ADMIRAL VISCOUNT EXMOUTH
BY EDWARD OSLER, ESQ.
For every virtue, every worth renowned, Sincere, plain hearted, hospitable, kind; Yet like the mustering thunder when provoked, The dread of tyrants, and the true resource Of those who under grim oppression groaned.
A New and Revised Edition.
LONDON: GEO. ROUTLEDGE & CO., FARRINGDON-STREET AND 18, BEEKMAN-STREET, NEW YORK. 1854
London: Printed by STEWART and MURRAY, Old Bailey.
The Bulwark of their Country,
WHOSE TRIUMPHS ARE THE PRIDE OF HER HISTORY,
IS MOST RESPECTFULLY INSCRIBED.
At the commencement of hostilities, whose extent and duration none can foresee, it is the wisdom of those to whom England will hereafter commit the honour of her Flag to study well the example of the great sea-officers whose services illustrate the annals of their country.
Among these bright examples, none is more worthy of careful study than Admiral Lord Exmouth. Entering the service a friendless orphan, the success which he achieved by merit alone is most encouraging to all who must rise by their own deserts. In his perfect seamanship, his mastery of all that relates to his profession, his zeal and energy, his considerate forethought, his care to make his crews thorough seamen, and the example by which he spurred and encouraged them, the secret may be found, not less available to others, of his many brilliant successes, and of the little loss with which he obtained them. His truly parental care for his young officers to train them to their duties and to advance their interests, as conspicuous when commander-in-chief as in his first frigate, is a lesson for all in authority. Nor will his personal qualities be less admired: the honourable independence which he maintained as an officer and a peer, and the moral excellence which marked his life, and was finally proved on his death-bed.
And here I may relate an anecdote, as the praise it gives is only for the subject of the biography, and for which I am indebted to Vice-Admiral Sir Fleetwood Pellew. Soon after the first appearance of this work, one of the first officers in the French navy, Vice-Admiral Bergeret, whose name appears more than once in the following pages, presented a copy to a young relative he was sending to sea, and bade him to learn from the example it afforded to become all that his friends and his country could desire.
Lord Exmouth's attack on Algiers, the most memorable occasion on which men-of-war have attacked fortifications, is peculiarly instructive now. The immediate destruction of the enemy's works opposed to the Queen Charlotte, and the comparative impunity she thus obtained, shows the wisdom of laying the ships as close as possible, where the concentrated fire of her batteries may overwhelm the enemy, and destroy the few guns which alone can be opposed to her; whereas, by anchoring at a distance, the enemy's guns from a great extent of the works may be trained to bear on her, while her own shot strike with uncertain aim and diminished effect. The results of this latter course may be learnt from the fate of the floating batteries at the siege of Gibraltar, and from the Impregnable at Algiers; the ships having anchored at too great a distance, were exposed to a destructive fire, while their own attack was comparatively harmless.
This biography of Lord Exmouth was written at the desire and under the eye of his eldest brother; in youth his second father, and through life his confidential friend. Every incident relating to points of service was supplied or corrected by officers personally engaged; and the whole was finally revised by four officers who were the most constantly and intimately acquainted with the Admiral—Mr. Gaze, master of the fleet in the Mediterranean and at Algiers, and who sailed with him in every ship from 1793 to the last day of his command; Sir Christopher Cole and Captain Crease, his intimate friends; and his only surviving sailor son, Captain, now Vice-Admiral Sir Fleetwood Pellew.
Birth and education—Anecdote of early daring—Enters the Navy—Leaves his ship, with one of his companions, at Marseilles—Joins the Blonde, Captain Pownoll—His activity—Anecdote of General Burgoyne—Instance of extraordinary boldness—Campaign on the Lakes of Canada—Distinguishes himself in the actions, of October 11th and 13th, 1776—Complimented by Sir C. Douglas, Lord Howe, and Earl Sandwich—Appointed to command the Carleton—Nearly takes General Arnold—Narrowly escapes being made prisoner—Commands a brigade of seamen in Burgoyne's campaign—In danger of killing his brother—Events of the campaign—Constructs a bridge, by which the army crosses to Saratoga—His brother killed in action—Recaptures a provision vessel from the enemy—Admitted to the Council of War, and pleads that the sailors may be exempted from the capitulation—Sent home with despatches in a transport—Defends her against a privateer—Promoted to be a Lieutenant. page 1
HIS SERVICES FROM 1778 TO 1791.
Influence of the late campaigns on his character—His extraordinary strength and activity—Narrow escapes from drowning—Appointed to a guard-ship—Presses for active employment, and proposes to resign his commission—Appointed to the Licorne—Becomes First Lieutenant of the Apollo, Captain Pownoll—Action with the Stanislaus, French frigate; Captain Pownoll killed, enemy driven on shore—His letter on the occasion to Earl Sandwich—Promoted to be a Commander—Anecdote in relation to his promotion—Appointed to the Hazard—Appointed to the Pelican—Gallant action—Promoted to be a Post-Captain—Appointed to the temporary command of the Artois—Captures an enemy's cruiser—Anecdote of Captain Macbride—Marriage—Appointed to the Winchelsea frigate—Conduct in her—Appointed to the Salisbury, Vice-Admiral Milbanke—Anecdote of Lord Thurlow. page 28
THE NYMPHE AND CLEOPATRA.
Becomes a farmer—Remarks on naval officers' farming—His ill success—Omen of his future fortune—Offered a command in the Russian Navy—Remarks on serving foreign states—War of the French Revolution—Appointed to the Nymphe 36-gun frigate—Enters a number of Cornish miners for her—Cornish miners—Equipment and movements of the Nymphe—Captain Israel Pellew joins her as a volunteer—Sails from Falmouth—Remarkable dream of one of the officers—Falls in with the Cleopatra; her high state of equipment—Gallantry of both ships—Cap of Liberty—Action—Death of the French Captain, Mullon; his heroism—Captain Pellew's letter to his brother. page 47
THE WESTERN SQUADRONS.
Presented to the King and knighted—His liberality to the widow of Captain Mullon—Use of carronades—He suggests the employment of independent squadrons in the western part of the Channel, to check the enemy's cruising frigates—Value of these squadrons—Appointed to the Arethusa, and joins Sir J.B. Warren's squadron—Action of April 23rd, 1794—Engages and captures La Pomone—Action of August 23rd, 1794 A second squadron fitted out, and placed under his orders—Artois and Revolutionaire; chivalrous conduct of Sir Sidney Smith—Conveys important intelligence to the Admiralty—Appointed to the Indefatigable, 44—His dispute with the Navy board—Allowed to fit her according to his own plans—Success of them—Accuracy of his judgment on a ship's qualities—Indefatigable strikes on a rock—Sir Edward nearly lost in attempting to save two of his people—His success on different occasions in saving lives—Wreck of the Dutton at Plymouth—He boards her, and saves all the people—His report of the service—Honours and rewards; created a Baronet—Captain Cole, and L'Unite French frigate—Sir Edward's letters on the occasion to Earls Chatham and Spencer—Notice of Captain Cole—His death, and Sir Edward's feeling—Action of Indefatigable and La Virginie—Conduct and gallantry of her Captain, Bergeret. page 61
EXPEDITION AGAINST IRELAND.
State of parties—Enemy's preparations for invasion—Reflections on Ireland—Lord Exmouth's opinion on the Roman Catholic question—Sir E. Pellew watches Brest with his frigates—His perseverance and hardihood—Sailing of the expedition—He embarrasses its movements—Arrives in England—Misfortunes of the British fleet—Enemy arrive at Bantry Bay—Prevented from landing, and driven off the coast by gales—Reflections on the failure of the expedition—Sir Edward puts to sea with the Indefatigable and Amazon—Meets and engages the Droits de l'Homme, 74—Finds himself on a lee-shore, hauls off, and saves the Indefatigable with difficulty—Amazon wrecked—Admirable conduct of her officers and crew—Droits de l'Homme wrecked—Horrible circumstance of her fate—Anecdote of the French Commodore—Eventual fate of the Captain of the Amazon. page 86
Remarks on Sir Edward's character as a seaman and an officer—His conduct when his ship was on fire—His consideration for his officers and men—The Duke of Northumberland—Mutiny at Spithead—Preparations for a second invasion of Ireland—General Daendels—Proposed expedition baffled—Sir Edward off Brest—Proposes to burn the French fleet—Success in capturing the enemy's cruisers—La Vaillante—Royalist priests and Madame Rovere—His liberality—Appointed to L'Impetueux, 78—Her mutinous state—Observations on the mutinies in the Navy, from 1797—Sir Edward's opinions on the subject—His precautions—Attempted mutiny in the Indefatigable—Conspiracy in the Channel fleet—Mutiny on board the Impetueux—His firmness and promptitude in suppressing it—Court-martial—Earl St. Vincent's opinion of his conduct—His conduct at the execution—His decision on the court-martial on a mutineer—Illustrative anecdote—He commands an expedition to Quiberon—Proposes to attack Belleisle—Cruises off Port Louis—Mr. Coghlan cuts out La Cerbere—He directs the landing of the army at Ferrol. page 108
BLOCKADE OF FERROL.—PARLIAMENTARY HISTORY.
