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Royal Naval Biography/Hillyar, James


JAMES HILLYAR, Esq
A Companion of the Most Honorable Military Order of the Bath.
[Post-Captain of 1804.]

This officer was made a Lieutenant in 1794; and on the 3d Sept., 1800, we find him commanding the Niger troop-ship, and leading her boats in conjunction with those of the Minotaur 74, to the attack of two Spanish corvettes, lying in the road of Barcelona, and reported to be destined for the relief of Malta, then blockaded by a British squadron.

The following is a copy of the official letter written by the late Sir Thomas Louis to Vice-Admiral Lord Keith, giving an account of the enterprise, and of Captain Hillyar’s dashing conduct on that occasion:

Minotaur, Sept. 6, 1800.

“My Lord,– Knowing how anxious and desirous your Lordship was, as well as the service I should render to my country, by cutting out or destroying the two corvettes, lying in Barcelona road, mentioned in your Lordship’s letter to Captain Oliver; and, in order to check the two ships sailing upon this intended secret expedition, induced me to persevere in the following attempt.

“On the evening of the 3d instant, after having delivered Captain Hillyar his orders to join your Lordship, a breeze sprung up from the westward, with every appearance of a close night. I again called him on hoard, with the signal at the same time to prepare boats. Captain Hillyar and Lieutenant Schomberg[1] volunteered their services, assisted hy Lieutenants Warrand, Lowry, and Healy; Mr. Reid, Master; and Lieutenant Jewell, of the marines. The boats left the Minotaur about 8 P.M., and the firing began from all quarters before nine o’clock. About ten, I had the pleasing satisfaction to see two ships dropping out of the road under a heavy fire from four strong batteries, ten gun-boats, and two schooners, each mounting two 42-pounders the fort of Montjoui at the same time throwing shells. The Minotaur and Niger were well placed in good season to cover the party, and the service was performed throughout with an enterprising spirit, good conduct, and in a gallant style. The loss in killed and wounded fell principally upon two boats, hut is not great when compared to. the situation so many men were placed in for a considerable time[2]. The ships, about eleven o’clock, were perfectly free from the fire of the enemy’s batteries and gun-boats; the men of war checking the movements of the latter. The prizes, named El Esmeralda and la Paz, are about 400 tons each, mounting 22 brass guns, 12 and 9-pounders, laden with provisions, stores, &c. supposed for Batavia, and on Dutch account: they were to have taken 300 troops of the regiment of Batavian Swiss on board from the island of Majorca. I found several Dutch officers on board El Esmeralda. The officers and several men of la Paz quitted her in boats during the action. She is a very fine ship, quite new, sails remarkably well, and I make no doubt your Lordship will find her in all respects calculated for his Majesty’s service: El Esmeralda is also a very fine ship. I beg leave strongly to recommend to your Lordship’s notice, Captain Hillyar and Lieutenant Schomberg: their services upon this occasion deserve the first attention and highest praise; at the same time I cannot pass without notice the general good conduct of every officer and man serving under my command. I have the honor to be, &c.

(Signed)Thomas Louis.”

This daring act was nobly accomplished by Captain Hillyar and Lieutenant Schomberg, with the officers and men under their directions, but has been greatly misrepresented; it having been stated that Captain Hillyar availed himself of the neutrality of a Swedish galliot to get alongside of the enemy unperceived or unsuspected. The fact is, that one of the eight boats placed under his orders by Captain Louis was employed overhauling the Swede at the moment when the others shoved off from the Minotaur, and it was for the purpose of giving instructions to the officer commanding her that he went along side the galliot, where he continued while that vessel stood in towards the mole of Barcelona, the place of her original destination. When within long-gun shot the boats quitted the galliot, and pulled in with such alacrity and resolution, that the crew of the enemy’s outer ship had neither time nor inclination to reload their guns which had been discharged when the boats were first discovered. As the British boarded, the enemy retreated into the cabin, where they barricadoed themselves, and made an obstinate defence, but were at length obliged to surrender. Three cheers from the assailants announced this conquest, upon which, the other corvette commenced firing round and grape. Her fore-topsail had been loosed in order to cast her towards the molehead, where the Spaniards intended to seek refuge; unfortunately for them, the sail took the wrong way, and she was boarded with complete success, her crew making but little resistance. Her cable was then cut, and both vessels were towed out in triumph, under the heavy fire described in the foregoing letter.

