A Naval Biographical Dictionary/Adam, Charles

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ADAM. (Vice-Admiral. of the Red, 1837. f-p., 33; h-p., 24.)

Sir Charles Adam, born 6 Oct. 1780, is eldest surviving son of the late Right Hon. Wm. Adam, of Blair Adam, co. Kinross, Lord Chief Commissioner of the Scotch Jury Court, by Eleanor, second daughter of Charles, tenth Lord Elphinstone; brother of General Sir Fred. Adam, G.C.B., G.C.M.G., Colonel of the 21st foot, Governor of the Ionian Islands, and late Governor of Madras; and nephew of Admiral Lord Keith.

This officer entered the Navy, 15 Dec. 1790, as Captain’s Servant, on board the Royal Charlotte yacht, Capt. Sir Hyde Parker, lying at Deptford; and on removing, in 1793, to the Robust 74, commanded by his uncle, the Hon. Geo. Keith Elphinstone, was present, as Midshipman, at the investment and subsequent evacuation of Toulon. In the Glory 98, Capt. John Elphinstone, which ship he next joined, Mr. Adam bore a warm part in Lord Howe’s action, 1 June, 1794. He appears to have been then successively transferred to the Barfleur 98, and Monarch 74, bearing each the flag of his relative, the Hon. Sir G. K. Elphinstone, whose official approbation he elicited for his signal services as Acting-Lieutenant in command of the Squib gun-brig, at the carrying of the important pass of Maysenbergh, during the operations which led to the surrender of the Cape of Good Hope in 1795.[1] In Oct. of the latter, year, being appointed Acting-Lieutenant of the Victorious 74, Capt. Wm. Clark, he proceeded to the East Indies, and on 9 Sept. 1796, participated, in company with the Arrogant 74, in a long conflict of nearly four hours with six heavy French frigates under M. Sercey, which terminated in the separation of the combatants, after each had been much crippled, and the Victorious occasioned a loss of 17 men killed, and 57, including her Captain, wounded. Mr. Adam, whom we subsequently find officiating as Acting-Commander and Captain, from Aug. 1796 to Aug. 1797, of the Swift sloop, and Carysfort frigate, was at length, on his return to England in the Polyphemus 64, Capt. Geo. Lumsdaine, confirmed to a Lieutenancy, 8 Feb. 1798, in his old ship, the Barfleur, Capt. Jas. Rich. Dacres. On 16 May following, he obtained official command of the Falcon fire-ship, but was soon afterwards transferred to the Albatross 18, and ordered with despatches to the Cape of Good Hope, whence he ultimately accompanied an expedition sent to the Red Sea for the purpose of intercepting the French in their meditated descent upon India. Being advanced to the command, 12 June, 1799. of La Sybille, of 48 guns and 300 men, Capt. Adam, while in that ship, assisted at the capture and destruction, 23 Aug. 1800, of 5 Dutch armed vessels and 22 merchantmen, in Batavia Roads — made prize, in Oct. following, of 24 Dutch proas, four of which mounted 6 guns each — and on 19 Aug. 1801, off Mahe, the principal of the Seychelle islands, took, with the loss only of two men killed and a midshipman slightly wounded, after a gallant action of 20 minutes, amidst rocks and shoals, and under fire from a battery on shore, the French frigate La Chiffonne, of 42 guns and 296 men, of whom 23 were killed and 30 wounded.[2] On arriving with his trophy at Madras, he was presented by the Insurance Company at that place with an elegant sword, valued at 200 guineas, and the merchants at Calcutta also subscribed to him a sword and piece of plate. Having at length returned to England, and been appointed to the command, 23 May, 1803, of La Chiffonne, which had been added to the navy as a 36-gun frigate, Capt. Adam cruized with success in the North Sea and Channel until the summer of 1805, and on 10 June in that year, with the Falcon sloop, Clinker gun-brig, and Frances armed cutter, under his orders, after a chase of nine hours, during which the British suffered some loss from the incessant fire of the forts along shore, drove under the batteries of Fécamp a division of the French flotilla, consisting of 2 corvettes and 15 