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Royal Naval Biography/Pettman, Thomas

[Post-Captain of 1823.]

Was born at Sandwich, of which borough his father is a magistrate. He obtained the rank of lieutenant. Mar. 19th, 1805 ; and commanded the boats of the Dreadnought 98, bearing the flag of Vice-Admiral Thomas Sotheby, at the recapture of a Spanish merchant ship, under the following disastrous circumstances, Sept. 9th, 1810.

On the 7th of that month, the Dreadnought fell in with the Snapper schooner, and was informed by her commander that a ship was amongst the rocks on the west side of Ushant. On the morning of the 8th, Vice-Admiral Sotheby made sail towards that spot, and, in the evening, discovered the object of his search in a small creek, surrounded by rocks, but apparently not so well protected as to prevent her being taken possession of. The Dreadnought then stood off, without shewing the least appearance of intending an attack, until night, when she again bore up. On the 9th, at 5 a.m., seven boats were manned, armed, and sent away under the command of Lieutenant Pettman, who proceeded to the attack, constantly galled, as he approached, by a heavy fire of small arms, and two 4-pounder field-pieces on the beach. On nearing the vessel, he perceived a number of French soldiers leaving her in the greatest confusion, some of whom were drowned in attempting to reach the shore. Nothing could exceed the ardour displayed by the officers and boats’ crews, who soon obtained possession; but, unfortunately, during the time that they were bringing their prize out, a most destructive fire was opened upon them by several hundred troops, situated on a precipice, and secure from any attack that could be made upon them by so small a party. Two boats, with three men in them, being shot adrift, drove on shore during the heat of the action, and were taken possession of by the enemy: the launch, in endeavouring to rescue them, had several men wounded. The loss on the part of the British was Mr. Henry B. Middleton, master’s-mate, Mr. William Robinson, midshipman, three sailors, and three marines, killed; Lieutenants Henry Elton and Stewart Blacker, Messrs. George Burt and Henry Dennis, midshipmen, eighteen sailors, and six marines, wounded; five seamen and one marine missing. The French privateer by which this ship had been taken, was lying about a mile distant, but did not offer any opposition to the boats, and, in consequence of the severe loss they sustained. Lieutenant Pettman did not deem it proper to attack her. The prize, thus dearly purchased, proved to be the Maria Antonio, from Teneriffe, with a cargo of barilla, bound to London.

The gallant conductor of the above enterprise was made a commander, June 15th, 1814 appointed to assist Captain George Fowke in the superintendence of the Ordinary at Sheerness, about June 1822; and promoted to post rank, Sept. 5th, 1823. He died in the summer of 1828.