At the general election in 1802, he was solicited to stand for Barnstaple; for which, after a severe contest, he was returned on the 8th of July, by a very large majority. His correspondence at this period shows he was very early wearied with his situation. Nor was he better satisfied when he had gained an insight into the nature of a parliamentary life. Indeed, a naval officer of reputation will seldom promote his comfort by going into Parliament; where his inactivity may present an unfavourable contrast to his professional character, or his prominence expose him to the virulence of party. Yet the experience thus obtained was not without value to a man who was henceforth to be employed as a commander-in-chief, with a greater share of political responsibility than usually attaches to a naval command. If he had wished to estimate the value of political friendships, and the spirit of party intrigue, a lesson which professional employment at sea is little calculated to teach, he could not have entered Parliament at a better season. The high character and truly English politics of Mr. Pitt had united very different parties to support him in carrying on a just and necessary war; but when the bond which he had afforded to his party was removed by his going out of office, and peace had deprived them of their common object, former principles of repulsion regained their influence; and the uncertainty whether the premier was the rival or the locum tenens of Pitt increased the confusion. It was still more embarrassing when, at a later period, Mr. Pitt threw himself into avowed opposition to a government, of which the premier was his friend and pupil, and the other ministers, one of whom was his own brother, might all be regarded as his nominees. Indeed, six remained in office when he returned to power, and the ex-premier himself joined the administration in a few mouths after.
Sir Edward had not long been in Parliament, before he expressed a confident opinion that Mr. Pitt would soon come in. Succeeding events strengthened this conviction; and when the peace, or rather armed truce, of Amiens was evidently drawing to a close, he said in one of his letters, "Pitt must now be the minister." He gave a general support to the Government in the very small part which he took in the business of the House, but he availed himself of the earliest opportunity to escape from it; and on the very day when the King's message was delivered, which indicated the renewal of hostilities, he solicited and obtained employment.
On the 11th of March, 1803, he was appointed to the eighty-gun ship Tonnant, in which, after some delay, occasioned by the general difficulty of procuring men, he joined the Channel fleet. Anxious to take part in the important naval operations to be expected, he wished to sail with Nelson, whose reputation gave a just presage that the most decisive blow would be struck where he commanded; but after he had been appointed to a station, his sense of naval obedience forbade any attempt to change it. With that care for the improvement of his young officers which was always a prominent feature of his conduct, he advertised for a superior schoolmaster for the Tonnant, to whom he offered 50l. per annum, in addition to his pay, that he might obtain for them better instructions than the regulations of the service would afford.
Early in the summer, he was detached from the Channel fleet, with the Mars and Spartiate under his orders, to intercept or blockade a Dutch squadron, which had put into the neutral port of Ferrol, on their passage to India. The enemy had proceeded on their voyage the day before he arrived, and he followed under a press of sail as far as Madeira. They were the ships which he afterwards destroyed at Griessee. In his absence, a French squadron of five sail of the line arrived at Corunna from St. Domingo, and took advantage of the first westerly gale to cross the bay to Ferrol. Here they were blockaded by Sir Edward, whose force was soon increased to six, and afterwards to eight sail of the line.
On the 2nd of September, during a strong easterly gale, with thick weather, two other French ships from St. Domingo, the Duguay Tronin 74, and Guerriere frigate, were chased by Sir Robert Calder, who was coming out to relieve the Commodore. The Culloden had a running fight with the enemy for two hours and a half, but could not prevent them from getting into Corunna. In autumn, the Tonnant having been refitted at Plymouth, Sir Edward resumed the command, and maintained a very close blockade, at considerable risk, by night and day. He constantly expected a French force from Brest, and often remarked to his officers, that they would have to fight both squadrons at once. Under such circumstances, every precaution was required, and though unwilling to interfere with the men's rest, yet, to prevent surprise, he thought it necessary to keep them at quarters all night, and pipe down the hammocks in the morning.
As the season advanced, the weather became so tempestuous that the squadron was often driven off the land for many days together, and only occasionally fetched near Ferrol. Sir Edward became anxious therefore to find an anchorage in the neighbourhood, where the fleet could ride out a gale, and obtain necessary supplies. He first examined a bay near Cape Ortugal, but this was too distant. He then went in a cutter into the Bay of Bentancos, between Ferrol and Corunna, on the eastern side of which, in a bay called Ares, he considered, contrary to the opinion of the celebrated Spanish hydrographer Tofino, that the anchorage was safe, and the ground good. The correctness of his judgment was proved by the number of heavy gales which the squadron rode out through the winter. The place much resembles Cawsand Bay, and a windmill stood on the adjacent height, from which the harbour of Ferrol could be seen as distinctly as Hamoaze from Maker Tower. In this mill, the English and French officers on the look-out often met. As long as the wind was westerly, the squadron remained here; but when it shifted to the eastward, which was fair to leave Ferrol, Sir Edward anchored his ships across the entrance of the harbour.
Owing to the prevalence of the westerly gales, the supplies from England were totally inadequate to the wants of the squadron: and it became indispensable to procure them on the spot. Occasionally a few live cattle were received, but the vessels bringing them were driven back, or detained, until the beasts were almost dead. Water was soon found: but it was not easy to obtain provisions in the depth of winter from so poor a country. The Spaniards were very lukewarm, and the French Admiral naturally created every obstacle in his power. This important charge was entrusted to Mr. Fitzgerald, purser of the Tonnant, and acting secretary to the Commodore, a gentleman of great resources, and unbounded courage and enterprise. By his exertions a small supply of fresh meat was obtained, with some wine and biscuit; and as confidence became established, cattle and other necessaries were purchased forty miles in the interior. In the performance of his arduous service, Mr. Fitzgerald was twice attempted to be assassinated; and he escaped only by killing the assailant upon one occasion, and by wounding some of the party on the other. Sir Edward was thus enabled to maintain an effectual blockade all the winter. He always expected an attack from Brest, which perhaps might have been attempted if the enemy had known his real strength; but his frequent exchanges with the Channel fleet deceived the French Admiral into a belief that a force was cruising in the neighbourhood, of which the ships he saw were only the in-shore division. Early in the year ships arrived from England with supplies, and every difficulty had been removed, when political events at home led to his recall.
While the general wishes and confidence of the country were directed to Mr. Pitt, as the only minister to carry on the war with energy, the chief support of the Government was the reputation and decisive character of Earl St. Vincent, First Lord of the Admiralty, whose ability as a great commander was even surpassed by his consummate skill as a politician. But the Earl was now suffering the common fate of a practical reformer, to be opposed by the retainers of a former system, and distrusted by all who could not appreciate his innovations. Thoroughly acquainted with his own service, he had introduced everywhere, and especially into the dockyards, a bold and unsparing reform, which no ingenuity could evade, and which was felt the more from being coincident with the reductions of peace. All who were thus cut off, and others whose emoluments he curtailed, naturally became hostile; and the inconvenience always created by a change, and which it was the direct interest of so many to aggravate, afforded too favourable opportunities for the prejudiced to misrepresent, and the candid to misunderstand him. In abolishing the practice of building line-of-battle ships in private yards, he took a step of which all subsequent experience has proved the wisdom; but it united against him an extensive and most powerful interest. It was contended that his measures displayed great and unnecessary harshness, and were calculated to break down the effectiveness of the navy. Very many persons of the highest integrity, too little acquainted with the facts, were thus deceived; and even Mr. Pitt, though he had recommended Earl St. Vincent for the Admiralty, believed that he was weakening the most important arm of the country. Under such circumstances, Sir Edward Pellew was recalled, ostensibly, that the Admiralty might confer with him upon these disputed questions. Nothing could be more flattering to him, or indeed more honourable to both parties, than this confidence; for there had never been much cordiality between Earl St. Vincent and Sir Edward, who was both politically and personally an admirer of Mr. Pitt; and it was clear to every one that the ministry was about to fall. But the Earl was too conscious of the wisdom of his measures to fear the judgment of a candid opponent; and he too well appreciated Sir Edward's character not to feel assured that he would allow no private motive, or political predilection, to interfere with the discharge of his duty.
Thus, when Mr. Pitt gave notice of a motion for inquiry into the state of the navy, of which the avowed object was to censure the naval administration, a mutual friend was employed by the Admiralty to learn Sir Edward's opinion of the subjects it embraced, and on finding that his judgment condemned them, to induce him to express his sentiments in the House. To this proposal he readily assented. They had all engaged his attention previously, particularly that relating to the gun-boats, which he had frequently discussed with the late Sir Sidney Smith, who contended that they might be made effective against a line-of-battle ship. Sir Edward would always say, "I should choose to be in the line-of-battle ship." On the day he went to the House, he observed in a letter to his brother that he now quite understood why he had been recalled from Ferrol.
