Royal Naval Biography/Malcolm, Pulteney
SIR PULTENEY MALCOLM,
Vice-Admiral of the Blue; and Knight Commander of the most honorable Military Order of the Bath.
Early in the last century, Mr. Robert Malcolm, a younger branch of the family of that name, came from Cupar in Fifeshire, where his ancestors had long resided, and settled on the borders of Scotland, as Minister of the parish of Ewes, near Langholm, in the county of Dumfries. His son George married Margaret, daughter of James Pasley, of Craig, Esq., and brought up seventeen children at his residence, Burnfoot, on the banks of the Esk, where part of his family now reside. The officer whose services we are about to trace is the third son, and was born at Douglan, near Langholm, on the 20th Feb. 1768. He entered the naval service Oct. 20, 1778, as a Midshipman, on board the Sybil frigate, commanded by his maternal uncle, the late Sir Thomas Pasley, Bart., whom he accompanied to the Cape of Good Hope; and upon his return from thence removed with the same officer into the Jupiter, of 50 guns, which ship formed part of the squadron under Commodore Johnstone in the affair at Porto Praya, and at the capture of a fleet of Dutch Indiamen in Saldanha Bay, events already noticed at p. 268, et seq.
In 1782 the Jupiter was ordered to convey Admiral Pigot to his command in the West Indies; and Mr. Malcolm, after serving several months with that officer in the Formidable, a second rate, was by him promoted to the rank of Lieutenant in the former ship, March 3, 1783. During the ensuing peace he was employed on various stations in the Scipio, Pegasus, Bellerophon, and Vengeance; and at the commencement of the French revolutionary war we find him serving as first Lieutenant of the Penelope, of 32 guns, at Jamaica. In that ship he assisted at the capture of the Inconstante frigate and Gaelon corvette, both of which Lieutenant Malcolm conducted to Port Royal in safety. He also commanded the boats of the Penelope in several severe conflicts, and succeeded in cutting out many vessels from the ports of St. Domingo. Our officer subsequently joined the Europa, of 50 guns, bearing the flag of Rear-Admiral Ford, by whom he was made a Commander into the Jack Tar, April 3, 1794; and upon Cape Nichola Mole being taken possession of by the British, at the invitation of the French royalists, he had the direction of the seamen and marines landed to garrison that place.
Soon after his return to England, Captain Malcolm was advanced to post rank, by commission dated Oct. 22, 1794; and on the 14th of the following month appointed to the Fox frigate. In Feb. 1795, he escorted a fleet of merchantmen to the Mediterranean; after which he went to Quebec, and subsequently served in the North Sea. We next find him proceeding with a convoy to the East Indies, on which station he captured la Modeste of 20 guns.
Towards the latter end of 1797, the Fox was employed in the China Seas, under the orders of the late lamented Captain Edward Cooke of the Sybille; and the following account of their proceedings will shew that those frigates were particularly active during their continuance on that station;
On the 5th Jan. 1798, they sailed from Macao Roads, and proceeded towards Manilla, for the purpose of attempting to cut out from under the batteries of that place the Rey Carlos, of 800 tons, belonging to the Spanish company, and the Marquesetta, an Amoy trader, reported to have on board 500,000 dollars. On the 12th they captured a small coaster from Manilla, which was permitted to proceed on her voyage after having taken out of her about 5,000 dollars. From this vessel intelligence was obtained of a Spanish squadron, consisting of four sail of the line and the same number of frigates, being in Cavita, but that one only of each class was ready for sea. Measures were now adopted for disguising the Sybille and Fox, which perfectly succeeded. On the afternoon of the 13th they passed the island of Corrigidore under French colours, and anchored as necessity made expedient. At 10 A.M. on the following day, the Fox being a-head of her consort, working up Manilla Bay towards the town, then distant nearly three miles, and the road of Cavita open, a boat came along-side with an officer, to enquire who the strangers were, and from whence they came. In answer to this interrogatory, Captain Malcolm, through the medium of his pilot, Mr. Bernard, who was conversant with the French and Spanish languages, informed him that the frigates belonged to Monsieur Serci’s squadron; that they had been cruizing on the coast of China, but that their crews being sickly they were come to Manilla for refreshment, and to form a junction with the Spanish squadron, a part of which it was hoped would accompany them to sea. The Don hereupon replied, that he was directed by the Governor to acquaint them that their wants should be supplied, but that he believed it would be impossible to get any of the ships ready in less than two months, as they were in want of every article of equipment, and their crews likewise sickly. Captain Cooke now arrived on board the Fox, and was introduced by Captain Malcolm as his Commodore Citoyen la Tour. After nearly an hour’s instructive conversation with their friend, who opened his heart most freely on every subject, and drank to their joint success against the English, other boats were observed coming from the shore; and there being no further information to be gained from him, he was made acquainted with his true situation, and had nearly fainted with astonishment; but a bumper of Madeira, and the promise given him by the British Captains that he should not be detained a prisoner, had the effect of composing him.
