Royal Naval Biography/Bowen, George

Admiral of the White

This officer is of a respectable Welsh family. He attained the rank of Post-Captain, Feb. 14, 1781, and commanded the Montagu, of 74 guns, in the partial action between Rear-Admiral Graves and the Count de Grasse, off the Chesapeake, Sept. 5, in the same year[1].

The Montagu afterwards accompanied the squadron under Sir Samuel Hood to the West Indies, and Captain Bowen was present at all that officer’s brilliant achievements on the Leeward Island station, an account of which will be found under the head of Retired Captain John N. Inglefield. He also shared the glories of the memorable 12th April, 1782, when the British fleet under Rodney, defeated that of France commanded by de Grasse, who it will be remembered was taken prisoner on the occasion[2]. The loss sustained by the Montagu in this battle, amounted to 12 killed and 31 wounded.

A long interval of peace succeeded the above glorious event, and Captain Bowen remained unemployed until the commencement of the war with the French republic, in 1793, at which period he was appointed to the Belliqueux, of 64 guns, and afterwards removed into the Veteran, of the same force.

In the Autumn of 1795, he obtained the command of the Canada, of 74 guns; and early in the following year proceeded to the West Indies, under the orders of Sir Hugh C. Christian, with whom he served at the reduction of St. Lucia[3]; after the capture of which island the Canada was sent to Jamaica, the station where Captain Bowen continued to command her until 1797, when he removed into the Carnatic, another ship of the same rate. He was advanced to the rank of Rear-Admiral, Feb. 14, 1799; Vice-Admiral, Nov. 9, 1805; and Admiral, July, 31, 1810. During part of the late war, he commanded the Sea Fencibles in Ireland; but we believe, never served afloat as a Flag-Officer.

Admiral Bowen’s youngest daughter was married in 1818, to Captain Honyman of the Grenadier Guards, second son of Sir William Honyman.


ADMIRAL BOWEN, (p. 134.) Commanded the Bellona 74, in 1789.

  1. Rear-Admiral Graves sailed from Sandy Hook, Aug. 31, 1781, and on the 5th of the following month discovered the enemy’s fleet at anchor off Lynnhaven Bay, just within Cape Henry, extending across the entrance of the Chesapeake. The Count de Grasse no sooner perceived the British fleet, than he got under sail and stood to sea, forming his line of battle, as the ships drew from under the land.

    The British force amounted only to nineteen sail of the line, that of the French to twenty-four; so that the enemy had a superiority of no less than five line-of-battle ships. It was past four P.M. before Rear-Admiral Graves edged away and brought them to action, which was even then by no means general; the van and part of the centre being the only ships engaged. Towards sunset, the French van bore away to get more in a line with their centre, for its support; and soon after their whole fleet put before the wind, when the firing ceased. The loss sustained by the British on this occasion, consisted of 90 men killed and 246 wounded; among the latter was Captain Mark Robinson, who lost a leg.

    The rival fleets continued for five days in sight of each other, repairing their damages and manoeuvring, until the Count de Grasse had obtained his object by covering the arrival of M. de Barras, with his squadron and charge from Rhode Island; when be retired with his fleet to the Chesapeake, and anchored across that river, so as to block up the passage. Upon which Rear-Admiral Graves followed the resolutions of a Council of War, and returned to New York.

  2. See p. 35, et seq.
  3. St. Lucia surrendered by capitulation, May 25, 1796; the garrison amounted to 2000 men. A great quantity of ordnance, ammunition, and military stores, were found in the different batteries. A ship, three brigs, and five schooners, were taken in the Careenage. Lieutenant-General Sir Ralph Abercromby, who commanded the troops employed in this expedition, bestowed the following tribute of praise to the support and co-operation which he derived from the navy;

    General Order.– Head Quarters, St. Lucia, May 27, 1794.

    “During the services which have been carried on in the Island of St. Lucia, all the courage and every exertion of the army would have proved ineffectual, if Rear-Admiral Sir H. C. Christian, and the royal navy, had not stepped forward with the alacrity which has been so conspicuous, in forwarding the most arduous part of the public service; to their skill and unremitting labour, is in a great measure owing the success which has attended his Majesty’s arms. It will afford the Commander-in-Chief the greatest satisfaction, to be able to lay before his Majesty the eminent services which have on this occasion been performed by the royal navy, and Admiral Sir H. C. Christian will confer a particular obligation on Lieutenant-General Sir Ralph Abercromby, and the army at large, if he will be so obliging as to communicate to the royal navy, and in particular to Captains Lane, Ryves, and Stephenson, and the other officers who acted on shore, and to the corps of marines, the great obligation which they consider themselves under to them.

    (Signed)“T. Busby, Ass. Adj.-Gen.”