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Royal Naval Biography/Travers, Eaton Stannard

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[Captain of 1829.]

Third surviving son of the late John Travers, Esq. of Hettyfield and Grange, both in the county of Cork (of which he was a magistrate), by Mehetabel, only daughter of John Colthurst, of Dripsey Castle, Esq. and niece to Sir Nicholas Conway Colthurst, Bart. of Ardrum, in the same county.

This highly distinguished officer is descended from Laurentious Travers, whom we find settled at Nateby, co. Lancaster, in the year 1292. Another of his ancestors was Brion Travers, who went to Ireland in 1599, as secretary to the Earl of Leicester, then Governor or Lord Lieutenant of that kingdom[1]. In 1630, Sir Robert Travers, grandson of the said secretary, was Vice-General of Cork, and Judge Advocate General. He commanded a division of the king’s army at a battle near Youghall, where he was slain in 1642 or 3. His wife was Elizabeth, daughter of the Primate Boyle; and by her he left issue an only son, Richard, great-grandfather of the above mentioned John Travers, of Hettyfield; and two daughters, the eldest of whom was married to William Meade of Baltmable, Esq. from whom is descended the Earl of Clanwilliam; and the second to Sir Richard Alworth, Knt. Provost-Mareschal of Munster, and ancestor of Viscount Doneraile.

Mr. Eaton S. Travers commenced his gallant career, as midshipman on board the Juno frigate, Captain George Dundas, Sept. 15th, 1798; and served as a volunteer in that ship’s cutter, and the Undaunted armed schuyt, under the immediate command of Lieutenant (now Captain) Salusbury P. Humphreys, at the capture of the Dutch national brig Crash, a large armed row-boat, and twelve merchant vessels, between the island of Schiermonikoog and the main land of Groningen, Aug. 11th and 13th, 1799. On the former day, whilst attacking a large armed schooner, which was obliged to run on shore, the Juno’s cutter had one man killed; and on the latter day, the Undaunted, armed with only two 12-pounder carronades, was most gallantly laid alongside of the Vengeance schooner, mounting six heavy guns, two of them long 24-pounders, with a complement of seventy men. Fortunately for Lieutenant Humphreys and his little party, the rapidity of the tide, and the roundness of both vessels’ sides prevented them from immediately boarding the Vengeance, as she blew up whilst they were in the act of making a second attempt. In the mean time. Lieutenant Cowan, of the Pylades sloop, had landed and spiked six heavy guns in a battery on the island, from whence Mr. Travers afterwards assisted in bringing off two brass field-pieces. For the above services, the commander of the Pylades, by whom the attacks were directed, and the senior lieutenant employed under his orders were both promoted[2].

A few days afterwards, Mr. Travers accompanied Lieutenant Humphreys to the attack of a large merchant vessel lying under a six-gun battery on the coast of Holland, where she was completely destroyed. Immediately after the performance of this service, although then only in the first year of his time, he was rewarded with the rating of master’s-mate. During the Texel expedition we find him a volunteer on all occasions, particularly in an armed schuyt sent up the Zuyder-Zee, against the town of Lemmer, in West Friesland; which place he subsequently assisted in defending against a very superior force, as will be seen by the following official report, in which his name is honorably mentioned:–

Lemmer, Oct. 11th, 1799.

“Sir,– I have the honor to inform you, that at five o’clock this morning, the enemy made a general attack on this town in four different parts. Their advanced party attempted to storm the north battery. We soon got them between two fires; our tars with pikes surrounded them, and they immediately laid down their arms. Their force was one officer and thirty men, two of the latter killed. We had no sooner secured our prisoners, than they attacked us with the remainder of their force, 670 in number. Our little army did wonders; for with sailors and marines our force was only 167. We fought them for four hours and a half, when the enemy gave way in all directions: I immediately ordered the marines to pursue them. Their breaking down a bridge prevented their colours and two field-pieces from falling into our hands; but before this was effected the heavy fire from the marines had killed eighteen of the enemy, and wounded about twenty; and in their general attack they had five killed and nine wounded.

“It is impossible for me to speak too highly of the officers and men under my command. Lieutenant Wyburn, of the marines, as also Lieutenants Howel, Higginson, and Gardner, behaved with honor to themselves and credit to their country. Lieutenant Norman, of the navy, as also Messrs. Lane, Iron, Wheatly, Travers, and Petty, distinguished themselves in a most gallant manner; as did likewise the whole of the sailors and marines. It affords me great satisfaction to inform you we had not a man hurt. I am, &c.

(Signed)James Boorder[3].”

To Captain William Bolton,
H.M. gun-vessel Wolverene.

On the evacuation of the Helder, the Juno conveyed H.R.H. the Duke of York to North Yarmouth; and after landing him there, was ordered to the .Jamaica station, where Mr. Travers continued nearly six years in constant and active employment, a volunteer upon all occasions, and frequently engaged with the enemy.