In the second and third boats were the Governor’s nephew and Don Alava, the Admiral’s aid de camp. They brought compliments of congratulation on the arrival of the frigates; and information that launches were getting ready, with anchors and cables, to assist them into port; these omcers were of course invited to join their countryman in Captain Malcolm’s cabin; and their astonishment at what they there learnt may readily be conceived.
The English seamen now exchanged clothes with the crews of the Spanish boats; in which, and in others belonging to their own ships, they proceeded to take possession of three gun-vessels, lying just without the river leading to the town; which was done without opposition, the enemy being lost in wonder. The prizes mounted one long gun of large calibre, and four swivels each; rowed 88 oars; and had on board 152 officers and men. This transaction being perceived from the shore, and thought rather unaccountable, a fourth boat was sent off with the Captain of the port, to know why the others were detained; and to say that, if they were not immediately restored, the authorities in the town would consider the frigates as enemies, and act accordingly.
In order to account for the Sybille and Fox remaining so long stationary, it is here necessary to observe, that the weather had been perfectly calm for some time previous to the arrival of this messenger; but now a breeze sprang up, that facilitated the discovery of their true character, and prevented further proceedings in that neighbourhood. The whole of the Spanish officers and men, in number about 232, after being regaled, the former with a dinner at Captain Malcolm’s table, the latter with fresh China beef and grog, were therefore allowed to depart in the four boats, about 4 P.M., which they did in very good humour; and there can be no doubt that the kind usage they received while on board the Fox, and the circumstance of being permitted to go on shore without parole or restriction of any sort, had the effect of impressing upon their minds, and the natives in particular, a high idea of British generosity.
On the morning of the 15th, the Sybille and Fox, having anchored during the preceding night off the island of Corrigidore, again weighed and steered for the settlement of Sambangen on the island of Majindinao, which they purposed laying under contribution for wood, water, and refreshments. The Sybille towed one of the prize gun-vessels, and the Fox the others. At day-light on the 22d, being within a few miles of the place, they hoisted Spanish colours and stood towards the anchorage; but unfortunately the former ship took the ground, and the wind dying away prevented the latter approaching sufficiently near to the fort, the strength of which proved to be much greater than had been anticipated. Captain Malcolm, however, brought up, and sustained the enemy’s fire for a considerable time. At 10 A.M. a breeze came fresh from the land, and drove the Fox off the bank on which she had anchored. The Sybille had previously floated, but owing to the tide, could not gain her station. About noon the wind became more favourable, and both ships stood for the anchorage, Captain Cooke leading and firing on two batteries to the westward, as he passed on to the attack of the fort. The Fox was on this occasion opposed to the westernmost battery, mounting about 14 guns, from which the enemy returned a well-directed fire. Captain Malcolm at length perceiving that the ships, in persevering to silence the forts, must inevitably receive considerable damage, and knowing it was Captain Cooke’s intention that the small-arm men and marines should land under his directions, ordered the boats of the Fox to be manned, and being joined by those of the Sybille, pulled towards the shore for the purpose of storming the enemy’s works. Unfortunately his own boat was swamped by a shot; but being in shoal water, he got the men out of her, and after forming his party on a sand bank, endeavoured to push to the main land. This attempt, however, was found to be impracticable, in consequence of the great depth of water inside the bank, and a strong body of the enemy being drawn up ready to oppose him. He therefore reluctantly re-embarked, and was towed back to the ships by the gun-vessels, commanded by Lieutenants Kennedy and Elphinstone, which had been sent in to cover the landing.
