Royal Naval Biography/Ussher, Thomas
THOMAS USSHER, Esq.
A Companion of the Most Honorable Military Order of the Bath.
[Post-Captain of 1808.]
This highly distinguished officer is descended from the celebrated Archbishop Ussher, Primate of Ireland; whose ancestor (a Neville) was established in that country in the reign of King John, and took the name of Ussher to perpetuate the memory of the office he held near his Majesty’s person. Captain Ussher’s father was a distinguished Senior Fellow of Trinity College, Dublin; first Astronomer Royal of Ireland, promoter and member of the Royal Irish Academy, and member of the Royal Edinburgh and many foreign Academies.
The subject of this memoir entered the service at an early age, under the patronage of Colonel Burton Conyngham, uncle to the present Marquis; and he first went to sea in the Squirrel of 20 guns, commanded by Captain William O’Brien Drury, on the Irish station.
At the commencement of the war in 1793, the Squirrel was sent to the coast of Guinea, where her commander resented an insult offered to the British flag, by driving the Portuguese governor of Prince’s Island, with severe loss, from the batteries defending the harbour, one mounting 22, the other 4 guns. Returning from the bight of Benin to England, she was becalmed near the line; and the provisions falling very short her officers and crew were reduced to a daily allowance of an ounce of bread and a single glass of water.
On his arrival at Spithead, Mr. Ussher was removed into the Invincible 74, commanded by Captain Thomas Pakenham, under whom he bore a part in the battles of May 29 and June 1, 1794. On the former day, the Invincible fought three sail of the line, and was twice set on fire by red-hot shot fired from the Brutus, a 50 gun rasée; her main-topmast was shot away, the fore and main-masts and lower-yards were crippled, 10 of her crew killed, and 21 wounded. On the glorious 1st of June, she encountered le Juste of 80 guns, sustained an additional loss of 4 men killed and 10 wounded, and was much cut up in her masts, sails, and rigging.
We should here observe, that Mr. Ussher was ill of the measles, and at sick-quarters, when intelligence arrived of the republican fleet being at sea towards the close of 1793; notwithstanding which, on hearing that Lord Howe was about to sail in pursuit of the enemy, he quitted his bed, procured a horse, and rode across the country from Dartmouth to Brixham, where he arrived just in time to get on board his ship before she left Torbay.
In the spring of 1795, Mr. Ussher followed Captain Pakenham into le Juste, which ship he had assisted in taking possession of, immediately after her surrender. We subsequently find him serving under the late Sir Hugh C. Christian, K.B., in the Prince George 98, Glory second rate, and Thunderer 74. The disasters experienced by the fleet under that officer’s command, in Nov. and Dec. 1795, have been noticed at p. 296 et seq. of this volume: the midshipman alluded to in the note respecting Sir Ralph Abercromby, was Mr. Thomas Ussher.
At that period our young officer was entrusted with the charge of all the chronometers, and he consequently quitted the Thunderer when Sir Hugh Christian removed into the Astrea.
On arriving within a day’s sail of Barbadoes, the dead-reckoning being upwards of 200 miles ahead of the timekeepers and lunar observations, Sir Hugh was advised by the Captain of the Astrea not to run during the night; but instead of attending to that officer’s recommendation, he sent for Mr. Ussher, examined his calculations, and being convinced of their correctness, continued under the same sail until seven o’clock next morning, when the land was made within five minutes of the time computed by Mr. Ussher. On approaching Carlisle bay, the expedition under Sir John Laforey was seen under weigh!
Previous to the commencement of active operations against St. Lucia, Mr. Ussher, then only in the fifth year of his probationary term, was appointed acting Lieutenant of the Minotaur 74; and during the siege of that island we find him commanding a party of seamen, attached to the army under Sir Ralph Abercromby; whose acknowledgment of the services performed by the navy will be found in our memoir of Admiral George Bowen: an extract to the same effect, taken from Sir Hugh Christian’s despatches, is given at p. 140 of Vol. II. Part I.
After the reduction of St. Lucia, Mr. Ussher was appointed acting Lieutenant of the Pelican brig, in which vessel he was serving when she engaged and beat off the Médée, French frigate, mounting 40 guns, with a complement of 300 men.
On the day subsequent to that brilliant action, Mr. Ussher was taken prisoner in the army-victualler which had been recaptured by the Pelican; but we shortly afterwards find him regaining his liberty, and, in the following year, assisting at the destruction of le Trompeur, French privateer brig, of 16 guns and 160 men and boys. This latter service was performed by the Pelican, off Cape Nichola Mole, Sept. 17, 1797: the enemy came down with great confidence to attack the British sloop, and maintained a warm action from 8-45 until 9-20 A.M., when he made sail and endeavoured to get away; but Lieutenant Thomas White, acting commander of the Pelican, lost no time in repairing his running rigging, which had been very much cut, and succeeded in again getting alongside of his opponent about a quarter before one o’clock, when the combat was renewed with much spirit on both sides, the French captain fighting his brig with the most determined bravery, and constantly exposing himself by standing on the hammocks, directing and exhorting his crew. This second action continued for 25 minutes, during which time the yards of the two brigs were locked, and their ports nearly in one. At 1-10 P.M., or thereabout, le Trompeur blew up abaft, and in five minutes more she went down by the head: the Pelican’s boats were immediately hoisted out, but only 60 of the gallant Frenchmen could be saved. Mr. Ussher, however, had the satisfaction of rescuing the heroic captain, who smilingly, and with great sangfroid said, when presented to Lieutenant White, “Ah ! Monsieur, le Trompeur a été bien trompé.” The loss sustained by the Pelican on this occasion, was only one man killed and nine persons wounded.
On the 2d April, 1798, Lieutenant Ussher was sent with two boats, containing 14 men, to look into the different creeks about Cumberland harbour and St. Jago de Cuba, in search of a privateer which had committed great depredations on the coast of Jamaica. On the 4th, the boats’ crews being much fatigued, he landed in a sandy bay near the latter port, reconnoitred a wood by which it was skirted, and placed a centinel on a commanding height, as well to prevent surprise as to report any vessel that might be seen approaching. His other men, with the exception of a boat-keeper, then lay down on the beach to take some rest, but were suddenly roused by a volley of musketry from 60 or 70 soldiers, who rushed forward with fixed bayonets, and seemed determined to give no quarter. The innate courage of British sailors never appeared more conspicuous than in the desperate conflict that now took place:– every inch of ground was fought to the water’s edge, our gallant fellows knocking down many of the Spaniards with their fists, which the latter seemed to dread as much as they did the cutlass.
On arriving at the sea-side, the enemy began to drag the boats into the surf, and they succeeded in swamping one; but, fortunately, the man in charge of them had the presence of mind to cut the painter of the other, which was scarcely accomplished when a musket-ball knocked the knife out of his hand, and cut off two of his fingers. Having gained the boat thus preserved. Lieutenant Ussher fired a swivel loaded with 200 musket-balls into the midst of the Spaniards, his men at the same time giving three cheers. This had a most desirable effect: the enemy fled back to their wood with the utmost speed, and the badly-wounded British were thereby enabled to re-embark without any further molestation. One of these poor men was bayoneted in the eye, after dealing a heavy blow with his fist; and he appears to have been supported in the surf by Lieutenant Ussher until they reached the boat. The loss sustained on this occasion was 2 killed, 6 severely, and 4, including the Lieutenant, slightly wounded. The survivors had the good fortune to be picked up by the Pelican, at ten o’clock that night.
On the following day, the Pelican chased a French privateer schooner, mounting 7 guns, into the river Augusta, near Cumberland harbour. Lieutenant Ussher instantly volunteered to attack her; but his commander, wishing first to reconnoitre the enemy’s position, sent only two boats, containing 19 men, for the latter purpose. On opening the mouth of the river, the schooner was seen lying across the stream, her bow apparently aground, and a large proportion of her crew on shore, at such a distance as to give Lieutenant Ussher every hope of reaching the vessel before them, or at all events of deciding her fate by attacking them. He therefore instantly landed; but notwithstanding the celerity of his movements, the enemy were enabled to get on board and haul her into mid-channel, by means of hawsers already laid out to some trees on the opposite bank. When hailed to surrender, they discharged a broadside; and an attempt to board the schooner, under cover of the smoke, proved unsuccessful, owing to the depth of water. Lieutenant Ussher now ordered the best marksmen to fire at such of the enemy as were employed loading their great guns; but unfortunately the three most expert were successively killed, one of whom, the coxswain of Lieutenant Ussher’s boat, was aiming at the matchman of a long 18-pounder when it went off, sending a shot against his chest, which mangled him most dreadfully. Thinking it probable that the Pelican, on hearing the report of the schooner’s guns, would either run into the river or send him a reinforcement, Lieutenant Ussher still continued the unequal contest; the eagerness of the enemy to keep people aloft, from whence they could look over the land and watch her motions, confirmed him in that opinion, and kept alive his hopes of final success. No assistance, however, arrived: the enemy fired with greater confidence after the fall of the coxswain, &c., by whom their look-out men had been picked off, one after the other, as fast as they ascended the rigging. At length. Lieutenant Ussher received a dangerous wound, when in the act of taking a pricker from the serjeant of marines, his own musket having just before missed fire. Both fell together – himself shot in the right thigh, and the Serjeant with the loss of his left leg. Supposing that his own wound was mortal, as a great quantity of blood flowed from it, our gallant officer then directed the master of the Pelican, Mr. Henry M‘Cleverty, to retire with the rest of the party, and to leave him there, as he would not retard their retreat by allowing them to carry him off. He shortly afterwards fainted from loss of blood, and did not recover his senses until the French surgeon began to probe the wound. By that individual, himself and his wounded companions were treated with the utmost tenderness; and it is but justice to the captain of the privateer to say, that he likewise did every thing in his power to alleviate their sufferings. To Lieutenant Ussher he gave up the whole of his cabin, allowing no one but the surgeon to enter it: to the men that survived he shewed the most delicate attention; and to the slain he paid every mark of respect that could possibly have been expected from a brave and generous enemy. We very much regret that it is not in our power to place upon record the name of so magnanimous a fellow; that of his vessel was le Moulin à Café: his crew consisted of 83 men.
