Gayton, Clark (DNB00)

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GAYTON, CLARK (1720?–1787?), admiral, after serving as a midshipman in the Squirrel with Captain Peter Warren on the coast of North America, and subsequently as a lieutenant in the West Indies, was promoted by Commodore Knowles to command the Bien Aimé storeship on 12 Aug. 1744. In July 1745, being then at Boston, he was appointed by Commodore Warren to command the Mermaid, in which he came home in the following March in charge of convoy. He continued to command the Mermaid on the home station till September 1747. On 10 July 1754, applying for employment, he describes himself as a man with a large family and seven years on half-pay; and on 3 Feb. 1755 adds that before that almost his whole life had been spent at sea. In the following May he commissioned the Antelope, which he commanded on the home station till August 1756, when he was moved into the Royal Anne guardship at Spithead, and in April 1757 into the Prince, for service in the Mediterranean, as flag-captain to Admiral Henry Osborn [q. v.] On Osborn's return home, in the summer of 1758, Gayton was appointed to the St. George, in which he went out to the West Indies, and joined the squadron under Commodore Moore [see Moore, Sir John, d. 1779] at the unsuccessful attack on Martinique and the reduction of Guadeloupe, January 1759. A doubtful story is told that Gayton and other captains at the council of war pointed out that, from the commanding height of the citadel of Guadeloupe, ships were of little use against it: ‘the commodore judged otherwise, and in arranging the attack sent Gayton a written order to engage the citadel, but afterwards, seeing the St. George suffering severely from the plunging fire, he sent a verbal order for her to haul off; to which Gayton replied that, as he had a written order to engage, he could not haul off without a corresponding written order; but before this could be sent the citadel ceased firing and was evacuated by the enemy’ (Charnock, v. 388). Captain Gardiner, the historian of the campaign (An Account of the Expedition to the West Indies, p. 23), who was present at the time, knows nothing of this; and as the order of attack, detailing the St. George, together with the Cambridge and Norfolk, to engage the citadel, was necessarily and according to custom in writing, the story has an air of extreme improbability. Towards the close of the year the St. George returned to England, and continued till the peace attached to the grand fleet in the Bay of Biscay. In 1769–70 Gayton commanded the San Antonio guardship at Portsmouth. In October 1770 he became a rear-admiral, and in May 1774 left England, with his flag in the Antelope, to take command of the Jamaica station, where, during 1776 and 1777, he had frequent and troublesome correspondence with the French commodore at Cape Français, or with the French governor, concerning right of search and alleged breaches of neutrality. In April 1778 Gayton returned to England, after which he had no further service. He had been advanced to the rank of vice-admiral in February 1776, and in April 1782 was raised to the rank of admiral. During his last years he was very infirm, and lived in retirement at Fareham in Hampshire, where he died about 1787.

[Charnock's Biog. Nav. v. 387; Official Correspondence in the Public Record Office.]

J. K. L.