Royal Naval Biography/Dashwood, Charles
CHARLES DASHWOOD, Esq
[Post-Captain of 1801.]
This officer was born at Vallon Wood, in Somersetshire, where the family of which he is a member have resided upwards of three hundred years, and from whence sprang all of the same name now in existence. He entered the navy at a very early age, under the patronage of the late Earl of Sandwich, as a Midshipman, on board the Courageux 74, commanded by Lord Mulgrave; and after serving for some time with the Channel fleet, was removed into the Southampton frigate, for the purpose of being more actively employed.
On the 9th Aug. 1780, Mr. Dashwood witnessed the capture of five East Indiamen, eighteen transports, and about sixty sail of merchant vessels, bound to the West Indies, by the combined fleets of France and Spain. The Southampton and two other ships of war, under whose escort they were proceeding to their different destinations, narrowly escaped sharing the same fate. The number of prisoners taken by the enemy on this unfortunate occasion amounted to 2,865. Only five sail out of the whole fleet were saved; the remainder were carried in great triumph into Cadiz.
Mr. Dashwood returned from Jamaica to England with Captain Gamier, in the Grafton of 74 guns, and subsequently joined the Formidable, a second rate, bearing the flag of Sir George B. Rodney, to whom he acted as an aid-de-camp in the memorable battles of April 9 and 12, 1782.
The Formidable being paid off in 1783, Mr. Dashwood proceeded to the East Indies, in the Cygnet sloop of war; and finding on his arrival that Sir Edward Hughes, to whom he had been recommended, had left that station on his return to Europe, he removed into the Bristol of 50 guns, bearing the broad pendant of Commodore Charles Hughes, and served in that ship till she was put out of commission in 1786.
Mr. Dashwood’s conduct as a Midshipman of the Impregnable 98, on the glorious 1st June, 1794, we have already noticed in our first volume. For his spirited exertions on that day he was immediately after promoted to the rank of Lieutenant; and at the particular request of Rear-Admiral Caldwell, appointed to a vacancy in the same ship, occasioned by the death of an officer who had been mortally wounded in the action.
The Impregnable was paid off, and Mr. Dashwood appointed to the Defiance 74, in 1796. From her he removed into the Magnanime of 48 guns, as first Lieutenant, during the alarming mutiny in 1797; on which occasion the crew of the Defiance, offended at the resolute manner in which he opposed their rebellious and blood-thirsty designs, insisted on his leaving the ship; which was perseveringly resisted by their captain and officers, until he was directed to do so by Lord Bridport, commander-in-chief of the Channel fleet.
On the 24th Aug. 1798, the Magnanime, commanded by the Hon. Michael de Courcy, assisted at the capture of la Decade French frigate, off Cape Finisterre; and in October following she bore a distinguished part in the action between Sir John B. Warren and M. Bompart, the result of which we have already stated. On the latter occasion Lieutenant Dashwood took possession of the Hoche, and had the honor of receiving the French Commodore’s sword; but was shortly after superseded by an officer of the Canada, bearing Sir John B. Warren’s broad pendant, and then placed in charge of la Coquille frigate. After encountering various difficulties, occasioned by the damaged state of the prize, and a continuance of tempestuous weather, he put into Belfast to refit, and from thence proceeded to Plymouth, where la Coquille was burnt by accident on the 14th Dec., and several of her crew, with three women, unfortunately perished.
Lieutenant Dashwood having rejoined the Magnanime, continued to be actively employed in that ship (and assisted at the capture of several privateers) till Aug. 2, 1799, on which day he was made a Commander, and appointed to the Sylph of 18 guns, attached to the Channel fleet.
The following modest narrative contains the particulars of a very gallant action fought by Captain Dashwood, July 31, 1801:
“Sylph, Aug. 1, 1801.
