Royal Naval Biography/Steuart, Hew


HEW STEUART, Esq.
Knight of the Imperial Russian Order of St. Wladimir.
[Post-Captain of 1812.]

Second son of David Steuart, Esq. Lord Provost of Edinburgh, in 1781 and 1782, (the youngest son of John Steuart, of Dalguise, co. Perth, who derived his descent in a direct line from the youngest son of Robert II. King of Scotland,; by Miss Fordyce, the only lineal descendant of John Knox, the Scotch reformer, who has any issue.

This officer was born July 14, 1780; and entered at the naval academy, Portsmouth, Feb. 1, 1793. He first embarked, in Nov. 1793, as a midshipman, on board the Pegasus 28, Captain Ross Donnelly; and subsequently joined the Bedford 74, Captain Sir Thomas Byard, in which ship he was present at the defeat of the Dutch fleet, near Camperdown, Oct. 11, 1797[1]. We next find him in the Venerable 74, bearing the flag of Lord Duncan, under whom he also served in the Kent of similar force. His promotion to the rank of Lieutenant took place June 28, 1799.

On that occasion Mr. Steuart was appointed to the Jalouse sloop, in which vessel he continued, principally as first Lieutenant, under Captains John Temple, the Hon. F. P. Irby, and Christopher Strachey, until removed to the Monarch 74, Lord Keith’s flag-ship, in June, 1803. A few days previous thereto, he commanded the boats of the Jalouse at the capture of two French gun-vessels (la Commode and l’Inabordable), each mounting 3 long 24-pounders and 1 eighteen, under a heavy fire of musketry from the cliffs at the east part of Cape Blanc Nez, where they had been driven ashore by the Immortalite frigate, Jalouse, and Cruiser brig[2].

We have already stated that Lieutenant Steuart was entrusted with the charge of one of the principal explosion vessels attached to the “catamaran expedition,” in Oct. 1804; and that he afterwards received a promise of promotion from the nobleman then presiding at the Admiralty[3]. The “stone expedition” here attracts our attention.

This was an expedient proposed to block up the harbour of Boulogne, by sinking ships, loaded with stones, at its entrance; and to effect which, three merchant-vessels, of about 400 tons each, were purchased, and their holds filled with blocks of granite, well cemented and clamped together, so as to resist the action of the sea, at least for a certain time: this part of the preparation being complete, the vessels were next rendered combustible, by the addition of every thing inflammatory that could be laid in them. The projector was to superintend the execution of his scheme, supported by Lieutenants Steuart, Payne (of the Immortalité), and Cameron (of the Utrecht 64), each provided with a fast rowing galley; but, after many delays, the enterprise was altogether abandoned.

In the course of the same year, Lieutenant Steuart was sent on various other detached services, among which was an attempt made to destroy fort Rouge, a battery erected on piles, at the entrance of Calais harbour. This was partly accomplished by means of the explosion vessel under his command; but from the circumstance of two others not being able to fetch the point of attack, the injury done was far less extensive than might have been otherwise expected. Lord Keith, in an official letter to the Admiralty, says “the conduct of Lieutenant Hew Steuart, of the Monarch, on this recent occasion, will not fail, I am sure, to excite their lordships’ admiration and praise. I have great pleasure in conveying to them Captain Sir Home Popham’s testimony to his distinguished merit.”

The subject of this memoir was at length promoted, Jan. 22, 1806; and in the following year he commanded the Mutine brig, of 18 guns, employed in escorting the King’s German Legion to and from the island of Rugen[4]. He was also attached to the inshore squadron off Copenhagen, and frequently engaged with the Danish batteries and gun-boats during the bombardment of that city[5]. A few days previous to the capitulation, he volunteered his services, in conjunction with Captain (now Sir John) Phillimore, to attempt the capture or destruction of an advanced two-decker; a measure, however, which the commander-in-chief did not think it proper to sanction.

Captain Steuart left the Mutine in 1806; and was appointed to the Reynard, a new 10-gun brig, at the commencement of 1809. In that vessel he accompanied the expedition to Walcheren ; and on the day after the disembarkation of the army, we find him pushing on after the bombs and gun-boats sent to the attack of Campvere, his pilots having declared that they could place him close to the town, in an advantageous position. Unfortunately, in working up the Veere Gat, his brig grounded several times, and ultimately stuck fast, so near the enemy’s batteries, that he was obliged to cut away the masts and throw every thing overboard, in order to get her afloat.

