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Royal Naval Biography/Maitland, Frederick Lewis

A Companion of the Most Honorable Military Order of the Bath; and a Knight Commander of the Neapolitan Order of St. Ferdinand and of Merit.
[Post-Captain of 1801.]

This officer is the third son of the late Hon. Frederick Maitland, Captain R.N. (uncle to the present Earl of Lauderdale[1]), by Margaret Deck, heiress and representative of the Makgills, a very old family of Rankeillor and Lindores, in Fifeshire.

He was born at Rankeillor, Sept. 7, 1777; commenced his naval career at an early age; and after serving for some time as a midshipman on board the Martin sloop of war, commanded by Captain George Duff, was removed into the Southampton frigate, where he continued under the command of the Hon. Robert Forbes, until promoted to the rank of Lieutenant in the Andromeda of 32 guns, April 5, 1795[2].

The Southampton was attached to Earl Howe’s fleet in the memorable actions of May 28, 29, and June 1, 1794; and was subsequently ordered to attend on his late Majesty at Weymouth, where Mr. Maitland had the honor of acting as a sidesman to the royal family for a period of six weeks, during which they made daily excursions to sea in that ship.

From the Andromeda, Lieutenant Maitland removed into the Venerable 74, bearing the flag of Admiral Duncan; with whom he continued till April 1797, when he proceeded to the Mediterranean station, for the purpose of joining Earl St. Vincent, who, out of friendship for his deceased father, had kindly offered to promote him whenever an opportunity should occur. The flag-ship having her full complement of officers, Mr. Maitland was appointed first Lieutenant of the Kingsfisher sloop of war, in which vessel he assisted at the capture of many privateers belonging to the enemy; one of which, la Betsey, a ship of 16 guns and 118 men, defended herself with considerable bravery, and had 9 of her people killed and wounded. Upon the prize-money for this vessel being distributed, the Kingsfisher’s crew subscribed 50l. to purchase Lieutenant Maitland a sword, in token of their respect and esteem.

In Dec. 1798, the Kingsfisher was wrecked at the entrance of the Tagus, when proceeding to sea under the temporary command of Lieutenant Maitland[3], who on his arrival at Gibraltar was tried by a court-martial, and honorably acquitted of all blame on the occasion of her loss. Immediately after his trial he was appointed Flag-Lieutenant to Earl St. Vincent, who had about that period taken up his residence on the rock.

In June 1799, the French and Spanish fleets, amounting to forty sail of the line, and upwards of thirty frigates and smaller vessels, formed a junction at Carthagena, and on the 7th July were seen from Gibraltar close in with the Barbary shore. The Earl, then on the eve of his departure for England, sent Lieutenant Maitland in the Penelope armed cutter, to reconnoitre them. Anxious to gain the most accurate information, he stretched across the Gut with very light winds during the night, and at day-break on the 8th found himself nearly within gun-shot of the enemy’s advanced ships, whose boats were instantly ordered, by signal from the Spanish Admiral Mazzaredo, to tow the Vivo, a brig of 16 guns, alongside the Penelope; but the reception she met with was such as induced her soon to drop astern again. A breeze now springing up, the N. S. del Carmen frigate, mounting 42 guns, ran down, and placing herself about a cable’s length on the cutter’s weather-beam, opened a heavy fire, by which she was soon unrigged, and consequently rendered unmanageable. The Penelope being at length compelled to surrender, was boarded by an officer from the Vivo, who demanded Lieutenant Maitland’s sword, but received a peremptory denial, the British colours having been struck to the frigate; a boat from which shortly arrived to take possession, and sent the Vivo’s away.

The Penelope had on board a sum of money, intended for Minorca, which it was not deemed advisable to remove, under the pressing urgency for her immediate departure from Gibraltar. When her crew found there was no chance of escape from the combined fleets, they made an attempt to plunder the treasure, which Lieutenant Maitland most honorably and successfully resisted, alleging, that as public property, it was the lawful prize of the captors.

Lieutenant Maitland was conveyed to the Principe d’Asturias, a Spanish first rate, bearing the flag of Admiral Gravina, who received him into his cabin, and treated him with the utmost kindness[4]. The day after his arrival at Cadiz, Admiral Mazzaredo sent his Captain to acquaint Lieutenant Maitland that he was too much occupied in refitting his ships to see him; but as they were to sail again in a few days, their departure from port should be immediately followed by his liberation. This promise was punctually performed, and he returned to Gibraltar without being exchanged, a compliment to his patron that must have afforded the noble Earl a considerable degree of gratification.

Soon after Earl St. Vincent’s arrival at Portsmouth (Aug. 18, 1799); he heard of a death vacancy which had occurred in the Mediterranean previous to his quitting that station[5]; and claiming his privilege as commander-in-chief at the time the event took place, signed a commission, promoting Lieutenant Maitland, who had accompanied him home, to the rank of Commander in the Camelion sloop of war, which vessel our officer joined off El Arish, in time to be present at the signing of a convention between the commissioners appointed by General Kleber and the Grand Vizier, having for its object the evacuation of Egypt by the French republican army[6].

This treaty was acceded to by Sir W. Sidney Smith, and a copy thereof brought home overland by Captain Maitland[7], who soon after rejoined his sloop in the Mediterranean, where he made several captures; and on the 10th Dec. 1800, was appointed by Lord Keith to the Waassenaar 64, armed en flute; but as that ship was lying at Malta, unfit for service, he obtained his Lordship’s permission to accompany the expedition then preparing against the French in Egypt, where his conduct in command of the armed launches employed to cover the landing of Sir Ralph Abercromby’s army, and in the subsequent battles of March 13 and 21, 1801, obtained him the thanks of the naval and military commanders-in-chief.

