A Naval Biographical Dictionary/Stopford, Robert

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1958133A Naval Biographical Dictionary — Stopford, RobertWilliam Richard O'Byrne

STOPFORD, G.C.B., G.C.M.G., K.R.E. (Admiral of the Red, 1825. f-p. 38; h-p., 29.)

The Honourable Sir Robert Stopford was born 5 Feb. 1768, and died 25 June, 1847, at Richmond, co. Surrey. He was third son of James, second Earl of Courtown, by Mary, daughter and co-heir of Rich. Powys, Esq., of Hintlesham Hall, co. Suffolk, and niece of George, Duke of Montagu; brother (with James George, third Earl of Courtown) of Lieut.-General Hon. Sir Edw. Stopford, G.C.B., K.T.S., who died in 1837; and uncle of Capts. Hon. Montagu and Rich. Henry Stopford, R.N.

This officer entered the Navy, 31 May, 1780, on board the Prince George 98, Capts. Fox and Williams, in which ship, bearing the flag of Rear-Admiral Digby, he assisted at the capture of a convoy homeward-bound from Martinique, was with Admiral Darby, in 1781, at the relief of Gibraltar, and, besides participating in other services, was warmly engaged in Rodney’s action 12 April, 1782, on which occasion the Prince George had her foremast and maintopmast shot away, and sustained a loss of 38 killed and wounded. In Dec. 1782 Mr. Stopford removed as Midshipman to L’Aigle frigate, Capt. Wm. Fowkes, stationed on the coast of North America and in the West Indies, where he continued employed as Acting-Lieutenant and Lieutenant in the Atalanta sloop, Capt. Thos. Foley, and Hermione 32, Capts. John Stone and Wm. Bentinck, until his return to England about Oct. 1785. He served next, from March, 1786, until promoted to the rank of Commander 2 June, 1789, in the Salisbury 50, Commodore Elliot, Centurion 50, Capt. Herbert Sawyer, and Aquilon 32, Capt. Robt. Montagu, at Newfoundland, at Chatham, and in the Mediterranean; he was then appointed to the Ferret 14, on the station last named; and on 5 Dec. 1789 he was nominated Acting-Captain of the Ambuscade frigate. He returned, however, to the Ferret in the ensuing May; and in that vessel, during the dispute with Spain relative to Nootka Sound, he was ordered off Cadiz to watch the equipment of the Spanish fleet. Having taken an accurate view of their proceedings, he made a report of them to Admiral Peyton, who immediately sent him to England, with directions to lay his observations before the Board of Admiralty. He was shortly afterwards, 12 Aug. 1790, advanced to Post-rank. His next appointments were – 16 Aug. 1790, to the Fame 74, fitting for the flag of Admiral Cosby at Cork – 3 Nov. following, for about three weeks, to the Lowestoffe 32, in the Channel – 29 April, 1791, to the Aquilon 32 – 16 July, 1794, to the Phaeton 38 – 16 July, 1799, to the Excellent 74 – 28 May, 1802, to the Castor frigate – and, 1 Jan. 1804, after 10 months of half-pay, to the Spencer 74. In the Aquilon it was Capt. Stopford’s good fortune to settle a dispute with the Emperor of Morocco, which had induced the latter to withhold the supplies usually furnished by the Barbary States to the garrison at Gibraltar. He afterwards, in the same frigate, conveyed H.R.H. Prince Augustus (the late Duke of Sussex) from Leghorn to England and back; and in the actions of 28 and 29 May and 1 June, 1794, he was employed in repeating the signals of Lord Howe. On the latter occasion he had the gratification of eliciting the praise of his veteran chief by the manner in which he bore down to the assistance of the Marlborough 74, took that ship in tow, and rescued her at a time when she was lying dismasted and exposed to a galling fire from the surrounding enemy. Subsequently to the arrival of the fleet at Spithead, Capt. Stopford had twice the honour of embarking His Majesty, with whom he proceeded, the first time to Cowes, and the second to Southampton. In the Phaeton, after watching some frigates at Dunkerque and Ostend, he cruized with Lord Howe in the Channel and off the const of Ireland, and in the early part of 1795 assisted in escorting the Princess Caroline of Brunswick from Cuxhaven to England. On 7 June following he contributed to the capture of eight vessels laden with wine and naval stores from Bordeaux; in effecting which service, and in endeavouring to bring out a corvette that had sought refuge under a battery on the south end of Belleisle, he had 1 man killed, 7 others wounded, and 2 guns dismounted.[1] On 16 and 17 of the same month the Phaeton was present in Cornwallis’ celebrated retreat;[2] and so greatly did she distinguish herself on that occasion, as well as during a cruize which had preceded it, that on their return to port the Admiral declared she had done the duty of three frigates. Besides sharing in a vast deal of active service, Capt. Stopford afterwards drove on shore, on Ile de Ré, and destroyed, L’Echoue of 28 guns. He made prize also of La Bonne Citoyenne corvette of 20 guns and 145 men;[3] was in company with the Ambuscade and Stag at the surrender of L’Hirondelle 20, and with the Anson at the re-capture of the Daphne of 30[4] and La Flore of 36 guns;[5] and either took, or aided in taking, among other vessels, the privateers L’Actif of 18 guns and 120 men, La Petite Chérie of 4 guns and 22 men, Le Chasseur of 6 guns and 47 men, the Indian of 16 guns, La Déecouverte, L’Hasard of 14 guns, L’Aventure, La Légère of 18 guns and 130 men, Le Mercure of 18 guns (pierced for 20) and 132 men, Le Levrier of 16 guns and 70 men, La Résolue of 18 guns and 70 men, and La Ressource of 10 guns and 66 men. In 1797 he was present at Spithead during the mutiny; but, to his credit, the crew of the Phaeton did not manifest the least symptoms of disaffection. On the night of 22 March, 1798, he brought a French frigate to action, and drove her on the Olive Rocks, near the Cordovan lighthouse;[6] and towards the close of the latter year, or the commencement of 1799, he conveyed to Admiral Colpoys, at Cork, intelligence of a French fleet having sailed for the coast of Ireland. During his command of the Phaeton Capt. Stopford occasionally cruized with a squadron of frigates under his orders.[7] On removing, in July, 1799, to the Excellent 74, he sailed with a convoy for Lisbon, on his passage whence he succeeded, 10 Oct. following, in capturing, off L’Orient, L’Aréthuse corvette of 18 guns and 153 men.