Royal Naval Biography/Smith, William Sidney
SIR WILLIAM SIDNEY SMITH,
Admiral of the Blue; Knight Commander of the most honourable Military Order of the Bath; Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Swedish Order of the Sword; of the Portuguese Order of the Tower and Sword , and of the Neapolitan Order of St. Ferdinand and of Merit; Knight of the Ottoman Order of the Crescent; Doctor of the Civil Law; Master of Arts ,and Fellow of the Royal Society.
Although the undoubted correct spelling of this officer’s family name be Smythe, he being a collateral relative of the late Lord Chief Baron, Sir Sidney Stafford Smythe, and of Smythe Lord Viscount Strangford (all descendants of Customer Smythe, temp. Queen Elizabeth); yet as his official signature has ever been Smith, it seems more convenient and suitable to use this latter spelling throughout the following memoir.
Upon a large gravestone amongst the pavement in the nave of the church at New Shoreham, is the following epitaph to the memory of Sir Sidney’s great grandfather: “Here lieth the body of Captain Cornelius Smith, of Dover, who served his King, Country, and Friend, faithful and honourable; he was an indulgent husband, a kind father, and friendly to his acquaintance. Who dy’d much lamented the 26th of October, 1727, aged 66 years.”
This Cornelius Smith was the father of Captain Edward Smith, of the Burford, who was mortally wounded at the attack of la Guira, Feb. 19, 1743; and grandfather of General Edward Smith, Colonel of the 43d regiment, and Governor of Fort Charles, Jamaica, who served with Wolfe at the reduction of Quebec, and died at Bath on the 19th Jan. 1809.
The subject of this memoir is a son of Captain Smith, a brother of the last mentioned gentleman, (who during the early part of the war of 1756, served as Aide-de-camp to the Right Hon. Lord George Sackville, and afterwards held an office in the royal household,) by Mary, daughter of Pinkney Wilkinson, Esq., an opulent merchant. The union between Sir Sidney’s father and mother, which took place in 1760, being effected without the consent of Mr. Wilkinson, the great property left by that gentleman devolved on his other daughter, Lady Camelford. Captain Smith’s sons being withdrawn from their maternal grandfather’s protection previous to his death, he cancelled a codicil to his will, by which he had made some provision for them.
Our officer was born about the year 1764, and commenced his maritime career in 1777. After serving as Midshipman in the Sandwich, and Greyhound, he was appointed Lieutenant of the Alcide, 74, Captain C. Thompson; in which ship he was present in Admiral Graves’s action off the Chesapeake, Sept. 5, 1781; and in the different skirmishes between Sir Samuel Hood and the Count de Grasse, at St. Christophers. He also in Sir George B. Rodney’s victory, April 12, 1782; subsequent to which glorious event he was made a Commander, in the Fury sloop. His post commission bears date May 7, 1783. Soon after this latter promotion, Captain Smith returned to England in the Nemesis, of 28 guns; and it being a period of profound peace his ship was paid off immediately on her arrival.
In 1788, upon the appearance of a rupture between Sweden and Russia, our officer entered into the service of the former power, and served with great credit until the peace of Reichenback, when he was complimented by King Gustavus with the Grand Cross of the Order of the Sword, on account of his judicious advice and distinguished bravery in several encounters with the fleet of the Empress Catharine. He had the additional honour of receiving the insignia of his knighthood from his own sovereign at St. James’s.
When the war with France broke out, in 1793, Sir W. Sidney Smith was employed as a volunteer in the Turkish marine, and chanced to be at Smyrna, where there were collected at the same time a number of English seamen out of employ. Being intent on returning home himself in obedience to the customary notice from the Admiralty, he bethought himself of these men, as likely to be lost to their country at such a critical time, and with equal patriotism and humanity determined to restore them to her service. He accordingly, at his own risk, purchased one of the lateen rigged small craft of the Archipelago, and fitted her out under the English flag, and the name of the Swallow Tender. In this diminutive man of war, of between thirty and forty feet keel, he shipped himself, with about as many turbulent fellows, and sailed down the Mediterranean in search of the British fleet, which he found at Toulon about a fortnight before the evacuation of that place. Our officer here delivered up his troublesome charge to the Commander-in-Chief, and was waiting for a passage to England, as a guest with Lord Hood, on board the Victory, at the time it became necessary to decide upon the fate of the French ships and arsenal, and when the extrication of the allied army was the principal object of solicitude, and absorbed almost the whole naval means of the combined squadrons. It was at this anxious moment he volunteered his services to burn the French fleet, magazines, &c., a service generally considered as impracticable, with the slender means by which it was to be attempted, but which he executed in a manner that justified his appointment to so arduous a task; ten ships of the line, and several frigates in the arsenal and inner harbour, with the mast-house, great store-house, hemphouse, and other buildings, being completely destroyed.
Sir W. Sidney Smith, and the officers immediately under his orders, surrounded by a tremendous conflagration, had nearly completed the hazardous services assigned to them, when the loud shouts, and the republican songs of the approaching enemy, were heard at intervals amid the bursting of shells and firing of musketry. In addition to the horror of such a scene, and which, for some minutes, had the good effect of checking the career, and arresting in awful contemplation the mind of a vindictive enemy, the dreadful explosion of many thousand barrels of gunpowder on board the Iris frigate, in the Inner Road, will ever be remembered by those who were witnesses of the scene. The concussion it produced shook the houses in Toulon like an earthquake, and occasioned the sudden crash of every window in them; whilst the scattered fragments of burning timber, which had been blown up, descending with considerable force, threatened the destruction of all the officers and men who were near the spot. Fortunately, however, only three of the party lost their lives on the occasion. This powder-ship had been set on fire by the Spaniards, instead of scuttling and sinking her, as had been previously concerted. Sir W. Sidney Smith having completed the destruction of every thing within his reach, to his astonishment first discovered that our perfidious allies had not set fire to any of the ships in the basin before the town; he therefore hastened thither with the boats under his command, for the purpose of endeavouring to counteract the treachery of the Spaniards; when lo! to his great mortification, he found the boom at the entrance laid across, and was obliged to desist in his attempts to cut it, from the repeated vollies of musketry directed towards his boats from the flagship, and the wall of the Battery Royale. He therefore proceeded to burn the Héros and Thémistocle, prison-ships, in the Inner Road, which he effected, after disembarking all the captives. This service was scarcely performed, when the explosion of the Montreal, another powder-ship, took place, by means equally unsuspected and base, with a shock even greater than the first; but the lives of Sir W. Sidney Smith, and the gallant men who served under him, were providentially saved from the imminent danger in which they were thus a second time placed.
Our officer returned to England with Lord Hood’s despatches relative to the evacuation of Toulon, and early in 1794, he was appointed to the command of the Diamond frigate, in which he gave repeated proofs of his zeal and ability.
On the 2d Jan. 1795, Sir John Borlase Warren sailed from Falmouth with a squadron of frigates, to reconnoitre Brest, Government having received accounts that the French fleet under Admiral Villaret de Joyeuse had sailed on a cruise. Sir W. Sidney Smith, in the Diamond, was commissioned by the Commodore to execute this hazardous enterprise; which he performed with great intrepidity in the evening of the 3d, in the night, and following morning. In returning out he passed within hail of a French line-of-battle ship, without suspicion of deception, so completely had he disguised his frigate. Having satisfied himself that the enemy’s fleet was actually at sea, he then successfully made off, and rejoined the squadron.
