertion and extreme gallantry of Capt. Robilliard, and the officers and crews of the brigs, they at last got afloat, very much cut up. On this occasion Lieut. England particularly distinguished himself.
At three A.M. having got the Dictator, Calypso, and prize brigs in the fair way, we attempted to get out through the passage, when we were assailed by a division of gun-boats from behind the rocks, so situated that not a gun could be brought to bear on them from either vessel. In this situation the prize brigs grounded, and notwithstanding every exertion on the part of Lieut. James Wilkie of this ship, who was on board the Laaland, and had extinguished a fire on board her, which was burning with great fury, and Lieut. Hooper of the Calypso, in the Kiel, we had to abandon them complete wrecks, humanity forbidding us setting them on fire, owing to the number of wounded men they had on board.
Captain Stewart's letter concludes with the highest praise on all the officers and men in the squadron he commanded, and subjoins a list of nine men killed, and thirty-seven wounded and missing. The enemy admitted that they had lost three hundred men, but it was supposed that five hundred was nearer the number. We are sorry to record that some of the Danish officers violated their parole and treacherously rose on their protectors, after medical aid had been afforded them under the sacred sanction of a flag-of-truce!
Sir James enclosed Captain Stewart's narrative in the following letter to the Secretary of the Admiralty:
SIR,—I have the highest satisfaction in transmitting to you, to be laid before the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, the inclosed letter, which I have this day received from Captain Stewart, of H.M.S. Dictator, detailing the particulars of a most gallant exploit, performed by him and the two sloops and the gun-brig named on the margin (Podargus, Calypso, and Flamer,) upon the Danish frigate Nayaden, three large sloops of war, and numerous gun-boats, within the Rocks of Wardoe, on the coast of Norway, supported by batteries on the shore; in which the enemy's frigate has been totally destroyed, and the sloops of war completely disabled, besides several of the gun-boats sunk. It is impossible to express in an adequate manner the undaunted spirit displayed by Captain Stewart, and all the officers and men under his orders, in this arduous enterprise, which, I am assured, will be duly appreciated by their Lordships. Captain Stewart speaks in the strongest terms of the gallantry and zeal of Captain Robilliard, of the Podargus; Captain Weir, of the Calypso; and Lieut. Thomas England, of the Flamer gun-brig; he also recommends Lieut. Buchanan, first of the Dictator, to their Lordships' favourable notice.
I have, &c. &c. &c. JAMES SAUMAREZ.
J.W. Croker, Esq.
To this their lordships expressed their high approbation, and promoted Captain Stewart, Weir, and Lieutenant England immediately, and Capt. Robilliard soon after, for the gallantry, zeal, and judgment they displayed.
The following letter from Captain J. Ross, of the Briseis, gives an account of a gallant exploit performed by the boats of that ship.
Briseis, off Pillaw, 29th June 1812.
I have the honour to inform you that, in pursuance of your orders, I stood in yesterday to communicate with the merchant vessel Urania, in Pillaw Roads, when I perceived her to be in possession of the French troops, and that it was intended to destroy her on our approach. I therefore tacked and stood off, judging it the most likely way to save the ship (which was employed by Messrs. Solly and Sons on the part of government) from destruction, and the remainder of her cargo from falling into the hands of the enemy. I resolved, however, to surprise her in the night. Lieutenant Thomas Jones, first of the Briseis, Mr. Palmer, midshipman, and eighteen men, were sent in the pinnace on that service. At midnight, when within pistol shot, they were hailed and fired upon by the enemy, who had six guns and four swivels on board the Urania, which was surrounded by craft and smaller boats; but every obstacle was overcome by Lieutenant Jones and his crew, who gave three cheers, boarded over the craft, and drove the enemy off deck into their boats on the opposite side, leaving behind part of their arms. The cable was then cut, and she was brought out, together with a French scout, that was employed unloading her.
On our side I have to regret the loss of one seaman killed; the sergeant of the Royal Marines badly wounded; Mr. Palmer, midshipman, and one seaman, slightly wounded; but the enemy must have suffered far more severely from being exposed in their turn to the fire from the Urania after they had abandoned her.