An account of the debarkation will be found in our memoir of the Hon. Sir Alexander Cochrane[8]: the following is an outline of what followed:

After the defeat of the enemy on the 8th, Sir Ralph Abercromby advanced three miles on the neck of sand lying between the sea and the lake of Aboukir, leaving a distance of about four miles between the British and French camps. In this position the hostile forces remained till the 13th, when the republicans were attacked find driven back to their lines before Alexandria. On this occasion the flotilla under the command of Captains Maitland and Hillyar accompanied the army, and covered its wings on the lake of Aboukir and the sea. Seven days afterwards a column of French infantry and cavalry entered Alexandria by the Cairo gate, and an Arab chief sent a letter to the commander of the naval battalion serving on shore, informing him of the arrival of General Menou, and that it was his intention to attack the British camp next morning. Although this intelligence did not receive much credit at head-quarters, it was soon amply confirmed, as will be seen by Sir W. Sidney Smith’s letter to Lord Keith, dated Mar. 22, a copy of which we here present to our readers:

“My Lord,– The menaced attack of our whole line, as announced by the friendly Arab, whose letter I transmitted to the commander-in-chief, and to your Lordship, took place just before day-light yesterday morning. The army was under arms to receive the enemy; the same order, steadiness, and courage, which gave victory to our excellent army on the two former occasions, have again given us a most complete one. The enemy have been repulsed with great loss, such as ought to make General Menou, who commanded in person, respect our troops too much to risk a second attempt of the kind; at all events we are prepared to receive him. I was in too much pain to enter into any details in writing last night, having received a violent contusion from a musket-ball, which glanced on my right shoulder. The pain has subsided, and I am enabled, by the surgeon’s report to say, that if the fever does not increase, I may still continue my duty, which I am particularly anxious to do at this crisis of our affairs, when either another battle, or a happy issue to the negotiation your Lordship has been pleased to authorise me to enter into in your name, conjointly with Sir Ralph Abercromby, must bring them to a speedy conclusion. I am apprehensive lest matters should be delayed by the absence of that excellent man, the wounds he has received having been found to be worse than he would at first admit. I met him in the field, in a most perilous situation, surrounded by French dragoons, with the sword of their commanding officer in his hand, which he had wrested from him, after having received a thrust, which glanced on his breast. I gave his excellency my horse, of course[9]. General Stewart’s brigade brought down most of the French horsemen singly, who were coming back through the interval in our line, and making off, having been roughly handled by the 42d regiment. The Swiftsure’s seamen secured me a horse among those of the French dragoons. The push was a most desperate one on the part of the enemy; but General Moore’s brigade, as usual, found itself equal to bearing the brunt of it. Enclosed are a series of letters from General Menou and the chief of the French staff, to General Roiz, together with the general orders for the attack, found on the field of battle; which prove that the enemy had assembled all the force they could spare from the defence of Cairo, particularly cavalry, in order to make a decisive action of this: they have bought the experience of their inferiority dearly. Our position was precisely the same as that we drove them from on the 13th. I cannot conclude this without expressing my approbation of the manner in whieh Captain Maitland executed the orders I gave him, to place himself with his armed vessels on the sea-side, so as to flank the front of our redoubt on the right, the attack on which was considerably checked when his fire opened on the enemy’s left wing. The attack on our left having been a mere feint, Captain Hillyar, who commanded the armed flat-boats on the lake, had no opportunity of renewing his exertions on that side Captain Ribouleau, the captains, officers, and seamen attached to the field-pieces in the line, behaved with their usual energy anil bravery: they have been indefatigable in the execution of all the arduous duties required of them, and merit your Lordship’s approbation. The weight of the attack bearing on the right, Captain Guion, Lieutenant Davies, &c., and those on that wing, had the greatest opportunity of distinguishing themselves. The Turkish marines are landing[10], and the natives come in; both naturally look to the person who has been so long invested with authority from their sovereign, and the re-opening of the market has been the first good effect of this victory. The preservation of harmony and good order, and the due administration of justice, occupy me at present[11]. I have the honor to be, &c. Ac.

(Signed)W. Sidney Smith.”

To Admiral Lord Keith, K.B.

The battle of Alexandria may be said to have decided the fate of Egypt, although the campaign was not brought to a final close till September following; and it is rather a singular circumstance, that Captain Maitland’s post commission was confirmed by the Admiralty on the very day that this great victory was achieved[12].

In the ensuing month Captain Maitland was appointed pro tempore to the Dragon 74, forming part of the squadron that had arrived on the Egyptian coast in quest of M. Gantheaume[13]; and he continued to command that ship, under the orders of Sir John Borlase Warren, till August following, when he was removed to la Carrere, a French frigate taken near Elba[14].

Captain Maitland remained in the Mediterranean till the peace of Amiens; paid off la Carrere Oct. 4, 1802; and eleven days afterwards was appointed, by his steady friend Earl St. Vincent, to the Loire, a remarkably fine frigate, mounting 46 guns.