“Sir,– I have the honor of acquainting you, that being off St. Andero with his Majesty’s brig under my command, I last evening gave chase to an armed schooner, then standing to the N.E.; but before there was a possibility of arriving up with her, a large frigate was discovered close under the land, standing towards us, to whom the schooner fled for refuge. Unwilling to quit the station you assigned me, I stood towards them; but as the night approached, and observing them to be undismayed by the appearance of the Sylph, with no probability of gaining the wind, at a little after sun-set I shortened sail, hove to, and prepared for battle. At this time the hull of the frigate was clearly discernible. The light airs from the southward did not permit her to arrive up till eleven o’clock; at which period, from her not answering the private signal, and being within half gun-shot, I gave directions to commence the action; the enemy bearing down in a silent and most masterly manner, soon came within hail. At this distance, and precisely abreast of each other, the battle continued with equal vigour for one hour and twenty minutes; when finding the sails, standing, and almost all the running rigging cut to pieces, one gun dismounted, several shot between wind and water, and the brig in an unmanageable state, I conceived it most advisable to edge away a little to repair the damages we had sustained. I was the more inclined to act thus, not from any advantage the enemy had gained over us, but from her position, which was admirably calculated for boarding, and which I was naturally anxious to avoid. I soon, however, perceived she was not in a situation even to follow us, and consequently hove to. The remaining part of the night we were busily employed putting the Sylph in a situation to maintain her station. At day-light the enemy was seen six or seven miles to windward, with her fore-yard on deck, and apparently otherwise damaged. Seeing her in this situation, I conceived it my duty to endeavour to renew the action, and therefore made all sail possible, wearing occasionally (as I dared not venture to tack) for that purpose; but before I could accomplish it, the enemy’s ship swayed up her fore-yard, wore, and made all sail for the land. The wind having changed in a violent squall during the night to N.W., with every appearance of blowing, and a rising sea, and finding the main-mast severely wounded, with the momentary expectation of its going over the side, the brig making a foot and a half water in an hour, together with the enemy’s great superiority, she having 14 ports on each side of her main-deck, exclusive of the bridle, and evidently carrying 44 or 46 guns, I found it impossible to follow her with the most distant hope of success, and accordingly wore and stood to the northward, which I trust will meet your approbation. 1 beg permission to remark, that although the British colours were kept flying from the break of day to the moment of the enemy’s wearing, yet she carefully avoided shewing hers; I am, therefore, at a loss to know whether she was a French or Spanish frigate; though I am inclined to think, from various circumstances, she belongs to France. Although I lament exceedingly the loss of 1 man killed and 9 wounded, 3 of whom I fear are dangerously so, yet it is a consolation to reflect that more mischief was not done, considering the situation of the two vessels, which can only be attributed to their unceasing exertions to disable us. I have the honor to be, &c.
“The Hon. Admiral Cornwallis.”
Captain Dashwood, on rejoining the fleet off Brest, was most warmly congratulated by Admiral Cornwallis, and afterwards strongly recommended by that veteran officer to the Board of Admiralty for promotion; but without effect, as appears by the following letter from Earl St. Vincent, in reply to Captain Dashwood’s application for a post commission:
“I have read your official letter with all the attention such a recital merits; but until the Board receive olficial information of the force, and the nation to which the vessel belongs, which the Sylph was engaged with, an adequate judgment cannot be formed of the merits of the action.”
After repairing her damages at Plymouth, the Sylph again joined Admiral Cornwallis, by whom Captain Dashwood was ordered to resume his station off the north coast of Spain; and it is a strange coincidence of circumstances, that on the 28th Sept. following, a second night action should take place with the same frigate, but commanded by another officer, and nearly on the same ground; in which the enemy was again beaten, after a severe conflict of two hours and five minutes; that one of the Sylph’s Midshipmen should be wounded in both actions; and that a lower studding-sail, which had been cut away in a squall immediately after the first, should be picked up on the day after the second encounter: Captain Dashwood’s account of which is as follows:
“Sylph, Sept. 29, 1801.
