Royal Naval Biography/Tayler, Joseph Needham
JOSEPH NEEDHAM TAYLER, Esq.
A Companion of the Most Honorable Military Order of the Bath.
[Post-Captain of 1813.]
Only surviving son of Samuel Tayler, Esq. senior member of the corporation of Devizes, in Wiltshire, and six times mayor of that borough, by Sally, daughter of the late Joseph Needham, M.D. and niece to Henry Needham, Esq. who was a co-partner with his uncle, Robert Rogers, Esq. in the bank of Childs and Co.
The subject of this memoir was born at Devizes, in 1785; and he appears to have commenced his professional career under the auspices of Viscount Sidmouth (then Mr. Addington), through whose introduction he was received as midshipman on board the Royal George, a first rate, bearing the flag of Lord Bridport, in 1796. While serving under that distinguished veteran, he witnessed the commencement, renewal, and termination of a most alarming mutiny among the seamen of the Channel fleet.
In 1799, when Lord Bridport resigned his important command, Mr. Tayler was removed to the Anson frigate, Captain (now Sir Philip C.) Durham, under whom he soon saw some active service, on the coast of la Vendee.
The Anson was also occasionally employed in attendance upon the royal family, at Weymouth; and Mr. Tayler had the honor of being most graciously noticed by our late beloved monarch, upon whom he constantly attended in a boat, whenever his majesty went afloat. We shall here relate a characteristic anecdote of that august personage.
On the 9th Sept. 1799, Captain Durham and his lady gave a grand naval fête on board the Anson, which was attended by their majesties, and all the royal and noble personages then sojourning at Weymouth. In the midst of the entertainment a courier came alongside, with despatches for the King, who, to the surprise of every one, could not be found among the brilliant assembly. Having dispensed with the usual court attendance on that occasion, he had contrived to withdraw, unperceived, from the scene of gaiety, and found his way to the fore part of the lower-deck, where he was at length discovered by Mr. Tayler, in the act of interrogating an old weather-beaten tar, the ship’s company surrounding him, with their hats off, the foremost of them kneeling down, so as not to obstruct the view of those behind, the countenances of the whole beaming with genuine devotion, and all so respectfully silent that a pin might have been heard to fall.
Nor was his majesty less considerate than condescending. Being much pleased with the manner in which the Anson was prepared for his reception, he commanded that she should not accompany him when he next took a cruise, remarking, that her officers would then have an opportunity of shewing the ship, decorated as she was, to all their private friends. By such acts as these did the sovereign of this mighty empire endear himself to every one who had the honor of being admitted into his presence.
On the 27th April, 1800, the Anson captured la Vainqueur, French letter of marque, from Bourdeaux bound to St. Domingo: two days afterwards she fell in with four of the enemy’s privateers, which, on discovering her to be a British frigate, made off in different directions. Captain Durham instantly pursued the largest, and gave her a well-aimed broadside when crossing upon opposite tacks, receiving her fire in return. Finding that she outsailed and weathered upon the Anson, he then bore away after one to leeward, which he soon succeeded in capturing. The prize proved to be le Hardi, of 18 guns and 191 men, a very fine ship, just off the stocks. Her consorts were le Braave of 36 guns, le Guêpe 18, and le Druide 16; all belonging to Bourdeaux, and bound on separate cruises.
About the same time. Captain Durham intercepted the governor of Batavia, on his return from Java, in a neutral ship bound to Hamburgh.
The Anson was subsequently employed in convoying a fleet of transports, &c. to Gibraltar and Minorca. On the 27th June, 1800, she captured seven Spanish merchant vessels, which, with many others, had sought protection under the batteries between TarifFa and Algeziras, where they were also covered by the fire of 25 heavy gun-boats.
Previous to her entering the Mediterranean, the Anson was for several days greatly annoyed by the above flotilla; but she at last managed to cut off two fine vessels, commanded by king’s officers, each mounting 2 long 18-poundevs and 8 smaller guns, with a complement of 60 men. Finding themselves completely separated from their friends, they pushed for Ceuta, but being closely pursued, were obliged to run upon a rock near the Moorish shore, where they defended themselves very gallantly till the frigate’s marines landed on the main, to co-operate with her boats, which had failed in their first attack. The Spaniards then attempted to burn both vessels; but, on receiving a fire of musketry from the foremost boat, in which was Mr. Tayler, they every one jumped overboard, their officers having represented that the British would give no quarter. Many perished, in consequence of this groundless assertion; and some, after reaching the shore, were massacred by the Moors, when flying towards the mountains: a few, who escaped the swords of the barbarians, gladly surrendered to the Anson’s people.
One of the vessels was taken possession of by Mr. Tayler’s boat, and not boarded by any other till after day-light, at which time several bundles of lighted matches had been found in the hold, and a train of powder laid to the magazine, the door of which was open.
On his return home from Minorca, Mr. Tayler removed with Captain Durham to the Endymion frigate; and we subsequently find him visiting St. Helena and Lisbon. On the 13th April, 1801, that ship captured la Furie, French cutter privateer of 14 guns and 64 men, in sight of a scattered and unprotected fleet, from Brazil bound to Portugal.
Mr. Tayler’s first commission as lieutenant bears date April 29, 1802. In the following year he was appointed to the Leopard 50, employed off Boulogne, where he assisted at the capture of seven French gun vessels, under a smart fire from the batteries on shore.
The Leopard continued on that station till Napoleon Buonaparte abandoned his long cherished design of invading Great Britain; after which she was ordered to escort the Hon.E.I.Company’s ships Asia, Lady Burgess, Melville, Nelson, Sovereign, and Walthamstow, to the southward of the Cape Verd islands. We shall here detail the circumstances attending the loss of the Lady Burgess, as no correct account of that melancholy occurrence has ever appeared in print.
The convoy sailed from St. Helen’s on the 30th Mar. 1806, and nothing worthy of particular mention happened till April 20, at 2 A.M., when the unfortunate ship in question struck upon Laten’s Level, a rocky reef near St. Jago, about 200 feet in length, and 6 feet under water. At day-light she was only visible from the Leopard’s mast-head, with her masts all gone, and the sea breaking over her. Lieutenant Tayler immediately volunteered his services, and hastened to her assistance, in a 6-oared cutter, followed by another boat that was ordered to second his exertions.
The wind was then blowing a strong gale; but, after great perseverance, Lieutenant Tayler got close to the Lady Burgess, where he met her launch, containing 14 or 15 persons, all naked, and without an oar or a sail, almost every thing having been washed overboard when getting her over the side. These people unanimously declared, that it was quite impossible for the cutter to reach any part of the ship, and seemed only anxious to follow the example of their captain, who had quitted her soon after she struck, taking with him 5 ladies and his other cabin passengers.
After giving this boat a spare oar, by means of which, and a blanket, she was enabled to gain the convoy. Lieutenant Tayler attempted to approach the starboard quarter of tho Lady Burgess, but was warned to keep off by the poor fellows then clinging to it. Scarcely had they done so, before a heavy sea struck the cutter, and carried a large piece of wreck back to the ship, where it severely bruised several persons by falling upon her deck. Providentially, the cutter received no damage, although she was within a boat-hook’s length of the log, and endeavouring to push clear of it only a moment before.
The cries of the unhappy creatures on board the Lady Burgess were now dreadful in the extreme, and some lifeless bodies soon appeared floating from her in various directions. Finding it impracticable to take any person from the stern or quarters. Lieutenant Tayler next proceeded under the bows, and, watching the rise of the sea, succeeded repeatedly in throwing a block, with the boat’s halliards and sheets attached to it, over the stump of the bowsprit. The first man that got hold of the rope, thus placed within reach, secured it to his arm, jumped overboard, and was dragged into the cutter; 20 others were successively rescued by the same means; but several unfortunately perished in their attempt to reach the bowsprit. All this time, the Leopard’s other boat, commanded by one of her master’s-mates, and a cutter belonging to the Lady Burgess, kept to leeward, out of Lieutenant Taylor’s sight, and rendered him no assistance.
