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Royal Naval Biography/Clifford, Augustus William James

A Companion of the Most Honorable Military Order of the Bath.
[Post-Captain of 1812.]

This officer entered the navy, in May, 1800, under the auspices of Earl Spencer, then presiding at the Admiralty; and was placed by his lordship in the Ville de Paris 110, bearing the flag of Earl St. Vincent, commander-in-chief of the Channel fleet, where he continued, under that veteran and his highly distinguished successor, the Hon Admiral Cornwallis, until the peace of Amiens.

Mr. Clifford was then removed to the Argo 44, fitting for the broad pendant of Commodore (now Sir Benjamin) Hallowell, in which ship he visited the coast of Africa, and assisted at the reduction of St. Lucia and Tobago[1]. In 1805, he accompanied the same gallant officer into the Tigre 80; and was consequently one of Lord Nelson’s followers when that great commander went to the West Indies, in pursuit of the enemies’ combined squadrons, under Mons. Villeneuve[2]. His first commission, appointing him lieutenant of the Tigre, bears date June 25, 1806.

The reduction of Alexandria in 1807, and the capture and destruction of a French convoy, from Toulon bound to Barcelona, Nov. 1, 1809, have been recorded in our memoir of Sir Benjamin Hallowell, under whom Lieutenant Clifford served on shore, as aide-de-camp, during the whole of the operations in Egypt. On the latter brilliant occasion, he commanded a boat under the orders of Lieutenant, now Captain, John Tailour. He was promoted to the rank of Commander, in the Philomel brig, on the Mediterranean station, Feb. 1811.

In June following. Captain Clifford assisted at the destruction of 10 large armed feluccas, on the beach near Cetraro, in the gulf of Policastro, where they were taken possession of, under a heavy fire of musketry, by a detachment landed from the Thames and Cephalus, but obliged to be burnt, in consequence of the utter impracticability of getting them afloat. The official report of this dashing exploit will be found at p. 192 of Suppl. Part I.

On the 4th of the ensuing month, Captain Clifford joined company with the Unite frigate, just after the return of her boats with a French brig cut out from Porto Hercole. Proceeding along the Roman coast, several vessels were discovered at anchor under a battery between Civita Vecchia and the mouth of the Tiber: the manner in which they were disposed of is thus described by the senior officer:–

“Captain Clifford, in a most handsome manner, instantly offered to lead into the anchorage, and to head the boats in performing any service which might appear to be practicable. I therefore directed him to anchor the Cephalus as near the battery and vessels as possible, and to point out the soundings by signal; a service he performed in a very masterly style, bringing his sloop up within the range of grape, under a heavy fire from 4 nine and six-pounders. The Unité being anchored shortly after in four fathoms of water, the enemy were quickly driven from their guns, and the boats sent to Captain Clifford under those officers who had distinguished themselves in the morning[3]. Three vessels (the others proving fishing-boats) were brought out under a severe fire of musketry from their crews, and the soldiers collected on a height above them, with the same great good fortune which had attended our previous enterprise; the only person hurt being Mr. Simon, master of the Cephalus, who was slightly wounded in the face, by grape shot, while bringing the sloop to an anchor.

“To Captain Clifford I feel much indebted for his gallantry and able Resistance: he speaks in high terms of his own officers and men, as well as those from this ship who were employed under him.

(Signed)E. H. Chamberlayne.”

The vessels taken on this occasion were, la Vigilante guarda-costa, mounting one 6-pounder, and rowing 30 oars; and two settees, deeply laden with ship-timber. The particulars of a very important service subsequently performed by the Thames and Cephalus, at Porto del Infrischi, on the coast of Calabria, are detailed in an official letter from Captain Charles Napier to Rear-Admiral Boyles, dated July 21, 1811, a copy of which is given at p. 2 et seq. of Suppl. Part II.

The following letter, and its enclosure, were shortly after received by Captain Clifford:–

H.M.S. Thames, Palermo Bay, July 28, 1811.

“Sir,– I enclose you the copy of a letter I have received from Rear-Admiral Boyles, returning his thanks to the officers and crews employed on the late expedition, which I have to request you will communicate to the officers and ship’s company under your command; and allow me, Sir, at the same time, to convey to you the very high sense I have of the activity and discipline of the Cephalus. I am, &c.

(Signed)Chas. Napier.”

Captain Clifford – Cephalus.