During the night of June 27, 1803, two boats of the Loire, commanded by Lieutenants Francis Temple and John Bowen, boarded in a most gallant manner, and after a very severe conflict of nearly ten minutes on her deck, carried the French national brig Venteux, of four long 18-pounders, six brass 36-pr. carronades, and 82 men, lying close under the batteries of the Isle of Bas, where she had been stationed to guard the coast, and regulate the convoys of stores, &c. bound to Brest. The British, in performing this brilliant exploit, had 1 warrant officer and 5 men badly wounded. The Venteux’s loss consisted of her second Captain and 2 seamen killed, her commander, the remainder of her officers (4 in number) and 8 men wounded.

On the 16th Mar. 1804, Captain Maitland captured the Braave French ship privateer, of 16 guns and 110 men, on the Irish station. In August following, while cruising for the protection of the homeward bound convoys, he had the good fortune to fall in with, and after a pursuit of twenty hours, and a running fight of fifteen minutes, capture the Blonde of thirty 9-pounders, and 240 men, 2 of whom were mortally, and 5 others badly wounded. The Loire on this occasion had a Midshipman and 5 men wounded[15].

On the 12th May, 1805, Captain Maitland, being in lat. 43° 20' N., long. 19° 20' W., discovered a squadron consisting of one 3-decker, four 2-deckers, three frigates, and two brigs; and having ascertained them to be French ships, kept company till after dusk, when he made sail for Ferrol; off which place he joined Sir Robert Calder on the evening of the 16th, carrying with him an account of his own track, the course steered by the enemy, and the position he judged them to be in at that time. Upon the receipt of this intelligence, the Vice-Admiral stood to the northward with one second rate, five 2-deckers, the Loire, and one other frigate; but at noon the next day^ot seeing the French squadron, and con sidering his orders to relate more particularly to the enemy’s ships in Ferrol, he despatched Captain Maitland to the fleet off Brest, and returned himself to his station. The following day, the Loire boarded a brig which had seen the enemy on the 17th, not more than fourteen or fifteen leagues from the spot where Sir Robert had given up the chase. By this unfortunate step the French ships were enabled to reach Rochefort without molestation.

The following official letters from Captain Maitland, afford another proof of his indefatigable exertions for the good of the public service; and, at the same time, evince his anxiety to do justice to the merits of his officers and crew:

Loire, off Cape Finisterre, June, 2, 1805.

“Sir,– I have to inform you, that, after delivering the despatches Lord Gardner charged me with to Sir Robert Calder, in stretching to the westward to regain my station, a small vessel was discovered standing into the bay of Caniarinas, to the eastward of Cape Finisterre. Being quite calm after dark, I sent the launch and two cutters, under Mr. Yeo, first Lieutenant, assisted by Lieutenant Mallock of the Marines, and Messrs. Clinch, Herbert, and Mildridge, Midshipmen, to endeavour to bring her out. From the intricacy of the passage, the boats did not get up till break of day, when they found two small privateers moored under a battery of 10 guns; undaunted, however, by a circumstance so little expected, Mr. Yeo ordered the launch, commanded by Mr. Clinch, to board the smallest, while he, with the two cutters, most gallantly attacked and carried the largest, a felucca armed with three 18-pounders, four 4-pr. brass swivels, and 50 men.

“The launch had the same success in her attack; the fort immediately opened a fire; so ill-directed, however, as to do little damage. Being still perfectly calm, close under the guns of the battery, and no possibility of receiving assistance from the ship, Mr. Yeo was under the painful necessity of abandoning the smallest vessel, a lugger of two 6-pounders and 32 men, to secure the felucca; which, I am happy to add, was effected with only 3 men slightly wounded.

“The loss on board the lugger cannot be ascertained. When the crew of the felucca was mustered, 19 out of 50 were missing, some of whom had jumped overboard, but the greatest part were killed by the pike, there being no weapons used but the pike and sabre. When we call to mind the inequality offeree, officers included, there being not more than 35 of the Loire’s opposed to 82 Spaniards, with their vessels moored to the walls of a heavy battery, it must be allowed to confer the greatest credit on the officers and men employed on the service.

“Mr. Yeo, in coming out, took possession of three merchant vessels; but finding their cargoes consisted only of smuii wine for the enemy’s squadron at Ferrol, I have destroyed them. The name of the privateer captured, is the Esperanza, alias San Pedro, of Corunna. She is quite new, only out four days, and was victualled and stored for a cruise of one month. Mr. Yeo assures me that he was assisted by Mr. Mallock with the greatest bravery, and gives the highest praise to Mr. Clinch for the gallantry and promptness with which he carried his orders into execution in the launch. He also speaks in the warmest terms of the officers and other men under his command. I have the honor to be, &c. &c.

(Signed)Fred. L. Maitland.”

To Rear-Admiral Drury, &c. &c., Cork."

Loire, Muros Road, Spain, June 4, 1805.