The last man had hardly been taken out of the sea, when several large sharks made their appearance, adding greatly to the horror of the scene around. Immediately afterwards a tremendous wave shivered the ship to atoms, and precipitated the remainder of her passengers and crew into a still more dreadful surf. The Leopard’s cutter was also much damaged, and 2 of her crew sustained considerable injury.
Looking towards the reef, while all hands were busily employed in baling with their hats. Lieutenant Tayler fancied he saw a lady amongst the floating wreck. He instantly lost sight of danger, sung out “give way,” and stripped off his coat in readiness to assist her. His men entreated him not to leave the helm, and ceased pulling until he promised to remain there: they then rowed with all their might, and the object of his solicitude was soon snatched from a watery grave. The supposed female proved to be Mr. De Burgh, a young cadet, with nothing on but his shirt, and quite unconscious of his wonderful preservation. A sailor and a black man (servant to Colonel Arnold) were subsequently rescued, in accomplishing which the cutter had two oars broken and another of her crew much bruised.
The above 24 individuals, and 6 men who got hold of the main-top, which carried them clear of the reef, were all that Lieutenant Tayler could save, unassisted as he was by any other boat. Indeed, the Leopard’s cutter was so full, that the men could not be removed from the top until her yawl joined company, at which period there was not a single ship in sight. The people were then divided between them, and the boats put under their close-reefed mizens; but owing to the great distance, the day was far advanced before they came up with the convoy.
Two of the men taken from the top stated that they had been frequently kept from sinking by a Newfoundland dog; and it is worthy of remark that this animal was also picked up by Lieutenant Tayler, to whom it became so singularly attached, that for some days it would not take food from any one else.
The number of lives lost on the above melancholy occasion amounted to 38, including two soldiers’ wives, one child, and four native women. Among those saved were Colonel Arnold and two unmarried ladies of the same name, two others named Hardwick, a Mr. and Mrs. Dixon, and Lieutenant Nook, of H.M. 33d regiment. There is a picture, published by Edward Orme, Nov. 1, 1806, wherein the artist has described Captain Swinton, of the Lady Burgess, and his female companions, escaping into a boat under the bows; – had he been correctly instructed, he would have represented them quitting the ship in the ordinary way.
Having touched at Porto Praya, and escorted the other five Indiaman to lat. 9° N. the Leopard returned to Spithead, where she arrived on the 8th June following. She subsequently proceeded to Halifax, where her captain, officers, and crew were transferred to the Leander, a worn out 50, then under orders for England.
Lieutenant Tayler’s next appointment was, Mar. 16, 1807, to the Maida 74, Captain Samuel Hood Linzee, who gave him the command of a party of seamen, landed to serve in the breaching battery before Copenhagen, during the operations that led to the surrender of the Danish navy; and afterwards encamped under the orders of Sir David Baird. On his return home from Zealand, he was specially employed, as first of the Maida, in dismantling the prizes, and clearing them of their valuable cargoes.
The Maida was paid off, at Portsmouth, Mar. 9, 1808; and in Aug. following, Lieutenant Tayler joined the Spencer 74, bearing the flag of Rear-Admiral (now Sir Robert) Stopford, and employed in the blockade of l’Orient. While serving under that officer, he landed at Quimper and distributed placards relative to the occurrences in Portugal and Spain.
The Spencer being put out of commission, in consequence of her striking upon a rock near the Glenan islands. Lieutenant Tayler was soon afterwards appointed to the Heroine 32, Captain Hood Hanway Christian, which frigate had 2 men wounded in forcing the passage of the Scheldt, between Flushing and Cadsand, Aug. 11, 1809. Speaking of that service. Sir Richard J. Strachan says, “the gallant and seaman-like manner in which the squadron” commanded by Lord William Stuart “was conducted, and their steady and well-directed fire, excited in my breast the warmest sensations of admiration: the army witnessed their exertions with applause.” By this event, the navigation of the West Scheldt was opened as far as it could possibly be by the navy.
On her return from the Walcheren expedition, the Heroine was likewise laid up in ordinary, and Lieutenant Tayler remained without any other appointment from Nov. 1809, till June 12, 1810, when he joined the Goldfinch, a 10-gun brig, employed in arming and otherwise assisting the Spanish patriots. From that vessel he was removed to the Sapphire sloop, for a passage to Jamaica, on promotion. Proceeding thither, he visited Trinidad, La Guiara, and the city of Caraccas, in company with the since celebrated General Bolivar. His advancement to the rank of commander, took place Aug, 27, 1810; but he did not receive his commission (appointing him to the Sparrow brig, of 16 guns) till Feb. 2, 1811.
After cruising, for several months, off St. Domingo and in the Mona passage. Captain Tayler was ordered to accompany the Elk brig, and a fleet of merchantmen from Negril bay to England, where he arrived Sept 27, 1811. In the course of the voyage home, he recaptured a large ship, laden with colonial produce.
When refitted, the Sparrow was attached to the squadron employed on the north coast of Spain, where Captain Tayler soon rendered himself eminently useful in surveying different harbours, particularly Socoa and St. Jean de Luz, and in ascertaining the strength of the different French garrisons along the shore of Biscay; drawing plans of the enemy’s works, and obtaining correct information respecting their forces in the interior of that province.
The Sparrow formed part of the squadron under Sir Home Popham at the reduction of Lequitio, June 21, 1812; and the subsequent destruction of the enemy’s fortifications at Bermeo, Plencia, Galea, Algorta, Begona, El Campillo las Quersas, Xebiles, and Castro. A detailed account of these operations, which were acknowledged by Lord Wellington to have been of use to his movements, will be found at pp. 523–526 of Vol. II. Part II.
The works at Plencia were destroyed under the immediate superintendence of Captain Tayler, who there had a very narrow escape. Having blown up one angle of the fort, and nearly completed his preparations for demolishing the remainder, he was in the act of jamming a stone into the train-hole, which had been made rather too large, when some gunpowder, in a bag near him, accidentally ignited, and communicating with the mine, caused a premature explosion. The shock stunned him for some time, and part of the ruins, upwards of a ton weight, fell only two feet from him; the gunner, to whose carelessness the accident is to be attributed, nearly lost his sight, and several men were very badly scorched: one poor fellow was blown to the brink of an immense precipice, over which he would have rolled if not timely rescued.
The Sparrow also assisted at the attacks upon Puerta Galetta and Guiteria, July 11 and 18, 1812. Shortly after the latter affair, Captain Tayler stood in between the castle of St. Ano and Isle Mouro, at the entrance of St. Andero harbour, keeping up a heavy fire of grape, and effectually covering the debarkation of some men sent from the squadron to erect a battery upon the island. While executing this service, his brig received seven shot from a field piece, in an outwork of 3 long 24-pounders, mounted en barbette; but fortunately the French could not depress their heavy guns sufficiently to point them likewise at her hull; and, although her boats and sails were riddled by musketry, she sustained no greater loss than 1 killed and 3 wounded.
On the following day, Captain Tayler again engaged the enemy in front of St. Ano, and, at the same time, the island battery opened a fire upon that castle, which was continued without intermission until it had only one serviceable gun remaining. He subsequently ran through the same narrow passage and closely reconnoitred the harbour; sounding all the way and taking cross bearings for the future guidance of the squadron. The proceedings of a detachment afterwards landed to complete the subjugation of St. Ano, and then to cooperate with the Spanish guerillas in an attack upon St. Andero, have been noticed in our memoir of Rear-Admiral Lake, C.B. who commanded the forces on shore.
