Open main menu

Royal Naval Biography/Markland, John Duff


JOHN DUFF MARKLAND, Esq.
A Companion of the Most Honorable Military Order of the Bath; and Knight of the Imperial Austrian Order of Leopold.
[Post-Captain of 1811.]

This officer is descended from a family of the same name, residing near Wigan, co. Lancashire, in the reign of Edward III. his father, Edward Markland, Esq. married Elizabeth Sophia, second daughter of Josiah Hardy, Esq. H.B.M. Consul at Cadiz, and formerly Governor of the Jerseys, in North America; a son of the first Sir Charles Hardy, Knt. by the daughter and heiress of Josiah Burchett, Esq. many years Secretary of the Admiralty, and author of a naval history, published in 1720[1].

By the maternal side, Mrs. Markland was grand-daughter to Sir Thomas D’Aeth, Bart, of Knowlton Court, in Kent; and great-grand-daughter to Admiral Sir John Narbrough, whose widow married Sir Cloudesley Shovel, Rear-Admiral of Great Britain.

Mr. John Duff Markland was born at Leeds, in Yorkshire, Sept. 14, 1780; and he entered the navy May 27, 1795, as a midshipman on board the Hebe frigate. Captain Paul Minchin; which ship he quitted in order to join la Tourterelle of 30 guns, commanded by his uncle-in-law, Captain John Cooke, whose glorious death has been recorded at p. 968 et seq. of Vol. II. Part II. He subsequently served under Captains John Peyton and Robert Dudley Oliver, in the Seahorse 38.

From that ship, Mr. Markland was removed to la Nymphe frigate. Captain Cooke, under whom he assisted at the capture of la Resistance and la Constance, French ships of war, the former mounting 48 guns, with a complement of 345 men ; the latter carrying 24 guns and 189 men[2].

We next find Mr. Markland in the Royal George, a first rate, bearing the flag of Lord Bridport, with whom he continued until Captain Cooke was appointed to the Amethyst frigate, and ordered to convey H.R.H. the Duke of York to Holland: from that period he served under his uncle-in-law till June 1801. Amongst the prizes taken by the Amethyst, whilst commanded by Captain Cooke, were:–

L’Aventure, French brig privateer, of 14 guns and 75 men, Dec 29, 1799
Le Vaillant, cutter 15 131

Feb 15

1800
Le Mars, ship 22 180 Mar 31

On the 28th Jan. 1801, Mr. Markland witnessed the capture of la Dédaigneuse frigate, of 36 guns and 300 men[3]. His promotion to the rank of Lieutenant took place June 8 following, on which occasion he was appointed to the Malta 80, Captain Albemarle Bertie[4].

Lieutenant Markland’s next appointment was, in Dec. 1802, to the Albion, a third rate, Captain John Ferrier, in which ship he was present at the capture of la Franchise French frigate, near Brest, May 28, 1803; and la Clarissa corvette in the bay of Bengal, Jan. 1804. From the latter period, he served as first Lieutenant of the Albion until Dec. 25, 1805; when he was obliged to invalid, and quit the East Indies as a passenger in the Tremendous 74, Captain John Osborne.

On his return home the subject of this memoir found himself promoted to the rank of Commander, by commission dated Jan. 22, 1806 ; but he does not appear to have been again employed until April 12, 1808; when he was appointed to the Bustard brig, of 16 guns.

On the 28th July, 1809, Captain Markland assisted at the capture of six heavy gun-boats belonging to the Italian marine, and ten coasting traders, laden with brandy, flour, rice, and wheat.

