Elliot, John (d.1808) (DNB00)

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ELLIOT, JOHN (d. 1808), admiral, third son of Sir Gilbert Elliot (d. 1766) [q.v.], brother of Sir Gilbert Elliot (1722-1777) [q. v.], and uncle of Gilbert Elliot, first earl of Minto [q. v.], was promoted to the rank of lieutenant on 30 April 1756, and the following year, 5 April 1757, was posted to the Royal William. The appointment was merely nominal, but he was immediately transferred to the Hussar of 28 guns, which, during the latter part of 1757 and the summer of 1758, was attached to the grand fleet under Hawke and Anson. Towards the end of 1758 he commisioned the Æolus, a 32-gun frigate then newly launched, and on 19 March 1759, while cruising on the south coast of Bretagne in company with the Isis of 50 guns, fell in with a squadron of four French frigates in charge of convoy. The convoy and two of the frigates got clear away, chased by the Isis; the two others, Blonde and Mignonne, interposed to prevent the Æolus following. After a sharp action the Mignonne was captured, but the Blonde made good her escape (Beatson, ii. 347). During the year the Æolus continued on the coast of France, under the orders of Sir Edward Hawke, and on 27 Dec. sailed from Quiberon Bay on a cruise, in company with the Intrepid of 64 guns. Bad weather came on; the two ships separated; the Æolus, blown off shore, was unable to work up to the Isle Groix, the appointed rendezvous; and, her provisions running short, she put into Kinsale on 21 Jan. 1760 in order to get a supply. 'I purpose,' Elliot wrote to the admiralty, 'returning off Isle Groix as soon as they can be coinpleted, in further execution of my orders.' Continued bad weather and southerly gales, however, delayed the provisioning and prevented his sailing, so that he was still at Kinsale on 24 Feb., when he received a letter from the lord-lieutenant addressed to 'The Captain or Commanding Officer of His Majesty's ships of war at Kinsale,' informing him of the presence of M. Thurot's squadron of three ships in Belfast Lough, and of their having landed a strong body of troops at Carrickfergus. It was a circular letter, a copy of which was sent express to all the ports on the chance of finding ships of war at some of them. None were stationed on the coast; the Æolus was at Kinsale solely by the accident of the weather; so also were two other 32-gun frigates, the Pallas and Brilliant, which had sought shelter there a few days before. Taking these two ships under his orders, Elliot immediately put to sea, and 'on the evening of the 26th made the entrance of Carrickfergus, but could not get in, the wind being contrary and very bad weather.' Thurot, on his side, having failed in his contemplated dash at Belfast, had re-embarked his men on the 25th, but was detained by the same bad weather, and did not weigh till midnight of the 27th. According to Elliot's official letter, dated in Ramsay Bay on 29 Feb. 1760: 'On the 28th at four in the morning we got sight of them and gave chase. At nine I got up alongside their commodore off the Isle of Mann; and in a few minutes after, the action became general and lasted about an hour and a half, when they all three struck their colours.' Thurot's presence on the coast had caused so much alarm that the news of his capture and death gave rise to excessive and undignified rejoicing. The action, creditable enough in itself, was almost absurdly magnified by popular report, to such an extent, indeed, that even forty-four years after, Nelson, writing to Lord Minto and speaking of Elliot, said: 'His action with Thurot will stand the test with any of our modern victories' (Nicolas, Nelson Despatches, v. 366). In point of fact, the French force, though nominally superior, was disintegrated by disaffection, mutiny, and sickness. The ships, too, had been severely strained by the long persistent bad weather to which they had been exposed, and many of their guns had been struck below.

On 7 March the ships and their prizes, having to some extent refitted in Ramsay Bay, sailed for Plymouth, but, meeting with a southerly gale, again put into Kinsale, and finally arrived at Spithead on the 25th. After a short cruise on the coast of France, and the capture of a brig laden with naval stores, which was cut out from under the guns of a battery on Belle Isle, the Æolus returned to Spithead. She was then ordered to be docked, and Elliot was meanwhile appointed to the Gosport of 40 guns, in which he convoyed the Baltic trade as far as the Sound. On his return he rejoined the Æolus, and was sent to his old cruising ground in the Bay of Biscay. In the spring of 1761 he again came to Spithead, bringing with him a small privateer which he had captured off Cape Finisterre. He was then appointed to the Chichester of 70 guns, and sent out to the Mediterranean, where he remained till the peace. From 1764 to 1771 he successively commanded the Bellona, the Firme, and the Portland as guardships at Plymouth, and in April 1777 he commissioned the Trident of 64 guns. On 22 April he was ordered to wear a broad pennant and to carry over to North America the commissioners appointed to negotiate with the revolted colonies. He arrived at Sandy Hook early in June, and for two months acted as second in command of the station, under Lord Howe. He then quitted the Trident and returned to England. Towards the end of 1779 he commissioned the Edgar of 74 guns, one of the fleet which sailed on 29 Dec., under Sir George Rodney, for the relief of Gibraltar. In the action off Cape St. Vincent on 16 Jan. 1780 the Edgar had a distinguished share; and after the relief of the Rock, and on the departure of the fleet, Elliot remained behind as senior naval officer, but returned to England a few months later, a ship of the Edgar's size being found useless under the existing circumstances. For the next two years she formed part of the Channel fleet under Geary, Darby, or Howe, and on 12 Dec. 1781 was one of the small squadron with which Kempenfelt effected his brilliant capture of French convoy, and, being the loading ship of the line as it passed the French rear, was for a time sharply engaged with the Triomphant [see Kempenfelt, Richard]. In June 1782 Elliot was removed into the Romney, and was under orders to go out to the West Indies, with a broad pennant, when peace was concluded. From 1786 to 1780 he was governor and commander-in-chief at Newfoundland, and during this time, on 24 Sept. 1787, was advanced to flag rank. On 21 Feb. 1790 he became a vice-admiral, and during the Spanish armament hoisted his flag in the Barfleur. On 16 April 1795 he attained the rank of admiral, but had no further service. His health was much broken, and during his latter years he led a quiet country life at his seat in Roxburghshire, Mount Teviot, where he died on 20 Sept. 1808.

[Charnock's Biog. Nav. vii. 224; Naval Chronicle, ix. 425; Beatson's Nav. and Mil. Memoirs; Laughton's Studies in Naval History, pp. 342-350; Official Letters in the Public Record Office.]

J. K. L.