Previous to the peace of Amiens, the Juno, in company with the Melampus frigate, chased a schooner into shoal water near Campeachy, where she was attacked and captured by two boats belonging to the former ship, before those of the latter could get alongside. In the act of boarding. Lieutenant Burn, first of the Juno, was killed, when the command devolved upon Mr. Travers, who soon found himself in possession of the Spanish national vessel Volante, of 12 guns and 70 men, bound to Vera Cruz, with the Viceroy of Mexico on board. The loss sustained by the Juno’s boats amounted to four killed and six wounded: that of the enemy we are unable to state, in consequence of there never having been any account of this dashing exploit published. We should here add, that whilst the Juno continued in the West Indies, Mr. Travers never returned into port from a cruise except in charge of a prize. On the 16th Mar. 1802, he followed Captain Dundas into the Elephant 74, the boats of which ship also captured many vessels, off Cape François and along the shores of St. Domingo, services in which he invariably participated. He also bore a part in a running fight between that ship and the French 74 Duguay Trouin, off Cape Picolet, July 25th, 1803.

In Oct. following, the Elephant was ordered to England; when Mr. Travers, having determined not to return home until promoted, applied to the commander-in-chief. Sir John T. Duckworth, and got removed to his flag-ship, the Hercule 74, commanded by Captain Richard Dalling Dunn. On the 30th of the ensuing month he witnessed the surrender of three French frigates, four other national ships and vessels, and twenty sail of merchantmen, at Cape François; from whence he assisted in bringing off the French army under General Rochambeau, who had surrendered by capitulation to the British blockading squadron, in order to escape the vengeance of Dessalines and his black adherents. He was also in the launch of the Hercule, under the command of Lieutenant (now Sir Nisbet J.) Willoughby, when that zealous officer rescued one of the frigates, la Clorinde 40, with 900 men, women, and children on board, from the desperately perilous situation in which she had been abandoned by all the other boats[4].

On the 31st Jan. 1804, Mr. Travers commanded a party of forty sailors, and nobly seconded Lieutenant Willoughby in storming Fort Piscadero, in the island of Curaçoa, by which daring exploit a safe place of debarkation was secured for the seamen and marines then in readiness to be landed from the squadron under Captain John Bligh, of the Theseus 74, for the purpose of endeavouring to subjugate that colony. For his gallantry on this occasion, and his equally spirited conduct during the rapid movement which caused the Dutch to fly from all their positions on the heights near the town of St. Ann, he was honored with the command of one of the two advanced posts, situated about 800 yards from that place, where he continued under the fire of Fort République and other very superior works, sustaining likewise repeated attacks made by the enemy’s sharpshooters, &c. until Feb. 25th, when orders were given to re-embark. On the 5th of that mouth. Lieutenant Willoughby and himself, accompanied by Lieutenant Nicholls, R.M., and about 80 or 85 men, marched out from their batteries for the express purpose of giving battle to at least 500 Dutch soldiers and French sailors, who were approaching with loud cheers, seemingly determined to capture the British cannon; and this formidable force they completely defeated in fair fight, with muskets alone; but not until 23 of their own gallant fellows were either killed or wounded. The total loss sustained at the advanced posts during the twenty-five days’ operations amounted to 18 killed and 42 severely wounded, besides many bruised and others slightly hurt.

The meritorious conduct of Mr. Travers, at Curaçoa, was duly represented to Sir John T. Duckworth by Captains Bligh and Dunn; and, on his return to Jamaica, he received the personal thanks of that distinguished officer, on the quarter-deck of the Hercule, and in the presence of all the captains then at Port Royal. In addition to this singular honor, his admiral was at the same time pleased to express great regret that he had not completed his time as a petty-officer, and to promise him early promotion.

On the 14th Mar. 1804, Mr. Travers commanded one of the boats with which Lieutenant Willoughby succeeded in capturing la Felicité, French privateer; and his seamanlike intrepidity and skill during the tremendous hurricane encountered by the Hercule, Sept. 6th in the same year, again drew forth the most hearty encomiums from Captain Dunn[5]. On the 23d of the same month, he passed his examination, and was immediately presented with a lieutenant’s commission, appointing him to the command of the Ballahou schooner. In Feb. 1805, on that little vessel being ordered to the Newfoundland station, Sir John T. Duckworth removed him to the Surveillante frigate. Captain John Bligh, formerly of the Theseus, and then about to sail on a cruise off the Spanish Main.

