Wallace, James (1731-1803) (DNB00)

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WALLACE, Sir JAMES (1731–1803), admiral, born in 1731, entered the navy as a scholar in the Royal Academy at Portsmouth in 1746. He afterwards served in the Syren, Vigilant, and Intrepid, and passed his examination on 3 Jan. 1753, when he was described on his certificate as ‘appearing to be 21.’ As he had been a scholar in the academy, the age was probably something like correct. On 11 March 1755 he was promoted to be lieutenant of the Greenwich (captured in the West Indies 16 March 1757), under Captain Robert Roddam [q. v.] In April 1758 he was appointed to the Ripon, one of the squadron under Sir John Moore (1718–1779) [q. v.] at the reduction of Guadeloupe in April 1759. In January 1760 he was appointed to the Neptune, going out to the Mediterranean as flagship of Sir Charles Saunders [q. v.] On 3 Nov. 1762 he was promoted to the rank of commander, and in the following April was appointed to the Trial sloop for the North American station. He afterwards commanded the Dolphin in the East Indies and the Bonetta in the Channel; and on 10 Jan. 1771 was promoted to be captain of the Unicorn. In November he was appointed to the Rose, a 20-gun frigate, which in 1774 he took out to the North American station, where during 1775 and the first part of 1776 he was actively engaged in those desultory operations against the coast towns which were calculated to produce the greatest possible irritation with the least possible advantage. In July 1776 he succeeded to the command of the 50-gun ship Experiment, in which in January 1777 he was sent to England with despatches—a service for which he was knighted on 13 Feb.

In July he returned to the North American station, and after several months' active cruising was, in July 1778, one of the small squadron with Howe for the defence of the Channel past Sandy Hook against the imposing fleet under D'Estaing [see Howe, Richard, Earl]. The Experiment continued with the squadron when Howe followed the French to Rhode Island, and in the manœuvres on 10–11 Aug. After that she was left cruising, and on the 20th was off Newport when the French were standing in towards it. Wallace drew back to the westward, ran down Long Island Sound, and reached New York by passing through Hell Gate, a piece of bold navigation previously supposed to be impossible for a ship of that size. On the 25th he joined Howe at Sandy Hook. In the following December, while cruising on the coast of Virginia, the ship in a violent westerly gale was blown off the land; and Wallace, finding her in need of new masts and new rigging, for which there were no stores at New York, even if in her distressed condition it had been possible to get there, bore away for England. When the ship was refitted he joined the squadron which sailed from St. Helens under Arbuthnot on 1 May, and with him turned aside for the relief of Jersey, then threatened by the French under the prince of Nassau. Hearing, however, that Nassau had been repulsed and that some frigates had been sent from Portsmouth, Arbuthnot pursued his voyage, leaving the Experiment to strengthen the force at Jersey. When he was joined by the frigates, Wallace concerted an attack on the French squadron which had gone over to the mainland; and, finding them endeavouring to make St. Malo, he drove them into Cancale Bay, followed them in, despite the protestations of the pilot, silenced a six-gun battery under which they had sheltered, and burnt two of the frigates and a small cutter that were fast on shore. The third frigate, the Danaë of 34 guns, and two smaller vessels were brought off and sent to England.

Wallace then rejoined Arbuthnot, who had been forced by foul winds to wait in Torbay, and sailed with him for New York. In September he was sent to the southward with a considerable sum of money for the payment of the troops in Georgia. On the 24th he fell in with a detachment of D'Estaing's fleet, and was captured off Savannah. Being acquitted of all blame by the court-martial, he was appointed in March 1780 to the Nonsuch of 64 guns, and in July, when on a cruise on the coast of France, captured the corvette Hussard, and on the 14th the celebrated frigate Belle Poule, commanded by the same captain, the Chevalier de Kergariou Coatlès, who had formerly commanded the Danaë, and was now killed in the engagement. In the following year the Nonsuch was one of the fleet which relieved Gibraltar in April [see Darby, George]; and on the homeward voyage, while looking out ahead, chased and brought to action the French 74-gun ship Actif, hoping to detain her till some others of the fleet came up. The Nonsuch was, however, beaten off with heavy loss; but the Actif, judging it imprudent to pursue her advantage, held on her course to Brest. Wallace's bold attempt was considered as creditable to him as the not supporting him was damaging to the admiral; and in October he was appointed to the 74-gun ship Warrior, which in December sailed for the West Indies with Sir George Brydges Rodney (afterwards Lord Rodney) [q. v.], and took part in the battle of 12 April 1782. In 1783 Wallace returned to England, and for the next seven years was on half-pay. In the Spanish armament of 1790 he commanded the Swiftsure for a few months, and in 1793 the Monarch, in which he went to the West Indies, returning at the end of the year. On 12 April 1794 he was promoted to be rear-admiral and appointed commander-in-chief at Newfoundland, with his flag in the 50-gun ship Romney. With this one exception, his squadron was composed of frigates and smaller vessels, intended for the protection of trade from the enemy's privateers; so that when a powerful French squadron of seven ships of the line and three frigates, escaping from Cadiz in August 1796, came out to North America, he was unable to offer any serious resistance to it, or to prevent it doing much cruel damage to the fishermen, whose huts, stages, and boats were pitilessly destroyed (James, i. 409). Wallace was bitterly mortified; but the colonists and traders, sensible that he had done all that was possible under the circumstances, passed a vote of thanks to him. He returned to England early the next year, and had no further service. He had been made a vice-admiral on 1 June 1795, and was further promoted to be admiral on 1 Jan. 1801. He died in London on 6 Jan. 1803. Wallace has been sometimes confused with Sir Thomas Dunlop Wallace of Craigie, to whom he was only very distantly—if it all—related; and has been consequently described as the husband of Eglantine, lady Wallace [q. v.] It does not appear that Sir James Wallace was ever married.

[The memoir in Ralfe's Naval Biogr. i. 413, is exceedingly imperfect; the story of Wallace's services is here given from the passing certificate, commission and warrant-books, captains' letters and logs in the Public Record Office. See also Beatson's Naval and Military Memoirs, James's Naval History, and Troude's Batailles Navales de la France. Gent. Mag. 1803, i. 290; Navy Lists.]

J. K. L.