gun-vessels, carrying in all 51 guns, 4 eight-inch mortars, and 3 field-pieces, accompanied by 14 transports. While next in command, from 27 Aug. 1805, to 6 Apr. 1810, of the Resistance 38, he witnessed Sir John Warren’s capture, 13 March, 1806, of the Marengo 80, flag-ship of Admiral Linois, and 40-gun frigate Belle Poule — brought a considerable quantity of freight home from Vera Cruz in Feb. 1807 — took, 27 Dec. following, L’Aigle privateer, of 14 guns and 66 men— conveyed a large body of general officers to the coast of Portugal in 1808 — afterwards bore the present king of the French from Port Mahon to Palermo — and was otherwise actively and usefully employed. On removing from the Resistance to the Invincible 74, Capt. Adam commenced a series, of very effectual co-operations with the patriots on the coast of Catalonia, where, and on other parts of the coast of Spain, he carried on for a considerable time the duties of Senior Officer, and greatly annoyed the enemy.[3] In particular, at the defence of Tarragona, in May and June, 1811, he highly distinguished himself under Sir Edw. Codrington; and in May, 1812, he directed with characteristic zeal and ability the operations which led to the capture of the town of Almeria, where the castle of San Elmo, situated upon an almost inaccessible rock, and all the sea defences and batteries which protected the anchorage of the place, were blown up.[4] In June, 1813, after a siege of five days, Capt. Adam took, with the assistance of Lieut.-Col. Prevost of the 67th regiment, the fort of St. Philippe, in the Col de Balaguer, near Tortosa, armed with 12 pieces of ordnance, including 2 ten-inch mortars and 2 howitzers, with a garrison of 101 officers and men.[5] He likewise, while in the same ship, acquired the approval of Sir Edw. Pellew, the Commander-in-Chief, and of the Board of Admiralty, for the successful manner in which he conducted an important negociation with the Dey of Algiers, having for its object a cessation of the depredations which had been for some time carried on by that potentate on the subjects of the Spanish government. Shortly after the paying off of the Invincible, Capt. Adam, on 16 May, 1814, assumed the special and temporary command of the Impregnable 98, bearing the flag of H.R.H. the Duke of Clarence, in which ship he landed the Emperor of Russia and the King of Prussia at Dover on the evening of the 6 June, and was afterwards present at the grand naval review held at Spithead. He left the Impregnable on the 29th of the latter month, but was nominated, 15 Dec. following, Acting-Captain of the Royal Sovereign yacht, in which he continued until 7 Feb. 1816. Being re-appointed to that vessel, 20 July, 1821, he accompanied George IV in his visits to Ireland and Scotland, and was occasionally engaged in attendance on other Royal personages. He was superseded in the Royal Sovereign on his promotion to Flag-rank, 27 May, 1825; and, attaining the rank of Vice-Admiral 10 Jan. 1837, was subsequently employed as Commander-in-Chief in North America and the West Indies, with his flag on board the Illustrious 72, from 17 Aug. 1841, until May, 1845. He has since been on half-pay.

Sir Charles Adam was nominated a K.C.B. 10 Jan. 1835. He represented in parliament from 1831 to 1841 the conjoined counties of Clackmannan and Kinross; was First Naval Lord of the Admiralty from April, 1835, until Aug. 1841;[6] obtained the Lord Lieutenancy of Kinross 1 April, 1839; was appointed in 1840 one of the Elder Brethren of the Trinity House; and since July, 1846, has been again employed as First Sea Lord of the Admiralty. He married, 14 Oct. 1822, Elizabeth, daughter of the late Patrick Brydone, Esq., and sister of the Countess of Minto. Agent – John P. Muspratt.


  1. Vide Gaz. 1795, p. 1113.
  2. Vide Gaz. 1802, p. 165.
  3. Vide Gaz. 1811, p. 1587; Gaz. 1812, p. 563.
  4. Vide Gaz. 1812, p. 1277.
  5. Vide Gaz. 1813, pp. 1361-1405.
  6. Sir Chas. Adam was appointed a Commissioner of the Admiralty in Oct. 1834, but was prevented by illness from taking his seat.