Royal Naval Biography/Gordon, Alexander
ALEXANDER GORDON, Esq.
[Post-Captain of 1814.]
A son of the late John Gordon, of Balmuir, Aberdeenshire, Esq. by Margaret Stuart, of Duncarn, Fifeshire, a lineal descendant of the Regent Murray.
This officer was born at Edinburgh, In May, 1780; and we first find him serving under the late Vice-admiral Thomas Pringle at the defeat of the French fleet, by Earl Howe, June 1, 1794. He also witnessed the capture of three republican line-of-battle ships, near l’Orient, June 23, 1795; on which latter occasion, the Valiant was commanded by Captain (afterwards Vice-admiral) Christopher Parker.
From that ship, Mr. Gordon was removed to the Asia 64, bearing the flag of Rear-admiral Pringle, with whom, after serving for several months on the North Sea station, he proceeded to the Cape of Good Hope, in the Tremendous 74.
Mr. Gordon had not been long at the Cape, when he received an order to act as lieutenant of the Prince Frederick (late Revolutie 66) one of the Dutch squadron taken in Saldanha bay, Aug. 18, 1796. This appointment was confirmed by the Admiralty, in the month of Dec. following.
During the last five years of the French revolutionary war, Lieutenant Gordon served under the late Vice-Admiral Edward Oliver Osborn, in the Trident, 64, and Arrogant, 74, on the East India station; where he assisted at the capture of the Dutch Company’s armed ship Hartog von Brunswyk, mounting 28 guns, pierced for 50, with a complement of 320 men; the Mongoose brig, of 14 guns and 65 men; a brig, name unknown, of 6 guns; the Onderneming Indiaman; and l’Uni, French privateer, of 30 guns and 216 men. The Mongoose and Onderneming were taken by the boats of the Arrogant, on the north coast of Java, May 17th and 25th, 1800.
Lieutenant Gordon’s next appointment was, in May 1803, to the Polyphemus 64, Captain John Lawford; by whom he was entrusted with the charge of the Santa Gertruyda, a Spanish galleon, taken off Cape St. Mary, Dec. 7, 1804. His arrival at Plymouth is thus noticed in a letter from thence, dated Jan. 10, 1805:–
“The large frigate seen off the Sound, in tow of an armed ship, after beating off and on the whole day and night, this morning made some progress. At 11 a.m. she stood into the Sound and fired a gun. On being boarded, she proved to be a Spanish frigate mounting only 14 guns, from Peru and Mexico, bound to Corunna, deeply and richly laden. She was captured by the Polyphemus, but parted company in a violent gale of wind on the 16th ult., since which she has experienced very bad weather, carried away her main-mast, and had her rudder choked. She fell in with, a few days since, the Harriet armed defence ship, which took her in tow; and has been beating about the Channel ever since. The Spanish captain speaks in the highest terms of the attention and politeness of Lieutenant Gordon, and the nautical skill he displayed when the ship carried away her main-mast, and was labouring very much, with the rudder choked, in the gale on Christmas day.”
We have been informed, since the publication of Vice-Admiral Lawford’s memoir, that the Santa Gertruyda lost her rudder and was totally dismasted, after she parted company with the ship appointed to see her into port; also that a new rudder had been constructed, and jury-masts rigged[errata 1], before she fell in with the Harriet.
The Polyphemus, at this period, formed part of the squadron employed off Cadiz, under the orders of Sir John Orde, who was directed by the Admiralty to promote her first lieutenant, whenever an opportunity should offer. Instead of doing so, however, the Vice-Admiral shortly afterwards gave the command of the Wasp sloop to one of his own officers, and appointed Lieutenant Gordon to succeed him in the Glory 98, from which ship he was again removed to the Polyphemus, on a change taking place in the naval administration, occasioned by Lord Melville’s retirement.
With the exception of his being obliged to leave the latter ship, through ill-health, about a week previous to the battle of Trafalgar, we find no further mention of the subject of this sketch until he was made commander, and appointed to the Moselle brig, of 18 guns, January 22, 1806. In the course of that year, he successively visited the Western Islands, Barbadoes, the coast of America, and Halifax. In 1807, he appears to have been very actively employed on the Mediterranean station.
The Moselle was afterward sent to Jamaica, from whence Captain Gordon returned home, invalided, towards the close of 1808. His next appointment was, about Dec. 1809, to the Rattler sloop, then employed in convoying transports to and from Lisbon; but subsequently attached to the squadron under Vice-admiral Sawyer, on the North American station. In 1812, and the following year, Captain Gordon commanded a small detachment in the bay of Fundy, where the Rattler and her consorts made many prizes, principally American merchantmen. In May, 1813, he addressed the following letter to the senior officer off Boston:–
“Sir,– I have the honor to acquaint you, for the information of the commander-in-chief, that H.M.S. under my command drove on shore, and captured, on the 19th instant, off Kenebank, the private armed ship Alexander, of 18 guns, returning to Salem from a cruise of 10 weeks. The Alexander is a remarkably fine ship, four years old, and was considered the fastest sailing privateer out of the United States; she left Salem with a crew of 127 men, but had only about 70 remaining at the time of her capture, the greatest part of whom made their escape on her getting a-ground, and several were drowned in their attempt to swim from her. H.M. schooner Bream, contributed much to our assistance in getting the ship off, and, I am happy to say, with hardly any injury.
“I had the honor to report to the senior officer at Halifax, my having; chased onshore, near Bayley’s Mistake, the American privateer schooner Gallynippee, of 2 long 6-pounders and 36 men, on the 2d inst. and of her being in that situation attacked and destroyed by the boats of H.M. ship, in charge of Mr. James Cutlip, acting master. I have the honor to he, &c.
“To the Hon. T. B. Capel, Captain H.M.S. La Hogue.”
Several other small privateers were likewise destroyed by the boats of the Rattler, during her stay in the bay of Fundy.
On the 28th June, 1813, Captain Gordon was removed to the Chesapeake frigate, then just captured by the Shannon; and he continued to command that ship until she was ordered to England; when he exchanged with Captain Burdett, of the Maidstone 36. His subsequent appointments were to the Superb 74, bearing the broad pendant of Commodore Hotham, off New London ; and the Narcissus 32, also on the American station; from whence he returned home about Mar. 1815. His post commission bears date Feb. 10, 1814.
Captain Gordon married, Nov. 6, 1821, Mary Elizabeth, only daughter of the late Sir Ernest Gordon, Bart, of Park, co. Banff, N.B. One of his brothers, a captain in the 87th regiment, was mortally wounded at the storming of Monte Video; another held the same rank in the “Queen’s Own,” and died of yellow fever, at Barbadoes, in 1815.
Agents.– Messrs. Maude & Co.
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