Royal Naval Biography/Talbot, John
SIR JOHN TALBOT,
Rear-Admiral of the White; Knight Commander of the most honorable Military Order of the Bath.
This officer’s ancestor, John Talbot, served under the Earl of Salisbury at the siege of Orleans, in the reign of Henry VI. There is a tradition in the family, that twelve Talbots were engaged in the battle of the Boyne; six on the side of King James, and the like number attached to the army under William, of glorious memory.
Sir John Talbot is a son of the late Colonel Talbot, of Malahide Castle, near Dublin, and brother of Richard Wogan Talbot, Esq., M.P. for that county. In 1784, we find him serving as a Midshipman on board the Boreas frigate, commanded by the late Lord Nelson, at the Leeward Islands. He was made a Lieutenant in 1790; and appointed to the command of the Helena sloop, about the month of April, 1795. His post commission bears date Aug. 27, 1796.
Captain Talbot was promoted to the latter rank in the Eurydice, of 24 guns, on the North Sea station, where he captured several of the enemy’s privateers. His next appointment was to the Ambuscade frigate, in which he remained but a few months, and then removed into the Glenmore, employed on the coast of Ireland. In July, 1801, he recaptured four West Indiamen which had been recently cut off from their convoy by a French privateer.
On the 30th Sept. following, two of the Glenmore’s crew were sentenced by a court-martial to suffer death, for mutiny, and taking an oath not to proceed to sea while the ship was commanded by Captain Talbot. One of these men was executed on the 8th, but the other obtained a respite during the royal pleasure.
In the autumn of 1804, our officer was appointed to the Leander, of 50 guns, and ordered to Halifax; on which station, Feb. 23, 1805, he captured la Ville de Milan, of 46 guns, pierced for 50, and retook her prize, the Cleopatra, a small English frigate. By this fortunate event he had the option of commanding one of the finest and most desirable ships of her class in the service; but with that liberality of spirit which ever characterises the British officer, he waved his right in favor of his friend, Sir Robert Laurie, to whose bravery and perseverance he generously ascribed his success; as if the French frigate had not been so roughly handled by the Cleopatra, she certainly would not have proved so easy a prize to the Leander.
The following address was delivered to Captain Talbot, on his taking leave of the Leander’s officers, previous to his joining the Centaur, of 74 guns, Dec. 5, 1805:–
“Sir.– The ward-room officers of his Majesty’s ship Leander, who, while under your command, have so constantly seen the correct and steady conduct of the officer happily blended with the manners of the gentleman, anxious to testify their esteem and respect, and the unfeigned regret they feel at your departure, beg leave, as a small token of their regard, to present you with a sword, value one hundred guineas; well assured that it will always be drawn in the cause of honor, defending the rights of your King and Country.”
To which Captain Talbot returned the following reply;
“Gentlemen.– You have presented me with such a testimony of your regard as deserves my warmest acknowledgments. I shall wear that sword with pride. It is impossible for words to express my feelings on so flattering an occasion; and I have only to request you will believe I shall ever retain a due sense of the honor you have conferred on me.”
We next find Captain Talbot commanding the Thunderer, of 74 guns, in which ship he greatly distinguished himself at the destruction of a Turkish squadron lying within the forts of the Dardanelles, Feb. 19, 1807. In this affair, and during the subsequent operations against the Turks, by the squadron under Sir John T. Duckworth, the Thunderer had 6 men killed and 28 wounded.
Towards the latter end of the year 1809, our officer was appointed to the Victorious, another 74, stationed in the Mediterranean, where he destroyed the Leoben, Italian schooner of war, of 10 guns and 60 men, from Venice bound to Corfu, laden with ordnance stores.
On the 21st Feb. 1812, Captain Talbot being off Venice, in company with Captain Andrews of the Weazle sloop, discovered an enemy’s squadron, consisting of the Rivoli, of 74 guns, two brigs of 18 guns each, one of 10 guns, and two gunboats, proceeding from that port to Polo, in Istria. A very close action ensued between the two line-of-battle ships, during which one of the brigs, engaged with the Weazle, blew up, and the others took to flight. Captain Andrews then placed his vessel very judiciously on the bow of the Rivoli, which had already been rendered perfectly unmanageable, and in that situation gave her three raking broadsides, so that she was at length compelled to surrender, after a most gallant defence of four hours and a half.
From the length of the action, and the smoothness of the water, the loss of men and the damages on both sides were very great, the Victorious and Rivoli having been within half-musket-shot during the whole of the battle, which only ceased at intervals, when the ships were hid from each other by the fog and smoke. The former had 32 killed and 109 wounded; among the latter number was Captain Talbot, who received a contusion from a splinter, and for some days afterwards was nearly deprived of his sight. The Rivoli had 400 men, her Captain, and most of her officers, either killed or wounded; she had on board at the commencement of the action 862 persons; the Victorious only 506.
The Rivoli bore the broad pendant of Commodore Barre, the Commander-in-Chief of the enemy’s forces in the Adriatic, whose conduct, during the whole of the battle, convinced Captain Talbot he had to deal with a most gallant man, as well as an experienced and skilful officer.
The Rivoli, in crossing the gulf of Fieume, lost her fore and mainmasts; but, by great exertions, she was taken safe into the port of Lissa under jury-masts. Her mizen-mast fell a few minutes before she struck.
Towards the close of the year 1812, we find Captain Talbot, to whom the Board of Admiralty had presented a gold medal, for his gallant conduct in capturing the Rivoli, proceeding with Sir John B. Warren to the coast of North America, on which station he continued in the Victorious during the remainder of the war. He obtained a Colonelcy of Royal Marines, June 4, 1814; and was nominated a K.C.B. Jan. 2, 1815. His advancement to the rank of Rear-Admiral took place Aug. 12, 1819.
Sir John Talbot married, Oct, 17, 1815, Juliana, youngest daughter of James Everard, 9th Lord Arundel, and a Count of the Sacred Roman Empire, by Mary Christiana, eldest daughter of his first cousin, the 8th Lord.
- See Rear-Admiral Sir Robert Laurie.
- See Rear-Admiral Thomas Harvey.
- Ten of the wounded died soon after the action.
- The following anecdote is related of James Daley, a seaman of the Victorious, whose left thigh was carried away by a shot, so high up that a portion of the hip was attached to it, and the right shattered to pieces. On his way to the cockpit, he observed that one of the guns close to the hatchway, was run out, and about to be discharged; he immediately desired the seamen who were carrying him down, to stop, which they did, when he requested to be allowed to have one shot more at the enemy before he died; “after doing which,” he added, “he would die content.” His request was granted; when he very contentedly permitted himself to be carried down, exclaiming on the ladder, “Fight on, my boys! fight on for your King and Country until you die.” On his arrival in the cockpit, he said to the Surgeon, “Sir, I know you will do all you can for me, but I also know, there is nothing in your power.” Tn less than half an hour after, his gallant soul left this for another world.