Peace—Made Colonel of Marines—His popularity—Envy in consequence—Anecdote—Elected M.P. for Barnstaple—State of parties—Renewal of hostilities—Appointed to the Tonnant, 80—Pursues a Dutch squadron—Blockades a French squadron in Ferrol—His seamanship and exertions in maintaining the blockade—Difficulty of supplying the ships—His recall—Earl St. Vincent's naval reforms—Mr. Pitt's opposition—Naval inquiry, March 15, 1804—Sir Edward's speech—Its effect—Promoted to be a Rear-Admiral, and appointed to be Commander-in-chief in India. page 134
SIR EDWARD'S COMMAND IN INDIA.
Character required for a Commander-in-chief—Hostility of the new Ministry—Sir T. Troubridge sent to take the more valuable part of the command—Oversight of the Admiralty—Dispute between the two admirals—Sir Edward confirmed in his command—Melancholy fate of the Blenheim, Sir T. Troubridge—Sir Edward sends Captain Troubridge in search of his father—Actions in the Indian Seas—San Fiorenzo and Psyche—Piedmontaise and Warren Hastings—Ferocity of the French first lieutenant, and Sir Edward's general order in consequence—San Fiorenzo and Piedmontaise—French privateers—Murderous contest between the Victor and Malay pirates—Attack on Batavia Roads, and destruction of the shipping—Captain Fleetwood Pellew at Samarang—Attack on Griessee, and destruction of the line-of battle ships—Sir Edward's protection of commerce—Convoy system—Resolutions of the Bombay merchants—His care of the fleet—Establishes a naval hospital at Madras—Punishment: Sir Edward's regulations—Encounters a hurricane on his homeward voyage. page 148
NORTH SEA AND FIRST MEDITERRANEAN COMMANDS.
Declines an offer to be second in command in the Mediterranean—Commander-in-chief in the North Sea; his activity and energy—Receives the Mediterranean command—Affair off Toulon—His expectations of a battle—Disposition of his force—System of the fleet—His attention to discipline; to economy—Frigate affairs off Toulon—Care of his officers—Nature of the service in the Mediterranean—Daring of the crews—Effect of their successes—Diplomatic responsibility—Sir Edward's anxiety for a battle—Anecdote of Napoleon—Affair of November 5th, 1813—of February 13th, 1814—Capture of Genoa—Peace. page 170
SECOND MEDITERRANEAN COMMAND.
Sir Edward created Baron Exmouth—His letter on the occasion—Made Knight of the Bath—Renewal of hostilities—Resumes the command in the Mediterranean—Services at Naples—Services at Marseilles—Instructed to negotiate with the Barbary Powers—Anecdote of the Pope—Causes the city and defences of Algiers to be surveyed—Previous ignorance of the place—General order to the fleet—Peace made with Algiers—Abolition of slavery at Tunis and Tripoli—Second visit to Algiers—Violent discussions, negotiation broken off, danger of the party, hostile proceedings—Negotiation renewed—Arrangement—Lord Exmouth's anxiety at having exceeded his instructions—Debate in the House of Commons—Massacre at Bona—Determination of the Government to enforce the abolition of Christian slavery. page 187
THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS.
Description of the defences—Force demanded by Lord Exmouth—Surprise of the Admiralty at the small force he required—Lord Exmouth's confidence—His entire satisfaction with the arrangements of the Admiralty—He refuses to allow his relations to accompany him—His promptitude—Sails—Preparations for the battle—A Dutch squadron joins at Gibraltar—Preparations made by the Algerines—Particulars of the battle—Fleet hauls off—Lord Exmouth's conduct after the battle—His very narrow escapes—Submission of the enemy—Lord Exmouth's account of the battle, in a private letter—Closing remarks. page 200
LORD EXMOUTH'S RETIREMENT AND DEATH.
Honours paid him—His exertions for his officers—Thanks of Parliament—Activity of his mind—Command at Plymouth—Trial of the Queen—His unpopularity, and remarks on it—His independence in politics—Catholic question—His religious principles and conduct—Peace of his declining years—Anxiety for the safety of the country—Death of his daughter—Death of his grandchild; his reflection on the occasion—Made Vice-Admiral of England—Death of Sir Israel Pellew—Lord Exmouth's attachment to the Church, and confidence in God's protection of it—His last illness and death. page 221
ADMIRAL VISCOUNT EXMOUTH
The life and services of Lord Exmouth are of no common interest; not more because he has advanced the reputation of his country, and connected his name with her history, than that he began his career an almost unfriended orphan, and rose to the highest honours of his profession without having been indebted to fortune or to patronage. One of the most interesting spectacles is that of rising merit struggling from its difficulties. The most encouraging, is the honour which rewards its exertions. The young officer, who, like him, has devoted himself to an arduous service, with nothing to rely on but his sword, may derive instruction from his example, and encouragement from his success.
Edward Pellew, Viscount Exmouth, descended from a family which was settled in the west of Cornwall for many centuries, but came originally from Normandy, where the name is still met with. After the close of the war he received a letter from a family there, claiming kindred, and offering the name and armorial bearings in proof. The original orthography, "Pelleu," was retained until a comparatively recent period. They are said to have landed at Pengersick Castle, near St. Michael's Mount, and appear to have remained in that part of the county until the beginning of the 17th century. They had a family tomb in Breage, a parish on the eastern side of the Mount's Bay, in which they had acquired property, and they still possess a small estate in that neighbourhood. Part of this early history, it will be seen, can rest only upon tradition; and indeed, it is of very little importance. The weakness of seeking credit from remote ancestors, for one whose personal honours require no further illustration, may well be exploded. But there is one kind of ancestry where an inquiry will always be interesting—that where the traits which distinguished the founder of a family may be traced in the character of his forefathers.
The earliest of the family of whom anything is certainly known lived during the great rebellion at Plymouth, where his loyalty made him so obnoxious to the republicans, that the mob on one occasion assaulted him on the Hoe, and plundered his house. A small piece of antique plate, still preserved, and bearing the date 1645, was the only article of value saved from them. His son, Captain Pellew, Lord Exmouth's great-grandfather, served in the navy during the war of the succession. A very fine portrait of him remains.
Humphry Pellew, the grandfather, was an extensive merchant. He held a large property in shipping, and traded chiefly to America, where he had purchased a valuable tobacco plantation of 2,000 acres, in Kent Island, Maryland. Of this estate, upon which the town of Annapolis Royal is partly built, the writings remain, but the property was lost at the revolt of the colonies. No portion of the compensation fund voted by Parliament was in this instance ever received; and General Washington afterwards declared to a friend of the family, that the fact of three of the brothers having borne arms against the States would prevent the success of any application to the American Government.
Mr. Pellew built part of Flushing, a large village on the shores of Falmouth harbour, including the present manor-house, in which he resided; but this, being leasehold property, has long ago reverted to the lord. In 1692, he married Judith Sparnon, of Sparnon and Pengelly, in Breage, by whom he had six sons and five daughters. Mr. Pellew maintained a high character through life, and his memory was long preserved among the older inhabitants of the village. He died in 1721. His son Israel married Miss Trefusis, upon whom the estate of Trefusis, which includes Flushing, was entailed, in default of more direct heirs from the then possessor; Thomas married Miss Whittaker, who was grand-daughter of Viscount Fauconberg by a daughter of Cromwell; three died unmarried; and the children of the youngest son were at length the only male survivors of the family.
Samuel, youngest son of Humphry Pellew, commanded a Post-office packet on the Dover station, to which he had been appointed through the interest of the Spencer family. He was a man of great determination, and became in consequence the subject of a characteristic song, which was long remembered by the watermen and others at Calais. The recollections of his family, and documents which have been preserved, show him to have been most exemplary in the duties of private life. In 1652, he married Constance Langford, daughter of Edward Langford, Esq., a gentleman descended from a considerable family in Wiltshire. The co-heiress of Edward Langford, Esq., of Trowbridge; married Henry Hyde, of Hinton, father of the great Earl of Clarendon, and by the marriage of her grand-daughter with James II. became the ancestor of Queen Mary and Queen Anne. Thus connected by blood, as well as attached by principle to the exiled family, Mr. Langford joined the standard of the Pretender in 1715, and distinguished himself at the battle of Preston. After the Rebellion was suppressed, he escaped to the west of Cornwall, and settled at Penzance. The Pretender took an opportunity to acknowledge his services by a present of costly china. His daughter, Mrs. Pellew, was a woman of extraordinary spirit. Mr. Pellew's political feelings differed widely from those of his father-in-law. It was his practice to make his children drink the king's health on their knees every Sunday. He died in 1765, leaving six children, four of them boys, of whom the eldest was at that time eleven years old, and Lord Exmouth, the second, only eight. Three years after, an imprudent marriage of the widow deprived the children of their remaining parent, and threw them upon the world with scanty resources, and almost without a friend.
