Transcriber's note: Minor spelling inconsistencies, mainly hyphenated words, have been harmonised. Obvious printer errors have been repaired. The Latin number (i) in the text refers to a transcriber's note at the end of this e-book.
MEMOIRS AND CORRESPONDENCE
ADMIRAL LORD DE SAUMAREZ.
FROM ORIGINAL PAPERS IN POSSESSION OF THE FAMILY.
BY SIR JOHN ROSS, CAPTAIN IN THE ROYAL NAVY.
IN TWO VOLUMES.
LONDON: RICHARD BENTLEY, NEW BURLINGTON STREET, Publisher in Ordinary to her Majesty. 1838.
LONDON: PRINTED BY SAMUEL, BENTLEY, Dorset Street, Fleet Street.
Transcriber's note: Minor spelling inconsistencies—mainly hyphenated words—have been harmonised. Obvious printer errors have been corrected, but the original spelling has been retained.
The Latin number (i) behind a word refers to the transcriber's notes at the end of this e-book.
CONTENTS OF THE FIRST VOLUME.
Genealogy of the family of Saumarez.—Curious Record.—Branches of the late family.—Marriage of the late Lord de Saumarez. Page 7
Commencement of his Career.—His Education.—Visit of the Duke of Gloucester to Guernsey.—Decides for the Navy.—Is put on the Solebay's books.—School at London.—Embarks in the Montreal.—Winchelsea, Pembroke, Levant.—Smyrna.—Returns home.—Passes for Lieutenant.—Embarks in the Bristol.—Proposal to leave the Navy.—Attack on Fort Sullivan.—Gallant Conduct.—Is made Lieutenant.—Bristol, Chatham, Lady Parker.—Commands the Spitfire.—Rhode Island.—Many Engagements.—War with France.—Appearance of the French Fleet under D'Estaing.—Spitfire burnt.—Appearance of Lord Howe. Page 14
Serves ashore.—Returns to England in the Leviathan.—Providential escape from shipwreck.—Visits Guernsey.—Joins the Victory.—A journey to London.—Joins the Fortitude.—Battle off the Dogger Bank.—Anecdotes of Admiral Parker.—Lieut. Saumarez promoted to the rank of Master and Commander.—Appointed to the Tisiphone.—Sails for the West Indies with Admiral Kempenfelt.—Action with Comte de Guichen.—Captures a French ship of thirty-six guns.—Is despatched to Sir Samuel Hood.—Arrives at Barbadoes.—Escapes from two French men-of-war.—Passes through an intricate channel.—Joins Sir Samuel Hood.—Gallant conduct in cutting out a vessel.—Tisiphone ordered home.—Fortunate exchange with Captain Stanhope.—Takes command of the Russel. Page 41
Situation of the Hostile Fleets.—Surrender of Brimstone Hill.—Junction of the Fleets.—Antigua.—St. Lucia.—Sailing of the French Fleet under Comte de Grasse.—Action of the 9th of April.—12th of April.—Gallant conduct of the Russel.—Captain Saumarez returns to Jamaica.—Comes to England with Convoy.—Is paid off at Chatham, and confirmed a Post-captain. Page 65
Captain Saumarez returns to Guernsey.—His exemplary Conduct.—Visits Cherbourg.—Is introduced to the French King.—Returns.—Changes at Guernsey.—Prince William Henry visits the Island twice.—His Reception.—Appearance of Hostilities in 1787.—Captain Saumarez is appointed to the Ambuscade, and pays her off.—His Letter on his Marriage.—Remarks thereon.—Armament of 1790.—Saumarez commissions and pays off the Raisonable.—War of 1793.—Appointed to command the Crescent.—First Cruise; takes a prize and saves Alderney.—Second Cruise; captures a cutter.—Third Cruise.—Return.—Crescent docked and refitted. Page 84
Crescent refitted.—Sails for the Channel Islands.—Falls in with the French frigate La Reunion.—Particular account of the action.—Letters from Captain Saumarez to his brother.—Brings his prize to Portsmouth.—Official letters.—Letters from various persons.—Ship refitting.—Captain Saumarez obtains leave of absence.—Is knighted for his gallant conduct. Page 99
Sir James Saumarez is placed under the orders of Admiral McBride.—Is detached, and attacks an Enemy's squadron.—Narrow Escape from Shipwreck.—Off Havre.—Cherbourg.—Private letters relating the particulars of several Cruises on the French coast.—Gallant Action with a French squadron of superior force off Guernsey. Page 119
Sir James commands a Squadron of Frigates, in the Channel.—Visit to Weymouth.—Joins the Channel Fleet.—Black Rocks.—Private Letters and Instructions.—Appointed to the Orion.—Crescent's Officers and Crew volunteer to follow him.—Appointed to the Marlborough (pro tempore).—Commands a detached Squadron.—Returns to the Orion, attached to the Channel Fleet.—Private Letters.—Lord Bridport's Action.—Orion, the headmost Ship, begins the battle.—Official Letter.—Two private Accounts.—Returns to Portsmouth.—Expedition to Isle Dieu.—Returns to Spithead. Page 143
Orion taken into dock.—Is refitted, and joins the Channel Fleet.—Detached on a particular service.—Returns.—Proceeds to reinforce Sir John Jervis.—List of his fleet.—Battle with Spanish Fleet off Cape St. Vincent described in a private letter.—Conduct of Saumarez in the action.—Salvador del Mundo strikes to the Orion, and is taken possession of by her Lieutenant.—Engages the Santissima Trinidada.—She strikes to the Orion.—Remarks on that occasion.—Lagos Bay.—Lisbon.—Sir James sails on a cruise with Admiral Sir H. Nelson.—Returns.—Commands the advanced squadron.—Several private letters.—Commands the advanced squadron off Cadiz.—Mutiny in the fleet.—Anecdote and remarks thereon. Page 164
Sir Horatio Nelson resumes the command of the advanced squadron.—Bombardment of Cadiz.—Nelson sails for Teneriffe.—Saumarez resumes the command.—Escorts a convoy to Gibraltar.—Refits at Lisbon, and returns.—Conducts the negotiation for exchange of prisoners.—Sir W. Parker relieves Sir James.—He arrives at Gibraltar.—Is attached to Nelson's squadron.—Proceeds off Toulon.—A storm.—Vanguard dismasted.—Great exertions of the Orion and Alexander in refitting the Vanguard at St. Pierre.—Sailing of the Toulon fleet.—Nelson reinforced by ten sail of the line.—Pursues the enemy unsuccessfully.—Proceedings of the fleet in a journal addressed by Sir James to his family.—French fleet discovered in Aboukir Bay.—Battle of the Nile.—Diagram of ditto.—Conduct of the Orion.—Saumarez wounded.—Writes to Nelson.—Goes on board the Vanguard.—Occurrences there.—Remarks on the name of the second in command being left out in Nelson's despatches.—On the mode of attack.—Various letters and orders.—Sir James's account of the battle, in a letter to Lady Saumarez. Page 189
Fleet repair damages.—Sir James receives orders to take a detachment of six ships of the line, and five prizes, under his command.—Sails for Gibraltar.—Journal of his tedious voyage.—Arrives off Candia.—Decides to pass through a perilous passage, and escapes the dangers.—Falls in with the Marquis of Nisa, and summons the French garrison at Malta.—Puts into Port Auguste, in Sicily.—Sails from thence.—Tedious passage.—Letters from Earl St. Vincent and Nelson.—Arrives at Gibraltar.—Reception there from the Admiral, Governor, &c.—Sails thence.—Arrives at Lisbon.—Sails thence.—Arrives at Spithead.—Paid off at Plymouth.—Remarks on his treatment, and explanation of it. Page 231
Sir James writes to Earl Spencer.—Is appointed to the Caesar, of 84 guns.—Joins the Channel fleet.—The Brest fleet having escaped, proceeds to the Mediterranean.—English fleet at Bantry Bay.—Return of the French fleet.—Caesar at Lisbon.—Sir James returns to Spithead.—Rejoins the Channel fleet.—Earl St. Vincent takes the command.—Appoints Sir James to command the advanced squadron.—Black Rocks.—Earl St. Vincent's letter of approbation.—Douvarnenez Bay.—Various letters.—Complete success of the blockade.—Enemy's fleet laid up.—Sir James returns to Spithead.—Conclusion of 1800. Page 287
Sir James Saumarez is promoted to the rank of Rear-admiral.—Appointed to command the advanced squadron.—Proceedings at the Black Rocks.—Douvarnenez Bay.—Returns to England.—Appointed to command a squadron on a very particular service.—His secret orders, &c. and letter of approbation.—Ready for sea.—Is created a Baronet of the United Kingdom. Page 321
Sir James sails from England in command of a squadron of six sail of the line on a particular service.—Arrives off Cadiz.—Attacks a French squadron at Algeziras.—Captain Brenton's account of the battle.—Loss of the Hannibal.—Colonel Connolly's statements.—Logs of the Caesar and ships of the squadron.—Sir James proceeds to Gibraltar.—Remarks.—Flag of truce sent to Algeziras.—Correspondence with Linois.—Squadron refit at Gibraltar. Page 337
Observations on the Battle of Algeziras.—Copies of the Journals of the Spencer, Audacious, and Venerable.—Remarks on them.—Further particulars.—The Spanish account.—The French account.—Bulletin from the Moniteur.—Anecdote of an occurrence at St. Malo.—Sword presented to Linois.—Lines on the occasion.—His improvement of Naval tactics.—Epigram.—Anecdote of the intrepidity of one of the Caesar's men. Page 363
Mole of Gibraltar.—Negotiation for the exchange of prisoners unsuccessful.—Captain Ferris and the officers of the Hannibal return on parole.—They sail for England in the Plymouth lugger, which carries home despatches and private letters.—Despatch sent to Lord Keith.—Admiral Saumarez shifts his flag to the Audacious.—Extraordinary exertions of the crew of the Caesar.—Their admirable conduct.—Captain Brenton and the garrison.—Arrival of the Spanish squadron at Algeziras.—Increased exertions of the crews of the squadron.—Private letters.—Preparations to attack the enemy.