Whilst under the command of Captain Bligh, to whom he bad already so strongly recommended himself by his courageous and zealous behaviour at Curaçoa, Lieutenant Travera was engaged in many boat affairs. On one occasion, he led a division to the attack and capture of fifteen deeply laden merchantmen, lying under the protection of several batteries and a national brig, at Campeachy. A few days afterwards, he commanded at the capture and destruction of nine other vessels in the same neighbourhood. In March, 1806, with a single boat’s crew, and no assistance at hand, he boarded, in open day, and carried a large Spanish schooner, El Serpanton, of 6 guns and 35 men, lying with springs on her cables, at the mouth of the river St. Juan. He subsequently landed with Captain Bligh, and the greater part of the Surveillante’s crew, on the island of St. Andreas, the garrison of which was completely surprised and carried away to Jamaica, Lieutenant Travers remaining on the spot as governor, with El Serpanton under bis command, and a party of marines for his protection. Whilst thus employed, he succeeded in capturing several vessels., the crews of which, being confined on board El Serpanton, prevailed upon four or five of his men to assist them in running away with her; and they were in the very act of making sail when Lieutenant Travers arrived on board in a canoe, having received information of their design from a faithful sailor, who had swam on shore purposely to give the alarm. This intelligence reaching him at midnight, Lieutenant Travers had no one near except Mr. Dunn, master’s-mate, with whom, and several blacks, collected on his way to the beach, he hastened off, and got alongside before discovered. A musket was snapped at his breast as he gained the deck, and a blow, aimed at his head, would most probably have proved a quietus, had not his upraised arm received it. The fellow immediately opposed to him he cut down; and one or two more having shared the same fate, the others, imagining that he was backed by a much larger party, were so much intimidated, that he succeeded in releasing those men who had refused to join them, and were consequently confined below; by whose assistance he recovered possession of El Serpanton, and secured every one of the mutineers and Spanish prisoners: two of the former were tried by court-martial, sentenced to death, and executed at Jamaica.

The man who attempted to shoot Lieutenant Travers, and then struck him with the butt-end of his musket, had shortly before deserted from a wooding party, at the island of Navaza, accompanied by another sailor. A day or two after their flight, the Surveillante captured a small schooner, and Lieutenant Travers suggested to Captain Bligh the probability of recovering them by stratagem. The schooner was placed at his disposal; he stood for the island, which was then out of sight, and, on closing with it, hoisted Spanish colours: – the bait took; both deserters came down to the seaside, waving their hats, and flourishing the tomahawks which they had decamped with, as signals for a boat: – the schooner hove-to, and Lieutenant Travers with one man (both bedaubed and well disguised as Spaniards) paddled towards the shore in a small canoe, which the culprits entered without recognizing by whom they were received ; nor did they discover their real situation until actually alongside the prize.

In the summer of 1806, the Surveillante sailed for England, accompanied by the Hercule, la Fortunée frigate, la Superieure schooner, and about 200 sail of merchantmen. When off the Havannah, a number of Spanish vessels were discovered, under the protection of a 74-gun ship and two guarda-costas. La Fortunée, the schooner, and a boat commanded by Lieutenant Travers, were immediately sent in pursuit, and succeeded in capturing the gun-vessels and twenty others, deeply laden with sugar, &c.[6]

On the 3d Dec. following, this active officer was appointed to the Alcmene frigate, at the particular request of her captain, the late Sir James Brisbane; under whom he assisted in capturing le Courier French privateer, and several other vessels, on the Irish station. Subsequently, while serving under Captain W. H. B. Tremlett, we find him commanding the boats of the same ship in numerous successful attacks upon the enemy’s coasting trade between Isle Dieu and Cape Finisterre[7].

In April 1809, the Alcmene, while chasing an enemy, struck upon a reef of rocks near the river Loire, and filled so fast that nothing could be saved. Immediately after the usual public investigation, Lieutenant Travers was applied for by Lord Cochrane, and accordingly appointed to the Imperieuse frigate, in which he sailed for Walcheren, under acting Captain Thomas Garth. The high opinion entertained of his conduct, whilst commanding a detachment of seamen, with two field-pieces, attached to the first division of Earl Chatham’s army, during the operations against Flushing, will be seen by the following testimonials:

H.M. Sloop Harpy, below Lillo, 22d Aug. 1809.

“Dear Travers, – You quitted East Zouberg in such haste, that I had not the pleasure of shaking you hy the hand: that day an invitation was sent you from Major-General M‘Leod, of the royal artillery, to dine. Whether you know it or not, I am not certain; however, I think it but justice to inform you, that not only the General, but all ranks and degrees of officers who had the opportunity of witnessing your activity, gallantry, and meritorious conduct as an officer, during the time we were before Flushing, expressed themselves in the highest terms of praise and admiration: and, as every officer feels some degree of satisfaction from the approbation of those he is immediately serving under, I beg to add to the general applause above alluded to, the warmest approbation and testimony of the whole of your conduct during the time we had the pleasure of serving together in the brigade of seamen attached to Lieutenant-General Sir Eyre Coote’s division, under the command of Captain Richardson, of H.M.S. Caesar [8]; and believe me I shall, if ever in my power to be serviceable, feel it both my duty and inclination to promote your interest. I am, my dear Travers, with great sincerity, yours, &c.

(Signed)G. W. Blamey, Commander.”

H.M.S. Semiramis, Spithead, Oct. 8th, 1810.

