Saumarez, James (DNB00)
|←Sault, Richard||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 50
SAUMAREZ, JAMES, Lord de Saumarez (1757–1836), admiral, third son of Matthew Saumarez (1718–1778) of Guernsey, by his second wife, Carteret, daughter of James le Marchant, was born at St. Peter Port on 11 March 1757. His father, a younger brother of Philip Saumarez [q. v.], was the son of Matthew, a colonel of the Guernsey militia, whose remote ancestor received from Henry II the fief of Jerbourg in the island. In September 1767 his name was placed, by Captain Lucius O'Bryen, on the books of the Solebay, where it remained for two years and nine months, during which the boy was at school. In August 1770 he joined the Montreal frigate, with Captain James Alms [q. v.], and in her went to the Mediterranean, where, in November, he was moved into the Winchelsea with Captain Samuel Granston Goodall [q. v.], and in February 1772 to the Levant, with Captain Samuel Thompson, returning in her to England in April 1775. After passing his examination, in October he joined the Bristol of 50 guns, going out to North America with the broad pennant of Sir Peter Parker (1721–1811) [q. v.], and in her took part in the disastrous attack on Fort Sullivan on 28 June 1776. Parker rewarded his conduct on this day with an acting-order as lieutenant of the Bristol, dated 11 July, but not confirmed till September, when he was moved, with Parker, to the Chatham. In February 1778 he was ordered to command the Spitfire schooner, in which, during the following months, he was actively employed along the coast, till she was ordered to be burnt at Rhode Island, on 4 Aug., to prevent her falling into the hands of the enemy. Saumarez returned to England in the Leviathan, and was shortly afterwards appointed to the Victory, the flagship in the Channel, and continued in her for the next two years. In June 1781 he followed Sir Hyde Parker (1714–1782) [q. v.] to the Fortitude, of which he was second lieutenant in the action on the Dogger Bank on 5 Aug. 1781.
On 23 Aug. he was promoted to command the Tisiphone fireship, and was shortly afterwards ordered to join the Channel fleet, from which, in the end of November, he was detached with the squadron under Rear-admiral Richard Kempenfelt [q. v.], and was with him on 12 Dec. when he cut off the French convoy from under the protection of a very superior fleet under Guichen. He was forthwith sent on to the West Indies to give Sir Samuel Hood (afterwards Lord Hood) [q. v.] warning of Guichen's sailing. He joined Hood at St. Kitt's in the early days of February 1782, and on the 7th was posted by him to the Russell of 74 guns, whose captain was obliged to invalid. In the action of 12 April the Russell had a very distinguished share, and in the evening was for some time warmly engaged with the Ville de Paris, the French flagship. The Russell was shortly afterwards sent to England with the trade, and Saumarez was placed on half pay. During the following years he resided in Guernsey and afterwards at Exeter; and though appointed in 1787 to the Ambuscade, and again in 1790 to the Raisonnable, it was on each occasion only for a few weeks, when, the alarm having subsided, the ships were put out of commission.
When the war broke out in the beginning of 1793 Saumarez was appointed to the Crescent frigate of 36 guns, which he was able to man with a very large proportion of Guernsey men, and others from the neighbourhood of Exeter. After cruising to the westward during the summer, he refitted the Crescent at Portsmouth, from which he sailed on 19 Oct. with despatches for the Channel Islands, when information reached him of a frigate at Cherbourg which came out each night, and having picked up one or two merchant vessels went back in the morning; he stood over to Cape Barfleur, and found her, as reported, on the morning of the 20th, trying to get back into Cherbourg against a southerly wind. She was the Réunion of 36 guns and 320 men; but they were neither seamen nor gunners, and though they resisted the Crescent's attack for more than two hours, the result was not a minute in doubt. When she had lost 120 men killed and wounded, while the Crescent had not one man hurt, she surrendered and was taken to Spithead. Such a success at the beginning of the war was thought a happy omen. Saumarez was invited by the first lord of the admiralty to come up to town, was presented to the king and was knighted, and was presented by the merchants of London with a handsome piece of plate.
