Open main menu

Royal Naval Biography/Dalyell, W Cunningham C


W. CUNNINGHAM C. DALYELL, Esq.
[Commander.]

Fifth and youngest son of the late Sir Robert Dalyell, bart., of Binns, near Edinburgh, sixteenth in lineal descent from Walter, Earl of Menteth[1], by Elizabeth, daughter of Nichol Graham, of Gartmore, Esq., and grand-daughter of William, Earl of Glencairn.

This officer’s ancestors frequently distinguished themselves in the service of their country:– the name of the family is said to owe its origin to an incident occurring at a very remote period. A kinsman and favorite of Kenneth, King of Scotland, who reigned about the year 841, having been taken prisoner by his enemies, and hanged in sight of the Scottish camp, a great reward was offered to whomsoever should cut the body down; but none would undertake the perilous enterprise, until a gentleman of acknowledged valour, in the retinue of the king, stepped forward, exclaiming, “Dalyell,” which, in the language of the times, signified “I dare.” He accordingly left the camp, and succeeded in restoring to the monarch the body of his friend. His courage did not pass unrewarded, for the name of “Dalyell” was bestowed by the king, together with other gifts, on him and his posterity: and be assigned for his coat armorial the body of a banged man, and the motto “I dare,” which are actually borne by all persons of the surname at this day; and by none more deservedly than Commander Dalyell.

The above anecdote is detailed in “Nisbett’s System of Heraldry,” Vol. I. and “Crawford’s Peerape of Scotland,” p. 67. We read also, in a work called “Scoti-chronicon,” of Sir William Dalyell, a Scottish champion, who was celebrated at the battle of Otterburn (in 1388), where he lost an eye; and the chroniclers of the time exultingly dwell on his prowess. Descending to more modern times, we find the name of General Thomas Dalyell (an immediate ancestor of the commander), who distinguished himself by his attachment to the royal family during the civil wars. In the reign of Charles I. he commanded the town and garrison of Carrickfergus, where he was taken prisoner. He was again made captive, when major-general, at the battle of Worcester (A.D. 1651), and committed to close confinement in the Tower: his estates were forfeited, and himself excepted from Cromwell’s general act of indemnity. However, he made his escape, and, at the head of a small party, raised the royal standard in the north of Scotland. When it proved impossible, for the time being, to retrieve the fortunes of Charles II. this warrior repaired to the continent, bearing strong recommendations from that prince to foreign powers, for courage and fidelity; and having entered into the service of the Czar Alexis Michaelowitch, he was soon promoted to the rank of general in the Russian army. There he was employed in the wars with the Turks and Tartars: but the restoration of t!»e family of Stuart, having in the mean time taken place, he requested permission to return to his native country. The Czar, thereupon, directed a testimony of his services, written in Russian, to pass under the great seal of the empire; and it is still preserved by his descendants. After enumerating the titles of the Czar, it proceeds thus:

“He (General Dalyell) formerly came hither to serve our great Czarian Majesty. Whilst he was with us, he stood against bur enemies and fought valiantly. The military men that were placed under his command, he regulated and disciplined, and himself led them to battle; and he did and performed every thing faithfully as becoming a noble commander. For his trusty services, we were pleased to order him to be made a general. And now, having petitioned us to give him leave to return to his own country, we are pleased to command, that the said noble general, who is worthy of all honor, Thomas, the son of Thomas Dalyell, shall have leave to go into his own country. And, by this patent, we do certify of him, that he is a man of virtue and honor, and of great experience in military affairs; and in case he should be willing again to serve our Czarian majesty, he is to let us know of it beforehand, and he shall come into the dominions of our Czarian majesty with our safe passports, &c. &c. Given at our court in the metropolitan city of Moscow, in the year, from the creation of the world, 7173, January 6th.”

On his return to Scotland, this renowned general was immediately appointed commander-in-chief of the forces, and a privy councillor: for several successive parliaments he represented his native county, Linlithgow. In 1666, he raised a regiment of foot; and, some years afterwards, also a fine cavalry corps, the “Scots Greys.” The letters of service for both are still in possession of his descendants.

General Dalyell had a son, likewise in the army, who was created a baronet of Nova Scotia, by a patent, wherein his alacrity in promoting the military service is particularly specified. Another branch of the family, Colonel John Dalyell, was killed at the battle of Malpalquet, Sept. 11th, 1709.

Commander Dalyell’s grandfather served in the wars of George I. and II. His paternal uncle, James, was aid-de-camp to Lord Amherst, and killed in North America, in 1763[2]. Two others were mortally wounded in the naval and military services; one on board the Valiant 74, and the other in India.

Mr. William Cunningham C. Dalyell was born on the 27th of April, 1784; and, after receiving the first rudiments of his education at Binns, was placed under the tuition of the late Dr. Burney, of Gosport. From that gentleman’s celebrated nautical school, he first embarked as midshipman, on board the Thetis frigate, Captain the Hon. Alexander Inglis Cochrane, attached to the Halifax station. He afterwards served under Captain (now Sir David) Milne, in the Pique and Seine frigates; and was master’s-mate of the latter ship, acting also as aid-de-camp to his gallant commander, at the capture of la Vengeance, mounting 52 guns, with a complement of 326 officers and men, near St. Domingo, Aug. 21st, 1800[3].

