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Royal Naval Biography/Bell, Christopher


CHRISTOPHER BELL, Esq.
[Post-Captain of 1812.]

We first find this officer serving as a lieutenant of the Pique frigate, Captain Charles B. H. Ross; and commanding three of her boats at the capture of a Spanish brig, pierced for 12 guns, and the destruction of a 3-gun battery, in Cabaret bay, Porto Rico, Nov. 1, 1806[1].

His promotion to the rank of Commander took place April 1, 1808. The capture of le Barbier de Seville, French lugger privateer, of 16 guns and 60 men, by the Phipps schooner, under his command, is thus described in a letter from him to Vice-Admiral George Campbell, dated Nov. 16, 1810:–

“Having weighed and proceeded to sea in H.M. sloop under nny command, agreeably to your order, immediately the tide slacked last evening, I have the honor to acquaint you, that before 12 o’clock, we were alongside a French lugger privateer, which led us close under Calais, and so near in shore, that I was obliged, although firing grape-shot into her, to give up the chase.

“As we saw, while pursuing her, two other luggers lying to windward. I thought, by beating up in shore of them, we might escape their notice, until far enough to fetch them. About 5 A.M. we had the pleasure of getting close to one of them, when an action commenced. The enemy, for a quarter of an hour, kept up an incessant fire of musketry. As I perceived his determination was to run on shore, and we were then in 3½; fathoms water, the only prospect of capturing her was to lay her on board. This was done, and, under the fire of our broadside. Lieutenant Robert Tryon, assisted by Mr. Wright, master’s-mate, in a most gallant manner headed the party of boarders, when the enemy, in a few minutes, surrendered * * * *. This capture has been attended with the loss of one seaman killed, and Lieutenant Tryon dangerously wounded. The enemy’s loss is severe, having 6 killed and 11 wounded.

“At day-light, we saw H.M. brig Zephyr steering down to us: Captain Dickens gave me every assistance in shifting the prisoners, and took the prize in tow. Our own running rigging being very much cut, and for the accommodation of the wounded, I was anxious to get into the Downs myself; but notwithstanding all exertions, the prize very soon went down, having received several shot from us between wind and water. I lament to hear that one of our men was drowned.”

Lieutenant Tryon, it appears, was wounded by one of the guns of the Phipps going off while he was on the enemy’s deck: the shot, a 12-pounder, shattered the bladebone of his left shoulder, carrying away the flesh close to the spine, laying the ribs bare, and occasioning a wound one foot long by seven inches broad. He died in Panton Square, London, Jan. 24, 1811.

Captain Bell’s post commission bears date Feb. 7, 1812.

Agents.– Messrs. Stilwell.