The Bustard, at that period, formed part of the squadron employed in the gulf of Venice, under the orders of Captain John West, by whose activity the enemy’s convoy was prevented from entering Trieste, and obliged to take shelter in Douin, a port 4 leagues farther, to the N.W. defended by a strong castle. Conceiving it very practicable to capture or destroy them there, he detached the Acorn, sloop of war, and Bustard, with all the boats of his own ship, the Excellent 74, to try the experiment: about midnight, covered by the fire of the two sloops, the boats pushed on shore, and, in about half an hour, they had complete possession of every vessel in the harbour. “This enterprise,” says Lord Collingwood, “was well devised and gallantly executed.” Captain West thus expresses himself on the occasion:

“The very masterly and complete manner in which this service has been performed by Captains Clephane and Markland, of H.M. sloops Acorn and Bustard, and Lieutenant John Harper, in command of the boats of H.M.S. Excellent, excites my highest adniration; every officer, seaman, and marine, I am assured, individually distinguished himself.”

Captain Clephane, the senior commander, expressed his “high sense of the conduct of Captain Markland, both by his leading into a place so little known, and by the well-directed fire kept up by him.” The loss sustained by the British, in the performance of this gallant exploit, amounted to 2 men killed, 1 mortally, 1 (the master of the Bustard) severely, and 4 slightly, wounded. Each of the enemy’s gunboats had on board an officer and 20 men.

At the commencement of July 1810, the Bustard captured and destroyed nine of the enemy’s vessels, in a harbour on the east side of Calabria: the following is an extract of a letter which Captain Markland soon afterwards received from the flag-officer under whose orders he was then serving:

“I highly approve of your conduct, and of that of Lieutenant John Hilton, which I shall not fail to make known to the commander-in-chief. I am very happy that only two of the crew of H.M. sloop under your command were wounded in the execution of this important service.

(Signed)Geo. Martin, Rear-Admiral.”

For three months from that period, Captain Markland commanded the sloops of war stationed in the Faro of Messina, to protect Sicily from a threatened invasion by Joachim Murat, whose army, consisting of nearly 40,000 men, was then encamped on the opposite shore, and who had collected more than 80 gun and mortar-boats, between Scylla and Reggio. On the 24th July, the Bustard and Halcyon destroyed two armed feluccas under Cape del Arme, where they were for a long time defended by their crews, some soldiers, and the neighbouring peasantry. In the performance of this service. Lieutenant John Hilton, first of the former sloop, received four wounds.

The master of the Bustard having been previously promoted into a 74, Captain Markland and his second Lieutenant, Robert Milbome Jackson, were now obliged to keep watch and watch, and they continued to do so until the breaking up of the enemy’s camp. During that time the Bustard was repeatedly in action with Murat’s land batteries and flotilla; and Captain Markland often received the thanks of Rear-Admiral Martin:– the severity of the service in which the British sloops were engaged will be readily conceived when we state that their hammocks were scarcely ever down at night; yet, strange to say, the official letters respecting that campaign were, for some unaccountable reason, withheld from the public; – we have tried, but in vain, to obtain copies of them; and we must therefore content ourselves with stating that Captain Markland’s gallantry and meritorious exertions on every occasion were represented in such high terms to Admiral Sir Charles Cotton, that that officer gave him the very first post vacancy, telling him he did so expressly for his services in the Faro: we must here remark, that Captain Markland was not on the Admiralty list for promotion; he had had no previous acquaintance with his new Commander-in-chief, nor had he even the advantage of an introduction to him by any private friend.

The total number of prizes taken by Captain Markland, in the Bustard, was 25; that of the vessels he destroyed amounted to 39.

On the 3l8t Jan. 1811, this active officer was removed to the Eclair of 18 guns; and five days afterwards he received an order to act as captain of the Ville de Paris, a first rate, bearing the flag of Rear-Admiral Thomas Francis Freemantle, whom he afterwards successively followed into the Rodney and Milford, third rates. His post commission bears date April 18, 1811.

After obtaining the liberation of 400 Christian slaves at Tunis, and cruising for some time off Toulon, Rear-Admiral Freemantle was ordered to assume the command of a squadron employed in the Adriatic, where we find Captain Markland bearing a distinguished part in many gallant and important services, some of the most considerable of which we shall now proceed to notice.

