Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Nevell, John

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886659Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 40 — Nevell, John1894John Knox Laughton

NEVELL, JOHN (d. 1697), vice-admiral, descended from a junior branch of the Nevilles of Abergavenny, served as a volunteer in the fleet during the early part of the third Dutch war, and in 1673 was promoted to be lieutenant of the French Ruby. In June 1675 he was appointed to the Sapphire, one of the squadron in the Mediterranean under Sir John Narbrough [q. v.], and commanded by Captain Thomas Harman, who was killed in action with an Algerine corsair on 9 Sept. 1677. Harman was succeeded by Captain (afterwards Sir) Clowdisley Shovell, who contracted a lifelong friendship with his lieutenant. Nevell remained in the Sapphire till December 1680, when he was moved by Vice-admiral Herbert into his flagship, the Bristol, and on 21 Feb. 1681–2 he was promoted to the command of the Anne yacht. On 8 May 1682 he was posted to the Bristol, in which he continued with Herbert till the end of 1683, and afterwards by himself till 1685. In 1685 he commanded the Garland, and in August 1686 was appointed to the Crown, in which he went to the Mediterranean in the squadron under Sir Roger Strickland [q. v.], returning in 1687. Notwithstanding his known friendship for Herbert [see Herbert, Arthur, Earl of Torrington], the avowed partisan of the Prince of Orange, he was appointed on 25 Sept. 1688 to the Elizabeth, from which he was moved in the following March to the Henrietta, and again in February 1689–90 to the Royal Sovereign, Torrington's flagship in the battle of Beachy Head. In September 1690 he was appointed to the Kent, as captain of which he served on shore under the Earl of Marlborough at the reduction of Cork in October. He was still in the Kent in 1692, and on 19 May was in the battle of Barfleur, in the division of the red squadron under Shovell, which first broke through the French line. In the following January he was appointed first captain of the Britannia, carrying the flag of the three admirals, joint commanders-in-chief. On 7 July 1693 he was promoted to be rear-admiral, and during the rest of the year commanded a squadron off Dunkirk. In December, with his flag in the Royal Oak, he went out to the Mediterranean as second in command under Sir Francis Wheler [q. v.], but happily escaped in the storm of 19 Feb. 1693–4, when Wheler, with a large part of the squadron, was lost. Having collected the shattered remains of the fleet, Nevell went to Cadiz to refit, and in June joined Russell off Cape Spartel [see Russell, Edward, Earl of Orford]. He was afterwards sent to cruise along the African coast, and continued second in command under Russell, and afterwards under Sir George Rooke [q. v.], till he returned to England in April 1696. In October he was appointed commander-in-chief in the Mediterranean, and sailed on 3 Nov.; but at Cadiz he received his promotion to the rank of vice-admiral, and orders to go to Madeira and the West Indies, where the French were understood to be forming a strong fleet, under the command of M. de Pointis. He arrived at Barbados on 17 April 1697, and, having collected the fleet, went on to Antigua and Jamaica. There he had news of the French attack on Cartagena, and sailed at once in the hope of intercepting them on the way home. When about halfway across to the mainland he sighted their fleet. Their ships were laden with plunder, and in no humour to submit it to the chances of an engagement. They pursued the voyage under a press of sail, and Nevell, after a fruitless chase for five days, went to Cartagena to see if he could render any assistance. Following De Pointis, the buccaneers had attacked and plundered the town, carrying away what the French had left; and the inhabitants, left destitute, had taken to the woods, whose shelter they could hardly be persuaded to leave. Nevell went on to Havana to consult with the governor as to providing for the security of the treasure fleet then lying there, worth, it was said, some ten or twelve million sterling. The governor of Havana, however, was not prepared to place implicit confidence in the English, and would not allow them to enter the harbour. They were suffering from raging fever; the rear-admiral, several officers, and great numbers of the men died, and Nevell determined to take the squadron to the coast of Virginia. The fever still pursued them; and shortly after their arrival there Nevell himself sickened and died, partly, it was thought, of vexation at the ill-success of the campaign. His will, at Somerset House (Pyne, 247), signed 2 Nov. 1696, gives 50l. to each of two sisters, Elizabeth Nevell and Martha Carpenter; the rest of the property to be divided equally between his wife, Mary, and two daughters, Mary and Elizabeth. The will was proved by the widow on 2 Nov. 1697.

[Charnock's Biog. Nav. ii. 63; Commission and Warrant Books in Public Record Office; Notes from the papers of Charles Sergison (d. 1732), clerk of the acts, 1689–1719, now in the possession of the family, kindly contributed by Mr. W. Laird Clowes; Lediard's Naval Hist. See also Troude's Batailles Navales de la France, i. 236–7.]

J. K. L.