It has been well observed, that a general condition of distinguished eminence is to be required to force a way to it through difficulties. Desertion at an early age indeed subjects the individual to a most severe trial; but where there is strength to bear the discipline, it exalts the principle which it fails to subdue, and adds force to the energies which it cannot tame. The Pellews were probably indebted for much of their success, as well as for the fearless independence which distinguished them, to the circumstances which thus compelled them from childhood to rely only upon themselves.
Samuel Humphry, the eldest brother, was intended for the navy, and was borne on the books of H.M.S. Seaford, Captain Macbride. But afterwards devoting himself to medicine, he became one of the earliest pupils of John Hunter, with Home, Pitcairn, and Baillie, for his class-fellows. After serving for some time as a surgeon of marines, and assistant surgeon to the Dockyard at Plymouth, he relinquished a partnership with Dr. Geach, of the Royal Hospital, and settled at Truro, where he obtained a considerable and lucrative practice. He finally became collector of the customs at Falmouth. Gifted with a clear and active mind, he did not confine himself to the routine of his official duties, and his suggestions on several important subjects were adopted by the Government. The Quarantine Law of 1800 was first proposed by him, and framed chiefly on his suggestions; as well as a tonnage duty by which the charges of the quarantine establishment were covered. The convoy duty was also imposed on his recommendation; and he first proposed the plan of warehousing goods in bond, and was much consulted during the perfecting of the measure, by which so great facilities have been afforded to the trade of the country—to the merchant, relief from the necessity of locking up large amounts of capital; to the consumer, cheapness, and a security against adulteration. Mr. Pellew served at his post till he was fourscore years old, and for years beyond that, he retained the freshness of feeling and enthusiasm of youth. He died in his 90th year.
Israel, the third brother, born August 25th, 1758, was sent to sea at an early age. He served with distinction in the American war, and was one of the officers entrusted with the defence of posts, when the Comte d'Estaign appeared off New York. Promoted to be a lieutenant, he cut out a vessel so well protected by batteries, that his brother officers thought it a service too desperate to be attempted. In command of the armed cutter Resolution, he engaged and captured in the North Sea, the Dutch privateer Flushinger, of fourteen guns, which had proved so destructive a cruizer, that the merchants of Hull memorialized the Admiralty in his favour; and Keppell, the First Lord, continued him for three years in command of the cutter, notwithstanding the signature of peace the day before the action, expressly to reward his gallantry and success. He was made a commander in 1790. He was passenger in his brother's frigate the Nymphe, when she gave the first earnest of the naval successes of the war, by the capture of the Cleopatra; and he contributed much to the brilliant result of the action, by taking charge of the after quarter-deck gun, with which he disabled the enemy's wheel. For this service he was at once promoted and appointed to a ship, and he continued to be so actively employed, that he never once saw his family, till after the peace. In September, 1796, his ship, the Amphion, 32-gun frigate, blew up while alongside the hulk in Hamoaze, and nearly all on board, about 300, perished. Captain Pellew was at the moment at dinner in his cabin, with Captain Swafneld, of the Overyssel, 64, and the first lieutenant. At the shock of the explosion, which took place in the fore magazine, Captain Pellew, and the lieutenant sprang into the quarter gallery, and were thrown into the water and saved; Captain Swaffield perished.
Soon after the renewal of hostilities, he was appointed by Earl St. Vincent to the Conqueror, one of the largest and most powerful seventy-four's in the Navy. She carried twenty-four pounders on her upper deck, there being only fourteen ships, out of 100 of the same nominal force, which were so heavily armed. In her he shared with Nelson the chase of the combined fleet to the West Indies and back, and took a very distinguished part in the battle of Trafalgar. Following, abreast of the Leviathan, the three leading ships of Nelson's column, she engaged, captured, and took possession of the Bucentaure, flagship of the commander-in-chief of the enemy, Villeneuve; and she afterwards assisted in the capture of the Santissima Trinidada, and Intrepide. In 1807, still in command of the Conqueror, Captain Pellew joined in saving the fleet and royal family of Portugal, when the French, under Junot, entered Lisbon; and afterwards in blockading a Russian squadron of nine sail of the line in the Tagus, till the victory of Vimiera placed them in the hands of the British.
He became rear-admiral in July 1810, and on his brother being appointed commander-in-chief in the Mediterranean in the following May, he sailed with him as captain of the fleet, to the close of the war. On the return of Napoleon from Elba, he rejoined his brother in the same capacity, having, on the extension of the Order of the Bath, been appointed a knight-commander. His last service was to take a chief part in the negotiations with the Barbary Powers, for the abandonment of Christian slavery, in 1816. Lord Exmouth would not allow him, or any of his family, to accompany him to the attack on Algiers, in the autumn of that year. He died at Plymouth, June 19th, 1832, only seven months before his brother Lord Exmouth.
John, the youngest brother, entered the army. While still a youth, he became aide-de-camp to General Phillips in Burgoyne's campaign, and was killed in the battle of Saratoga.
Edward, the second son of Samuel and Constance Pellew, was born at Dover, April 19, 1757. He was named after his maternal grandfather, and as there appeared at first but little probability that he would live, he was baptized on the same day. Before he was quite eight years old, he lost his father. The widow then removed with her family to Penzance, where he was placed at school with the Rev. James Parkins, the clergyman of the parish. Here he gave a remarkable proof of a daring spirit. A house, in which was a considerable quantity of gunpowder, took fire; and while every one else was afraid to approach, he went alone into the burning house and brought out all the powder. He was afterwards sent to the grammar school at Truro, of which the Rev. Mr. Conon was head master, under whom he made a satisfactory progress, and before he left could readily construe Virgil. As it was then the general practice in schools to allow the boys to settle their own disputes, the fearlessness of his character, and a strength beyond his years, enabled him to maintain a very respectable position among his school-fellows. At length, having inflicted upon some opponent a more severe punishment than was usual in juvenile combats, the fact came under the cognizance of the master, and to escape a threatened flogging, he ran away He told his elder brother, who had now to act as head of the family, that he would not return to school to be flogged for fighting, but would go to sea directly. Happily, his inclinations were indulged, though his grandfather, who wished him to be placed in a merchant's office, strongly opposed the step. "So, sir," said the old gentleman, when the boy came with his brothers to take a farewell dinner with him, "they are going to send you to sea. Do you know that you may be answerable for every enemy you kill? and, if I can read your character, you will kill a great many!" "Well, grandpapa," replied young Pellew, "and if I do not kill them, they'll kill me!"
He entered the navy towards the end of 1770, in the Juno, Captain Stott, which was sent to the Falkland Islands, in consequence of the forcible seizure of them by the Spanish squadron. It is remarkable that this paltry dispute, which might be almost forgotten but for the virulent invective of "Junius," and the masterly defence of the Government by Dr. Johnson, should have given to the navy two such officers as Nelson and Pellew; neither of whom might otherwise have found an opportunity to join the service until they were too old, in the five years of peace which followed. After the Juno had been paid off, Captain Stott was appointed to the Alarm, in which Mr. Pellew followed him to the Mediterranean, where an unpleasant difference with his commander made him leave the ship. Captain Stott, who had been a boatswain with Boscawen, was an excellent seaman, but unfortunately retained some habits not suited to his present rank. He kept a mistress on board. Among the midshipmen was a boy named Frank Cole, who was three years younger than Mr. Pellew, but had entered on board the Juno at the same time. Mr. Pellew was warmly attached to him. The woman had some pet fowls, which were allowed to fly about; and one day, when the ship was at Marseilles, and the captain absent, one of them was driven off the quarter-deck by young Cole, which led to great abuse from the woman, and a sharp reply from the boy. When the captain returned, he became so much enraged by her representations, that he not only reprimanded the youngster severely for what he termed his insolence, but so far forgot himself as to give him a blow. This was not to be borne, and having consulted his friend Pellew, he applied for his discharge. Captain Stott ordered a boat immediately, for the purpose, as he said, of turning him on shore. Pellew instantly went to the captain, and said, "If Frank Cole is to be turned out of the ship, I hope, sir, you will turn me out too." Their spirited conduct attracted the notice of the two lieutenants, Keppel and Lord Hugh Seymour, and laid the foundation of a friendship which continued through life: and Lord Hugh Seymour, finding that the boys had no money, very kindly gave them an order on his agent at Marseilles. Captain Stott afterwards tried to induce them to return, but not succeeding, he gave them the highest testimonials of their ability and desert, saying that he believed that they would become an honour to the service. Mr. Pellew found a master of a merchant vessel on shore, who had known his family at Dover, and now offered to take him to Lisbon, but declined to accommodate a second passenger. Mr. Pellew pleaded so earnestly for his young friend, and so positively refused to leave him, that the other at length consented to give them both a passage. From Lisbon they reached Falmouth in one of the packets. Little could he then suppose that he was next to see Marseilles as a commander-in-chief, and one day to save it from destruction. Twelve years after, when he had become a post captain, and was in command of the Winchelsea, he took under his protection a son of Captain Stott, who was then dead, and did every thing in his power to promote the young man's interests.
