Royal Naval Biography/Lockyer, Nicholas

A Companion of the Most Honorable Military Order of the Bath.
[Post-Captain of 1815.]

We first find this officer serving as junior lieutenant of the Tartar frigate. Captain Keith Maxwell, on the Jamaica station; where he assisted in cutting out l’Hirondelle French privateer, of 10 guns and 50 men, July 31, 1804. The following is a copy of his captain’s official letter to the commander-in-chief, in whose opinion, the capture of that vessel did “high honor” to the officers and men employed, “for their undaunted spirit and perseverance.”

H.M.S. Tartar, off St. Domingo, Aug. 1, 1804.

“Sir,– I have the honor to acquaint you, that yesterday morning at dawn, standing in to leeward of Saona, a small sail was discovered from the mast-head, to which I immediately gave chase, keeping as close to leeward of the island as possible, in order to prevent her escape that way, knowing the channel between it and St. Domingo to be very narrow and intricate even for small vessels. About 7, the chase was made out to be a schooner full of men, using her sweeps and every means possible to get off; from which circumstance supposing her to be a privateer, and perceiving her intention of attempting to escape through the before-mentioned channel, I made all possible sail, and, at 8 o’clock, got her within reach of the guns, which, from the short tacks I was obliged to make, we were prevented from using to that advantage and effect I could have wished, without losing ground; therefore, though several shot went over and through her sails, she still persevered in beating to windward until she had advanced near the centre of the channel, when, finding it impossible to proceed further, she came to an anchor under a reef of rocks; at which time, 10 a. m., having beat the ship up into six fathoms water, but deeming it imprudent to proceed further, and finding it would be almost impossible to destroy the vessel with the great guns, not being able to anchor, or to bring either broadside to bear to advantage, without hazard to the ship, yet judging it of importance to take or destroy her by some means or other, I immediately hoisted three boats out, and sent them manned and armed under the direction of Lieutenant (Henry) Mullah, assisted by Lieutenant Lockyer, with several midshipmen, all volunteers on the occasion.

“The instant the boats put off from the ship, the schooner hoisted French colours, fired a gun, and warped her broadside towards them: as they advanced, she commenced firing grape from her great guns, and; on their nearer approach, opened a fire of musketry; notwithstanding which, and a strong sea breeze against him. Lieutenant Mullah, in the most intrepid and gallant manner possible, pulled up in the face of several discharges of grape, and a heavy fire of small arms from 50 men drawn up round the deck, boarded, and carried her. It is impossible to speak too highly, or sufficiently to express my sense of the bravery and intrepid conduct of Lieutenants Mullah and Lockyer, as well as the petty officers, seamen, and marines employed under them; considering the disadvantage under which they were obliged to attack, and the preparation the enemy bad made for defence: nor can I too much commend the spirit and alacrity with which they volunteered their services on the occasion, as well as the whole ship’s company.

“I am happy to add, that only 2 men were wounded; the French had 9 killed and 6 wounded, besides 3 missing, supposed to have been drowned in attempting to swim on shore. The privateer proves to be l’Hirondelle, of 10 long 4-pounders and 50 men, two days out from St. Domingo. I have the honor to be, &c.

(Signed)Keith Maxwell.”

To Vice-Admiral Sir John T. Duckworth, K.B.
&c. &c. &c."

Mr. Lockyer’s promotion to the rank of commander took place Sept. 25, 1806. His first appointment afterwards was to the Hound sloop, which vessel formed part of the squadron under Rear-Admiral (now Sir Richard G.) Keates, when that officer brought off the Marquis de la Romana and his troops, from the island of Funen[1]. The “indefatigable exertions” of every one employed in that “short but fatiguing service,” are duly acknowledged in the Rear-Admiral’s official report, dated off Sproe, in the Great Belt, Aug. 11, 1808.

On the 26th Oct. 1809, Captain Lockyer was appointed to the Sophie, a new 18-gun brig, in which vessel we find him very actively and successfully employed on the Halifax station, from the autumn of 1812 until his promotion to post rank, Mar. 29, 1815. During that period he captured and destroyed five heavy American gun-vessels; one armed national sloop; one privateer (the Pioneer) of 320 tons, 17 guns, and 70 men; another of 2 guns and 25 men; a merchant ship, 2 brigs, 10 schooners, and 2 sloops. He also assisted at the capture and destruction of numerous merchant vessels, whilst attached to the Chesapeake squadron.