In December following, Mr. Dalyell was sent, as prize-master, with nine men, on board a Spanish schooner. His orders were to proceed to Jamaica; but, unfortunately, the vessel sprang a leak, in a gale of wind, and filled so rapidly that there was barely time to escape from her, in a small boat, without either clothes, provisions, or water, ere she sunk. After a fatiguing row of eighteen hours, he succeeded in reaching the western coast of Cuba, and landed with his crew on a low sandy beach, to the southward of the Colorados; where he passed a most gloomy night under the shelter of some trees near the sea; having previously made a fruitless excursion of several miles in search of food and fresh water. On the second day after quitting the schooner, the boat was again launched, and the distressed party rowed, faint and weary, to the northward and westward, in hope of finding some creek or other, that might lead to the haunts of men. About noon, they descried several fishing-vessels, on board of which they were received, and conveyed to the coast near Cape Antonio. Here the humane islanders plentifully supplied them with the best provisions their huts afforded, until the arrival of a party of soldiers from the interior, by whom they were marched off, as prisoners of war, to the Havannah, at which place, also, Mr. Dalyell met with very kind treatment. Understanding that he was utterly destitute of money, the governor of Moro Castle invited him to dinner, placed a purse of gold before him, desired him to take as much as he had occasion for, and continued to shew him the kindest attentions during the whole time of his confinement in that fortress – a period of about two months. He was at length exchanged and sent to New Providence, from whence he proceeded in the Echo sloop, Captain John Senell, to rejoin his proper ship, off Jamaica. The Seine returned home, and was paid off at Chatham, in the spring of 1802.

We next find Mr. Dalyell serving under Commodore (now Admiral) Sir W. Sidney Smith, in the Antelope 50, on the North Sea station. The following extracts are taken from a journal kept by an officer of that ship:

September 29th, 1803. – A launch, barge, and six-oared cutter, were sent to reconnoitre the enemy’s fleet in the Texel, the whole commanded by Lieutenant John Martin Hanchett; – the barge by Mr. Dalyell. The boats were within half a mile of the Dutch admiral at daylight. Two schooners and five rowing gun-vessels, each mounting two 24-pounders, and manned with fifty men, pursued them. Lieutenant Hanchett kept drawing slowly off the land, and when the gun-vessels had separated from the schooners about two miles, he attacked the former, sunk one, and, it is said, killed and wounded fifty-seven men. A breeze springing up, the schooners rapidly approached, and our boats were obliged to retreat from such superior force, fighting their way until within three miles of the ship. Mr. Dalyell displayed the most marked coolness and intrepidity during this action.

October 24th. – Lieutenant Hanchctt went in shore at night, with the pinnace and cutter; the latter commanded by Mr. Dalyell. They drove sixteen vessels on shore under Sandfort; and, after driving away the troops who came to protect them, burnt three, and did as much damage to the rest as possible: the tide having left them dry, one only could be brought away.

October 28th. – Five of our boats drove sixty-five schuyts ashore under the Scheveling battery, set fire to many, and brought off two. On this occasion Mr. Dalyell again distinguished himself.

October 30th. – About p.m., Lieutenant Hanchett and Mr. Dalyell, In the Antelope’s barge, set fire to and destroyed three schuyts, lying a-ground within a mile of five guard-vessels in the Vlie passage.

Nov. 2d. – Mr. Hanchett volunteered with twenty-five men, and took the island of Rottum. The French troops, with an exiled general destined for the Seychelle islands, would not wait for them to close: they were pursued across the island, and escaped from the opposite side on board of three schuyts. Messrs. Dalyell and Bourne were engaged in this expedition.

Nov. 17th. – Lieutenant Hanchett, acting Lieutenant Dalyell, and Mr. Bourne, midshipman, sailed in the Experiment schuyt, from Yarmouth roads for the coast of Zealand. She had on board eleven men, and was armed with three 18-pounder carronades. A heavy gale of wind, from the N.W., came on that night, and the next afternoon she was in shoal water. Lieutenant Hanchett waited till the top of high-water, and then ran her ashore upon an extensive bank, out of gun-shot of the sand-hills on the S.W. end of Goree; for, being in hopes of getting her off when the weather moderated, he determined to defend her to the last. At low water, she was a full mile from the above island. The enemy was not slow in preparing to take possession of her. The second night, the dragoons reached the bank, but did not succeed in their attempt. On the third night, five of our men deserted, probably from the effects of fear; and the remainder of the party finding nothing could be done, set the schuyt on fire, leaving her colours flying, and put to sea in the boat – a very small one. She springing a leak, when about three miles from the shore, they then pulled in to board a vessel lying at anchor under Schouwen; but as there was a heavy battery which commanded her, they were obliged to surrender as prisoners of war. Messrs. Hanchett, Dalyell, and Bourne , being directly recognised by some seamen, formerly belonging to vessels which they had captured and destroyed, were conducted to Zierick-Zee, and put in close confinement as incendiaries. Buonaparte was then at Flushing, and having heard they belonged to Sir Sidney Smith, ordered them to be trictly guarded. On the seventeenth evening of their confinement, however, being the one preceding the day on which they were to have been transported to Flushing, they effected their escape; and next day, arrived at the village of Oost Duiveland. At this place they hired a boat to take them to Williamstadt, but with the intention of seizing her, and standing out to sea. Want of provisions and water obliging them to abandon the latter part of this project, they then compelled the Dutchmen to put them ashore about seventeen miles from Rotterdam, towards which city they proceeded, along the top of the dikes, in a covered waggon. Their vehicle soon breaking down, they next sought refuge at an inn near the read side, and there joined company with a party of French soldiers, who readily believed their tale, – that they were Americans, and had suffered shipwreck. Whilst they were in this house, some chasseurs, of the same nation, passed by in pursuit of them. At dusk, they took a boat; and, about 9 p.m., landed at Rotterdam. They were now in the heart of an enemy’s country, with but little cash, and knew not where to apply for shelter. After some difficulty, however, Mr. Hanchett procured safe lodgings for his young friends; and at length met by accident with a Scotch gentleman (Mr. L____, belonging to a highly respectable mercantile firm), by whom he was ultimately accompanied to Embden. As it was next to impossible that four persons could pass the fort of Schenkenskans together in security, Messrs. Dalyell and Bourne were left behind at Noordwyk, as American youths, sent over to Holland for education.”

