The ordinary cares and duties of his command, and his very extensive correspondence, for the number of letters he was in the habit of writing on service was almost incredible, were by no means Sir Edward's heaviest charge. Perhaps there was no ambassador on whom a greater diplomatic responsibility was imposed than on the commander in the Mediterranean. It formed by much the largest and most anxious portion of Collingwood's duties, and the greatness of the trust, the impossibility of confiding it to another than the commander on the station, and the uncommon ability with which Collingwood sustained it, gave the British Government much uneasiness when the state of that officer's health threatened to deprive them of his services. It increased materially in extent and importance after Sir Edward had succeeded to the command, when the reverses of the French in Russia opened a prospect of deliverance to all the states along the shores of the Mediterranean, including the southern provinces of France itself. Sir Edward exerted himself unceasingly to prepare them for this consummation, and to encourage them to seize the first opportunity to effect it; and the judgment he displayed in these services obtained from a British Cabinet minister the declaration, that "great as he may be as a sea-officer, he is still greater as a statesman."
One professional distinction was yet wanting, and this he anxiously desired, as a means of hastening an honourable peace, and on personal grounds, perhaps, to connect his name with the history of his country—to command in a general action. Though the enemy had shrunk from meeting him, as he expected when he first assumed the command, yet, while they continued to build ships of the largest class, and to keep their fleet always ready for sea, he could not but hope that they only waited for a favourable opportunity to try the fortune of their flag. At the end of 1811 there were sixteen sail of the line in Toulon. Two others were launched next year, and by the close of 1813 there were twenty-two, of which six were three-deckers of the largest size. Sir Edward gave them every opportunity, and every prudent advantage, but he never could induce them to attack him. They had been forbidden to engage, and the Emperor had hitherto seen nothing to induce him to recall the order. Thus, though they were kept in a state of high equipment through the whole period of Sir Edward's command, they never ventured far beyond the protection of the batteries; and came out only when they had a leading wind to return.
The restoration of his fleet was a favourite ulterior object with Napoleon; and if a different result of the Russian campaign had placed the resources of Europe at his command, there is no doubt but that the days of St. Vincent and Trafalgar would have been renewed. There was an English officer who was much in his presence and confidence at Elba, and to whom he proposed the most flattering inducements to enter his service. "I am honoured by your Majesty's offer," was the reply, "but I was born an Englishman." Conversing with him on naval affairs, he one day said, "I would have had two hundred sail of the line, and when I brought against you such a force, you must have been crushed." But the officer soon convinced him that the tactics which he had made so effectual on land, by concentrating an overwhelming force upon his enemy, were not applicable to naval operations. Sailors are made but slowly. It requires an able commander to direct twenty ships, and the most skilful could scarcely manoeuvre forty. Dark nights and gales would disperse the unwieldy armada, and a small, but well managed force, would hang upon it and destroy it in detail. The Emperor saw the force of the objections, and closed the conversation with the compliment already related.
Once, towards the end of the war, an opportunity seemed to be offered by which the enemy might be compelled to sacrifice part of his fleet, or to risk a general battle. On the morning of November 5th. 1813, the French fleet had sailed out of Toulon with the wind at E.S.E., and advanced to a greater distance than usual, when the wind suddenly shifted to south-west. Immediately the enemy made every exertion to work back to their harbour. The main body of the British fleet was just in sight to the southward, and an advanced squadron of four sail, with a fifth at no great distance, was about half-way between the two fleets. This squadron lay up for the enemy under all sail, with every appearance of being able to cut off the rear ships, the Wagram of 130 guns, with four two-deckers and four frigates. On the approach of the British, the enemy tacked, and stood in so close, that many thought they intended to run themselves on shore; but they again tacked off to the southward, and the advanced squadrons stood on with every prospect of passing to windward of them. Unfortunately, as the British ships approached, the wind headed them, and threw them off so much, that they only fetched just within gun-shot of the Wagram, the enemy's rear ship. The fleet was at this time bringing up the original wind, and the Caledonia, San Josef, and Boyne, actually fetched within gun-shot of the French Admiral, before the wind headed them. The Wagram, which had reserved her fire for the Caledonia, exchanged broadsides with her, but at too great a distance to produce material effect; and the enemy being so far to windward, succeeded in reaching Toulon. Eleven shots from the Wagram and the batteries struck the Caledonia, wounding the mainmast, cutting some of the shrouds, and destroying a small boat upon the booms. Much disappointment was felt by all the fleet, and the conduct of the advanced squadron was strongly censured by many in the ships astern, who supposed that they had intentionally bore away, when in fact they had come up within influence of the head wind.
A more serious, though very partial affair occurred in the following February. On the evening of the 12th, Rear-Admiral Kosmao Kerjulien sailed from Toulon, with three sail of the line, and three frigates, to escort a seventy-four which was expected from Genoa. On the following morning, the fleet returning from Mahon, discovered the enemy to the eastward of Hyeres Islands. They were at first supposed to be British ships, but the Admiral himself going aloft, clearly made out their character. The Boyne, Captain Burlton, a small three-decker, sister ship to the Victory, was considerably in advance of the fleet. It was on Sunday, and the ships were preparing for the morning service, which had already commenced on board the Boyne, when the signal for a general chase was thrown out. The wind blew strong from E.S.E., and the Boyne, perceiving the enemy's intention to come through the little pass of Hyeres Bay, stood for that pass to intercept them. Sir Edward, who was leaning on the foreyard, watched her with admiration, but extreme anxiety. "Hold on, my brave Burlton!" he exclaimed, as the Boyne dashed at their whole force. Then, as he feared they would all close, and overpower her before he could arrive to her assistance, he turned to an officer at his side, and declared with energy, "If they take her they sha'nt keep her, for I'll go in with the fleet!"
Passing through the enemy immediately astern of a frigate, to which she gave a broadside, the Boyne separated the rear-ship from the others, and brought her to action. This ship, the Romulus, a two-decker, immediately hauled in for the north shore, and kept so close, going round all the bays, that the Boyne could neither run her on board, nor get inside her. They ran side by side with studding sails set, and at the rate of ten knots, before the wind, which blew directly into Toulon. Once it was thought that the Romulus was aground, as she luffed up to the wind, which brought all her sails aback, and her starboard lower studding-sail in upon the gangway. The Boyne also backed her sails, and continued close to the enemy; but the Romulus paying off, and filling again, continued to run alongshore, and when she reached Cape Brun, at the entrance of the harbour, had gained on the Boyne. The Caledonia had by this time come up, and the Admiral waved to Captain Burlton to haul his wind to the southward. The Boyne tacked accordingly, being then within pistol shot of Cape Brun battery; and the Caledonia fired a broadside at the Romulus, as she ran in to join her consorts in the harbour. The Caledonia then gave the Boyne three hearty cheers, and Captain Burlton received the thanks of the commander-in-chief by signal.
Napoleon was now contending for existence on the soil of France, and the remains of his former conquests were rapidly melting from him. In the course of January and February, every place in the Adriatic had surrendered. In the following month, Lord William Bentinck left Palermo with an army, supported by a squadron under Commodore J. Rowley, to reduce Genoa. The advanced guard was landed considerably to the eastward, and moved forward, supported by the squadron, carrying and dismantling the batteries as they advanced. On the 30th, the defences round the Gulf of Spezzia capitulated. On the 13th of April, the army was landed at Recce, in the Gulf of Genoa; and at day-break on the 17th, a joint attack was made by the land and sea forces on the defences around the place. These were carried in the course of the day; and preparations were in progress to attack the town, when Sir Edward Pellew arrived with several line-of battle ships. The governor, already alarmed at the rapid progress of the assailants, capitulated, and the town was taken possession of next morning. Four gun-brigs, and a number of merchant vessels were found in the mole; and the Brilliant, a fine seventy-four on the stocks, was launched, and still remains in the navy under the appropriate name of the Genoa.
Paris had already capitulated; and on the 28th of this month, Napoleon left France in a British frigate for Elba. He landed on the 3rd of May on the little island which had been assigned to him for a sovereignty, and a prison: and thus ended a war, one of the longest, the most dreadful, but in all respects the most glorious, which England had ever waged.
SECOND MEDITERRANEAN COMMAND.
The contest for naval supremacy was so entirely decided by the battle of Trafalgar, that no opportunity was afterwards afforded for great successes. But at the end of the war, when the leading Peninsular generals were raised to the peerage, it was thought due to the service to confer a similar distinction upon a naval officer. Sir Edward Pellew received this mark of his sovereign's favour. He was created Baron Exmouth, of Canonteign, a mansion and estate in the South of Devon which he had purchased for a family property; and the pension was settled on him which is usually granted when a peerage is conferred for eminent public services.
He was still in the Mediterranean when the news of his elevation reached him, and he received the first account of it from a newspaper. In allusion to it, he writes:—"I was never more surprised than at this event. Never was man more ignorant of its being thought of; much less reason had I to expect it; and it has happened only by a combination of events quite unconnected with influence or power. I had some reason to believe a red ribbon was intended, and —— wrote that it had been granted; but if so, it was changed next day to what it is, which, for the sake of our family, I hope will be useful and respectable. For myself I am indifferent, and know it will only tend to multiply my enemies, and increase my difficulties." ... In the course of this year, he received a handsome compliment from the officers of the Mediterranean fleet. It is a beautiful model of the Warwick vase, executed by Messrs. Rundel and Bridge, at a cost of 580 guineas, and bears the following inscription:—"Presented to the Right Honourable Admiral Lord Exmouth, &c., &c., &c., as a mark of their respect and esteem, by the officers who served under his Lordship's command in the Mediterranean."