Canopus, Palermo Bay, July 28.

“Sir,– I have the honor of your letter of the 21st instant which I beg to acknowledge, and to return my warmest congratulations to yourself and that aspiring young officer Captain Clifford, and all the gallant officers and men of the Thames and Cephalus, who have in this brilliant and instantaneous attack of the enemy’s convoy so completely crowned with success your officer-like conduct.

I will take care your letter shall, without a moment’s delay, be transmitted to the commander-in-chief, who will pay all due attention to your recommendations, as no officer in his Majesty’s service is better able to appreciate the gallant deeds of brave men. I have the honor to be, &c.

(Signed)Chas. Boyles.”

Captain Napier – Thames.

Toward the end of September, 1811, Captain Clifford sailed from Palermo for England, having embarked Lord William Bentinck, the British minister and military commander-in-chief, who, finding it expedient to return home, almost immediately after his first arrival at the Sicilian court, had made a special application for the Cephalus to convey him.

After docking and refitting his brig, at Portsmouth, Captain Clifford returned to the coast of Italy, where he was again very actively employed until advanced to post rank, July 23, 1812; previous to which, the Cephalus, in company with the Euryalus frigate and Pilot brig, had made an attempt to destroy a convoy and some land batteries, but failed after being warmly engaged for five hours, during which she sustained a loss of 1 lieutenant (Jenkins) killed, and 19 men wounded, besides suffering considerably in her masts and rigging.

Having thus distinguished himself in the command of a sloop of war, Captain Clifford returned to England, via Lisbon, bearing despatches from Lord William Bentinck, with which he arrived in London at the close of 1811. From that period, we find no mention of him (except his marriage) until Aug. 23d 1814, when he was appointed to the Bonne Citoyenne of 20 guns, employed on the Irish station. His next appointment was, Oct. 22, 1821, to the Euryalus 42, in which frigate he sailed from St. Helen’s, with W. R. Hamilton, Esq. British Ambassador to the Neapolitan court, Feb. 21, 1822.

Captain Clifford was nominated a C.B. Dec. 8, 1815; elected M.P. for Bandon-Bridge, co. Cork, in 1818; and chosen to represent Dungarvon, co. Waterford, in 1820. Previous to his sailing for the Mediterranean, he published an address to his constituents, acquainting them that he had formed a resolution to retire from parliament, while engaged in the active duties of his profession.

It is very seldom that we meet with an article in any of the American papers calculated to afford us so much gratification as the following, taken from the National Intelligencer of Mar. 23, 1825:–

“Captain P. R. Ging, of the brig Charles and Ellen, of Boston, with the presidents of the two Boston insurance companies, have publicly made acknowledgments, and returned thanks, for the generous aid received from Captain Clifford, of the British frigate Euryalus, his officers and men, for assistance rendered to the Charles and Ellen, when in distress at the island of Milo, in the Mediterranean. For this purpose. Captain Clifford detained his ship for seven days, and the whole of the time from 70 to 80 men, belonging to the frigate, were employed in repairing the brig. The knowledge of such acts of national civility and kindness should be more extensively diffused than common acknowledgments of service rendered, and we have pleasure in lending our aid to give further publicity to this act of amity and good feeling.”

Captain Clifford was put out of commission in May, 1825, at which period a paragraph to the following effect appeared in one of the London papers:–

“H.M.S. Euryalus was paid off, at Deptford, on Monday, the eighth day after her arrival at that place. The regularity and good order observed by her crew equalled the rapidity with which the laborious duties and paying off were discharged. On the day previous, the officers gave a dinner to Captain Clifford, in testimony of their high esteem and respectful reard. On quitting the ship, the crew requested permission to cheer their captain and first lieutenant [4], as a mark of gratitude for the kind treatment they had experienced while under Captain Clifford’s command. The Euryalus has been absent from England upwards of three years, and has returned without losing a man by desertion. We understand that a collection, under the patronage of Captain Clifford, was made for that most excellent institution, ‘the Seamen’s floating hospital,’ to which both officers and crew contributed.”

On the 27th May, 1826, Captain Clifford was appointed to the Herald yacht, in which he attended upon the Duke of Devonshire, during that nobleman’s splendid embassy to Russia. The subjoined is a correct account of the magniftcent entertainment given by his Grace in honor of the coronation of his present Imperial Majesty:–

Moscow, Sept. 11 (23), 1826. – Although three weeks have elapsed since the coronation, we are still in the midst of revelry and rejoicing, and fetes and balls follow one another in quick succession. There was one given last night by our ambassador extraordinary, the Duke of Devonshire, which, for splendour and effect, has surpassed all the others.