The following is taken, nearly verbatim, from the Naval Chronicle:

“There was then residing at Embden, Mr. H. Brown, writer of the letter to the King of Prussia, published in the last volume[4]. He met Messrs. Hanchett and L____ at the White House (Witte Huis) inn, and, after a little conversation, invited them to his lodgings in Kraan-street. Understanding that Messrs. Dalyell and Bourne were in Holland at a school, he mentioned a friend of his, then residing at Amsterdam, of the name of Hofhout, who had served as an officer in the Dutch corps from the time of its formation, who was a man of tried courage, and enthusiastically devoted to the politics of England, as also to the House of Orange. ,To the care and management of this gentleman, it was determined to commit Messrs. Dalyell and Bourne; and as soon as this was arranged, Mr. Brown procured a passage for Lieutenant Hanchett on board an American vessel. His Scotch friend soon afterwards escorted the young gentlemen from Noordwyk to Amsterdam, took their drafts for what money they required, and delivered them to the care of Mr. Hofhout, who gave them as kind a reception as though they had been his brothers, and recommended them to his friends on their route, by whom they were protected, and conveyed in safety from place to place, till they had passed the frontiers.

“At this period, the politics of France were the politics of Prussia; and never could British officers have arrived at a more inauspicious hour. The strictest orders were given to prevent any of the disorganized Hanoverian army from escaping to England; whilst the most severe edicts were published relative to the clandestine enlistment of troops, or their embarkation for British ports. Mr. Brown, who was aware of the many dangers that might arise from the open and unsuspecting candour of young minds, had written to Mr. Hofhout, entreating him to warn Messrs. Dalyell and Bourne against talking of politics on their journey, praising our navy, or forming an intimate acquaintance with any one; – but, forgetful of the admonitions they had received, they admitted a stranger to their company, whom they met with on the road, near Lingen, escorting a party of Germans to Eems, to be privately embarked for England. This person pretended to our young officers, that he was a man of rank and consequence, and did them the honor to borrow nearly all the money they had in their possession.

“It was late in the evening when Messrs. Dalyell and Bourne arrived at Mr. Brown’s lodgings: their clothing was neither very good nor very fashionable; they had left their uniforms in Holland, and the latter gentleman wore a coat which was far from fitting him. When the first compliments were over, Mr. Brown wished to go to the principal inn, to bespeak beds; but neither of them would listen to such a proposal; they had pledged their words to return to the inn where they had left their travelling acquaintance. Upon inquiry, Mr. Brown found it was a very common house, and of bad repute. Fearful that the young travellers had fallen in with a character called on the continent ‘a seller of souls,’ and in England, a kidnapper, he was truly uneasy, aware of the destruction in which it might involve, not only themselves, but him also. He arose by six o’clock the next morning, in hopes of removing them before they might be denounced, and of explaining to the magistrates whom and what they were. On reconnoitring their tavern, however, he found it in a state of strict blockade, and the city gate-keepers stationed with drawn swords at every avenue and door.

“All seemed silent within: and being now too well convinced of the reality of what he had anticipated, namely, that his friends had fallen in company with a kidnapper, he thought it most advisable to return to his own lodgings, and put away all letters he had by him respecting them. This accomplished, he hastened back to attempt their deliverance. On his return, he saw lights in the windows, – heard angry voices, and the clashing of swords. He made his way to a miserable bed-room, where Messrs. Dalyell and Bourne, only half dressed, were keeping at bay some feeble old men, of whose language they knew not a word. He entreated the former to lay down their weapons – a couple of ricketty chairs – and the city guards to sheath their swords; but the latter replied that they must take the strangers to the magistrates, who were assembling at that early hour to examine them, private intelligence of their arrival having been given.

“It was now too evident that Messrs. Dalyell and Bourne were arrested on a charge amounting to felony, if not to treason. From the vehement remonstrances made by France against arms or soldiers being embarked for England in the Prussian ports, new laws had then recently been enacted, ordaining the punishment of death for the actual enlisters, and the next severest punishment known in Prussia, to each of the inferior agents. A British officer, named Pringle, was at that moment confined in a subterranean cell under the Guildhall, and the police were on the watch for others. There was, consequently, great cause of alarm.