“Sir,– Being informed that there was a French privateer of 26 guns, fitting out at Muros, and nearly ready for sea, it struck me, from my recollection of the bay, (having been in it formerly, when Lieutenant of the Kingsfisher,) as being practicable either to bring her out or destroy her, with the ship I have the honor to command. I accordingly prepared yesterday evening for engaging at anchor, and appointed Mr. Yeo, with Lieutenants Mallock and Douglas, of the marines, and Mr. Clinch, Master’s-Mate, to head the boarders and marines, amounting, officers included, to 50 men, (being all that could be spared from anchoring the ship and working the guns) in landing and storming the fort, though I then had no idea its strength was so great as it has proved. At nine this morning, on the sea breeze setting in, I stood for the bay in the ship, the men previously prepared, being in the boats ready to shove off. On hauling close round the point of the road, a small battery of 2 guns opened a fire on the ship; a few shot were returned; but perceiving it would annoy us considerably, from its situation, I desired Mr. Yeo to push on shore and spike the guns; reminding the men of its being the anniversary of their Sovereign’s birth, and that, for his sake, as well as their own credit, their utmost exertions must be used. Though such an injunction was unnecessary, it had a great effect in animating and raising the spirits of the people. As the ship drew in, and more fully opened the bay, I perceived a very long corvette, of 26 ports, apparently nearly ready for sea, and a large brig of 20 ports, in a state of fitting; but neither of them firing, led me to conclude they had not their guns on board, and left no other object to occupy my attention, but a heavy fort, which at this moment opened to our view, within less than a quarter of a mile, and began a wonderfully well-directed fire, almost every shot taking place in the hull. Perceiving that, by standing further on, more guns would be brought to bear upon us, without our being enabled to near the fort so much as I wished, I ordered the helm to be put down; and when, from the way she had, we had gained an advantageous position, anchored with a spring, and commenced firing. Although I have but little doubt that, before long, we should have silenced the fort, yet from the specimen they gave us, and being completely embrasured, it must have cost us many lives, and caused great injury to the ship, had not Mr. Yeo’s gallantry and good conduct soon put an end to their fire.

“I must now revert to him and the party under his command. Having landed under the small battery on the point, it was instantly abandoned; but hardly had he time to spike the guns, when, at the distance of a quarter of a mile, he perceived a regular fort, ditched, and with a gate, which the enemy (fortunately never suspecting our landing) had neglected to secure, open a fire upon the ship; without waiting for orders he pushed forward, and was opposed at the inner gate by the Governor, with such troops as were in the town, and the crews of the French privateers. From the testimony of the prisoners, as well as our own men, it appears that Mr. Yeo was the first who entered the fort; with one blow laid the Governor dead at his feet, and broke his own sabre in two; the other officers were dispatched by such officers and men of ours as were most advanced, and the narrowness of the gate would permit to push forward: the remainder instantly fled to the further end of the^fort, and from the ship we could perceive many of them leap from the embrasures upon the rocks, a height df above 25 feet: such as laid down their arms received quarter. Fora more particular account of the proceedings of Mr. Yeo and his party, I beg leave to refer you to his letter enclosed herewith, and I have to request you will be pleased to recommend him to the notice of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty; being a very old officer j and in the two late instances, he has displayed as much gallantry as ever fell to the lot of any man. He speaks in the strongest language of the officers and men under his command on shore: and I feel it but justice to attribute our success wholly to their exertions; for, although the fire from the ship was admirably directed, the enemy were so completely covered by their embrasures, as to render the grape almost ineffectual.

“The instant the Union was displayed at the fort, I sent and took possession of the enemies’ vessels in the Road, consisting of the Confiance French ship privateer, pierced for 26 twelves and nines, none of which, however, were on board; the Belier, French privateer brig, pierced for 20 eighteen-pounder carronades; and a Spanish merchant brig in ballast. I then hoisted a flag of truce, and sent to inform the inhabitants of the town, that if they would deliver up such stores of the ship as were on shore, there would be no further molestation. The proposal was thankfully agreed to. I did not, however, think it advisable to allow the people to remain long enough to embark the guns, there being a large body of troops in the vicinity. A great many small vessels are in the bay, and hauled up on he beach. None of them having cargoes of any value, I conceive it an act of inhumanity to deprive the poorer inhabitants of the means of gaining their livelihood, and shall not molest them. On inspecting the brig, as she had only the lower rigging over head, and was not in a state of forwardness, 1 found it impracticable to bring her away, and therefore set fire to her: she is now burnt to the water’s edge. I cannot conclude my letter without giving the portion of credit that is their due to the officers and men on board the ship. They conducted themselves with the greatest steadiness and coolness; and although under a heavy fire, pointed their guns with the utmost precision, there being hardly a shot that did not take effect. To Lieutenants Lawe and Bertram I feel much indebted, as well as to Mr. Shea the Purser, (who volunteered his services, and to whom I gave the charge of the quarter-deck carronades in Mr. Yeo’s absence,) for the precision and coolness displayed by the men under their comtriand in pointing the guns, as well as the exact attention paid to my orders, and ceasing to fire the instant the union jack made its appearance "on the walls, by which, in all probability, the lives of several of our men were saved. Mr. Cleverly, the Master, brought the broadside to bear with much quickness and nicety, by means of the spring. I send you herewith a list of our wounded on board and ashore, with one of the enemies’ killed and wounded, and an account of their force at the commencement of the action. I have been under the necessity of being more detailed than I could wish; but it is out of my power, in a smaller compass, to do justice to the exertions and conduct of the officers and men employed on the different services. It is but fair at the same time to state that, much to the credit of the ship’s company, the Bishop and one of the principal inhabitants of the town came off to express their gratitude for the orderly behaviour of the people, there not being one instance of pillage; and to make offer of every refreshment the place affords.

“I am now waiting for the land breeze to carry us out, having already recalled the officers and men from the fort, the guns being spiked and thrown over the parapet, the carriages rendered unserviceable, and the embrasures, with part of the fort, blown up. I have the honor to be, &c. &c.

(Signed)Fred. L. Maitland[16].”

Rear Admiral Drury.