“Dear Sir,– On the very point of sailing for the Cape of Good Hope, I received your letter, dated off Toulon, by which I am happy to find your friends are at last likely to stir themselves in your behalf; and must happy should I feel, if any testimony of mine could in the least assist your views; for I can, with great truth, affirm, that whilst you served under my command, in the attack of Flushing, your zeal and good conduct were most conspicuous, and tended in no small degree to draw from our Commander-in-chief, Lieutenant-General Sir Eyre Coote, those praises so liberally bestowed on the corps of seamen serving under my command. Above all, I have to admit the superior skill and energy shewn by you, in mounting the guns of my battery, under the heaviest fire, and the greatest disadvantages. You will excuse this hasty letter; but believe me your speedy promotion will be heard of with very sincere satisfaction and pleasure by your faithful friend,

(Signed)Charles Richardson, Captain.”

To Lieutenant Travers, R.N.

“This is to certify, that during the time I commanded H.M.S. Imperieuse, from June, 1809, to Sept., 1810, Lieutenant Eaton Travers behaved in a most gallant manner on a variety of occasions. At the attack upon Flushing, he commanded a party of seamen, from the Imperieuse, and was employed at the most advanced battery, where his good conduct particularly attracted the notice of Captain Richardson, of H.M.S. Caesar, and the General Officer commanding the advanced batteries: in consequence of his abilities and information, he was selected by Sir Eyre Coote[9] to remain with him at Middleburgh” (the capital of Walcheren) “as his naval aide-de-camp. * * * * * *

(Signed)Thomas Garth.”

The guns of Captain Richardson’s battery were mounted by Lieutenant Travers during the absence of the royal artillerymen, who had gone in search of materials for that purpose; and they were actually playing upon the enemy, with quickness and precision, long before the triangles hove in sight. As this battery was also commanded by Lieutenant Travers on the first day it opened upon the French garrison, we shall here add an extract of a letter from an officer of H.M. 81st regiment.

“Of the batteries which chiefly distinguished themselves in the bombardment, one of them, commanded by Captain Richardson, of the Caesar, astonished us all. It consisted of six 24-pounders, and played on the enemy incessantly. Every discharge seemed to be followed by a vast crash and ruin in the town. I must observe by the way, that the seamen are all engineers, and manage the batteries as well, I had almost said better, than any of our artillery officers. They fire their batteries by broadsides, and the reports of the individual pieces are seldom distinguishable. They always play, moreover, against a certain point till they have demolished it. Their six-gun battery invariably went off as if only one gun.”

Mr. Travers continued to serve on shore, as naval aid-de-camp to Sir Eyre Coote and his successor, Lieutenant-General Don, until the final evacuation of Walcheren, when he rejoined the Imperieuse, as first lieutenant. “In Feb. 1810,” says Captain Garth, “H.M.S. under my command, in company with the Implacable 74, Commodore Cockburn, was employed in Quiberon Bay, to endeavour to rescue King Ferdinand VII. from the hands of the French[10]. Lieutenant Travers was continually employed on that service, in boats, every night, during two months: he afterwards, in a most gallant manner, in a six-oared cutter, cut out a French merchant vessel, lying within twenty yards of a battery to which she was made fast, and brought her out under a heavy fire[11]. He was subsequently employed on the coast of Spain, in assisting the patriots, landing stores, &c.; at the fort of Morbella, which was nearly surrounded by French troops; and in destroying a large martello tower. I beg to offer this testimonial, as a proof of the high opinion I entertain of the gallantry and good conduct of Lieutenant Eaton Travers during the time he sailed under my command.”

The martello tower alluded to by Captain Garth, was destroyed during a dark wet night. Lieutenant Travers reached it unobserved, and, with ladders prepared for the purpose, ascended to a loop-hole, into which two bags of gunpowder were crammed, having attached to them a small canvas fuse, with a piece of port-fire at the end. On the explosion taking place, by which time he had got out of the reach of splinters, the top of the tower was nearly blown off; and some sparks having communicated to the magazine, thereby causing a second explosion, the whole fabric was rent to the foundation.

The service upon which the ships in Quiberon Bay were employed was so well known to the enemy, that a gallows was erected within their view, to denote the certain fate of any Englishman who should be taken prisoner.

In Sept. 1810, the command of the Imperieuse was assumed, at Gibraltar, by Captain the Hon. Henry Duncan, under whom Mr. Travers served as first lieutenant during the remainder of the war. On the 11th Oct. 1811, he performed another exploit, which we find thus officially recorded:–

“Sir,– I have the honor to inform you, that H.M.S. under my command, this morning, attacked three of the enemy’s gun-vessels, carrying each an 18-pounder and 30 men, moored under the walls of a strong fort, near the town of Possitano, in the Gulf of Salerno. The Imperieuse was anchored about eleven o’clock, within range of grape, and in a few minutes the enemy were driven from their guns, and one of the vessels was sunk. It, however, became absolutely necessary to get possession of the fort, the fire of which, though silenced, yet, from its being regularly walled round on all sides, the ship could not dislodge the soldiers, and those of the gun-boats’ crews who had made their escape on shore, and taken shelter in it. The marines and a party of seamen were therefore landed, and, led on by my first lieutenant, Eaton Travers, and Lieutenant Pipon, R.M., forced their way into the battery in the most gallant style, under a very heavy fire of musketry, obliging more than treble their numbers to fly in all directions, leaving behind about thirty men and fifty stand of arms. The guns, which were 24-pounders, were then thrown over the cliff, the magazines, &c. destroyed, and the two remaining gun-vessels brought off.