"Luckily Mr. Brown stood on a friendly footing with the burgomasters, and particularly with the senior one, to whose residence he immediately proceeded, first admonishing Messrs. Dalyell and Bourne, who smiled contemptuously on their attendants, to be peaceable during his absence. By that time the city was in a state of agitation, the cry having gone forth that the Germans above alluded to had been treacherously hired as labourers to serve in a London sugar-house, but were in reality to be transported to our condemned regiments in the West Indies. By the time Mr. Brown returned to accompany Messrs. Dalyell and Bourne before the magistrates and senate of Bremen, who were assembled in full council, a considerable concourse of people had collected, and nothing was heard except execrations and denunciations of vengeance against the ‘soul sellers;’ but the moment they saw the fearless and smiling countenances of the British youths, the effect was honorable to their feelings; – in an instant their rage subsided; and, instead of curses, they pronounced it impossible that the accused could be ‘Zielverkaufers.’

“Arrived at the council-chamber, Mr. Brown, for the first time, saw his friends’ travelling companion:– guilt and terror were depicted on his visage. They took care in their replies to injure his cause as little as possible; and he seized an opportunity to get rid of a paper from the War Office in London, which, had it been found upon him, would have endangered his life. Out of compassion, Mr. Brown received it. After a long examination, Messrs. Dalyell and Bourne were honourably acquitted of all knowledge of, or participation in, the offence which the other prisoner had committed; they received many flattering compliments, and were dismissed: whilst he was conducted to a dungeon. Having thus got clear of a dangerous and unpleasant adventure, Mr. Dalyell and the other young officer embarked on board a galliot, bound to London, laden with oats. During a tempestuous passage, this vessel shipped much water, and her cargo swelled to such a degree that her deck parted, and she was in the most imminent danger of being lost. Fortunately, however, she reached Yarmouth roads, and there found the Antelope at anchor.”

On the 18th March, 1804, two boats, under the command of Messrs. Hanchett and Dalyell, cut out four Dutch vessels, three of which they found lashed to the pier-heads of Zierick-Zee, and the other close to them. They were all brought down safe, between Schouwen and South Beveland, without the loss of a single man, although the batteries fired on them, as they approached either shore, in working to windward. On the 31st of the same month, Mr. Dalyell also assisted in capturing a national galliot, employed as a guard-vessel, mounting two long 18-pounders, and four sixes, with a complement of 94 men. The following is an extract of the official letter written by Sir W. Sidney Smith on this occasion:

“The musketry of the people ashore alarming the guard-vessel, it was necessary to board, in order to silence her fire. Lieutenant Hanchett gallantly led the way in the Antelope’s launch, closely followed by Lieutenants Boxer and Barber; the two latter being very early wounded in a most gallant attempt to board across the launch, she could not bold on, and fell astern. The contest with fire-arms lasted three-quarters of an hour, without their being able to get on board, such was the obstinate resistance of the Dutchmen, favored by the form of the vessel and the strong tide. Lieutenant Hanchett, with his usual zeal and intrepidity, then took the Antelope’s cutter, and, with the other small boats, boarded on the broadside. Mr. Dalyell, of the Antelope, and Mr. Hawkins, of the Magicienne, were much praised by Mr. Hanchett, as was also Lieutenant Honeyman, of the marines, a volunteer on the occasion. The decks were soon cleared of the enemy, and the gun-vessel was carried. She was called the Schrik, and found perfectly prepared to resist such an attempt, which seems to have been expected.”

In the performance of this exploit, which was succeeded by several other affairs with the enemy, the British had about fifteen men killed, and many wounded. On the 13th of May following, Messrs. Dalyell and Bourne were discharged into the Rattler sloop. Captain Francis Mason; the former as acting lieutenant. On the 16th of the same month, that ship received very considerable damage, and sustained a loss of two men killed and ten wounded, in action with the Flushing flotilla, commanded by Rear-Admiral Ver-huell[5]. In consequence of Mr. Dalyell’s gallant conduct on this occasion, the late Lord Melville, then at the head of naval affairs, allowed him to retain his acting order, although a commissioned officer had been appointed in the interim.

On the 23d June, 1804, the Rattler was again warmly engaged with the enemy, near Ostend; and in Oct. following, she appears to have had three sharp skirmishes, in the neighbourhood of Dieppe[6]. On the 1st Jan. 1805, Mr. Dalyell’s commission as lieutenant, that long deferred object of his youthful ambition, was signed; which, according to the acknowledgment of Viscount Melville, ought to have been done six months earlier: – how little did he expect, after the severe services he had performed as midshipman, that the fourth day of his enjoying naval rank would close his services, at least for many years.

On the 4th Jan. the Rattler took possession of a fishing-boat belonging to Dieppe. There was at that time a large lugger privateer, the Vimereux of 14 four-pounders and 78 men, including fifteen chosen grenadiers from the camp at Boulogne, lying at an anchor in the bay of St. Valery-en-Caux, close under a four-gun battery. This vessel had long infested the British trade, and it was highly desirable that she should be destroyed, as her superior sailing had hitherto enabled her to escape our cruisers. Lieutenant Dalyell, ever anxious to signalize himself, and cut his way to farther promotion, earnestly requested permission to attack her. As the wind and weather were favorable for the enterprise. Captain Mason yielded to his solicitations. Mr. Bourne, who had been his inseparable comrade in battle and captivity, eagerly offered to accompany him; as did also acting Lieutenant Augustus Donaldson, commanding the Folkstone lugger, and Mr. William Richards, a midshipman of the Rattler. Of the other gallant fellows who volunteered their services, twenty-seven sailors were selected, – eleven to go in the captured fishing-boat, with Lieutenant Dalyell and a Frenchman, who had agreed to act as a decoy to his countrymen; eight in the Folkestone’s boat, towed by the prize; and eight in the Rattler’s cutter, commanded by Mr. Bourne.