“The night was cloudy, and favorable to the advantageous display of the brilliant illumination which lighted up the side and front of the magnificent house where his Grace resides. – So great was the blaze of light that the whole of the dark horizon over a third of Moscow was made visible, and this was produced without there being any overabundant quantity of lamps, for there were none too many, and all harmonized and contributed to the general effect. Indeed, this was the great merit of the whole of the decorations and ornaments, both inside and out; there was nothing too much – nothing overcharged: all was in keeping, if I may so speak, and as it should be.

“The west end of the house can be seen well from the Kremlin, and other elevated spots in the city, and this, accordingly, was the part the most illuminated, and the initials of the King of England, were placed in a conspicuous part of the building.

"On entering, and mounting the stairs, the eye met, above the first landing place, a well executed transparency, with the initials of the Emperor and Empress. Then, proceeding onwards, you found lodged in the anteroom the upper servants of the Duke, in their rich state livery of blue and gold; and on passing thro’ them, you arrived at the door, from whence stood, in two irregular lines, all the attachés of the embassy, leading up to his Grace, who, in a splendid uniform, stood there to receive his guests. The people about him formed rather a striking coup d’oeil. Men of all nations, statesmen and warriors in every variety of uniform, bedecked with stars, and all the insignia of military honours, many of them bravely won, while Russian courtiers, chamberlains, and senators, glittered in all the dazzling pomp which gaudily embroidered coats, with gold and silver, and ribbons and crosses, ‘the cheap reward of Kings,’could confer. There was Marmont in his field-marshal’s uniform, wearing all his well merited orders and stars, with his staff and aides-de-camp, in all the showy variety of the French uniform; the Prince of Hesse Homberg, the Austrian ambassador extraordinary, in the uniform of his country. In short, the representatives of all the crowned heads of Europe, with the American minister, and the envoys from Georgia, Persia, and other countries of the East, who, in their Asiatic costumes, served to complete the variegated and brilliant assemblage.

“About nine o’clock notice was given of the approach of the imperial family, when his Grace, accompanied by all his suite, descended to receive them. The Emperor wore a scarlet uniform, the evening dress of the regiment of chevaliers gardes; the Empress (led in by the Duke) a robe of crimson coloured silk, richly ornamented with diamonds and pearls. She had a necklace of diamonds, with a row across the shoulders, of superior size and beauty, most of them appearing half-an-inch in diameter, while strings of them of inferior magnitude were entwined among her hair. She looked extremely well, and, throughout the evening, was all condescension and amiableness, seeming highly to enjoy the animated scene. Then came the Grand Duchess, with her husband Michael, the brother of the Emperor. She was in white, with a great many gems set in diamonds, and had her usual arch look, and playful, intelligent smile.

“The music now struck up, and the Duke led the Empress in a polonaise, followed by the Emperor and all the most distinguished persons, through the suite of apartments into the ball room. Here all was arranged with elegance and good taste. This room, about sixty feet long and fifty in breadth, was lighted up in the centre by some two or three hundred wax lights, placed in a single row, in a circular chandelier covered with roses, and suspended from the lofty ceiling with airy lightness, and almost by imperceptible means; while round the sides, and in each corner, were chandeliers, giving forth a mass of light that was reflected from the walls, which were of a white colour, like polished marble. The eye rested with pleasure on the tastefully simple ornaments of these walls. On one side was the united initials of the Emperor and Empress, formed by a wreath of red roses; on the opposite wall was traced in roses the letter G. with the number IV., giving the initials of our own illustrious sovereign; and on the third wall, the letters N. and A. detached, shewed the separate initials of the Imperial visitors. A wide open space between columns led into an additional room. A temporary building, the sides of which were covered with a light red coloured drapery, intermingled with white, tastefully arranged, and festoons of red roses over a white ground, ran round and adorned the columns. At the extreme end of the ball room, yet distinctly visible from all parts, a recess was formed, where was placed a full length portrait of the Emperor, in his imperial robes, painted by Dawe, the English artist, and an excellent likeness. The unexpected sight of this picture was quite a coup de theatre. It was known to few that the artist had been employed by his Grace, and the Russian nobility were wholly unprepared for the view of this portrait of their Czar, the first, and the only one they could see of him in his imperial dress. Their surprise and admiration was unbounded. “Quelle gallanterie! quell bon gout!” exclaimed the women; while the adroit and respectful courtiers expressed their approbation in tolerably audible whispers. Certainly nothing could have been better imagined. It was the prettiest compliment that could have been paid.