Occurrences at Gibraltar.—Determination of Sir James to attack the combined squadron.—Caesar rehoists the Admiral's flag.—Sir J. Brenton's description of that interesting scene.—His account of the battle.—Destruction of two Spanish three-deckers.—Capture of the St. Antonio.—Action between the Venerable and Formidable.—Public letters.—Private letters.—French details of the battle.—Spanish ditto.—Orders of sailing.—Remarks. Page 401
LIST OF PLATES.
Portrait of Rear-admiral Sir James Saumarez, taken after the battle of the 12th July 1801 Frontispiece.
Action with the Crescent and Reunion taken at the time the latter surrendered Page 103
Commencement of the action between the Crescent and her squadron, with the French squadron of superior force off Guernsey 131
Close of the action when the Crescent retreated among the rocks at Guernsey 134
Chart of the island of Guernsey, showing the positions of the English and French squadrons 135
Diagram of Algeziras and Gibraltar Bay 346
Page 86, l. 26, for "present" read "late."
142, l. 4,—"ninety-second" read "ninety-two."
166, l. 23,—"Towny" read "Towry."
198, l. 19,—"Marcon" read "Marcou."
215, l. 14,—"Collossus" read "Culloden."
In perusing the following Memoir, the reader must not be surprised if he finds that the accounts of the several battles in which the illustrious Saumarez was engaged, differ in some degree from those previously given to the public. Every circumstance connected with them has been carefully examined, and whatever statements are now advanced can be borne out by documentary evidence. The career of Saumarez was a long and eventful one: he entered the Navy while the nation was at peace; he subsequently served during the American War of independence, and throughout the late continental war, in both of which he was in more engagements with the enemy than any other officer. He was the last of the heroes of the 12th of April 1782.
LORD DE SAUMAREZ.
Genealogy of the family of Saumarez.—Curious Record.—Branches of the late family.—Marriage of the late Lord de Saumarez.
Admiral the Right Honourable James Lord de Saumarez, of Guernsey, was born, on the 11th March 1757, in the parish of St. Peter-Port, the principal town of that romantic island. The family, whose original name was De Sausmarez, is of Norman extraction, and of great antiquity in the island of Guernsey, where their lineage can be traced almost to the Norman conquest.
Their remote ancestor received from the Dukes of Normandy a fief of the district of Jerbourg, and was appointed hereditary captain (or chatelain) of the castle of that name, which lies within the limits of the fief, and is situated in the parish of St. Martin.
Among the records of the island, we find the following interesting particulars:—In the twenty-seventh year of the reign of Edward the First, at a court of chief pleas held at Guernsey, in the presence of the judges of assize, Matthew de Sausmarez made homage for his fief; which appears to have been acknowledged by an act of Edward the Second in the year 1313: and in the reign of Edward the Third, in the year 1331, an application was made by Matthew de Sausmarez for a confirmation of his rights and prerogatives, as formerly enjoyed by his ancestors.
On receipt of this petition, his Majesty sent an order to John de Roches, guardian of the Channel islands, to make a perquisition thereon; authorising him to give to it his royal assent if not found to be prejudicial to the rights of the Crown or the privileges of the inhabitants, who had, by consent of his Majesty's father, fortified the castle of Jerbourg as a place of retreat and protection, as also for the security of their effects in case of invasion by the enemy.
In pursuance of his Majesty's order, the guardian appointed twelve of the most respectable inhabitants of the island to be examined before the bailiff or chief magistrate, who declared upon oath that the predecessors of Matthew de Sausmarez held that appointment from the Crown, with sundry appurtenances and privileges, which, in consideration of their services as hereditary keepers of the castle, had always been, and ought to be, inseparable from the fief of Jerbourg; and they further deposed, that these were not in any respect detrimental to the prerogative of the Crown, or injurious to the rights of the inhabitants, who still retained the advantage and privilege of retreating into the castle, with their effects, in every emergency.
The following curious and interesting fact, as attached to this ancient fief, has been also recorded in a Guernsey periodical: "Whenever the lord had occasion to go to Jersey, his tenants were obliged to convey him thither, for which they received a gratuity of three sous, or a dinner; but they were not obliged to bring him back." And this exemption may be thus explained:—The lord, or captain of Jerbourg, in those days held a fief in Jersey, called by the same name, which no longer belongs to the De Saumarez family; but formerly, when it was possessed by the same individual, the same rights and privileges were attached, so that when the affairs of the lord called him to Jersey, he was conducted to that island by his Guernsey tenants, and brought back by those of Jersey.
It is indeed certain, that, during many years after the Norman conquest, several gentlemen possessed estates in both islands, more or less considerable in one than in the other. The fief of Jerbourg remained in the family of De Sausmarez till about the year 1555, when it became the property of Mr. John Andros, in right of Judith de Sausmarez: but it has since reverted to the descendants of the old family, and belonged to Thomas de Sausmarez, his Majesty's late attorney-general in the island of Guernsey, who died lately at a very advanced age,—the father of twenty-eight children!
The genealogy of the family between the year 1481, and the birth of the grandfather of the late Lord de Saumarez on the 4th June 1635, will be found in the Addenda, as also that of the subsequent members of the family who are not mentioned here; but, in proceeding, we cannot pass over the names of Captains Philip and Thomas Saumarez, uncles of the late lord, who were two of the bravest and most meritorious officers of their time. The former, who was first lieutenant with Commodore Anson, afterwards commanded the Nottingham, sixty-four, captured the French seventy-four, Mars, and was killed in action 1747; and the latter, when in command of the Antelope, of fifty guns, captured the French sixty-four, Belliqueux, in the following extraordinary manner:
 See Addenda.
In the month of November 1758, Captain Saumarez was stationed in the Bristol Channel for the protection of the trade, and, the wind blowing strong from the westward, had anchored his ship, the Antelope, of fifty guns and three hundred and fifty men, in King Road; and there being little probability of the appearance of an enemy under such circumstances, he had repaired to Bristol to partake of the hospitality of his friends in that prosperous city. While sitting at dinner, an express came from Barnstaple to inform him that a large ship, supposed to be an enemy, had anchored under Lundy Island.
Captain Saumarez immediately repaired on board his ship, weighed anchor, and, notwithstanding the contrary wind and fresh gale, he beat down the channel, and in the morning saw her at anchor off Ilfracombe. On discovering the Antelope, the enemy weighed and stood towards her, and, on coming near, hoisted French colours and seemed prepared to engage. As soon as the Antelope came within gun-shot, she opened her fire, when the Frenchman immediately hauled down his colours without returning a shot. Captain Saumarez now sent his boat with the first lieutenant to know if she had surrendered; but finding that the boat did not return, he bore down under her stern, and asked if they had struck. The answer was in the affirmative, and she was immediately taken possession of. She proved to be the Belliqueux, of sixty-four guns and five hundred men.
When the captain came on board the Antelope, and found that he had surrendered to a ship so much inferior in force, both in men and weight of metal, his chagrin and mortification knew no bounds. He exclaimed that he had been deceived, and actually proposed to Captain Saumarez that he should allow him to return to his ship, and that he would fight him fairly; to which the English captain replied that he must keep possession now; that he had obtained it, but he had no objection to his going back to France and getting another ship of the same kind to try the fortune of war. He conducted his prize back to King Road, and returned to Bristol with his French guest to enjoy the hospitality and hearty welcome of his friends, after an absence of only eighteen hours!
Matthew de Saumarez, father of Lord de Saumarez, being brought up to the medical profession, arrived at considerable practice and high respectability. He was remarkable for his urbanity of manners and hospitality, particularly to strangers. He married, first, Susannah, daughter of Thomas Dumaresq, Esq. of Jersey, and by her had Susannah (an only child), who married Henry Brock, Esq. of Guernsey: his second wife was Carteret, daughter of James Le Marchant, Esq. of Guernsey, and by her he had a numerous family, who are brothers and sisters of the late lord.
 See Addenda.
The family of De Sausmarez, a branch of which changed the spelling of the name to Saumarez about the year 1700, was not only one of the most ancient and respectable, but the members of it successively held the highest situations, and were connected with the first families residing in the island of Guernsey, which has always been distinguished for its loyalty and patriotism: indeed, it has not only produced several of our bravest and greatest warriors, but its inhabitants have ever manifested themselves to be proof against every attempt to seduce them from their allegiance. The opinions which have been entertained unfavourable to this fact,—arising no doubt from the proximity of the island to the coast of France, and the general use of the French language, but, most of all, from its having at one time been infested by adventurers,—are totally without foundation.
Having been many years stationed at this island, we have witnessed the loyalty and intrepidity of the natives: and could give several instances where the Guernsey pilot was the first to board the enemy.
Lord de Saumarez was married at Guernsey, on the 27th October 1788, to Martha, only daughter and heiress of Thomas Le Marchant, Esq. by marriage with Miss Mary Dobree, two of the most ancient and respectable families in the island. This marriage was the consequence of a long and mutual attachment: it need scarcely be added, that it completed the happiness of both. They became the parents of eight children, whose biography will be found in the Appendix.
