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Royal Naval Biography/Shirley, George James

[Post-Captain of 1798.]

This officer was a Lieutenant of the Royal George, a first rate, during the mutiny at Spithead, in 1797[1]; commanded the Megaera fire-vessel, in the same year; and was posted into the Mars of 74 guns, April 26, 1798. We find no mention of him since the latter period.

Agents.– Messrs. Cooke, Halford, and Son.


Son of Captain James Shirley, who obtained post rank on the 16th Feb. 1772, and perished in command of the Vestal frigate (together with all his officers and crew) on the banks of Newfoundland, in 1777; and grandson of Captain James Shirley, (seniority April 27th, 1762), who died in command of the Dolphin 20, on the East India station, in 1774.

This officer entered into the royal navy in the beginning of 1779; and served without a day’s intermission from that period until advanced to the command of the Mars 74, by post commission dated April 26th, 1798. The flag-officers and captains under whom he passed the first eighteen years of his professional life, always in most active employment, were the late Lords Bridport and Hood, Sir Samuel Hood, Alexander Hood, Sir William Domett, and Sir Charles Morice Pole, the present Sir Philip C. H. Durham, and the late John Woodley. As midshipman and lieutenant, he was in many general and partial actions, particularly in the early part of the French revolutionary war. He has been several times wounded; and on one occasion would have lost an arm, by amputation, had not the attention of the surgeon been directed to an officer of higher rank just as he was about to commence the operation, having already applied a tourniquet to the broken limb. Fortunately for Mr. Shirley, before that gentleman could return to him, his assistant had set the arm, placed it in splints, and saved him from the intended mutilation.

After the mutiny at Spithead, Mr. Shirley was promoted from the Royal George, first rate, to the command of the Megaera fire-vessel; and on the death of Captain Alexander Hood, who fell in action with the French 74 Hercule, he was posted into the Mars. By this time, however, from frequent exposure to wet and cold, the rheumatic gout had caught fast hold of him; and although not without many friends, possessing both the inclination and power to serve him, he was prevailed upon to accept the command of a division of sea-fencibles, which he retained from the first formation of that corps, in 1798, until its final dissolution, in 1810. He was superannuated with the rank of rear-admiral, June 2d, 1825.