Such was the result of this gallant enterprise, which, the enemy, ashamed of their defeat, attempted to prove was done under the disguise of a neutral flag; forgetting that the exploit was achieved after dark, when no flag could be distinguished. It is however, to be regretted that the galliot was in company; for, although her presence neither contributed to the success of the attempt, nor the safety of the boats, the representations of the Swedish and Spanish governments are said to have made an impression to the disadvantage of Captain Hillyar and his gallant companions. The Admiralty, however, after much explanation, saw it in its true light, and through Lord Nelson’s kind interference he was at length advanced to post rank, though not until he had given fresh proofs of his zeal and bravery, as will be seen by Sir W. Sidney Smith’s public letter relative to the debarkation of our army in Aboukir bay, and the celebrated battles of Mar. 8 and 13, 1801.

British Camp, on the heights, three miles
from Alexandria, Mar
. 14, 1801.

“My Lord,– It would be superfluous for me to relate to your Lordship the admirable manner in which the officers and men you appointed me to command went into action with me, on the day of the disembarkation, as you were yourself a witness of the gallant and judicious conduct of Captains Maitland and Stewart, in covering the flank of the line with the armed launches; and must, as well as myself, have admired the bravery, activity, and perseverance, of Captains Ribouleau, Guion, Saville, Burn, and Hillyar, together with that of the officers and seamen under their orders; by whose unparalleled exertions the cannon were disembarked at the same moment with the troops, and moved forward with them in action. If I were to say any thing particular in praise of Lieutenants Prevost, Hillier, Campbell, and Fisher, who were nearest me, and conducted themselves to my entire satisfaction, it would be injustice to Lieutenants Cameron, Davies, and Stoddart, who, though hidden from my view by the intervening sand-hills, must have been equally well, and as successfully employed in other parts of the line, the result having been so completely satisfactory to Sir Ralph Abercromby, as to induce him to extend the most unequivocal praise to the whole of the naval officers and men, as well afloat as on shore; saying, that without our exertions he could not have brought his brave troops into action as he did. The determined courage of this gallant army in the close contest they had to maintain on the beach, at the critical time of forming, secured the victory to us on that day; and it is with heartfelt satisfaction that I have now to congratulate your Lordship on the brilliant success of the army yesterday. If we admired their cool orderly conduct, and determined bravery on the 8th., how much must we be struck with those characteristic qualities in the superior degree wherein they were displayed on this occasion; the troops marched into battle, and forced the enemy’s strong position on the heights, between the head of lake Mahadic and the sea, with the same regularity and ease that exercise, on an ordinary field day, is performed, in spite of an opposition, which is reckoned more strenuous than any the troops have met with before from the enemy in other countries. It would not become me to attempt describing the manoeuvres by which this victory was obtained; it is incumbent on me, however, to make known to your Lordship that the commander-in-chief has again been pleased to express his approbation of the exertions of the seamen and their officers; and I am happy in being able to testify that their conduct was, if possible, more praise-worthy than on the day of disembarkation, the labour they had to go through was considerably greater, and the fire they had to undergo in the passive employment of dragging up cannon for more able gunners to fire, was much more heavy, and of longer duration. It is impossible to distinguish any particular officer, where all behaved equally well, each doing his utmost to keep the guns up with the line; which was, of course, difficult hi sandy uneven ground, when the troops pressed forward in their eager approach to, and ardent pursuit of the enemy. The great and laudable efforts of Lieutenants Fisher and Davies, with the petty officers, and men, at the Swiftsure’s and Northumberland’s field-pieces, at a most trying moment, enabled them to recover their station in the line, which they had lost only by the impossibility of keeping up with the troops: such service, under a heavy fire of grape and musketry, could not be performed without loss; that of the Tigre’s men has been the greatest; but Lieutenant Hillier informs me, the remainder redoubled their exertions, and brought the guns on most opportunely, at the moment the &0th repulsed a charge of cavalry. Captain Ribouleau, the senior Commander, exerted himself in the most praiseworthy manner, along the whole line on shore, together with Captains Guion, Saville, and Burn, each in his division: Captain Hillyarkept the enemy in check, on the left, by the occasional fire of the armed flat-boats on the lake, and the troops on that flank seem sensible of their utility, in preventing the enemy’s numerous cavalry from attempting to turn them where the isthmus widens into a plain. Lieutenant Woodhouse, of the Foudroyant, (a volunteer on the ground) very handsomely offered his services to supply the place of Lieutenant Wright, who was actively employed near Sir Ralph Abercromby, and undertook to convey my orders along the line on foot, which was particularly acceptable and useful, at a time when my orderly dragoon was wounded, and both our horses disabled by a discharge of grape , 1 have to request your Lordship, to excuse his delay in returning to his duty on board, as I undertook to justify his stay in the field. We are now on the heights at the head of the lake Mahadic, with our left to the canal of Alexandria, and our right to the sea; the enemy occupy a very strong position on the ridge immediately between us and the Rosetta gate of Alexandria. I have made an excursion, with a few dragoons, on the road to Damanhour, to open an intercourse with the Arabs; I find them friendly, and the markets begin to be supplied. We are all much indebted to Captain Cochrane, and the officers under him, for the ample supplies of ammunition and provisions which he has forwarded to the army by the lake; the boats’ crews of the whole fleet have been indefatigable in this important service. Eleven French boats, seized on the enemy’s right by Lieutenant Wright, have been likewise employed therein, under Captain Hillyar, and also in conveying the wounded, both English and French, to the hospital, so that none remained the night on the field of battle. The commander-in-chief expresses himself very grateful to the navy for their humane exertions on this occasion, and I am happy in observing, that both services seem sensible of the support they mutually give each other in the operations, so that the utmost harmony prevails. I have the honor to be, &c.