At the beginning of the next year, when the order of the Bath was extended, he was included among the knights commanders; and was afterwards advanced on an early vacancy to be a grand cross. The former was entirely unexpected, as he knew nothing of the intention to extend the order. He thus begins a letter to his brother on the 5th of January:—"I seize this moment, when the arrival of the post has brought me the enclosed without one single line from any friend I have on earth: possibly, it was owing to the lateness of the nomination. I had not the most distant idea of this event, and I can only account for its coming to me by the squabbling of parties ... to end which, it was probably decided on giving it to the commander-in-chief. On this ground only can I account for it, as it was by no means necessary to add this, which was once considered due to me as a reward of sufficient magnitude, without any other.
"6th January, 1815.—I had written the above before any gazette reached me, which explains the whole. But as it shows my heart and mind to you without reserve, and as I can call God to witness, that I never in my life kept anything from you. I send it.—May God bless you."
He had remained but a few months in England, when, on the renewal of hostilities consequent on the return of Napoleon from Elba, he was sent back to the Mediterranean. Hoisting his flag in the Boyne, and again with his brother, Sir Israel, as captain of the fleet, he hastened to his station. His services were first required at Naples, which he was so happy as to save from all the horrors of anarchy. Murat, that he might create a diversion in favour of Napoleon, had rashly attacked Austria, and thus violated the compact by which he was allowed to hold his usurped throne. What followed scarcely deserves the name of war. His army, not waiting for the enemy to approach, fled like sheep, and left the Austrian commander an unresisted march to Naples. Lord Exmouth, after having arranged with Lord W. Bentinek for the co-operation of the forces from Sicily with the allies, had arrived on the evening of the 18th of May, at Civita Vecchia, whence, on learning the rapid advance of the Austrians, he proceeded without delay for Naples, where he anchored on the evening of the 20th. Madame Murat embarked the same night on board a British seventy-four, and immediately wrote to Lord Exmouth, requesting that he would take measures for the security and peace of the city. No capital in Europe contains within itself more formidable elements for popular tumult; and upon this occasion, the mob, excited by the general confusion, and not restrained by any adequate authority, were proceeding to the last excesses of rapine and violence. Lord Exmouth was not slow to take the steps which such an emergency required. On the morning after his arrival, he landed the marines, who took possession of the forts, and the castle of St. Elmo, and conjointly with the civic guard, restored, and maintained order. On the 23rd, the Austrian army entered the city, and next day the forts were delivered up, and the marines embarked. The king, Ferdinand, was unbounded in his expressions of gratitude, and invested him on the spot with his highest order.
After having concluded some very difficult and delicate negociations respecting the queen and court of Murat, who were eventually sent to Trieste, Lord Exmouth proposed to General Bianci, to embark a few thousand men, and make a dash at Toulon. Unfortunately, the instructions of the Austrian commander would not allow him to join in such an expedition. The squadron therefore sailed for Leghorn, where it landed the first division of the Austrian army, and thence proceeded to Genoa. Accounts received on the 3rd of July of the situation of affairs on the coast of Provence determined Lord Exmouth, in concert with Sir Hudson Lowe, to embark 3,000 men, part of the garrison of Genoa, consisting of the 14th, and two Italian regiments, and including 200 artillery and cavalry, with which he sailed direct for Marseilles. Here the troops were landed, with a body of seamen, and the marines of the squadron, and stopped the advance of the rebel Marshal Brune, who was marching from Toulon upon Marseilles avowedly to destroy it. The inhabitants, grateful to their preservers, were unceasing in their attentions, both to the fleet and army, as long as they remained in the place. Their sense of the important services which the two commanders had rendered, as well to their city, as to the cause of their rightful sovereign, was marked by the present to each of a large and beautiful piece of plate, which was executed at Paris. On the base of that presented to Lord Exmouth is a medallion of the noble Admiral; and a view of the port of Marseilles, with the Boyne, his flagship, entering in full sail. It bears the simple and expressive inscription,—"A l'Amiral mi Lord Exmouth, la ville de Marseilles reconnoissante."
The squadron wintered in Leghorn roads, being detained in the Mediterranean for instructions, which were delayed for some time, through the magnitude of the negotiations then in progress. At the beginning of 1816, Lord Exmouth was ordered to proceed to the different Barbary powers, to claim the release of all the Ionian slaves, who, by the late political arrangements, had become British subjects: and to make peace for Sardinia. These were to be matters of compulsion; but he was also to make peace for any of the other states in the Mediterranean who would authorize him to do so. Naples readily availed herself of his offer. Unable to protect herself, it was to her an inestimable blessing to gain security from such a dreadful scourge on the easiest terms which the influence of the first maritime power could obtain for her. Nothing can be conceived more horrible than the condition of the Christian slaves, subjected as they were, in countries where no law gave protection, to all the caprice and cruelty of masters, who hated and despised them for their faith. Nor was it a small aggravation of their misery, that as Roman Catholics, they were cut off from the observance of rites which they deemed essential. To the fear and danger of being reduced to this miserable condition was the maritime population of the states around the Mediterranean continually exposed: while the great naval powers, deterred from exterminating these pirates, either by more pressing concerns, or by the failure of the different expeditions which had attempted it, purchased a discreditable security by presents.
Lord Exmouth afterwards visited Rome; but the Pope declined the offer of his services, perhaps from difficulties arising out of religious scruples at confiding a formal trust to a Protestant. He received the Admiral, however, with the utmost courtesy, and even attended to his request upon a subject where it was scarcely to have been expected that the interference of a Protestant would be allowed. A young Spanish lady, who was confined in a convent at Minorca, under circumstances of an oppressive and distressing nature, had contrived to bring her case to the knowledge of Lord Exmouth, and to place in his hands a memorial, which he took an opportunity to deliver personally to the Pope. A British admiral interceding with the Pope for a Spanish nun was a novel occurrence; but Pius VII. received the memorial very graciously, and placed it in the hands of Gonsalvi that proper inquiries might be made. It is satisfactory to add, that Lord Exmouth received a letter a few months after, informing him that the poor girl's prayer to be set at liberty had been complied with.
Before he took any steps in fulfilment of his instructions he made the arrangements necessary for an attack, which was to be the alternative if negotiations failed; a result much to be expected at Algiers, which had hitherto withstood so many formidable armaments. He ordered Captain Warde, of the Banterer, to proceed to Algiers, where he was carefully to observe the town and the nature of its defences. Lord Exmouth's instructions on this occasion, and which were written with his own hand, afford an admirable illustration of the forethought with which he provided for every contingency, and which was the chief secret of his constant success.
It were injustice to Captain Warde to state how he performed this difficult and important service in any language but that of the Admiral. In his despatch which accompanied the treaty made with Tripoli, and which he sent to the Admiralty when proceeding on his second visit to Algiers, he writes:—"Previous to my leaving Leghorn, I despatched Captain Warde in the Banterer to Algiers, to make his observations on the anchorage and sea-defences, which service he performed with entire secresy and judgment, and highly to my satisfaction. The accompanying plan of the works, with his remarks after visiting all the forts and arsenal, I found correct in every respect; and when it is considered that he had not the means of taking angles, but was compelled to pace the distances, and trust much to his recollection, to avoid being suspected, I think him deserving of the highest commendation. The soundings round the mole, and the bay to the N.W. of the lighthouse, were all made by him personally in the night without discovery; nor did even the consul suspect the purport of his visit."
Indeed, Captain Warde played the careless idler to perfection. He escorted the ladies of the consul's family everywhere by day, and danced with them in the evenings, covering a keen and constant observation with the appearance of frivolity; while at night he was silently moving outside the port in a boat, taking the soundings with a pole.
It adds to the merit of this officer, that all the previous plans of Algiers were so incorrect, that he was obliged to begin his own from the outlines, as if the place were a new discovery. Lord Exmouth afterwards declared that if he had proceeded to hostilities at his first visit, without having been furnished with Captain Warde's plan and observations, he should have assigned to the ships stations which they could not have occupied. The plan in the Admiralty book of charts, among other inaccuracies, laid down the sea-face of the city as four miles long, instead of one; omitted the bay to the north-west of the lighthouse; represented the pier on which the strong fortifications are built as quite straight from the lighthouse in a southerly direction, whereas it forms a quarter of the compass, bending round to the south-west, or towards the city; and laid the distance between the piers at the entrance of the mole, a mile, instead of sixty, or sixty-five fathoms. Notwithstanding this, and his great disadvantages arising out of the secresy he was compelled to observe, Captain Warde's observations were so accurate and complete, that Lord Exmouth afterwards sent to the Admiralty his original plan, to illustrate the despatches of the battle.
Thus prepared for every alternative, Lord Exmouth, on the 21st of March, made known to the squadron the service upon which they were proceeding in the following General Order:—
"The Commander-in-Chief embraces the earliest moment in which he could inform the fleet of his destination, without inconvenience to the public service.
"He has been instructed and directed by his Royal Highness the Prince Regent, to proceed with the fleet to Algiers, and there make certain arrangements for diminishing at least the piratical excursions of the Barbary states by which thousands of our fellow-creatures, innocently following their commercial pursuits, have been dragged into the most wretched and revolting state of slavery.