On his return to the Fox, Captain Malcolm found her still in action with the enemy, whose fire continued brisk and well-directed; and being certain that the Commodore would discontinue the attack when informed that the attempt to effect a landing had failed, he ordered the cable to be cut, not wishing to expose his men at the capstern; and on reaching the Sybille, found her also under weigh. Both ships then retired to a suitable distance, for the purpose of repairing the damage they had sustained in their hulls, sails, and rigging. The Fox on this occasion had 4 men killed, and 17 wounded. The Sybille 2 killed, and 1 wounded.
From Sambangen, our officers proceeded to Pollock Bay, situated to the northward of Majindinao, where the Fox completed her water; and the Sybille’s boats were in the river for their last trip, when at 7 A.M. on the 31st Jan., they were attacked by the armed Illanois, from ambush among the mangroves. Lieutenant Majeur, who commanded the party, made his escape to the beach, and was fortunately seen from the ships. Captain Malcolm immediately manned his boats, and on reaching the shore joined Captain Cooke, with whom he marched through the woods to the boats, which were found aground; two of their men lying dead, and ten absent, of whom no intelligence could be obtained at the moment, although they were some months after recovered, through the good offices of the Sultan of Mindanao, at which place the ships touched on their return to China, after destroying the villages and cutting down the trees in the neighbourhood where this outrage was committed.
We find no further mention of the subject of this memoir until June 18, 1798, on which day he was appointed to command the Suffolk, of 74 guns, bearing the flag of the late Vice-Admiral Rainier, Commander-in-Chief in the Indian Seas. He afterwards removed with the same officer into the Victorious, another third rate, and continued to serve as his Flag-Captain during the remainder of the war.
On her passage to Europe in 1803, the Victorious was found to be in so bad a state, that on encountering a gale of wind in the Bay of Biscay, it was with the utmost difficulty she could be kept afloat till she reached the Tagus, where she was run on shore and broke up. Captain Malcolm, with his officers and crew, returned to England in two vessels hired at Lisbon for their conveyance.
In Jan. 1804, we find him commanding the Royal Sovereign, a three-decker, in which ship he proceeded to the Mediterranean; and on his arrival, removed into the Kent, of 74 guns, attached to the fleet under Lord Nelson. In the ensuing summer he joined the Renown, a vessel of similar force.
Captain Malcolm’s next appointment was March 16, 1805, to the Donegal, another third rate, the command of which he retained during a period of six years. In that ship he accompanied his gallant chief in the memorable pursuit of the combined squadrons of France and Spain to the West Indies; and on his return from thence to the Channel, was sent under
Sir Robert Calder to reinforce Vice-Admiral Collingwood off
Cadiz, on which station we find him at the period when Nelson arrived from England to resume his former command.
On the 17th Oct. 1805, four days previous to the decisive battle of Trafalgar, the Donegal being short of water, and, in consequence of the extraordinary length of time she had been kept at sea, greatly in need of a refit, was ordered to Gibraltar. On the 20th, Captain Malcolm received information that the enemy’s fleets were quitting Cadiz. His ship was then in the mole nearly dismantled; but, by the greatest exertions, he succeeded in getting her out before night, and on the 23d joined Vice-Admiral Collingwood in time to capture El Rayo, a Spanish 3-decker, forming part of the division under Admiral Gravina, which on its return to port after the battle just alluded to, had been immediately ordered to sea again for the purpose of attempting the rescue of some of the disabled prizes.
