# Royal Naval Biography/Rowley, Josias

SIR JOSIAS ROWLEY,

Baronet; Rear-Admiral of the Red; Knight Commander of the most honorable Military Order of the Bath; and Member of Parliament for Kinsule

This officer is the second son of Clotworthy Rowley, Esq. Counsellor at Law, and some time M.P. for Downpatrick, in Ireland, by Letitia, daughter of Samuel Campbell, of Bath, Esq., and a grandson of Sir William Rowley, K.B. Vice-Admiral of England, Admiral of the Fleet, and a Lord of the Admiralty, who died on the 1st. Jan. 1768.

After having been borne for some time on the books of a stationary vessel, Mr. Rowley embarked on board a sea-going ship in the year 1779; and served during the remainder of the war in the Channel, and on the West India station. He was made a Lieutenant towards the latter end of 1783; promoted to the rank of Commander in March, 1793; and became a Post-Captain April 6, 1795. This latter promotion took place immediately on his return from escorting the Princess Caroline of Brunswick to this country, on which occasion he commanded the Lark sloop of war, attached to the squadron under the orders of Commodore Payne[1]. In 1797, we find him in the Braave, of 40 guns, at the Cape of Good Hope, on which station he continued until the cessation of hostilities, and then sailed for England in the Imperieuse frigate, to which he had been removed in the summer of 1799.

Captain Rowley’s next appointment was to the Raisonable, of 64 guns, which ship formed part of Sir Robert Calder’s fleet in the action off Ferrol, July 22, 1805[2]; and on that occasion had one man killed and several others wounded. At the latter end of the same year, our officer accompanied the expedition sent against the Cape of Good Hope, under Commodore Popham and Sir David Baird; and after the reduction of that important colony proceeded with the former commander to the Rio de la Plata, where he remained until the final evacuation of Spanish America by the British forces[3].

In addition to the contents of the subjoined note, it is here necessary to remark, that Captain Rowley commanded the detachment of seamen landed with Lieutenant-General Whitelocke’s army, for the purpose of transporting the artillery from the place of debarkation towards the city of Buenos Ayres. “In this fatiguing service,” says Rear-Admiral Murray, who had succeeded to the chief command on that station, “the persevering conduct of Captains Rowley and Joyce, merited the highest encomiums. They had to drag the cannon for miles through swamps, and the men were always harnessed to them.

After the failure of the attack upon that city, our officer returned to the Cape of Good Hope, on which station he greatly distinguished himself, as will appear from the following imperfect outline of the transactions in which he was engaged.

The harbour of St. Paul’s having long been the rendezvous of those French cruizers, and such of their prizes as had escaped the vigilance of the British men of war stationed off the Isle of France, and la Caroline frigate having succeeded in entering that port with two homeward bound Indiamen richly laden, Captain Rowley, who commanded the blockade of the Isles of France and Bourbon, determined to attack the place, provided he could obtain the assistance of a detachment of troops from Roderiguez. Having communicated his plan to Lieutenant-Colonel Keating, commanding the garrison there, that officer immediately acceded to the measure, and in the most handsome manner embarked with all the troops that could be spared from the defence of the island. As secrecy and despatch were essential to the success of the expedition, the whole of the force intended to be landed, consisting of 368 soldiers, 100 seamen, and 136 marines, were put on board the Nereide frigate, and at dusk on the evening of the 20th Sept., 1809, the squadron[4] proceeded for the Isle of Bourbon.

On their approach towards the bay of St. Paul’s, to prevent suspicion, the Nereide preceded the other ships; and being anchored close to the beach, the whole of the detachment were landed with the greatest celerity, without any alarm being given to the enemy, and proceeded towards the batteries, which were stormed in succession and carried with the greatest gallantry, and several of the guns pointed on the ships in the roads; in the mean time the squadron stood into the bay, and according to the plan agreed upon, when the movements of the troops enabled them to act, opened their fire on the shipping, which was warmly returned by the French frigate, the Indiamen her prizes, and those batteries which, from their distance from the first point of attack, were enabled to continue their fire; but these were finally carried, and by nine o’clock the whole of the batteries, town, and shipping, were in possession of the British troops and squadron.

