Royal Naval Biography/Gilmour, David


DAVID GILMOUR, Esq.
[Commander.]

Was born at Portsea in 1775, and had his name entered on the books of the Atalante sloop, Captain Thomas Marshall, in April, 1779. He first went to sea in a merchant ship, under the care of the late Captain Nathaniel Portlock, to whom, in 1785, a company of merchants, under the title of the “King George’s Sound Company,” had entrusted the command of an expedition intended to establish a trade in furs, between the western coast of America and China. On the 15th Nov. (a few days after the departure of the ships from St. Iago), he fell overboard from the main-rigging, and was some time in the water before he could be picked up. “Early the next morning,” says Mr. Portlock, “we caught a shark, which had the greatest part of a large porpoise in his maw: this gave us fresh cause of thankfulness for the preservation of young Gilmour.” The result of the speculation in which Mr. Portlock was then engaged will be seen by reference to p. 366 of Suppl. Part II.

In June, 1789, Mr. Gilmour joined the Guardian 44, armed en flûte, commanded by Lieutenant Edward Riou, and laden with stores destined for the new settlement at Port Jackson. The following is an authentic narrative of the disaster which befel that ship, after her departure from the Cape of Good Hope; – a disaster surmounted by the most intrepid conduct, and terminated by the most miraculous preservation; – a disaster, which had the effect of raising her commander and his courageous adherents – at once – from obscurity to fame:

“On the 24th Dec. 1789, being in lat. 44° S., long. 41° 30' E., the weather extremely foggy, an island of ice was seen about three miles to the S.W. Lieutenant Riou stood towards it, in order to collect lumps ofF ice to supply the ship with water. This proceeding was judged highly expedient, as the daily demand of water was prodigious, owing to the great quantity of cattle on board. As the ship approached the island, the boats were hoisted out, and several lumps collected. During this time the ship lay to; and on the supply of water being brought on board, sail was made to stand off. Very little apprehension was at this time entertained of her safety, although the monstrous size of the island had not only a great effect on the wind, but had caused a strong in-draft. On a sudden, the bow of the ship struck upon a part of the island, which projected under water considerably beyond the visible limits of it. She instantly swung round, and her stern coming on the shoal, struck repeatedly; her rudder was knocked off, and her stem-frame almost beat to pieces.

“The ship in this situation became in a degree embayed under the terrific bulk of ice; the height of which was twice that of the main-mast of a ship of the line.

“At this critical moment. Lieutenant Riou and his officers, retaining their spirit, their example and vigorous exertions led the people to their duty; but it was with difficulty they were prevailed on to overcome their first panic, and lend their assistance to trim and fill the sails. This being at last effected, and the fore-top-gallant-sail and stay-sails between the fore and main-mast being set, she began to forge off, and the same instant struck with greater force, if possible, than before, nearly abreast of the main-chains, kept crashing for some time along the ice under her, and at last shot entirely clear of it. The weather continued very foggy, and the wind blowing strong, they soon lost sight of the ice, and began to comfort themselves with the hope that no very considerable damage had been sustained, excepting the loss of the rudder. This cheering prospect soon vanished, and a damp was suddenly thrown upon their spirits, when, at a quarter past eight o’clock, the carpenter came up from sounding the well, and reported two feet water in the hold, and that it was increasing very fast. the pumps were ordered to be rigged and got to work. The chain-pumps were at first found to be much out of order, which caused some delay. Mean time as many hands as could be spared were set to work to clear the deck of the cattle, &c. About nine o’clock all the pumps were at work. Three or four of the people were left between decks to hoist up, and heave overboard whatever they could manage. The water at this time had increased to three feet and a half, and was still gaining on the pumps. The few hands left between decks did almost more than their strength could be expected to effect: in the course of half an hour they got up and hove overboard most of the bags of flour, pease, wheat, barley, &c. received at the Cape of Good Hope, besides two hogsheads of tobacco. At ten, the water had increased to five feet. Since the first of their misfortunes, every officer and man had been employed; and it was impossible for them to hold out much longer in this laborious work. Lieutenant Riou therefore determined to divide the officers, seamen, convicts, &c. into two watches, to relieve alternately. At about half-past ten the first division went to the pumps; and each man was ordered a dram and other refreshments, which seemed to give them fresh spirits. At midnight the water had increased to six feet, and it was then blowing a very strong gale. At day-light on the 25th, a few hands were set about filling one of the lower studding-sails with oakum, which they found some difficulty to get under the ship’s bottom. By unwearied exertions at the pumps, the leak became reduced, and continued to diminish until eleven o’clock, when there was only nineteen inches. In half an hour the leak began again to gain upon them, and a second sail was fothered and got under the bottom; but the gale was so strong, attended with a heavy sea, which broke frequently over the ship, that it had little, if any effect. At four in the afternoon, Mr. Clements, the master, went down by the way of the rudder into the gun-room, and from thence into the bread and spirit-rooms, to endeavour to discover the leak; not being able to succeed, it was thought necessary to scuttle the deck close aft, which being out of the roll of the water, would enable them to get up and throw overboard some of the provisions and stores.