"The Commander-in-Chief is confident that this outrageous system of piracy and slavery rouses in common the same spirit of indignation which he himself feels; and should the government of Algiers refuse the reasonable demands he bears from the Prince Regent, he doubts not but the flag will be honourably and zealously supported by every officer and man under his command, in his endeavours to procure the acceptation of them by force; and if force must be resorted to, we have the consolation of knowing that we fight in the sacred cause of humanity, and cannot fail of success.
"These arrangements being made at Algiers and Tunis, the Commander-in-Chief announces with pleasure that he is ordered to proceed with all the ships not on the peace establishment to Spithead without delay, except the Bombay, bearing the flag of Rear-Admiral Sir Charles Penrose, which ship is to be relieved by the Albion, daily expected.
"N.B. This General Memorandum to be entered in the public order-book, and communicated to the respective officers, seamen, and marines of the fleet."
The squadron went in the first place to Algiers, where Lord Exmouth obtained the objects of his mission without difficulty. The Ionian slaves were freely released as British subjects; and peace was made for Naples and Sardinia, the former paying a ransom of five hundred, the latter of three hundred dollars a head. The fleet then sailed for Tunis, where accident gave an entirely new character to the subsequent proceedings. Lord Exmouth had directed the interpreter to tell the Bey, that it would be very agreeable to the Prince Regent if slavery were abolished; but the interpreter, by mistake, said that the Prince Regent had determinded to abolish it. Upon this the negotiation was suspended, and the Divan assembled. Lord Exmouth soon became aware of the mistake, and availing himself of the important advantage which it gave him, he allowed them two hours for deliberation, and retired to the consul's house to await the result. Before the time expired he was sent for, and informed that the Divan had deliberated on his proposal, and would comply with it. Proceeding to Tripoli, he made a similar demand, and it was there submitted to without hesitation.
In the mean time, he had received instructions to claim from Algiers the privilege of selling prizes, and refitting privateers in that port, which had lately been granted by treaty to America. Returning on this errand, he took the opportunity to press, as at the other Regencies, the abolition of Christian slavery; but here he had a more formidable power to deal with. His demand was refused; and when he hinted at the alternative of force, the Dey answered as a man confident in his strength to resist it. Lord Exmouth assured him that he formed a very inadequate idea of a British man of-war, and declared, that if hostilities should become necessary, he would engage with five line-of-battle ships to destroy the place. A very sharp altercation ensued; and Lord Exmouth left the Divan, giving them two hours to consider his proposal. When the time expired, he took Mr. M'Donell, the consul, and walked with him towards the boat; but they were stopped at the gate. After a communication had been made to the Dey, Lord Exmouth was allowed to pass on, but the consul was detained, on the pretext that money was due from Portugal, for which, as well as for England, Mr. M'Donell was accredited. The whole party had been in the greatest danger. The crowd who surrounded them discussed aloud the question of putting them all to death; and the conduct of the captain of the port was extremely suspicious. He was observed to cock his pistol, and Sir Israel Pellew exclaiming, "At least we'll die with arms in our hands!" attempted to draw his sword. Happily, the pressure of the throng prevented him; for in the temper which then prevailed, the appearance of a hostile movement would probably have been fatal. Lord Exmouth was much irritated at this outrage; and when one of the principal officers of state followed, and asked him, as he was just stepping into the boat, to allow them two days to consider his proposal, he replied with warmth "No, not two hours!" Hastening on board, he got the fleet under weigh to attack the place immediately; but the wind was too strong to allow the ships to take their stations, and they were obliged to anchor again.
Two British officers, Captains Pechell and Warde, had gone on shore, not anticipating a hostile movement. They were seized by the people, who dragged them off their horses, rifled their pockets, tied their hands behind them, and in this state marched them through the town to the Dey. But when they reached the palace they were immediately released; and except some trifling articles, which could not be found, all their property was restored. After two or three interviews with the Dey, the object of which appeared to be to investigate the cause of a cut which Captain Pechell had received in the hand, when he was taken off the horse, they were allowed to go to their ships. Such conduct, at a moment when Lord Exmouth was evidently preparing to attack the place, indicated an irresolution which might enable him to gain his object without a battle; and next morning, as a calm, with a heavy swell, prevented the fleet from moving, he sent Captain Dundas, of the Tagus, with renewed proposals. The result was, that Sir Israel Pellew, with Captains Brisbane, Pechell, Dundas, Warde, and others, went on shore; and the Dey agreed to appoint an ambassador, who should proceed first to Constantinople for the sanction of the Porte, and thence to England to treat on Lord Exmouth's proposal. It may be supposed that the Admiral would not have endured this evasion, had he been authorised to act; but he had pressed the demand without instructions, and felt that he would not be justified in resorting to force, if it could be creditably avoided. He was not even certain that his conduct in thus pressing the abolition of slavery would be favourably received; for it was a common remark, that the obstructions to the navigation of the Mediterranean, created by the Barbary corsairs, were advantageous to British commerce. He expressed this doubt in a letter which he sent on shore on the 23rd of June, when the fleet had arrived in the channel:—"It is with great delight I again bring myself nearer to you and the rest of my family, after a longer absence than I had any reason to expect when I left England, and which has at last ended without realizing that for which it was said we were kept so long abroad after peace was signed. I had anxiously hoped I should have been directed to enforce the abandonment of their cruel system of retaining Christians who fell into their hands (in what they term war) in slavery. I hope I have made the path easy for the Government, having obtained by my own exertions the relinquishment from two States, and a promise to treat on that point from the most violent, Algiers, after discussions which did not promise sometimes amicable terminations. But I intreat you to observe the utmost silence on this point, as it may lead me into an awkward situation; for I have acted solely on my own responsibility, and without orders; the causes and reasoning on which, upon general principles, may be defensible, but as applying to our own country, may not be borne out, the old mercantile interest being against it."
Four days previous to the date of this letter, Mr. Brougham had moved in the House of Commons for copies of Lord Exmouth's treaties with Algiers for Naples and Sardinia, and for all the correspondence connected with them. He condemned the principle upon which the treaties had been conducted, because, by ransoming the slaves, we had virtually acknowledged the right of these parties to commit their depredations. He understood that the Algerines, dissatisfied with the Dey for having limited their sphere of plunder, had been pacified only by the assurance, that though restrained from cruising against Neapolitan subjects, there still remained a wide field for their enterprise. The Roman States had already felt the effect of the new direction given to their piracies. He then described the wretched condition of the slaves. In one case, out of three hundred prisoners, fifty had died of ill-treatment on the first day of their arrival, and seventy during the first fortnight. The rest were kept in the most miserable condition, being allowed only a pound of bread a day, and subject to the lash from morning to night. No age, no sex was spared. A Neapolitan lady of distinction, carried off with eight children, six of whom survived, had lately been seen by a British officer in the thirteenth year of her captivity. That it might be seen we did not countenance such proceedings, it was necessary to ascertain what use we had made of our influence in the late negotiations.
The minister objected to the motion, only however on the ground that all the documents necessary to afford complete information had not yet arrived; and he assured the House, that the cause of humanity had been very materially served by the proceedings of the squadron. An animated debate followed, in which every one expressed the utmost anxiety that the barbarians should be compelled, and by force, if necessary, to relinquish their piracies. This unanimous display of feeling in the House of Commons, ensured to Lord Exmouth full approval of all that he had done, and enabled the Government to take the decisive step which immediately after became necessary. It is, indeed, a subject for just pride, that upon every national question, the feelings of the people have never hesitated to throw themselves upon the side of humanity and justice, however seemingly opposed to their own interest.
Lord Exmouth had not yet reached England, when accounts arrived which determined the Government not to await the issue of the proposed negotiations with Algiers, but at once to exact the most ample satisfaction and security. On the 23rd of May, the crews of the coral fishing-vessels at Bona had landed to attend mass, it being Ascension-day, when they were attacked by a large body of Turkish troops, and most barbarously massacred. Lord Exmouth was at Algiers when this took place; but as Bona is two hundred miles to the eastward, and he sailed as soon as he had agreed with the Dey, he did not hear of it until he arrived in England; and thus it devolved upon the British Government to direct the measures which such an atrocity demanded. Justly concluding that these barbarians, so long the common enemies of the civilized world, and whose very existence was a reproach to it, had filled the measure of their crimes by this last bloody outrage, they determined to exact complete submission, or to inflict the most signal vengeance. They appointed Lord Exmouth to complete his work, and placed at his disposal whatever force he thought necessary to effect it.
THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS.
The town of Algiers is built on the declivity of a hill fronting to the eastward. It is of a triangular form, having for its base the sea-front, which is about a mile in length, and rises directly from the water. It is strongly fortified on the land side, and the sea defences are most formidable, as well from the great thickness of the walls, as the number of heavy guns.
The harbour is artificial. A broad straight pier, three hundred yards in length, and upon which the storehouses were built, projects from a point about a quarter of a mile from the north extremity of the town. A mole is carried from the end of this pier, which bends in a south-westerly direction towards the town, forming nearly a quarter of a circle. Opposite the mole-head is a small insulated pier, which leaves the entrance to the harbour about a hundred and twenty yards wide. The rock upon which the mole is built extends about two hundred yards to the N.E. beyond the angle at which the pier joins it. The shores recede considerably from the base of the pier, forming a small bay on either side of it.
