Royal Naval Biography/John Jervis, Earl of St Vincent

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Viscount St. Vincent, and Baron Jervis; an Admiral of the Fleet; General of the Royal Marines; a Privy Counsellor in Great Britain; one of the Council of State for the Duchy of Cornwall; Knight Grand Cross of the most honourable Military Order of the Bath; and of the Portuguese Order of the Tower and Sword; a Fellow of the Royal Society; and one of the Elder Brethren of the Trinity House.

It is well known, that the naval services of this venerable officer have raised him to his present elevated station. He is descended from James Jervis, of Chathill, in the county of Stafford, who lived temp. Henry VIII, and whose second son William, having settled at Ollerton, in Shropshire, was the ancestor of Swynfen Jervis, Esq. of Meaford, co. Stafford, Barrister at Law, sometime Counsel to the Board of Admiralty, and Auditor of Greenwich Hospital, who married Elizabeth daughter of George Parker, of Park-Hall, in the same county, Esq., and sister of the Right Hon. Sir Thomas Parker, Knt., Chief Baron of the Exchequer, by whom he had two sons; viz. William, a gentleman usher of the Privy Chamber to his late Majesty, died in 1813; and John, the subject of this memoir, who was born at Meaford, Jan. 9, 1734, and originally intended for the law; but evincing a decided predilection for the sea service, his father determined to educate him accordingly.

In 1748-9, we find Mr. Jervis serving as a Midshipman on board the Gloucester of 50 guns, bearing the broad pendant of the Hon. George Townshend, on the Jamaica station. On the 19th Feb. 1755, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant; and not long afterwards, selected by that admirable officer the late Sir Charles Saunders[1], to serve on board his flag-ship, the Neptune, a second rate. In the memorable expedition sent against Quebec, in 1759, Mr. Jervis accompanied Sir Charles as his first Lieutenant, and was by him made a Commander in the Porcupine sloop. The operations in the river St. Lawrence having terminated successfully, our officer returned to England, and soon after proceeded to the Mediterranean under the orders of his former patron, by whom he was appointed acting Captain of the Experiment, a post ship, mounting 20 guns, during the indisposition of Sir John Strachan.

In this vessel Captain Jervis was attacked by a large xebec, under Moorish colours, mounting 26 guns of very heavy calibre, besides a considerable number of swivels. Her crew, which was nearly three times as numerous as that of the Experiment, was French. The conflict, though furious, was short; and the assailants probably considered themselves extremely fortunate in being able to effect their escape.

On the 13th Oct. 1760, the year in which his late Majesty ascended the throne, Captain Jervis was posted, and appointed to the Gosport of 40 guns. Nothing of importance occurred until May llth, 1762, when the Gosport, in company with the Superb, of 74 guns, Danäe frigate, and a fleet of merchantmen bound to the colonies, fell in with a French squadron of superior force, under M. de Ternay, having on board 1500 troops, destined for the attack of Newfoundland. The English Commodore, Rowley, for the better protection of his charge, dropped into the rear, formed his line of battle, and brought to; but the enemy not choosing to risk an action, hauled his wind, and made off.

The Gosport proceeded to Halifax, and from thence, in company with Lord Colville’s squadron, to block up M. de Ternay, who had taken possession of the harbour of St. John’s, and thrown a boom across its entrance. On the llth Sept. Colonel Amherst joined the Commodore with a body of troops from Louisbourg. A landing was immediately effected in Torbay, about three leagues from St. John’s; the enemy made an attempt to oppose it, but was repulsed with some loss. On the 16th, a strong westerly wind, attended by a thick fog, forced Lord Colville from his station before the harbour; of which M. de Ternay availed himself, slipped his cables, and stood to sea. On the 18th, M. de Haussonville, the commander of the troops, finding that he was deserted by his naval colleague, and that it was impossible to hold out any longer, offered terms of capitulation; which being accepted, he and his followers became prisoners of war. Captain Jervis returned to England with the trade from Virginia, and continued to command the Gosport, principally on the home station, during the remainder of the war. He held no subsequent command till the year 1769, when being appointed to the Alarm, of 32 guns, he was ordered to the Mediterranean.

In the month of August, 1770, being at Villa-Franca, he had the honour of entertaining on board his ship the Duc de Chablais, brother to the King of Sardinia, who expressed him- self most highly gratified at his reception, and presented Captain Jervis with a diamond ring, enclosed in a large gold snuff-box. He also distributed several watches and boxes among the officers, and left a large sum of money for the ship’s company.

In 1772, the Alarm being at anchor in the bay of Marseilles, parted her cables and drove on some rocks; but was saved from destruction by the skill and exertions of Captain Jervis, assisted by M. Pleville de Pelly[2], a Lieutenant in the French navy, and Intendant of Marseilles, to whom the British Admiralty afterwards forwarded a case, containing several pieces of plate richly chased, as a return for the services he had rendered the frigate.