By this event, the Hon.E.I.Company’s ships, Streatham and Europe, together with property to an immense amount, were rescued out of the hands of the enemy; all the defences of the only safe anchorage in the island destroyed; and a frigate of 46 guns and 360 men; a brig of 16 guns, and three merchantmen, captured; one ship burnt on the stocks, and three other vessels destroyed. In the execution of this service, the total loss sustained by the British was 22 killed, 76 wounded, and 4 missing.

While the British were thus successful in the Isle of Bourbon, they experienced a reverse in a gallant attempt made to obtain possession of two French frigates, a corvette, and a captured Indiaman, lying in the harbour of Sud-Est, opposite to l’Isle de la Passe; the particulars of which will be found in our memoir of Captain Samuel Pym, who commanded on the occasion. This unfortunate business ended in the unavoidable destruction of the Sirius and Magicienne frigates, and the surrender to the enemy of the Iphigenia and Nereide, the latter after a glorious resistance, almost unparalleled even in the brilliant annals of the British navy.

“A momentary superiority thus obtained by the enemy was promptly and decisively crushed by the united zeal, judgment, perseverance, skill, and intrepidity of Captain Rowley, who, in the Boadicea, almost alone and unsupported, but by the never-failing energies and resources of his active and intelligent mind, under circumstances, as may be easily imagined, of extreme anxiety, mortification, and disappointment, in a few hours not only retook two of the King’s ships that had also fallen into the hands of the enemy, but captured the largest frigate possessed by the French in the Indian seas, and thus restored the British naval pre-eminence in that quarter, which his talents had long so successfully contributed to maintain[6].”

On the morning of the 12th Sept., 1810, Captain Rowley sailed from St. Paul’s Bay, in company with the Otter sloop and Staunch gun-brig, in order to attack two French frigates, (the Astrea and Iphigenia) which were then in the offing to windward. As he stood out from the anchorage, he had the satisfaction of recognizing the Africaine frigate, which joined him in the chace. By superior sailing, and having the same breeze as the enemy, that ship was enabled to close with them before dark; and led by her signals, the Boadicea was gaining fast upon them, when at 3 A.M. a heavy firing was observed about four or five miles a-head of the latter. Captain Rowley concluded that it was Captain Corbett’s intention merely to attempt crippling the enemy; but unfortunately at that moment the winds became light and variable, and the Africaine becoming unmanageable under the fire of both ships, (one in a most destructive raking position), after a very gallant, though unequal contest, was obliged to surrender, and the action ceased about fifteen minutes after four in the morning.

Day dawned, and shewed the result; the enemy appeared to have suffered little; the Africaine was in their possession, with no apparent loss but that of her mizen-top-mast. Such a state did not appear to justify Captain Rowley commencing an attack on a force so much superior, particularly in the then critical situation of affairs, when the Boadicea was the only remaining British frigate on the station; and Captain Rowley knew of two other frigates of the enemy and a corvette cruizing in the neighbourhood. He therefore made sail to bring up the Otter and Staunch, then out of sight; and having soon effected a junction, he led them towards the enemy, who, on the approach of the British, abandoned the Africaine, leaving an officer and 9 Frenchmen in charge of her, with most of the wounded, and about 83 of her crew, whom they had not time to remove. Her gallant commander, Captain Corbett, was wounded early in the action, and died a few hours after it had terminated.

Soon after this affair, the Astrea and Iphigenia, reinforced by a large brig of war, resumed their former station, and Captain Rowley again put to sea to meet them; but the dull sailing of the Otter and Staunch, and the circumstance of the enemy having the weather gage, combined to prevent his attacking them with any possibility of success. He therefore returned to St. Paul’s Road, from whence, on the morning of the 18th Sept. he discovered three sail in the offing, two of which appeared to have suffered in their masts and rigging. Our officer immediately weighed, in company with his former consorts, but from light winds was unable for some hours to clear the bay, at which period the strangers were nearly out of sight.

