Royal Naval Biography/Prescott, Henry
HENRY PRESCOTT, Esq.
A Companion of the Most Honorable Military Order of the Bath.
[Post-Captain of 1810.]
Only surviving son of Admiral Isaac Prescott, by a daughter of the late Rev. Richard Walter, chaplain of the Centurion with Commodore Anson, during his celebrated expedition to the South Seas, and author of “Anson’s Voyage.” This officer was born at Kew Green, co. Surrey, May 4, 1783; and he first embarked as a midshipman, on board the Formidable 98, commanded by the late Hon. Sir George C. Berkeley, in 1796. During the last four years of the French revolutionary war, we find him successively serving in the Queen Charlotte a first rate, Penelope frigate, and Foudroyant of 80 guns.
In the Penelope, Mr. Prescott assisted at the capture of le Guillaume Tell, a French 80-gun ship, Mar. 31, 1800. The Foudroyant bore the flag of Lord Keith, by whom he was promoted into the Vincejo brig, on the coast of Egypt, in 1802.
Lieutenant Prescott’s next appointment was to the AEolus 32, which frigate formed part of the squadron under Sir Richard J. Strachan, and had three men wounded, at the capture of four French line-of-battle ships, Nov. 4, 1805.
Towards the latter end of 1806, Lieutenant Prescott joined the Ocean 98, flag-ship of Lord Collingwood, who promoted him into the Weazle brig, of 18 guns, Feb. 4, 1808.
On the 1st April following, being then off Sardinia, Captain Prescott fell in with a French squadron, consisting of ten sail of the line, three frigates, one brig, and a store-ship, which he closely reconnoitred the next day, and then proceeded with the intelligence to his Admiral, who was at that time cruising, with a more powerful force, near Sicily. Unfortunately, however, Lord Collingwood had to contend with strong westerly winds off Maritimo, and the enemy having rounded Sardinia, were enabled to reach Toulon without molestation.
Captain Prescott was subsequently employed on the coast of Naples, where he gave great interruption to the enemy’s trade, and obliged a French brig of 20 guns to seek refuge under some land batteries. This vessel he-repeatedly dared to battle; but all his endeavours to-entice her out proved fruitless, although eleven Neapolitan gun-boats were in readiness to support her. His spirited conduct on this occasion must have had a good effect, the Weazle’s manoeuvres being witnessed both by the enemy’s troops at Naples, and the English garrison of Capri.
On the 8th Sept. 1808, Captain Prescott assisted at the-capture of four large gun-boats and thirty-four coasting vessels, assembled at Diamante, near the gulph of Policastro, which place he had blockaded with much perseverance, until the arrival of a sufficient force from Sicily to attack them.
In Oct. 1800, the Weazle captured le Veloce French letter of marque, of 4 guns and 83 men. On the 25th Dec. in the same year, l’Eole, a polacre-rigged privateer, pierced for 20 guns, but mounting only 14, with a complement of 140 men, surrendered to her after a gallant resistance of one hour and thirty minutes, during which the enemy sustained a loss of 5 men killed and 9 wounded; the Weazle only one man slain and one wounded.
Between this period and June, 1810, Captain Prescott waa employed cruizing off Sardinia, on which station he made seventeen prizes and recaptures: among the former was l’Ippolite, French schooner privateer, of 5 guns and 78 men. We next find him assisting in the defence of Sicily, and whilst on that service repeatedly engaged with the flotilla equipped by Napoleon’s brother-in-law for the invasion of the island. The capture and destruction of a large convoy from Naples, at which Captain Prescott acted a prominent part, is fully described in our memoir of the present Lord Radstock.
Two days subsequent to that enterprise, Captain Prescott again landed at Amanthea, supported by a detachment of marines from the Cumberland 74; and after destroying several vessels, succeeded in bringing off a gun, under a heavy fire of musketry, by which 3 of his men were wounded. In the course of the following months he was twice engaged with convoys passing along shore, and captured six vessels, two of which (an armed xebec and a gun-boat) he was obliged to abandon in consequence of a sudden shift of wind, and the Weazle’s main-yard being shot away, which rendered it impossible to tow them out from under a battery, where a large body of French troops had assembled for their protection. On this occasion the Weazle had 6 men wounded, one of whom mortally.
The British naval force employed on the coast of Calabria being subsequently dispersed, in consequence of Murat breaking up his camp and retiring to Naples, Captain Prescott was then sent to Smyrna, where he was superseded, in Feb. 1811, having been promoted for his bravery at Amanthea, and his commission dated back so as to give him post rank from July 25, 1810, the day on which he had so greatly distinguished himself. Previous to his leaving the Weazle, however, he added one more vessel to the list of her captures.
Captain Prescott’s next appointment was, about Aug. 1811, to the Fylla of 20 guns, from which ship he removed to the Eridanus frigate, in the summer of 1813. He was nominated a C.B. June 4, 1815; and appointed to the Aurora 46, April 6,1821.
In June following the Aurora left Chatham fully manned, and fitted for the South American station. On his arrival there Captain Prescott found himself the senior officer on the eastern coast, and he continued as such till the return of Sir Thomas M. Hardy from the Pacific, by whom he was immediately despatched to fill the same situation there. In 1822, the Congress of Peru having ordered a forced contribution on the commerce of Lima, the British proportion of which amounted to nearly 200,000 dollars. Captain Prescott remonstrated, and took such decided and effectual measures as compelled an abandonment of that impolitic and iniquitous exaction. The merchants, in consequence, came to the following resolution:–
“At a meeting of the British merchants, held in the British Commercial Rooms, Lima, Oct. 12, 1822, it was resolved, that the sum of 1600 dollars be voted to purchase a testimonial of our respect and gratitude to Captain Prescott, for the services rendered us during our present differences with the Peruvian government.
(Signed)“John Moens, Chairman.”
After remaining in thatcommand for about 18 months, Captain Prescott proceeded to San Blas, and subsequently made a coasting voyage, for the purpose of taking in specie at the different ports of Peru and Chili. The Aurora returned to England with a considerable freight, and was paid off in Feb. 1825.
Captain Prescott married, July 5, 1815, Mary Ann Charlotte, eldest daughter of the late Vice-Admiral d’Auvergne, Prince de Bouillon, by whom he has several children. His only brother, an officer in the Hon.E.I. Company’s infantry, was drowned when returning to England, in 1806.
Agent.– John Copland, Esq.