Three weeks after this dashing affair, Captain Maitland captured le Vaillant, of Bourdeaux, a frigate-privateer, mounting 24 eighteen-pounders, and 6 sixes, with a complement of 240 men. On the 27th of the same month, the Common Council of the city of London voted him their thanks for his distinguished conduct in Muros Bay. About the same period he also received an elegant sword from the Committee of the Patriotic Fund at Lloyd’s; and on the 18th Oct. following, the Mayor and Corporation of Cork unanimously resolved to present him with the freedom of that city, in a silver box, as a reward for his zeal and gallantry displayed on many occasions in the public service, and for his unremitting and successful exertions for the protection of the Irish trade.

On the 13th Dec. 1805, the Loire, accompanied by the Alcmene frigate, fell in with the Rochefort squadron, consisting of six sail of the line, three frigates, and three corvettes. Captain Maitland immediately sent the Alcmene to the fleet off Brest, himself keeping company with the Frenchmen. Being to leeward, and desirous of obtaining the weather gage, as the safest situation for his own ship, he carried a heavy press of sail, and in the night of the l4th, having stretched on as he thought sufficiently for that purpose, put the Loire on the same tack as they were. About 2 A.M. it being then exceedingly dark, he found himself so near one of the largest ships as to hear the officer of the watch giving his orders. As the noise of putting about would have discovered the Loire’s situation, Captain Maitland very prudently abstained from doing so, until by slacking the lee braces and luffing his ship in the wind, the enemy had drawn sufficiently ahead. At day-light he had the satisfaction to observe them 4 or 5 miles to leeward; and although he was chased both on that and the following day by a detachment from the enemy’s squadron, he returned each evening and took his station on the French Admiral’s weather beam, sufficiently near to keep sight of them till the morning. During the night between the 16th and 17th, several large ships were seen to windward running down, and which, on perceiving the Loire and those to ward of her, made such signals as proved them also to be enemies. Captain Maitland had now no alternative but to make sail in order to get from between those two squadrons; the latter of which afterwards proved to be from Brest, and was the same that Sir J. T. Duckworth encountered off St. Domingo, on the 6th Feb. 1806[17].

The last service performed by Captain Maitland in 1805, was that of capturing, in company with the Egyptienne frigate, la Libre of 40 guns and 280 men, which ship surrendered after an obstinate resistance of half an hour, during which she had 20 men killed and wounded, and received so much damage that all her masts fell soon after the British had taken possession of her. The Loire on this occasion, although the first in action, had not a man hurt; but 8 of her consort’s crew were wounded, 1 of whom mortally. Captain Maitland took the French frigate in tow, and arrived with her at Plymouth Jan. 4, 1806, eleven days after the action. On the 22nd April following, he captured the Princess of Peace, Spanish privateer, pierced for 14 guns, mounting one long 24-pounder, with a complement of 63 men.

On the 24th July, 1806, the Loire fell in with another French squadron, consisting of four frigates, and used every effort to close with them, but without being able to get nearer than 8 or 9 miles, the enemy having hauled to the wind as soon as they made her out to be a ship of war. The night proving dark and stormy, Captain Maitland steered for the rendezvous of Sir Richard Keats’ squadron, 50 leagues west of Belleisle, and having met with that officer on the 27th, was making his report to him on the Superb’s quarterdeck, when the enemy were discovered by the ships to windward. Chase was immediately given; but the day being far advanced, the Mars alone kept sight of them, and the next evening succeeded in cutting off le Rhin, of 44 guns and 318 men[18].

On the 28th Nov. following, Captain Maitland was appointed to the Emerald, a 36-gun frigate; and in April 1807, we find him capturing the Austerlitz French privateer, of 14 guns and 96 men; and a Spanish polacre from la Guira, laden with cocoa, bark, indigo, &c. He also recaptured the Zulema, an American ship, which had been taken by a French privateer. In July of the same year he took an American brig, having on board 90 men belonging to the French ships in the Chesapeake.

The following extracts from a letter addressed by Captain Maitland to Admiral Lord Gardner, dated March 14, 1808, contain an account of a gallant exploit, which reflects credit on all concerned, for their undaunted spirit and perseverance:

“My Lord, I beg to state that, having fulfilled the first part of your Lordship’s order, bearing date the 13th ult., I was proceeding to communicate with the commanding officer off Ferrol, when, in running along shore about 5 o’clock yesterday afternoon, a very large schooner was discovered at anchor in Vivero harbour, with a French ensign and pendant flying. Though I had never been in that port, from its appearance, and the place laid down in Tofino’s chart, it seemed to me not a very difficult matter either to bring her out or destroy her. It was late in the day for such an undertaking; but as we had a full moon, and alarm guns were firing from the forts and schooner, I without hesitation decided on putting it instantly into execution, as they would doubtless have been better prepared for our reception had it been deferred till morning. At about 5h 30' P.M. the first fort on the right going in, mounting eight 24-pounders, opened on the ship, as did the other, containing five of the same calibre, on the left, as soon as she was within range. As I saw it was impossible to place the ship in a situation to act upon both batteries at the same time, I sent the first Lieutenant, Mr. Bertram, accompanied by Lieutenants Meek and Husband, of the marines, and Messrs. Mildridge and Saurin, Master’s-Mates, to storm the outer fort, and proceeded with the ship as near the other, which was about a mite farther in, as the depth of water would allow, where she was placed, the sails furled, &c. I sent Mr. W. Smith, the third Lieutenant, with another party, to endeavour to spike the guns of the fort, then engaged with the Emerald; Mr. Bertram having happily succeeded in driving the Spaniards out of the battery he had been sent to attack, and spiked the guns. Lieutenant Smith, almost immediately on landing, was opposed by a party of soldiers, most of whom fell, and their officer among the number; but before they were completely subdued they had ted him a considerable distance into the country, being by that time quite dark, and from the nature of the ground, having been obliged to land nearly a mile from the fort, he was under the necessity of returning without finding it, as it had been silenced a considerable time by our fire; it opened again, however, about ten o’clock, and continued engaged with the ship till near midnight, when she was out of range.