After the evacuation of that town by the French under General Caffarelli, the Sparrow was sent to reconnoitre Santona, Guiteria, and Fontarabia; the fortifications of which were most accurately and fully described in her commander’s reports to Sir Home Popham. While surveying the former place she had one man severely wounded by a musket-ball from the shore: the examination of Guiteria also took place so close to the rock that the enemy’s shells flew over her. Together with his remarks on Fontarabia, Captain Tayler transmitted a plan for surprising the batteries along the Bidassoa, and destroying the bridge of Irun. His suggestions were highly approved by Sir Home Popham, but there is reason to believe that the scheme was never transmitted to the proper quarter.
Winter was now approaching, and the squadron received orders not to venture to the eastward of Cape Machicao, for fear of being embayed. The Sparrow, however, kept up a communication with that part of the coast, during the whole season; in the course of which she captured a French letter of marque and a brig; the latter laden with cotton and rice. Her log will prove how little she was in port; but that part of her history must be adverted to hereafter.
The gallant defence of Castro, in 1813, “reflects great honor on all concerned;” and as Captain Tayler’s exertions on that occasion were particularly meritorious, we shall here give the official account of the manner in which it again fell into the enemy’s possession.
“H.M. sloop Lyra, off Bermeo, May 13.
“Sir,– In my letter of the 4th instant, I informed you of my arrival off Castro, in company with H.M. sloops Royalist and Sparrow, and that the enemy, having been twice repulsed from before the walls of Castro, had again invested it since the 25th April, with increased forces, and of the measures taken by the squadron to assist in its defence; I have now the honor to communicate to you our subsequent operations.
“On the 5th and 6th, no material movement took place. The enemy were in such numbers in the surrounding villages, that the garrison did not make another sortie after the 4th. We perceived them making fascines in the woods.
“On the 7th, we discovered that they were throwing up a battery to the westward of the town. A 24-pounder was landed with great difficulty, from the Sparrow, on a small island within point-blank shot of it, and a battery erected, which by great exertion was nearly ready for its reception on the following morning, at which time the enemy commenced their fire from two 12-pounders against it, which was briskly returned by the castle, and about 3 P.M. by our 24-pounder, with such effect, that one of their embrasures was rendered perfectly untenable before night. The enemy were discovered also constructing a large battery to the S.W. of the town, within 100 yards of the wall, under cover of a large house, against which the guns of the castle could not be brought to bear. A long brass 12-pounder was mounted on the castle, by the assistance of our people, but it unfortunately burst, after having been fired a few times. The whole of the 9th a heavy fire was kept up on both sides, and every exertion made to strengthen the defences. The most determined spirit of resistance animated the governor, Don. P. P. Alvarez, and every officer and soldier under his command: the enemy had received signal proofs of their perseverance and courage in the two preceding attacks. We could see troops approaching in every direction, and we received intelligence, that besides the artillery they had received, from Santona, before our arrival, they had also several guns embarked at Portugalette. I therefore took every precaution to prevent their conveyance by sea; sending at one time the Sparrow off that port, and at another the Royalist; and keeping a strict guard of boats by night.
“On the 10th, the enemy commenced throwing shells, with great effect, from a battery they had constructed to the S.E. of the town: they were likewise busily employed in erecting two other batteries, one to the southward of the town, and the other to flank our works on the island. They also sent a strong body of men behind the rocks to annoy our people with musketry, but they were soon dislodged by the fire of a 4-pounder on the island, and two companies of Spanish troops. A battery for another 24-pounder was begun by Captain Tayler, on the island, flanking the enemy’s principal work, and the gun mounted and ready for firing at day-light on the 11th. The enemy, at the same moment, opened a very heavy fire from their S.W. battery, with such effect, that, notwithstanding the brisk manner in which it was returned from our 18-pounder carronade mounted on the castle, the troops on the walls, and our battery on the island, they had made a breach large enough to admit 20 men abreast before noon. The enemy were now advancing towards the town in immense numbers; and as our position on the island was not tenable in the event of their storming, I directed Captain Tayler, who had undertaken the management of it, to re-embark the guns and men, and made the necessary arrangements with the governor to embark the garrison, after having destroyed the ordnance and blown up the castle.
“The enemy having destroyed the walls, turned their guns on the town and castle, throwing shells incessantly at the bridge connecting the castle with the landing place, thereby endevouring to cut off the retreat of the garrison. About 9 P.M., at least 3000 men rushed at once into the town, from every quarter, not only by the breaches, but also by scaling. They were most gallantly resisted by the garrison, who disputed the town, house by house, until they were overwhelmed by numbers, and obliged to retreat to the castle. The boats were in readiness to receive them, and they were embarked by companies, under a tremendous fire of nmsketry, and distributed to the three brigs and Alphea schooner, except two companies, left to defend the castle until the guns, &c. were destroyed. The enemy advanced to the castle, but were successfully resisted until every gun was thrown into the sea; but they unfortunately gained the inner wall before the train for blowing up the castle was set on fire, inconsequence of which, that part of my wishes was frustrated; I have, however, the pleasure to say, that every soldier was brought off, and many of the inhabitants. The town was set on fire in many places, and must, I think, have been entirely destroyed. As soon as every thing was embarked, the squadron weighed and proceeded to Bermeo, where the troops were landed yesterday morning.
“I have the highest gratification in mentioning the cheerful, yet fatiguing exertions of every officer and man employed. Captains Bremer and Tayler contributed, by their advice and assistance, every thing possible for the defence of the place, and the safety of the garrison; indeed one universal feeling of the warmest admiration seemed to animate every one in saving so many brave men’s lives. The garrison consisted originally of 1200 men; and, I am happy to say, their loss has been much less than I expected, consisting of about 50 killed, and as many wounded.
“I have great pleasure in informing you, our loss has been trifling to what might have been expected; it consists of 10 wounded, 4 in the Royalist, and 6 in the Sparrow. Lieutenant Samuel Kentish, of the Royalist, was slightly wounded; and Mr. Charles Thomas Sutton, midshipman, received a ball in the leg, while embarking the garrison, which rendered amputation necessary; Captain Bremer speaks of his general conduct in the highest terms, and I was an eye-witness of his intrepidity in saving the garrison, amidst a shower of musket-balls.
“From the intelligence received, I have every reason to believe there were not less than 13,000 men before Castro: the enemy collected his troops from every post in the province, and seemed determined to take it, let it cost what it would. No terms were ever offered; but as soon as the breach was sufficiently large, they marched to the assault, putting every one to the bayonet, without distinction; I cannot, of course, form any estimate of their loss; but from the fire kept up by the batteries, and by the troops before they retreated, I am persuaded it must have been very great: 140 French prisoners have just arrived at Bermeo, taken by Don Caspar; I have directed the Royalist and Sparrow to convey them to Corunna, with a company of artillery, part of the late garrison of Castro; and I shall remain with H.M. sloop under my command, to impede the enemy’s communication by sea, and prevent any merchant vessels from falling into their Lands. I have the honor to be, &c.
“To Captain Sir George R. Collier, H.M.S. Surveillante.”
In a letter to Lord Keith, dated May 15, Captain Bloye says:–
“From various reports I have since received, I am informed that the loss of the enemy was so great, that the conquest of Castro, instead of being celebrated as a victory, as was usual on other occasions of any advantage, created a universal gloom amongst them.”
Lieutenant M‘Donald, the commander of the Alphea schooner, subsequently acquainted his lordship, “that he communicated with the coast, after leaving Bermeo, and was informed, that the besiegers of Castro had lost, in the different attacks, at least 2500 men.”