Lieutenant Ussher was obliged to use crutches for several months after his return to the Pelican; and his wound had not healed when he volunteered to attack another privateer schooner, lying in Artibonite river, at the west end of St. Domingo. This enterprise was undertaken in Jan. 1799. The force intended to be employed consisted of 50 men, placed on board a detained merchant schooner; but as the wind was blowing down the river, and the attacking vessel would consequently be too much exposed to the enemy’s fire in working up, Lieutenant Ussher determined on making the attempt in the Pelican’s cutter alone. Twelve fine fellows instantly volunteered to accompany him, and with that small number he proceeded to the attack. The privateer had not less than 70 men, part of whom were strongly posted behind trees; notwithstanding which immense superiority, he boarded, carried, and, as she was fast aground, destroyed her. She proved to be la Trompeuse, mounting 5 guns, and commanded by the same person who had so nobly fought the Pelican in Sept. 1797, but who was not on board his new vessel to defend her with equal gallantry. The loss sustained by each party on this occasion was comparatively trifling.
Whilst serving as a Lieutenant of the Pelican, Mr. Ussher was engaged in more than twenty boat attacks, the whole of which were conducted by him with the same zeal and gallantry as those enterprises were which we have been describing. In May, 1799, he was appointed third of the Trent frigate, commanded by Captain Robert Waller Otway, an officer likewise distinguished for his active services and very daring exploits.
On the 7th of the following month. Lieutenant Ussher volunteered his services to attack a schooner and a felucca, lying in Aguada bay, at the N.W. end of Porto Rico, which anchorage was protected by two batteries, one of six and the other of four 24-pounders. The barge and a cutter were accordingly placed under his orders, the latter boat commanded by his old fighting companion, Mr. M‘Cleverty, then serving as master of the Trent.
The enemy’s vessels having hauled in under the 6-gun battery, and being evidently prepared for resistance, great caution and profound silence were absolutely necessary. At 11 P.M., the boats shoved off, with their oars well muffled; and Lieutenant Ussher had scarcely proceeded 600 yards when he fell in with and secured a canoe, which had been sent out for the purpose of rowing guard and giving timely alarm, an attack being fully expected.
On approaching the shore. Lieutenant Ussher ordered Mr. M‘Cleverty to remain out of gun-shot until he observed firing, as it was his intention to board the schooner singly, which, in the event of any severe loss, would enable the cutter to give him more efficient aid.
About 2 A.M. the schooner was perceived lying under the muzzles of the guns in the largest battery; and her crew being all asleep on the quarter-deck, she was soon afterwards silently boarded on the bow, from whence Lieutenant Ussher and his men walked aft without their shoes, and kneeling down with the points of their swords against the breasts of the Spaniards, threatened them with instant death if they gave the least alarm.
A hawser fast on deck, and another at the mast-head, were then successively cut; the schooner swung with her stern to the battery, and a well-directed fire instantaneously swept her deck, killing and wounding almost every one of the barge’s crew. Several of the prisoners were also wounded by a 24-pound shot entering the cabin, to which place they had retreated.
Finding the schooner still fast, a diver, who fortunately had escaped, went down and cut a rope which he found attached to the heel of the rudder. At this critical moment, Mr. M‘Cleverty came up and took the prize in tow: a light air off the land aided him very greatly, and he soon gained an offing. When out of range. Lieutenant Ussher left the schooner and barge in his charge, returning himself in the cutter to Aguada bay, from whence he brought out the felucca without any additional loss.
The Trent subsequently proceeded towards the Spanish Main; and on the 7th July, 1799, being then about 14 or 15 leagues to the northward of Laguira, Captain Otway received information that the Hermione frigate, whose crew had murdered their captain and most of the officers, was lying in that port, under the protection of several heavy batteries. Having long most anxiously sought to discover the place of her retreat, that brave and enterprising officer immediately determined on making an attempt to restore her to the British navy.
For this purpose the barge and cutter were again manned with volunteers, and again placed under the command of Lieutenant Ussher, assisted by Mr. M‘Cleverty; Captain Otway accompanying the former officer as a volunteer; which appears to have been his general practice, whenever the service to be performed by boats was considered particularly dangerous, and the situation of his ship did not render it unsafe for him to leave her.
At midnight, after a fatiguing row of eleven hours, the barge got sight of a light on shore; and shortly afterwards she fell in with a fishing vessel, from which a pilot was procured. At 1 A.M. (July 8), both boats entered the harbour with their oars muffled, and pulled in every direction without being discovered, although it was then a perfect calm, and not a sound could be heard in any part of the anchorage. Severe was the disappointment of every officer and man when they ascertained that the Hermione was not there. The fact is, that she had sailed only a few days before for Porto Cabello, where she was afterwards captured in the manner described at p. 824 of our first volume.
Returning from the inner part of the harbour, the mortified party perceived a long low ship, which the pilot described as a corvette lately arrived from Spain: the cutter was immediately directed to pull for her larboard bow, and the barge to board her on the larboard gangway. The use of fire-arms on this, as on all similar occasions, was strictly forbidden by a standing order of Captain Otway’s.
Hearing the barge come alongside, the Spaniards rushed upon deck, and defended themselves with great resolution; but nothing could withstand the impetuosity of the British seamen, several of whom broke their cutlasses in dealing out powerful blows:– it is scarcely necessary to add that the ship was soon carried, and in a style that left no doubt as to what would have been the result had they found the real object of their visit to Laguira.
By this time the alarm was given on shore, drums were beating in every direction, and lights seen in all the batteries. Scarcely was the cable cut, and the prize taken in tow, when the fire of nearly 100 guns was opened upon her; but as the smoke did not rise, the enemy were prevented from taking good aim, and by break of day she was so far out that their shot could no longer reach her.
The Trent was now eagerly looked for by the exhausted boats’ crews, but she was no where to be seen. As the sun rose, and cleared away the haze, a formidable flotilla of gunboats was discovered coming out. To contend against such a superior force in broad day-light would have been madness; to carry off the prize without fighting was totally impossible, there being no wind, and the Trent’s fine fellows having scarcely strength enough left to keep the tow-rope taut. Captain Otway therefore recommended Lieutenant Ussher, who had taken charge of the ship, to place double centinels over the prisoners, to point two of the guns (Spanish 12-pounders), treble-shotted, down the main-hatchway, and upon the arrival of the flotilla within grape-range to fire them through her bottom. This advice was strictly followed: Lieutenant Ussher and his men retreated into the barge; the Spaniards left their place of confinement, mounted the rigging, and shewed by their signals and gestures the sinking state of the ship, thereby drawing off the attention of the headmost gun-boats, which had already commenced firing grape at the British, who were thus enabled to effect their escape without further annoyance, although they did not fall in with the Trent for many hours afterwards.
We next find Lieutenant Ussher and Mr. M‘Cleverty bringing off a felucca which they had discovered lying aground under a small battery on the north side of Porto Rico. On this occasion the Trent’s barge was opposed by a body of cavalry, and actually attacked by numerous troopers, who rode into the sea and behaved in a very creditable manner until the launch rounded an intervening point of land, and commenced firing upon them with grape, canister, and musketry, when they scampered off in the greatest confusion, many of the horses throwing their riders, to the great amusement of every Briton present.
Lieutenant Ussher continued in the Trent until her return to England with the flag of Sir Hyde Parker, when, being threatened with locked jaw, and suffering severely in other respects from his various wounds, he was obliged to retire for a time from active service, and thereby lost the fairest chance of promotion. Whilst on shore he was surveyed by the college of surgeons; but, although they reported that his wounds were equal to the loss of a limb, and the following warm letter was written in support of his claims, he did not obtain a pension until Dec. 1814:
“Great Cumberland Place, Oct. 1, 1801.
“Sir,– Lieutenant Ussher, a most gallant and deserving officer, serving under my command in the West Indies, having acquainted me, that there is a stop put for the present to a pension intended to be granted him for his wounds, for want of Captain Laroche’s letter of the action in which he was wounded, I herewith have the honor to enclose a copy of Captain Laroche’s letter, and as Lieutenant Ussher was, whilst in the West Indies, ever distinguished for his gallant conduct in cutting vessels out of the enemy’s harbours and attacking batteries, and most warmly recommended to me by every Captain under whom he served, I beg leave in justice to his merits not only to recommend him for a pension, but for any mark of favor their Lordships may think proper to bestow on him. I am, &c.
“To Evan Nepean, Esq.”
The letter referred to in the note at p. 324 was worded as follows:
“London, Feb. 27th, 1802.