“Quadrilles and waltzes followed. In the former the Empress danced with the Duke of Devonshire, having for their vis-à-vis the Grand Duchess and Prince Charles of Prussia, between twelve and one o’clock the supper room was thrown open, a long and spacious gallery, where upwards of 500 persons sat down at once to supper. There were three rows of tables, over which some thousand tapers shed a brilliant light, besides a separate one, in the form of a crescent, for the imperial family, with some of tht first ladies of the court, and the principal foreign ambassadors. This table was placed on an elevation, a few feet above the level of the floor, at the end of the gallery, in a kind of alcove, richly and tastefully hung round with a drapery of crimson and green silks. – From her seat, at the centre, the Empress could command a view of all the other tables, with their decorations, and the superbly dressed persons seated there, in long and beautiful perspective. Thu most magnificent part of these decorations, assuredly, was the gold and silver plate belonging to his Grace, which, for massiveness and beauty, is here altogether unrivalled. The Russians were particularly struck with this patrician treasure, as the accumulated wealth of many generations. It is needless to say, that the supper was all that could please the eye and tempt the appetite, with all kinds of wine in unlimited abundance. The Emperor himself never sits down to supper, and he stood near the table of the Empress, conversing in the most affable and familiar manner with those about him. The Duke of Devonshire with his attachés also stood all the time.

"After this splendid entertainment, the dancing recommenced with fresh spirit, and the Emperor and Empress did not depart till three in the morning. The Grand Duke Michael and the Grand Duchess remained half an hour later. At five o’clock a second supper, or rather breakfast was served, even after which, I understand, the unwearied votaries renewed the dance, Prince Charles, with his vivacity and amiability, being the chief promoter; and the gay revels did not close till near seven this morning.

“Besides the attachés of the Duke’s embassy. Lord Morpeth, Lord W. Russell, Mr. Fane, Mr. Grosvenor, Mr. Townshend, Capt. Clifford, R.N., Mr. Cavendish, and Sir Alexander Mallet, there were present of our countrymen, Mr. Disbrowe, with Mr. Jerningham, and Mr. Kennedy, and the Lord Viscount Stormont, Lord Wm. Montague, Hon. Mr. Talbot, two Generals, Sir P. Belson and Swaine, with four or five more Englishmen, of whom I chanced to be one. There was one of the Duke’s suite, the Hon. Robert Dundas, who, although recovering fast from a severe illness, was not yet strong enough, it appeared, to join the festivity.

“The politician should approve of this fete, for it was admirably well calculated to please and gratify the Russians, and they are loud and unanimous in its praise. It was much superior to any thing of the kind given at Paris, after the French coronation, for we had here such a variety of costume and splendid uniforms among the men, and such a prodigious display of diamonds, precious stones, and elegant dresses among the ladies, that the Parisians were assuredly outdone.”

The pomp and magnificence of the above scene must have almost realized the fairy illusions of oriental romance. The noble Duke, indeed, did ample justice to the wealth and dignity of the country he was sent to represent. It is said, that the splendour which he thus threw around his mission, cost him a sum little less, if any, than 60,000l.

On the 11th Aug. 1827, Captain Clifford was appointed to the Undaunted 40, for the express purpose of conveying Lord William Bentinck, the new Governor-General, to India; and while he was fitting her out, H.R.H. the Lord High Admiral presented him with a handsome uniform sword, “as a proof of his regard,” and “in commemoration of his official visit to Chatham and Sheerness,” on which occasion he had the honor of attending upon that illustrious personage, as his captain, in the absence of Sir William Hoste.

On her arrival at Portsmouth, the Undaunted hoisted the flag of the Lord High Admiral, who sailed from thence with the intention of proceeding to Plymouth, but was obliged to put back in consequence of strong S.W. winds. Her captain shortly afterwards received a letter from the private secretary to his Royal Highness, of which the following is an extract:–

Devonport, Dec. 2, 1827.