“The gallantry and zeal of all the officers and men in this affair, could not have been exceeded; but I cannot find words to express my admiration at the manner in which Lieutenant Travers commanded and headed the boats’ crews and landing party, setting the most noble example of intrepidity to the officers and men under him. Owing to baffling winds, the ship was unavoidably exposed to a raking fire going in; but the fore-top-sail-yard, shot away, is the only damage of any consequence. I have to regret the loss of one marine killed and two men wounded.

(Signed)Henry Duncan.”

To Vice-Admiral Sir Edward Pellew, Bart.
&c. &c. &c.

In transmitting this report to the Admiralty, Sir Edward Pellew informed their lordships, that he was sure “the gallant conduct of Lieutenant Travers and his companions, who carried the fort by which the gun-boats were protected, would receive their approbation." In reply, one of the secretaries was commanded to direct Sir Edward to express their lordships’ approval of the bravery and good conduct so manifestly displayed; but the promotion of any individual concerned was not even hinted at.

On the 24th of the same month, Captain Duncan addressed Sir Edward Pellew as follows:

“Sir,– I have the honor to inform you of the capture of ten armed feluccas belonging to the enemy, laden with oil, which were launched and brought off from the beach on the coast of Calabria near Palinuro, by the boats of the Imperieuse and Thames, on the 19th and 21st instant: they were banked up with sand, and defended by a large detachment of Neapolitan soldiers; but nothing could withstand the gallantry of the seamen and marines of the two ships, the latter under their respective officers. Lieutenants Pipon and Adam, the whole commanded by Lieutenant Travers, who displayed his usual intrepidity and judgment. I have to regret the loss of one man killed, and four wounded. I am, &c.

(Signed)H. Duncan.”

On the latter day, ten gun-boats were discovered in the port of Palinuro, with a number of merchant vessels, and many valuable spars, intended for the equipment of the Neapolitan marine, hauled upon the beach; but, from local circumstances, Captain Duncan did not think the force he then had sufficient to attack them with a prospect of complete success: he therefore sent the Thames to Sicily, to request the assistance of a military detachment; and on the 28th, she returned with 250 men of H.M. 62d regiment, under Major Darley. Unfortunately, a S.W. gale precluded all possibility of landing until the evening of Nov. 1st, when the troops together with the marines and a party of seamen from both ships, under Lieutenant Travers, the whole commanded by Captain Napier, were disembarked from the Thames at the back of the harbour, and immediately ascended and carried the heights in a very gallant style, under a heavy fire from the enemy, who were assembled in force to oppose them, and who, soon after dark, endeavoured to retake their position. One volley, however, induced them instantly to retire. The Imperieuse had, in the mean time, been endeavouring to occupy the attention of the gun-boats and battery in front 5 but the light and baffling winds prevented her getting any nearer than long range during the evening. Next morning, finding that nothing could be done on the land side against the battery and a strong tower which protected the vessels on the beach, and within pistol-shot of which the gun-boats were moored. Captain Duncan ordered the Thames to close, directed Captain Napier to return on board his own ship, and, taking advantage of the sea-breeze at its commencement, ran along the line of gun-boats, within half-musket shot. Two were soon sunk, and the others immediately afterwards surrendered. The frigates then anchored close to the fort, which in about fifteen minutes was completely silenced, and in a quarter of an hour more the Neapolitan flag came down. The tower was immediately taken possession of by Lieutenant Travers, who, on seeing the Imperieuse and her consort stand in, had “most gallantly, rushed down the hill with a party of seamen and marines, and was waiting almost under the walls of the fort, ready to take advantage of any superiority the ships might have over it.” The guns, 24-pounders, were then thrown into the sea, and the crews of both frigates sent to launch the merchant vessels and spars, which could not be completed till after noon next day; when the troops, who had all this time remained in undisputed possession of the heights, were re-embarked, the marines withdrawn from the tower which they had occupied, and which, together with two batteries and a signal-station, soon lay in ruins. One of the gun-vessels mounted two long 18-pounders, and had on board a complement of 50 men; the other nine were each armed with one long 18, and manned with 30 men: the merchant vessels, twenty-two in number, were laden with oil, cotton, figs, silk, &c. In performing this service, the British sustained a loss of five (including Lieutenants Kay, of the 62d, and Pipon, R.M.) killed, and eleven men wounded. The contents of Captain Duncan’s official report, with the exception of the following paragraph, will be found in p. 993 et seq. of Vol. II. Part II.

“I have before had opportunities of representing the gallantry of my first lieutenant, Travers; his behaviour on this occasion was most exemplary, and called forth the admiration of every officer, whether of the army or navy. Captain Napier and Major Darley, most handsomely allow to him the credit of having discovered and led them by a short cut to the heights, which, most probably, saved the lives of many men.”