It was now his happiness to sail in the Blonde, with Captain Pownoll, an officer who had been trained and brought forward by Admiral Boscawen, and whose character was among the highest in the service. Captain Pownoll soon appreciated the merit and promise of his midshipman, who returned his kindness with almost the affection of a son. Such mutual confidence and attachment between a captain and his midshipman has very rarely been met with; and it was peculiarly fortunate for Mr. Pellew, that his quick and determined character, which, with a judgment not yet matured by experience, might have carried him into mistakes, found a guide so kind and judicious as Captain Pownoll.
And here it will not be uninteresting to observe how far the influence of a great commander may extend. St. Vincent and Pownoll, who were brought up under Boscawen, and received their lieutenant's commissions from him, contributed materially to form a Nelson and an Exmouth; each the founder of a school of officers, whose model is the character of their chief, and their example his successes.
Active beyond his companions, and devoted to his profession, he soon became a thorough seaman; while the buoyancy of youth, and his playful, fearless spirit, prompted him continually to feats of extraordinary daring. In the spring of 1775, General Burgoyne took his passage to America in the Blonde, and when he came alongside, the yards were manned to receive him. Looking up, he was surprised and alarmed to see a midshipman on the yard-arm standing on his head. Captain Pownoll, who was at his side, soon quieted his apprehensions, by assuring him that it was only one of the frolics of young Pellew, and that the General might make himself quite at ease for his safety, for if he should fall, he would only go under the ship's bottom, and come up on the other side. What on this occasion was probably spoken but in jest, was afterwards more than realized; for he actually sprang from the fore-yard of the Blonde, while she was going fast through the water, and saved a man who had fallen overboard. Captain Pownoll reproached him for his rashness, but he shed tears when he spoke of it to the officers, and declared that Pellew was a noble fellow.
The revolt of the American colonies, which rose in this year to the importance of a national war, was soon to furnish him with objects worthy of his skill and courage. On the 10th of May the Americans surprised Ticonderoga, and, having secured the command of Lake Champlain by a strong squadron, were enabled to prosecute offensive operations against Canada. Sir Guy Carleton, the governor and commander-in-chief of that province, had very inadequate means to defend it. The enemy took Montreal, and in the beginning of December laid siege to Quebec, expecting an easy conquest; but their commander, General Montgomery, who had summoned Sir Guy Carleton in the most arrogant and threatening style, was killed on the 31st, in attempting to storm the place, and his troops were repulsed. The siege, however, was continued by Arnold, till Commodore Sir Charles Douglas, in the Isis, with two other ships under his Orders, forced his way through the ice, much before the season at which the river is usually open. His appearance drove the besiegers to a hasty flight, in which they suffered such extreme privations, especially their sick and wounded, that General Carleton most humanely issued a proclamation, in which he ordered them to be treated as fellow-creatures in distress; and encouraged them to claim the offered hospitality, by assuring them that they should be unconditionally liberated as soon as they were able to return home. At the same time, with energy equal to his humanity, he hastened to complete the deliverance of the province. Additional reinforcements which reached him in the spring enabled him to give the enemy a final defeat at Trois Rivieres in June, and then to take measures for wresting from them the command of Lake Champlain; an object essential to the security of Canada, as well as to prosecuting offensive operations against the New England States.
Lake Champlain is a long narrow lake to the N.E. of Ontario, communicating with the St. Lawrence a few miles below Montreal by the river Chamblee, or Sorel. It is nowhere more than eighteen miles across, and its average breadth does not exceed five. Below Crown Point it is a mere channel for ten or twelve miles to its southern extremity at Ticonderoga. Here it receives the waters from a small lake to the southward, Lake George, but the communication, as well as that with the St. Lawrence, is interrupted by shoals and rapids. From Lake George to the Hudson is only six or eight miles, the sole interruption to a water frontier from the St. Lawrence to New York, navigable for vessels of burden for four-fifths of its length, and for bateaux nearly all the way. The command of this line would enable the northern and southern armies to co-operate effectually; to press on the New England States along their whole border; to cut off all communication between them and the rest of the Union, and to prevent any hostile attempt on Canada.
Measures were promptly taken to secure this important object. Detachments from the King's ships at Quebec, with volunteers from the transports, and a corps of artillery, in all, nearly 700 men, were sent across to the Lake, there to construct, with timber felled by themselves, and in the presence of a superior enemy, the vessels in which they were to meet him. A party joined from the Blonde, under Lieutenant Dacres, with Mr. Brown, one of the midshipmen. Mr. Pellew was to have remained with the ship; but he appeared so much disappointed at the arrangement, that Captain Pownoll allowed him also to go.
The season was already so far advanced, that it would have been a creditable service only to complete the preparations for the next campaign; but the zeal and exertions of the officers and men surpassed all calculation. They got across to the Lake thirty long-boats, many large flat-bottomed boats, a vast number of bateaux, and a gondola of thirty tons, carrying them over land, or dragging them up the rapids. The keel and floor-timbers of the Inflexible, a ship of three hundred tons, which had been laid at Quebec, were taken to pieces, and carried over to St. John's, on the Lake, where a dockyard was established, under the superintendence of Lieutenant Schanck, an officer of extraordinary mechanical ingenuity. Here, on the morning of the 2nd September, the Inflexible was again laid down, and by sunset, all her former parts were put together, and a considerable quantity of additional timbers prepared. The progress of the work was like magic. Trees growing in the forest in the morning, would form part of the ship before night. She was launched in twenty-eight days from laying her keel, and sailed next evening, armed with eighteen twelve-pounders, and fully equipped for service. Two schooners, the Maria, and the Carleton; the Loyal Convert, gondola; the Thunder, a kind of flat-bottomed raft, carrying twelve heavy guns and two howitzers; and twenty-four boats, armed each with a field piece, or carriage-gun, formed, with the Inflexible, a force equal to the service, where but a few days before, the British had scarcely a boat upon the waters. No time was now lost in seeking the enemy, and Sir Guy Carleton himself embarked with the squadron. Captain Pringle, as commodore, sailed with Lieutenant Schanck in the Inflexible. Lieutenant Dacres, with Mr. Brown and Mr. Pellew, were appointed to the Carleton.
On the 11th of October, the enemy was discovered drawn up in a strong line across the passage between Valicour, one of the numerous islands on the lake, and the Western land; and so well concealed by the island, that the squadron had nearly passed without observing them. They had fifteen vessels, carrying ninety-six guns, fourteen of which were eighteen-pounders, (eight of them traversing), and twenty-three twelves. General Arnold commanded. The Carleton, being nearest to the enemy, attacked at once, though her force was only twelve six-pounders. Unfortunately, from the state of the wind, no other vessel could come to her assistance, and she was obliged to engage the whole force of the enemy single-handed. Sir Guy Carleton saw her desperate position with extreme anxiety, but it was impossible to bring up the squadron, and he could only send in the artillery-boats to support her. Meantime she was suffering most severely. Very early in the action, Mr. Brown lost an arm; and soon after, Lieutenant Dacres fell, severely wounded and senseless. He would have been thrown overboard as dead, but for the interference of Mr. Pellew, who now succeeded to the command. He maintained the unequal contest, till Captain Pringle, baffled in all his efforts to bring up the squadron, made the signal of recall, which the Carleton, with two feet water in her hold, and half her crew killed and wounded, was not in a condition to obey. In attempting to go about, being at the time near the shore, which was covered with the enemy's marksmen, she hung in stays, and Mr. Pellew, not regarding the danger of making himself so conspicuous, sprang out on the bowsprit to push the jib over. The artillery-boats now towed her out of action, under a very heavy fire from the enemy, who were enabled to bear their guns upon her with more effect, as she increased her distance. A shot cut the towrope, and Mr. Pellew ordered some one to go and secure it; but seeing all hesitate, for indeed it appeared a death-service, he ran forward and did it himself. The result of the action was far beyond anything that could have been expected from the excessive disparity of the force engaged; for the Carleton, with the assistance of the artillery-boats, had sunk the Boston gondola, carrying an eighteen pounder and two twelves; and burnt the Royal Savage, of twelve guns, the largest of the enemy's schooners.
