Royal Naval Biography/Pickard, James


Son of the late Mr. James Pickard, a most respectable man, in business at Birmingham, where he made great improvements on the steam-engine, and realized a handsome independence, which he lived to enjoy in retirement for many years.

Mr. James Pickard, junior, was born at Birmingham, in 1781; and entered the royal navy, at the age of fifteen years, as midshipman on board the Diana frigate. Captain Jonathan Faulkner, then on the Irish station, where she re-captured several merchant vessels, and was more than once chased by part of a powerful French fleet, in the vicinity of Bantry Bay.

In the following year, 1797, Mr. Pickard joined the Boadicea frigate. Captain (now Sir Richard G.) Keats; under whom he served, in that ship and the Superb 74, until ordered by Lord Nelson to act as lieutenant of the Canopus 80, bearing the flag of Rear-Admiral (afterwards Sir Thomas) Louis, April 2d, 1805. This appointment was confirmed by the Admiralty, on the 11th Oct. following, previous to which he had accompanied our great hero to Egypt and the West Indies, in pursuit of the combined French and Spanish fleets. The manner in which the Canopus was employed, between Aug. 1805 and June 1806, has been stated in Vol. II. Part I. pp. 279–281; but we should have added, that it was the share she bore at the battle of St. Domingo, which gained Rear-Admiral Louis a baronetcy, and her captain (F. W. Austen) a companionship of the Bath.

After undergoing a thorough repair at Plymouth, the Canopus, then commanded by Captain (afterwards Commissioner) T. G. Shortland, and still bearing the flag of Sir Thomas Louis, proceeded in company with other ships to the coast of France, for the purpose of intercepting a French, squadron, to which Jerome Buonaparte was attached as a capitaine de vaisseau. On the 27th of Sept. 1806, a remarkably fine frigate, le Presidente, of 44 guns and 330 men, was captured. Towards the end of the same year the Canopus was sent to Constantinople, from whence Sir Thomas Louis brought away the Russian embassy, when war broke out between Turkey and the Czar. On the 19th Feb. and 3d Mar. 1807, she led the van of Sir John T. Duckworth’s squadron through the passage of the Dardanelles, suffering greatly in her rigging, and receiving several immense shot, or rather blocks of granite, in her hull: the total loss she sustained, during the whole of the operations in that quarter, amounted, however, to no more than 32 officers and men killed and wounded.

After the retreat from the sea of Marmora, Sir Thomas Louis was detached to Alexandria, with two other ships under his orders, but did not arrive there until after that place had capitulated to the military and naval forces under Major-General M‘Kenzie Fraser and Captain Benjamin Hallowell. It is worthy of remark, that the Canopus was the first English line-of-battle ship that ever entered the harbour of Alexandria. Shortly after she had done so, several transports’ launches were placed under the command of Lieutenant Pickard, and employed in carrying provisions up the river Nile, for the use of the troops employed against Rosetta. The attack upon that place having failed, with considerable loss on the side of the British, the same boats brought down many of the wounded soldiers.

Upon the occasion of a larger force being subsequently collected to renew the attack, Lieutenant Pickard volunteered his services, and was appointed to command fifty seamen, attached to the naval brigade under Captain Hallowell. This expedition also failed, after being three weeks under the walls of Rosetta; and six men belonging to the Canopus were taken prisoners during the retreat. Soon afterwards, Sir Thomas Louis died on board his flag-ship, when Captain Hallowell appointed Lieutenant Pickard to the command of the gun-boats upon the lakes, where he served till the Canopus was ordered to Malta, where the remains of the deceased rear-admiral were interred. In Sept. 1807, he followed Captain Shortland into the Queen 98; which ship returned home from the Mediterranean station, and was paid off at Chatham, towards the end of 1808.

Mr. Pickard’s subsequent appointments were to the Onyx brig, of 10 guns, in which vessel he remained but a very few days; – to the Naiad 38, successively commanded by Captains Thomas Dundas, Henry Hill, and the late Sir Philip Carteret Silvester; of which ship he was second lieutenant when, in company with three brigs and a cutter, she engaged the Boulogne flotilla, on two successive days, and brought away a formidable praam, under Buonaparte’s immediate inspection; in this brilliant little affair, for which his captain was afterwards made a C.B., he commanded the whole of the main-deck battery, the junior lieutenant being absent in boats after smugglers: – lastly, in April, 1812, to be first of the Tenedos 38, Captain Hyde Parker, under whom he was most actively employed on the North American station; where his health became so much impaired, by the severity of the climate, that:, was obliged to invalid in April, 1814. On his arrival in England he found himself promoted to the command of the Rover sloop, by commission, dated June 7th, 1814. Unfortunately, he had not then sufficiently recovered to avail himself of this desirable appointment; and all his subsequent efforts to obtain employment have proved ineffectual.

This officer married, in 1815, the only child of the Rev. Benjamin Spencer, LL.D., who was fifty-two years vicar of Aston, near Birmingham; forty-four years rector of Walton, in Lincolnshire; and forty-two years a magistrate for the counties of Warwick and Stafford, in which capacity he rendered essential service to Government during the great Birmingham riots.

Commander Pickard has several children. His only brother married the sister of William Fletcher, Esq. a barrister of some eminence on the Midland Circuit: his only sister married an attorney, settled for some years at Walsall, co. Stafford. Mrs. Pickard had two brothers, one of whom held the living of Smithwick, in the same county; the other, a lieutenant of marines, was killed on board the Edgar 74, at the battle of Copenhagen, in April, 1801.