Open main menu

Royal Naval Biography/Mapleton, David


DAVID MAPLETON, Esq.
[Commander.]

Was made a lieutenant on the 10th May, 1804. In 1806, he served as second of the Pallas frigate, Captain Lord Cochrane, by whom honorable mention is made of him in two official letters, addressed to Vice-Admiral Thornbrough, of which the following are copies:

H.M.S. Pallas, St. Martin’s Road, Isle Rhé, May 10th, 1806.

“Sir,– The French trade having been kept in port of late, in a great measure by their knowledge of the exact situation of H.M. cruisers, constantly announced at the signal posts, it appeared to me to be some object, as there was nothing better in view, to endeavour to stop this practice. Accordingly the two posts at la Pointe de la Roche were demolished; next, that of Cahola; then two in l’Ance de Repos; one of which. Lieutenant Haswell, and Mr. Hillier the gunner, took in a neat style from upwards of one hundred militia.

“The marines and boats’ crews behaved exceedingly well; all the flags have been brought off, and the houses built by government burnt to the ground.

“Yesterday, too, the zeal of Lieutenant Norton, of the Frisk cutter, and Lieutenant Gregory, of the Contest gun-brig, induced them to volunteer to flank the battery on Point d’Equillon, while we should attack it by land in the rear; but it was carried at once; and one of fifty men, who were stationed to the three thirty-six-pounders, was made prisoner, the rest escaped. The battery is laid in ruins, the guns are spiked, carriages burnt, barrack and magazine blown up, and all the shells thrown into the sea. The signal post of l’Equillon, together with the house, shared the fate of the gun carriages; the convoy got into a river beyond our reach.

“Lieutenant Mapleton, Mr. Sutherland the master, and Mr. Hillier, were with me, who, as they do on all occasions, so they did at this time, whatever was in their power for His Majesty’s service.

“The petty officers, seamen, and marines, failed not to justify the opinion that there was before reason to form; yet it would be inexcusable were not the names of the quarter-masters, Garden and Casey, particularly mentioned, as men highly deserving any favour that can be shown in the line to which they aspire. I have the honor to be, &c.

(Signed)Cochrane.”

H.M.S. Pallas, of the Island of Oleron, 14th May.

“Sir,– This morning when close to l’Isle d’Aix, reconnoitring the French squadron, it gave me great joy to find our late opponent, the black frigate[1], and her companions, the three brigs[2], getting under sail; we formed high expectation that the long wished for opportunity was at last arrived.

“The Pallas remained under topsails by the wind to await them; at half-past eleven a smart point-blank firing commenced on both sides, which was severely felt by the enemy. The main-top-sail yard of one of the brigs was cut through, and the frigate lost her after-sails. The batteries on l’Isle d’Aix opened on the Pallas, and a cannonade continued, interrupted on our part only by the necessity we were under to make various tacks to avoid the shoals, till one o’clock, when our endeavour to gain the wind of the enemy, and get between him and the batteries, proved successful; an effectual distance was now chosen – a few broadsides were poured in – the enemy’s fire slackened; – I ordered ours to cease, and directed Mr. Sutherland, the master, to run the frigate on board, with intention effectually to prevent her retreat, by boarding.

“The enemy’s side thrust our guns back into the ports; the whole were then discharged; the effect and crush were dreadful; their decks were deserted; three pistol shots were the unequal return.

“With confidence I say, that the frigate was lost to France, had not the unequal collision tore away our fore-top-mast, jib-boom, fore and maintop-sail-yards, sprit-sail-yard, bumpkin, cathead, chain-plates, fore-rigging, fore-sail, and bower anchor, with which last I intended to hook on; but all, proved insufficient. She was yet lost to France, had not the French admiral, seeing his frigate’s fore-yard gone, her rigging ruined, and the danger she was in, sent two others to her assistance.

“The Pallas being a wreck, we came out with what little sail could be set, and H.M. sloop the Kingsfisher afterwards took us in tow.

“The officers and ship’s company behaved as usual; to the names of Lieutenants Haswell and Mapleton, whom I have mentioned on other occasions, I have to add that of Lieutenant Robins, who has just joined.

I have the honor to be, &c.

(Signed)Cochrane.”