The Boadicea now having the advantage of a fresh breeze, neared the enemy; one of them, which had a crippled frigate in tow, cast her off, and made all sail away from her pursuers; the third bore up under her courses (having lost her top-masts,) to protect the other, which enabled Captain Rowley soon to run her alongside; when after a short, but close action, having lost 9 men killed and 15 wounded, she struck to the Boadicea, and proved to be the Venus, of 44 guns, with a complement, on leaving port, of 380 men, commanded by Commodore Hamelin, senior officer of the French squadron in India, victualled and stored for six months.

She had, in the early part of the morning, in company with the Victor corvette, captured, after a most gallant defence, his Majesty’s ship Ceylon, commanded by Captain Gordon, having on board Major-General Abercromby and his staff, bound for the island of Bourbon.

Captain Rowley made the signal for the Otter to take possession of the Ceylon, while the Boadicea took her prize in tow; and on the 21st they were anchored in safety at St. Paul’s, where in a few days both they and the Africaine were put in a state for service[7].

The grand obstacle to an attack on the Isle of France was the difficulty of finding a proper place for the debarkation of a considerable number of troops, the whole coast being surrounded with breakers; to which must be added, the supposed impossibility of finding anchorage for a fleet of transports; but these difficulties were surmounted by the indefatigable labours of Captain Rowley, seconded by the other naval officers, engineers, and pilots, in an attempt upon the island towards the close of the year.

On the 21st Nov., a large fleet of men of war and transports, under the orders of Vice-Admiral Bertie, having on board a body of troops about 8 or 10,000 strong, commanded by the Hon. John Abercromby, arrived at the place of rendezvous; and on the 29th, a landing was effected without opposition in Grande Bay[8], about 12 miles to windward of Port Louis. Some skirmishing occurred till the 2d Dec, while the utmost exertions were making for attacking the forts; but on that day the Governor-General, De Caen, proposed terms of capitulation, which were settled and agreed upon by Major-General Henry Warde, and Captain Rowley, on the part of the British; and on the morning of the 3d, signed and ratified at head-quarters, by which the whole island, with an immense quantity of stores and valuable merchandize, six large frigates, three smaller ships of war, five gun-boats, three captured lndiamen, and twenty-eight merchant vessels, were surrendered to the English, whose total loss in accomplishing the conquest of this important colony did not exceed 150 men in killed and wounded[9]. After the reduction of the Isle of France, three frigates were despatched on an expedition against the batteries of Tametava, on the coast of Madagascar, and to go from thence to root out the French from the Isle of Almerante, and some other places of minor importance; all which was happily accomplished; so that by the middle of January, 1811, there did not remain to the French a slip of territory in either of the Indies, nor a ship in the Indian ocean.

Captain Rowley returned to England with Vice-Admiral Bertie’s despatches, in which most honourable mention was made of his long and arduous services; and on his arrival was appointed to the America, of 74 guns, in which ship he proceeded to the Mediterranean. The following is a brief outline of his services on that station, where he continued during the remainder of the war.

On the 9th May, 1812, being on a cruize in the Gulf of Genoa, in company with the Leviathan 74, and Eclair sloop, he chased a fleet of merchant vessels deeply laden under the batteries of Languilla. At day-break on the following morning, the marines were landed, and stormed the batteries, mounting 9 heavy guns and a mortar, whilst the boats of the squadron brought out 16 of the vessels, and destroyed the remainder. This service was as performed with the loss of 4 men killed, 21 wounded, and 11 drowned. The latter was occasioned by the American’s yawl being sunk by a chance shot from the only gun that could bear on the boats, as they approached the shore.

Captain Rowley subsequently commanded the squadron stationed on the coast of Sicily and Naples; but nothing of moment occurred until the month of December, 1813, when he made a descent on the coast of Italy, under a hope of surprising Leghorn; but this gallant enterprize failed through the threatening state of the weather, and the inadequacy of his force, which consisted of only three ships of the line, two frigates, two post sloops, a store-ship, and about 1,000 men belonging to the Italian Levy. The loss sustained by the squadron on this occasion was 1 man killed, 3 drowned, and 11 wounded; that of the troops was likewise inconsiderable. About 300 prisoners were taken in two skirmishes with the enemy at Via Reggio and in the suburbs of Leghorn, and a great number slain and wounded[10].