[8] He then joined the fleet under Lord Gardner off Brest, and continued employed on Home service, detached occasionally on separate cruizes, until ordered, in 1802, with six sail of the line to the West Indies, where he united in suppressing a mutiny of one of the black regiments at Dominica, and where, on hoisting a broad pendant as senior officer, on the departure of Rear-Admiral Totty, he was charged, agreeably to the stipulations of the treaty of Amiens, with the duty of delivering up Martinique to the French, and Surinam to the Dutch. Having reduced the naval force on the station to the peace establishment, as well as the dockyard at Antigua, he applied to the Admiralty for leave to return home, on account of ill health, and at the beginning of 1803 he was superseded by Commodore Sir Sam. Hood. He sailed for England in the Castor, to which ship, as above stated, he had removed in May, 1802. Early in 1804 Capt. Stopford, then in the Spencer, joined the Channel fleet; and in Aug. of that year, after he had been detached off Ferrol under the orders of Sir Edw. Pellew, he proceeded to the Mediterranean. He subsequently accompanied Lord Nelson to the West Indies and back in pursuit of the combined fleets of France and Spain. On his return he was employed in succession in the Channel under Admiral Cornwallis, off Vigo under Sir Robt. Calder, and off Cadiz under Admiral Collingwood; and after the battle of Trafalgar – at which (owing to his having been sent a few days before to Gibraltar with a squadron under Rear-Admiral Louis for provisions) he had not the good fortune to be present – he was of material use in rendering assistance to the disabled ships in the British fleet, and in endeavouring to secure the prizes. Returning with Sir John Duckworth to the West Indies, Capt. Stopford was afforded an opportunity of sharing in the laurels won in the action off St. Domingo 6 Feb. 1806; on which occasion he distinguished himself greatly by compelling the Alexandre of 80 guns, and another ship, to strike their colours. After the battle Capt. Stopford, who had been wounded, proceeded with the prizes first to Jamaica[9] and then to England. In Nov. 1806, with a squadron under his orders, consisting of three sail-of-the-line, a frigate, a brig, and a cutter, having on board 5000 troops under Brigadier-General Crawford, destined for the Rio de la Plata, he sailed from Falmouth for Porto Praya, there to await the arrival from England of Rear-Admiral Geo. Murray, who was to command the expedition. After remaining for a month at that place without any appearance of the Rear-Admiral, he was induced, conceiving that some disaster had happened, to proceed with the Theseus 74 and the troops to the Cape of Good Hope, where, to his surprise, he found him, and accordingly yielded up his charge. On his return home he joined, in July, 1807, the fleet under Admiral Gambier intended to act against Copenhagen; and he therefore accompanied that officer to the Baltic, on which station, it appears, he was very actively employed. He had been previously, 9 Nov. 1805, nominated a Colonel of Marines. Attaining the rank of Rear-Admiral 28 April, 1808, he was directed immediately to hoist his flag on board the Spencer, and was sent to blockade the ports of Ferrol and Rochefort. He shifted his flag subsequently to the Caesar 80, and assumed command of a squadron on the coast of France, consisting of three sail-of-the-line and two frigates in Basque Roads, and three others off L’Orient. On the night of 23 Feb. 1809, while at anchor outside Basque Roads, the signal for an enemy’s fleet being made by one of the look-out frigates, Rear-Admiral Stopford, at the time with only three line-of-battle ships, instantly got under sail, but, perceiving at daylight that the chase consisted of 10 sail-of-the-line, he gave over the pursuit, and the latter anchored off the Ile d’Aix. In the course of the same day, Feb. 24, having been joined by the Amelia 38, he made an attack upon the three 40-gun frigates Italienne, Calypso and Cybèle, which had run for protection under the powerful batteries of Sable d’Olonne. These, in spite of a heavy fire which was opened upon him, he contrived, in less than an hour, to drive on shore, where they were eventually wrecked.[10] In the ensuing April, as second in command of the fleet under Lord Gambier, he witnessed the destruction of the French shipping in Aix Roads – an enterprise which, although intrusted by the Admiralty to the conduct of the present Earl of Dundonald, he had himself volunteered to undertake by means of fire-ships.[11] His judicious arrangement, however, of the boats, and the zealous co-operation he afforded, gained the very high approbation of Lord Gambier, and he had the honour of receiving the thanks of Parliament. In the autumn of 1810 he was appointed to the chief command at the Cape of Good Hope, whither he proceeded in the Scipion 74. He had been instructed to take command, on his arrival there, of the naval part of the expedition against the Isle of France; but that colony having surrendered before he reached his destination, his doing so was of course rendered unnecessary. In the following year, in consequence of the death of Vice-Admiral Wm. O’Brien Drury and of other circumstances, Rear-Admiral Stopford felt himself called upon to repair (a measure which obtained the approval of the Admiralty) to the East Indies, for the purpose of directing the naval operations apainst the island of Java. The zealous and cordial manner in which he coalesced with the army had the effect of expediting the conquest,[12]’ and he was again for his conduct gratified with the thanks of Parliament. He sailed next for the Isle of France, whence, having organised everything connected with the naval department, he returned to the Cape. He continued there, with his flag successively in the Lion 64 and Nisus 38, until relieved, at his own request, by Rear-Admiral Tyler; and in April, 1813 (he had been advanced to the rank of Vice-Admiral 12 Aug. 1812), he arrived in England in the President 38. He was created a K.C.B. 2 Jan. 1815, a full Admiral 27 May, 1825, a G.C.B. 6 June, 1831, and a G.C.M.G. 10 May, 1837; he commanded in chief at Portsmouth from 17 April, 1827, until 30 April, 1830; and on 9 Feb. 1837 he hoisted his flag on board the Princess Charlotte 104, as Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean, where he remained until July, 1841. The importance of his services during the latter period, his career of success on the coast of Syria, and his triumph at Acre, are yet vivid in the recollection of our readers; and we are relieved from the necessity, which our limits, indeed, forbid, of entering into a detail of them.[13] Suffice it, therefore, to observe, that Sir Robert and his fleet received a vote of thanks from both Houses of Parliament; that those who had served under him were all allotted medals by the Turkish Government; and that he himself, before he left the Mediterranean, was appointed, 1 May, 1841, Governor of Greenwich Hospital, besides obtaining from the city of London its freedom in an elegantly-carved oaken box; from the Sultan a letter of thanks, accompanied by the imperial nishân of honour and merit, and a magnificent sword, the handle of which was studded with jewels; from the Emperor Nicholas the Order of St. George of Russia; from the King of Prussia the Grand Cross of the Red Eagle; and from the Emperor of Austria the Order of Maria Theresa. He was offered, we believe, a peerage, but declined it. Twelve Captains who were with him at Acre were nominated Companions of the Bath – such, at least, as had not been so decorated before; and 10 Commanders, 23 Lieutenants, and 50 Mates were promoted.

