Royal Naval Biography/Pym, Samuel
SAMUEL PYM, Esq
[Post-Captain of 1802.]
This officer was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant in Mar. 1795; and served as such, for some time, on board la Babet, a 20 gun ship, stationed at the Leeward Islands.
On the 16th Jan. 1798, he volunteered to proceed with two boats in pursuit of a schooner which had been standing towards la Babet, but hauled off on discovering her to be a ship of war, and was then sweeping away between Martinique and Dominica. After a fatiguing pull of four hours, during which his own boat left her companion considerably behind, he arrived within gun-shot of the stranger, who opened and kept up a steady fire until he got alongside, when a desperate struggle took place, which ended in the schooner’s submission, just as the other boat rowed up to his assistance. The prize proved to be la Desirée, French national vessel, of 6 guns and 46 men, 4 of whom were slain, 8 drowned, and 15 badly wounded. Lieutenant Pym fortunately had only 1 man killed, and another drowned; but 5 of his gallant little band were severely, and himself and all the remainder, 5 in number, slightly wounded.
Subsequent to this exploit we find Lieutenant Pym serving in the Ethalion frigate, and assisting at the capture of the Thetis, a Spanish treasure ship, on which occasion his commander, the present Rear-Admiral Young, when writing to Lord Bridport, made the following mention of his abilities and meritorious conduct:
“I beg leave to recommend to your Lordship’s notice Lieutenant Pym, the senior officer: the able assistance I received from him on the quarterdeck, and his indefatigable exertions in shifting the wounded masts and yards on board the Thetis, do him the utmost credit.”
We now lose sight of the subject of this memoir till his advancement to post rank, April 29, 1802; and from that period find no mention of him till his appointment to the Atlas of 74 guns, which ship he commanded in the action off St. Domingo, Feb. 6, 1806. His conduct at St. Paul’s, in the island of Bourbon, Sept. 21, 1809, was thus described in a respectable periodical publication:
“The capture of St. Paul’s was effected by the cruising squadron from off the Isle of France, under Commodore Rowley, assisted by a party of the 56th regiment, and some Bombay sepoys, under Lieutenant-Colonel Keating. It appears that the soldiers, 136 royal marines, and 100 seamen, were lauded before day-break, and soon carried three of the forts. The squadron went in, fired their broadsides, and then hauled out. The Sirius frigate stood in again; and Captain Pym, anxious to avail himself of the only opportunity that offered, anchored her within half-musket shot of la Caroline French frigate, two captured East Indiamen, and a brig of war, in which position he opened so heavy a fire, that in twenty minutes the whole of them struck their colours. Both navy and army joined in praise of this brilliant enterprise, declaring they had never seen or thought it possible for a ship to keep up so tremendous a fire as the Sirius did on that occasion; and we understand it was principally owing to the very great exertions of Captain Pym, his officers, and crew, that the two Indiamen were saved from being burnt.”
Captain Pym displayed his usual zeal and ability whilst assisting at the reduction of Bourbon, in July, 1810, after which he resumed his former station off the Isle of France, arid succeeded in obtaining possession of l’Isle de la Passe, situated near Port Sud-Est, the works on which were gallantly stormed by a detachment of sailors and marines, under the immediate directions of Lieutenant H. D. Chads.
Subsequent to this event the Sirius, whilst cruising off Port Louis, recaptured the Wyndham, a British East Indiaman, recently taken by two French frigates and a corvette, under the orders of M. Duperré; and Captain Pym learning from some English sailors whom he found on board, that that officer had forced his way into Port Sud-Est, immediately hastened thither for the purpose of attacking him, and rescuing another of the Hon.E.I.Company’s ships, which he had captured in company with the Wyndham.
On his arrival off l’Isle de la Passe, Captain Pym was joined by the Nereide, a 12-pounder frigate, under the command of Captain Willoughby, whom he had left in charge of that post, and who had succeeded in decoying the enemy into the port[errata 1]. That gallant officer having instantly declared his readiness for action, and the situation of the enemy affording a prospect of success, Captain Pym decided on an immediate attack; but his intentions were unfortunately frustrated by the Sirius running aground in the inner passage, and remaining fast for many hours, during which the enemy moved farther in, erected several batteries, prepared the Indiaman for defence, and strengthened the crews of the frigates and corvette.
In consequence of this accident, and the enemy’s increased means of defence, Captain Pym was under the necessity of deferring the attempt until the arrival of the Iphigenia and Magicienne frigates, commanded by Captains Henry Lambert and Lucius Curtis, whom he had already recalled from their stations to the northward.
Those ships having joined company on the 23d Aug., and Captain Pym being assured by persons who professed to know the navigation that he was past all danger, and could run direct for the enemy’s line, the signal was made to weigh at five P.M., and each ship pushed for her station, viz. the Sirius alongside the French Commodore, Nereide to bring up between him and the corvette, Iphigenia abreast of the other frigate, and Magicienne between her and the Indiaman; but, sad to say, just as the enemy’s shot began to pass over them the former grounded on a small bank, where she remained immoveable; and the Magicienne also stuck fast in a position that prevented her from bringing more than six guns to bear. To add to this misfortune, Captain Lambert was prevented by a shoal from closing with his opponent, whose cables had been cut shortly after the Iphigenia opened her fire; and the enemy were in consequence enabled to direct their whole attention to the Nereide, whose heroic commander had taken the station intended for the Sirius, and persisted in maintaining the unequal contest, until every officer and man under his orders were either killed or wounded.
During the ensuing night every exertion was made to get the Sirius and Magicienne afloat, but all without effect, the nature of the ground, and the squally state of the weather, rendering it impossible to move them a single inch in any direction. At day-light on the 24th the Nereide was discovered lying on her broadside, a perfect wreck; and the enemy’s ships also aground, but in such a position as enabled them still to annoy the Magicienne, 28 of whose crew were killed and wounded on this disastrous occasion. Thus situated, and having no prospect of immediate succour, Captain Pym was under the painful necessity of burning his own ship and her unfortunate consort, after which he retired with their officers and men in the Iphigenia to l’Isle de la Passe, and there resigned his command to Captain Lambert, who being almost destitute of provisions, and having expended nearly the whole of his ammunition in the late contest, was obliged to capitulate to a French squadron sent from Port Louis, under Commodore Hamelin, on the 28th of the same month.
Although this enterprise proved so unfortunate, no possible blame can be attached to Captain Pym, whom we quently find commanding the Niemen, a 38-gun frigate, on the American station, where he captured several of the enemy’s armed vessels. He was nominated a C.B. in 1815.
Captain Pym married. May 25, 1802, a daughter of E. Lockyer, of Plymouth, Devon , Esq.
Agent.– Sir F. M. Ommanney, M.P.
- See Vol. I, p. 684.
- See Vol. I. note at p. 262.
- For a list of the squadron and other particulars, see Vol. I, p. 626 et seq.
- Captain Pym was appointed to the Sirius in 1808.
- See id. p. 627 et seq.
- See Captain Nisbet Josiah Willoughby, C.B.
- The Iphigenia’s loss in the above action was 5 men killed, and 12, including her first Lieutenant, wounded. The Sirius does not appear to have had a man hurt. M. Duperre acknowledged a loss of 37 slain and 112 wounded.
- Original: used every effort to prevent the French squadron from entering the harbour was amended to succeeded in decoying the enemy into the port