“This being done, Mr. Riou, the chaplain, the purser, and two men were employed in this business; but unfortunately in endeavouring to get up a cask, it fell back on Mr. Riou, and bruised his hand in so shocking a manner, as to disable him from giving any farther assistance. They then gave up all farther attempts to lighten the ship in this part, and again assisted at the pumps.

“At midnight the water had increased to four feet and a half; at the same time the winch of the starboard pump breaking, it became disabled, and the water at six in the morning had increased to seven feet; the night had also been very tempestuous, and by the violence of the wind the fore and main-top-sails were blown to pieces, and the ship left entirely at the mercy of a most tremendous sea. The people began to break off from the pumps, and to secrete themselves, and could only be kept to their duty by threatening to have them thrown overboard. They were kept ignorant of the true state of the ship, until one of the carpenters stationed to sound the well, came up, and reported that the water was as high as the orlop-deck, and gaining above a foot every half hour. The officers could not possibly suppress this report; and many of the people, who were really unable to bear the fatigue any longer, immediately desponded, and gave themselves up to perish with the ship. A part of those who had any strength left, seeing that their utmost efforts to save the ship were likely to be in vain, applied to the officers for the boats, which were promised to be got in readiness for them, and the boatswain was directly ordered to put the masts, sails, and compass in each. The cooper was also set to work to fill a few quarter-casks of water out of some of the butts on deck; and provisions and other necessaries were got up from the hold.

“Many hours previous to this. Lieutenant Riou had privately declared to his officers, that he saw the final loss of the ship was inevitable; and could not help regretting the loss of so many brave fellows. “As for me” said he, “I have determined to remain in the ship, and shall endeavour to make my presence useful as long as there is any occasion for it.

“He was entreated to give up this desperate resolution, and try for safety in the boats; it was even hinted to him how highly criminal it was to persevere in such a determination; but he was not to be moved by any supplications.

“He was, notwithstanding, as active in providing for the safety of the boats, as if he had intended to take the opportunity of securing his own escape. Indeed he was throughout as calm and collected as in the happier moments of his life.

“At seven o’clock the ship had settled considerably abaft, and the water was coming in at the rudder-case in great quantities. At half-past seven, the water in the hold obliged the people to come upon deck; the ship appeared to be in a sinking state, and settling bodily down: it was therefore almost immediately agreed to have recourse to the boats. While the other officers were engaged in consultation on this melancholy business, Mr. Riou wrote the following letter to the Admiralty, which he delivered to Mr Clements.

H.M. Ship Guardian, Dec. 25th, 1789.

“If any part of the officers or crew of the Guardian should ever survive to get home, I have only to say, that their conduct after the fatal stroke against an island of ice, was admirable and wonderful in every thing that relates to their duty, considered either as private men, or in his Majesty’s’ service. As there seems to be no possibility of my remaining many hours in this world, I beg leave to recommend to the consideration of the Admiralty a sister, who, if my conduct or services should be found deserving any memory, their favour might be shewn to, together with a widowed mother. I am Sir, with great respect, your ever obedient servant,

(Signed)E. Riou.”

To Philip Stevens, Esq.

