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Royal Naval Biography/Denman, Edmund

[Post-Captain of 1825.]

Entered the royal navy, in 1790, under the auspices of Admiral the Hon. Samuel Barrington; and was a midshipman on board the Royal Sovereign (first rate), bearing the flag of Admiral Thomas Graves, in the actions of May 28th and 29th, and at the glorious battle of June 1st, 1794[1]. He was also with the Hon. Vice-Admiral Cornwallis, when that distinguished veteran effected his memorable retreat from the French fleet, in June, 1795; a service for which the thanks of parliament were voted to him and his squadron[2].

Mr. Denman’s promotion to the rank of lieutenant took place, June 14th, 1796; and he was subsequently employed, on various occasions, in cutting out vessels from under the enemy’s batteries. On the 21st July, 1801, he had the misfortune to be wrecked, and taken prisoner, while serving as first of the Jason frigate. Captain the Hon. John Murray, stationed off St. Maloes[3]. His next appointment was, in April, 1803, to the Plantagenet 74, in which ship, successively commanded by Captains Graham Eden Hamond, the Hon. Michael De Courcy, Francis Pender, and William Bradley, he continued for a period of about five years, principally with the inshore squadron off Brest. Under the former officer, he assisted at the capture of le Courier de Terre Neuve, French privateer, of 16 guns and 54 men; and l’Atalante, of 22 guns and 120 men.

In May, 1808, Lieutenant Denman was appointed first of the Polyphemus 64, fitting out for the flag of Vice-Admiral Bartholomew S. Rowley, with whom he soon afterwards proceeded to the Jamaica station. In June, 1809, we find him commanding the night guard-boats of the squadron employed in the blockade of St. Domingo, under the orders of Captain William Pryce Cumby; and on the 1st July, he was entrusted by that officer with the charge of the seamen destined, if necessary, to assist in storming the city, then closely invested by an Anglo-Spanish military force. His services during the siege were thus publicly acknowledged by the British officers in command:–

Polyphemus, 7th July, 1809.

“Sir,– I have the satisfaction to announce to you the surrender of the French garrison in the city of St. Domingo, by which event the whole of the former possessions of the Spaniards in this island are happily restored to that nation * * * *. I trust I may be permitted to bear testimony to the vigilance and alacrity of those officers and men who were employed in the night guard-boats, by whose united exertions the enemy’s accustomed supply by sea was entirely cut off, and the surrender of the city greatly accelerated. * * *.

“Of the conduct of Lieutenant Denman, of this ship, and the detachment of seamen landed from the squadron, under his command, Major-General Carmichael is pleased to speak in high terms; and I have no doubt he will make a gratifying representation to you on this subject. * * * *.

(Signed)W. Pryce Cumby.”

To Vice-Admiral Rowley,
&c. &c. &c.

St. Carlos, July 9th, 1809.

“Sir,– In consequence of a letter I have received from Captain Cumby, commander of his Majesty’s squadron, expressing his desire that you should re-embark the seamen and guns[4] under your command, I request you will take such measures us you may think proper, and have the goodness to inform me of any assistance in my power to provide for expediting that service.

“I cannot close this without expressing my warmest thanks for the uncommon zeal and exertions of yourself and those under your command, which I have not failed to make known in my despatches to his Majesty’s Secretary of State and the Commander-in-Chief of his Majesty’s naval forces at Jamaica. I have the honor to be, &c.

(Signed)Hu. Lyle: Carmichael., Major-General.”

Lieut. Denman, R.N.

Palanque, July 15th, 1809.

“Sir,– I do myself the honor to make known to your Excellency, that having got the whole of the ordnance stores landed, and as many of them conveyed to Savana Grandé as it is practicable to move with the means in our possession. Lieutenant Denman and the seamen under his command have returned to their ships, their services not being any longer required on shore, at least at this place.

“It is with infinite pleasure I take advantage of the earliest opportunity of expressing to your Excellency my unqualified approbation of the deportment of the whole of that detachment; but the zeal and unwearied attentions of Lieutenant Denman, as well to the various and fatiguing duties necessarily imposed upon him and his people attached to us, as to the men under his charge, demand my more particular notice of him, and I hope your Excellency will therefore admit of my recommending him to your attention as an officer of great merit. I have the honor to be, &c.

(Signed)F. Smith, Brig. Gen. commanding Royal Artillery.”

His Excellency Major-General Carmichael.

St. Domingo, 15th July, 1809.

“Sir,– I had great pleasure in receiving from Lieutenant-Colonel Smith, commanding the royal artillery, a report of his proceeding with the ordnance from Palanque, in which he states, in the strongest terms, the assistance he received from you, the officers, and seamen under your command, to whose unwearied and indefatigable exertions he bears the most handsome testimony, and by which he was enabled to proceed towards the enemy, against impediments that would have been otherwise insurmountable.

“From the mention made of you by Captain Cumby, I certainly expected every possible aid, in which I was not disappointed; and I have only to regret that the speedy surrender of the enemy did not afford an opportunity to the British seamen and soldiers of more fully proving, upon the walls of St. Domingo, their united loyalty and patriotism.

“Those sentiments I thought it justice to make known to Vice-Admiral Rowley and Captain Cumby as also to mention in my public despatches; – and if this letter, or any means in my power can be of service in forwarding your wishes, it will be a gratification to me. I have the honor to be. Sir, your most obedient and sincere humble servant,

(Signed)Hu. Lyle: Carmichael, Major-General, &c. &c.”

Lieut. Denman, H.M.S. Polyphemus.