My pen cannot do sufficient justice to the merit of Lieut. Jones, who has on a former occasion received the approbation of the commander-in-chief, for his gallantry and zeal; but when I leave the plain statement of this to recommend him, I am happy in the conviction that his valour will be duly appreciated by yourself and the commander-in-chief. Lieutenant Jones informs me that Mr. Palmer, who has passed for Lieutenant, behaved in the most gallant manner, and I think him also highly deserving promotion.
I have the honour, &c. JOHN ROSS, Commander.
To Rear-admiral Martin, &c. &c. &c.
The above was transmitted by Admiral Martin to the commander-in-chief, who, after expressing his admiration of the conduct of Lieut. Jones and the rest, forwarded the letter to the Admiralty. The following answer was received from the Secretary:
Admiralty, 16th July 1812.
I have received and laid before my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty your letter of the 10th instant, transmitting a report from Captain Ross, of the Briseis, of the re-capture of the merchant ship Urania, in Pillaw Roads, by the boats of that sloop, under the orders of Lieutenant Jones and Mr. Palmer, midshipman, and I am in reply commanded to express their Lordships' approbation of the gallantry displayed by the officers and men on this service.
There can be no doubt but promotion would have followed this valiant and successful affair, but Lieut. Jones being unfortunately obliged to return home in consequence of pressing family affairs, and having not rejoined his ship, lost his well-merited advancement in the navy, while Mr. Palmer obtained his promotion.
The Briseis was subsequently appointed to carry the joyful news of peace to Libau, where Captain Ross was received with demonstrations of joy. The hatred the oppressed inhabitants manifested towards their oppressors the French, who had just vacated the place, was beyond expression; and a Russian squadron had now ventured out of the Gulf of Finland to join in the general rejoicing.
Steps were taken by the Admiral to remove the supplies of corn and provisions at that place, to prevent their falling into the hands of the advancing enemy.
Rear-admiral (now Admiral Sir Byam Martin, G.C.B.) was detached in the Aboukir, his flag-ship, and a numerous squadron and flotilla, to assist in the defence of Riga, which, as soon as war was declared, would be exposed to the attack of Macdonald's and Oudinot's divisions of the French army. In the mean time, peace between Great Britain and Russia took place on the 18th July, and this happy event was announced to the Admiral in the following letter from Mr. Thornton, General Suchtalen having previously arrived in Sweden with full powers from the Emperor of Russia.
Orebro, 17th July 1812.
I have the honour of informing your excellency that I have this day signed a treaty of peace with the Swedish and Russian plenipotentiaries, and you will receive under this cover a packet containing those for his Majesty's principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, which I will request your excellency to deliver to the care of a confidential officer, to be conveyed to England. Should you think that the King's service will not be promoted by detaching a vessel of war with him, I see no impropriety in the officer's sailing in the packet-boat and making the best of his way to England.
I leave it to your excellency's judgment to give what publicity you think proper to this important intelligence. It should, I think, certainly be communicated to all the commanders of his Majesty's ships in the Baltic, for the purpose of regulating their conduct towards Swedish and Russian ships of war, but I know not that any alterations ought to be made in commercial arrangements until after the confirmations of the peace by exchange of the ratifications. I may have opportunities of writing again on these points.
I have the honour to be, &c. E. THORNTON.
To Admiral Sir Jas. Saumarez.
Sir James immediately despatched his nephew, Flag-lieutenant Dobree, in the Drake sloop of war, with this important despatch, and with the intelligence that the French army had passed the frontiers of Russia on the 24th of June, being the first act of hostility. Lieutenant Dobree arrived at the Admiralty on the 31st July, for which and other services he was promoted to the rank of commander. In the mean time, and in anticipation of this joyful event, Earl Cathcart had been nominated as Ambassador to the Court of St. Petersburg, and had sailed from England in the Aquilon.
Admiral Martin's arrival at Riga was extremely well-timed: his judicious operations in concert with Generals Essen, Ems, and Lovis, were the means of saving that city, which was in July and August besieged by Macdonald, when General Lovis was obliged to retreat within the walls. The suburbs were burnt rather hastily, but the arrival of a reinforcement of both English and Russian gun-boats, not only raised the siege, but impeded the advance of that division of the enemy towards the great scene of action in the vicinity of Moscow.