It was a fine clear moon-light night. The sky was serene, and the firmament, gloriously studded, shed a silvery lustre over the rippling waves. When they arrived within hail, the watch on the deck of the lugger called out to know who came there. The Anglo-Frenchman answered, that the boat was No. 78, and belonged to Fecamp. “What’s the master’s name?” rejoined the wary sentinel: the unfortunate fellow gave a name which some of his countrymen on board the vessel knew to be a false one. – “Come on, come on my lads!” said the foe, “we know you are English. You will find us prepared!

In a moment, the weapons of destruction were got ready, and the attack was fiercely commenced, under a heavy fire of small arms from the privateer. Lieutenant Dalyell rapidly boarded on the larboard side, accompanied by Mr. Donaldson, and their nineteen men. The combat was extremely sanguinary, but in the course of five minutes the enemy were all driven below ; from whence, however, they fired a destructive volley through the main-deck and gratings, just as their gallant assailants were in the act of hoisting the foresail, having already cut the cable, and placed a man at the helm. The sentinels at the hatchways and six other persons, thus unexpectedly attacked, were shot dead; the Frenchmen instantly regained their footing on deck, and the battle so treacherously renewed was attended with various success, until at length, after a dreadful struggle of twenty minutes, the British were completely overpowered by dint of numbers. During this bloody conflict, Messrs. Dalyell and Donaldson, both of whom had been severely wounded as they rushed on board, fought most courageously, till successive strokes of the sabre felled them to the deck; Mr. Bourne, who had failed in his attempt to board, and had therefore taken the vessel in tow, received a mortal wound; and, of the other twenty-nine persons, by whom Lieutenant Dalyell had been accompanied to the attack of la Vimereux, six only escaped unhurt. Mr. Richards and ten or eleven wounded seamen reached their boats, but three of them died before they could be landed at Portsmouth:– all the rest of the boarding party were either killed or taken prisoners. It afterwards appeared, that an arm-chest, full of loaded weapons, had been put below during a severe gale, on the day preceding the combat; and to this circumstance alone could the discomfiture of Lieutenant Dalyell and his heroic followers be attributed.

The enemy seeing the boats of the Rattler retreat, yet not daring to remain outside the harbour, now prepared to take their lugger over the bar at its entrance. Already they had begun to throw into the sea the bodies of the slain; and two men taking hold of Lieutenant Dalyell, round his legs and shoulders, were in the act of heaving him overboard also, when one of them slipped, betrayed by the clotted gore, and fell on his side amongst the mingled mass of French and British blood. To this accident was the gallant officer indebted for his life; for, just at that moment, the Rattler was seen working into the bay, and making signals with blue-lights, which so much alarmed the enemy that, instead of consigning him to a watery grave, he was pitched headlong down the main -hatchway. At this time he was quite senseless, in which state he lay, without the least attention being paid to him, for at least a couple of hours. From the hold of the privateer, he was conveyed to a dark dungeon on shore, nearly surrounded by water, the floor of which was consequently in a very humid state, and, moreover, but scantily covered with straw. When the French military surgeons had dressed their wounded countrymen, they examined Lieutenant Dalyell, and considered his case so desperate that they were inclined to pass him over as one already dead:– his head seemed hacked asunder, having received no less than nine sabre cuts; his left foot was lacerated by a pistol ball; he had no less than three other severe, and two slight, wounds. They therefore contented themselves with binding a napkin round his head, and this was all that they could be prevailed upon to attempt in his behalf.

On the 5th January, before noon, people entered the above dungeon, and informed the wounded prisoners that a cart was ready to remove them to an hospital at Dieppe. This journey, of about four leagues, would, in all probability, have terminated the sufferings of Messrs. Dalyell and Donaldson, but Providence raised them up preservers in the midst of their country’s foes. As two French sailors were lifting the former gentleman into the vehicle provided for his conveyance, the inhabitants of St. Valery, then returning fVom mass, stopped to behold this melancholy proof of the dire effects of war. His face was varnished, as it were, with congealed blood; and the occasional movement of the muscles, cracking that external crust, the appearance of his skin below gave those fissures the resemblance of ghastly wounds. The spectators were clamorous that he and his friend, Donaldson, should not be sent to the hospital. The foremost of those good Samaritans were Messrs. Angot (surgeon) and Leseigneur (merchant), both respectable inhabitants of St, Valery. They obtained permission of the commandant for the two officers to remain provisionally at an inn; and they became responsible to the landlord for the payment of his charges, to the amount of 30l., – observing, “If those gentlemen have the means, they will repay us – if not, it is only sacrificing a few hundred francs to charitable duties!” Those benevolent Frenchmen would willingly have received the gallant sufferers into their own houses; but the dread of being considered as friendly to the British nation compelled them to refrain.

