Royal Naval Biography/Harvey, Edward

[Post-Captain of 1811.]

Third and youngest son of the gallant Captain John Harvey, whose death, June 1, 1794, has been recorded at p. 613, of Vol. I. Part II.

This officer was born in 1783, and he entered the navy in April, 1796, as a midshipman on board the Prince of Wales, a second rate, bearing the flag of his uncle, the late Sir Henry Harvey, K.B. and commanded by his brother, Captain (now Vice-Admiral) John Harvey. In that ship he was present at the capture of Trinidad, and the destruction of a Spanish squadron in Shagaramus bay, Feb. 1797[1]. He returned home in the Zebra sloop of war, and joined the Beaulieu frigate time enough to witness the defeat of the Dutch fleet, near Camperdown, Oct. 11, 1797[2].

In 1799, Mr. Harvey was appointed to act as lieutenant of the Southampton frigate, and in her he assisted at the capture of the Danish and Swedish West India islands, Mar, 1801[3]. His first commission bears date July 24, in the latter year; at which period he was removed to the Amphitrite 28.

In 1802, Lieutenant Harvey was successively appointed to the Iris 32, and Apollo 36. The destruction of the last named ship, on the coast of Portugal, April 2, 1804, is thus correctly described by Mr. Evan Lewis, a gentleman who then belonged to her:–

“On the 26th March we sailed from the Cove of Cork, in company with H.M. ship Carysfort, and 69 sail of merchantmen under convoy for the West Indies. On the 27th we were out of sight of land, with a fair wind, blowing a strong gale, and steering about W.S.W. On the 28lt, 29th, and 30th, the weather and our course were nearly the same. On the 31st, the wind came more to the westward, but did not blow so hard. On the 1st April, at noon, we observed in lat. 40° 61' N. long, per account, 12° 29' W. At 8 P.M. the wind shifted to the S.W. blowing fresh, course S.S.E. At 10, up main-sail and set the main-stay-sail. At 10-15, the latter split by the sheet giving way; called all hands upon deck. At 10-30, strong breezes and squally: took in the fore-top-sail and set the fore-sail. At 11-30 the main-top-sail split; furled it and the main-sail. The ship was now under her fore-sail, and main and mizen-storm-stay-sails; the wind blowing hard with a heavy sea.

“About 3-30 A.M. on the 2d April, the ship struck the ground, to the astonishment of every one on board, and by the above reckoning, we then conjectured, upon an unknown shoal. She continued striking the ground very heavy, by which her bottom was materially damaged, and making much water; the chain-pumps were rigged with the utmost despatch, but, in about ten minutes, she beat and drove over the shoal. On endeavouring to steer her, we found the rudder carried away. She then got before the wind. The pumps were kept going; but from the quantity of water she shipped, there was every probability of her soon foundering, as she was filling, and sinking very fast.