A well-timed feint concerted by Admiral Martin on the heel of Dantzig had the desired effect of retarding the advancement of a strong reinforcement, so as to prevent it reaching the main army in time to take part in the battle of Borodino. To effect this a number of small merchant vessels were seized in the harbour of Riga, and by the prompt exertions of British seamen were converted into transports, on board which were embarked four hundred troops and other people of all classes, a sufficient part of which were clothed in regimentals to deceive a spectator. This formidable-looking armament having entered the Bay of Dantzig under Swedish colours, created such a degree of alarm, as to induce the troops which were marching to join Buonaparte to halt for no less than fourteen days, during which time proclamations in the German and Swedish languages were landed on the coast, while demonstrations for landing troops, ostensibly for the purpose of an attack on the city, were occasionally made, and shells thrown into the lower forts. After a sojourn of three weeks in the bay the borrowed ships were sent back to Riga, and the Aboukir and part of the squadron joined Rear-admiral Morris at Hanoe, where that excellent officer had been most successfully protecting the commerce of both nations. On the 9th of October a large convoy, which had long been detained at Matvick and Hanoe, was about to sail, when it was ascertained that several French privateers had passed through the canal of Kiel, in order to attack it, and the Briseis was consequently sent in the disguise of a merchant bark in advance of the convoy. The plan succeeded; one of the privateers came alongside of the Briseis, and was easily captured, while the other three having taken refuge under the batteries in Hammarhus Bay, on the N.W. side of Bornholm, were attacked and destroyed. In this affair the Briseis had her main-mast badly wounded. Lieutenant Jones, who commanded the boats, particularly distinguished himself; but on his approach the enemy, having cut their cables, and run their vessels on the rocks, they were instantly wrecked and could not be carried off.
Sir James had detached Captain Stewart of the Dictator with several small vessels, to the Belt, to cut off the communication with Zealand, and in the course of this service Lieutenants Wilkie, Douell, and Petley particularly distinguished themselves. The Attack gun-brig was taken, and Lieutenant Craufurd, of the Wrangler, made a gallant but ineffectual attempt to retake her. The Mars, and Courageaux, and Orion, had the arduous duty of protecting the trade through the Belt, and excepting on one occasion, when five merchant vessels were driven on shore in a storm, their efforts were successful. Owing partly to the negotiations and to the expectation that an enemy's fleet might escape from the Scheldt, the commander-in-chief was detained at Wingo Sound, the outer Roads of Gothenburg. The merchant ships which had been detained at that port and Carlshamn, as also the colonial produce and other British property, had been by his firm and temperate conduct released and sent under licence to various ports on the Continent.
Mr. Thornton, who had been on board the Victory on the 11th of July, had proceeded to Orebro, where he signed the treaty of peace already mentioned; returned on the 7th of August, sailed in the Tweed for England on the following day, but fortunately meeting with the Aquilon to the eastward of the Scaw, he returned with Lord Viscount Cathcart; and after a consultation with Sir James and Count Rosen, the Governor of Gothenburg, the ambassador set out for Orebro to ratify the coalition of the three nations against the common enemy.
An expedition was now planned for an attack on Zealand, the object of which was to force the King of Denmark to join the coalition, and 7,000 Swedes were collected; these were to be joined by 20,000 Russians; but the latter were so tardy in their motions that the plan was abandoned, as well as another for the descent on the coast of Norway; but the armament itself had a good effect by detaining the troops necessary for the defence of Denmark from joining the main army of the French, while it gave a more serious aspect to the feint made by Rear-admiral Martin in the Bay of Dantzig.
