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Gordon, James Alexander (1782-1869) (DNB00)

GORDON, Sir JAMES ALEXANDER (1782–1869), admiral of the fleet, eldest son of Charles Gordon of Wardhouse, Aberdeenshire, entered the navy in November 1793 on board the Arrogant, on the home station, under the command of Captain James Hawkins Whitshed [q. v.] In rapid but continuous succession he then served in many different ships, including the Révolutionnaire frigate in the action off L'Orient, on 23 June 1795, and the Goliath in the battles of Cape St. Vincent and the Nile. In January 1800 he was promoted to be lieutenant of the Bordelais, and in her assisted in the capture of the Curieuse on 28 Jan. 1801 [see Manby, Thomas]. In the following year he was appointed to the Racoon sloop, and was first lieutenant of her when she captured the Lodi brig in Leogane Roads on 11 July 1803, and drove the Mutine brig on shore near Santiago de Cuba on 17 Aug. 1803 (James, iii. 188-9). His share in these services won him his promotion to the command of the Racoon on 3 March 1804, her former commander, Captain Bissell, being promoted at the same time. During the year he cruised with good fortune against the enemy's privateers in the West Indies, and on 16 May 1805 was posted to the Diligentia, in which he remained but a few months. In June 1807 he was appointed to the Mercury of 28 guns, in which, after taking convoy to Newfoundland, he joined the squadron off Cadiz, and on 4 April 1808 had a distinguished share in the capture or destruction of Spanish convoy and gunboats off Rota [see Maxwell, Sir Murray]. In June 1808 he was appointed to the Active, which he commanded, mostly in the Adriatic, for the next four years, and during this time was engaged in numerous affairs with the enemy's boats and batteries; took a prominent part in the action off Lissa on 13 March 1811 [see Hoste, Sir William], for which he received the gold medal, and in the capture of the Pomone on 29 Nov. (James, v.261; Chevalier, Hist. de la Marine française sous le Consulat et l'Empire, p. 291), when he lost a leg, shot off at the knee. The first-lieutenant soon afterwards lost his arm, and the engagement finished with the ship under the command of the second lieutenant, Mr. George Haye. Captain Maxwell of the Alceste, the senior officer on this occasion, acknowledging the principal share of the Active in the capture, sent the French captain's sword to Gordon as his by rights. As he recovered from his wound he was sent to England for the re-establishment of his health, and in the autumn of 1812 was appointed to the Seahorse, in which, towards the end of the following year, he joined Sir Alexander Cochrane in the Chesapeake. In August 1814 he was senior officer and in command of the squadron which forced its way up the Potomac, reduced Fort Washington and its supporting batteries, captured the city of Alexandria, and brought down twenty-one of the enemy's ships, with their cargoes on board. The loss sustained in this expedition was but small, but the labour was excessive, and it is recorded that during the twenty-three days the hammocks were down for only two nights (James, vi. 181; Roosevelt, Naval War of 1812, p. 318). In the unsuccessful expedition against New Orleans Gordon had a full share, after which he returned to England. On 2 Jan. 1815 he had been nominated a K.C.B.; in November he was appointed to the command of the Madagascar, and in the next year to the Meander, in which, on 19 Dec. 1816, he narrowly escaped being wrecked on a shoal off Orfordness, over which the ship was forced in a gale of wind. For many hours she was in the greatest danger, and her ultimate safety was attributed mainly to Gordon's coolness, energy, and skill. He was immediately afterwards appointed to his old ship, the Active, and commanded her for the next two years on the North American and Mediterranean stations. In 1828 he was appointed superintendent of Plymouth Hospital, and in 1832 superintendent of Chatham dockyard, where he continued till his promotion to flag-rank on 10 Jan. 1837. In July 1840 he was appointed lieutenant-governor of Greenwich Hospital, and on 28 Oct. 1853 succeeded Sir Charles Adam as governor. He held the office for the remainder of his life, attained the rank of vice-admiral on 8 Jan. 1848, of admiral on 21 Jan. 1854, was nominated a G.C.B. on 5 July 1855, was promoted to be admiral of the fleet on 30 Jan. 1868, and died on 8 Jan. 1869. He married in August 1812 the youngest daughter of Mr. John Ward of Marlborough, and by her, besides seven daughters, had one son, James Alexander Gordon, who died in command of the Wolf sloop, in January 1847.

[O'Byrne's Nav. Biog. Dict.; Marshall's Roy. Nav. Biog. iv. (vol. ii. pt. ii.) 937; James's Nav. Hist. (edit. 1860); Times, 11 Jan. 1869; Navy Lists.]

J. K. L.