On the 15th of March, Mr. Pitt brought forward his threatened motions. He contended, that although the enemy had made the most formidable preparations for an invasion, which would probably be attempted within a few weeks, the effective force of the navy, from line-of-battle ships down to hired armed vessels, was at that moment inferior, and less adequate to the exigency of the danger, than at any former period. Notwithstanding it was so evidently necessary to oppose to the enemy's flotilla a force of a similar description, capable of acting in shallow water, the Admiralty had ordered only twenty-three gun-vessels to be built, of which five were to be completed in three, and the remainder in six months, though the necessity for them was immediate and urgent. He condemned the Admiralty for giving up the former approved plan of building line-of-battle ships by contract in private yards. Two-thirds of the navy, he said, had been thus built; for during a war all the strength of the King's yards was required for repairing ships, and building was necessarily suspended in them almost entirely. Through the last war, of twenty-nine line-of-battle ships, twenty-seven had been built in merchants' yards; while in the present only two had been contracted for, although fourteen or fifteen slips fit for building them were then unoccupied in the river. He contended, finally, that the Admiralty had been very remiss and unsuccessful in raising men for the navy. In the war of 1793 we began with 16,000 seamen and marines, and had 75,000 or 76,000 at the end of the year. In the present war we began with 50,000 men, and had raised them only to 86,000. Thus, in the former war there had been an increase of 60,000 men in the year; but in the present only of 36,000, though our mercantile marine was so much greater. Upon these arguments he founded motions for an account of all ships, from line-of-battle ships down to hired armed vessels inclusive, in commission on the 31st of December 1793, 30th of September 1801, and 31st of December 1803, specifying the service on which they were respectively employed; for a copy of the contracts made, and the orders given by the Admiralty in 1793, 1797, and 1803, with respect to the number of gun-vessels to be built; for a list of ships built in the King's yards for 1793 and 1801; but if it should be thought that any intelligence on this head might be a channel of improper information to the enemy, he would abstain from pressing it, for he was aware that there would still be grounds sufficiently strong to convince the House that it was the preferable plan to construct vessels in the merchants' yards; and, finally, for a similar list of vessels built by contract in private yards.
Mr. Tierney, who led the defence for ministers, would agree only to the first and second motions; and he moved, as an amendment to the first, that it should include all other armed ships and vessels employed in the public service. He denied Mr. Pitt's assertions, and combated his arguments. It was an extraordinary proceeding, he said, that an inquiry should be proposed, having for its object the censure of the Admiralty, when every port of the enemy was sealed up, our commerce protected in every direction, and our trade prosperous in an unexampled degree. Our naval force was immense, and admirably calculated for a great variety of service. We had 1,530 vessels employed, of which 511 included the force from line-of-battle ships to hired armed vessels; and 624 were a flotilla completely equipped and ready for immediate service; besides 9 block-ships supplied by the Trinity-house, 19 ships furnished by the East India Company, and 373 lighters, and small craft, fitted in the King's yards. Of 100,000 seamen and marines voted by Parliament, 98,174 had been raised, besides 25,000 sea-fencibles; and this, although the volunteer force of the country was 450,000. He strongly condemned the practice of building ships in merchants' yards. He alluded to the Ajax, which had been thus built. She had cost 41,000l., and the bargain was thought a good one, yet in three years she required a further sum of 17,000l. to fit her for service.
Two parties in the House supported the motions; Admiral Berkeley, Mr. Wilberforce, and others, because they agreed with Mr. Pitt in condemning the measures of the Admiralty; Mr. Fox and his friends, because they considered that an inquiry would redound most highly to the credit of Earl St. Vincent. They contended that ministers opposed it only to screen their notorious incapacity under the shelter of his great name. On the other hand, Admiral Sir Charles Pole, Mr. Sheridan, Mr. Addington, Captain Markham, and others, supported Mr. Tierney, and confirmed all his statements. Nothing, it was said, could afford a stronger proof how enormous were the abuses which Earl St. Vincent had corrected, than the argument of Mr. Pitt and his friends, that men-of-war could not be built in the King's yards, although 3,200 men were employed in them; and it was known that forty-five shipwrights could build a seventy-four in a year. Four hundred of the men discharged had been receiving six shillings a day for doing nothing. Blockmakers' and coopers' work, for which 2,000l. had been paid, was proved upon a survey to be worth only 200l. As to the gun-boats alluded to, which were built by contract in the last war, they were so bad, that eighty-seven out of a hundred-and-twenty had been sold by public advertisement for almost nothing. The men-of-war launched from private yards had been the ruin of the navy. Three of them went to Portugal, and were found so defective that it was necessary to send them home, with a frigate for convoy. The arrangements for the naval defence of the country were most admirable and complete, and if there were any delay in building the twenty-three gun-vessels ordered by the Admiralty, it was because no dependence was placed upon that description of force. It would be folly to meet the enemy with the inferior weapons which necessity obliged him to employ, when we possessed a more powerful arm in our heavy men-of-war and frigates. The depth of water would allow these to act close to our very shores; and if the enemy's flotilla should venture out, Captain Markham, Sir Edward Pellew, Sir Thomas Troubridge, or any officer known in our naval records, would, with a single seventy-four, shoot through and sink a crowd of their contemptible craft.
Ministers obtained a majority of 201 against 130; a most triumphant result for Earl St. Vincent, considering the character of his accuser, and the grounds upon which Mr. Fox and his friends voted for the motions.
Sir Edward Pellew met the charges against the Admiralty with the plain and straightforward declarations of a seaman. Nothing could be more disinterested than his conduct upon this occasion; for there was little to hope from the gratitude of a ministry just tottering to their overthrow, and everything to fear from the resentment of their successors. But he justly considered that upon a vital question, and at such a crisis, no personal or party feeling should intrude; and he felt himself called upon to support the Admiralty with more than a silent vote, because he quite approved their measures, which no man could better understand. He rose fifth in the debate, and spoke as follows:—
"SIR,—As I very seldom trouble the House, I hope I may be permitted to make a few observations on a subject of which, from the professional experience I have had, I may be presumed to have some knowledge. From the debate of this night, there is one piece of information I have acquired, that the French have got upwards of a thousand vessels in Boulogne. I am glad to find they are shut up there; we have one advantage in it—we know where they are. I wish we had any means of knowing when they intend to come out. I know this much, however, that they cannot all get out in one day, or in one night either; and when they do come out, I trust that our cockleshells alone, as an honourable admiral has called a very manageable and very active part of our force, will be able to give a good account of them.
"Sir, I do not really see in the arrangement of our naval defence anything to excite the apprehensions of even the most timid among us. On the contrary, I see everything that may be expected from activity and perseverance to inspire us with confidence. I see a triple naval bulwark, composed of one fleet acting on the enemy's coast; of another, consisting of heavier ships, stationed in the Downs, and ready to act at a moment's notice; and a third, close to the beach, capable of destroying any part of the enemy's flotilla that should escape the vigilance of the other two branches of our defence.
"In respect to what has been said of building ships by contract, I must confess that I do not much admire that mode of keeping up our navy. I have seen some of them—I particularly allude to the Ajax and Achilles—that I took for Frenchmen.
"As to these gun-boats, which have been so strongly recommended, this musquito fleet, they are the most contemptible force that can be employed. Gun-brigs, indeed, are of some use; but between a gun-brig and a gun-boat there is almost as much difference as between a line-of-battle ship and a frigate. I have lately seen half a dozen of them lying wrecked on the rocks.
"As to the probability of the enemy being able, in a narrow sea, to pass through our blockading and protecting squadrons, with all that secresy and dexterity, and by those hidden means that some worthy people expect, I really, from anything that I have seen in the course of my professional career, am not disposed to concur in it.
"I know, sir, and can assert with confidence, that our navy was never better found; that it was never better supplied; and that the men were never better fed and better clothed. Have we not all the enemy's ports blockaded from Toulon to Flushing? Are we not able to cope anywhere with any force the enemy dares to send out against us? And do we not even outnumber them at every one of the ports we have blockaded? It would smack a little of egotism, I fear, were I to speak of myself; but as a person lately having the command of six ships, I hope I may be allowed to state to the House how I have been supported in that command. Sir, during the time that I was stationed off Ferrol, I had ships passing from the fleet to me every three weeks or a month; and so much was the French commander in that port deceived by these appearances, that he was persuaded, and I believe is to this very hour, that I had twelve ships under my command, and that I had two squadrons to relieve each other, one of six inside, and the other of six outside."
