Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Strachan, Richard John
STRACHAN, Sir RICHARD JOHN (1760–1828), admiral, eldest son of Lieutenant Patrick Strachan of the navy, and nephew of Sir John Strachan [q. v.], was born on 27 Oct. 1760. He entered the navy in 1772 on board the Intrepid, in which he went out to the East Indies, where he was moved into the Orford, then commanded by his uncle. He was afterwards on the North American station in the Preston with Commodore William (afterwards Lord) Hotham [q. v.]; in the Eagle, flagship of Lord Howe; and in the Actæon on the coast of Africa and in the West Indies. On the death of his uncle on 26 Dec. 1777, he succeeded to the baronetcy. He was made a lieutenant on 5 April 1779. Early in 1781 he was appointed to the Hero with Captain James Hawker [q. v.], one of the squadron which sailed under the command of Commodore George Johnstone and fought the abortive action in Porto Praya. The Hero afterwards went on to the East Indies, where Strachan was moved into the Magnanime, and afterwards into the Superb, in which he was present in the first four of the actions between Suffren and Sir Edward Hughes [q. v.], who in January 1783 promoted him to the command of the Lizard, cutter, and to be captain of the Naiad, frigate, on 26 April 1783.
In 1787 Strachan was appointed to the Vestal, which in the spring of 1788 sailed for China, carrying out the ambassador, the Hon. Charles Alan Cathcart. Cathcart died in the Straits of Banca, and the Vestal returned to England. The following year she was again sent to the East Indies, to join the squadron under Commodore William Cornwallis [q. v.] Strachan was moved into the Phœnix, and in November 1791, when he was in company with the commodore in Tellicherry roads, he was ordered to visit and search the French frigate Résolue, which, with a convoy of merchant vessels, was understood to be carrying military stores for the support of Tippoo. The Résolue resisted, and a sharp action ensued, but after a loss of sixty-five men killed and wounded the frigate struck her colours and was taken to Cornwallis. As the French captain insisted on considering his ship a prize to the English, Cornwallis ordered Strachan to tow her round to Mahé, where the French commodore then was. In 1793 Strachan returned to England, and was appointed to the Concorde, frigate, which in the spring of 1794 was one of the squadron off Brest under Sir John Borlase Warren [q. v.] On 23 April 1794 Warren's squadron engaged a squadron of four French frigates, three of which were captured, one, L'Engageante, striking to the Concorde (James, i. 223–4). In the following July Strachan was appointed to the Melampus, of 42 guns, attached during the summer to the grand fleet; and in the spring of 1795 he was sent in command of a small frigate squadron which cruised with distinguished success on the coast of Normandy and Brittany, capturing or destroying a very large number of the enemy's coasting craft, many of them laden with military stores and convoyed by armed vessels.
In 1796 Strachan was moved into the Diamond, and remained on the same service till 1799, when he was appointed to the 74-gun ship Captain, and employed on the west coast of France, either alone or in command of a detached squadron. In 1802 he was appointed to the Donegal of eighty guns, in which during 1803–4 he was senior officer at Gibraltar, and in charge of the watch on Cadiz under the orders of Nelson. In March 1805 he returned to England in the Renown, but was almost immediately appointed to the Cæsar, in which he commanded a detached squadron of three other line-of-battle ships and four frigates in the Bay of Biscay. On 2 Nov. 1805, off Cape Finisterre, he fell in with the four French ships of the line which had escaped from Trafalgar under the command of Rear-admiral Dumanoir. On the 4th he succeeded in bringing them to action, and after a short engagement, in which the French ships suffered great loss, captured the whole of them, thus rounding off the destruction of the French fleet. By the promotion of 9 Nov. 1805 Strachan became a rear-admiral. On 28 Jan. 1806, when the thanks of both houses of parliament were voted to Collingwood and the other officers and seamen engaged at Trafalgar, Strachan and the officers and seamen with him on 4 Nov. were specially included, and a pension of 1,000l. a year was settled on Strachan. On 29 Jan. he was nominated a knight of the Bath; the city of London also voted him the freedom of the city and a sword of honour.
Early in 1806 Strachan was despatched in search of a French squadron reported to have sailed for America, but, not finding it, he returned off Rochefort, where he continued till January 1808, when, in thick weather, the French succeeded in escaping and entered the Mediterranean. Strachan followed, and joined Lord Collingwood [see Collingwood, Cuthbert,, Lord]; but on the enemy retiring into Toulon Strachan was ordered home, and was appointed to the naval command of the expedition against the island of Walcheren, and for the destruction of the French arsenals in the Scheldt. The expedition, fitted out at enormous cost, effected nothing beyond the capture of Flushing, and its return home was the signal for an outbreak of angry recriminations [see Pitt, John, second Earl of Chatham]. In a narrative which he presented to the king, the Earl of Chatham by implication accused Strachan of being the principal cause of the miscarriage, which becoming known to Strachan, he wrote a reply, arguing with apparent justice that the ships had done all that they had been asked to do, all that from the nature of things they could do (Ralfe, ii. 468). Strachan had no further employment; he became a vice-admiral on 31 July 1810, admiral on 19 July 1821, and died at his house in Bryanston Square on 3 Feb. 1828. He married in 1812, but died without male issue, and the baronetcy became extinct.[Ralfe's Nav. Biogr. ii. 456; Marshall's Roy. Nav. Biogr. i. 284; James's Nav. Hist.; Nichols's Herald and Genealogist, vol. viii.; Burke's Extinct Baronetcies.]