The 24-pounders mentioned by Captain Bloye, as landed from the Sparrow, were parbuckled up an almost inaccessible rock, nearly 200 yards high; and had attached to them improved sights, recently invented by her zealous commander, combining the elevation and line of sight in one focus, and enabling him to throw shells with such precision, that two out of every three burst in the French batteries. By means of these new sights, the Sparrow also threw many shells with astonishing effect, while covering the embarkation of the Spanish garrison. The following is given as a proof of the strength of Captain Tayler’s nerves.
A considerable number of the enemy being one day seen in column, he had turned his fire upon them, and was in the act of pointing a carronade, trained with its side fronting the nearest French battery, when a 12-pound shot struck it, and made a considerable dent in the upper part of the breech: his men exclaimed “the gun will burst;” but finding that the rammer would go down its whole length, and careless of all danger, he instantly reloaded and discharged it. This gun, the carriage being split, was then lashed to a piece of rock, and constantly fired by Captain Tayler till the evacuation of the island. When subsequently landed at Plymouth, every person in the arsenal expressed the greatest surprise that it had not burst, the indentation being equal to half the diameter of the enemy’s shot.
On the 10th June, 1813, being then off Guiteria, with the Constant gun-brig, Lieutenant John Stokes, under his orders, Captain Tayler received a letter from Don Miguel Artola, commandant of a Spanish battalion, stating that he was closely pursued by a very superior force, and in want of British assistance. Prompt measures were immediately adopted for his succour; Lequitio was fixed upon as the price of embarkation; and, in the night, both brigs being pushed close in shore. Captain Tayler had the satisfaction of rescuing 1270 officers and men, the elite of the Biscayan army.
After landing Colonel Artola and his corps at St. Andero, Captain Tayler again made his appearance off Castro, where he arrived just as the enemy were preparing to decamp. Observing an unusual number of men drawn up before the castle, and knowing that he had prevented several cargoes of provisions from reaching them, he suspected they were about to retire, and stood in to enfilade them in their retreat. This obliged the French governor to depart so precipitately, as to prevent him destroying his artillery, &c. or doing any mischief to the works, although a train was already laid to the magazine, and a lighted match left near it. Captain Tayler immediately took possession of the castle, which he found to contain 7 long guns (24 and 12-pounders), 2 carronades, 2 brass howitzers, and a large proportion of powder, shot, shells, and ordnance stores; but no provisions, except a quantity of bread scarcely fit to eat. In a letter to the governor of Bilboa, dated June 23, he says:–
“I have hoisted the Spanish standard, and shall defend it against any predatory attack the enemy may attempt by sea, until a force is sent for its protection. The enormities committed by them at Castro are such as almost to exceed belief. Upwards of 3000 persons were murdered in cold blood; infants at the breast were not spared; women, and even children only 11 years of age, were violated; nearly the whole of the town burnt to ashes, and the misery of the few surviving inhabitants beggars all description.”
It is scarcely necessary to add, that Captain Tayler’s “promptitude and zeal,” were highly commended by Lord Keith and Sir George R. Collier, the latter of whom reported that “14 of the savage authors of these excesses were taken at Bilboa, after the evacuation of Castro, and deservedly put to death.”
The Sparrow was next employed in conveying Captain Freemantle, one of Lord Wellington’s aides-de-camp, from Bilboa to Plymouth, with despatches announcing the defeat of Joseph Buonaparte at Vittoria. Had Captain Tayler’s plan for cutting off the communication between France and that part of Spain been acted upon, and a seasonable period chosen, the upstart king, and all his army, must have been taken prisoners.
The battle of Vittoria took place the day previous to the recapture of Castro, and led to the siege of St. Sebastian, a fortress of essential importance to the farther operations of the campaign. Anxious to assist at its reduction, Captain Taylor lost no time in rejoining the squadron under Sir George R. Collier, who immediately assigned him an employment requiring no little perseverance and skill.
This was to prepare a battery, and mount one of the Sparrow’s carronades, on the light-house side; in accomplishing which, he sometimes found it necessary to suspend the gun over deep chasms in the mountain; and then, by means of a cable, made fast to the tops of rugged rocks, and well secured below, to hoist it from one projection to another. So great were the difficulties he had to encounter, and so unfavorable was the state of the weather, that two days elapsed before he could open his fire.
On the 24th July, two practicable breaches having been effected in the walls of the town, orders were given that they should be stormed, and Captain Tayler was directed, in concert with the small vessels of the squadron, to make a fabo attack on the north side of Mount Orgullo, commonly called the hill of St. Sebastian. A few soldiers penetrated into the town; but the defences raised by the French being both numerous and strong, and their fire of grape and musketry very destructive, it became necessary to abandon the enterprise, with the loss of nearly 900 men killed, wounded, and missing.
The enemy now increased their fire upon the sailors’ breaching battery, and Captain Tayler soon repaired thither, in company with Sir George R. Collier. Shortly afterwards, while levelling one of the guns, he observed the men around him throw themselves to the ground, and looking up, to ascertain the cause, discovered a falling shell immediately above him. The fuse cut his hat, and gave him a severe contusion in the forehead, which was likewise much lacerated; both bones of his left leg were fractured in two places; he received a dangerous wound in the groin; and was otherwise most dreadfully injured.
A letter, of which the following is an extract, was subsequently addressed to Captain Tayler, by his commander-in-Chief:
“Queen Charlotte, Aug. 5, 1813.
“Sir,– I have heard with great regret, that you have been so severely wounded in the breaching battery before St. Sebastian, and that you are not likely, for some time, to be able to attend to your duty.
“Having frequently had occasion to commend your zeal and activity, which you have manifested in the different services upon which you have been employed on the north coast of Spain, I have not failed, in this instance, to represent to the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, the additional claim which your present severe wounds give you to their lordships’ consideration, and to express a hope that they will be pleased to indulge you with an acting commander until you are again able to resume your duty. With this view, I have appointed Lieutenant John Campbell to take charge of the Sparrow, and convey you to Plymouth, with the least possible delay, in order that you may receive the best surgical assistance * *.
We have now to remark, that the Sparrow was more at sea in 1812 and 1813, than any sloop belonging to the Plymouth station, on which there then were fourteen others, all commanded by officers senior in rank to Captain Tayler, whose wonderful activity caused the port-admiral. Sir Robert Calder, truly to predict that he would be the first promoted. When obliged to come into harbour for provisions, &c. she seldom remained at anchor upwards of 30 hours; her crew, on those occasions, were always granted permission to go ashore, one watch at a time; and, although limited to 6 hours’ leave, they never broke it: the discipline on board the brig was so well-established, that only 5 men were punished at the gangway in a whole year; and not a man was ever allowed to be “started.” The following is a verbatim copy of an epistle written to Captain Tayler the day before he left her:–
“Honord Sir,– By the request of the Ship’s Company we have now made bold to trouble you with a letter, to inform you of the treatment we have met with since it has been your misfortune to receive the wounds, and before unknown to you. Our usage from the first Lieut. has been so very indifferent, that some of us have nearly been in the act of putting an end to our lives. As it is our misfortune to loose yon, we request to be drafted or a change of Lieut. We also request that your honor will be pleased to give us a Character to the Captain who we understand is appointed to command his Majesty’s sloop Sparrow. He shall, as long as we are in the ship, find us diligent and obedient, and always ready to obey commands. We all pray, sincerely pray, for your recovery – may the Lord be pleased for to heal your Wounds quickly, that you may be able to obtain all that so good and so brave a Commander as you are is worthy of – believe us, my good Sir, that there is not a man in the Ship’s Crew that would not risk his life in your defence. We humbly request your honor will excuse our troubling you in your present situation. We remain your ever obedient and humble Servants,
(Signed)“Petty Officers and Seamen
of his Majesty’s Sloop Sparrow.”
