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Royal Naval Biography/Hewes, Thomas Oldacres


THOMAS OLDACRES HEWES, Esq.
[Commander.]

Was made a lieutenant in Oct. 1800. We first find him serving in the Blanche frigate, Captain Zachary Mudge, with whom he had the misfortune to be captured by a French squadron, on the West India station, July 19th, 1805[1]. Respecting the defence of that ship, and the severe remarks thereon contained in James’s Naval History, he has written to the author of this work as follows:

“Mr. James’s observations are both scurrilous and unjust. I was first lieutenant of the Blanche in that action, and as I gave my evidence upon oath at Captain Mudge’s court-martial, I trust it will not be necessary for me to enter more into the subject here, than to say that he did every thing in his power for her defence; nor were her colours struck until she had for some time refused to answer her helm, and consequently become unmanageable. As to James referring to Captain Mudge’s statement of the number of men composing the crews of the enemy’s squadron, every naval man must be aware of the difficulty of getting correct information on such a subject from French officers, and Captain Mudge had no other means. I can only add, that it was understood to be correct at the time; as was also his statement respecting the Proselyte and her convoy. If the Illustrious had charge of that fleet, it was unknown to us, and I believe it was equally so to Mons. Baudin and his officers, who informed us that they were waiting for the Proselyte and her charge.

“I have very recently been informed, that Mr. James had his information from an officer who left the Blanche (not on the best of terms with his captain) more than a year prior to her capture. From whom he actually received it, I know not; but this I know, that I envy not that man his feelings who could thus, to gratify his malice, privately stab the character of an active, deserving officer, and through him wound the feelings of his subordinate officers and crew. And here, may I ask what becomes of Mr. James’s vaunted impartiality, when he thus dips his pen in gall, and prostitutes his pages to the purposes of private slander? But, Sir, Captain Mudge and his officers have the consolation of knowing, that their efforts were not only highly approved of by the distinguished characters who sat upon their court-martial, but also by the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, who immediately appointed Captain Mudge, with his officers, and part of the Blanche’s crew, to the Phoenix, a more fortunate ship, she having just returned into port with her prize la Didon.

(Signed)Thomas Hewes.”

We shall here lay before our readers the copies of two letters from Rear-Admiral Manley Dixon, addressed to Captain Stephen Poyntz, of the Edgar 74, which, as they never appeared in the London Gazette, although the vessels they refer to were purchased for Government, may prove gratifying to the parties immediately concerned.

H.M.S. Ruby, off Anholt, 13th July, 1810.

“Sir,– I have the pleasure to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 12th instant, stating the capture of three of the enemy’s row gun-boats by the boats of the Edgar and Dictator, under the direction of Lieutenant Hewes, first of the former ship, on the night of the 7th instant; and in return, I most sincerely congratulate you on the successful result of that gallant and well conducted service, which so strongly evinced the spirit and discipline of the two ships in the persons of the brave officers, seamen, and marines, by whom it was so promptly executed. I have not failed to take the earliest moment to forward your letter to the commander-in-chief, as likewise a duplicate to the secretary of the Admiralty. The gun-boats, from their construction, being well adapted to give additional strength to the flotilla of H.M. ships in the Belt, I have ordered them to be fitted out immediately; and having directed the necessary survey, and valuation thereon, I have forwarded the report to the commander-in-chief for his approval, recommending them to be purchased for H.M. service. The Ruby, Edgar, and Ganges, are each to have one; the captain of the Saturn has my orders to deliver the one she has to you, and which I have named the Hewes, as a small testimony of the very high opinion I entertain of the gallanty and merit of the first lieutenant of the Edgar. I have the honor to be, &c.

(Signed)Manley Dixon.”

H.M.S. Ruby, off Sproe, 22d Aug. 1810.

“Sir,– Having received a letter from Vice-Admiral Sir James Saumarez, Bart. K.B. &c. &c. commander-in-chief in the Baltic, desiring me to signify to you his approbation of your skill and judgment in planning the attack of the Danish gun-boats, and which had been so bravely executed by the ofHcers and men under the orders of Lieutenant Hewes, and that likewise you should signify to them his highest approbation of their gallant conduct upon that occasion, I have great pleasure in signifying the same to you ; and am. Sir, &c.

(Signed)Manley Dixon.”

Lieutenant Hewes was promoted to the rank of commander on the 1st Aug. 1811.