Royal Naval Biography/Harvey, Thomas

Rear-Admiral of the Blue; and a Companion of the most honorable Military Order of the Bath.

This officer is the second son of the late Sir Henry Harvey, K.B. who commanded the Ramillies, of 74 guns, in Earl Howe’s action, June 1, 1794; captured, in conjunction with Sir Ralph Abercrombie, the Spanish island of Trinidad, in Feb. 1797; and died an Admiral of the White, Dec. 28, 1810. In 1796, we find him commanding in succession the Lacedemonian and Pelican sloops of war. The latter formed part of the squadron employed at the reduction of the above-named colony; immediately after which he was promoted to the rank of Post-Captain, in the Prince of Wales, a second-rate, bearing his father’s flag; and in that ship assisted at the attack upon Porto Rico, in the ensuing month of April[1]. His post commission bears date March 27, 1797.

Captain Harvey’s subsequent appointments were to the Concorde, Lapwing, and Unité frigates. The former he commanded for a very short period. In the Lapwing he intercepted several of the enemy’s privateers and letters of marque, and accompanied Lord Hugh Seymour on the expedition against the Dutch colony of Surinam, which surrendered to the British arms, Aug. 20, 1799. The Unité was attached to the armament (under Rear-Admiral Duckworth) which took possession of the Danish and Swedish West India islands, in March 1801[2]; and she was subsequently ordered to escort a large fleet of merchantmen to England. Previous to his leaving the West Indies, the inhabitants of Montserrat voted Captain Harvey the sum of 100l. sterling, for the services he had rendered that colony. During the remainder of the war he was stationed off Margate, under the orders of Lord Nelson, whose flag was at one time hoisted on board the Unité.

From 1802 till the autumn of 1805, our officer appears to have been on half-pay. At the latter period he was appointed to the Standard of 64-guns, in which ship he proceeded to the Mediterranean, and joined Lord Collingwood’s fleet off Carthagena.

In our memoir of Sir W. Sidney Smith, p. 316, et seq., we have already given a brief account of the celebrated expedition against Constantinople, in 1807. The Standard having borne a very conspicuous part during the operations carried on in that quarter, we shall here present our readers with a more detailed narration.

On the 10th Feb. Sir John T. Duckworth, in the Royal George, of 100 guns, accompanied by the Pompée, of 80 guns, Captain Richard Dacres, bearing the flag of Sir W. Sidney Smith; Ajax, of the same force, commanded by the Hon. H. Blackwood; Windsor Castle, a second-rate, Captain Charles Boyles; Repulse, 74, Hon. A. K. Legge; and Lucifer and Meteor bombs, arrived off the island of Tenedos, where he formed a junction with the squadron under Sir Thomas Louis, consisting of that officer’s flag-ship, the Canopus, of 80 guns; Thunderer, 74, Captain John Talbot; Standard, 64, Captain Thomas Harvey; Active frigate, Captain R. H. Moubray; and Endymion frigate, Hon. T. B. Capel. Nothing of any consequence occurred till the night of the 14th, when the Ajax was unfortunately destroyed by fire[3]. Shortly after day-break on the morning of the 19th, the whole fleet stood for the entrance of the Dardanelles, in line of battle, the Canopus leading the van, and the bombs towed by the Standard and Thunderer, which latter ships formed part of the rear division under Sir W. Sidney Smith, who had previously been ordered, in the event of the Turks offering any opposition, to bring up and attack a squadron which Sir J. T. Duckworth had reason to suppose was lying at anchor off Point Pesquies.

As soon as the leading ship was abreast of the outer castles, she received a brisk fire from them, but without returning a shot. The like forbearance was observed by the others, as they passed in succession. A heavy discharge of cannon was also continued upon the British, from some batteries on the European side of the Hellespont, which, however, occasioned but little injury. At 9h 30' A.M. the Canopus entered the narrow passage of Sestos and Abydos, and sustained a very heavy cannonade from both castles, within point-blank shot of each; but the very spirited return it met with from that ship and those immediately a-stern of her, so considerably diminished its force, that the effect was not so severe on those in the rear.

Immediately to the N.E. of the castles, and between them and Point Pesquies, on which a formidable battery, mounting eight brass guns, each carrying a ball of 200 pounds, and twenty-three iron 32 and 24-pounders, had been newly erected, the Turkish men-of-war already alluded to were at anchor. The van ships of the British gave them their broadsides as they passed; and presently after, the Pompée, Thunderer, and Standard, anchored in the midst of them, the latter within 300 yards of the battery. After a warm action of about half an hour, in which the Active, continuing under sail, did credit to her name, the enemy cut their cables and drifted towards the shore, the people in the battery at the same time making off with the greatest precipitation. The object of Sir W. Sidney Smith was then to destroy the ships, and that service was most rapidly effected; as in less than four hours, the whole of them exploded, except a corvette and a gun-boat, which it was thought proper to preserve[4].

The following is a copy of the Rear-Admiral’s report to Sir John T. Duckworth, concerning this brilliant affair:–

His Majesty’s Ship Pompée, within the Dardanelles,
Feb. 20, 1807.