He was highly complimented by several who followed him in the debate, particularly by Mr. Addington, Mr. Sheridan, and Mr. Courtenay, as well as by other members out of the House. Twenty, who had come down intending to vote for Mr. Pitt's motions, were induced to support the Admiralty, confessedly by Sir Edward's statements. But it is, perhaps, the most decisive proof of the effect of his speech, that Mr. Pitt himself referred to it in a debate on the defence of the country six weeks after. At the same time he disavowed the gun-boats, and contended for "good stout gun-brigs," declaring that he had observed with much satisfaction the efforts which had lately been made to increase that description of force.
Mr. Addington resigned on the 12th of May, with Earl St. Vincent; Mr. Yorke, the Home Secretary; and Lord Hobart, Secretary at War. They were succeeded by Mr. Pitt, and Lords Melville, Harrowby, and Camden.
On the 23rd of April, there was a naval promotion, in which some of the senior captains, including Sir Edward Pellew, were advanced to be Rear-Admirals of the White, passing over the intermediate step. This favour was probably considered due to them, for they had served considerably beyond the time which had hitherto given an officer his flag, the former promotion having been a small one, and the interval much longer than usual.
Sir Edward received with his promotion the appointment to be commander-in-chief in India. He hoisted his flag in the Culloden, and gratified Captain Christopher Cole, the youngest brother of his deceased friend, and who had served with him as a midshipman in the Winchelsea, by naming him for his captain.
SIR EDWARD'S COMMAND IN INDIA.
The arduous charge of a commander-in-chief requires more than great decision, and a judgment matured by experience. It claims also a mind naturally comprehensive, that it may be equal to great and complicated responsibilities. He has other, and not less important duties than to harass the enemy. He is to protect the commerce of his country; to make his influence so felt over every part of his station, that merit may be encouraged, and negligence effectually controlled; to provide in all respects for the efficiency of his fleet; and to act with the full powers of an ambassador, whenever there is no accredited minister. In addition to these more obvious duties, occasions will continually arise which demand the utmost temper and discretion. If the secret history of the greatest, and most popular commanders were fully made known—what difficulties they encountered, and what anxieties they endured—not many would be found to envy them their distinctions.
The change in the ministry, which took place within three weeks after Sir Edward's promotion and appointment, subjected him, in its consequences, to many and great inconveniences; for the new Board of Admiralty manifested a decidedly hostile feeling. Such was the temper displayed, that he thought it necessary to caution his brother Israel to observe the utmost circumspection in all his conduct, and never even to sleep out of his ship. The evident desire to deprive him of his command left him very little expectation that he would be allowed to keep it, and in his first letter from India he observed, "Probably my successor is already on his way to supersede me." He was not far mistaken.
The most valuable, indeed the only valuable part of his command was that to the eastward of Ceylon, which included the two chief presidencies, and all the rich colonies of the enemy. It was resolved to deprive him of this, by creating it a separate station, leaving to him only the western seas. The more desirable portion was conferred upon Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Troubridge, an officer whose reputation must endure as long as the name and services of Nelson are remembered; and whose unquestioned merit affords every cause to regret that he was innocently made the instrument of such a proceeding. He hoisted his flag in the Blenheim, an old three-decker which had been cut down to a seventy-four, and sailed from England in the spring of 1805, with a fleet of Indiamen under his convoy; and after beating off Rear-Admiral Linois, who attacked him with the Marengo and Belle Poule, reached India in August.
When Sir Thomas went on board the Culloden, on his unwelcome, but not unexpected errand, Sir Edward inquired if he had brought his own letters of recall. Finding that the Admiralty had overlooked the essential step of sending them, he declared, that until they arrived he could not resign any part of his command. He was charged with it by the King, and was required by the regulations of the service to hold it until recalled by the same authority. Sir Thomas thought that a commission was cancelled by a posterior one, without a direct recall; but Sir Edward, who was equalled by very few in his knowledge of naval law, found it easy to convince him to the contrary, or at least to refute his arguments. He told Sir Thomas that if he remained in India, it must be under his own orders, for his commission comprehended all the station, and it was impossible for a junior to command in the presence of his superior officer. When Sir Thomas, indignant at the proposal, refused to act under the other's authority, Sir Edward brought the question very promptly to an issue, by writing, and handing to Sir Thomas, an order on service.
Both officers were naturally warm, and Sir Thomas, disappointed as well as irritated, and who was taken so entirely by surprise, had by this time quite lost his temper. Indeed, the altercation had gone so far, that nothing but a sense of their public responsibility prevented a more unpleasant meeting. Sir Edward had hitherto maintained his self-command; but as Sir Thomas continued warm, and he was conscious of the infirmity of his own temper, he went himself to the cabin-door, and calling for Captain Cole, desired him to remain as a witness of all that passed. The two Admirals quickly came, not perhaps to a more friendly feeling, but at least to a better understanding. Sir Thomas could not but see that the other was acting in strict conformity to his duty, and he had the assurance that the Admiralty would correct their oversight as soon as a reference could be made to them. Sir Edward must have felt it most painful thus to meet an officer whose character stood deservedly among the highest in the service; the trusted friend, and almost the other self of Nelson. Acting with the utmost disinterestedness, though he could only expect to be superseded, for a public board will seldom confess itself to have been in error, he did not hesitate, as soon as his own authority had been properly admitted, to give Sir Thomas a separate squadron in the best part of the station. It proved a most lucrative command, for in addition to its general advantages, some prizes of immense value were taken. On the 20th of July, 1806, the Greyhound frigate and Harrier sloop of war fell in with two large armed Indiamen, richly laden with spices, and protected by a frigate and a corvette. The British gallantly attacked them, and captured, with little loss, the frigate, and both the Indiamen. To add to the gratification of the Admiral, it was his son, Captain Troubridge, who commanded the Harrier.
Sir Edward, as far as he was himself concerned, had eventually little reason for regret. The position of true dignity, to be always ready to sacrifice to public duty personal feelings, and to surrender, when necessary, personal interests, but never to compromise any point of principle or character, is generally the course not less of prudence than of honour. He obtained on this occasion all he could desire, and more than he had hoped for, a candid inquiry. Before his letter reached England, there had been a change in the ministry, and Mr. Grey was at the head of the Admiralty. Nothing could be more honourable than all his conduct. It was at first believed that Sir Edward had committed an illegal and unprecedented act of resistance to that authority which, as an officer, he was bound implicitly to obey. Yet, believing that he had acted hastily, Mr. Grey himself went to the Duke of Northumberland, as Sir Edward's friend, to say, that the board would allow him to write a letter on service, recalling his ill-advised communication. The Duke sent to Sir Edward's brother, who was then in town, that he might write to India without delay; but Mr. Pellew at first thought the step unnecessary. His brother, he said, was not in the habit of acting without due consideration, and he did not think it would be found that he had done so now. But next day. Earl St. Vincent called upon the Duke, and insisted more strongly on the necessity for the step. Sir Edward's letter, he said, was not a question of this or the other administration, but an act of insubordination which no ministry could overlook: that his professional prospects would be entirely destroyed if the board took cognizance of it; and that extraordinary lenity was shown in allowing him to recall it. A letter was accordingly written; but before a ship sailed, Mr. Grey came a second time to the Duke, and told him he had found, upon inquiry, that Sir Edward was right. He did more; for he wrote to Sir Edward himself a very kind and handsome letter; and though opposed to him in political opinions, while Sir Thomas Troubridge was connected with his own friends, he recalled this officer, whom he appointed to the Cape, and continued to Sir Edward, as at first, the entire command in India.
Sir Thomas had with great reason assured himself of a different result. He prepared immediately to cross the Indian Ocean to the Cape in the Blenheim, though she was utterly unseaworthy, and required constant pumping even in harbour. She had grounded on a shoal in the Straits of Malacca, and was obliged to throw her guns overboard, and cut away her masts, before she could be got off. Her back was broken, her frame shaken to pieces, and she hogged excessively. In fact, her head and stern fell so much, that she rose like a hill amidships, and a person at the door of the poop-cabin could not see the sentry on the forecastle below his middle. Sir Edward Pellew entreated the Admiral to select any other ship on the station for his flag. The Captain of the Blenheim formally reported her condition, but was told, that if he were afraid, he might go on shore, a taunt that compelled the unfortunate officer to sacrifice himself with the ship's company. The Admiral thought to force back the broken keel to its place by putting in a very heavy mainmast, and could not be convinced that he thus increased the danger. The distinguished officer who supplied these particulars went on board the Blenheim the day she sailed, to take leave of the Captain, and found that he had just written a last farewell to his wife, from a conviction that the ship must inevitably founder. On the 12th of January, 1807, she sailed from Madras, in company with the Java frigate, and the Harrier sloop of war. On the 5th of February, the Harrier parted company off the island of Rodrigues, in a very heavy gale, in which the unfortunate Blenheim and Java were seen to make repeated signals of distress. They were never again heard of!
