Geary, Francis (DNB00)

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GEARY, Sir FRANCIS (1710?–1796), admiral, of a family long settled in Cardiganshire, entered the navy in 1727 on board the Revenge, one of the fleet sent into the Baltic under the command of Sir John Norris, and afterwards, under Sir Charles Wager, to the support of Gibraltar. He became a lieutenant in 1734, and on the outbreak of the war with Spain served in that rank on board the Victory, carrying Sir John Norris's flag, during 1740–1. On 30 June 1742 he was promoted to command the Squirrel of 20 guns, and, cruising in her off Madeira, captured a richly laden ship homeward bound from the Spanish main. In December 1743 he was appointed to the Dolphin, but in the following February was moved into the Chester of 50 guns, in which he cruised very successfully in the Channel, making or assisting in several rich captures, French and Spanish. In the early summer of 1745 he was ordered out to join Commodore Warren at the siege of Louisbourg, and on the surrender of that place was sent home express with the news, thus losing his share in the very rich prizes which were made there shortly after his departure [see Warren, Sir Peter]. For a short time in the winter of 1746–7 he commanded the Prince Frederick in the Channel, and in September 1747 commissioned the Culloden of 74 guns, which formed part of the Channel fleet under Sir Edward Hawke, till the peace. In February 1755 he commissioned the Somerset, one of the fleet sent out to North America under Boscawen, and afterwards, through 1756 and the early months of 1757, cruising in the Channel under the orders of Vice-admiral Osborn, who hoisted his flag on board her, or of Sir Edward Hawke. In the summer of 1757, still in the Somerset, Geary was senior officer in command of a squadron sent out to Halifax as a reinforcement to Vice-admiral Holburne [see Holburne, Francis]; too late, however, to enable him to undertake any active operations. Early in 1758 Geary was appointed to the Lennox, one of the grand fleet under Lord Anson in the summer of that year. In the following February he was moved into the Resolution, one of the fleet off Brest under Sir Edward Hawke [q. v.] In June he was promoted to be rear-admiral of the white, receiving orders to hoist his flag on board the Resolution, from which in August he removed into the Sandwich. In the series of gales which, in the beginning of November, drove the fleet back into Torbay, the Sandwich sprung her mainmast, and, being also very sickly, was ordered into Plymouth to refit and send her invalids to hospital. She sailed again on the 19th, too late to share in the glories of the 20th. On her way to join the fleet she was met by orders to cruise off Ushant, which she did through almost continuously bad weather, till the end of December, when she returned to Plymouth, having been at sea for upwards of seven months without a break except the three or four days in November. In the following year, still in the Sandwich, Geary commanded a squadron detached from the main fleet to cruise off Rochfort, anchoring occasionally in Basque Roads. On this service he continued till the autumn, when he joined Hawke in Quiberon Bay and was sent home. He was shortly afterwards appointed port-admiral at Portsmouth, an office which he held for the next two years. In October 1762 he was promoted to the rank of vice-admiral, and in 1770 was again appointed commander-in-chief at Portsmouth. He had scarcely entered on this command before he was involved in a curious correspondence with Captain Elphinston, who, being there as a Russian rear-admiral and in command of a Russian squadron, took on himself to fire a morning and evening gun, a practice which Geary refused to allow [see Elphinston, John]. In 1775 he was advanced to be admiral of the blue, and in January 1778 became admiral of the white. In May 1780 he was appointed to command the Channel fleet, and hoisted his flag in the Victory; but, though Hawke in a private letter urged him to get to his old station off Brest, to ‘watch those fellows as close as a cat watches a mouse,’ and, if he had the good fortune to get up to them, to ‘make much of them,’ neither Geary's age nor health nor instructions permitted him to undertake so trying a service, and the season passed without any operation of importance. At the end of the summer cruise he was obliged by his weak health to resign the command. In August 1782 he was created a baronet, and, after some years spent in honourable retirement, he died on 7 Feb. 1796. He is spoken of as a man of a singularly calm and equable temper, and of a most kindly disposition, but without the restless energy or dogged determination of a great commander. He married in 1748 Mary, daughter and heiress of Mr. Philip Bartholomew of Oxon Heath in Kent, by whom he had issue.

[Charnock's Biog. Nav. v. 175; Foster's Baronetage; Official Letters in the Public Record Office.]

J. K. L.