This letter requires no comment; but we cannot refrain from adding, that when Captain Tayler was hoisted over the side, to go to sick-quarters, every sailor and marine in the brig shed tears. The first lieutenant, of whose treatment they complained, is now no more.
Captain Tayler was landed at Plymouth, Aug. 9, 1813, at which time his shattered bones were protruding about four inches through the integuments of the leg, accompanied with a laceration and destruction of the surrounding fleshy parts, more extensive than any injury of the kind (where the limb was saved) that had ever come under the observation of Dr. Andrew Baird, then an Inspector of Naval Hospitals, who says, “I can never forget the tranquillity of mind he evinced, and the patient resignation with which he bore his long confinement and severe sufferings, to which may be ascribed his recovery.”
It is also certified by Stephen Love Hammick, Esq. the late surgeon of Plymouth hospital, through whose great practical skill, and constant kind attention, Captain Tayler was at length enabled to go about upon crutches, “that he was confined to his bed for twenty-eight weeks, without having it once made up;” nor was he sufficiently recovered to leave that institution till May 20, 1814: “the present appearance of the leg will prove the extent of his sufferings and danger; it has become considerably shortened, and is greatly exposed to inflammation, so as to render his situation much less fortunate than if it had been altogether removed.”
Captain Tayler was advanced to post rank Aug. 6, 1813; granted a pension of 200l., since increased to 250l. per annum, Nov. 12, 1814; and nominated a C.B. in Oct. 1815. On the latter occasion, he received a letter from his early patron and steadfast friend, of which the following is a copy:–
“Dear Sir,– I need not assure you of the infinite satisfaction afforded me by the information which I received some days ago from Lord Melville, of the intention of H.R.H. the Prince Regent to confer upon you a mark of distinction, in consideration of your zealous and meritorious services. I am, dear Sir, Your sincere friend,
In addition to the above honorable rewards, the Patriotic Society voted Captain Tayler 100l. for the purchase of a sword or vase; and the Corporation of Devizes presented him with the freedom of that borough, in a manner highly gratifying to his feelings.
Captain Tayler has always been considered the first broad-swordsman in the naval service; and the very same exercise which he introduced in the Leopard, Maida, Spencer, Heroine, Goldfinch, and Sparrow, has since been adopted at the Horse Guards; but even there some superior cuts are not known, that he is able to shew. During his voyage from the West Indies to England, in 1811, he framed a code of signals, to be made by means of telegraphic shades instead of flags; and invented a transporting carriage for ships’ guns, when landed for field service, the want of which was much felt by the naval brigade at Copenhagen: his improved sights for sea-ordnance we have already noticed. Since the peace, he has submitted different plans to the Admiralty, with many practical observations on naval gunnery; the following is an extract of his correspondence:–
“Feb. 19, 1822.
“My Lords, – Having lately read a publication by Sir Howard Douglas and Colonel Congreve on naval gunnery, exhibiting a new invention of sights for ships’ guns, I beg to call your lordships’ attention to a similar plan I had the honor of transmitting to the Board of Admiralty in the year 1815. Presuming, from the silence observed, that their lordships did not deem it prudent to bring into general practice any important improvements made. during peace, I refrained from troubling them with other plans connected therewith; but as Sir H. Douglas’s publication is now sanctioned by your lordships, I beg leave to know if it is correct that a committee of naval officers are employed arranging a new system of naval gunnery; and if so, whether any practical experiments made during the war will be deemed useful for their information * * * * *. I gave the sights I invented on board the Sparrow to Captain John Parish, in the year 1812, and he states that after witnessing the surprising precision with which the captains of the guns fired, he called a boy, and directed him to fire when the sights were in one with the object – the boy levelled the gun and shot away the flag-staff, notwithstanding the vessel had considerable motion. When practising on board the Sparrow, three successive shot passed through the aperture made by the first shot in the centre of a target. In stating these facts to your lordships, I merely wish to attach this invention to the naval service.
(Signed)“J. N. Tayler.”
This officer’s eldest brother, Lieutenant Samuel Tayler, of the 13th light dragoons, was killed in Portugal; another, Major Thomas Tayler, of the Bengal 9th native infantry, died in the East Indies. His sister is the widow of the Rev. Bowen Thickens, of Broughton Hall, near Lechdale, Gloucestershire.
Agents.– Messrs. Maude and Co.
JOSEPH NEEDHAM TAYLER, Esq. C.B.
(Suppl. Part III. p. 137.)
We have already stated that this officer, when lieutenant of the Maida 74, commanded a party of seamen landed from that ship, to co-operate with the army under Lord Cathcart, at the siege of Copenhagen, in 1807. Whilst landing long 24-pounders, to form a breaching battery, the triangles supplied by the army to get the guns on shore were destroyed. Perceiving this, and that the boats were likely to be kept waiting until others were sent from the fleet, he solicited, and with much difficulty obtained permission to land a gun from the Maida’s launch, by the following method, which the captain of the beach considered impracticable.
The grapling was thrown over in deep water, with a spring to keep the broadside of the launch on with the beach. The tompion and vent being well secured, a hawser was made fast to the breeching ring of the gun, from the shore. The gun was lying fore-and-aft on the thwarts, a-midships. Two bars were placed projecting over the gunwale of the boat and under the side of the gun, resting on two of the thwarts. Two ropes were brought under the gun, with both ends on shore as a parbuckle. All being ready, and the oars, masts, and sails secured in the boat, the crew were directed to sit firm a-midships, inclining their bodies to the motion of the boat. The order to “pull away” was then given; the gun rolled over the gunwale, bringing it under water, and was quickly dragged on shore. When freed from this heavy weight, the launch righted with a tremendous weather roll, threw up the spray, and all was well again. In this manner every boat landed her gun.
Another difficulty now presented itself. Only one transporting gun-carriage could be obtained, and the seamen employed in dragging the guns were, on rounding the main road, exposed to the enemy’s fire. On this occasion. Lieutenant Tayler’s fertile genius produced a substitute, “by the adoption of which,” said the late Vice-Admiral Billy Douglas, “many brave fellows would have been saved at the Cape of Good Hope.” Sir Charles Hamilton and the late Sir Joseph Yorke likewise, when Lieutenant Tayler submitted his plan to the Admiralty, strongly recommended it, but to no purpose – “it was not the establishment!”
In 1808, when serving on board the Spencer 74, this officer invented a transparent compass, to avoid shewing the light on deck, with a pendulum, hung horizontally, and floated in water to lessen oscillation occasioned by the concussion of the guns or other causes.
In 1812, while commanding the Sparrow sloop, on the north coast of Spain, Captain Tayler rendered himself eminently useful in surveying different harbours, particularly Socoa and St. Jean de Luz; and in ascertaining the strength of the different French garrisons along the shore of Biscay, in drawing plans of their works, and in obtaining correct information respecting their forces in the interior of that province.
These services were very highly appreciated by Sir Home Popham, the senior officer on that station, who promised to apply for him as his captain, should he be ordered to hoist a broad pendant. At this period, Captain Tayler was the junior commander under Sir Home’s orders.