The possibility that the ships might have run on shore induced Sir Edward to send the Admiral's son with the Greyhound frigate in search of his lamented parent. Captain Troubridge explored the coasts with all the anxiety that filial affection could inspire, receiving every assistance from the French authorities at the isles of France and Bourbon; but he could discover no certain traces of the ships, and no doubt remained that they had both foundered.
Sir Edward had been in India but a very short time, when his friend and former opponent, Bergeret, was brought to him a prisoner. This gallant officer had employed himself through the peace in the merchant service, with the Psyche, formerly a small national frigate. When hostilities were renewed, he armed her with thirty-six guns, and sent her out in charge of another officer, Captain Trogoff, not choosing to command a privateer. In her first cruise, on the 11th of April, 1804, she attacked, and was beaten off by the Wilhelmina store-ship, Captain Henry Lambert, and returning to the Isle of France, disabled, General Decaen, the governor, bought her into the national marine, and appointed Bergeret to command her. He cruised in the Bay of Bengal for a short time with much success, while his very liberal conduct obtained for him the highest respect of the British residents. Fortune was again unjust to him. On the 14th of February, 1805, the San Fiorenzo, commanded by Captain Lambert, late of the Wilhelmina, and which had been sent expressly in pursuit of him, fell in with the Psyche off Vizagapatam, and after a chase of two days brought her to action. Bergeret defended his ship against a very superior force for three hours and a half, when the San Fiorenzo hauled off to repair her rigging, leaving him with his ship entirely disabled, and more than half his crew killed and wounded. On the approach of the British frigate to renew the action, he surrendered.
Sir Edward was a warm admirer of the brave prisoner, whose character so much resembled his own, and who returned his friendship with equal warmth and sincerity. There is not often such a scene on board a man-of-war as occurred when the two officers first met on the quarter-deck of the Culloden. Both were deeply affected, and the struggle of their feelings, from meeting under such circumstances, drew tears from many who witnessed the interview.
Sir Edward was not always so happy as to meet with enemies thus deserving of his sympathy. A French frigate, the Piedmontaise, was guilty of conduct which would have-disgraced a pirate. Cruising off the Cape, on the 17th of February, 1805, she fell in with the Warren Hastings, one of the China fleet which on a former voyage so gallantly bent off the squadron of Admiral Linois; and after a very long and severe action, in which the Indiaman was dismasted, and otherwise completely disabled, took her. Her brave defence appears to have excited the fury of the enemy, probably because her very crippled state increased the probability of recapture. Before taking possession of the prize, the frigate, by her own mismanagement, fell on board. Immediately, the first lieutenant, with a party of ruffians, many of whom, like their leader, were intoxicated, rushed on the deck of the Indiaman with horrid imprecations and drawn daggers, accusing the prisoners of having run foul of the frigate intentionally. The lieutenant himself wounded Captain Larkins dangerously, and stabbed a young midshipman in several places; and the second officer, the surgeon, and a boatswain's mate, were wounded by his followers. Sir Edward did not become acquainted with these facts for two years, as Captain Larkins and his crew could not depose to them until they reached St. Helena, after they had been liberated from the Isle of France. The Piedmontaise was then cruising in the Indian seas, and Sir Edward transmitted copies of the depositions to every ship on the station, with a general order, in which "the attention of the respective captains and commanders of H.M.'s squadron is especially called to the statement, in order that the ferocious conduct of the first lieutenant, and part of the crew of the Piedmontaise, may receive the general reprobation of H.M.'s service."
The San Fiorenzo was again the fortunate frigate which stopped the career of the enemy. Commanded by Captain George Nicholas Hardinge, brother of Lord Hardinge, the present Commander-in-Chief—a young officer of great promise and distinguished courage—she fell in with the Piedmontaise on the evening of the 6th of March, 1808; and after an exchange of broadsides that night, and a severe but still undecided engagement next morning, brought her to close action on the afternoon of the third day, and took her. The San Fiorenzo commenced action with only 186 effective men; the Piedmontaise, a larger and heavier frigate, had more than 500, including 200 Lascars. Captain Hardinge was unfortunately killed on the third day. For some time before the enemy struck, the first lieutenant was seen exposing himself to the hottest of the fire; till, disappointed of the death he sought, and dreading to fall into the hands of the British, he discharged his pistols into his own body. It is said, that as he did not die immediately, he ordered some of his people to throw him overboard alive.
The French naval force in the Indian seas was at no time considerable, for whenever a cruiser was known to be committing depredations, her career was generally cut short by some of the squadron. It consisted chiefly of privateers, for which the Isle of France afforded a convenient rendezvous; and of which some were large enough to capture a regular Indiaman. The Emiline, taken after a two days' chase by the Culloden, had been a British sloop of war: and the Bellone, taken by the Powerful and Rattlesnake, was added to the navy as a small-class frigate, and actually maintained a running fight with the seventy-four. The resemblance between ships of war and the larger Indiamen more than once deceived the enemy. The Union, a small privateer, mounting only eight guns, thus ventured to chase, and was taken by the Culloden; and the Jena, national corvette, was taken in the same manner by the Modeste frigate. The Jena was a remarkably fine and fast vessel, and, as the Revenant privateer, had formerly cruised long and very successfully. She was commissioned as the Victor, to replace a sloop of war of that name, which in the preceding year had been the scene of one of the most extraordinary and tragical events on record.
The Victor, commanded by Captain George Bell, whose name has been already mentioned in connection with the Nymphe and Indefatigable, had taken four brigs in Batavia Road, and was returning to Prince of Wales' Island. On the 15th of April 1807, off Cheribon, she met three Malay prows under Dutch colours, which, on its falling calm, she detained with the armed boats, and brought alongside. The crews of two of them, a hundred and twenty men, were taken on board the Victor, and placed under a guard, while the prows were being examined; but the people in the third being refractory, a carronade was fired into her, and some small arms, which they returned by throwing spears and firing pistols. A second gun was therefore fired, some sparks from which reached a quantity of powder which had been taken out of the prows, and blew up the after-part of the ship. The guard ran to extinguish the flames, leaving the prisoners, who instantly seized their arms, with the spears and knives which had been thrown on board, and attacked the crew with all the desperation of their character. The prows were immediately cut adrift, and the crew, under the direction of their officers, proceeded with admirable order and coolness, one part to extinguish the fire, and the rest to defend themselves against the murderous attack. After half an hour's dreadful struggle for life, for the Malays would take no quarter, eighty of them lay dead on the deck, and the rest were driven overboard. The Victor had her first lieutenant and five men killed, and her captain and twenty-five wounded; nine of whom died shortly after.
Holland, which in reality, though not yet in name, was now a French province, had a moderately strong squadron in India. Two frigates had been taken since Sir Edward's arrival, the Maria Riggersbergen, by the Caroline; and the Pallas, by the Greyhound and Harrier. The first was the unfortunate ship which, under the name of the Java, shared the fate of the Blenheim; the other was the convoy of the spice ships. Two line-of-battle ships, the Pluto and Revolutie with a frigate and several corvettes and gun-boats, were at anchor in Batavia Road; and information had been received by the Powerful, 74, Captain Plamplin, that Rear-Admiral Willaumez, with six sail of the line, one of them commanded by Jerome Bonaparte, might be expected in the Indian seas. To destroy the ships already at Batavia, and to intercept the French squadron, Sir Edward sailed on the 22nd of October 1806, from Madras to Trincomalee. Here a fleet of Indiamen under his convoy was joined by other ships, and went on to Europe in charge of the Woolwich and Duncan; while the Admiral, with the Culloden, Powerful, Russell, and Belliqueux line-of-battle ships, and Terpsichore frigate, proceeded to the Straits of Sunda, where the Albion and others were to join him. Lieutenant Owen, commanding the Seaflower brig, was instructed to disguise her as one of the expected French squadron, and to hasten on before. On the 23rd of November, they were joined by the frigate Sir Francis Drake, Captain Pownoll Pellew; and on the same day they learnt that Willaumez had gone to America. On the 26th they arrived in the Straits of Sunda, where they found the Seaflower, which had already communicated with the Dutch authorities at Bantam as one of the expected French force, and information was sent accordingly to the Governor at Batavia. So completely were the enemy deceived by this step, that the squadron sailed along the coast of Java, and anchored on the 27th in Batavia Road, before its character was suspected.
