Hood, Samuel (1724-1816) (DNB00)
HOOD, SAMUEL, Viscount (1724–1816), admiral, born on 12 Dec. 1724, was the eldest son of Samuel Hood, vicar of Butleigh in Somerset and prebendary of Wells, and of his wife Mary, daughter of Richard Hoskins of Beaminster, Dorsetshire. Alexander Hood, viscount Bridport [q. v.], was his brother. He entered the navy on 6 May 1741 on board the Romney as captain's servant with Captain Thomas Smith (d. 1762) [q. v.], popularly known as ‘Tom of Ten Thousand,’ and afterwards as able seaman with Captain Thomas Grenville [q. v.], whom in April 1743 he followed to the Garland. In November of the same year he was discharged to the Sheerness, in which he was rated a midshipman, with Captain (afterwards Lord) Rodney [q. v.], and in September 1744 went with him, again as midshipman, to the Ludlow Castle. He left her on 23 Jan. 1745–6; served for a few months in the Exeter, again under Smith, at this time commodore, commanding in chief on the coast of Scotland, and was appointed by him acting-lieutenant of the Winchelsea of 20 guns, commanded by Captain Henry Dyve, on whose recommendation the commission was confirmed on 17 June 1746. His appointments, thus traced from the respective pay-books, dispose of the story that he entered the navy as a clerk and served with Rodney in that capacity (Ralfe, i. 243). That story probably sprang out of the circumstance that his first cousin, Samuel Hood, the father of Captain Alexander Hood (1758–1797) and of Vice-admiral Sir Samuel Hood (1762–1814) [q. v.], was a purser and of about the same age. Hood's junior service is, indeed, only noticeable from having been passed under officers of exceptional merit, which may be explained by the fact that his family was known to the Lytteltons and the Grenvilles.
The Winchelsea continued to be actively employed on the coast of Scotland, in the North Sea, and in the Channel. On 19 Nov. 1746, while cruising off Scilly in company with the Portland, they fell in with the French frigate Subtile of 26 guns. In the chase the Portland was lost sight of, and a severe action between the two frigates ensued, in the course of which Hood was wounded in the hand. On the Portland's coming up the Subtile surrendered, and was added to the English navy as the Amazon (Winchelsea's Log; Troude, i. 308). In March 1748 Hood was appointed to the Greenwich, then commissioned by Captain John Montagu, but left her in a few months to join the Lyon, going out to North America with the flag of Rear-admiral Watson. She returned to England in November, and was paid off. Hood was placed on half-pay, and the following year married Susannah, daughter of Edward Linzee, for several years mayor of Portsmouth. In January 1753 he was appointed to the Invincible, guardship at Portsmouth, from which in May he was turned over to the Terrible. In the following year he was promoted to the command of the Jamaica sloop, which he took out to the coast of North America. There, on 22 July 1756, he was posted to the Lively, but was appointed by Commodore Charles Holmes [q. v.] to be his own captain in the Grafton, and in her he returned to England towards the end of the year.