Fiume, a town of Istria, from its commercial importance, soon attracted the attention of the British Rear-Admiral, who attacked and captured it, July 3, 1813. On this occasion, after assisting in silencing the batteries, Captain Markland proceeded at the head of the armed boats, and dislodged the enemy from their last strong hold. “Nothing,” says Rear-Admiral Freemantle, “could exceed the spirit and good conduct of every captain, officer, seaman, and marine, in the squadron.” The details of this service are given at p. 673 et seq. of Vol. I. Part II.

After despatching his prizes to Lissa, the Rear-Admiral proceeded off Porto Ré, where Captain Markland landed with Captain Hoste, of the Bacchante frigate, and found the forts abandoned by the enemy, who had spiked the guns, and destroyed the ammunition. The boats of the squadron then went up to Bocca Ré, where thirteen sail of vessels were discovered scuttled, only one of which could be brought away. The guns, 10 in number, were in the mean time rendered entirely useless, their carriages burnt, and all th6 works blown up.

At daylight on the 5th Aug. 1813, the boats of the Milford and Weazle, under the orders of Captain James Black, succeeded in surprising the garrison of Ragosniza, to which place the enemy seem to have attached much importance, for the protection of their coasting convoys. On this occasion, a tower and an open battery were destroyed; six long 24-pounders, two 7½ inch mortars, some stores and ammunition brought off, and 63 Frenchmen taken prisoners.

In the course of the same month, the Austrians entered Fiume, and established a communication with the British squadron; the boats of which had been very actively employed, under the orders of Captain Markland, in exciting u spirit of revolt against their oppressors, among the inhabitants of the different islands at the head of the Adriatic. By Rear-Admiral Freemantle’s subsequent despatclies it appears that he had left Captain Markland, as senior officer, for a short time, off Fiume; – the following are extracts:–

“On the 6th Sept. I arrived Fiume, and found the Milford and Wizard (sloop) at anchor off the town, and the Imperial flag flying; the whole of Istria and Croatia (nearly) up in arms against the French, and driving them out in all directions. Sagna and Porto Ré are also under the Austrian flag. General Nugent has his head-quarters at Lippa, about twenty-two miles from Fiume; his force consists of 2000 Austrians, and some Croats; the French garrison of Pola, of 600 men, with about 1500 Croats, were marching to relieve Fiume; but the Croats, on hearing that their countrymen were in arms against the enemy, surrounded, disarmed, and took the 600 Frenchmen prisoners[5]. * * * * * *. The Milford lying at Fiume, gives General Nugent an additional force of 1000 men, which he must have left to guard it, and cramp his operations very much. There is not a single soldier there; the town is entirely guarded by the Milford’s marines, who are there; and it greatly increases the confidence of the inhabitants, having a safe retreat in case of a defeat. Almost the whole of the islands are now clear of the French yoke, from Lissa upwards. Captain Gower (of the Elizabeth 74) landed at Fontane, and has planted the Imperial flag all along that coast.”

Captain Markland was also present at the captures of Rovigno, Piran, and Capo d’Istria; at which latter place Rear-Admiral Freemantle remained, in constant correspondence with General Count Nugent, who was harassing the army of Eugene Beauharnois on his retreat, until the morning of the 5th Oct. 1813, when he sailed for Trieste, to blockade that city. On the following day. Captains Markland and Black volunteered their services to attack the dock-yard, which, although strongly fortified, and within point-blank shot of the citadel, they thought might be taken by surprise: their offer was accepted, and after dark they obtained complete possession of the arsenal and every person in it, the whole of whom, with a quantity of stores, were brought off in triumph; they also having first rendered all the guns unserviceable, and sawed the keel and stern-post of a large frigate into many pieces. This daring exploit was performed without the slightest loss, the surprise being so complete that fighting was unnecessary.

