Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Harman, John (d.1673)

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HARMAN, Sir JOHN (d. 1673), admiral, is conjectured to have belonged to the Harmans of Suffolk (Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. vii. 298), a county which furnished several commanders to the navy of the Commonwealth. It seems also not improbable that he was one of a family of shipowners whose ships were engaged for the service of the state (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 3 Sept. 1651, 21 March 1653); but the first distinct mention of John Harman is as commanding the Welcome of 40 guns and 180 men in the battle of Portland, 18 Feb. 1652-3 (State Papers, Dom. xlvii. 56). He still commanded the Welcome in the fight off the mouth of the Thames on 2-3 June 1653, and the ship being disabled he was sent in charge of the prisoners (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 14 June 1653). In August he was transferred to the Diamond, in which, in the following year, he accompanied Blake [see Blake, Robert] to the Mediterranean, returning to England in October 1655 (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 2 Oct. 1655). He was shortly afterwards appointed to the Worcester (ib. 4 Jan. 1655-6), in which he again accompanied Blake, and shared, it would seem, in the brilliant achievement at Santa Cruz. In 1664 he was captain of the Gloucester, and in 1665 of the Royal Charles, carrying the Duke of York's flag in the battle of 3 June, when the Dutch flagship, the Eendracht, was blown up while actually engaged with the Royal Charles. A total rout followed; the Dutch fled in confusion, and might, it was said, have been utterly destroyed had they been vigorously pursued. The Royal Charles was leading, under Harman's command ; for Penn had retired to his cabin sick and worn out [see Penn, Sir William]. The duke also had retired, and Henry Brouncker, the duke's gentleman-in-waiting, begged Harman to shorten sail, in consideration of the risk to the duke. Harman refused, until Brouncker professed to bring positive orders from the duke. Harman then yielded, the other leading ships followed the example, and the Dutch escaped. The incident gave rise to a great deal of scandal, and to a parliamentary inquiry, from which Harman came out scatheless, the whole blame being laid on Brouncker's shoulders (see Pepys, Diary, ed. Bright, v. 63, 198, 253 n., 258). A few days after the battle Harman was knighted and promoted to be rear-admiral of the white squadron (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 13 June 1665), with his flag on board the Resolution. In November he was sent to convoy the trade from Gothenburg, and in the following year, again as rear-admiral of the white, with his flag in the Henry, took a prominent part in the great four days' fight off the North Foreland. The brunt of this terrible battle fell on the white squadron : the admiral [see Ayscue, Sir George] was captured, the vice-admiral [see Berkeley, Sir William, 1639-1666] was slain, and Harman, the rear-admiral, was severely wounded. The Henry was twice grappled by fireships ; her sails caught fire ; some fifty of her crew jumped overboard, and it was only by the most energetic conduct that Harman compelled the rest to exert themselves to save the ship ; his own leg was broken by a falling spar, and at the close of the day the Henry was sent into Harwich. Notwithstanding his wound, Harman had the ship refitted during the night, and the next day put to sea to join the fleet, which he met retreating into the river. Harman was now obliged to resign his command ; but early the following year he was sent out to the West Indies as admiral and commander-in-chief, with a special order to wear the union flag at the main. He arrived at Barbadoes early in June, and on the 10th sailed for St. Christopher, which had just been captured by the French. An attempt to recapture it failed, and the council of war was considering as to their future movements when news was brought in that a French fleet of twenty-three or twenty-four men-of-war and three fireships was lying at Martinique. Harman at once resolved to go thither. He found the French ships lying close in shore, under the protection of the batteries ; but after several attempts he succeeded, on 25 June, in setting fire to the admiral's and six or seven of the best ships, some others were sunk, and the rest sank themselves to escape the destruction ; two or three alone escaped. The cost of this signal victory was not more than eighty men killed, besides the wounded ; but, wrote Harman, 'there has been much damage to hulls and rigging, with very great expense of powder and shot' (Cal. State Papers, Colonial, Harman to Lord Willoughby, Lyon at Martinico, 30 June 1667). From Martinique Harman passed on to the mainland, where on 15 Sept. he took possession of Cayenne, and on 8 Oct. of Surinam. He returned to Barbadoes on 10 Nov., and, peace having been concluded, sailed for England shortly after, arriving in the Downs on 7 April 1668. In 1669 and 1670 he served in the expedition to the Straits under Sir Thomas Allin [q. v.], and in 1672 was appointed rear-admiral of the blue squadron, under the immediate command of Lord Sandwich [see Mountagu, Edward, first Earl of Sandwich], on which the brunt of the Dutch attack fell in the battle of Solebay, 28 May. In the following year he held the post of vice-admiral of the red squadron, and with his flag in the London took a distinguished part, especially in the second engagement with De Ruyter, when, being weak and sick, he is said to have had a chair up on the quarterdeck, and to have sat unmoved in the storm of shot. On the death of Sir Edward Spragge [q. v.] he was appointed to be admiral of the blue squadron, but he did not live to enjoy the command, dying on 11 Oct. 1673. His portrait, by Sir Peter Lely (Pepys, Diary, 18 April 1666), is in the Painted Hall at Greenwich, to which it was given by George IV.

Harman's widow, Dame Katherine Harinan, was still living in 1699 (Cal. State Papers, Treasury, 25 May 1698). His only son, James, a captain in the navy, was slain in fight with an Algerine cruiser on 19 Jan. 1677 (Charnock, Biog. Nav. i. 396). His only daughter married Dauntesey Brouncker, of Earl Stoke, Wiltshire, who died in 1693, leaving two daughters; they died without issue (Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. vii. 298).

[Charnock's Biog. Nav. i. 97 ; Elegy on the Death of that Noble Knight, Sir John Harman, in Luttrell Collection of Broadsides, i. 66 (in British Museum) ; Pepys's Diary (see Index); Cal. State Papers.]

J. K. L.