In the following January Hood offered his services to take temporary command of any ship whose captain was absent on the court-martial on Admiral Byng, being, he wrote to Lord Temple, ‘no ways inclined to be idle ashore while anything can be got to employ me.’ He was accordingly appointed to the Torbay in lieu of Captain Keppel. On 1 April he was similarly appointed to the Tartar, and again, on 30 April, to the Antelope of 50 guns, then ordered on a cruise. A fortnight afterwards, 14 May, he fell in with the 50-gun ship Aquilon, which he drove ashore over a reef in Audierne Bay, where he left her a total wreck. A week later he captured a couple of privateers, the crews of which he brought in as prisoners. In acknowledging his letter giving an account of what he had done, the secretary of the admiralty conveyed to him their lordships' formal approval of his conduct, and an intimation that he might expect to be appointed to the command of a ship (Clevland to Hood, 3 June 1757). Accordingly on 14 July 1757 he was appointed to the Bideford frigate attached to the fleet under Sir Edward Hawke during its autumn cruise in the Bay of Biscay. On 7 Feb. 1758 he was commissioned to the Vestal frigate of 32 guns, and joined her on 7 March, on the return of the Bideford from a cruise, in time to take part in Hawke's second visit to Basque roads and destruction of the fortifications on the Isle of Aix. The year was passed in almost continuous cruising, for the most part between Ushant and Cape Clear, and on 12 Feb. 1759 the Vestal sailed for North America in the squadron under Commodore Holmes. On the 21st, however, off Cape Finisterre a strange sail was chased by the Vestal and brought to action, only the Trent frigate being in sight, and she several miles astern. After a running fight of more than three hours, the French frigate Bellona of 32 guns, being completely dismasted, struck her colours. The Vestal had only her lower masts standing, and these badly wounded. In this state it was necessary for her to return with her prize to Spithead, and after refitting she joined the squadron under Rodney, which in July bombarded Havre and destroyed the flat-bottomed boats there. Hood continued employed on the blockade of the French coast till the following spring, when, at his own special request, he was sent to the Mediterranean. ‘For ten years past,’ he wrote on 30 April 1760, ‘I have been afflicted more or less with a bilious disorder, which has been so very severe within these nine months as to confine me to my cabin for many days together.’ A milder climate might, he thought, give him relief. For the next three years he was employed principally in the Levant and in convoy service within the Straits, and returned home to pay off in April 1763. In the following September he was appointed to the Thunderer guardship at Portsmouth, in which in the summer of 1765 he carried a regiment of foot soldiers to North America. In April 1767 he was appointed commander-in-chief in North America, with a broad pennant on board the Romney. On his return he commanded the Royal William guardship at Portsmouth from January 1771 to November 1773, and the Marlborough to July 1776. On 5 July, through the carelessness of the gunner when clearing the ship to go into dock, a quantity of powder left in the fore magazine was exploded. The fore part of the ship was wrecked, some eighteen people (men, women, and children) were killed, and fifty wounded. Hood, with the officers and crew, was turned over to the Courageux.
In January 1778 he was appointed commissioner at Portsmouth and governor of the Naval Academy. The acceptance of these offices was ordinarily considered as retiring from the active service; still more so perhaps in the case of Hood, when on the occasion of the king's visit to Portsmouth in the following May he was created a baronet. There was therefore some surprise felt in the navy when, on 26 Sept. 1780, he was promoted to the rank of rear-admiral of the blue, and appointed to the command of a strong squadron sent out in December to reinforce Sir George Rodney in the West Indies. The probable explanation is that in the lamentable state to which the maladministration of Lord Sandwich and the scandals of the Keppel and Palliser courts-martial had reduced the navy, competent admirals willing to serve were very difficult to find, and the admiralty were glad to secure the services of a man of good repute whose political principles were at least not antagonistic, and who from his early association might be trusted to co-operate loyally with his commander-in-chief. Hood's abilities and high character had not at that time manifested themselves in any remarkable degree.
Hood, with his squadron, joined Rodney at St. Lucia in time to take part in the expedition (30 Jan. 1781) against St. Eustatius, after which he was sent with a strong force to blockade Martinique. On this operation Rodney laid great stress; and, though Hood from time to time anxiously represented that if the expected fleet should arrive from France his position to leeward of the island would render it impossible for him to enforce the blockade and might expose him to great danger, Rodney refused to be convinced, or to believe in the rumours of the French fleet's coming (Mundy, ii. 82–6). Hood's forecast was, however, correct. On the morning of 29 April a fleet of twenty ships of the line, under Count de Grasse, slipped round the southern end of the island and effected a junction with the four ships at Fort Royal. Hood, who had with him only eighteen sail of the line, and had fallen some little distance to leeward during the night, was thus placed at a serious