Royal Naval Biography/Wilson, George

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Admiral of the Red.

We find no mention of this officer previous to Feb. 1780, on the first day of which month he attained the rank of Post-Captain. In Jan. 1782, he commanded the Eurydice, of 28 guns, attached to the squadron under Sir Samuel Hood, when that officer was attacked at the anchorage at Basse Terre, in the island of St. Christopher’s, by the Count de Grasse[1]. The Eurydice was one of the four frigates that covered the landing of the British troops after the repulse of the French fleet; and was afterwards present in the actions of April 9 and 12, when the Count de Grasse was defeated and taken prisoner by Sir George Rodney[2].

Immediately subsequent to the above glorious event, Captain Wilson was appointed to the command of the Fame, of 74 guns, and ordered to cruize off Hispaniola, with Sir Samuel Hood, to watch the beaten enemy’s motions. He continued in the same ship on the Leeward Island station until after the conclusion of the American war.

During the Spanish and Russian armaments, in 1790 and 1791, Captain Wilson commanded the Inconstant of 36 guns; but in consequence of the settlement of the disputes with the Courts of Madrid and St. Petersburgh, that frigate was put out of commission in the autumn of the latter year. In 1793, when the war began with France, our officer was appointed to the Bellona, of 74 guns, and for some time served in the Channel Fleet, under Earl Howe. On the 13th Oct. 1794, he sailed from Plymouth for the West Indies, in company with Vice-Admiral Caldwell, and arrived at Martinique on the 14th of the following month.

On the 5th Jan. 1795, Captain Wilson, being on a cruize off the island of Deseada, in company with the Alarm frigate, fell in with a fleet of French transports, escorted by two frigates and three armed ships, one of which, the Duras, of 20 guns and 70 men, having on board 400 troops, was taken. In the course of the same month, the Bellona captured la Duquesne French frigate, of 44 guns; several of the enemy’s privateers likewise fell into Captain Wilson’s hands during his stay on that station.

Previous to his return to Europe our officer assisted at the reduction of Trinidad by the forces under Rear-Admiral Harvey and Lieutenant-General Sir Ralph Abercromby; and was also present at the unsuccessful attack made upon Porto Rico by the same commanders[3]. On his arrival in England, about the latter end of 1797, he was again ordered to join the Channel Fleet, in which service he continued to be employed until his advancement to the rank of Rear-Admiral, Feb. 14, 1799. The dates of his subsequent promotions are, Vice-Admiral, April 23, 1804; and Admiral, Oct. 25, 1809. He married, Aug. 22, 1801, Miss Catharine Pollard, of Ewell, Surrey.

  1. See Retired Captain. J. N. Inglefield, and p. 34.
  2. See note * at p. 35, et seq.
  3. Towards the latter end of June, 1796, Rear-Admiral Henry Harvey arrived at Martinique, and relieved Sir Hugh C. Christian in the command of the fleet employed in that quarter; but nothing of importance occurred until Feb. 1797, when the Rear-Admiral, in conjunction with Sir Ralph Abercromby, determined on the reduction of Trinidad. For this purpose, on the 12th of that month, the troops destined for the expedition were embarked on board the ships of war and transports, and sailed from Fort Royal Bay. On the 14th, the armament arrived at the island of Cariacou, one of the Grenadines, where they were joined by the men of war and transports which had been ordered to rendezvous at that place. The next day the fleet proceeded to its destination; on the 16th it came within sight of Trinidad, and stood towards the Gulph of Paria. At half past three P.M. a Spanish squadron was discovered at anchor in Shagaramus Bay, consisting of four sail of the line and one frigate, under the flag of a Rear-Admiral. As the day was far advanced before the fleet approached the bay, and the enemy appeared in force in Gasparaux island; the Arethusa, Thorn, and Zebra, were ordered to proceed a little further up the Gulph, and anchor with all the transports, while the Alarm, Favorite, and Victorieuse, were directed to continue under sail during the night, to prevent any vessels sailing from Port Espagne. Just before dark Rear-Admiral Harvey anchored with the ships of the line, in order of battle, opposite the enemy’s squadron, within random shot of their ships and batteries. At two o’clock in the morning of the 17th, the Spanish squadron was discovered to be on fire, and all of them were consumed excepting one, which, at day light, was brought out by the boats of the fleet without receiving any damage.

    Sir Ralph Abercromby immediately landed with a large body of troops; the superintendence of this service was entrusted to Captain, now Vice-Admiral, Wolley, of the Arethusa, covered by the Favorite sloop, and took possession of the town without opposition. On the next day the Governor desired to capitulate for the whole island. The articles were agreed to, and in the evening the Spanish troops laid down their arms, and the whole colony submitted to his Britannic Majesty.

    The success which had attended the British arms at Trinidad, induced Rear-Admiral Harvey and Lieut.-Gen. Abercromby, to attempt the reduction also of Porto Rico; and having made every necessary arrangement for the security of Trinidad, they proceeded with the greater part of the fleet and army to this island. On the 17th April they made Porto Rico, and came to anchor at Congrejos Point. The next morning the troops were disembarked in a small bay on the north side of the island, meeting with little opposition from about 100 of the enemy, who soon retired. On approaching the town, however, it was found too strongly fortified, and too actively defended by gun-boats and other craft, to admit of any hope of success. After bombarding the town for some days, and endeavouring to destroy a magazine which was situated near it, but without any visible effect, on the 30th the General gave up the enterprize, re-embarked his troops, and retired with the loss of about 200 men.