When so dreadfully wounded by a shell, in the breaching battery before St. Sebastian, July 24th, 1813, Captain Tayler was holding a telescope belonging to Sir George Collier, which that officer had just before lent him to use as a baton in cheering up his men. We mention this circumstance in consequence of its having been insinuated that Captain Tayler was not on duty in the battery, and neglected to use due precaution. We happen to know that Sir George Collier called alongside the Sparrow for Captain Tayler, having previously sent on board an intimation that he was to accompany him to the battery. At the time he received his wounds. Captain Tayler was in the act of levelling a gun, and consequently not aware of the approach of the shell. The services of the Sparrow during the winter of 1812, when frigates were not allowed to be to leeward of Cape Machicao, as officially noticed by Lord Keith, together with the wounds he received in the breaching battery at St. Sebastian, induced Lord Melville to send for Captain Tayler, and, unsolicited, to offer him the command of a post ship; but finding him still upon crutches, he regretted his unfortunate situation, and assured him his conduct and sufferings had been noticed, and that he should be employed whenever an opportunity offered. When the attack of Algiers was projected, he requested an appointment, but without effect, as it was not necessary to commission any additional ships for that expedition. On the appearance of a Spanish army on the frontiers of Portugal, he again offered his services, hoping that a local knowledge of the coast would be deemed an additional recommendation. In April 1828, he applied to the Lord High Admiral, stating that he was in the prime of life, quite recovered from his wounds, and ready for any service or climate. About the same time he submitted to H.R.Highness “A Plan of Internal Defence.” In Nov. 1829, he laid before the Board of Admiralty some remarks on the best mode of checking pestilential fevers, and offered his personal services to carry them into effect at Gibraltar. In Aug. 1831, he requested an appointment from Sir James Graham, observing that “if the crew of a frigate was required, he could obtain volunteers to man one with dispatch.” The First Lord replied, that he had “made a memorandum of his application for active service, which he should be happy to take into consideration, together with those of other officers, as opportunities offered.” On the 16th of the same month, having received intimation that one of the principal naval commands had been offered to Sir Philip C. H. Durham, he tendered his services as flag-captain to that officer, and received the following answer:–
“My dear Tayler,– I can assure you I have the highest esteem for you. Of all the midshipmen that ever served with me, I thought you were the most promising; and your gallant conduct on all occasions has proved I had judged right. Since I was obliged to give up the command at Sheerness, I have not been offered any other; not but I may be in course of time. Should I serve, my captain, ____ ____, is in the ____ by my nomination, waiting me; and I have two or three old officers on my list. You, my old shipmate, may not be aware that you are not old enough to be captain of a first rate: you must be twenty years a captain. The Admiralty would not appoint Captain ____, to the ____, as flag-captain to Sir ____ ____, and he was a captain of eighteen years. I feel much obliged by the offer of such an officer to serve under the flag of his old friend. I am, my dear Tayler, very truly yours,
(Signed)“P. C. H. Durham.”
“Parliament Square, Feb. 11th, 1815.
“My Lord,– I beg leave to offer for your inspection an improvement on sights for ships’ guns and carronades, considering the elevation and line of sight in one focus, by two sights, one at the muzzle astragel, and the other at the second reinforce ring; giving, with the object fired at, three marks in one, founded on practical experiments, proved on board H.M. sloop Sparrow, under my command, on the north coast of Spain, and more particularly at the defence of Castro, during which shells were thrown from the Sparrow’s carronades with great precision, and the practical effect of the firing from the breaching battery at St. Sebastian’s, over the heads of the storming party, by the seamen from the squadron, prove the utility of this invention. My wounds, received at the above siege, prevented an earlier introduction, as I considered it necessary that the experiments should take place in my presence, former plans having been submitted to the opinion and trial of persons who were not interested in he introduction thereof, and certainly not so capable of giving the necessary explanations.
“I have been urged by several scientific officers, who have witnessed the precision with which the Sparrow’s crew fired by these sights, to bring this invention forward, convinced of its great importance to naval gunnery, if adopted in the service.
“During many experiments on board the Sparrow and other ships, I have observed expert gunners in the old system unable to strike a boat’s sail, when the ship was under weigh, notwithstanding they rigidly adhered to the principles now adopted in the service; whereas, by the plan of three objects in one, as produced by my sights, four shots passed through an aperture made by the first shot, in the centre of a boat’s sail, without enlarging the hole more than the diameter of a 24-pound shot: these shots were driven home in canvas, to reduce the windage. In firing from carronades, quoins were used: indeed carronades should invariably be fired with quoins, screwing the gun tight down on the quoin, to prevent the piece from rising when fired.
“With the present elevating sights, it is morally impossible to elevate and point a gun when under weigh, from not having the line of sight and elevation in one focus. At point-blank, with my sights, not one shot will be fired in vain, as the rolling or veering of a vessel will not affect the aim, when the objects are in one with the sights. The sights have degrees of elevation fixed to them, and by having the elevation of the first shot which takes place made known to the captains of the guns, all the battery would he immediately brought to the same degree of elevation, the quoins being dissected to correspond with the elevation as to distance. This is supposing the vessel to be beyond point-blank; otherwise it merely requires the first degree of elevation, and every shot would take effect. This method of obtaining the range is the most simple and expeditious, as four guns laid at different degrees of elevation, agreeably to the tangent sight, would immediately give the required distance and elevation. Ships engaging at anchor, at point-blank, every shot would take effect; whilst by the method now in use four shot out of five would pass above the mark fired at – even the firing would cause the ship to roll and alter the elevation, from the sights not being combined with the elevation in one focus. * * * * I am, my Lord, &c.
(Signed)“J. N. Tayler.”
“To the Right Hon. Lord Viscount Melville, Admiralty.”
In reply to this letter, Captain Tayler was merely informed, that his “plans had been laid before the Board.”
“Devizes, Feb. 13th, 1822.
“My Lords, – Having lately read a publication by Sir Howard Douglas, on naval gunnery, containing a new invention of sights for ships’ guns, bearing date 1817, I beg to call your Lordships’ attention to a similar invention forwarded by me to the Board in the beginning of 1816.
“Presuming from the silence observed that it was not deemed prudent to bring into general practice any important improvements made during peace, I refrained from troubling your Lordships with other plans connected therewith; but as Sir Howard Douglas’s publication is under the sanction of the First Lord of the Admiralty, and an order given for its general adoption, I beg to attach this invention to the naval service, having transmitted it to the Admiralty two years previous to Sir Howard Douglas having even thought of it, as he distinctly states, in order to account for its not being laid before the Board till 1822.
“If it is correct that a committee of naval officers are to be appointed to arrange a new system of naval gunnery, I wish to know if any practical observations, made during the war, will be deemed useful for their information; as no doubt, if numerous plans were sent in by officers who have made it their study, a most useful and improved work on naval gunnery might be compiled.
“The sights I had the honor of transmitting, I gave to Captain Parish in the year 1812, and he states that, after witnessing the surprising precision with which the captains of his guns fired at a cask, he called a boy who had just Joined, and directed him to point a gun and fire when the sights were in one focus with the object to be fired at. The boy levelled the gun, and shot away the flag-staff fixed on the cask, although the ship had considerable motion. * * * * * * Indeed I would not hesitate in firing with a rifleman, if the ship was in smooth water. The advantage of combining the elevation and line of sight needs no further elucidation. I am, my Lords, &c.
(Signed)“J. N. Tayler.”
“To the Right Hon. the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty.”
In reply, the Secretary to the Admiralty informed Captain Tayler that the publication he alluded to “was not under the sanction of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty.”
“Devizes, 8th Jan. 1824.
“My Lord, – Having before transmitted some practical experiments respecting naval gunnery, and which have been subsequently brought into action, I have ventured to lay before your Lordship the model of an improved gun-carriage, with some other nautical remarks; but as I have not the means of reducing it to practice, I hope your Lordship’s candour will pardon any errors it may contain, and favor me with an opportunity of explaining the advantages of this model over the gun at present in use. I am, &c.
(Signed)“J. N. Tayler.”
“To the Right Hon. Lord Viscount Melville."