All the works around the harbour were covered with the strongest fortifications. Immediately beyond the pier-head stood the Lighthouse battery, a large circular fort, mounting between sixty and seventy guns, in three tiers. At the extremity of the point of rock beyond the lighthouse was a very heavy battery, of two tiers, mounting thirty guns and seven mortars in the upper. The mole itself was filled with cannon, like the side of a line-of-battle ship, mostly disposed in a double tier, with ports below, and embrasures above; but the eastern batteries, next the light-house, had an inner fortification, with a third tier of guns, making sixty-six in these batteries alone. All these batteries had together above two hundred and twenty guns—eighteen, twenty-four, and thirty-two pounders; besides two, at least sixty-eight pounders, and upwards of twenty feet long. On the sea wall of the town were nine batteries; two at the southern extremity; then the Fish-market battery in three tiers, bearing three hundred yards west of the molehead; three between the Fish-market and the gate leading to the mole; one over this gate; and two on the wall beyond it. Along the shore, within twelve hundred yards south of the town, were three batteries, and a very heavy fort. Another large fort, and six batteries, commanded the bay to the N.W. Many guns in other parts of the fortifications of the town, and in forts and batteries on the hills around it, were in situations which enabled them to fire upon ships. Altogether, the approaches by sea were defended by scarcely less than five hundred guns.
The Admiralty were greatly surprised when Lord Exmouth proposed to attack these works with five sail of the line. Many naval officers who were consulted by the Board considered them unassailable. Nelson, in a conversation with Captain Brisbane, had named twenty-five line-of-battle ships as the force which would be required to attack them. The opinion was not founded upon his own observation, and he was evidently misled by the errors in the received plans; for that number of ships could not have been placed before the town; but it marks his sense of the great danger in attacking powerful batteries with ships, and of the tremendous strength of Algiers. Lord Exmouth was offered any force he required, but he adhered to his first demand; for he had satisfied himself that five ships could destroy the fortifications on the Mole as effectually as a greater number, and with far more safety to themselves. After he had fully explained his plans, and marked the position which every ship was to occupy, the Admiralty allowed him to act upon his own judgment; though they found it not easy to believe that the force was equal to the service; nor were persons wanting to remark that he had at length involved himself in a difficulty, from which he would not escape with credit. His own confidence never wavered. "All will go well," he wrote, "as far at least as it depends on me." As he was going down Channel, he said to his brother, who accompanied him as far as Falmouth, "If they open their fire when the ships are coming up, and cripple them in the masts, the difficulty and loss will be greater; but if they allow us to take our stations, I am sure of them; for I know that nothing can resist a line-of-battle ship's fire." He wrote to the Admiralty before he left England, declaring himself fully satisfied with all the arrangements, and taking on himself the responsibility of the result.
He was scarcely appointed, when officers came forward in crowds to offer their services. On the 29th of June, only six days after he arrived in the Channel, he writes—"Government has taken a very proper view of the subject, and has determined to send out a proper force. I immediately said, it was my duty to finish that which I had begun, and that I should cheerfully go. My offer is accepted, and I embark in the Queen Charlotte, with Impregnable, and others. The only delay will be want of men; but I hope they will be induced by the offers made, to volunteer for the service, to be rewarded after it." On the 4th of July, he says, "I have refused Israel, Pownoll, Fleetwood, Harward, and both Admiral and Captain Halsted, volunteers. Even Lord Spencer brought his son, and a hundred others."
With very few exceptions, the officers were selected by the Admiralty. It was understood that Sir Charles Penrose would be the second in command, his appointment at that time as commander-in-chief in the Mediterranean entitling him to the preference. He was very highly valued by Lord Exmouth, under whom he had served with the Cleopatra in the western squadron. It was intended that despatches should be sent in time to enable him to join the expedition; but greatly to the disappointment of both officers, the information was received too late.
Lord Exmouth persisted in refusing all his relations. The motive of duty, which was imperative on himself, applied to none of them; and all were anxious to go. For himself, he might well trust that the Providence which had shielded him forty years, for so long was it since he had fought the Carleton on Lake Champlain, would guard him in the approaching battle; or, if he were doomed to fall in what might truly be deemed a holy war, he had a better confidence than the pride of a hero, or even the self-devotedness of a patriot. Before he sailed, he made every arrangement which his death would render necessary; and among others, wrote a letter for his eldest son, chiefly on the subject of the duties which would devolve upon him as a British nobleman, and which he designed for his last injunctions. The existence of this letter was not known until some time after his death, when it was found among his papers.
The Admiralty would not send back the squadron which had just returned from the Mediterranean, probably thinking it right that ships going expressly to fight a severe battle should be manned with volunteers. This decision greatly increased his difficulties. Naval officers seldom think a ship effective until she has been some time in commission. Within two months, Lord Exmouth commissioned, fitted, and manned a fleet, and fought the battle.
As soon as he had completed his first arrangements at the Admiralty, he hastened to Portsmouth, where the Boyne, his flag-ship, was lying with her consorts. He went on board as soon as he arrived, and there was not a little excitement when the Admiral was seen coming alongside at a very early hour in the morning. He mustered the ship's company on deck, and having read to them the Admiralty letter, invited them to join him; but at that time scarcely a man came forward. They were unwilling to enter for a new service until they had enjoyed some liberty on shore; but after they had been paid off, and spent their money, numbers of them volunteered, and many more would probably have done so, but for the very short time in which the crews were completed. No difficulty was experienced in manning the fleet. The whole ship's company of the Leander, then on the point of sailing as the flag-ship on the North American station, volunteered to go, and accordingly her destination was changed for the time. Rear-Admiral Milne, for whom she had been fitted, obtained permission to go out with her; and as Sir Charles Penrose did not join at Gibraltar, he hoisted his flag in the Impregnable, as second in command. Among other volunteers were a number of smugglers, who had been taken on the western coast, and sentenced to five years' service in the navy. They were sent to the eastward as prisoners in a cutter in which Mr. Pellew had taken a passage to make a parting visit to his brother, and they implored his intercession on their behalf. He advised them to enter for the Queen Charlotte, and gain a title to the indulgence they sought by their good conduct in the battle. They all did so: no serious casualty occurred among them, and they behaved so well that Lord Exmouth applied to the Admiralty, and obtained their discharge.
Lord Exmouth's marine officer in the Arethusa, the late Sir Richard Williams, then commanded the marine artillery, and Lord Exmouth wrote to request that he would aid him to the best of his abilities, by selecting officers and men from his corps. Sir Richard displayed on this occasion all the activity and judgment to be expected from his character, and Lord Exmouth acknowledged his services after the glorious result of the expedition, in the following words:—"I should be very ungrateful, my dear friend, if I neglected to thank you for the care and pains you took in selecting, for the service I was ordered upon, the best officers and men I ever saw during my service. I assure you that all the officers did you full justice: they not only knew their duty well, but they performed it well."
In addition to the five line-of-battle ships, two of which were three-deckers, the force included three heavy frigates, and two smaller ones; four bomb vessels, and five gun-brigs. Four of the line-of-battle ships were to destroy the fortifications on the Mole; while the fifth covered them from the batteries south of the town, and the heavy frigates, from those on the town wall. The bomb-vessels were to fire on the arsenal and town, assisted by a flotilla of the ships' launches, &c., fitted as gun, rocket, and mortar-boats. The smaller frigates and the brigs were to assist as circumstances might require.
The fleet left Portsmouth on the 25th of July. On the 28th it sailed from Plymouth Sound, and the same afternoon was off Falmouth. Twenty three years before, Lord Exmouth had gone from the house of his brother, who now took leave of him, and sailed to fight the first battle of the war from the port whence he was proceeding on the service which was to close and crown it. From this place the Minded, 74, was sent on to Gibraltar, that the necessary supplies might be ready when the fleet arrived. Through all the passage the utmost care was taken to train the crews. Every day, Sunday excepted, they were exercised at the guns; and on Tuesdays and Fridays the fleet cleared for action, when each ship fired six broadsides. On board the Queen Charlotte a twelve-pounder was secured at the after part of the quarter-deck, with which the first and second captains of the guns practised daily at a small target, hung at the fore topmast studding-sail boom. The target was a frame of laths, three feet square, crossed with rope-yarns so close that a twelve-pound shot could not go through without cutting one, and with a piece of wood, the size and shape of a bottle, for a bull's-eye. After a few days' practice, the target was never missed, and on an average ten or twelve bottles were hit every day. Thus kept in constant preparation for the battle, and daily gaining new confidence in themselves, the crews were in the highest degree elated. Officers and men felt they were going to an assured victory, and that to obtain complete success the plans of their chief required only the exertions which every one resolved to make. As a consequence of this enthusiasm, which never had a check, for the excitement of preparation was followed by the flush of victory, their health and vigour were beyond all parallel. Scarcely a man came on the sick-list; and when the Queen Charlotte was paid off on her return, only one had died, except from the casualties of battle, out of nearly a thousand who had joined her more than three months before.
On the 9th of August, the fleet reached Gibraltar, where the Minden had arrived only the preceding night. Here they found a Dutch squadron of five frigates and a corvette, commanded by Vice-Admiral the Baron Von de Capellan, who, on learning the object of the expedition, solicited and obtained leave to co-operate. The ships, having completed their ordnance stores and provisions, were ready to sail on the 12th; but the strong easterly wind prevented them from moving for two days. On the 13th, every ship received a plan of the fortifications, with full instructions respecting the position she was to occupy. A general order to this effect had been issued on the 6th, but the co-operation of the Dutch squadron had made some change in the arrangements necessary. To this squadron was assigned the duty of attacking the fort and batteries south of the town, a service previously intended for the Minden and Hebrus, which were now to take a position among their consorts in front of the Mole.