“Sir,– In reporting to you the entire completion of the service you were pleased to order should be executed by the rear division under my immediate directions, I need not inform you that the ships were anchored in the thick of the Turkish squadron, and in close action with them, as you must have observed it; but as the intervention of the land, after you passed the point, prevented your seeing the subsequent operations, it is my duty to acquaint you therewith. The Turks fought desperately, like men determined to defend themselves and their ships as long as they could; but the superiority of our fire, within musket-shot, obliged them in half an hour to run on shore on Point Pesquies, or Nagara Burun. As the redoubt on the point continued to fire, also as the ships kept their colours up, and the part of their crews which had deserted them remained armed on the beach, while a considerable body of Asiatic troops, both horse and foot, appeared on. the hills, it was necessary to make an arrangement for boarding them with some precaution; at the same time that it was of consequence to press them closely before they recovered from the impression and effect of our cannonade. A few shells from the Pompée dispersed the Asiatics, and convinced them that we commanded the ground within our reach, and that they could not protect the green standard they had hoisted, which I caused to be brought off by Lieutenant Oates, of the Pompée’s marines, that they might not rally there again. The Standard’s guns bearing best on the frigates on shore, I sent the Thunderer’s boats to that ship, to be employed with her own under the direction of Captain Harvey, making the signal to him to destroy the enemy’s ships in the N.E. The Active’s having been previously made to follow and destroy a frigate which had cut her cable to get from under the Thunderer’s and Pompée’s fire, and run on shore on the European side, in the N.W.; at the same time, Lieutenant Beecroft, of the Pompée, was detached to take possession of the line-of-battle ship on which the Thunderer’s and Pompée’s guns could still bear, under the protection likewise of the Repulse, which you had considerately sent to my aid; that officer brought me the Captain and second Captain, the latter of whom was wounded; also the flag of the Rear-Admiral who had escaped on shore, which I shall have the honor of presenting to you. The whole of the Turks were landed, in pursuance of your orders, including the wounded, with due attention to the sufferings of our misguided opponents, as I must call them, for the term enemy does not seem applicable, considering their evident good disposition towards us nationally. The ship was then set on fire by the Repulse’s and Pompée’s boats, and completely destroyed.

“Captain Harvey, in making his report to me of the conduct of the boats’ crews, under the command of Lieutenants Carter, Waller, and Colby, of his Majesty’s ship Thunderer, and of the marines employed with them, to board and burn the frigates and corvettes under the command of Captain Nicolls, speaks in strong terms of the gallantry and ability of them all. The latter, whom I have long known to be an intelligent and enterprising officer, after destroying the frigate, bearing the flag of the Captain Pasha, which is preserved to be presented to you, Sir, landed, and, profiting by the consternation of the Turks from the explosions on all sides of them, the effects of which occasioned no small risk to him, Lieutenants Fynmore, Boileau, and the party, he entered the redoubt, (the Turks retreating as he approached) set fire to the gabions, and spiked the guns, thirty-one in number, eight of which are brass, carrying immensely large marble balls; as however, the expected explosion of the line-of-battle ship made it impossible for the boats to stay long enough to destroy them effectually with their carriages, or to level the parapets, the wicker of the gabions being too green to burn, I have directed Lieutenants Carroll and Arabin, of his Majesty’s ship Pompée and Lieutenant Lawrie, of the marines, to continue on that service, with the Turkish corvette, and one gun-boat, which you will observe by the return, were not destroyed; and to act under the protection and direction of Captain Moubray, of his Majesty’s ship Active, whose name I cannot mention without expressing how highly satisfied I am with the able and gallant manner in which he executed my orders to stick to the frigate with which he was more particularly engaged, and to destroy her. Captain Talbot placed his ship admirably well in support of the Pompée, thereby raking the line-of-battle ship and the frigate we were engaged with, when I made his signal to anchor, as the Pompée had previously done, under the directions I gave for that purpose to Captain Dacres, which were promptly and ably executed; Mr. Ives, the Master, applying his local knowledge and experience, as I had a right to expect from his long tried abilities, while Lieutenant Smith made my signals to the squadron in rapid succession, and with precision. Captain Harvey merits my entire approbation, for placing the Standard in the manner in which he did, and for completing the destruction of the others. Much as I must regret the loss of the Ajax, as a most efficient ship in my division, I have felt that loss to be in a great degree balanced, by the presence of my gallant friend, Captain Blackwood, and the surviving officers and men, whose zeal in their voluntary exertions on this occasion, does them the highest credit; in short, all the captains, officers, and men concerned, merit that I should mention them in high terms to you, Sir, as their leader, whose example we humbly endeavoured to follow. The signal success that has attended the general exertion under your direction, speaks more forcibly than words.

“I have the honor to be, &c. &c.
(Signed)W. Sidney Smith.”

“Sir John Thomas Duckworth, K.B.

