Hosier, Francis (DNB00)

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HOSIER, FRANCIS (1673–1727), vice-admiral, born at Deptford, and baptised at St. Nicholas Church there 15 April 1673, was son of Francis Hosier, clerk of the cheque at Gravesend and agent victualler at Dover (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1664–7; Pepys, Diary, 6 Sept., 24 Nov. 1668, 12 Feb. 1668–9), and his wife Elizabeth Hawes. He was possibly related to John Hosier who commanded the Magdalen merchant ship in the parliament's service 1642–50 (Penn, Memoirs of Sir W. Penn, i. 111, 297). He entered the naval service about 1685 (Report on petition, 27 Feb. 1716–17, in Home Office Records, Admiralty, vol. xlvi.), and in 1692 was appointed lieutenant of the Neptune, which carried Sir George Rooke's flag at Barfleur. In 1695 he commanded the Portsmouth Prize, and took post from 27 June 1696, when he was appointed to the Winchelsea of 32 guns. In December 1698 he commanded the Trident Prize; on 12 Jan. 1703–4 he was appointed to the Burlington of 50 guns, and in 1706 was moved into the Salisbury, also of 50 guns, in which, in October 1707, he brought home from the Scilly Islands the body of Sir Clowdisley Shovell [q. v.] Early in 1710, in company with the St. Albans off Cape Clear, he captured the Heureux, a large French ship, which was taken into the service as the Salisbury Prize. In 1711 he went out to the West Indies to reinforce Commodore James Littleton [q. v.], and took a distinguished part in the action with the Spanish galeons off Cartagena on 27 July. In June 1713 he was appointed to the Monmouth; but at the accession of George I, being ‘spoken of as one not well affected to the protestant succession,’ he, with several others, was suspended from the service during the king's pleasure. He was reinstated in his rank, 5 March 1716–1717 (Home Office Records, Admiralty, vol. xlvi. 27 Feb. 1716–17; vol. xxxvii. 5 March). On 6 March 1718–19 he was appointed to the Dorsetshire with the temporary rank of rear-admiral, on the special and peculiar staff of the Earl of Berkeley [see Berkeley, James, third Earl]. This was only till 15 April; and on 8 May he was promoted to be rear-admiral of the white. In 1720 and again in 1721 he commanded a division of the fleet in the Baltic under Sir John Norris [q. v.] On 16 Feb. 1722–3 he was advanced to be vice-admiral of the blue; and on 9 March 1725–6 was appointed to command a squadron sent out to the West Indies, to prevent the Spaniards sending home treasure. The treasure ships were at Porto Bello, and when Hosier signified the object of his coming, they were dismantled and the treasure sent back to Panama. Hosier, however, judged it necessary to keep up a close blockade of Porto Bello, in the course of which, while lying at the Bastimentos, a virulent fever broke out among the crews of the squadron. By December the state of all the ships was alarming. With great difficulty they were taken to Jamaica, where they were cleared out, and new men entered to replace the dead. The contagion, however, remained, and during the spring and summer, while the squadron was blockading Havana or Vera Cruz, the same mortality continued. Hosier himself at last fell a victim, and after ten days' sickness died at Jamaica on 25 Aug. 1727. The fever carried off in all four thousand men, some fifty lieutenants, and eight or ten captains and flag-officers, including Hosier's immediate successors, Commodore St. Lo and Vice-admiral Edward Hopson. Hosier's body was embalmed, sent to England by the Happy sloop, and he was buried ‘with great funeral pomp’ in the church of St. Nicholas at Deptford; 8 Feb. 1727–8 (St. Lo to Admiralty, 20 Sept. 1727; Notes and Queries, 6th ser. xi. 108). The sum of 500l. was expended on the ceremony.

The circumstances of Hosier's sad fate were grossly misrepresented by later political prejudice, which ascribed his death chiefly to personal feelings of resentment at the inactivity forced upon him by the orders of the government, or to ‘chagrin at the wanton and wicked destruction of so many brave men, whose fate he could only lament and not avert;’ an erroneous view which Glover's ballad has stamped on the popular memory.

Hosier left a widow, Diana, and one daughter, Frances Diana, who afterwards married Richard Hart.

[Charnock's Biog. Nav. iii. 132; Campbell's Lives of the Admirals, iii. 516; Brit. Mus. Add. MS. 28275, fol. 276 (pedigree); official correspondence in the Public Record Office. The instructions of 1726 and the details of the West Indian campaign of 1726–7 are in Home Office Records, Admiralty, vol. lx., and Admirals' Despatches, Jamaica, 1713–29; Geo. IV MSS. in Brit. Mus. 55 and 56; reg. at St. Nicholas Church, Deptford; information from R. H. Baker of Bombay.]

J. K. L.