Captain Jervis remained on the Mediterranean station till 1774, in which year he was appointed to the Foudroyant, of 84 guns; a ship originally belonging to the French, and captured from them Feb. 1st, 1758, by the Monmouth, of 64 guns[3]. This ship was justly considered as a pattern to the rest of the fleet, in point of discipline and good order; and so much was she extolled, that when persons of distinction honoured the Western squadron with their presence, the Foudroyant was always the ship they first visited[4].

Our officer continued uninterestingly employed on the various services allotted to the Channel Fleet, till June 1778, on the 18th of which month he captured the Pallas, French frigate, of 32 guns and 220 men. Soon after this, the battle between the English and French fleets, under the respective commands of Keppel and d’Orvilliers, was fought; a battle which, from the peculiar circumstances that attended it, was subsequently productive of more party clamour and acrimonious invective, than perhaps any other event in our naval history[5]. On this occasion Captain Jervis was selected by Admiral Keppel to be one of his seconds; and the Foudroyant was as closely engaged and as much disabled as any ship in the fleet. She had five men killed and eighteen wounded.

We now come to detail the particulars of one of the most brilliant actions which had occurred during the American war; namely, the capture of the Pégase, of 74 guns and 700 men, commanded by the Chevalier de Cillart. In the month of April, 1782, Admiral Barrington sailed for the Bay of Biscay with twelve sail of the line; and on the 20th, when within a short distance of Ushant, discovered an enemy’s fleet. A general chace ensued; and at the close of the evening, Captain Jervis had so far outstripped the rest of the squadron, that when night came on, with hazy weather, he lost sight of them entirely, but still kept a full view of the enemy, whom he pursued with unremitting vigour. The enemy’s fleet consisted of eighteen sail, laden with provisions and ammunition, and containing a considerable number of troops for the supply of the French fleet and forces in the East Indies; being particularly destined to replace the convoy which had been taken by Admiral Kempenfelt in the preceding winter; they had sailed from Brest only the day before, and were escorted by the Protecteur and Pégase, of 74 guns each, l’Actionaire, a two-decker armed en flute, and a frigate. The Foudroyant gained so fast upon the chace, that it was evident they could not escape without an engagement; the convoy was therefore dispersed by signal; and the two 74’s having consulted together, it was determined, that, as the Protecteur had a large quantity of money on board, she should make the best of her way; and that, if fighting was inevitable, the Pégase should abide the consequence. A little before one A.M. the Foudroyant came up, and was closely engaged with the Pégase. The action was extremely fierce whilst it lasted; but, within less than an hour from its commencement, Captain Jervis laid the French ship aboard on the larboard quarter, and compelled her to strike. Nothing could have afforded a more remarkable instance of the decided superiority of seamanship and discipline on the one side, and of the great effects which these qualifications produced on the other, than the circumstances of this gallant action. On board the Pégase, 80 men were killed and wounded; the hull, masts, and yards of the French ship, were materially injured; and the damage she sustained was beyond any thing that could have been supposed, considering the short time she was engaged; while the Foudroyant received but little injury; not a man was killed; none mortally, and her commander the most seriously wounded[6]. At this time the sea was so rough, that it was with great difficulty Captain Jervis, with the loss of two boats, could put an officer and eighty men on board the prize. Soon after this was effected, the Foudroyant lost sight of the Pégase; but the Queen fortunately coming up, took possession of her. In consequence of this gallant action, Captain Jervis was honoured with the insignia of a Knight of the Bath[7].

In the month of October, 1782, Sir John Jervis accompanied Earl Howe, who was sent with a powerful fleet to relieve the important fortress of Gibraltar, which was then closely pressed on the land side by a very numerous Spanish army, while at the same time the combined armaments of France and Spain, amounting to nearly fifty ships of the line, attempted to block it up by sea. In the skirmish that took place outside the Gut, after the object of the expedition had been accomplished, the Foudroyant had 4 men killed and 8 wounded.

Respecting the relief of Gibraltar, it has been justly said, that “foreign nations acknowledge its glory, and every future age will confirm it. Not only the hopes, but the fears of his country, accompanied Lord Howe. The former rested upon his consummate abilities, and approved bravery; while the latter could not but look to the many obstacles he had to subdue, and the superior advantage of the fleet that was to oppose him. Nevertheless, he fulfilled the grand objects of the expedition; the garrison of Gibraltar was effectually relieved, the hostile fleet baffled and dared in vain to battle; and the different squadrons detached to their important destinations; while the ardent and certain hopes of his country’s foes were disappointed.”

Immediately on the return of the fleet to England, Sir John Jervis was chosen to command a small squadron destined on a secret expedition. He accordingly quitted the Foudroyant, and hoisted a broad pendant on board the Salisbury, of 50 guns; but it was soon after hauled down in consequence of the sudden cessation of hostilities[8].