The following article, extracted from the Gibraltar Chronicle of Nov. 9, 1805, will convey to our readers a better idea of the efforts of Captain Malcolm, and those under his command, at that memorable epoch, than any other statement thereof we have ever met with:
“All the Spanish prisoners who have been brought to this place, to the amount of upwards of 3,000, have been sent to Spain, except one wounded officer now in the Hospital, who earnestly requested to remain under the care of the English surgeons till his wound was cured. We have also the pleasure to learn that the Spaniards, since their return to Spain, have universally expressed the liveliest sense of gratitude for the generosity and humanity they universally experienced whilst they were prisoners onboard the different ships; where it seemed to be the study of the conquerors to make them forget their misfortunes. Indeed our Navy well deserve this tribute of applause from their enemies. Upwards of 100 of our gallant seamen perished in the gale of wind after the action, in their generous efforts to save the prisoners out of the different prizes. To record the numerous and singular exertions that were made on this occasion by all the ships of the fleet, would far exceed the limits prescribed to us; we cannot however pass over in silence the heroic conduct of Captain Malcolm and his ship’s company in the Donegal, who, at the imminent hazard of being totally lost, rescued hundreds of the enemy from a watery grave. During the violence of the gale, when she was riding at anchor near the Berwick, then in possession of the English, some of the French prisoners on board, in a fit of frenzy, cut the cables of the Berwick, by which means she immediately drove towards the rocks of St. Lucar, then to leeward, where there was hardly a chance of a man being saved. In this situation. Captain Malcolm without hesitation ordered the cables of the Donegal to be cut, and stood after the Berwick, giving orders for the boats to save all the wounded Frenchmen before they brought away the English; these were punctually obeyed; the English were next removed; but before the boats could return, the Berwick struck upon the shoals, and every soul on board perished, to the number of 200. The wounded seamen who were saved were supplied with cots and bedding, which had been prepared for our own sick and wounded; and after being treated with every kindness and mark of attention, they were sent into Cadiz with a flag of truce with the cots and bedding on which they had been placed, that they might suffer as little pain and inconvenience in their removal as possible. The other instance we shall notice, is as follows; On the 26th Oct., whilst the Donegal was at anchor off Cadiz in a violent gale of wind, with upwards of 600 prisoners then on deck, an unfortunate Spaniard fell overboard; notwithstanding the sea was then running so high, they had not ventured to hoist a boat out for twelve hours before, two seamen of the Donegal jumped overboard in hopes of saving his life, to the admiration of the Spaniards, who were lost in astonishment at so daring an act. The poor man however sunk, and was drowned, just as one of the English seamen, Joseph Thompson, had about got hold of him. A boat was immediately hoisted out, and fortunately the two gallant fellows were got safe on board. We are happy to find that the uncommon exertions which we were all witness to of Captain Malcolm and his gallant crew, to get his ship ready for sea, on their receiving intelligence of the enemies’ fleets having left Cadiz, has not been entirely unrewarded. The Donegal, it will be recollected, sailed from this on the 22d, having her fore-yard towing alongside, and with great difficulty passed the Straits that night, every other vessel that attempted it being forced to return. On the following day they had the good fortune to capture El Rayo of 100 guns, which had lost her main-mast, and was at anchor near Cadiz. The Spaniards did not attempt to fire, as the Donegal was brought to anchor in so advantageous a position across her bow, that any resistance on the part of El Rayo in her crippled state would have been unavailing, and a wanton sacrifice of lives, without a chance of success. The Donegal afterwards, during the storm, repeatedly examined the whole coast between Lagos Bay and Cadiz, to assist any vessels she might find in distress; and besides the number of lives she had saved, she was fortunate enough to bring in the Bahama, one of the finest of the line-of-battle ships in the Spanish navy, which she discovered near St. Lucar deserted. The Donegal lost an officer, Mr. Fourneaux, of Marines; a Master’s Mate, Bell; the Carpenter, Ellis; and 25 men, on board El Rayo.”
It is almost unnecessary to state that Captain Malcolm’s conduct obtained the unqualified approbation of Nelson’s worthy successor.
The Donegal continued off Cadiz under the orders of Sir John T. Duckworth until towards the close of 1805, when she accompanied that officer to the West Indies in quest of a French squadron that had sailed for that quarter. The result of the battle fought off St. Domingo, Feb. 6, 1806, is well known, and has already been related in this volume. The loss sustained by the Donegal on that occasion amounted to 12 men killed and 33 wounded. After the battle she proceeded with the prizes to Port Royal, Jamaica, and from thence to England. On the passage home the ships were dispersed in a heavy gale of wind. Captain Malcolm, however, knowing the defective state of one of the prizes, le Brave, of 74 guns, kept close to her, and fortunate it was he did so; for on the weather moderating, he found that in addition to the loss of all her masts, she had ten feet water in the hold. Seeing that there was no prospect of preserving her from foundering, he determined upon removing her crew, a service attended with very great risk, on account of the heavy sea then running; but which was at length happily effected, and the ship abandoned to her fate.
Previous to their quitting the Donegal, General Carmichael and several other military officers who had been passengers on board le Brave, addressed a letter to Captain Malcolm, of which we believe the following to be a correct copy:
“H.M.S. Donegal, April 30, 1806.
