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Royal Naval Biography/Bayntun, Henry William


SIR HENRY WILLIAM BAYNTUN,
Vice-Admiral of the Blue; and Knight Commander of the most honorable Military Order of the Bath.


This officer is the son of a gentleman who formerly held the office of British Consul General at Algiers. He served as a Lieutenant at the reduction of Martinique, in 1794[1], and was promoted by Sir John Jervis to the command of the Avenger sloop, from which vessel he removed into the Nautilus, a vessel of the same class; and after the capture of Guadaloupe obtained post rank in the Undaunted, of 32 guns, by commission bearing date May 4, 1794. He subsequently commanded the Solebay and Beaulieu frigates, on the West India station.

In 1796, we find Captain Bayntun in the Reunion, of 36 guns, which ship was lost in the Swin, on the 7th Dec, and 3 of her crew perished. His next appointment was to the Quebec frigate, and in her he again visited the West Indies, where he removed successively into the Thunderer 74, and Cumberland, of the same force.

On the renewal of the war, in 1803, our officer was entrusted with the command of a squadron stationed off St. Domingo, where he cruized with great activity, and captured several armed vessels, among which was the Creole French frigate, of 44 guns, from Cape Frangois bound to Port-au-Prince, having General Morgan and staff, with 530 troops on board. The crew consisted of only 150 men. Ou the same day, the Cumberlaiul and Vanguard took a schooner, from Cuba, with 100 blood-hounds, intended to accompany the French army serving against the Blacks.

On his return from the Jamaica station, Captain Bayntun was appointed to the Leviathan, another 74-gun ship, and ordered to the Mediterranean, where he joined the fleet under Lord Nelson, with whom he went in pursuit of the combined squadrons of France and Spain[2]. On the glorious 21st Oct., 1805, the Leviathan passed through the enemy’s line, and had assisted in disabling and silencing the French Admiral’s ship, as also the huge Santissima Trinidada, when Captain Bayntun found himself much galled by a distant cannonade from several other of the enemy’s ships; at length, the Saint Augustin, of 74 g uns ? bearing the broad pendant of Commodore Cazigal, gave him an opportunity of closing with her, which was immediately embraced, and she was soon compelled to surrender. The loss sustained by the Leviathan was very trifling, considering how warmly she had been engaged; it amounted to only 4 men killed and 22 wounded. After the battle, her prize was set on fire and destroyed[3]. At the funeral of his lamented chief, in Jan. 1806, Captain Bayntun bore the Guidon, in the procession by water from Greenwich Hospital.

Towards the latter end of the same year, our officer accompanied the expedition under Rear-Admiral Murray and Brigadier-General Craufurd, sent from England for the reduction of the province of Chili, but which was afterwards ordered to Buenos Ayres, in consequence of the recapture of that city by the Spaniards. Being overtaken at the Cape of Good Hope, it sailed accordingly for its new destination, and arrived in the Rio de la Plata on the 14th June, 1807[4]. The disastrous result of the pernicious measures pursued by the military Commander-in-Chief, Lieutenant-General Whitelocke, are well known, as also that every facility was afforded to the enterprise by the navy, during the whole of the operations carried on in that quarter. We shall therefore content ourselves with observing, that on the arrival of the armament to which Captain Bayntun was attached, our officer was directed to superintend the debarkation of the troops, which he conducted with the greatest regularity. He ultimately commanded the flotilla sent up the North river to Colonia; and the Rear-Admiral, in his official despatches, bore ample testimony to the zeal and activity displayed by him during that unfortunate campaign.

Captain Bayntun’s subsequent appointments were, to the Milford, of 74 guns, about June, 1809; to superintend the payment of ships afloat at Plymouth, in the autumn of 1810; and in the ensuing year, to the command of the Royal Sovereign yacht. His promotion to the rank of Vice-Admiral took place, Aug. 12, 1812; on the 2d Jan., 1815, he was nominated a K.C.B.; and at the last general promotion, July 19, 1821, he obtained the rank of Vice-Admiral. Sir Henry W. Bayntun married a Miss Mayhew, Aug. 23, 1809.



  1. See p. 19.
  2. See Vice-Admiral Sir Pulteney Malcolm.
  3. The following anecdote is related of a seaman, named Thomas Main, belonging to the Leviathan in the battle of Trafalgar: Whilst engaged with the Saint Augustin, a shot took off his arm; his shipmates offered to assist him in going to the Surgeon; but he bluntly said, “I thank you, stay where you are; you will do more good there.” He then went down by himself to the cockpit. The Surgeon, who respected him, would willingly have attended him in preference to others, whose wounds were less alarming; but Main would not admit of it, saying, “Avast, not until it comes to my turn, if you please.” The Surgeon soon after amputated the shattered part of the arm, near the shoulder; during which operation, with great composure, smiling, and with a steady clear voice, he sang the whole of “Rule Britannia.” The cheerfulness of this brave man was of infinite use in keeping up the spirits of his wounded comrades; but the fine fellow died at Gibraltar Hospital, of a fever he caught, when the stump of his arm was nearly well.
  4. See p. 407.