The fleet sailed next day, and on the 16th was within two hundred miles of its destination, when the wind again shifted to the eastward. That evening the ship-sloop Prometheus, Captain Dashwood, joined direct from Algiers, with information that the Algerines were making every preparation to meet the attack. All the former defences had been made completely effective, and new works had been added; forty thousand troops had been assembled; all the Janizaries called in from distant garrisons; and the whole naval force of the regency, four frigates, five large corvettes, and thirty-seven gun-boats, were collected in the harbour. The Prometheus brought the wife, daughter, and infant child of Mr. M'Donell, the British consul. The two former had succeeded in getting off, disguised as midshipmen; but the infant, which had been carefully concealed in a basket, after a composing medicine had been given to it by the surgeon of the Prometheus, awoke, and cried as it was passing the gateway, and thus led to the arrest of all the party then on shore. The child was sent off next morning by the Dey, and, "as a solitary instance of his humanity," said Lord Exmouth, "it ought to be recorded by me;" but the consul was confined in irons at his house, and the surgeon, three midshipmen, and fourteen seamen of the Prometheus, were detained as prisoners; nor could the most urgent remonstrances of Captain Dashwood induce the Dey to release them.
The fleet continued beating against a head wind until midnight on the 24th, when the wind shifted to south-west. On Monday the 20th, at noon, they made Cape Cazzina, the northern point of the Bay of Algiers, and about twenty miles from the town. Next morning at daybreak, Algiers itself was in sight As the ships lay nearly becalmed, Lord Exmouth sent away Lieutenant Burgess in one of the Queen Charlotte's boats, under a flag of truce, with the terms dictated by the Prince Regent, and a demand for the immediate liberation of the consul, and the people of the Prometheus. The Severn was directed to tow the boat, but as she made very little way, the boat was ordered by signal to cast off, and proceed alone to the shore. At eleven o'clock, she was met outside the mole by the captain of the port, who received the communication, and promised an answer in two hours. In the mean time, a breeze springing up from the sea, the fleet stood into the bay, and lay to about a mile from the town.
At two o'clock the boat was seen returning, with the signal that no answer had been given. The Queen Charlotte immediately telegraphed to the fleet, "Are you ready?" Immediately the affirmative was displayed from every ship, and all bore up to their appointed stations.
The Queen Charlotte led to the attack. It was Lord Exmouth's intention not to reply to the enemy's fire in bearing down, unless it should become galling. In that case, the middle and main-deck guns, thirty long 24-pounders, were to have opened; keeping the upper deck for shortening sail, and the lower for working the cables. The guns on these decks were not primed until the ship had anchored. But the Algerines reserved their fire, confident in the strength of their defences, and expecting to carry the flagship by boarding her from the gun-boats, which were all filled with men. Steered by the master of the fleet, Mr. Gaze, who had sailed with Lord Exmouth in every ship he commanded from the beginning of the war, the Queen Charlotte proceeded silently to her position. At half-past two, she anchored by the stern, just half a cable's length from the Mole-head, and was lashed by a hawser to the mainmast of an Algerine brig, which lay at the entrance of the harbour. Her starboard broadside flanked all the batteries from the Mole-head to the Light-house. The Mole was crowded with troops, many of whom got upon the parapet to look at the ship; and Lord Exmouth, observing them as he stood upon the poop, waved to them to move away. As soon as the ship was fairly placed, and her cables stoppered, the crew gave three hearty cheers, such as Englishmen only can give. Scarcely had the sound of the last died away, when a gun was fired from the upper tier of the eastern battery; and a second, and a third followed in quick succession. One of the shots struck the Superb. At the first flash, Lord Exmouth gave the order, "Stand by!" at the second. "Fire!" The report of the third gun was drowned in the thunder of Queen Charlotte's broadside.
The enemy now opened from all their batteries, the Queen Charlotte and Leander being the only ships which had yet reached their stations. Preparations had been previously made in all, to avoid the necessity of exposing the men aloft when shortening sail. Following the flag-ship, the Superb anchored about two hundred and fifty yards astern of her, and the Minden at about her own length from the Superb. The Albion came to astern of the Minded, which passed her stream cable out of the larboard gun-room port to the Albion's bow, and brought the two ships together. The Impregnable was anchored astern of the Albion.
The large frigates, and the Dutch squadron, particularly the Melampus, their flag-ship, went into action under a very heavy fire, and with a gallantry that never was surpassed. The Leander had placed herself on the Queen Charlotte's larboard bow, at the entrance of the harbour; her starboard broadside bearing upon the Algerine gun-boats with the after guns, and upon the Fishmarket battery with the others. The Severn lay ahead of the Leander, with all her starboard broadside bearing upon the Fishmarket battery. Beyond her the Glasgow fired upon the town batteries with her larboard guns. The Dutch squadron took the assigned position, before the works to the southward of the town. It was their Admiral's intention to place the Melampus in the centre; but his second ahead, the Diana, having anchored too far to the southward to allow this, he pushed the Melampus past her, and anchored close astern of the Glasgow.
The two smaller frigates, the Hebrus and Granicus, were left to take part in the battle wherever they might find an opening. Eager to gain a position, in the line, the Hebrus pressed forward to place herself next the flag-ship, till, becalmed by the cannonade, she was obliged to anchor on the Queen Charlotte's larboard quarter. Captain Wise, of the Granicus, waited until all the ships had taken their stations. Then, setting topgallant-sails and courses, he steered for where Lord Exmouth's flag was seen towering above the smoke; and with a seamanship equalled only by his intrepidity, anchored in the open space between the Queen Charlotte and Superb; thus, with a small-class frigate, taking a position, of which, said Lord Exmouth, a three-decker might be justly proud.
Eastward of the Lighthouse, at the distance of two thousand yards, were placed the bomb-vessels; whose shells were thrown with admirable precision by the Marine Artillery. The smaller vessels, except the Mutine, which anchored, continued under sail, firing occasionally wherever they saw opportunity. The flotilla of gun, rocket, and mortar boats, directed, by Captain Michell, were distributed at the openings between the line-of-battle ships, and at the entrance to the Mole.
Thus the ships commanded the strongest of the enemy's defences, while they were exposed to the weakest part of his fire. The officers and men felt new confidence when they saw the power derived from the admirable disposition of their force. All behaved most nobly; and it was not long before the state of the Algerine batteries gave proof that their courage was fully equalled by their skill.
In a few minutes, indeed before the battle had become general, the Queen Charlotte had ruined the fortifications on the Mole-head. She then sprang her broadside towards the northward, to bear upon the batteries over the gate which leads to the Mole, and upon the upper works of the Lighthouse. Her shot struck with the most fatal accuracy, crumbling the tower of the Lighthouse to ruins, and bringing down gun after gun from the batteries. The last of these guns was dismounted just as the artillerymen were in the act of discharging it; when an Algerine chief was seen to spring upon the ruins of the parapet, and with impotent rage, to shake his scimitar against the ship. Her men proved themselves as expert amidst the realities of war, as they had before shown themselves in exercise; and some of them were detected amusing themselves, in the wantonness of their skill, by firing at the Algerine flag-staffs.
Soon after the battle began, the enemy's flotilla of gun-boats advanced, with a daring which deserved a better fate, to board the Queen Charlotte and Leander. The smoke covered them at first, but as soon as they were seen, a few guns, chiefly from the Leander, sent thirty-three out of thirty-seven to the bottom.
At four o'clock, when a general and heavy fire had been maintained for more than an hour without producing any appearance of submission, Lord Exmouth determined to destroy the Algerine ships. Accordingly, the Leander having first been ordered to cease firing, the flag-ship's barge, directed by Lieutenant Peter Richards, with Major Gossett, of the Miners, Lieutenant Wolrige, of the Marines, and Mr. M'Clintock, a midshipman, boarded the nearest frigate, and fired her so effectually with the laboratory torches, and a carcass-shell placed on the main deck, that she was completely in flames almost before the barge's crew were over her side. The crew of a rocket-boat belonging to the Hebrus were prompted by a natural, but unfortunate ardour, to follow the barge, though forbidden; but the boat pulling heavily, she became exposed to a fire of musketry, which killed an officer and three men, and wounded several others. Lord Exmouth stood watching the barge from the gangway, delighted with the gallantry and promptitude with which his orders were executed. When the frigate burst into a flame, he telegraphed to the fleet the animating signal, "Infallible!" and as the barge was returning, he ordered those around him to welcome her alongside with three cheers.
It was hoped that the flames would communicate from this frigate to the rest of the Algerine shipping; but she burnt from her moorings, and passing clear of her consorts, drifted along the broadsides of the Queen Charlotte and Leander, and grounded a-head of the latter, under the wall of the town. The gun-boats, and the Queen Charlotte's launch, then opened with carcass-shells upon the largest frigate, which was moored in the centre of the other ships, too far within the Mole to be attempted safely by boarding. They soon set her on fire, and notwithstanding the exertions of the Algerines, she was completely in flames by six o'clock. From her the fire communicated, first to all the other vessels in the port, except a brig and a schooner, moored in the upper part of it, and afterwards to the storehouses and arsenal. At a little past seven, she came drifting out of the harbour, and passed so close to the flag-ship as nearly to involve her in the same destruction.
