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Royal Naval Biography/Hawkins-Whitshed, James

Admiral of the Red; Commander-in-Chief at Portsmouth; Knight Commander of the most Honourable Military Order of the Bath.

This officer is the son of a clergyman, and a native of Ireland. His father held a living, on which he resided, in the county of Louth.

The first ship in which Mr. Whitshed actually went to sea, was the Aldborough, commanded by Captain Bennett, whom he accompanied to Newfoundland. He afterwards served under Lieutenant, now Admiral, Sampson Edwards, in the Canada schooner; and after the loss of that vessel, returned to England with Admiral Duff, in the Romney.

His next ship was the Diamond frigate, Captain C. Fielding, who, in May 1776, was ordered to America, as commanding officer of the convoy Bent thither, with a large detachment of British and foreign troops. In 1778, Mr. Whitshed acted for some time as Lieutenant in the Rainbow, Captain Sir George Collier; and being confirmed in that rank by Lord Howe, he came to England in the Iris, and on his arrival, was appointed to the Amazon frigate, in which he remained until the nomination of Sir George B. Rodney to the command in the West Indies, at the close of the year 1779. He was at that period removed to the Sandwich, of 90 guns, bearing that officer’s flag, and consequently participated in the capture of the Caraccas fleet, and the defeat of a Spanish squadron under Don Juan de Langara[1].

After his arrival at Gibraltar, Lieutenant Whitshed was promoted to the command of a newly purchased vessel, in which he followed Sir George Rodney to the West Indies; where, on the 18th April following, he was made Post in the Deal Castle. That ship was left, with the Cameleon sloop-of-war, at Gros Islet Bay, St. Lucia, whilst the Commander-in-Chief took the fleet to America, during the hurricane months. Early in October, these vessels were both driven to sea; and the Deal Castle, without a stick standing, except her fore-mast, was cast on shore at Porto Rico, in the dreadful storm that took place at that period[2]. The crew, excepting three, fortunately escaped upon rafts; and, after a detention of two months, they were at length liberated and sent to Tortola.

Captain Whitshed, on his recovery from a dangerous fever, brought on by the fatigues he had experienced, went down to St. Eustatia, where he found Sir George Rodney; and, having passed the ordeal of a Court-Martial, for the loss of his ship, he returned to England in a packet, with despatches from the Admiral, and was appointed to the Ceres, of 32 guns, then building at Liverpool.

In the Ceres, Captain Whitshed proceeded to America, with Sir Guy Carleton, the military Commander-in-Chief; whom he landed, after a passage of twenty-one days, Our officer remained in America until the final evacuation of New York; when (in Dec. 1783) he returned to England, with Sir Guy; and in Feb. 1784, the Ceres was paid off.

After a very short stay on shore, Captain Whitshed took the command of the Rose, which had been intended for the Mediterranean, but was subsequently sent to Leith, where she remained till 1785, and was then put out of commission.

It being a period of profound peace, Captain Whitshed, after residing for some time at Oxford, where he attended all the lectures in astronomy, &c., made several trips to the continent, during which he visited the Hague, Hamburgh, Lubeck, Revel, St. Petersburgh, Copenhagen,and Paris.

On the commencement of the war with France, he was appointed to the Arrogant, of 74 guns, on the home station. In the spring of 1795, he removed into the Namur, a second rate; and after cruising some time with the Channel Fleet, sailed with Rear-Admiral Parker, to reinforce Sir John Jervis, in the Mediterranean. On the 14th Feb. 1797, Captain Whitshed had the gratification of participating in the glorious victory gained over the Spanish fleet by Sir John Jervis[3], on which occasion, the Namur had 2 men killed and 7 wounded. Captain Whitshed, in common with the rest of the officers of the squadron, received the thanks of Parliament, and was presented with a gold medal for his services on that memorable day. On his return to England he was appointed to the Ajax, of 80 guns; but afterwards removed to the Formidable, a three-decker, in which he remained until his promotion to the rank of Rear-Admiral, Feb. 14, 1799.

Upon the death of Sir Charles Thompson, which took place in the following month, the Rear-Admiral hoisted his flag on board the Queen Charlotte, of 110 guns, and soon after sailed for the Mediterranean. In the ensuing summer he returned home in the Barfleur, a second-rate; and in August, had his flag on board the Temeraire, a ship of the same force, in the Channel Fleet; where it continued until towards the close of the war.

On the recommencement of hostilities, in 1803, Rear-Admiral Whitshed was appointed to the chief command of the Sea Fencibles in Ireland; and in the Spring of 1807, he succeeded the late Lord Gardner as Commander-in-Chief at Cork, where he remained until the Autumn of 1810. He was advanced to the rank of Vice-Admiral, April 23, 1804; Admiral, July 31, 1810; nominated a K.C.B. Jan. 2, 1815; and appointed Port-Admiral at Portsmouth on the demise of Sir George Campbell, in Feb. 1821.

Sir James’s eldest son was killed in action, when a Midshipman on board the Berwick, in the Mediterranean, Dec. 11, 1813. He was a most gallant youth, and died much regretted. His only surviving son became of age, July 29, 1822.