Royal Naval Biography/Ross, Charles Bayne Hodgson

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A Companion of the most honorable Military Order of the Bath.
[Post-Captain of 1802.]

This officer, a son of the late Lieutenant Ross, R.N., received his first commission in 1796, and was advanced to the rank of Commander in 1800. Towards the latter end of the same year he had the misfortune to be wrecked in the Diligence, a brig of 18 guns, on the Honda bank, near Cuba; but happily his officers and crew were all saved by the Thunderer 74.

Captain Ross obtained post rank Oct. 15, 1802; and subsequently commanded the Desirée and Pique frigates, on the Jamaica station. In Aug. 1803, we find the former ship employed in the blockade of St. Domingo, on which service she continued till the evacuation of that place by the French troops under General Rochambeau, an event already noticed at p. 815 of our first volume[1]. Among the armed vessels taken by the Pique in 1804 and 1805, were le Terreur French cutter, of 10 guns and 75 men; and the Orquijo, a Spanish corvette, mounting 18 guns. The capture of two French brigs of war in the following year is thus described by Captain Ross in his official letter to the commander-in-chief:

H.M.S. Pique, off St. Catharine’s, 27th Mar. 1806.

“Sir,– I have the honor to inform you, that yesterday, crossing over from St. Domingo to Curaçoa, I fell in with two men of war brigs, standing in for the land. At one P.M. being within long range, I commenced firing to prevent their getting in with the shore; and from superior sailing closed with them at two, when a most destructive fire continued for about twenty minutes; but a flaw of wind favouring us, the helm was put down, which placed us immediately across the hawse of the Commodore. She was directly boarded by Lieutenants Ward and Baker, and every inch of her decks most obstinately defended. The slaughter on both sides was dreadful; and it is with real concern I state the loss of Mr. (John) Thompson, the Master, who was killed, with 8 seamen; and Lieutenants Ward and Baker, with 12 seamen and marines, wounded[2]. The contest was very severe; but in about five minutes the colours were hauled down: the other struck after a few broadsides more, and we took possession of the Phaeton and Voltigeur, of 16 guns and 120 men each, French brigs of war, beautiful vessels, and only nine months old. It was impossible for two vessels to be more obstinately defended, every thing being cut to pieces, and nearly one half of their crews killed or wounded. I understand they had been roughly handled by an English man of war brig the day before[3].

“I beg leave to recommend to your notice my first Lieutenant, (William) Ward, whose good conduct at all times has merited the highest approbation; he is, I am afraid, dangerously wounded[4]. * * * * The wound of Lieutenant (P. H.) Baker I rejoice to say, will only lay him by for a short time. * * * * We had only 1 man wounded on board; all the others were killed and wounded on the brig’s deck. The ship’s company behaved uncommonly well; and I trust the conduct of all will merit your approbation. I have the honor to be, &c.

(Signed)Charles B. H. Ross.”

Vice Admiral J. R. Dacres,
&c. &c. &c.

On the 1st Nov. in the same year, Captain Ross sent three boats to intercept a schooner, coming round the S.W. end of Porto Rico; but owing to a very heavy squall, with rain, they lost sight of her in the night. However, Lieutenant Bell, who commanded the detachment, pushed in for Cabaret bay, where he destroyed a battery of three guns, and captured a very fine Spanish brig, pierced for 12 guns. The next day, Lieutenant Baker, in the launch, after some skirmishing, drove a French privateer, of 2 guns and 26 men, upon the reef off Cape Roxo, where she was totally lost. Returning to join his ship, the same officer captured, after a very long chase, another privateer, of 1 gun and 20 men.

During the late contest between Great Britain and America, the subject of this sketch served as Flag-Captain to Rear-Admiral Cockburn in the Marlborough, Sceptre, arid Albion, third rates[5]. The particulars of the warfare in which he was engaged will be found in our memoirs of that officer, and those under his orders, who commanded in person on various occasions. We are not aware of Captain Ross himself having been detached on any service of greater importance than that of an expedition up St. Mary’s river, from whence he returned to Cumberland island, on the coast of Georgia, with a ship loaded with timber, and an English East Indiaman, which had been captured by an American privateer. He also embarked all the produce collected at the town of St. Mary’s in the vessels taken there by Captain Barrie, blew up the fort on Point Petre and another battery, and destroyed the barracks and store-houses, together with some merchandise and guns that were not deemed fit to bring away[6]. This was one of the last acts of hostility committed by the force under Sir George Cockburn, who previous to his departure from the Halifax station, returned his public thanks to Captain Ross and his other gallant companions, in a General Memorandum, of which the following is a copy:

Albion, Bermuda, 7th April, 1815.

“Gen. Mem.– In taking leave of the several Captains, Field-Officers, Commanders, other Officers, Seamen, and Marines, lately composing the force acting under my immediate orders against the enemy in Georgia, the Chesapeake, &c. I have the highest satisfaction in having the directions of the commander-in-chief to convey to them his entire approbation of their good conduct, and of their invariable zeal and exertions in their country’s service, as set forth in my reports, and to which he has informed me he will not fail to draw the notice and consideration of my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty.

“Whilst promulgating this flattering testimony of the commander-in-chief’s favorable consideration of the forces lately acting under my orders, I cannot refrain from making known to them also that their invariably cheerful, gallant, and steady behaviour, was as gratifying to me as honorable to themselves; and for which I must therefore beg leave to offer them my warmest acknowledgments, and to assure them how happy it will make me to have the good fortune of again acting with them, in the event of our country calling for our services at any future period.

(Signed)G. Cockburn, Rear-Admiral.”

To the Captains, Field-Officers, Commanders, other Officers, Seamen, and Marines, lately acting under my orders in America, and on the coast thereof.

Captain Ross’s next appointment was to the Northumberland of 78 guns, which ship it will be remembered was selected to convey the late Napoleon Buonaparte to St. Helena[7]. He was nominated a C.B. Dec. 8, 1815; appointed to superintend the Ordinary at Portsmouth, in 1819; and to be Resident Commissioner at Jamaica, in July, 1822.

He married, in 1803, Miss Cockburn, of Kingston, Jamaica, sister-in-law of Vice-Admiral Sir George Cockburn, G.C.B.

Agent.– Messrs. Maude.

  1. The Desireé’s boats appear to have captured and destroyed a great number of vessels laden with supplies for the enemy’s garrison.
  2. The boarding party consisted of not more than 30 officers and men; but Captain Ross, who had gone in chase of the other brig, lost no time in sending a fresh supply, when he discovered that the enemy were not inclined to yield so tamely as had been expected.
  3. See Captain John Fyffe.
  4. Lieutenant Ward had previously distinguished himself when commanding the Pique’s gig and yawl, by boarding and carrying the Santa Clara, a Spanish schooner of one 9-pounder and 28 men, completely equipped for war.
  5. The Marlborough captured the Leonore French privateer, of 10 guns and 80 men, off Scilly, in Oct. 1812.
  6. Fort Petre mounted six 24-pounders and two brass 6-pounders.
  7. See Vol. I, p. 527.