Arnold escaped in the night. The squadron pursued, and on the morning of the 13th overtook him, within a few leagues of Crown Point. After a running fight of two hours the four headmost vessels of the enemy succeeded in reaching Crown Point, and sheltering themselves in the narrow part of the lake beyond it. Two others, the Washington and Jersey, were taken; and the rest were run on shore and burnt by their own crews. The enemy then set fire to their works on Crown Point, and abandoned it.
The Carleton's action on the 11th, which certainly was never surpassed for gallantry and conduct, obtained for her crew the credit they so well deserved. Lieutenant Dacres, who recovered sufficiently to go home with the despatches, received promotion as soon as he arrived in England, and was honoured with a personal interview with the king. He rose to be a vice-admiral. How Mr. Pellew's services in this, his first action, were appreciated by his superior officers is best told in their own words. In a few days, Sir Charles Douglas, the senior officer at Quebec, to whose command all the Lake service was subordinate, sent him the following letter:—
"Isis, Quebec, Oct. 30th, 1776.
"SIR,—The account I have received of your behaviour on board the Carleton, in the different actions on the Lakes, gives me the warmest satisfaction, and I shall not fail to represent it in the strongest terms to the Earl of Sandwich and my Lord Howe, and recommend you as deserving a commission for your gallantry; and as Lieutenant Dacres, your late commander, will no doubt obtain rank for his conduct, when he reaches England, I am desired by General Sir Guy Carleton to give you the command of the schooner in which you have so bravely done your duty.
The report of Sir Charles Douglas, obtained for Mr. Pellew the following letter from the Commander-in-Chief:—
"Eagle, New York, Dec. 20th, 1776.
"SIR,—The account I have heard of your gallant behaviour from Captain Charles Douglas, of H.M.S. Isis, in the different actions on Lake Champlain, gives me much satisfaction, and I shall receive pleasure in giving you a lieutenant's commission, whenever you may reach New York.
It is, perhaps, a singular occurrence for a midshipman to be honoured with a letter of thanks from the First Lord of the Admiralty, but the service itself was important, and Captain Pownoll strengthened Sir Charles Douglas' report of his young officer's conduct, by a communication of his own. Their joint eulogy obtained for Mr. Pellew the following letter from Lord Sandwich:—
"Admiralty Office, London, Jan. 5th, 1777.
"SIR,—You have been spoken of to me by Sir Charles Douglas and Captain Philemon Pownoll, for your good conduct in the various services upon Lake Champlain, in so handsome a manner, that I shall receive pleasure in promoting you to the rank of a lieutenant, whenever you come to England; but it is impossible to send you a commission where you now are, it being out of the jurisdiction of the Admiralty.
Sir Guy Carleton remained at Crown Point as long as the season would permit. He employed Mr. Pellew on the narrow inlet, which extends from Crown Point to Ticonderoga, along which his proposed operations were to be conducted; and Mr. Pellew attended to his charge with unceasing vigilance and activity. On one occasion, the American Commander-in Chief, Arnold, most narrowly escaped becoming his prisoner. Having ventured upon the Lake in a boat, he was observed, and chased so closely by Mr. Pellew, that when he reached the shore and ran off, he left his stock and buckle in the boat behind him. This was preserved as long as he lived by Mr. Pellew's elder brother, to whom Arnold's son, not many years ago, confirmed the particulars of his father's escape. The General, seeing that his men were panic-struck when they found themselves chased, encouraged them to exertion by the assurance that the pursuers were not enemies, but only a boat endeavouring to outrow them. Pulling off his stock, and seizing an oar, he promised them a bottle of rum each, if they gained the shore first. Well had it been for Arnold; happy for the gallant young officer, who was the victim of his conduct; and perhaps, on so small a contingency may the fate of a campaign depend, happy for the British army, to whose misfortunes in the following year his skill and courage so materially contributed, had the fortune of the chase been different.
Mr. Pellew had a scarcely less narrow escape. He was invited with a party of officers to spend an afternoon with some young ladies in the neighbourhood, and they were on the way to keep their engagement, when Mr. Pellew stopped, and said to his companions, "We are doing a very foolish thing: I shall turn back, and I advise you all to do the same." They hesitated, but at length returned with him; and afterwards learnt that their Delilahs had posted a party of soldiers to make them prisoners.
At length Sir Guy Carleton, having satisfied himself that Ticonderoga was too strong to be attacked with his present force at that advanced season, re-embarked the troops, and returned to Canada. He there exerted himself through the winter, in making preparations for the ensuing campaign, and had almost completed them, when the command of the army was taken from him, and given to officers who had been serving under his orders. Though his success had surpassed the utmost hopes of his country, and his great local knowledge and experience claimed the confidence of the British Government, he was not even consulted on the expedition they had planned, and of which the very details were so far settled in the cabinet, that little was left to the unfortunate General who was to conduct it. He felt like an officer on the occasion, and resigned the government of Canada; but he acted like an Englishman, and though he disapproved materially of some parts of the plan, he omitted no exertion which might contribute to its success.
The army devoted to an expedition thus inauspiciously commenced, was composed of 7,000 regular troops, of whom 3,200 were Germans; a corps of Artillery, 2,000 Canadians, and 1,000 savages. Sir Guy Carleton knew too well the ferocious and uncertain character of the Indians to trust them; but the government at home entertained a very different opinion; and it was, perhaps, the chief motive for their conduct towards him, that he had only amused and kept them quiet, instead of calling them into active service. Lieutenant-General Burgoyne was selected for the command, assisted by Major-Generals Phillips and Reidesel, and Brigadiers Frazer, Powell, Hamilton, and Specht.
Mr. Pellew was attached to the army, with the command of a party of seamen, and during its advance, was again actively employed on the Lake. While on this service, he narrowly escaped a calamity, which would have clouded all his future life. His youngest brother had come out from England to join the army; and being appointed Aide-de-Camp to General Phillips, though only seventeen years of age, he was sent down the Lake in charge of the General's baggage. He was told that he had nothing to fear from the enemy, but that he would probably meet his brother; and, with the unthinking sportiveness of youth, as he knew that he was not expected, he determined to surprise him. Accordingly, he fell in with him in the night, and when hailed, answered, "A friend!" "What friend?" exclaimed his brother; "tell who you are, or I'll shoot you." "What! do not you know me?" "No!" said the other, presenting a pistol. "Your brother John!"
On the 21st of June, the army being encamped on the western side of the Lake, and a little to the north of Crown Point, General Burgoyne made a war-feast for the savages, and addressed them in a speech which enforced every motive calculated to restrain their ferocity. But, unfortunately, he hoped to terrify the inhabitants to submission by threatening them with all the horrors of Indian warfare; and a proclamation which he published to this effect, was remembered to his serious prejudice. After a short stay at Crown Point, the troops advanced along both sides of the Lake, accompanied by the squadron under Lieutenant Schanck; and on the 2nd of July, arrived before Ticonderoga, then garrisoned by General St. Clair, with nearly 5,000 men. Ticonderoga possessed great natural advantages. It was protected on three sides by the water, with very rocky shores; and on the fourth, partly by a morass, and where that failed, by a strong breast-work. It was, indeed, commanded by a neighbouring height, Sugar Hill, which the Americans had neglected to secure, presuming upon its almost inaccessible character. Opposite Ticonderoga, they had fortified a high conical hill, Mount Independence, and connected it with the fort by a very strong bridge, which was itself protected by a massy boom. The Americans had been employed for ten months, in giving to these works the utmost possible strength and solidity.
On the 5th, the British had nearly completed their preparations, and General Phillips had carried a road almost to the top of Sugar Hill, when General St. Clair determined to evacuate the fort. That night he sent away his stores and baggage in more than two hundred bateaux, under convoy of five armed gallies, to Skenesborough, a town about eight miles distant, at the head of a small inlet, South Bay, which branches off from the Lake at Ticonderoga. The troops marched to the same place, leaving more than a hundred guns behind.
Daylight showed the flight of the enemy. Reidesel and Frazer immediately followed in pursuit, while Burgoyne embarked the rest of the army on board the squadron. The boom and bridge, which had cost so many months of labour to complete, were presently cut through by the sailors and artificers. The squadron were enabled to pass at nine o'clock, and at three came up with the enemy near Skenesborough Falls. After a short resistance, two of the gallies surrendered, and the enemy set fire to the others, and to all their bateaux and stores.
Early next morning, Reidesel and Frazer overtook a strong body of the enemy, and defeated them, with the loss of their Commander, and nearly 1,000 men killed, wounded, and taken. Another division was encountered and routed by Colonel Hill. The fugitives escaped to Fort Edward, on the Hudson.
