Royal Naval Biography/Clephan, James


Is a native of Fifeshire, and appears to have served his time as an apprentice in the merchant service. In July 1794, having fallen into the hands of a press-gang, he entered as an able seaman on board the Sybil 28, Captain the Hon. Charles Jones[1], by whom he was rated master’s-mate of the Doris frigate in Oct. 1795. Subsequent to the demise of that officer[2], we find him serving in the latter ship, under Captains John Halliday and Charles Brisbane, until advanced to the rank of lieutenant for his gallant conduct at the attack and capture of la Chevrette, French national corvette, in Camaret bay, near Brest, July 22d, 1801. To the account already given of this brilliant enterprise[3], we have now to add, that, although knocked overboard when mounting her side, he was the first person who gained the enemy’s deck; and that he there received several slight wounds, of which no mention was made in the surgeon’s report. On receiving his first commission from Admiral Cornwallis, that veteran chief thus addressed him: – “Your country is much indebted to you for your gallant services s you are now a lieutenant of the Namur; – you well deserve your promotion; – few officers have earned it so hardly.

The Namur 90, Captain the Hon. Michael De Courcy, was paid off in April, 1802; from which period Mr. Clephan continued on half-pay until Mar. 1803, when he was appointed to the Spartiate 74, Captain George Murray. In this ship he visited the West Indies, under the command of Sir Francis Laforey, at whose particular request he became her first lieutenant immediately after the battle of Trafalgar[4], and remained as such until she was put out of commission in Dec. 1809. His next appointment was, in Aug. 1810, to be first of the Dragon 74, fitting out for the flag of Sir Francis, by whom he was promoted to the command of the Charybdis sloop, on the Leeward Islands’ station, April 20th, 1811.

On the 31st Dec. 1812, Commander Clephan captured the American schooner privateer Blockade, of 10 guns and 66 men, near the island of Saba. The Charybdis was paid off at Deptford, in Aug. 1815; since which he has not been employed.

  1. Afterwards Viscount Ranelagh.
  2. Dec 24th, 1800.
  3. See Vol. II. Part II. p. 884 et seq.
  4. See Suppl. Part III. p. 181.