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Royal Naval Biography/Tracey, John


JOHN TRACEY, Esq.
[Commander.]

Was wounded, while serving as master’s-mate, on board the Ardent 64, Captain R. R. Burgess, at the memorable battle of Camperdown, Oct, 11th, 1797. He obtained his first commission on the 6th Oct. 1800; and commanded the Princess Augusta, a small hired cutter, of eight guns and about thirty men, in an action with a French privateer, of fourteen guns and full of men, near the mouth of the river Tees, June 13th, 1804. During this engagement, which lasted nearly four hours, the Princess Augusta received several shot near the water’s edge, and was much shattered in her rigging, but had not a man killed, and only three of her little crew wounded. The enemy sheered off on perceiving the approach of two small vessels, manned with sea-fencibles, from Redcar.

On the 28th Jan. 1807, Lieutenant Tracey captured the Jena privateer, of four guns and thirty men. He also retook her prize, a Prussian ship, laden with timber, and bound to London. In the course of the same year, he was removed from the Princess Augusta into the Linnet brig, of fourteen guns and sixty men; in which vessel he made the following captures:

Le Courier, of 18 guns and 60 men, taken off Cape Barfleur, after a running fight of an hour and forty minutes, during which she had her second captain killed, and three men wounded, Jan. 16th, 1808. Foudroyant, of 10 guns and 25 men, taken off Cherbourgh, Aug. 30th, 1808. Petit Charles, 26 armed men on board, but with no guns mounted, taken off the Start, May 29th, 1812.

On the 25th Feb. 1813, being then in the chops of the Channel, the wind blowing hard, Lieutenant Tracey had the misfortune to be captured by la Gloire, a French 40 gun frigate, returning from a two months’ cruise. His conduct on this occasion is deserving of particular mention.

La Gioire, when first discovered, was to windward. Bearing up under her fore-sail and close-reefed main-top-sail, she arrived within hail of the Linnet at 2-30 p.m., and ordered her to strike. Instead of doing so, the brig boldly crossed the bows of the frigate, and, regardless of a heavy fire which the latter commenced, obtained the weather-gage. As la Gloire outsailed the Linnet on every point, all that Lieutenant Tracey could now do, was to endeavour to out-manoeuvre her. This he did by making short tacks; well aware that, owing to her great length, the frigate could not come about so quickly as a brig of less than 200 tons. In practising this manoeuvre, the Linnet had to cross the bows of la Gloire a second and a third time (the second time so near as to carry away the frigate’s jib-boom), and was all the while exposed to her fire; but which, owing to the ill-direction of the shot from the roughness of the sea, did no great execution. At length, at 3-30 p.m., having succeeded in cutting away some of the Linnet’s rigging, la Gloire got nearly alongside of her; but Lieutenant Tracey would not yet haul down the British colours. The brig suddenly bore up athwart the hawse of the frigate; and la Gloire, had she not as suddenly luffed up, must, as the French captain, Mons. Roussin, says, have passed completely over her. Two broadsides from la Gloire now carried away the bowsprit, fore-yard, and gaff of the Linnet, and compelled her to surrender. Such seamanship and intrepidity, on the part of Lieutenant Tracey, shew where la Gloire would have been, had he encountered her in a frigate.

The Linnet was carried into Brest, and her late commander, officers, and crew, remained as prisoners until the end of the war. On the 31st May, 1814, a court-martial was held on board the Gladiator, at Portsmouth, to try them for the loss of their vessel; when, in addition to an honorable acquittal. Lieutenant Tracey was highly complimented for “his judicious and seamanlike manoeuvres, for his courage and judgment, and for his endeavour to disable the tnemy, though his efforts were not completely successful.” On the 11th of the following month, he was promoted to the rank of commander – a just reward for his truly meritorious conduct.

This officer married. May 3d, 1825, Mrs. Knight, of Gosport, only sister of the Rev. J. R. Cooper, of Emsworth, co. Hants.