Johnson, Thomas? (DNB00)

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JOHNSON, THOMAS? (1772–1839), smuggler and pilot, was in 1798 made prisoner in an affray with the revenue officers on the coast of Sussex, and confined in the new gaol in the Borough in London, from which he made his escape ‘in a most daring way.’ A reward of 500l. was offered for his apprehension, but nothing was heard of him till, in the following year, he offered himself as pilot to the expedition to Holland. His offer was accepted; he received a free pardon, and performed the duty to the great satisfaction of the officers in command, especially, it is said, of Sir Ralph Abercromby. He is described as then launching out into an extravagant way of living and contracting debts to the amount of 11,000l. This was no doubt a gross exaggeration; but in 1802 he was imprisoned for debt in the Fleet prison. At the same time he was charged with having again been guilty of smuggling, and fearing to stand his trial he effected his escape, succeeded in reaching the coast, and in getting a passage to Calais, and thence to Flushing, where he seems to have remained an outlaw, till in 1809 he again offered his services to pilot the Walcheren expedition. For the second time he received a free pardon, and after the satisfactory performance of the duty he was granted a pension of 100l. a year, conditional on his abstaining from his evil practices. He died in Vauxhall Bridge Road, London, in March 1839, aged 67. He is spoken of as ‘Captain’ Johnson.

[Gent. Mag. 1802 pt. ii. p. 1156, and 1839 pt. i. p. 553.]

J. K. L.