“Sir,– I have the honor to acquaint you, that yesterday afternoon I gave chase to a sail in the N.W., Cape Pinas bearing South, distance 42 leagues. Although before sun-set I clearly discovered her to be a French frigate of a large description, having fifteen ports of a side on her main deck, and evidently carrying 44 or 46 guns; yet confident of support from the well-known bravery of my officers and crew, I determined to engage the enemy, notwithstanding her superior force; I therefore made the necessary arrangements for bringing her to close action. After various manoeuvres, in which each endeavoured to gain the wind, and which were executed under a press of sail, and some heavy broadsides were given and received on thrice passing each other, within a little more than the length of the Sylph; yet by the silent attention to, and prompt execution of my orders, I was enabled, at half-past seven o’clock, to place the brig within pistol-shot on her weather-bow, when being reduced to commanding canvas, a severe conflict took place, which continued without intermission, and with increased vigour on the part of his Majesty’s seamen, for two hours and five minutes, when the enemy wore and made sail on the opposite tack. I was most assiduously anxious to maintain the position I had laboured to obtain, conceiving it best calculated for annoying the enemy, with the least risk to ourselves, and had the good fortune to succeed to the very last moment: the enemy, appearing appalled at the astonishing fire we kept up, never dared to advance; and on his frequently edging away to bring his broadside to bear, so was the Sylph edged away accordingly; by which means, and their unceasing endeavours to disable us, I attributed our extreme good fortune in having only Mr. Lionel Carey, Midshipman, slightly wounded.
“Having thus evidently the advantage, and most effectually beaten her off, I would have followed up the blow, had there been even a distant chance of succeeding; but the sails, standing and running rigging, being cut to pieces, the main-top-mast very badly wounded, and by an unfortunate shot, completely unrigged, without the possibility of setting any sail on it, rendered a pursuit impracticable. I therefore got up another mast, and having repaired the various damages we had sustained, I have great pleasure in stating, that at day-light his Majesty’s sloop was in a situation to renew the contest, had the enemy been in sight.
“Having received certain information since my return to this station, that the ship which the Sylph was engaged with some time since, was the French frigate l’Artémise, of 44 guns and 350 men; so I can with equal truth pronounce this to be the same, from the many corresponding observations which I made. She had then 20 men killed and 40 wounded, and was obliged to return to St. Andero to refit; and from the disordered state which she was in when making off, I have the strongest reason to suppose she has now met with a similar fate, particularly as a number of lights and men were seen hanging over her bows, from which I infer she must have received considerable damage; and I think there is every probability of some of his Majesty’s frigates falling in with her, as I unluckily parted with the Immortalité a few hours before. * * * *
“I have the honor to be, &c.
“Hon. Admiral Cornwallis.”
Captain Dashwood was advanced to post rank, Nov. 2, 1801, and received an official notification from the Commander-in-chief, that the Admiralty had promoted him for his meritorious conduct in the above actions.
Towards the latter end of 1803, he was appointed to the Bacchante of 20 guns, in which ship, after convoying home a fleet from Oporto, he proceeded to the West Indies, and served successively under the orders of the late Sir John Thomas Duckworth and Vice-Admiral Dacres.
On the 3d April, 1805, being on a cruise off the Havannah, he captured la Elizabeth Spanish schooner of 10 guns and 47 men, charged with despatches from the Governor of Pensacola, but which were thrown overboard previous to her surrender. On the 5th of the same month, Lieutenant Oliver of the Bacchante, with 13 men, landed near the harbour of Mariel, in the island of Cuba, and gallantly stormed a tower near forty feet high, on the top of which were planted three long 24-pounders, with loop-holes round its circumference for musketry, and defended by a captain and 30 soldiers. The same officer afterwards proceeded into the port with two boats, and took possession of two schooners laden with sugar, which he brought away from alongside a wharf, in spite of repeated discharges of musketry from the troops and militia, who poured down in numbers from the surrounding country.