(Signed)W. Sidney Smith.”

Admiral Lord Keith,
&c. &c. &c.

The castle of Aboukir capitulated on the 18th. Mar. and three days afterwards the British obtained another splendid victory on the spot, where they had halted after the battle of the 13th[3]. On the 25th a Turkish squadron formed a junction with the English fleet in Aboukir bay, and landed a body of troops, with whose assistance Colonel Spencer, at the head of a detachment from the army before Alexandria, succeeded in obtaining possession of Rosetta a place of considerable importance, situated near the western mouth of the Nile. The reduction of fort St. Julian by the allied forces, and the progress of the combined flotilla from that place towards Grand Cairo, have already been noticed in our memoir of Captain Richard Curry[4].

The subject of this memoir was employed in a gun-boat during the whole of that fatiguing campaign; and, after the surrender of the Egyptian capital we find him succeeding Captain Curry in the command of the Betsy, an armed djerm, the latter officer having been charged with despatches to Lord Keith immediately after the capitulation had been agreed to. The following is an extract from Lieutenant-General, now Lord, Hutchinson’s letter to government announcing the result of the expedition:

“The exertions of Captain Stevenson and the navy have been extremely laborious and constant during this long march; they have done every thing that was possible to forward our supplies: and indeed, without their powerful aid, it would have been impossible to have proceeded. Your Lordship will recollect, that the river is extremely low at this season of the year, the mouth of the Nile impassable for days together, and the distance from Rosetta to Cairo between 160 and 170 miles. Captain Stevenson has been ably supported by Captains Morrison, Curry, and Hillyar, who were employed under him. – The service in which they have been engaged has not been a brilliant one, but I hope it will be recollected that it has been most useful, and has required constant vigilance and attention; it has lasted now for many weeks; the labour has been excessive, and the fatigue greater than I can express[5].”