In effecting the destruction of the enemy’s signal posts, the Pallas had two seamen and one marine slightly wounded. In her gallant action with the French frigate and brigs, one marine killed, one midshipman, Mr. Andrews, very badly wounded, and four seamen slightly. In a former despatch, when reporting the capture of la Tapageuse corvette, and the destruction of three other French national vessels, her heroic captain informed Vice-Admiral Thornbrougb, that “the absence of Lieutenant Mapleton was to be regretted, as he would have gloried in the expedition with the boats.”

From the Pallas, Mr. Mapleton followed Lord Cochrane into the Imperieuse 38; and on the 6th Jan. 1807, we find him volunteering his services to bring out with her boats whatever vessels might be found in the basin of Arcasson. “As a preliminary step,” says his lordship, “he attacked Fort Roquette, which was intended for the defence of the entrance. A large quantity of military stores was destroyed, four 36-pounders, two field-pieces, and a thirteen -inch mortar were spiked, the platoons and carriages burnt, and the fort laid in ruins. The Hon. William John Napier and Mr. Houston Stewart, midshipmen, accompanied Lieutenant Mapleton; and Mr. Gilbert, the surgeon’s first assistant, embraced the opportunity to shew his zeal even in this affair, so foreign to his profession. I am happy to add, that as it was well conducted, so it was accomplished without any loss.”

Between Dec. 15th, 1806, and Jan. 7th, 1807, Lieutenant Mapleton assisted at the capture and destruction of three French transports and twelve merchant vessels, the latter laden with wine, resin, butter, cheese, &c.

During the summer of 1807, the Imperieuse cruised off Best, under the pro-tempore command of Captain Alexander Skene. On the 12th Sept. in the same year. Lord Cochrane having then re-joined her, she sailed from Portsmouth, with the Mediterranean trade in company. On the 31st July, 1808, the castle of Mongat, an important post, commanding a pass in the road from Barcelona to Gerona, was taken possession of by her marines; and 71 French soldiers, including two commissioned officers, killed, wounded, and made prisoners. By the immediate destruction of this fortification, and the blowing up of rocks in various places, the road was rendered impassable to the enemy’s artillery, required for the siege of Gerona. On the 28th Sept. following, his Lordship reported the destruction of the newly constructed semaphoric telegraphs at Bourdique, Pinede, St. Maguire, Frontignan, Canet, and Foy, together with their guard houses, fourteen barracks of the gens-d’armes, a battery, and a strong tower upon the lake of Frontignan. “Lieutenant Mapleton,” (then first of the Imperieuse,) says Lord Cochrane, “had the command of those expeditions; Lieutenant Urry Johnson had charge of the field-pieces; and Lieutenant Hoare of the royal marines. To them, and to Mr. Gilbert, assistant-surgeon; Mr. Burney, gunner; and Messrs. Stewart and Stovin, midshipmen, is due whatever credit may arise from such mischief; and for having, with so small a force, drawn about 2,000 troops from the important fortress of Figueras, in Spain, to the defence of their own coast. The conduct of Lieutenants Mapleton, Johnson, and Hoare, deserves my best praise.” Other services performed by the Imperieuse, on the Mediterranean station, will be found noticed in Vol. III. Part I. pp. 262–265.

Mr. Mapleton’s next appointment was, Feb. 19th, 1811, to the Edinburgh 74, in which ship he served as first lieutenant, under Captains Robert Rolles and the Hon. George H. L. Dundas, until advanced to the command of a French national brig, taken at Genoa, in April, 1814. Previous to his promotion, he had distinguished himself on various occasions, particularly at the capture of a French convoy lying in the mole of D’Anzo, Oct. 5th, 1813; at the unsuccessful attack upon Leghorn, in the month of December following; and during the operations against Genoa and its dependencies, in March and April, 1814. On the 18th of the latter month, Captain Sir Josias Rowley, commanding the Anglo-Sicilian naval force, informed Sir Edward Pellew (now Viscount Exmouth) that “that active officer, Lieutenant Mapleton, of the Edinburgh," he was sorry to say, had been wounded, “while on service with the army,” under Lord William Bentinck[3].



  1. La Minerve 40.
  2. Lynx, Palinure, and Sylphe.
  3. See Vol. II. Part I. pp. 423–430.