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Royal Naval Biography/Townshend, James


RIGHT HON. LORD JAMES TOWNSHEND.
[Post-Captain of 1809.]

Youngest son of George, the first Marquis Townshend, by his second lady, Anne, daughter’ of Sir William Montgomery, Bart.

This officer was born Sept. 11, 1785; and he appears, by Mr. James’s account, to have been first Lieutenant of the Atlas 74, in Sir J. T. Duckworth’s action, off St. Domingo, Feb. 6, 1806[1], His promotion to the rank of Commander took place Nov. 14 following.

On the 15th Aug. 1807, Lord James Townshend addressed an official letter to Vice-Admiral Berkeley, commander-in-Chief at Halifax, of which the following is a copy:

“Sir,– I beg leave to represent to you, that the five men named in the margin[2], belonging to H.M. sloop Halifax, under my command; when sent with a petty officer in the jolly-boat, in Hampton roads, on the 7th March last, to weigh a kedge-anchor, which had previously been dropped for the purpose of swinging the ship by, taking advantage of the dusk of the evening, mutinied upon the petty officer, some of them threatening to murder him; but the rest interfering they desisted. However, taking the boat under their own command, they succeeded in deserting, by landing at Sewell’s point. The whole of the above-mentioned deserters, I have since been informed, entered on board the U. S. frigate Chesapeake, and were seen by me and several of my officers parading the streets of Norfolk in triumph, under the American flag. A few days after their desertion, I accosted one of these men, Henry Saunders, asking the reason of his deserting, and received for answer, that he did not intend any thing of the kind, but was compelled by the rest to assist, and would embrace the first opportunity of returning. At that moment Jenkin Radford, one of the said deserters, coming up, took the arm of the said Henry Saunders, declaring with an oath, that neither he, nor any of the rest of the deserters, should return to this ship; and with a contemptuous gesture told me that he was in the land of liberty, and instantly dragged the said Henry Saunders away.

“Finding that my expostulating any longer would not only be useless in obtaining the deserters, but in all probability have collected a mob of Americans, who no doubt would have proceeded to steps of violence, I instantly repaired to the house of Colonel Hamilton, the British Consul there, and related every circumstance which occurred, and applied to him, as also to Lieutenant Sinclair, of the rendezvous for the United States’ service, to recover the said deserters, but without effect.

“Being since informed that Jenkin Radford has been recovered in action on board the U.S. frigate Chesapeake, with H.B.M. ship Leopard[3], and is now a prisoner on board H.M.S. Bellona, I have to request that you will be pleased to direct a court-martial may be assembled for the purpose of trying the said Jenkin Radford, for the within-mentioned charges of mutiny, desertion, and contempt. I have the honor to be, &c.

(Signed)J. Townshend.”

From the minutes of the court-martial it appears that Jenkin Radford (a native of the British metropolis), was found in the Chesapeake’s coal-hole; and that, being seen by the Purser of the Leopard, he was immediately recognized by him as a man who had been discharged from her to the Halifax. When called upon for his defence, he stated, that the evidence brought against him was so strong, there was but little left for him to say; that the reason of his hiding himself in the coal-hole was for fear of the Americans making him fight against his country, which he declared he would not do on any account: that he, with all the men who deserted from the Halifax, were persuaded by the boatswain of the Chesapeake to enter for her, which they did. Lieutenant Sinclair asking them if they had not a second name. That about 30 men went in the first draft with him to the Chesapeake, when Captain Gordon mustered them; and that they were mustered again in Hampton roads by Commodore Barron!” The Court being of opinion that the charges preferred by Lord James Townshend were proved, adjudged the prisoner to suffer death, which sentence was carried into effect at the foreyard-arm of the Halifax, Aug. 31, 1807.

Lord James Townshend’s post commission bears date June 2, 1809; and we subsequently find him commanding the AEolus 32, in which frigate he encountered a violent hurricane while cruizing off New York, with a small squadron under his orders, Sept. 30, 1811[4]. In Feb. and Mar. 1813, he had the good fortune to capture six American ships, laden with cotton, logwood, rice, corn, molasses, &c.; and one neutral with a cargo of bread and flour. His Lordship married. May 8, 1813, Elizabeth, daughter of Mr. P. Wallis, Government Cooper, at Halifax.

Agent.– John Chippendale, Esq.



  1. See Nav. Hist. Vol. IV. p. 282; and Royal Nav. Biog. Vol. I, Part I. note at p. 262.
  2. Richard Hubert, Henry Saunders, Jenkin Radford, George North, and William Hill.
  3. See Vol. II. Part II. pp. 892–897.
  4. See Captain Frederick Marryatt, C.B.