In the month of May following, our officer assisted at the capture of a convoy of transports; and on the 4th July, in the same year, he distinguished himself exceedingly in a bold but ineffectual attempt on two French ships, having under their protection a number of merchant vessels, near the batteries of la Hogue. On this occasion the Diamond had 1 man killed and 2 wounded. About the same time her boats took possession of the islands of St. Marcou, (situated about four miles from the coast of Normandy) from whence a communication was afterwards established with the French royalists.
In the ensuing autumn, Sir W. Sidney Smith fell in with l’Assemblee Nationale, of 22 guns, which endeavoured to elude his pursuit in the labyrinth of rocks before Treguier; but the attempt proved fatal to her, for she struck on the Roenna, and soon after filling, fell over. The Diamond’s boats were immediately sent to the relief of the crew. Her own boats, which were towing her, saved as many as they could contain; those of the English however, were not able to preserve more than nine in addition to the former. According to the account of the survivors, about twenty perished, exclusive of the Captain, who was washed off the wreck a few minutes before the British could get alongside. The swell was so great that the vessel went to pieces very soon after, and the Diamond was obliged to anchor, to avoid a similar fate.
On the 17th March, 1796, our officer having received information that a convoy, consisting of a corvette, four brigs, two sloops, and three luggers, had taken shelter in the small port of Herqui, near Cape Frehel, proceeded thither with the Diamond, Liberty brig, and Aristocrat lugger. Notwithstanding the channel was narrow and intricate, he stood in and attacked the enemy’s batteries, which were most gallantly stormed and carried by a party of seamen and marines, under Lieutenant Pine of the Diamond, and Lieutenant Carter of the latter corps, both of whom were badly wounded, the latter mortally. The French vessels were all burnt with the exception of one of the luggers, which kept up her fire to the last. The corvette was l’Etourdie, of 16 guns. In this attack 2 seamen were killed and 5 wounded, exclusive of the before mentioned officers.
On the 18th of the following month, the indefatigable commander of the Diamond had the misfortune to fall into the hands of the enemy. Being on a reconnoitring expedition off Havre with the boats of his frigate, he captured a French lugger privateer, which by the strong setting of the tide into the harbour, was driven a considerable way up the Seine, above the forts. In this situation he remained the whole night; and the dawn of day discovering to the enemy the lugger in tow of a string of English boats, a signal of alarm was instantly given. Several gun-boats and other armed vessels attacked the prize and the boats; and another lugger of superior force was warped out against that which he had captured. By this vessel he was engaged for a considerable time, with so much heavier metal as to render all resistance unavailing; and he had the mortification, having four men killed and seven wounded, of being obliged to surrender himself a prisoner of war, with about nineteen of his companions. The French Directory thought proper to deviate, in respect to him, from that established system which directs the exchange of prisoners, and confined him in the Tower of the Temple, at Paris, where he remained during a period of two years.
Sir W. Sidney Smith finding that neither entreaty nor remonstrance, neither argument nor solicitation, could prevail with those rigid and inflexible revolutionists, who then held the reins of government, and who added insult to the sufferings they imposed upon him, by offering a release on terms to which they could not expect an assent terms which, as a precedent, would soon have rendered nugatory the capture of French prisoners, formed a scheme, and procured friends to aid in the execution of it, by which he eventually obtained his liberty. The enterprise and its success are too generally known to need a more particular relation here; we shall therefore content ourselves with observing, that on his return to England, in May, 1798, he was welcomed by the general congratulation of the people. His arrival was considered as a miracle, which few who heard of it knew how to believe. His Sovereign received him with the warmest affection, and afforded him every mark of attention, not only by his behaviour at his public presentation, but by honouring him with an immediate and private interview at Buckingham House.
In the official preparations at London, during the following autumn, for the conclusion of a treaty of defensive alliance between Great Britain and , Turkey, the British government resolved to confer a ministerial character upon the naval officer destined to the difficult task of association with Turkish fleets and armies; and he was accordingly included in the special full-power, despatched to the British minister then residing at Constantinople, as joint plenipotentiary. The officer so selected was Sir W. Sidney Smith, then recently appointed to the command of le Tigre, an 80-gun ship, in which he sailed from Portsmouth on the 29th Oct. in the same year.
On the 11th of the preceding month, the new political system of the Porte was completely developed by a general measure of reprisal against the persons and property of the French throughout the Turkish dominions, and by the fulmination of a manifesto, couched in terms of extraordinary energy, against the Parisian government. During the interval between the defeat of the French fleet in Aboukir Bay, and the arrival of Sir W. Sidney Smith on the Syrian coast, General Buonaparte had achieved the entire conquest of Egypt; introduced a colonial organization into that extraordinary country, with his peculiar talent and promptitude in administration; and was preparing to conduct his army into the contiguous provinces of the east, thereby threatening at one and the same time the subjugation of the rest of the Turkish possessions in that quarter, and the overthrow of the British establishments in India; to counteract which design called for the greatest exertion on the part of the confederated powers. With this community of interests, preparations were made in Syria under the direction of Dgezzar Pasha, who was to be supported by an army that was to traverse Asia Minor; the employment of which force in an attack on the frontier of Egypt, was to be favored by a powerful diversion towards the mouth of the Nile, and by the operations of a corps under Murad Bey.
In the meanwhile, Buonaparte having intelligence that the arrival of Commodore Smith would be the signal for commencing offensive operations, determined to destroy the preparations of the Pasha before they could be brought into combined action with the other forces. The French army destined for this expedition consisted of 12,895 men. The train of artillery, which could only be conveyed by sea, was ordered by the republican General to be shipped at Alexandria; and Rear-Admiral Perrée, with three frigates, were sent to convoy the flotilla, having orders to cruise off Jaffa.
Sir W. Sidney Smith having been apprised of the enemy’s views, left Constantinople in the Tigre, on the 19th Feb. 1799; and after concerting measures with Hassan Bey, the Ottoman Governor of Rhodes, who was an old sea Captain, sailed from that island, and on the 3rd March arrived off Alexandria, where he relieved Captain Troubridge, the senior officer on that station, and despatched his friend and late fellow captive, Lieutenant Wright, to St. Jean d’ Acre, to arrange ulterior measures with the commander of that fortress.
After bombarding Alexandria with the hope of arresting the progress of Buonaparte towards Acre, which was not then sufficiently prepared to oppose him, our officer sailed for the latter place, where he anchored on the loth March, and immediately proceeded to inspect the fortifications, which he found to be in a very ruinous, dilapidated condition, and almost destitute of artillery.
On the 17th the Commodore went with the Tigre’s boats to the anchorage of Khaiffa, in order to intercept the maritime portion of the French expedition, which he was convinced would soon make its appearance. At ten o’clock the same night he discovered the enemy’s advanced guard, mounted on asses and dromedaries, marching by the sea-side; he immediately returned on board, and sent Lieutenant Bushby in a gun-boat, to the mouth of a little river (the brook Kishon of the Scriptures) that flows into the bay of Acre, to guard and defend the ford of the same. At break of day this officer opened a fire on the French, so unexpected and vigorous, that they were soon driven from the shore, and dispersed in confusion on the skirts of Mount Carmel. The main body of the republican army being exposed to a similar attack, advanced by the road of Nazareth; and after driving in the Turkish outposts, encamped upon an insulated eminence, skirting the sea in a parallel direction, at the distance of about 1000 toises, and which extending to the northward as far as Cape Blank, commanded to the west a plain of about a league and three quarters in length, terminated by the mountains that lie between St. Jean d’ Acre and the river Jordan. On the 20th, the trenches were opened at 150 toises from the place, favoured by the gardens, the ditches of the old town, and by an aqueduct that joined to the glacis.