“My dear Clifford,– I am commanded by H.R.H. the Lord High Admiral to communicate to you his intention of presenting you with a piece of plate, of the value of Fifty Pounds, as a mark of the satisfaction his Royal Highness experienced at the manner in which you received him on board the Undaunted, during his late cruise in that ship * * * * *.

(Signed)Robt. C. Spencer.”

The Undaunted anchored in Diamond harbour, July 1, 1828; and from thence Captain Clifford accompanied the Governor-General to Calcutta, after leaving which city he received a very gratifying epistle from his lordship, of which the subjoined is a copy:–

Calcutta, Aug. 13, 1828.

“My dear Captain Clifford,– I cannot allow you to leave us finally without offering to you, and to all the officers and ship’s company of the Undaunted, on Lady William’s part, as well as my own, our warmest thanks for the kindness we have received, and for the cordial manner in which every wish of ours has been uniformly executed.

“It would seem hardly possible, that I could have to ask of you an additional favor; but having received Lieutenant Forster’s complete acquiescence, I have now to express the gratification we shall feel by your forgiveness of the two men who were under confinement for future trial when we left the ship. I do not found my request upon slightly appreciating the crimes of which they are guilty, for I have always been a decided advocate for strict discipline and subordination; but having had many occasions of observing and deeply considering the manner in which the naval service is carried on in different ships of war, I can with truth aver, that I have never yet seen an instance where, on the one hand, due authority and command were tempered with more reason, justice, and mercy; tnd where, on the other, obedience was given with more cheerfulness and alacrity: this being my conviction, I venture to thinkc that the discipline of the Undaunted does not require an example of severity for its vindication; and I the more readily prefer this request, from having been informed, that previously to this offence, the individuals in question have borne a good character.

“I have only now to wish you a good voyage, and to pray that happiness and honor may continue to be the lot of the Undaunted, as it was of the Cephalus, and as it has been of every ship which has been placed under your command.

“Ever, with affectionate regard, most sincerely yours,
(Signed)William Bentinck.”

During his absence from England, in the Undaunted, Captain Clifford also visited Teneriffe, Rio Janeiro, the Cape of Good Hope, Madras, the Mauritius, St. Helena, and Ascension. He left Diamond Harbour Aug. 18, and arrived at Portsmouth, with Major-General Bourke, late Lieutenant-Governor of the Cape, and his family, passengers, Dec. 30, 1828.

This officer married, in Oct. 1813, Elizabeth Frances, third daughter of Lord John Townshend, and cousin to the Duke of Devonshire, by whom he has had several sons and daughters.

Agents.– Messrs. Booth and Pettet.


(Suppl. Part III. p. 86.)

This officer received the honor of knighthood in Aug. 1830; and paid off the Undaunted frigate, at Portsmouth, Nov. 2d following. On the latter occasion, the officers and midshipmen of that ship gave him a parting dinner, when, his health being drank, he addressed them nearly as follows:–

“Gentlemen,– From the kind and flattering manner in which you have drank my health, I can scarcely express to you what I feel at this moment. After having closed near three years service, I conceive that the feelings which have induced you to shew me this mark of your regard, are not only gratifying to myself, but beneficial to the service. I assure you I am on this occasion powerfully influenced by different motives – if, on the one hand, after having been in various parts of the world, and having, as you know, suffered much indisposition, I rejoice to leave our old ship in safety, and to return to my own family; on the other hand, I feel a deep and sincere regret in parting from those with whom I have served during a period which I shall always consider as one of the most fortunate and most agreeable parts of my life. I trust we shall all look back with satisfaction to the last three years; and there is one circumstance connected with our early history, which I am sure we shall always remember with pride and pleasure, which is that the Undaunted is a singular instance of any frigate having borne the flag of the Lord High Admiral of England, now our most gracious and beloved Sovereign. I will now only express a hope that we may all meet at some future time, and drinking each and all your good healths, I return you many thanks for the honour and kindness you have now shewn me.”

Sir Augustus has since been appointed Usher of the Black Rod, and a Gentleman Usher Daily Waiter to his Majesty King William IV.

  1. See Vol. I Part II p. 481.
  2. See Vol. I. Part II. p. 589 et seq.
  3. Lieutenant Joseph William Crabb; Messrs. Michael Dwyer and Henry Collins, master’s-mates; Mr. Duncan Hutchinson, midshipman; aud Lieutenant George Victor, R.M.
  4. Now Commander Thomas Hastings.