In a letter from Captain Napier to Captain Duncan, dated Nov. 3d, we find this passage:–

“In obedience to your directions, I anchored in the bay to the southward of Palinuro, and immediately landed with the detachment of the 62d regiment, under the command of Major Darley, and the marines and a party of seamen from both ships, under the command of Lieutenant Travers of the Imperieuse, who with his usual discernment, discovered and pointed out a narrow path, almost perpendicular, leading to the heights, which were gained by it in the face of the enemy’s light troops and peasantry, in the most complete style, leaving the greatest part of their force in a ravine to our right, where we first intended to land. The men of both professions behaved as British soldiers and sailors are wont to do; but I must mention the exertions of Lieutenant Travers, first of your ship, who was foremost at every thing.”

The following are copies of letters subsequently received by Lieutenant Travers:

Melazzo, 10th Nov. 1811.

“My dear Sir,– I beg to enclose you the copy of my official letter to Major-General Heron, and have only to regret that much hurry did not permit me to pay a more just tribute to your exemplary merits and gallantry. The muleteer being on the point of departure, obliges me thus hastily concluding, and assuring you how much I am, with the sincerest esteem, your very obedient and truly faithful servant,

(Signed)Edward Darley, Major 62d regiment.”

To Lieutenant Travers, H.M.S. Imperieuse.


Thames, at Sea, Nov. 8th, 1811.

“It would be presumptuous on my part. Sir, in attempting to pass encomiums on the very superior judgment and heroic gallantry of the commandant Captain Duncan, as also in the gallant manner of laying his ship alongside a strong battery and fortified tower, flanked by several gun-boats, which were shortly silenced by a powerful and well-directed fire, in conjunction with Captain Napier, of H.M.S. Thames, whereby the commandant was left in possession of the enemy’s flotilla, convoy, battery, and tower. I have also much gratification in stating, that Captain Napier, who did me the honor to accompany me on shore with a party of seamen and marines, contributed materially by his cool, judicious, and actively intrepid conduct, ably seconded by the gallantry of Lieutenant Travers, to surmount all difficulties in gaining the heights, in the face of an opposing and strongly posted numerous enemy, whom we had afterwards the satisfaction of dislodging and obliging to retreat, leaving us in full possession of the heights and telegraphic tower.

(Signed)Edward Darley.”

To Major-General Heron.

Sir Edward Pellew, when acknowledging the receipt of Captain Duncan’s official report, informed him that, he had requested the attention of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty “to the distinguished services of Lieutenant Eaton Travers, on this and former occasions.”

On the 27th June 1812, the Imperieuse assisted in destroying eighteen merchant vessels, lying under the batteries of Languilla, and Alassio, in the Gulf of Genoa, on which occasion she had four men killed, and an officer and ten men wounded[12]. We subsequently find her employed in the blockade of Naples, near which city Captain Duncan, as is stated in his memoir, with only an 18-gun brig in company, offered battle to, and had a partial action with, the Joachim 74, a frigate, a corvette, and twenty-two gun vessels[13]. About the same time, an attempt was made to obtain possession of between fifty and sixty coral boats, recently returned from the fishery, and then performing quarantine; but, unfortunately they obtained pratique, and entered the harbour about an hour before Lieutenant Travers, who was the projector and leader of the enterprise, arrived near the lazaretto. This failure, however, did not prevent him from trying a land cruise, during which he overhauled several vehicles, and took from an officer, in a carriage and four, despatches of some importance.

The Imperieuse was subsequently hove down and newly coppered at Mahon, when Captain Duncan obtained permission to shift her foremast further aft, for the purpose of improving her sailing. Anxious to get to sea, he went himself to the arsenal to hurry off spars for sheers; but before they got alongside the mast was already placed in its new position. Lieutenant Travers had taken upon himself the responsibility of shifting it, by making a Spanish windlass of the hand-mast which was placed across the forecastle, supported by the bulwarks and four crossed handspikes, with purchases affixed to the deck and the heel of the fore-mast, and acted upon with levers: the head of the mast being steadied with guys, and a man placed at the laniard of each shroud and stay, to ease away as it lifted, the operation was performed with the greatest facility. We should observe that, at this time, the fore-topmast was merely struck, and none of its rigging displaced. The celerity with which the Imperieuse was hove down and refitted did not fail to attract the notice of Sir Edward Pellew, who was then at Minorca with his fleet, and who not only complimented Lieutenant Travers in words, but several times invited him to his table on board the Caledonia.

In the beginning of 1813, we find Lieutenant Travers volunteering to undertake the destruction of a large signal tower, near the mouth of the Tiber, which service he accomplished after routing a party of dragoons, with whose commander’s abandoned horse and its trappings he returned on board safely. He afterwards superintended the embarkation of two ship loads of timber, which had been collected on the Roman coast for the use of the arsenal at Toulon, but the destination of which Captain Duncan had thought proper to alter. His succeeding exploits were thus officially reported in a letter from Captain the Hon. George H. L. Dundas, of the Edinburgh 74, addressed to Captain (now Sir Josias) Rowley, Oct. 5th, 1813.

