Royal Naval Biography/Jackson, Samuel

A Companion of the Most Honorable Military Order of the Bath.
[Post-Captain of 1807.]

This officer entered the naval service in 1790, as a midshipman on board the Kite cutter, and continued in that vessel, principally on the Irish station, until the commencement of the French revolutionary war in 1793; when he joined the Romulus frigate, commanded by Captain (now Sir John) Sutton; under whom he served as master’s-mate, at the occupation of Toulon, and on various other services, of which the following is an outline.

We shall begin by stating, that the Romulus, although in so sickly a state when she arrived at Gibraltar, from England, as to be obliged to send nearly 100 men to the hospital, was nevertheless one of the first ships that entered the port of Toulon with marines, &c. sent to take possession of that town and its defences. She was afterwards ordered to Leghorn, where her commander received information that several republican armed vessels and privateers had been annoying the British trade in that quarter, and were then lying at the island of Capraja. Being joined by the Meleager frigate, Captain Sutton lost no time in proceeding thither; and finding on his arrival that the enemy’s place of retreat was inaccessible to the ships, he immediately sent a detachment of boats to attack them. This service was most gallantly and successfully performed under a heavy fire of musketry from the Frenchmen, who had landed and placed themselves behind rocks in preference to remaining on board their vessels, although they were moored at the entrance of a creek where there was scarcely room left for the boats to enter. The prizes proved to be two privateers of 6 guns each, one vessel mounting a long brass 24-pounder, and two armed row-boats. Another batch of marauders was afterwards brought out from an inlet in the island of Corsica, under nearly similar circumstances, Lieutenant Robert Sause directing the whole detachment, and Mr. Jackson commanding a boat on each occasion. In the first attack the assailants had not a man hurt; and in the second only 4 persons were wounded.

The Romulus subsequently joined the Agamemnon 64, in an attack upon the forts and batteries of Bastia; on which occasion she was struck several times by hot shot, and her main-sail partially set on fire: but although the action continued for a considerable length of time, she fortunately had not a single person slain, and only a few wounded.

From the Romulus, Captain Sutton removed into the Egmont 74; which ship, as we have already stated, sustained a loss of 7 men killed and 21 wounded, when engaged with the Toulon fleet, Mar. 14, 1795[1]. On the day after that action, Mr. Jackson had a very narrow escape, the Egmont having thrown her top-sails aback, in order to facilitate the operation of taking a prize in tow, and, suddenly gathering stern way, run down the boat into which he was then receiving the stream cable through one of the gun-room ports. Providentially, however, himself and crew were got on board without any serious injury, although the boat was stove to pieces and instantaneously sunk.

The Egmont also formed part of Vice-Admiral Hotham’s fleet at the capture and destruction of l’Alcide, French 74, July 13, 1795. In the spring of 1796, Mr. Jackson accompanied Captain Sutton to the attack of a French squadron lying in the bay of Tunis, the result of which enterprise has been stated at p. 254 of our first volume; but we shall take this opportunity of mentioning, that the armed vessel brought out with the Nemesis and Sardine was a polacre of 20 guns: the one destroyed appears to have been a cutter.

Some time after this exploit, Mr. Jackson joined the Victory, a first rate, bearing the flag of Sir John Jervis, K.B. by whom he was made a Lieutenant, and appointed to the Alliance store-ship, in the autumn of 1796. At the close of that year he returned to the Egmont, as junior Lieutenant, and proceeded in her to Lisbon, where he obtained universal commendation for his exertions in saving the officers and crew of the Bombay Castle 74, which ship had struck upon the South Catchup, when about to enter the Tagus, in company with Sir John Jervis’s squadron, and was afterwards completely wrecked.

