Royal Naval Biography/Scriven, Timothy

A Companion of the Most Honorable Military Order of the Bath.

This gallant officer was a native of Lyme, co. Dorset; and appears to have commenced his nautical career in the merchant service. At the commencement of the French revolutionary war, he had the misfortune to be taken by the enemy; and we find him a prisoner on board the Jemmappe 80, bearing the flag of Rear-Admiral Richery, when that ship was beaten off by a Spanish 74, near the bay of Rosas, with the loss of several men killed and wounded.

The Jemmappe was then on her passage from Brest to Toulon, at which latter place Mr. Scriven was landed and marched off for Digne, where he endured very great hardships during a close confinement of about twenty months; At the end of that time, he was re-conducted to Toulon; from whence, having been exchanged, he proceeded first to Corsica; then to Leghorn hospital, to recruit his strength ; and finally joined the Agamemnon 64, commanded by the matchless Nelson, under whom he served, as a volunteer, for nearly twelve months.

In Sept. 1796, Mr. Scriven was received, as midshipman, on board the Montagu 74, Captain (afterwards Sir John) Knight, to whom he had been recommended by Admiral Lord Bridport. During the mutiny at the Nore, he made an attempt to escape on shore in one of her boats, and had succeeded in passing five or six other ships, under a heavy fire of round and grape-shot, before he was overtaken. After remaining for some time with both legs in irons, he was tried by a court-martial composed of delegates (the chief ringleader, Parker, officiating as president), when, strange as it may appear, he obtained a sentence of honorable acquittal, “in consequence of the persevering gallantry evinced by himself and his companions, six in number, in their endeavour to reach Sheerness.”

The Montagu formed part of the fleet under Admiral Duncan, at the memorable battle of Camperdown, Oct. 11th, 1797[1]. We have only to add, that Mr. Scriven’s services in that ship comprised a period of nearly five years, during which “his general good conduct and enterprising spirit, particularly on various occasions of boat service,” obtained him the most flattering testimonials. In July, 1801, he was rated master’s-mate of the Goliath 74, Captain (afterwards Sir William) Essington; and in the course of the same year, the following letter respecting him was addressed to Earl St. Vincent, then at the head of the Admiralty:

“My Lord, – Having seen your secretary’s letter to Mr. Scriven, a supernumerary on board the Orion, under my command, saying it is necessary that the captains he has sailed with should pledge themselves for his good conduct, and fitness to serve as a lieutenant; I beg leave to inform your lordship, that during the time I commanded H.M. ship Montagu, Mr. Scriven was one amongst the very few of the petty-officers who conducted themselves to my satisfaction. He is a very correct, attentive, sober young man; therefore I beg leave to recommend him to your lordship’s attention. I have the honor to be, &c.

(Signed)Robert Cuthbert, Captain.”

Mr, Scriven subsequently served as supernumerary on board the Sans Pareil 80, commanded by Captain Essington; and as admiralty midshipman, under Commodore Samuel Hood, with whom he proceeded to the Leeward Islands, in the Ulysses 44, of which ship he was appointed an acting lieutenant, Dec. 24th, 1802. His first commission hears date Mar. 28th, 1803.

Soon after this advancement, Mr. Scriven had an attack of yellow fever, and was obliged to return home, from Antigua hospital, for the recovery of his health. His next appointment was. Mar. 24th, 1804, to the Thunder bomb, Captain George Cocks, under whom he saw much active service on the Mediterranean station.

In July, 1805, the Thunder captured a small vessel called the Sparrownaro, armed with one two-pounder; and Lieutenant Scriven immediately volunteered to command her as a tender, with a crew consisting of only seven men and a boy. On rounding a point of land, near the straits of Bonifacio, he found himself within half-musket-shot of a French privateer, mounting one eighteen-pounder and four four-pounders, with no less than sixty-nine men. The desperate defence he made excited the admiration of the enemy, who not only liberated his prisoners without exchange, but also granted their gallant leader a certificate as follows:

“I, Antony Clavelli, captain commanding the French privateer Belle Louise, certify and attest, that Mr. Timothy Scriven, late commanding the Sparrownaro, conducted himself during my pursuit of him, and in the action which ensued, in a manner which distinguished him as a man of bravery and honor; and that it was not till after having fired upon him a dozen cannon loaded with grape and round, numerous vollies of mutsketry, and our being ou the point of boarding with a force so very considerably greater than that of the Sparrownaro’s, that he struck his colours. I certify further, that the above mentioned chase and action continued for the space of two hours. In faith of which, I hereby sign this certificate to all whom it may concern.

