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Royal Naval Biography/Halsted, Lawrence William

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SIR LAWRENCE WILLIAM HALSTED,
Vice-Admiral of the White; and Knight Commander of the most honourable Military Order of the Bath.


This officer is a son of the late Captain Halsted, R.N.; and, if we mistake not, was third Lieutenant of the Canada, 74, commanded by the Hon. William Cornwallis, in the memorable action between Sir George B. Rodney, and the Count de Grasse, April 12, 1782[1]. On that important day the Canada was in the centre division, and of course warmly engaged for some time before the alteration of the wind gave an opportunity to break the enemy’s line. She after this continued in action, and bore up with those of the French ships which stood firm to their Admiral. After refitting at Jamaica, the Canada, being ordered home with the convoy and prizes, was in that dreadful storm which proved fatal to the Ville de Paris, Centaur, and so great a part of the men of war and merchant ships[2]. She however weathered the gale better than any ship in the fleet, and arrived safe at Portsmouth, where she was paid off in October 1782; and from that period we find no mention of the subject of this memoir, until the Russian armament, in 1791, when he commanded the Atalante sloop, in the East Indies. On the 31st May in the same year, he obtained post rank; and early in 1794 was appointed to the Hector of 74 guns, bearing the flag of Rear-Admiral (now Sir George) Montague; from which ship he afterwards removed with that officer into the London, a second rate. He subsequently commanded the Venus of 32 guns, forming part of Rear-Admiral Harvey’s squadron in the North Sea.

In the spring of 1796, we find Captain Halsted in the Phoenix, a 36-gun frigate on the same station, under the orders of Admiral Duncan, who, having received intelligence that a small Dutch squadron had sailed from a port in Norway bound to the Texel, despatched him, with the Leopard, Pegasus, and Sylph sloop, in quest of them. Early in the morning on the 12th May, the enemy were seen to leeward, consisting of a frigate, three brigs, and a cutter. Captain Halsted immediately gave chace, upon which the brigs bore up, and were followed by the Pegasus and Sylph. The frigate was closely pursued by the Phoenix. At a quarter past eight A. M., the British frigate being close up on her weather quarter, she hoisted Dutch colours, upon which Captain Halsted ordered a shot to be fired across her; and ranging up to windward, commenced a close and brisk action, which continued about twenty minutes, when she struck; and proved to be the Argo of 36 guns and 236 men; 6 of whom were killed, and 28 wounded. The Phoenix had 1 man slain and 3 wounded.

Two of the brigs, the Echo of 18, and De Gier of 14 guns, were driven on shore by the Pegasus and Sylph, to the eastward of the Texel. Admiral Duncan with the squadron chased the other, which was taken possession of by the Sylph; she proved to be the Mercury, of 16 guns and 85 men. The next day the cutter was brought into the fleet; she was the Duke of York buoy boat, taken on the 11th by the Argo. The Phoenix was afterwards stationed on the coast of Ireland, where she captured several of the enemy’s large privateers. In the summer of 1800, she was employed in the blockade of Cadiz, under Sir Richard Bickerton, and from thence proceeded to the Mediterranean, where Captain Halsted was entrusted with the command of a squadron of frigates, stationed off Elba, to prevent supplies being conveyed to the French troops then on that island.

On the 3d Aug., 1801, at 2h 30’ P.M., a frigate and several small vessels were seen to the southward of the Piombino passage, steering for Port Longone. The squadron went in chace of them immediately, and at 10 minutes past 8, after several shot had been fired from their bow and stern-chasers, Captain Gower, of the Pomone, ran alongside the frigate, and soon compelled her to surrender. She proved to be la Carrere, of 40 guns and 356 men, from Port Hercule, with ammunition for the French army. The vessels under her convoy were laden with ordnance stores, &c.

On the 2d of the following, month, two French frigates were discovered steering towards Leghorn, to which Captain Halsted gave chace. On the approach of the squadron, one of them ran a-shore off Vado, and struck her colours without offering any resistance; she was found to be the Success, formerly British. The other frigate, la Bravoure, of 46 guns and 283, men, got on shore near a battery, to the southward of Leghorn, where her masts soon went by the board, and the ship was totally lost. By the exertions of Lieutenant Thompson, of the Phoenix, and the men employed under him, the Success was got off without receiving any material injury.

Captain Halsted arrived at Portsmouth from the Mediterranean, June 24, 1802. In the spring of 1805, he was appointed to the Namur, a cut down 90, in which ship he assisted at the capture of the four French line-of-battle ships that had escaped from the battle of Trafalgar[3]. On this occasion the Namur had 4 men killed and 8 wounded.

In the month of Dec. 1807, when the late Sir Charles Cotton was appointed Commander-in-Chief on the Lisbon station, the subject of this memoir was selected by that officer to serve as Captain of the fleet under his orders; and accordingly proceeded with him to the coast of Portugal, where he continued until after the Convention of Cintra[4], and the surrender of a Russian squadron that had sought refuge in the Tagus, up to which period, in the arduous duties of a tediously protracted blockade, during times of eventful import, and services of considerable magnitude, the Admiral received the most effectual aid from the effective exertions of Captain Halsted, whose advice, energy, and zeal, were eminently conspicuous and exemplary. Our officer returned to England with Sir Charles Cotton in the Hibernia, of 120 guns, in Dec. 1808. He was advanced to the rank of Rear-Admiral, July 31, 1810; Vice-Admiral, June 4, 1814; and nominated a K.C.B., Jan. 2, 1815.

Sir Lawrence W. Halsted married, in 1803, a daughter of Sir Edward Pellew, Bart., (now Viscount Exmouth).

Residence.– Phoenix Lodge, Alton, co. Hants.



  1. See note at p. 35, et seq.
  2. See Retired Captain John N. Inglefield.
  3. See p. 289.
  4. The escape and departure of the Royal House of Braganza previous to the arrival of Sir Charles Cotton on the 15th Jan. 1808, have already been mentioned in our memoir of Sir W. Sidney Smith. The arrival of the army, the battles which were fought, the change of commanders, and the Convention of Cintra that followed, are circumstances which have been often before the public. It should be known, however, that bad as that convention was, mortifying and degrading as it was to the feelings of Britons, it received considerable and important amendments from the naval Commander-in-Chief, who thrice returned it to its projectors unexecuted. The essential articles of this treaty were, that the French troops in Portugal, with their arms and equipments, should, at the expense of the British government, be transported to France, and not be considered as prisoners of war, and that they should be secured in all their private property of every description, by which was meant what they had plundered from the Portugueze. It was also stipulated, that the Spanish troops detained as prisoners on board ships in the Tagus, should be delivered to the British military commander, Sir Hew Dalrymple, who engaged to obtain from Spain the restoration of the French subjects detained in that country, without having been taken in battle. The seventh article of the preliminary treaty, by which the Russian fleet in the Tagus was to be allowed either to remain unmolested in that river, or to return home, was rejected by Sir Charles Cotton, who entered into a separate convention with Vice-Admiral Siniavin, by which the latter surrendered his ships with their stores, to be sent to England, and held as a deposit, till six months after a definitive peace between Great Britain and Russia.

    The intelligence of the Convention of Cintra was received with general dissatisfaction in England, where the victory of Vimeira, gained by Sir Arthur Wellesley over General Junot, Aug. 21, 1808, had excited sanguine expectations of the unconditional surrender of the French army; and a formal disapprobation of its terms on the part of the British monarch was communicated to Sir Hew Dalrymple.