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Royal Naval Biography/Moresby, Fairfax


FAIRFAX MORESBY, Esq.
A Companion of the Most Honorable Military Order of the Bath; and a Knight of the Imperial Austrian Order of the Empress Maria Theresa.
[Post-Captain of 1814.]

Son of Moresby, of Stowe House, Lichfield, co. Stafford, Esq.

This officer served as midshipman under Earl St. Vincent, in the Hibernia 110; and obtained the rank of lieutenant, April 10, 1806. We next find him in the Kent 74, Captain Thomas Rogers, on the Mediterranean station, where be assisted in cutting out a French convoy, as will be seen by the following official letter:–

H.M.S. Kent, off Genoa, Aug. 2, 1808.

“Sir,– I beg leave to acquaint you, that yesterday, running’ along the coast, from Genoa towards Cape del Melle, we discovered 10 coasters deeply laden, under the protection of a gun-boat, at an anchor close to the beach, abreast of the town of Noli; and as there appeared a fair prospect of bringing them out by a prompt attack, before the enemy had time to collect his force, I instantly determined to send in the boats of the Kent and Wizard; there being but little wind, I directed the brig to be towed in to cover them, and by great exertion they soon brought her close to the vessels, when it was found impossible to bring them out without landing, most of them being fastened to the shore by ropes from their keels and mastheads; the boats therefore pulled to the beach with great resolution, exposed to the fire of two guns in the bow of the armed vessel, two field-pieces placed in a grove which flanked the beach, a heavy gun in front of the town, and a continued fire of musketry from the houses; but these were no check to the ardour and intrepidity of British seamen and marines, who leaped from the boats, and rushed upon the enemy with a fearless zeal that was not to be resisted. The gun in front of the town was soon taken and spiked by Lieutenant Chasman, second of the Kent, who commanded the seamen; and the enemy, who had drawn up a considerable force of regular troops in the grove, to defend the two field-pieces, was dislodged by Captain Rea, commanding the royal marines, and Lieutenant Grant of that corps, who took possession of the field-pieces, and brought them off. In the meantime. Lieutenants Lindsey and Moresby of the Kent, and Lieutenant Bissett of the Wizard, who had equally distinguished themselves in driving the enemy from the beach, were actively employed in taking possession of the gun-boat, and freeing the other vessels from their fasts to the shore; and I had soon the satisfaction to see our people embark, and the whole of the vessels coming out under the protecting fire of the Wizard, which, by the judicious conduct of Captain Ferris, contributed very essentially to keep the enemy in check, both in the advance and retreat of the boats. One seaman killed and one mortally wounded (both of the Kent) is all the loss we sustained. The enemy left many dead on the ground.

“The gun-boat was a national vessel, called la Vigilante, commanded by an enseigne de vaisseau, with a complement of 45 men. I have the honor to, &c.

(Signed)Thomas Rogers.”

To Vice-Admiral Thornbrough &c. &c. &c.

The boats of the Kent and Wizard (brig) subsequently brought out, from under the guns of a fort near Leghorn, three laden vessels, and burnt a fourth, which was aground and could not be got afloat: this service was performed without the slightest loss.

On the 3d April, 1812, Captain Moresby, then commanding the Wizard, in the Archipelago, captured the Corcira, a xebec privateer belonging to Corfu, of eight guns and 60 men. On the 18th Aug. 1813, the batteries at the entrance of Boco di Cattaro, in the Adriatic, were stormed and destroyed by a detachment under his immediate directions; the official account of this gallant exploit will be found at p. 337 et seq. The following is an extract of Rear-Admiral Freemantle’s public despatch, announcing the capture of Trieste, an event that has been recorded by us, at p. 358 of Suppl. Part II.

“I beg to recommend to the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, Captain Moresby, of H.M. sloop Wizard. He commanded one of the batteries front the 16th until the 24th (Oct. 1813), when he was ordered to form a battery with four 32-pounders, within breaching distance: in the course of 56 hours, under all the disadvantages of weather, &c. he, with 50 men from the Milford, and 20 from the Wizard, completed the whole without any assistance whatever.”

For these and other important services performed by Captain Moresby, in co-operation with the Austrian troops on the coasts of the Adriatic, he obtained permission. May 23, 1814, to accept and wear the insignia of a Knight of the Imperial Military Order of Maria Theresa. His promotion to post rank took place on the 7th of the following month.

In April, 1819, Captain Moresby was appointed to the Menai 24, fitting for the Cape station, where, although a period of profound peace, he appears to have been very usefully employed. We are told, that he superintended the landing of the settlers at Algoa bay, in Southern Africa – incurred, with the utmost cheerfulness, the risks connected with that service; distributed the articles purchased for the emigrants; assisted them in erecting their tents; and, by his humane attentions to the women and children, diffused good humour and cheerfulness among all. We are also further informed, that he sent the governor of the Cape a series of valuable remarks on the rivers and coast between Cape Recife and the mouth of the Kelskahama, with a particular description of Port Elizabeth, Algoa bay, which he considers a more secure anchorage for a ship, in every season of the year, than either Torbay, Palermo bay or Table bay.

Captain Moresby married, Aug. 6, 1814, Elizabeth, youngest daughter of John Williams, of Malta, Esq. His only son died in 1826.

Agent.– Sir Francis M. Ommanney.