disadvantage. A partial action ensued, in which four of Hood's ships suffered much damage, and he was compelled to draw back. The fleets remained in presence of each other for two more days, when De Grasse, who was as timid as a tactician as he showed himself bold as a strategist, retired into Fort Royal, leaving the way clear for Hood to join Rodney at Antigua, and to take part with him in the various incidents of the campaign. As the hurricane months approached, and the season for active operations in the West Indies came to an end, Rodney, whose health was in a very precarious state, sailed for England, directing Hood to take as many of the ships as were available to reinforce Rear-admiral Graves [see Graves, Thomas, Lord Graves] on the coast of North America. He joined Graves at New York on 28 Aug., but with only fourteen ships, some, scarcely seaworthy, having gone home with Rodney, and others having been sent to Jamaica to refit. Neither Graves, nor Rodney, nor Hood seems, indeed, to have realised the very critical position of affairs, nor to have had any conception of the magnitude of the effort which the French were making to obtain the command of the sea. On 5 Sept. the English fleet of nineteen ships found itself off the Chesapeake opposed to a French fleet of twenty-four, with four still remaining inside to continue the blockade, and seven more, under De Barras, on their way from Rhode Island. In the battle which followed, Hood commanded the rear of the English line and never got into action, the stress of the fighting falling entirely on the van, which was roughly handled. He received a full share of the popular abuse which, after the unfortunate event, was lavished on every one concerned; it was hinted that he was ‘shy,’ and had shamefully kept aloof while the van was being overpowered. The fact was that he, with his division, was running down before the wind in obedience to the signal for close action, when he was checked by the signal for ‘the line of battle ahead’ repeated and enforced. To keep the line and at the same time to engage closely was an impossibility. The fault lay, not with Hood, nor—except in a secondary degree—with Graves, but with the ‘Fighting Instruction’ which prescribed, under pain of cashiering or death, the preserving the line and engaging from van to rear. The fatal effects of this instruction, thus brought home to Hood's mind, probably led to the tactical changes which he largely assisted in developing, the more readily perhaps as, with the exception of his own skirmish off Martinique, where the immediate results were not very dissimilar, it was the first general action in which he had been present. Hood must, moreover, have compared the effects of the ‘Fighting Instructions’ with the different results obtained, in violation of them, by Hawke in November 1759, or by Rodney in January 1780.
After another vain attempt to relieve Cornwallis, the fleet returned to Sandy Hook on 2 Nov., and a few days later Hood sailed again for the West Indies. He endeavoured to persuade Rear-admiral Digby, who had succeeded to the command [see Digby, Robert], to send all the line-of-battle ships with him, and was permitted to take four in addition to his original thirteen; the fourteenth, the Terrible, was at the bottom of the sea outside the Capes of Virginia. He arrived at Barbadoes on 5 Dec., and on 14 Jan. 1782 learned that De Grasse with his whole fleet and a large body of troops had gone to St. Christophers; he sailed thither immediately, and at daylight of the 24th was off the south end of Nevis, purposing to stand in and attack the French fleet at anchor off Basseterre. His force was numerically inferior—twenty-two ships against twenty-nine—but he designed to concentrate it on one end of the enemy's line, anticipating the principle, though not the detail, of the plan afterwards adopted by Nelson at the Nile (Clerk, p. 261). Unfortunately a collision between two of his ships caused serious delay, and meanwhile De Grasse, expecting nothing less than an attack, got under way, in order to prevent Hood passing to the north. Hood saw the opportunity thus offered, and the next morning (25 Jan.), after standing towards the French fleet as though to engage, and thus inducing it to keep further to seaward, he suddenly hauled to the wind, and, after a passing interchange of fire, slipped into Basseterre roadstead, where he anchored in the very berth the French had previously occupied. De Grasse was furious at being outwitted, and the following day (26 Jan.) stood in against the English fleet as it lay at anchor; but his idea went no further than ranging along the line, as had been done by D'Estaing at St. Lucia (cf. Barrington, Samuel; Journal of the Royal United Service Institution, xxix. 914), and the attack, twice made, was repulsed with heavy loss. It was, however, found impossible to render effective aid to the garrison at Brimstone Hill, which capitulated on 13 Feb.; and, with the enemy in full possession of the island, the anchorage off Basseterre was no longer tenable, while the quitting it, in face of the superior force of the French fleet, now increased to thirty-two sail of the line, exclusive of several frigates, was difficult. On the 14th, however, Hood determined to make the attempt. He assembled the several captains in his cabin, made them set their watches by his, and gave orders that, without signal, at eleven o'clock that night they should cut their cables and put to sea. The manœuvre was performed without a hitch. The French, though not more than five miles distant, knew nothing of what was taking place till daylight on the 15th showed them the anchorage empty.