The attention of the allies was next directed to Alexandria, which place now contained within its walls, and its harbour, all that remained of the mighty force which had arrived from Toulon, under Buonaparte, in 1798, and no time was lost in completing the circumvallation of that town. The tower of Marabout, standing on a small island at the western side of the port, commanding one of the channels, surrendered on the 21st July, and Captain, now Sir Alexander, Cochrane immediately entered the harbour with 4 British and 3 Turkish corvettes, whilst the flotilla, under Captain Stevenson, rendered important services on Lake Mareotis. Thus pressed and hemmed in on every side, General Menou began to feel that his power was at an end; as the probability of relief from France was too distant to afford a ray of hope. He consequently demanded an armistice, which very soon led to & final capitulation; hastened no doubt by the intelligence that the British army was in daily expectation of receiving considerable reinforcements from India. The capitulation was ratified by the British commanders-in-chief on the 2d Sept. General Menou and his followers were allowed to return home upon the same terms as had been granted to the garrison of Grand Cairo, 312 pieces of cannon, 14,000 filled cartridges, 195,0001bs. of gunpowder, 1 ship of the line, 3 frigates, several corvettes, and numerous merchant vessels, fell into the hands of the allies, and Egypt was at length freed from the tyranny of those who had invaded that country as a preparatory step to the subversion of the British empire in India.

“The nature of this service,” says Lord Keith in his letter to the Admiralty, “has demanded from most of the officers and seamen of the fleet, and particularly from those of the troopships, bombs, and transports, the endurance of labour, fatigue, and privation, far beyond what I have witnessed before, and which I verily believe to have exceeded all former example; and it has been encountered and surmounted with a degree of resolution and perseverance, which merits my highest praise, and gives both officers and men a just claim to the approbation of their Lordships, and of the Country. The number of officers to whom I owe this tribute does not admit of my mentioning them by name;, but most of the Captains of the troop-ships have been employed in the superintendence of these duties, and I have had repeated and urgent offers of voluntary service from all.”

During the ensuing peace we find Captain Hillyar conveying General Oakes and a number of recruits for the garrison of Gibraltar, from England to that fortress. On the 20th Jan. 1804, his staunch friend, the immortal Nelson, addressed the following letter in his favor to Earl St. Vincent who at that period presided over our naval affairs:

“Captain Hillyar is most truly deserving of all your Lordship can do for him, and in addition to his public merits has a claim upon us. At twenty-four years of age, when I made him a Lieutenant for his bravery, he maintained his mother, sisters, and a brother. For these reasons he declined the Ambuscade which was offered him; because, although he might thus get his rank, yet, if he were put upon half-pay, his family would be the sufferers. From all these circumstances, so honorable to Captain Hillyar, independent of his services, which every one thought would have obtained him promotion in the late war, I beg leave to submit, as an act of the greatest kindness, that as the Niger is a very fine fast sailing frigate, well manned, and in most excellent condition, she may be fitted with the Madras’s 32 carronades, which are not so heavy as her present 9-pounders, and that your Lordship would recommend her being considered as a postship. Captain Hillyar’s activity would soon complete the additional number of men, and she would be an efficient frigate. I will not venture to say more, I am sensible of your attention to merit.”

In consequence of this recommendation the Niger’s establishment was altered, and Captain Hillyar appointed to command her as a 32-gun frigate by commission dated Feb. 29, 1804. In the following autumn he discovered a very fine watering place about five miles to the westward of Porto Torres, in Sardinia, which proved essentially advantageous to the British ships employed in watching the motions of the Toulon fleet. Lord Nelson in his diary mentions, that “at the springs, about 200 yards from the beach, forty casks may be filled at the same time,” and in a letter written by him to one of the British Consuls he says “I can assure you, that we have found Pulla (the place of anchorage) the most healthy spot the fleet has ever been at. So far from a man being ill from the thousands who went on shore, they have all derived the greatest benefit from the salubrity of the air brought down by that fine river.”