1767 to 1778.
Commencement of his Career.—His Education.—Visit of the Duke of Gloucester to Guernsey.—Saumarez decides for the Navy.—Is put on the Soleby's books.—School at London.—Embarks in the Montreal.—Winchelsea, Pembroke, Levant.—Smyrna.—Returns home.—Passes for Lieutenant.—Embarks in the Bristol.—Proposal to leave the Navy.—Attack on Fort Sullivan.—Gallant Conduct.—Is made Lieutenant.—Bristol, Chatham, Lady Parker.—Commands the Spitfire.—Rhode Island.—Many Engagements.—War with France.—Appearance of the French Fleet under D'Estaing.—Spitfire burnt.—Appearance of Lord Howe.
The illustrious admiral, of whose ancestors a biographical sketch has been briefly given in the preceding chapter, and in the Addenda to this work, and whose glorious career is the subject of this record, passed from the first rudiments of learning, under a dame, to the more manly tuition of Elizabeth College, in Guernsey, where his brother, fifteen months his senior, was receiving his education.
Although he always said that his brother was a much better scholar in both Latin and Greek than himself, his taste for poetry, and his discrimination in that refined branch of literature, must have appeared at a very early age, as, when he was only seven or eight years old, he surprised his mother by reciting to her several lines from the first pages of Milton's Paradise Lost, which he had learnt of his own accord,—a foretaste of the gratification which he derived through life in reading that noble poem. His mother was so delighted with this unexpected discovery of his taste, that she could not forbear making it known to her friends; especially to a literary gentleman of her acquaintance, who sent young Saumarez a present of the Golden Verses of Pythagoras, which he also committed to memory, and retained throughout his life.
But the great sensibility of his heart was most apparent in his attachment to all his relations: their pleasures and their pains were always his; and it is therefore not surprising that he was a favourite with them all. In those days, Guernsey was, as it were, a large family; and the society of the upper classes was linked in a small, but a select and happy, circle, interested in each other's welfare. The communication with England not being, as now, kept up by regular packets, the arrival of a stranger was an event of some importance, and mostly occurred through the visits of the king's ships going on foreign stations, which put into Guernsey for wines and other stores: on these occasions the captains and officers were constant guests at the hospitable mansion of our hero's father, and it was usually the province of young Saumarez to look out for and report their appearance.
In July 1767, this little community was surprised by an occurrence which to this day is related among the events of "olden times," as having made a great, and certainly a lasting impression. His royal highness the Duke of Gloucester, on his return from a tour in France, anchored in Guernsey roads. At two in the morning, the hostess of the only inn in the town was awakened by a call that the Duke of Gloucester had landed, and was coming there: not supposing this possible, she for a long time refused to rise; but, being at length convinced, she directed the party to the house of the lieutenant-governor, who was as incredulous as the good woman of the Ship Inn.
At last he appeared at the window in his dressing-gown and bonnet de nuit, and finding whom he was called upon to receive, he exclaimed, in the trepidation of the moment,—"My house is not fit for the duke; go to my friend, Doctor Saumarez." There at last his royal highness found entrance, and a hearty welcome; but it may be conjectured that no little surprise and bustle spread through the house at the unexpected arrival at such an hour of the illustrious guest. The blue damask room was, however, soon prepared, with other apartments for the aides-de camp, Sir Henry Clinton and another.
Young Saumarez and his brother were sent off, as soon as the sun rose, to inform their uncle the attorney-general, who resided some distance from the town, that the royal visitor had arrived. On their return the streets were decorated with crowns, festoons, and garlands of flowers, which had risen as from the wand of a magician; the bells were ringing, the populace were in holiday suits, and the whole effect was so animated, that the more splendid scenes of after-life never erased it from the mind of Saumarez.
The duke, on rising, was surprised at the quick display of loyalty he beheld, and expressed himself much gratified at the proofs he received of respect and attachment which these faithful islanders evinced in his person towards the king and the royal family. His royal highness condescended to honour a ball in the evening; and often did young Saumarez hear his aunt (a sister of his mother, married to Major Brabazon of the 65th regiment,) relate her having opened the ball in a minuet with his royal highness.
Young Saumarez had long and constantly cherished a decided predilection for the navy. Accustomed as he had been from childhood to hear of the fame which his valiant uncles, Captains Philip and Thomas Saumarez, had acquired, his mind was early inspired with a desire to tread in their path, and to acquire for himself a name which might emulate theirs. His eldest brother was already in the navy; but his father having six sons, when he found that James had evinced such a desire for the sea, and having connexions in the service, probably considered that he could not place another more advantageously than in a profession which had already afforded an honourable and glorious career to two of his family. Accordingly he accepted the offer of Captain Lucius O'Bryen, of his majesty's ship Soleby, who entered his name on the books of that ship on the 20th September 1767 as volunteer, where it remained until the 3rd of June 1770, having been there two years and nine months. During this time, however, he never joined the ship, but was for a part of it at a school in the vicinity of London, which had been recommended to his father by a naval friend, who appears to have been ill qualified to make the selection, if we may judge from the amusing account which Saumarez gave in after-life of his acquirements in that seminary. Fortunately, as he said, when he had been there ten months, his father being in London, sent for him, and to his great joy took him home, and with this portion of education he was launched into the world; as a few months after he went to Portsmouth to join the Montreal, Captain Alms, who had been a friend of his uncles, and who had visited his father at Guernsey.
On the 9th of August 1769, the ship sailed for the Mediterranean. Great pains were taken by the captain to improve the talents of young Saumarez, which soon became apparent: but the commodore being obliged to return home on account of ill health, he placed him in the Winchelsea; and we find that he went on board the Pembroke, bearing the broad pendant of Commodore Proby, and commanded by Captain Durell, who was a relative of the family, on the 14th August 1770, and joined the former ship on the 28th September following.
Nature happily had endowed young Saumarez with talents, and qualities of mind and heart, which in a great measure repaired the want of a regular and more enlarged education: a sound judgment and quick sensibility soon led him to perceive his deficiency in acquired knowledge; and he was inspired with a laudable ambition, to remedy it by every exertion the feeble means within his reach could accomplish. When, indeed, it is considered that only a few volumes of the Spectator and Idler, with some stray volumes of the Roman History, composed his little library, it may justly be inferred that it was no ordinary capacity or moderate application which could form a character such as was manifested by him.
Frigates, in those days, had neither chaplains nor schoolmasters; and the "young gentlemen," when off duty, were left to spend their time as they thought fit. The midshipmen of the present day can have but a faint idea of the hardships and privations of a naval aspirant's life at the period Saumarez entered the service. Biscuits with insects, and tainted meat, was the usual fare when at sea at their mess-table; and none would have thought of procuring such luxuries as are now indispensable necessaries to their successors in the service. While there is great cause to rejoice in the change which has taken place, it should not prevent the expression of just and well-founded regret that the amelioration has spread to the opposite extreme; the placing a son in the navy being now a heavy tax instead of a relief, which we know is felt severely by old naval officers on half-pay, who naturally wish to employ a son in the service to which they belong.
With grateful remembrance, Saumarez has often been heard to say, that, on his departure from home, his affectionate father put a purse containing fifteen guineas in his hand; observing that, as he knew he had a large family, he trusted that he would use it with economy, but that when he wanted more he might draw on his banker. So strictly, however, did he fulfil this recommendation, that his father said, the sight of his drafts gave him pleasure.
His first journal is of the Winchelsea, Captain Samuel Cranston Goodall, and commences on the 8th November 1770, at which time he was first rated a midshipman: he remained in that ship until the 14th February 1772. During these seventeen months he gained a valuable friend in Captain Goodall, whose regard he preserved to the end of his life. Saumarez had constant access to his cabin: he allowed him to write there, and make extracts from the best authors in his possession, which was of great service in improving his acquaintance with modern literature. This ship had been cruising in the Mediterranean, and visited most of the interesting ports there; and, in February 1772, the Winchelsea was ordered to England,—an account joyfully hailed by all on board, but by none more sincerely than by Mr. Saumarez, whose heart panted to see his dearest friends. What, then, must have been his feelings, on the arrival of the Levant to relieve the Winchelsea, when he was sent for by Captain Goodall, and apprised that Captain Thompson would receive him?—and as it was of importance that he should finish his time before going home, he strongly recommended his stay, especially as it was his father's wish. Although it was as if a sword had pierced his heart, he calmly submitted to the decision, and he saw the worthy Captain Goodall and his messmates depart without a murmur.
This self-denial was not wholly unrewarded. The Levant was a larger ship, affording much better accommodation to the midshipmen; and Mr. Saumarez, having been nearly three years at sea, became of some consequence with his messmates. The date of his joining the Levant was the 15th February 1772, having been discharged on the preceding day from the Winchelsea. He soon formed a close friendship with Mr. Samuel Thompson, the captain's son; which continued unshaken till the death of the latter in 1782.
The British merchants having petitioned for a ship of war to be stationed in the Mediterranean for the protection of the trade, the Levant was ordered on that service, and for fourteen months remained in that inactive position, which young Saumarez used to say he considered a blank in his existence. Having no books to relieve the spirits, no letters to cheer the heart, life wasted away without profit or satisfaction. There must, however, have been a few bright days; for he often mentioned with pleasure the hospitality of the English families settled in Smyrna, of which he occasionally partook when Captain Thompson allowed it. This was the more frequent on account of his thorough knowledge of the French language, which was the means of procuring him attentions rendered doubly acceptable by the dulness of that anchorage: such were the advantages he derived from his familiarity with that language, that he never failed to recommend the study of it to all his young proteges before going to sea.