General Burgoyne might now have returned to Ticonderoga, and thence crossed to the head of Lake George, from which there was a waggon-road to Fort Edward, only eighteen miles distant. But fearing that a retrograde movement might check the enthusiasm of the army, now elated with their rapid career of victory, underrating the difficulties of the country, and too much despising an enemy who had been so easily dispersed, he determined to ascend Wood Creek as far as Fort Anne, whence the direct distance to the Hudson is shorter. He waited, therefore, a few days near Skenesborough for his tents, baggage, and provisions; employing himself, in the mean time, in clearing the navigation of Wood Creek, while his people at Ticonderoga were transporting the stores and artillery over the portages to Lake George.
The enemy offered little resistance in the advance to Fort Edward, but the difficulties of the country were almost insurmountable. So broken was it by creeks and morasses, that it became necessary to construct more than forty bridges and causeways, one of them over a morass two miles long. The enemy had created every possible obstruction by felling trees across the paths, and destroying the communications. Scarcely could the army advance a mile in a day, and it was the end of July before it arrived on the Hudson.
On the approach of the British, the enemy quitted Fort Edward, and retreated to Saratoga. All kinds of provisions and stores had already reached Fort George; but the means of transport were lamentably deficient, and the impossibility of bringing up supplies compelled the army to a fatal inaction. On the 15th of August, after a fortnight's incessant exertion, there were only four days' provisions in store.
Meantime, the enemy was daily becoming stronger. The conduct of the savages had roused the whole country; and the British bore the odium of excesses which the General could not prevent, and dared not punish. The loyalists could not remain near the army, for they were almost equally exposed to the cruelties of the savages, who spared neither age nor sex. Others, who would have gladly staid at home, found that their only safety was to take arms, and join the camp. Thus the British were left without a friend in the country, while the American commanders, who took every advantage of these atrocities, were soon at the head of an army more numerous and formidable than that which had been dispersed.
General Arnold was sent to command the force at Saratoga. He drew it back to Stillwater, a township about twelve miles down the Hudson, that he might check Colonel St. Leger, who, with 700 or 800 men, was besieging Fort Stanwix, on the Mohawk, and had given a severe defeat to a party sent to relieve it. General Burgoyne, desiring to effect a junction with St. Leger, moved down the east bank of the Hudson to Saratoga, where he threw a bridge of rafts over the river, and crossed an advanced corps. Being almost destitute of supplies, and too weak to maintain his communications with Fort George, he detached a force to surprise the enemy's magazines at Bennington; but on the 15th of August it was overpowered and defeated, with considerable loss. A week after, St. Leger was obliged to retire from before Fort Stanwix. General Gates, who was now the enemy's Commander-in-chief, detached Arnold against him with 2,000 men, and the savages, hearing of his approach, threatened to desert St. Leger if he remained, and even murdered the British stragglers on the retreat.
Provisions for thirty days were at length collected; but nearly three months had been consumed in forcing a way through almost impassable woods and morasses in the worst of weather, and in vexatious inaction from deficiency of means to advance; service far more destructive than severe fighting. A heavy swell caused by the rains had carried away the bridge, but Mr. Pellew constructed another by which the army crossed to Saratoga. The General would afterwards rally him as the cause of their subsequent misfortunes, by affording the means for their advance in the construction of this bridge. General Gates remained in the neighbourhood of Stillwater; and the army, advancing through a difficult country, found itself on the 19th of September very near the enemy. General Burgoyne marched at the head of the right wing, which was covered by the light infantry and grenadiers, under Frazer and Breyman, who moved along some high ground commanding its flank; while the left wing and artillery, under Phillips and Reidesel, kept along the road and meadows by the river side. While thus advancing, the enemy marched out of his camp, and attempted to turn the right wing, and take the British in flank. Foiled in this by the position of General Frazer, they countermarched under cover of the woods, and threw all their strength upon the left. Arnold led them on to repeated, and most determined attacks; nor were they finally repulsed till dusk, after four hours' severe fighting. Victory remained with the British; but the fact that the enemy could so long withstand regular troops in the open field, was decisive of the fate of the campaign.
Next morning the army took a position almost within cannon shot of the enemy, fortifying the right wing, and covering the bateaux and hospital with the left. The position of the enemy was unassailable. The savages, whose atrocities had mainly contributed to create the present difficulties of the army, now deserted altogether; and great part of the provincials and Canadians followed their example.
Hoping that he might be relieved by a diversion from New York, Burgoyne sent advices to Sir Harry Clinton, acquainting him with his present situation, and his intention to remain till the 12th of October. Meantime, he took every precaution to secure his camp. While his army was melting away by sickness, battle, and desertion, the enemy were daily becoming stronger. They had even been enabled to detach a force to the northward, which, on the 17th of September, surprised the posts on Lake George, and took an armed sloop, some gun-boats, and a great number of bateaux. They afterwards ventured to attack Ticonderoga and Mount Independence, and cannonaded them four days before they were repulsed.
At the beginning of October it became necessary to reduce the allowance of provisions. This and every other hardship was submitted to without a murmur; and never did an army better maintain its character than did this gallant force in its hour of hopeless danger. On the 7th, as there had been no intelligence from New York, General Burgoyne, accompanied by Phillips, Reidesel, and Frazer, made a movement to reconnoitre towards the enemy's left, with 1,500 men, and ten guns. They had advanced within three quarters of a mile of the enemy, when a sudden and determined attack was made upon their left, while a strong body moved to flank their right. The light infantry and part of the 24th regiment were quickly disposed to prevent the success of this latter movement, and cover a retreat; but the enemy, throwing an additional force upon the left, already hard pressed, it gave way, and the light infantry and 24th were obliged to hasten and support it. In this movement General Frazer fell. The troops retreated in good order, but with the loss of six guns.
Scarcely had they regained the camp, when the enemy rushed to storm it; Arnold, as usual, distinguishing himself by the impetuous courage with which he led on his men. The battle was maintained where he fought with the utmost desperation, till he fell, severely wounded, and his followers were driven back. In another part, the enemy were more successful. Colonel Breyman was killed, and the entrenchments, defended by the German reserve which he commanded, were carried. Night ended the battle, and left to the army the melancholy task of summing up its loss, which included several officers of distinction. The brother of Mr Pellew was among the dead.
But there is little grief for the slain when every one feels that he may lie with them to-morrow. That night the army moved to a new position, and next morning offered battle; but the enemy were securing their object by safer means. They pushed forward a strong body to turn the right of the British and surround them. To prevent this, the army retreated in the night through torrents of rain, to Saratoga. The sick and wounded were necessarily left behind.
Next morning, a party was seen throwing up entrenchments on the heights beyond the army; but a demonstration being made against them, they crossed the river, and joined a force on the other side. A retreat to Fort George was attempted, and the artificers were sent forward to repair the bridges, and open the road; but the appearance of the enemy made it necessary to recall them. The opposite bank of the river was covered with parties of the enemy, and the bateaux could no longer be effectually protected. Some were taken; and among others, the vessel which contained the small remaining store of provisions. This loss would have deprived the army of its last hope; but Mr. Pellew, with his sailors, attacked and recaptured the vessel. To guard against such a calamity for the future, the provisions were landed. General Burgoyne acknowledged this service in the following letter:—
"DEAR SIR,—It was with infinite pleasure that General Phillips and myself observed the gallantry and address with which you conducted your attack upon the provision-vessel in the hands of the enemy. The gallantry of your little party was deserving of the success which attended it; and I send you my sincere thanks, together with those of the army, for the important service you have rendered them upon this occasion.
"N.B.—The vessel contained 500 barrels of provisions, of which article the army was in great want."
A retreat to Fort Edward by a night march, the troops carrying their provisions on their backs, now offered the only hope of safety; but while preparations were being made for this, it was found that the enemy had effectually provided against it, by throwing up entrenchments opposite the fords, and securing the heights between Fort Edward and Fort George. Secrecy was impossible, for the parties of the enemy were everywhere so numerous, that not a movement could be concealed.
Still hoping to be relieved from New York, the army, now reduced to 3,500 effective men, of whom not 2,000 were British, lingered in their camp, where they lay always under arms, with the grape and rifle shot of the enemy falling continually around them. On the 13th they had only three days' provision remaining. A council of war was therefore held, to which General Burgoyne summoned all the principal officers. Mr. Pellew attended, as commander of the brigade of seamen; and a more decisive testimony to his merits and services could not be afforded, than the unprecedented compliment of calling a midshipman, only twenty years of age, to sit in council with generals.