Nearly a month elapsed before Lieutenant Dalyell was considered out of danger, and July arrived before he could leave his bed. During this long period, Mons. Angot was his constant, and only professional attendant; – to him alone was he indebted for one of the finest cures ever performed by the art of surgery. Whilst deriving benefit from the care and skill of that benevolent man, he was no less kindly cherished by his other protector, and the females of both their families, who invariably treated him with as much tenderness as even his own mother and sisters could have done. When he was so far recovered as to be able to travel, Messrs. Angot and Leseigneur accompanied him to Rouen, where they obtained permission for him to rest several days, previous to his proceeding, via Beauvois, Soissons, Rheims, and Chalons, to the dépôt for British prisoners at Verdun.

All the intelligence that could be obtained from the wounded men who escaped to the Rattler, and survived, tending to confirm the belief that Lieutenant Dalyell was no more. Captain Mason, on the 15th Jan., 1805, wrote to Mr. (now Lieutenant-Colonel) Robert Dalyell, as follows;

“It is with the most heartfelt sorrow I confirm the melancholy intelligence you have heard, of your gallant brother being missing. I have a very faint hope that, although he was seen to fall after his sword broke, he may still be alive – but I confess it is very faint. I sent a flag-of-truce to St. Valery last Saturday, to inquire if he is still alive; but the unfeeling rascal of a commandant fired at us, instead of replying to my letter. If any thing can compensate his friends for his loss, it must be the knowledge of his having fallen, as he has ever lived, in the performance of gallant and glorious actions. In him I lose an officer I highly admired, and a friend I sincerely esteemed; and his country has to regret the loss of one of her best officers.”

In an official letter to Admiral Lord Keith, the commander of the Rattler had previously thus expressed himself:

“Among the missing from this ship is Lieutenant Dalyell, whose zeal, courage, and abilities have ever been eminently conspicuous: his premature death deprives his country of an officer who was an honor to the service.”

On the receipt of Captain Mason’s letter, Lady Dalyell and the whole of her family and relatives went into mourning; but their hearts were soon gladdened by the unexpected tidings, derived from le Vimereux, (which privateer was at length captured by a British frigate) that he for whom they had put on the sable weeds of death, was not only living but likely to do well. Some time afterwards, her ladyship’s second son, John Graham Dalyell, Esq. informed his gallant brother, that the Patriotic Society at Lloyd’s had voted him £100; that he would assuredly be promoted, if at home; and that Government had set at liberty, on parole, the commander of le Vimereux, his son, his brother, and the French surgeon, entirely on account of the care taken of him and Mr. Donaldson, at St. Valery.

On the 20th July, 1805, a survey was taken of Lieutenant Dalyell’s wounds, and the following certificate granted him:

“These are to certify the Right Honorable the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, that we have carefully examined the wounds received by Lieutenant W. C. C. Dalyell, late of H.M. sloop Rattler; and that we have found the cicatrices of nine wounds in the head, from one of which several pieces of the cranium have been extracted; one wound in the right shoulder; one in the left leg; one in the left foot by a pistol-ball, from which several pieces of bone have been taken away; one in the right hand, which has greatly injured the use of two fingers; and two other slight wounds; making in all fifteen: and we do further certify, that his general health has suffered materially, in conscipience of the said wounds. Given under our hands at Verdun,

(Signed) E. L. Gower, Captains, H.M. late ship Shannon.
E. L. Gower, ___________ Minerve.
A. Allen, M.D., Surgeons, ___________ . . . . . . . .
J. Bell, ___________ Shannon
J. Graham, ___________ Hussar.”


To this document was subsequentiy added as follows:

“I do further certify, that, besides the injury to the general health of Lieutenant W. C. C. Dalyell, in consequence of the above-mentioned wounds, the bones of his face are considerably injured, which has deprived him in great part of the sight of his right eye, and, from the nature of the complaint, may remain so during life. Given under my hand this 15th day of November, 1810.

(Signed)A. Allen, M.D. Surgeon to the British prisoners
of War at Verdun.”

In reply to several applications made by Lieutenant Dalyell’s friends and himself, for his exchange or enlargement on parole, letters, of which the following are translations, were written: “The Inspector-General of the Gendarmerie, Superior Commandant of Verdun, to Mr. Leveson Gower, Captain in the Royal British Navy, prisoner of war.

Verdun, 8th Feb. 1806.

“Sir,– I have transmitted to his Excellency the Minister of the Marine and Colonies, an exposition of the condition of Mr. Dalyell, and I have not forgotten to acquaint his Excellency of the number and extent of the wounds which that officer received in battle. It was impossible to address bis Excellency in other than the most satisfactory terms of the honorable conduct of Mr. Dalyell at this dépôt, which I have certified to his Excellency. I have the honor, Sir, to assure you of my highest consideration

(Signed)Wirion.”

Marine. – 5th Division. – Prisoner of War.

Paris, 24th Feb. 1806.

“Sir,– I have received your letter of the 7th instant, relative to your exchange. I hasten to inform you, that his Excellency the Minister of Marine has transmitted your petition to the Minister of War, who is especially charged with the police and superintendence of prisoners of war, and who alone can decide whether the numerous wounds you have received have reduced you to a state that may render it proper to permit your return to England. It is, therefore, to that minister your future communications on this business should he addressed. I have the honor to salute you,

(Signed)Rivier, Chief of the 5th Division.”