During the following year the Crescent, alone or in company with the Druid, of similar force, cruised in the Channel under orders from Rear-Admiral John Macbride [q. v.], and on 8 June, having also the Eurydice of 20 guns in company, fell in with a squadron of five of the enemy's ships, two of which were frigates of equal force with the Crescent and Druid, and two others were cut down 74-gun ships, then carrying each 54 heavy guns. The fifth vessel was small; but the disproportion of force, the impossibility of engaging these reduced line-of-battle ships with frigates, compelled Saumarez to retreat towards Guernsey, then some thirty miles distant. The Eurydice, sailing very badly, was ordered to make the best of her way, while the other two followed under easy sail. The Druid was afterwards ordered to go on under all sail, while Saumarez in the Crescent drew off the pursuit by standing in shore, where it appeared as though his capture was certain. From this he escaped by his own local knowledge and the skill of a Guernsey pilot, who took the ship through among the rocks in a way not before known. While passing through the narrowest part of the Channel, Saumarez asked the pilot if he was sure of the marks. ‘Quite sure,’ answered the man; ‘ther is your house, and there is mine.’ Seen from the shore, Saumarez's daring conduct and escape excited admiration and enthusiasm, and the governor, calling attention to it in a general order, gave out the parole of the day Saumarez, with the countersign Crescent.
The Crescent was afterwards attached to the Channel fleet under Lord Howe, and in March 1795 Saumarez was appointed to the 74-gun ship Orion, which was one of the foremost ships under Lord Bridport in the running fight off L'Orient on 23 June. For the next eighteen months he was employed in the blockade of Brest or Rochefort, and in January 1797 was detached under Rear-admiral (afterwards Sir) William Parker (1743–1802) [q. v.] to reinforce Sir John Jervis [q. v.] He joined Jervis a few days before the battle of St. Vincent, in which the Orion had a brilliant share. Continuing with Jervis (now Earl of St. Vincent) off Cadiz, in May 1798 Saumarez was detached into the Mediterranean with Sir Horatio Nelson (afterwards Lord Nelson) [q. v.], and was the senior captain in the battle of the Nile, where the Orion had thirteen killed and twenty-nine wounded. Saumarez himself was severely bruised on the side by a splinter.
When the prizes were refitted after the battle, Saumarez, with them and the greater part of the fleet, was ordered back to Gibraltar. Being becalmed off Malta, he was visited by a deputation of the Maltese, who represented to him that the French garrison were in great distress and would almost certainly surrender if summoned. A summons was accordingly sent in, but was scornfully rejected, and Saumarez, contenting himself with supplying the Maltese with arms and ammunition, went on to Gibraltar. Thence he was ordered to Plymouth, where the Orion, being in need of a thorough repair, was paid off. For each of the actions of St. Vincent and the Nile Saumarez received the gold medal, and from the city of London, for the last, a piece of plate of the value of 200l.
He was shortly afterwards appointed to the Cæsar of 84 guns, the first two-decked ship of that force built in England; and in her he joined the fleet off Brest under the command of Lord St. Vincent. On 1 Jan. 1801 he was promoted to the rank of rear-admiral, and, with his flag in the Cæsar, continued till June with the Brest fleet, in command of the inshore squadron. He was then sent home to prepare for foreign service. On 13 June he was created a baronet, and on the 14th sailed for Cadiz, which he was instructed to blockade. On 5 July he received intelligence of a French squadron from Toulon, bound out of the Mediterranean, having been constrained by contrary winds to put into Gibraltar Bay. Leaving the Superb, then newly arrived from England, to keep watch on the Spanish ships at Cadiz, he immediately proceeded to Gibraltar Bay, having with him six ships of the line. On the morning of the 6th he found the French squadron of three ships of the line and a frigate moored close inshore off Algeciras, under the protection of heavy batteries on the mainland and a small islet adjacent. Saumarez determined to attack at once, but unfortunately the wind prevented his ships from getting in so close as to bar the fire of the batteries, from which they suffered severely. In endeavouring to get closer in, the Hannibal took the ground. All efforts to get her off were unavailing; and after being pounded into a wreck, and having eighty-one killed and sixty-two wounded, she was obliged to surrender. The loss in the other ships too was very heavy, and all—especially the Cæsar—sustained much damage. After persevering in the attack for five hours Saumarez withdrew to Gibraltar, leaving the Hannibal in the hands of the enemy.
The ships were employed refitting when they were joined by the Superb, driven before the Spanish squadron from Cadiz, which now joined the French at Algeciras. By great exertions the English ships were got ready, and when the combined squadron, now consisting of nine ships of the line, exclusive of the Hannibal, put to sea on the 12th, Saumarez followed them and inflicted on them a decisive defeat, destroying two Spanish three-deckers, capturing a French two-decker, and driving the rest in headlong rout into Cadiz [see Keats, Sir Richard Goodwin; Hood, Sir Samuel]. For his conduct on this occasion Saumarez was nominated a K.B., with the insignia of which he was invested at Gibraltar by the lieutenant-governor. He also received the freedom of the city of London, together with a sword, a pension of 1,200l., and the thanks of both houses of parliament, moved in the House of Lords by St. Vincent and seconded by Nelson, who, after speaking of the reverse at Algeciras, said: ‘The promptness with which he refitted, the spirit with which he attacked a superior force after his recent disaster, and the masterly conduct of the action, I do not think were ever surpassed.’