On the 11th Dec. in the same year, Captain Hillyar arrived at the Admiralty with despatches from his patron, with whom we again find him serving, off Cadiz, a few days previous to the glorious battle which deprived us of our greatest hero. On the 2d May, 1806, he captured a Spanish schooner bound to la Guira with despatches; and at the latter end of 1807, assisted in escorting Sir John Moore’s army from Gibraltar to England[6]. He subsequently commanded the St. George a second rate bearing the flag of Rear-Admiral Eliab Harvey on Channel service.

Captain Hillyar’s next appointment was to the Phoebe a 36-gun frigate, with a complement of 295 men and boys, which ship formed part of the naval force employed at the reduction of the Mauritius in Dec. 1810[7]; and sustained a loss of 7 men killed, and 24 wounded, in an action with a French squadron, near Madagascar; the particulars of which will be found under the head of Captain Charles Marsh Schomberg, who in his official letter bears the most ample testimony to Captain Hillyar’s gallant conduct on that occasion. The Phoebe likewise assisted in recovering possession of Tamatavé, and capturing her late opponent la Nereide of 44 guns and 470 men[8].

On the 20th Aug. 1811, Captain Hillyar arrived at Batavia, in company with the Nisus and President frigates, forming part of the squadron under Rear-Admiral Stopford, who, in the Scipion 74, had previously proceeded from the Cape station to assist in the reduction of Java. The marines of the Phoebe and her consorts were immediately landed, and thankfully received by Sir Samuel Auchmuty, whose army was already much diminished by sickness: the arrival of those frigates from the Isle of France may indeed be considered as most fortunate circumstance, as they very materially contributed to ease the press of duty so severely felt in that pestilential climate, and in no trifling degree accelerated the successful termination of the expedition[9].

On the 31st day of the same month, the Nisus, President, and Phoebe, accompanied by the Hesper sloop of war proceeded to Cheribon for the purpose of intercepting the enemy’s troops in their retreat from Meister Cornelius towards Samarang, Rear-Admiral Stopford relying upon those ships for the performance of that service, and, as he says, they fully answered his expectations. Their proceedings are thus detailed by Captain Beaver, senior officer of the squadron:–

H.M.S. Nisus, off Cheribon, Sept. 4, 1811.

“Sir,– I have the honor to inform you, that, with the Nisus, President, and Phoebe, I got within 7 or 8 miles of this place last night at dark, when I anchored.

“At day-light this morning, I despatched Captain Warren, of the President, in a boat, under a flag of truce, with the accompanying summons to the commandant of Cheribon, and immediately after weighed with the three frigates, stood towards the fort, and anchored them as near as we could get to it, in three and a quarter fathoms; when the French colours were hauled down, and English hoisted in their place. The marines, amounting to 180, were immediately landed, and took possession of the fort; and I have the satisfaction to inform you, that just at that moment, the French General Jamelle, arrived at the Landroost’s, from Buitenzory, and was made our prisoner, together with an aide-de-camp of General Jannsen’s, and a Lieutenant of infantry[10].

“From the French General I learned that he left Buitenzory the night before our troops arrived there, and that detachments of the enemy were on their march from that place to this – about three hundred infantry, and 250 cavalry of which were hourly expected to arrive here I therefore immediately landed 150 seamen, to garrison and defend the fort of Cheribon; leaving all the marines to act offensively against the enemy in the field, if occasion should require it, and placed 3 launches with carronades in the river, to enfilade the two chief approaches to the fort. * * *

“The Hesper sailed so ill, that I was obliged to proceed without her, but expect her appearance every hour, as well as the Sepoys, who are to act under Colonel Wood, on whose arrival I shall Immediately re-embark the marines, and proceed to Taggall and Samarang; without whose assistance we should be too weak to make any impression on the latter place.”