About this period, our officer was chosen representative in Parliament for the borough of Launceston, in Cornwall; and at the general election in 1784, he was returned for the town of North Yarmouth, and soon distinguished himself by opposing an expensive plan, which was then in agitation, for fortifying the dock-yards; not only as a member of parliament, but as a member of the board of officers, which was convened for the purpose of investigating the propriety of the measure. He also gave a firm support to every proposal which was calculated to advance the good of the service, or the welfare of his brother officers.

Sir John Jervis was advanced to the rank of Rear-Admiral, Sept. 24, 1787; and in the armament of 1790, had his flag flying on board the Prince, of 98 guns. His quarter-deck was full of young gentlemen, cadets of some of the first families in the kingdom, who made the greatest interest to place them as midshipmen with so distinguished a commander. On the reduction of the armament, each flag-officer then employed was indulged by the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, with the permission to recommend a Lieutenant and Midshipman for promotion. As many of those gentlemen had passed their examination, each flattered himself of being the fortunate one, according to his high connections; but, to their great disappointment and surprise, Sir John selected a young man, the son of an old Lieutenant, and wrote him the following letter;

“Sir.– I named you for the Lieutenant I was allowed to promote, because you had merited the good opinion of your superiors, and that you were the son of an old officer and worthy man, in no great affluence; a steady perseverance in that conduct which has caused you to be thus distinguished, is the most likely means to carry you forward in the profession; for I trust other officers of my rank will observe the maxim I do – to prefer the sons of brother officers, when deserving, before any others.

I am, Sir,
Your humble Servant,
Rochetts, Dec. 24, 1790.”John Jervis.”

At the general election which took place in May, 1790, the Rear-Admiral was chosen Member of Parliament for Chipping Wycombe, which borough he represented till the commencement of the war with the French Republic[9], when he vacated his seat, and accepted the command of a squadron, destined to co-operate with General Sir Charles Grey in the reduction of the French West India Islands[10].

In this toilsome service, with the most formidable difficulties to encounter, the spirit and perseverance of these brave commanders were pre-eminently conspicuous; and the London Gazette Extraordinary, in the month of April, 1794, announced the important intelligence, that, on the 16th March preceding, the whole island of Martinique had been captured from the French, excepting the forts Bourbon and Royal, which were then closely besieged; and, on the 26th of the same month, despatches were received, containing intelligence of the complete subjugation of that valuable colony. This success proved the prelude to as speedy a reduction of St. Lucia and Guadaloupe; but, in consequence of the sickness of the troops, and want of a sufficient reinforcement, these conquests could not be retained. Sir John Jervis returned home from this expedition with his health considerably injured, and very much emaciated from the effects of the yellow fever, and arrived at Plymouth Jan. 11, 1795. On the 1st June, in the same year, he was advanced to the rank of Admiral of the Blue[11].

As soon as his health was sufficiently re-established, our officer, who had in the intermediate time received the thanks of Parliament, and the freedom of the city of London, for the eminent and distinguished services he had rendered to his country during the West India campaign, was appointed to succeed Admiral Hotham in command of the fleet stationed in the Mediterranean. He accordingly proceeded thither in the Lively frigate; and on his arrival, hoisted his flag on board the Victory, of 100 guns[12].

About this period, the French Directory had, by insinuations, threats, and other artifices of terror or persuasion, contrived to detach the Court of Spain from its alliance with England[13], in consequence of which the situation of the British force employed in that quarter, was suddenly rendered extremely critical. Though the state of the Toulon squadron was insufficient to create any disquiet in Sir John’s mind; yet the Spanish ships at Carthagena alone, were numerically far superior to those under his orders. The political situation of his country, at that time, rendered the greatest exertions necessary. A formidable combination was raised against her; and the fleets of France, Holland[14], and Spain, had they all been permitted to unite, would have composed an immense armament, consisting of nearly one hundred sail of the line. The internal commotions which had for some time pervaded Ireland, appeared to afford these confederated foes the greatest hopes of success, provided it were possible for them to put on shore a body of troops sufficiently numerous to countenance the rebellious insurgents in their open avowal of that treason, which, owing to the insidious representations of those among their own countrymen who possessed most influence, and were considered as the leaders of their party, had long been cherished by them. At this period it had attained a height truly formidable and alarming.

An attempt was made by France, immediately after Spain became an ally to the cause of republicanism, to carry this project into execution; and though it had completely failed, there was little reason to expect that the want of success on that occasion would so far intimidate the enemy, as to prevent a repetition of it. Regarding, therefore, the general posture of public affairs, it must appear evident, that very urgent necessity peremptorily demanded the immediate execution of some grand and decisive measure, which might, by its consequential success, contribute to dispel that tremendous cloud which appeared on the point of bursting over this country. With this situation, together with all the circumstances which led to it, Sir John was perfectly well acquainted; but very little relief could be expected, highly as the abilities of its commander might be estimated, from a squadron consisting of ten ships of the line, which, putting the French force at Toulon totally out of the question, had to contend with an enemy of nearly three times its own force.

