Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Barrington, Samuel
BARRINGTON, SAMUEL (1729–1800), admiral, fifth son of John, first Viscount Barrington [q. v.], was, in the eleventh year of his age, entered on board the Lark, 44 guns, under the care of Lord George Gordon. He passed his examination for the rank of lieutenant on 25 Sept. 1745, being then—according to his certificate, and by a not uncommon eccentricity of chronology—upwards of twenty years of age, and having served at sea five years and three months. Early in 1747 he had command of the Weasel sloop, and on 29 May was posted to the Bellona frigate. In her he captured the French East Indiaman, Duc de Chartres, laden with military stores, off Ushant on 18 Aug., and was shortly after advanced to the Romney, of 50 guns. After the peace he commanded the Seahorse frigate in the Mediterranean, and was employed in one of the constantly recurring negotiations with the North African corsairs. He next had command of the Crown, 44 guns, on the coast of Guinea, and in 1754–5, in the Norwich, accompanied Commodore Keppel to North America. In 1757 he commanded the Achilles, 60 guns, under Sir Edward Hawke, in the expedition to Basque Roads; on 29 May 1758, whilst cruising in company with the Intrepid and Dorsetshire, assisted in the capture of the Raisonnable, a French ship of 64 guns; and on 4 April 1759, still in the Achilles, whilst cruising off Cape Finisterre, he fell in with the Comte de St. Florentine, a privateer of 60 guns and nearly 500 men. This ship was returning from a lengthened and, till then, fortunate cruise on the coast of Africa and in the West Indies, but was apparently lumbered with merchandise. She was now captured in less than two hours, after a very one-sided action, in which she was dismasted and lost her captain, and 116 men killed and wounded; the Achilles having only 2 men killed and 22 wounded. Barrington afterwards joined Hawke off Brest, whence he was detached as part of a squadron ordered, under Rear-admiral Rodney, to destroy the flat-bottomed boats at Havre-de-Grâce. Rodney hoisted his flag on board the Achilles, and the objects of the expedition were successfully carried out on 4 July. The Achilles then returned to the fleet off Brest, and in September, whilst with the detached squadron in Quiberon Bay, and attempting to cut out some French ships anchored in shore, she took the ground heavily. She was got off, but was so much injured that she had to be sent home immediately. In 1760 the Achilles was one of the squadron sent out, under the Hon. John Byron, to destroy the fortifications of Louisbourg; and in 1761 was with Commodore Keppel in the operations against Belle Isle, and was sent home with despatches announcing the successful landing. In 1762 Barrington was transferred to the Hero, 74 guns, but continued in the Channel under Sir Edward Hawke, and afterwards under Sir Charles Hardy. At the peace, in 1763, he had been serving almost, if not quite, without intermission from the time of his first entry in 1741. He was now unemployed till 1768, when he was appointed to the Venus, of 36 guns, as the governor of the Duke of Cumberland, who served with him as volunteer and midshipman. In October he nominally gave up the command, to which the prince was promoted, but resumed it again after a few days, when the prince was further advanced to be rear-admiral, and hoisted his flag on board the Venus, with Barrington as his flag-captain. In 1771, on the dispute with Spain about the Falkland Islands, Captain Barrington was appointed to the Albion, 74 guns, and continued in her, attached to the Channel fleet, for the next three years. In 1777 he commissioned the Prince of Wales, also of 74 guns, and after a few months' cruising in the Channel and on the Soundings was, on 23 Jan. 1778, advanced to be rear-admiral of the white, and was sent out as commander-in-chief in the West Indies. He arrived at Barbadoes on 20 June, and was shortly afterwards joined by Captain Sawyer in the Boyne; but though war with France was then imminent, he was left without intelligence or instructions from home, and the first definite tidings that he received were in a letter from the lieutenant-governor of Dominica, dated 7 Sept., which reached him on the 12th, and ran: ‘I hasten to acquaint you that we are attacked this moment by a very considerable fleet; several line-of-battle ships with an admiral. They are supposed the Toulon fleet. … Six ships are off Roseau. … I am afraid any relief will be too late.’ All this was curiously inaccurate, for there was not at this time a single French line-of-battle ship within a couple of thousand miles. Dominica was indeed attacked, by a scratch force of 2,000 men, soldiers and volunteers, raised by the governor of Martinique, and ferried over to Dominica on board a number of country vessels, escorted by three frigates and some privateers. But Barrington was obliged to act on the erroneous information transmitted to him, and having no force capable of opposing such a fleet as was described, he went to Antigua, to take measures for the safety of that island. He then returned to Barbadoes, and was joined, on 10 Dec., by Commodore Hotham with five of the smallest ships of the line, two frigates, and a number of transports carrying 5,000 soldiers. In consultation with General Grant, commanding these, and with the commodore, it was at once determined to attempt a counter-attack on St. Lucia. The expedition sailed on the 12th, and on the 13th anchored in the Grand Cul de Sac. The troops were immediately landed, and the island was taken without difficulty, whilst