Royal Naval Biography/Montagu, William Augustus

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A Companion of the Most Honorable Military Order of the Bath, and a Commissioner of the Stamp Office.
[Post-Captain of 1807.]

This officer was made a Lieutenant Nov. 14, 1804; and promoted to the rank of Commander Oct. 31, 1805: his post commission bears date Oct. 12, 1807.

We first find Captain Montagu commanding the Terpsichore, an old 32-gun frigate, on the East India station; where, with only 26 long twelves and 2 six-pounders mounted, and no more than 180 officers, men, and boys at quarters, he fought, and fairly beat the Semillante French frigate, mounting 40 guns, with a complement of at least 300 men. The particulars of this action, and of the five days’ chase which succeeded it, will be found in James’s Nav. Hist. 2d edit. vol. V. pp. 97–101[1].

Captain Montagu’s next appointment was to the Cornwallis, a large teak-built frigate, of 50 guns and 335 men[2]. In that ship he assisted at the reduction of Amboyna, &c. as will be seen by reference to p. 198 et seq. The following is a copy of his official letter to Captain (now Sir Edward) Tucker, giving an account of the service performed at Boolo-Combo:

H.M.S. Cornwallis, Jan. 17, 1810.

“Sir,– I beg leave to inform you, that on my arrival in the Bay of Bouthian, I sent a flag of truce to the officer commanding the fort of Boolo-Combo, requesting permission to water the ship; this he positively refused; in consequence of which I landed a detachment of 100 men, under Captain Forbes of the Madras European regiment, with a field-piece, to take the fort, which the enemy continued to defend until the troops were within 200 yards of the breach; the Europeans having horses ready, then fled to a small fort at Bouthian, and the native soldiers, amounting to 200, took refuge in the woods, and continued to annoy us during our stay; so that I am sorry to say we had one man killed, and nine wounded, among the latter Captain Forbes slightly.

“The fort contained 9 nine-pounders and 2 brass field-pieces, defended by 30 Dutch soldiers, and the 200 natives already mentioned. Eleven small vessels, from 20 to 50 tons, hauled up under its protection, we burnt; and, previous to abandoning the fort, we spiked the guns, brought off the ammunition, and burnt the public buildings.”

On the 1st Feb. 1810, perceiving a brig lying under the fort at Manippa, with Dutch colours flying, Captain Montagu sent three boats to bring her out. This service was performed with great judgment by Lieutenant Vidal, under a heavy fire of musketry and grape, the vessel being very close to the shore. The prize was bound to Amboyna, with a cargo of turtle, fowls, fruit, and sago, which afforded a seasonable supply to the ship’s company of the Cornwallis.

Two days afterwards Captain Montagu captured the Dutch corvette Mandarine, of 16 guns and 66 men. His conduct at Amboyna is thus spoken of by Sir Edward Tucker.

“To Captains Montagu and Spencer, the greatest praise is due, for the able support afforded by them in the attack on the forts and batteries, where a difficult navigation, with baffling winds and strong currents, required the greatest judgment in the management of the ships.”

Captain Montagu’s official letter reporting the capture of the Margaretta Dutch national brig, Mar. 2, 1810, will be given in our memoir of Lord Selsey, who had the direction of the boats employed on that occasion.

From this period we lose sight of Captain Montagu until Nov. in the same year, when he was entrusted with the command of the naval brigade landed to assist at the reduction of the Isle of France. The following paragraph is extracted from the general orders issued by Major-General the Hon. John Abercromby after the defeat of the French troops before Port Louis, Dec. 1, 1810:

“Major-General Abercromby is happy also to acknowledge the steadiness shewn by the 12th and 22nd regiments; and he feels himself particularly grateful for the zealous exertions of a detachment of seamen landed from the squadron, under the command of Captain Montagu; he requests to offer him, and the officers and men under his command, his sincere acknowledgments for the service which they have rendered to the army.”

In another general order, promulgated subsequent to the surrender of that valuable. colony, there appears another paragraph, no less complimentary to the navy:

“The exertions and able assistance received from Captain Montagu, R.N. and the officers and seamen with the army on shore, have been too conspicuous not to have attracted the observations and acknowledgments of every individual. Major-General Abercromby must, however, request that Captain Montagu will be pleased to convey to those who were under his command the impression which their conduct has made on his mind.”

During the latter part of the war. Captain Montagu commanded the Niobe frigate. He was nominated a C.B. Dec, 8, 1815; appointed to the Phaeton of 46 guns, on the peace establishment, Oct. 29, 1819; and put out of commission Sept. 23, 1822 He married, Aug. 26, 1823, Anne, third daughter of Sir George William Leeds, Bart.

Agent.– Sir Francis Ommanney.

  1. See also Naval Chronicle, Vol. XXI. p. 23.
  2. See p. 169.