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Brown, William (1777-1857) (DNB00)


BROWN, WILLIAM (1777–1857), admiral in the navy of Buenos Ayres, a native of Ireland, accompanied his family to America in 1786, and, being there left destitute by the death of his father, obtained employment as cabin-boy on board a merchant ship. In 1796 he was pressed into an English man-of-war, and served for several years in the navy. Afterwards, having obtained the command of an English merchant ship, he came, in 1812, to Buenos Ayres, where he settled with his family. In 1814 he accepted a naval command in the service of the republic. He engaged a Spanish flotilla at the mouth of the Uruguay, and he fought another and more decisive action off Monte Video, capturing four of the Spanish vessels and dispersing the rest. He received the title of admiral, and fitted out a privateer, in which he cruised against the Spaniards in the Pacific. His ship was visited by an English man-of-war, sent to Antigua, and there condemned, but was afterwards restored on appeal to the home government. Brown lived in retirement at Buenos Ayres till December 1825, when Brazil declared war against the republic and blockaded the River Plate. On 4 Feb. 1826 Brown attacked the enemy of more than four times his material force, and drove them eight leagues down the coast. In February 1827 Brown engaged and almost totally destroyed a squadron of nineteen small vessels at the mouth of the Uruguay. On 9 April he put to sea with a few brigs, and was at once brought to action by a superior force of the enemy. Some of the brigs seem to have got back without much loss; Brown, though badly wounded, succeeded in running one ashore and setting fire to her; the other was reduced to a wreck and captured. The loss obliged the republic to enter on negotiations which resulted in a peace. In the civil war of 1842-5 Brown was again in command of the fleet of Buenos Ayres, and with a very inefficient force kept up the blockade of Monte Video, notwithstanding an order from the English commodore to throw up his command. In 1845, when the English and French squadrons were directed to intervene and restore peace to the river, their first step was to take possession of Brown‘s ships, thus reducing him to compulsory inactivity. He had no further service, but passed the rest of his life on his small estate in the neigbourhood of Buenos Ayres. He died on 3 May 1857. A powerful ironclad, named the Almirante Brown, still keeps his memory living in the navy of the Argentine republic.

[Mulhall's English in South America, p. 144 (with a portrait); Drake; Dict. of American Biography; Memoirs of Greneral Miller (1829); Armitage's History of Brazil, vol. i.; Chevalier de Saint-Roberts's Le Général Rosas et la Question de la Plata (1848, 8to), p. 41; Mallalieu's Buenos Ayres, Monte Video, and Affairs in the River Plate (1844, 8vo), p. 27.]

J. K. L.