A Naval Biographical Dictionary/Woodriff, Daniel James

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WOODRIFF. (Commander, 1822.)

Daniel James Woodriff, born 14 Aug. 1787, is eldest son of the late Capt. Dan. Woodriff, R.N., C.B.;[1] brother of Commander John R. Woodriff, R.N.; and brother-in-law of the late Lieut.-Colonel Tomkins, of the 58th Regiment; one brother, Robt. Matthews Woodriff; a Lieutenant R.N. (1811), died in 1822.

This officer first went to sea on board the Endymion 44, armée en flûte, commanded by his father, then a Lieutenant, under whom he was wrecked on an unknown rock in the West Indies in 1790. In 1792 he accompanied him in a voyage round the world in a vessel named the Kitty, which had been sent out chiefly for the purpose of affording relief to the infant colony of Port Jackson, in New South Wales. Having returned to England, he remained on shore until Aug. 1801. On 1 of that month he joined the Princess Charlotte 38, Capt. Hon. Fras. Farington Gardner, bearing the flag of Lord Gardner at Cork. While there he was sent with a Lieutenant in an open boat round the coast into the lakes of Killarney, for the purpose of saluting the Viceroy of Ireland – the only time that this was ever, we believe, accomplished by a boat from a man-of-war. On 1 Feb. 1803 Mr. Woodriff, who had attained the rating of Midshipman in April, 1802, was again placed under the command of his father, as Master’s Mate, in the Calcutta armée en flûte. In her he sailed with 450 convicts for Port Philip in Bass Strait and assisted in forming the settlement of Hobart Town. On his return to England he removed as Master’s Mate, in Oct. 1804, to the Bellerophon 74, Capts. John Loring, John Cooke, Wm. Pryce Cumby (Acting), and Edw. Rotheram; in which ship he was for three years alternately stationed in the Channel and Mediterranean. He was in consequence present at the battle of Trafalgar 21 Oct. 1805; and on that occasion, as we learn from a certificate bearing the signature of his commander, Cumby, his conduct was “highly spirited and meritorious.” Immediately after the action his ingenuity enabled him to suggest a mode of alleviating the sufferings of the wounded, who were much incommoded by the rolling and labouring of the ship.[2] After serving for a few weeks with Capt. Jas. Walker in the Bedford 74, previously to joining which ship he had had charge of a watch, Mr. Woodriff was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant 11 Dec. 1807. His next appointments were, to the Polyphemus 64, Capts. Peter Heywood and Wm. Pryce Cumby, on the Home station; to the Achille 74; and to the Solebay 32, Commodore Edw. Henry Columbine. While waiting at Plymouth for an opportunity, which did not occur, of joining the Achille, he proved instrumental by his exertions to the suppression of a fire which had broken out in the hemp-house and threatened the adjacent stores, &c., with destruction. Under Commodore Columbine, Mr. Woodriff (who was appointed Second-Lieutenant of the Solebay at the request of that officer for the purpose of assisting him in the survey of the coast of Africa) bore a distinguished part, in July, 1809, in the arduous operations connected with the reduction of Senegal; and in particular by the cool and able manner in which, in the Virginia, an American-built schooner, he succeeded in leading the flotilla to the attack across the bar and through the surf at the mouth of the river. While in charge alone of the Master, all the commissioned officers being engaged on shore with the enemy, the Solebay took the ground and was wrecked; in consequence whereof Mr. Woodriff, after the garrison of Senegal had laid down their arms, was placed in command of the Agincourt transport for the purpose of conveying part of the frigate’s crew to England. Previously to his final departure from the coast of Africa he was charged with the performance of various duties both at Senegal and Gorée, and was visited with a severe attack of fever. He was subsequently, from 24 March, 1810, until 10 Oct. 1816, employed as an Agent for Transports on the coasts of Spain and Portugal, in the Mediterranean, and at Halifax and Quebec. He was attached, while on the Lisbon station, to the army at Salvaterra, upon the banks of the Tagus, about 45 miles up the river, a considerable distance above the French lines on the opposite side, in charge of pontoons, flat-boats, and river craft, to convey the army across, to carry materials for the construction of temporary bridges, and, if necessary, to replace those at Punkete, Abrantes, and Villa Velha. While at Quebec he was called upon to take charge of the Prisoner-of-war department on the death of Capt. Kempt, the principal Agent for Transports on that station, and to execute various other extra duties required of him by the Commander-in-Chief upon the Lakes and Waters of Canada. By the Masters of transports serving there he was presented, in 1815, with a piece of plate as “a mark of the esteem” they bore him. He was frequently, too, flattered with the approbation of Commodore Wm. Fitzwilliam Owen, who indeed certified that but for him his Majesty’s service must have materially suffered. Major-General Sir Sidney Beckwith, the Quartermaster-General in Canada, rendered testimony to the “zealous co-operation and support he had on all occasions experienced from him,” and “to the delicacy and attention he had shown to the accommodation and comfort of the numerous families called from the country on the great body of the troops leaving it;” and, through the Naval Storekeeper at Montreal, he received the thanks of the civil naval establishment in Canada for “the prompt, able, and undivided attention which had been at all times combined with his official zeal and abilities.” Mr. Woodriff’s last appointment was to the Whitworth Revenue-cruizer, the command of which vessel he retained (although occasionally afflicted with rheumatism) from 4 March, 1819, until 22 Sept. 1822. He was then placed on half-pay, having been advanced, four days before, to his present rank.

Commander Woodriff married, 2 March, 1808, Miss Anna Bezant, and has issue one son and two daughters. Agents – Hallett and Robinson.


  1. Capt. Dan. Woodriff, a portion of whose services is alluded to in our memoir of his son, attained the rank of Lieutenant 1 April, 1783; of Commander 18 Sept. 1795; and of Captain 28 April, 1802. While returning with convoy from St. Helena in the Calcutta, which ship at the time, having been fitted as an effective man of war, mounted 54 guns, he beat the Armide, a French frigate of 44 guns; but was himself captured 26 Sept. 1805, at the end of a gallant action of three quarters of an hour, by the Majestueux 74, one of a squadron under the orders of Rear-Admiral Allemand. Having regained his liberty, he was appointed, at the close of 1808, Agent for prisoners of war at Forton, near Gosport. He became Resident Commissioner afterwards at Jamaica; was admitted into the Royal Hospital at Greenwich 9 Nov. 1830; and was nominated a C.B. 26 Sept. 1831. He died 24 Feb. 1842.
  2. He conceived the idea of nailing capstan bars and other spars longitudinally upon the deck of the Captain’s cabin, at such a distance from each other as only to admit one bed between the two bars tightly.