Open main menu

Royal Naval Biography/Cobb, Smith


SMITH COBB, Esq.
[Commander.]

Eldest son of Benjamin Cobb, Esq. a magistrate of the county of Kent.

This officer was born in 1786; and entered the royal navy in 1800, as midshipman on board the Ambuscade, a new 36-gun frigate, commanded by Captain the Hon. John (now Lord) Colvilie, under whose care he was placed by the late Sir Evan Nepean, then secretary to the Admiralty.

The Ambuscade[1] returned home from the Jamaica station, and was paid off, in the beginning of 1802; but immediately re-commissioned by Captain David Atkins. Under that excellent man, whose melancholy fate in the Defence 74, was attended with circumstances that must have forcibly recalled to the minds of those brought up on his quarterdeck, the unflinching principles of their “gallant and self-devoted” commander, Mr. Cobb had the good fortune to complete the remainder of his first six years’ servitude. In 1805, he assisted at the capture of the French and Spanish privateers Perseverante (schooner) and Concepcion (felucca), in the neighbourhood of Porto Rico. In 1806, he joined the Northumberland 74, bearing the flag of the Hon. Alexander I. Cochrane, commander-in-chief on the Leeward Islands station; where he received a lieutenant’s commission, dated April 21st, 1807.

On his return to England, in the same year, Mr. Cobb was appointed to the Monarch 74, Captain (now Sir Richard) Lee; which ship formed part of the squadron detached from before Lisbon, by Sir W. Sidney Smith, to escort the Prince Regent of Portugal, his family, and court, to Brazil; in consequence of that illustrious personage, alarmed as he was by the measures of Napoleon Buonaparte, having resolved to abandon his European dominions, and to establish the House of Braganza at Rio Janeiro, “until a general peace.”

The Monarch subsequently proceeded to the Rio de la Plata, where Captain Lee entered into a treaty with the Spanish authorities, for the suspension of hostilities, until the official accounts of the political changes in Europe could be received from the mother country. In 1809, she returned home, and was attached to the magnificent, but ill-conducted expedition, against Antwerp; on which occasion we find her bearing the flag of Rear-Admiral William Albany Otway.

On the arrival of the fleet off Walcheren, Lieutenant Cobb was ordered to attend Sir Eyre Coote in a reconnoissance, previous to the disembarkation of the army. He afterwards landed that general and his staff, &c., and then served on shore with the naval brigade, under Lord Amelius Beauclerk, until the bombardment of Flushing, during which a gun-boat under his command was considerably injured by the enemy’s shot, and had four of her crew wounded. Whilst assisting in the subsequent operations of the flotilla, he had an attack of the prevailing epidemic, and was consequently obliged to be invalided. On his recovery, he rejoined the Monarch, after an absence of eight months.

In Aug. 1810, Lieutenant Cobb was sent to join a flotilla, consisting of twelve gun-boats, then about to be equipped at Gibraltar, under the orders of Commodore Penrose. The especial object which H.M. Government appear to have had in view on this occasion, was the protection of the bay and its neighbourhood; the recent success of the Trench arms having excited a well-founded alarm, not only for the security of our ordinary commercial relations with the Mediterranean, but also that the supplies on which Cadiz mainly depended might be intercepted, and those also cut off which were then chiefly procured from the Barbary coast, for the service of our cavalry in the peninsula. So large a force, however, soon appeared less requisite at Gibraltar than the enterprising character of the enemy had led ministers to expect it would become; and therefore, almost immediately after its organization, the greater part of this flotilla was ordered to be incorporated with another, previously established in Cadiz bay. Here, and on various detached services at Frangerola, Estapona, Conil, Sancti-Petri, Tarifa, and Algeziras, Lieutenant Cobb commanded a gun-boat for two years, during which period he took his share of every privation and danger attending so harassing an employment; and was, on several occasions, very flatteringly noticed by the distinguished officers under whom he successively served. For his conduct at Algeziras, he moreover received, the thanks of the Regency of Spain, who transmitted also a request to the British ambassador, that his services might receive the consideration of H.M. Government. An outline of the operations of the combined flotillas, during the hottest part of the siege of Cadiz, will be found in Vol. III. Part I. pp. 127–141. The expedition against Frangerola is noticed in Suppl. Part III. pp. 198–200. For an account of the gallant and successful defence of Tarifa, the reader is referred to Landmann’s “Historical, Military, and Picturesque Observations on Portugal,” &c. Vol. I. p. 545, et seq.

On the 15th Oct. 1812, Lieutenant Cobb was promoted to the command of the ten-gun brig Onyx, in which he served on the Lisbon and Jamaica stations, until again compelled to get invalided, in 1815. His opinion, grounded, as he expresses it, on an anxious and irksome experience of their insignificance, is decidedly opposed to the construction and equipment of such vessels as the Onyx, holding them unmeet for H.M. navy, whether in peace or war.

Commander Cobb married, in 1816, Sarah, eldest daughter of William Coates, Esq. and is now, we believe, a widower, with one son and three daughters. Lieutenant Charles Cobb, first of the Castilian sloop, who was mortally wounded in action with the Boulogne flotilla, Sept. 21st, 1811, and whose zeal for his country’s honor, and self-possession under very acute sufferings, excited the strongest admiration among those who witnessed his early and painful death, was a brother of this officer; as is also the present Lieutenant Thomas Cobb, R.N.[2]



  1. Afterwards named the Seine.
  2. See Suppl. Part I. p. 75.