On the 28th of May 1773, the Levant was at length released, and sailed for Gibraltar; from which place she proceeded to Port Mahon, to be repaired. On the 28th of May 1774, she resumed her old station in Smyrna harbour, (in consequence of an insurrection, in which several Christians had been massacred, owing to the destruction of the Russian fleet in the Bay of Chisma, on the contiguous coast,) having been away precisely one year. She again left that station, on the 19th of September, for Gibraltar; and finally for England in March 1775, on the 29th of which month she arrived at Spithead. On the 14th of the following April, Mr. Saumarez was discharged from the Levant; and had at length the long-wished-for happiness of seeing again his native land, and the friends from whom he had been for more than five years separated.
The Levant, being paid off, was recommissioned by the Honourable Captain Murray, who used every persuasion to induce Mr. Saumarez to remain in the ship; but, after an absence of five years, he was too anxious to spend some time with his family, to accede to his proposal, and the moment he was at liberty he set off for Guernsey.
Taking into account the time his name had been on the books of the Solebay, he had now served more than the required six years of service: and as the regulations for age were at that time not strictly enforced, after a few weeks of rest he went to London to pass his examination for lieutenant; but owing to the commissioners being on their annual visits to the dock-yards, and their return being protracted, two months elapsed before the object was accomplished. This enabled him again to return to his friends, but he was not then permitted long to enjoy their society.
In the year 1775, on the breaking out of the war with the American colonies, Commodore Sir Peter Parker being appointed to the command of a squadron, with his broad pendant on board the Bristol, of fifty guns, Mr. Saumarez, then eighteen years of age, was ordered to join that ship, through the recommendation of Admiral Keppel, who, having been the friend and contemporary of his uncles, ever evinced an interest in his advancement. After an interview with Sir Peter in London, he embarked, on the 9th of October, at Sheerness, whence the Bristol proceeded to the Nore at the end of November. After passing a short time at Spithead and Plymouth, which they left on the 21st of December, the squadron sailed for Cork, the last rendezvous of the expedition destined for South Carolina. This consisted of six frigates, two bombs, and two hundred transports, containing seven regiments of infantry and two companies of artillery, under the command of that distinguished nobleman, the Earl Cornwallis, and the Honourable Brigadier-general Vaughan. These two chiefs, with their aides-de-camp, Lord Chewton and Captain Eustace, were embarked on board the Bristol: they sailed about the middle of January 1776.
On the passage out, which was remarkable for stormy weather, and for the consequent dispersion of the convoy, the activity and zeal of young Saumarez not only attracted the attention, but gained the esteem of the noble earl; who, by offering to make him his aide-de-camp and take him by the hand, had nearly persuaded him to leave the naval service, and enter the army, offering him a commission in the 33rd, his own regiment. We have heard him relate, that, after he had more than half consented, he went below and told his messmates, who immediately jeered him so much about "turning soldier," that he returned to the quarter-deck and gave a positive refusal to the earl, who could not help expressing his disappointment and chagrin on the occasion.
There can be no doubt that he would have highly distinguished himself in the army, or wherever he was placed; but, happily for the nation, and for the honour of the profession which he had first chosen, he was destined to display his bravery and splendid talents in a sphere where there happened to be a much greater range for them, than if he had followed the fortunes of the noble earl in the other honourable service. Many years after, when Saumarez's career had proved the wisdom of his decision, he met Lord Cornwallis at dinner at Lord Spencer's, then first lord of the admiralty; who, on hearing this anecdote, observed, "Lord Cornwallis would have deprived the naval service of one of its best officers."
The Bristol arrived off Cape Fear early in May, where they found General Clinton; and, having repaired their damages, reached Charlestown in the beginning of June. The troops were landed on the island, at a low, sandy spot, in the midst of a heavy surf, and the guns of the Bristol and the Experiment were put on board the Harcourt East-indiaman, to enable them to get over the bar.
One of the transports, called the Friendship, having been fitted as a ship of war to be taken into the service, was commissioned by Lieutenant Charles Hope, first of the Bristol, an excellent officer, and he selected Sir James Barclay and Mr. Saumarez to be his officers; but, after a few days, he prevailed on Captain Hope to allow him to return to the Bristol, which he did only two days previously to the attack on Fort Sullivan, which, after passing the bar, it became necessary to silence and take possession of. This fortress was considered the key of the harbour, and the fortifications of it were constructed with great skill: the works being formed of cabbage-tree, a kind of wood peculiarly calculated, by its porous and elastic quality, to resist the effects of shot; and, from its not being liable to splinter, the troops in the batteries were secured from what is deemed one of the principal means of destruction; while the Bristol's crew were fully exposed to the fatal effects of the enemy's fire. The guns being taken on board on the 28th of June 1776, at 8 A.M. the squadron began the attack by a furious and incessant cannonade, which continued with little intermission until nine o'clock at night. Never did British valour shine more conspicuously, nor did our ships in an engagement of the same nature experience so serious an encounter: the squadron could not approach within grape-shot of the enemy, and therefore could not clear the batteries; and the spring of the Bristol's cable being cut by the shot, she swung so as to get dreadfully raked. Mr. Saumarez was employed in replacing this spring three times in the Mercury's boat, assisted by the captain of that transport.
The brave Captain Morris, after receiving a number of wounds, with a noble constancy disdained to quit his duty; until, his arm being shot off, he was carried below in a condition which did not afford any probability of recovery. At one time, the quarter-deck of the Bristol was cleared of every one except the commodore, who stood on the poop-ladder alone; a spectacle of intrepidity and firmness which has been seldom equalled, never exceeded. It is said, that Mr. Saumarez seeing him in this situation, requested him to come down; when he replied with a smile, "What! you want to get rid of me, do ye?" while he well knew that the reverse was the fact.
The loss sustained by the squadron in general, and by the Bristol in particular, in an action unexampled in point of duration, and in which it was finally repulsed, was very great: she had alone one hundred and eleven killed and wounded, including her gallant captain and several other officers.
During this severe conflict, Mr. Saumarez had a very narrow escape: at the moment he was pointing a gun on the lower-deck, of which he had the command, a shot from the fort entered the port-hole, struck the gun, and killed seven out of eight men who were stationed to work it. Some time afterwards, being called on deck to execute certain orders respecting the replacing the spring on the cable, he was standing close to Mr. Darley, a midshipman, for whom he had the greatest regard, when a shot took off the young man's head and covered Mr. Saumarez with his blood.
Captain Morris, after being carried below, lingered contrary to expectation, and hopes were formed that he would survive; when, unfortunately, his attendant being overcome with sleep, it is supposed the captain's bandages gave way, and, not having strength to awake him, he was found in the morning bathed in his blood. His dissolution becoming inevitable, one of the officers asked him if he had any direction to give with respect to his family; to which he nobly replied, "None! I leave them to the Providence of God, and the generosity of my country," and soon after expired. This engagement lasted thirteen hours: it was the first in which Mr. Saumarez had been present; and, after the very many in which he was subsequently engaged, he has been heard to declare it to have been one of the most severe he ever witnessed. Captain Scott, of the Experiment, lost his arm; and there were several death-vacancies for lieutenants.
Mr. Saumarez's conduct during the whole of this obstinate and bloody contest was deemed so especially meritorious, that the commodore expressed his highest approbation of it in the warmest and most flattering terms, and soon after the battle he promoted him to the rank of lieutenant. The following is a copy of his first acting commission:
"By Sir Peter Parker, Commander-in-chief of a squadron of his Majesty's ships to be employed on a particular service.
"Whereas I think it necessary for the good of his Majesty's service to have an Acting-lieutenant on board his Majesty's ship the Bristol, you are hereby required and directed to take upon you the office of Acting-lieutenant of his Majesty's ship Bristol; strictly charging and commanding all the officers and company of the said ship to behave themselves jointly, and severally, in their respective employments, with all due respect and obedience unto you their said LIEUTENANT; and you are likewise to observe and execute the GENERAL PRINTED INSTRUCTIONS, and such orders and directions as you shall from time to time receive from your captain, or any other your superior officer, for his Majesty's service.
"For which this shall be your Order. Dated on board his Majesty's ship Bristol, in Five-fathom Hole, off Charlestown, the 11th day of July 1776. P. PARKER
"To Mr. James Saumarez, hereby appointed to act as Lieutenant on board his Majesty's ship Bristol, until further orders. "By command of the Commodore. JOHN READ."
In this ship Acting-lieutenant Saumarez remained until the 23rd September; serving often with the army on shore, and on all occasions taking a distinguished part. He was actively employed in the boats of the Bristol on every landing that took place, from the first disembarkation of the troops in Gravesend Bay, to the landing at Rochelle from Frog's-neck. Lord Howe then commanded in person on this expedition, and hoisted his flag in the Carysfort, the gallant Captain Fanshawe. His lordship appointed Mr. Saumarez his aide-de-camp, and selected him to convey General Clinton, commanding the troops, to the vicinity of Rochelle, when he had the satisfaction of receiving the thanks of his lordship for his zealous exertions. All the boats were then ordered to join their respective ships off New York; an order, it may be supposed, not unwelcome after an absence of several weeks, during which officers and men had been subject to all the privations consequent on such a service, sleeping in boats, and scarcely having any change of clothing.
