Hope, James (1808-1881) (DNB00)
HOPE, Sir JAMES (1808–1881), admiral of the fleet, born 3 March, 1808, was son of Rear-admiral Sir George Johnstone Hope, K.C.B. (1767–1818), who as a captain commanded the Defence at Trafalgar. Admiral Sir Henry Hope, K.C.B. (1787–1863) [q. v.], was Sir James's first cousin. In 1820 he was entered at the Royal Naval College at Portsmouth, and in June 1822 was appointed to the Forte frigate going out to the West Indies; afterwards he served in the Cambrian in the Mediterranean, and was promoted to be lieutenant on 9 March 1827. On 16 Sept. he was appointed to the Maidstone, but a fortnight later was transferred to the Undaunted, which carried Lord William Bentinck out to India as governor-general. In August 1829 Hope was appointed flag-lieutenant to the Earl of Northesk, then commander-in-chief at Plymouth, and on 26 Feb. 1830 he was promoted to commander's rank. From 1833 to 1838 he commanded the Racer on the North American and West Indian station, and was posted on 28 June 1838. In December 1844 he commissioned the Firebrand steam frigate for service on the South American station, and on 20 Nov. 1845 had a prominent share in the engagement with the batteries at Obligado on the Parana [see Hotham, Sir Charles], where he distinguished himself by pulling up in his gig to a heavy chain moored across the river, and there waiting under a continuous fire while the chain was cut by a young engineer, Mr. George Tuck, who, many years later, was instructor in steam at the Royal Naval College at Greenwich. Hope was nominated a C.B. on 3 April 1846. During the Russian war from 1854 to 1856 he commanded the Majestic in the Baltic, but without any opportunity of personal distinction. On 19 Nov. 1857 he attained the rank of rear-admiral. In March 1859 he was appointed commander-in-chief in China, and reached Singapore on 16 April, where he relieved his predecessor, Sir Michael Seymour (1802–1887) [q. v.]
The war of the three previous years had been terminated in a treaty signed at Tientsin on 26 June 1858, the ratifications of which were to be exchanged at Pekin within a year. It was, however, rumoured at Shanghai that the English and French ministers would not be permitted to go to Pekin. On 17 June 1859 the Chesapeake, on board of which Hope's flag was flying, anchored in the Gulf of Pecheli, and Hope went at once in the Plover gunboat to the mouth of the Peiho, to acquaint the governor of the forts of the ambassadors' approach and to see for himself what the passage was like. He found that it was blocked not only by a strong boom, but by a series of timber rafts, and by rows of stakes and iron piles, the whole constituting a most formidable obstacle. The forts, too, had been rebuilt, enlarged, and strengthened, and though neither flags nor guns were to be seen, the English officer on landing with the admiral's message was met on the beach and not allowed to proceed further. On 19 June the allied ministers arrived off the bar of the Peiho, but as the obstructions prevented their passing up the river, and they were told to go to the Peh-tang, nine miles further north, contrary as they thought to the terms of the treaty, they formally requested Hope to clear the way for them. This accordingly Hope undertook to do, and on 25 June, at the top of high water, that is about 2 p.m., began to force the passage. He had with him eleven gunboats, large and small, and—including a reserve for landing—about eleven hundred men. As the gunboats approached the boom, the batteries opened on them with deadly effect. The Plover, in which Hope had hoisted his flag, was sunk; he himself was twice severely wounded, but refused to be conveyed out of action; he was carried to the Cormorant, where his flag was again hoisted. Later on the Cormorant was also sunk; so too was the Lee. All the others were severely damaged. The falling tide brought the vessels to a lower level, and gave the batteries a commanding fire to which it was impossible to reply. At the same time it exposed a wide extent of mud-flat, and when the storming parties were landed the men were caught in the mud. The enemy opened a deadly fire on them as they struggled to approach the fort. The greater number were killed or wounded, and when the last ditch was reached only fifty men were together. No reinforcements could be sent, and they were obliged to retreat, under the deadly hail, to the gunboats still afloat, which were then withdrawn out of range. Next day Hope reported to the ambassadors that his effort had failed and that it was not in his power to renew it. Of the eleven hundred men engaged, eighty-nine had been killed and 345 wounded, including the admiral himself and a large proportion of officers.
This repulse of our forces by the Chinese gave rise to the comment that we were treacherously attacked, and were taken at a disadvantage, and that the guns were manned by Europeans—Russians more especially—or Americans. Such statements were unfounded; for even admitting that the attack was a violation of the treaty, it was quite well understood by Hope that the treaty was to be violated; and he approached the boom knowing that he would have to fight his way. It had often been pointed out that to attack the Chinese forces twice in the same way on the same ground was likely to lead to serious fighting. The passage which Hope tried to force had been forced by Seymour only the year before. Despite the tactical error, however, the determined gallantry of Hope and his men roused great enthusiasm at home. It was resolved that the treaty must be ratified at Pekin, and on receipt of the intelligence that the Chinese government had approved of what had been done at Taku, a strong military expedition was sent out by both the allied powers. Hope had meantime gone to the neighbourhood of Ningpo, where he remained to recruit his health. In the following year (1860) the local transport arrangements were conducted by him, and by the end of June 1860 the troops were landed at the mouth of the Peh-tang. By 1 Aug. everything was ready for the advance. On 20 Sept. they attacked and stormed the fort on the north side of the Peiho. When that was captured the southern forts were at once evacuated, the obstacles were removed from the mouth of the river, and on the 23rd Hope went up to Tien-tsin, where he for the most part remained till the treaty was signed at Pekin on 24 Oct. On 9 Nov. 1860 he was nominated a K.C.B., and in the following year received the grand cross of the Legion of Honour. In the spring of 1862 he co-operated with the Chinese imperial troops under the American General Ward in driving back the Taepings from the neighbourhood of Shanghai and Ningpo. Several of their positions were taken by storm, and on different occasions there was severe though irregular fighting; on one, in the end of February, Hope, leading in person, was wounded by a musket-shot; on another the French admiral was killed by a cannon-ball. Things were still in a very unsettled state when, in the autumn, Hope was relieved by Rear-admiral Kuper.
Towards the end of 1863 he was appointed commander-in-chief in North America and the West Indies. His command was uneventful. He became vice-admiral on 16 Sept. 1864, was nominated a G.C.B. on 28 March 1865, and returned to England in the spring of 1867. From 1869 to 1872 he was commander-in-chief at Portsmouth, and was thus, in October 1870, called on to preside at the court-martial which inquired into the loss of the Captain [see Burgoyne, Hugh Talbot; Coles, Cowper Phipps]. He became an admiral on 21 Jan. 1870; was appointed principal A.D.C. in February 1873; was placed on the retired list, on attaining the age of seventy, in March 1878; and on 15 June 1879 was advanced to the honorary rank of admiral of the fleet. During his later years his health was much broken, and he lived in comparative retirement. He died at Carriden House in Linlithgowshire on 9 June 1881. He was twice married, but left no issue. His portrait, a good likeness, by Sydney Hodges is in the Painted Hall at Greenwich.
[Foster's Peerage, s.n. ‘Hopetoun;’ O'Byrne's Naval Biog. Dict.; Yonge's Hist. of the British Navy; Sherard Osborn's Fight on the Peiho (originally published in Blackwood's Mag. December 1859); Rennie's British Arms in North China and Japan; Annual Register, 1859, 1860; Times, 10 June 1881.]