Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lennon, John

LENNON, JOHN (1768–1842?), master-mariner, was born at Downpatrick, Ireland, in 1768. He is stated to have served as a midshipman in the royal navy during the American war. In 1796, when in command of the schooner Favorite of Martinique, carrying letters of marque, he was very severely wounded, and his ship was taken, after a fierce engagement of one hour and twenty minutes' duration, by a French privateer of very superior force. In 1798 he was in command of the General Keppel, also of Martinique, which was capsized in a white squall on passage from Philadelphia, when Lennon and some of his crew were rescued by a passing schooner, after suffering great perils and hardships. Lennon performed various daring feats in the West Indies in 1806–9; but his most remarkable exploits were in the Hibernia, a Cowes-built barque, carrying six guns and about twenty-two men and boys all told, in which he traded for some years from the West India island of St. Thomas. In 1812 orders were issued that no vessels should leave the island without convoy, on account of the American privateers. The Hibernia and three other merchantmen, whose aggregate cargoes were valued at half a million sterling, had long been waiting. Unwilling to detain them further, Governor Maclean agreed to their sailing without convoy, on condition of Lennon hoisting his pennant as commodore. Although harassed by the Rossie, Commodore Barney, an American privateer of superior force, Lennon brought his vessels safe into the English Channel on 18 Oct. 1812. Two years later Lennon was attacked, on 19 July 1814, by the schooner Comet of Baltimore, U.S., an American privateer of sixteen guns and 136 men, which he beat off after a nine hours' fight, in which twelve out of his crew of twenty-two hands were killed or wounded. Two lawsuits followed with the underwriters of the Hibernia's cargo, and Lennon and his owners were cast in 8,000l. damages, or more than double the loss that would have been incurred if Lennon had surrendered. Lennon died in retirement at Devonport after 1841.

[Nav. and Mil. Gazettes, 24 July, 7 Aug., 21 Aug., and 18 Sept. 1841, by David Burn. See Burn's Chivalry of the Merchant Marine, London, 1841, and Brenton's Naval Hist. vol. ii.]

H. M. C.