Royal Naval Biography/Crease, Henry


We first find this officer serving as midshipman on board the Tonnant 80, Captain William Henry Jervis, stationed off Ferrol, in 1804[1]. His promotion to the rank of lieutenant took place on the 31st Jan. 1806. From this period we lose sight of him until the summer of 1813, when he was appointed to the Menelaus frigate. Captain Sir Peter Parker. On the 14th Feb. 1814, he assisted at the recapture, near l’Orient, of a richly laden Spanish ship, the San-Juan-de-Baptista, mounting twenty guns, and having on board 600,000 dollars in specie.

In August 1814, the Menelaus, then under the orders of Vice-Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane, was sent up the Chesapeake, above Baltimore, to create a diversion in favour of the expedition against Washington. After having frequently dislodged small bodies of American regulars and militia, by landing parties of seamen and marines. Sir Peter Parker was at length drawn into an attack upon a force which proved to be greatly his superior in numbers, and accompanied by artillery. The result is thus stated in an official letter from Lieutenant Crease to the commander-in-chief, dated off Poole’s Island, Sept. 1st, 1814:–

“Sir,– With grief the deepest it becomes my duty to communicate the death of Sir Peter Parker, Bart, late commander of H.M.S. Menelaus, and the occurrences attending an attack on the enemy’s troops on the night of the 30th ultimo, encamped at Bellair. The previous and accompanying letters of Sir Peter Parker will, I presume, fully point out the respect the enemy on all occasions evince at the approach of our arms, retreating at every attack, though possessing a superiority of numbers of five to one: an intelligent black man gave us information of two hundred militia being encamped behind a wood, distant half a mile from the beach, and described their situation, so as to give us the strongest hopes of cutting off and securing the largest part as our prisoners, destroying the camp, field-pieces, &c. and possessing also certain information that one man out of every five had been levied as a requisition on the eastern shore, for the purpose of being sent over for the protection of Baltimore, and who are now only prevented crossing the bay by the activity and vigilance of the tender and ships’ boats. One hnndred and fonr bayonets, with twenty pikes, were landed at eleven o’olock at night, under the immediate direction of Sir Peter Parker, the first division headed by myself, and the second division by Lieutenant Robert Pearce. On arriving at the ground we discovered the enemy had shifted his position, as we were then informed, to the distance of a mile farther. Having taken the look-out picket immediately on our landing, we were in assurance our motions had not been discovered, and with the deepest silence followed on for the camp. After a march of between four or five miles in the country, we found the enemy posted on a plain, surrounded by woods, with the camp in their rear; they were drawn up in line, and perfectly ready to receive us; a single moment was not to be lost; by a smart fire, and instant charge, we commenced the attack, forced them from their position, putting them before us, in full retreat to the rear of their artillery, where they again made a stand, shewing a disposition to outflank us on the right; a movement was instantly made by Lieutenant Pearce’s division to force them from that quarter; and it was at this time, while animating his men in the most heroic manner, that Sir Peter Parker received his mortal wound, which obliged him to quit the field, and he expired in a few minutes. Lieutenant Pearce, with his division, soon routed the enemy, while that under my command gained and passed the camp. One of the field-pieces was momentarily in our possession, but we were obliged to quit it from superior numbers.

“The marines, under Lieutenants Beynon and Poe, formed our centre, and never was bravery more conspicuous. Finding it impossible to close on the enemy from the rapidity of their retreat, having pursued them upwards of a mile, I deemed it prudent to retire towards the beach, which was effected in the best possible order, taking with us from the field twenty-five of our wounded, the whole we could find, the enemy not even attempting to regain the ground they had lost; from three prisoners (cavalry) taken by us, we learnt their force amounted to five hundred militia, a troop of horse, and five pieces of artillery; and since, by flags of truce, I am led to believe their number much greater.

“Repelling a force of such magnitude with so small a body as we opposed to them, will, I trust, speak for itself; and although our loss has been severe, I hope the lustre acquired to our arms will compensate for it. Permit me. Sir, to offer to your notice the conduct of Mr. James Stopford Hore, master’s-mate of this ship, who on this, as well as on other trying occasions, evinced the greatest zeal and gallantry. In justice to Sub-Lieutenant Johnson, commanding the Jane tender, I must beg to notice the handsome manner in which he has at all times volunteered his services. Herewith I beg leave to enclose a list of the killed, wounded, and missing, in this affair[2]. I have the honour to be, &c.

(Signed)Henry Crease, Senior Lieutenant.”

In Sept. 1817, Lieutenant Crease was appointed first of the Impregnable 108, bearing the flag of Viscount Exmouth, commander-in-chief at Plymouth, where he continued until promoted to his present rank, Feb. 12th, 1821.

  1. See Vol. III. Part I. p. 274.
  2. Total – 14 killed and missing; 27 wounded.