“Sir,– The gentlemen who were passengers in his Majesty’s late Ship Brave, feel it a duty incumbent on them to express their most grateful thanks for being under Providence rescued by you from the impending fate of shipwreck in the midst of a tempestuous ocean, after the strenuous endeavours of Captain Boger, his officers, and exhausted crew, had been rendered abortive, and which must inevitably have terminated in a lamentable event, had it not been for that energy and perseverance which has distinguished your character not less in the professional avocations of your country’s glory than active humanity in relieving those in distress, and from which you were not to be restrained by perils and fatigue.
“In offering this tribute we are fully confident of the heartfelt gratification that must reward a benevolent mind on those occasions which have recently occurred in your arduous service.
“We beg also to acknowledge our warm sense of the hospitality and kindness we have experienced from you and the officers of the Donegal, which with their unprecedented and humane exertions has made an impression that will ever be retained in lively remembrance. We have the honor to be, with the highest sentiments of esteem, &c. &c. &c.
“To Pulteney Malcolm, Esq.
On his arrival in England Captain Malcolm was honored with a gold medal, for his conduct in the action off St. Domingo; and in common with the other officers of the squadron, received the thanks of both Houses of Parliament. He was also presented by the Committee of the Patriotic Fund with a vase value one hundred pounds.
In the summer of 1808, we find our officer escorting the army under Sir Arthur Wellesley from Cork to Portugal. Some days after the arrival of the transports in Mondego Bay, the troops were all landed in safety, notwithstanding a heavy surf; the same good fortune attended Captain Malcolm’s exertions in disembarking the various reinforcements which afterwards arrived; and there can be no doubt that the extraordinary efforts he made on those occasions, and for which he received the warm approbation and thanks of Sir John Moore and Sir Arthur Wellesley, contributed to the happy commencement of those glorious successes which afterwards attended the British arms in the Peninsula.
The Donegal was subsequently attached to the Channel fleet, at that time commanded by Lord Gambier; and after the memorable discomfiture of the French ships in Aix Roads, April 11 and 12, 1809, Captain Malcolm was entrusted with the command of a squadron sent on a cruize, during which, however, nothing particular occurred. We next find him commanding the blockade of Cherbourgh, on which station the ships under his orders captured a number of French privateers; and on one occasion drove two frigates on shore near Cape la Hogue; but the protection afforded them by the batteries rendered it impossible to attempt their destruction with any probability of success.
On the Donegal being paid off in 1811, Captain Malcolm was appointed to the Royal Oak, a new 74, in which he continued off Cherbourgh until March 1, 1812, when he removed into the San Josef, 110 guns, as Captain of the Channel fleet under Lord Keith, which honorable post he held, occasionally commanding a detached squadron, until June 1, 1814, when he hoisted his flag in the Royal Oak, and proceeded with a body of troops under Brigadier-General Ross, from Bourdeaux to North America.
Soon after his arrival in that quarter, our officer accompanied Sir Alexander Cochrane on an expedition up the Chesapeake, and regulated the collection, debarkation, and re-embarkation of the troops, &c. employed against Washington and Baltimore; a service requiring indefatigable efforts, and which he performed in a manner that called forth the warmest acknowledgments of the Commander-in-Chief.
An account of the attempt made upon New Orleans, in the months of Dec. 1814 and Jan. 1815, by the naval and military forces under Sir Alexander Cochrane and Major-General Pakenham, will be found under the head of Sir Edward Codrington. On that occasion the subject of this memoir superintended the disembarkation of the army, and the various services performed by the boats in conjunction with it. The manner in which he executed these duties may be gathered from the official despatches relative to that event, wherein Sir Alexander says, “it is a duty that I fulfil with much pleasure, assuring their Lordships that Rear-Admiral Malcolm’s zeal and exertions upon every occasion, could not be surpassed by any one.” Our officer was afterwards employed at the siege of Fort Boyer, on Mobile point, the surrender of which by capitulation on the 14th Feb., terminated the war between Great Britain and the United States of America.
At the extension of the Order of the Bath into three classes, Jan. 2, 1815, Rear-Admiral Malcolm was nominated a K.C.B.; and upon his arrival in England, hostilities against France having been renewed in consequence of the return of Napoleon Buonaparte from Elba, he was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the naval force ordered to co-operate with the Duke of Wellington and the allied armies, on which service he continued till after the final restoration of the Bourbons.
