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Royal Naval Biography/Caulfield, James


JAMES CAULFIELD, Esq.
[Post-Captain of 1809.]

Was made a Lieutenant in 1795, and advanced to the rank of Commander, May 7, 1804. In 1808, we find him commanding the Thunder bomb, on the Baltic station.

On the 9th June, Captain Caulfield got under weigh from Malmo road, with seventy homeward-bound merchantmen under his protection, and the Charger, Piercer, and Turbulent gun-brigs in company. At 5-20 P.M., just as the convoy had arrived abreast of the south end of Saltholm, the wind died away, and the Danish gun-boats, always on the alert, came out to the number of 25, and commenced an attack upon the Turbulent, Lieutenant George Wood, whose station was in the rear. As the flotilla approached, the Turbulent opened a fire from her carronades, and the Thunder threw shells and one-pound balls from her mortars; but the Charger and Piercer were at too great a distance to co-operate. At 5-40, the Turbulent’s main-top-mast fell; and she was shortly afterwards boarded.

At 6 o’clock, having secured their prize, the Danes formed on both quarters and astern of the Thunder, and kept up, as they rapidly advanced, a very heavy fire. The British bomb then got her two long 6-pounders out of the stern ports, and returned the fire both from them and from the broadside carronades, as the latter could be brought to bear. At 10-10 P.M. finding they could not induce Captain Caulfield to haul down his colours, the enemy ceased firing, and retired with twelve or thirteen vessels, which they had been enabled to capture. We have no means of showing the loss, if any, sustained by the Thunder; but we find that, for his gallant defence, her commander received the public approbation of Sir James Saumarez, K.B.; and that the merchants at Lloyd’s, connected with the Baltic trade, presented him with 100 guineas to purchase a piece of plate.

After the retreat of the Russian fleet into Rogerswick[1], Captain Caulfield was ordered to bombard that port, which he did for a fortnight, but without producing any visible effect, until one of his shells fell into a magazine, and caused a tremendous explosion. Sir James Saumarez, seeing that the strength of the place forbade a nearer approach, or more vigorous attack with his squadron, recalled the Thunder, whose destruction he supposed inevitable, unless speedily removed, the shot and shells of the enemy falling thick about her. Captain Caulfield being regardless of the signal of recall, the commander-in-chief sent an officer to desire he would move out of gun-shot; but he gallantly returned for answer, that “as he conceived his position was a good one, he hoped the Admiral would permit him to remain a little longer!”

On the 20th and 24th April, 1809, the Thunder was employed bombarding the Regulus, a French 74, then lying aground on a shoal at the entrance of the Charente, but which ship afterwards got afloat, and made her escape to Rochefort. Although not present at the previous attack made upon the enemy’s squadron at Aix Roads, Captain Caulfield was included in the promotion that took place after Lord Gambler’s trial, and his post commission dated back to the 11th April. In the following year we find him commanding the Cornwallis frigate, and assisting at the reduction of the Isle of France.