Saumarez was afterwards on duty up the North River, and had the honour of conveying Lord Cornwallis and his staff on board his boat in the first landing in the Jerseys; and on several occasions he was actively useful to his lordship, who repeatedly acknowledged his services. Being employed in the disembarkation of troops newly arrived, he discovered that his brother's regiment, the twenty-third Welsh (now Royal Welsh) Fusileers, was one of them; and soon after he had the happiness of meeting him, who, on his part, was not less agreeably surprised at the welcome and unexpected encounter.
Being at head-quarters when Fort Washington surrendered, the garrison, consisting of two thousand seven hundred men, having laid down their arms, Lieutenant Saumarez was the bearer of the tidings to the Bristol; but they appeared so incredible, that it was some time before Sir Peter Parker could be persuaded of their authenticity.
Rear-admiral Lord Shuldham, having on the 6th September, shifted his flag to the Bristol, Lieutenant Saumarez followed his commander, who then hoisted his broad pendant in the Chatham. He was therefore removed by Lord Viscount Howe, vice-admiral of the white, and commander-in-chief of all his Majesty's ships and vessels in North America, to the Chatham, as fifth lieutenant "for the time being." In this situation Lieutenant Saumarez so often and so particularly distinguished himself in the boats, and in command of the Lady Parker schooner, tender to the Unicorn, Captain Ford, that, on the 17th February 1778, he was appointed lieutenant commanding the Spitfire, a schooner-rigged galley, by special direction of the commander-in-chief, as will appear by the following order:
"By Commodore Hotham, on board the Preston.
"The Viscount Howe having directed that you shall command the Spitfire galley, in the room of Lieutenant Scott; you are hereby directed to repair on board the said galley, and take the command of her accordingly, using the utmost despatch in preparing and fitting her for a passage to Rhode Island.
"Given on board the Preston, off New York, 17th February 1778. W. HOTHAM.
"To Lieut. Saumarez, hereby appointed to command H.M. galley, the Spitfire. "By command. TITUS LEWIS."
Our young hero, who had been far less actively employed than he wished, had now obtained almost the height of his ambition,—in other words, a situation where he could have an opportunity of displaying his talents and intrepidity. He found his new vessel in the king's yard; and, having taken charge from her former commander, proceeded to fit out with surprising diligence. On the 23rd February he received twenty-three seamen from the Preston; and on the 27th a sergeant and eleven marines completed his complement of thirty-seven men, including himself and the carpenter; when he immediately weighed and made sail. It soon after blew a gale, but he succeeded in reaching the Brothers, where he anchored, and found H.M.S. Sphinx, and some traders: the next morning he weighed, and falling in with H.M.S. Falcon and convoy, they proceeded on their voyage. On the 4th of March strong gales obliged the convoy to put into Huntingdon Bay, where they were detained by stormy weather till the 13th of March. On the 15th the convoy reached Oyster-pond Bay, and on the 16th anchored off Fort Island, in company with the Eagle, Nonsuch, Apollo, Mermaid, Unicorn, Ariel, Maidstone, Grampus, and Stromboli; and here their active operations began. On the 28th of March an enemy's frigate was chased and run on shore in the Narraganset Passage, when Lieutenant Saumarez, together with the boats of the squadron, went to destroy her, she being protected by a battery on shore; the Spitfire was anchored about four hundred yards from this battery in twelve feet water, and, having got her long-bow gun to bear, engaged it while the boats boarded and set fire to the frigate: this occupied more than an hour, during which time the battery was silenced, but a brisk fire of musketry was kept up by the rebels; and the service being performed, the galley was towed out with little damage, five men being wounded: at nine she anchored in safety off Newton's Point. Soon after this a gale came on; the galley drove towards the rocks, and it was supposed she must be lost; but Lieutenant Saumarez cut his cable, and by a masterly act of seamanship saved his vessel, and gained the admiration of the whole squadron. During this period, Lieutenant Saumarez was under the orders of Commodore Griffith, of the Nonsuch, senior officer of his Majesty's ships and vessels at Rhode Island; and it will appear by the following secret order, that he was kept at the most important point in advance.
(Secret.) "By Walter Griffith, Esq. Commander of a division of his Majesty's ships and vessels at Rhode Island.
"The employment of the galley under your command being necessary in the Seakonnet Channel, with the intention to intercept any armed vessels fitted by the rebels for putting to sea from the harbours or creeks communicating therewith; but more particularly to defeat any attempts they may propose for making a descent in force, or attacking the post occupied by the king's troops on the eastern shore of Rhode Island; you are therefore to proceed to the aforesaid channel, and put yourself under the command of the superior officer there, for those purposes accordingly: but you are, nevertheless, at liberty to move the galley (under the orders of the commanding officer there) from time to time, to prevent the enemy from being able to ascertain the position thereof, either for executing any meditated insult on the galley, or to pass you unobserved during the night; taking care, however, to keep as much as may be within such limits, as will fully enable you to effect the principal object of your appointment as aforesaid.
"It will become requisite for this end, to have your boats (or other better-appointed craft, with which you can in future be supplied), advanced at seasonable lines, both for the earlier discovery of any ships or vessels attempting to pass your station in the night, and preventing any other advantages attempted by the enemy under cover thereof.
"The crews of the boats so directed should be prudently cautious in boarding vessels of inconsiderable appearance, that they may not be exposed to suffer by the treacherous practice of the enemy in different modes to blow up and destroy your men; but a suitable discretion will be no less requisite on your part, that, in warning them of these hazards, they are not induced to become remiss in their exertions in the essential services.
"If the enemy should attempt to pass your station with any ship of apparent force, great attention will be requisite that you may not be misled by such not improbable expeditions to draw you from your station, and thereby facilitate the means to succeed with less risk in a meditated descent on the eastern shore of the island; which is to be at all times the object of your chief care to resist and oppose, by endeavouring to destroy the boats of the enemy employed on that occasion, or otherwise to prevent the further use of them in the attempt.
"It will therefore be incumbent on you, in conjunction with other armed vessels stationed with you in Seakonnet Channel, to intercept the said armed vessels (if possible) before they have advanced below your first anchoring station, and to keep secret such directions as the senior officer at the said anchorage may propose to adopt for that intent.
"You are to continue on this service until further orders; and I am to recommend your attention, that a careful watch is kept in the galley at all times, conformable to the tenour of the printed instructions given in that respect; and that every other precaution is taken to guard against the attempts of the rebel for the annoyance of the galley, wherein it is to be observed of all such enterprises, that those which are the least suspected are ever the most likely to be attended with success.
"Given on board H.M.S. Nonsuch, at Rhode Island, 21st May 1778. S.W. GRIFFITH."
"To Lieut. Saumarez, &c."
It should be mentioned here, that Rhode Island was taken possession of by his Majesty's forces under General Clinton and Sir Peter Parker on the 9th December 1776; and some description of it is necessary to show the arduous as well as perilous nature of the service on which our young hero was now employed. This island takes its name from the province, and lies in Narraganset Bay: it is fifteen miles in length from north to south, and three miles and a half broad; the north end is only three miles from Bristol, to which there is a ferry. The Seakonnet Passage separates it from the main on the north-west side, and the islands of Conanicut and Prudence lie in the passage on the south-east side, the town of Newport being in the south-east part of the island.
The Seakonnet Passage was in consequence of the above order allotted to the Spitfire. Lieutenant Saumarez was now under the orders of Captain Graeme, and proceeded to his station: it appears from his journal, now in our possession, that he was constantly on the alert, and almost daily skirmishing with the enemy. On the 24th he had to sustain the attack of three armed boats which came off from Point Judith, and had nearly decoyed them on board; but they found their mistake in time to escape after a good drubbing. On the same evening he joined a detachment of five hundred men, which, under cover of the Flora, had landed above Bristol and burnt one hundred and twenty-five batteaux-plats, an armed galley, and a privateer of fourteen guns, besides destroying the greatest part of the town. On the 30th April a firing was heard in the direction of the Taunton: the Spitfire immediately weighed, and ran over to the enemy's shore, where Lieutenant Saumarez opposed his vessel to a field-piece, which returned his fire without doing any injury for a considerable time; this was meant as a diversion to enable the 54th regiment to attack unobserved, which in the mean time landed up the Taunton, destroyed eight sawmills and several flat-boats, and came off by the assistance of the Spitfire with inconsiderable loss.
On the 1st of May the Spitfire weighed, and was beating against the wind to obtain her station, when, by the vessel missing stays, she got aground on Sandy Hook. On this, the enemy immediately brought down a gun, but without effect. An anchor was carried out; the vessel was hove off without damage, and reached Fogland Battery, off which she anchored, and the next day reached her former station.
It will be needless to notice every occasion wherein the Spitfire was engaged with the enemy, which, while Lieutenant Saumarez commanded her, was no less than forty-seven times! but we shall proceed to the period when his operations in that vessel were drawing to a close. The Americans, who had publicly declared their independence on the 4th July 1776, had concluded a treaty with the French on the 13th March 1778, which was considered by the British government as a declaration of war; and the French ambassador being directed to withdraw, the following orders were issued to the squadron at Rhode Island by Commodore John Brisbane, who had now taken the command:
"By Captain John Brisbane, Captain of H.M.S. Flora, and senior officer of his Majesty's ships and vessels at Newport, Rhode Island.
"In pursuance of an order from the Lord Viscount Howe, vice-admiral of the white, and commander-in-chief of his Majesty's ships and vessels employed on a particular service, you are hereby required and directed to MAKE WAR UPON, take, or destroy any part of the French squadron lately arrived on the coasts of this continent, as well as other ships of war of that nation appearing on the coasts of North America, to the utmost of your ability, until further orders, keeping this secret.