As soon as it was known to be British, the Phoenix, 40-gun frigate; the Aventure and Zee-ploeg, national corvettes; the Patriot, and another ship of 20 guns, and three brigs of 14, Company's cruisers; with more than twenty merchant vessels, ran themselves on shore under the extensive batteries of Batavia. Another corvette, the William, struck to the Terpsichore as she was entering the road; but the line-of-battle ships had sailed a few days before to Griessee, a fortified harbour on the Sourabaya river, at the eastern extremity of the island. The boats of the whole squadron, with five hundred picked men, commanded by the Admiral's second son, Captain Fleetwood Pellew, of the Terpsichore, and covered by the fire from the frigates, were sent without delay to destroy the enemy's ships. The decision of Captain Pellew, which scarcely allowed them time to man their guns, made their fire almost harmless. He boarded the Phoenix, whose crew quitted her on his approach; turned her guns on the other armed vessels; burnt all the shipping except three merchant vessels, which were brought away; and in less than two hours returned with the boats, having effected the whole service with no greater loss than one man killed and four wounded.
One of the ships lay at the little island of Onroost, which is piled and jettied all around, and contained a small and compact repairing yard for merchant vessels of all nations. Two boats were sent to destroy her, with strict orders to injure nothing on shore; but unfortunately she drove alongside the jetty, and, to the great regret of the Admiral, the flames communicated to the buildings, and occasioned much damage. The squadron sailed on the 1st of December, the Culloden and Belliqueux to return to India, the others for their respective stations. Thus easily was completed an enterprise, as admirably planned as it was gallantly executed. General Daendels, when he became Captain-General of Java and the Moluccas, some time after, sent a message to Sir Edward, that he hoped he would not pay him a visit without an invitation.
In the following June, the Admiral sent Captain Fleetwood Pellew in the Psyche, with the Caroline under his orders, to ascertain the condition of the Dutch line-of-battle ships at Griessee. Captain Pellew displayed on this occasion the same spirit which had marked his former service. The frigates reached their destination August 29th, and on the following day learned that the men-of-war were lying in the port dismantled, and very much out of repair. They now proceeded to Samarang, where the Psyche arrived, and anchored off the port at midnight, the Caroline having parted company in chase. At daylight she weighed, and stood into the road, where an armed schooner and a merchant brig were anchored near the batteries. These were brought out by the boats, under a heavy but ineffectual fire. Two large ships and a brig had been seen early in the morning at anchor outside, afterwards found to be the Resolutie, armed merchant vessel, of 700 tons, with a valuable cargo, and having the colours and staff of a Dutch European regiment on board; the Scipio, national corvette, of 24 guns and 150 men; and the Ceres, Company's brig of war. That he might be ready to take advantage of the sea-breeze, Captain Pellew destroyed the prizes, and before noon the Psyche was clear of the harbour in chase, the enemy having weighed and stood to sea. The frigate gaining fast upon them, they all ran themselves on shore at half-past three, and opened their fire. The Psyche anchored as near as the depth of water would allow, and presently compelled the merchant ship to surrender. At half-past four, just as the frigate was lowering her boats to board, the Scipio struck: and the brig soon after fired a broadside, and hauled down her colours. They were all got off safely the same night, and Captain Pellew, after arranging with the Governor of Samarang for sending on shore the prisoners, who far outnumbered his own crew, returned to port with his prizes.
On the arrival of the Psyche, Sir Edward sailed from Madras, with the Culloden and Powerful, seventy-fours; Caroline and Fox, frigates; Victor, Samarang, Seaflower, and Jaseur, sloops of war; and Wexford, a large Indiaman, fitted as a troop-ship: with five companies of the 34th regiment, and a company of artillery, under Lieutenant-Colonel Lockhart. The squadron proceeded first to Prince of Wales' Island, where it embarked the Royals, and the 34th; and on the 20th of November sailed finally for its destination. On the morning of the 5th of December it arrived off Point Panka, the eastern extremity of Java; and Sir Edward sent a summons to M. Cowell, commander of the Gallo-Batavian force, to surrender the ships of war under his orders. "The British," he wrote, "are the natural friends of the Dutch. We are impressed with correspondent sentiments. It is become our duty to prevent the Dutch ships of war from acting under the control of France in hostility to the British." He then proposed that the ships of war, and all vessels under French colours, be given up, promising in that case security for the inhabitants and garrison; and threatening, in the event of a refusal, those hostile operations which the naval and military forces were jointly prepared to accomplish. Captain Fleetwood Pellew, with a military officer, and the Admiral's secretary, delivered this proposal to the French commodore; but that officer, in violation of the flag of truce, detained them all as prisoners, and returned an answer of defiance.
The force assembled for the attack was such as might deter the enemy from attempting resistance, with a sufficient force of small vessels to be equal to the service, if the line-of-battle ships should be unable to get up. At the entrance of the river, about ten miles up the harbour, the Culloden and Powerful, though they had been previously lightened, and trimmed to an even keel, to equalize their draught of water fore-and-aft, grounded on what was called the bar, and which proved to be a flat, several miles in extent. Part of their water was started, and their guns, shot, provisions, and whatever would materially lighten them, were removed into three coasting-vessels detained for that purpose; but still they remained fast. The rest of the squadron, except the troop-ship, which was also aground, crossed the bar, and passing a stockade of large trees, anchored in deep water below the island of Madura. On the evening of the 6th, Sir Edward, seeing no probability of carrying up the large ships, determined to force the passage, and attack the place without them, and accordingly shifted his flag to the Caroline. Fortunately, at nine o'clock that night the water began to rise; and by ten, the Culloden was afloat and under sail. Following a boat with a light, which was directed by Mr. Gaze, the master, she passed the stockade, and by eleven o'clock was anchored above the bar in deep water. Before daylight, the Admiral returned to her, and all the squadron, except the Powerful and the troop-ship, which had not yet floated, weighed with the sea-breeze, and stood for the narrow passage between Madura and Java. At half-past eleven, they were engaged with the batteries on the island; but they passed them by half-past twelve, without having received material damage. At a little past four, the squadron anchored abreast of the Fort of Griessee, but no farther resistance was offered, except a few ineffectual shots fired from that fort at the Culloden; M. Cowell having previously determined to defend the place to the last against the frigates and sloops, but to surrender if the line-of-battle ships got up. The Powerful joined next day. In coming up, she was struck from the batteries on Madura with hot shot, but her people extinguished the fire. The troops took possession of the fort, leaving the town in the hands of the civil authorities: and on the 9th, the Governor and Council of Somabaya, having thankfully acquiesced in the liberal terms dictated by Sir Edward, all hostilities ceased. They had promptly released the gentlemen whom the commodore had so unjustifiably detained; and a deputation of three members of their own body accompanied them to the Admiral, to disavow the act of M. Cowell, and to treat for a capitulation.
Having burnt the Pluto, Revolutie, and Kortenaar, line-of-battle ships, and a large Indiaman, fitted as a frigate, and destroyed the military stores and batteries at Griessee and Madura, the squadron weighed on the 13th, and stood down the river in charge of the Dutch pilots. On the 15th, they crossed the bar, and two days after, having completed their provisions and water, left the coast. Not a man was lost in all the service. When Java was taken, in 1811, a squadron was sent to Sourabaya; but none of the large ships could get over the bar; and their officers would scarcely credit the fact that the Culloden and Powerful had reached Griessee.
The Culloden arrived at Madras on the 10th of February, and found there the Russell and Duncan, with troops embarked to attack Tranquebar. They sailed next day, and the place surrendered on being summoned.
But all these operations, complete as they were in their success, were of far less importance than the effectual protection which Sir Edward afforded to commerce. His position, with reference to this point, had been peculiarly fortunate: for the confidential intercourse which existed between him and his brothers, and the warm interest which they took in one another's pursuits, had induced him to give much attention to the commercial system of the country. Particularly, he had become familiar with the important subject of insurance and convoys, upon which his brother had been much in communication with the government. At an early period of his command in India, he submitted to the merchants and underwriters a proposal to establish a regular system of convoys; and invited them to suggest from their own local experience the regulations likely to be the most convenient and effectual. The merchants entered readily into his plans and the results were satisfactory. Some loss was, indeed, still experienced through a frequent practice of masters of vessels to sail without convoy, or to separate from it on the passage. The commanders of the enemy's cruisers generally treated their prisoners well, and released them at the earliest opportunity; so that sailing without protection became a mere commercial calculation between a higher premium of insurance, and the profits from an early arrival, for little personal inconvenience was to be apprehended from capture. To check this practice, the Bengal Government, in December, 1806, issued a proclamation, declaring that all masters of vessels who separated from their convoy without sufficient cause, should be removed from India; and in 1808, the Court of Directors ordered, that the master of every country ship should enter into a bond of 5,000 rupees, at the custom-house from which he cleared, as a penalty for any separation. Not that the danger was often great, for the vigilance of the squadron seldom allowed an enemy's cruiser a long career; but it sometimes happened, as was particularly the case while the force was assembled for the expedition to Sourabaya, that an enemy would unexpectedly show himself, and commit serious depredations.