The assistance and encouragement afforded by the Commodore to the Governor of Acre, had operated greatly on his hostile inclinations, and determined him to a vigorous resistance. The works had been materially strengthened under the direction of Colonel Phélypeaux, and Captain Miller, of the Theseus, had furnished the means to the utmost of his ability. But it is doubtful whether the labours of these officers would have been sufficient to support the Pasha against the attacks of the French, had not the vessels, having on board the greater part of their battering train and ammunition, fallen into the hands of the British. The flotilla was doubling Mount Carmel, when it was discovered from the Tigre, pursued, and overtaken. It consisted of a corvette and nine gun-vessels, seven of which, mounting 34 guns, with 238 men, were captured, the corvette having on board Buonaparte’s personal property; and the remaining two small vessels escaped. The cannon, platforms, and ammunition, were immediately landed, and the gun-boats manned and employed in molesting the enemy’s posts established on the coasts, in order to intercept or harass the communications and the convoys.
On the return of Sir W. Sidney Smith, who had been obliged during the equinoctial gales to take shelter off Mount Carmel, he found the French had profited by his involuntary absence, to push their approaches to the counterscarp, and even into the ditch of the north-east angle of the town wall, where they were employed in mining the tower, to increase a breach they had already made in it; and which had been found impracticable when they attempted to storm the place on the 1st April. In this operation they were impeded by the fire from the prize guns, which had been mounted by Captain Wilmot, of the Alliance, under the direction of Colonel Phélypeaux, and his fire slackened; but the probable effect of the mine caused serious apprehension, and a sortie was resolved on to stop the enemy’s progress there. The British seamen and marines were to endeavour to gain possession of the mine, while the Turkish troops were to assault the French in their trenches on both sides. A surprise was intended, and the sally was made before day-light on the 7th April; but the plan was rendered abortive by the impetuosity and noise of the Turks.
The perseverance of the enemy was maintained under a most destructive fire from the garrison in front, and from the ships and boats in flank; and their desperation was clearly evident in the repeated attempts they made to mount the breach, under circumstances of such perilous difficulty -as excited pity in their British foes, to see such a vain sacrifice of energy and courage.
Nine times the enemy had attempted to storm the breach, and on each occasion had been repulsed with the most determined bravery; when, on the fifty-first day of the siege, a long expected reinforcement, under Hassan Bey, appeared in sight. The efforts of Buonaparte were now renewed with the most impetuous vigour, to do all that could be done before its junction; the resistance on the part of the besieged was proportionally vigorous. All that skill and bravery could effect was unanimously displayed; but the enemy gained ground, and got possession of the north-east tower, the upper part of which having been battered down, they ascended on the ruins, and at day-light on the following morning the French standard was displayed on the outer angle of the tower. The fire of the besieged was slackened, and the flanking fire of the Tigre and Theseus rendered ineffectual, the enemy being screened by two traverses erected in the night across the ditch, composed of sand-bags and the bodies of the dead.
Such was the critical situation of the Turkish garrison and their brave allies, when the abovementioned reinforcement arrived ; the troops were in the boats, but still distant from the, shore; “and an effort,” says Sir W. Sidney Smith, “was necessary to preserve the place for a short time till their arrival.” What this effort was, and the operations immediately subsequent, we shall give in the words of his official report to Lord Nelson:–
“Many fugitives returned with us to the breach, which we found defended by a few brave Turks, whose most destructive missile weapons were heavy stones, which, striking the assailants on the head, overthrew the foremost down the slope, and impeded the progress of the rest. A succession, however, ascended to the assault, the heap of ruins between the two parties serving as a breast work to both; the muzzles of their muskets touching, and the spear heads of the standards locked. Dgezzar Pasha, hearing the English were on the breach, quitted his station, where, according to the ancient Turkish custom, he was sitting to reward such as should bring him the heads of the enemy, and distributing musket cartridges with his own hands. The energetic old man coming behind us, pulled us down with violence; saying, if any harm happened to his English friends, all was lost. This amicable contest, as to who should defend the breach, occasioned a rush of Turks to the spot; and thus time was gained for the arrival of the first body of Hassan Bey’s troops. I had now to combat the Pasha’s repugnance to admitting any troops but his Albanians into the garden of his seraglio, which had become a very important post, as occupying the terreplein of the rampart. There was not above 200 of the original 1000 Albanians left alive. This was no time for debate, and I over-ruled his objections by introducing the Chifflick regiment, of 1000 men, armed with bayonets, disciplined after the European method under Sultan Selim’s own eye, and placed by his Imperial Majesty’s express command, at my disposal. The garrison, animated by the appearance of such a reinforcement, was now all on foot; and there being consequently enough to defend the breach, I proposed to the Pasha to get rid of the object of his jealousy, by opening his gates to let them make a sally, and take the assailants in flank; he readily complied, and I gave directions to the Colonel to get possession of the enemy’s third parallel or nearest trench, and there fortify himself by shifting the parapet outwards. This order being clearly understood, the gates were opened, and the Turks rushed out; but they were not equal to such a movement, and were driven back to the town with loss. Mr. Bray, however, as usual, protected the town-gate efficaciously with grape from the sixty-eight pounders. The sortie had this good effect, that it obliged the enemy to expose themselves above their parapets, so that our flanking fires brought down numbers of them, and drew their force from the breach, so that the small number remaining on the lodgment were killed or dispersed by our few remaining hand grenades thrown by Mr. Savage, Midshipman of the Theseus. The enemy began a new breach by an incessant fire directed to the southward of the lodgment, every shot knocking down whole sheets of a wall, much less solid than that of the tower, on which they had expended so much time and ammunition. The group of generals and aides-de-camp, which the shells from the sixty-eight pounders had frequently dispersed, was now re-assembled on Richard Coeur de Lion’s mount. Buonaparte was distinguishable in the centre of a semi-circle; his gesticulations indicated a renewal of attack, and his despatching an aide-de-camp, shewed that he waited only for a reinforcement. I gave directions for Hassan Bey’s ships to take their station in the shoal water to the southward, and made the Tigre’s signal to weigh, and join the Theseus to the northward. A little before sun-set, a massive column appeared advancing to the breach with a solemn step. The Pasha’s idea was not to defend the brink this time, but rather to let a certain number of the enemy in, and then close with them according to the Turkish mode of war. The column thus mounted the breach unmolested, and descended from the rampart into the Pasha’s garden, where, in a very few minutes, the bravest and most advanced among them lay headless corpses; the sabre, with the addition of a dagger in the other hand, proving more than a match for the bayonet. The rest retreated precipitately; and the commanding officer, who was seen manfully encouraging his men to mount the breach, and who we have since learnt to be General Lasne, was carried off, wounded by a musket shot. General Rombaud was killed. Much confusion arose in the town from the actual entry of the enemy, it having been impossible, nay impolitic, to give previous information to every body of the mode of defence adopted, lest the enemy should come to a knowledge of it by means of their numerous emissaries.
