Royal Naval Biography/Broke, Philip
SIR PHILIP BOWES VERE BROKE, Bart.
Knight Commander of the Most Honorable Military Order of the Bath.
[Post-Captain of 1801.]
This officer is the eldest son of the late Philip Bowes Broke, of Nacton, co. Suffolk, Esq. by Elizabeth, daughter of the Rev. Charles Beaumont, M. A. of Witnesham, in the same county. He was born Sept. 9, 1776; completed his education at the Royal Academy, Portsmouth; and commenced his naval career as a Midshipman on board the Bull Dog sloop of war, June 25, 1792. From her he removed with Captain George Hope into l’Eclair, a French prize corvette on the Mediterranean station, where he was employed in much active service, particularly at the siege of Bastia.
L’Eclair was for some time commanded by the late Commissioner Towry, with whom Mr. Broke continued until May 25, 1794, when he joined his former Captain in the Romulus of 36 guns, which ship was attached to the fleet under Vice-Admiral Hotham in the action off Genoa, Mar. 14, 1795. On the 8th June following, he was removed into the Britannia, a first rate, bearing the flag of that officer, by whom he was appointed third Lieutenant of the Southampton frigate, shortly after the skirmish off Frejus, which ended in the destruction of a French 74.
The Southampton’s action with la Vestale French frigate, and the capture of l’Utile corvette, together with the other services performed by her, have already been described in our memoir of Rear-Admiral Macnamara, with whom Lieutenant Broke returned to England, after witnessing the defeat of the Spanish fleet by Sir John Jervis, Feb. 14, 1797. We subsequently find him serving under the late Hon. Captain Charles Herbert in the Amelia frigate, and bearing a part in the battle between Sir John B. Warren and M. Bompart, off the coast of Ireland, Oct. 12, 1798.
Lieutenant Broke was advanced to the rank of Commander in Jan. 1799; and made a Post-Captain Feb. 14, 1801. Previous to this latter promotion he commanded the Shark sloop of war, employed, in affording protection to the trade, and occasionally cruising off the Dutch coast.
At the renewal of the war in 1803, Captain Broke made several unsuccessful applications for a ship; but as inactivity formed no part of his character, he employed himself in training the peasantry in his neighbourhood to arms, for the purpose of opposing the threatened invasion from France. In April 1805, he was appointed to the Druid frigate; and the scarcity of seamen then being so great that many ships were lying idle for want of hands, he offered to proceed to sea with scarcely a sufficient number to work her. His offer being accepted, the Druid sailed on a cruise for men off the Land’s End and in the Bristol Channel; and after making up her complement, was placed under the orders of Lord Gardner, on the Irish station, where she captured the Prince Murat, French ship privateer, of 18 six-pounders and 127 men.
On the 1st May, 1806, Captain Broke fell in with le Pandour, a national brig of 18 guns and 114 men, which, after a run of 160 miles, was arrested in her flight by the squadron under Rear-Admiral Stirling, and conducted to Plymouth by the Druid. Captain Broke also took some smaller vessels; and about the same time pursued a large frigate into the Passage du Raz, near Brest. His next appointment was, in June 1806, to the Shannon, rated at 38 guns; in which ship he established his fame as a British commander in the first rank of naval renown.
In April 1807, Captain Broke was sent, with the Meleager of 32 guns under his orders, to protect the whale fishery in the Greenland seas. On the 7th May, he fell in with the ice; and after pushing through it with much perseverance and difficulty, made the southern part of Spitsbergen on the 17th June. Thence the two frigates proceeded to Magdalena harbour, lying in the 80th degree of north latitude, and nearer to the pole than any ships of war had ever reached before, excepting those under the late Lord Mulgrave.
After making a correct survey of the bay and harbour of Magdalena, Captain Broke stood to the northward till his progress was prevented by the ice, in 80° 6' N.; he then directed his course to the westward; and after speaking several whalers, made the coast of Greenland on the 23d July. During the ensuing autumn the Shannon and Meleager cruised off Shetland, from whence the former returned to North Yarmouth at the latter end of September.