During the debate in the House of Commons, on the vote of thanks for the victory at Algiers, Mr. Money, an East India Director, who had been in India during Sir Edward's command, bore a strong testimony to the merit and success of his system. "Such," he said, "was the vigilance with which Sir Edward had chased the enemy from our extensive shores, and so powerful the protection which he gave to our commerce in those seas, that property to the amount of millions had been saved, which otherwise would have fallen into the hands of the enemy." Making all the allowance which a loose and general estimate usually requires, the assertion at least shows the estimation in which Sir Edward's services were held. A series of resolutions entered into by the merchants and underwriters of Bombay, in December, 1808, when he was on the point of returning to Europe, affords more precise evidence. From the data furnished by the trade of this port, may be inferred the greatness of the benefits which the commerce of India received from his protection.
"Resolved—That it appears to this meeting of merchants, shipowners, and underwriters, of Bombay, to be an indispensable act of justice, more especially under existing circumstances, publicly to declare, on the approaching departure of his Excellency Vice-Admiral Sir Edward Pellew for Europe, the extent of the protection which the commerce of Bombay has received, since the assumption by his Excellency of the command-in-chief of his Majesty's ships in the Indian seas.
"—That it appears by a document framed in the insurance-office of Bombay, that the rate of premium from Bombay to China, and from China to Bombay, from the year 1708 to 1805, fluctuated between twelve, ten, nine, and eight per cent.; while, during the period of Sir Edward Pellew's command, from 1805 to 1808 inclusive, it has stood at eight per cent., with a return of three per cent., if sailing with convoy, and at five per cent., if warranted with convoy: the rate of insurance has, therefore, been fifty per cent, lower on the commerce of the port of Bombay during Sir Edward Pellew's command than at any former period.
"—That since the arrival of Sir Edward Pellew, a period of only three years, one hundred and ten ships have exported and imported, to and from China, under convoy during the whole voyage; while only twenty-eight have run the passage unprotected, in consequence of their sailing out of the seasons fixed for the regular convoys; at the same time that those which have departed unprotected on the eve of appointed convoys, or have separated in the course of the voyage, have not failed to attract the notice and remonstrance of his Excellency.
"—That the operation of the system of convoys had afforded complete security to the trading capital of Bombay, of which the amount insured at this settlement, from May 1st, 1806, to October 31st, 1808, has been 6,700,000l.; that the premium paid by the trade on that sum amounts to 445,000l.; that the losses by captures amount to 61,000l.; that the losses by sea risks extended to 69,000l.; and that the profits to the underwriters amount to the sum of 314,000l.; the losses by captures being under one per cent, on the principal insured, and exceeded by those arising from sea-risks; while the former have occurred beyond the influence, or have been a consequence of a departure from that regular system of convoy, by which the commerce of the western division of the peninsula of India has been so extensively benefited.
"—That the advantage resulting from protection by convoys, which the trade of this port has thus experienced, has originated in that system which was established, and has prevailed, since the succession to the command of H.M.'s ships in India by Sir Edward Pellew; a system proposed at his express invitation, in the letter addressed to his Excellency by the three leading firms in behalf of the merchants of Bombay, on the 12th of February, 1806, and adopted in the reply of his Excellency's secretary of the following day.
"—That at a time when the enemy has sacrificed his maritime reputation, and every feeling of naval ambition, to a degrading system of privateering, in the prosecution of which national ships of superior force and construction are employed, for the purpose of committing depredations on our trade, it is indispensable to the successful prosecution of our commercial interests, essential to our national credit, and justly due to the character of those to whom the protection of these valuable and important trusts is committed, that a steady adherence to that system should be observed, of the solid advantages of which, the experience of three years has afforded so decided a proof.
"—That independently of the ample protection afforded to the commerce of the port, his Excellency Sir Edward Pellew has manifested a degree of personal anxiety for the security of its trade, characteristic of that zeal and vigilance which have ever distinguished his professional career; that the interference of his Excellency led to the advertisements issued at his suggestion by the insurance society of Bombay in the year 1806, promotive of encouragement to sail and continue under convoy; and subsequently, to the salutary provisions contained in the proclamations published by the governments of Bengal and Bombay in the year 1807, restrictive of the practice of ships separating from convoy; and, moreover, that his Excellency's solicitude in this respect has succeeded in establishing a degree of control over our shipping, hitherto unknown in the Indian seas.
"—That these important facts, as established by the most minute investigation, do eminently entitle his Excellency Sir Edward Pellew, to a more formal declaration of those grateful acknowledgments which he has already received from a great and decided majority of the merchants, shipowners, and underwriters of Bombay.
"—That these resolutions be communicated to his Excellency Sir Edward Pellew, with a suitable address, and published in the Bombay Courier.
"CHARLES FORBES, Chairman."
The great extent of the Indian command, and the comparatively small force with which it was held, called forth the utmost exertions of every officer; and the attention of the commander-in-chief was unceasingly directed to everything which was calculated to maintain his squadron in the highest state of efficiency. Lord Torrington, who was at that time serving under his orders, bore testimony in the House of Lords to the care and judgment by which, while he prevented any waste of naval stores, he kept the ships always well supplied, and in a state always ready for action. Overlooking nothing connected with the interest of his crews, he established a naval hospital at Madras, a measure fraught with economy to the country, and advantage to the service.
As an Admiral, not less than as a Captain, Sir Edward interested himself in the welfare and comfort of every man under his command; but the clamour of that false humanity which is one of the most prominent vices of the present day would never influence him. He knew that, even in the best ordered ships, punishment may be sometimes necessary as an extreme alternative, though the exercise of it demands great discretion. Too many will be found, especially during a war, when it is impossible to inquire into the character of those who come into the service, who are callous to every better motive; and with reference to such, we must respect the humanity more than the judgment of those who would substitute privations injurious to health, for the pain of the lash, and studied indignities for the shame of it. Little consideration can be claimed for that pretended sense of honour, which is sensitive to the shame of punishment, but callous to the degradation of crime. The experience of every good officer will bear out the assertions, that a strict commander is always the most popular; that the orderly system of a well regulated ship, in which every man knows his duty, and performs it without being teasingly interfered with, affords the best security against offences; and that when an offence has been committed, the ship's company, and even the culprit himself, will respect the captain who patiently investigates the fault, and dispassionately orders the deserved punishment.
But on the other hand, except in particular cases, as where a ship has been manned by drafts from the fleet; in other words, by receiving the skulkers and incorrigibles, whom every captain desires to get rid of, frequency of punishment is the most certain proof of unsatisfactory discipline. Either there will be a laxity which encourages by the prospect of impunity, or else a want of system, in which the caprice of the officer is the rule for the moment, and the men can never fall into regular habits. Sir Edward's observation had taught him, that while the power to punish can be entrusted only to the discretion of the commander, it is right, on every ground, that it should be exercised under some check. Accordingly, soon after he went to India, he required a monthly return of punishment from every ship in his fleet; and the Admiralty, struck with the simplicity of the plan, and not less with the excellent effects, adopted it for all the navy. This was the first step in the milder and more effectual system of discipline which has since prevailed; and if he had no other claim than to have originated this, it would be sufficient to entitle him to the gratitude of every officer and man in the service.
He sailed from India in February, 1809, with a fleet of Indiamen under his convoy. Off the Isle of France they encountered a violent hurricane, in which the Culloden was in the greatest danger. For three days no provisions could be cooked, and the crew subsisted chiefly on dry rice, with a dram every four hours. So violent was the motion of the ship, as she rolled from broadside to broadside, that the chain-pumps were almost useless. All the quarter-boats were lost, the quarter-galleries washed away, and three of the dead lights stove. Fortunately her bottom was sound, but she broke much in the upper works; the bolts working themselves loose, and many of the knees giving way. Even the cabin bulkheads were thrown down. It was suggested to the Admiral, who was almost constantly on deck, encouraging the men at the pumps, that the ship would be materially eased if the upper deck guns were thrown overboard. He replied, "I do not think it necessary; she will do very well, and what would become of the convoy if we meet an enemy?" It was his intention, if the gale had continued, to cut away the mainmast, which, being very heavy—for it weighed twenty-one tons—strained the ship exceedingly. The mizen-mast had given way in the top. Four of the convoy foundered, and the rest were scattered; but all which escaped the gale re-assembled at St. Helena, and, with the Culloden, arrived safely in England.
