Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Beresford, John Poo

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BERESFORD, Sir JOHN POO (1768?–1844), admiral, a natural son of Lord de la Poer, afterwards first marquis of Waterford, entered the navy in 1782 on board the Alexander, under the protection of Lord Longford. Having served his full time, principally on the Newfoundland and West India stations, he was made lieutenant 4 Nov. 1790. He was then sent out to join the Lapwing frigate in the Mediterranean, and whilst in her was ' specially employed on shore at Genoa and Turin, concerting measures for the removal of the English residents, running very considerable risk in the midst of the revolutionary excitement, from which he escaped in the disguise of a peasant. In 1/94 he was appointed to the Resolution of 74 guns, bearing the flag of Rear-admiral Murray, the commander-in-chief on the North American station, by whom, in November 1794, he was promoted to the command of the Lynx sloop. His successful protection of a convoy, a few weeks later, against two French ships of superior force, the energy and skill he displayed in rescuing the Thetis frigate, which had got ashore, and the capture of a powerful French privateer, all within the next three months, won for him from the admiral an appointment to the Hussar frigate as acting captain, and he was sent, under the immediate orders of Captain Cochrane of the Thetis, to destroy some French store ships in Hampton Roads. On 17 May 1795 they met the store ships outside the Capes ; there were five of them, ail heavily armed, though still no match for the frigates. After a smart action two of them were captured, one the Prévoyante, nominally a 36-gun frigate, but having only 24 guns on board, and those only 8-pounders; the other the Raison, called a 24-gun frigate, but mounting only eighteen (James, Naval History (ed. 1860), i. 319). None the less the action was considered highly creditable, and Admiral Murray removed Beresford into the Prévoyante ; but the admiralty considered this too large for a first command, and appointed him to the Raison. In the following autumn, 25 Aug. 1796, whilst cairying 200,000l. in specie from Boston to Halifax, he fell in with the Vengeance, a French frigate of the largest size, a ship of 1,180 tons, and though nominally of 40 guns, 18-pounders, carrying actually 52 ; the Raison, on the other hand, was a 9-pounder frigate of 470 tons, and mounted 30 guns, carronades included. A running fight began, in the course of which the Vengeance, having sustained some injury, dropped astern, and a timely fog permitted the Raison to make good her escape (ibid. i. 384). In March 1797 the Raison captured a large and rich Spanish ship near the Bahamas, and drove another on shore ; during the year she made several other prizes, and towards the end of it was sent home with convoy, and was paid off. Early in 1798 Beresford was again sent to the West Indies, in command of the Unité frigate, in which, or afterwards in the Diana, he assisted in the reduction of Surinam, St. Martin, St. Bartholomew, St. Thomas, St. John, Santa Cruz, and all the Swedish and Danish dependencies (ibid, ii. 420, iii. 150), and returned home in charge of a convoy of some two hundred sail ; the preliminaries of peace were signed shortly aftenvards, and the Diana was paid off. On the renewal of the war in 1803 he was appointed to the Virginie frigate, which he commanded in the North Sea for more than a year, in which time constant cruising in bad weather had rendered the Virginie no longer seaworthy, and Beresford was ordered a passage to North America, to take command of the Cambrian frigate. In her he captured several of the enemy's privateers, and when, in consequence of the death of Sir Andrew Mitchell, 26 Feb. 1806, he had to act as senior officer of the station, the measures which he took won for him a very warm expression of regard from the merchants of Halifax on the occasion of his being superseded by Admiral Berkeley. In 1808 Beresford commanded the Theseus of 74 guns, first in the Channel, and afterwards, under Sir Richard King, off Ferrol, where the blockading squadron kept the sea for eight consecutive months. Beresford was then detached, in command of three ships of the line, to maintain the blockade of Lorient; and, though driven off for a few hours on 21 Feb. 1809 by the squadron under M. Willaumez, which had escaped from Brest (James, Naval History, iv. 392; Jurien de la Gravière, Souvenirs d'un Amiral (1860), ii. 137), he continued to do this till March, when he joined the fleet under the command of Lord Gambier, and served with it during the operations in Basque Roads. Early in 1810 the Theseus was paid off, and Beresford was appointed to the Poitiers, in which he was stationed for several months off Brest, as senior officer; he was afterwards sent to Lisbon, acting during the rest of the year in co-operation with the army under Lord Wellington. In 1811 he was employed in the North Sea, in the blockade of the Texel; and in 1812, on the breaking out of the war with the United States, was sent over to the coast of America. The service there, arduous and harassing without much room for distinction, lasted through nearly two years, during the latter of which he was authorised to bear a broad pennant as commodore. Pearly in 1814 he was appointed to the Royal Sovereign yacht, and on 24 April had the honour of carrying the king of France over to Calais. In May he was created a baronet, and attained the rank of rear-admiral 4 June. In the following September he hoisted his flag in the Duncan, and was sent to Rio de Janeiro to carry home the prince regent of Portugal. The prince, however, decided not to return to Lisbon at that time, and Beresford, after receiving from him the order of the Tower and Sword, returned to England. In August 1819 he was made a K.C.B. From 1820 to 1823 he commanded at Leith and on the coast of Scotland, and on his leaving he was presented with the freedom of the city of Edinburgh. From 1830 to 1833 he commanded at the Nore. He became a vice-admiral 19 July 1821, admiral 28 June 1838, and in 1836 was invested with the grand cross of the Hanoverian Guelphic order. From 1812 to 1823 he represented Coleraine in parliament; in 1823 was member for Berwick, and in 1832 for Northallerton; in 1835 he was elected member for Chatham, and was at the same time a junior lord of the admiralty. After this he took no further part in public affairs, but lived in comparative retirement at his seat at Bedale in Yorkshire, where he died, after a long illness, 2 Oct. 1844. He was married three times, and left a numerous family.

[Ralfe's Naval Biog. iv. 97; Marshall's Roy. Nav. Biog. ii. (vol. i. pt. ii.), 666***; Gent. Mag. (1844), xzii. 646, N.S.; documents in possession of the family.]

J. K. L.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.23
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
329 i 28 Beresford, Sir John P.: for 1768? read 1766
330 i 16 f.e. for 19 July 1821 read 27 May 1825
13 f.e. for 1812 to 1823 read 1809 to 1812 and from 1814 to 1823 in the tory interest
12 f.e. for in 1823 read from 1823 to 1826
11 f.e. for in 1832 for Northallerton read from 1826 to 1832 for Northallerton, but being re-elected for Coleraine in 1832 was unseated on petition next year