Towards the close of the same year, Captain Broke accompanied the expedition sent against Madeira, in consequence of the Portuguese Government having declared war against Great Britain. Possession of that island being obtained by a mere display of force, he was ordered by Sir Samuel Hood to convoy the transports back to England, where he arrived on the 7th Feb. 1808. In November following he joined company with Captain Seymour, of the Amethyst, about an hour after that officer had captured the Thetis French frigate, several of whose crew were received, and the prize herself, being wholly dismasted, taken in tow by the Shannon. On the 27th Jan. 1809, he took, after a long chase, le Pommereuil cutter privateer, of 14 guns and 60 men.
The comparatively unimportant series of services to which Captain Broke was now restricted, he being attached to the Channel fleet, and principally employed in watching the enemy’s ports, would not justify us in trespassing on the patience of our readers by entering into a detail of them: we shall therefore proceed with him to the Halifax station, where he arrived Sept. 24, 1811. At this period the machinations of the French government to produce a war between England and America had long been sufficiently evident, and the hostile inclination of the United States was now equally obvious.
On the 18th June, 1812, a formal declaration of war against Great Britain was made on the part of Congress; and on the 5th of the ensuing month Captain Broke was despatched by Vice-Admiral Sawyer, with the Africa 64, and Belvidera and AEolus frigates under his orders, to blockade the enemy’s ports. Eleven days afterwards he captured the American brig Nautilus, of 14 guns and 106 men, off Sandy Hook. The same evening another vessel was seen, which proved to be the Constitution, of 56 guns. All sail was immediately made in chase, and by 3h 30' A.M. on the 17th, one of the British squadron had arrived within gun-shot of the enemy’s ship, notwithstanding which the latter succeeded in effecting her escape, after an anxious pursuit of sixty-five hours. Captain Broke now proceeded to the eastward in quest of Commodore Rodgers, who had sailed from New York with a squadron to intercept our homeward bound West India trade.
On the 29th Captain Broke fell in with the fleet from Jamaica, under convoy of the Thetis frigate; and having seen them in safety over the banks of Newfoundland, stood back towards the enemy’s coast, where he destroyed many American merchantmen, and re-captured several British vessels. His provisions and stores being at length exhausted, he returned to Halifax on the 20th September, and there had the mortification to learn that the Guerriere had been taken by the Constitution .
Vice-Admiral Sawyer’s squadron had by this time been reinforced by several frigates, and he had sent them to join the Shannon at Long Island. Captain Broke was on the point of sailing again, when Sir John B. Warren arrived from England and assumed the chief command. Intelligence being received soon after of the wreck of the Barbadoes on Sable Island, the Shannon was despatched to bring off the crew and specie saved from her; which service being performed in company with the Bream schooner, she again returned to Halifax, bringing with her an enemy’s privateer taken on the way. During a subsequent cruise with the Tenedos, Nymphe, and Curlew, under his orders, Captain Broke intercepted the Thorn, American brig privateer, of 18 long 9-pounders and 140 men, and recaptured a British merchant vessel.
Sir John B. Warren resolving to spend the winter at Bermuda, Captain Broke was left in charge of the naval force stationed on the coasts of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and New England. In December he escorted a homeward bound fleet half way across the Atlantic; and being impeded in his return by adverse winds, went round the Azores, but without having the good fortune to meet with an enemy. On the 21st March 1813, he was joined by Captains Oliver and Capel, in the Valiant and la Hogue 74’s, when the former officer relieved him in the command of the northern stations.
The Shannon and Tenedos soon after separated from the squadron in a gale, and steered for Boston, which port they reconnoitred on the 2nd April. Observing the American ship Congress ready for sea, the President nearly so, and the Constitution under repair, they then returned to the rendezvous to make their report. It was at this time that the ill-fated Chesapeake got into Boston through the eastern channel.
The Commodore having taken a station off New York, and left Captain Capel in command of the squadron before Boston, the latter officer directed the Shannon and Tenedos to watch the harbour, while la Hogue, with the other ships under his orders, cruised in the offing. Under this judicious arrangement, the squadron was kept sufficiently active by the enemy’s privateers and traders, several of which were captured; but notwithstanding the exertions and vigilance of Captains Broke and Parker, the President and Congress succeeded in making their escape.
