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Royal Naval Biography/Richardson, William (a)


A native of Stonehouse, co. Devon; and nephew to the late Rear-Admiral Richard Raggett.

This officer entered the royal navy in Jan. 1797, as midshipman on board the Prince George 98, bearing the flag of Rear-Admiral (afterwards Sir William) Parker, in Jan. 1797; and witnessed the defeat of the Spanish fleet off Cape St. Vincent, on the 14th of the following month. We afterwards find him serving under Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Thompson, the present Sir James Hawkins Whitshed, and the late Sir George Campbell, in the Formidable 98, Queen Charlotte 110, and Temeraire 98, principally on the Channel station. In the early part of 1803, he belonged to the Victory, first rate, from which ship he was promoted, by the immortal Nelson, into the Termagant sloop, off Toulon, April 30th, 1804. In 1807, he was lieutenant of the Goshawk sloop. Captain Alexander Innes, and present at the siege of Copenhagen. He subsequently served as first of the Bombay, America, and York, 74’s, Caledonia 120, and Rochefort 80, commanded by Captains William Cuming, Josias Rowley, Alexander W. Schomberg, and Sir Archibald C. Dickson; from which latter ship, in consideration of his long service as senior lieutenant, and his meritorious conduct having been often represented, he was promoted to his present rank on the 7th Dec. 1818. The following official letters are extracted from the London Gazette.

H.M.S. Caledonia, off Toulon, June 10th, 1812.

“Sir,– I have the honour to enclose, for the information of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, the copy of a letter and its enclosures which I have received from Captain Rowley, of H.M. ship America, stating the particulars of a spirited attack upon the enemy’s batteries at Languilla, near Genoa, and the capture of a convoy that had taken shelter under them. I have the honour to be, &c.

(Signed)Edward Pellew,
“Vice-Admiral and Commander-in-Chief.”


America, off Languilla, May 19th, 1812.

“Sir,– I have the honor to inform you, that having yesterday, in company with the Leviathan and Eclair, fallen in with a convoy of eighteen sail of the enemy, deeply laden, which took shelter under the town and batteries of Languilla, and Captain Campbell concurring in opinion with me as to the practicability of bringing them out or destroying them by getting possession of the batteries, the marines of both ships, under the direction of Captain Rea, of the America, were landed this morning at day-break to effect it.

“A party under Captain Owen, R.M., of the Leviathan, was detached to carry a battery of five 24 and 18-pounders to the eastward, which he performed in a very spirited and judicious manner, the French officer who commanded falling in the attack: the main body in the mean time, rapidly advancing through a severe fire of grape, carried the battery adjoining the town of Languilla, consisting of four 24 and 18-pounders and a mortar, though protected by a strong body of the enemy posted in a wood, and in several contiguous buildings, upon the latter of which the guns were immediately turned with much effect. The enemy were now driven from the houses lining the beach by the fire of the Eclair, and the boats then proceeded to bring out the vessels that were secured by various contrivances to the houses and beach, their sails and rudders being mostly removed on shore: sixteen were towed off, as per enclosed list, which being accomplished, the marines were re-embarked in the most perfect order, under cover of the fire of the Eclair, and without molestation from the enemy, though a strong party was advancing from the town of Alassia to reinforce them.

“I regret to state, that our success has been clouded, and our loss on this occasion much extended, by an unfortunate accident which occurred in landing the party: the America’s yawl being sunk by a chance shot from the only gun that could bear on the boats; and before assistance could be afforded, I lament to say, ten marines and one of the crew were drowned.

“I have great satisfaction in the favourable report which I feel it my duty to make of the officers, seamen, and marines employed on this occasion: the gallant and able conduct of Captain Rea, who commanded the marines, was very conspicuous, and he reports in the most favorable manner of Captain Owen, and Lieutenants Neame, Cock, Garden, and Hill, and of the orderly good conduct of the whole detachment. To Captain Bellamy I was much indebted for the handsome manner in which the Eclair was swept in, and the fire she kept up to cover and protect the troops and boats during their operations; the ships being prevented by the light and baffling winds from getting close enough to act. The services of the boats in landing and embarking the troops, (and being all armed with guns or carronades,) assisting with their fire, and the expedition with which the enemy’s vessels were brought out, does much credit to Lieutenant William Richardson, first of this ship, who had the direction of them, as also to Lieutenants John Molesworth and Robert Moodie, of the America, and Alexander Dobbs and Richard Hambly, of the Leviathan, who were employed in them. I cannot conclude without requesting permission to recommend to your notice Mr. John Harvey, master’s mate of this ship, who has particularly distinguished himself, both on the present and other late occasions of boat service. I have the honor to be, &c.

(Signed)Josias Rowley.”

To Vice-Admiral Sir Edward Pellew, Bart., &c. &c. &c.

In addition to the sixteen vessels captured and brought out, a settee of four guns was burnt; and another, laden with salt, so much damaged by shot, that she could not be got afloat. The cargoes of the prizes consisted, principally, of brandy, leather, salt, and wine. Exclusive of the heavy loss sustained at the onset of this dashing enterprise, four men were killed and twenty-one wounded: – total killed, drowned, and mortally wounded, sixteen; thirteen severely wounded, and seven slightly. The following order was issued by Captain Rowley previous to his detaching the boats and marines:–

“Mem. – The detachment of royal marines from the America and Leviathan are to rendezvous on board the Eclair at 2 a.m., and to land under the orders of Captain Rea at the position pointed out between the towns of Languilla and Alassia, Captain Owen with the half of his party to proceed and carry the battery to the west of Alassia, the guns of which he is to spike and otherAvise render useless, and then retreat on the original position, and Captain Rea in the mean time to proceed with the main body for the purpose of carrying the battery of Languilla which having effected, he is to wait there for further orders, keeping the battery in readiness to turn against the town. The boats having effected the landing of the marines, are to return on board the Éclair, to receive the orders of Captain Bellamy for their further proceedings; it being intended, in the event of the line-of-battle ships not having sufficient wind to get near the shore, that the Eclair, with the assistance of the armed boats, shall dislodge the enemy from the houses, in order to bring off or destroy their vessels. The armed boats to be under the direction of Lieutenant Richardson, of the America, subject to the orders of Captain Bellamy.

“In the event of Captain Rea perceiving a favourable opportunity for proposing a capitulation to save the town from the effects of a cannonade, on condition of the vessels, &c. &c. being delivered up, he is at liberty to propose or accept it, in which case he will shew a flag of truce. The most particular orders are to be given, and enforced in the strongest manner, that no person shall,“on any pretence whatever, enter a house, or go into the town.

“Given on board the America, off Languilla, May 18th, 9 a.m.

Commander Richardson married the niece of Rear-Admiral George M‘Kinley. His only brother, John George Richardson, is a captain of the royal marines, quartered at Woolwich.