Royal Naval Biography/Shepheard, William
WILLIAM SHEPHEARD, Esq.
[Post-Captain of 1812.]
This officer was born at Portsea, co. Hants, 1769. He entered the navy, at the age of 12 years, as a midshipman on board the Thetis 32, Captain Robert Linzee; and was wrecked in that frigate, at St. Lucia, in 1781. He afterwards joined the Santa Monica 36, Captain John Linzee, which ship was lost off Tortola, in 1782. We subsequently find him serving in the Ville de Paris (late flag-ship of the Count de Grasse), Magnificent 74, Dido 28, Saturn 74, and Hector of similar force; on the West India, North American, and Channel stations.
From the Hector, Mr. Shepheard was removed to the Alcide 74, bearing the broad pendant of Commodore Robert Linzee; under whom he continued to serve after his promotion to the rank of Lieutenant, which took place during the occupation of Toulon, in 1793. The Alcide sustained some damage in her hull, masts, and rigging, and had 9 men wounded, at the unsuccessful attack upon Fornelli, in Corsica, Sept. 30, 1793.
During the operations against St. Fiorenzo, Lieutenant Shepheard was employed in the land batteries, under the orders of Captain Edward Cooke; and he appears to have assisted at the storming of the Convention redoubt, Feb. 17, 1794. On the 11th April following, the boats of the Alcide, under the command of Lieutenant Shepheard, succeeded in rescuing the crew of la Proselyte 24, which ship had been set in flames by hot shot from the garrison of Bastia: this service was performed in the most exemplary manner, under a very heavy fire from the enemy’s batteries.
After the reduction of Corsica, Lieutenant Shepheard successively followed his patron (then a flag-officer) into the Windsor Castle a second rate, Victory of 100 guns. Superb 74, and Princess Royal 98: the former ship had 6 men killed and 31 wounded, in Vice-Admiral Hotham’s action, off Genoa, Mar. 14, 1795. She also bore a part in the skirmish near Frejus, July 13th following. On one of those occasions Lieutenant Shepheard was struck in the forehead by a piece of langridge, but his name does not appear in the list of wounded.
Lieutenant Shepheard’s next appointment was, Jan. 1797, to the command of the Pigmy cutter, in which vessel he captured la Rancune French privateer, and re-took two English brigs, laden with bar iron, on the Channel station, Jan. 8, 1799. In the course of the same year, he was most actively employed in Quiberon bay, keeping up a constant communication with the French royalists, and supplying them with arms and money.
The Pigmy formed part of the squadron under Lord Keith during the blockade of Genoa, in 1800 ; and after the reduction of that city we find her proceeding to the attack of Cesenatico, in company with El Corso brig, the result of which expedition has been stated in our memoir of Captain William Ricketts. She subsequently captured la Bataglia di Marengo French privateer, and three vessels laden with rope, salt, and oil; besides assisting at the capture of five merchantmen with cargoes of plank, brandy, leather, and stock-fish; and the re-capture of an Imperial vessel laden with hemp. On the 5th Jan. 1801, Lieutenant Shepheard received a letter from the deputies of the Mercantile Insurance Company at Trieste, of which the following is a translation:–
“Most esteemed Sir,– Not forgetting the influence you have had in defending the Adriatic Gulph, from the invasion of piratical enemies, for the service of the powers in alliance with his Britannick Majesty, we ought, as deputies of this commerce, to make you our acknowledgments, and we therefore beg you will receive with this letter a gold snuff-box, in remembrance of our gratitude; and, with the most perfect esteem, we subscribe ourselves, your most obedient servants,
(Signed)“John Doblen & Co. – J. Reyes, – Sonnei Rede. – Stepn. Rismik. – Luzorick Govanuchi. – J. Manzewany.”
“This mark of their approbation,” says Lord Keith, in a letter to Lieutenant Shepheard, dated June 9, 1801, “I cannot fail to consider as a flattering testimony of your meritorious exertions, and as highly creditable to the service in which you are employed.”
In the early part of 1801, Lieutenant Shepheard took two French privateers – l’Adelaide, of 3 guns and 51 men; and l’Achille, of 6 guns and 44 men. On the 8th June, in the same year, being then on the coast of Syria, and in sight of an enemy’s squadron under Mons. Gantheaume, he captured la Prudente armed transport, from Toulon bound to Alexandria, laden with ammunition and artificers’ tools; and having on board upwards of 100 persons, including troops and comedians.
At the renewal of hostilities, in 1803, Lieutenant Shepheard was appointed to tiie command of the Basilisk gun-brig, in which vessel he was repeatedly engaged with the Boulogne flotilla, and the land batteries in that neighbourhood. On the 18th Dec. he captured the gun-vessel No. 436, mounting one long brass 18-pounder and a howitzer, with a complement of 35 men. During the winter of 1803-4, he commanded a detachment consisting of three brigs and a cutter, with which small force he maintained the blockade of the enemy’s coast, from Boulogne to Ostend, during the absence of the frigates and sloops composing the Dungeness squadron. It is sufficient to say, that “the diligent and judicious manner in which he executed his duty on all occasions,” obtained him the unqualified approbation of his superiors.
From the Basilisk, Lieutenant Shepheard was removed to the Earl St. Vincent cutter, in which vessel he continued upwards of two years; cruising on the coast of Scotland, about the Orkney and Shetland islands, and occasionally in the Baltic. Finding himself passed over in the grand promotion that followed the battle of Trafalgar, he addressed a letter of remonstrance to Lord Barham, whose answer we shall here transcribe:–
“Barham Court, 1st March, 1806.
“Sir,– Such disappointments as yours are frequently unavoidable, and particularly mortifying where the party has such merit in service as would entitle him to promotion.
“It was on this ground that I gave your name in for a Commander’s commission, not on any other, you were unknown to me.