Sir Pulteney Malcolm struck his flag Sept. 26, 1815; and a few days afterwards had the gratification of receiving the following letter from the Duke of Wellington, with whom, as we have already shewn in the course of this memoir, he had been on four occasions associated in the public service.
“Paris, Sept. 30, 1815.
“Sir.– I have received your letter, in which you have informed me of your return to England. I beg leave to return you my best thanks for the cordial and useful assistance I have invariably received from you in all the situations in which we have been placed together, and to assure you that it will always give me the greatest satisfaction to be placed in a situation to be in communication on service with you. – I have the honor to be, Sir,
“Admiral Sir P. Malcolm.”
Sir Pulteney’s last appointment was to the important office of Commander-in-Chief on the St. Helena station, where he continued from the spring of 1816, until towards the latter end of the following year. His advancement to the rank of Vice-Admiral took place, July 19, 1821. He married Jan. 18, 1809, Clementina, eldest daughter of the Hon. William Fullarton Elphinstone, a Director of the East India Company; niece of Admiral Viscount Keith, and cousin of the Hon, Vice-Admiral Fleeming.
Country Seat.– Irvine, Dumfrieshire.
- Mr. Malcolm survived long enough to see his youngest child attain the rank of Post-Captain. Robert, the eldest, who died a few years ago, was high in the civil service of the Hon. East India Company. The three next in succession, James, Pulteney, and John, were honoured with the insignia of Knights Commanders of the Order of the Bath at the same time! the former for his distinguished services in Spain and North America, when commanding a battalion of Royal Marines; the latter has since been raised to the dignity of a Knight Grand Cross, for his services during the late war in India. The younger sons are Gilbert, Rector of Todenham, co. Gloucester; David, in a commercial house in India; and Charles, a Post-Captain, commands the Lord Lieutenant’s yacht at Dublin.
- Sir Thomas Pasley, the fifth son of the above-mentioned James Pasley, of Craig, Esq., by Magdalene, daughter of Robert Elliott, of Middleholmmill, Roxburghshire, Esq., after serving near half a century with high reputation, was promoted to a flag, and commanded a division of Earl Howe’s fleet in the memorable battle of June 1, 1794; on which occasion he lost a leg, as will be seen in our memoir of Sir W. Johnstone Hope. He was soon afterwards created a Baronet, with particularly flattering marks of his Sovereign’s approbation. Sir Thomas died an Admiral of the White, Nov. 29, 1808.
- See p. 505.
- M. de Serci, a pupil of the famous de Suffrein, already alluded to at p. 421 et seq., at this time commanded that part of the republican marine employed in the Eastern hemisphere, and was esteemed the most active and distinguished officer in the French service. Himself and Captain Edward Cooke were afterwards opposed to each other in Balasore Roads. The French commander was killed outright, and our brave countryman was so dreadfully wounded that he died soon after. An account of the action between the Sybille and her opponent, la Forte, will be given under the head of Captain Lucius Hardyman, in our next volume.
- From the information afforded by the Spanish officers, it appeared that the Rey Carlos was in the Cavita, and most likely aground there; and that the Marquesetta had relanded her money in consequence of a suspicious ship, since ascertained to have been the ill-fated Resistance, having appeared off the islands some days before. Hence the most lucrative part of the enterprise was frustrated; but the other was completely accomplished, that is, correct information of the naval force possessed by the enemy in that quarter.
The Resistance, commanded by Captain Edward Pakenham, was destroved by fire in the Straits of Banca, on the 24th July following; on which melancholy occasion 332 persons perished.
- One of the gun-vessels, commanded by Lieutenant Rutherford of the Fox, broke adrift in a heavy squall on the night of the 19th. Captain Malcolm instantly brought to, and continued to fire guns and show lights till the morning; but as she was never afterwards heard of, it is supposed that she filled and foundered. By this unfortunate accident the Fox, in addition to her Lieutenant, lost a Midshipman and 12 men.
- Lieutenant Elphinstone of the Fox, was the same officer who afterwards commanded the Greyhound frigate, and distinguished himself in an action with a Dutch squadron, the particulars of which will be given under the head of Sir E. Thomas Troubridge, in our next volume.