The Reynard was afterwards sent to the Baltic station, where Captain Steuart continued until a communication was opened with Riga, in June 1812; at which period he received orders from Rear-Admiral T. Byam Martin to assume the command of a flotilla, hastily equipped, at the request of General Von Essen, to act against the French and Prussian armies under Marshals Macdonald and Yorck. In an official letter to Sir James Saumarez, dated Aug. 4, 1812, the Rear-Admiral expresses himself as follows:–

“The way Captain Steuart has conducted himself, in the command of the Russian and English gun-boats, is highly praise-worthy; and his unremitting activity, so creditable to the country, has been willingly imitated by the officers and men of the Aboukir and Ranger, who are placed under his orders: they have unquestionably kept the enemy from crossing the river, at the falls above the town, where a body of infantry and horse still remained entrenched; the only time they ever advanced towards the boats they were dispersed in a very few minutes, after having 5 men and 2 horses killed.”

The subsequent operations of the combined flotilla are thus detailed by Captain Steuart, in a letter to Rear-Admiral Martin, dated at Riga, Oct. 3, 1812:

“In my last I had the honor to inform you, that an attack on the Prussians in this vicinity was intended to take place about the 26th ultimo. A considerable body of troops, under Count Steinheil, left Riga on that day[6], and the gun-boats under the command of the English officers accompanied a strong division of 40 Russian boats, besides 10 launches, under the command of Admiral Muller, up the river Aa.

“The enemy had withdrawn bis troops from Schlock, and his other posts, on the approach of the boats. We therefore did not meet with any opposition until the 29th, when about 5 miles below Mittau: the enemy had there placed three different booms across the river, about half a mile distant from each other. Within pistol-shot of the third boom, which was very strong and well constructed, were placed three batteries of 4 guns each. The booms were soon destroyed, and, as we arrived up, the enemy abandoned their positions, with such precipitation that four 24-pounders were left in the works.

“The English boats were always in advance, and Admiral Muller has desired ine to say how much he is pleased with the exertions of Captain (John) Brenton and the lieutenants employed in the boats.

“The flotilla took possession of Mittau about noon; the enemy had not time to remove some very considerable magazines of clothing and grain, some arms and ammunition. He also left about 400 sick and wounded behind. In the evening, a detachment of the army entered the town.

“The Prussians retired from Olai upon Bourski, where they had about 120 pieces of cannon, intended for the siege of this place; they there received reinforcements on the 29th, which Macdonald had sent them from Jacobstadt.

“On the 30th, the Russians were compelled to retire from before a force of 25,000 men, who had nearly 80 pieces of cannon. As the troops had retired to the vicinity of Riga, the flotilla left Mittau in the evening of the 30th; and after destroying a bridge, which had been erected to facilitate the crossing of the troops and artillery, arrived at Danamunde last night.”

Captain Steuart continued at Riga until the enemies’ troops were altogether withdrawn from that neighbourhood, when he returned to England in the Reynard, and was promoted to post rank by commission dated Nov. 20, 1812. Previous thereto he had been presented by the Emperor Alexander with the order of St. Wladimir, of the 4th class, as a reward for his zealous co-operation with the Russian commanders. The following is an extract of a letter from Lord Keith to one of Captain Steuart’s friends, dated at Plymouth, April 4, 1813:

“Captain Steuart is also a connexion of mine, being cousin to my late wife. He is an officer I much respect and esteem, and one I should be very glad to have under my command; but I fear I have not influence enough to get him employed. When a secret service was intended here some time ago, I mentioned him to Lord Melville as an officer I wished to have with me; and should any thing of the sort turn up again, I shall not lose the opportunity.”

Captain Steuart’s next appointment was, Oct. 1, 1814, to the Towey 24, from which ship he was dismissed by the sentence of a court-martial on the East India station, in Dec. 1816.

One of Captain Steuart’s brothers (Thomas David) is a Major in the Bengal cavalry. Another (James) entered the royal navy under Captain Ross Donnelly; assisted at the capture of the Rivoli French 74, and destruction of an 18-gun brig, off Venice, in 1812; was wounded in the Weazle’s gallant action with fourteen French gun-boats, April 22, 1813[7]; obtained the rank of lieutenant, Dec. 23, 1814; was present at the capitulation of Naples, in 1815; bore a part at the battle of Algiers, Aug. 27, 1816; and died at Calcutta, April 12, 1820, in his 27th year. This gallant and estimable young man had just received his appointment to the command of the Exmouth country ship, and his relatives at Bombay were fondly anticipating his arrival there, when he was suddenly cut off from his family and fair expectations, by an attack of spasmodic cholera, after a short illness of only 12 hours.

Agent.– J. Copland, Esq.