It appears from the various accounts we have received of that disaster, that Lieutenant Jackson was sent with the Egmont’s boats to assist in getting the Bombay Castle off; but that the impossibility of doing so soon became apparent, and a gale of wind, which commenced two days after the accident, convinced all present that her total destruction was at hand. At this alarming moment, when the least hesitation might have proved fatal to every one on board. Lieutenant Jackson volunteered, at the risk of his own life, to carry a letter to the commander-in-chief, and to point out the necessity of immediately removing her crew. This measure being agreed to by Sir John Jervis, all the boats of the squadron were despatched on the following morning (Dec. 24, 1796), and Lieutenant Jackson had the honor of leading them through a narrow channel, which he had passed on his way to the Admiral.

During Lieutenant Jackson’s absence, the Bombay Castle had parted asunder, and fallen over on her beam-ends; – the situation of her crew may be readily conceived. On approaching the wreck, the boats were welcomed with three cheers; and whilst the tide was ebbing they succeeded in removing every seaman, marine, and boy, to the Zealous 74: not one of the officers, however, would quit their post until this service was accomplished; and before the boats could return to take them away also, the sand was again overflown, which rendered it impracticable to approach the wreck within a considerable distance. The destruction of the officers now seemed inevitable; but happily they were rescued from their perilous situation by the undaunted conduct of Lieutenant Jackson, who being determined to leave no means untried, pulled to windward in the Egmont’s launch, forced her through a heavy sea, and at length gained the shattered fabric, when, to the indescribable joy of every one near the spot, the Bombay Castle’s officers were seen lowering themselves from the jib-boom and spritsail yard into the boat thus heroically brought to their relief, and which afterwards conveyed them in safety to the others. We feel much pleasure in adding, that Lieutenant Jackson’s extraordinary exertions were duly appreciated by the court-martial subsequently assembled to investigate the circumstances attending the loss of the Bombay Castle, and that the thanks of the court for his intrepidity and humanity were publicly communicated to him by the president, Captain (now Sir Thomas) Foley.

The Egmont assisted at the defeat of the Spanish fleet off Cape St. Vincent, Feb. 14, 1797, on which occasion Lieutenant Jackson was slightly wounded.

We next find the subject of this memoir commanding the Egmont’s barge, and gallantly supporting Sir Horatio Nelson in his attack upon the Cadiz flotilla, under Don Miguel Tyrason, who had come out with a large force in order to cut off the Thunder bomb, during her retreat from before the walls of that city, July 3, 1797[2]. The transactions of that night are thus described by Nelson, in a letter to Earl St. Vincent:–

“In obedience to your orders, the Thunder bomb was placed, by the pood management of Lieutenant Gourly, her present commander, assisted by Mr. Jackson, master of the Ville de Paris, who volunteered his able services, within 2,500 yards of the walls of Cadiz; and the shells were thrown from her with much precision: but unfortunately it was soon found that the large mortar had been materially injured by its former services. I therefore ordered her to return under the protection of the Goliath, Terpsichore, and Fox. The Spaniards having sent out a great number of mortar-boats, armed launches, &c., I directed a vigorous attack to be made on them; which was done with such gallantry, that they were driven and pursued close to the walls, and must have suffered considerable loss. I have the pleasure to inform you, that two mortar-boats and an armed launch remained in our possession. * * * * * My praises are generally due to every officer and man, some of whom I saw behave in the most noble manner, and I regret it is not in my power to particularize them. I must beg to be permitted to express my admiration of Don Miguel Tyrason, the commander of the gun-boats:– in his barge he laid my boat alongside, and his resistance was such as to honor a brave officer, 18 of the 26 men being killed, and himself and all the rest wounded.”

From the manner in which our great hero speaks of his encounter with Don Miguel Tyrason, the public have been led to believe that his boat alone was opposed to the Spaniard, and that 18 of the enemy lost their lives by the sword and pistol. The fact is, that Lieutenant Jackson boarded the enemy’s vessel on one quarter at the same moment that Nelson did on the other; and that several of the Spanish crew were drowned in consequence of their being thrown overboard by the Egmont’s people when they attempted to get possession of Lieutenant Jackson’s boat. The knowledge of this circumstance may be useful to Nelson’s future biographer:– Messrs. Clark, M‘Arthur, and Southey, seem not to have been aware of it when writing their accounts of his lordship’s splendid actions.