About sunset, a message was received from Rear-Admiral Milne, requesting that a frigate might be sent to divert from the Impregnable some of the fire under which she was suffering. She had anchored more to the northward than was intended, and consequently became exposed to the heavy battery on the point of rock beyond the lighthouse, and which was covered from the fire of the rest of the fleet. The Glasgow weighed immediately, but the wind had been driven away by the cannonade, and she was only able, after three-quarters of an hour's exertion, to reach a new position between the Severn and Leander; a better for annoying the enemy, but where she was herself more exposed, and suffered in proportion. As it was found impossible to assist the Impregnable, Lord Exmouth sent on board Mr. Triscott, one of his aides-de-camp, with permission to haul off. The Impregnable was then dreadfully cut up; 150 men had been already killed and wounded, a full third of them by an explosion, and the shot were still coming in fast; but her brave crew, guided and encouraged by the Rear-Admiral and Captain Brace, two of the most distinguished and successful officers in the service, would not allow her to go thus out of battle; and she kept her station, maintaining an animated fire to the last. To relieve her in some degree, an ordnance sloop, which had been fitted at Gibraltar as an explosion-vessel, with 143 barrels of powder, was placed at the disposal of the Rear-Admiral. She had been intended for the destruction of the Algerine fleet, but this service had already been effected by other means. Conducted by Lieutenant Fleming, who had been commanding a gun-boat near the Queen Charlotte, with Major Reed, of the Engineers, and Captain Herbert Powell, a volunteer on board the Impregnable, the explosion-vessel was run on shore under the battery which had annoyed her, where, at nine o'clock, she blew up.
The fleet slackened their fire towards night, as the guns of the enemy became silenced, and the ships began to feel the necessity for husbanding their ammunition. Their expenditure had been beyond all parallel. They fired nearly 118 tons of powder, and 50,000 shot, weighing more than 500 tons of iron; besides 960 thirteen and ten-inch shells thrown by the bomb-vessels, and the shells and rockets from the flotilla. Such a fire, close, concentrated, and well-directed as it was, nothing could resist; and the sea-defences of Algiers, with great part of the town itself, were shattered and crumbled to ruins.
At a little before ten, the objects of the attack having been effected, the Queen Charlotte's bower-cable was cut, and her head hauled round to seaward. She continued, however, to engage with all the guns abaft the mainmast, sometimes on both sides. Warps were run out to gain an offing, but many of them were cut by shot from the batteries southward of the town, which had been very partially engaged, and also from forts on the hills out of reach of the ships' guns. A very light air was felt about half-past ten, and sail was made; but the ship, after cutting from her remaining warps and anchors, was manageable only by the aid of her boats towing, and then the only point gained was keeping her head from the land. At eleven she began to draw out from the batteries, and at twenty-five minutes past she ceased to fire. The breeze freshened, and a tremendous storm of thunder and lightning came on, with torrents of rain; while the flaming ships and storehouses illuminated all the ruins, and increased the grandeur of the scene. In about three hours the storm subsided, and as soon as the ship was made snug, Lord Exmouth assembled in his cabin all the wounded who could be moved with safety, that they might unite with him and his officers in offering thanksgiving to God for their victory and preservation.
The two Admirals came on board the Queen Charlotte as soon as they could leave their ships, and spoke their feelings of admiration and gratitude to Lord Exmouth with all the warmth of language and expression. The Dutch Admiral, who, with his squadron, had most nobly emulated the conduct of his British allies, declared himself in terms of the highest eulogy of the Queen Charlotte, which, he said, by her commanding position and the effect of her fire, had saved five hundred men to the fleet. Perhaps there was no exaggeration in the praise; for the destruction occasioned by her first broadside, as she lay flanking the Mole, must have contributed much to protect the ships which had not yet reached their stations; and the havoc she inflicted by a cannonade of nine hours must have been great indeed, since her fire could destroy the fortifications on the Mole-head in a few minutes.
In no former general action had the casualties been so great in proportion to the force employed. One hundred and twenty-eight were killed, and six hundred and ninety wounded, in the British ships, and thirteen killed and fifty-two wounded in the Dutch squadron. Yet, except the Impregnable, which had fifty men killed, no ship suffered so much as is usual in a severe engagement. Generally, in fleet actions, the brunt of the battle, and the chief amount of losses, fall upon a few; but here every ship had her allotted duty, and was closely engaged throughout. After the Impregnable, the frigates suffered the most, particularly the Granicus, which took a line-of-battle ship's station; and the Leander, which was much cut up by the Fish-market and other batteries, and as late as seven o'clock was obliged to carry out a hawser to the Severn, to enable her to bear her broadside upon one which annoyed her. The loss in the other line-of-battle ships was remarkably small. They had together but twenty-six killed, including the casualties in their respective boats.
Lord Exmouth escaped most narrowly. He was struck in three places; and a cannon-shot tore away the skirts of his coat. A button was afterwards found in the signal locker; and the shot broke one of the glasses and bulged the rim of the spectacles in his pocket. He gave the spectacles to his valued friend, the late gallant Sir Richard Keats, who caused their history to be engraven on them, and directed, that when he died, they should be restored to Lord Exmouth's family, to be kept as a memorial of his extraordinary preservation.
On the 28th, at daylight, Lieutenant Burgess was sent on shore with a flag of truce, and the demands of the preceding morning; the bomb-vessels at the same time resuming their positions. The captain of one of the destroyed frigates met the boat, and declared that an answer had been sent on the day before, but that no boat was at hand to receive it. Shortly after, the captain of the port came off, accompanied by the Swedish consul, and informed Lord Exmouth that all his demands would be submitted to. On the morning of the 29th, the captain of the port came off again, being now accompanied by the British consul; upon which Captain Brisbane, of the flag-ship, went on shore, and had a conference with the Dey. Sir Charles Penrose, whom the Admiral had expected to the last, arrived this day in the Ister frigate, from Malta, where he had waited for his expected orders, until he heard that Lord Exmouth was in the Mediterranean. Lord Exmouth committed to him the management of the negotiations, the only compliment he could now offer. Where nothing remained but submission for the vanquished, the arrangements were soon concluded, and next day the final result was officially communicated to the fleet.
"Queen Charlotte, Algiers Bay, August 30, 1816.
"The Commander-in-Chief is happy to inform the fleet of the final termination of their strenuous exertions, by the signature of peace, confirmed under a salute of twenty-one guns, on the following conditions, dictated by His Royal Highness the Prince Regent of England.
"I. The abolition of Christian slavery for ever.
"II. The delivery to my flag of all slaves in the dominions of the Dey, to whatever nation they may belong, at noon to-morrow.
"III. To deliver also to my flag all money received by him for the redemption of slaves since the commencement of this year—at noon also to-morrow.
"IV. Reparation has been made to the British consul for all losses he has sustained in consequence of his confinement.
"V. The Dey has made a public apology, in presence of his ministers and officers, and begged pardon of the consul in terms dictated by the captain of the Queen Charlotte.
"The Commander-in-Chief takes this opportunity of again returning his public thanks to the Admirals, Captains, Officers, Seamen, Marines, Royal Sappers and Miners, Royal Marine Artillery, and the Royal Rocket Corps, for the noble support he has received from them throughout the whole of this arduous service; and he is pleased to direct that on Sunday next a public thanksgiving shall be offered up to Almighty God, for the signal interposition of his Divine Providence during the conflict which took place on the 27th, between his Majesty's fleet and the ferocious enemies of mankind.
It is requested that this memorandum may be read to the ship's company.
"To the Admirals, Captains, Officers, Seamen, Marines, Royal Sappers and Miners, Royal Marine Artillery, and the Royal Rocket Corps."
Above twelve hundred slaves were embarked on the 31st, making, with those liberated a few weeks before, more than three thousand, whom, by address or force, Lord Exmouth had delivered from slavery. Having sent them to their respective countries, and leaving a ship to receive a few who had yet to come up from the interior, he sailed on the 3rd of September for England. On the 8th, when on his way to Gibraltar, he wrote an account of the battle to his brother, to whom he had previously sent a very laconic communication, stating merely the result.
"It has pleased God to give me again the opportunity of writing you, and it has also pleased Him to give success to our efforts against these hordes of barbarians. I never, however, saw any set of men more obstinate at their guns, and it was superior fire only that could keep them back. To be sure, nothing could stand before the Queen Charlotte's broadside. Everything fell before it; and the Swedish consul assures me we killed above five hundred at the very first fire, from the crowded way in which troops were drawn up, four deep above the gun boats, which were also full of men. I had myself beckoned to many around the guns close to us to move away, previous to giving the order to fire; and I believe they are within bounds, when they state their loss at seven thousand men. Our old friend John Gaze was as steady as a rock; and it was a glorious sight to see the Charlotte take her anchorage, and to see her flag towering on high, when she appeared to be in the flames of the Mole itself; and never was a ship nearer burnt; it almost scorched me off the poop; we were obliged to haul in the ensign, or it would have caught fire. Everybody behaved uncommonly well. Admiral Milne came on board at two o'clock in the morning, and kissed my hand fifty times before the people, as did the Dutch Admiral, Von Capellan. I was but slightly touched in the thigh, face, and fingers—my glass cut in my hand, and the skirts of my coat torn off by a large shot; but as I bled a good deal, it looked as if I was badly hurt, and it was gratifying to see and hear how it was received even in the cockpit, which was then pretty full. My thigh is not quite skinned over, but I am perfectly well, and hope to reach Portsmouth by the 10th of October. Ferdinand has sent me a diamond star. Wise behaved most nobly, and took up a line-of-battle ship's station; but all behaved nobly. I never saw such enthusiasm in all my service. Not a wretch shrunk any where; and I assure you it was a very arduous task, but I had formed a very correct judgment of all I saw, and was confident, if supported, I should succeed. I could not wait for an offshore wind to attack; the season was too far advanced, and the land-winds become light and calmy. I was forced to attack at once with a lee-shore, or perhaps wait a week for a precarious wind along shore; and I was quite sure I should have a breeze off the land about one or two in the morning, and equally sure we could hold out to that time. Blessed be God! it came, and a dreadful night with it, of thunder, lightning, and rain, as heavy as I ever saw. Several ships had expended all their powder, and been supplied from the brigs. I had latterly husbanded, and only fired when they fired on us; and we expended 350 barrels, and 5,420 shot, weighing above 65 tons of iron. Such a state of ruin of fortifications and houses was never seen, and it is the opinion of all the consuls, that two hours more fire would have levelled the town; the walls are all so cracked. Even the aqueducts were broken up, and the people famishing for water. The sea-defences, to be made effective, must be rebuilt from the foundation. The fire all round the Mole looked like Pandemonium. I never saw anything so grand and so terrific, for I was not on velvet, for fear they would drive on board us. The copper-bottoms floated full of fiery hot charcoal, and were red hot above the surface, so that we could not hook on our fire-grapnels to put the boats on, and could do nothing but push fire-booms, and spring the ship off by our warps, as occasion required."