Soon after the ratification of peace the Swedish Monarch conferred on Sir James the high honour of the Commander of the Grand Cross of the Order of the Sword of Sweden, which corresponds to that of the Bath in England, and the decorations were sent in the following handsome letter from his Majesty:
MONSIEUR LE VICE-AMIRAL SAUMAREZ,
Mon Conseiller intime d'Etat, le Baron de Platen, se rendant aupres de vous pour concerter sur des mesures a prendre contre l'ennemi commun, je profite avec plaisir de cette occasion pour vous envoyer ci-incluses les decorations de Commandeur Grand Croix de mon Ordre de l'Epee. Les services distingues que vous avez deja rendu a mon royaume, et ceux que vous lui rendez maintenant, le zele que vous avez constamment deploye pour le succes de nos entreprises, tous ces motifs reunis vous avaient acquis depuis longtems des droits a mon estime et a ma reconnaissance; et j'eprouve une satisfaction toute particuliere de pouvoir vous en donner aujourdhui un gage solennel. Je vous felicite de l'avantage remporte le 7 de ce mois par une partie de votre escadre; et vous devez etre bien persuade, qu'il ajoute encore au prix que j'attache a vos efforts pour assurer la defense des cotes de la Suede. Et sur ce je prie Dieu qu'il vous ait, Monsieur le Vice-amiral de Saumarez en sa sainte et digne garde; etant votre affectionne,
Au Chateau de Stockholm, le 19 de Juillet 1809.
 The Order of the Sword, fourth class, was conferred on Captains Hope, Reynolds, Mansell, and John Ross, and the Order of Wasa on Dr. Jameson.
Permission to accept and wear the decorations were subsequently granted by the Prince Regent.
The defeat of Oudinot at Polotzk, the junction of Begration and Barclay de Tolly with the grand Russian army under Kutusoff, and the battle of Borodino, gave a favourable turn to affairs, but not such as to dispel every apprehension, and it was determined by the Emperor Alexander to send the whole Russian fleet to winter in England. Admiral Crown was expected from Archangel with eight sail of the line, and Admiral Tait with ten, and six frigates from Cronstadt. The former having sailed from Wingo before this had been determined on, it became necessary for Sir James to delay his return. The Aquilon, which had been sent through the Belt to meet Lord Cathcart at Daleroe, and convey his lordship to Abo, where he was to have a conference with the Emperor Alexander, met with some damage and returned to Wingo.
Mr. James Saumarez, eldest son of the Admiral, who had accompanied his lordship, made a tour and visited the Swedish, Finland, and Russian capitals; he returned on board the Victory on the 9th of October, when the afflicting intelligence arrived of the sudden death of his sister, the eldest daughter of the Admiral, whose loss was deeply regretted by all who knew her excellent disposition. The shock, as may be imagined, was deeply felt by Sir James; but it will be seen by the following correspondence that his mind was supported under this severe trial, and much as his presence was required at home he regarded his duty to his country to be paramount to every other consideration, and unflinchingly remained at his post. His son (the present Lord de Saumarez) who had just finished his education for the Established Church, was indeed a great comfort to his suffering parent.
In a letter, dated 13th October, to the Secretary of the Admiralty, he says,—
There has been no ship in the Hawke Roads into which I could have shifted my flag, since the receipt of their Lordships' letter to send the Victory to Spithead, and the present afflicting state of my domestic concerns renders it of the utmost consequence that I should repair to England immediately; but I have suffered my private feelings to give way to the public service, and have to request that I may receive their Lordships' permission to proceed to England upon the receipt of this letter.
In his letter to Lord Cathcart, dated on the following day, he writes,—
Although the afflicting state of my domestic concerns requires my return to England with as little delay as possible, I sacrifice my private feelings to a sense of my duty to the public service, and I have signified to his Majesty's Government my intention to remain here until I receive the pleasure of H.R.H. the Prince Regent upon the above measures (respecting the Russian fleet), when I hope to receive permission to return to England.
Sir James having given the necessary directions to Rear-admiral Morris for sending pilots to, and conducting the Russian fleet through the Belt, shifted his flag to the Pyramus and despatched the Victory to England. He was preparing to sail homewards, when to his surprise Rear-admiral George Hope arrived to supersede him; he, however, did not give up the command until everything was completed, and until he had received the following despatch from Lord Cathcart:
St. Petersburg, 26th Oct. 1812.
I had the honour of receiving yesterday by the Briseis your letter of the 10th ult., duplicates of your two letters of the 2nd, and triplicates of your letter of the 4th.