This disparity of numbers was in some degree reduced by the arrival of Rear-Admiral Parker, with five sail of the line, from England, who formed a junction with Sir John Jervis off Cape St. Vincent, on the 6th Feb. 1797[15]. Still, however, his force was so very unequal to that of the enemy, that nothing but the existing case could have warranted the attack; nor any thing short of the greatest exertions in regard to professional knowledge and gallantry which the human mind is perhaps capable of making, could have rendered its event successful. Independent of that superiority which the enemy possessed in respect to numbers, they had the additional advantage of being so near to their own ports, that even in case of discomfiture, they could retire without dreading the consequences of pursuit, and moor in safety under the cannon of their own fortresses, in a less space of time than would be required to refit the rigging of a frigate, after an hour’s contest with a vessel of equal force. The magnitude of the object, a firm reliance on the intrepidity, as well as activity of those whom he commanded, and a proper confidence in his own judgment, contributed to make the British Admiral despise all the surrounding difficulties; and determined him to attempt a new mode of attack, which he had arranged in his mind as practicable, should fortune ever favour him with an opportunity of carrying it into execution. He had long entertained very sanguine hopes it would be crowned with the most brilliant success; and the instant he received the augmentation of force before alluded to, and became apprized of the enemy’s fleet being at sea, he delayed not a moment in making known to those he commanded, his resolution to engage them, and the peculiar manner in which he intended to arrange his attack.

In this situation of affairs, the Spanish Admiral Don Josef de Cordova sailed from Carthagena, Feb. 1st, 1797, with a fleet consisting of twenty-seven sail of the line, twelve frigates, and a brig[16].

On the night of the 11th, this fleet was discovered by the Minerve frigate, on board of which was Commodore Nelson[17], then on his way from the Mediterranean to join the Commander in Chief. Captain (now Vice-Admiral) Foote, of the Niger frigate, also kept company with them for some days previous to the 13th; and that night they approached so near the British squadron, that their signal guns were distinctly heard.

The morning of the 14th was dark and hazy; but about half-past six o’clock five of the enemy’s ships were discovered in the S. by W., and before eleven o’clock, 25 sail were visible to the British squadron[18].

Centre Squadron. Guns.
Mexicano 112
Terrible 74
Oriente 74
Soberano 74
Santissima Trinidada 130
San Nicholas 80
San Ysidro 74
Salvador del Mundo 112
San Ildefonso 74

Repeaters. – Paz, Dorotea, Guadaloupe, Santa Teresa, frigates, – and Vigilante, brig.

Rear Squadron. Guns.
Conde de Regla 112
San Firmin 74
Firme 74
Principe d’Asturias 112
San Antonio 74
Glorioso 74
Atlante 74
San Francisco de Paula 74
San Josef 112

Repeaters. – Matilda, Diana, Antiocha, Ceres – Frigates.

At 11h 26’ A.M., the Admiral communicated his intention to pass through the Spanish fleet, the main body of which was bearing down in some confusion to join the ships that had been first seen; and immediately the signal was made to engage. At about 11h 30’ the action commenced by the Culloden firing against the enemy’s headmost ships to windward; as the squadron advanced, however, the battle became more general; and it was soon apparent, that Sir John Jervis had accomplished his design. In the mean time, the regular and animated fire of the British squadron was but feebly returned by the enemy’s ships to windward, which were also completely prevented from joining their companions to leeward, and obliged to haul their wind on the larboard tack. Thus a part of the Spanish fleet was effectually cut off from the main body, and they were reduced to the necessity of also forming on the same tack, apparently with the intention of passing through, or to leeward of the British line; but such was the reception they experienced, that they were obliged to put about, and did not appear again in the action till the close of the day.

Sir John Jervis having thus fortunately obtained his first object, now directed his whole attention to the enemy’s main body to windward; which was reduced at this time, by the separation of the ships to leeward, to eighteen sail of the line. At a little after twelve o’clock, the signal was made for the British fleet to tack in succession; and soon after, the signal for again passing the enemy’s line; while the Spanish Admiral’s design appeared to be, to join his ships to leeward, by wearing round the rear of the British squadron. The intention of the enemy was, however, soon perceived by Commodore Nelson, whose station in the rear afforded him an opportunity of observing the manoeuvre. In order to frustrate the design, therefore, his ship had no sooner passed the Spanish rear, than he wore and stood on the other tack, towards the enemy.

In executing this bold manoeuvre, the Commodore found himself alongside of the Spanish Admiral, the Santissima Trinidada, of 130 guns. Notwithstanding this immense disparity, that brave officer did not shrink from the contest; though the Spaniard vas also warmly supported by her two seconds a-head and a-stern, both of whom were 3-deckers. While he sustained, however, this unequal conflict, his friends were eagerly pressing to his assistance; the enemy’s attention, therefore, was soon directed to the Culloden, and the Blenheim; and the able support afforded by these vessels to Commodore Nelson, and the approach of Rear-Admiral Parker with four others ships, determined the Spanish Commander to relinquish his design of rejoining his ships to leeward, and to throw out the signal for his main body to haul their wind, and make sail on the larboard tack.