The Egmont being paid off at Chatham early in 1798, Lieutenant Jackson was then appointed to the Superb 74, in which ship he continued until his promotion to the rank of Commander.

After serving some time with the Channel fleet, and as part of a detached squadron under Commodore Home, the Superb accompanied Sir Charles Cotton to the Mediterranean, in pursuit of an armament which had escaped from Brest; and on her return from thence Lieutenant Jackson received an order to command that ship during the absence of Captain Sutton’s successor, the present Sir Richard Goodwin Keats.

The Superb was subsequently employed escorting a fleet of outward bound Indiamen as far as the Cape de Verds. Having performed that service, she joined the squadron stationed off Cadiz, under Sir James Saumarez, and soon had an opportunity of distinguishing herself in a very eminent degree. The following account of her proceedings on the memorable 12th July 1801, has been sent to us since the publication of our first volume[3]:–

“At 8 P.M., July 12th, the British having made every preparation for another battle, and the enemy being then clear of Cabritta point, Sir James Saumarez formed his line and bore up in pursuit of the combined squadrons. At 9-30, he hailed Captain Keats, and directed him to make sail a-head, for the purpose of bringing their rearmost and inshore ships to action. In less than two hours, having run her friends out of sight, the Superb ranged up on the quarter of a Spanish three-decker, the Real Carlos, and opened a heavy fire, within musket-shot. The San Hermenegildo, of 112 guns, was then sailing nearly in a line abreast of the Real Carlos, and some of the Superb’s shot, which passed astern of or over the latter, having struck that ship, led to the belief that her consort was an enemy. Under this impression, Captain Emparan commenced cannonading Captain Esqerra, who sustained the joint fire of his brother Spaniard and the British 74, until the Real Carlos was discovered in flames, occasioned by her fore-top-mast being shot away, and the wreck having fallen over the starboard guns, the fire from which communicated to the sails, and caused indescribable confusion. Her helm being now deserted, the Real Carlos rounded to, gathered stern way, and fell on board the San Hermenegildo, just as the latter was about to throw in a raking broadside. Captain Emparan still supposing her to be an enemy. Unhappily, every effort they made to get clear of each other proved unavailing, and the state of the weather prevented the Superb from sending them any assistance.

“Having thus caused the destruction of two Spanish first-rates. Captain Keats proceeded in pursuit of other game, and succeeded in closing with the San Antonio 74, bearing the broad pendant of a French Commodore, whom he compelled to surrender after a warm action of about half an hour. The prize was taken possession of by Mr. Jackson, first Lieutenant of the Superb.”

The San Antonio had on board 200 French seamen, 100 of Buonaparte’s “Invincibles,” and 500 Spaniards. Want of time, and other circumstances, prevented Lieutenant Jackson from being accompanied by more than a single boat’s crew, one marine officer, and four privates. On arriving alongside, his boat was stove and sunk under the prize’s bottom; himself and his companions were consequently exposed to great peril before they obtained possession. At day-light, July 13, not one of the British squadron was in sight, except the Calpe polacre, and in the course of the day his shattered charge approached so close to Cape Trafalgar as to afford the prisoners an excellent opportunity of retaking, and running her into Cadiz, The honorable conduct of the French officers deserves to be recorded:– they informed Lieutenant Jackson that their men were arming for that purpose; but that, as the ship had been fairly captured in battle, they could not think of entering into their views, and would therefore use any remaining influence they might possess to induce them to desist. Lieutenant Jackson and his handful of men instantly proceeded to disarm the prisoners, threw all their weapons overboard, and thereby convinced them that their design was detected, A violent quarrel now took place between the Frenchmen and the Spaniards, each party accusing the other of misconduct in the recent action. Lieutenant Jackson took advantage of this dissension, – the dons were ordered below, and the duty of guarding them assigned to their late allies. This mark of confidence pleased the republicans so much that they volunteered to assist in repairing damages; regularity was completely restored, and the ship, in a few hours, brought perfectly under command. The next day she was taken in tow by Captain Keats, who conducted her to Gibraltar. It is almost superfluous to add, that Lieutenant Jackson was immediately afterwards Advanced to the rank of Commander.

