Royal Naval Biography/Peard, Shuldham

[Superannuated Rear-Admiral.]

This officer, a son of the late Captain George Peard, R.N., was born at Penryn, co. Cornwall, in 1761; entered the naval service in 1773, was at Newfoundland when the war commenced between Great Britain and her American colonies; and in 1779 had the misfortune to be taken prisoner in a Spanish vessel, of which he had charge, captured by the Thetis frigate. Being carried into Cadiz, he was from thence transferred with his crew to Cordova, where he remained until exchanged. In the following year he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant. His postcommission bears date Nov. 30, 1795; about which time we find him commanding the Britannia, a first-rate, bearing the flag of the late Lord Hotham, on the Mediterranean station. From that ship he removed into the St. George, of 98 guns.

Early in July, 1797, a most daring mutiny broke out on board the St. George, which was happily quelled by the spirit and activity of her Commander and his first Lieutenant, aided by a detachment of the 25th regiment, then serving as marines, under the command of Captain (now Major-General) Samuel Venables Hinde. The meritorious conduct of Captain Peard on this occasion sets a noble example to the officers of the British navy. The circumstance was as follows:– Three men, who had been sentenced to suffer death for mutinous behaviour in another ship, were sent on board the St. George to be executed. The crew, on the arrival of the prisoners, drew up a remonstrance in their favor, and begged of Captain Peard to intercede in their behalf with the Commander-in-Chief. The Captain replied that their prayer should be laid before the Earl of St. Vincent; and in pursuance of his promise, he lost no time in submitting the remonstrance to his Lordship. The Admiral’s answer was, that he considered the sentence of the mutineers as founded upon solid justice and imperious necessity; and consequently he could not think of retracting the sanction which he had given to the judgment of the court-martial, by whom they had been convicted. Upon this determination being made known to the crew of the St George, the strongest symptoms of disaffection were manifested by them. Their conduct was not unobserved by Captain Peard, who took the precaution to watch their proceedings with the utmost strictness; one of the seamen, who was well acquainted with their designs, informed him that they had entered into a resolution of seizing the ship, deposing the officers, and liberating the condemned culprits. The evening previous to the day appointed for carrying into effect the sentence of the court-martial, was the time fixed upon to put their plan into force. Captain Peard seeing the crew assemble on the main-deck, immediately approached, and addressed them to the following effect:– “I am perfectly aware of your intentions, and shall oppose them at the risk of my life. You have determined to resist the authority of your officers; I am resolved to do my duty, and to enforce strict obedience to my orders. I am sensible that the greater part of you are the victims of delusion; I know the ringleaders, and do not hesitate to declare my intentions of bringing them to justice. I command you to disperse, and to return to your duty.”

Finding this address did not produce the desired effect. Captain Peard, accompanied by Lieutenant Hatley, rushed in among the crowd, resolutely seized two of the people, whom he knew to be the promoters of the conspiracy, dragged them out by main force, and put them in irons, without experiencing any opposition from the remainder of the crew. The resolution and determined courage displayed by Captain Peard on this occasion, had such an effect upon them, that order was immediately restored, and they returned peaceably to their duty. The next morning the three mutineers were hanged at the yard-arm; and a few days after, the two ring-leaders of the St. George were tried by a court-martial, condemned to suffer death, and executed accordingly.

The following memorandum was given out by Earl St. Vincent, the night before the execution of the latter offenders:–

“General Order. Every ship in the fleet is to send two boats, with an officer in each, and two marines or soldiers properly armed in each boat, on board his Majesty’s ship the St. George, at half past seven to-morrow morning, to attend a punishment. The sentence is to be carried into execution by the crew of the St. George alone; and no part of the boats’ crews of other ships, as is usual on similar occasions, are to assist in this painful service; in order to mark the high sense the Commander-in-Chief entertains of the loyalty, fidelity, and subordination of the rest of the fleet, which he will not fail to make known to the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, and request their Lordships to lay it before the King. This memorandum is to be read to the ships’ companies.”