The advantage was now evidently on the side of the British; and while the advanced division warmly pressed the centre and rear of the enemy, Sir John meditated with the ships near him a co-operation, which might effectually compel some of them to surrender. In the confusion of their retreat, several of the Spanish vessels had doubled on each other. It was therefore Admiral Jervis’s plan, to reach the weathermost of those ships, then to bear up, and take them all in succession. The casual position of the rear vessels in his own division, however, prevented the execution of this design. He therefore ordered the leading ship, the Excellent, to bear up, while with the Victory, he passed to leeward of the enemy’s rear. Captain Collingwood, in obedience to the Admiral’s orders, passed between the two sternmost ships of the enemy; and gave one of them, the San Ysidro, so effectual a broadside, that having been much injured before, she was obliged to submit. The Excellent then passed on to the relief of the Captain, which was engaged with a 3-decker, carrying a flag; but before she could arrive, this vessel became entangled with her second, a 2-decker. In this state they were both boarded by the Captain; and the smaller of them, the San Nicolas, was in a short time in the possession of her opponent. The three-decker, the San Josef, followed the fate of her second, and became immediately a prize to Commodore Nelson, who headed the party that boarded her from the San Nicholas. In the mean time Sir John Jervis ordered the Victory to be placed on the lee quarter of the rearmost ship of the enemy, the Salvador del Mundo; and threw in so effectual a discharge, that her commander seeing the Barfleur, carrying Vice-Admiral Waldegrave’s flag, bearing down to second the Victory, thought proper to strike.

Thus four of the enemy’s ships were in possession of the British; while the van ships continued to press hard on the Santissima Trinidada, and the others, which composed the rear of the flying fleet. The career of victory was, however, stopped by circumstances not in the power of the British Commander to control. The ships, which in the morning had been separated from the main body of the Spanish fleet, were now able to make their approach; two fresh vessels, also, which had not appeared in the action bore down[19], and two of the flying ships tacked to support their chief. These circumstances, therefore, with the lateness of the hour, and the necessity of securing the prizes, determined the conquering Admiral to bring to. A little after 4, P.M., the signal was made to this effect; and a strong line was formed for the protection of the prizes and disabled vessels. The enemy’s fresh ships, on approaching, opened a fire on the covering vessels; but though superior in number, and fresh for action, they contented themselves with a few irregular broadsides, and left the British Admiral to sail off triumphantly with his prizes. The judicious close of this glorious action evinces the judgment of Sir John Jervis to have been equal to his valour; for had the signal to bring to been delayed even five minutes longer, the prizes must not only have remained very insecure, but possibly, with Commodore Nelson’s ship, might have fallen into the hands of the enemy. Owing to the situation of both the fleets, the British ships could not have formed without abandoning the prizes, and running to leeward, the enemy at this time having at least eighteen or nineteen ships that had sustained very little damage. At this period the Captain was lying a perfect wreck on board the San Nicolas and San Josef; and many other ships were so shattered in their masts and rigging, as to be wholly ungovernable. The loss of the British in this engagement, in killed and wounded, according to the official returns, was exactly 300 men[20]; that of the Spaniards, in the captured ships alone, amounted to 603; and those which escaped must also have suffered considerably.

The day after the action, whilst the British ships were close under Cape St. Vincent, refitting and getting the prizes in a condition to carry sail, tweny-two sail of the Spanish fleet hove in sight and bore down in a regular line of battle, as if determined to engage the British, and endeavour to rescue their unfortunate companions; they however thought it most safe to haul off, and after encountering much bad weather, retired into Cadiz.

On the 16th, Sir John Jervis put into Lagos Bay, to secure the prizes, and repair the damages the squadron had sustained. A few days afterwards it experienced the tail of a gale of wind, that had it blown home, might have proved fatal to many; as from the badness of the ground, several of the ships, if not the whole squadron, would have been forced ashore[21]. On the 23rd, the squadron sailed from Lagos Bay, and arrived on the 28th at Lisbon, where 3,200 prisoners were landed from the four prizes, amidst the cheering shouts of the populace.

So important a victory, with so decisive a disparity of force, is perhaps unparalleled in our naval annals. The ability displayed by the Commander, was only to be equalled by the valour and adroitness of the seamen; indeed the fire of the British was superior to that of their opponents, in the proportion of five or six to one, during the whole of the action; and the expenditure of ammunition was consequently beyond example. The Culloden expended 170 barrels of powder; the Captain, 146; and the Blenheim, 180. The Spaniards fought bravely, but with little skill; and it is but fair to remark, that their fleet was ill equipped and very indifferently manned, and in no respect fit for action; their flag-ship had not more than eighty seamen on board; the rest consisted of impressed landmen, or soldiers of their new levies[22].

