Chads, Henry Ducie (DNB00)

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CHADS, Sir HENRY DUCIE (1788?–1868), admiral, son of Captain Henry Chads, also of the navy, who died in 1799, was in 1800 entered at the Royal Naval College at Portsmouth, from which in September 1803 he joined the Excellent with Captain Sotheron. In that ship he served for the next three years in the Mediterranean, and on 5 Nov. 1806 was promoted to be a lieutenant of the Illustrious off Cadiz. In 1808 he was appointed to the Iphigenia frigate, with Captain Henry Lambert, and in 1810 took part in the operations leading up to the capture of Mauritius. On 13 Aug. Chads commanded the Iphigenia's boats in the attack on the Isle de la Passe, and on the death of Lieutenant Norman succeeded to the command of the whole party. In reporting the affair, however, Captain Pym erroneously described the command as falling to Lieutenant Watling, who was two years junior to Chads; a mistake which caused the admiralty to withhold the promotion which would otherwise have been conferred on the commanding officer (James, Naval Hist. 1860, v. 148).

The capture of the Isle de la Passe ended unfortunately. In an attack on Grand Port three of the ships got ashore and were taken or destroyed; while on 27 Aug. the Iphigenia was beset in the narrow passage by a squadron of fourfold force, and on the 28th was compelled to surrender, the officers and ship's company becoming prisoners of war (ib. v. 167). When Mauritius was captured, 3 Dec. 1810, the prisoners were set free, and Chads was again appointed to the Iphigenia, which was recovered at the same time. The ship was at once sent home, and was paid off in May 1811. In the following December Chads was appointed to the Semiramis, in which he continued till August of the next year, when Captain Lambert commissioned the Java, and at his request Chads was appointed her first-lieutenant. The Java was a fine 38-gun (18-pounder) frigate, taken from the French only the year before, and now under orders to carry out to Bombay the new governor, General Hislop, and a large quantity of naval stores. Her crew was exceptionally bad; an unusually large proportion of the men had never been at sea before, and a very great many were drafted on board from the prisons. She carried also a hundred or more supernumeraries, and when she sailed from Spithead on 12 Nov. 1812 she had on board upwards of four hundred men all told. Owing to the crowding, bad weather, and the rawness of the ship's company, drill was almost entirely neglected, and the guns had been rarely or never exercised, when, on 29 Dec. 1812, on the coast of Brazil, in latitude 13° S., she met the United States frigate Constitution. The Constitution was a more powerful ship, with a numerous and well-trained crew. Under the circumstances the Java's defence was highly creditable. The action lasted for more than two hours. Although, about the middle of the time, Captain Lambert fell mortally wounded, and though the heavy, well-aimed broadsides of the Constitution racked the Java through and through, while the Java's return was wild and produced little effect, her men stuck manfully to their guns to the last. It was only when the ship lay an unmanageable hulk, and the Constitution took up a raking position athwart her bows, that Chads gave the order to haul down the colours.

English writers have endeavoured to show that the loss of the Java is to be attributed to the size of the Constitution, the power of her armament, and the number of her crew; but notwithstanding these disadvantages the true cause was that the Constitution's men were trained to the use of their arms and the Java's men were not. The Constitution lost in killed and wounded thirty-four, while the Java lost a hundred and fifty; the Constitution was scarcely damaged in hull or rigging, while the Java was entirely dismasted and sinking.

On his return home, Chads, with the officers and men of the Java, was, on 23 April 1813, tried by court-martial for the loss of the ship, when he was honourably acquitted and specially complimented by the president. On 28 May he was promoted to be commander, and appointed to the Columbia sloop, which he commanded in the West Indies till the final peace, and paid off on 24 Nov. 1815. He was then unemployed till November 1823, when he commissioned the Arachne of 18 guns for the East Indies, and in her was present during the operations in the Irawaddy. On 25 July 1825 he was advanced to post rank and appointed to the Alligator frigate, which he commanded till the end of the Burmese war, when he signed the treaty as senior naval officer, after which he returned to England and paid off his ship on 3 Jan. 1827. He was nominated a C.B. a few days before, 26 Dec. 1826. He afterwards, from 1834 to 1837, commanded the Andromache of 28 guns on the East India station, and from 1841 to 1845 the Cambrian of 36 guns, also in the East Indies. On his return he was appointed, 28 Aug. 1845, to the command of the Excellent, the school of naval gunnery, at Portsmouth. In this command he remained for upwards of eight years, and won for himself a distinct reputation for the improvements which he introduced into the detail of gunnery exercise and gunnery instruction. He was frequently employed on committees and in the conduct of experiments; and, though repeatedly offered other employment, he always begged to be allowed rather to stay in the Excellent. In 1848 he was selected to report on the Blenheim, the first screw line-of-battle ship, and at the same time to command a small squadron on the coast of Ireland during Smith O'Brien's ‘cabbage-garden’ rebellion.

In September 1850 he was sent to witness a naval demonstration at Cherbourg, after which he made a confidential report on the strategical importance of Cherbourg, which he thought overrated, and on the French system of manning their ships, recommending the introduction into our own navy of continuous service. He also pointed out the danger of Portsmouth, then without any defence, and urged the construction of heavy forts.

On 12 Jan. 1854 he attained the rank of rear-admiral, and served during that year as fourth in command in the Baltic, with his flag in the Edinburgh. He was present at the reduction of Bomarsund, and was made K.C.B. on 5 July 1856. He was commander-in-chief at Cork from 1855 to 1858, after which he did not serve afloat, though in 1859 he was chairman of a committee on coast defence. He became vice-admiral on 24 Nov. 1858, admiral on 3 Dec. 1863, and was made G.C.B. on 28 March 1865. The latter years of his life were passed at Southsea, where he was known as a county magistrate and a warm supporter of the local charities, especially of the Seamen and Marines' Orphan School. He died in April 1868.

He married, on 26 Nov. 1815, Elizabeth, daughter of Mr. John Pook of Fareham, by whom he had a family of two daughters and two sons, the eldest of whom is the present Admiral Henry Chads.

[O'Byrne's Nav. Biog. Dict.; Marshall's Royal Nav. Biog. ix. (vol. iii. pt. i.) 237; Memoirs of Admiral Sir Henry Ducie Chads, by an Old Follower (Montagu Burrows), 1869, with a good portrait; James's Naval History, 1860, v. 409–423, is the account of the capture of the Java, told with all the bitterness and one-sidedness which disfigures that author's account of the transactions of the American war; Roosevelt's Naval War of 1812, p. 119, is a much fairer and more candid account of the same event, though naturally with an American colouring.]

J. K. L.