To Mr. Dalyell, Prisoner of War, Verdun.

Paris, 1st Sept. 1806.

“Sir,– I have received your letter, dated the 5th of last month, relative to the exchange of Mr. Dalyell, lieutenant of the British navy, for a French officer of the same rank.

“However interesting the circumstances attending the case of this officer may be, it is impossible at present to do any thing in his favor: but the moment of any exchange, whether general or partial, I shall not fail most urgently to press compliance with this petition. I shall be the more zealous because it appears to be an affair wherein you arc deeply interested. Receive, Sir, my assurances of sincere attachment.

(Signed)Rivier, Chief of the 5th Division.”

To Mons. Leseigneur, St. Valery-en-Caux.

The Commissioners of the Transport Board, it appears, also made an application to the French Minister of Marine, offering to exchange any officer of equal rank for Lieutenant Dalyell; hut were unable to procure his release. The Duc de Feltre, however, allowed him to go to the baths of Plombieres, for the benefit of his health; and likewise to visit Paris, for the purpose of consulting an oculist.

In 1812, Lieutenant Dalyell, mindful of the kind treatment he had received at St. Valery-en-Caux, wrote to the Chairman of the above Board as follows:

Verdun, Jan. 8th.

“Sir,– In taking the liberty of enclosing you a testimony of the generous and benevolent exertions displayed by several respectable inhabitants of St. Valery-en-Caux, in Feb. 1807, towards the shipwrecked crews of H.M. gun-brig Inveterate and some merchant vessels, may I also be permitted to add the request Messrs. Leseigneur and Angot have made me, to solicit the Commissioners of the Transport Office to release two of their relations, – Portz, on board the Crown Prince, at Chatham; and Jacques Angot, at Lauder, in Scotland; and that of their friends, to allow Thomas Frederic Cordonnier, taken as chief mate on board the Printems, in 1803, to be at large on parole, as also Mr. Ducomier, now on board the Crown Prince. I have been prompted to this, as a small mark of my gratitude for the humane and kind attention I experienced from those good people, during a confinement at St. Valery, of six months to my bed. * * * * I have the honor to be, &c.

(Signed)W. C. C. Dalyell.”

To Sir Rupert George, Bart.,
&c. &c. &c.

In reply to this application, Lieutenant Dalyell was informed that the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty had been pleased to allow “the unconditional release of Messrs. Portz and Angot, and moreover permitted Messrs. Cordonnier and Ducomier to enjoy the liberty of parole in England, agreeably to his request.” He was shortly afterwards appointed a member of the Council of Administration about to be organized in the dépôt of the prisoners of war at Verdun; than which a greater compliment could not have been paid him. On the 15th May, 1813, his friends at St. Valery transmitted the following memorial in his behalf, to the Due de Feltre, Minister of War:

“Abraham Leseigneur, merchant, and ____ Angot, physician, have the honor of representing to your Excellency, that Mr. William Dalyell, officer of the British navy, now at the dépôt of Verdun, was made prisoner in this roadstead, in Jan. 1805, dangerously wounded, which lost him his liberty. It was owing to the care of your memorialists, and other inhabitants of this town, that he was recalled to life.

“The gratitude of that officer, and also of his family, has ever since been most conspicuous. To the prisoners belonging to our town, confined in Great Britain, they have never ceased to be useful, alleviating the misery of captivity, by succours conferred, or privileges procured. Your Excellency will acquire the conviction of the above facts by the enclosed letters from the Transport Office, and Mr. Seaman, purser of a prison-ship. To sum up all, Mr. Dalyell has just obtained the release of Messrs. Cominanville, Angot, and Portz; likewise the privilege of parole for Messrs. Cordonnier and Ducomier.

“Animated by a becoming spirit of gratitude, and desirous of giving a particular proof to Mr. Dalyell, that shall demonstrate to England that Frenchmen yield nothing in point of generosity to their enemies, we unite ourselves in the honor of having recourse to your Excellency, entreating your Grace to take into consideration the essential services rendered by Mr. Dalyell to our countrymen, and in return allow him, upon the express application we have now the honor of making, to return to his native country, upon such conditions as it may please your Excellency to determine.

“In case your Excellency should not have it in your power to comply with our application to its whole extent, permit us to supplicate you to allow Mr. Dalyell six months’ leave of absence, during which he might be empowered to return to the bosom of his family, where his presence, for the arrangement of bis private affairs, is indispensably necessary. Should your Excellency require it, knowing tbe sentiments of honor and sincerity which animate that officer, we offer without fear to assume the responsibility that you may deem needful to impose for his re-appearance at the expiration of his leave of absence. Desirous of obtaining from your justice this act of benevolence, we claim it with the utmost confidence, and have the honor to be, with most profound respect, &c. &c. &c.”