The above letter was accompanied with a plan for concentrating the whole broadside to one angular focus; and another^ of a platform for elevating guns on the booms.
“Devizes, 2d January, 1828.
“My Lords,– As bomb-vessels on their present construction are soon rendered incapable of sustaining heavy firing from sea mortars, and are totally unfit for sea service after maintaining a long bombardment, I have ventured to submit to your Lordship’s consideration a method of rendering bomb vessels as effective as any class of H.M. ships, after a rapidity of firing, and to enable them to carry three mortars on board each vessel, viz. – Two strong main beams under the deck, resting upon either gunwale, with a strong sleeper bolted to the cross beams. On the latter (or on either gunwale) an iron socket is fixed to receive a counterpoise beam connected with the centre mortar box, which traverse on a circular platform to fire over either side, supported on sleepers independent of the counterpoise , a spindle, fixed to the mortar box, passes down the hatchway and is fixed to an air vessel floating in a box ten feet square, which will support a ton weight (although the pressure would be optional from one cwt. to a ton). By this plan the mortar would be much higher, allowing a free expansion of the powder, whilst on the present method the shock is much increased by the mortar being so low between decks, acting like a mine when fired.
“To prepare for action, the mortar being fixed in the box, unscrew the pressure bolt and adjust the re-action bolt. the upper part of the mortar port should be made to sway up, and the lower part to fall outward on hinges. Then, suppose a mortar weighs four tons, and that the recoil force pressing downwards was equal to one ton. To the counterpoise beam fix the weight equal to five tons, the spindle pressure would raise the mortar box to the height of the pressure bolt; it is then ready for action, and would continue so during any length of firing upon unerring principles. The counterpoise lever projecting over either gunwale, with a concave weight lowered by a chain under water, would regulate the concussion; and the pressure on the air-vessel would negative the shock on board. The strain on the pivot bridge, which may be altered at pleasure, according to the charge of powder, from the pivot socket on the cross beam to the pivot socket upon either gunwale, would be equal and regular, consequently no concussion more than a common discharge from the broadside of lower-deck guns would be felt.
“It is presumed by this plan shells may be thrown with more precision, and the powder reduced according to its resistance, shewn by the counterpoise beam on firing the mortar. If a pound of powder will at an angle of 45° throw a shell a given distance, it will raise the lever bar (say) one inch, and every range in like manner will be shewn by an index wire fixed to the beam, and a useful correction obtained. Should the powder on board be damp, or of less strength than range powder, the distance cannot be accurately obtained, as now practised, consequently this advantage would be highly important in night bombardment. The quantity of powder for each range will not be correct if damp or deficient in strength; but the recoil force is shown at every discharge, and the range by the index always visible to the eye. I have tried this plan, and found it to answer upon a small scale, and hope the utility of the invention will attract the attention of your Lordships to so important an object. I have the honor to be, &c.
(Signed)“J. N. Tayler.”
“To the Right Hon. Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty.”
“Devizes, 24th Sept. 1829.
“My Lords,– Having observed in the public papers that some improvements are about to take place at Portsmouth, in reference to the naval ordnance, I beg to call your Lordships’ attention to the inventions I have at various periods brought forward for the benefit of H.M. service; and although I have not been so fortunate as to see the whole of them adopted, yet I flatter myself, in respect to my improvement in ship guns, the following observations will be found deserving of your Lord, ships’ attention.
“It is stated, that a method has been discovered by which guns in ships or batteries may be pointed in any direction, with much greater ease and quickness than at present. This invention is similar, though very inferior, to a plan I invented several years since, and which met with the approbation of several men of science in the navy and artillery. In addition to the improvement suggested at Brighton, of non-recoil trucks, my plan contained an elevating screw, of momentary action, which not only raised the gun, but gave the degree of elevation corresponding to any range, the scale of which was painted on the carriage, whilst the traversing circle gave the line of the object fired at; consequently a ship steered to one point, or moored with springs, might fire with the greatest rapidity, as the gun would run in and out in the same line of fire. The crow-bar and handspikes (so very inconvenient) were thus rendered unnecessary, two men being enabled to train the gun, whilst half the usual number could run it out, by the purchase being applied to the fore trucks, the breeching was brought through a hole in the carriage (to prevent the gun from jumping during a heavy fire), and passing under the gun, was brought out through the breast-piece and secured to the opposite port rings. By this means the gun would run in square, in the line fired, whilst the .sides would be perfectly clear for loading, and only a single rope used for side tackle from the fore truck. In the carriage at present used in the naval service, the breeching, when not rendering through the rings, causes the gun, on being fired, to run in a diagonal direction across the deck. The tedious operation of housing lower-deck guns was also dispensed with (the gun being always horizontally laid ready for battle), thereby obtaining room for another tier of hammocks fore and aft. All ships previous to leaving harbour, in still water, should take the extreme angular bearing of their guns. All the guns (by the plan I proposed to your Lordships some years since) should be concentrated to one angular point, and the points of bearing painted on the binnacle head; by which means a ship in chase would not be kept too much away to bring the bow guns to bear. The whole broadside, when concentrated and discharged by unerring principles, the elevation and line of sight in one focus, under the guidance of the captain by word of command, requires no comment. One broadside effectually discharged into a ship would destroy her. The sides of the gun carriage being perfectly clear, the grape and canister cases were slung in a neat manner, ready at a moment. There was also a case of tin cylinders for loading, containing 24 rounds. These are most important for expedition and economy. The difficulty of getting out a shot with a ladle, and afterwards the wet powder, when the water has got into the gun, or loading in rough weather, is thus completely obviated. Ships going into battle woTild frequently reload if practicable. A cylinder of tin, equal to the diameter of the shot, contains the cartridge, with round, or grape, or loose musket-balls, similar to a canister-shot case cut horizontally through to the wood at the top. A laniard passing through the wad enables the gun to be at all times unloaded with facility; and if the cylinder were used for loading, the rapidity of firing would be increased, as it would require only once ramming home with a short rammer; indeed carronades might be loaded without the use of a rammer by this invention; and all accidents by fire being left in after spunging, be entirely prevented. The cylinder may be used for shells and hot shot. The saving of cordage and powder by the use of the cylinder would be very considerable. Should your Lordships consider these suggestions deserving of trial, and would recommend Lord Melville to remove me from an irksome life, which I have endured since my being wounded in 1813, by honoring me with an appointment, I should be proud to carry them into execution at my own expence. I have the honor to be, &c.
(Signed)“J. N. Tayler.”
“To the Right Hon. the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty.”
“Devizes, 27th Dec. 1830.
“Sir,– I have received Mr. Barrow’s letter of the 7th instant, acknowledging the receipt of my letter, requesting to be acknowledged as the author of the new system of directing a broadside of a man-of-war to one focus; and I have again to beg you will move the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to cause my claim as the original inventor of this improved mode of firing to be examined into, and to award me that credit for the invention to which I feel I am so justly entitled. I am, &c.
(Signed)“J. N. Tayler.”
“To the Hon. George Elliot, Admiralty.”
“Admiralty Office, 4th Jan. 1831.
“Sir,– With reference to your letter of the 27th ultimo, renewing your claim to an invention for concentrating the fire of a ship’s broadside, I am commanded by my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to acquaint you, that although their Lordships have ordered Mr. Kennish to be paid a sum of money, it was not awarded to him on account of any new system of directing a broadside of a ship of war to a given focus, but for the invention and purchase of an instrument made at his expence, as well as to cover his personal expenses while attending the experiments on board the Excellent, by an order from their Lordships. I am, &c.
“Devizes, 14th Jan. 1831.