“In obedience to your directions, I put to sea, and joined Captain Duncan, of the Imperieuse, and the ships named in the margin[14], this morning, off D’Anzo, where he had been watching a convoy for some days, with the intention of attacking them the first favorable opportunity. the necessary arrangements having been made by that officer for the attack, I added the force of this ship to it, and made the signals that those arrangements would be adhered to, and to prepare for battle. The place was defended by two batteries on a mole, each mounting two heavy guns, a tower to the northward with one gun, and a battery to the southward with two guns, to cover the mole. Every thing being prepared, at 1-30 p.m., the ships bore up and took their stations; the Imperieuse and Resistance to the mole batteries; the Swallow to the; tower; and the Eclair and Pylades to the southern battery: the Edinburgh supported the last named vessels.

“Shortly after the ships opened their fire, which they did by signal together, the storming party, under Lieutenant Travers, of the Imperieuse, and marines, under Captain Mitchell, landed in the best order close under the battery to the southward, which Lieutenant Travers carried instantly, the enemy flying in all directions. Lieutenant Mapleton[15] having taken possession of the mole-head, the convoy, consisting of 29 vessels, was brought out without any loss, twenty of which arc laden with timber for the arsenal at Toulon. On leaving the place, all the works were blown ap, and most completely destroyed. I feel the destruction of the defences of this place to be of consequence, as it is a convenient port for shipping the very large quantity of timber the enemy now have on the adjacent coast. The captains, officers, and ships’ companies, deserve my warm acknowledgments for their exertions on this occasion. A few shot in the hulls and rigging of the ships is the only damage sustained.

“Captain Duncan informs me, that he gained much material and necessary information respecting this place, by a very gallant exploit performed a few nights ago by Lieutenant Travers, who stormed, with a boat’s crew, a martello tower of one gun, destroying it, and bringing the guard away.”

The tower destroyed by Lieutenant Travers mounted two guns; and the manner in which this service was performed is thus related by an eye-witness, in a letter addressed to the author:–

“About midnight, Travers landed with the small cutter and seven men, seized the sentinel at the foot of the tower, and, though fired at by the sentinel on the top, mounted by a ladder, which had been fitted for the purpose, to a window thirty or forty feet high, and put in a congreve rocket, with the stick cut short off, but having quick match attached to it: the moment the rocket took fire it struck down into the barrack-room, set fire to the soldiers’ bedding, killed one man, and so alarmed the others, by its fire, smoke, and noise, that they let down their draw-bridge to escape, and were seized one by one as they descended. One officer and eighteen soldiers were thus taken prisoners; but as his little boat could not well receive so many persons in addition to her crew, Travers allowed four of the poor panic-struck fellows to go about their business, carrying off the others, but not until he had blown up the tower, the regular access to which was by a flight of stone steps, distant about twelve feet from it, and only to be reached from within by means of the draw-bridge. Aware of the danger and difficulty attending such an enterprise, it was not without considerable hesitation that Captain Duncan would consent to Travers going upon it, particularly as he knew that there was a strong force in the neighbourhood, collected purposely for the protection of the vessels at Port d’Anzo. Notwithstanding the darkness of the night, the whole business was done in about fifteen minutes; and had such an effect on the neighbouring batteries, that whenever the Imperieuse afterwards approached the shore, the Neapolitan soldiers invariably put on their knapsacks, ready for a start.”

In Dec. 1813, a descent was made upon the coast of Italy, near Via Reggio, on which occasion Lieutenant Travers again commanded the landing party, drove the enemy from a battery close to the beach, and brought off two long brass 12-pounders. His exemplary conduct during the subsequent operations against Leghorn was also officially reported, as will be seen by reference to p. 428 of Vol. II. Part I. In April 1814, he assisted at the reduction of Genoa and its dependencies; and, on the 15th June in the same year, we find him promoted to the rank of commander; but it appears that he continued to do duty as first lieutenant of the Imperieuse until that ship was paid off, in the month of September following[16].

We have now, in rather a hasty manner, followed Captain Travers through a course of active, enterprising, gallant, and zealous service of sixteen years, during which period he commanded at the capture and destruction of seven different batteries, two martello towers, and about sixty vessels, chiefly cut out of harbours or from under fortifications on various sea-coasts; besides which upwards of twenty of these vessels were well armed and manned: he was upwards of one hundred times engaged with the enemy, nine times honorably mentioned in gazetted despatches, and never unemployed, except for two months, when paid off from the Surveillante. For his distinguished conduct on so many occasions, he was presented with the freedom of Cork, of which city he is a native.