Having ascertained that the Chesapeake would soon be ready for sea again, Captain Broke, on the 25th May, took a supply of provisions and water from the Tenedos, and detached her, with orders not to rejoin him before the 14th June, the earliest date at which, it was considered, the Constitution could be got ready to accompany the Chesapeake, should the latter wait in port for that purpose. Seven days afterwards he addressed the following letter to the commanding officer of the Chesapeake
“H.B.M.S. Shannon, off Boston, June 1, 1813
“Sir,– As the Chesapeake appears now ready for sea, I request you will do me the favor to meet the Shannon with her, ship to ship, to try the fortune of our respective flags. To an officer of your character it requires some apology for proceeding to further particulars. Be assured, Sir, that it is not from any doubt I can entertain of your wishing to close with my proposal, but merely to provide an answer to any objection which might be made, and very reasonably, upon the chance of our receiving unfair support.
“After the diligent attention which we had paid to Commodore Rodgers; the pains I took to detach all force but the Shannon and Tenedos to such a distance that they could not possibly join in any action fought in sight of the Capes, and the various verbal messages which had been sent into Boston to that effect, we were much disappointed to find the Commodore had eluded us by sailing on the first change, after the prevailing easterly winds had obliged us to keep an offing from the coast. He, perhaps, wished for some stronger assurance of a fair meeting. I am therefore induced to address you more particularly, and to assure you, that what I write I pledge my honor to perform, to the utmost of my power.
“The Shannon mounts 24 guns upon her broadside, and one light boat-gun; 18-pounders upon her main-deck, and 32-pr. carronades on her quarter-deck and forecastle; and is manned with a complement of 300 men and boys, (a large proportion of the latter,) besides 30 seamen, boys, and passengers, who were taken out of recaptured vessels lately. I am thus minute, because a report has prevailed in some of the Boston papers, that we had 150 men additional lent us from la Hogue, which really never was the case. La Hogue is now gone to Halifax for provisions; and I will send all other ships beyond the power of interfering with us, and meet you wherever it is most agreeable to you, within the limits of the undermentioned rendezvous; viz.—
“From six to ten leagues east of Cape Cod light-house; from eight to ten leagues east of Cape Ann’s light; on Cashe’s Ledge, in latitude 43 north; at any bearing and distance you please to fix off the south breakers of Nantucket, or the shoal on St. George’s Bank.
“If you will favor me with any plan of signals or telegraph, I will warn you (if sailing under this promise) should any of my friends be too nigh, or any where in sight, until I can detach them out of my way; or I would sail with you under a flag of truce to any place you think safest from our cruisers, hauling it down when fair to begin hostilities.
“You must, Sir, be aware that my proposals are highly advantageous to you, as you cannot proceed to sea singly in the Chesapeake, without imminent risk of being crushed by the superior force of the numerous British squadrons which are now abroad; where all your efforts, in case of a rencontre, would, however gallant, be perfectly hopeless. I entreat you, Sir, not to imagine that I am urged by mere personal vanity to the wish of meeting the Chesapeake; or that I depend only upon your personal ambition for your acceding to this invitation: we have both nobler motives. You will feel it as a compliment if I say, that the result of our meeting may be the most grateful service I can render to my country; and I doubt not that you, equally confident of success, will feel convinced, that it is only by repeated triumphs in even combats that your little navy can now hope to console your country, for the loss of that trade it can no longer protect. Favor me with a speedy reply. We are short of provisions and water, and cannot stay long here. I have the honor to be, Sir, your obedient humble Servant,
(Signed)“P. B. V. Broke.”
“N.B. For the general service of watching your coast, it is requisite for me to keep another ship in company, to support me with her guns and boats when employed near the land, and particularly to aid each other, if either ship in chase should get on shore. You must be aware that I cannot, consistently with my duty, wave so great an advantage for this general service, by detaching my consort, without an assurance on your part of meeting me directly; and that you will neither seek nor admit aid from any other of your armed vessels, if I detach mine expressly for the purpose of meeting you. Should any special order restrain you from thus answering a formal challenge, you may yet oblige me by keeping my proposal a secret, and appointing any place you like to meet us (within three hundred miles of Boston) in a given number of days after you sail; as, unless you agree to an interview, I may be busied on other service, and, perhaps, be at a distance from Boston when you go to sea. Choose your terms, but let us meet.”
Endorsement on the envelope of the above.
“We have 13 American prisoners on board, whom I will give you for as many British sailors, if you will send them out; otherwise, being privateers’ men, they must be detained.”