Early in the following year, Captain Rowley sailed from Palermo, with his squadron and a large fleet of transports, having on board the army under Lord William Bentinck, destined for the reduction of Genoa. The advanced guard having been landed considerably to the eastward, moved forward, supported by the shipping, dismantling the batteries as the enemy retired on their approach. On the 30th March, the forces of Santa Maria, with the forts and defences in the gulph of Spezzia, capitulated, after considerable resistance, to a party of seamen under the orders of Captain Dundas, of the Edinburgh.

On the 13th April, the main body of the army was landed at Recce, in the gulph of Genoa, and immediately pushed on towards that city, accompanied by the flotilla. On the 17th, every preparation being made for the attack, at day-light the troops moved forwards to drive the enemy from their positions without the town. The gun and mortar-vessels, with the ships’ boats, armed with carronades, were advanced along the sea-line to attack the batteries; the greater part of the marines of the squadron were also embarked in the transports’ boats, ready to land as occasion might require. As soon as the troops advanced, the whole of the flotilla opened their fire with such effect, that on the landing of the seamen and marines, and preparing to storm, the enemy deserted their batteries, and the whole of the sea-line without the walls, which were instantly taken possession of, and soon turned on the place, by this means drawing off a considerable portion of the enemy’s fire.

At this moment, and greatly to the regret of the squadron, Sir Edward Pellew, with several line-of-battle ships, appeared in sight, which increased the alarm of the inhabitants, and induced the French Commandant to enter into a capitulation. On the following morning, the British troops were put in possession of the works, whilst the ships entered the Mole, where they found four fine brigs of war, besides a number of merchantmen. The capture of Savona by a detachment of the army, aided by a small squadron commanded by Captain Grant, completed the conquest of the Genoese territory. A 74-gun ship found on the stocks at Genoa, was launched and laden with the frame of another of similar dimensions. She was escorted to England by the America, in the autumn of 1814.

On the 2d Nov. 1813, Captain Rowley was rewarded with a patent of Baronetcy, for his eminent services on the Cape station. At the general promotion, Dec. 4, in the same year, he received the honorable appointment of a Colonel of Royal Marines. On the 4th June, 1814, he was advanced to the rank of Rear-Admiral; and in Jan. 1815, when the Order of the Bath was extended into three classes, we find him among the officers who were nominated to be Knights Commanders. He subsequently hoisted his flag on board the Impregnable, of 104 guns, and accompanied Lord Exmouth to the Mediterranean, where he remained but a short time, the hostilities occasioned by Buonaparte’s return from Elba having ceased immediately after that adventurer’s overthrow at Waterloo. Towards the latter end of 1818, Sir Josias Rowley succeeded Sir Benjamin Hallowell as Commander-in-Chief on the Irish station, where he continued during the customary period of three years, with his flag in the Spencer, of 74 guns. In 1819, the corporation of the city of Cork presented him with its freedom in a silver box; and about the summer of 1821, he was chosen representative in Parliament for Kinsale.

Residence.– Drumsna, co. Leitrim, Ireland; and Albany B. 4, Piccadilly.

1. See Note ‡ at p. 353, et seq.
2. See p. 405.
3. The armament under Commodore Sir Home Popham and Lieutenant-General Sir David Baird, sailed from Cork towards the latter end of 1805, and arrived in Table Bay Jan. 4, 1806. A landing having been effected with little opposition, the army began its march for Cape Town on the 8th; and on reaching the summit of the Blue Mountains, a body of about 5,000 men, chiefly cavalry, with 23 pieces of artillery, commanded by General Jansseris, Governor of the colony, was seen in the plain, in an attitude to oppose its progress. On a charge by the British troops, the enemy fled with precipitancy, and with a loss of about 700 killed and wounded, while the assailants had only 15 slain, and 197 wounded and missing. No other obstacle remaining to the advance of the British, the town surrendered on the following day. Governor Janssens, however, who was not included in the capitulation, took post with the remainder of his forces at a pass leading to Zivellendam, and evinced a disposition to defend the interior country ; but on Brigadier-General Beresford advancing against him, he agreed to surrender the whole colony and its dependencies, on the condition that he and his troops should be sent back to Holland, without being considered prisoners of war. Thus, with little difficulty, possession was obtained of an important colony, which has since been permanently annexed to the British empire.

