Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Reynolds, John (1713?-1788)

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REYNOLDS, JOHN (1713?–1788), admiral, born about 1713, entered the navy in 1728 as a ‘volunteer per order’ with Captain John Gascoigne on board the Aldborough frigate, in which he continued for six years. He passed his examination on 31 July 1734, being then, according to his certificate, twenty-one years old. He was promoted to the rank of lieutenant on 14 Oct. 1736. In 1739–40 he was serving in the Argyle on the home station. In June 1741 he was appointed to the Vulcan fireship, then in the West Indies. She was paid off in November 1742, and Reynolds went on half-pay. In 1743 he was first lieutenant of the Jersey, and from her, in February 1743–4, was moved to the Victory, which he fortunately left before she sailed for the Tagus in July 1744 [see Balchen, Sir John]. On 23 April 1745 he was promoted to be commander of the Scipio fireship on the home station. In the following December he was placed on half-pay. In August 1746 he was temporarily appointed to the Ambuscade at Plymouth; and similarly, in September, to the Centurion at Portsmouth, from which on 30 Oct. he was posted to the Arundel. He was, however, not relieved from the Centurion till 22 Nov. He afterwards complained that, during the time of holding these commands, from 1 Aug. to 22 Nov., he received only his half-pay as commander. During 1747 the Arundel was employed in the Channel, cruising with some success against the enemy's trade, and afterwards in convoy service in the North Sea. In May 1748 Reynolds, still in the Arundel, was sent out to Charlestown, from which he went to Jamaica. In December he received orders to return to Charlestown, and ‘attend on South Carolina, Georgia, and the Bahamas,’ then a frequent resort of pirates. He continued on this station for upwards of two years, returning to England in 1751, when he was called on to explain his reasons for not being more at sea. He replied that he had remained at Charlestown at the request of the governor, ‘so that he might be on the spot if any word of pirates came.’

In July 1754 Reynolds was appointed governor of Georgia, where he remained for four years. In May 1759 he was appointed to the Firm, of 60 guns, with which, in June, he joined the fleet off Brest under the command of Sir Edward (afterwards Lord) Hawke [q. v.], by whom he was detached as commodore of the squadron off Quiberon Bay. On this post he was afterwards relieved by Duff, but was still detached from the fleet on 17 Nov., when, off the Isle Groix, he had news of the French fleet being at sea. He sent this off at once to the admiralty, while he himself stood to the westward in the hope of meeting Hawke. This he did not succeed in doing, and he did not join the admiral till some days after the battle on the 20th. In the following February he was moved into the Temple, from which in March he was superseded. He afterwards commanded the Milford frigate till the peace of 1763. During the following years he lived at Newington Butts, and from 1766 to 1768 commanded the Fame, guardship at Plymouth. He then returned to Newington Butts, and in October 1768 sent to the admiralty a curious proposal, with a drawing, of ‘a method of giving ships way through the water in a calm,’ by means of windmill sails fitted to the masts and worked by manual power from the deck (Captains' Letters, R. 15). The proposal was referred to the navy board, and nothing further was heard of it. Any report that was made must have condemned it. In 1769 Reynolds commanded the Burford, guardship at Plymouth; and from 1770 to 1773 the Defence, in which in 1770 he took out troops to Gibraltar. In 1773 he commanded the Dublin for some months, and in November was appointed to the Ocean at Plymouth, from which he was relieved in the end of 1774. He was promoted to be rear-admiral on 31 March 1775, and to be vice-admiral on 29 Jan. 1778. Some time after, when expecting a command, he had a paralytic stroke ‘which took away the use of one side, and gave a severe shock to his understanding.’ From the effects of this he never recovered. He attained the rank of admiral on 24 Sept. 1787, and died in London on 3 Feb. 1788. He was married and left issue. Two portraits became the property of Mr. A. S. H. Reynolds of Bournemouth.

[Information from the family; official letters and documents in the Public Record Office. The memoir in Charnock's Biogr. Nav. v. 503 is imperfect.]

J. K. L.