“While these occurrences were taking place, Mr. Bertram with his party had walked on over land, and joined Mr. Baird, the Midshipman, who had been sent to take possession of the schooner which had run on the rocks, as soon as she had made out our determination of entering the port. On the road, he was met by a part of the schooner’s crew, consisting of about 60 men; they gave and received a discharge of musketry, but on our people advancing with the pike and bayonet, took to flight, leaving several dead on the road. Mr. Bertram’s anxiety to save the schooner induced him to persevere, for several hours, in attempting to get her off (which was rendered impracticable from her having gone on shore at high water), during which time a large body of infantry had been collected, and galled our men so excessively with musketry, that it became absolutely necessary to set her on fire, which was accordingly done about one A.M., when she soon blew up, and at day-light there was not a vestige of her to be seen. From the papers I have in my possession, the schooner appears to have been l’Apropos, commanded by Mons. Lagary, Lieutenant de Vaisseau, who had arrived with despatches from the Isle of France, on the 24th Dec.; she mounted twelve 8-pounder carronades, but pierced for 16 guns, with upwards of 70 men. She had yesterday put to sea, but returned to an anchor on a signal being made for an enemy. She appeared to me the largest schooner I ever saw; our officers inform me she must have been upwards of 250 tons burthen, copper-bottomed, and in all respects a most complete vessel. * * * * * * The Emerald’s damages are trifling to what might have been expected, which I account for by the enemy not being able to distinguish where the shot fell; and having taken a bad elevation, most of them passed over her. When the boats returned, after firing the schooner, we weighed, and had the good fortune to obtain a light air of wind, that sent us just out of the reach of the batteries, when we were obliged again to anchor, otherwise our situation this morning would have been by no means pleasant, as the Spaniards must by that time have unspiked the guns in the outer fort, and at day-light six gun-boats were seen pulling from the westward. About 8 A.M. a light breeze springing up, we weighed and made sail towards them. When within about two gun-shots of the enemy, it again fell perfectly calm, and they had the temerity still to row for us. Finding the ship’s broadside could not be kept towards them by the boats, I ordered the anchor to be let go with a spring, and when within reach of grape, opened a fire, which they received and returned with tolerable spirit for about half an hour, when they made the best of their way into Veres Bay; and as several shot were seen to strike them, I have no doubt they were considerably damaged; the total want of wind prevented me from following and destroying them. I cannot conclude this letter, my Lord, without once more expressing how highly I appreciate the behaviour of every officer and man in the ship I have the honor to command[19], during a most arduous and fatiguing service, that lasted for 18 hours, the whole of which time they were either at their guns or expecting every instant to he called to them. Our loss, I am extremely sorry to say, is very great in killed and wounded, and most of them the best men in the ship. What the enemy’s may be, from the nature of the service it is impossible to ascertain, though we know it to be very considerable[20].”

On the 21st March, 1809, Captain Maitland captured l’Enfant de Patria of 640 tons, 8 guns, and 60 men; and two days afterwards, l’Aventurier of 4 guns and 30 men. These vessels were letters of marque; the former bound to the Isle of France, and the latter to the relief of Guadaloupe. In the following month, the Emerald was attached to the fleet under Lord Gambier, and formed part of the advanced squadron at the destruction of four French 2-deckers in Aix Roads[21].

From this period, Captain Maitland continued to cruise with his usual activity; and previous to his quitting the Emerald, he was fortunate enough to add the following vessels to his already long list of captures:

Two French letters of marque, one of 4 guns, bound to Guadaloupe with a small reinforcement for the garrison of that island; the other of 4 guns and 26 men, coming from thence with a cargo of coffee and other colonial produce. L’Incomparable, brig privateer of eight 6-pounders and 60 men; this vessel, when discovered, was in the act of capturing an English merchant brig. Le Fanfaron, national corvette of 16 guns and 113 men, commanded by a Capitaine de fregate, bound to Guadaloupe, with a cargo of flour, salt provisions, &c. &c. Le Belle Etoile letter of marque of 350 tons, 8 guns (pierced for 20) and 56 men, laden with wine, flour, oil, and various other merchandise, bound to the Isle of France; and l’Auguste, a remarkably fast sailing ship privateer, of 18 guns and 130 men.

Captain Maitland’s next appointment was, June 3, 1813, to the Goliah, a cut down 74[22]; in which ship he served about twelve months, on the Halifax and West India stations. The Goliah being found very defective, was paid off at Chatham in Oct. 1814; and on the 15th of the ensuing month, Captain Maitland was appointed to the Boyne, a second rate, fitting at Portsmouth for the flag of Sir Alexander Cochrane, comniander-in-chief on the coast of America[23]. In Jan. 1815, he proceeded to Cork, and collected a large fleet of transports and merchant vessels; but owing to a continuance of strong westerly winds, was detained at Cove till the return of Napoleon Buonaparte from Elba, when his orders were countermanded, and he was removed to the Bellerophon of 74 guns. Captain Maitland sailed from Cawsand Bay. in company with a squadron under Sir Henry Hotham, May 24, 1815; and was soon after sent by that officer to watch the motions of two French frigates and two corvettes, lying at Rochefort, off which place he detained a transport, having on board nearly 300 soldiers from Guadaloupe.