The gloom which overspread the country was dispelled by the news of this victory, which was received with that grateful exultation that characterizes Englishmen. Admiral Jervis received the thanks of both Houses of Parliament, and was honoured with the title of Earl of St. Vincent, the scene of his glory, and Baron Jervis of Meaford, the place of his birth; he also received the gold chain and medal, and a pension of three thousand pounds per annum[23].

Several ships from home having joined the squadron, and those that had suffered in the action having repaired their damages, the Admiral, whose flag had been transferred to the Ville de Paris, of 110 guns, sailed from Lisbon with twenty-one ships of the line, Mar. 31st, and proceeded direct for Cadiz, off which place he continued cruising till the 11th May following; on which day he anchored his fleet so effectually to block up the port, that the Spaniards, under Don Massaredo, although their force had in the interval been increased to thirty sail of the line, had no opportunity of again putting to sea[24]. He also gave directions to Rear-Admiral Nelson to bombard the town, which, according to the accounts of the Paris papers, whose authority upon this occasion need not be suspected, sustained considerable damage. In the course of the ensuing summer, he detached the same gallant officer with a squadron to make an attack upon the town of Santa Cruz, in the island of Teneriffe, which he had reason to believe was an assailable object. Of this expedition, the failure of which was occasioned by a variety of unlooked-for circumstances, an account will be found in our memoir of Sir Thomas B. Thompson[25].

During that eventful period when the machinations of our domestic enemies, in almost every other part of the navy, had but too well succeeded[26], his lordship’s exertions to support the discipline of the fleet under his command, were eminently successful. Several deep laid schemes, of the most sanguinary tendency, were detected and defeated, and the ring-leaders brought to immediate punishment.

Earl St. Vincent continued during the space of the two succeeding years, uninterestingly for himself, but gloriously for his country, occupied in the blockade of Cadiz, or such services as the state of the war rendered it necessary for him to undertake, either in person or by proxy. Finding, however, his health considerably impaired by the fatigue of his very laborious service, his Lordship was compelled to return to England for its re-establishment. He accordingly resigned the command of his fleet to Lord Keith, and on the 18th Aug. 1799, arrived at Portsmouth. On his landing, he was presented with the freedom of that borough, and soon after, with an address from the merchants and manufacturers of Great Britain trading to the south of Europe[27]. After a long struggle with disease, his Lordship recovered his health in so great a degree, as to enable him in the month of April, 1800, to take upon himself the command of the Channel Fleet, vacant by the resignation of the late Lord Bridport. In the course of the same year, he received the honourable and lucrative appointment of Lieutenant-General of Marines.

The various squadrons detached from Earl St. Vincent’s fleet, were very successful in their operations against the trade of the enemy, and by their activity kept the French coast in a continual state of alarm; but as the republican marine in the ‘ports of the ocean’ preferred the security it derived from the batteries on shore, to a repetition of the defeats it had already sustained, the noble Admiral had no opportunity of adding fresh laurels to those he had before acquired.

In February, 1801, when the reins of administration were committed to Mr. Addington, now Viscount Sidmouth, Earl St. Vincent was nominated First Lord of the Admiralty. In this situation, he introduced various extensive reforms, of which the expediency has been differently considered by opposite parties[28].

Soon after this appointment, the crew of his late flag-ship, the Ville de Paris, presented him with a flag. It was of white silk, with a red cross, having his Lordship’s arms beautifully embroidered in the centre. In the upper divisions were the words, “God save the King,” and “Long live Earl St. Vincent;” and in the lower, the following inscription; “This flag is presented to Earl St. Vincent, as an humble testimony of gratitude and respect, by the crew of his Majesty’s ship the Ville de Paris.”

During his Lordship’s presidency at the Admiralty, an expedition was sent to the Baltic for the purpose of counteracting the ill effects of the Northern Confederacy; it is needless to say, that this object was completely effected by the victory obtained over the Danes, at Copenhagen, April 2, 1801[29]. An attempt made to destroy the French flotilla at Boulogne, was unfortunately attended with a totally different result, notwithstanding every thing was attempted that might have been expected from the approved talents of the officers, and the known bravery of the men employed.

About this time, Earl St. Vincent obtained a patent for a Viscounty, with a collateral limitation, to him and the heirs male of his body lawfully begotten; and in default, to the children of his sister, Mary, by her marriage with William Henry Ricketts, late of the Island of Jamaica, Esq., deceased.

In the month of May, 1804, his Lordship was succeeded in the office of First Lord of the Admiralty, by the late Viscount Melville, the intimate friend and confidant of the immortal Pitt; and in the beginning of 1806, when Mr. Fox succeeded that lamented statesman, as Premier, he was again appointed to the chief command of the Channel Fleet, and was on this occasion permitted to carry the Union at the mast-head, instead of his own proper flag. In the autumn of the same year, his Lordship proceeded to Lisbon, in the Hibernia, a new first-rate; it is generally believed, for the purpose of making arrangements for the emigration of the royal family of Portugal[30], which country was at that time threatened with the presence of a French army.