“The English uniform, which had hitherto served as a rallying point for the old garrison, wherever it appeared, was now in the dusk mistaken for French, the newly arrived Turks not distinguishing between one hat and another in the croud, and thus many a severe blow of a sabre was parried by our officers, among which Colonel Douglas, Mr. Ives, and Mr. Jones, had nearly lost their lives, as they were forcing their way through a torrent of fugitives. Calm was restored by the Pasha’s exertions, aided by Mr. Trotte, just arrived with Hassan Bey; and thus the contest of twentyfive hours ended, both parties being so fatigued as to be unable to move.
“Buonaparte will, no doubt, renew the attack, the breach being, as above described, perfectly practicable for fifty men a-breast; indeed the town is not, nor ever has been defensible, according to the rules of art, but according to every other rule it must and shall be defended; not that it is in itself worth defending, but we feel that it is by this breach Buonaparte means to march to farther conquests. It is on the issue of this conflict that depends the opinion of the multitude of spectators on the surrounding hills, who wait only to see how it ends, to join the victors; and with such a reinforcement for the execution of his known projects, Constantinople, and even Vienna, must feel the shock.
“Be assured, my Lord, the magnitude of our obligations does but encrease the energy of our efforts in the attempt to discharge our duty; and though we may, and probably shall be overpowered, I can venture to say that the French army will be so much farther weakened before it prevails, as to be little able to profit by its dear bought victory.”
The general prepossession of the Syrians, that the French armies were irresistible, from the invariable success that had hitherto attended them, had so paralyzed their efforts of resistance, that but for the stimulating influence of British courage, none would have been made, and the advance of Buonaparte would, there is reason to believe, have been wholly unimpeded, wherever his plans of personal aggrandizement and political resentment might have directed it. Greatly indeed, therefore, must his irritable temper have been affected by the opposition excited by Sir W. Sidney Smith; and hi the fervor of vexation he imposed the most cruel sacrifices on his brave followers, and evinced a determination to extend them to the utmost limits of their endurance. The mind of his gallant antagonist was equally alive to the improvement of his advantage; and supposing the prejudice in some degree removed by the check he had given to the advance of the enemy, he wrote a circular letter to the Princes and Chiefs of Mount Lebanon, and to the Sheikhs of the Druses, in which he exhorted them to perform their duty, by intercepting the supplies of the enemy in their way to the French camp. This wise proceeding had its desired success; and two ambassadors were sent with information, that measures had been in consequence taken to cut off the supplies; and as a proof of it, eighty prisoners who had been captured in the execution of them, were placed at the disposal of the British.
On the part of the French, to mount the breach at Acre, was now become an object to which all others were to give way; and accordingly, General Kleber’s division was ordered from the fords of the river Jordan, where it had been successfully opposed to the army of Damascus, to take its turn in a task which had already occasioned the loss of the flower of the French troops, and above two-thirds of the officers. But on the arrival of this division, it found other employment.
In the sally made by the Turkish Chifflik regiment, it had shewn a want of firmness, and was in consequence censured. Soliman Aga, the commandant of that corps, having received orders from Sir W. Sidney Smith to obtain possession of the enemy’s third parallel, availed himself of this opportunity to retrieve the lost honor of his regiment; and the next night carried his orders into execution with such ardor and resolution, as completely effected his own purpose, and that of the; public cause, so far as they went. The third parallel was gained; but in an attempt to do more, by an attack on the second trench, he lost some standards. However, before he retreated, his men succeeded in spiking four of the enemy’s guns.
On the arrival, therefore, of Kleber’s division, its original destination, to mount the breach, was changed to the business of recovering these works; which, after a furious contest of three hours, was accomplished. The advantage was, however, still on the side of the besieged; it was, in fact, decisive; for it so damped the zeal of the French troops, that they could not again be brought to the breach.
The general character of Buonaparte’s conduct during the siege of Acre by the French army,and on its retreat, is thus stated by Sir W. Sidney Smith, officially:–
The retreat of Buonaparte from before Acre was, in fact, conducted wholly in the spirit of cruelty generated by disappointed pride in the mind of a man whose means of resentment, mighty as they were, still were less ample than his will for all the purposes of atrocious mischief. The magazines and granaries were all ignited; the earth, covered with ashes, presented only a picture of desolation; and while the cattle fled lowing from the flames, the affrighted inhabitants, with rage in their hearts, beheld, without being able to prevent, the disasters which marked their invaders’ way.
About a month after the return of the French army to Cairo, a Turkish squadron arrived at Aboukir; and in announcing this event to the people of that city, Buonaparte used the following expressions, persuasive of his adherence to the Mohammedan faith:– “On board that fleet,” said he, “there are Russians, who hold in horror all that believe in the unity of God, because, according to their lies, they believe that there are three Gods; but they will soon see that it is not in the number of Gods that strength consists. The Mussulman who embarks in a ship where the cross is flying, he who every day hears the one only God blasphemed, is worse than an infidel.”
Confident of victory over an undisciplined enemy, he commenced his preparations; and having augmented his cavalry with a number of fleet Arabian horses, set out to meet him. On the llth July the Turkish army landed at Aboukir, the fort of which they took, and put the garrison to the sword, in retaliation of the massacre at Jaffa. At six o’clock in the morning of the 25th, the French army came in sight, and a battle ensued which was obstinately maintained on the part of the Ottomans, who had partially entrenched themselves, and repulsed the French with considerable loss; when, elevated and emboldened by their prospect of success, they rushed out to cut off the heads of the wounded and slain, and thus exposed themselves to .n impetuous attack by the republican Generals Lasne and Murat; a dreadful carnage followed, which terminated in their total defeat, and the recapture of the fort of Aboukir. Buonaparte had now a stepping-stone to his final purpose. He immediately wrote home an account of his success, and four days after the receipt of that despatch by the Directory, he astonished them by his presence.
In October following, Sir W. Sidney Smith accompanied the Turkish Vice-Admiral Seid Ali Bey, in a second maritime expedition, destined for the recovery of Egypt; of which enterprise the following extract of a letter to Lord Nelson, dated Nov. 8, 1799, contains the melancholy recital:
“The fire was returned from the launch’s carronade, mounted in a breach in the castle, and from field-pieces in the small boats, which soon obliged the enemy to discontinue working at an intrenchment they were making to oppose a landing. Lieutenant Stokes was detached with the boats to check a body of cavalry advancing along the neck of land, in which he succeeded; but I am sorry to say, with the loss of one man killed and one wounded. This interchange of shot continued with little intermission during the 29th, 30th, and 31st, while the Turkish transports were drawing nearer to the landing place, our shells from the carronade annoying the enemy in his works and communications; at length the magazine blowing up, and one of their 32-pounders being silenced, a favourable moment offered for disembarkation. Orders were given accordingly; but it was not till the morning of the 1st Nov. that they could effectuate this operation.