The battle of Waterloo terminated the military career of Buonaparte, who, it mil be remembered, fled from the scene of carnage, leaving his unfortunate partisans to shift for themselves. Finding on his arrival at Paris that a speedy retreat from the French territory was the only means of ensuring his personal safety, the usurper proceeded from the metropolis to Rochefort, where he formed numerous plans for bis escape by sea; the whole of which were happily frustrated by the vigilance of Captain Maitlaud and the detachment under his orders. The hopes of Napoleon being now at an end, he endeavoured to stipulate for his future treatment, but in vain; Captain Maitland informing him that he had no authority whatever for granting terms of any sort; and that he could do nothing more than convey him and his suite to England, to be received in such a manner as H.R.H. the Prince Regent might think proper. Thus situated, the fugitive at length resolved to throw himself on the generosity of “the most powerful, the most constant, and the most generous of his enemies[24];” and accordingly surrendered unconditionally to Captain Maitland, on the 15th July.

The subject of this memoir had thus the good fortune to take captive and convey to the shores of Great Britain, a man who had been for so many years the scourge of Europe, and destroyer of the human race. Buonaparte’s subsequent removal from the Bellerophon, his transportation to St. Helena, and dissolution, have already been recorded[25]. Previous to his quitting that ship, he sent one of his attendants to her commander, proposing to present him with a gold box, containing his portrait set with diamonds, the value of which was said to be 3000 guineas; but the offer was declined by Captain Maitland, who some time afterwards addressed the following letter to the printers of the “Edinburgh Annual Register,” correcting several mistatements contained in that publication respecting his prisoner:

“I must state, that Buonaparte never conducted himself with arrogance whilst he was on board the ship which I commanded. He knew the world too well, and was aware he could not have adopted a measure more likely to defeat any wish he might have entertained, of being considered as a crowned head; but, in fact, he never attempted to exact such respect; and so far from its being shewn to him, he had not even the honors due to a General-Officer paid on his coming on board the Bellerophon; any honors that could be construed into those due to the former rank he had held, did not originate with me, and certainly were not demanded by him. Where the other paragraph could originate I am at a loss to conceive, as I can assert most solemnly, that at no period in my presence (and I was the only person in the ship who had direct communication with him, his own people excepted) did he ever threaten to commit suicide. It is true, some of his attendants hinted that he would be guilty of that crime whether with his concurrence or not, I cannot pretend to say; but when the question was put to them by me, if he had ever said he would put himself to death, they acknowledged he had not; and the expression they had construed into that threat was, that he had determined not to go to St. Helena; and if I may be allowed to judge from the sentiments he expressed on the subject, it was an act he never had in contemplation[26].”

Early in Oct. 1818, Captain Maitland was appointed to the Vengeur 74, intended to bear the flag of Rear-Admiral Otway on the Leith station; but in June, 1819, two line-of-battle ships being required for the service in South America, she was directed to proceed thither under the orders of Sir Thomas M. Hardy, with whom she sailed from Spithead on the 9th Sept. In the preceding month, Captain Maitland had the honor of dining twice with his present Majesty, then on an aquatic excursion.

The Vengeur being recalled in 1820, conveyed Lord Beresford from Rio de Janeiro to Lisbon, where she arrived on the 10th Oct.[27] From thence she was ordered to Naples, where Captain Maitland received the King of the two Sicilies on board for a passage to Leghorn, on his way to attend the Congress at Laybach.

His Majesty arrived at Leghorn, Dec. 20, and expressed his sense of Captain Maitland’s great attention during a very unfavorable passage of seven days, by personally investing him, immediately after his landing, with the insignia of a Knight Commander of the Order of St. Ferdinand and of Merit; in addition to which, he presented him with a very valuable gold box, containing his portrait set round with large diamonds, and wrote a most handsome letter, respecting the treatment he had received, to Vice-Admiral Sir Graham Moore, commander-in-chief on the Mediterranean station. The King likewise, through Captain Maitland, presented the Hon. Captain Pellew, of the Revolutionnaire, with a gold snuffbox, having the initial letter F on the lid; and a similar token of his regard to the commander of the French frigate, Duchesse de Berri, both of which ships formed part of his escort. He also ordered six thousand ducats to be distributed among their respective crews, viz. three thousand to the Vengeur, and fifteen hundred to each of the frigates.

The Vengeur arrived at Spithead from the Mediterranean, March 29, 1821; and being found defective, was paid off at Sheerness May 18th following; on which day Captain Maitland commissioned the Genoa 74, as a guard-ship at that port, where he continued until Oct . 3d in the same year: on which day he was superseded by Sir Thomas Livingston, in consequence of his having completed the usual period of service on the peace establishment. Previous to their separation, the Midshipmen of the Genoa presented him with a very elegant sword, as a mark of their respect and esteem.

Captain Maitland married, in April 1804, Catherine, second daughter of Daniel Connor, Esq., of Ballybricken, in the county of Cork. He was nominated a Companion of the Bath in 1815[28].

Agent.– Thomas Stilwell, Esq.