This letter was confided to Mr. Slocum, a discharged prisoner, who immediately departed in his boat for Marblehead. At the same time the Shannon, with colours flying, stood in close to the light-house, and there hove-to. She had been as near to Boston during several of the preceding days; but thick rainy weather had obstructed the view of the harbour. The Chesapeake was now seen at anchor in President Roads, with royal yards across, and apparently ready for sea. She soon after loosed and sheeted home her topsails. Between noon and 1 P.M. while the Shannon’s crew were at dinner, Captain Broke went himself to the masthead, and there observed the Chesapeake fire a gun, hoist her topsails, and set top-gallant sails. She was presently under way, and made more sail as she came down, having a light breeze in her favour. While aloft, Captain Broke saw that Mr. Slocum’s boat had not reached the shore in time for the delivery of his challenge to the American commander. The action that ensued was thus described in the London Gazette:
“Shannon, Halifax, June 6, 1813.
“Sir,– I have the honor to inform you, that being close in with Boston light-house, in H.M.S. under my command, on the 1st inst., I had the pleasure of seeing that the United States’ frigate Chesapeake (whom we had long been watching) was coming out of the harbour to engage the Shannon; I took a position between Cape Ann and Cape Cod, and then hove-to for him to join us. The enemy came down in a very handsome manner, having three American ensigns flying; when closing with us he sent down his royal-yards. I kept the Shannon’s up, expecting the breeze would die away. At half-past 5 P.M. the enemy hauled up within hail of us on the starboard side, and the battle began, both ships steering full under their topsails: after exchanging between two and three broadsides, the enemy’s ship fell on board of us, her mizen-channels locking in with our forerigging. I went forward to ascertain her position; and observing that the enemy were flinching from their guns, I gave orders to prepare for boarding. Our gallant bands appointed to that service immediately rushed in, under their respective officers, upon the enemy’s decks, driving every thing before them with irresistible fury. The enemy made a desperate, but disorderly resistance. The firing continued at all the gangways, and between the tops, but in two minutes time the enemy were driven sword in hand from every post. The American flag was hauled down, and the proud old British Union floated triumphant over it. In another minute they ceased firing from below, and called for quarter. The whole of this service was achieved in fifteen minutes from the commencement of the action.
“I have to lament the loss of many of my gallant shipmates, but they fell exulting in their conquest. My brave first Lieutanant, Mr. Watt, was slain in the moment of victory, in the act of hoisting the British colours: his death is a severe loss to the service. Mr. Aldham, the Purser, who had spiritedly volunteered the charge of a party of small-arm men, was killed at his post on the gangway. My faithful old clerk, Mr. Dunn, was shot by his side; Mr. Aldham has left a widow to lament his loss. I request the commander-in-chief will recommend her to the protection of my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty. My veteran boatswain, Mr. Stephens, has lost an arm. He fought under Lord Rodney on the 12th April, 1782. I trust his age and service will be duly rewarded. I am happy to say, that Mr. Samwell, a Midshipman of much merit, is the only other officer wounded, besides myself, and he not dangerously. Of my gallant seamen and marines, we had 23 slain, and 56 wounded. I subjoin the names of the former. No expressions I can make use of can do justice to the merits of my valiant officers and crew; the calm courage they displayed during the cannonade, and the tremendous precision of their fire, could only be equalled by the ardour with which they rushed to the assault. I recommend them all warmly to the protection of the commander-in-chief.
“Having received a severe sabre wound at the first onset, whilst charging a party of the enemy who had rallied on their forecastle, I was only capable of giving command till assured our conquest was complete; and then directing second Lieutenant Wallis to take charge of the Shannon, and secure the prisoners, I left the third Lieutenant, Mr. Falkiner (who had headed the main-deck boarders), in charge of the prize. I beg to recommend these officers most strongly to the commander-in-Chief s patronage, for the gallantry they displayed during the action, and the skill and judgment they evinced in the anxious duties which afterwards devolved upon them.
“To Mr. Etough, the acting Master, I am much indebted for the steadiness with which he conned the ship into action. Lieutenants Johns and Law, of the marines, bravely boarded at the head of their respective divisions.
“It is utterly impossible to particularize every brilliant deed performed by my officers and men; but I must mention, when the ships’ yard-arms were locked together, that Mr. Cosnahan, who commanded in our main-top, finding himself screened from the enemy by the foot of the top-sail, laid out at the main-yard-arm to fire upon them, and shot three men in that situation. Mr. Smith, who commanded in our foretop, stormed the enemy’s fore-top from the fore-yard-arm, and destroyed all the Americans remaining in it. I particularly beg leave to recommend Mr. Etough, the acting Master; and Messrs. Smith, Leake, Clavering, Raymond, and Littlejohn, Midshipmen. The latter officer is a son of Captain Littlejohn, who was slain in the Berwick.