“Sir,– I have received your letter of the 4th instant, in reply to my letter of the 27th ultimo, requesting their Lordships to refer to the plans I had the honor to transmit them for concentrating a ship’s broadside, long before Mr. Kennish or any other person made any proposal on this subject; and to beg their Lordships to admit that I was the original inventor of this “new mode of concentrating the fire of a broadside.”
My object, I beg you to assure their Lordships, is not to get an award of money. I am fully repaid in the gratification I experience whenever any of my plans are found beneficial to that service whose well-being I have so much at heart, the navy; but I do earnestly request, as I feel myself the first inventor of this improved mode of firing a broadside, that their Lordships will do me the justice to simply admit me to be the inventor, and the first person who transmitted them the plan for concentrating the fire of a broadside of a man-of-war. I feel confident their Lordships will pardon my feelings when they know that I have been subjected to the mortification of my plans being transferred to others on a similar occasion. On the 11th Feb. 1815, I transmitted the method of combining the elevation and line of sight for ships’ guns, as now in use, and which was brought forward by Sir Howard Douglas as a military invention, under the sanction of the Admiralty, several years after the date of my letter. I am. Sir, &c.
(Signed)“J. N. Tayler.”
“To the Hon. George Elliot, &c.”
“Devizes, 4th Nov. 1831.
“Sir,– I have lately observed with some surprise and great regret, that Captain Smith, of the royal artillery, has obtained the credit of being the projector of the plan of concentrating the broadside of a man-of-war to one angular focus; which method was communicated by me to the Board of Admiralty, in a book of observations on the best method of raking an enemy and discharging broadsides.
“I therefore, being anxious to claim this as a naval invention, refer their Lordships to my book, which accompanied the gun-carriage I had the honor to transmit to them; and I beg you. Sir, to move the Board of Admiralty to do me the justice of awarding me as a naval officer the credit which is justly due to me, of being the inventor of this improved and effectual mode of firing. I am, &c.
(Signed)“J. N. Tayler.”
“To the Hon. George Elliot, &c.”
“Devizes, 5th Feb. 1832.
“My Lords,– Having submitted several inventions to the late Board of Admiralty, amongst others a traversing carriage, in 1824, I may venture to state that the improvement I have now added to the old carriage, so admirably adapted to co-operate with the army, simple and efficient, whilst its celerity of motion, by a train wheel, elevating screw, improved truck, &c. enables half the number of men to work the gun. The marksman has complete controul over the elevating and pointing of the gun, and can guide it to the object during the operation of running out, a most important acquisition to the science of gunnery; whilst the side is perfectly clear for loading; the awkward handspike, long side tackles, and crow bar, being entirely done away with.
“I have also completed a percussion lock for great guns, a water-proof tube to facilitate the tedious operation of unloading a gun to insure an effectual broadside, admirably adapted for shells and heated shot, and increasing the rapidity of firing, the gun will traverse as far as the size of the port will admit, the trucks being brought back more to the angle of resistance, whilst the gun is prevented tipping by a pivot piece. The helm must ever be considered the grand traversing bar, keeping an opponent within the bearing of the guns by my angular extreme bearing plate, united to my plan for concentrating the broadside of a man-of-war, and to be fixed on the binnacle, which will prevent a ship being too much yawed to bring the bow gun to bear in chase. I beg to express my acknowledgments to your Lordships for your attention to my former letter, and hope the model which accompanies this letter, with the saving of powder and cordage, will induce your Lordships to allow me a fair trial of this improved method of working a giui; having been subjected to the mortification of seeing many of my plans transferred to the credit of others and adopted in the service. I am, &c.
(Signed)“J. N. Tayler.”
“To the Right Hon. the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty.”
In answer to this letter, Captain Tayler was acquainted “that their Lordships could not order any trial of his improved gun-carriage to be made at the expence of Government;” upon which he addressed himself to their secretary as follows:–
“Devizes, 12th Feb. 1832.
“Sir,– I beg to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 10th instant. Presuming that I was in error in requesting a trial of my invention at the expence of Government, I beg to request a similar indulgence as granted to Commander Marshall may be extended to me; and that their Lordships will permit me to attend at Portsmouth arsenal the alteration of an old carriage at my expence; being convinced of the utility of my improved carriage, and tenacious of introducing it as a naval invention.
“The facility afforded to military men in carrying into effect their inventions at Woolwich, no doubt creates a stimulus, and gives them a decided advantage over naval men in bringing science to the acme of perfection. I am, &c.
(Signed)“J. N. Tayler.”
This application was attended with the same provoking result as the former. Mr. Barrow was commanded to acquaint Captain Tayler that his request could not be complied with. Thus terminated his correspondence with the Admiralty on the subject of naval gunnery. The model of his gun-carriage is now deposited in the United Service Museum, and has been greatly admired. Some other inventions, and a plan for manning the royal navy without resorting to impressment, will be noticed in an Appendix. ☞
In Oct. 1834, a very handsome service of plate was “presented to Captain Tayler by his fellow-townsmen and friends, in token of the high esteem they entertain for him, and in testimony of his active and independent exertions in promoting, upon all occasions, the prosperity of his native town, and the welfare of its inhabitants.” The plate was sent to him, accompanied by an appropriate address from the committee (deputed for the purpose), with a list of the contributors; to which he returned the following reply:–
“Gentlemen,– I have had the high honour and gratification of receiving the very munificent present of my fellow-townsmen and friends, together with your truly friendly address. It would be in vain to attempt to describe to you, in adequate terms, the feelings with which it has inspired me; for, however it may have been induced by a too generous estimation of my conduct and humble services, I shall ever look upon it as the highest tribute that can be paid to an individual. In the very long list of the names of those who have united to pay me this handsome compliment, I find that of my worthy friend, the chief magistrate of the town – the universally esteemed justice of the borough, and others of the authorities – the whole of the resident clergy – nearly all the professional gentlemen – most of the respectable tradesmen – a large portion of the honest and independent operatives – and others, my most valued friends; to all of whom, in expressing my grateful acknowledgments, I can only say, that it shall be my study to retain the good opinion they have formed of me.
“Gentlemen,– I can never forget the very handsome manner in which the body corporate of Devizes presented me with the freedom of the borough, on my return from active naval service. This is now upwards of eighteen years ago, the greater part of which time I have resided amongst you. To find, therefore, that I have not only lived in your respect and esteem (which must at all times be a source of happiness and of pride), but that my conduct should have excited you to some especial mark of your favour, is indeed a tribute, which, as I have before said, inspires me with feelings not to be described.
“Water is, of course, my favorite element; but, should his Majesty not again require my services, I trust I shall spend the remainder of my days in terms of friendship and sociability among my fellow-townsmen. I have the honor to be, gentlemen, your very grateful and faithful servant,
(Signed)“Joseph Needham Tayler.”
“Bellevue-House, Devizes, Oct. 1834.”
- The Taylers are descended from a highly respectable family, long seated in Somersetshire. Captain Tayler’s father was commandant of the “Devizes Loyal Volunteers,” a corps formed by him during his mayoralty.
- See Vol. I. Part II. pp. 548–557.
- Lieutenant Tayler was always remarkable for great strength of arm. He could, with ease, swing a over the Leopard’s fore-top-sail and sprit-sail yards
- The present Rear-Admiral Raggett.
- See Vol II. Part II. p. 526 et seq.
- See Vol. I. Part II. p. 707 et seq.
- Two of the Sparrow’s men had each a limb amputated.
- See Vol. II. Part II. p. 528.
- See Suppl. Part III. p. 138.
- See id. p. 145.
- The varnish on the telescope was scorched off, leaving the impression of Captain Tayler’s fingers.
- See Suppl. Part III. p. 140.
- See Suppl. Part III. pp. 143 and 148.
- Carpenter of the Hussar frigate.