“He then ordered the boats to be hoisted out. In order to afford a change of safety to as many as he could with propriety. They were fortunately all got into the water with very little damage; but the sea running so high it was with difficulty they were kept from being stove alongside. The launch being forced to drop on the quarter, to make room for the two cutters, was nearly drawn under the quarter and sunk, and at last obliged to cast adrift from the ship, with only seven or eight men on board, and without any provisions or water. A coil of rope was then handed from the quarter gallery, and passed over to Mr. Somerville, the gunner, in the jolly-boat, which hung over the stern. This boat, on being lowered down, was drawn under and sunk. As soon as the launch had again rowed a little near to the ship, one of the people in her caught hold of a rope, until the cutters brought them provisions, &c. and veered to a good distance astern. A small quantity of biscuit, and an eighteen gallon cask of water, was then let down between the main and mizen chains into the small cutter. The purser then got into the main-chains, and from thence leaped into her; Mr. Wadman and Mr. Tremlett likewise fortunately got into her. The boat was with great difficulty rowed clear of the ship, and steered for the launch.

“The agitation of mind on this melancholy occasion may be better imagined than, described. Mr. Riou was walking the quarter-deck, and seemed happy the boat had got safe from alongside. The ship was drifting astern, and sliding fast in the water. Mr. Clements began to be afraid she would drive upon the launch; and called to the crew to cut the tow-rope, and row out of the ship’s wake.

“Mr. Somerville, who was looking over the ship’s stern, hearing the order, prayed them to hold fast a moment, and he would jump overboard and swim to them: he did so, and was followed by John Spearman a sea-man, who were both taken on board; the boat then cut, and rowed out of the ship’s track. The launch soon got alongside of the cutter, out of which they took two bags of biscuit, and a cask of water. The Rev. Mr. Crowther, Mr. Clements, Mr. Tremlett, Mr. Wadman, and the purser, with two more of the men, got into the launch, and the cutter was ordered back to the ship for further supplies, and to receive as many of the people as could with safety be taken on board.

“The crew of the cutter could not be prevailed on to return, but rowed off to some distance, and lay-by. In her were Mr. Brady, midshipman, Mr. Fletcher, captain’s clerk, and five seamen.

“The jolly-boat had put off from the ship without either provisions, water, compass, or quadrant, and rowed towards the launch in hopes of either getting relief from her, or the crew to be taken on board; but she had already fifteen people in her, which were as many as she could with safety carry; and the quantity of provisions was very inadequate to support such a number, who had 411 leagues to traverse in a boisterous ocean, without any means of relief.

“There being a spare compass and quadrant in the launch, Mr. Clements handed them into the jolly-boat. At this time one of the convicts attempted to get into the launch, but was opposed by the crew, and pushed into the sea. This man in the struggle caught hold of Mr. Clements, who was with difficulty saved from being pulled out of the boat along with him. The people in the jolly-boat picked the unfortunate fellow up again, and then took to their oars, and rowed close up to the launch, as if determined to board her by force. To prevent, therefore, any scuffle, it was agreed immediately to make sail, and they took their final departure from this scene of misery and distress at about nine o’clock. The ship at this time appeared sunk down to her upper-deck ports. The large cutter and jolly-boat made sail after the launch; the latter almost instantly filled and went down. The other cutter remained hanging on at some distance from the ship. At half-past eleven they lost eight of the ship and boats, and shaped their course as much to the northward as the wind, then at N.W. would permit.

“Dec. 26th. – Strong gales, squally and cloudy weather, with remarkable high seas. We were this night very much benumbed and chilled with cold, and could get no sleep. In the morning the weather became more moderate. At four o’clock shifted the fore-mast to its proper place; stepped the main-mast, and set the fore and main-sails; at eight the people were employed to make a main-top-sail out of some sheets, and a yard out of one of the boat’s thwarts; the handle of a broken oar was converted into a top-mast; a small tobacco canister was cut up to make a measure for the distribution of water, rather lest than a gill, two of which it was agreed to allow each man a day.

“Dec. 27th. – First part moderate breezes and cloudy weather. At one p.m., having boiled all our poultry, and cut up a goose, which was but small, into fifteen equal parts, one of the men forward was then blind-folded, and directed to call each person by name, and another was appointed to serve out the morsel by lots. Notwithstanding we had now fasted above thirty hours, ail were perfectly satisfied with the slender allowance; and some had so little appetite, that they reserved a part of it for a future occasion. But the very scanty measure of water received afterwards, by no means allayed the universal craving for drink, evidently occasioned by the excessive heat and feverish state of our bodies. We did not dare, however, to take one drop more than the prescribed allowance: we therefore, through necessity, became philosophers, and submitted with becoming resolution to the exigencies of the moment. At seven we received our second measure of water, which being succeeded by the coldness of the night, administered greatly to our relief. At midnight it blew a fresh gale, with dark, cloudy, and remarkably cold weather. The launch was at this time brought under her main-sail only, and the weather continuing much the same, no alteration was made throughout the day.