Sept. 5, 1811.

“In consequence of a summons having been despatched yesterday to the government storekeeper of Carang Sambang, about 35 miles distant on the road to Buitenzory, to deliver up some very valuable stores of coffee under his charge, a despatch was early this morning received from him, in which he says he is ready to deliver over the above property to any person sent for that purpose; but, he is very fearful if we do not send troops there immediately, the French, who are arriving in small parties, will, when they hear of our being in possession of Cheribon, destroy the stores, and disperse; and it having been represented to me in consequence, that a quick movement to Carang Sambang, with the marines and a party of seamen, might not only preserve those stores, but either make prisoners of, or disperse the enemy there collected, I placed, at the written request of Colonel Wood, who is at present without any troops of the line, all the marines, and 50 seamen, under his immediate command, and they will march this evening at 5 o’clock. They are all mounted, seamen as well as marines, and a relay of horses is prepared for them half way. The Hesper arrived this morning, and I have appointed Captain Reynolds pro tempore, commandant of Cheribon.”

Sept. 7, 1811.

“A party, detached from the seamen and marines under Colonel Wood, arrived last night, with nine waggons laden with money, and 30 prisoners, from the Bongas, a place half way between this and Carang Sambang, which they left in the morning at 6 o’clock, when our men were about to advance; and this morning the Brigade Major returned with intelligence that all the stores at the latter place, to a great amount[11], are given up to us, and that all the troops there are made prisoners of war: thus, every object for which the seamen and marines were advanced into the country, has been happily attained, and no one left in arms against us for a space of 35 miles.

Sept. 11, 1811.

“The last party of marines returned from Carang Sambang late last night, and were embarked on board the Nisus at one this morning. I have thus re-embarked every seaman and marine of the 330 whom I landed on the 4th instant, after having made about 700 prisoners, including 1 General, 2 Lieutenant-Colonels, 1 Major, 11 Captains, 42 Lieutenants, and about 180 Non-commissioned officers and European privates, the rest being Creoles and Malays, without having had a single man either killed or wounded, and, I am happy to say, with very few sick indeed, and those chiefly from great fatigue, whom, I trust, a few days will restore to their wonted vigour. Although it has not been our good fortune to have had it in our power to do any thing brilliant, yet, I hope, that having been able to secure so great a proportion of the enemy’s officers, and European troops, may contribute in some degree, to the speedy reduction of this important colony.”

Captain Hillyar sailed from Cheribon on the llth Sept. and the next day took possession of the fort at Taggall, together with the government stores about five miles distant from thence, which he found were capacious, and well filled with coffee, rice, and pepper. He then re-joined Rear-Admiral Stopford at Sauiarang, and proceeded with him to Sourabaya, where intelligence was received of the capitulation for the surrender of Java and its dependencies having been concluded on the 18th of the same month.

From this period we lose sight of Captain Hillyar till Mar. 1813, when he sailed from England for the purpose of destroying the Americans’ fur-establishment upon the banks of Columbia river, the execution of which service he found it necessary to entrust to another officer, in consequence of his receiving certain intelligence, at the island of Juan Fernandez, that the United States’ frigate Essex of 46 guns and 328 men had been for some time committing great depredations upon British commerce in the South Seas, and that several of her prizes had been armed in order to assist in doing still further mischief.

The Racoon and Cherub, sloops of war, having joined the Phoebe at Rio Janeiro, and accompanied her round Cape Horn, Captain Hillyar, on his arrival off the Gallipago islands, despatched the former vessel to Columbia river, and proceeded himself, with the Cherub in company, to explore the gulf of Guayaquil, and the coasts between that and Valparaiso, at which latter place he anchored close to the American frigate, and three of her prizes, on the 8th Feb. 1814. His subsequent action with the Essex is thus described by him in a letter to the Admiralty, dated at Valparaiso, on the 30th Mar. 1814:

