Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Warren, Peter

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WARREN, Sir PETER (1703–1752), vice-admiral, born in 1703, was the youngest son of Michael Warren of Warrenstown, co. Meath. His elder brother, Oliver, was also a captain in the navy. His sister Anne married Christopher Johnson of Warrentown, and was mother of Sir William Johnson [q. v.] Peter Warren, after having been borne on the books of the Rye as an ordinary seaman for nearly two years, entered on board the Rose as a volunteer per order in the early part of 1717, served in her for nearly five years with the captains Arthur Field and Thomas Whitney, and passed his examination on 5 Dec. 1721. He was afterwards in the Guernsey, on the coast of Africa, with Captain Francis Percy, by whom he was promoted to be lieutenant on 23 Jan. 1722–3. On 28 May 1727 he was promoted by Sir John Norris, in the Baltic, to command the Griffin fireship, and a few weeks later, 19 June, to be captain of the 70-gun ship Grafton. In 1728 he commanded the Solebay frigate in the West Indies; in 1729 the Leopard, in the fleet at Spithead, under Sir Charles Wager [q. v.]; in 1730 the Solebay again; in 1734–5 the Leopard, one of the western squadron under Sir John Norris; and in December 1735 commissioned the 20-gun frigate Squirrel [see Anson, George, Lord] for service on the coast of Carolina and North America. He remained on that station for nearly six years, with a break in the middle—apparently in the spring of 1739—when he was taken by Sir John Norris to advise Sir Robert Walpole in the first discontents with Spain, because, he said, ‘I had been much employed on the coast of America’ (Parl. Hist. xiv. 617); and ‘I was again stationed upon the coast of America and was at New York when the orders for reprisals arrived.’ In January 1741–2 he was appointed to the Launceston of 40 guns, on the Leeward Islands station, where, in 1744, he was moved into the Superbe of 60 guns, with a broad pennant as commodore in command. The appointment proved extremely lucrative, upwards of twenty valuable prizes, including one worth 250,000l., having been made by the ships under his orders.

Early in 1745 he received orders to take his little squadron north, and co-operate with the colonial troops in the attack on Louisbourg. On 25 April he established a close blockade of the harbour, and on the 30th the troops were landed in Gabarus Bay. The place was ill-prepared for defence, and the garrison was in a state of mutiny; but the colonial army was also but poorly provided for attack; and the town, though reduced to great straits by the close blockade, held out till Warren, having had his squadron strengthened by reinforcements from England, forced his way into the harbour, when the governor immediately capitulated, 27 June. Several vessels laden with military stores had been captured during the siege, but others, merchant ships of enormous value, were taken afterwards. Louisbourg was then the place of call for French ships homeward bound from the East Indies or the Pacific; and by the simple stratagem of keeping the French flag flying on the forts, many of these ran right in among Warren's squadron before they found out their mistake. Among others named were two East Indiamen of the respective value of 200,000l. and 140,000l., and one from the Pacific ‘having money and goods on board to the amount of 600,000l.’ (Beatson, i. 280, where a schedule of the cargo is given).

On 8 Aug. 1745 Warren was promoted to be rear-admiral of the blue, and in the spring of 1747 was appointed second in command of the western squadron under Anson, with whom he took part in the defeat of the French squadron off Cape Finisterre on 3 May. Warren's share in this timely victory was rewarded with the Cross of the Bath and with the appointment as commander-in-chief of the western squadron. On 15 July he was promoted to be vice-admiral. His health, however, gave way; he was for some months unequal to active service, and the command temporarily devolved on Rear-admiral Edward Hawke (afterwards Lord Hawke) [q. v.] In November he again hoisted his flag, but only to sit as president of the important court-martial on Captain Fox. He did not go afloat till the following spring, when he wrote from the Bay of Biscay, on 16 May, ‘It gives me great concern to have had so little success since I have been out, which is likewise Sir Edward Hawke's case, and really think it owing to the enemy having very few ships on the sea,’ which was scarcely to be wondered at after the wholesale captures made in the previous year. This was the last of his service at sea. Before his success at Louisbourg in 1745, he had been making interest with the Duke of Newcastle ‘for the government of Jersey (New England) when it becomes vacant,’ the having which might, he wrote, ‘be an introduction to that of New York, where I should be at the pinnacle of my ambition and happiness’ (Warren to Anson, 2 April 1745). After the peace, however, he settled down quietly in London. He was generally recognised as one of the richest commoners in the kingdom, and member of parliament for Westminster, for which he was elected on 1 July 1747, and sat till his death. The freedom of the city had been conferred on him after the victory off Cape Finisterre, and in June 1752 he was elected alderman of Billingsgate ward. He declined the honour, on the ground that it would interfere with his ‘military office.’ He was still elected, and, refusing to serve, paid the fine of 500l. A few days afterwards he crossed over to Ireland, where he died of an ‘inflammatory fever’ on 29 July 1752. An ornate monument, by Roubiliac, was erected to his memory in Westminster Abbey. Portraits of him were painted by T. Hudson and N. Parr and engraved by Faber and White (Bromley, p. 288).

While in the Launceston, refitting at New York, he married Susannah, daughter of Stephen de Lancy, who brought him ‘a pretty fortune.’ By her he had three daughters: Charlotte, who married Willoughby Bertie, fourth earl of Abingdon [q. v.]; Anne, who married Charles Fitzroy, first baron Southampton [q. v.]; and Susannah, who married Colonel William Skinner. About the time of his marriage Warren bought a farm of three hundred acres on Manhattan Island, which was considerably increased by a gift from the city of New York in recognition of the capture of Louisbourg. The property, engulfed in New York, is now of immense value, but it was sold by Warren's heirs a few years after his death.

[Charnock's Biogr. Nav. iv. 184; Naval Chron. (with a portrait) xii. 257; Beatson's Naval and Military Memoirs, vol. i.; Anson Correspondence, Addit. MS. 15957; Commission and Warrant books and official letters in the Public Record Office; Stone's Life of Sir William Johnson, i. 152 sq.; Garneau's Hist. du Canada, ii. 190; Winsor's Hist. of America, v. 439. An article on Greenwich (New York) in Harper's Mag. August, 1893, p. 343, gives some interesting particulars of the Manhattan property.]

J. K. L.