“The loss of the enemy was about 70 killed, and 100 wounded. Among the former were her fourth Lieutenant, a Lieutenant of Marines, the Master, and many other officers. Captain Lawrence is since dead of his wounds . The enemy came into action with a complement of 440 men; the Shannon, having picked up some recaptured seamen, had 330. The Chesapeake is a fine frigate, and mounts 49 guns, eighteens on her main-deck, two-and-thirties on her quarterdeck and forecastle. Both ships came out of action in the most beautiful order, their rigging appearing as perfect as if they had only been exchanging a salute. I have the honor to be, &c.
(Signed)“P. B. V. Broke.”
“To Captain the Hon. T. Bladen Capel.”The foregoing letter was immediately transmitted to the Board of Admiralty, and replied to by their Secretary in the following terms:
“Admiralty Office, 9th July, 1813.
"Sir, I have had the pleasure of receiving and communicating to my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, a letter from Captain the Hon. T. B. Capel, of H.M.S. Hogue, enclosing a copy of his letter to you, and of that of Captain Broke to him, announcing the capture, in fifteen, minutes, of the United States’ frigate Chesapeake, of 49 guns and 440 men, by H.M.S. Shannon.
“My Lords have before had occasion to observe with great approbation, the zeal, judgment, and activity, which have characterized Captain Brake’s proceedings since the commencement of the war; and they now receive with the highest satisfaction a proof of professional skill and gallantry in battle, which has seldom been equalled, and certainly never surpassed; and the decision, celerity, and effect, with which the force of H.M.S. was directed against the enemy, mark no less the personal bravery of the officers, seamen, and marines, than the high discipline and practice in arms to which the ship’s company must have been sedulously and successfully trained.
“My Lords, to mark their sense of this action, have been pleased to direct a medal to be presented to Captain Broke; Lieutenants Wallia and Falkiuer, who, in consequence of the wound of Captain Broke, and the death of the gallant first Lieutenant, Watt, succeeded to the command of the Shannon and the prize, to be promoted to the rank of Commanders, and Messrs. Etough and Smith to that of Lieutenants; and my Lords will be glad to attend to the recommendation of Captain Broke in favor of the petty officers and men who may have particularly distinguished themselves. “You will convey to Captain Broke, his officers and ship’s company, these sentiments of their Lordships, with an expression of their satisfaction at hearing that the Captain’s wound is not likely long to deprive his country of his valuable services. I am, Sir, your most obedient humble servant,
(Signed)“J. W. Croker.”
“To Admiral Sir John Borlase Warren, Bart., &c. &c. &c.”
On the 2d Nov. following, Captain Broke was raised to the dignity of a Baronet of Great Britain, “in consideration of the distinguished zeal, courage, and intrepidity displayed by him in his brilliant action with the Chesapeake;” and in Feb. 1814, he received the royal permission to bear a crest of honorable augmentation to his family arms, together with the motto, “Saevumque tridentem servamus.”
It would be endless to detail the various instances of compliment and congratulation paid to Captain Broke, on account of this glorious achievement. The underwriters of Halifax, in Nova Scotia, presented him with the following address, Aug. 25, 1813:
“Sir,– The Committee of Underwriters of Halifax, on behalf of their constituents and themselves, composed of a number of the principal chants of the town, beg leave to offer their congratulations on your recovery, not in the ordinary style of addresses, but with heart-felt and unfeigned satisfaction and joy.
“We do not attempt to express at large our sense of your magnanimous and disinterested conduct, while engaged in the command of a squadron, or singly cruising after the enemy, lest it. should appear like flattery, which neither our candour, nor our regard for your feelings, would allow us to offer; but we feel peculiar pleasure in observing the manner in which the Lords of the Treasury have marked such conduct, and their having recommended it to the notice of H.R.H. the Prince Regent, in the disposal of American prizes, condemned as droits of the crown. As Underwriters, we are more especially called upon to express our thankfulness for your exertions in our favor, under the pressure of such difficulties as you had to encounter, in recapturing and preserving some of our most valuable risks, and sending them home to us, even while in the face of the enemy; at the same time declining to send in valuable prizes, but preferring to destroy them, rather than weaken the force of your ship.