Dated on board H.M.S. Flora, at Newport, Rhode Island, 26th July 1778. (Signed) J. BRISBANE.
"To Lieutenant Saumarez, commanding the Spitfire, galley."
This order was transmitted with an enclosure, designated "Copy of a paragraph of a letter received from Lord Viscount Howe, dated off Sandy Hook, 19th July 1778."
"As there is not a sufficient naval force for the defence of Rhode Island, and none can be sent while the French squadron, at anchor off Sandy Hook, continues so much superior to that under my command, it may not be unseasonable to remind you that you are at liberty to apply the force under your direction, by landing of guns and men for the service of the batteries; dismantling, and even destroying the ships, to strengthen the defences of the post in the most effectual manner, in case of an attack upon the post, more especially when no longer in prospect of rendering better assistance under the same circumstances, or preventing the capture of the ships.
"Every captain or commander is therefore directed to attend to the foregoing paragraph, and act from circumstances, in the best and most effectual manner possible for the defence of the post, and ship or vessel under his command, so as to answer the intention of his lordship. Dated on board H.M.S. Flora, Newport Harbour, 27th July 1778.
"To Lieutenant Saumarez, commanding H.M. galley Spitfire."
The French, who had secretly been assisting the Americans, and had long been preparing for war, sent a powerful fleet from France, which arrived, and anchored off Sandy Hook, while Lord Howe was within the harbour with a very inferior force, but could not be attacked: they therefore bent their course to reduce Rhode Island. On the 29th of July they were discovered; and, on the 4th of August, two ships of the line and two frigates entered the passage, where the Kingfisher sloop, the Alarm and Spitfire, galleys, were stationed; and it being no longer possible to prevent them from falling into the hands of the enemy, their stores, guns, and crews were landed, and the vessels set on fire.
1778 to 1782.
Serves ashore.—Returns to England in the Leviathan.—Providential escape from shipwreck.—Visits Guernsey.—Joins the Victory.—A journey to London.—Joins the Fortitude.—Battle off the Dogger Bank.—Anecdotes of Admiral Parker.—Mr. Saumarez promoted to the rank of Master and Commander.—Appointed to the Tisiphone.—Sails for the West Indies with Admiral Kempenfelt.—Action with Comte de Guichen.—Captures a French ship of thirty-six guns.—Is despatched to Sir Samuel Hood.—Arrives at Barbadoes.—Escapes from two French men-of-war.—Passes through an intricate channel.—Joins Sir Samuel Hood.—Gallant conduct in cutting out a vessel.—Tisiphone ordered home.—Fortunate exchange with Captain Stanhope.—Takes command of the Russell.
After the destruction of his little vessel, the Spitfire, Lieutenant Saumarez was attached to the division of sailors under Commodore Brisbane, to whom he became aide-de-camp. This division consisted of the crews of the frigates and other vessels which had been destroyed, on the following day in the southern passage, to prevent their falling into the hands of the enemy. The vessels destroyed, in addition to those mentioned in the last chapter, were, the Juno, Lark, Orpheus, and Flora of thirty-two guns, and the Cerberus of twenty-eight.
The artillery and stores had been in part landed, and mounted in various positions on the island; while the seamen and officers, amounting to above a thousand men, were actively employed there during the whole of the siege. Lieutenant Saumarez was stationed latterly in command of one of the advanced posts, and had several opportunities of distinguishing himself in repulsing the repeated assaults of the enemy, and in attacking them in return.
The plans of the French for the reduction of Rhode Island having failed, and their fleet having been dispersed in a storm, during which some were disabled, and others captured, and finally the appearance of Lord Howe with a reinforced but still inferior squadron, induced them to abandon the project, and, after refitting at Boston, to steer for the West Indies.
The officers and seamen, being now no longer wanted, were ordered a passage home in the Leviathan of fifty guns, on board which ship Lieutenant Saumarez embarked, in company with Captains Dalrymple, Smith, Hudson, Brisbane, Symons, and Graeme, whose ships had also been destroyed. As she was approaching the English Channel, the Leviathan was overtaken by a violent storm, and most providentially saved from shipwreck by the clearing up of a thick fog just in time to avoid the danger, when they found the ship close to the Rocks of Scilly, near to the spot where Sir Cloudesley Shovel was lost. This circumstance has been attributed to a strong northerly current, but it was probably from the position of these dangerous islands being inaccurately laid down in the charts; it is indeed an extraordinary fact, that an error of no less than three leagues in their situation was first discovered by the Swedish surveyor, Nordenanker, about the commencement of last war. The Leviathan, nevertheless, arrived safely at Portsmouth about the beginning of the year 1779, when Lieutenant Saumarez had again an opportunity of visiting his family and friends in Guernsey.
He had, however, resided there but a short time, when he was appointed first lieutenant of the Edgar of seventy-four guns, then fitting at Woolwich for the broad pendant of Commodore Elliot. After receiving his letter of appointment, he was obliged to wait some time for an opportunity to cross the channel; but at length availed himself of the Ambuscade, which touched at Guernsey. Having arrived at the Isle of Wight, Captain Phipps, her commander, ascertained that the squadron under Admiral Drake, to which he belonged, had sailed from Spithead; therefore without touching at Portsmouth to land Lieutenant Saumarez, he proceeded to join the Channel fleet, which he found twenty leagues to the westward of Scilly, having on the way retaken the Helena sloop of war; to command which Sir John Warren, then first lieutenant of the Victory, was appointed, and Mr. Saumarez was ordered in his stead to join the Victory, then bearing the flag of Sir Charles Hardy, at whose request he was continued in that ship, where he was third lieutenant in seniority, but supernumerary on the books. Besides the commander-in-chief of the Channel fleet, Rear-Admiral Kempenfelt, as first, and Captain Collings, as second captain, were both on board the Victory detached to cruise off Brest, commencing in June 1779, and returning occasionally to port until May 31st, 1780. After the death of Sir Charles Hardy, which took place on the 9th May 1780, Admiral Geary, and then Sir Francis Drake, succeeded to the command, with Captain Clayton as captain.
The Victory continued on the same service until the spring of 1781, when Admiral Hyde Parker hoisted his flag, and Mr. Saumarez now became first lieutenant. He had been so zealously attentive to his duty, that for several months he never went on shore, till at length he yielded to the persuasion of his messmates. On arriving at Point Beach, Portsmouth, he was accosted by a person in French, who demanded the way to the admiral's house, and at the same time informed him that he had just landed with the intelligence that Jersey had been attacked by the French. Mr. Saumarez immediately went with the messenger to the admiral, who despatched him as a courier to town, and he returned in a remarkably short time with orders respecting it. In short, his diligence and zeal were so manifest in every service on which he was employed, that he soon gained the esteem and friendship of Vice-admiral Hyde Parker, who, in June 1781, was appointed to the command in the North Seas, and shifted his flag into the Fortitude, Captain Robertson. The squadron in those seas, when under command of Commodore Keith Stewart, was of inconsiderable strength, but had now risen to a force of five ships of the line, besides one fifty, one forty-four, and three frigates. Notwithstanding the desire of Lord Sandwich, then first lord of the admiralty, to provide for his own friends, the admiral succeeded in carrying with him, from the Victory, Lieutenants Waghorne and Saumarez. On the 3rd of June they sailed from Spithead to Sheerness, and, after refitting and touching at Leith, sailed to bring home the Baltic convoy from Elsineur, about the beginning of July.
The squadron, which might have been made much stronger, consisted of the Fortitude, seventy-four, Captain Robertson; the Princess Amelia, eighty, Captain Macartney; the Berwick, seventy-four, Captain Fergusson; the Bienfaisant, sixty-four, Captain Braithwaite; the Buffalo, sixty, Captain Truscott; the Preston, fifty, Captain Graeme; the Dolphin, forty-four, Captain Blair; the Latona, thirty-eight, Sir Hyde Parker (the admiral's son); the Belle Poule, thirty-six, Captain Patton; the Cleopatra, thirty-two, Captain Murray; and the Surprise, cutter, Lieutenant Rivett.
The Dutch by this time had declared war, and, being perfectly aware of the force of Admiral Parker's squadron, sailed with a large convoy for the Baltic, under command of Admiral Zoutman, whose squadron was one ship of the line superior; it became, therefore, necessary to take the Dolphin, of forty-four guns, into the line, although she had only eighteen-pounders on the lower deck.
But before entering into the details of the action which took place on the 5th of August 1781, it is proper to give some of the particulars of each squadron. That of Admiral Parker was totally unfit for the line of battle; the ships had been but a short time together, and had only two or three times practised the usual manoeuvres of forming the line, &c. The Fortitude was a small seventy-four, but well manned. The Princess Amelia was an old eighty-gun ship, with reduced metal and masts. The Berwick was a good ship, and, in addition to her metal, had two sixty-eight-pounder carronades on the poop; but next to her was the Dolphin, forty-four, with only twenty twelve-pounders on the lower-deck, which could not be expected to make any impression on a sixty-four. The Buffalo was formerly the Captain, of seventy guns; but, in the commencement of hostilities, not being thought efficient as a ship of war, she was fitted up as a mast-ship and her name changed; but, probably for want of vessels, she was again equipped for war with sixty guns, but only with eighteen-pounders on the lower deck. The Preston was a good fifty-gun ship, with her proper metal, twenty-four-pounders on the lower, and twelve-pounders on the upper deck. The Bienfaisant had the metal on her lower deck reduced. The Artois, which afterwards joined the squadron, was the finest frigate then known; had twenty-eight, eighteen-pounders on her main deck, with, in addition to her complement of guns, heavy carronades on the quarter-deck and forecastle; she was manned with three hundred men. The Latona was a fine thirty-eight gun frigate, with eighteen-pounders; the Belle Poule and Tartar were excellent of their class.