In the month of April, 1807, the Earl retired from the command of the Channel Fleet. On the 7th May, 1814, he succeeded the late Lord Bridport, as General of the Royal Marines; and in 1815, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.

During the summer of 1818, this nobleman visited that stupendous national work, the Breakwater in Plymouth Sound; and both his patriotism and curiosity were fully gratified by the sight. A line-of-battle ship, the Bulwark, was lying within it, as quiet and easy as if she had been in Hamoaze, immediately after a smart gale from the south-west. The pleasure of seeing so great a public work in such a rapid state of progress, must have been greatly increased (as his Lordship confessed was the case), both by the reflection, that he himself was the projector of so great a national benefit, and the conviction that it answered his most sanguine expectations.

On the 19th July, 1821, the day of his present Majesty’s coronation, Earl St. Vincent was elevated to the rank of an Admiral of the Fleet. His Lordship had been senior Admiral of the Red, for more than five years previous to that event.

A portrait, by Hoppner, representing this venerable commander in a naval uniform, on the quarter-deck of a man-of-war, being an admirable likeness of him in his old age, was exhibited at the Royal Academy, in 1809. A bust by Chantrey, was exhibited at the same time.

Earl St. Vincent married, June 6, 1783, his cousin Martha, daughter of Chief Baron Parker, before-mentioned. By that lady, who died Feb. 8, 1816, and to whose memory he has erected a beautiful monument in Caverswall Church, Staffordshire, he had no issue. His Lordship’s nephew, Edward Jervis Ricketts, Esq., Barrister at Law, is heir presumptive to the Viscounty of St. Vincent.

Residence.– Rochetts, Essex.


EARL OF St. VINCENT, (p. 27.) The Spanish prisoners were landed at Lagos Bay.

  1. Sir Charles Saunders died Dec. 7, 1775. He was first Lieutenant of Commodore Anson’s ship, in his celebrated expedition to the South Sea.
  2. M. Pelly was afterwards Minister of Marine to the French republic.
  3. The Monmouth was commanded by Captain Arthur Gardiner, who died of his wounds the day after the action.
  4. The late amiable Duchess of Devonshire had nearly lost her life on an occasion of this kind; for when the fleet lay in Torbay, at the time her consort was attending his duty in the Western Camp, as Colonel of the Derbyshire Militia, she determined to take a view of the Foudroyant; but unfortunately, as Captain Jervis was leading that accomplished ornament of the British Court from Brixam Quay to the barge prepared to carry her on board, the plank over which they were going slipped, and thereby gave

    ‘The brightest beauty to the surly wave!’

    On being taken out of the sea, her Grace was under the necessity (Brixham being a wretched fishing town) of repairing to the cot of an old woman, with whom she exchanged clothes, and those of the Duchess remained in the possession of her humble hostess.
  5. During the trial of Admiral Keppel, in Jan. 1779, on four charges exhibited against him by Sir Hugh Palliser, relative to his conduct in the above action, Captain Jervis was examined as a witness. The evidence he gave was spirited, clear, consistent, and decidedly in favour of the accused.
  6. Captain Jervis was wounded by a splinter, which struck him on the temple. The engagement between the Foudroyant and the Pégase was admirably depicted by Serres, who devoted two pictures to the subject.
  7. May 29, 1782.
  8. The preliminary articles of peace between Great Britain, France, Spain, and America, were signed at Versailles, Jan. 20, 1783.
  9. On the execution of the unfortunate Louis XVI, the English ambassador was recalled, an embargo was laid on all corn vessels freighted for France; and on the 24th Jan. 1793, Lord Grenville intimated to M. Chauvelin, the minister of that power, that he must quit the kingdom within eight days. On the 1st Feb. upon the motion of the celebrated Brissot, the French National Convention declared war against his Majesty the King of Great Britain, and the Stadtholder of the United Provinces. On the llth this event was officially announced to Parliament, and proclamation issued for making reprisals.
  10. A faithful and curious account of the Campaign in the West Indies, accompanied by many official documents, and several handsome illustrative prints in aquatinta, copied from drawings made on the spot, was afterwards published by the late Rev. Cooper Willyams, the Admiral’s Chaplain.
  11. About this time he lost all his luggage, by the burning of the Boyne, his late flag ship. See Retired Captain, Hon. Sir George Grey, Bart.
  12. The limits of Sir John’s command were afterwards extended along the coasts of Spain and Portugal, to Cape Finisterre.
  13. A treaty of peace between France and Spain was signed at Basle, July 22, 1795; and on the 19th Aug. 1796, a treaty of alliance, offensive and defensive, was concluded between these powers. Spain declared war against England Oct. 8th following.
  14. Letters of marque and reprisal were formally issued against the Dutch, Sept. 15, 1795. Orders, however, to seize all vessels belonging to the republic, had been given on the 19th Jan. preceding.
  15. The British squadron, after this junction had been effected, consisted of the following ships, whose names are given according to the order in which they were formed previous to the commencement of the action on the 14th.
    Culloden 74 Captain Thomas Troubridge.
    Blenheim 98 Thomas Lenox Frederick.
    Prince George 98 Rear-Admiral William Parker.
    Captain John Irwin.
    Orion 74 James Saumarez.
    Irresistible 74 George Martin.
    Colossus 74 George Murray.
    Victory 100 Admiral Sir John Jervis, K.B.
    First Captain, Robert Calder.
    Second Captain, George Grey.
    Barfleur 98 Vice-Admiral Hon. Wm . Waldegrave,
    (Now Lord Radstock.)
    Captain James Richard Dacres.
    Goliah 74 Sir Charles H. Knowles, Bart.
    Egmont 74 John Sutton.
    Britannia 100 Vice-Admiral Charles Thompson.
    Captain Thomas Foley.
    Namur 98 James Hawkins Whitshed.
    Captain 74 Ralph Willet Miller.
    Diadem 64 George Henry Towry.
    Excellent 74 Cuthbert Collingwood