“This delay gave time for the enemy to collect a force more than double that of the first division landed, and to be ready to attack it before the return of the boats with the remainder. The French advanced to the charge with bayonets. The Turks completely exculpated themselves from the suspicion of cowardice having been the cause of their delay; for when the enemy were within ten yards of them, they rushed on, sabre in hand, and in an instant completely routed the first line of the French infantry. The day was ours for the moment; but the impetuosity of Osman Aga and his troops, occasioned them to quit the station assigned them as a corps of reserve, and to run forward in pursuit of the fugitives; European tactics were of course advantageously employed by the French at this critical juncture. Their body of reserve came on in perfect order, while a charge of cavalry on the left of the Turks put them completely to the route in their turn. Our flanking fire from the castle and boats, which had been hitherto plied with evident effect, was now necessarily suspended by the impossibility of pointing clear of the Turks in the confusion. The latter turned a random fire on the boats, to make them take them off, and the sea was in an instant covered with turbans, while the air was filled with piteous moans, calling to us for assistance. It was (as at Aboukir) a duty of some difficulty to afford it them, without being victims to their impatience, or overwhelmed with numbers; we however persevered, and saved all, except those whom the French took prisoners by wading into the water after them; neither did the enemy interrupt ug much in so doing.”
On the 20th December following, a detachment of Marines under Colonel Douglas, Lieutenant-Colonel Bromley, Captains Winter and Trotte, and Mr. Thomas Smith, Midshipman of the Tigre, accompanied an advanced body of the army of the Grand Vizier from Gaza to El Arish. The French Commandant refusing to capitulate, the fort was reconnoitred by the above English officers; and on the 24th, and following days batteries were erected, the fire of which was attended with complete success. On the morning of the 29th, the enemy having ceased firing, the fort was taken possession of. Notwithstanding every exertion was used to restrain the Turkish troops, three hundred of the French garrison were put to the sword. The chearful manner in which the detachment from the British squadron performed their duty, exposed as they were on the Desert, without tents, very ill fed, and with only brackish water to drink, gained them the admiration of the whole Ottoman army.
Wearied with the hopeless contest, General Kleber, who, after the departure of Buonaparte, had assumed the command of the French forces, entered into a convention with the Grand Vizier, Jan. 24, 1800, for the evacuation of Egypt; to which Sir W. Sidney Smith, as auxiliary commander on the part of Great Britain acceded. The French army was to be collected, with its arms, baggage, and effects, at Alexandria, Rosetta, and Aboukir, and thence be transported to France, partly in its own vessels, and partly in those to be furnished by the Sublime Porte.
This treaty was not carried into execution. The British government had been informed that a negociation with the Grand Vizier for the evacuation of Egypt by the French army was in progress, and instructions were sent to the British Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean to accede; but with this main difference in the conditions, that the French army should be detained as prisoners of war till regularly exchanged. These instructions were received by Lord Keith in February, and he immediately informed General Kleber of their purport.
On the 20th March, hostilities recommenced in the neighbourhood of Cairo, when the French, rendered desperate by their situation, obtained a signal victory over the Turks, upwards of 8,000 of whom were left on the field, killed and wounded, at Elhanka.
Notwithstanding this advantage, the enemy being much harassed by the Beys, General Kleber proposed a renewal of the terms agreed to by the Grand Vizier and Sir W. Sidney Smith for the evacuation of Egypt, and Lord Keith was now authorised by the British Cabinet to accede to them; when the execution of the treaty was again frustrated by the assassination of the French Commander-in-Chief, on the 15th June, 1800, and the determination of his successor, Menou, not to withdraw from that country.
What could no longer be obtained by treaty was now to be effected by arms. Sir Ralph Abercromby, who had been sent to supersede Sir James Pulteney in the command of the army acting in the Mediterranean, having carried out reinforcements, and collected a train of artillery at Gibraltar, after various unexpected delays on the coast of Anatolia, proceeded, in conjunction with Lord Keith, towards the coast of Egypt; arrived off Alexandria, March 1, 1801, and the next day sailed for Aboukir Bay.
The sea running high, it was the 8th before any disembarkation could be attempted. Four thousand French troops were most advantageously posted, when the landing commenced under the superintendance of the Hon. Captain Cochrane, of the Ajax, and the enemy were driven from their position, with the loss of several pieces of artillery. On the 12th the army, strengthened by a detachment of seamen and marines, under the command of Sir W. Sidney Smith, commenced its march. The following day the French were successfully attacked and pursued; and on the 21st was fought the memorable and decisive battle of Alexandria, in which the brave Abercromby fell, and the subject of this memoir was wounded, and had his horse shot from under him. This battle was fought about four miles from Alexandria, whither the main body of the army immediately advanced against Menou, who had possession of that city, while a division of British troops, and a body of Turks, proceeded against Rosetta, which soon capitulated. On the 22d June, Cairo surrendered on terms favorable to the besieged; and Alexandria was delivered up by Menou on the like conditions. Thus was Egypt rescued from the hands of the French; and its evacuation being effected on terms similar to those of the original convention of El-Arish, the republican army, with its baggage, was transported in ships of the allied powers, to the nearest French ports.
On the 22d of the following month, the Capitan Pasha gave a grand entertainment on board the Sultaun Selim, to Sir W. Sidney Smith, to whom, with strong expressions of admiration and attachment, he presented a valuable scimitar; and, what was considered as the greatest compliment that he could confer on him, one of his own silk flags, a badge of distinction which claims from all Turkish Admirals and other commanders, an equal respect with that which they owe to his highness the Pasha; such as the ceremony of personally waiting upon him previous to their departure from the fleet, and on their rej unction with it.
On the 5th Sept. 1801, Sir W. Sidney Smith and Colonel Abercromby embarked at Alexandria on board the Carmen frigate, with the despatches relative to the late campaign. The pretensions of the former to this distinction will be freely acknowledged; and the latter, whose own services had been of the most meritorious description, was justly selected as the herald of intelligence, completing his father’s fame. They arrived in London on the 10th Nov. following.
At the general election in 1802, our officer was chosen representative in Parliament for the city of Rochester; and on the renewal of the war in 1803, he hoisted his broad pendant on board the Antelope, of 50 guns, as Commodore of a squadron employed on the French coast. In the spring of the following year, he obtained the honorable appointment of a Colonel of Royal Marines; and, on the 9th Nov. 1805, was advanced to the rank of Rear-Admiral.
Early in the following year we find his flag flying on board the Pompée, of 80 guns, in which ship he arrived at Palermo on the 21st April, and there assumed the command of the squadron employed in that quarter. The Neapolitan government had at that time been displaced from its capital, and Naples itself was in the hands of the enemy; however, the judicious disposition of the British naval and military forces prevented farther mischief. Finding that Gaeta still held out, although as yet without succour, it was the Rear-Admiral’s first care to see that the necessary supplies should be safely conveyed to the Governor. This was successfully accomplished; and the enemy, though the besiegers, were in a measure reduced to the defensive. The garrison was consequently left to the care of the Prince of Hesse-Philipsthal, and the British squadron proceeded to Naples, an attack on which was apprehended by the French. The city was at this time illuminated on account of Joseph Buonaparte proclaiming himself King of the two Sicilies. It would have been easy for Sir W. Sidney Smith to interrupt the shew of festivity; but he considered that the unfortunate inhabitants had evil enough on them; that the restoration of the capital to its lawful sovereign and its fugitive inhabitants, would be no gratification if it should be found a heap of ruins; and that as he had no force to land and keep order, in case of the French army retiring to the fortresses, he should leave an opulent city a prey to the licentious part of the community, who would not fail to profit by the confusion the flames would occasion; but no such consideration operated on his mind to prevent the dislodging the French garrison from the island of Capri, which, from its situation, protecting the communication south ward, was a great object for the enemy to keep, and by so much, one for Sir W. Sidney Smith to wrest from him. The commandant was accordingly summoned to surrender; and on his refusal, an attack was commenced, in which he fell. The enemy then beat a parley; a capitulation was subsequently signed, and the garrison marched out with the honours of war. Some projected sorties from Gaeta took place in consequence, on the 13th and 15th May. The garrison held out till 13th July, but was then compelled to surrender to the French army.