After the reduction of the Cape of Good Hope, Sir Home Popham, who had been occasionally consulted by the immortal Pitt and his confidential friend the late Viscount Melville, respecting certain designs which they contemplated against South America, but which, from deference to the Emperor of Russia, had been laid aside ; having obtained information of the weakness of the Spanish colonies on the Rio de la Piata, and being animated with the prospect of the commercial and other advantages to be gained in those countries, ventured, without any immediate authority from the government at home, to carry his whole naval force to that quarter ; and he prevailed upon Sir David Baird so far to concur with him as to allow a body of troops under Brigadier-General Beresford, to co-operate in his enterprize. Thus assisted, he sailed from the Cape about the middle of April, and touching at St. Helena, he had the address to procure from the Governor a small reinforcement to his little army, which, after all, did not exceed 1600 men, including sailors trained to the use of small arms, and marines. In the beginning of June, he arrived at the mouth of la Plata; and on the 25th, landed the troops at some distance from Buenos Ayres. Brigadier General Beresford, after dispersing a body of Spaniards, who fled at the first fire, proceeded to the city, which he entered without resistance on the 27th. Favourable terms of capitulation were granted to the inhabitants, and the property of individuals on shore was respected ; but a great booty was made of the public money and commodities, as well as of the shipping in the river.

As soon as the new ministry received intelligence of Sir Home Popham's unauthorized departure from the Cape, and meditated invasion of South America, orders were despatched to recal him , but these reached him too late: and when the news of his success arrived in England, the strong objections to his plan were drowned in the universal joy at the fortunate result of his operations. The exultation for the capture of Buenos Ayres, which was expected to he followed hy the reduction of the whole of Spanish South America, was, however, of very short continuance. The Spaniards, who had been taken by surprise, no sooner discovered the deficiency in numbers of their invaders, than they were prompted by shame to concert measures for their expulsion. Emissaries from Buenos Ayres excited the country people to arms; and an insurrection being organized in the city, the Chevalier de Linieres, a French Colonel in the Spanish service, crossed the river unobserved in a fog, on the 4th Aug., with a force which, joining that in the city, made an attack on the British troops; and, after a sanguinary conflict in the streets and great square, on the 12th, the latter, to the number of 1,300, were compelled to lay down their arms, with a loss of 165 killed, wounded, and missing. The prisoners, contrary to the terms of capitulation, were marched up the country, instead of being permitted to return to their ships, as had been stipulated.

The squadron continued to blockade the river till the arrival of reinforcements from the Cape of Good Hope, on the 5th and 12th Oct., enabled Sir Home Popham to recommence offensive operations. He attempted first to gain possession of Monte Video, but without success, his ships not being able to approach near enough to batter the walls. A body of troops was then landed at Maldonado, under Colonel Vassal; and the Spaniards having been driven from that place, and from the isle of Gorrite, an encampment for the troops was obtained, and a tolerably safe anchorage procured for the ships. In this situation the British armament in South America remained at the close of the year, receiving successive reinforcements from England and the Cape, and preparing for further, and as it turned out, still more disastrous operations.

In the autumn of 1806, a body of troops was sent out under the command of Sir Samuel Auchmuty, and convoyed hy Rear-Admiral Stirling, who had been appointed to supersede Sir Home Popham as naval Commander-in-Chief on that station [ See p. 406. ]. On his arrival at Maldonado, Brigadier-General Auchmuty found the soldiery in a very destitute and exposed situation, with a corps of the enemy’s cavalry hovering about them. Maldonado itself was evidently untenable; and it became of the utmost importance to secure possession of some place of strength, before any attempts were made for the recovery of Buenos Ayres, the re-capture of which by the Spaniards was not known in England when this reinforcement was sent out. Montevideo appearing to be the only place on the river which could be assailed with probable advantage, the troops were landed near that town, Jan. 18th, 1807. On the following day, about 6,000 of the enemy marched out to attack them, but were repulsed with great slaughter, and the loss of a gun; and the British afterwards commenced the siege of the place. This proved a most arduous undertaking, from the strength of the works, and the want of sufficient entrenching tools.

