Royal Naval Biography/Taylor, John


This officer obtained his first commission on the 5th Jan. 1799. He was senior lieutenant of the Leda frigate. Captain (now Rear-Admiral) Robert Honyman, employed off Boulogne, in 1803. While on that station, he commanded boats in frequent nightly excursions along the coast, was engaged in several warm skirmishes with the land batteries, “and always strongly evinced a daring intrepidity.” His conduct as commander of the Devastation bomb, employed in the defence of Cadiz, from Dec. 1809 until the raising of the siege of l’Isla-de-Leon, in 1811, was equally meritorious. During a great part of that time, his vessel was at anchor almost within point-blank range of the enemy’s formidable works; in addition to which, he rowed guard alternately with three other commanders of bombs during his continuance on that service.

We next find Commander Taylor appointed, Sept. 2d, 1812, to the Espiegle sloop, in which vessel he proceeded from Portsmouth, Jan. 22d, 1813, to Surinam, Demerara, and Barbadoes. He was afterwards employed in protecting the trade bound to Nassau, New Providence. In the spring of 1814, he was tried by a court-martial at Portsmouth, on charges brought against him by the Admiralty, “in consequence of complaints having been made to the Board, that his treatment was such to the ship’s company as to keep them in a state bordering upon mutiny; refusing them, when in harbour, the usual indulgence of the service, and exercising towards them continual acts of severity and cruelty, such as starting the sick, and flogging persons in the sick list; also, failing in his duly when in pursuit of the American sloop Hornet, after the capture of the Peacock; for neglecting to exercise the ship’s company at the great guns; for acts of tyranny towards his officers, particularly towards the carpenter; for using scandalous language towards them; for drunkenness; and for unofficer-like and ungentleman-like behaviour.

“The Court agreed that he had used some acts of severity towards the sloop’s company; that he had neglected to exercise them sufficiently at the great guns; that he had exercised acts of oppression towards some of the officers of the ship; that he had made use of most scandalous language to Lieutenant Dyer; and that his conduct had been unlike an officer and a gentleman: but that the charges of ill-treatment of the sloop’s company, so as to keep them in a state bordering on mutiny; that he refused them, when in harbour, the usual indulgence of the service; that he had been frequently in a state of drunkenness; and that he had failed to do his duty when in pursuit of the Hornet, had not been proved; but that the latter charge was scandalous and unfounded.

“The Court, therefore, sentenced Commander Taylor to be dismissed from his Majesty’s service; but, in consideration of his long services and former meritorious conduct, did strongly recommend him to the favorable consideration of the Admiralty[1].”

This officer’s name was replaced in the Navy List in 1818, ever since which he has remained on half-pay as “The Junior Commander.” Had he been restored to his former seniority, Oct. 13th, 1807, there would now, Dec. 1834, have been only fifty-six of his brother officers between him and the senior commander.

  1. Naval Chronicle, xxxiii. p. 429.