Amongst the various other active, but desultory services, on which the Rear-Admiral’s squadron was employed in this quarter, may be particularly mentioned that of the attack of Fort Licosa; in which the Pompée had a Lieutenant and 8 men killed and 33 wounded.
In Jan. 1807, Sir W. Sidney Smith was ordered to accompany Vice-Admiral Duckworth on the memorable expedition against Constantinople. Previous to his leaving Sicily, he received the Grand Cross of the Order of St. Ferdinand and of Merit; and a letter from the then reigning Queen, expressive of the regret felt by the royal family at his departure, and gratitude for his exertions in their cause.
It appears, by the secret instructions given to Sir John T. Duckworth, that in consequence of a supposed increase of French influence in the Turkish councils, he was directed to proceed, without loss of time, to the Straits of Constantinople, there to take such a position as should enable him to effect the object of the expedition. Immediately on his arrival he was to communicate with the British Ambassador, to send him certain despatches, and to consult with him on the measures that might be necessary to be taken. Should he find that the subject of difference had been amicably settled between the Sublime Porte and the English legation, he was to preserve the relations of amity; if not, he was to commence offensive operations; having previously demanded, in case of their detention, the Ambassador and his suite, together with all the persons connected with the British factory; and, in the event of that demand not being complied with, he was to proceed to measures of hostility against the city. Should the result of his communications with the Ambassador be such as to render necessary the commencement of hostilities, he was to demand the surrender of the Turkish fleet, with a supply of stores sufficient for its equipment. This demand was to be accompanied with a menace of the immediate destruction of the place; and should any negotiation be proposed by the Turks, as it would probably be only with the view of preparing means of resistance, and of securing their ships, it was not to be continued more than half an hour. In the event of an absolute refusal on the part of the Turks, Sir John Duckworth was to cannonade the town, or attack the fleet wherever it might be; holding it in mind, that the getting the possession, and next to that, the destruction of the fleet, was the first object of consideration.
Having received his final orders, the Vice-Admiral proceeded off Tenedos, where he found Rear-Admiral Louis’s division at anchor off the Hellespont; and Mr. Arbuthnot, the Ambassador, residing on board the Canopus, from whence he afterwards removed into Sir John’s flag ship the Royal George, and remained during the subsequent operations. On the morning of the 19th Feb. the fleet passed the Dardanelles, and at the same time Sir W. Sidney Smith, with the rear division, destroyed a Turkish squadron off Point Nagara Burun (or Pesquies); and on the evening of the 20th, the armament came to an anchor near the Prince’s Islands, about eight miles S.E. from Constantinople.
Notwithstanding this auspicious commencement of proceedings, the time was unfortunately frittered away in an unsuccessful negotiation, till the 27th Feb.; at which period, according to Sir John Duckworth’s despatches, the whole line of coast presented a continued chain of batteries; twelve Turkish line-of-battle ships, two of them three-deckers, with nine frigates, were, with their sails bent, and apparently in readiness, filled with troops; added to this, near 200,000[errata 1] military were said to be in Constantinople, ready to march against the Russians; besides, there were an innumerable quantity of small craft, with boats; and fire-vessels had been prepared to act against the British, whose whole force now consisted of seven sail of the line, two frigates, and two bombs[errata 2].
Feeling himself altogether incompetent to contend with such a powerful adversary, the Vice-Admiral came to a determination of repassing the Dardanelles; on the morning of the 1st Mar. he weighed, and stood off and on during the day; at dusk, the squadron bore up, and towards the evening of the 2d, anchored off Abydos. In the morning of the 3d, he again weighed; and about noon, every ship was in safety outside the passage. “The Turks,” said the Vice-Admiral, “had been occupied unceasingly in adding to the number of their forts; some had been already completed, and others were in a forward state. The fire of the two inner castles (Sultanieh and Kelidbahadar) had, on our going up, been severe; but I am sorry to say, the effects they had on our ships returning, has proved them to be doubly formidable; in short, had they been allowed another week to complete their defences throughout the Channel, it would have been a very doubtful point whether a return lay open to us at all.” The total loss sustained in this fruitless expedition, was 42 killed, 235 wounded, and 4 missing; the Pompée’s share of which was only 5 seamen wounded.
On the 4th of March, Sir John Duckworth issued the following letter of thanks to the officers, &c. under his command:–
“Although unforeseen and insurmountable obstacles, prevented the squadron under my command from effecting at Constantinople the objects which it had in view, I cannot refrain from offering my most heartfelt acknowledgments to all who have so nobly contributed their exertions, throughout the arduous service in which we have been engaged. To Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Louis, who, with the gallantry and cool judgment which marked his character, led the squadron; and to Rear-Admiral Sir Sidney Smith, I beg to present my sincere thanks for their able assistance, as well as to the captains, officers, seamen, and royal marines, for the steady bravery which has been so eminently displayed, in forcing and returning through a passage so strongly fortified by nature and by art, and which had till now been deemed impregnable.”
The copy of this document, addressed to the subject of this memoir, was accompanied by the following lines:–
“Feeling that the want of ultimate success should not restrain me from doing that justice I owe to those who have so handsomely supported the honor of their country, I enclose you a copy of thanks, I think it my duty to issue, as a tribute of my approbation and obligation to the squadron, and to none more than you, my dear Sir! for which I again offer you my thanks, as I am, with high esteem and regard, &c. &c.”
(Signed)“J. T. Duckworth.”
“Sir W. S. Smith.”
The squadron, after leaving the Dardanelles, proceeded to the coast of Egypt, where it arrived a few days after the surrender of Alexandria and its forts to the naval and military forces, under the respective commands of Captain (now Sir Benjamin) Hallowell, and Major-General Frazer. Sir W. Sidney Smith soon after returned to England, where he arrived in the month of June.
On the 20th Oct. in the same year (1807), the court of Portugal, after consuming several weeks in fruitless attempts to conciliate Buonaparte, found itself under the necessity of shutting the ports of that kingdom against the ships of Great Britain. About the same time, Sir W. Sidney Smith was appointed to the command of a squadron, with which he proceeded off the Tagus; and immediately on his arrival, declared that river, Setubal, and Oporto, in a state of blockade; but in adopting hostile measures, he did not neglect the powers of persuasion, and continued to cultivate an amicable correspondence with the ministry at Lisbon, tending to convince their wavering minds of the futility of such timid policy in averting the scourge of French invasion. His activity and perseverance were rewarded, on the 25th Nov. by receiving a notification from the minister of state, M. Aranjo, that the Prince Regent had resumed the intention to emigrate. In consequence of this, hostilities were suspended, and the Rear-Admiral sent the Confiance sloop into the Tagus, under a flag of truce, to convey those solemn pledges of safeguard adapted to the crisis, and which, from an officer of Sir W. Sidney Smith’s chivalrous fame, could not fail to dispel doubt and fear. Lord Strangford, the ex Chargé-d’-Affaires, who was waiting on board the Hibernia for a conveyance to England, took the opportunity of accompanying Captain Yeo, to revisit Lisbon for the final settlement of affairs connected with his late mission, and to pay his respects at court. Wind and tide would not allow the Confiance to enter the river till late in the evening of the 28th, so that it was near midnight when Lord Strangford and Captain Yeo reached the capital. They found the royal palace a solitude; the Queen being already embarked, in consequence of the French General Junot having passed Abrantes, and even pushed his patroles to the vicinity of the metropolis.