“Sir,– Having heard that the pension intended to have been granted to Lieutenant Thomas Ussher, for a severe wound he received in an action with the enemy (when Captain Laroche commanded the Pelican while I was sick at Jamaica) ia withheld; I beg you will be pleased to inform the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, that when I rejoined the Pelican, Lieutenant Ussher did his duty on board, although his wound was open and very troublesome; and I afterwards sent him on a similar service (to that on which he received his wound) in the boats of the Pelican, in the bight of Leogone, when he shewed his usual gallantry, and destroyed the French privateer. – I therefore beg leave to recommend his case to their Lordships, as that of a brave and deserving officer. I have the honor to be. Sir, &c.
“Evan Nepean, Esq.”
Contrary to the advice of his physicians, Lieutenant Ussher again solicited employment, in June 1801, and was immediately appointed to the Nox cutter; in which vessel he appears to have been employed attending upon the royal family during their usual visit to Weymouth; but although flattered with a promise of speedy advancement at that period, he had the mortification to be passed over when a very extensive promotion took place, in April 1802. His subsequent appointments were, Oct. 1803, to the Joseph cutter; and April 1804, to the Colpoys brig; the latter vessel mounting 14 twelve-pounder carronades, with a complement of 40 men. In Oct. 1804, Captain Peter Puget, of the Foudroyant 80, prepared a plan for the destruction of the Brest fleet, in the performance of which service he was to have been seconded by Lieutenant Ussher; but to their great chagrin the enterprise was abandoned through some misunderstanding, only two days before the time appointed for putting it into execution. The following copy of a letter from Captain Puget will shew what confidence he reposed in his intended companion:
“Foudroyant, Cawsand Bay, Nov. 3, 1804.
“My dear Sir,– I beg leave to add my testimony to the many already in your possession, of your services, and how much I felt obliged for the readiness with which you came forward when I suggested to you the plaa for destroying the enemy’s fleet in Brest by fire-vessels. Had that plan been put into execution, you were to have followed in the next brig to me; and as I should have led in, I felt assured of extensive success with such support.
“I have likewise to acknowledge the assistance I received from you in reconnoitring the enemy’s fleet, during the time that plan was in contemplation; and nothing I assure you would afford me more heartfelt gratification than hearing of your promotion, on which I hope very shortly to congratulate you. I have taken the liberty of writing to Lord Melville on this subject. Believe me to be, my dear Sir, your sincere friend.
“To Lieut. Thomas Ussher.”
In justice to the other officers who were to have been employed on the same hazardous service, we shall here insert a copy of Captain Puget’s letter, recommending them to the favorable notice of the Admiralty.
“My Lord,– As the plan for attempting to destroy the enemy’s fleet in Brest appears for the present abandoned, I think it my duty to state to your Lordship the readiness with which the following officers volunteered their services on that occasion – Lieutenants Graves, Ussher, Milne, and Mends; and though their expectations were a little damped from the circumstance of my being deprived of the principal command, yet even holding a secondary situation, these officers did not shrink from their original offer, but came forward still, under my auspices, to execute that service.
“The unwearied diligence they bestowed in every stage of that undertaking, and their anxiety to execute it with honor and credit to themselves, deserve every recommendation I can give them, not exactly on that account, but for the secrecy they observed. I feel fully convinced, had it been our good fortune to have conducted that enterprise, these officers would have merited your Lordship’s countenance and protection: as it is, I think it but common justice to mention their spirit and alacrity. I have the honor to be, &c.
“To the Right Hon. Viscount Melville, &c. &c. &c.”
Admiralty, Nov. 26, 1804.
“Sir,– I have to acknowledge the receipt of your letter, and I have much satisfaction in observing the favorable testimony which you bear to the zeal of Lieutenants Graves, Ussher, Milne, and Mends, in their voluntary offer to accompany you on a particular service, and to their diligence and discretion during the whole period that the execution of the project was in contemplation.
“For the zeal which you yourself manifested in suggesting this project, and for the ability with which you appear to have directed and detailed the means of carrying it into effect, you are fully entitled to, and have my entire approbation. I am, &c.
“To Captain Paget, R.N.”
From a memorial subsequently presented to the Admiralty by Captain Puget, we find that it was originally intended to place twelve fire-brigs at his disposal; but that their Lordships were of opinion that Captain Charles Brisbane should conduct the contemplated enterprise, as he had suggested a similar plan of attack when commanding the Doris frigate, in 1801; that this new arrangement was not made known to Captain Puget till after the first division of the fire-vessels had joined the Channel fleet, and that the cause of the undertaking being ultimately abandoned was never communicated to him. The assistance which he acknowledges having received from Lieutenant Ussher “in reconnoitring the enemy’s fleet,” was greater than his letter of Nov. 3, 1804, seems to imply; the zealous commander of the Colpoys having actually entered Brest harbour in a 4-oared gig, rowed along the whole French line, consisting of twenty-one sail, and thereby obtained a knowledge of the enemy’s exact force.
This very hazardous service was performed during a sharp frosty night; and Lieutenant Ussher was not discovered until he arrived abreast of the Admiral’s ship, when three boats were immediately despatched in pursuit of him. On his clearing the Goulette passage, the boats of eleven gun-brigs lying in Cameret bay, and which advanced squadron he had previously rowed around, joined in the chase; but although closely pressed, he effected his retreat without loss, and was thus enabled to give Admiral Cornwallis the information that that veteran ofticer had long been anxious to obtain, as also to explain to Captain Puget the exact position of the French commander-in-chief, and the force under his orders.
Another dashing service performed by Lieutenant Ussher about the same period is equally deserving of notice.
Ever anxions to add to his professional reputation, he landed at midnight with only 6 men, surprised a signal post situated not more than 200 yards from Bertheaume castle, obtained possession of the enemy’s private signals, locked the guard up in a room, and brought off their commanding officer.
Lieutenant Ussher was subsequently sent to cruise on the north coast of Spain, where he destroyed many of the enemy’s trading vessels. In Mar. 1800, we find him addressing an official letter to Earl St. Vincent, of which the following is a copy:
“My Lord,– I have the honor to acquaint your lordship, that, cruising in H.M. brig Colpoys under my command, agreeably to the orders of Admiral Cornwallis, on the 21st of this month we chased three Spanish luggers into the port of Avillas; and as we had a fine commanding breeze, I determined on following them in, notwithstanding the fire of a six-gun battery, under which they ran, but which I considered the Colpoys as competent to silence. For this purpose we prepared for anchoring with springs; but on arriving within range of the enemy’s guns, and before our carronades could be worked with effect, the wind died away. To draw the fire from the brig, and in order to lose no time in effecting my object, the two boats were immediately manned with volunteers, and, after pushing through a heavy fire of grape from the battery, and the musketry of a party of soldiers, which had been sent on board the vessels to defend them, I succeeded with 6 men, in the headmost boat, in boarding aud carrying them, the enemy jumping over one side as we entered on the other; 13 of them fell into our hands: the second boat, which pulled heavy, came up afterwards, and we succeeded in bringing them off.
“Notwithstanding the heavy fire of the enemy’s battery of 24-pounders, two men only received any hurt; one of them, I am sorry to add, a dangerous wound, though, I hope, not mortal.
“I have felt it a duty I owe to the steady courage and perseverance of the master, mates, and crew of the Colpoys, to detail to your lordship the circumstances of this little enterprise, as they have uniformly shown the same determination in my support in other affairs the Colpoys has been engaged in since I have had the honor to command them. I annex, in the margin, for your lordship’s information, the names of the captured vessels. I have the honor to be, &c.
On this occasion, the enemy’s armed vessels fired round and grape at Lieutenant Ussher’s boat until he got within a few yards of the outermost, when she loaded her guns with musket-balls, by which the above-mentioned men were wounded. As soon as that vessel was secured Lieutenant Ussher made two of the prisoners jump overboard and swim on shore, directing them to tell the officer commanding the battery that if another gun was fired he would hang up the eleven Spaniards remaining in his possession. This menace had the desired effect, and the other vessels were taken possession of without further opposition; the one in ballast was given up to the prisoners.
On the 19th April following, the Colpoys then cruising between the Glenans and l’Orient, in company with the Attack gun-brig, Lieutenant Ussher perceived two chasse-marées at the entrance of the river Douillan, which vessels soon quitted their anchorage and ran up the river. Finding it necessary to silence a battery of 2 long 12-pounders before the boats could get to them, he landed with 12 men from each brig, and, after a short skirmish, got possession of, and nailed up the guns: he then brought the vessels down the river, and destroyed the signal post at Douillan, accomplishing the whole of this daring service without the slightest loss, or any material damage.
We next find Lieutenant Ussher volunteering to cut out a French frigate, lying at St. Sebastian, for which purpose the Haughty gun-brig and Frisk cutter were placed under his orders: contrary winds, however, prevented him from arriving off that place in time to make the attempt, the enemy’s ship having sailed two days before he got there.