For his conduct at St. Domingo Sir Robt. Stopford received a gold medal from the Admiralty. About 1806 he was elected M.P. for Ipswich; and in April, 1834, he was appointed Rear-Admiral of the United Kingdom. He married, 29 June, 1809, Mary, daughter of the late Capt. Robt. Fanshawe R.N., Resident Commissioner of Plymouth Dockyard (see note, p. 347), by whom he has left issue three sons (the two eldest, Robert Fanshawe and James John, Captains R.N.) and four daughters. Another daughter, now deceased, was married to Lord Henry Russell, son of the late Duke of Bedford, and half-brother of Lord John Russell, M.P.

  1. Vide Gaz. 1795, p. 655.
  2. Vide Gaz. 1795, p. 656.
  3. Vide Gaz. 1796, p. 267.
  4. Vide Gaz. 1798, p. 61.
  5. Vide Gaz. 1798, p. 879.
  6. Vide Gaz. 1798, p. 273.
  7. After the action with La Seine (see the Memoir of Sir David Milne) the Phaeton and some other ships who were in the offing were called in, and proved of infinite assistance to those that had been engaged, particularly in inducing a French force, which was approaching, to retire – Vide Gaz 1798, p. 651.
  8. Vide Gaz. 1793, p. 1066.
  9. Vide Gaz. 1806, p. 372.
  10. Vide Gaz. 1809, p. 289.
  11. Vide Gaz. 1809, p. 538.
  12. Vide Gaz. 1811, p. 2400, and Gaz. 1812, p. 110.
  13. Vide Gaz. 1840, pp. 2225, 2252, 2601, 2900.