At day-light on the morning of the 29th, the Portuguese navy was observed conducting a numerous fleet, to place them under the convoy of that very force, whose duty, but a few hours before, would have been to destroy instead of to protect. The weather was serene; and the spectacle of the meeting of the two fleets, under a reciprocal salute of 21 guns, magnificent beyond description. Sir W. S. Smith immediately went on board the ship bearing the royal standard of Portugal, to pay due homage to the Sovereign. His reception was marked by all the honours due to a British Admiral, and by every distinction the individual merited; the interview taking place with a dignity suitable to the solemnity of the occasion.
After making every arrangement for the present comfort, and future safety of the illustrious voyagers and their loyal followers, Sir W. Sidney Smith took his leave, to rejoin that division of his squadron left to observe the Tagus, making the charge of the Brazil convoy over to the able and judicious Captain of the Marlborough, the present Sir Graham Moore.
On the Rear-Admiral’s return to his station, he found Lisbon occupied by the French troops under Junot, who had obtained possession of the forts, without the slightest opposition on the part of the Portugueze. Sir W. Sidney Smith continued to blockade the coast until the 15th Jan. 1808, on which day he was superseded in the command of the squadron by the late Sir Charles Cotton. On the 24th of the same month, our officer had the satisfaction of receiving despatches from the Admiralty, conveying their Lordships’ high approbation of his whole conduct in the management of the service committed to his charge, and in the execution of the various orders he had received from time to time.
About the middle of the following month, Sir W. Sidney Smith was relieved by Rear-Admiral Otway; and, with his flag in the Foudroyant of 80 guns, proceeded to South America, where he assumed the chief command. During his continuance on that station he rendered essential services to the commercial and shipping interests of the United Kingdom, for which he received the grateful thanks of the Committee of Merchants trading to Brazil.
On the 14th June following, Sir W. Sidney Smith gave an entertainment to the whole Portugueze royal family and court, on board his flag-ship, when the Prince Regent presented him, with his own hands, the standard of Portugal, to be borne as an augmentation to his coat of arms, and declared the revival of the Order of the Tower and Sword, instituted by Don Alfonso V, surnamed the African, in 1459, of which order the Rear-Admiral was afterwards created a Knight Grand Cross.
Sir W. Sidney Smith returned to England in the Diana frigate, Aug. 7? 1809, and soon after struck his flag. On the 31st July, in the following year, he was promoted to the rank of Vice-Admiral; and about the same period received the honorary degree of D.C.L., the grace for which passed the senate of the University of Oxford, in 1805. The degree of M.A. was afterwards conferred on him by the University of Cambridge; and on the 22d Aug. 1811, the Lord Provost and Magistrates of Edinburgh voted him the freedom of that city.
In the summer of 1812, Sir W. Sidney Smith was appointed second in command of the fleet employed in the Mediterranean, and proceeded thither in the Tremendous, of 74 guns; from which ship, on his arrival off Toulon, he shifted his flag to the Hibernia, a first rate, where it continued during the remainder of the war. In the following year, the King of Sardinia and suite dined on board the Hibernia, at Cagliari; on which occasion, in addition to the Captains and Commanders present, the Vice-Admiral, with his characteristic liberality, also invited the senior Lieutenants and Midshipmen of the squadron.
On the 7th July, 1814, soon after his return to England, the Mayor and Commonalty of the borough of Plymouth voted Sir W. Sidney Smith the freedom of their corporation; which was presented him in a silver box, in testimony of his highly distinguished and meritorious services. He was nominated a K.C.B. Jan. 2, 1815; and the ceremony of investing him with the insignia of the order was rendered doubly interesting, from the circumstance of its taking place Dec. 29, 1815, at the Elisée-Bourbon, the evacuated palace of that chieftain whose ambitious career he had first checked; and of its being performed by the Duke of Wellington, whose genius had so recently laid the usurper low. Sir W. Sidney Smith was advanced to the rank of full Admiral, July 19, 1821. He married Oct. 11, 1809, the widow of Sir George Berrunan Rumbold, Bart., formerly British Consul-General at Hamburgh.
- See p. 133.
- See Retired Captain, John N. Inglefield.
- See p. 35, et seq.
- On the 3d and 4th June, 1790, two desperate battles were fought between the belligerent fleets in the Gulf of Wibourg, in which the Swedes lost seven ships of the line, three frigates, six gallies, and about sixty smaller vessels. The Russians also suffered severely. The slaughter was particularly fatal to the English officers in that service; Captains Dawson and Treveneu were killed; Captain Marshall also lost his life on the same occasion; being mortally wounded, his ship sunk under him, and went down colours flying. Captains Aikin and Miller were also desperately wounded.
Another action took place on the 9th July, in which the King of Sweden commanded in person on one side, and the famous Prince of Nassau on the other. It began at 9h 30’ A.M., and lasted twenty-four hours, with the intermission of a very short period about midnight, when darkness imposed a temporary armistice. The Russians were now in their turn defeated, with the loss of five frigates, fifteen gallies, two floating batteries, twenty-one other vessels, a great quantity of stores, and about 4,500 men made prisoners. On this occasion an English officer of the name of Dennison commanded the Venus frigate, and was very near taking the King of Sweden himself, as he captured the galley in which that monarch had embarked, and which his Majesty only left at the suggestion of Captain Smith, who said he was sure, from the gallant seaman-like style in which she bore down to the attack, that the Venus was commanded by an Englishman, and that the King would do well to avoid the consequence; upon which they both took boat and went on board another vessel. Captain Dennioun was killed on the same day.
- See p. 287.
- Of our officer’s long imprisonment, and the means by which he effected his escape, an interesting account will be found in the Naval Chronicle, v. 4, p. 459, et seq.; and in Schomberg’s Naval Chronology, v. 3, pp. 100 and 107, inclusive.
- Whilst Sir W. S. Smith was a captive in the Temple, Mrs. Cosway, who afterwards published “The Siege of Acre,” a Poem, in four books, contrived to obtain a sight of him, either from a window, or by some other means, and made a sketch of him as he sat by the bars of his prison. The head is a profile, and bears some resemblance to its original; but the features are of too haggard a contour to be acknowledged as an accurate likeness. The extraordinary thinness of the figure may be accounted for, as the effect of two years confinement, during which he was overwhelmed with every indignity that oppression could lay upon the subject of its power.
- Sir W. S. Smith’s brother was at that time the English Envoy to the Ottoman Porte.
- See p. 180.
- Jaffa was stormed by the French troops on the 7th March, and the Turkish garrison put to the sword. The assault, however, cost the enemy about 1200 men. It has been said that Buonaparte, in this expedition into Palestine, had purposed to take possession of Jerusalem, rebuild the Temple, restore the Jews, and thus give the lie to the prophecies of the Divine Founder of the Christian Religion.
