Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Thompson, Charles

THOMPSON, CHARLES (1740?–1799), vice-admiral, born about 1740, went first to sea in a merchant ship, but on the imminence of war with France entered the navy on board the Nassau in 1755. In the Nassau, in the Prince Frederick, and afterwards with Captain Samuel Barrington [q. v.] in the Achilles, he served till 3 Dec. 1760, when he passed his examination, being then, according to his certificate, ‘more than 20.’ On 16 Jan. 1761 he was promoted to be lieutenant of the Arrogant, at first in the Channel and afterwards in the Mediterranean. The Arrogant was paid off at the peace, and in August 1763 Thompson joined the Cygnet sloop, in which he served for five years on the North American station. In July 1768 the Cygnet was sold out of the navy in South Carolina, and Thompson, with the other officers, was left to find his own passage to England, for which a payment of 39l. 0s. 6d. was afterwards made to him. In May 1770 he was appointed to the Salisbury, again on the North American station, and in February 1771 was promoted by Commodore James Gambier [q. v.] to be commander of the Senegal sloop. Three months later he was appointed by Gambier to be captain of the Mermaid, which he took to England in December 1771. The admiralty refused to confirm this last commission, but promoted him to the rank of captain on 7 April 1772, and appointed him to the Chatham, going out to the West Indies with the flag of Vice-admiral William Parry. From the Chatham he was moved into the Crescent frigate, which he brought home in the summer of 1774. In the following year he was appointed to the Boreas frigate, in which he went out to Jamaica early in 1776. He returned to England with the convoy of merchant ships in October 1777, and was again sent out to the West Indies, where towards the end of 1780 he was moved by Sir George Rodney into the Alcide of 74 guns. He commanded the Alcide in the action off the Chesapeake on 5 Sept. 1781 [see Graves, Thomas, Lord], with Sir Samuel (afterwards Lord) Hood [q. v.] at St. Kitts in January 1782, and in the action of 12 April 1782 [see Rodney, George Brydges, Lord]. In 1787 he commanded the Edgar at Portsmouth, and the Elephant during ‘the Spanish armament’ in 1790.

In 1793 he was appointed to the Vengeance, which he took out to the West Indies. There in the following year, as commodore, he took part in the capture of Martinique and Guadeloupe, and the other operations of the squadron under the command of Sir John Jervis (afterwards Earl of St. Vincent) [q. v.] On 12 April 1794 he was promoted to be rear admiral; he returned to England in 1795 with his flag in the Vanguard, and on 1 June was promoted to be vice-admiral. During 1796, with his flag in the London, he commanded a detached squadron in the Channel and on the coast of France. Towards the close of the year he was sent out to the Mediterranean, and, with his flag in the Britannia, was second in command in the battle of Cape St. Vincent, for which he was made a baronet. He continued with the fleet for some months, but having ‘presumed to censure the execution’ of four mutineers on Sunday, 9 July, Lord St. Vincent wrote home insisting that he should be immediately removed (Nicolas, ii. 409). Thompson was accordingly recalled, and appointed to a command in the fleet off Brest. He held this during 1798, but his health had for some time been failing, and early in 1799 he was obliged to strike his flag and go on shore. He died at Fareham on 17 March. He married Jane, daughter and heiress of R. Selby of Bonington, near Edinburgh, and left issue.

[Official letters, paybooks, &c. in the Public Record Office; Ralfe's Naval Biogr. ii. 1; Navy Lists; Beatson's Naval and Military Memoirs; James's Naval Hist.; Nicolas's Despatches and Letters of Lord Nelson.]

J. K. L.