The battle of Algiers forms a class by itself among naval victories. It was a new thing to place a fleet in a position surrounded by such formidable batteries. Bold and original in the conception, it was most brilliant and complete in execution. Nor was it more splendid for the honour, than happy in the fruits. It broke the chains of thousands; it gave security to millions;—it delivered Christendom from a scourge and a disgrace. To complete the happiness of the achievement, a nation co-operated, the natural ally of England, and the truest of her friends; bound to her by the proudest recollections of patriotism, and the dearest ties of religion; and which, if it should be required once more to strike down the power of whatever evil principle may desolate Europe, will again be found at her side, strong in virtue as in courage, to emulate her prowess, and to share the triumph.
 Sir Israel, his brother; Captains Pownoll and Fleetwood, his sons; Captain Harward, and Sir Lawrence Halsted, his sons-in-law.
 Slaves liberated by Admiral Lord Exmouth:—
Neapolitans and Sicilians 1,110 Sardinians and Genoese 62 Piedmontaise 6 Romans 174 Tuscans 6 Spaniards 226 Portuguese 1 Greeks 7 Dutch 28 English 18 French 2 Austrians 2—1,642
Neapolitans and Sicilians 524 Sardinians and Genoese 257——781
Neapolitans and Sicilians 422 Sardinians and Genoese 144 Romans 10 Hamburghers 4——580
LORD EXMOUTH'S RETIREMENT AND DEATH.
Lord Exmouth's services were acknowledged as became such a victory. He was advanced to the dignity of a Viscount, and received an honourable augmentation of his arms. In the centre of the shield a triumphal crown was placed by the civic wreath; below was a lion rampant, and above them a ship, lying at the Mole-head of Algiers, and surmounted with the star of victory. The former supporters were exchanged for a lion on the one side, and a Christian slave, holding aloft the cross, and dropping his broken fetters, on the other. The name "Algiers" was given for an additional motto. The kings of Holland, Spain, and Sardinia, conferred upon him orders of knighthood. The Pope sent him a valuable cameo. The city of London voted him its freedom, and a sword, ornamented with diamonds, which was presented by the Lord Mayor at a banquet, appropriately given by the Ironmongers' Company, as trustees of a considerable estate left for ransoming Christian slaves in Barbary by Mr. Betton, a member of the company, who had himself endured the miseries of slavery. He received the freedom of the city of Oxford, and the honorary degree of D.C.L. from the University. A society for promoting the liberation of Christian slaves, lately formed at Paris, chiefly by the exertions of Sir Sidney Smith, caused a medal to be struck to commemorate the victory. It presents a well-executed profile of the Admiral, with a suitable inscription on the reverse.
In general, every disposition was shown in France to do justice to Lord Exmouth's merit on this occasion. Yet it was to be expected that the feelings so natural under the circumstances of their recent defeat, and the present occupation of their territory, would lead many to detract from the honours of the nation which had so severely humbled them. Some illiberal reflections which appeared in the French journals, prompted the following lines by the late Lord Grenville:—
"These hands toil-worn, these limbs by fetters galled, These bodies, scarred by many a servile blow, These spirits, wasted by disease and woe, These Christian souls, by miscreant rage enthralled, What band of heroes now recalls to life?— Gives us again to hail our native shores, And to each fond, despairing heart, restores The long-lost parent, the long-widowed wife? O Britain! still to lawless power a foe, 'Gainst faithless pirate armed, or blood-stained Gaul! Vain is the taunt which mocks thy lavish cost, Thy thankless toil, thy blood poured out for all, Thy laurels, gained in fight, in treaty lost— HEAVEN STILL SHALL BLESS THE HAND WHICH LAYS THE OPPRESSOR LOW!"
A medal, most appropriate in the devices, and of the most exquisite workmanship, was executed by command of his late Majesty George IV., then Prince Regent. The medals are of gold. Only four were struck, one of which was presented to Lord Exmouth, and remains in the possession of his eldest surviving son. The officers of the squadron presented to their commander a magnificent piece of plate, of 1,400 guineas value, representing the Mole of Algiers, with its fortifications. The subscription exceeded the cost; and the surplus was paid to the Naval Charitable Society, of which Lord Exmouth was a vice-president.
His venerable and excellent friend, Admiral Schank, under whose command he had fought his first action, went to Teignmouth to receive him, when he came home from this, the last of his triumphs. The day of his return was made a general festival, and the inhabitants went out to meet him with all the arrangement and display which could manifest admiration and attachment.
The promotion which followed the victory was to have been on the usual scale, but Lord Exmouth succeeded in obtaining some extension of it; for he considered it inadequate to the merits of the junior officers, who had enjoyed unusual opportunities for distinguishing themselves. The flotilla of armed boats, which had behaved most gallantly, and afforded essential service, was commanded chiefly by mates and midshipmen, and he pressed their claims upon the Admiralty with much perseverance. He urged that commissions should be given to all who had passed their examinations; and submitted a list of the officers whom he thought entitled to promotion, drawn up in such a form as to be readily examined and referred to, and in which their respective services and claims were enforced in a manner which marked at once his discrimination of their merits, and the warm interest he took in their welfare.
The victory was prominently noticed in the royal speech, and on the 3rd of February received the thanks of Parliament. The First Lord of the Admiralty, who introduced the motion to the House of Lords, expatiated at length on the circumstances which enhanced the merit of the commander:—"When the expedition against Algiers was determined on, it became necessary to collect men from different guard-ships, and to call for the services of volunteers for this particular enterprise. He mentioned this circumstance, because those who knew the value which naval officers attach to a crew long accustomed to act together, would be the better enabled to appreciate the skill and exertions of Lord Exmouth, and the difficulties he had to contend with, in rendering crews, collected as he had stated, efficient for his purpose. To that object Lord Exmouth devoted his daily, his hourly attention, and accomplished it in a manner which reflected the highest credit on his judgment and ability. He then proceeded with his squadron on the appointed service. He proposed certain terms to the Dey of Algiers, according to his instructions, and no satisfactory reply being given, the ships took their positions. It was due to Lord Exmouth here to state a circumstance not generally known. An opinion had prevailed in many quarters that accident and the elements had been very favourable to Lord Exmouth in the execution of the enterprise: but the fact was, that when Government had determined on the undertaking, many persons, and among them several naval officers, were of opinion that the defences were so strong that the attack could not succeed. Not so Lord Exmouth, though he was perfectly aware of the difficulties with which he had to contend. He had himself formed the plan of his operations, and gave it as his opinion that the object might be accomplished, not from any idle confidence, but founded on the reasons which he stated and the plan which he had formed. He had in this plan settled the position which every ship was to take, and when the despatches came, he (Lord Melville) had noticed that the positions actually taken were exactly those which had been before settled. The whole scheme of attack was before prepared by him, and exactly followed; and the whole transaction reflected the highest credit upon Lord Exmouth as a naval officer, as well as upon his perseverance and gallantry." After describing the battle and its result, and descanting upon the enthusiasm which animated every officer and man, and the gallantry they displayed, Lord Melville alluded to the co-operation and effectual assistance afforded by the Dutch squadron, to which also he moved the thanks of the House. "The flag of the Netherlands had long been distinguished in Europe, and the officers and seamen had acquired a high renown for skill and valour. In this enterprise that flag had again appeared, and a noble emulation prevailed between the two squadrons as to which of them should most strenuously exert itself to accomplish the common object."
Similar motions were brought forward in the House of Commons by Lord Castlereagh, who dwelt on the splendid character of the transaction, upon which, he said, there could be but one opinion either in that House or throughout Europe. Alluding to the very conflicting opinions which had prevailed on the subject of attacking Algiers, he eulogized the great ability and judgment of Lord Exmouth, whose perfect accuracy had been so fully proved by the result. "He should not attempt," he said, "to add any thing more to an action so glorious both as to the principles upon which it was undertaken, and the mode of carrying it into execution, but only observe that he intended to extend the thanks to the officers and seamen of their brave ally, the King of the Netherlands, whose co-operation had been so beneficial. He was sure the House would feel a peculiar gratification in seeing the navy of Holland united with ours for the general liberties of mankind, and be anxious to mark their sense of the services performed by the Dutch Admiral, his brave officers, and sailors."