At the renewal of hostilities, in 1803, Captain Jackson was appointed to the Autumn sloop of war; and in the course of the same year we find him selected by Rear-Admiral Robert Montagu to conduct the operations of a small squadron, stationed off Calais, for the purpose of preventing the gun-vessels in that port from forming a junction with the Boulogne flotilla, a service which was then considered as one of the utmost importance. On the 27th Sept. the bombs under his orders anchored to the N.E. of the town, and the sloops, &c. within range of the pier-head battery, in order to try the effect of shells and shot upon the enemy’s shipping. The French immediately opened a fire from all directions, and the first shell thrown by them fell very close to the Autumn, bursting under water; but although she continued in the same position for several hours, no damage appears to have been done to her, or indeed to any of the British squadron. In his official letter respecting this affair. Captain Jackson informed his commander-in-chief that the east end of Calais appeared to be on fire for some time, the shells which had not fallen in the midst of the enemy’s vessels having gone into the town, and that he did not discontinue the attack until the wind came on to blow so fresh from the N.E. that the springs would not hold his ship against the wind and tide. In reply to this communication Lord Keith wrote as follows:–

Monarch, off Broadstairs, Sept. 29, 1813.

“Sir,– I have received your letter of yesterday, acquainting me with the attack which, with H.M. vessels under your orders, you had made upon the enemy’s gun-boats in Calais pier, and I very much approve of the measures which you appear to have taken for effecting their destruction.


Captain Jackson, Autumn.

Early in 1804, a division of the enemy’s flotilla was discovered proceeding along shore, under the protection of their formidable land batteries. Being promptly attacked, several vessels were driven on the beach; but the remainder succeeded in reaching Boulogne, the place of their destination. In this affair the Autumn had 1 man killed and 6 others wounded.

In July following, we find Captain Jackson serving under the orders of Captain (now Sir Edward) Owen, by whom he was highly praised in an official letter addressed to Rear-Admiral Louis, a copy of which will be found at p. 127 et seq. of our second volume. Shortly after the event there recorded he received the following communication from his senior officer:

“Sir,– I have it in command from Rear-Admiral Louis to signify to you the approbation of the commander-in-chief, and of my lords commissioners of the Admiralty, of your conduct in annoying the enemy, and thereby preventing him reaching his ports in safety, by which several of his vessels suffered, and very considerable damage was done him, on the night of the 19th, and morning of the 20th July. In conveying to you this flattering commendation of our superiors, I must add, that I feel the greatest pleasure from the handsome manner in which the different vessels proceeded to execute my intentions; and beg you will express to your officers and crew how much I was pleased with their energy and ardour, and that it is my hope some more favorable opportunity will yet allow them to exert their courage with still better effect.

(Signed)E. W. C. R. Owen.

We have already stated that Captain Jackson was entrusted with the charge of one of the principal explosion vessels attached to the “catamaran expedition,” in the autumn of 1804[4]: his conduct on that dangerous service is thus noticed by a contemporary writer:

“Captain Jackson was ordered to lay her alongside of the French Admiral Bruix. The night was extremely dark, and when within a very short distance of his victim, his boat’s crew in the gig ready to put off, the string attached to the clock to set it going slipped out of his hand, and could not be found. Jackson said be thought it better to be blown up than to go back with such a story; and breaking open the hatchway, which was securely battened over, he jumped down, regained the string, and by the time he was on deck the vessel was alongside the Admiral’s praam. As he pulled the fatal line he stepped into his gig and put off; in twenty-five seconds (the expected time) the vessel exploded, but did no other injury to the enemy than taking away her bowsprit: Jackson and his brave crew escaped unhurt[5].”