The St. George was afterwards attached to the Channel fleet; and Captain Peard continued to command her until the month of February, 1799, when he was appointed to the Success frigate, and again ordered to the Mediterranean. On his passage thither, he fell in with a fleet of French ships, consisting of upwards of thirty sail, nineteen of which he judged to be of the line. The Success was at one time within four miles of two of their line-of-battle ships, which chased her from noon until 4h 30’ P.M., at which time they discontinued the pursuit.

On the 9th June following, Captain Peard discovered a Spanish polacre, which sought refuge in the harbour of la Seva, a small port about two leagues from Cape Creux. As there did not appear any batteries to protect her, and the weather being favorable, he was induced to send his boats in to bring her out, under the directions of Lieutenants Facey and Stupart. They left the ship at four in the afternoon, and at eight were seen coming out with the polacre, which had made a gallant resistance. She proved to be the Bella Aurora, from Genoa bound to Barcelona, laden with silk, cotton, rice, &c., mounting 10 carriage guns, 9 and 6-pounders, with 1 13 men. She was surrounded by a high boarding netting, and supported at the same time by a small battery, and a heavy fire of musketry from the shore; in spite of which our brave countrymen, forty-two only in number, most resolutely boarded and carried her, but not without some loss, three of them being killed, Lieutenant (now Captain) Stupart, and 9 others, badly wounded. It is said that a marine, who had his right arm broke by a grape shot, was asked by Lieutenant Facey, “If his arm was not disabled?” to which he nobly replied, “Yes, it was; but thank God, though he could not pull a trigger with his right, he could wield a cutlass with his left hand;” and in this situation was very active in assisting to board and capture the enemy.

The Success was subsequently employed in the blockade of Malta; and on the 10th Feb. 1800, when the squadron under the orders of Lord Nelson intercepted le Généreux of 74 guns, bearing the flag of Rear-Admiral Perrée, Commander-in-Chief of the French naval force in the Mediterranean, Captain Peard displayed great judgment and gallantry in laying his frigate across the enemy’s hawse, in which position he raked him with several broadsides. The Success on this occasion had 1 man killed and 9 wounded. Le Généreux was from Toulon, and had on board a number of troops bound for the relief of Malta. A large armed transport, with stores, provisions, &c., was taken at the same time.

On the 9th Feb. 1801, whilst lying in Gibraltar Bay, Captain Peard saw seven ships of the line and two frigates pass to the eastward under a press of sail; and having no doubt but they were French, and their destination Egypt, he immediately determined to put to sea, endeavour to pass them, call off Minorca, and then proceed to Lord Keith with the intelligence. The next morning he came up with them off Cape de Gatte, and passed them in the night. The two following days they were in sight, but very distant, the wind variable and light. During the night of the 12th, the wind blew fresh from the South, and as Captain Peard carried every sail the ship would bear, he imagined his distance would have been greatly increased by the morning; but had the mortification to find the enemy at day-light close upon his larboard quarter. They immediately gave chase; and as our officer saw it was scarcely possible to escape, he determined to run them back to the westward, as it would materially retard, or might bring them in sight of any British ships that should be in pursuit of them. At noon the wind fell, which, with a head sea, gave the enemy every advantage. At three o’clock they were within musketshot, and two ships of the line, one on the beam, the other on the quarter, began to fire; when being convinced that nothing more could be done, Captain Peard reluctantly ordered the colours to be hauled down.

The French squadron was commanded by Rear-Admiral Gantheaume, and had sailed from Brest on the 23d of the preceding month. Six days after the capture of the Success, they anchored at Toulon, from whence Captain Peard, with his officers, were sent in a cartel to Port Mahon, where they arrived on the 26th February.

Soon after his return to England, the subject of this memoir was appointed to the Audacious of 74 guns; and on the 16th June, in the same year, he sailed with the squadron under Sir James Saumarez, sent to blockade Cadiz.

In the action with the French squadron off Algesiras, on the 6th of the following month[1], the Audacious had 8 men killed and 32 wounded. She returned to Spithead in October; and from that time until the spring of 1802, formed part of the Channel fleet. At the latter period she was ordered to the West Indies, where she continued until the ensuing autumn.

On the renewal of hostilities against France, in 1803, Captain Peard was appointed to the command of the Sea Fencibles from the Ram Head to the Dodman. He was superannuated, with the rank of Rear-Admiral, July 5, 1814.

Residence.– Exeter.