Royal Naval Biography/Horton, Joshua Sydney

[Post-Captain of 1800.]

This officer entered the naval service about 1781; was first Lieutenant of the Lowestoffe frigate, at the capture of la Minerve, June 24, 1795[1]; and subsequently commanded the Fairy of 18 guns, in which vessel he sunk a French lugger off Boulogne, Oct. 5, 1797; and captured a Spanish privateer of 8 guns and 55 men, in the Channel, Jan. 11, 1799.

On the 4th February 1800, the Seaflower, a small brig of war, commanded by a Lieutenant, was chased into St. Aubyn’s bay, Jersey, by la Pallas, a French frigate of 46 guns and 380 men. Captain Horton was then dining with Captain d’Auvergne, Prince of Bouillon, the senior officer on that station; and, with Captain Henry Bazely, of the Harpy, a brig mounting sixteen 32-pr. carronades and two long sixes, immediately volunteered to go out and fight the enemy. Their handsome offer being accepted by the Prince, those officers weighed at 6 A.M. on the following day, and before noon discovered the object of their pursuit near St. Maloes, but so close in shore as to preclude the possibility of bringing her to action without having recourse to stratagem. They therefore tacked for the purpose of decoying her out from under the land; a manoeuvre which had the desired effect, as the enemy soon after made sail in chase of them. At one P.M., la Pallas having arrived within pistol-shot of the British sloops, a warm action commenced, and continued till a quarter before three, when she hauled off and made all sail from them. The Fairy and Harpy were by this time much cut up in their rigging, which was no sooner repaired than they crowded sail after her. At four o’clock, a British squadron, consisting of the Loire frigate, Danae, a 20-gun ship, and Railleur sloop of war, hove in sight from the Fairy’s mast head; about 11h 30', Captain Newman of the Loire, succeeded in bringing the enemy to action, in which he was afterwards joined by the Railleur, Harpy, and Fairy; and la Pallas being thus surrounded, was at length compelled to surrender, after a gallant defence of three hours. The loss sustained by the Fairy in those actions, amounted to 4 men killed and 9, including her commander, wounded. The total loss on the part of the British, who were for some time exposed to the fire of a battery on one of the Seven Islands, was 10 slain and 36 wounded.

Captain Newman, in his official letter to the Admiralty respecting this capture, acknowledged himself indebted to Captains Horton and Bazely, for the exertions they used to come up with la Pallas, but took no notice of their having shared in the night action; and since his unfortunate death[2], an officer of the Loire has even gone so far as to deny their having done so; although it is a notorious fact, that the Harpy in particular, was of great assistance in subduing the enemy’s ship, by laying on her quarter, and during the last fifteen minutes of the combat, pouring in a most destructive fire from her heavy carronades. The Fairy, we believe, owing to her dull sailing, was not able to do more than exchange a few broadsides with la Pallas, when passing on opposite tacks[3]. Captain Horton’s spirited conduct, however, first, in volunteering to seek an encounter with a ship of such superior force to the small vessels under his command; secondly, in attacking la Pallas, and lastly, in renewing the chase for the purpose of bringing her again to action, added to the skill with which he directed the manoeuvres of the Fairy and Harpy, in order to cut the enemy off from the land, sufficiently established his character as a zealous, brave, and skilful officer, and fully entitled him to the promotion which he soon after obtained. His post commission bears date Feb. 18, 1800[4].

The following is a copy of the Prince of Bouillon’s letter to the Admiralty, enclosing Captain Horton’s report of his proceedings up to nine P.M. on the 5th Feb., at which hour he hailed the Loire, and pointed out the enemy, then about one and a half gun-shot distant:

H.M.S. Bravo, Jersey, Feb. 14, 1800.

“Sir. I have a very lively satisfaction in transmitting, for their Lordships’ information, Captain Horton’s report to me, of the address with which he enticed the republican frigate la Pallas from the protection of her own shore, and the gallantry with which he and Captain Bazely, in the Harpy, and their officers and crews, sustained and persevered in the unequal contest with so superior a force. The distinguished conduct of those officers needs no comment from me to be acceptable to their Lordships; but it is a duty that I fill with pleasure, to state, that they sailed from here well informed of the weight and force of the frigate, and apprised of her destination, with the sanguine hopes of meeting her, and the firm resolution of exerting their utmost to produce the fortunate result that, I understand, succeeded, in that fine new frigate having been conducted to an English port. I have the honor to be, &c. &c.

(Signed)P. D’Auvergne, Prince of Bouillon.”

To Evan Nepean, Esq.

Captain Horton commanded several ships during the late war; but does not appear to have had any opportunity afforded him of adding to his well-earned reputation. He married, in Jan. 1808, the widow of Henry Worwood, of Headington House, co. Oxford, Esq.

Agent.– Thomas Stilwell, Esq.

  1. See p. 86.
  2. Captain Newman perished in the Hero 74, with all his crew, during the disastrous winter of 1811.
  3. The Fairy was a ship-sloop, and mounted sixteen long 6’s on her main-deck, and two carronades, 24-pounders, on the quarter-deck.
  4. Captain Newman’s silence is thus accounted for by a gentleman who enjoyed his friendship (in a note to the author): “With regard to the little controversy carried o respecting the share of the Fairy and Harpy in action with the Pallas, and the complaint, that Captain Newman of the Loire, did not mention it in his despatches, I can state most clearly and positively, from Captain Newman’s own relation to me, that his only reason for not speaking of that event was, that he saw nothing of it, and could know nothing of it, but from Captains Horton and Bazely: the former of whom, on coming on board of the Loire after the action, instead of requesting Captain Newman to detail the occurrence for him, expressly said that he should forward his own statement: in consequence of which, Captain Newman naturally said, ‘Very well, then do so; and I can have nothing to do with it!’ Those who knew Captain Newman’s disposition, will never suppose that he invidiously designed to keep in the back ground the merit of any brother officer.”