Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Steevens, Charles

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STEEVENS, CHARLES (d. 1761), rear-admiral, was promoted to be a lieutenant in the navy on 19 March 1729. For the next two years he was on half-pay, and in February 1730–1 he was appointed to the Salisbury, in which he served for upwards of five years, part of the time on the home station with Captain the Hon. George Clinton, and afterwards in the Mediterranean with Captain Edward Falkingham, afterwards comptroller of the navy. In December 1737 Steevens was appointed first lieutenant of the Falmouth, commanded by Captain William Douglas, which sailed for the coast of Guinea with Captain George (afterwards Lord) Anson [q. v.] At St. Iago of the Cape Verd Islands, on 28 May 1738, the Falmouth was detached to go to Jamaica, Anson, for some reason never explained, giving Steevens a copy of Douglas's orders. The next day Steevens, after holding a council of the commissioned and warrant officers of the ship, and in ‘conjunction’ with them, confined Captain Douglas in his cabin ‘for the preservation of their lives,’ he being ‘disordered in his senses’ (Log of the Falmouth, 29 May). On arriving at Jamaica on 20 June Steevens reported the circumstance to Commodore Brown, the commander-in-chief. The next day Brown went on board the Falmouth, and, judging that Douglas was not mad, released him from confinement. Douglas then demanded that Steevens and the other officers should be tried for mutiny; but there were many difficulties in the way of holding a court-martial, and especially the absence of Anson. Brown, too, was convinced that Steevens had acted in good faith; and finally Douglas consented to receive an apology, which was formally given on 6 July on the Falmouth's quarterdeck, in presence of Brown and all the captains then in port (Brown to Burchett, 8 July; Admirals' Despatches, Jamaica). The next day Steevens was moved into the Sheerness, and soon all the other officers, some of the midshipmen, and even of the seamen, were moved into other ships (Paybook of the Falmouth), Douglas remaining in command of the Falmouth till his death in May 1741.

In May 1740 Steevens was moved into the Princess Louisa, and on 25 March 1741 he was promoted by the admiral, Edward Vernon [q. v.], to the command of the Cumberland fireship, in which he was present at the unsuccessful attack on Cartagena. On 12 June he was moved into the Phaeton fireship, and on 14 Oct. received an order to command the Ludlow Castle, to which he was formally commissioned on 11 Jan. 1741–2. He returned to England in the spring of 1744, and in October was appointed to the 50-gun ship Portland, in which, on 9 Feb. 1745–6, he captured the French 50-gun ship Auguste, in the entrance of the Channel; on 14 Oct. 1747 took part, under Hawke, in the defeat of M. de l'Etenduère, and on 31 Jan. 1747–8, in company with Captain (afterwards Sir Robert) Harland [q. v.], captured the very fine 74-gun ship Magnanime. After the peace he commanded the Tiger guardship for three years; and in January 1755 he was appointed to the Lichfield, in which in March he was sent out to the Leeward Islands as commodore and commander-in-chief. It was only for a short time, and, on his return, he was appointed to the Oxford, one of the Channel squadron under the command of Vice-admiral John Byng, and on 14 Nov. captured the French Espérance, a 74-gun ship, but old and worn out, so that Byng ordered her to be destroyed.

In January 1757 Steevens was appointed to the Elizabeth, in which he went out to the East Indies with a commodore's broad pennant, in command of a small reinforcement. Having gone in the first instance to Bombay, he did not join Vice-admiral (afterwards Sir) George Pocock [q. v.] at Madras till the end of March 1758. In the actions of 29 April and 3 Aug. Steevens commanded in the second post; in the latter, he was wounded by a musket-ball in the shoulder. On 6 July he was promoted to be rear-admiral of the blue, but he did not receive the news till the end of the year. In the spring of 1759 he moved his flag into the Grafton, having as his flag-captain Richard Kempenfelt [q. v.], and in her commanded in the second post, under Pocock, in the action of 10 Sept. When, early in the following year, Pocock left the station, Steevens remained as commander-in-chief, and in September undertook the blockade of Pondicherry, in co-operation with the land forces under the command of Colonel (afterwards Sir) Eyre Coote (1726–1783) [q. v.] On 15 Jan. 1761 the place surrendered. A few months later, being, it is said, extremely corpulent, he died from the effects of the heat on 17 May 1761. He seems to have been unmarried. A brother George, an attorney, was probably the Mr. Stevens, whose death is recorded on 19 May 1768 (Gent. Mag 1768, p. 242), mentioned in the several paybooks as receiving his pay.

[Charnock's Biogr. Nav. v. 229; official documents in the Public Record Office.]

J. K. L.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.258
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
143 i 3 Steevens, Charles: for (d. 1761) read (1705-1761)
4 after rear-admiral, insert born at West Hanningfield, Essex, on 7 Feb. 1705, was fifth son of John Steevens, a captain in the army, and brother of George Steevens, father of the Shakespearean commentator. He
ii 7f.e. for A brother George read The George Stevens
6-4 f.e. for was probably the Mr. Stevens .... p. 242) read who is
3f.e. after his pay insert was probably the admiral's nephew, the Shakespearean commentator