Royal Naval Biography/Campbell, Patrick

A Companion of the most honorable Military Order of the Bath.
[Post-Captain of 1800.]

This officer commanded the Dart sloop of war, and assisted a the capture of four armed vessels on the North Sea station, Oct. 6, 1799. In July following, we find him serving under the orders of Captain Henry Inman, in an attempt made to destroy a French squadron lying in Dunkirk harbour: the following are the particulars of the affair, as far as respects Captain Campbell.

The Andromeda frigate, with two or three smaller vessels, having spent some time in the irksome service of blockading Dunkirk, and conceiving it practicable to capture or destroy the enemy’s ships as they lay at anchor, Captain Inman of the Andromeda submitted a plan for that purpose to the Admiralty, and requested that a certain number of fire-vessels might be placed under his command, to enable him to carry it into effect. His scheme being approved by Earl Spencer, he was joined by the desired reinforcement on the 27th June, but from contrary winds and other circumstances, the attack could not be made till the night of July 7th; by which time, the enemy appear to have been apprised of the British squadron’s intention, as the assailants were much annoyed by gun-vessels, and others lying in advance, which afforded the French frigates an opportunity to cut their cables, and avoid our fire-ships.

Captain Inman had directed the Dart, if possible, to run alongside of the easternmost frigate; calculating that the first fire-ship would about the same time have hooked the westernmost frigate. Captain Campbell stood in according to his orders, and with determined bravery boarded and carried his opponent. The fire-vessels followed; but the moment they were discovered to be in flames, the remainder of the French squadron cut, and stood down the inner channel, within the Braak sand; on the following morning, they regained their anchorage, without our ships being able to molest or cut them off.

Captain Campbell’s prize proved to be la Desirée, mounting 40 guns, long 24-pounders on the main-deck, with a complement of 350 men, some of whom were on shore. Captain Inman, in his official letter to the Admiralty, says, “the handsome and intrepid manner of his completely carrying her in less than a quarter of an hour, and bringing her out, must convince their Lordships of his unparalleled bravery, and the very gallant conduct of his officers and ship’s company, as the enemy’s frigate was so much superior in force[1]; and had it not been so instantly done, the ship could not have been got over the banks, as the water had begun to fall.” The Dart’s loss on this occasion amounted to no more than 1 man slain, and her first Lieutenant and 10 men wounded; la Desirée is said to have had nearly 100 killed and wounded, including among the former every officer on board, with the exception of one Midshipman. Only 6 men were wounded on board the other vessels of Captain Inman’s squadron. The Earl of St. Vincent pronounced this to have been one of the finest instances of gallantry on record.

Three days after the capture of la Desirée, the subject of this memoir was advanced to post rank in the Ariadne, a 20-gun ship. His next appointment was about Sept. 1803, to the Doris frigate, stationed in the Channel.

On the 12th Jan. 1805, as the Doris was proceeding to Quiberon bay, she struck upon a sunken rock, called the Diamond, and in consequence thereof, made so much water, that Captain Campbell was obliged to throw her guns and every weighty article overboard. During the following day it blew a tremendous gale at S.W., but the weather afterwards moderating, they gained upon the leak, which was under the fore-foot; and in the evening she steered for England with a fine breeze, accompanied by the Felix schooner. During the third night, however, it blew hard from the N.W. with a heavy sea, and the leak increased so much, that every exertion to keep it under proved ineffectual; she soon became water-logged, of course would not answer her helm, and drifted considerably to leeward. In this predicament, Captain Campbell determined to abandon her, and accordingly brought her to an anchor near the mouth of the Loire. At this time there was a prodigious swell running, and breakers in sight directly astern: happily the wind abated, or the crew must have perished. The officers and men were now removed to the schooner, and a Danish brig, which had been driven in near to where the Doris lay; after which the latter was set on fire. The after magazine soon blew up, (the fore one had been drowned previously) and the ship immediately went down.

A few days after this disaster, Captain Campbell had another narrow escape. The Felix having joined the squadron off Rochefort, he removed from that vessel into the Tonnant of 80 guns, commanded by Captain W. H. Jervis; that ship being about to proceed with despatches to the rendezvous of the fleet blockading Brest, where she arrived on the 26th January. Captain Jervis, eager to communicate the intelligence with which he was charged, left the Tonnant in his boat, accompanied by his guest, when still at a considerable distance from the commander in-chief. Unfortunately, when about half way between the Tonnant and St. Josef, the latter bearing the flag of Sir Charles Cotton, the boat was upset by a sea breaking into her; and notwithstanding every effort was made to save them, Captain Jervis and one of his men were drowned. The conduct of Captain Campbell and the coxswain on this melancholy occasion, deserve to be recorded: the latter, holding fast to his commander, kept him above water a considerable time, and brought him thrice to the surface, when he was in the act of sinking; and the former, although himself in the most perilous situation, regardless of his own state, kept constantly urging and encouraging the gallant fellow, whose name was John Jones, to further exertion.

In 1807, we find Captain Campbell commanding l’Unité, a fine frigate, stationed off Corfu. During the ensuing year, he captured a French xebec of 6 guns, and three Italian brigs of war, each mounting sixteen brass 32-pr. carronades, and measuring about 400 tons[2].

From l’Unité, Captain Campbell removed into the Leviathan of 74 guns, on the Mediterranean station. On the 29th April, 1812, the boats of that ship made an attack on a French privateer of 14 guns and 80 men, and several merchant vessels at Agay; four of the latter were brought out, and the privateer carried; but having been hauled on shore, could not be got off: in their attempt to do so, the British had 2 men killed and 4 wounded, by the enemy’s fire from the shore. Eleven days afterwards, a detachment of seamen and marines from the Leviathan, assisted at the capture of sixteen merchant vessels with cargoes, under the batteries of Languilla[3]. On the 27th June following, the batteries at that place and Allassio were stormed, the guns spiked, their carriages rendered useless, and eighteen sail of vessels destroyed by the Leviathan, and three other vessels under Captain Campbell’s orders. The principal part of this service was performed by the royal marines, 7 of whom were killed and 26 wounded. The total loss sustained by the squadron, was 9 killed and 31 wounded; amongst the latter was Lieutenant William Walpole, R.N., of the Imperieuse frigate.

The subject of this memoir has not been employed since the peace. He was nominated a C.B. in June 1815.

Agent.– Thomas Collier, Esq.

  1. “The Dart was a curiously constructed sloop of war, after the plan of General Bentham, mounting 30 guns. Her bow and stern were of the same shape, and she could anchor by either end; though it must be observed, but very awkwardly, particularly in bad weather. She carried her water in wooden tanks, and was so sharp in her construction, that a traverse section taken amid ships, had nearly the form of a wedge: she had two top-masts on the same lower-mast, parallel to each other, and her gangways were outside of the lower rigging: she had no stability in the water, and was found in blowing weather to be a very unsafe vessel. Captain Campbell made the only use of her for which she was calculated, vis. that of laying an enemy on board.” See Brenton’s Naval History of Great Britain, vol. ii, p. 425.
  2. El Ronco, Nettuno, and Teuhé. The former, although alone, had the temerity to fire several broadsides at l’Unité, and succeeded in doing considerable damage to her sails and rigging. The two latter had sailed from Zara the day before their capture, in company with another brig, for the purpose of attacking the British frigate; having heard that she had many men absent and sick, and must inevitably fall an easy prey to them. L’Unité had not a man hurt; but El Nettuno and her equally deceived consort, suffered most severely; the former sustained a loss of 7 men killed, 2 drowned, and 13 wounded; the latter had 5 slain and 16 wounded.
  3. See Vol. I. p. 633.