The Dutch squadron consisted of one seventy-four, one sixty-eight, one sixty-four, and five fifty-fours. In the action there were five frigates, the other five having gone off with the convoy; the list of both will be found in the Appendix to this volume, with that of the killed and wounded.
The Dutch squadron and convoy, which were bound to the Baltic, were discovered at four o'clock in the morning about six leagues to leeward; and there being a fine commanding breeze and smooth water, everything was favourable, as well for detaching the convoy, which was immediately done by signal to the Tartar, as for making dispositions to attack the enemy. The admiral seeing that they had their own port (the Texel) directly to leeward, and being doubtful that they would run in there for shelter, or at least go nearer to the shore, made the signal to chase at thirty-five minutes past four, which obliged every ship to make sail instead of preparing for action with a superior enemy. At five, Admiral Zoutman hoisted Dutch colours, and his men-of-war drew out from the convoy, which took their station under the lee to await the event. At half-past five, the admiral made the Tartar's signal to stay by, and part company with the convoy, which then hauled their wind, made sail to the south-west, and was soon out of sight and danger.
At ten minutes past six, the signal for the line of battle abreast was made, which allowed the headmost ships to take in small sails; and immediately after another signal was given for the Dolphin and Preston to change stations; this was a serious mistake, as it led our squadron to believe that the admiral meant to engage the ship ahead of the Dutch admiral, and not that of the latter, which was actually his intention. This unfortunately placed the Dolphin in opposition to one of the largest of the enemy's vessels; and while it left the rear-ship (the Bienfaisant) for some time without an opponent, the van-ship Berwick and the Dolphin had to engage three of the enemy.
In the mean time, the Dutch were regularly drawn up in a line of battle ahead, on the larboard tack, the ships being about a cable's length apart, and keeping a point from the wind, with their sails well proportioned to each other. They appeared in excellent order, their hammocks stowed, and marines drawn up on the poop.
At fifty-six minutes past seven, the signal for close action was made, and, to the astonishment of our squadron, the enemy never fired a shot, although they might have done considerable damage to our ships had they opened their fire on them as they approached end on to them, on their weather beam. Not a gun was fired on either side until within half-musket shot, when the red flag was hoisted on both ships. Up to that moment all was silent, and it is scarcely possible to conceive a silence more solemn and impressive! At the same instant, they saw the signal go to the mast-head of Zoutman's ship. The dreadful silence was now broken by the tremendous roar of cannon when within pistol-shot, and the battle raged with the utmost fury for three hours and forty minutes.
At ten o'clock, the signal for close action which had been made, was repeated. The Berwick, having forced the van-ship of the enemy to edge off, fell to leeward of the line, and was consequently obliged to make sail, tack, and regain her station in support of the Dolphin, which had then two ships on her, and was also thrown to leeward. The admiral, having now slackened the Dutch admiral's fire, passed ahead of the Buffalo, on which the ships astern closed up to the Buffalo; and the Berwick took the station ahead of the admiral. At thirty-five minutes past eleven, the ships became unmanageable; and, the Dutch dropping to leeward, the action ceased.
By some it has been affirmed that Admiral Parker should have renewed the action: Lieutenant Saumarez says, it was certainly his intention to do so; but the state of his own ship, and the reports he received from others, rendered it quite impossible.
 When the action had ceased, Sir Hyde Parker, captain of the Latona and son of the admiral, bore down on the Fortitude, and affectionately inquired for his brave parent, of whose gallantry he had been an anxious eye-witness. The admiral, with equal warmth, assured his son of his personal safety, and spoke of his mortification at being unable, from the state of his own ship, and from the reports he had received of the other ships, to pursue the advantage he had gained, in the manner he most ardently desired.
The Dutch convoy had about the middle of the conflict bore up for the Texel. The protection of them was no longer an object, and Admiral Zoutman, as soon as he could possibly get his ships collected and put before the wind, made the best of his way into the port; but during the night the Hollandia, Dutch seventy-four, was seen sunk in twenty-two fathoms water, and her pendant was hauled down by Captain Patton, of the Belle Poule, and brought to the admiral. As no ship was taken, both claimed the victory: but, the convoy being sent back into port and one ship sunk, should certainly decide it to Admiral Parker; and had the English admiral not inadvertently rendered his van too weak by the mistake in the signal which also extended his line beyond their rear, thereby rendering one ship for a time useless, he would have obtained a decisive victory.
While Admiral Zoutman must be admired for his cool intrepidity, it must be admitted that he was much to blame in forbearing to avail himself of the opportunity of attacking and disabling the approaching fleet, which he might have done with great effect. After the Fortitude had been put into a condition to make sail, Lieutenant Saumarez was sent to conduct the Preston, one of the disabled ships, into port; her commander, Captain Graeme, having lost his arm in the action. When Admiral Parker arrived at the Nore, his Majesty paid the squadron a visit; but the veteran commander, indignant at the conduct of ministers, who, he conceived, ought to have reinforced his squadron instead of allowing some fine ships to lie idle in port, received the King with that rough hauteur peculiar to himself, observing, "I wish your Majesty better ships and younger officers. As for myself, I am now too old for the service."
On this occasion Lieut. Saumarez was presented to George III. The King inquired if he was related to the captains of the same name one of whom had circumnavigated the globe with Anson, and who had fallen gloriously in the service of their country: the admiral replied in the affirmative, saying, "Yes, please your Majesty; he is their nephew, and as brave and as good an officer as either of them."
In consequence of the bravery and skill he displayed in this action, Lieut. Saumarez was promoted to the rank of commander, although only second lieutenant; the first being wounded early in the action, the duty had fallen on our hero: and he was immediately appointed to the Tisiphone, a fire-ship constructed on a new plan, and armed with carronades, which was then fitting at Sheerness; his commission as "master and commander," bearing date for that ship, the 23rd August 1781.
When lieutenant of the Fortitude, with Admiral Sir Hyde Parker,—who, from his acerbity of temper, was distinguished from others of the same name by the sobriquet of "Vinegar Parker,"—the old admiral betrayed his ill-humour by unwarrantably finding fault with him one morning when Mr. Saumarez commanded the watch; but soon after, probably to make amends for such hasty and unguarded conduct towards an officer for whom he had the greatest regard, he sent to invite him to dinner, an honour which the young lieutenant declined in terms sufficiently strong to indicate that his feelings had been hurt. On this, the admiral sent for him and exclaimed, "What! can't you put up with the fractious disposition of an old man?" The admiral, who could not bear to be, even for a day, at variance with Lieutenant Saumarez, would do anything to serve him; and, when he obtained the command on the East India station, offered to take him with him in the Cato, which sailed, and was supposed to have foundered off the Cape of Good Hope, as she was never afterwards heard of; and he happily escaped sharing the fate of that gallant chief and unfortunate crew.
The Tisiphone having been fitted out at Sheerness, and the complement of men having been filled up by supernumeraries from the Conquestadore at the Nore, Captain Saumarez, by order from Admiral Roddam, placed himself under the command of Captain Allen, of the Sceptre, on the 6th September 1781, from whom he received the following order:
You are hereby required and directed to put yourself under my command, and to follow all such orders and directions as you shall from time to time receive from me for his Majesty's service, and to hold yourself in constant readiness to sail at a moment's warning; and in case of separation by any unavoidable accident, you are to make the best of your way without loss of time to Torbay, and put yourself under the command of Admiral Darby.
(Mem.) In case of your parting company with his Majesty's ship Sceptre, and falling in with any ships or vessels belonging to France or French subjects, Spain or Spanish subjects, the States General of the United Provinces, or to his Majesty's rebellious subjects in the colonies of North America, that you can cope with, you are to use your best endeavours to take, seize, sink, burn, or destroy the same: giving me an account of your arrival at Torbay, and of anything you may have so taken or destroyed.
Signed. WM. ALLEN.
In pursuance of these orders Captain Saumarez sailed from the Nore, and, arriving at Torbay on the 17th, found that Admiral Darby had sailed in the Britannia on the 15th, after having left orders for the Tisiphone to cruise a week off the Lizard. Here he was directed to proceed for Plymouth, where he arrived on the 1st of October; and having received further orders to repair to Spithead without loss of time, he arrived there on the 13th October, to fit for Channel service. He now joined the fleet under Lord Howe, and, after a cruise off Brest, returned to Portsmouth on the 21st of November: his ship was found to sail extremely well.
Captain Saumarez was now ordered to place himself under the command of Admiral Kempenfelt, who, with a detachment of twelve sail of the line, was destined to intercept Count de Guichen, who had put to sea from Brest, after having returned from his last severe campaign. The count had been ordered to use every exertion to refit and prepare the French fleet for sea, notwithstanding the lateness of the season. The objects in view could be accomplished only by extreme diligence and the most profound secrecy, as it was absolutely necessary to reinforce Count de Grasse, with both ships and troops in the West Indies, as also M. Des Ornes and Admiral Suffrein in the East. It was evident that De Grasse, after his hard service on the coast of North America during the preceding campaign, must stand in need of a vast supply of naval and military stores; and the service he was about to undertake in the West Indies would increase the want of provisions, and almost every necessary of life and of warfare: neither was the demand for naval and military stores in the East Indies less urgent. Accordingly, a numerous convoy of transports, store-ships, and victuallers were prepared and equipped at the same time as the fleet, which was now extended to such a number of men-of-war as was considered sufficient for the protection of the convoys until fairly out of reach. This part of the service, as well as the charge of the whole expedition, was, as we have stated, confided to Count Guichen; and the command of the squadron and fleet destined to the West Indies, to M. de Vaudreuil. The Tisiphone was the look-out ship of the squadron, which sailed from Spithead at the end of November.