"So great were Lord Exmouth's professional abilities," said Mr. Law, who seconded the motion, "that whatever he undertook he was sure to succeed in. From the commencement of that series of great operations which arose out of the revolutionary war, success had uniformly marked his long career. With respect to the late brilliant enterprise, too much could not be said of it; and it was gratifying to know that the feelings of the House and the country were the same."
"No one," said Lord Cochrane, "was better acquainted than himself with the power possessed by batteries over a fleet; and he would say that the conduct of Lord Exmouth and the fleet deserved all the praise which that House could bestow. The attack was nobly achieved, in a way that a British fleet always performed such services; and the vote had his most cordial concurrence, for he never knew, or had heard, of anything more gallant than the manner in which Lord Exmouth had laid his ships alongside the Algerine batteries."
Lord Exmouth had now gained everything he could hope for. He was still in the full vigour of life, with the prospect of many years of health. His children had all been spared to him; and he was accustomed to dwell on their conduct with a father's pride and satisfaction. With a liberality not often displayed, he gave them their full portions as they successively left him; and he had the gratification of entrusting to each of his sons one of the many honourable tributes to his worth and services which he had received from different public bodies. His eldest son, who had served many years under his orders, was living near Teignmouth, at the family mansion of Canonteign. He represented Launceston in Parliament, and when he first entered the House had exerted himself, though without success, to obtain for seamen serving on foreign stations the privilege, since granted, of receiving part of their pay abroad. He had been much impressed with the evils of the former system, which his liberality had obviated for his own crews. Lord Exmouth maintained a most unreserved intercourse with him, and often expressed a confidence in the strongest terms, that he would do honour to the rank he was to inherit: hopes never to be realized, for he survived his father only a few months.
It is a memorable illustration of a truth, which all admit, but none entirely feel, till their own experience has taught them the vanity of worldly success, that when the attainment of every object had left him without a wish ungratified, Lord Exmouth would sometimes confess that he had been happier amidst his early difficulties. Indeed, his natural character, and all his habits, were very unfavourable to repose. The command at Plymouth was given him in 1817, on the death of Sir John Duckworth; but this, though it prevented a too abrupt transition to complete retirement, was a life of inactivity, when contrasted with his general pursuits for almost fifty years.
While he held this command he was required to attend in his place in the House of Lords on the trial of the Queen, one of the most lamentable events in modern English history. He had received her then Royal Highness on board his flag-ship in the Mediterranean with all the attentions due to her exalted rank, and his principal officers were assembled to pay their respects to her. But when he was desired to furnish a royal standard, which, it was said, the vessel was entitled to carry, though a foreigner, he replied that the standard of England could be carried only by a British man of war. He shared the temporary unpopularity of the noblemen who supported the bill, and the mob at Plymouth and its neighbourhood expressed their feelings towards him with much violence; but this, as far as he was concerned, gave him no disquiet. He had not then to learn how little this kind of hostility is to be regarded, when it is provoked by the faithful discharge of duty. When the storm was at the highest he wrote the following letter:—
"Admiralty House, Plymouth Dock, Nov. 20, 1820.
"MY DEAR BROTHER,—I am much obliged by your kind letter, and wish I could give you in return anything good, or worth detailing. The fact is, the people are mad, and the world is mad; and where it will end, the Lord only knows; but as sure as we live, the days of trouble are very fast approaching, when there will be much contention and much bloodshed, and changes out of all measure and human calculation. You and I have no choice. Loyalty is all our duty, and we shall, no doubt, stick to it. As for myself, you may well think me D.D., for I am burnt, and kicked, and torn in pieces for many nights; but here I am, quite whole, sound, and merry, in spite of them all, poor fools! In a fortnight they will fain know how to make amends. They have a particular dislike to me, and I am glad of it. We shall live to see it changed."
With the command at Plymouth, Lord Exmouth's public life may be considered to have ended; for though he shrunk from no duty which his rank and character imposed upon him, he would not submit to become a political partizan. This decision, so happy for his peace, was the result of his habitual judgment and feeling. In a letter before alluded to, which he wrote for his eldest son before he went to Algiers, he observed, that though not rich, he would be independent, and enjoined him never to entangle himself with party politics. While none more firmly supported the great principles upon which the security and welfare of the country rest, he chose always to keep the high position of an independent British nobleman. The splendid rewards which his services had obtained for him, he received, not as from any particular administration, but from his country; and he felt himself entitled to assert the same independence in the House of Lords, which he had always displayed as a commander. Thus, by a conduct equally prudent and honourable, he secured, through periods of great political excitement, an exemption almost singular, for a man in his position, from the attacks of party.
At the same time, his best services were always at the command of the Government, who frequently availed themselves of his judgment and experience. Few important questions occurred in connection with his own profession, upon which he was not consulted. Most of these were necessarily confidential; but the following may with propriety be noticed. In 1818, when the extreme difficulties of the country demanded the utmost possible retrenchment, it was proposed, among other measures of economy, to destroy Pendennis Castle. Two commissioners, sent to survey and report upon this step, were instructed to communicate first with Lord Exmouth. His opinion decided the preservation of this noble fortress; which is at once so important from its position, and so interesting for its heroic defence, when, in the great rebellion, it obtained the honourable distinction of being the last stronghold of loyalty.
On the question of concessions to the Roman Catholics in 1829, his opinions and conduct were most decided. His eldest son resigned his seat for a borough, which he held unconditionally, under the influence of the Duke of Northumberland, as soon as that nobleman declared his intention to support the claims. The ground of Lord Exmouth's opposition to the measure has been already given in his words.
That moral elevation, not always associated with powerful talent and splendid success, which forms the most admirable part of Lord Exmouth's character, was derived from religion. Young as he was when he first entered the service, and though such principles and feelings could not be supposed then to be very strongly fixed, yet he was guarded in his conduct, and always prompt to check any irreverent allusion to serious subjects. His youth was passed in camps and ships, at a time when a coarse and profane conduct too much prevailed, now happily almost unknown; but he was never deterred by a false shame from setting a proper example. On board his first frigate, the Winchelsea, the duties of the Sundays were regularly observed. He always dressed in full uniform on that day, and, having no chaplain, read the morning service to his crew, whenever the weather permitted them to be assembled. Advancing in his brilliant career, the same feelings were more and more strikingly displayed. It was his practice to have a special and general service of thanksgiving after every signal deliverance, or success. Too often is it found, that with the accession of worldly honours, the man becomes more forgetful of the good Providence from which he received them. From this evil, Lord Exmouth was most happily kept; and additional distinctions only confirmed the unaffected simplicity and benevolence of his character. When he was fitting out his fleet for Algiers, amidst all the anxiety of hurried preparations, he took care that every ship should be properly supplied with the sacred volume. For this purpose, he obtained from the Naval and Military Bible Society, of which he was a Vice President, every copy which could be procured at so short a notice. Finally, after this, the last and greatest of his services, a battle of almost unexampled severity and duration, and fought less for his country than for the world, his gratitude to the Giver of victory was expressed in a manner the most edifying and delightful.
With such principles, he might well have hoped for happiness when he retired from public life. Religion alone can fill and satisfy the most active and capacious mind; but that its power may be felt to calm, strengthen, and support, under whatever circumstances of endurance, or of action, it must govern the character always, and be the supreme controlling principle. For this, the position of a naval officer is not favourable. War has much, in addition to the miseries and evils it directly creates, which only necessity can excuse; and there is too little leisure for reflection amidst the anxiety of early struggles, the full career of success, or the pressure of exciting and important duties.
But when external responsibilities had ceased to divert his attention from himself, his religious principles acquired new strength and exerted a more powerful influence. They guided him to peace; they added dignity to his character: and blessed his declining years with a serenity, at once the best evidence of their truth, and the happiest illustration of their power.
The quiet of domestic life offers little to be recorded; and except when public or private claims might call him for a short time from home, Lord Exmouth passed the remainder of his life at Teignmouth. He had nobly done his duty; and now enjoyed in honourable repose all that the gratitude of his country and the affection of his family could bestow. Though he knew himself liable to an attack which might be almost suddenly fatal, he dwelt on the prospect without alarm, for he rested upon that faith whose privilege it is to rise above present suffering, and to regard death itself as the gate of immortal life.
No man was more free from selfish feeling. His honours and success were valued for the sake of his family. His services and life were for his country. He had a truly English heart, and served her with entire devotedness. Nothing, indeed, could be a finer commentary than his own career upon her free and equal institutions, which, by the force of those qualities they so powerfully tend to create, had enabled him to rise from the condition of an unfriended orphan, to the dignity of the British peerage. Most painful, therefore, were his feelings, when revolt and anarchy in neighbouring countries were held up to be admired and imitated at home, until a praiseworthy desire of improvement had become a rage for destructive innovation. In a letter written at this time, Nov. 12th, 1831, after alluding to his own declining strength, he thus proceeds:—"I am fast approaching that end which we must all come to. My own term I feel is expiring, and happy is the man who does not live to see the destruction of his country, which discontent has brought to the verge of ruin. Hitherto thrice happy England, how art thou torn to pieces by thine own children! Strangers, who a year ago looked up to you as a happy exception in the world, with admiration, at this moment know thee not! Fire, riot, and bloodshed, are roving through the land, and God in his displeasure visits us also with pestilence; and, in fact, in one short year, we seem almost to have reached the climax of misery. One cannot sit down to put one's thoughts to paper, without feeling oppressed by public events, and with vain thought of how and when will the evils terminate. That must be left to God's mercy, for I believe man is at this moment unequal to the task."