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Royal Naval Biography/Tattnall, James Barnwell


Was born in 1790; and entered the royal navy in Sept. 1803, as midshipman on board the Leander 50, bearing the flag of Vice-Admiral Sir Andrew Mitchell, commander-in-Chief on the Halifax station, where he was soon afterwards removed into the Boston frigate. Captain (now Vice-Admiral) John Erskine Douglas, He subsequently served under Lord Cochrane, in the Pallas 32, and conducted into port one of the richest prizes taken by that frigate, at the commencement of the Spanish war, in 1805.

On the night of April 5th, 1806, the boats of the Pallas, under Lieutenant John Haswell, captured the French national corvette Tapageuse, of fourteen long 12-pounders and 95 men, lying about twenty miles above the shoals of Cordovan, in the Bourdeaux river, and under the protection of two strong batteries. During their absence, three ships were observed bearing down to the British frigate, making many signals, and soon perceived to be enemies. “In a few minutes,” says Lord Cochrane, “the anchor was weighed, and, with the remainder of the officers and crew, we chased drove on shore, and wrecked, one 24-gun ship, one of 22 guns, and la Malicieuse, a beautiful corvette of 18 guns. All in this ship showed zeal for his Majesty’s service. The warrant officers and Mr. Tattnall, midshipman, supplied the place of those commissioned.” Other dashing services in which Mr. Tattnall participated are recorded in Vol. IV. Part I. p. 157 et seq.

From the Pallas, Mr. Tatnall followed Lord Cochrane into the Imperieuse 38. Towards the close of that year, while in charge of two French luggers, which had been captured off Rochfort, he was driven, through stress of weather, into Belleisle, and obliged to surrender. In Dec. 1809, having succeeded in effecting his escape from Verdun, while deprived of parole, he joined the fleet employed in the blockade of Flushing; and early in 1810, was sent out to the Leeward Islands on promotion. Soon after his arrival on that station, he joined the St. Pierre 18, as acting lieutenant; but, owing to a change in the naval administration, he was not confirmed until April 18th, 1811, at which period we find him appointed to the Racehorse sloop. Commander James De Rippe, on the Cape of Good Hope station, where he witnessed the capture of the French frigate Renommée, and assisted in taking possession of her late consort, la Nereide, together with several merchant vessels, in the month of May following.[1]

Lieutenant Tatnall’s subsequent appointments were, – to the Portia 14, Commander Henry Thomson, stationed in the North Sea; President frigate. Captain Francis Mason, under whom he served at the siege of St. Sebastian; and Tonnant 80, flagship of the Hon. Sir Alexander I. Cochrane, by whom he was successively appointed acting commander of the Sophie 18, Carron 20, and Dictator troop-ship, on the North American station. Whilst belonging to the Tonnant, he served in her boats at the destruction of Commodore Barney’s flotilla, in the Patuxent river; commanded a gunboat at the attack upon Baltimore; and had a boat sunk under him, and the greatest part of his crew killed and wounded, at the capture of five heavy gun-vessels in Lac Borgne, Dec. 14th, 1814[2]. His promotion to the rank of commander, however, did not take place until April 14th, 1819; at which period he was acting in the Spey 20, on the Mediterranean station.