    With the Lively, Niger, and Southampton frigates, two sloops of war, and a cutter.

  16. Spanish Line of Battle.

    Van Squadron. Guns.
    Bahama 74
    Pelayo 74
    San Pablo 74
    Neptuno 80
    Concepcion 112
    San Domingo 74
    Conquistadore 74
    San Juan Nepomuceno 74
    San Genaro 74

    Repeaters. – Brigada, Casilda, Perla, Mercades – Frigates.

  17. Commodore Nelson, on joining the fleet, hoisted his broad pendant in the Captain, of 74 guns.
  18. On the 5th of the month, when passing Gibraltar, the Spanish Admiral despatched three 2-deckers, and a frigate, to escort about 70 sail of transports, with troops and military stores, for the camp at St. Roque, into Algeziras. One of the line-of-battle ships immediately rejoined the fleet, but the others were not able to do so till the close of the ensuing battle.
  19. See Note [2] at p. 23.
  20. “In this case, contrary to what was customary, the slightly wounded, or those deemed so at the date of the despatches, were not allowed to be included in the returns. One consequence of this was, that amputations, arising from mortification and other unexpected changes, were actually undergone by several, who had not been returned as wounded. In comparing, therefore, the loss in this general action with that in any other, it will be fair to consider the total of killed and wounded to have amounted, not to 300, but, at the least, 400 men.” James’s Naval History, v. ii, note at p. 63.
  21. The Victory, and several other ships, parted their cables.
  22. Notwithstanding these palliating circumstances, the conduct of the officers of the Spanish fleet, having been referred to a council of war,
    The Commander in Chief, Don Josef Cordova, was Deprived of all his offices, declared incapable of ever serving in any rank, and prohibited from appearing at Court, or in any of the chief towns of the maritime coasts.
    The second in command, Count Morales des Los Rios, was deprived of his rank.
    The Captains, Don Gonzale Vallego, Don Juan De Agairre, Don Josef De Torres, and Don Augustine Villivicienzo, deprived of their rank; the latter declared incapable of holding any other in future.
    Several other Captains and officers, were deprived of their offices for a limited time of six, four, and two years, according to the degree of their alleged criminality.
    Several Captains, Lieutenants, and Ensigns, were sentenced to be reprimanded in public.
  23. Vice-Admiral Thompson and Rear-Admiral Parker, were created Baronets; the honors of the Irish peerage were afterwards conferred upon Vice-Admiral Waldegrave; Commodore Nelson received the insignia of the most honourable military order of the Bath; the thanks of both Houses of Parliament were voted to the fleet; and gold emblematic medals were distributed to all the Flag-Officers and Captains, as on similar occasions.
  24. At this period Earl St. Vincent, and the officers under his command, joined in a public purse to be offered to government (exclusive of assessed taxes’), in aid of carrying on the war, into which his Lordship put one thousand pounds. The subscription amounted on the whole to 6,642l. 16s. 6d.
  25. Vice-Admiral of the Red.
  26. For the particulars of the mutiny at the Nore and Spithead, see Admiral Sir John Knight, and Vice-Admiral E. Griffith Colpoys.
  27. He subsequently received the freedom of Plymouth in a handsome silver box, beautifully embossed with suitable emblematical devices.
  28. In 1805, a person named Blagden suffered an imprisonment of six months, as the author of a suppressed pamphlet with the signature of Aristides, reflecting on the naval administration of Earl St. Vincent.
  29. See an account of the battle, under the head of Sir Thomas Foley, Vice-Admiral of the Red.
  30. The editor does not pledge himself for the accuracy of this statement.