In 1827, Commander Travers submitted to H.R.H. the Lord High Admiral, a brief sketch of his services, wherein he truly observed, that he could with confidence refer to every captain he had sailed with for confirmation of the facts there stated ; and concluded with observing, that he did not hope the less from the royal Duke’s protection, because he had no interest to back the claims for advancement which those services enabled him to prefer. In a very short time afterwards he was appointed to the Scylla sloop, and, on that vessel being found defective, removed, July 23d, 1828, to the Rose of 18 guns, fitting out for the Halifax station. The Lord High Admiral was also pleased, at his own table, on board one of the royal yachts, to promise him promotion at the expiration of twelve months, the then recently established period of service afloat as a commander.

In the Rose, Commander Travers conveyed Commodore Schomberg, C.B. to Teneriffe, Rio Janeiro, and the Cape of Good Hope. He afterwards touched at St. Helena and Ascension, and then proceeded to join his own Commander-in-chief, Rear-Admiral Sir Charles Ogle, whom he met with at Bermuda, and accompanied to Halifax. From thence he was sent to the Bay of Fundy, for the protection of the fishery, and to ascertain the longitude of the different headlands in that quarter, on which service he continued five months His royal patron having retired from office, he did not obtain the rank of captain until Nov. 19th, 1829; shortly after which we find him returning home in one of the Halifax packets. The following extracts are taken from American and New Brunswick papers:–

(East Port Sentinel, 24th June, 1829.)

“We cannot help applauding the generous and magnanimous conduct of the commander of the British sloop of war Rose, who was anchored off this port at the time the Vermont came through the narrows. No sooner was she discovered to be in a crippled state, and in need of help, than several boats were sent from the Rose, filled with men, who with the greatest alacrity assisted in clearing the wreck and warping her up opposite the wharf. It is with great pleasure that we publish the following


“Captain Shepard, of the brig Vermont, of New Haven, Con. returns his most sincere thanks to ___ Travers, Esq., commanding the British sloop of war Rose, for his promptness in rendering assistance while in a distressed situation; and to the officers and men who assisted in bringing his vessel to port.”

(City Gazette, St. John’s, N.B. July 15th, 1829.)

“Captain George M‘Lean, of the late bark Industry, recently wrecked upon Brier’s Island, takes this method of returning his sincere thanks to Captain Travers, of H.M.S. Rose, for his ready and prompt attention in proceeding from Digby to the disastrous scene; and for the polite tender of his personal services, with those of his officers and crew, and the assistance of boats, &c. &c. from H.M. ship under his command.”

(Weekly Observer, St. John’s, 11th Aug. 1829.)

“Mr. Ewen Cameron, the contractor for building the light-house, begs respectfully to return thanks to Captain Travers, of H.M.S. Rose, for the valuable assistance so kindly rendered this morning in the use of boats, men, &c. while towing down and securing the pier, intended as the foundation for the light-house to be built at the beacon, thereby greatly facilitating the undertaking.”

Captain Travers married, in 1815, Ann, eldest daughter of William Steward, of Great Yarmouth, co. Norfolk, Esq. He has four brothers, who all served during a great part of the late war in the rifle brigade, and were all repeatedly wounded, viz. Robert, now a Major-General and K.C.B.; James Conway, a Major; Joseph Oates, barrack-master at Portsmouth; and Nicholas Colthurst, holding the same office at Hampton Court: the two latter are captains in the army. Another brother, John, died whilst serving as lieutenant of the Hebe frigate, in the West Indies.

Agents.– Messrs. Stillwell.

  1. Nateby was mortgaged by Brion Travers to a Mr. Strickland, whose descendants still possess that property; the arms of the Travers family, however, remain over the gateway.
  2. See Vol. II. Part II. pp. 234–236.
  3. Commander of l’Espiegle sloop.
  4. See Suppl. Part II. p. 120 et seq., where we should likewise have stated that, after la Cloriade had been hove off, it was found absolutely necessary to get something to the rocks to cast her by; and as no boat was then near, Mr. Travers jumped overboard, at the imminent risk of his life, and swam to the shore with a line, by which he was enabled to haul thither a rope of sufficient strength for a spring. Until this was done, the ship could not be considered out of danger.
  5. See Suppl. Part II. p. 126 et seq.
  6. See Vol. II. Part I. p. 331, et seq.
  7. See Vol. II. Part II. p. 714, et seq.
  8. See Vol. II. Part II. p. 906, et seq.
  9. Then commander-in-chief of the army; Earl Chatham having returned home.
  10. See Sir George Augustus Westphal.
  11. With the loss of only one man.
  12. See Vol. II. Part I. p. 293.
  13. See Vol. II. Part II. p. 995, et seq.
  14. Resistance frigate, Swallow, Eclair, and Pylades sloops.
  15. First of the Edinburgh.
  16. On the breaking out of the American war, fourteen seamen, possessing indisputable proofs of their being citizens of the United States, requested permission to continue in the Imperieuse and serve against the French, stating that they did not wish to fight against their country, but there being no chance of meeting American vessels in the Mediterranean, their attachment to Captain Duncan inclined them to stay till the last with him. They were allowed to do so, and served most faithfully, distinguishing themselves on all occasions in the boats, and being the first on every enterprise against the enemy.