  1. The Hon. Captain Maitland was a younger son of Charles, sixth Earl of Lauderdale, by Lady Elizabeth Ogilvy, daughter of James, fourth Earl of Findlater and Seafield, the last Lord High Chancellor of Scotland. He died Dec. 16, 1786, in his 57th year. The names of several other members of this noble family will be found at Vol. I. p. 840, and note at the bottom.
  2. Captain Duff was the same officer who fell at Trafalgar, when commanding the Mars 74. Captain Forbes was drowned in 1795.
  3. See note * at p. 184.
  4. Admiral Gravina had his flag on board the same ship in the battle of Trafalgar, and on that occasion received a wound, which, being improperly treated, deprived the Spanish navy of a brave commander and an excellent man.
  5. The vacancy alluded to was occasioned by the death of Captain Ralph Willet Miller, who lost his life by the explosion of some shells on board the Theseus 74, in May 1799; see Nav. Chron. v. II. p. 580, et seq. Captain Maitland’s commission as a Commander was dated back to June 14, in the same year.
  6. See Vol. I. p. 312.
  7. Captain Maitland having conveyed the intelligence to Lord Keith, then at Malta, was ordered by his Lordship to proceed home overland, in company with Major Douglas of the marines. In the mean time General Kleber, rendered desperate by the refusal of Lord Keith to ratify the treaty, re-commenced hostilities, defeated the Turks, and regained many important posts which he had either evacuated or left in an unguarded state, and from whence his troops were not expelled until the arrival of a British army in the following year.
  8. See Vol. I. note † at p. 259.
  9. Sir Ralph Abercromby’s mortal wound was occasioned by a musket-ball in the upper part of his thigh. See p. 88.
  10. A Turkish squadron had arrived in Aboukir Bay on the 18th, and the castle of that name surrendered on the same day.
  11. Captain Maitland and the other officers named in the above letter had previously been highly praised by Sir W. Sidney Smith in his despatch relative to the battles of March 8 and 13, a copy of which will be given in another part of the present volume.
  12. Captain Maitland, on his return to the Mediterranean, after carrying home the treaty of El Arish, took out an order for his promotion; but although Lord Keith attended to it so early as Dec. 10, 1800. be was not confirmed in his post rank until Mar. 21, 1801.
  13. See p. 232.
  14. See Vol. I. p. 431.
  15. The Blonde was a frigate-built privateer, belonging to Bourdeaux. Since the renewal of the war she had been of very great annoyance to our trade; and some time previous to her falling in with the Loire, captured a British sloop of war. See Captain Henry Gordon.
  16. From the returns alluded to in the above letter, we find that Lieutenant Yeo, Mr. Clinch, 3 seamen, and 1 marine were slightly wounded on shore; and 2 seamen dangerously, 2 very severely, and 5 slightly wounded on board. Total, 2 officers, 12 seamen, and 1 marine wounded. The fort contained twelve Spanish 18-pounders, mounted on travelling carriages, 22 soldiers, several gentlemen and townsmen volunteers, and about 100 of the Confiance’s crew. The battery on the point, two 18-pounders, 8 artillery-men, and 10 other Spaniards. The enemy’s loss amounted to 12 officers and men slain, and 30 wounded. Forty barrels of powder, 2 small brass guns, and 50 stand of arms, were brought off by the assailants. The Confiance was 116 feet long on the main-deck, 30 feet wide, measured about 450 tons, and was to have sailed for India in a few days, with a complement of 300 men.
  17. See vol. I. p. 261. The French squadrons do not appear to have recognized each other as friends; if that had been the case it is more than probable they would have formed a junction; instead of which the Rochefort ships returned to port immediately, while those from Brest proceeded direct to the West Indies.
  18. See vol. I. p. 726.
  19. The eulogiums bestowed by Captain Maitland upon his officers in a former part of this letter, are purposely omitted. They will appear in our memoir of Captain Charles Bertram.
  20. The Emerald had 9 men killed, Lieutenant Bertram, the two marine officers, Mr. Mildridge, 11 men, and 1 boy wounded.
  21. See p. 318, and Vol. I. p. 84.
  22. The Goliah, originally a 74 of the smallest class, mounted twenty-eight long 32-pounders, the same number of 42-pr. carronades, and two long twelves, making 58 guns on two flush decks.
  23. On his arrival in America, Captain Maitland was to have been removed into a 2-decker.
  24. See the ex-Emperor’s celebrated letter to H.R.H. the Prince Recent, wherein he compares himself to Themistocles, dated at Rochefort, July 13, 1815.
  25. See Vol. I. p. 527, and note *, at p. 721.
  26. Buonaparte arrived in Torbay nine days after his surrender; from thence proceeded to Plymouth, off which port he was removed to the Northumberland on the 7th August.

    His fate is no doubt still deplored by the remainder of the revolutionary factions in England and France; but certainly not by any patriotic individual of either country. We ourselves feel much greater regret for the poor Bellerophon, a ship which after contributing in an eminent degree to the defeat of our implacable enemy in the three great battles of June 1, 1794, Aug. 1, 1798, and Oct. 21, 1805, (see Vol. I. p. 509, 270, and 205), besides performing other services of importance, was at length doomed, like the rock of St. Helena, to become a receptacle for the outcasts of society. She is now used as a depot for convicts at Sheerness.

  27. The Revolution in Portugal commenced a short time previous to the Vengeur’s arrival in the Tagus; and Lord Beresford being refused permission to land, was obliged to return to England in a packet.
  28. Captain Maitland received the Turkish gold medal, for his conduct during the campaign in Egypt, 1801.