Mr. Pellew, as the youngest officer present, was required to offer his opinion the first. He pleaded earnestly that his own little party might not be included in the proposed capitulation, but permitted to make the best of their way back. He had never heard, he said, of sailors capitulating, and was confident he could bring them off. It is very possible that they might have escaped. Soldiers are accustomed to act only in orderly masses; but sailors combine with discipline the energy of individual enterprise. Mr. Pellew's party had acted as pioneers and artificers to the army during its advance; and their knowledge, and readiness at resources, would have given them great facilities in making their way through a hostile country. But their escape would have cast a very undeserved discredit upon the army, and the proposal was discountenanced. Burgoyne said, what sailors could do, soldiers might do; and if the attempt were sanctioned for the one, the others must throw away their knapsacks and take their firelocks. As Mr. Pellew still clung to his proposal, the General took him aside, and having represented the impossibility of drawing off the army, convinced him of the impropriety of permitting the attempt by a small part of it.
The result of the council was a communication to General Gates, who, knowing the desperate condition of the British army, and his own irresistible superiority, must have been surprised at the gallant spirit manifested in its hopeless extremity. When he observed that the retreat of the British was cut off, he was told that the British could never admit that their retreat was cut off while they had arms in their hands; and to his proposal that the troops should pile arms within their camp, it was replied, that sooner than submit to such an indignity, they would rush on the enemy determined to take no quarter. Terms proposed by General Burgoyne were finally acquiesced in; and the American commander, as far as he was concerned, faithfully observed and enforced them with the most considerate delicacy.
Mr. Pellew, after having shared in the hospitality of General Gates, was sent to England by General Burgoyne with despatches, a distinction to which his services in the campaign were considered to have entitled him. At Quebec he met his former commander, Sir Guy Carleton, whose successor had not yet arrived, and who charged him with additional despatches, and the following letter to Lord Sandwich:—
"Quebec, November 2, 1777.
"MY LORD,—This will be presented to your lordship by Mr. Edward Pellew, a young man to whose gallantry and merit during two severe campaigns in this country, I cannot do justice. He is just now returned to me from Saratoga, having shared the fate of that unfortunate army, and is on his way to England. I beg leave to recommend him to your lordship, as worthy of a commission in his Majesty's service, for his good conduct.
He came home in a transport, in which Major Foy was also a passenger. An enemy's cruiser chased them, and the Major, as the superior officer, was proceeding to assume the command; but Mr. Pellew told him that he was the only naval officer on board, and must himself fight the ship. The Major acquiesced; and under Mr. Pellew's command, the transport engaged, and beat off the privateer.
It is scarcely necessary to state that immediately on his arrival he received the promotion which his services had so well deserved.
HIS SERVICES FROM 1778 TO 1791.
There are circumstances which in a few weeks or months may give the experience of years; and when these occur in early life, they make a permanent impression on the character. In the honours and misfortunes of the late campaign, its toils, and its anxieties, Mr. Pellew had very largely shared; and if rashness would have been the natural fault of a mind like his, a more effectual corrective could not have been desired. The quick conception, and the forethought, which enabled him in after life so well to combine caution with daring, must have greatly depended upon natural character, but he certainly owed much of it to the severe discipline of his early service.
He had now completed his twenty-first year. Tall, and with a frame of strength and symmetry, nerved by the hardships of two severe campaigns, his personal activity and power were almost unrivalled. The spot was shown for many years at Truro, where he sprang over the high gate of an inn-yard at the back of one of the hotels, when, hastening across the court to assist on the sudden alarm of a fire, he found the gate fast. The consciousness of superior strength, while it made him slow to offend, enabled him to inflict suitable punishment on offenders, and some incidents of a ludicrous character are still remembered.
The water was as a natural element to him, and he often amused himself in a manner which, to one less expert, would have been attended with the utmost danger. He would sometimes go out in a boat, and overset her by carrying a press of sail. Acts of daring like these must find their excuse in the spirit of a fearless youth. But he often found the advantage of that power and self-possession in the water which he derived from his early habits, in saving men who had fallen overboard, and especially in the happiest of all his services, his conduct at the Dutton. More than once, however, he nearly perished. In Portsmouth harbour, where he had upset himself in a boat, he was saved with difficulty, after remaining for a considerable time in the water. On another occasion, he was going by himself from Falmouth to Plymouth in a small punt, fourteen feet long, when his hat was blown overboard, and he immediately threw off his clothes and swam after it, having first secured the tiller a-lee. As he was returning with his hat, the boat got way on her, and sailed some distance before she came up in the wind. He had almost reached her when she filled again, and he was thus baffled three or four times. At length, by a desperate effort, he caught the rudder, but he was so much exhausted that it was a considerable time before he had strength to get into the boat.
The gratification felt at receiving his commission was soon forgotten, when he found himself appointed to a guard-ship. He repeatedly solicited more active employment, and at length took an opportunity to accost Lord Sandwich in the street at Portsmouth. The First Lord asked him if he were the young man who had been writing him so many letters; and after a reproof for accosting him in the street, appointed an audience at the hotel. He there told him that he could not be employed as he wished, because he was included in the convention of Saratoga; and when Mr. Pellew pleaded that the enemy had broken the convention, Lord Sandwich replied, that was no reason why England should do so too. At length, after every other plea had been urged in vain. Mr. Pellew took out his commission, and begged that he might be allowed to return it, declaring that he would rather command a privateer, than remain inactive while the war was going on. Lord Sandwich, smiling at his ardour, desired him to put up his commission, and promised that he should not be forgotten. Soon after, he was appointed to the Licorne.
In the spring of 1779, the Licorne sailed for the Newfoundland station, under the orders of Captain Cadogan, who had lately superseded Captain Bellew, her former commander. On her passage out, she engaged two of the enemy's cruisers, and Lieutenant Pellew's conduct in the action received the praise of his captain. She returned to England in December, when he left her to join the Apollo, commanded by his excellent friend and patron Captain Pownoll, who was so delighted to obtain once more the services of a follower whom he regarded with equal pride and affection, that he removed for his sake an officer of high connexions, whose seniority would have prevented Mr. Pellew from being the first lieutenant.
Mr. Pellew was too soon deprived of this inestimable friend. On the morning of the 15th of June 1780, the Apollo, cruising in the North Sea, in company with some other ships, was ordered away by the senior captain in pursuit of a cutter. She had almost come up with the chase, when the Stanislaus French frigate hove in sight, and the Apollo left the cutter for a more equal opponent. She overtook and brought her to action at half-past twelve, engaging under a press of sail, for the enemy made every effort to escape to the neutral port of Ostend, which was not far distant. In an hour after the action commenced, Captain Pownoll was shot through the body. He said to his young friend, "Pellew, I know you won't give his Majesty's ship away;" and immediately died in his arms. Mr. Pellew continued the action for more than an hour longer, and drove the enemy, beaten and dismasted, on shore; but he was disappointed of his prize, which claimed protection from the neutral port. The Apollo had five killed, besides the captain, and twenty wounded. A musket ball, which had struck Captain Pownoll in a former action, was found after his death, lodged among the muscles of the chest. The Stanislaus was got off, and carried into Ostend, where, being brought to sale, she was purchased by the British government, and added to the navy.
None despond so readily as talented and sanguine young men, who are too apt to regard as irreparable the loss of anything they had relied on for the attainment of a favourite object. Only time can show that a strong mind is not dependent upon accidental circumstances, but creates facilities for itself, as a river will make if it do not find a channel for its waters. But Lieutenant Pellew was too young to have learned this lesson; and depressed as he was with grief for his patron, and disappointment at the escape of the French frigate, his prospects seemed altogether clouded. A letter which he wrote to the Earl of Sandwich on this occasion, displays all the struggle of his feelings. Circumstantial proof that everything was done to prevent the enemy from escaping; a modest allusion to his former services; expressions of the keenest sorrow for his loss; a bitter sense of his desolate condition; with earnest appeals to every feeling of justice and sympathy, which might induce the First Lord to extend to him the patronage not always given to an unfriended claimant; yet still with anxiety to do full justice to his officers and men, are blended in this very characteristic letter. It is not certain that it was ever sent; for the copy preserved is too carefully written for a rough draft, yet contains many corrections and erasures. He was, perhaps, dissatisfied with it, and before he had determined what to send, his promotion spared him the necessity of an application. Still it is an interesting document, affording, as it does, a detailed account of the action, a sketch of his former services, and a transcript of his feelings at the time.