“Sir,– I have the honor to acquaint you, for the information of my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, that at a little past 3 P.M. on the 28th instant, after nearly five months anxious search, and six weeks still more anxious look-out for the Essex and her companion[12], to quit the port of Valparaiso, we saw the former under weigh, and immediately, accompanied by the Cherub, made sail to close with her. On rounding the outer point of the bay, and hauling her wind for the purpose of endeavouring to weather us, and escape, she lost her main-top-mast, and afterwards, not succeeding in an effort to regain the limits of the port, bore up, and anchored so near the shore, (a few miles to leeward of it), as to preclude the possibility of passing a-head of her without risk to his Majesty’s ships. As we drew near, my intention of going close under her stern was frustrated by the ship breaking off, and from the wind blowing extremely fresh, our first fire, commencing a little past four o’clock, and continuing about ten minutes, produced no visible effect. Our second, a few random shot only, from having increased our distance by wearing, was not apparently more successful, and having lost the use of our main-sail, jib, and main-stay, appearances were a little inauspicious. On standing again towards her, I signified my intention of anchoring, for which we were not ready before, with springs, to Captain Tucker, directing him to keep under weigh, and take a convenient station for annoying our opponent. On closing the Essex, at 5-35, the firing re-commenced, and before I gained my intended position, her cable was cut, and a serious conflict ensued; the guns of his Majesty’s ship gradually becoming more destructive, and her crew, if possible, more animated, which lasted until 6-20, when it pleased the Almighty Disposer of Events to bless the efforts of my gallant companions, and my personal, very humble one, with vietory. My friend Captain Tucker[13], an officer worthy of their Lordships’ best attention, was severely wounded at the commencement of the action, but remained on deck until it terminated, ’ using every exertion against the baffling winds and occasional calms which followed the heavy firing, to close near the enemy: he informs me, that his officers and crew, of whose loyalty, zeal, and discipline, I entertain the highest opinion, conducted themselves to his satisfaction. * * * * * * The conduct of my officers and crew, without an individual exception that has come to my knowledge, before, during, and after the battle, was such as become good and loyal subjects, zealous for the honor of their much loved, though distant, King and Country.

“The defence of the Essex, taking into consideration our superiority of force, the very discouraging circumstance of her having lost her main-topmast, and being twice on fire, did honor to her brave defenders, and most fully evinced the courage of Captain (David) Porter, and those under his command. Her colours were net struck until the loss in killed and wounded was so awfully great, and her shattered condition so seriously bad, as to render further resistance unavailing.

“I was much hurt on hearing that her men had been encouraged, when the result of the action was evidently decided, some to take to their boats, and others to swim on shore; many were drowned in the attempt; 16 were saved by the exertions of my people; and others, I believe between 30 and 40 effected their landing. I informed Captain Porter, that I considered the latter, in point of honor, as my prisoners; he said the encouragement was given when the ship was in danger from fire, and I have not pressed the point. The Essex is completely stored and provisioned for at least six months, and although much injured in her upper works, masts, and rigging, is not in such a state as to give the slightest cause of alarm, respecting her being able to perform a voyage to Europe with perfect safety. Our main and mizen-masts, and main-yard, are rather seriously wounded; these, with a few shot-holes between wind and water, which we can get at without lightening; and a loss of canvas and cordage, which we can partly replace from our well-stored prize, are the extent of the injuries his Majesty’s ship has sustained. * * * * * * I have the honor to be, &c.

(Signed)James Hillyar.”

To J. W. Croker, Esq.

The loss sustained by the British ships on this occasion was only 5 killed and 10 wounded, including among the former Mr. William Ingram, first Lieutenant of the Phoebe, a brave and excellent officer. That of the American frigate was very severe, 23 men having been found dead on her decks, and 42 wounded among the prisoners (161 in number): 3 others were acknowledged to have been removed by a boat belonging to her consort, just before she surrendered; and at least 40 are supposed to have perished in their attempt to reach the shore; but as not a single document relative to the number serving in her at the commencement of the action was found by Captain Hillyar, it is impossible for any person, not an American, to arrive at a correct conclusion on that subject. We can only express our regret that the Essex junior did not venture out of port, in which case the Cherub would have been of course detached in pursuit of that ship, and the Phoebe no doubt have given an equally good account of her immediate opponent[14].

