Royal Naval Biography/Ekins, Charles

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Rear-Admiral of the Blue; a Companion of the most honoruble Military Order of the Bath; and a Knight of the Order of Wilhelm of the Netherlands.

This officer entered the naval service as a Midshipman on board the Berwick, of 74 guns, commanded by the Honorable Keith Stewart, and was present in the battle between Sir Hyde Parker and Admiral Zoutman, off the Dogger Bank, in 1781[1], on which occasion the Berwick had 18 men killed and 58 wounded. He afterwards removed into the Cambridge, 84; which ship formed part of the armament under Lord Howe at the relief of Gibraltar; and in the partial action with the combined fleets of France and Spain, Oct. 20, 1782, had 4 men slain and 6 wounded; among the latter was Mr. Ekins, at that time acting as aid-de-camp to Captain Stewart. He subsequently served on board the Marquis de Seignally sloop of war, and Pearl frigate; and was made a Lieutenant into the Lion, of 64 guns, in 1790.

From this period Mr. Ekins was appointed successively to the Flirt brig, Alarm frigate, and Boyne, of 98 guns. The latter, bearing the flag of Sir John Jervis, he joined in the West Indies; and he was junior Lieutenant of her at the time she was unfortunately destroyed by fire at Spithead[2]. In the summer of 1795, we find him commanding the Ferret sloop of war, on the North Sea station, where he captured l’Eléonore French privateer. He afterwards went to the Cape of Good Hope, and was appointed by Sir George K. Elphinstone (now Lord Keith) to the America, 64; but that ship having sailed for England during his absence in India, he returned home in the Havick, of 18 guns, one of the Dutch prizes taken in Saldanha Bay. His post commission bears date Dec. 22, 1796.

Soon after this latter promotion, Captain Ekins obtained the command of the Amphitrite frigate, and was sent with a convoy, under the orders of Captain Bagot of the Trent, to the Leeward Islands; on which station he captured a great number of the enemy’s vessels, and among the rest seven privateers, carrying in the whole 62 guns and 466 men. He also assisted at the taking of the Dutch colony at Surinam, by the naval and military forces under Lord Hugh Seymour and Lieutenant-General Trigge, on which occasion the Amphitrite bore the Admiral’s flag. She afterwards, in company with the Unite frigate, commanded by the present Sir John P. Beresford, surprised, and after a little firing, captured the Devil’s Islands, on the coast of Cayenne. This service was performed with very little loss, only a man or two being killed in landing and storming the place, which was completely cleared, and every thing contained therein either brought off or destroyed.

In March 1801, the Amphitrite accompanied Sir John T. Duckworth on an expedition against the Virgin and other islands, of which it had been determined to take possession, in consequence of the hostile measures adopted against Great Britain by Denmark, Sweden, and Russia; but unfortunately Captain Ekins, being sick, was obliged to remain at Barbadoes. However, a reinforcement arriving from England, escorted by the Coromandel and Proselyte, he took a passage onboard the latter, and joined the Commander-in-Chief in time to be entrusted with the superintendance of the debarkation on the island of St. Martin, and to assist in the subsequent operations[3]. His exertions on this occasion having brought on another violent attack of the yellow fever, by which he had previously been much reduced, Rear Admiral Duckworth was induced to send him home with his despatches, and he accordingly returned to England in the Fanny armed brig, about the 10th May following.

From this period we lose sight of Captain Ekins until the spring of 1801, when he was appointed to the Beaulieu, of 40 guns, in which fine frigate he was actively employed till the latter end of 1806. He then joined the Defence, a third-rate; and in the following year sailed with Admiral Gambier on the expedition against Copenhagen; but he was prevented from being present at the surrender of that capital and the Danish navy, in consequence of his having been detached with the Comus, of 32 guns, under his orders, in pursuit of the Frederickswarn frigate, which had escaped from Elsineur soon after the arrival of the British armament in that neighbourhood, and was taken after an arduous chase in light winds, and a short action with the Comus[4].

We next find Captain Ekins employed off Lisbon, under the orders of Sir Charles Cotton, by whom he was sent to St. Ubes, for the purpose of circulating manifestos among the Portuguese, and endeavouring to open a communication with the Russian Admiral Siniavin, who was at that time blockaded in the Tagus. While on that service, he received information of the Rochefort squadron being at sea; and supposing its destination to be the West Indies, he lost no time in proceeding thither. On his arrival off Martinique, he formed a junction with Sir Alexander Cochrane; as did Sir John T. Duckworth with his squadron, on the following morning. It being afterwards ascertained that the enemy had altered their course, and gone to the Mediterranean, Captain Ekins was sent home with two hundred sail of merchant vessels under his protection, the whole of which he conducted in safety to England.

The Defence afterwards formed part of the fleet employed in the Baltic, under the orders of Sir James Saumarez; and in 1809, was detached, in company with the Bellerophon, to the Gulf of Finland, where Captain Ekins took possession of several islands, and completely cut off all supplies sent by the Russians for the use of their army in Sweden.

Our officer’s next appointment appears to have been, Sept. 7, 1815, to the Superb, of 74 guns, in which ship he greatly distinguished himself at the memorable attack upon Algiers, in the autumn of 1816[5]. The Superb on that glorious occasion had 92 men killed and wounded; among the latter was her commander, who for his gallantry has since been rewarded with the insignia of a C.B. and K.W.N. of the third class. The latter entitles its possessor to the appellation of Chevalier in the kingdom of the Netherlands. His advancement to the rank of Rear-Admiral took place Aug. 12, 1819. Previous to that event he had occasionally hoisted a broad pendant as senior officer at Plymouth during the absence of Viscount Exmouth, the naval Commander-in-Chief on that station[6].

We understand that Rear-Admiral Ekins has been for a very considerable time employed upon a Tactical Consideration of our principal Sea-fights between 1744 and 1807, to which it is his intention to add, Remarks upon the celebrated Essay of Clerk of Eldin. Such a work, coming from an officer whose abilities are so well known and highly appreciated, will no doubt meet with a favorable reception from the public in general, and the naval profession in particular.

Residence.– Stonehouse, near Plymouth, Devon.

  1. See note §, at p. 175, et seq.
  2. See Retired Captain Hon. Sir George Grey, in our next volume
  3. See Rear-Admiral Thomas Harvey.
  4. See Captain George Edward Watts, in our next volume.
  5. See p. 225, et seq.
  6. Soon after the Superb’s return to England from the Algerine expedition, the junior officers of that ship presented Captain Ekins with a handsome gold snuff-box, suitably inscribed, as a mark of their esteem and respect for his conduct on the day of the battle. In return for the compliment, Captain Ekins addressed to them a very handsome letter, in which he states, that if his conduct on the 27th Aug. 1816, met with their approval, he could ascribe it only to a firm reliance on the Almighty will, and perfect confidence in the steadiness, bravery, and perseverance of those he commanded, of whom the junior officers of the Superb, as they bore a large and very conspicuous part in all the dangers and fatigues of that day, may ever claim his sincere and grateful acknowledgments.