“Dec. 28th. – The first part fresh gales and cloudy weather, middle more moderate. About noon we had one of the fowls cut up, and divided amongst us, as on the preceding day, and then received our gill of water. The heat and fever of our bodies increased, and our lips began to break out in watery and ulcerous blisters. This day one of the crew being afraid of famishing, requested his whole quantity of water for the day at one serving, which Mr. Clements opposed: he therefore had recourse to salt water, of which he drank freely. At five in the morning got the top-mast up, and set the sail; at ten, fresh gales; lowered and took in the top-sail. In these seas are vast numbers of sea-fowl flying about; and had we been fortunate enough to have had a fowling-piece, we could not have been much at a loss for provisions: powder and shot we had in store, and two brace of pistols, but we were unable to do any execution with them.

“Dec. 29th. – This day cut up and delivered our last fowl, and shared our water as before. At day-break, strong gales, with flying showers of rain, from[errata 1] which we endeavoured to benefit as much as possible, by facing the weather with our mouths open, and handkerchiefs spread out; but the drifting moisture was so thin and lights that we were barely able to catch sufficient to wet our lips. This morning we received a small thimble full; of rum each, which was occasionally allowed.

“Dec. 30th. – We were this day reduced to a very low ebb indeed, and could not eat the smallest crumb, till supplied with an additional measure of water to moisten our lips, which were almost held together by a tough viscid phlegm, that could not be expectorated but with the greatest difficulty. On this occasion we dipped our bit of biscuit in the water, and afterwards supped a little of it with each mouthful, to force it down. The butter, cheese, and hams, were left free for the use of every one; for they were found to occasion greater thirst, and therefore remained almost untouched. Several of the crew had again recourse to the salt water, which appeared not to have any bad effects.

“Dec. 31st. – We again suffered greatly this day, from the burning heat of the sun, and the parched state of our bodies, and were allowed an additional measure of water, with a larger portion of rum than usual; in which we soaked our bit of biscuit, and made our meal of it. About four in the afternoon the clouds began to shew for rain, and we made preparations accordingly; but were so unfortunate as to see it fall in heavy showers all around us, and had barely as much over the boat as would wet our handkerchiefs.

“The people this day appeared to be in a more hopeless state than ever, and discovered signs of disrespect to their officers; which was, however, happily checked in time by the spirited conduct of the gunner, who chastised the leader in the face of the whole crew, and restored discipline. Many of the people this day drank their own urine, and others tried the salt water. The weather was this day more warm and sultry than at any time since our misfortune.

“Jan. 1st, 1790. – We dined this day as on the preceding, and in general appeared in better spirits, which we considered on account of its being the first day of the new year, a happy presage of our safety.

“Jan. 2d. – Clear weather till about four in the afternoon, when it became overcast, and blew a fresh gale: we had before this dined on our usual fare of biscuit and water, with half a measure of rum, and were all in tolerable spirits; but the gale increasing during the night, and the sea running immensely high, brought us again into great danger, which, with the disappointment of not seeing land in the morning, as expected, reduced us to our former miserable state of despondency. At eight in the evening the fore-sail was shifted to the main-mast, and the boat sailed under it reefed till about six in the morning, when the mizen was set on the fore-mast to give her greater steerage way. At noon the latitude was observed 33° 19' and supposed longitude cast of Greenwich 34° 15'.

“Jan. 3d. – About seven in the evening the clouds put on the appearance of very heavy rain; but unfortunately broke over in a more dreadful storm of thunder and lightning, attended with gusts of wind, and very little rain, succeeded by a violent gale of several hours from the S.W. in which we were near perishing. On this occasion the master and the gunner succeeded each other at the helm, and by their experience and judgment in the management of the boat, we were this night enabled to traverse in safety an ocean of such fierce and tremendous seas, in different directions, as we could scarcely allow ourselves the hope of escaping.

“At day-break the gunner, who was then at the helm, discovered a ship at a little distance from us, under her bare poles. Our joy at this sight was great beyond expression; and, anxious to secure so favorable an occasion, we immediately made more sail, and between five and six o’clock passed close under her stern, and informed her people of our distresses. We then veered about, and put alongside her on the other tack.

