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Royal Naval Biography/Fleming, Richard Howell


RICHARD HOWELL FLEMING, Esq.
Knight of the Royal Sicilian Order of St. Ferdinand and of Merit.
[Commander.]

This officer first embarked in April 1793, at the age of fourteen years, as a volunteer on board the Solebay frigate, Captain William Hancock Kelly, in which ship he was present at the reduction of Martinique, St. Lucia, and Guadaloupe, by the military and naval forces under Sir Charles Grey and Sir John Jervis, in March and April, 1794. On his return from the West Indies, in Nov. 1795, he was discharged and sent home by Captain Kelly’s successor (the present Sir Henry W. Bayntun), a favor not extended to any other of the crew. In Feb. 1796, he again volunteered, and was received on board the Romney 50, fitting out for the flag of Sir James Wallace, in which ship he served under Captains Frank Sotheron, John Bligh, and John Lawford, on the Newfoundland and North Sea stations, until invalided on account of a severe hurt in his knee, in Oct. 1798. When recovered, he shipped himself on board an East Indiaman, in which he made one voyage out and home; and on his return to England, in June, 1800, joined a transport employed in carrying dtores to the West Indies and Mediterranean, until paid off in May, 1802. He then entered into the revenue service, and continued till June, 1804; when we find him once more volunteering to serve afloat, under the flag of Sir Edward Pellew, with whom he soon afterwards sailed for India, in the Culloden 74.

While on that station, Mr. Fleming was successively removed into the Howe and Cornwallis frigates, the Harrier sloop, and Sir Edward Hughes 38; in which latter ship he returned home, under the command of Captain Edward Ratsey, about Oct. 1807. He afterwards re-visited the West Indies, in the York 74, Captain Robert Barton; and was appointed acting lieutenant of that ship by Sir Alexander Cochrane, Dec. 14th, 1808. During the subsequent operations against Martinique, he commanded a division of 100 seamen, landed to act in conjunction with the army under Lieutenant-General Beckwith. His first commission bears date Sept. 26th, 1809; previous to which he had witnessed the reduction of the island of Walcheren.

The York was next employed on the Mediterranean station, where Lieutenant Fleming appears to have served in that ship, and the Conqueror and Ajax 74’s, under Captains Barton, Edward Fellowes, and Sir Robert Laurie, until appointed by Sir Edward Pellew to the command of the Pylades (afterwards Carlotta) gun-brig, in Jan. 1812. While belonging to the Conqueror, he was sent with three boats under his orders to attempt cutting out an enemy’s armed vessel, lying at Arus, in the Gulph of Genoa ; but it being mid-day, and the military having collected in great force, he found himself under the necessity of relinquishing his object, with the loss of seventeen or eighteen men wounded – some mortally and all the rest severely. In the Carlotta, he captured several small vessels, including a French privateer, and partook of various services on the coasts of Tuscany and Genoa.

In April, 1813, Mr. Hugh Stewart Morris, midshipman of the Carlotta, was tried by a court-martial, for disobedience of orders, for embezzling, or designing to embezzle, the cargo of a prize settee, and for attempting to desert; as were also Francis Baynson and François Richie, seamen, for aiding him therein, and attempting to desert. It appeared in evidence, that the settee was detained on the 18th Oct. 1812, and the prisoner Morris sent on board to take charge of her, with orders to accompany the Carlotta to Malta. He, however, parted company on the night of the 10th, and went to Port St. Vito, from thence to Palermo, where he remained twenty days, and sold great part of the cargo. The morning after he sailed from Palermo, he proposed to the crew to sell the vessel and every thing remaining on board: he then directed the oakum to be picked out of her bottom, so as to cause a leak forward; and having anchored between Rochelle and Cephalu, landed the remainder of the cargo, and agreed with a Sicilian to sell it and the wreck for 373 doubloons; having done which, two holes were made underneath the counter, and the settee run on shore. From Cephalu, Morris and part of the crew, with whom he had divided the money, proceeded to Messina, where they continued some days, and were apprehended by the British deputy-quarter-master-general, as they were on the point of taking a boat to go over to Calabria. The Court decided that the charges had been proved against the three prisoners, and adjudged the following punishments; viz. Hugh Stewart Morris to be mulcted of all pay and prize-money then due to him, to be imprisoned two years in solitary confinement, and to be rendered incapable of ever again serving His Majesty, his heirs and successors, either as an officer or petty-officer. Francis Baynson to be mulcted of all pay and prize-money due to him, and to receive two hundred lashes. François Richie to be mulcted of all his pay and prize-money, and to be disposed of as a prisoner of war.

The Carlotta was paid off in Feb. 1815; and Lieutenant Fleming soon afterwards joined the Impregnable 98, bearing the flag of Sir Josias Rowley, from which ship he was appointed to the temporary command of the late Neapolitan sloop of war Joachim, May 22d following. In that vessel, he conveyed despatches from Naples to Palermo, announcing the surrender of the former capital; and subsequently served as a volunteer at the siege of Gaieta. The Impregnable appears to have been put out of commission in December, 1815.

Lieutenant Fleming’s last appointment was, July 3d, 1816, to the Queen Charlotte 120, fitting out for the flag of Lord Exmouth, and destined against Algiers. During the attack upon that “warlike city,” he commanded with great credit a battering-vessel (No. 5), mounting one 68-pounder; and after expending all his ammunition, blew up an ordnance sloop, charged with 143 barrels of gunpowder, close under the semicircular battery to the northward of the lighthouse; which must have operated very successfully as a diversion in favour of the severely mauled Impregnable. He obtained the rank of commander on the 17th Sept. 1816.

This officer was the first person who fully represented the sufferings of the Christians in slavery at Algiers; for which, and his subsequent services, the King of the Two Sicilies was pleased to confer upon him the Order of St. Ferdinand and Merit. He married, Jan. 8th, 1821, Eliza, daughter of P. George, Esq. of Berkeley Square, Bristol.