Cagliara, Sardinia, the 19th July, 1805.


Mr. Scriven continued in the Thunder until Aug. 1807, when he was nominated flag-lieutenant to his friend Rear-Admiral Essington, then holding a command in the grand armament destined against Copenhagen. Shortly after his return from thence, he was appointed to the Hercule 74, Captain the Hon. John (now Lord) Colville, on the Lisbon station. His subsequent appointments as lieutenant were, Dec. 30th, 1808, to the Vestal 28, Captain Edwards Lloyd Graham, refitting at Woolwich; – Aug. 2d, 1810, to be first of the Pallas 32, Captain the Hon. George Cadogan; – Nov. 12th following, to command the Active cutter, of six guns and twenty-four men, stationed off Flushing, where he was kept constantly on the alert; – Sept. 16th, 1811, to the Arrow schooner, mounting twelve twelve-pounder carronades, with a complement of fifty men; – and, June 4th, 1813, to the Telegraph schooner, of similar force.

On the 8th May, 1812, Lieutenant Scriven drove on shore, near the Penmarks, l’Aigle French cutter privateer, and totally destroyed her prize, a large English West Indiaman. On the 27th Dec. following, after an anxious pursuit of three days, he brought to action and completely silenced le Diligente, a large brig, mounting sixteen twenty-four-pounder carronades and two long twelves, commanded by Mons. Grasain, a member of the legion of honor, and said to have had on board at least 160 men, including a number of American sailors. This formidable privateer, which, availing herself of the Arrow’s inferior sailing, escaped into the river Loire, had just before captured H.M. schooner Laura, of twelve guns and 41 men.

On the 30th Jan. 1813, Lieutenant Scriven captured seven and destroyed three French coasting vessels, near Noirmoutier. On the 12th Aug. following, he had the good fortune to make prize of an American armed schooner, the Ellen and Emmeline, laden with silks and other valuable merchandize, from Nantz bound to New York. On the 7th Oct. in the same year he was promoted to the rank of commander, and re-appointed to the Telegraph, then rated a sloop of war. Six days after this, he assisted at the destruction of le Flibustier, French national brig, having on board arms, ammunition, provisions, and money, for the garrison of Santona[2].

Commander Scriven was next employed on the Halifax station, where he destroyed the famous American privateer Syren, much superior in force to the Telegraph. This marauder was fallen in with under Cape May, on her return from a six months cruise, with a valuable collection of plunder from many prizes taken and burnt in the British and St. George’s Channels. An action of forty minutes, in which the Telegraph sustained no loss, was terminated by the sinking of the enemy.

Commander Scriven was nominated a C.B. in Sept. 1815, and about the same time removed to the Heron 18, the officers of which sloop, on his supercession in July, 1816, presented him with a handsome silver vase, bearing a complimentary inscription. On the 20th Dec. 1817, he was appointed to the Erne 20; and shortly afterwards, he nearly lost his right hand, whilst exerting himself to save that ship from impending destruction, in Dublin bay. On the 1st June 1819, he had the misfortune to be wrecked on one of the Cape Verd Islands, from whence he was conveyed with his officers and crew, in a Portugueze vessel, to Barbadoes. On his return home, in the Columbo transport, Aug. 14th, 1819, he found that his name had been included in the list of officers promoted to post rank only two days before; but owing to the loss of the Erne, for which he appears to have been censured by the sentence of a court-martial, on the 20th of the same month, his commission was cancelled; and he had the mortification to pass the remainder of his days without any further employment.

During the time that this gallant gentleman commanded the Arrow and Telegraph, he captured no less than 5047 tons of the enemy’s shipping. In the course of his services he was twice wounded, without reporting it. He is represented by those who knew him as an officer who ever studied the comfort and happiness of his inferiors. Cool in the midst of danger, and never indulging in passion of invective, it was a general observation of his officers and men, “how happy we all are;” and a smile was ever to be seen on the countenance of each. The unfortunate winding up of his professional career was naturally attended with the most heart-rending feelings, and served to embitter the last moments of his existence. He died, we believe, at Jersey, after a severe and lingering illness, March 25th, 1824, leaving a widow and four children to lament his loss. Mrs. Scriven is a niece to the late Edward Harris, Esq. a Commissioner of the Navy Board.