"MY LORD,—Your Lordship will receive herewith, from Admiral Drake, an account of an action fought by H.M.S. Apollo, at sea, June 15, which lasted for two hours and twenty minutes. I trust your Lordship will excuse my troubling you with a private account of the engagement, to inform you of many occurrences during the action which my public letter would not admit of. When the action began, both ships had all their sails set upon a wind, with as much wind as we could bear. The ever-to-be-lamented Captain Pownoll received a wound through his body about an hour after the action commenced, when standing at the gangway. The enemy had then suffered much, having lost the yard-arms of both his lower yards, and had no sails drawing but his foresail, main-top-gallant-sail, and mizen-topsail, the others flying about. We had engaged her to leeward, which, from the heel his ship had, prevented him from making our rigging and sails the objects of his fire; though I am well convinced he had laid his guns down as much as possible. When I assumed the command, we had shot upon his bow. I endeavoured to get the courses hauled up, and the top-gallant-sails clewed up, neither of which we could do, as we had neither clue-garnets, bunt-lines, or leach-lines left. However, we got the top-gallant-sails down, with most of the stay-sails, and the mizen-topsail aback; but finding we still outsailed him, I had no other method left but that of sheering across his hawse, first on one bow, then on the other, raking him as we crossed, always having in view the retarding his way, by obliging him either to receive us athwart his bowsprit, in which case we should have turned his head off shore, or to sheer as we did. He, foreseeing our intention, did so; but never lost sight of gaining the shore. In this situation we had continued for a considerable time. His bowsprit had been at two different times over our quarter-deck, but never so far forward as to enable us to secure him. All this time we were approaching the shore, and we were then, I am certain, within two miles of it. I had been cautioned by the master, whose abilities and great assistance I must ever gratefully remember, more than once, of the shoal water, and I had repeatedly called for and sent after the pilot; and I am sorry to inform your Lordship he did not appear. Thus situated, in three and a half fathoms water, and steering towards danger, there was no time to hesitate; and, with the advice of the master, I wore, and brought to under the mizen, with her head off shore, until we could get the courses and other sails taken in, not having then a brace or bowline left, and being fully determined to renew the action in a few minutes. We had scarcely wore, when his foremast, main-top-mast, main-yard, and main-top fell, leaving his mainmast without rigging; and the ship at the same time took a large heel, which made us all conclude she had struck the ground. It was then half-ebb, and I firmly believe, had we pursued him, in less than ten minutes we must have run aground. She had fired a gun to leeward, seemingly to claim the protection of the port, which was answered by three from the garrison. I was at this time preparing to wear again, to anchor alongside him; but Mr. Unwin, the purser, bringing me some orders found in Captain Pownoll's pocket, among which was one relative to the observance of neutrality, I did not think myself justified in renewing the attack. I therefore continued lying to, to repair our damages. Our masts are much wounded, the rigging very much torn, and several shot under water, by which we made two feet water an hour.
"Your Lordship will, I hope, pardon me, for troubling you with the relation of private feelings. The loss of Captain Pownoll will be severely felt. The ship's company have lost a father. I have lost much more, a father and a friend united; and that friend my only one on earth. Never, my Lord, was grief more poignant than that we all feel for our adored commander. Mine is inexpressible. The friend who brought me up, and pushed me through the service, is now no more! It was ever my study, and will always be so, to pursue his glorious footsteps. How far I may succeed I know not; but while he lived, I enjoyed the greatest blessing, that of being patronized by him. That happiness I am now deprived of, and unassisted by friends, unconnected with the great, and unsupported by the world, I must throw myself totally on your Lordship's generosity. If I have erred, it was not from the heart; for I will be bold to say, the love and honour of his country makes no heart more warm than mine.
"And if, after a constant service, never unemployed for thirteen years, and the character I bear with every officer with whom I have had the honour to serve; having been three years in America, and in every action on Lake Champlain, for one of which, in the Carleton, Lieutenant Dacres, our commander, received promotion; afterwards in a continued series of hard service, in that unfortunate expedition under General Burgoyne, whose thanks for my conduct I received in the course of the campaign, and whose misfortunes I shared at Saratoga, not in common with others, but increased by the melancholy sight of a dead brother, fallen in the service of his king; having then returned to England in a transport to fulfil the convention, with Generals Carleton's and Burgoyne's despatches, as well as General Carleton's letter, recommending me to your Lordship; and permit me to mention, my Lord, without being thought partial to my own story, my having received the thanks of Sir Charles Douglas, by letter, for my behaviour in the different actions in Canada; and having acquitted myself much to Captain Cadogan's satisfaction in action with two ships, when on our voyage to Newfoundland; and if on the present occasion, conscious of the rectitude of my conduct, I can be entitled to your Lordship's approbation, permit me to hope from your Lordship's well-known generosity, which I have already experienced, that you will extend to me that protection which I have lost in my dear departed benefactor. I have now no friend to solicit your Lordship in my favour. I stand alone to sue for your protection, in some confidence that you will not suffer the dejected and unsupported to fall. I presume to hope forgiveness for thus intruding on your time, particularly by a memorial that comes unbacked by any other name; but believe me, my Lord, there never was an officer with whom I have sailed, who would not do much more than back this, were his ability equal to his good wishes for my promotion.
"I cannot, in justice to the officers, close this without assuring your Lordship of the great and unremitting assistance I received from Mr. Milburn, the master, on every occasion; and from Mr. Mansfield, the marine officer, who was particularly active to assist on the quarter-deck. To Mr. Bunce, second lieutenant, I am much indebted for his exertions on the main-deck, and his diligence was unremitting in distributing men where most wanted. Mr. Ritchie, master's mate, was particularly distinguished for his gallantry and activity; and the behaviour of the whole, my Lord, was such as entitles them to my warmest gratitude, and general commendation. Most of the wounded are dangerously so, being all by cannon balls. We had three guns dismounted.
Lord Sandwich's communication to him was equally kind and prompt. On the 18th of June, only three days after the action, he wrote to him:—"After most sincerely condoling with you on the loss of your much-lamented patron and friend, Captain Pownoll, whose bravery and services have done so much honour to himself and his Country, I will not delay informing you that I mean to give you immediate promotion, as a reward for your gallant and officer-like conduct."
He was made commander into an old and worn-out sloop, the Hazard, in which he was stationed on the eastern coast of Scotland. Having nothing but the emoluments of his profession, he found it difficult to meet the expenses required by his promotion and appointment. A tradesman in London, Mr. Vigurs, equally known and respected by the young men from Cornwall, who were generally referred to him for the advice and assistance they required on their first coming to town, not only supplied him with uniforms, though candidly told that it was uncertain when he would be able to pay for them, but offered a pecuniary loan; and Captain Pellew accepted a small sum which made the debt 70L. In a few weeks he received 160L. prize-money, and immediately sent 100L. to his creditor, desiring that the balance might be given in presents to the children, or, as he expressed it, "to buy ribbons for the girls." He never afterwards employed another tradesman. When he had become a commander-in-chief, it was his practice to prevent a deserving, but necessitous young officer from suffering similar embarrassments, by advancing him a sum equal to his immediate wants when he gave him a commission.
He took command of the Hazard on the 25th of July, 1780, and paid her off in the following January, having been employed between Shields and Leith. He held his next ship for a still shorter time. On the 12th of March, 1782, he commissioned the Pelican, a French prize, and a mere shell of a vessel; so low, that he would say his servant could dress his hair from the deck while he sat in the cabin. He sailed from Plymouth, on his first cruise, April 20th; and next day took a French privateer, with which he returned to port. On the 24th he sailed again, and stood over to the French coast. On the 28th, observing several vessels at anchor in Bass Roads, he made sail towards them; upon which a brig and a lugger, of ten or twelve guns each, laid their broadsides to the entrance of the harbour. He attacked them immediately, and compelled them to run themselves on shore under a battery, which opened on the sloop. The Pelican tacked, and stood out of the harbour, returning the fire, and the same night arrived at Plymouth. Her loss was only two men wounded. A heavy shot which struck her was begged by a friend, who, in a recent letter, makes a jocular allusion to it, and says that it is still doing service in the kitchen as a jack-weight. The action was most important in its results, for it obtained for him that rank in which he would rise by seniority to a flag. Had he remained a commander through the peace, which, but for this action, in all probability he would have done, he could not have become a flag-officer till near the close of the revolutionary war. The country would then have lost his most valuable services; and he would have been remembered only as a distinguished captain. His promotion was announced to him by the First Lord in the following terms:—
Admiralty Office. May 25, 1782.
"SIR,—I am so well pleased with the account I have received of your gallant and seaman-like conduct in the sloop you command, in your spirited attack on three privateers inside the Isle of Bass, and your success in driving them all on shore, that I am induced to bestow on you the rank of a post-captain, in the service to which your universal good character and conduct do credit: and for this purpose, I have named you to the Suffolk, and hope soon to find a frigate for you, as she is promised to a captain of long standing.
Captain Pellew thus obtained every step of rank expressly as a reward of a brilliant action in which he personally commanded; and in this respect, and in the number and extent of his services while he remained in the lower grades of his profession, he was singular, not only among his contemporaries, but perhaps in the annals of the navy.