I lost no time in laying the three last-named despatches before the Emperor, and his Imperial Majesty desired me to take the first opportunity of expressing his entire approbation of everything you have done and promised for his squadrons, together with his best thanks for the exertions you have made in meeting and assisting the squadron under Admiral Crown, to refit so as to pursue the voyage to the Baltic, as well as for supplying an officer and pilots for the passage of the Belt.
His Imperial Majesty learned with great concern the afflicting loss you have sustained, and was duly sensible of the efforts you made for the public cause, by remaining at Gothenburg under the pressure of so much grief.
Admiral Crown has afforded an example of the uncertainty of calculations of time and of meeting at sea, in regard to the sailing of men-of-war; for this squadron outstripped all the vessels and cruisers you sent, and, missing all the copies of the Emperor's orders, arrived at Sweaborg, I think, on the 10th. The Emperor sent immediate orders for this fleet to prepare to return forthwith to Wingo. Vice-admiral Crown has sent up no details whatever to the Minister of Marine concerning the state of the squadron, but that minister, the Marquis Traversay, has sent a superior officer of known activity, to hasten the supply of everything necessary for them, and to repeat the order for the immediate sailing of the whole squadron, or of as many ships as can be ready; the remainder to follow.
The wind being fair, it is expected that Admiral Tait is under sail with a division as per enclosed list, and it is probable he may be the first to reach you. I have not failed to communicate your idea in regard to the road at Dantzig to the Minister of Marine.
The Snipe will sail with the last division, &c.
I have the honour to be, With truth and regard, CATHCART.
To Vice-admiral Sir James Saumarez, Bart. K.B.
Here follows a list of one ship of one hundred guns, one of eighty, five of seventy-four, and three frigates, under Admiral Tait; seven of seventy-four, and three frigates, and four smaller vessels, under Admiral Crown; and three of seventy-four, two frigates, a brig, and four English transports, under Rear-admiral Karobka. Sir James at the same time received details of the proceedings at Riga, which have already been mentioned.
The following passage relative to the death of his daughter is extracted from a letter from Sir James to his brother.
At a time I was buoying myself up with the expectation of soon returning to England, and affording that consolation to my beloved wife and to those dear ones whom the Almighty yet spares us, which they so greatly need, I received despatches which rendered it impossible for me to leave the station; I most fervently implore the all-gracious Providence to enable me to submit to its divine decree with patience and due resignation.
If I could be assured of Lady Saumarez's welfare, I should feel more tranquil, but I know too well the keenness of her feelings. The anxiety she suffers on my account will, I fear, put to the test her practice of those pious virtues we all know her to possess, and of which she sets so bright an example. James's presence is of the greatest comfort to me, and alone enables me to make my cabin supportable. He returned most opportunely from St. Petersburg the day on which the news of this affliction arrived, and it was he that communicated it to me. He was the bearer of Lord Cathcart's despatches, which I have forwarded, for I could not spare him from me.
We shall now continue the narrative of Sir James's operations at this eventful period, when the tyrant of France received his first effectual check, followed by the disastrous retreat of the French army from Russia, and the liberation of Europe.
Besides twenty thousand stand of arms which had been supplied to the Swedish army and landed at Gothenburg, the Snipe gun-brig, Lieut. Champion, had been sent to St. Petersburg with four transports laden with sixty thousand stand of arms. On opening the arm-chests it was found that they contained muskets, but no bayonets, and the indignation of the Russians at this circumstance may be better imagined than described, when they exclaimed, "What! do the English think we do not know how to use the bayonet?" On searching, however, the last ship, the bayonets were found, to the inexpressible joy of these people; and it cannot be denied that they did make use of them with fearful effect.
The Briseis was sent with the Admiral's last despatches to Lord Cathcart, and Captain Ross had the honour of returning with the important intelligence of the re-capture of Moscow, the defeat of Murat, and that the French were in full retreat. The Russian fleet had, however, sailed from Cronstadt and Sweaborg, and it was now too late to stop them: the accounts reached London on the 8th of November, and it was a satisfaction to Sir James that he had retained the command until the overthrow of the invading army. Mr. Saumarez went home in the Aquilon, but the Admiral remained in the Pyramus at Gothenburg until the 5th of November, at which time he had delivered the various papers and instructions to Rear-admiral Hope necessary in giving up the command to that officer.