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Royal Naval Biography/Ribouleau, Peter

[Post-Captain of 1802.]

This officer commanded the Astrea troop-ship, and greatly distinguished himself during the Egyptian campaign in 1801. His post commission bears date April 29, 1802; and we subsequently find him holding a command in the Sea Fencibles. He is at present serving as Flag-Captain to Lord Colville on the Irish station.

Agent.– Thomas Stilwell, Esq.


(Vol. II. Part II. p. 560.)

Entered the royal navy in 1780, then only eleven years of age, as midshipman on board the Prince William 64, Captain Stair Douglas[1], which ship accompanied Sir Samuel (afterwards Lord) Hood to the West Indies, and formed part of the fleet under his command in the action with Count De Grasse, off Martinique, April 29th, 1781[2]. He subsequently served under Captain Douglas in the Triumph 74, Grafton 74, and Cambridge 80. In 1783 he left the latter ship and joined the Assistance 44, Commodore Sir Charles Douglas, under whom we find him serving, in the West Indies and on the Halifax station, till the end of 1786. He was then removed to the Actaeon troop-ship.

Towards the close of 1789, Mr. Ribouleau was received on board the Goliah 74, Captain Sir Andrew Snape Douglas, under whom he served in that ship and the Alcide, 74, for a period of three years. The latter formed part of Lord Howe’s fleet during the Spanish armament.

At the commencement of the French revolutionary war, Mr. Ribouleau was serving on board the Duke 90, flag-ship of Lord Hood, with whom he soon afterwards proceeded to the Mediterranean, in the Victory first rate. Previous to the occupation of Toulon, in 1793, he was taken prisoner by the republican fleet in the outer harbour, while conveying a letter from the commander-in-chief to Lieutenant (afterwards Captain) Edward Cooke, then employed in negociating with the Committee-General for the surrender of that city and its defences[3]. On regaining his liberty, during the confusion which arose from conflicting opinions among the French sailors, he was immediately promoted to the rank of lieutenant, and appointed aide-de-camp to Captain George K. Elphinstone[4], governor of Fort la Malgue and its dependencies[5]. Whilst in the power of the rebel commodore, St. Julien, he suffered much ill treatment.

After the evacuation of Toulon, Lieutenant Ribouleau was appointed, through the intervention of Captain Elphinstone, to take charge of l’Arethuse frigate, manned with a Jacobin crew, under the Bourbon colours, in which ship he accompanied two other French men-of-war and a large convoy to England, escorted by the Robust 74. On his arrival he was removed into the Glory 98, Captain John Elphinstone, under whom he served at the glorious battle of June 1st, 1794[6].

Lieutenant Ribouleau’s next appointment was to the Barfleur 98, flag-ship of Sir George K. Elphinstone, attached to the Channel fleet. In the beginning of 1795, he followed that officer into the Monarch 74; and on the 2d April in the same year sailed with him for the Cape of Good Hope. During the operations against that colony[7], he served on shore with a party of seamen.

The Monarch subsequently proceeded to Madras, where Mr. Ribouleau, then first lieutenant, was promoted to the rank of commander, and sent home, in a merchant ship, with despatches announcing the surrender of Columbo and its dependencies, in the island of Ceylon[8]. In 1800, he commanded the Astraea troop-ship, employed in conveying part of the guards to Vigo, and afterwards attached to the Egyptian expedition.

An account of the landing of the British army in Aboukir Bay will be found in our memoir of Admiral Sir Alexander I. Cochrane[9]. The following are extracts of Sir W. Sidney Smith’s official letter to Lord Keith, relative to the memorable battles of Mar. 8th, 13th, and 21st, 1801, on which latter day the heroic Abercromby received his mortal wound:–

March 14th.

“It would be superfluous for me to relate to your Lordship the admirable manner in which the officers and men you appointed me to command went into action with me on the day of the disembarkation, as you were yourself a witness of the gallant and judicious conduct of Captains Maitland and Stewart, in covering the flanks of the line with the armed launches; and must, as well as myself, have admired the bravery, activity, and perseverance of Captains Ribouleau, Guion, Saville, Duni, and Hillyar, together with that of the officers and seamen under their orders; by whose unparalleled exertions the cannon were disembarked at the same moment with the troops, and moved forward with them in action. * * * * * * The determined courage of this gallant army in the close contest they had to maintain on the beach, at the critical time of forming, secured the victory to us on that day; and it is with heartfelt satisfaction that I have now to congratulate your Lordship on the brilliant success of the army yesterday. * * * * * * The commander-in-chief has again been pleased to express his approbation of the exertions of the seamen and their officers; and I am happy in being able to testify that their conduct was, if possible, more praiseworthy than on the day of disembarkation; the labour they had to go through was considerably greater, and the fire they had to undergo in the passive employment of dragging up cannon for more able gunners to fire, was much more heavy and of longer duration. It is impossible to distinguish any particular officer, where all behaved equally well, each doing his utmost to keep the guns up with the line; which was, of course, difficult in sandy uneven ground, when the troops pressed forward in their eager approach to, and ardent pursuit of the enemy. * * * * * * Captain Ribouleau, the senior commander, exerted himself in the most praiseworthy manner along the whole line on shore.”[10]

March 22d.

“The menaced attack of our whole line took place just before daylight yesterday morning. the army was under arms to receive the enemy; the same order, steadiness, and courage which gave victory to our excellent array on the two former occasions, have again given us a most complete one. * * * * Captain Ribouleau, the other commanders, officers, and seamen attached to the field-pieces in the line, behaved with their usual energy and bravery: they have been indefatigable in the execution of all the arduous duties required of them, and merit your Lordship’s approbation.”[11]

On Sir Sidney Smith rejoining his ship, Captain Ribouleau succeeded to the command of the naval detachment on shore, where he continued until obliged by ill-health to re-embark. On his return home, he was advanced to post rank for his services in Egypt, by commission dated April 29th, 1802. His next appointment, the only one he could obtain during the late war, was, in 1803, to the sea fencibles. From Mar. 1822, until May 1825, he commanded the Semiramis frigate, flag-ship of Rear-Admiral Lord Colville, on the Irish station.