- Lieutenant Wright, who received a severe wound in the defence of Acre, was afterwards promoted to the rank of Commander, and died a prisoner in France, where he had been subjected to a long and rigorous confinement. It is generally supposed that he was assassinated by order of Buonaparte. His old friend and commander has, since the peace, caused a handsome monument to be erected at Paris to his memory.
- M. Phélypeaux was an officer of the Engineers in the service of Louis XVI. He was a man of talents, and very worthy. Though young, he had been engaged in many extraordinary adventures; having served in all the campaigns of the army of Conde. He commanded in Berri, and escaped death by breaking out of a state prison. He accompanied Sir Sidney to England, at the time he effected his escape from the custody of the Directory, and afterwards to the coast of Syria, where he served as a volunteer. He died at Acre, of a fever, May 2d, 1799.
- Captain Ralph Willett Miller was posted in 1796, and commanded the Captain, 74, bearing the broad pendant of Commodore Nelson, in the action off Cape St. Vincent, 14th Feb. 1797. He was afterwards appointed to the Theseus, 74, which ship he commanded at the battle of the Nile. After having been three days off Jaffa, whither he was despatched by Sir W. Sidney Smith, the Turkish blue flag was confided to him, an honour never before conferred upon a Christian; it imparts the power of a Pasha over the subjects of the Grand Seignior [ See p. 314. ]. The premature death of this meritorious officer, was occasioned by the blowing up of the after part of the Theseus, while lying off Jaffa.
- Captain Wilmot was shot by a rifleman, on the 8th April, as he was mounting a howitzer on the breach.
- Mr. Bray was carpenter of the Tigre, and appears to have been a very superior man in every respect to the generality of warrant officers.
- The late Sir John Douglas, of the Royal Marines.
- When the Grand Seignior received the news of Buonaparte’s defeat, and of the carnage before Acre, he shed tears. His Imperial Majesty presented the messenger with seven purses of 3000 florins, and sent a Tartar to Sir W. Sidney Smith, with an aigrette and sable fur (similar to that of Lord Nelson) worth 25,000 piastres. He afterwards conferred on him the insignia of the Ottoman Order of the Crescent.
The loss sustained by the British squadron, employed in the defence of Acre, consisting of the Tigre, Theseus, and Alliance, amounted to 53 killed, 13 drowned, 113 wounded, and 82 prisoners. To the general feelings of approbation which the conduct of its commander excited in the hearts of his countrymen, the parliamentary reports of that period bear unequivocal testimony. His late Majesty himself, on the opening of the session, Sept. 24, 1?99, noticed the heroism of Sir W. Sidney Smith, and the advantage which the nation had derived from his success. The King’s ministers, their friends, and even their opponents, joined in paying a tribute of applause. The gratitude of the nation, and of both Houses of Parliament, was unanimous; and the Commodore, with the officers and seamen under his command, were voted the thanks of the legislature. A pension of 1000l. per annum was settled on Sir W. Sidney Smith; the City of London also presented him with its freedom, and a sword valued at 100 guineas. From the Turkey Company he likewise received a sword of the value of 300 guineas.
- Buonaparte left Egypt on the 24th Aug., and landed at Frejus on the 7th Oct.
- See note †, at p. 259. On this occasion Sir Ralph Abercromby gave the most unequivocal praise to the whole of the naval officers and men, as well afloat as on shore; saying, that without their exertions he could not have brought his brave troops into action as he did.
- Sir W. Sidney Smith received a violent contusion from a musket ball, which glanced on his right shoulder.
- After the surrender of the French army, Sir W. Sidney Smith visited the Holy City, where the following anecdote of Buonaparte was related to him by the superior of a Convent: When General Dumas had advanced with a detachment of the French army within a few leagues of Jerusalem, he sent to his Commander-in-Chief for leave to make an attack upon that place. Buonaparte replied, that “when he had taken Acre, he would come in person and plant the tree of liberty in the very spot where Christ suffered; and that the first French soldier who fell in the attack, should be buried in the Holy Sepulchre.” Sir W. Sidney Smith was the first Christian ever suffered by the barbarians to go into Jerusalem armed, or even to enter it in the dress of a Frank; his followers, and all who visited it by his means, were allowed the same privilege. acknowledgment of his meritorious exertions in the defence of Acre; and the family Crest, viz. a Leopard’s Head, collared and lined, issuant out of an Oriental Crown; the said arms and crest to he borne hy Sir W. Sidney Smith and his issue, together with the motto, “Coeur de Lion” limited to the Peers of the Realm, the Knights of the different Orders, and the Proxies of Princes of the Blood Royal at Installations, except in such cases wherein, under particular circumstances, the King shall be pleased to grant his especial licence for the use thereof; his Majesty, in order to give a further testimony of his particular approbation of our officer’s services, was also graciously pleased to allow him to bear, for Supporters to his arms, a Tiger guardant, navally crowned, in the mouth a Palm Branch, being the symbol of Victory, supporting the Union flag of Great Britain, with the Inscription, “Jerusalem, 1799,” upon the cross of St. George, and a Lamb murally crowned; in the mouth an Olive Branch, being the symbol of Peace, supporting the Banner of Jerusalem.
- On the 7th Jan. 1803, Sir W. Sidney Smith obtained his Sovereign’s permission to bear the following honourable augmentations to the armorial ensigns borne by his family, viz. on the Cheveron a wreath of laurel accompanied by two crosses Calvary; and on a chief of augmentation, the interior of an ancient fortification, in perspective; in the angle a breach; and on the sides of the said breach, the standard of the Ottoman Empire, and the Union Flag of Great Britain; and for Crest, the Imperial Ottoman Chelengk, or Plume of Triumph, upon a Turban; in allusion to the highly honourable and distinguished decoration transmitted by the Turkish Emperor to Sir W. Sidney Smitli, in testimony of his esteem, and in
- See the following extract from the Vice-Admiral’s public letter to Lord Collingwood, dated Feb. 21.
- Sir Thomas Louis had been sent to the Levant some weeks previously to the arrival of the expedition, in consequence of a request from Mr. Arbuthnot to the Commander-in-Chief, for the presence of a naval force in aid of his negotiations; in conformity to which idea, the Rear-Admiral anchored between the outer and inner castles of the Dardanelles, and sent the Endymion frigate up to Constantinople. She had not been long there, before the Ambassador, under the impression of alarm for his personal safety, produced by secret information, that the Turkish government meant to confine him in the Castle of the Seven Towers, went on board, and prevailed on her Commander, Captain Capel, to send a sudden invitation to the whole of the British factory, to meet Mr. Arbuthnot at dinner. They were no sooner arrived, than the Endymion’s cable was cut, her anchor left behind, and the company carried off, en masse, to the Dardanelles.
- The Turkish force anchored to dispute the passage of the Dardanelles, consisted of one 64-gun ship, four frigates mounting 144 guns, five corvettes and brigs, mounting 68 guns, and two gun-boats; of these, one corvette and one gun-boat were taken, and all the others destroyed, together with the guns of a redoubt. The number of guns in favour of the Turks was 53.
- On the 20th April, 1822, Sir W. Sidney Smith presented to the Bodleian Library at Oxford, a fac-simile of an ancient Greek inscription, on a gold plate, found in the ruins of the ancient city of Canopus; and also a book printed on board an English ship of the line in the Mediterranean.
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