4.  Raisonable, 64, Captain Jos. Rowley. NereideBoadiceaSirius ${\displaystyle \scriptstyle {\left.{\begin{matrix}\ \\\\\ \ \end{matrix}}\right\}\,}}$ Frigates, ${\displaystyle \scriptstyle {\left\{{\begin{matrix}\ \\\\\ \ \end{matrix}}\right.}}$ Captain Robert Corbett.Captain John Hatley.Captain Samuel Pym. OtterSapphire ${\displaystyle \scriptstyle {\left.{\begin{matrix}\ \\\ \end{matrix}}\right\}\,}}$ Sloops, ${\displaystyle \scriptstyle {\left\{{\begin{matrix}\ \\\ \end{matrix}}\right.}}$ Captain N. J. Willoughby. Wasp, Schooner, Lieutenant Watkins.
5. Boadicea, Iphigenia, Sirius, Magicienne, and Nereide frigates.
6. See Vice-Admiral Bertie’s official letter, Nav. Chron. v. 25, p. 158.
7. The lower masts of the Wyndham, a recaptured Indiaman, were applied to the Africaine, whose masts had all fallen subsequent to her surrender to the French frigates. By the capture of the Venus, the ships of the squadron obtained a supply of stores of which they were almost destitute, and were enabled to complete their victualling to four months.
8. A channel hitherto but little known, and which the enemy are supposed to have considered much too dangerous for a hostile fleet to attempt, was sounded by moonlight; and the Admiral’s ship, piloted by the Master of the Boadicea, led the whole through in safety.
9. No person could entertain a more accurate idea of the value of the Mauritius, in a political and commercial view, than the Abbè Raynai; who, as long ago as the middle of the last century, expressed his opinion as follows:

“The isle of France must always be allowed to be one of the most valuable possessions for any nation desirous of trading to Asia. It is situated in the African seas, just at the entrance of the Indian ocean. As it lies a little out of the common track, its expeditions can be carried on with greater secrecy. Those, who wish it was nearer to our continent, do not consider that if it were so, it would be impossible to reach the coasts of Malabar and Coromandel in a month’s time, and the more distant gulfs in two months; which, to a nation, who like the French, have no sea-port in Hindostan, is an inestimable advantage. This island, though in the same parallel of latitude as the barren and scorching coast of Africa, is temperate, and comparatively healthy. The soil is stony, but tolerably fertile. Experience has shewn that it will produce most of the necessaries, and even some of the luxuries of life. Whatever it may want may be supplied from Madagascar, and from Bourbon; where the inhabitants have retained simplicity of manners, with a taste for husbandry. Great Britain sees, with a jealous eye, her rivals possessed of a settlement, which may prove the ruin of her flourishing trade with Asia. At the breaking out of a war her utmost efforts will certainly be aimed at a colony that threatens her richest treasures. What a misfortune to France, should she suffer herself to be deprived of it!”

Fatal experience has proved that no position could be more successfully adapted to the annoyance of British commerce in the Indian seas, than the Mauritius, while in the possession of France. It served as a place of rendezvous for the enemy’s cruizers, where they could be refitted, and whither they might retire with their plunder. It was a depot of captured produce; in which view it was resorted to by American traders, who brought that produce to Europe, which the French were unable to convey in their own merchantmen.

By the 8th article of the definitive treaty of peace between France and the allied powers, signed at Paris, May 30, 1814, the isle of France was ceded in full property and sovereignty to his Britannic Majesty. In our hands it is impregnable, as long as we command the seas, and may, perhaps, be rendered a station of some importance.

10. See Hon. Captain Dundas, in our next volume.