Open main menu

FORTESCUE, RICHARD (d. 1655), governor of Jamaica, was at the commencement of the campaign of 1644 a lieutenant-colonel in the parliamentary army under the Earl of Essex. He attested the capitulation of that army at Lostwithiel, and commanded a regiment of foot at the second battle of Newbury in October 1644 (Rushworth, v. 701, 709, 722). Fortescue was a colonel in the new model, and his regiment was one of those detached by Fairfax to the relief of Taunton in May 1645. Consequently he was not present at Naseby, but he took part in the storming of Bridgewater, Bristol, and Dartmouth. Pendennis Castle surrendered to him on 16 Aug. 1646, after a lengthy siege (Sprigge, Anglia Rediviva, pp. 19, 77, 107, 181, 306-10).

Fortescue supported the parliament in the attempted disbanding of May 1647, and undertook to serve in Ireland. Consequently, when the army triumphed over the parliament, he lost his commission, and was succeeded in the command of his regiment by Colonel John Barkstead [q. v.] (Clarke Papers, i. 2, 12, 16; Rushworth, vi. 466). His political conduct was probably dictated by his presbyterian sympathies; in 1651 he undertook a journey to Scotland on purpose to intercede for Christopher Love [q. v.], but found no support in the army, and was taken prisoner by moss-troopers (Akerman, Letters from Roundhead Officers in Scotland, p. 37). In 1654 he was offered by Cromwell the command of a regiment in the expedition to the West Indies under General Robert Venables [q. v.] In the hope of obtaining payment of the large arrears due to him for his former services, and from zeal to propagate the gospel, he accepted the command, and sailed with Venables in December 1654. When Major-general Heane was killed in the attack on St. Domingo, Fortescue became major-general in his place, and on 24 June 1655 he succeeded Venables as commander-in-chief of the forces in Jamaica. Cromwell commended him highly for undertaking this heavy responsibility. 'I do commend,' said he, 'in the midst of others' miscarriages your constancy and faithfulness to your trust . . . and taking care of a company of poor sheep left by their shepherds; and be assured that as that which you have done hath been good in itself, and becoming an honest man, so it hath a very good savour here with all good Christians and all true Englishmen, and will not be forgotten by me as opportunity shall serve' (Carlyle, Cromwell, Letter 206). Fortescue behaved well throughout the disasters which befell the expedition; he was a good officer, and popular with the army under his command, but unequal to the task of founding a colony with such unpromising material. He died in October 1655 (Thurlow, iv. 153).

Several petitions addressed by his widow, Mary Fortescue, to Cromwell and to Charles II are among the State Papers (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1655-6, pp. 246, 292; Cal. State Papers, Col. 1661-8, p. 52). Many of his letters are printed in Thurloe's State Papers.

[Sprigge's Anglia Rediviva; Thurloe Papers, vols. iii. iv.; Firth's Narrative of General Venables (Royal Historical Soc.), 1900; Cal. of Col. State Papers; other authorities mentioned in the article.]

C. H. F.