Hood was meanwhile well on his way to Barbadoes, where he was shortly afterwards joined by Rodney, who resumed the command, Hood commanding under him in the second post. The skirmish on 9 April to leeward of Dominica fell entirely on the ships of Hood's division; and on 12 April he commanded the rear of the fleet, no longer, as off the Chesapeake, without being able to take part in the action. The share of the Barfleur, carrying Hood's flag, was, indeed, particularly brilliant, and it was to her that the Ville de Paris hauled down her colours, the only French three-decker actually taken in battle. In his private correspondence, however, Hood expressed much dissatisfaction that more was not done—that the flying French were not closely followed; and he was only partially consoled by being detached with a strong squadron to look out for French stragglers, when he captured two ships of the line and two frigates in the Mona passage on 19 April (United Service Gazette, 5 April 1834; Add. MS. 9343). On 25 April he rejoined Rodney off Cape Tiberon, and was left in command of the greater part of the fleet to keep watch on the enemy at Cape Français, till at the end of May, finding that nothing was to be apprehended from them, he went to Jamaica. Rodney was superseded by Admiral Pigot in July [see Pigot, Hugh], but Hood remained as second in command till the peace, when he returned to England.
On 12 Sept. 1782 he was raised to the peerage of Ireland as Baron Hood of Catherington, Hampshire; he was also presented with the freedom of the city of London in a gold box. At the general election in 1784 he was returned to parliament at the head of the poll for Westminster after a contest of unparalleled length and severity [see Fox, Charles James]; in 1787–8 he was commander-in-chief at Portsmouth, his flag again in the Barfleur. On 24 Sept. 1787 he became vice-admiral of the blue, and in July 1788 was nominated to a seat on the board of admiralty under the Earl of Chatham. Here he remained till the outbreak of the war of the French revolution (February 1793), when he was appointed commander-in-chief in the Mediterranean. He sailed on 22 May with his flag in the Victory, and, touching at Gibraltar, came off Toulon on 16 July. The south of France was already in arms against the Convention; the entry of the national forces into Marseilles was followed by the usual massacres; the people of Toulon, conscious of their inability to defend themselves, were mad with terror, and the close blockade of the coast instituted by Hood added famine to the other evils which oppressed them. On 23 Aug. commissioners from Marseilles came on board the Victory to treat for peace on the basis of declaring for a monarchy and the constitution of 1789; they expected to have been joined by commissioners from Toulon, but internal strife had prevented these leaving the town. Negotiations were, however, opened, and it was agreed that the forts and ships of war should be placed provisionally at Hood's disposal, to be held by him for the king, and returned when peace should be declared. Rear-admiral Trogoff, commanding the French fleet of twenty-two sail of the line, had a convenient attack of gout, real or pretended, and retired to the shore. St. Julien, the second in command, a man of feeble capacity and intemperate habits, declared that he would dispute the entrance of the English fleet, and moored some of his ships in a position to rake the passage. But his men were insubordinate and undisciplined, and when on 27 Aug. Hood landed fifteen hundred men and took possession of the forts commanding the roadstead, St. Julien with five thousand of the seamen went ashore, and the ships quietly retired into the inner harbour. The English fleet then entered, joined at the very moment by the Spanish fleet under Don Juan de Langara, which raised the force to imposing numbers, but weakened it by introducing conflicting interests and a divided command. The inherent difficulties of the situation were sufficiently great. St. Julien, unable or unwilling to escape to the national army, surrendered himself to the Spaniards; but it was impossible to keep the five thousand seamen as prisoners, and free in the town they were a very evident danger. They belonged for the most part to Brest or other ocean ports, and clamoured to be sent to their homes. Accordingly, after some delay, they were put on board four of the most crazy ships, without guns or arms, and sent on their way, only to find on their arrival at Rochefort or Brest that they were held amenable to the law as cowards and traitors, apparently for not bringing the English ships along with them (Brun, ii. 228). More serious, however, than the disposal of the prisoners was the question of the land defences, for the means at Hood's disposal were scanty. He had on board the fleet two regiments of foot, borne in lieu of marines; these and such seamen as could be spared gave him about two thousand men. The rest of his force, which seems never to have exceeded about twelve thousand effective men, was made up of loyal Frenchmen, Spaniards, Sardinians, and Neapolitans, soldiers in little more than the name, without discipline or training, and liable to panic on any emergency.
