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Royal Naval Biography/Bligh, George Miller

[Post-Captain of 1808.]

This officer entered the service in 1794, as a midshipman on board the Alexander of 74 guns, commanded by his father, the late Admiral Sir Richard Rodney Bligh, G.C.B,, and was m that ship when she was captured by a French squadron under Mons. Neuilly, on the 6th Nov. following.

The heroic defence of the Alexander has never been surpassed in our naval annals. Her gallant commander’s official account of that desperate conflict will be given under the head of Commander James Godench: the sufferings endured by her officers and crew, during their imprisonment, have been described at p. 702 of our second volume.

After a captivity of six months’ duration, Mr. George M. Bligh fortunately effected his escape from Brest, and returned to England in an American ship, on board of which was Lady Anne Fitzroy (sister to the Duke of Wellington), who had been taken in a packet when coming home from Lisbon. We subsequently find him serving in the Brunswick 74[1], Agincourt 64, Quebec 32, and Endymion 40; from which latter frigate he was promoted, immediately after passing his examination, in 1801.

During the remainder of the French revolutionary war, Mr. Bligh served as a Lieutenant of the Brunswick, then commanded by Captain George Hopewell Stephens; and at the renewal of hostilities he had the gratification of being appointed to the flag-ship of Lord Nelson, whose high opinion of, and good will towards him, will be seen by the following copies of letters addressed to his highly-respected father:

Victory, March 19, 1804.

“My dear Admiral,– Your son is a very good young man, and I sincerely hope that, now your flag is up, you will be able to promote him. It would give me great pleasure to do it, but I see no prospect, unless we capture the whole French fleet in Toulon; therefore do you consider about him. You are sure of my regard, but I cannot kill people, and I am more likely to go off myself than any one about me. I have many thanks to give you * * * * *.”

Victory, October 12, 1804.

“Your kind present of newspapers of Aug. l3th and 21st arrived safe, for all which accept my sincere thanks. Your son has never done wrong, that I can answer for, since he sailed in the Victory, and I wish I could promote him, but I see no prospect; the Admiralty fill all vacancies except death, and nobody will die; therefore I recommend you to ask Lord Melville to let him be put upon the Admiralty list, and then I may be able to give him the step, which will afford great satisifaction to, my dear Admiral, yours, &c.”

Victory, March 31, 1805.

“Many thanks for your constant and kind attention in sending me newspapers. Your son is certainly upon the Admiralty list, but so far down that nothing less than the French and Spanish fleets being captured can give him a reasonable chance – however, it is good to be upon that list. I can assure you that your son is an excellent young man. You must forgive my short letter, and only believe that I am ever, my dear Admiral, your most faithful servant,

(Signed)Nelson and Bronte.”

To Vice-Admiral Bligh.

Three days previous to the glorious battle of Trafalgar, Mr. Bligh was appointed by Nelson to command the Etna bomb; but that vessel being then absent from the fleet, he continued to do duty as Lieutenant of the Victory, and was very dangerously wounded, at his quarters on the forecastle, towards the close of that memorable battle, a musket-ball having struck him in the breast, and passed in an oblique direction through his left side. His commission as a Commander bears date Jan. 25, 1806; at which period he was appointed to the Pylades sloop of war, then at Falmouth, with a convoy bound to the Mediterranean. We should here observe, that the Admiralty had previously refused to confirm his appointment to the Etna, and had directed him to join the Ocean 98, fitting for the flag of Nelson’s successor; but which he declined doing in consequence of not having sufficiently recovered from his wound, and the unhandsome treatment he experienced from the board.

Captain Bligh continued in the Pylades, actively employed on the Mediterranean station, upwards of three years. On the 2d May 1808, he captured the Grand Napoleon French privateer, pierced for 10 guns, but only four mounted, with a complement of 38 men. His promotion to post rank took place Dec. 27th following.

From the Pylades, Captain Bligh removed to the Glatton 56, in which ship he took charge of the homeward bound trade collected at Malta, in the spring of 1809. He subsequently commanded the Acorn, a post sloop, forming part of the naval force employed protecting Lissa, under the orders of Captain (now Sir Murray) Maxwell, who makes the following mention of him (in his official letter to their senior officer, reporting the capture of la Pomone French frigate) Dec. 1, 1810:–

“Captain Bligh, of the Acorn, to whom I have entrusted the defence of Lissa in our absence, has had an arduous duty to perform; but no difficulties arise, when all ara actuated by zeal for his Majesty’s service: and the little squadron you have done me the honor to entrust me with, possess it in an eminent degree.”

Captain Bligh’s last appointment was, July 25, 1814, to the Araxes frigate, fitting for the Jamaica station; from whence he returned to England, for the purpose of being paid off, in July 1810. He married, on the 2d Dec. in the following year, Miss Catherine Haynes, of Lonesome Lodge, near Dorking, co. Surrey.

Agent.– John Chippendale, Esq.