Royal Naval Biography/Cox, Douglas
DOUGLAS COX, Esq.
Son of an old officer of the army, who was in the artillery with General Burgoyne, at the unfortunate convention of Saratoga, Oct. 1777, previous to which he had been severely wounded; and who, after returning from America, had a company for many years in the 21st regiment (Royal North British Fusileers).
Mr. Douglas Cox’s godfather was Colonel William Douglas, brother to that most excellent officer and worthy man, the present Vice-Admiral John Erskine Douglas, under whose protection he first entered the navy, May 6th, 1800, as midshipman on board the Boston 32, which ship was very actively employed on the Halifax station, till towards the close of 1804, when she returned home and was put out of commission.
On the 20th Dec. 1804, Mr. Cox joined the Circe 32, Captain Jonas Rose, from which frigate he was removed to the Northumberland 74, flag-ship of the Hon. Sir Alexander Cochrane, commander-in-chief at the Leeward Islands, July 10th, 1806. We next find him, in Mar. 1807, serving as sub-lieutenant of the Attentive gun-brig, on the same station, where he was frequently engaged in boat attacks, and on one occasion, with only five companions, most gallantly boarded and captured a large guarda-costa, of two long six-pounders, and thirty-five men. We can nowhere find any printed record of this very dashing affair, but have been favoured by a friend with the following particulars:–
“The details of the various boat affairs in which Mr. Cox was engaged, I cannot at this length of time recollect, except one while he was serving under Lieutenant Robert Carr, in the Attentive. The boats of that vessel had cut out from a small port near Trinity, on the north side of Martinique, two drogers, on board one of which there was an English negro, who gave information that a sloop, loaded with sugar, was lying in a harbour a few miles to windward, and unprotected; at the same time offering to pilot the boats in. Mr. Cox immediately volunteered his services, and left the Attentive at night-fall, with two jolly-boats under his command, containing in the whole twelve persons. He unexpectedly met with a strong adverse tide, and did not enter the harbour until the dawn of day, when a large armed vessel was suddenly discovered, moored across the anchorage, having the sloop between her and the shore. About fifteen minutes previous to this, Mr. Cox had detached his other boat in pursuit of a small craft; notwithstanding which, and that he saw the whole of the guarda-costa’s crew, armed with muskets, drawn up on her deck from stem to stern, and two long guns pointed directly at him, so great was his confidence in the fine fellows with him, that the enemy was instantly boarded, and, after a slight resistance, carried: in less than twenty minutes she was under sail; and in about two hours after he re-joined the Attentive, with only one man slightly wounded.”
On the 17th October, 1807, the Attentive captured, between Tobago and Trinidad, the Spanish privateer Nuestra Senora del Carmen, of two guns and sixty-three men, three of whom were wounded during the chase. A few days afterwards, Mr. Cox was appointed acting lieutenant of the Port d’Espagne 16, Commander James Pattison Stewart; whom we find him following into the Snap sloop, Nov. 13th, 1808. His first Admiralty commission bears date Mar. 10th, 1809.
Mr. Cox served as senior lieutenant of the Snap at the reduction of the French and Dutch West India islands, in 1809 and 1810; was attached to the military force, under Brigadier Harcourt, at the capture of St. Martin’s; and continued in the same vessel, under several commanders, until paid off, Feb. 15th, 1811. Between Mar. 6th and June 10th, 1811, he was first of the Lynx 18, Commander Thomas Perceval, on the North Sea station; and from the latter date, until July 21st, 1814, we find him serving under his early and constant patron, Captain John E. Douglas, in the Bellona 74, and Prince of Wales 98, which last-named ship formed part of the fleet under Lord Exmouth at the surrender of Genoa in April 1814. His subsequent appointments were, August 8th following, to the Alpheus 36, Captain George Langford, with whom he proceeded to the East Indies and China; and, Jan. 29th, 1817, to the Primrose 18, Captain George B. R. Phillott, fitting out for the Jamaica station; where he was serving when promoted to the command of the Shearwater sloop, by commission dated on the 9th July in the same year. He continued in that vessel for a period of two years and seven months; and is now (1834) employed as Inspecting Commander of the Coast Guard at Carrickfergus, where he has lately seized the Rob Roy yacht, belonging to a gentleman residing near Belfast, laden with contraband tobacco.
- See Vol. I. p. 210.
- “The true picture of a ship of war of the old school is to be found in Roderic Random. Such it continued to be in 1782, and was not much improved in 1792. The store-rooms were a chaotic mass of most things requisite for a ship, although nothing was to be found when wanted. The first instance we can remember of their being arranged in that beautiful order, now so generally observed in the service, was on board the Boston, when commanded by the present Vice-Admiral John Erskine Douglas. This was done by the carpenters of the ship, under the direction of the captain: the advantages soon became so apparent, that many captains followed the good example; and government, receiving into its counsels some of the most active and influential officers in the navy, adopted the mode of fitting store-rooms throughout the service, and great are the benefits derived from it.” – Brenton’s Naval History, III. p. 141.