On the renewal of the war in 1803, Saumarez was appointed to the command of the Guernsey station, in which he continued, living for the most part on shore in his own house, till 7 Jan. 1807. He was then promoted to be vice-admiral, and appointed second in command of the fleet off Brest. In August he applied to be superseded, and in March 1808 was appointed to the command of a strong squadron sent to the Baltic, which he continued to hold for the next five years, returning to England each winter. This fleet, sent in the first instance to support the Swedes against the Danes and Russians [see Hood, Sir Samuel; Martin, Sir Thomas Byam; Maurice, James Wilkes], afterwards strengthened the attitude of the Baltic powers, and by ensuring to the Russians free communication by sea, which it absolutely denied to the French invaders, had an influence on the result of the campaign which is apt to be lost sight of in the dearth of stirring incidents. On finally leaving the Baltic, Saumarez was presented by the crown prince of Sweden with a diamond-hilted sword valued at 2,000l., and was nominated a grand cross of the order of the Sword, with the insignia of which he was invested by the Prince of Wales on 24 June 1813. On 4 June 1814 he was promoted to the rank of admiral, was appointed rear-admiral of the United Kingdom in July 1819, and vice-admiral in November 1821. From 1824 to 1827 he was commander-in-chief at Plymouth; on 15 Sept. 1831, upon the coronation of William IV, he was raised to the peerage as Baron de Saumarez of Saumarez in Guernsey, and in February 1832 was made general of marines (which office was abolished at his death), and in 1834 was elected an elder brother of the Trinity-house. During his later years he resided principally in Guernsey, taking great interest in local matters, especially in regard to churches and schools, to which he was a liberal benefactor. He died on 9 Oct. 1836, and was buried in the churchyard of the Câtel parish in Guernsey. Saumarez married, in 1788, Martha, daughter of Thomas le Marchant of Guernsey and his wife Mary Dobrée. She died on 17 April 1849. By her he had three sons and four daughters. His eldest son, James (1789–1863), who succeeded to the title, after graduating at Oxford, took holy orders in 1812, and was rector of Huggate in Yorkshire; he was succeeded by his younger brother, John St. Vincent Saumarez (1806–1891), father of the present peer.
Saumarez was described by Sir William Hotham [q. v.] as ‘in his person tall, and having the remains of a handsome man; rather formal and ceremonious in his manner, but without the least tincture of affectation or pride … more than ordinarily attentive to his duty to God; but, with the meekness of Christianity, having the boldness of a lion whenever a sense of duty brings it into action.’ His portrait, by Phillips, belongs to the present Lord de Saumarez; another, by Lane, belongs to the United Service Club; there is also a portrait by Abbott. All three have been engraved. A miniature, in the possession of the family, is engraved as a frontispiece to the first volume of Sir John Ross's ‘Life;’ a portrait by B. R. Faulkner, to the second. An obelisk, ninety feet high, was erected to his memory on De Lancy Hill, Guernsey.
Saumarez's younger brother, Sir Thomas Saumarez (1760–1845), fourth son of the family, born on 1 July 1760, entered the army in January 1776; served in North America during the revolutionary war, and was taken prisoner at the surrender of Yorktown on 19 Oct. 1781. In 1793 he was appointed brigade-major of the Guernsey militia, and having been deputed to carry an address from the states of the island on the marriage of the Prince of Wales, he was knighted on 15 July 1795, and was shortly afterwards appointed assistant quartermaster-general. In 1799 he was made inspector of the Guernsey militia, and so continued till 1811, when he attained the rank of major-general. From 1812 to 1814 he commanded the garrison at Halifax, N. S. In 1813 he also acted as president and commander-in-chief of New Brunswick. He was afterwards groom of the bed-chamber to the Duke of Kent. Being the senior lieutenant-general, he was advanced to the rank of general on the coronation of Queen Victoria, 28 June 1838. He died at his residence, Petit Marche, Guernsey, on 4 March 1845 (cf. Gent. Mag. 1845, i. 546). He married, in 1787, Harriet, daughter of William Brock; she died on 18 Feb. 1858.[The Life by Sir John Ross (2 vols. 8vo, 1838)—the standard authority—is often carelessly written. A careful and appreciative article by Captain A. T. Mahan, U. S. N., is in the Atlantic Monthly, 1893, i. 605. See also Burke's Peerage, s.v. ‘De Saumarez;’ Duncan's Hist. of Guernsey, 1841, pp. 628–49; Navy Lists; James's Naval Hist.; Chevalier's Hist. de la Marine Française (pts. ii. and iii.); Troude's Batailles Navales de la France.]