On the 14th May following, Captain Dashwood captured le Felix, a remarkably fast-sailing Spanish letter of marque, pierced for 10 guns, but only 6 mounted, with a complement of 42 men, laden with coffee and bees’-wax, from the Havannah, bound to Vera Cruz. We subsequently find him commanding la Franchise frigate, on the same station.
Early in January 1806, three boats belonging to that ship, under the directions of Lieutenant John Fleming, cut out of the Bay of Campeachy, El Raposa Spanish brig of war, mounting 12 guns, pierced for 16, and having on board 75, out of a complement of 90 men, 5 of whom were killed, many drowned in consequence of jumping overboard, and 26, including the commanding officer, wounded. The British, notwithstanding the resistance they met with in boarding, and the fire they were for some time exposed to from a brig of 20 guns, an armed schooner, and 7 gun-vessels, had only 7 men slightly wounded. The official account of this brilliant achievement will be inserted in our memoir of the officer who commanded on that occasion<ref>See Commander John Fleming, in Vol. III.</ref>. About the same period, la Franchise captured El Carmen Spanish schooner, and the Brutus, a Dutch armed vessel.
In July 1806, Captain Dashwood sailed from Jamaica in company with the Magicienne frigate, and one hundred and nine sail of homeward bound West Indiamen. After clearing the Gulf of Florida, the fleet encountered a dreadful hurricane, during which twenty of the merchantmen foundered, la Franchise lost her fore-mast and main -top-mast, and her consort sustained so much damage as to be under the necessity of proceeding directly to Bermuda, where she was obliged to be frapped together before she could again put to sea. Inconsequence of this disastrous event, the sole care of their scattered and valuable charge devolved upon Captain Dashwood; through whose indefatigable exertions many vessels, not one of which had escaped without injury, were collected, and reached England in safety.
We next find Captain Dashwood serving under the orders of Admiral Gambier, during the expedition against Copenhagen; and early in 1808, employed convoying a fleet of merchantmen to the West Indies. On his passage thither, he captured le Hazard French privateer of 4 guns and 50 men. In December following he rendered an essential service to the Spanish patriots blockading the city of St. Domingo, as well as to British commerce, by taking possession of the town of Samana, where the Trench were in the act of erecting batteries for their permanent establishment, which, had they been completed, would, from their position, have made the place tenable against almost any force sent to attack it. In the harbour were found two schooner privateers, of 5 guns and upwards of 100 men each, and three trading vessels. An English ship, laden with bale goods, and a Spaniard, with a valuable cargo, were recaptured when in the act of entering the port.
On the 16th Jan. 1809, Captain Dashwood, after a chase of thirty hours, captured l’Iphigenie French brig letter of marque, pierced for 18 guns, laden with naval stores and various merchandise, from Bayonne bound to Guadaloupe. This vessel had been launched about two months before, for the express purpose of marauding in the West Indies.
In 1810 Captain Dashwood returned to England, and was appointed to the Pyramus, a new 36-gun frigate, fitting for the Baltic station, where he captured the Norsk Mod, a Danish three-masted-schooner privateer of 6 guns, 4 swivels, and 28 men.
During the disastrous winter of 1811, we find Captain Dashwood commanding a squadron of ten frigates and smaller vessels, left in the Baltic by Sir James Saumarez, to collect and bring home the remnant of Rear-Admiral Reynolds’ unfortunate convoy. On this occasion he took upon himself the responsibility of passing through the Malmo Channel, instead of the Great Belt, as he had been ordered, and thereby saved the whole from destruction.
In 1812, Captain Dashwood captured eight American vessels on the Baltic station; and at the latter end of that year, he was appointed to the Cressy of 74 guns. On his leaving the Pyramus, her officers presented him with a piece of plate, as a token of their regard. After serving for some time with the North Sea fleet under Admiral Young, he convoyed a valuable fleet to the Leeward Islands, from whence he returned with another of equal importance, the masters of which presented him with a chronometer, for the very great attention he had paid to them during the voyage.