After this event, Mr. Denman acted as flag-lieutenant to Vice-Admiral Rowley, and was by him promoted to the command of the Shark sloop, at Port Royal, in Dec. 1809; an appointment confirmed by the Admiralty^ Feb. 17th, 1810. He subsequently commanded the Challenger, Sparrow, and Sappho sloops, on the Jamaica station, where he captured the piratical brig Salamine, of 20 guns, formerly an English merchantman.

On the 7th of June, 1814, Captain Denman was appointed to the Redpole sloop, employed on the Downs station, under the orders of Vice-Admiral (now Sir Thomas) Foley, by whom his services were likewise acknowledged to have been active and useful. In this vessel, he conveyed many illustrious personages from England to the continent, – among whom were their Royal and Serene Highnesses the Hereditary Prince of Orange, the Crown Prince of Bavaria, Princes Charles and William of Brunswick, Prince Paul of Wirtemberg, and Louis Philippe, Duke of Orleans. The following letters were subsequently addressed to him:

Salzburgh, August 19th, 1814.

“My dear Captain Denman, – I give myself the pleasure of sending you, herewith, a little remembrance, which I beseech you to accept of as a token of my esteem, and a proof of the satisfaction I had of getting acquainted with so brave and gallant an officer of the English navy. The fair entertainment you gave to me and my suite, and the cheerful moments I passed on board the Redpole, are reckoned amongst the number of the most pleasant ones I spent in England. I am, my dear Captain Denman, your most affectionate,

(Signed)“Lewis, Prince Royal.”

Brunswick, 16th September, 1814.

“Dear Captain, – The instant we arrived at this place, I communicated to the Duke all the kindness and attention which his dear children and their tutor had received at your hands, during our stay on board your ship, and got his instructions to write the following letter to General Bloomfield, at Carlton House.

“‘By command of His Serene Highness the Duke of Brunswick, Mr. Prince respectfully requests Major-General Bloomfield to acquaint His Royal Highness the Prince Regent of the safe arrival of His Royal Highness’s late wards at Brunswick. As their safety during, though a short, yet very unpleasant passage, occasioned by tempestuous contrary winds, was owing to the unremitting attention of Captain Denman, of His Majesty’s sloop Redpole, who brought them over, the Duke of Brunswick thinks it his duty to recommend in the strongest manner. Captain Denman to His Royal Highness’s most gracious notice, for such favor and promotion as His Serene Highness is informed are usually granted on such occasions.’

“In the hope, my dear Sir, that this recommendation will not fail of the desired success, and with the most grateful sense of all your truly kind attentions, I remain, dear Sir, yours ever obliged,

(Signed)T. Prince.”

To Captain Denman, H.M. Sloop Redpole.

In the early part of Napoleon Buonaparte’s last reign. Captain Denman forwarded to Mr. Croker, then Secretary to the Admiralty, some important information, and several French newspapers, which he had obtained under peculiar circumstances and personal risk: – the receipt of his first communication was thus acknowledged:

Admiralty, Mar. 29th. 1815.

“Sir,– I have had the honor of receiving your letter of the 27th, and beg you will accept my thanks for the information it conveys. I shall be obliged by your continuing to keep me informed by your private letters of any intelligence which may reach you unofficially. I have the honor to be. Sir, your most obliged humble servant,

(Signed)W. Croker.”

Captain Denman, H.M.S. Redpole, Downs.

After the landing of the British troops at Ostend, Captain Denman was ordered by Rear-Admiral Matthew Henry Scott to survey the anchorage outside of that port, and to point out the best description of gun-vessels for its protection. He was subsequently entrusted with the command of a light squadron stationed in the Scheldt, to co-operate with Admiral Van Braam, for the protection of Cadsand from surprise by a coup-de-main; and he had the satisfaction to find his suggestions for the destruction of the forts on that island readily adopted by the Dutch Government, and highly approved by his own. On the 28th of June, Mr. Croker again wrote to him, as follows:

“Dear Sir,– I have received your letter of the 27th, and am very much obliged to you for having had the kindness to give me the information it contains. I am, Dear Sir, your faithful humble servant,

(Signed)J. W. Croker.”

The Redpole formed part of Napoleon’s escort to St. Helena, from whence she returned home with Sir George Cockburn’s despatches, announcing the safe custody of his ex-majesty. While there, Captain Denman was invited by his old naval friend Mr. Balcombe, to spend an evening in the society of Buonaparte; on which occasion he was seated at the same whist table with that celebrated personage, and enabled to possess himself of some highly interesting anecdotes which he related, of distinguished public characters who had figured in political life during his extraordinary career.

Captain Denman’s last appointment was, in 1819, to be the Superintending Commander of H.M. ships and vessels in ordinary at Plymouth, which he held during the customary period of three years. On his retirement from that important service, the following letter was addressed to him by Commissioner Shield:–

Dock Yard, 8th April, 1822.

“Dear Sir,– I have to acknowledge your obliging communications of Saturday last, and I beg to assure you, that I feel gratified by the kind terms in which you express the intercourse which has prevailed between us during your employment in the Ordinary; your unceasing attention, and zealous performance of your duty had not passed unobserved by me, – on the contrary, I felt much satisfaction in the confidence your conduct impressed on my mind, that the condition of the Ordinary would be preserved by your attention, in the excellent order it was left by Captain Shortland. I beg to offer you what I consider the best wish, which is that you may be soon promoted, and brought again into service at an early period. With every other kind wish for you and yours, I remain, Dear Sir, ever your faithful humble Servant,

(Signed)Wm. Shield.”

To Captain Denman.

This officer obtained the rank of captain, May 27th, 1825. His eldest son, Charles J. J. Denman, a first lieutenant in the Hon. Company’s artillery, died in India, in 1824, aged 21 years.

Agent.– J. P. Muspratt, Esq.