Cornish, Samuel (DNB00)
|←Cornish, Joseph||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 12
|Cornwall, Charles Wolfran→|
CORNISH, Sir SAMUEL (d. 1770), vice-admiral, is said to have risen from a very humble origin, to have served his apprenticeship on board a collier, to have been afterwards in the East India Company's service, and to have entered the navy as an able seaman. All this, however, is based only on vague tradition. The first certain knowledge that we have is that on 16 Nov. 1739 he was appointed lieutenant of the Lichfield, and that on 11 Nov. 1740 he followed Captain Knowles from her to the Weymouth. As first lieutenant of the Weymouth he served in the expedition to Cartagena in March to April 1741, and on his return to England was made commander of the Mortar bomb. On 12 March 1741-2 he was advanced to post rank and appointed to the Namur as flag captain to Vice-admiral Mathews, with whom he went out to the Mediterranean. On 21 Sept. 1742 he was appointed to command the Guernsey of 50 guns, and in her he continued till the end of the war, doing occasional good service in the destruction of the enemy's privateers, and taking part in the action off Toulon (11 Feb. 1743-4), though without winning any distinction (Narrative of the Proccedings of His Majesty's Fleet in the Mediterranean . . . from the year 1741 to March 1744, pp. 26, 57). In 1755 he commissioned the Stirling Castle for service in the Channel, and in 1758 was transferred to the Union of 90 guns, with an order from Lord Anson to wear a distinguishing pennant. On 14 Feb. 1759 he was promoted to be rear-admiral of the white, and in May was sent out to the East Indies with a small squadron to reinforce Vice-admiral Pocock, who early in the following spring resigned the command of the station to Rear-admiral Steevens. Steevens died on 17 May 1761, and was succeeded by Cornish. Under his two predecessors the French power in the East had been annihilated; Pondicherry, their last stronghold, having surrendered on 15 Jan. 1761. Cornish was thus at liberty, when the war with Spain broke out, to give his undivided attention to the new enemy. The news was brought out by Colonel and Brigadier-general Draper of the 79th regiment [see Draper, Sir William], who also carried orders to the admiral to co-operate in the reduction of the Philippine Islands. This he did with his whole force, amounting to seven ships of the line, besides frigates; and having taken the precaution of sending cruisers in advance to the entrance of the China seas, all intelligence was prevented reaching the islands. Their first intimation of the pending danger was the entry of the fleet into the Bay of Manila on 23 Sept. 1762. The Spaniards were thus found quite unprepared, and it was determined to take advantage of the surprise by attacking the town without delay. The troops under Draper, about thirteen hundred strong, were reinforced by some seven hundred seamen and three hundred marines. They landed on the 25th, and at once broke ground before the town. The siege was vigorously pushed. On the evening of 5 Oct. the breach was judged practicable; the Spaniards had no means of further resistance, nor do they appear to have formed any resolution of offering any, but they still obstinately refused to surrender. The next morning, at daybreak, the place was taken by storm. There were, of course, some irregularities, which, however, were quickly repressed, on the governor's agreeing to pay a ransom of four million dollars. A large quantity of naval and military stores fell into the hands of the captors, and the islands were taken possession of in the name of the king of Great Britain; but in Lord Bute's headlong eagerness for peace they were restored without any equivalent, and on the bills drawn by the governor being presented in Spain, payment was refused: under Bute's leadership it was not insisted on, and was never made.
On 21 Oct. 1762 Cornish was advanced to be vice-admiral of the blue, and returned to England in the following year. He had no further service, but was created a baronet on 9 Jan. 1766. The title, however, became extinct on his death, without issue, 30 Oct. 1770. His large fortune, acquired in the East Indies and by the Manila prize-money, was left to his nephew, Samuel Pitchford, "then a captain in the navy, who, in accordance with the will, assumed the name of Cornish. He afterwards commanded the Arrogant of 74 guns in the battle of Dominica, 12 April 1782, and died, admiral of the red, in 1816.
[Charnock's Biog. Nav. v. 139, vi. 445; Paybooks of the Lichfield and other ships, in the Public Record Office; Beateon's Nav. and MiL Memoirs, ii. 485, iii. 354; Entick's Hist, of the late War, v. 409; Burke's Extinct and Dormant Baronetcies, 1838, s.n. Cornish of Shambrook; Wotton's Baronetage, by Kimber and Johnson (1771), iii. 227.]