In Dec. following, without any previous anticipation. Lieutenant Dalyell received from the Due de Feltre his passport to return to England; which favor he attributed to the effects of the above memorial. Universally respected, it is not too much to say, that every one who knew him rejoiced in his good fortune. On this happy occasion, the then senior British naval officer at Verdun supplied him with a testimonial thus worded:

“This is to certify, that Lieutenant Dalyell, R.N. has conducted himself, during his long captivity, in a regular gentleman-like manner; that by the late commandant, Baron de Beauchesne, he was apppointed one of the Council of Administration, in which situation he took care, as far as lay in his power, that justice was done to his countrymen; and that I know, from the confidence the present commandant. Major de Meulan, has placed in him, he has been enabled to render important services to several of his fellow-prisoners. Given under my hand, at Verdun on the Meuse, the 20th of Dec. 1813.

(Signed)C. Otter, Captain of H.M. late ship Proserpine.”

On the 17th Feb. 1814, a few days after his return to England, Lieutenant Dalyell was promoted to the rank of commander. The Committee of the Patriotic Fund soon afterwards presented him with a handsome sword, value £50; and on the 9th Mar. following, he was acquainted by Mr. Croker, that the Admiralty had “been pleased to confirm the pension of five shillings a day,” which had been granted to him in August, 1811. On the receipt of this notification, he addressed a memorial to the Prince Regent, praying H.R.H. to grant him the arrears of that pension, from the period when he received his numerous severe wounds; and on the 23d of the same month, we find him thus addressing the Admiralty:

To the Right Honorable the Lords Commissioners, &c. &c. the humble Memorial of Captain W. Cunningham C. DalyelL R.N.,

Sheweth, – That your Lordships’ memorialist saw with sorrow and surprise the negative given on the 21st instant, to his prayer for the arrears of pension up to the period when he received his wounds.

“That when he applied for a pension, in 1805, he forwarded from Verdun the best possible proofs of his wounds, and the deteriorated state of his general health; that the reply intimated that nothing could be done till your memorialist should first have arrived in England.

“That in Nov. 1810, the negociation for an exchange of prisoners having been broken off, and seeing no prospect of a termination to his captivity, your memorialist applied to H.R.H. the Prince Regent for a pension, which was immediately granted, liable to being confirmed or revoked upon a re-survey at home; that this re-survey having recently taken place, and his pension being confirmed, your Lordships’ memorialist conceived that his claims extended back to the actual period of his being wounded, and which he must have enjoyed, us a matter of right, had he not fallen into the hands of the enemy.

“Should a want of precedent be urged in support of the negative put upon his prayer, your memorialist would, with all deference, presume to suggest, that no precedent can be found of a wounded officer having remained nine years a prisoner in an enemy’s country; and he humbly entreats your Lordships to consider how severely he must feel the denial of a claim, which, a matter of right, has been conceded to army officers; in proof of which statement being correct, your memorialist, with all deference, refers your Lordships to the case of those British officers who were wounded at the battle of Talavera, and to whom pensions were granted during their sojourn as prisoners in France; but, upon their return, and their pensions being confirmed, those officers received the full amount of their respective pensions, from the day upon which their respective wounds had been inflicted.

“Your memorialist therefore earnestly supplicates your lordships to reconsider his extremely hard case; and, if requisite, advise H.R.H. the Prince Regent, to grant the whole arrears – and not permit that captivity which stands without a parallel, to extend its calamitous effects beyond the personal sufferings – the mental anguish – the professional misfortunes which it has already caused him to endure.

(Signed)W. Cunningham C. Dalyell.”

We have only space for their Lordships’ final answer:–

Admiralty Office, 2d April, 1814.

“Sir,– Having laid before my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty your letter of the 31st ult. with its enclosure, in reference to your applications of the 17th and 23d of last month, for arrears of pension to be granted to you from the time of your being wounded in Hits Majesty’s service, I have their Lordships’ commands to acquaint you, that the request cannot be complied with. I am, Sir, your very humble servant.

(Signed)J. Barrow.”

To Captain Dalyell, R.N.

Thus was this gallant officer refused the payment of nearly £600, a sum to which he then had, and still has, the justest claim. On the 27th Nov. 1815, the pensions previously granted to all naval officers, for wounds, loss of limbs, &c. having been augmented, agreeably to an order in council, he became entitled to one of £150 per annum, from the 1st of July preceding.

We sincerely trust, that Commander Dalyell’s health, though not even yet perfectly re-established, will, at no very remote period, enable him to resume the active duties of his profession; and thereby qualify himself, (agreeably to the existing order in council,) for that rank to which he must naturally aspire.

Commander Dalyell married, Sept. 19th, 1820, Maria, youngest daughter of A. T. Sampayo, of Peterborough House, Fulham, co. Middlesex, Esq., and has issue, one son and two daughters. His eldest brother, James, succeeded to the baronetage on the demise of his father, Oct. 10th, 1791; – another, John Graham, is an advocate, and author of several works on antiquities, natural history, &c.; – Robert, whose name we have already mentioned, commenced his military career, and served in India, as a cavalry officer; but afterwards joined the 43rd regiment, and was with that distinguished corps in Demnark, and throughout the whole of the peninsular war, during which he was twice wounded. He returned home with Wellington’s army, in 1814.



  1. See Burke’s Peerage and Baronetage, 3d edit. p. 196.
  2. See “Munte’s History of the War in North America.
  3. See Vol. I. Part II. p. 681.
  4. Nav. Chron. xxxi. p. 280.
  5. See Suppl. Part I. pp. 13–18, and p. 58, et seq.
  6. See Suppl. Part I. p. 59 et seq.