“The people on board her crouded immediately to our assistance, and received us in the most friendly manner. As soon as we were alongside, several of them jumped in, and assisted in keeping the boat from being stove.

“This ship was named the Viscountess de Bretagne, a French merchantman, Martin Doree, master, with part of Walsh’s, or 95th regiment, from the Isle of France, to touch at the Cape of Good Hope for a supply of water and provisions, on her way to Europe. The officers of this corps were unbounded in their friendship and attention towards us, affording us every possible comfort, and even giving up their beds for our use.

“Jan. 18th. – At noon anchored in Table Bay, Cape of Good Hope.”

“We will now proceed to relate the perilous situation of the Guardian, left at the mercy of Providence in a most boisterous ocean, with little prospect but by his Almighty assistance, of ever again seeing, much less reaching a port. Lieutenant Riou, with that manly firmness and perseverance which will ever reflect the highest honor on him as a man and an officer, was indefatigable in his efforts to preserve the ship, and by his noble example encouraged the remaining crew to use every exertion in their power to this effect. He had not only to struggle against the boisterous element in which this melancholy accident had happened, but also to discover means by which he could divert the minds of a desponding crew, worn down with fatigue, and despairing of ever being relieved from their miserable situation. A still greater difficulty with which he had to contend, was the discontent frequently manifested by his people; and which was only prevented from breaking out into an open violation of his orders, by the firm and resolute conduct he displayed, and the strict discipline be maintained, even in the midst of the almost insurmountable difficulties and dangers with which he was surrounded. The people at one time had carried their disobedience so far, as to threaten his life; and had absolutely completed a raft made of the booms, on which they were determined to take their chance, rather than remain any longer on board the ship: fortunately, however, at the instant, it was about to be launched, a favorable breeze sprung up, when, with a presence of mind possessed by few men, Lieutenant Riou, by his remonstrances, prevailed on them to give up a plan which must inevitably have plunged them into certain destruction. The Guardian continued driving about, chiefly at the mercy of the wind and sea; though at times, in moderate weather, Lieutenant Riou was enabled to keep her head the course he wished to steer; and sometimes she was forced through the water at the rate of four knots an hour. At length on the 21st of February, 1700, to their inexpressible joy, land was discovered; and by the assistance of two whale boats, which were sent out from a British ship lying in Table Bay, the Guardian was towed into safe anchorage, by which , this excellent officer and his companions were preserved from utter destruction[1].

“On the 22d, a Dutch packet being about to sail for Europe, Mr. Riou sent by her the following letter:–

Table Bay, Feb. 22d, 1790

“Sir,– I hope this letter will reach you before any account can he given of the loss of H.M. ship Guardian: if it should, I am to beg you will make known to their Lordships, that on the 23d of December the ship struck on an island of ice; and that on the 25th, all hope of her safety being banished, I consented to as many of the officers and people taking to the hands as thought proper. But it has pleased Almighty God to assist my endeavours, with the remaining part of the crew, to arrive with his Majesty’s ship in this bay yesterday. A Dutch packet is now under sail for Europe, which prevents me from giving any further particulars; especially as at this instant I find it more necessary than ever to exert myself, to preserve the ship from sinking at her anchors. I am, Sir, most respectfully, ever your obedient servant,

(Signed)E. Riou.”

“After this Lieutenant Riou was in hopes he should be able to get the ship round to Saldanha Bay, where he might have a chance to repair and put her in such a condition, as to return to Europe; but notwithstanding his unceasing exertions to gain this point, he was baffled in the attempt; as she continued to make so much water, that he was at length obliged to run her on the beach in Table Bay.

The persons saved in the Guardian were, besides Lieutenant Riou, the Hon. Thomas Pitt (afterwards Lord Camelford), and Messrs. John Gore and David Gilmour, midshipmen; John Williams, boatswain; Murray Sampson, carpenter; John Fairclough, surgeon’s-mate; thirty seamen and boys, twenty-one convicts, three of their superintendants, and one female. This singular preservation was attributed, under Divine Providence, to the casks in the hold pressing against the lower-deck, the hatches of which were excessively strong, and caulked down. She was completely stove in under the counter, and had a very large hole in her bows, by which the ballast washed out and rendered her more buoyant. On her arrival at the Cape she was nothing more than a floating raft.