“How the mistake has happened, I have not been able to trace, but I am confident it did not rest with me; and I am equally sure, that when your services are known to Mr. Grey, and that my intention of promoting you was not owing to private but to public recommendation, he will pay due attention to your claims.
“After the very great promotion that took place before I left the Admiralty, it would be presumptuous in me to make any application to my successor; but of this you may be assured, that if the power should ever fall again into my hands, I shall think it my duty to make your services a first consideration. I am. Sir,– &c.
“To Lieut. Shepheard, &c. &c.”
On the 15th Aug. following, the subject of this memoir was promoted to the command of the Demerara brig, on the Leeward Islands’ station; in which vessel he captured a Spanish privateer, and entirely suppressed the depredations of the enemy’s row-boats from the Oronoco river; his services on the unhealthy coast of Dutch Guiana, were thus officially acknowledged:–
“Court House, Stabrack, Demerara, April 29, 1808.
“Sir,– His Excellency, the acting Lieutenant-Governor, having communicated to the Honorable Court of Policy of these colonies, that you bad left the West Indies for Europe, on account of the state of your health, I am commanded by the Court aforesaid, to transmit to you the enclosed copy of a resolution passed by them on the 25th January last, relative to an allowance of table monoy voted to the captain and officers of the armed brig Demerara, and which was intended to take effect on your return to this station in the command of that vessel.
“It is his Excellency, the acting Lieutenant-Governor, and the Court of Policy’s desire, that I shall, at the same time, express to you the strong sense they entertain of your services to these colonies while commanding the Demerara on this station, by the activity and readiness you uniformly and successfully displayed in affording every assistance in your power for the protection of the trade and of the coasting craft of the inhabitants, against the enemy’s privateers. I have the honor to be, &c.
(Signed)“Pp. Tinne, Dep. Sec. of the Colony.”
“To Captain Shepheard, R.N.”
In addition to the above testimonial of his persevering exertions, Captain Shepheard received a strong recommendation from Sir Alexander Cochrane to Lord Mulgrave, then at the head of the Admiralty. He was subsequently appointed an agent for transports, and in that capacity we find him arriving at Corunna, in company with 12,000 British troops, under the command of Sir David Baird, Oct. 14, 1808. After their debarkation, he proceeded to Lisbon, and from thence brought home 3000 Russian seamen, belonging to Admiral Siniavin’s squadron. He then returned to the Spanish coast, and contributed in no slight degree to the preservation of the survivors of Sir John Moore’s army, the whole of whom, “in consequence of the arrangements made by Commissioner Bowen and the other agents for transports, were embarked with an expedition that has seldom been equalled.” His services on this memorable occasion were duly acknowledged by Lieutenant-General Hope, in that officer’s official account of the battle of Corunna, dated on board the Audacious, Jan. 18, 1809.
In May following, being then at Lisbon, Captain Shepheard tendered his services to defend the right bank of the Tagus; and he was accordingly appointed by Vice-Admiral Berkeley to command a flotilla of gun-boats, manned by volunteer seamen from the transports in that river. He continued to be thus employed till Marshal Victor broke up from his cantonments at Truxillo, and retreated to Talavera de la Reyna.
In Dec. 1809, Captain Shepheard received an appointment to the Thunder bomb; and from April until Nov. 1810, he appears to have been the senior commander of four vessels of that description, employed in the defence of Cadiz: during a considerable part of that time the Thunder was at anchor almost within point-blank shot of the enemy’s formidable batteries. On the 2d of the latter month, when the French gun-vessels, proceeding from Rota to Port Santa Maria, were attacked by the British flotilla, he hastened with his boats to the support of Captain Kittoe, and conducted himself in such a manner as to obtain the most flattering approbation of his gallant and discerning admiral. We should here remark, that Captain Shepheard had the sole arrangement of the different bombardments which took place, and that he rowed guard himself every fourth night during his continuance in Cadiz bay.
On the 11th Nov. 1810, Captain Shepheard was appointed to the Columbine brig, of 18 guns, attached to the squadron under Sir Richard G. Keats, by whom he was subsequently ordered to act as captain of the Alfred 74. After commanding that ship about three months, during which she was kept cruising between Capes Trafalgar and Spartel, he returned to the Columbine, and served under the orders of Rear-Admiral Legge, on the Cadiz station, until the close of 1811. The Columbine formed part of a detachment sent to make a diversion in favour of the Spanish General Ballasteros, by landing 1000 British infantry and a detachment of artillery at Tariffa, which service was performed during the prevalence of a strong easterly gale, Oct. 18, in the latter year; her commander’s exertions on that occasion were warmly acknowledged by his senior officer, Captain Edward S. Dickson.
Captain Shepheard returned to England in the Comet sloop of war; and obtained post rank Feb. 1, 1812. His next appointment was May 14, 1813, to the Fylla of 22 guns, on the Guernsey station. In Jan. 1814, he captured, after a slight resistance, l’Inconnu French lugger privateer, of 16 guns and 109 men; the largest vessel of that class belonging to St. Maloes. On this occasion, the enemy had 6 men killed and 4 wounded; the Fylla, her first Lieutenant (William Henry Pierson) and one marine slightly wounded.
On the 1st Nov. 1819, Captain Shepheard was appointed to the Brazen 26, in which ship he served on the St. Helena and Irish stations until Jan. 1823.
He married in 1796, Miss Reed, of Portsmouth, and by that lady, who died Dec. 16, 1821, had issue one son and a daughter; the former, a fine young man who had passed his examination, and acted as a lieutenant of the Brazen, was drowned in the Confiance, off the coast of Ireland, in 1822: his daughter is married to Lieutenant Frederick Hire, R.N.
Agent.– J. Dufaur, Esq.