At day-break on the 12th December, Captain Saumarez, being the first to discover the enemy, made known his situation to the admiral; which was, that the men-of-war were too far ahead and too much to leeward of the convoy to afford any protection to it. The admiral, with that decision and professional skill by which he was so eminently distinguished, determined to profit by their situation, and boldly pushed between the convoy and the greater part of the enemy's line-of-battle ships, and succeeded in capturing twenty sail. In this affair Captain Saumarez had a noble opportunity of distinguishing himself, by attacking the ship of war, of thirty-six guns, which was bringing up the rear of the convoy, and capturing her after an action of twenty minutes.
Besides those captured, many others had struck; but, the weather at this time becoming thick and squally, the admiral discontinued the chase of those which had been cut off, and which made sail in every direction, that he might collect his squadron before dark, many of his ships being at a great distance astern with the prizes. At daylight next morning, the enemy's ships of war, twenty-one sail of the line, were seen formed to leeward; but their force was so much superior, that the admiral did not think it advisable to risk an action. The captured ships consisted of twenty-one sail of transports, having on board eleven thousand troops, besides their crews of seven thousand seamen; the greatest part of which were taken by this squadron, and the Agamemnon, which picked up five or six more.
It was now evident that the force under Count Guichen, destined to assist Count de Grasse in the capture of the valuable island of Jamaica; was much greater than had been supposed by the English government; and, consequently, it became of the utmost importance to give the earliest information of the approach of such a formidable enemy to Sir Samuel Hood. Accordingly, Captain Saumarez, whose gallant conduct and zeal had been so manifest, was selected for this service. His men were returned to the Tisiphone from the captured ships; and he was detached with orders to push past the French fleet, and make the best of his way to Barbadoes, (see Appendix) where he arrived on the 28th of January; and finding the Pegasus, Captain John Stanhope, he delivered his despatches, and received the following orders from that officer:
You are hereby required and directed to proceed (without a moment's loss of time) to the island of Antigua, where, on your arrival off English Harbour, you are to send a boat in for intelligence respecting Sir Samuel Hood and the fleet under his command; which having received from the senior officer in that port, you will proceed in search of the commander-in-chief, and deliver him the despatches you are charged with from Rear-admiral Kempenfelt, as also those you will receive herewith.
Given on board his Majesty's ship Pegasus, Carlisle Bay, this 28th Jan. 1782.
(Mem.) I recommend that particular attention may be paid to keep well to windward of the French islands.
Signed JOHN STANHOPE.
To Captain Saumarez, H.M. fire-ship Tisiphone.
In pursuance of these orders, Captain Saumarez sailed from Barbadoes on the 28th of January. In the mean time, the Comte de Grasse, who had been beating to windward for some days with the intention of attacking Barbadoes, but without gaining ground, had abandoned his plan, and bore away for St. Kitts. On his arrival there, he landed eight thousand men, and took possession of greater part of the island: General Frazer, with a small party of six hundred men, was obliged to retire to Brimstone Hill Fort.
Sir Samuel Hood, notwithstanding the superiority of the enemy, (twenty-nine sail of the line,) resolved on a sudden and unusually bold manoeuvre, namely, to sail and attack the enemy's fleet at anchor. It was for this purpose that he had put to sea with twenty-two sail of the line, and proceeded to Antigua, where he took in provisions, and embarked the twenty-eighth and two companies of the thirteenth regiment, under command of General Prescott.
Captain Saumarez, according to the orders he had received, proceeded for Antigua, and keeping "well to windward," as he had been directed to do, fell in with the Triumphante and Terrible, two French line-of-battle ships, of the squadron which had been attacked by Admiral Kempenfelt on the 12th December, and which had been detached by Comte de Guichen to Martinique. These ships immediately gave chase; but, night coming on, Captain Saumarez had recourse to stratagem in order to effect his escape, which would otherwise have been impossible in consequence of the Tisiphone having carried away her fore-top-mast in a squall, an accident which was fortunately not observed by his pursuers: he now made night-signals by hoisting lights and burning false fires; which having led the enemy to suppose he was communicating with an English squadron, they abandoned the pursuit after a chase of half-an-hour.
At the moment the fore-top-mast was carried away, Mr. Robb, one of the midshipmen, who was looking out at the fore-top-gallant-mast-head, fell on the forecastle without receiving any injury. This young gentleman was an eleve of Captain Saumarez, continued with him to the end of that war, and embarked with him on board the Crescent in 1793. After the capture of La Reunion, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant.
The fore-top-mast of the Tisiphone was soon replaced; and next day, on reaching English Harbour, he learned that Sir Samuel Hood, with his squadron was at anchor in Basseterre Roads, St. Kitts, where he had three times repulsed the enemy of a much superior force, but which had now taken up such a position as rendered it impossible for him to communicate with the admiral; for, unless he would venture to push through the intricate channel between Nevis and St. Kitts, he would run the greatest risk of being captured. Undismayed, however, at the danger of navigating an unknown passage, he fearlessly proceeded where no ship had ever before ventured; and by sounding as he advanced, and by the dexterous management of his ship, he succeeded in carrying the Tisiphone to the anchorage at St. Kitts in safety; and delivered his despatches to Sir Samuel Hood, who informed him that the intelligence was of such importance, that it was necessary it should be immediately sent on to Sir Peter Parker at Jamaica. But when the admiral proposed to send the Tisiphone on with it, Captain Saumarez, desirous of remaining at the seat of warlike operations, represented to him that the Tisiphone was a fine fast-sailing ship on a new construction, that in the existing state of affairs she might be useful, and that he should be happy to contribute by his own personal exertions to the promotion of the public service; whereas any vessel could run down with the trade-wind to Jamaica. Sir Samuel, no less pleased with the proposal, and the manner in which it was made, than convinced of the advantage he would derive from having with him a fast-sailing vessel commanded by so zealous an officer, whose tact and intrepidity had already been manifested, determined to keep the Tisiphone with his squadron, and send a less useful vessel with the intelligence to Jamaica. The admiral soon reaped the advantage of this decision. Captain Saumarez, during the time the fleet remained there and at Antigua, was the most active in harassing the enemy. He commanded several boat expeditions, and cut out a vessel in a most gallant style from Basseterre Roads and several other small vessels from the back of the island.
The time, however, had now arrived when it was absolutely necessary to send another despatch to England; and the admiral had no other small vessel remaining but the Tisiphone. On the 7th February 1782, the signal was made for an opportunity of sending letters to England, and subsequently for the captain of the Tisiphone: Captain Saumarez had been dining with his friend, Captain Charrington, on board the Ajax, and it was some time before he reached the Barfleur; when he found to his dismay and mortification that he was ordered home! In a short time the despatches were ready, and he had taken his leave. He described this interesting circumstance, on which it may be said his fortune was founded, in the following manner to us, and we cannot do better than give it in his own words.
"I was," says he, "in my own boat, with the despatches in my hand; and with a heavy heart had ordered the bow-man to shove off, when Captain Stanhope, of the Russell, came alongside, and seeing me called: 'Hollo! Saumarez, where are you going?'—'To England', said I, 'I am sorry to tell you!'—'Sorry,' replied Stanhope; 'I wish I was in your place; I want to go home on account of my health; and, if I had known, I would have exchanged with you.'—'Perhaps it is not too late,' said I.—'Hold on then,' said he, 'till I speak to the admiral, since I have your leave.'"
By this time the Russell's boat was alongside the admiral's ship; and at the word "Hold on!" which was emphatically repeated by Saumarez, the bow-man hooked the quarter of the Russell's barge, and he remained but a few minutes in breathless suspense; after which Captain Stanhope appeared at the gangway, and called, "Come up, Saumarez." He was on deck in an instant, and found that, on Captain Jackson being asked to submit the proposal to the admiral, he said, "Let Captain Saumarez do it himself, he is the fittest person."
When Sir Samuel Hood heard the application, he was silent, and after reflecting for a few minutes he said, "Captain Saumarez, you know not how much I wish to serve you; Captain Stanhope shall go home as he desires, and you shall have command of the Russell." Accordingly, before the close of that day, Captain Stanhope was on board the Tisiphone on his way to England; while her late commander was in possession of his post-rank, and captain of one of his Majesty's ships of the line of seventy-four guns; and all this effected in less than two hours!
We cannot forbear making honourable mention of a trait of attachment manifested on this occasion by the first lieutenant, a Scotch baronet of an ancient family, who had not been at sea for twenty-two years, when he was appointed to the Tisiphone. The conflict of this officer's feelings between joy for his captain's promotion and regret at losing so excellent a friend was far beyond description; but, as the moment of parting approached, he selected what he considered most valuable, and so earnestly did he press Captain Saumarez to accept some testimonial of his esteem, that, finding a refusal would deeply wound his feelings, he accepted a silver ladle marked with his initials, which has ever since been carefully preserved in memory of its former owner.