“To a late brilliant event we will only point in silent admiration, well knowing that our feelings are in perfect unison with those of the nation at large; the public expression of which, from the highest authority, no doubt awaits yon, and the brave officers and crew of the Shannon. In further testimony of our esteem, we beg your acceptance of a piece of plate, value 100 guineas, which will be presented to you in London by a gentleman who was lately one of our number.
(Signed)“Lawrence Hartshorne, Chairman.”
The Court of Common Council of London voted Captain Broke their thanks, with the freedom of the city, and a sword of 100 guineas value. The thanks of the corporation of Ipswich (the freedom of which he was by birth entitled to), were also presented to him, and a subscription opened by the gentry and other inhabitants of the county of Suffolk, for the purpose of purchasing him a piece of plate, which closed at an amount of about 730l. A convivial society at Ipswich, called “The Free and Easy Club,” likewise subscribed 100 guineas for the purchase of a silver cup, bearing a chaste and unostentatious inscription.
On his return to England, the Shannon being found unfit for further service, Sir Philip Broke was offered the command of one of the new ships built to match the large American vessels, misnamed frigates; but his wound was not then sufficiently healed to allow of his immediately serving again. He was nominated a K.C.B. Jan. 2, 1815.
Sir Philip married, Nov. 25, 1802, Sarah Louisa, daughter of Sir William Middleton, Bart., by whom he has several children. His second son, William, was unfortunately drowned Aug. 1, 1823. This promising youth had gone out alone fishing, and had been sitting upon the rails of a pond near his father’s mansion, from which he must have fallen into the water, where he remained some time before he was discovered. No time was lost in having recourse to every means of recovery; but alas! they proved of no avail. Sir Philip has two brothers in the army.
Agents.– M‘Inerheny, Esq.
- From a pedigree now in the possession of the family, the Brokes appear to trace their descent from Willielinus de Doyto del Brooke, son of Adam, Lord of Leighton, in Cheshire, previous to the reign of King Henry III. From this Willielinus descended Thomas de la Brooke, of Leighton, who married the heiress of John Parker, Esq. of Copenhall, and had issue, 1st, John, ancestor of the Brookes of Leighton; the Brookes of Norton, co. Cheshire, created Baronets in 1662; the Brookes of Meire, &c.: 2nd, Ralph Broke, of Namptwich: 3rd, Robert; and 4th, Sir Richard Broke, Knt., Chief Baron of the Exchequer in the reign of Henry VIII., from, whom the subject of this memoir derives his descent.
- See vol. I, note at p. 340.
- See Vol. I, note at p. 254.
- Captain Herbert, second son of the Earl of Carnarvon, was a brave officer, and a gentleman of respectable literary talents. He unfortunately lost his life by the swamping of a boat near Gijon, on the coast of Spain,, Sept. 12, 1808. Captain Herbert married a sister of the present Rear-Admiral Viscount Torringtan.
- The Guerriere was subsequently added to Captain Broke’s squadron.
- See Captains Richard Byron, C.B. and James R. Dacres.
- The Guerriere, Belvidera, Africa, and AEolus, had successively parted company with the Shannon, the latter on the 28th August. Left thus by himself, Captain Broke maintained his station off the enemy’s coast; and previous to his departure from thence compelled the Essex of 46 guns and 328 men to seek for safety in an ignominious flight.
- See Captain Thomas Huskisson.
- On the 16th May, 1813, the Shannon and Tenedos drove a large ship on shore near Cape Ann Town, from whence she was brought off by the boats under Lieutenant George T. L. Watt, of the former frigate. She proved to be l’Invincible a French privateer of 16 guns, which had lately been captured by a British sloop of war, and retaken by an American cruiser. Several other armed vessels were taken by the Nymphe, Tenedos, and Rattler. See Captains F. P. Epworth, Hyde Parker, and Alex. Gordon.
- See James’s Naval History, vol 5, p. 380.
- One at the mizen-royal-mast-head, one at the peak, and one in the starboard main-rigging. See a plate representing the action in Ralfe’s Naval Chronology, vol.3, facing p. 210. “She had also, flying at the fore, a large white flag, inscribed with the words: ‘Free Trade and Sailors’ Rights;’ upon a supposition, perhaps, that that favourite American; motto would paralyse the efforts, or damp the energy, of the Shannon’s men. The Shannon had only an old rusty blue ensign at the peak; nor was her outside appearance at all calculated to inspire a belief of the order and discipline that reigned within.” See James, v. 5, p. 381.
