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Royal Naval Biography/Boswall, John Donaldson


JOHN DONALDSON BOSWALL, Esq.
[Post-Captain of 1822.]

We first find this officer serving in the Centaur 74, bearing the broad pendant of Sir Samuel Hood, on the Leeward Islands station, where he subsequently distinguished himself by his “coolness and bravery,” while acting as lieutenant of the Curieux brig, Captain George Edmund Byron Bettesworth, at the capture of la Dame Ernouf, French privateer, after a very sharp action, thus officially detailed:

Curieux, at Sea, February 8, 1805.

“Sir,– I have to inform you, that this morning, at break of day, Barbadoes bearing west about 20 leagues, I perceived a large brig on our lee-bow, which immediately bore up and made all sail away; and after a chase of twelve hours, during which time she tried every point of sailing to escape us, we arrived within point-blank shot of her, when she took in her studding-sails, brought-to on the starboard tack, hoisted French colours, and commenced a very brisk and heavy fire of great guns and small arms; on our arriving within pistol-shot, and ranging up on her weather-quarter, we discharged our guns, and the action continued with great obstinacy on both sides for about 40 minutes, when the enemy getting on our weather-quarter, I conceived, from their having in great measure left their guns, and giving three cheers, that they intended to board us; she was then steering for our lee-quarter, when we put our helm to-starboard, and caught her jib-boom between our after fore-shroud and fore-mast. In this situation she remained until her decks were completely cleared, when, at the moment we were going to take possession, the vessels parted, and her fore-topmast went overboard; she continued a short time firing musketry, and then hauled down her colours, and proved to be la Dame Ernouf, of 16 long French sixes, and 120 men, sails very fast, coppered, and remarkably well found: but although she carries the same number of guns, and of the same calibre as the Curieux, she is not near so large.

“I can attribute her fighting so long and obstinately to nothing but the captain being part owner; her having run, since the commencement of the war, with so much success; and her being so well manned[1].

“His Majesty’s brig had 5 killed and 3 wounded, beside myself: of the former, I have to regret the loss of a valuable officer, Mr. Maddocks, the purser, who (on account of Mr. Boss, first lieutenant, having been left behind, on leave, from the hurry of our sailing,) volunteered his services, and was killed gallantly fighting at the head of the small-arm men. I cannot help stating, as a tribute to the memory of so worthy a young man, that to the service, he is the loss of a very good officer, and to every body that knew him, a valuable friend and companion.

“Lieutenant Boss having been left behind, deprived me of the services of an able and gallant officer; but Lieutenant Donaldson” (now Captain Boswall) “so well supplied his place, not only by exertion at the guns, but putting the orders that were given in execution, although the only officer I had on board, except Mr. Caddy, master’s-mate, and Mr. Templeton, boatswain, that I did not, by their great assistance, feel the want of an individual.

“The enemy had 30 killed, and 41 wounded; and in justice to his gallantry, I must say, he never struck whilst there was a man on his decks. I have the honor to be,

(Signed)G. E. Barnsworth[2].”

Commodore Sir Samuel Hood, K.B., &c. &c. &c.

Mr. Donaldson obtained the rank of lieutenant Sept. 14, 1805; and was in the London 98, Captain Sir Harry Neale, at the capture of the French 80-gun ship Marengo, bearing the flag of Rear-Admiral Linois, and la Belle Poule frigate, on their return from the East Indies, Mar. 13, 1806[3]. In the autumn of 1808, he was appointed first of the Gannet brig, Captain James Stevenson; and subsequently to the Implacable 74, Captain Joshua Rowley Watson, of which ship he was senior lieutenant, on the Mediterranean station, in 1812. He assumed the name of Boswall about Mar. 1814, and was made a commander on the 15th June following.

This officer’s last appointment was, Aug. 12, 1819, to the Spey ship-sloop, then in the Mediterranean, from whence he returned to Portsmouth, Aug. 9, 1821. His post commission bears date Dec. 26, 1822.

Agent.– Sir F. M. Ommanney.



  1. The complement of the Curieux did not exceed 90 officers, men, and boys.
  2. Captain Bettesworth had lately received three wounds in capturing the Curieux, and on the above occasion he was wounded by a musket-ball in the head. He subsequently fell, while commanding the Tartar frigate, in an action with a Danish flotilla, on the coast of Norway. See Commander Thomas Sykes.
  3. See Vol. I. Part II. p. 436.