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Royal Naval Biography/Hotham, William

Vice-Admiral of the Blue; and Knight Commander of the most honorable Military Order of the Bath.

This officer, the second son of the late General Hotham, by Diana, daughter of Sir Warton Pennyman Warton, Bart., and nephew of the late Admiral Lord Hotham[1], was born in Feb. 1772; entered early into the naval service, and obtained the rank of Post-Captain in the Cyclops, a small frigate stationed in the Mediterranean, Oct. 7, 1794. He returned to England about the month of Feb. 1796; and in the spring of the following year, obtained the command of the Adamant, a 50-gun ship employed in the North Sea.

The Adamant, as already mentioned p. 160 of this volume, was the only two-decked ship that remained with Admiral Duncan off the Texel, during the alarming mutiny of 1797[2]. This circumstance must have been equally, if not more, gratifying to Captain Hotham, than even that of having had the good fortune to be present at the subsequent discomfiture of the enemy’s fleet. Some time after the memorable battle off Camperdown, he was ordered to the Cape of Good Hope, on which station he continued upwards of three years, and assisted at the destruction of la Preneuse French frigate, an account of which will be given under the head of Captain Edward Grey, in our next volume.

On the renewal of hostilities in 1803, Captain Hotham was appointed to the Raisonable, of 64 guns, and again employed in the North Sea; but the then fatiguing service in that quarter causing extreme indisposition, he was some time after obliged to retire from active service. He subsequently commanded in succession, the Sea Fencibles at Liverpool, and the Royal Sovereign yacht[3]; the latter of which he retained until his advancement to the rank of Rear-Admiral, Dec. 4, 1813. He was nominated a K.C.B. Jan. 2, 1815; and became a Vice-Admiral, July 19, 1821.

Sir William Hotham married Anne, daughter of Sir Edward Jeynes, Knight.

Residence.– Bath .

  1. The ancestor of this family, Sir John de Trehouse, Lord of Kilkenny in Ireland, for his services at the battle of Hastings, had a grant from the Conqueror, of the castles and manors of Colley Weston, co. Northampton, and Hotham in Yorkshire, from which his posterity assumed the name of Hotham: many of this family had summonses to parliament as Barons, and one of them was Chancellor to King Edward II.
  2. Stratagem supplied, on this occasion, the place of numbers; for the Admiral, by making a variety of signals, as to ships in the offing, effectually duped the Dutch Commander, de Winter, as he afterwards confessed, into the belief that the channel of the Helder was blocked up by a force superior to that he himself commanded, which consisted of fifteen sail of the line, six frigates, and five sloops of war. This formidable fleet had long been in a complete state of equipment for actual service; and nothing but the ingenious artifice already related, in all probability, prevented it putting to sea. At length Admiral Duncan, in the hope of annoying the enemy’s ships very materially, if they attempted to come out, the channel being so narrow as not to admit of more than one passing at a time, anchored the Venerable and Adamant at the outer buoy of the Texel, both ships having springs on their cables. What the event of so unequal a contest would have been, is now of little consequence; but whatever it might have proved, the measure certainly reflected the highest honor on the man, whose gallantry not only projected it, but made every possible preparation in his power to carry it into execution, in the most advantageous manner possible. The British officers and seamen were at their quarters for three days and three nights, almost in momentary expectation that the enemy would come out. Admiral de Winter even made the preparative signal for sailing; but a few hours before the time when his intention was to have been executed, the wind came round to the westward, and prevented it. During the eight following days, Admiral Duncan and his consort were on the tiptoe of expectation, waiting for a reinforcement; when at length, to their great joy, they were joined by the Sans Pareil and Russel, ships of the line. Other vessels forming a junction soon afterwards, the disparity of numbers so far decreased, as to remove all anxiety for the event of the expected contest.
  3. Yachts first appear in a navy list of 1675. According to Mr. Pepys, the Dutch, in the year 1660, gave Charles II. a yacht called the Mary; “until which time,” he adds, “we had not heard of such a name in England.” See Derrick’s Memoirs of the Royal Navy, p. 89.