A Naval Biographical Dictionary/Franklin, John (a)

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FRANKLIN, Kt., K.C.H., K.R.G., D.C.L., F.R.S. (Captain, 1822. f-p., 28; h-p., 19.)

Sir John Franklin, horn in 1786, at Spilsbury, co. Lincoln, is brother of the late Sir Willingham Franklin, Kt., Chief-Justice at Madras.

This officer entered the Navy, 1 Oct. 1800, as a Boy, on board the Polyphemus 64, Capt. John Lawford, under whom he served as Midshipman in the action off Copenhagen 2 April, 1801. He then, in the Investigator sloop, Capt. Matthew Flinders, sailed on a voyage of discovery to New Holland, where, on joining the Porpoise armed store-ship, Lieut. -Commander Robt. Merrick Fowler, he was wrecked on a coral-reef near Cato Bank, 17 Aug. 1803. While afterwards on his passage home in the Earl Camden East Indiaman, commanded by Capt. Nathaniel Dance, the Commodore of a China fleet of 16 sail, Mr. Franklin appears to have had charge of the signals, and to have distinguished himself at the celebrated repulse of a powerful French squadron under Admiral Linois 15 Feb. 1804. Joining, on his arrival in England, the Bellerophon 74, Capts. John Loring, John Cooke, and Edw. Rotheram, he subsequently, under Capt. Cooke, took part in the battle of Trafalgar; and on that occasion, 21 Oct. 1805, we again find him superintending the Signal department, and evincing very conspicuous zeal and activity. On being next transferred to the Bedford 74, Capts. Adam Mackenzie and Jas. Walker, of which ship he was confirmed a Lieutenant 11 Feb. 1808, Mr. Franklin escorted the Royal Family of Portugal from Lisbon to South America. During the after part of the war he was chiefly employed at the blockade of Flushing; and he then, towards the close of 1814, joined in the expedition to New Orleans. On 14 Dec. in the same year he was slightly wounded, while leading the Bedford’s boats, in unison with those of a squadron, at the capture, on Lake Borgne, of five American gun-boats under Commodore Jones, which did not surrender until, after a desperate conflict, they had occasioned the British a total loss of 17 men killed and 77 wounded.[1] During the attack on New Orleans Mr. Franklin assisted in conducting the indescribably arduous operation of cutting a canal across the entire neck of land between the Bayou Catalan and the Mississippi; and for his conduct on the morning of 8 Jan. 1815, when he commanded the small-arm men under Capt. Rowland Money at the brilliant defeat of a body of Americans strongly entrenched on the right bank of that river, he was officially and very warmly recommended for promotion. After serving for a short time during the summer of 1815 as First of the Forth 40, Capt. Sir Wm. Bolton, he assumed command, 14 Jan. 1818, of the hired brig Trent, in which he accompanied Capt. David Buchan of the Dorothea on a perilous voyage of discovery to the neighbourhood of Spitzbergen.[2] In April, 1819, having paid off the Trent in the preceding Nov., he was invested with the conduct of an expedition destined to proceed overland from the shores of Hudson’s Bay for the purpose, more particularly, of ascertaining the actual position of the mouth of the Coppermine River and the exact trending of the shores of the Polar Sea to the eastward of that river. The details of that fearful undertaking, which endured until the summer of 1822, and in the course of which he reached as far as Point Turnagain, in lat. 68° 19' N. and long. 109° 25' W., and effected a journey altogether of 5550 miles, Capt. Franklin (whose Commander’s and Post commissions bear date respectively 1 Jan. 1821, and 20 Nov. 1822) has ably set forth in his ‘Narrative of a Journey to the Shores of the Polar Sea in the Years 1819-22.’ On 16 Feb. 1825 this energetic officer again left England on another expedition to the Frozen Regions, having for its object a co-operation with Capts. Fred. Wm. Beechey and Edw. Wm. Parry in ascertaining from opposite quarters the existence of a north-west passage. The results of this mission, which terminated at Point Beechey, in lat. 70° 24' N., long. 149° 37' W., will also be found in Capt. Franklin’s ‘Narrative of a Second Expedition to the Shores of the Polar Sea in 1825-7.’ On his return to England, where he arrived 26 Sept. 1827, he was presented by the Geographical Society at Paris with a gold medal, valued at 1200 francs, as having made the most important acquisitions to geographical knowledge during the preceding year, and on 29 April, 1829, he received the honour of Knighthood, besides being awarded, in July following, the Oxford degree of a D.C.L. From 23 Aug. 1830, until paid off in Jan. 1834, he next commanded the Rainbow 28, on the Mediterranean station, for his exertions during which period as connected with the troubles in Greece he was presented with the order of the Redeemer of Greece. Sir John Franklin, who was created a K.C.H. 25 Jan. 1836, and was afterwards for some time Lieut.-Governor of Van Diemen’s Land, has, as Captain of the Erebus discovery-ship, been engaged, since 3 March, 1845, in a fresh attempt to explore a north-west passage through Lancaster Sound and Bering Strait.

He married, first, 16 Aug. 1823, Eleanor Anne youngest daughter of Wm. Porden, Esq., Architect, of Berners Street, London; and secondly, 5 Nov.

  1. Vide Gaz. 1815, p. 448.
  2. See ‘A Voyage of Discovery towards the North Pole, performed in H.M. Ships Dorothea and Trent, under the command of Capt. David Buchan, in 1818.’ By Capt. F. W. Beechey, R.N. 8vo. Lond. 1843.