Brisbane, Charles (DNB00)

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BRISBANE, Sir CHARLES (1769?–1829), rear-admiral, fourth son of Admiral John Brisbane, who died 1807, was in 1779 entered on board the Alcide, commanded by his father, was present at the defeat of the Spanish fleet off Cape St. Vincent, and the relief of Gibraltar in January 1780, and afterwards in the West Indies. In the end of 1781 he was placed on board the Hercules with Captain Savage, and was present in the action of Dominica, 12 April 1782, where he was badly wounded by a splinter. He continued serving during the peace, and after the Spanish armament in 1790 was promoted to the rank of lieutenant 22 Nov. In 1793 he was in the Meleager frigate, in which he went out to the Mediterranean, and was actively employed on shore at Toulon, and afterwards in Corsica, both at San Fiorenzo and at the siege of Bastia, under the immediate orders of Captain Horatio Nelson, and like him sustained the loss of an eye from a severe wound in the head inflicted by the small fragments of an iron shot. He afterwards served for a short time in the Britannia, bearing the flag of Lord Hood, by whom he was specially promoted to the command of the Tarleton sloop 1 July 1794, and served in her during the remainder of that and the following year in the squadron acting in the Gulf of Genoa, under the immediate orders of Nelson (Nelson Despatches, ii. 59 n, 105). In the autumn of 1795 he was sent from Gibraltar to convoy two troopships to Barbadoes. On his way thither he fell in with a Dutch squadron, which he kept company with, sending the transports on by themselves, till, finding that the Dutch were bound to the Cape of Good Hope, he made all haste to carry the intelligence to Sir George Elphinstone, the commander-in-chief on that station. His acting in this way, on his own responsibility, contrary to the orders under which he had sailed, had the good fortune to be approved of; and after the capture of the Dutch ships in Saldanha Bay, 18 Aug. 1796, he was promoted by Sir George to the command of one of them; but he had previously, 22 July, been promoted by Sir John Jervis, the commander-in-chief in the Mediterranean, under whose orders he had sailed, and he also received the thanks of the admiralty. He continued on the Cape station in command of the Oiseau frigate, and was in her at St. Helena when a dangerous mutiny broke out on board. This was happily quelled by his firm and decisive measures, and he was shortly afterwards recalled to the Cape to take command of the Tremendous, Rear-admiral Pringle's flagship, on board which also the mutinous spirit had threatened extreme danger. In the course of 1798 he returned to England with Pringle in the Crescent frigate, and in 1801 was appointed to the Doris frigate, one of the squadron off Brest, under Admiral Cornwallis. During the short peace he commanded the Trent frigate and the Sanspareil in the West Indies. He was afterwards moved into the Goliath, in which on his way home he was nearly lost in a hurricane. In 1805 Brisbane was appointed to the Arethusa frigate, which he took to the West Indies. Early in 1806 he had the misfortune to run the ship ashore amongst the Colorados rocks, near the north-west end of Cuba, and she was got off only by throwing all her guns overboard. In this defenceless condition she fell in with a Spanish line-of-battle ship off Havana; but fortunately the Spaniard, ignorant of the Arethusa's weakness, did not consider himself a match for even a 38-gun frigate, and ran in under the guns of the Moro Castle. Having refitted at Jamaica, the Arethusa was in August again off Havana, and on the 23rd, in company with the Anson of 44 guns, captured the Spanish frigate Pomona, anchored within pistol-shot of a battery mounting eleven 36-pounders, and supported by ten gunboats. The gunboats were all destroyed and the battery blown up, apparently by some accident to the furnaces for heating shot, by which the Arethusa had been set on fire, but without any serious consequences (James, Naval History (1860), iv. 169), though she had two men killed, and thirty-two, including Captain Brisbane, wounded. On 1 Jan. 1807 Brisbane, still in the Arethusa, with three other frigates, having been sent off Curaçao, reduced all the forts and captured the island without serious difficulty or loss. The fortifications, both by position and armament, were exceedingly strong, but the Dutch were unprepared for a vigorous assault, and were, it was surmised, still sleeping off the effects of a new year's eve carousal, when, at earliest dawn, the English squadron sailed into the harbour. For his success on this occasion Brisbane was knighted, and he, as well as the other three captains, received a gold medal (ibid. iv. 275). He continued in command of the Arethusa till near the end of 1808, when he was transferred to the Blake, of 74 guns, but was almost immediately afterwards appointed governor of the island of St. Vincent, which office he held, without any further service at sea, till his death in December 1829. On 2 Jan. 1815 he had been nominated a K.C.B., and attained his flag rank on 12 Aug. 1819. He married Sarah, daughter of Sir James Patey, knight, of Reading, and left several children.

[Ralfe's Nav. Biog. iv. 84; Marshall's Roy. Nav. Biog. ii. (vol. i. pt. ii.) 730; Gent. Mag. (1830), c. i. 642.]

J. K. L.