Royal Naval Biography/Henry, John
JOHN HENRY, Esq.
(Admiral of the Red.)
This venerable officer was born at Holyhead in the island of Anglesea, Sept. 28, 1731, and entered the naval service about the year 1744. Whilst on service, as a Midshipman, he had his thigh bone broken by a hawser. In 1762, we find him serving as first Lieutenant of the Hampton-Court, a 64-gun ship, at the reduction of the Havannah by Admiral Sir George Pocock, and the Earl of Albemarle.
On the 22d Nov., 1777, our officer was promoted to the rank of Post-Captain, by Lord Howe, for his conduct at the capture of Mud Island, in North America, which was considered at the time a most important service. In the early part of May, 1778, Captain Henry was detached by his Lordship, with a flotilla consisting of several gallies, schooners, and gun-boats, to co-operate with a detachment of light infantry, under the command of Major Maitland, who were embarked in eighteen flat boats, for the purpose of attacking the enemy’s ships which were lying in the Chesapeake, between Philadelphia and Trenton. On this occasion, the following American vessels were destroyed: Washington, pierced for 32 guns; Effingham, ditto for 28; three mounting 16 guns each; three of 10 guns each; nine large merchant ships; twenty-three brigs, and a number of schooners and sloops.
In Sept. and Oct. 1779, Captain Henry, who had previously been appointed to the Fowey, of 20 guns, greatly distinguished himself in the command of the naval force stationed at Savannah, consisting of three ships of 20 guns each, one brig of 12 guns, two armed ships, four gallies, and seven half gallies. On the 9th of the former month, the Count d’Estaing anchored with nineteen sail of the line, two ships of 54 guns each, seven frigates, a corvette, and a number of transports, off the bar, at the mouth of the river. This armament was intended for the reduction of Georgia.
As soon as the French troops were landed, and a junction formed with those of America from Charlestown, under General Lincoln, the Count d’Estaing sent a most vaunting summons to the garrison at Savannah, demanding its immediate surrender. General Prevost, who commanded, required twenty-four hours for deliberation, which was granted. In this interval Colonel Maitland and Lieutenant Goldesborough, of the navy, with the greatest zeal and perseverance, having surmounted many difficulties, joined the garrison with a reinforcement from the island of Port Royal; the officers, seamen, and marines, with the guns from the ships of war, were landed, the works put in the best possible state of defence, and two vessels, the Rose and Savannah brig, sunk on the bar at the entrance of the river, to prevent the approach of the enemy’s ships. At the expiration of the time allotted, an answer was returned to the French commander, that the garrison were determined to defend themselves to the last man. Upon the signal gun being fired for the recommencement of hostilities, nothing could prevent the usual ardour of the British seamen from expressing their joy by three loud cheers from the batteries.
The siege was prosecuted with the greatest vigour; at length the enemy began to be considerably weakened and disheartened by repeated attacks, in all of which they were repulsed with great slaughter; the fleet and army also became extremely sickly, which much contributed to reduce their strength. On the 18th Oct., upon the clearing up of a fog, it was discovered that the French and Americans had abandoned their camps the preceding night, and to prevent being overtaken in their retreat, had broken down all the bridges. The wreck of the French army was re-embarked, and on the 1st Nov. the Count d’Estaing departed with a part of his fleet for Europe, and sent the remainder to the West Indies.
The French army is said to have consisted of 4,800 regular troops, besides mulattoes and free negroes brought from the West Indies. The American force under General Lincoln, to about 3,000 men.
The loss the French sustained on this expedition is computed at 1,500 men.
On the 15th May, 1780, Captain Henry was appointed to the Providence, of 32 guns, an American frigate that had been taken at Charlestown; and towards the close of the following year we find him commanding the Renown, of 50 guns, attached to the squadron under Rear-Admiral Kempenfelt, when that officer encountered M. de Guichen. He appears to have continued in that ship, during the remainder of the war. In 1793, when hostilities commenced with the French republic, Captain Henry commissioned the Irresistible, of 74 guns, and convoyed a fleet of merchantmen to the West Indies, where he assisted at the reduction of the French islands, and thus terminated his professional services. Captain Henry was promoted to the rank of Rear-Admiral, July 4, 1794; Vice-Admiral, Feb. 14, 1799; and Admiral, April 23, 1804. He is a widower, but has no children. In 1816, a Pamphlet was published, entitled “An Account of the means by which Admiral Henry has cured the Rheumatism, a Tendency to Gout, the Tic Douloureux, the Cramp, and other Disorders; and by which a Cataract in the Eye was removed; with Engravings of the Instruments made use of in the several operations practised by him.” London, pp. 20.
Residence.– Rolvenden, Kent.
- The expedition against the capital of Cuba, was one of the most daring and best conducted enterprises ever undertaken by any nation. To prevent those apprehensions on the part of the Court of Spain, which the equipment of a powerful fleet in England would have given rise to, Sir George Pocock sailed from Portsmouth with only four ships of the line, one frigate, and some transports, on board of which were embarked four regiments of infantry. On his arrival in the West Indies he took upon him the command of all the men of war in that quarter, which composed a fleet of twenty-six ships of the line, fifteen frigates, and a considerable number of smaller vessels.
After a very fortunate passage through the Old Straits of Bahama, a navigation of considerable difficulty, this formidable armament arrived off the Havannah on the 6th June, 1762. The land forces, under the command of the Earl of Albemarle, amounting to upwards of 10,000 men, were landed the next day, together with a detachment of seamen and marines, and the joint operations of the navy and army were pushed with vigour.
On the 30th July, a practical breach was made in the Moro castle; and the same day it was resolutely carried by storm, with so inconsiderable a loss as only two officers and thirty men; the slaughter among the Spaniards was immense. Don Louis de Valasco, Captain of a ship of war, and Governor of the Fort, made a most gallant defence; he was mortally wounded, and his second, the Marquis de Gonzales, was killed. His Catholic Majesty, to commemorate the fate of the brave Don Valasco, created his son Viscount Moro, and directed, that for ever after there should be a ship in his navy called the Valasco.
On the 11th Aug. the Spaniards hung out flags of truce from the town, fort le Puntal, and the Admiral’s ship. The next day the capitulation was signed, and on the 14th, the British were put in possession of the Havannah. The specie, valuable merchandize, with the military and naval stores, which were found in the town and arsenal, amounted to near 3,000,000l. sterling. By the reduction of this place the Spanish navy received a severe blow. Nine sail of the line were taken in the harbour fit for sea; two on the stocks, which were burnt by our people, and three others were sunk at the entrance of the harbour, with a large galleon. This important conquest was not acquired without a considerable loss on the part of the British; the killed, wounded, missing, and those who died by sickness, which raged to a great degree, during and after the siege, amounted to above 1790 officers and men, exclusive of those who fell a sacrifice to the unwholesomeness of the climate on board the fleet.
The courts of France and Spain, intimidated by this blow, which laid all their settlements in the West Indies at the mercy of Britain, entered immediately on negotiations for peace, which they obtained on easier terms than the great success of the British arms in every quarter of the globe might seem to justify.
- See Retired Captain Sir Andrew Snape Hamond.
- See p. 58.