From thence Lieutenant Ussher’s little squadron, reinforced by the Felix schooner, proceeded along the north coast of Spain, and destroyed several batteries at St. Antonio, Avillas, Bermeo, and Hea. His proceedings at the latter place are thus described by him in an official letter to Earl St. Vincent, dated Aug. 6, 1806:
“On the 28th ult., standing along shore to reconnoitre the small harbours to the westward of St. Sebastian, with the Frisk, Haughty, and Felix in company, I saw some vessels lying at Hea: the wind being favorable for bringing them out, the boats were manned with volunteers, and I went in accompanied by Lieutenants Bourne and Norton, and sub-Lieutenant Mitchell, of the Felix. Upon arriving within 200 yards of the town, and at the entrance of a narrow river leading to it, the enemy commenced firing grape and musketry from a battery on our left, and another at the town which enfiladed the river. Finding that they were so well prepared, I judged it necessary to attack the town instantly, and for that purpose I directed the boats to pull up in a line a-head to the battery in front, of which and the town we soon had possession (our men having pushed through between the guns and the sides of the embrasures, this being the only entrunce I could find); we afterwards attacked the battery we had passed on our left, rolled the guns over a precipice into the sea, and destroyed the magazine: the vessels being in ballast, and drawn up on beach, we did all our means would admit of to render them unserviceable. I am sorry to acquaint your lordship, that, in the performance of this service. Lieutenant Bourne received a severe blow that broke a rib; one of his men, also, was dangerously wounded; which, with two more of the party slightly wounded, was the extent of our loss. I fear the enemy suffered very much, in consequence of the provoking manner they continued to assail us from the tops of their houses, after we had possession of the town, although our men behaved in the most orderly manner, not attempting to commit the smallest plunder. I cannot conclude my letter without acknowledging the support I received from Lieutenants Bourne and Norton (of the Felix and Frisk), Lieutenant Bourne continuing to exert himself, though suffering great pain; and I have much pleasure in acquainting your lordship that the other officers and men behaved with coolness, determination, and the greatest humanity.”
Hea is situated in a deep ravine, and the river leading to it is so narrow that two boats cannot row up abreast. Lieutenant Ussher endeavoured to effect a landing before he arrived at the battery in front of the town, but found it impossible to mount the rocks, which were inaccessible at both sides. Himself and the boatswain of the Colpoys were the two first that sprang through the embrasures; and the former appears to have had a very narrow escape when pursuing the enemy from the battery into the town, his pistol having missed fire when presented at a Spaniard whose bayonet was already touching his breast, but who appeared paralysed at the sight of fire-arms, and remained motionless until he was cut down by a British sailor.
The cause of Lieutenant Ussher giving up the command of the Colpoys, by which his promotion was probably delayed, will be seen by the following official testimonial:
“This is to certify, that immediately after taking the town and batteries of Hea, on the coast of Spain, last July, I was requested by Lieutenant Ussher, of the Colpoys, to attend him in consequence of a wound he had received on a former occasion in his right thigh; the wound having broken out afresh, occasioned, as I learned, by the violent exertion and excessive fatigue he encountered in effecting the destruction of the batteries at the above-mentioned place.
“And I do further certify, that during the time the Colpoys remained in company with the Felix, I had frequent opportunities of seeing Lieutenant Ussher, and that from the period above alluded to, I marked a progressive decline in his general health, and an alarming affection of his nervous system, evidently proceeding from the unfavorable symptoms of his wound.
(Signed)“George F.Clark, Surgeon.”
About the same period. Lieutenant Ussher received the following gratifying letters from three of the most distinguished officers in the British navy:
“Hibernia, in the Tagus, 13 Sept. 1806.
“Sir,– Be assured that I sincerely lament your retiring from the command of the Colpoys, on the public account, and much more on your own; but though no longer under my command, you are not out of my recollection, and I have enclosed your letter to the Admiralty, with as strong a recommendation as I could pen. With the most sincere good wishes for its success, I am. Sir, very much your humble servant.
“To Lieutenant Ussher.”
“Newlands, Oct. 1, 1806.
“Dear Ussher,– I have, I am sure, at all times been most ready to express, not only my approbation of your conduct, but that I thought your daring exploits and uncommon zeal in the service, whilst under my command, deserved promotion. The only way in my situation to have shewn my sense of your good conduct was to have taken you on board the Ville de Paris, which I could not do because it would have put you out of the way of further distinguishing yourself, and as I then thought, and it has since been proved, would not have helped your promotion. I am, dear Ussher, your obedient and faithful servant,
“October 9, 1806.
“Dear Sir,– I am this moment favored with your letter, and it is with great pleasure I congratulate you on your recovery from your late indisposition, and the prospect you have of promotion, to which your gallant and active services have so long given you the fairest claims.
“I do assure you I never lost an opportunity of reporting your meritorious services to our brave and honorable commander-in-chief, whose letter I return to you, as it is so creditable to you both, and I doubt not you value the good opinion of such an officer more than a Post-Captain’s commission, which I wish it was in my power to confer on you, as I know none more deserving of it; therefore I need not add the pleasure I shall have in hearing of your promotion, for which you have my best and most unfeigned good wishes.
“Rheumatism and low fever still confine me to this place, which is the more painful, as every moment spent on shore, at the present situation of public affairs, is worse than death. I am, my dear Sir, with great truth, your most faithful humble servant,
“To Lieutenant Ussher, R.N.
“P.S. You may make use of me in any way I can further your promotion * * * * * *.”
These letters, together with many others of a similar nature, were forwarded to the Admiralty by Lieutenant Ussher, who immediately received a complimentary epistle from the first lord, of which the following is a copy;
“October, 13, 1806.
“Sir,– The testimonials which you have enclosed to me from Earl St. Vincent and other officers high in the service, are naturally so valuable to you that I do not delay to return them; they mark such an honorable course of service that I am happy to take an early opportunity of promoting you: it is my intention to appoint you to the command of a sloop, which will be ready to receive men in a few days. I have the honor to be, Sir, your faithful and obedient servant,
“To Lieutenant Ussher.”
The sloop alluded to by Mr. Grenville was the Redwing of 18 guns, fitting for the Mediterranean station. The Committee of the Patriotic Fund at Lloyd’s had previously voted Lieutenant Ussher a sword value 60l. for his very gallant conduct at Avillas; and the crew of the Colpoys, also, requested his acceptance of a handsome sabre, “as a token of their respect and esteem.”
During the time that Captain Ussher commanded the Redwing, he was principally employed protecting our trade from the depredations of the Spanish gun-boats and privateers in the vicinity of Gibraltar, on which station he gave many additional proofs of his skill and intrepidity.
In Mar. 1807, Captain Ussher joined Lord Collingwood off Cadiz, and was ordered by him to convoy a fleet of merchantmen through the Straits. When passing Tariffa, the enemy’s flotilla came out; and as the Redwing was painted like a Portuguese merchantman, for the purpose of deception, her commander succeeded in decoying them within range of his carronnades, the fire of which was no sooner opened than they fled with precipitation, seeking protection under their land batteries.
On the 20th April following, being then at Gibraltar, and observing a division of Spanish gun-boats coming round Cabritta point, with a merchant brig in tow, Captain Ussher obtained permission to slip his cable and go in pursuit of the enemy, but with private directions “not to risk too much.” His proceedings are thus detailed in an official letter addressed to Captain Edward Buller, the senior officer at that anchorage:
“H.M. brig Redwing; Gibraltar, April 21, 1807.
“Sir,– In obedience to your desire that I should state to you my proceedings yesterday morning, I beg leave to acquaint you that I lost no time in closing with the enemy’s gun-boats, with the hope of forcing them to abandon the brig they had captured, and which proved to be an American; but from the light airs, and though every exertion was used in towing by the boats you sent me, I could not so far succeed until they were under the protection of their batteries. At that moment, a light breeze springing up, I ordered the boats to keep outside, as we were considerably within the range of shot, and I opened the fire from my long guns upon the gun-boats, which appeared to give way; but before I could close for my carronades to do execution the wind died totally away, and I was exposed to so heavy a fire from the batteries, that I deemed it no longer advisable to continue the attack; and by the assistance of the boats and my sweeps, I was enabled to get soon out of the reach of their guns.
“I cannot conclude my letter without mentioning the support I received from Lieutenants Ferguson and Webster, Mr. Davis the master, and Mr. Horniman, the purser (who volunteered his services on deck); and I never saw greater steadiness shewn than by every officer and man, though opposed to so unequal a fire. I annex for your information a list of the killed and wounded. I remain, &c.
During this action, the Redwing was struck by a red-hot shot from the shore, which blew up a salt-box full of powder, tore away the grating over the gun-room skylight, and set fire to the tarpauling that covered it, pieces of which were observed descending into the magazine passage, when Captain Ussher promptly jumped down and hailed the gunner instantly to shut the door of the magazine, which was of necessity kept closed for a considerable time, as the only means of saving the brig from destruction.
About two hours after the above affair. Captains Buller and Ussher rode out on the neutral ground between Gibraltar and St. Roque, and were invited by General O’Reilly, commanding at the Spanish lines, to take some refreshments. Whilst doing so, the General proposed to drink to the health of the gallant officer who had so distinguished himself that morning; and on being told that it was Captain Ussher whom he thus designed to honor, he seized the latter by the hand, said he was delighted to make his acquaintance, that he felt ashamed of the disgraceful conduct of his countrymen in the gun-boats, and regretted that the batteries had rendered them any assistance.
From this period until Aug. 19th, 1807, the Redwing was almost constantly in pursuit of and engaged with the enemy’s flotilla and batteries. At the latter date we find Captain Ussher proceeding with despatches to the Balearic islands; and on his return from thence reporting the destruction of a Spanish convoy at Calassel, and the result of an attack made by him upon three privateers lying at Benidorme; the particulars of which services are detailed in two letters addressed to Rear-Admiral Purvis, of which the following are extracts:
“Standing along the coast of Catalonia (Sept. 7. 1807), I saw a ship, a polacre, and several smaller vessels at anchor before the town of Calassel, and having a light breeze I stood into the bay; but before I could get within gun-shot, the inhabitants came down in great numbers, and hauled them on shore. Having anchored within three cables’ length of the town, I sent the boats, under cover of my fire, to bring them off or burn them; but a most violent thunder-storm, that lasted near four hours, obliged me to weigh; and I have no doubt that before it abated the vessels went to pieces on the beach. Lieutenant Ferguson, who commanded the boats, behaved with his usual gallantry, under a most galling fire from the town: the cool and good conduct of Lieutenant Webster, the other officers, and the men, likewise deserve great praise. I annex for your information a list of the killed and wounded.”
