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Hood, Alexander (1758-1798) (DNB00)


HOOD, ALEXANDER (1758–1798), captain in the navy, born 23 April 1758, was second son of Samuel Hood of Kingsland, Dorset, by Anne, daughter of James Berne of Westbury, Wiltshire. His father was a purser in the navy and first cousin of Samuel, viscount Hood [q. v.], and of Alexander Hood, viscount Bridport [q. v.] His elder brother, Arthur, lieutenant in the navy, was lost in the Pomona sloop in 1775. Sir Samuel Hood, bart. (1762–1814) [q. v.], was his younger brother. He entered the navy in 1767 on board the Romney, with his cousin Captain Samuel Hood, and was borne on her books during the next three years. In 1772 he joined the Resolution, with Captain James Cook [q. v.] in his second voyage round the world. In 1776 he went to North America under the patronage of Lord Howe, by whom he was promoted to be lieutenant, 18 July 1777. In March 1780 he was appointed by Arbuthnot to the command of the Ranger cutter, which in the early part of 1781 was sent to the West Indies, where Sir George Rodney gave him the rank of commander 17 May 1781; and on 27 July he was posted to the Barfleur as flag-captain to his cousin Sir Samuel Hood, then in temporary command of the station. As captain of the Barfleur he took part in the action off Cape Henry on 5 Sept. 1781, and again in that at St. Kitts on 25–6 Jan. 1782. A few days later he was appointed to the Champion frigate, one of the repeating ships in the actions off Dominica on 9, 12 April, specially attached to the red squadron under Sir Samuel Hood, with whom she was afterwards sent to the Mona Passage; there she had the fortune to capture the corvette Cérès, with whose captain, the Baron de Paroy, a nephew of the Comte de Vaudreuil, Hood contracted an intimate friendship. On the arrival of the squadron at Port Royal he was moved into the Amiable, another of the prizes, which he took to England in the summer of 1783. He then paid a lengthened visit to France, at the invitation of the Comte de Vaudreuil. In 1790–2 and again in 1793 he commanded the Hebe frigate in the Channel; in 1794 he was appointed to the Audacious, but was compelled by ill-health to leave her; nor was he able to undertake active service till February 1797, when he was appointed to the Mars, a 74-gun ship attached to the Channel fleet, then commanded by Lord Bridport. He had thus the melancholy experience of the mutiny at Spithead and St. Helens, and was one of the captains sent on shore by the mutineers on 11 May. In the following spring the Mars was with the fleet off Brest, and on the forenoon of 21 April, being, in company with the Ramillies and the Jason frigate, on the look-out in-shore, discovered a French 74-gun ship making for the harbour. This was the Hercule, a new ship, newly commissioned, on her way from Lorient. The three ships in-shore were ordered to chase; but the Ramillies carried away her fore top-mast, and about 9 p.m. the Mars, by herself, found the Hercule at anchor off the Bec du Raz, waiting for the tide to turn. The darkness and the strength of the current prevented any attempt at manœuvring. After an interchange of broadsides, the Mars let go her anchor a short distance ahead, and, veering cable, fell alongside of the Hercule; many of the lower-deck port-lids were rubbed off by the collision, and the anchors at the bows hooking into each other, the two ships remained actually touching, so that the guns could not be run out, but were fired in many cases from in-board. At these close quarters the action was continued for above an hour, when the Hercule, having lost 315 men killed or wounded, her sides torn, her guns dismounted, and having failed in an attempt to board, struck her colours. Hood fell early in the action, shot in the thigh by a musket-bullet which cut the femoral artery. He was carried below, and expired just as the sword of the French captain was placed in his hand. L'Héritier, the French captain, was also mortally wounded, and died in England. In point of tonnage, armament, and number of men, the two ships were almost exactly the same; but the Mars had been some years in commission; the Hercule was just out of the hands of the dockyard; and though her men stood manfully to their guns, their return to the English fire was weak, and the loss of the Mars in killed and wounded was not more than ninety.

Hood's body was taken to England, and buried in the churchyard of Butleigh in Somerset, beneath a monument erected by his widow. In the church is another, with a very long and not too felicitous epitaph by the poet Southey, whose brother Thomas, a midshipman of the Mars, was severely wounded in the action with the Hercule. By his wife Elizabeth, daughter of John Periam of Butleigh, Hood had two children, a daughter and a son, Alexander, who succeeded to the baronetcy conferred on his uncle, Sir Samuel Hood, and died in 1851, leaving, with other issue, Sir Alexander B. P. Hood, third baronet, and Admiral Sir Arthur William Acland Hood, G.C.B., first naval lord of the admiralty, 1885–9.

[Naval Chronicle, vi. 175; Ralfe's Naval Biography, iv. 48; James's Naval History (edit. 1860), ii. 120; Chevalier's Histoire de la Marine française sous la première République, p. 397; Burke's Baronetage.]

J. K. L.