From the first, Toulon was surrounded by the national troops; by the end of September it was closely invested; and when, on 17 Dec., they obtained possession of Éguillette and the adjacent forts, which commanded the roadstead, it was at once necessary for the fleets to withdraw. A council of war was held, and it was agreed to embark the troops without delay and to put to sea, taking with them such of the French ships as were ready and setting fire to the rest. The confusion was extreme; the Neapolitan soldiers were seized with panic; terror reigned through the town; and men, women, and children thronged the quays, weeping, wailing, and imploring to be taken on board. Some fifteen thousand inhabitants were embarked, at the cost of all their property; no one whose rank or social standing seemed to expose him or her to the severity of the law was left behind (Chevalier, ii. 87). But of those who remained a number—differently estimated at from one thousand to six thousand (Brun, ii. 246; Chevalier, ii. 89; James, i. 89)—were guillotined or shot by the officers of the Convention. The destruction of the ships was entrusted partly to Langara, and partly to Sir W. Sidney Smith [q. v.], who had joined the fleet as a volunteer. Neither of them executed their task efficiently. Two floating powder-magazines which were ordered to be sunk were set on fire, and their explosion added greatly to the confusion. Of the line-of-battle ships few were actually destroyed; four were taken away by Hood; but of those that were set on fire the greater number escaped with little or no damage, and were at sea in the course of the following summer. By popular opinion Hood was blamed for these disasters and miscarriages; all, it was argued, might have been prevented by timely care and forethought. But the embarrassment of the dual command and of diverse nationalities cannot be ignored. Both the Toulonese and the Spaniards were averse to the destruction of the ships or to their being sent to an English port. The Spaniards wished them to be sent to a Spanish port, but this Hood refused to allow; and thus amid conflicting jealousies the weeks slipped away till it was too late.
For some time previous Hood had been in communication with Paoli, the leader of the Corsicans in revolt against France, and now on the fall of Toulon he resolved to secure the island, if only as a base of operations. A close blockade had already been kept up for several weeks. After a sharp encounter between the Fortitude and a martello tower defending the entrance of the bay of S. Fiorenzo, the tower was captured from the land side by the English troops, and S. Fiorenzo was taken without further opposition on 17 Feb. 1794. Hood now wished to attack Bastia, but the general in command of the troops refused to co-operate before the arrival of reinforcements. The enemy, however, were adding each day to the strength of their position; and Hood, judging that no time should be lost, laid siege to it on 4 April with the small forces at his disposal for land service, some 1,200 marines, or soldiers borne in lieu of marines, under the command of Lieutenant-colonel Villettes, and 250 seamen, under Nelson, then captain of the Agamemnon [see Nelson, Horatio, Viscount Nelson], he himself keeping up a close blockade by sea. The place capitulated on 19 May. Nelson, somewhat ignoring the co-operation of the fleet, the moral effect of which must have been considerable, independently of the rigorous blockade which it enforced, wrote to his brother on 30 May: ‘All has been done by seamen and troops embarked to serve as marines, except a few artillery under the orders of Lord Hood, who has given in this instance a most astonishing proof of the vigour of his mind and of his zeal and judgment. … Four thousand five hundred men have laid down their arms to under 1,200 troops and seamen; it is such an event as is hardly on record.’ On 9 June the Dido frigate came in with intelligence that the enemy's fleet was at sea. Sorely against his will, Rear-admiral Martin had been compelled by the Convention to sail. He had vainly represented that he had only about half the number of ships that the English had, not to speak of the Spanish fleet, numerically as strong as the English; he knew also that his men were untrained and undisciplined, that his officers were ignorant, and that the courage or enthusiasm on which the Convention depended was no sufficient substitute for skill, discipline, and numbers. He was ordered to take on board furnaces for heating shot, shells, and carcasses, to seek for the English fleet, and forthwith destroy it. In accordance with his orders he put to sea on 6 June, but when out of reach of the Convention determined that his proper course was to preserve the fleet, and therefore not to venture far from the Lérins Islands, which he judged might afford him refuge. On the 12th, when the English came in sight, he at once stood in and anchored in Golfe Jouan. Hood, with a force vastly superior in point of numbers and still more in efficiency, ordered an immediate attack. So far as the numbers went, two English ships were to anchor alongside each French ship and make themselves masters of her. Unfortunately the wind died away, and during the next few days a dead calm was broken only by fitful breezes from opposing quarters. Martin meanwhile took the opportunity of strengthening his position, landing guns, throwing up batteries, and converting small coasting vessels into gunboats. When at last the wind blew fair for the roadstead, Hood judged that the attack was no longer feasible; and, leaving the greater part of the fleet under Vice-admiral Hotham to maintain the blockade, he returned to Corsica, where the siege of Calvi was already in progress. This, the last stronghold of the French, surrendered on 10 Aug., and the whole island submitted to the English.