“Passing Benidorme, on the coast of Valencia, Sept. 8th, I saw a Spanish polacre ship, and three privateers, of 10, 6, and 4 guns, at anchor before the town. Having pushed in within a hundred yards of the castle, on which are mounted four 18-pounders, commanding the anchorage, I succeeded in carrying the ship, which the crew (assisted by the people of the town) were endeavouring to haul on shore, and had put my helm up to lay the privateers on board, when I found, as the smoke cleared away, they had cut their cables, and were making sail. On looking round, to my great mortification, I saw so much of my standing and running rigging cut that my masts were in danger: the stem was likewise shot through, close inside the bobstays, and the fore-mast and main-top-gallant-mast were wounded; but I pursued them with all the sail I could carry to Jovosa, four miles west of Benidorme, where they ran on shore, apparently in a sinking state: one of them had struck her colours, but rehoisted them on seeing our crippled state.
“Not being able to mann all my guns, 11 of my best men lying wounded, 1 killed, and 14 absent in prizes and at the hospital, I could only fire alternately at the castle and vessels, otherwise I have no doubt the whole of them would have fallen into our hands.
“I have much pleasure in acquainting you, that in this affair I lost but one man; and that Lieutenants Ferguson and Webster, Mr. Davis, and Mr. Horniman, the latter of whom has always volunteered his services on deck, and every other officer, together with the men, deserve my highest praise. I annex in the margin the name of the captured ship, and have the honor to be, &c.
About this period, Captain Ussher received a very kind letter from his new commander-in-chief, the contents of which we cannot refrain from laying before our readers:
“Sir,– The letters you sent to me I have read with much satisfaction – they are valuable documents to you, as they shew that the same zeal, the same skill and enterprise which, short as the time is you have been under my command, I have had frequent occasions to admire, have been the ordinary practice of your life at sea; and whatever regard the Admiralty are pleased to show you, I truly believe your services will merit it. You, and your indefatigable companion. Captain Raitt, of the Scout, have done infinite service by the annoyance you have given to the enemy’s privateers, &c. I return you the letters, and am, Sir, with great esteem, your faithful humble servant,
On his return from the Balearic islands, Captain Ussher resumed his station in the Gut of Gibraltar, where we find him continually engaged in pursuit of the enemy’s gun-boats and privateers for a period of nine months, during which he also was often under the fire of some of their numerous batteries.
On the 7th May, 1808, at day-light, Cape Trafalgar bearing W.N.W, distant about six miles, Captain Ussher discovered seven armed vessels convoying twelve Spanish merchantmen alongshore. The enemy appeared desirous of trying their strength with the Redwing, and he immediately made all sail to close with them, and to cut off their retreat to leeward. the wind being very light and variable, he did not get within point-blank shot before seven o’clock, at which time they opened their fire, handed their sails, formed a line abreast, and swept towards the Redwing, displaying more than their usual confidence, and indicating an intention to board. That the enemy had good reason to hope for success is proved by Captain Ussher’s description of their force, viz.
Two schooners, the Diligente and Boreas, each mounting 2 long 24-pounders and 2 eights, with a complement of 60 men.
Three gun-vessels, their aggregate force 3 long 24-pounders, 2 sixes, 1 36-pounder, and 111 men.
A mistico of 4 guns and 20 men, and a felucca of similar force. – Total, 22 guns and 271 men.
Aware that much depended upon the effects of her first fire. Captain Ussher ordered each of the Redwing’s guns to be loaded with one round shot, one grape, one canister, and 500 musket-balls (tied up in a bag); directed his best marksmen to point them at the Diligente, that vessel bearing the broad pendant of the Spanish Commodore; and desired that their fire should be reserved until they were certain of hitting her. The Redwing’s crew were then ranged along the gunwales, in order that every man might know his particular station; and the boarding-nettings were purposely kept down, as an additional encouragement to the Spaniards to come alongside.
Having thus prepared for meeting the enemy upon their own terms, the Redwing’s gallant crew were allowed to give three cheers, which seemed to have a magical effect upon their foes, who instantly backed water, and continued doing so whilst their commodore spoke the different vessels under his convoy. Having at length arrived within pistol-shot, the Redwing’s broadside went off like a single gun, the shot all striking the Diligente at the water line, and cutting her open fore and aft: after giving two or three heavy rolls, she turned over and went down, with all on board. The Boreas soon shared a similar fate; and by nine o’clock two other vessels had also disappeared, they having pushed into a heavy surf, whereby all their wounded men were sacrificed. Four of the merchantmen, following their example, were likewise sunk; and seven, together with the armed mistico, taken by the Redwing – only the felucca, one gun-boat, and one merchant vessel effected their escape, which they would not have done had the British brig been in a condition to carry sail; but, fortunately for them, her foremast was crippled by two shot (24-pounders); another had passed through the mainmast, the gammoning of her bow-sprit was shot through, and the knee of the head cut asunder: her loss, however, was very trivial, only one man being slain, and the master, purser, and one sailor wounded. The Spaniards, according to their own confession, had no less than 240 killed, drowned, and taken prisoners,
“Considering that, among the 22 guns of the Redwing’s seven opponents, there were one long 36, and seven 24-pounders; that the number of men on board of them almost trebled the number in the brig, and that the weather was in every respect favorable for gun-boat operations, the defeat and destruction of this Spanish flotilla afforded an additional proof of the prowess of British seamen, and of how much may be accomplished by gallantry and perseverance.” Lord Collingwood’s acknowledgment of Captain Ussher’s gallant services ought not to be omitted:
“Ocean, off Toulon, 29 May, 1808.
“Sir,– I have received your letter of the 7th instant, informing me of your having that morning attacked an enemy’s convoy, near Cape Trafalgar, consisting of 19 sail, seven of which were armed vessels; that the result had been the capture or destruction of the whole except three, who owe their escape to the crippled state of the Redwing; and that one seaman was killed and two officers and one man wounded on this occasion.
“I shall transmit to the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty a detail of this gallant affair, to whom I make no doubt it will be as gratifying as it is to me, as it affords another instance of that zeal and ability which have been so conspicuously displayed by you for the good of his Majesty’s service, and the annoyance of the enemy. The handsome terms in which you speak of the Redwing’s officers and crew is highly creditable, and much to their honor. I am. Sir, &c.
“Captain Ussher, Redwing.”
On the first day of the following month, Captain Ussher chased a mistico and two feluccas into the bay of Bolonia, near Cape Trafalgar; anchored within point-blank shot of a battery mounting six long 24-pounders, and soon drove the enemy from their guns, thereby enabling Lieutenant Ferguson to destroy the former vessel and bring out the two feluccas, under a heavy fire of musketry, by which Mr. Sharp, master’s mate, was killed, and acting Lieutenant Webster, 3 men, and 1 boy wounded. Captain Ussher then landed, taking with him Lieutenant Ferguson and 40 men armed with pikes, stormed the battery, rendered the guns unserviceable, and blew up the magazine. This latter service appears to have been one of more than ordinary danger, as the rapid approach of a body of cavalry prevented him from laying a train sufficiently long, before it became necessary to fire his pistol, or otherwise to abandon his design. So violent was the concussion that many of the party, whom he had ordered to scamper off, were knocked down; and the shock is said to have been sensibly felt even by the vessels lying at Tangier, a distance of more than six leagues.
On his return to Gibraltar, after the affair at Bolonia, Captain Ussher received the following official notification of his advancement to post rank:
“Admiralty Office, 24th May, 1803.
“Sir,– My Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty having been pleased, as a reward for your judicious and gallant conduct in His Majesty’s service, to sign a commission promoting you to the rank of Post-Captain, I have their Lordships’ commands to transmit to you herewith, the said commission, and at the same time to acquaint you that it is their directions you should for the present continue in the command of the Redwing, I am. Sir, &c.
(Signed)“W. W. Pole.”
“Captain Ussher, Redwing.”
Hostilities with Spain ceasing about thu period, and his health having been long in in declining state, Captain Ussher shortly afterwards gave up the command of the Redwing; and on his return to England had the further gratification of learning that, in addition to the above mark of their Lordships’ approbation, the Board of Admiralty had been pleased not only to promote his first Lieutenant, but likewise to confirm the gentleman who was acting as second; to grant Mr. Richard Soper, senior midshipman of the Redwing, a commission; and to order warrants to be given to such of his own boat’s crew as were qualified for superior stations.
We next find Captain Ussher proceeding to Dublin, where an elegant dinner was given by a large party of noblemen and gentry, to celebrate his arrival.
“The distinguished and well-earned professional reputation of this officer,” says the Editor of ihe Naval Chronicle, “together with the respect entertained for his family and connections, especially the veneration and love with which the memory of his father is so generally cherished, rendered the compliment intended by this meeting perfectly appropriate. To the gentlemen of the university, many of whom were present, it must have been particularly gratifying to contemplate, in the person of Captain Ussher, the wreath of military fame entwined with science, whilst they reflected to the early instruction of a father, who had long been the ornament of their body, much of the eminent attainments of the son might naturally be traced, and beheld in an alumnus of their own society the probable successor to a Nelson’s glory.”