About noon on the 10th Oct. the enemy endeavoured to retaliate by opening a masked battery upon the Milford, as she lay with her stern towards the shore; but Captain Markland instantly got a spring upon his cable, hove his broadside round, and in a quarter of an hour demolished it. The shell exploded on the poop of the 74, but did no damage. The Frenchmen had several killed and wounded.

Immediately after this little affair, the marines of the squadron and two field-pieces were landed under the command of Captain Markland, to assist at the siege of Trieste, which was commenced on the 11th, and terminated on the 29th of the same month. “I have to thank him,” says Rear-Admiral Freemantle, “for exerting himself in every way; particularly in the arrangements of stores and provisions. We have at times had 1200 men on shore, at work and in the batteries; and the general good conduct of the officers, seamen, and marines, with the harmony that has invariably subsisted between the Austrian troops and our people, is quite gratifying to me. When we opened against the citadel it contained 800 Frenchmen, 45 large guns, 4 mortars, and 4 howitzers. The consequences of the taking this place will be felt throughout the country.” About 50 sail of vessels were taken in the port.

During the operations against Trieste, the Milford had 3 men killed and 10 wounded; the total loss sustained by her consorts, the Elizabeth, Eagle, Tremendous, Weazle, and Wizard, amounted to 7 killed and 25 wounded.

Captain Markland resigned the command of the Milford, Oct. 31, 1813; and returned home with despatches from Rear-Admiral Freemantle, on the 11th Dec. following. He was nominated a C.B. in June 1815 ; and subsequently presented with the cross of the order of Leopold, “in testimony of his Imperial Majesty’s approbation of the distinguished services rendered by him at the capture of Trieste, and the other operations in Italy, during the campaign of 1813.” Since his return home, he has had his left hand shattered by the bursting of a fowling piece.

This officer married. Mar. 8, 1814, Helen Ellery, daughter of L. D. G. Tregonwell, of Cranborne Lodge, co. Dorset, Esq., by which lady he has two sons and two daughters living.

Agent.– Messrs. Cooke, Halford, and Son.



  1. It is not a little remarkable, that the above mentioned Sir Charles Hardy, his father. Sir Thomas Hardy, and one of his sons, the second Sir Charles Hardy, were all in the navy; and that each of them had the honor of being knighted for his respective services. The knighthood of Sir Thomas was thus announced in the London Gazette:–

    St. James’s, October 31, 1702.

    “Her Majesty has been pleased to confer the honor of knighthood upon Thomas Hardy, Esq. Captain of her Majesty’s ship Pembroke, in consideration of his good service, in gaining and giving to Admiral Rooke the intelligence, which was the occasion of our great success at Vigo.”

    Sir Thomas Hardy died a Vice-Admiral, in Aug. 1732. His son attained the same rank in the service, and was one of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty at the time of his demise, which took place Nov. 27, 1744. The second Sir Charles Hardy died commander-in-chief of the Channel fleet, May, 1780. Of this latter respected officer, Charnock thus briefly sums up the character: – “Brave, prudent, gallant, and enterprising, without the smallest ostentatious display of his noble qualities – generous, mild, affable and intelligent – his virtues commanded the most profound respect, enabling him to pass through days, when the rage and prejudice of party blazed with a fury nearly unquenchable, without exciting envy or dislike, without even furnishing to the most captious man of party the smallest ground of reprehension or complaint.” One of his sons, Temple, was made a Post-Captain, Nov. 24, 1795; and died at Exeter, Mar. 29, 1814:– another, named Charles, was killed in battle, when serving as a midshipman on board the Cerberus frigate, June 4, 1781.

  2. See Vol. II. Part II. p. 433 et seq.
  3. See id. p. 547.
  4. See id. Part I. p. 197.
  5. Pola was taken possession of by the Wizard sloop, part of the Milford’s marines, and 50 Austrian soldiers.