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Royal Naval Biography/Brooking, Samuel


SAMUEL BROOKING, Esq
[Superannuated Rear-Admiral.]

We have not been able to trace with any degree of accuracy the descent of the family of Brooking, though from their arms, some documents in their possession, and the names of several estates in Devonshire and Cornwall, such as Palestine, Judea, &c., once belonging to them, we have reason to believe that their ancestors were not idle during the Holy Wars. The officer of whom we are about to speak was born at Newton Ferrers, in the former county, about 1753; went first to sea with the Hon. Captain John Leveson Gower, in 1765; and subsequently served as a Midshipman, under the late Sir Roger Curtis, Lord Howe, and Sir Richard Onslow; by the latter of whom he was placed in command of a gunboat belonging to the St. Albans, during the expedition up Hudson’s River, to relieve General Burgoyne. On this occasion, forts Montgomery and Clinton were carried by storm; the enemy, on their retreat, setting fire to two new frigates and several other vessels, which were totally destroyed. They also abandoned and burnt fort Constitution, and Continental village. In the last were barracks for 1500 men; a large boom or chain, of a curious construction, was either carried away or sunk; its value was estimated at 70,000l. sterling.

Previous to his quitting the gunboat, Mr. Brooking, when making a diversion to favor the landing of some troops at the mouth of a river, and with a view of cutting off an American galley, narrowly escaped destruction, by a shot passing through the corner of his powder chest; and his gun being at the same time disabled, he was obliged to withdraw.

In 1778, Lord Howe made him a Lieutenant; in which capacity we find him serving on board the Strombolo fire-vessel, Galatea of 20 guns, and Prudent 64, at the relief of Rhode Island[1]; Fort M‘Lean[2], and St. Kitts’; an account of which latter event will be found under the head of Retired Captain Inglefield.

The Galatea, of which ship Mr. Brooking was the only Lieutenant, was one of the most active cruisers on the American station; and in the course of a single cruise of six weeks, was fortunate enough to capture two large letters of marque, a formidable privateer, which had done much mischief to our trade, and the Recovery, an armed ship belonging to the United States. The latter vessel sustained a running fight of considerable duration; and, considering the number of men absent from the Galatea in her former prizes, and the manner in which that ship was crowded with prisoners, it would not, we think, have reflected any disgrace on the remainder of the British officers and men had she effected her escape; as it was, her capture must be considered highly creditable to them.

In 1782, Captain Andrew Barclay, under whom Mr. Brooking was then serving as first Lieutenant of the Prudent, gave him an order to act as Commander, in the St. Lucia sloop of war; but he does not appear to have been confirmed to that rank until 1794, when he received a commission appointing him to the command of the Drake, in which vessel he was afterwards sent to the Jamaica station. His promotion to the rank of Post-Captain took place July 21, 1796.

During the ensuing three years we find our officer commanding the Jamaica, a 20-gun ship, and a squadron consisting of two sloops of war and two or three schooners, besides several armed vessels belonging to the government of Jamaica, placed under his orders for the protection of the coasts of that island, and the collection of the periodical fleets previous to their departure for England. Whilst thus employed, he acquitted himself so much to the satisfaction of the House of Assembly, that that body, as will appear by the following document, voted him a sword value 100 guineas, which, on his return to England as convoy to the homeward bound trade at the latter end of 1799, was presented to him by their agent in London.

House of Assembly, Nov. 14, 1799.

Resolved, that this House entertain a high sense of the services derived to this island from the zeal and activity of Samuel Brooking, Esq. Captain of his Majesty’s ship Jamaica, during the period of three years, when the protection of the coasting trade and navigation was under his directions; and that the Receiver-General do pay to his agent the sum of one hundred guineas for the purchase of a sword, as a testimony of the favorable opinion this House entertain of his meritorious conduct.

“By order of the House,
(Signed)James Lewis, Clerk to the Assembly.”

The gentlemen, merchants, planters, &c. of St. Ann’s Bay, had previously expressed themselves in terms as follow;

St. Ann’s Bay, April 20, 1799.

“Sir,– We the inhabitants of this place should be wanting in gratitude were we not to subscribe to your peculiar merits, and express the lively sense with which we are impressed of the benefits this port and its vicinity have participated with the island in general from your unexampled activity and vigilance for a series of years past. The temerity of such of our enemies as have attempted to approach our coast has been punished by your activity, while the name of Brooking has struck terror in our neighbouring enemies, and has awed them from attempting depredations on us. We trust that a conduct so manifestly essential to the interest and security of the island will be properly reported, and duly rewarded. We are, with unfeigned respect, Sir, your obedient and very humble servants.”

[Here follow twenty-seven signatures.]

The services more particularly alluded to in the foregoing address, were the capture of a number of privateers, and the recapture of several valuable Jamaica ships. The following little affair we notice on account of its ludicrous nature:

Captain Brooking having received information that some French privateers were in the habit of sending their prizes to a river near Cape Cruz, on the Cuba shore, whither they also repaired to rendezvous and refit, he one night stretched over and took a station for commencing operations in the morning. At day-light, however, he unexpectedly found himself within gun-shot of a battery presenting rather a formidable appearance; opposite which, as soon as enabled by the seabreeze, he took his position, placing a prize with a carronade in her to flank the enemy’s work. The shallowness of the water prevented him approaching so near as he could have wished. Some time after he had opened his fire, he was surprised at seeing the Spaniards run down to the beach and pick up the shot which had fallen short; and it subsequently turned out, that until they had thus supplied themselves, it was not in their power to return his fire. Observing from the mast-head that the privateers had run a considerable distance up the river, and that a great number of people were collected in the fort, he did not consider it expedient to attempt a landing, or to throw away more ammunition; therefore, as soon as his crew had dined, took his departure for Jamaica.

The climate of the West Indies proved so injurious to Captain Brooking’s health, that he was at length compelled to quit it, and return to England, at the period we have above stated; from which time we lose sight of him until Aug. 31, 1819, the date of his superannuation as a Rear-Admiral.

Residence.– Plymouth, Devon.



  1. See Retired Captain, Sir A. S. Hamond.
  2. About the middle of June, 1779, Colonel M‘Lean sailed from Halifax with 600 troops, escorted by three sloops of war, to the Penobscot river, where on his arrival he established a strong post extremely well chosen for annoying the enemy; who, greatly alarmed at this transaction, immediately equipped a formidable armament at Boston, appointing Commodore Saltenstall to the command. On the 27th July, the American squadron, accompanied by a fleet of transports, having on board a large body of troops, commanded by General Lovell, arrived in the river, and began to cannonade the sloops of war and battery; which was so ably returned, that the enemy in their repeated attempts to land were repulsed. On the third day, however, they succeeded, under cover of a tremendous fire, which obliged the picquets to retire into the fort, the attack and defence of which was carried on with great spirit until the night of Aug. 13th, when on a sudden the American fire ceased. At day-light, on the following morning, to the astonishment of the garrison, it was discovered that the enemy had abandoned their works, and reembarked their troops and artillery. This mystery was soon cleared up by the appearance of Commodore Sir George Collier, in the Raisonable 64, with three frigates, two 20-gun ships, and a sloop of war, entering the river, having sailed from Sandy Hook to their relief. The American Commodore at first drew up his squadron, and made a shew of resistance; but on the approach of the British frigates, his resolution soon failed, and a most ignominious flight took place, which terminated in the capture and destruction of the whole rebel force, consisting of one frigate, three ships of 24 guns each, one of 22, twelve ships, brigs, &c., mounting in the whole 194 guns, and twenty-one sail of transports, besides two brigs of war previously taken by the squadron.