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Royal Naval Biography/Graves, Richard


RICHARD GRAVES, Esq
[Superannuated Rear-Admiral.]

The family of Graves originally came into England from the province of Gascony, in France; and appear to have been seated at a mansion house and estate called the Greves, or Graves, in the parish of Beighley, co. Derby, as early as the reign of Henry III.; and from thence to have established themselves at Little Wressil, in Yorkshire, about the time of Edward IV.

The subject of this memoir is the son of a clergyman, and the youngest of four brothers, all born in the county of Derry, who went to sea at a very early age, and after a considerable length of services were advanced to the rank of Post-Captains in the navy. Samuel, the eldest, commanded the Sceptre, of 64 guns, and greatly distinguished himself in the two last actions between Sir Edward Hughes and M. de Suffrein, Sept. 3, 1782, and June 20, 1783[1]. Notwithstanding his bravery on these occasions, he was afterwards placed on the retired list; and although a memorial, with Sir Edward Hughes’ letter attached to it, was presented to his late Majesty, by the other three brothers, at Weymouth, he had not the good fortune to be restored to active service. John, the second brother, also served his king and country most faithfully and honorably, and likewise died a Superannuated Rear-Admiral. The next, Thomas, was more fortunate, being included in the great promotion of Flag-Officers, which took place on the 1st Jan. 1801, in honor of the union between Great Britain and Ireland; and afterwards created a Knight of the Bath, for his gallantry in the battle off Copenhagen, on the 3d April, in that year[2].

During the colonial war, Captain Richard Graves, being on his way to New York with despatches, in the Swift, a leaky brig, of 6 four-pounders and 35 men, with four feet water in her hold, and the pumps choked; engaged an enemy’s vessel of 18 six-pounders and 120 men, which he beat off, although twice a-board of each other during the action. When beaten back in an attempt to carry the Swift by boarding, the enemy left thirty of their pistols on the deck of the British vessel. The Swift was too much water-logged to pursue the fugitive, even had her force been such as to have warranted Captain Graves in so doing; and the Blonde frigate, which fell in with her on the following day, was obliged to keep company until her arrival at the entrance of New York, where she sunk. In this action, Captain Graves received a severe wound. He was afterwards appointed to the Belisarius, mounting 20 nine-pounders; and in that ship, after an hour’s contest, compelled the Tartar, an American vessel of the same force, to surrender, and her consort, the Alexander of 22 guns, to seek safety in flight. About the same period he also captured the Venus, of 14 guns and 45 men.

On the termination of the American war, the services of Captain Graves being no longer required, he, with many other gallant officers, was obliged to retire from the active duties of a profession in which he had so highly distinguished himself; and since that period he does not appear to have been afloat. His post commission bears date Aug. 29, 1781; and he was superannuated, with the rank of a Rear-Admiral, June 18, 1804.

Our officer married Louisa Carolina, daughter and sole heiress of Sir John Colleton, Bart. His son, Samuel Colleton Graves, Esq., Lieutenant-Colonel of the West Norfolk regiment of local militia, and a member of the Society of the Middle Temple, was the author of several political pamphlets, published under the signature of Ulysses. Of his daughters, the eldest married T. Radcliffe, Esq.; the second is the lady of Baron Vandersmissen, a Lieutenant-Colonel of artillerie au cheval in the service of the King of the Netherlands; a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor, and of the Order of Wilhelm. The third was united, in December 1819, to her relative, Lieutenant-Colonel Sir James R. Colleton, Bart. Mrs. Graves died, Dec. 25, 1822.

Residence.– Brussels.