Captain Dashwood had the distinguished honor of steering the royal barge, when his present Majesty reviewed the fleet at Spithead and St. Helen’s, in the summer of 1814; soon after which the Cressy was put out of commission. He subsequently commanded the Norge of similar force, and served with Sir Alexander Cochrane during the siege of New Orleans. On his return from the coast of America in Aug. 1815, the Norge was ordered to be paid off and taken to pieces. He became Flag-Captain to Sir Alexander Cochrane at Plymouth, in Feb. 1821; removed from the Impregnable of 104 guns, to the Windsor Castle 74, about July of the same year; re-commissioned that ship Jan. 4, 1822, and still continues to command her.
Captain Dashwood married, Nov. 7, 1799, the Hon. Elizabeth De Courcy, second daughter of the late Lord Kinsale, and niece to his old friend and commander the late Admiral De Courcy, of whom a memoir is given in our first volume. His two eldest sons are Lieutenants R.N., and his youngest is an officer in the Hon. East India Company’s artillery at Bengal.
Agent.– Thomas Stilwell, Esq.
- Mr. Dashwood’s noble patron was at this period, Jan. 1779, First Lord of the Admiralty, and his commander a member of that Board.
- Ramillies 74, Captain John Moutray; and Thetis frigate, Captain Robert Linzee. The Southampton was commanded by Captain Gamier.
- Among the numerous anecdotes related of the gallant Rodney, the following may be depended upon as authentic:– During the heat of the battle he desired his young aid-de-camp to make him a glass of lemonade, the ingredients for which were at hand. Not having any thing to stir it with but a knife, already discoloured by the cutting of the lemon, Sir George coolly said, on Mr. Dashwood presenting it to him, “Child, that may do for a Midshipman, but not for an Admiral take it yourself, and send my servant to me.”
- See Vol. I. p. 692.
- Lieutenant Buller; see Vol. I. note at p. 655.
- Under the head of Admiral Theophilus Jones, at that time Captain of the Defiance, Vol. I. p. 242, will be found a copy of the horrible oath by which the Roman Catholics on board that ship bound themselves to murder every Protestant among her crew, and then proceed into an enemy’s port.
- See Vol. I. pp. 171, 452, 492, and 534; also Vol. II. p. 254 et seq.
- The Sylph’s main-mast was shot through in several places. Upwards of 250 large shot passed through her boom-mainsail alone.
- The enemy’s ship on this occasion displayed her colours.
- The gentleman alluded to above. The other officers mentioned by Captain Dashwood in those letters, were Mr. Burgess, the first Lieutenant; Messrs. Watts (acting Lieutenant), Allward (the Master), and John Mitchell (Master’s Mate); the whole of whom he highly commended.
- The French journals of that period also stated, that the Captain of her was tried by a court-martial, and condemned to be shot, for his conduct on that occasion; which sentence Buonaparte approved and ordered to be carried into execution.
- L’Artémise was destroyed, after having been chased on shore near Brest, by a part of the British blockading squadron, in 1808.
- Captain Dashwood’s letter respecting this exploit will appear in another place. His brother-in-law, the Hon. Almericus De Courcy, served as Midshipman under Lieutenant Oliver.
- The Captain of El Raposa, his first Lieutenant, the civil officers, and a boat’s crew, were on shore at the time their vessel was attacked and carried.
- The Magicienne was commanded by the late Captain Adam Mackenzie. See p. 236.
- The Aurora, Daedalus, Reindeer, and Pert, were in company with la Franchise at the capture of Samana.
- An account of the melancholy disaster which befel the St. George and Defence, will be found in the Nav. Chron. v. 28, pp. 113 and 210.
- See Vol. I. p. 637, et seq.
- The Hon. Admiral De Courcy died at his seat, Stoketon House, near Saltash, in Devonshire, Feb. 22, 1824.