 Bergeret rose to be an Admiral, and was not long since Commander-in-Chief at Brest.
NORTH SEA AND FIRST MEDITERRANEAN COMMAND.
The expedition to the Scheldt was being fitted out when Sir Edward arrived from India; and had he reached England but a few days sooner, it was understood that he would have received the naval command. The military commander-in-chief, whose friendship he had long enjoyed, wished him to be appointed; but the final arrangements of the Admiralty had been already completed.
Lord Mulgrave afterwards proposed to him to be second in command in the Mediterranean; and suggested that Lord Collingwood would probably be glad to surrender his charge to an officer who possessed the confidence of the Admiralty; for that of late he had repeatedly expressed a desire to be relieved from it on account of his declining health. But Sir Edward, who was not aware of the actual condition of that distinguished Admiral, declined the offer, for he could not be persuaded that Lord Collingwood would resign a command which he filled so usefully and honourably, as long as he could possibly hold it with advantage to his country.
He did not remain long unemployed, though he never attempted to create an interest in his favour by any indirect means. Political intrigue, he has said, does not sit well on a sea-officer; and he would not attach himself to the fortunes of any administration, or party. This, as it is the most honourable, is also in the end the most successful path; but the man who travels thus alone and unsupported, must be prepared for the many attacks to which such a position will expose him. Some such annoyance or interference may have prompted the following blunt avowal of independence in a letter, of the 28th of July, 1810.
"I have no right to the favour of Mr. Percival, or any minister.—I have never intrigued, nor ever will—and as to sneaking after such people, I will not—and as to the command of the Channel fleet, be it Pole, or be it Calder, I care not one straw—and whether I am on the shelf by any new set, is equally indifferent—and for me, who am fifty-three, except the heart-felt satisfaction of serving my country in such times, I will never be at the trouble to write a letter to ask a favour of any minister alive. I care not who comes in, or who goes out, and if they send me on shore, well; and if not, it is the same."
In the spring of 1810 he hoisted his flag on board the Christian VII. as commander in-chief in the North Sea. He rode at anchor with his fleet all the summer, off the mouth of the Scheldt, just in sight of land; while his smaller vessels were actively employed along the whole line of coast. He frequently stood into the Scheldt in a cutter, that he might reconnoitre the enemy's fleet in person. A gale from the eastward having blown the fleet off the coast, it was at anchor in the Downs, when a gun-brig arrived with intelligence that the enemy had dropped down to the Western Scheldt, apparently ready to sail. He ordered the fleet to sea immediately; but many of them having made signal of inability, for the pilots refused to get them under weigh, he sent for the chief pilot of the flag ship, and questioned him if it were practicable to take out a ship in such weather. The pilot having reported that it was quite safe, even for the Christian VII., which from her great length was the least manageable ship in the fleet, much more so for the others, some of which worked like cutters, the Admiral made signal for all captains and pilots to come on board. He then repeated his order to sail, and enforced obedience. The fleet sailed, and beat across the North Sea to their station, without an accident; and the enemy returned to their former anchorage as soon as the blockading force appeared. As the autumn advanced, the pilots gave up the charge of the fleet; but Sir Edward kept his station, until the increasing severity of the gales compelled him to take shelter in the Downs.
In the spring of 1811, he succeeded Sir Charles Cotton as commander-in-chief in the Mediterranean. He proceeded to his station in the Caledonia, with his brother Israel, lately promoted to be a Rear Admiral, as captain of the fleet; and arrived off Toulon on the 18th of July. Next morning, two French frigates returning from Genoa with conscripts for the fleet were chased by the Conqueror and Sultan, the inshore squadron; and the French commander, Vice-Admiral Comte Emeriau, sailed out with thirteen line-of-battle ships and a frigate, to protect them. The Conqueror approached near enough to fire upon the frigates, and afterwards, with her consort, exchanged a few distant broadsides with the advanced ships of the enemy: but these, whose only object was to secure the frigates, did not wait for the main body of the British force, now fast coming up, but hastened back to their anchorage. This affair, with the evident high state of equipment of the French fleet, led all to expect that there would soon be a general action; a hope in which the Admiral fully participated. He writes thus on the 28th of December, 1811, when the fleet was on its way to Mahon:—
"MY DEAR BROTHER,—I would not permit a ship to sail direct for England without carrying you a few lines to say we are all well, on our way to replenish our provisions and water for the winter's cruise: when this is done, we return to our old ground; or it is possible we may attempt to lay in Hyeres Bay, should we find the ground good for winter gales, of which at present we are not quite assured. We lay there a month in full expectation it would force the enemy to give us battle, and it will probably at last compel them to do so next spring. They are actively fortifying the islands and bay all around, in order to guard against attack, and have at least ten thousand men at work: they suspect our army will move this way. As far as we can judge from appearances, I have never yet seen a French fleet in half the order the Toulon one is. They have, I am sorry to say, adopted but too many of our arrangements, and in point of clothing, they exceed us. They also keep everybody on board, so that the French officers are now of necessity obliged to find amusement in their duty; and become acquainted with their people. The ships are magnificent; four of 120 guns, larger than Caledonia, and twelve fine two-deckers, are all ready and manned. Two of 120, and two of 80 are building, and may launch by March or April; so that I think we shall have twenty to fight, without any from Genoa, Naples, or Venice; and I trust a glorious day we shall have. Keats is a host of strength to me; and we are all well together, eager for the day, which I trust will help to put an end to the miseries of war, and the irksome eighteen years' confinement between wooden walls we have all experienced.
"God be with you ever, "My dear Sam, "Your truly affectionate brother, "E. PELLEW."
The hopes of the fleet were disappointed: for the enemy came out only when the wind was fair to return; and thus, though they often allowed the advanced ships to approach nearly within gunshot, nothing was, or could be done, on those occasions.
In the following week, prompted perhaps by the recollections of the new year, he again writes:—
"I never expect to live the war through, and am not at all anxious about it. If I can only have the happiness of doing service to the country, I would give a great deal to be ten years younger; but as that cannot be, I must content myself with the reflection that my children are good, and provided for; and that I leave them attached to their mother, and to each other. We have all reason to be thankful, and to praise God for his great and manifold mercies. We are ready to start at a moment's notice, and have a strict look-out. The enemy are also ready, sixteen sail, a three-decker of 140 guns launched Christmas Day.
"God bless you, and yours; and may He enable me to do honour to my country and my family—for myself, I care not."
The number of points which required to be constantly watched (for more than two thousand miles of coast, from the Ionian Islands to Gibraltar, was in the hands of the enemy), made a considerable force necessary; and the Mediterranean fleet was at this time one of the largest ever entrusted to an Admiral. The commander-in-chief, with a principal part of the line-of-battle ships, blockaded the French fleet in Toulon, cruising off that port from the beginning of March to the end of November, and sheltering in Mahon through the three winter months. A Rear-Admiral was kept at Malta, with a sufficient force under his direction to guard the different points of the station at the upper part of the Mediterranean. Another Rear-Admiral was stationed on the south coast of Spain, to watch the movements of the enemy, and to assist the Spaniards whenever they could assemble in numbers to make a stand. A third remained at Gibraltar; and a Commodore, with a ship of the line, and frigates, watched the Gulf of Genoa, and the western coast of Italy. Frigates and small vessels were detached wherever their services became necessary.
Knowing from his own experience what could be done by the flag-officers and captains of his fleet, he was enabled to assign to all of them their respective duties in the full confidence that they would not disappoint him. He associated much with them, and was in the habit of freely communicating his ideas, as well on general subjects connected with the movements of the fleet, as on their own personal charge. By his prompt measures, and personal attention to the repairs, victualling, and storing of the fleet, and his care to obtain ample supplies of stores and provisions from England in such good time as never to be deficient in any necessary article, he kept all the ships in a high state of equipment, and afforded at the same time an example of activity and forethought which was not lost upon his officers. He was attentive to everything which affected the discipline of the crews, and was particularly strict in enforcing regulations for constant exercise at the great guns and small arms.