The Sophie formed part of the small force under Captain the Hon. William Henry Percy, at the attack of Fort Bowyer, Sept. 15, 1814, on which occasion she sustained a loss of 6 men killed and 16 wounded[2]. She subsequently joined the expedition proceeding against New Orleans. The following is Sir Alexander Cochrane’s account of the capture of the above mentioned gun-boats and armed sloop:

Off Isle-au-Chat. Dec. 16, 1814.

“Having arrived off the Chandeleur Islands, on the 8th instant, Captain Gordon, of the Seahorse (which ship, with the Armide and Sophie, I had sent on, from off Pensacola, to the anchorage within Isle-au-Vaisseau), reported to me, that two gun-vessels, apparently large size sloops, of very light draught of water, had fired at the Armide, upon her way down from within the chain of small islands that run parallel to the coast from Mobile towards Lac Borgne, and having afterwards joined three others cruising in the lake, were then visible from his mast-head.

“The Bayou Catalan, at the head of Lac Borgne, being the contemplated point of debarkation[3], the distance from the inner anchorage of the frigates and troop-ships to the Bayou full 60 miles, and our principal means of transport open boats, it became impossible that any movement of the troops could take place until this formidable flotilla was either captured or destroyed.

“On the 12th, I placed the launches, barges, and pinnaces of the squadron, with Captain (Henry) Montresor, of the Manly,and Captain (Samuel) Roberts, of the Meteor, under the command of Captain Lockyer, of the Sophie, and sent them into Lac Borgne, in pursuit of the enemy, while the frigates, troop-ships, and smaller vessels, moved to the inmost anchorage, each vessel proceeding on until she took the ground.

“After an arduous row of 36 hours, Captain Lockyer had the good fortune to close with the flotilla, which be attacked with such judgement and determined bravery, that, notwithstanding their formidable force, their advantage of a chosen position, and their studied and deliberate preparation, he succeeded in capturing the whole of these vessels, in so serviceable a state as to afford at once the most essential aid to the expedition.

“For the particulars of this brilliant affair. I refer their lordships to the accompanying copy of captain Lockyer’s letter, detailing his proceedings, which I am fully aware their lordships will duly appreciate.

“Captain Lockyer’s conduct on this occasion, in which he has been severely wounded, and his long and active services as a commander, justly entitling him to their lordships’ protection, and finding it expedient to place this flotilla collectively upon the establishment of a 36-gun frigate, I have appointed him to the command thereof.

“Captain Montresor, whom I have placed in the command of the gun-vessels, until Captain Lockyer’s wounds will admit of his serving, and Captain Roberts, whom I have before had occasion to mention to their lordships, together with Lieutenants (James Barnwell) Tatnall and (William Gilbert) Roberts, of the Tonnant, and the whole of the officers mentioned by Captain Lockyer, I trust, will not fail to meet their lordships’ notice.

“Our loss has been severe, particularly in officers; but considering that this successful enterprise has given us the command of Lac Borgne, and considerably reduced our deficiency of transports, the effort has answered my fullest expectations.”


H M. sloop Sophie, Cat Island Roads, Dec. 16, 1814.

“Sir,– I beg leave to inform you, that in pursuance of your orders, the boats of the squadron which you did me the honor to place under my command[4], were formed into three divisions, and proceeded on the night of the 12th instant, from the frigates’ anchorage, in quest of the enemy’s flotilla.

“After a very tedious row of 36 hours, during which the enemy attempted to escape from us, the wind fortunately obliged him to anchor off St. Joseph’s island; and nearing him on the morning of the 14th, I discovered his force to consist of five gun-vessels of the largest dimensions, which were moored in a line abreast, with springs on their cables, and boarding nettings triced up, evidently prepared for our reception.

“Observing also, as we approached the flotilla, an armed sloop endeavouring to join them. Captain Roberts, who volunteered to take her with part of his division, succeeded in cutting her off and capturing her without much opposition.

“About 10 o’clock, having closed to within long gun-shot, I directed the boats to come to a grapnel, and the people to get their breakfasts. As soon as they had finished, we again took to our oars, and pulling up to the enemy against a strong current, running at the rate of nearly 3 miles an hour, exposed to a heavy and destructive fire of round and grape, about noon, I had the satisfaction of closing with the commodore, in the Seahorse’s barge.