“After running about five minutes, the ship struck the ground again, with such tremendous shocks, that we were fearful she would instantly go to pieces, and kept striking and driving further on the sands, the sea making breaches completely over her. We cut away the laniards of the main and mizen rigging, and the masts fell with a tremendous crash over the larboard side: the fore-mast went immediately after. The ship then fell on her starboard side, with the gunwale under water. The violence with which she struck the ground, and the weight of the guns, those on the quarter-deck tearing away the bulwark, soon made the ship a perfect wreck abaft: only four or five guns could possibly be fired to alarm the convoy, and give notice of danger. On her striking the second time, most pitiful cries were heard every where between decks, many of the men giving themselves up to inevitable death. I was told that I might as well stay below, as there was an equal likelihood of perishing if I got upon deck. I was determined to go, but first attempted to enter my cabin, and was in danger of having my legs broke by the chests floating about, as the bulk-heads were giving way: I therefore desisted, and endeavoured to get upon deck, which I effected, after being several times washed down the hatchway by the immense volume of water incessantly pouring down. The ship still beating the ground very heavy, made it necessary to cling fast to some part of the wreck, to prevent being washed by the surges, or hurled by the dreadful concussions overboard, the people holding fast by the larboard bulwark of the quarter-deck, and in the main-channel, while our good Captain (John William Taylor Dixon) stood naked upon the cabin skylight-grating, holding fast by the stump of the mizen-mast, and making use of every soothing expression which could have been suggested to encourage men in such a perilous situation. Most of the officers and men were entirely naked, not having had time to slip on even a pair of trowsers. Our horrible situation every moment became more dreadful, until day-light appearing, about half-past 4 o’clock, discovered to us the land, at two cables distance, a long sandy beach, reaching to cape Mondego, three leagues to the southward of us. We afterwards perceived between 20 and 30 sail of the convoy ashore, both to the northward and southward, and several of them perfect wrecks. We were now certain of being on the coast of Portugal, from seeing the above cape, though, I am sorry to say, no person in the ship had the least idea of being so near that coast. It blowing hard, and a very great swell of the sea, or what is generally termed waves running mountains high, there was little prospect of being saved. About 8 A.M. there being every likelihood of the ship going to pieces, and the after part of her lying lowest. Captain Dixon ordered every person forward, which it was very difficult to comply with, from the motion of the main-mast working on the larboard gunwale, there being no other way to remove ourselves. Mr. Cook, the boatswain, had his thigh broke in endeavouring to get a boat over the side. Of six fine boats not one was saved, they being all stove, and washed overboard with the booms, &c. Soon after the people got forward the ship parted at the gangways. The crew were now obliged to stow themselves in the fore-channels, and from thence to the bowsprit-end, to the number of 220; for out of 240 persons on board when the ship first struck, I suppose 20 to have previously perished between decks and otherwise. Mr. Lawton, the gunner, the first person who attempted to swim ashore, was drowned: afterwards Lieutenant Wilson, Mr. Runcie, surgeon, Mr. M‘Cabe, surgeon’s-mate, Mr. Standley, master’s-mate, and several men shared the same fate, though excellent swimmers. About thirty persons had the good fortune to reach the shore, upon planks and spars, among whom were Lieutenant Harvey, and Mr. Callam, master’s-mate. In the ensuing night our situation was truly horrid, the old men and boys dying through hunger and fatigue – also Messrs. Proby and Hayes, midshipmen. Captain Dixon remained all this night upon the bowsprit.

“Tuesday morning, April 3, presented us no better prospect of being relieved from the jaws of death, the wind blowing stronger and the sea much more turbulent. About noon, however, our drooping spirits were somewhat raised by seeing Lieutenant Harvey and Mr. Callam hoisting out a boat from one of the merchant ships to to come to the assistance of their distressed shipmates. They several times attempted to launch her through the surf, but being a very heavy boat, and the sea on the beach acting so powerfully against them, they could not possibly effect it, though assisted by nearly 100 of the merchant sailors and Portuguese peasants. Several men went upon rafts this day, made from pieces of the wreck, but not one soul reached the shore; the wind having shifted, and the current setting out, they were all driven to sea; among whom was our captain, who, about 3 P.M. went on the jib-boom with three seamen: anxious to save the remainder of the ship’s company, and too sanguine of getting safe ashore, he ventured upon the spar, saying, as he jumped into the sea, ‘My lads, I’ll save you all.’ In a few seconds he lost his hold of the jib-boom, which he could not regain: he drifted to sea, and perished. Such was also the fate of the three brave volunteers who chose to follow his fortune.