On the above occasion, Captain Ussher was presented with the freedom of the Irish capital; and in Dec. following, Lord Mulgrave, then at the head of naval affairs, offered him a command in the Cattegat, for the protection of our trade against the Danish gun-boats. This proposal he accepted, and in Mar. 1809, he was accordingly appointed to the Leyden, a 64-gun ship, bearing 18 Lieutenants and 800 picked men, with thirteen gun-boats attached to her. The abdication of the King of Sweden, however, caused an alteration in the plans of government with regard to the service on which he was to have been employed, and in consequence thereof the Leyden lay idle until the expedition was undertaken against Antwerp, when we find her selected to convey a regiment of the guards to Walcheren, from whence she brought home a number of sick soldiers.
The Leyden was at this time in so bad a condition that, when ordered back to the Scheldt, Captain Ussher was obliged to navigate her thither himself, his pilots refusing to take charge. For this service the thanks of the Admiralty were conveyed to him by the late Sir George Campbell, Commander-in-chief on the Downs station.
Owing to her defective state, the Leyden was paid off about the close of 1809; and Captain Ussher remained on shore until April, 1811, when he was appointed, pro tempore, to the America 74. Whilst in command of that ship, the crew mutinied, and refused to get her under weigh; upon hearing which, being ill in his cot, he sent for the captain of marines, ordered him to go down to the lower-deck at the head of his men, and to bayonet every sailor he found below. This had the desired effect: the mutineers returned to their duty, and the ship sailed according to her orders.
Captain Ussher’s next appointment was to the Hyacinth, a post sloop, mounting 26 guns; in which ship he escorted a fleet of merchantmen to the Mediterranean, and subsequently joined the squadron employed defending Cadiz.
From that station, Captain Ussher was sent by Rear-Admiral Legge to endeavour to put a stop to the depredations then almost daily committed upon, our trade by the privateers of Malaga, consisting of several fast-sailing, swift-rowing, and well-equipped vessels, commanded by Monsieur Barbastro, a daring and enterprising chief. Finding that the Hyacinth had no chance of overtaking any of these marauders, and that their leader was not to be deceived by the manner in which she was rigged and painted, Captain Ussher lost no time in requesting the senior officer at Gibraltar to place one or two small vessels under his orders, and soon had the pleasure of being joined by a force which he hoped would prove sufficient for effecting the service he was sent on – viz. the Goshawk of 16 guns. Captain James Lilburne; the Resolute gun-brig, Lieutenant John Keenan; and a gun-boat, commanded bv Lieutenant Culi.
On the arrival of this reinforcement, the enemy’s privateers being all in port, and previously well reconnoitred. Captain Ussher determined to strike a blow at them, for which purpose he directed the boats of his little squadron to be immediately prepared for service; and to prevent confusion or misapprehension of orders, the following plan of attack was communicated to every officer.
“Captain Ussher, in his gig, with 6 men; and Lieutenant Thomas Hastings, second of the Hyacinth, in that ship’s pinnace, with 20 men, to attack a battery of 15 long 24-pounders on the mole-head.
“Lieutenant Francis Brockell Spilsbury, first of the Hyacinth, in her barge, with Mr. John Elgar, purser, and 24 men, to attack a battery of 4 long 24-pounders, opposite to the above, and afterwards to assist in boarding the privateers.
“Captain Lilburne, with 40 of his men, in the gun-boat, to board Barbastro’s privateer, the Braave of 10 guns and 130 men. Lieutenant Cull afterwards to place his gun-vessel in the fair way between the mole-heads, to enable the prizes to haul out in case the wind should fail.
“All the other boats of the squadron, under the orders of Lieutenant Keenan, assisted by Lieutenants Otty and Arnold of the Goshawk, to board the other privateers. Each of them to be provided with coils of rope, for the purpose of being laid out as warps to the gun-boat.”
It was about nine o’clock in the evening of April 29, 1812, when the volunteers for this desperate service left their respective vessels, and proceeded towards the shore. On arriving within a mile of the town, their intrepid leader informed Captain Lilburne that it was his intention to attack the molehead batteries previous to the body of boats coming up; that he considered the success of the enterprise would mainly depend upon the result of his attack, and that the gun-vessel and Lieutenant Keenan’s division were therefore not to advance until a signal was made by him for that purpose. Having directed Lieutenant Spilsbury to proceed according to the plan of attack, Captain Ussher then dashed on in company with Lieutenant Hastings, effected a landing amongst the rocks outside the mole-head, and, although fired at before the scaling ladders could be placed, obtained complete possession of the principal battery in less than five minutes after he touched the shore. A rocket was immediately let off, the gun-boat and her companions advanced in fine style, and the whole of the privateers were most gallantly boarded and carried.
So far every thing answered Captain Ussher’s most sanguine expectations ; and the guns of the battery being turned by his directions upon the castle of Gibralfaro, kept the enemy’s garrison in check until all the powder he could find was expended; when he caused them to be spiked, and rowed up the harbour to give such directions as might be necessary for bringing out the prizes. The moon now rising with uncommon brightness, shewed the position of the contending parties: the gun-boat, having a privateer in tow, was warmly engaged with the 57th regiment of French troops, who had come down from the castle to attack the captured battery, just as it was about to be evacuated. The other privateers were also in tow, and numerous merchant vessels were seen lying in a tier, under the walls of the town. The castle was keeping up a furious cannonade upon the boats and prizes, which were likewise exposed to a tremendous fire of musketry from the mole-wall, at only a few yards distance: this latter annoyance was answered in the most spirited manner by the gun-boat, until the fall of Captain Lilburne, who received a mortal wound at the moment that Captain Ussher resumed the command afloat. To add to this misfortune, the heavy firing on both sides caused the wind to die totally away; and owing to the severe loss sustained by the British, it was with the utmost difficulty they could bring off Barbastro’s privateer, and the Napoleon of similar force: the remainder, however, were damaged as much as possible previous to their being abandoned. Captain Ussher concludes his official account of this heroic enterprise in terms to the following effect:
“I have to lament a most severe loss on this occassion, and amongst those who fell was my brave and honorable companion Captain Lillburne.
“It is impossible that my pen can do sufficient justice to the undaunted courage of every officer and man employed in this, the most severe and spirited contest I ever witnessed. I beg leave to recommend my first Lieutenant, Spilsbury; Lieutenants Hastings, Keenan, Otty, and Arnold, the latter severely wounded; and every other officer and man.”
That Captain Ussher’s own gallant and judicious conduct was duly appreciated, will be seen by a public letter he received from Commodore Penrose, dated at Gibraltar, May 6, 1812, a copy of which we shall now lay before our readers:
“Sir,– I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of April 30th, detailing the account of your very spirited and well-planned attack on the enemy’s ships and vessels in the mole of Malaga, mid the batteries which protected them.
“That the failure of the wind or any other cause, should have prevented the full success of an enterprise you had so judiciously arranged, and given more time to the enemy to annoy your brave followers, I most deeply regret.
“It is with sincere pleasure I inform you, that I have the most favorable accounts of the state of the wounded who have arrived here.
“I am happy to find that it is Burbastro’s own vessel which you have captured, and that you possess the eagle presented to him by Buonaparte as an honorable trophy. The presentation of eagles to the slaves of a tyrant cannot enable them to withstand the invincible energy of British seamen.
“I shall enclose copies of your letter to me to the Commander-in-Chief and Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, with my testimony of approbation of your conduct, and to enable them to see the names of the officers you recommend, and the gallantry with which the enemy’s batteries and privateers were carried.
“The remains of Captain Lilburne were deposited in the garrison burying ground on the 4th instant, attended by all the honors the naval means could furnish, and I was happy to observe, by every officer of any rank not on duty in the garrison. I have the honor to be, &c.
(Signed)“C. V. Penrose.
“Captain Ussher, Hyacinth.”
Respecting the brilliant affair at Malaga, we shall only add, that Captain Ussher’s proceedings on that occasion were highly approved both by Sir Edward Pellew and the Admiralty, although they, like himself, could not but lament the severe loss sustained by his little band of heroes.