- “The good effects of an officer being able, when the range is once ascertained, to direct all the guns in the ship to be elevated or depressed alike, were exemplified in the action of the Shannon and Chesapeake: the guns of the former were all laid by Captain Broke’s directions, consequently the fire was thrown in one horizontal line, not a shot going over the American frigate. Had Captain Broke, however, trusted the laying them to the captains of the guns, it cannot be supposed that the Shannon’s fire could have been thrown with such admirable precision, notwithstanding her men were exceedingly well-trained, and perfectly understood gunnery. Had this been attended to and adopted before, half our long and hard fought actions might have been finished in as little time as the Shannon’s. The Chesapeake was beaten in eleven minutes, and taken in fifteen!” See a very useful little pamphlet written by Captain Samuel John Pechell, R.N. C.B. entitled, “Observations upon the fitting of guns on board his Majesty’s ships.”
- “The gallant first Lieutenant of the Shannon was struck on the head by a grape-shot from one of that ship’s foremost guns, while in the act of hoisting the British colours over the American. Another gun was discharged, unfortunately, before the officer commanding that division knew of the Chesapeake’s surrender; and three or four of the Shannon’s men shared the lamented fate of Mr. Watt, besides several being wounded.” See James, v. 5. pp. 384 and 385.
- The list of killed annexed to this letter, contained only 24 names, including those of Lieutenant Watt, the Purser, and Captain’s Clerk. See Naval Chronicle, vol. 30, pp. 84 and 85.
- Mr. James says, “after those upon the forecastle had submitted, Captain Broke ordered one of his men to stand sentry over them, and sent most of the others aft, where the conflict was still going on. He was in the act of giving them orders to answer the fire from the Chesapeake’s main-top, when the sentry called lustily out to him. On turning round, the Captain found himself opposed by three of the Americans; who, seeing they were superior to the British then near them, had armed themselves afresh. Captain Broke parried the middle fellow’s pike, and wounded him in the face; but instantly received from the man on the pikeman’s right, a blow with the butt-end of a musket, which bared his scull, and nearly stunned him. Determined to finish the British commander, the third man cut him down with his broadsword, and, at that very instant, was himself cut down by one of the Shannon’s seamen. Captain Broke and his treacherous foe now lay side by side; each, although nearly powerless, struggling to regain his sword, when a marine despatched the American with his bayonet. * * * * * * Soon after this, Captain Broke’s senses failed him from loss of blood; and the Shannon’s jolly-boat arriving with a supply of men, (the two ships having separated, owing to the Chesapeake’s quarter-gallery giving way,) he was carried on board his own ship.” See Nav. Hist. id. pp. 383–385.
- Lieutenant Augustus C. Ludlow was also mortally wounded. Lieutenant George Budd, the senior surviving officer of the Chesapeake, in his official letter to the Secretary of the American navy, reporting that ship’s capture, only acknowledged a loss of 47 killed, and 99 wounded. The total that reported themselves, including several slightly wounded, to the Shannon’s Surgeon, three days after the action, were 115. The American Surgeon, writing from Halifax, and most probably omitting those who were very slightly hurt, estimated the whole number of killed and wounded at from 160 to 170.
- Two muster-rolls were found on board the Chesapeake, one of which, written up to the morning of the action, contained 391 names; and some of the petty-officers confessed that 30 or 40 hands, principally from the Constitution, joined her as she was getting under way; but whose names, owing to the hurry and confusion, were not entered in the purser’s books. Even 440, the number given as the complement of the Chesapeake in Captain Broke’s letter, was not founded on mere surmise. That number was known to have been her complement on a former occasion; and several weeks after her capture, a letter was found dated in 1811, from the American Secretary of State, directing houses of rendezvous to be opened at Boston for the purpose of completing her crew to 443. This, too, was in a time of profound peace, when no Shannon was cruising, in defiance, off the harbour. See James’s Naval Occurrences, pp. 235 and 236. The Shannon went into action with 276 officers, seamen, and marines, of her proper complement; 8 recaptured seamen; 22 Irish labourers, who had been but forty-eight hours in the ship, and only four of whom could speak English; and 24 boys, of whom about 13 were under twelve years of age. See id. p. 228.