The Turkish squadron having thus been annihilated, Sir W. Sidney Smith’s division rejoined Vice-Admiral Duckworth, and proceeded with him to the anchorage off Prince’s Islands, about eight miles from Constantinople. While there Sir John obtained information that the enemy had landed a body of troops, and some guns, on the island of Prota, the only inhabitants of which were a few monks and nuns. An attempt was made to dislodge the Turks, many of whom took to their boats, leaving their cannon in possession of the British; but the remainder having thrown themselves into the Greek monastery, and being expert riflemen, defended themselves successfully, killing and wounding 26 of their assailants. On the 1st March, the negociation with the Porte having failed, and knowing that great warlike preparations were going on, Sir John T. Duckworth determined upon returning; the fleet was accordingly got under weigh; and notwithstanding the opposition offered by a formidable chain of batteries, recently erected along the coast under the direction of French engineers, and a tremendous fire from the castles on each side, every ship was in safety outside the Dardanelles, by noon on the 3d. The Standard, in passing Sestos, received a stone shot six feet two inches in circumference, and weighing 800 pounds. It entered her lower-deck, and having set fire to the salt-boxes containing the powder for immediate use, caused an explosion which wounded many of her crew; several others jumped overboard on hearing the alarm of “Fire!” and were never more heard of. Fortunately, by great exertions, the flames were subdued. The total loss sustained by her from the 19th Feb., was 4 men killed, 4 missing, and 55 wounded[5].

Subsequent to this event Captain Harvey accompanied Sir John T. Duckworth to the coast of Egypt, and arrived there two or three days after the surrender of Alexandria to the British arms[6]. Early in 1808, we find him stationed in the Adriatic, where he took several prizes, and assisted at the capture of the Friedland, an Italian brig of war, mounting 16 long 12-pounders, and several other armed vessels. Towards the latter end of the same year, he escorted a fleet of merchantmen to England.

Captain Harvey’s next appointment was, in 1809, to the Majestic, 74; and during the ensuing summer, he was stationed in the Belt, to protect the valuable convoys going to and returning from the Baltic. At the end of the season, the approbation of the Board of Admiralty was conveyed to him, through Sir Manley Dixon, accompanied by the thanks of that officer and the Commander-in-Chief, for his activity and zeal while on that important and harassing service.

The Majestic being found defective, was paid off in 1810. Captain Harvey afterwards commanded the Sceptre and Northumberland, third-rates; the former was attached to the North Sea fleet, under the orders of Admiral Young; the latter, which had been for a considerable time stationed as a guard-ship in the Medway, he paid off in July 1821. He was nominated a C.B. June 4, 1815; obtained a Colonelcy of Royal Marines, April 2, 1821; and became a Rear-Admiral on the 19th July in the same year.

Our officer married, March 28, 1805, Sarah, youngest daughter of the gallant Captain John Harvey, who was mortally wounded in the glorious battle of June 1, 1794; by which union he became the brother-in-law, as well as first cousin, of the present Rear-Admiral of that name[7], and of Captain Edward Harvey, R.N.

Residence.– Walmer, Kent.

  1. See note at p. 112, et seq.
  2. At the period of the Northern Confederacy – that confederacy which our great hero Nelson annihilated before the walls of Copenhagen – Rear-Admiral Duckworth and Lieutenant-General Trigge were ordered to seize upon the possessions of Denmark and Sweden in the West Indies. The naval and military forces employed on this occasion, consisting of one 74-gun ship, five frigates, two sloops of war, three smaller vessels, and about 3,500 troops, arrived off Great Saline Bay, in the island of St. Bartholomew, March 16, 1801; and a summons having been sent to the Governor, he, after some little hesitation, agreed to capitulate. On the morning of the 24th, the squadron, reinforced by another frigate and an armed ship, with a number of soldiers, appeared off St. Martin; and the Governor refusing to surrender, the army was immediately landed, under the command of Brigadier-Generals Maitland and Fuller, assisted by a detachment of 200 seamen, commanded by Captain Ekins, of the navy. After a smart skirmish, in which the enemy lost two field-pieces, and had 50 or 60 men killed and wounded, the heights in the approach to the town of Philipsbourg were carried. Convinced that opposition would be vain, and must lead to destruction, the enemy now agreed to a verbal summons, and by midnight, the terms of capitulation were signed and exchanged. On the 28th, the islands of St. Thomas and St. John, with their dependencies, submitted, and on the 31st, the island of Santa Cruz followed their example.
  3. See p. 648.
  4. See note at p. 318.
  5. At p. 319 will be found a copy of the letter of thanks addressed by Sir J. T. Duckworth to the officers and men of the squadron under his command. In his official letter to Lord Collingwood, we find the names of several Captains[errata 1] mentioned in terms of high approbation.
  6. See p. 482.
  7. We avail ourselves of this opportunity, the earliest that has presented itself, of correcting two mistakes which occur in our memoir of Rear-Admiral John Harvey, p. 614. Instead of continuing in the Southampton at the Leeward Islands till the end of the French revolutionary war, he was removed from that ship into the Amphitrite frigate, about May 1801, and soon after ordered to England. He left the latter in October following. It is true that he commanded the Royal Sovereign, but not for so long a period as we have mentioned. On Captain Bedford, who had succeeded him in the command of that ship, obtaining his flag, Aug. 12, 1812, he was again offered her, but did not accept the appointment.

  1. Original: the name of each of the Captains was amended to the names of several Captains