We next find Captain Ussher commanding a small squadron on the coast of Grenada, opening a communication with the patriots of that province, and inspiring them with such confidence, that they placed themselves at his disposal without any sort of jealousy, constantly requesting his advice how to act, and implicitly following his directions. The proceedings of the Hyacinth and her consorts are thus described by him in a letter to Commodore Penrose, dated off Almuñecar, May 27, 1812:
“Sir,– I had the honor to inform you, in my letter of the 20th instant, that the Termagant had destroyed the castle at Nersa, and that the guerillas came down from the mountains and entered the town; I have now to acquaint you, that I went on shore with Captain Hamilton, and waited upon the guerilla leader, who informed me that the French had retreated to Almuñecar, 7 miles to the eastward; that they had 300 men there; and considering himself strong enough to attack them, he proposed marching upon it without loss of time. As I was desirous to render the guerillas every assistance in my power, I promised him to anchor the ships in a position to place the enemy between our fire, which gave him great satisfaction, and his men much confidence. I accordingly bore up at 4 o’clock the following morning, with the Termagant and Basilisk, and anchored at point-blank range before the castle, which we silenced in less than an hour. Ad the guerillas were to have arrived at 7 o’clock, and there was no appearance of them at 8, Captain Hamilton volunteered to return to Nersa in his gig, to learn if any thing had occurred to prevent their moving forward. At four in the morning he returned, and informed me that a reinforcement which they expected had not arrived, and that they waited for them before they could advance. At seven o’clock the enemy again opened their fire, having mounted a howitzer in a breach made in the covered way to the castle; but by ten o’clock they were again silenced, and driven, with great loss, into the town, where they fortified themselves in the church and houses. Desirous of sparing the unfortunate inhabitants, whom the French had thus cruelly exposed, I ceased firing; and having destroyed a privateer which lay at anchor under the castle, I weighed and ran down to Nersa, for the purpose of concerting plans with the guerillas. On my arrival, I bad the satisfaction to meet a division commanded by Colonel Febrien, an officer of the truest patriotism, who immediately put himself and troops at my disposal. The roads through the mountains being very tedious, and as no time was to be lost, I resolved to take the infantry, consisting of about 200, on board; and I ordered the cavalry to move forward immediately, and take a position in the rear of the enemy, whilst the infantry, with all the small-arm men and marines, were to land on his flanks. I am sorry that the delay of a calm gave the enemy time to learn our combined movement, as he instantly fled with great precipitation, and joining a corps of 200 at Motril, within four miles of Almuñecar, he retreated from thence upon Grenada.
“As soon as I arrived at my anchorage, I sent Lieutenant Spilsbury and a guerilla officer to hoist the British and Spanish flags on the castle; and immediately began to demolish the works, which are exceedingly strong, as it is built on a peninsula of high rock, scarped all round the sea-face, with a wall 30 feet high. At the land-side the rock is excavated nearly 30 feet deep and 60 wide, with a narrow draw-bridge, which is the only entrance into the castle. I intend to fill up us much of the ditch as possible, by springing mines under each bastion. I found in the castle 2 brass 24-pounders, 6 iron 18-pounders, one 6-pounder, and a howitzer, the whole of which were spiked by the enemy. He has left a number of deserters, principally Germans and Flemings, who inform me that they were the whole of the foreigners in this battalion of the 32d regiment; they likewise say that they have long looked for an opportunity to desert, as they were dragged from their families, and forced into the French service: one of them has been eight years from his country. The enemy’s loss was very severe, but cannot be ascertained, as the wounded were carried off in waggons.
“I feel greatly indebted to Captain Hamilton for the able assistance he rendered me, and the judicious position he anchored his ship in; likewise to Lieutenant French, of the Basilisk, who opened and supported a warm and well-directed fire upon the enemy, while the ships were heaving in their springs to bring their broadsides to bear.
“I am happy to inform you that we have had no loss, except the Termagant one man wounded, and the Basilisk one slightly. The privateer was one of Barbastro’s small vessels, armed with 2 guns and having a crew of 30 or 40 men. I cannot conclude without informing you that the officers and men wounded so recently at Malaga came to their quarters. Lieutenant Spilsbury, whose wound is still open, and Mr. Bell, the boatswain, who lost his arm, did not spare themselves. I have the honor to be, &c.
Almuñecar castle was, from its position, invaluable to the enemy, as it gave security to their parties sent to raise contributions and rations on that part of the coast, afforded shelter to privateers, and in the hands of the French might have been made impregnable. By evacuating that fortress, and retreating frdm Salobreña and Motril, they left open the whole line of coast between Malaga and Cape de Gata.
The Hyacinth was refitting at Gibraltar when intelligence arrived of America having declared war against Great Britain. Captain Ussher immediately put to sea, and was fortunate enough to intercept several valuable merchantmen. During this cruise, he was joined by the Blossom sloop, Captain Edward Reynolds Sibley; and on the same day (Sept. 1, 1812), he had the gratification of learning that the enemy had evacuated Malaga, after blowing up the works of the castle of Gibralfaro. In consequence of this welcome information, the Hyacinth and her consort immediately entered the mole, and were received in the most enthusiastic manner by the inhabitants, who thought they could not sufficiently mark their gratitude to Captain Ussher for having spared their trading and fishing vessels when it was in his power to destroy them.
In Nov. following, Captain Ussher was appointed by Sir Edward Pellew to the Euryalus frigate; and after acting in the Edinburgh 74, for a short period, we find him proceeding to watch the enemy’s fleet at Toulon, on which service he continued under the orders of Captain the Hon. G. G. Waldegrave, until his removal to the Undaunted 48, in Feb. 1813.
On the 18th of the ensuing month, Captain Ussher landed a party of seamen and marines at Carri, to the westward of Marseilles, under the orders of his first Lieutenant, Mr. Aaron Tozer, who gallantly stormed and carried a battery containing 4 long twenty-four-pounders, 1 six-pounder, and a 13-inch mortar (the whole of which he destroyed), and brought out a tartan that had anchored there for protection. The enemy on this occasion were strongly posted behind palisadoes, and stood their ground until the British were in the act of charging bayonets, when they turned and suffered a severe loss. The assailants had only 2 killed and 1 wounded.
Thirteen days after the gallant affair at Carri, the Undaunted’s marines assisted at the destruction of two other batteries, mounting 5 thirty-six-pounders, 2 twenty-fours, and 1 mortar; whilst her boats, in conjunction with those of the Volontaire and Redwing, brought out eleven vessels laden with oil, &c. and destroyed three others in consequence of their being aground. The loss of men on both sides has been stated in our memoir of the present Lord Radstock; and an account of the subsequent proceedings at Morjean will be found under the head of Rear Admiral Moubray, at p. 811. of our first volume; but we have there omitted to state, that Captain Ussher, perceiving that the enemy’s vessels were fastened to the shore by hawsers from their mast-heads, immediately volunteered his services, pushed in, and received so heavy a fire of musketry from a party of soldiers posted behind high cliffs, that he had scarcely time to get alongside of the first vessel before his gig filled up to the thwarts; but providentially, neither himself nor any of his boat’s crew received the slightest injury.
Next day (May 3, 1813), the Undaunted chased a ship into the bay of Marseilles; and Captain Ussher having information that she was valuably laden for the Musée Napoléon, took advantage of a fine breeze, pursued her past the batteries which protected the anchorage, and was only prevented from capturing her by a sudden shift of wind which enabled her to reach the harbour. A brig lying at the entrance of the port then hoisted her colours, and the town batteries commenced a furious cannonade, which was instantly answered by Captain Ussher, who kept up an animated fire, both on them and the shipping in the harbour, until the brig was boarded and brought out by a boat’s crew under the command of Lieutenant William Oldrey; when, to the surprise of all on board the frigate, the batteries suddenly ceased firing, and Captain Ussher was suffered to carry off his prize without further molestation.
On the 7th May, the boats of the Undaunted were sent to attack a French national schooner of the largest class, with a fleet of coasting vessels under her protection. Two of the merchantmen were taken, and several driven on shore; but unfortunately, a squall of wind arose just as Lieutenant Oldrey (the senior officer) was about to board the schooner, and she was thereby enabled to escape, notwithstanding every effort was made again to close with her, that resolute young man continuing the chase as long as the most distant hope remained of doing so, although his boat had already suffered a severe loss, and he himself was dangerously wounded.
Early in Aug. following, Captain Ussher discovered a number of vessels lying in the mole at Cassis, a place situated midway between Toulon and Marseilles, where they were protected by five heavy batteries, one of which had a wall 25 feet high. The Espoir brig was then in company with the Undaunted, and her commander, the Hon. Robert Cavendish Spencer, having suggested the possibility of carrying the enemy’s works by a coup-de-main, Captain Ussher left him to blockade the vessels, whilst he proceeded off Cape Sicie, to communicate with Sir Edward Pellew, by whom the Redwing (Captain Sir John Gordon Sinclair), 200 marines, and a detachment of boats, belonging to the Caledonia, Hibernia, Barfleur, and Prince of Wales, were immediately placed at his disposal; the marines to be commanded by Captain Jeremiah Coghlan, R.N. and the boats by Lieutenants Wilson and Gramshaw, of the Caledonia and Hibernia.
Owing to a most unfavorable wind, the attack upon Cassis was unavoidably deferred for several days after Captain Ussher’s return from the fleet, and the enemy were thereby afforded sufficient time to strengthen their means of defence. The result of the attack will be seen by the following extracts of Captain Ussher’s official report:
“H.M.S. Undaunted, of Marseilles, Aug. 18, 1813.
“Sir,– I have the honor to inform you, that the batteries of Cassis have been destroyed, and the vessels, as per margin, brought out of the mole, or burnt. Injustice to the brave officers and men employed on this service, I beg leave to state a few particulars relative to their very meritorious conduct.
“Owing to light winds, the Undaunted could not take up the anchorage that I intended (abreast of the town); therefore, to Captain Coghlan, Sir John Sinclair, and the Hon. Captain Spencer, I am entirely indebted for the success that attended an enterprise, which for gallantry has seldom been surpassed. Four batteries defended the entrance of the bay, and two gun-boats were moored across the entrance of the mole. The citadel battery could only be carried by escalade; but nothing could withstand the boldness of the gallant marines, led on by Captain Coghlan, who surmounted every obstacle opposed to them (and of whom Captain Coghlan speaks in the highest terms of praise) – they literally drove the French before them at the point of the bayonet, pursuing them through the batteries to the heights that command the town, leaving it entirely at our mercy. The boats, under the direction of Sir John Sinclair, then entered the mole, and in less than two hours brought off the vessels.