“The good and gallant Riou,” as he was emphatically styled by our greatest naval hero, subsequently commanded the Rose, Beaulieu, and Amazon frigates; in the latter of which ships he was killed at the battle of Copenhagen, April 2d, 1801. There is a monument to his memory in the cathedral church of St. Paul’s.

Mr. David Gilmour next joined the Druid frigate. Captain Joseph Ellison, on the Channel station; and served under that respectable officer from Oct. 1790 until May, 1791; at which latter period he was removed into the Assistance, a vessel of 110 tons, fitting out as a tender to “Bounty Bligh,” who was then about to return to Otaheite, for the purpose of conveying bread-fruit from thence to the West Indies[2]. On this occasion, 12,000 of those trees were taken on board at Otaheite, and 3000 landed in good condition at St. Vincent’s and Jamaica.

Shortly after his return home, Mr. Gilmour was promoted to the rank of lieutenant, by commission dated Feb. 29th, 1794; between which period and Sept. 1799, he successively served in the Pomona frigate (latterly called Amphitrite), Cumberland 74, and Arrow sloop, on the Mediterranean, Channel, and North Sea stations: the officers he served under in those ships were Captains Henry D’Esterre Darby, Lord Augustus Fitzroy, the Hon. Charles Herbert, Bartholomew S. Rowley, Robert Montagu, and Nathaniel Portlock. His promotion to the rank of commander was the result of an action thus officially described:–

"H.M.S. Arrow, Sept. 20th, 1799.

“Sir,– I have the honor to state to you, that in obedience to your orders of the 9th instant, I immediately got under weigh, accompanied by the Wolverene, and proceeded on the service you did me the particular honor to entrust to my care.

“On the evening of that day, the tide of flood being done, we anchored abreast of the Texel; and on the afternoon of the following day we anchored on the edge of the Flack or Flat, abreast of Wieringen. At this anchorage I found it necessary to lighten the ship, which was very speedily done, bringing her from twelve feet eight inches to twelve feet; and on the day following we turned over the Flack, carrying shoal water from one side to the other. On the morning of the 12th instant we weighed again, and proceeded on for the Vlie Island, on approaching which, we saw a ship and brig at anchor in the narrow passage leading from it towards Harlingen: it was soon perceived that they were vessels of force, and bearing the Batavian republican colours. We approached,, the British and ancient Dutch colours flying together, until within half gun-shot of the brig, she being the nearest to us, without either of them changing, their colours: the Dutch ensigns were then hauled down, and I made the signal to engage the enemy as coming up with them, meaning the Wolverene to engage the brig and to pass on to the ship myself.

“Captain Bolton anchored his ship in the most masterly and gallant manner, and just in the position I could have wished, which was on his weather-quarter, at a quarter of a cable distance, and so as to have enabled me, had it been necessary, to give the enemy a broadside in passing, without annoying the Wolverene; and after heaving on his spring until his broadside bore on the brig, fired one shot just to try his disposition, upon which the enemy fired three guns to leeward, and hauled down his colours.

“I made the signal for the Wolverene to take charge of the prize, and desired the officer sent on board to send her pilot to conduct the Arrow to the ship (my Dutch pilots having declined the charge), and requested of Captain Bolton to follow me to the Jetting Passage, where the ship lay, and then pushed on towards her. We had to turn to windward towards the enemy against a strong lee-tide, which retarded our progress much; she lay with springs on her cables, and her broadside opposed directly to our approach, and for twenty minutes before we could bring a gun to bear with effect on her, annoyed us very much, and cut us up a good deal in the hull, sails, and rigging; but after bringing the ship up by the stern and head in a very narrow passage at about a quarter of a cable from him, the contest became smart, but was short; for she struck in about fifteen minutes after we commenced our fire upon her, and just before the Wolverene (which was pressing on in the most gallant manner to my aid) came up. I sent my first lieutenant to take possession of her. and found her to be the Batavian guard-ship De Draak, commanded by Captain-Lieutenant Van Esch, mounting 24 guns, sixteen of them long Dutch 18-pounders, two long English 32-pounders, six 50-pound howitzers, and 180 men. From the howitzers I rather suppose langridge was fired, as several pieces of iron were picked up in the ship after the action was over. Our loss in killed and wounded (considering the length of time we had to advance on her under every disadvantage, such as being exposed to her raking fire for about twenty minutes, working the ship in a very narrow navigation, shortening sail, and anchoring) h very small, having only to lament at present the death of one brave man. There are nine wounded, some of them badly, and myself slightly in the left knee.

