Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Nesham, Christopher John Williams

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NESHAM, CHRISTOPHER JOHN WILLIAMS (1771–1853), admiral, born in 1771, was son of Christopher Nesham, a captain in the 63rd regiment, by his wife Mary Williams, sister of William Feere Williams-Freeman [q. v.], admiral of the fleet. Nesham entered the navy in January 1782 on board the Juno, with Captain James Montagu [q. v.], and in her was present at the action off Cuddalore on 20 June 1783. On his return to England in 1785, he was for some time in the Edgar, guardship at Portsmouth, commanded by Captain Adam Duncan, afterwards Lord Duncan [q. v.], and in the Druid frigate till March 1788. He was then sent to a college in France, and was still there at the outbreak of the revolution. He was at Vernon, in Normandy, in October 1789, when a furious mob fell upon a corn merchant, Planter by name, who had been charitable to the poor, but who, having sent flour to Paris, was accused of wishing to starve the town. The townhall, where he had taken refuge, was stormed, and Planter was dragged down the stairs towards the lamp-post at the corner of the building. Attempts were made to fasten a rope round his neck. Nesham, however, with two others, remained by Planter and warded off the blows aimed at him as well as themselves. Knocked down, Nesham sprang up again and vigorously resisted the mob. Planter was at length got away from the lamp-post into an adjoining street, and, a door being thrown open, was finally pushed in and saved. One of the first acts of the municipality on the restoration of order was to confer citizenship on Nesham (17 Nov.) He was shortly afterwards summoned to Paris, January 1790, when he was presented by the assembly with a uniform sword of the national guard, and a civic crown was placed on his head (Alger, Englishmen in the French Revolution, p. 112; Boivin Champeaux, Révolution dans l'Eure}}; the incident is also mentioned by Carlyle; cf. Catalogue of the Naval Exhibition 1891, Nos. 1147, 2564, 2683). In June 1790 he was appointed to the Salisbury, bearing the flag of Vice-admiral Milbanke, who had, as his flag-captain, Edward Pellew, afterwards Viscount Exmouth [q. v.] On 17 Nov. 1790 he was promoted to be lieutenant, and during the next two years served in the Channel under the immediate command of Keats and Robert Moorsom. In 1793 he was appointed to the Adamant of 50 guns, in which he served on the West Indian, Newfoundland, and home stations. In 1797 he was her first lieutenant in the North Sea, when, during the mutiny and through the summer, she carried the flag of Vice-admiral Richard Onslow [q. v.] She afterwards took part in the battle of Camperdown, and on 2 Jan. 1798 Nesham was promoted to be commander of the Suffisante sloop. On 29 April 1802 he was advanced to post rank, and from October 1804 to February 1805 was captain of the Foudroyant, in the Bay of Biscay, with the flag of his kinsman and connection. Rear-admiral Sir Thomas Graves. In March 1807 he was appointed to the Ulysses of 44 guns, which he took out to the West Indies, and commanded at the reduction of Marie Galante, in March 1808. In July 1808 he was moved into the Intrepid of 64 guns, and in her, in the following February, took part in the capture of Martinique, where he served on shore under the immediate command of Commodore Sir George Cockburn, and superintended the transport of the heavy guns and mortars. On 15 April 1809 the Intrepid suffered severely in an unsuccessful attack on two French frigates under the guns of Fort Mathilde of Guadeloupe; and in December she returned to England and was paid off. In 1830-1 Nesham commanded the Melville of 74 guns, in the Mediterranean. He retired as a rear-admiral on 10 Jan. 1837, but was replaced on the active list on 17 Aug. 1840 [cf. Noble, James]. He became vice-admiral on 9 Nov. 1846, and admiral on 30 July 1852. He died at Exmouth on 4 Nov. 1853. aged 82 (Gent. Mag.) Nesham was twice married: first, in 1802, to his cousin, Margaret Anne, youngest daughter of Thomas, first lord Graves; she died in 1808; secondly, in 1833, to Elizabeth, youngest daughter of Colonel Nicholas Bayly, brother of the first Earl of Uxbridge, of the present creation. He left issue by both marriages.

[Marshall's Roy. Nav. Biog. iv. (vol. ii. pt. ii.) 587; O'Byrne's Nav. Biog. Dict.; Gent. Mag. 1854, i. 316.]

J. K. L.