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Royal Naval Biography/Bowen, George (a)


GEORGE BOWEN, Esq.
[Commander.]

Was made a lieutenant in Feb. 1806; and appointed first of the Apollo 38, Captain Bridges W. Taylor, fitting out at Portsmouth, for the Mediterranean station, April 30th, 1810. On the 13th Feb. 1812, he assisted in capturing the French frigate-built store-ship Merinos, of 20 guns and 126 men, under the batteries of Corsica[1]; and subsequently the national xebec Ulysse, attached to the Corfu flotilla[2], On the 21st Dec. in the same year, he commanded the boats of the Apollo, assisted by those of the Weazle sloop, at the destruction of St. Cataldo, the strongest tower between Brindisi and Otranto[3]. The subsequent reduction of Augusta and Curzola, two islands in the Adriatic, was thus officially reported by his captain:

H.M.S. Apollo, Curzola, Feb. 4th, 1813.

“Sir,– In compliance with your orders of the 18th January, we proceeded, with 250 men, under Lieutenant Colonel Robertson, on board the Apollo, Esperanza privateer, and four gun-boats, to the attack of Augusta, and I have the honor to acquaint you, that it surrendered on the 29th.

“During this service, which was attended with excessive fatigue, by the nature of the mountains over which we had to pass, a distinguished share fell to Captain Rorica, who, with fifteen Calabrese, Mr. Thomas Ullock, purser, an artilleryman, and our guide, spiked the guns of the lower battery, under musketry of the fort; likewise to Captain May (35th regiment). Lieutenant George Bowen, and Mr. Ullock, with forty men, and the assistance of the inhabitants, who destroyed a store of provisions, and took a Serjeant of artillery and two other soldiers, in the town, also under the musketry of the fort. I do not mean, by mentioning these in particular, to take from the merits of others, who were all equally zealous. I cannot either avoid mentioning the great exertions of the gun-boats, under Lieutenant M‘Donald (35th regiment), the barge, launch, ami yawl, under Messrs. William Henry Brand, William Hutchinson, and William David Fowkes, midshipmen of the Apollo; they drew a continual fire of the fort and battery upon them, and captured a boat attempting to escape with despatches.

“The fort stands upon the pinnacle of a mountain, which position is so strong, that fifty English soldiers, with the good disposition of the inhabitants, are likely to resist any force the enemy may send against it. Its garrison consisted of 139 men. It has one mortar, one 18-pounder, and two 8-pounders: there are three 18-pounders in the lower battery, and several musketry outworks. We have only to lament the loss of one man on our side, (an inhabitant) killed; the enemy had one wounded.

“Lieutenant-Colonel Robertson having left a garrison in Augusta, we sailed on the 1st instant, with the Imogene (sloop), and a gun-boat, to attack this island.

“Although it blew excessive hard in squalls, we succeeded in landing 160 soldiers, 70 seamen, and 50 marines, with a howitzer and 6-pounder field gun the same night, at Port Bufalo, which enabled Major Slesser (35th regiment,) with the flankers, to surprise the hill, with a musketry work upon it that commands the town.

“Hearing that 300 of the enemy’s troops, to relieve Augusta, were arrived on the opposite shore (Sabionalla), I directed Lieutenant Charles Taylor, acting commander of the Imogene, to bring away or destroy their boats, and if fired at from Curzola, not to return it to the town; which instructions he obeyed with the utmost forbearance, as he fired over all, when their fire was directed at him. Mr. Antonio Parbo, commander of the gun-boat, likewise behaved gallantly; his vessel was hulled three or four times.

“Finding that the enemy appeared determined to hold out (although our field guns were upon the hill, and our advance in the suburbs within pistol-shot), and that the civic guard were collecting in the country, I took off the Apollo’s seamen to attack the sea batteries, which, in the morning of the 3d, after about three hours’ firing, we silenced; they then agreed to capitulate; and, I am happy to add, that we thereby have captured the privateer which molested the trade of the Adriatic so much, also two of her prizes.

“I have to lament the loss of two seamen, killed by grape; one man drowned, by thee sinking of the yawl; and one slightly wounded. I have also to regret that the ship’s main-mast is very badly wounded, as well as a quantity of rigging cut.

“Upon the walls of the town, and in its towers, were three 18-pounders and eight small guns. The day the island surrendered, we captured several vessels in the channel, bound to Ragusa and Cattaro, principally with grain, for which those places were in great distress. We have also had the satisfaction of returning a quantity of church plate, bells, &c. which had been seized by the French, and were about to be carried away from Curzola and Augusta. I have the honor to be, &c.

(Signed)B. W. Taylor.”

To Rear-Admiral Fremantle.

The active manner in which the Apollo was employed during the remainder of the French war, has been stated in Vol. III. Part I. p. 293, et seq. We have only to add, that Mr. Bowen continued as her first lieutenant until advanced to his present rank, June 15th, 1814.