Hood, whose promotion on 12 April to the rank of admiral had reached him shortly before, was soon afterwards recalled. It was pretended that his health was failing and that he had desired to be relieved; but it seems to have been generally understood that it was rather on account of a difference of opinion with the admiralty or the ministry. Nelson ascribed it to some contemptible intrigue. Hood sailed for England on 11 Oct., leaving the command with Hotham [see Hotham, William, Lord]. This was spoken of as merely a temporary arrangement, and the news of his final resignation called forth a fresh burst of Nelson's indignation. ‘The fleet (Nelson wrote) must regret the loss of Lord Hood, the best officer, take him altogether, that England has to boast of; great in all situations which an admiral can be placed in’ (8, 22 June 1795). On 27 March 1795 Hood's wife was created Baroness Hood of Catherington, Hampshire, in the peerage of Great Britain, and on 1 June 1796 he was himself created Viscount Hood of Catherington. On the reconstruction of the order of the Bath in 1815 he was nominated a G.C.B. Sir William Hotham [q. v.], who knew him intimately, says that ‘though he applied for leave to wear the decoration without undergoing, at his advanced age, the ceremony of investiture, it was refused him.’ On 25 March 1795 he was elected an elder brother of the Trinity House, and in March 1796 was appointed governor of Greenwich Hospital, a post which he held till his death, twenty years later, on 27 Jan. 1816. He was buried in the old cemetery of the hospital. Notwithstanding his great age, and though latterly declining in strength, he preserved his faculties to the last. ‘He was very attentive to his religious duties, and talked of and viewed his approaching dissolution with the courage of a strong mind and the hope of a religious one’ (Hotham MS.) Summing up his professional character, Sir William Hotham says: ‘I never saw an officer of more intrepid courage or warmer zeal; no difficulties stood in his way, and he was a stranger to any feeling of nervous diffidence of himself. Without the least disposition to severity, there was a something about him which made his inferior officers stand in awe of him. He was so watchful upon his post himself that those who acted with him were afraid to slumber; and his advanced age at the time he was last employed appears neither to have impaired the vigour of his understanding nor in any way cooled the ardour of his zeal. … He was exceedingly liberal, and never was nor would have been a rich man’ (ib.)
Hood's wife predeceased him in 1806, leaving issue one son, Henry (1753–1836), in whom the titles of baron and viscount merged. Besides his brother Alexander, viscount Bridport, whose career has been frequently confused with his in a very singular manner, and his own immediate relations, Captain Alexander Hood [q. v.] and Vice-admiral Sir Samuel Hood [q. v.], Hood had several relations and connections in the navy, and more or less closely associated with him. While in the Vestal he wrote, 3 Jan. 1760, recommending his first cousin, Thomas Hoskins, ‘who is about 22, and has been my clerk four years,’ for a commission in the marines. Rear-admiral Robert Linzee, who had a command under him in the Mediterranean, was his wife's brother. John Linzee, apparently another brother, served with him in the Vestal, and afterwards as a lieutenant in the Romney, with Edward Linzee as his servant; he became a captain in 1777. His own son Henry served as commodore's servant in the Romney, but seems to have quitted the navy after the first experiment.
There are several portraits of Hood. Among others, one by Abbott, belonging to the City of London, is in the Guildhall; another by Abbott is in the National Portrait Gallery; one by West, dated 1796, belongs to the present Lord Hood; copies of others by Gainsborough and Sir Joshua Reynolds are in the Painted Hall at Greenwich, where there is also a good picture by Pocock of the repulse of the French fleet at St. Kitts.