“After several minutes obstinate resistance, in which the greater part of the officers and men in this boat were either killed or wounded, myself amongst the latter, severely, we succeeded in boarding; and being seconded by the Seahorse’s other barge, commanded by Mr. White, midshipman, and aided by the boats of the Tonnant, under Lieutenant Tatnall, we soon carried her, and turned her guns with good effect upon the remaining four.

“During this time. Captain Montresor’s division was making every possible exertion to close with the enemy, and with the assistance of the other boats, then joined by Captain Roberts, in about five minutes we had possession of the whole of the flotilla.

“I have to lament the loss of many of my brave companions, who gloriously fell in this attack; but considering the great strength of the enemy’s vessels, and their state of preparation, we have by no means suffered so severely as might have been expected.

“I am under the greatest obligations to the officers, seamen, and marines, I had the honour to command on this occasion, to whose gallantry and exertions the service is indebted for the capture of these vessels; any comments of mine would fall short of the praise due to them: I am especially indebted to Captains Montresor and Roberts, for their advice and assistance; they are entitled to more than I can say of them, and have my best thanks for the admirable style in which they pushed on with their divisions to the capture of the remainder of the enemy’s flotilla.

“In an expedition of this kind, where so many were concerned, and so much personal exertion and bravery was displayed, I find it impossible to particularize every individual who distinguished himself, and deserves to be well-spoken of; but I feel it my duty to mention those whose behaviour fell immediately under my own eye.

“Lieutenant George Pratt, second of the Seahorse, who commanded that ship’s boats, and was in the same boat with me, conducted himself to that admiration which I cannot sufficiently express; in his attempt to board the enemy he was several times severely wounded, and at last so dangerously, that I fear the service will he deprived of this gallant and promising young officer.

“I cannot omit to mention also the conduct of Lieutenants Tatnall and Roberts, of the Tonnant, particularly the former, who, after having his boat sunk alongside, got into another, and gallantly pushed on to the attack of the remainder of the flotilla. Lieutenant Roberts was wounded in closing with the enemy. I have the honor to be, &c.

“(Signed)Nicholas Lockyer.”

To Vice-Admiral the Hon. Sir A. Cochrane, K.B.
&c, &c. &c.

The American vessels taken on this occasion carried 16 long guns, 14 carronades, 2 howitzers, 12 swivels, and 245 men; 6 of whom were slain, and 35 wounded. The total loss sustained by the British in obtaining possession of them was 17 killed and 77 wounded; the following are the names of the officers who suffered.

Killed, – Messrs. Thomas W. Moore, John Mills, and Henry Symons, midshipmen of the Seahorse and Trave. Wounded, – Lieutenant George Pratt, Messrs. Robert Uniacke and ____ Pilkington, midshipmen of the Tonnant and Seahorse, mortally: John O’Reilly and Peter Drummond, midshipmen, Tonnant, dangerously: Captain Lockyer; Lieutenant William Gilbert Roberts, Tonnant; Lieutenant James Uniacke, R.M.; Messrs. Mark Pettet, master’s-mate, Norge; and William Grove White, midshipman, Seahorse, severely: Lieutenants John Franklin and Henry Gladwell Etough, Bedford; Messrs. James Hunter and John Sudbury, muster’s-mates, Bedford and Gorgon; and Messrs. George Ward Cole and David M‘Kenzie, midshipmen, Tonnant and Cydnus, slightly.

We have already stated that Captain Lockyer obtained post rank Mar. 29, 1815. He was nominated a C.B. in the course of the same year ; appointed to the Burlington 42, on Lake Ontario, June 26, 1816, and elected Mayor of Plymouth, Sept. 17, 1828. His last appointment was, Dec. 17, 1824, to the Romney 50, armed en flûte, the officers of which ship gave him a farewell dinner, “in token of their respect and attachment,” when she was paid off, in Oct. 1827.

Agent.– Sir F. M. Ommanney.

  1. See Vol. I, Part I, p. 347.
  2. at p. 66 et seq.
  3. See id. p. 259.
  4. 45 in number, altogether containing about 980 persons.