“The loss of our captain, who, until now, had animated the almost lifeless crew, as well as the noble exertions of Lieutenant Harvey and Mr. Callam, to launch the boat, not succeeding, every gleam of hope vanished, and we looked forward for certain death the ensuing night, not only from cold, hunger, and fatigue, but the expectation of the remaining part of the wreck going to pieces every moment. Had not the Apollo been a new and well-built ship, that small portion could never have resisted the waves and stuck so well together, particularly as all the after part from the chess-trees was gone, the starboard bow under water, the forecastle deck nearly perpendicular, the weight of the guns hanging to the larboard bulwark on the inside, and the bower and spare anchors on the outside, which it was not prudent to cut away, as they afforded resting places to a considerable number of men, there being only the fore-channel and cat-head where it was possible to live, and about which were stowed upwards of 150 persons; it being impracticable to continue any longer in the head, or upon the bowsprit, by reason of the breakers washing completely over them. The night drawing on, the wind increasing, with frequent showers of rain, and the forecastle being every instant expected to give way, when we must have all perished together, afforded a spectacle truly deplorable, the bare recollection of which even now makes me shudder. The piercing cries of the people this dismal night, whenever a sea came over them, which happened every two minutes, were pitiful in the extreme the water running down all over the body kept us continually wet: the remaining strength of every one was exerted for his individual safety. From the crowding so close together in so narrow a compass, and the want of something to moisten their mouths with, several pour wretches were suffocated, which frequently reminded me of the Black Hole; with this only difference, that these poor sufferers were confined by strong walls, we by water. The least movement, without clinging fast, would have launched us into eternity. Some unfortunate wretches drank salt water; several their own urine; some chewed leather; myself and many more chewed lead, from which we found considerable relief, by reason of its drawing the saliva, which we swallowed. In less than an hour after the ship first struck the ground, all the provisions were under water, so that it was impossible to procure any. After the most painful night that it is possible to conceive, on day-light appearing, we observed Lieutenant Harvey and Mr. Callam again endeavouring to launch the boat. Several attempts were made without success, a number of men belonging to the merchant ships being much bruised and hurt in assisting; alternate hopes and fears now pervaded our wretched minds; fifteen men got safe on shore this morning, on pieces of the wreck. About three in the afternoon of the 4th, we had the inexpressible happiness of seeing the boat launched through the surf, by the indefatigable exertion of the above officers, assisted by the masters of the merchant ships, with a number of Portuguese peasants, who were encouraged by Mr. Whitney, the British consul from Figuiera. All the crew then remaining on the wreck were brought safe on shore, praising God for their happy deliverance from a shipwreck which has never had its parallel. As soon as I stept out of the boat, I found several persons whose humanity prompted them to offer me sustenance, though improperly, in spirits, which I avoided as much as possible. Our weak state may be conceived, when it is considered that we received no nourishment from Sunday to Wednesday afternoon, and were continually exposed to the fury of the elements; the greater part of us were badly bruised and wounded. After eating and drinking a little, I found myself weaker than before, occasioned, I apprehend, from having been so long without either. Some men died soon after getting on shore, from imprudently drinking too large a quantity of spirits. About 40 sail of merchant ships were wrecked at the same time on this dreadful beach; but as they drew a less draught of water than the frigate, they were of course driven much closer to the shore than her and although the number of persons that perished in them was very considerable, not a soul remained on board either after the first morning. Thus was lost one of the finest frigates in the British navy, with 61 of her officers and crew.”

The Carysfort and about 30 sail of merchantmen escaped a similar fate by wearing without orders from Captain Dixon, shortly after the wind had shifted, in the evening of April 1st. The surviving officers and men of the Apollo had to march to Figuiera, a distance of eighteen miles, whence they were conveyed in a schooner to Lisbon, and there received on board the Orpheus frigate for a passage to Portsmouth.

Lieutenant Harvey subsequently served in the Amethyst 36, Captain John William Spranger; Amaranthe sloop, Captain Edward Pelham Brenton; and Intrepid 64, Captain the Hon. Philip Wodehouse. His promotion to the rank of commander took place Jan. 8, 1808, on which occasion he was appointed to the Cephalus, a fine 18-gun brig, on the Mediterranean station, where he captured four of the enemy’s privateers and several merchant vessels. His post commission bears date April 18, 1811, at which period he was acting as Captain of the Cumberland 74. He subsequently commanded the Topaze 36, and was employed off Corfu till the month of Dec. following. That frigate being then in a very defective state, he returned to England with the homeward bound trade under his protection, and paid her off at Portsmouth in Feb. 1812.

Captain Harvey married Miss Cannon, of Sandwich.

Agent.– Sir F. M. Ommanney.