Captain Hillyar arrived at Plymouth with his prize, Nov. 13, 1814; and in the course of the following year we find him receiving the insignia of a C.B. as a just reward for his long and meritorious services.

He married, July 14, 1805, a daughter of N.Taylor, Esq. Naval Storekeeper at Malta. One of his brothers is a Commander, and another a Surgeon, R.N. The latter has recently received permission to accept and wear the insignia of a K.T.S. which the King of Portugal was pleased to confer upon him, when that monarch visited H.M.S. Windsor Castle, at Lisbon, in May, 1824.

Agent.– Sir Francis Ommaney, M.P.



  1. Lieutenant, now Captain, Charles Marsh Schomberg, see p. 830.
  2. Two seamen killed; one officer, four seamen, and one marine, wounded; the latter mortally. The enemy had 3 men killed and 21 wounded.
  3. For Sir W. Sidney Smith’s official letter, see Vol. II. Part I. p. 385.
  4. See Id. pp. 462–468.
  5. On the 6th July, 1801, ten days after the surrender of Grand Cairo, the French disinterred the body of General Kleber for the purpose of conveying it with them to France. The following day, Captain Hillyar rode to Heliopolis a place where formerly stood a famous temple of the Sun. On the 12th he went by invitation to dine with the Colonel of the Mamelukes attached to the republican army. The repast was served up in the tower of Mekias, which proved to be the handsomest building he had seen in Egypt. The pillar on which the rise of the Nile is measured is the centre of the edifice and stands in a large octagon well which communicates by a subterranean passage with the river. The pillar is graduated in Arabic coundées, a measure nearly equal to the ancient cubit. Over the well stands a handsome dome, ornamented profusely with painted glass, &c. The Colonel’s wife, a fair Syrian, was dressed as a Frenchwoman, though her usual habit was that of an officer in her husband’s corps. She had been with him in several battles with the Bedouin Arabs, and in consequence obtained the appellation of his fighting wife.

    At daylight on the 15th July, the whole of the British, Turkish, and French vessels weighed and sailed down the Nile. The number of djerms, &c. employed in conveying the effects of the three armies amounted to 269. We cannot take our leave of Grand Cairo without relating an instance of the depravity of the captives: among other articles of what they called their private property, they brought some Grecian women whom the fortune of war had transferred to them; and these unfortunate victims of their rapacity and their lust, they sold, without reserve or remorse, as in a public market, to the Turks.

  6. See Vol. II. Part I. p 422.
  7. See Vol. I. p. 631 et seq.
  8. See pp. 833–837 of this Volume.
  9. See Vol. I. p. 357.
  10. General Jamelle and his companions were taken prisoners by Captain Warren at the head of a few marines; See p. 572.
  11. The coffee alone, taken at Carang Sambang, was valued at 250,000 Spanish dollars.
  12. The Essex junior of 10-long-sixes, 10-eighteen-pounder carronades, and 95 men, part of whom are said to have been on board the frigate whilst engaged with the British.
  13. See Captain Thomas Tudor Tucker.
  14. The Phoebe mounted 26 long 18-pounders, 4 long 9’s, 14 thirty-two-pounder carronades, and 2 boat-guns; the Essex, 40 thirty-two-pounder carronades, and six long nines. The former had on board 300 officers, men, and boys, including a few volunteers from two British merchantmen lying at Valparaiso; we are justified by the declaration of Captain Porter himself in stating that the latter had at least 260 persons, exclusive of those sent from the Essex junior to her assistance. The Cherub mounted 18 thirty-two-pounder carronades, 6 eighteens, 2 long-sixes, and 1 boat-gun; her total complement was 121.