- In 1797, the Duke of Wellington, then Colonel Wellesley of the 33d regiment, took a passage with Captain Malcolm, in the Fox, from the Cape of Good Hope to Bengal. Three years afterwards, when the same distinguished officer was nominated to the command of a body of troops intended to attack the isle of France, he embarked on board the Suffolk; but in consequence of counter orders from England, the army intended for that enterprise went to Egypt by the way of the Red Sea, under the present Sir David Baird.
- On the 19th Jan. 1805, Lord Nelson, then off the coast of Sardinia, received the long-hoped-for intelligence of the departure of the French fleet from Toulon, which port he had watched with the greatest patience and perseverance ever since the renewal of hostilities in 1803. Believing Egypt to he their destination, he proceeded thither, but without meeting with the object of his pursuit. Returning from thence towards Malta, he learnt that the enemy, having been dispersed in a heavy gale, had put back; and on the 27th Feb. the British squadron anchored in the Gulf of Cagliari. From this period nothing material occurred until the 4th April; when being on his way from the coast of Spain to his old station off Toulon, Lord Nelson met the Phoebe frigate, with news that M. Villeneuve had put to sea a few days before with ten ships of the line, seven frigates, and two brigs; and that when last seen, they were steering towards the coast of Africa. On the 16th a neutral gave intelligence that the enemy had been seen off Cape de Gatte; and it was soon after ascertained that they had passed the Straits of Gibraltar. In spite of every exertion which could be made, his Lordship did not get in sight of the rock till the 30th; and the wind was then so adverse, that it was impossible to pass the Gut. He therefore anchored in Mazari Bay, on the Barbary shore; obtained supplies from Tetuan; and when, on the 5th May, a breeze sprang up from the eastward, sailed once more, hoping to hear of the foe from Sir John Orde, who commanded off Cadiz; or from Lisbon. In this respect he was not disappointed. John Campbell, at that time an Admiral in the Portuguese service, the same gentleman who had given important tidings to Earl St. Vincent of the movements of that armament from which he won his title, again gave timely and momentous intelligence to the flag of his native Sovereign. He went on board the Victory, and communicated to Lord Nelson his certain knowledge that the combined French and Spanish squadrons were bound for the West Indies. Hitherto all things had favoured the enemy. While the British commander was beating against contrary gales, they had had a fair wind from the N.E., and had done in nine days what he was a whole month in accomplishing. M. Villeneuve, finding the Spaniards at Carthagena were not in a state of equipment to join him, dared not wait, but hastened on to Cadiz. Sir John Orde necessarily retired at his approach. Admiral Gravina, with six Spanish ships of the line, and two French, came out to him, and they sailed without a moment’s loss of time. They had about 4,500 troops on board; 600 were under orders expecting them at Martinique, and 1000 at Guadaloupe. The combined fleets now consisted of eighteen sail of the line, seven large frigates, and four smaller vessels, to which two French line-of-battle ships, and one of 44 guns, were afterwards added. Nelson pursued them with the following vessels: Victory, 100 guns, bearing his Lordship’s flag, and commanded by Captain Thomas Masterman Hardy; Canopus, 80, the flag-ship of Sir Thos. Louis, commanded by Captain F. W. Austen; Superb, 74, Captain Richard Goodwin Keats; Spencer, 74, Hon. Robert Stopford; Belleisle, 74, Captain William Hargood; Conqueror, 74, Captain Israel Pellew; Tigre, 80, Captain Benjamin Hallowell; Leviathan, 74, Captain Henry William Bayntun; Donegal, 74, Captain Pulteney Malcolm; Swiftsure, 74, Captain Mark Robinson*; and the Amazon, Amphion, and Decade frigates.
