1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Duncan, Adam Duncan, 1st Viscount
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Duncan, Adam Duncan, 1st Viscount
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DUNCAN, ADAM DUNCAN, 1st Viscount (1731-1804), British naval commander, was born on the 1st of July 1731, at Lundie, in Forfarshire, Scotland. After receiving the rudiments of his education at Dundee, he was in 1746 placed under Captain Haldane, of the “Shoreham” frigate, and in 1749 he became a midshipman in the “Centurion.” In 1755 he was appointed second lieutenant of the “Norwich,” but on the arrival of that ship in America, whither, with the rest of Keppel’s squadron, it had convoyed General Braddock’s forces, he was transferred to the “Centurion.” Once again in England, he was promoted to be second lieutenant of the “Torbay,” and after three years on the home station he assisted in the attack on the French settlement of Goree, on the African coast, in which he was slightly wounded. He returned to England as first lieutenant of the “Torbay”; and in 1759 was made a commander, and in 1761 a post-captain. His vessel, the “Valiant” (74), was Commodore Keppel’s flag-ship in the expedition against Belle-Ile en Mer in that year, and also in 1762, when it took an important part in the capture of Havana. In 1778, on the recommencement of war with France, Captain Duncan was appointed to the “Suffolk” (74), whence before the close of the year he removed to the “Monarch” (74), one of the Channel Fleet. On the 16th of January 1780, in an action off Cape St Vincent, between a Spanish squadron under Don Juan de Langara and the British fleet under Sir George Rodney, Captain Duncan in the “Monarch” was the first to engage the enemy; and in 1782, as captain of the “Blenheim” (90), he took part in Lord Howe’s relief of Gibraltar. From the rank of rear-admiral of the blue, received in 1789, he was gradually promoted until, in 1799, he became admiral of the white. In February 1795 he hoisted his flag as commander-in-chief of the North Sea fleet, appointed to harass the Batavian navy. Towards the end of May 1797, though, in consequence of the widespread mutiny in the British fleet, he had been left with only the “Adamant” (50), besides his own ship the “Venerable” (74), Admiral Duncan proceeded to his usual station off the Texel, where lay at anchor the Dutch squadron of fifteen sail of the line, under the command of Vice-Admiral de Winter. From time to time he caused signals to be made, as if to the main body of a fleet in the offing, a stratagem which probably was the cause of his freedom from molestation until, in the middle of June, reinforcements arrived from England. On the 3rd of October the admiral put into Yarmouth Roads to refit and victual his ships, but, receiving information early on the 9th that the enemy was at sea, he immediately hoisted the signal for giving him chase. On the morning of the 11th de Winter’s fleet, consisting of 4 seventy-fours, 7 sixty-fours, 4 fifty-gun ships, 2 forty-four-gun frigates, and 2 of thirty-two guns, besides smaller vessels, was sighted lying about 9 m. from shore, between the villages of Egmont and Camperdown. The British fleet numbered 7 seventy-fours, 7 sixty-fours, 2 fifties, 2 frigates, with a sloop and several cutters, and was slightly superior in force to that of the Dutch. Shortly after mid-day the British ships, without waiting to form in order, broke through the Dutch line, and an engagement commenced which, after heavy loss on both sides, resulted in the taking by the British of eleven of the enemy’s vessels. When the action ceased the ships were in nine fathoms water, within 5 m. of a lee shore, and there was every sign of an approaching gale. So battered were the prizes that it was found impossible to fit them for future service, and one of them, the “Delft,” sank on her way to England. In recognition of this victory, Admiral Duncan was, on the 21st of October, created Viscount Duncan of Camperdown and baron of Lundie, with an annual pension of £3000 to himself and the two next heirs to his title. The earldom of Camperdown was created for his son Robert (1785-1859) in 1831, and is still in the possession of his descendants. In 1800 Lord Duncan withdrew from naval service. He died on the 4th of August 1804.
See Charnock, Biog. Nav. (1794-1796); Collins, Peerage of England, p. 378 (1812); W. James, Naval History of Great Britain (1822); Yonge, History of the British Navy, vol. i. (1863); Earl of Camperdown, Admiral Duncan (1898), vol. xvi. of the Navy Record Soc. Publications, contains the logs of the ships engaged in the battle of Camperdown.