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Royal Naval Biography/Sawyer, Herbert

Vice-Admiral of the Red; and Knight Commander of the most honourable Military Order of the Bath.

This officer is the eldest son of the late Admiral Herbert Sawyer, of whom the following anecdote is related:– “Captain Sawyer of the Active frigate, and Captain Pownall of the Favorite sloop, paid their addresses at the same time to two sisters, and were favorably received by them; but their father, a merchant of immense property at Lisbon, although sensible of their personal merit, objected to their want of fortune, and desired that they would discontinue their courtship until their circumstances were much improved; which was shortly the case, by the prize-money gained by the capture of the Hermione, a Spanish register ship, in 1762. Soon after, the earthquake happened at Lisbon, and deprived the merchant of all his property. The generous Captains, immediately on hearing it, repaired to that place, where yielding to the full and noble gratification of love and friendship, they settled an annuity on the father, and married his daughters.”

We know nothing more of the early services of the subject of this sketch, than that he served under his father during the war with our trans-atlantic colonies, at the conclusion of which we find him commanding the Porcupine sloop, at Jamaica. His commission as a Post-Captain bears date Feb. 3, 1789, and in the following year he commanded the Pegasus of 28 guns, on the Newfoundland station. At the commencement of the contest with France, in 1793, he commissioned the Amphion frigate, from which ship he removed about the year 1795, into the Nassau of 64 guns, and cruized in her on the coast of Ireland, and with the North Sea fleet, until the autumn of 1797? when he was appointed to the Saturn, 74, attached to the Western squadron. In the spring of 1799, he succeeded Sir Henry Trollope in the command of the Russell, also a third rate, and continued in that ship till the beginning of 1801, when he joined the Juste, of, 80 guns, and accompanied Sir Robert Calder to the West Indies, in pursuit of a French squadron that had escaped from Brest, but which instead of crossing the Atlantic had proceeded up the Mediterranean.

Subsequent to his return to England, Captain Sawyer was appointed to superintend the payments of the ships at Plymouth, where he remained until advanced to the rank of Rear-Admiral, Oct. 2, 1807. About the month of May, 1810, he hoisted his flag as second in command at Portsmouth; and towards the latter end of that year proceeded in the Africa of 64 guns, to the Halifax station, where he assumed the chief command. He had previously been promoted to the rank of Vice-Admiral[1].

When about to leave the coast of Nova Scotia, in 1813, our officer was presented with the following address from the colonists:–

“Sir.– His Majesty’s consul, the merchants and other inhabitants of Halifax, cannot allow you to depart from Nova Scotia, without expressing the satisfaction they have experienced during your command of his Majesty’s naval forces on this station. Your polite and ready attention to the desires of his Majesty’s subjects, to protect and promote the commerce of this and the neighbouring provinces, have been duly appreciated, and demand our sincere acknowledgments. And it is no less incumbent on us to bear testimony of your zeal and unceasing exertions in directing the efforts of his Majesty’s ships to repel the unprovoked and unexpected hostilities commenced by the government of America against his Majesty’s subjects, and which have been conspicuously manifested in the protection of our trade, and the numerous captures of the armed cruisers of the enemy. With sentiments of unfeigned esteem and respect, we wish you a pleasant passage home, and that approbation from our Sovereign, which is the highest and most grateful reward for honourable and faithful services[2].”

Towards the latter end of the same year, the Vice-Admiral hoisted his flag as Commander-in-Chief at Cork; and on the 2d Jan. 1815, he was nominated a K.C.B. Sir Herbert has a son a Lieutenant in the Navy.

  1. July 31, 1810.
  2. Of the events alluded to in the foregoing address we shall give a detailed account in our memoirs of Captains Arthur Batt Bingham, Richard Byron, &c.