On Captain Jackson’s return to the Downs, he had the honor of being invited to dine with the immortal Pitt and two of his colleagues, Lords Harrowby and Melville, at Walmer Castle, where he received a promise of promotion from the latter nobleman, who was then at the head of the Admiralty, but unfortunately retired from office before he could fulfil his intentions; which are thus alluded to in a letter from Lord Keith to the subject of this memoir:

Dear Sir,– I have to acquaint you with a conversation which passed between me and Lord Melville after the affair off Boulogne, and the message which his lordship directed me to deliver as soon as he quitted the ship. ‘I cannot promise promotion to all who expect it, there has been so much of late; but as to Captains Jackson, M‘Leod, and Edmonds, and Lieutenant Steuart, you may assure them I will soon, – but give me my own time and way, – for I consider it as a duty I owe them.’ I am, with great regard, dear Sir, your obliged humble servant,


To Captain Jackson.

Captain Jackson’s next appointment was to the Mosquito, a fine brig of 18 guns, fitting at Chatham for the North Sea station. On the 12th April, 1805, being off Scarborough, he discovered three sail in the offing, two of them firing guns, apparently to bring to the third. All sail was immediately made in chase of them, and the first overtaken proved to be a Guernsey sloop with a cargo of contraband goods. The other strangers were also in his possession shortly after day-light the next morning, and proved to be the Orestes and Pylades, Dutch built koffs, fitted out as French privateers, each carrying a 24-pounder carronade, swivels, and a considerable number of small arms, with a complement of 33 men.

At the latter end of the same year Captain Jackson was entrusted with the charge of a fleet of transports having on board 5000 troops and a large supply of ammunition, provisions, horses, &c. &c., for Lord Cathcart’s army in Hanover. He was at the same time directed to discharge the pilots then on board the Mosquito, and to receive others specially appointed by government. On the evening of the day following his departure from the Nore, the fleet, according to his reckoning, had approached very near to the mouth of the Texel, steering E. by S. with the wind westerly, and every appearance of bad weather. On remonstrating with the pilots for pursuing a course which would inevitably entangle them with a lee shore, they replied that they had charge of the convoy by direction of government, and would neither alter the course nor suffer any person to interfere with them; adding, “that Captain Jackson was completely mistaken as to their situation.” Confident in his own judgment, and determined not to endanger the safety of his important charge, he instantly suspended the pilots, hauled to the wind, and obtained a cast of the lead, by which it was clearly ascertained that the Mosquito was then upon the edge of the Haak sand. At this critical moment a signal of distress was made by a ship in shore, which proved to be the Helder frigate, employed as a transport, and having on board 500 troops, the whole of whom were made prisoners by the Dutch fleet on the following morning. Thus, by a timely and judicious decision on the part of Captain Jackson, this valuable convoy was preserved at least from capture, if not from total destruction; which service was duly acknowledged by Colonel Cookson of the royal artillery, commanding officer of the troops, in an official letter to Lord Cathcart, written on the arrival of the fleet in the Weser.

We subsequently find Captain Jackson commanding a detachment on the Calais and Boulogne stations, where the Mosquito on one occasion fell in with five of the enemy’s armed schooners, two of which were driven on shore and destroyed. In Oct. 1806, he commanded a number of rocket-boats in an attack made upon the flotilla at Boulogne, already noticed at p. 133 of Vol. II. Part I.

During the expedition against Copenhagen in 1807, Captain Jackson was attached to the squadron under Commodore Keats, stationed in the Belt to prevent supplies being thrown into the island of Zealand; and on the surrender of the Danish navy he was appointed, pro tempore, to the Surveillante frigate, her proper captain, the late Sir George Collier, being selected to carry home Admiral Gambier’s despatches, announcing that important event. His post commission was confirmed by the Admiralty, Nov. 5, 1807.

Soon after this advancement. Captain Jackson was appointed to his old ship the Superb, in which he accompanied Sir Richard Strachan’s squadron to the Mediterranean, in pursuit of a French armament that had effected its escape from Rochefort. On his return to England he received orders to proceed to the Baltic station, where he hoisted the flag of his former commander, Rear-Admiral Keats, with whom he shared the important service of rescuing a Spanish army, commanded by that patriotic nobleman the late Marquis de la Romana; an interesting account of which will be found in “Southey’s History of the Peninsular War,” Vol. I. pp. 651–666.