The enemy had thirty-five days’ start; but Lord Nelson calculated that he should gain eight or ten days upon them by his exertions. He reached Madeira, May 15, and on June 4th arrived at Barbadoes, whither he had sent despatches before him, and where he was joined by Rear-Admiral Cochrane with two ships of the line. He found here also accounts that the combined fleets had been seen from St. Lucia on the 28th of the preceding month, standing to the southward, and that Tobago and Trinidad were their objects. This his Lordship doubted; but yielded his opinion with these foreboding words:– “If your intelligence proves false, you lose me the French fleet.” After taking on board 2000 troops under Sir William Myers, he immediately sailed for Tobago. At that island accident confirmed the false intelligence which had, whether from intention or error, misled him. A merchant, in the general alarm, not knowing whether this fleet was friend or foe, sent out a schooner to reconnoitre, and acquaint him by signal. The signal which he had chosen happened to be the very one which had been appointed by Colonel Shipley of the engineers, to signify that the enemy were at Trinidad; and as this happened at the close of day, there was no opportunity of discovering the mistake. An American brig was met with about the same time; the master of which, with that propensity to deceive the English and assist their enemies in any manner, which has been but too common among his countrymen, affirmed that he had been boarded off Grenada a few days before by the French, who were standing towards the Bocas of Trinidad. This fresh intelligence removed all doubts. The ships were cleared for action before day-light, and entered the Bay of Paria on the 7th, hoping and expecting to make the mouths of the Orinoco as famous in the annals of the British navy as those of the Nile. Not an enemy was there; and it was discovered that accident and artifice had combined to lead them so far to leeward, that there could have been little hope of fetching to windward of Grenada for any other fleet. Nelson, however, with skill and exertions never exceeded, and almost unexampled, stood for that island.
Advices met his Lordship on the way, that the combined fleets, having captured the Diamond Rock, were at Martinique on the 4th, and expected to sail that night for the attack of Grenada. On the 9th he arrived off that island; and there learnt, that they had passed to leeward of Antigua the preceding day, and taken a homeward bound convoy. Had it not been for false information, upon which Nelson had acted reluctantly, and in opposition to his own judgment, he would have been off Port Royal just as they were leaving it, and the battle would have been fought on the spot where Rodney defeated de Grasse. But as it was he had saved the colonies, and above two hundred vessels laden for Europe, which would else have fallen into their hands; and he had the satisfaction of knowing that the mere terror of his name had effected this, and put to flight the allied enemies, whose force nearly doubled that before which they fled. That they were flying back to Europe he believed, and for Europe he steered in pursuit on the 13th, having disembarked the troops at Antigua, and taking with him the Spartiate, of 74 guns, the only addition to the squadron with which he was chasing so superior a foe. Five days afterwards a frigate brought intelligence, that she had spoke a schooner, which had seen them on the evening of the 15th steering to the northward. From that time no further tidings were obtained of the fugitives until July 25th; when being in the neighbourhood of Tetuan, at which place he had again touched for supplies, his Lordship was informed that they had been met with on the 19th June, and were still holding the same course. He then proceeded off Cape St. Vincent, rather cruizing for intelligence than knowing whither to betake himself. Still persevering, and still disappointed, he returned near enough to Cadiz to ascertain that they were not there; traversed the Bay of Biscay; and then, as a last hope, stood over for the N.W. coast of Ireland, against adverse winds, till on the evening of Aug. 12, he heard that they had not been seen in that quarter. Frustrated thus in all his hopes, after a pursuit, to which, for its extent, rapidity, and perseverance, no parallel can be produced, he judged it best to reinforce the Channel fleet with his squadron, lest the enemy should form a junction with the ships at Ferrol and Rochefort, and then bear down upon Brest with their whole collected force. He accordingly joined Admiral Cornwallis off Ushant on the 15th, and leaving the remainder of his squadron with that veteran commander, returned to Portsmouth with the Victory and Superb.
- See pp. 261, 346.
- It may not be amiss in this place to remark, that from the renewal of the war in the spring of 1803, to the period when she arrived at Jamaica, after the above battle, the Donegal had been almost constantly at sea. Under her former commander, Sir Richard J. Strachan, she was principally employed in the blockade of Cadiz and Toulon; under Captain Malcolm she twice visited the West Indies; and from the day he joined her to that on which she entered Port Royal with the prizes, including a space of eleven mouths, was only at anchor 15 days, and then merely for the purpose of receiving supplies.
- The Donegal had previously assisted at the destruction of three French frigates in the Sable d’Olonne. She was commanded on that occasion by Captain Peter Heywood, Captain Malcolm being absent attending a court-martial.
- See Captain Charles Grant, in our next volume.
- Captain Malcolm was nominated a Colonel of Royal Marines, Aug. 12, 1812; and advanced to the rank of Rear-Admiral, Dec. 4, 1813.
- See p. 524, et seq.
- See pp. 588, 595.