Royal Naval Biography/Chambers, William

[Superannuated Rear-Admiral.]

This officer is the fifth son of the late Thomas Chambers, Esq., of Studley, in Warwickshire; at which place, and at Tanworth, in the same county, his family have resided, on their own estates, ever since the reign of Edward III. He entered the naval service in 1758, as a Midshipman, on board the Shrewsbury of 74 guns, under the auspices of Captain, (afterwards Admiral) Sir Hugh Palliser, with whom he served at the reduction of Quebec in 1759, and until the conclusion of the war in 1763[1].

During the ensuing peace, we find Mr. Chambers serving in the Preston of 50 guns, commanded by Captain Alan Gardner, and bearing the flag of Rear-Admiral Parry, commander-in-chief on the Jamaica station. He subsequently joined Commodore Gambier in the Salisbury; and by that officer was made a Lieutenant into the Mermaid frigate, on the coast of North America, in 1771; but some time after re-joined his patron, and returned with him to England.

At the commencement of the American war, Mr. Chambers was appointed second Lieutenant of the Active frigate, one of the squadron under Sir Peter Parker, destined to act against Charlestown, in South Carolina; which ship had the honor of leading her consorts to the attack made on Sullivan’s Island, June 28, 1776[2]. The Active, on that occasion, had her first Lieutenant (Pike) killed, and 8 men wounded.

From the Active, our officer removed as first Lieutenant, into the Montreal frigate, Captain Douglas; and in June 1778, he was nominated to the command of the flotilla on Lake Champlain, where he continued till the peace in 1783, when he was sent home with despatches from Sir Frederick Haldimand, the military commander-in-chief; through whose recommendations he was immediately promoted to the rank of Commander; and a statement of his meritorious conduct on many trying occasions being subsequently laid before the King, he was rewarded with a commission as Post-Captain, dated Aug. 15th in the same year. His superannuation as a Rear-Admiral took place Nov. 21, 1805.

Residence.– Rigby, Warwickshire.

  1. The naval and military forces employed in the reduction of Quebec, under the orders of Vice-Admiral Saunders, and Major-General Wolfe, arrived off the island of Orleans, in the river St. Lawrence, June 26, 1759, and on the following day the troops were landed. On the 28th, an attempt was made by the enemy to destroy the fleet, by sending down the river seven fire-rafts of an uncommon description; but owing to the vigilance of the British commander, and the excellent disposition of his ships, the design proved abortive, although the channel was crowded with vessels, and the rapidity of the stream favored the attempt. On the 28th July, the French made a similar effort, but of a more formidable nature. Nearly one hundred rafts of timber, charged with combustibles of every kind, and driven by the course of the stream, seemed to threaten inevitable destruction to the British fleet; but the good fortune of Vice-Admiral Saunders again prevailed, and the alarming preparations of the enemy were frustrated. In all the subsequent events of the memorable siege of Quebec, Vice-Admiral Saunders, and those under his command, appear to have borne a distinguished share; but it would be difficult now, if not invidious, to decide how far they contributed to the general success of the enterprise. The blaze of glory which deservedly crowns the memory of Wolfe, obscures the fame of his brethren in arms. It cannot, however, he doubted, but Vice-Admiral Saunders, by his able disposition of the ships, his zeal for the service, and his perfect knowledge of the art of war, materially contributed to the reduction of the place. On the 18th September, he had the honor of signing, with Brigadier-General Townshend, who had succeeded to the command of the army, the articles of capitulation granted to the French garrison, by which this memorable expedition was terminated with complete success, though with the loss of the immortal Wolfe, and many of his gallant associates. The town was taken possession of by a naval detachment, under Captain Palliser.
  2. See Vol. I, p. 95, where the following correction and additions should be made: line 2, for 1777, read 1775; line 9, after May, insert 1776; line 24, after Experiment, insert Active.