During the ensuing winter the Superb was frozen up at Gottenburgh, from whence she returned to England in the spring of 1809; at which period, a report being current that Lord Keith was about to be invested with a command, and the Superb then in a very defective state, Captain Jackson made a tender of his services to that distinguished officer, whose reply to his offer we here insert:

Harley Street, May 5, 1809.

Dear Jackson,– I am favored with your letter, and obliged by its contents: I hardly think my services will ever again be called for; but, in case of such an event, nothing could be more acceptable than to have a man like yourself near me; for, without flattery, your services command respect, and I am much grieved they have not met that reward which is due to them. It is true, applications are numerous and opportunities rare; but I did hope you would have been brought forward ere now. I am, very sincerely, your obliged and faithful humble servant,


In the following summer the Superb formed part of the fleet under Sir Richard Strachan at the reduction of Walcheren, from whence she returned in so bad a state as to render it necessary for her to undergo an extensive repair. She was consequently put out of commission at Portsmouth, the subject of this memoir hauling down the same pendant as a Post-Captain, which he had hoisted as a junior Lieutenant twelve years previously.

From this period Captain Jackson remained unemployed till the commencement of 1812, when he received an appointment to act in the Poictiers 74, then on Channel service, but subsequently attached to the North Sea fleet under Admiral William Young. In Dec. following, he obtained the command of the Lacedemonian, a new 38-gun frigate fitting for the North American station, where he continued during the nnnainder of the war between Great Britain and the United States.

On the 5th Oct. 1814, the boats of the Lacedemonian, under the directions of Lieutenant Richard Stovin Maw, captured an American gun-vessel and four merchantmen, part of a convoy which had heen discovered passing between Cumberland and Jekyll islands. The British on this occasion had 4 officers and men wounded; the enemy, 1 man killed, 4 wounded, and several driven overboard.

One of the last acts of hostility in that quarter of the world was the attack of fort St. Petre and the town of St. Mary’s, already noticed in our memoir of Captain Robert Barrie, C.B.: the subject of this memoir, who had for several months previous been employed with a squadron under his orders blockading the enemy’s ports and rivers between Cape Fear and Amelia Island, was afterwards sent up the Chesapeake to recapture an East India ship recently taken by the Americans, and which he succeeded in bringing down the river without any resistance on the part of the enemy. He returned to Portsmouth June 4, 1815, after assisting at the capture and destruction of property calculated at more than half a million sterling.

Captain Jackson’s next appointment was, Aug. 29, 1815, to the Niger 38, which frigate appears to have been successively employed conveying the Hon. Charles Bagot, ambassador to the United States, from Portsmouth to Annapolis; and Sir John Sherbrooke, Governor of Canada, from Halifax to Quebec. During the winter of 1816, we find him left as senior officer on the coast of Nova Scotia, where he continued until his ship was found unserviceable, when he returned to England in a transport, bringing with him the officers and crew of the Niger.

Being put out of commission on his arrival, in Sept. 1817, Captain Jackson remained on half pay for upwards of five years; but was at length appointed to command the Ordinary at Sheerness, which highly responsible office he held during the established period. The insignia of a C.B. was conferred upon him in 1815, as a reward for his long and meritorious services.

Captain Jackson married, Dec. 6, 1817, Clarissa Harriet, daughter of Captain Madden, Agent for the Portsmouth division of royal marines, and niece to Major-General Sir George Madden, Knt. K.T.S.

  1. See Vol. I. pp. 253 and 340.
  2. See Captain John Gourly.
  3. See Vol. I. p. 343 et seq.
  4. See p. 45 et seq., and note at p. 46.
  5. See Brenton’s Nav. Hist. v. III, p. 257.
  6. The late Viscount Melville was on board the Monarch during the attack of Oct. 2, 1804.