A Naval Biographical Dictionary/Hamilton, Edward

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HAMILTON, Bart, Kt., K.C.B., M.A. (Admiral, of the Blue, 1846. f-p., 30; h-p., 38.)

Sir Edward Hamilton, born 12 March, 1772, is younger brother of Admiral Sir Chas. Hamilton, Bart., K.C.B.

This officer entered the Navy, 21 May, 1779, as Midshipman, on board the Hector 74, then under the command of his father, Sir John Hamilton, with whom, in 1780, he partook of an action fought between the French fleet and a force under the late Admiral Cornwallis. With the exception of an attachment of a few months in 1781-2, to the Ramillies 74, Capt. Jas. Moutray, he continued to serve in the Hector until Jan. 1784. He re-embarked, in Oct. 1787, on board the Standard 64, Capt. Chamberlayne, and between April, 1788, and the date of his first commission, 9 June, 1793, was employed, with intervals, in the Calypso, commanded on the Jamaica station by Capt. Sir Wm. Mitchell, Melampus, Capt. Chas. Morice Pole, off Ushant, and Victory and Queen Charlotte, flag ships in the Channel of Lords Hood and Howe. Joining, then, the Dino 28, commanded by his brother, he soon had the good fortune, in a boat with only 8 men, to effect the capture of Le Vrai Patriote privateer, of 13 guns and a crew of 45 men, 13 of whom, after they had betaken themselves to the shore, he compelled to surrender. In the early part of 1794 after assisting at the reduction of Bastia, Mr. Hamilton commanded a party of British and Corsicans at the siege of Girilata, a strong post near Calvi, against which he erected batteries within point-blank shot, and kept up an incessant fire until the enemy yielded. In July following he became First of the Victory 100, bearing the successive flags of Lord Hood, Rear-Admiral Robt. Mann, and Sir John Jervis, with whom he continued to serve (participating intermediately in Admiral Hotham’s partial action of 13 July, 1795) until promoted to the command, 11 Feb. 1796, of the Comet fire-ship. After serving for 12 months in the West Indies, where he captured two privateers, Capt. Hamilton, on his arrival with despatches at Lisbon, was posted, 11 June, 1797, into the San Josef 110, from which ship he soon exchanged into the Surprise, of 32 guns and 197 men. In July, 1798, having been previously employed in escorting the trade to and from Newfoundland, he was ordered with convoy to Jamaica. While on that station he took and destroyed upwards of 80 armed and other vessels, of which those that were preserved sold for no less a sum than 200,000l. On one occasion he chased a privateer and her prize into Laguna, on the north side of the island of Cuba, and, after having effected their destruction, was two days and nights in constant action with the batteries, the baffling winds and light airs preventing his clearing the port. On the night of 24 Oct. 1799 Capt. Hamilton achieved an exploit unsurpassed, if ever paralleled, in the mightiest efforts of British valour – namely, the actual boarding and capture, with three boats and about 50 men, of a Spanish (formerly British) frigate, the Hermione, of 44 guns and 365 men, moored head and stern between two strong batteries at the entrance of the harbour of Puerto Cabello, said to mount nearly 200 guns.[1] It was not until after a bloody struggle of nearly an hour, in which the enemy had 119 killed and 97 wounded, and the British the comparatively trifling number of 12 wounded, that the former were completely divested of the power of further resistance. By that time, her stern and bower cables having, with the assistance of two other of the Surprise’s boats, been cut, the prize was standing out of port, under, however, a furious cannonade from the batteries, whose fire occasioned her considerable damage. Although the loss of the assailants was trivial, it yet included the chivalrous conductor of this most noble enterprise, the gallant Capt. Hamilton. He first received a tremendous blow from the butt-end of a musket, which broke over his head and knocked him senseless on the deck; and he next received a severe sabre-wound on the left thigh, another wound by a pike on the right thigh, and a contusion on the right shin-bone by a grape-shot. One of his fingers was also much cut, and his loins and kidneys were so much bruised that he still at times suffers considerable pain. Notwithstanding all this, he refused a pension of 300l., which Earl Spencer, the First Lord of the Admiralty, had afterwards ordered to be settled on him for life; and he even declined an offer made by the same nobleman of adding to his armorial bearings. The King, however, created him a Knight by letters patent under the Great Seal, and conferred on him the Naval Gold Medal of Merit, besides ultimately nominating him a K.C.B., 2 Jan. 1815, and elevating him to the dignity of a Baronet, 20 Oct. 1818. The House of Assembly at Jamaica also voted him an elegant sword valued at 300 guineas; and on his return to London he was invited by special invitation to dine at the Mansion House, and presented on the occasion with the thanks of the Corporation, and the freedom of the city in a gold box worth fifty guineas. Previously to his arrival, however, and while on his passage home, in the Jamaica packet, for the cure of his wounds. Sir Edw. Hamilton was captured by a French privateer, and taken to Paris, where, during a sojourn of six weeks, he was much noticed by Buonaparte, who in the end allowed him to be exchanged for six Midshipmen. His last appointments were – 23 Oct. 1800, to the Trent 36, employed, until Jan. 1802, off the coast of France, where he occasionally commanded a small squadron at the blockade of Havre de Grace, Cherbourg, and St. Maloes – and 19 June, 1806, and 7 Dec. 1815, to the Mary and Prince Regent yachts, which he successively commanded, on the river Thames and at Portsmouth, until Jan. 1819, at which period he resigned. He became a Rear-Admiral 19 July, 1821; a Vice-Admiral 10 Jan. 1837; and a full Admiral 9 Nov. 1846.

Sir Edw. Hamilton is a Deputy-Lieutenant for co. Brecon. He married, 1 Nov. 1804, Frances, daughter of John Macnamara, Esq., of Langoed Castle, co. Brecon, by whom (who died 27 March, 1840) he has issue a son and daughter.


  1. Vide Gaz. 1890, p. 61.