the governor withdrew to the mountains, where he hoped to maintain himself until he could be relieved. The Count d'Estaing, with the Toulon fleet, had really come from Boston to the West Indies, side by side with Hotham, and had arrived at Martinique about the same time that Hotham had arrived at Barbadoes. On the afternoon of the 14th Barrington had intelligence of his approach, and the enemy's fleet, with a crowd of smaller shipping, was sighted from the neighbouring hills. Expecting no enemy from the sea, his ships were in no posture of defence. But during the night he succeeded in forming his little squadron in a close line across the mouth of the bay, the ends supported by a few guns on the hills above, and with the transports and store-ships inside. His attitude was firm, but his force was comparatively insignificant; and M. de Suffren, captain of the Fantasque, strongly urged D'Estaing to run boldly in and anchor close alongside, or on top of the anchor-buoys, thus rendering the shore batteries useless, and crushing the English by force of numbers. D'Estaing, however, preferred standing in in line of battle, keeping away along the English line, and so passing again out of the bay, after a desultory interchange of firing. In the afternoon he partially repeated the same manœuvre, equally without result. On the 18th, therefore, he landed the troops to the northward, and attempted to storm a hill strongly held by Brigadier-general Meadows. He was once and again repulsed with great slaughter, and finally, hearing that Vice-admiral Byron, with a force superior to his own, was hourly expected, he re-embarked his men and sailed for Martinique. As he did so the French governor, who had till then held out, surrendered.
Byron, however, having had an extremely stormy passage from Rhode Island, did not reach St. Lucia till 7 Jan. 1779, when he necessarily took the command, acknowledging, in a letter to the admiralty, his regret at being compelled to supersede Barrington, to whom he gave the option of hoisting his flag in a frigate and remaining in command at St. Lucia, or of continuing in the Prince of Wales, as second in command of the fleet. Barrington preferred the more active service, and had thus a very brilliant share in the confused and ill-managed action of Grenada on 6 July, and was still with the fleet on 22nd July, when its steadfast line, at anchor in front of Basseterre of St. Kitts, again deterred D'Estaing from a resolute attack [see Byron, the Hon. John]. Having shortly afterwards availed himself of the permission to return to England, he was, in the following spring, offered the command of the Channel fleet. But the jobbery and trickery which, in the spring of 1779, had threatened Keppel's life and honour, had made the command in the Channel no desirable appointment. Barrington positively refused it, though he consented to command in the second post under Admiral Geary. In August, on Geary's resignation, Barrington again positively refused. ‘I am ready, however,’ he wrote on 29 Aug. 1780, ‘to serve under any officer superior to myself except one’ (presumably Sir Hugh Pallisser). Before an answer to this letter could be received Geary was compelled to leave the fleet, and Barrington, determined to avoid the entanglement, requested Admiral Sir Thomas Pye to take the direction of it till their lordships' pleasure should be known. After this he was naturally shelved so long as that ministry remained in office. In April 1782 he was again appointed to the Channel fleet, as second in command to Lord Howe. He hoisted his flag in the Britannia, and for a short time, in Howe's absence, commanded in chief off Ushant. But through the rest of the year he acted under Howe's orders, and assisted in the relief of Gibraltar (16–19 Oct.), and in the repulse of the allied fleets of France and Spain on the 20th. This service being successfully accomplished, the fleet returned to England, and on 20 Feb. 1783 Barrington struck his flag. On 24 Sept. 1787 he was advanced to the rank of admiral, and during the Spanish armament, in 1790, hoisted his flag in the Royal George, again as second in command under Lord Howe. The fleet, however, was not called on to go to sea, and his flag was kept flying for only a short time. This was his last service. Whether by his own desire, from failing health, or in consequence of some disagreement with the admiralty, it does not now appear, but he was not employed during the early years of the revolutionary war, and he died in 1800. His conduct during the time he was in independent command speaks of talents and energy which might, had circumstances permitted, have placed him amongst the most distinguished of our admirals. Nor was the kindliness of his disposition less conspicuous. Many anecdotes have been told illustrating this. They may be more or less apocryphal; but it is matter of official record that, whilst in the West Indies, he succeeded in obtaining for his men a remission of the postage on their letters, which weighed very heavily on them, more especially under the old system of never paying the men whilst their ship was abroad.[Ralfe's Naval Biog. i. 120; Charnock's Biog. Nav. vi. 10; Beatson's Nav. and Mil. Mem., under date; Official Correspondence in the P.R.O. The Portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds is the gem of the Painted Hall at Greenwich, where are also a very good picture of the engagement in the Cul de Sac by Domnic Serres, and two others, by the same artist, of the capture of the Duc de Chartres and Florentine: all presented by the Admiral's brother, the Bishop of Durham.]