“The loss of the enemy I have not as yet been able to ascertain; but two dead and three badly wounded were found on board her, and from the appearance of great quantities of blood, &c. covered with taupaulins, which Captain Bolton discovered, I am led to think it has been very considerable: indeed some of them confess that a number of wounded men[errata 2] were put into a boat and sent to Harlingen immediately upon the ship striking; and from the number they at present muster not agreeing with the establishment, I am induced to believe that was the case.

“On my going on board the Draak I found that she had been built for a sheer hulk, and converted into a guard-ship; she being extremely old, her masts and rigging very much cut, and the vessel altogether unfit for his Majesty’s service, determined me to destroy her. I therefore directed Captain Bolton to perform that duty, which he did effectually, by burning her. The service performed, we weighed and proceeded towards the Vlie Island, at which place we anchored on the 15th instant. I immediately sent Captain Bolton to take possession of the Batavian ship Dolphin, riding at anchor close to the town. She had on our anchoring hoisted the Orange colours, and the same step was taken on the island. A person came off from the municipality, who consented to surrender the island to the Government of the Prince of Orange; and I have the honor to request yon will be pleased to direct some persons to be sent as soon as convenient to take upon themselves the arrangement and management of civil affairs there.

“The island of Scheling has not yet adopted the same step; I shall therefore, if it meets your approbation, take the necessary measures to induce them to do it.

“To the captains and officers I have given paroles, which measure I hope will meet your wishes. The prisoners from the ship and brig, amounting to about two hundred and thirty, I have put on board the Dolphin, until I know your pleasure respecting them; I think they will mostly volunteer for the Prince’s service; the command of the Dolphin I have given (until your pleasure is known) to Lieutenant M‘Dougal of the Wolverene: this officer, from his zeal at all times, from Captain Bolton’s report, but particularly so on the service we were at present employed, I think, Sir, will merit your protection. And now. Sir, permit me to have the honor of expressing to you the sentiments of gratitude I feel at the conduct of all those employed under me in this little expedition; each individual has behaved well. To Captain Bolton, his officers, and ship’s company, I am particularly indebted for the gallant manner in which he pushed his ship on, in attempting our assistance; indeed I cannot but acknowledge the greatest obligations to Captain Bolton for his counsel at all times.

“To the officers of every description, seamen, and marines of the Arrow, I cannot sufficiently express my approbation of their cool and determined bravery; they acquitted themselves as Britons. To Mr. Gilmour, my first lieutenant, the greatest praise is due, for the prompt manner in which he caused my orders to be executed in bringing the ship to an anchor under a heavy fire from the enemy; I therefore take the liberty of recommending this zealous good officer to your protection; he is an old follower of mine, has been two voyages round the world with me, and was one of the three young midshipmen that remained with Lieutenant Riou during the distress of his Majesty’s ship Guardian; I therefore hope my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty will deem him worthy of promotion. I have given him the temporary command of the Batavian republican brig Gier, and shall send her round to the Texel as soon as possible. She mounts fourteen long Dutch 12-pounders, with a complement of eighty men. She is a most complete vessel, quite new, copper-bottomed, well found, and never yet at sea, and in every respect fit for his Majesty’s service, only wanting men. I mean to take four of her guns out, for the purpose of arming four schuyts to act hereabouts, either on the defensive or offensive. I have the honor to be, &c.

(Signed)N. Portlock.”

Statement of the British and Dutch force.

“British. – 40 guns and 180 men. Dutch. – 54 guns and 380 men.

To Vice-Admiral Mitchell.

Lieutenant Gilmour’s promotion took place, Sept. 28th, 1799; and he subsequently commanded the Hermes, of 18 guns, and Traveller 14, on the North Sea station. He married, in June 1816, Eliza, daughter of the late Mr. Edward Dean, surgeon, of Stoke, near Gosport, co. Hants; and died on the 17th Sept. 1829.



  1. “It has been said that the Guardian fell in with a ship at sea, which had given her assistance into the Cape: this, I was assured by my late worthy friend, was not the case; what has been related concerning the fate of the Guardian, after the boats left her, I had from himself soon after his arrival at the Cape.” – (Schomberg.)
  2. Suppl. Part II. p. 38.


Cite error: <ref> tags exist for a group named "errata", but no corresponding <references group="errata"/> tag was found