How perfect was the discipline of the fleet may be inferred from the fact, that with so many ships, and on a station where the enemy had the chief part of his naval force, he lost, in three years that he held the command, not a single vessel by capture: and only one, a small gun-brig, by shipwreck. It may be added, that through almost twenty years of command in war, as Commodore and Admiral, no vessel under his orders was ever taken. Something of this may be ascribed to fortune; but more must be referred to the excellence of the officers and crews; which, when the results are so uniform, is in fact also the praise of the commander. Indeed, the superiority of the Mediterranean fleet under his command was well known, and James, in his Naval History, complaining of the dearth of good seamen on other stations, laments that "so many thousands of the very best of seamen, who, under the wise regulations of Sir Edward Pellew, were daily improving themselves in the neglected art of gunnery, should be denied the power of showing their proficiency where it was the most wanted."
He was particularly anxious to keep down the expense of the fleet, and indefatigable in his exertions to economize stores of every description, which at this time were procured from home with much difficulty. When it was found that fresh water could be obtained at the mouths of the Rhone, the fleet went there, and usually completed in forty-eight hours. He was thus enabled to discharge several transports. From the size and force of that river, the fresh water floats for a considerable distance over the sea; and at first, some of the cruisers completed their water by dipping it carefully from the surface. But on the fleet anchoring in the bay, the launches, with the armed boats to protect them, were sent up the river, where the water was not at all brackish. An arrangement was eventually made with the French General, who agreed not to molest the boats, the Admiral on his part promising that none of his people should be suffered to land on the marshes, or in any way to disturb the cattle grazing there, of which there were many thousands. In the strong north-west gales, so common in the Gulf of Lyons, the ships were in the practice of furling sails every night, and driving off from Toulon, standing in-shore again under easy sail when the gale moderated. During the winter months, when he sheltered in Mahon harbour, the ships had their repairs made good, and their stores and provisions completed; the Admiral being as active in the dockyard, where he would often be found at the earliest dawn of the morning, as he showed himself when afloat. Care was taken that while the fleet thus lay in harbour, it should always be ready for an immediate start if the enemy should put to sea; and two frigates, occasionally with a line-of-battle ship, were kept off Toulon to make a daily observation of the state and movements of their force. On two occasions, the in-shore frigates particularly distinguished themselves. On the 22nd of September, 1811, the Volontaire and Perlen retreated from a division of three line-of-battle ships, and two frigates, with which they were repeatedly engaged during six hours; and saved themselves through their admirable seamanship without loss: and in the following May, the Menelaus alone, when close in-shore, was chased by several line-of-battle ships; and though her fore-topmast was nearly cut in two by a shot from the batteries, she secured it, and escaped.
Competent masters were provided for the young gentlemen of the Caledonia, who were assembled every day in the Admiral's fore-cabin, and kept closely at their studies; the Admiral himself often visiting them, and interesting himself in their progress. The French and Spanish interpreters instructed them in these languages: the flag-lieutenant superintended their navigation, and that they might perfect themselves in seamanship, a frigate-built yacht of eight or ten tons was provided, upon which they were exercised in sailing, rigging and unrigging, and every part of a practical seaman's duty. All the arrangements of the ship, with regard both to officers and men, displayed consideration for their comfort and advantage. When the Admiral thoroughly knew his officers, he confided in them in their respective situations, never teasing them with interference, or disturbing himself by unnecessary watching or anxiety, after his orders had been given. The influence which he exerted on their behalf, and his great success in obtaining promotion for them, gave every one the strongest inducement to excel. He had known the anxieties of a young man forcing his way through the service without friends; and his own recollections taught him how best to assist and encourage others.
No man could be more careful of the reputation and feelings of his officers, or more ready to suggest a plea in excuse for their errors. He had an extreme dislike to bring any of them to a court-martial, and would never resort to this painful extremity where it could with any propriety be avoided. Very few cases occurred under his command; so few, indeed, that it has even been asserted that not one took place. This it would be too much to affirm. It may be quite true that he was in no case the accuser: it certainly was his practice to prevent extreme measures wherever he could support the authority of the superior without subjecting the accused to the consequences of a public trial; and the recommendation of the commander-in chief would generally be conclusive. Still, a serious case would sometimes occur, in which it was impossible to prevent the law from taking its course. At a particular period of his command, and on a very important and critical occasion, one of his captains placed him in a position of much embarrassment, by entering without authority into a treaty with the Queen and Court of Murat. The commander-in-chief arrived very soon after, and annulled the treaty; but he spared the officer the pain of his position by charging him with the most prominent and honourable service connected with his own arrangements. In his despatches to the Admiralty on the occasion, he touches very lightly on the error, but enforces every exculpatory plea. Of the unauthorized arrangement with the enemy, he merely writes, "which I should have been glad he had never entered upon;" yet he adds, "from my conviction that he had been actuated by the purest motives, and placed in a peculiar situation. I thought it right, in acknowledging his letter, to express my approbation of his general proceedings; and in consideration of all the circumstances connected with his engagements. I gave him my sanction to," &c. He then proceeds to describe the flattering trust he had committed to this officer.
But kind as he was, he endured no relaxation of discipline, and never forgot what was due to his rank and station. His manners were formed by his character; and whenever an individual with commanding talents directs them to worthy objects, combining a proper sense of what he owes to himself with a just consideration for others, he will always, and without an effort, appear dignified and amiable: far more so in his unaffected simplicity, than the man who only assumes the character of the chief and patron, because his position requires it.
His temper was warm, the common failing of quick and active minds. No one was more conscious of it than himself; and where he feared it had given pain, he would labour to remove the impression by marked and continued attentions. In the multiplicity of cares and duties which surround a commander-in-chief, there are so many sources of irritation and disappointment, that it is no wonder the mind should sometimes be brought to that extreme point of endurance, when a small additional annoyance destroys its equanimity.
The service in the Mediterranean was one of multiplied details, individually too unimportant for history, yet calculated to influence materially the progress and result of the war. Along the eastern coast of Spain, the support and co-operation of the ships afforded that encouragement to the inhabitants which in the western provinces they derived from the presence of the British army. Even when the fortresses had fallen, and Spain had no longer a force for a rallying point in that part of the country, the guerillas, acting in concert with the fleet, were enabled to perform exploits which alarmed and distressed the invader, and kept alive the spirit of hope and resolution. Along the shores of Italy and France, the most daring and brilliant enterprises were continually achieved. Batteries and forts were stormed in open day, and prizes, sometimes in whole convoys, carried off from anchorages where they seemed to be unassailable. Looking at the evident danger of such attempts, one is astonished at the constant success which attended them, and at the generally inconsiderable loss sustained. It would be unjust to the courage of the enemy, and still more to that of the gallant officers and men who performed such services, not to state the cause of this impunity and success. It was not that the defences on shore were feebly maintained, or that their defenders were surprised and overpowered by the reckless desperation of the assailants; but that the different boat attacks were planned with a judgment, and supported by a force, which prevented effectual resistance. Officers such as Hoste, Gordon, Rowley, Maxwell, Duncan, Ussher, and indeed all, for no commander ever placed more general and deserved confidence in his officers than Sir Edward Pellew, were not men to send away their people on doubtful and desperate services. The Admiral himself, much as he admired enterprise, strongly discouraged all acts of useless daring. He was always most unwilling to risk men's lives in boat attacks, when they could not be supported by the fire from the ships; and when his own boats were necessarily detached on service, his anxiety for their safety was very great. But the men, who saw in these successes only the daring courage which obtained, but not the considerate judgment which planned them, learned to fancy themselves invincible, and would go to what might appear a death service, as if it were an excursion of pleasure. The crew of the Imperieuse, who had often distinguished themselves in these attacks, petitioned their captain to remain with them, when he had been appointed to a finer ship, and offered to prove their attachment to him by taking any two French frigates they could meet. It is right to add, that their captain, a son of the great and good Lord Duncan, submitted their petition to Sir Edward Pellew, who continued him with his faithful followers. "You are a brave nation," said Napoleon at Elba to an English captain, one of Sir Edward's officers, "so are the French; but the English are individually brave." Services like these create the individual bravery which Napoleon admired.
Still more important was the moral influence which these attacks impressed on the enemy. When the inhabitants along the southern coasts of Europe could scarcely look upon the waters without seeing an English cruiser; when they saw the apparent ease with which their strongest defences were carried; when they felt themselves at the mercy of the assailants, yet always experienced their forbearance and protection; the respect felt for an enemy so powerful and generous, taught them to desire the more earnestly their own day of deliverance from the common tyrant. And when the tremendous judgment which visited him in the Russian campaign offered the prospect of his speedy and final overthrow, every facility existed for acquainting them with the full extent of his reverses, and preparing them to avail themselves of the earliest opportunity to assert their freedom. "Affairs in these countries," says Sir Edward, in one of his letters, "look well, and promise much next summer, all over the East. Detestation, amounting to horror, is the general expression against this tyrant of the earth."