“I feel very greatly indebted to Captain Coghlan, for his able advice, and for the zeal and ability manifested by him; likewise to Sir John Sinclair and the Hon. Captain Spencer, for their perseverance in sweeping their vessels in, under a heavy fire from the batteries, and placing them in the most judicious position to cover the marines, and to which I attribute, in a great degree, our small loss.
“Lieutenant Tozer, I lament, is most severely wounded; his gallantry I have often noticed. Lieutenant Hunt, of the marines, was the first who entered the citadel battery, by a ladder, under a galling fire; his conduct on this, as on all former occasions, was very gallant. I have the honor to be, &c.
“To Sir Edward Pellew. Bart. &c. &c. &c.”
Previous to the debarkation at Cassis, a general order was issued, directing that if any man was seen to enter a house, under whatever pretence, he was instantly to be shot. Whilst Sir John Sinclair was employed getting the vessels out of the mole, Captain Ussher landed in company with Captain Spencer, and had the satisfaction to find that his wishes were most implicitly complied with, not an article of private property being touched, not any of the houses entered, and not a single peaceable inhabitant molested. This rigid propriety of conduct was afterwards most gratefully acknowledged by a flag of truce, sent off to the Mulgrave 74, the bearer of which told her Captain (Thomas James Maling) that it would have been impossible for a stranger to have known in the morning that an enemy had ever been in the town, much less that it had been occupied by the British during the whole of the preceding night.
After despatching the Espoir to the fleet, with the marines and boats belonging to the Caledonia, &c. Captain Ussher convoyed his prizes to Minorca, where he received a letter from Sir Edward Pellew, of which the following is a copy:
“H.M.S. Caledonia, off the Rhone, Aug. 19, 1813.
“Sir,– I have received your letter of yesterday by the Espoir, stating the particulars of your success at Cassis, and have great pleasure in sending you a copy of a memorandum which I have given out to the fleet on this occasion. I learn with concern, that your first Lieutenant and other brave men are severely wounded, and four killed; but considering the enemy’s means of defence, you had reason to expect a heavier loss.
“You have acted very judiciously in proceeding with the Redwing to Mahon, where you will use your own time in making your arrangements; and when replenished, both ships being supplied with rigging, sails, and stores, will return to my flag. The Espoir, which now proceeds to Mahon, will also rejoin me. I am, &c.
On the 9th Nov. 1813, Captain Ussher reported the capture and destruction of seven French vessels lying in Port Nouvelle, under the protection of several batteries, and a tower 30 feet high, the whole of which were carried in a most gallant manner by a detachment of seamen and marines, under the orders of his first Lieutenant, Joseph Robert Hownam, assisted by Lieutenants Thomas Hastings and George Hurst (of the Undaunted and Guadaloupe), Mr. Alexander Lewis, master of the latter vessel, and Lieutenant Harry Hunt, who on this occasion had the honor of commanding 100 marines, lent from the Caledonia, in addition to his own party.
The principal defence of Port Nouvelle was the above-mentioned tower; and a circumstance attended its capture that we cannot pass over in silence.
The Undaunted’s boats being always provided with scaling-ladders, the height of the tower was no security to it; but, owing to the eagerness of the gallant fellows employed on this service, so many men got on the first ladder at once that it broke under their weight, and only two were able to obtain a footing on the wall. These (a boatswain’s-mate of the Undaunted, and a marine) were furiously attacked by 40 French soldiers: the sailor was overpowered, and the enemy were dragging him to the oven then lighted for heating shot, when the brave marine fortunately extricated himself, flew to the assistance of his companion, bayoneted two of the Frenchmen, and succeeded in releasing the tar. Notwithstanding their apparently desperate situation, the two Britons now became the assailants; and, incredible as it may appear, their forty opponents not only cried for quarter, but were actually placed in confinement before a single man mounted the second ladder. Speaking of the affair at Port Nouvelle, Captain Ussher says:
“I should be wanting in duty, if I did not express my high sense of the discretion and gallant conduct of the officers and men of the Undaunted, who, in the short time she has been under my command, have taken or destroyed, principally in the boats, seventy of the enemy’s vessels, and with comparatively a very small loss. It affords me very great pleasure to state, that only one man was wounded on this occasion.”
Captain Ussher was next employed as senior officer of the squadron left by Sir Edward Pellew to watch the enemy’s fleet at Toulon, during the severe winter of 1813; and it is scarcely necessary to add, that that important trust could not have been confided to a more zealous and vigilant oflicer.
During the night of April 21st, 1814, being then a few leagues to the southward of Marseilles, with the Euryalus frigate in company, Captain Ussher perceived an extraordinary light in the direction of and over that town. Supposing from its brilliancy that the inhabitants were celebrating some joyful event, and having been apprised some days before that a great political change might soon be expected, he immediately stood in shore, under all sail, and at day-light, on the 22d, found himself close to the islands of Pomegue and Iff. The telegraphs, formerly so active on the approach of an enemy, were now apparently deserted; and as the batteries had no colours flying. Captain Ussher approached them with a flag of truce hoisted at the fore, and the Bourbon standard at the main – his own frigate fully prepared for battle, and the Euryalus ready to come to her assistance, in case she should be roughly handled.
On coming within short range, the Undaunted received a shot from the nearest battery, which struck the main-deck, but did no injury to any of her crew. Considering himself to have been mistaken in his conjectures as to the cause of the illumination. Captain Ussher wore round, hauled down the flag of truce and the Bourbon standard, and was in the act of making sail to rejoin his consort, when a second gun was fired. This insulting conduct he felt himself justified in punishing. The Undaunted accordingly tacked, stood in within point-blank range, discharged her broadside, and soon obliged the Frenchmen to desert their guns. Captain Ussher then proceeded towards the next battery, and was about to open his fire when he observed a flag of truce coming out of the harbour. On the boat arriving alongside, he found that the mayor and civil authorities of Marseilles had come off to inform him of the abdication of Napoleon Buonaparte, and the formation of a provisional government in the absence of the Bourbons: they also expressed their indignation at the conduct of the soldiers in the battery, and apologized for it; but this he assured them was unnecessary – for, although nothing could justify an outrage so contrary to the usages of war, he considered them sufficiently punished by the chastisement they had received. Captain Ussher then congratulated the deputation on the happy change that had taken place, and told them that he would anchor H.M. ships under the walls of the town, as a proof of his confidence in the loyalty of the inhabitants. The Euryalus was instantly recalled, and both frigates soon afterwards brought up at the entrance of the harbour.
On landing at Marseilles, Captains Ussher and Napier were received in the most enthusiastic manner by the populace, the air resounding with cries of “Vivent les Anglois!” a circumstance which so provoked Marshal Massena, the commander-in-chief at Toulon, that he sent the governor a severe reprimand, threatened to supersede him if they were not immediately ordered away, and also to march several thousand men against the inhabitants in case of their evincing a spirit of insubordination. At this moment Colonel (now Sir Neil) Campbell arrived, and made the following communication to Captain Ussher:
“At the house of General Dremy, 4 P.M.
“Sir,– I have the honor to acquaint you of my arrival here from Paris, with communications which regard the officer in command of H. Britannic Majesty’s ships on this station.
“Being lately wounded, and much fatigued, as well as from other circumstances, I trust you will excuse my not waiting upon you – nor does the bearer know where I can have that honor. May I therefore request the honor of seeing you as soon as it is consistent with your convenience, in order that I may have the honor of stating to you the nature of the mission with which H. Majesty’s minister, Lord Viscount Castlereagh, has charged me. I have the honor to be, Sir, your most obedient servant,
Col. attached to the British Embassy at
the Court of St. Petersburgh.”
Captain Ussher (then sojourning at the hotel de Ville) immediately waited upon Colonel Campbell, and found that he was required to assist in conveying Napoleon Buonaparte from the shores of France to Elba. He accordingly left the Euryalus a, Marseilles, and proceeded himself to Frejus, the appointed place of embarkation, where he arrived and was introduced to the fallen chief, on the 23d April.
“While preparing to embark,” says Captain Brenton, “the Dryad, a French frigate, arrived. Captain Moncabret waited on Napoleon, supposing the Emperor would prefer his ship for the voyage; but Napoleon informed him that he chose to go in the Undaunted. The French captain put to sea immediately after this mortifying decision; and it was arranged that Napoleon should embark on the following day: but being indisposed in the forenoon, he ordered his carriage at seven o’clock” (April 28th), “at which hour he quitted his hotel, accompanied by Captain Ussher, Count Bertrand, andl Baron Köeler. The Russian and Prussian envoys, und Colonel Campbell, followed in their own carriages. It was a bright moonlight night: the scene was solemnly grand, and deeply interesting; a regiment of cavalry was drawn up on the beach. When the carriage stopped, the bugles sounded, and Napoleon, stepping out, embraced his friends, then took the arm of Captain Ussher, and entered the barge of the Undaunted. * * * * * *
“During the voyage, Napoleon spent the greater part of the day on deck, and was not the least sea-sick; he looked at the coast of Corsica with intense interest through a telescope, and related many anecdotes of his former days * * * * * *
“Passing the island of Capraja, famous for its anchovy fishery, a deputation came off, requesting the Captain would take possession of the island, which he did. Napoleon talked with the deputies, who were greatly surprised to find him on hoard an English ship of war.
“Elba appearing in sight, the Emperor enquired what colours were flying on the batteries. When within four or five miles of the harbour of Porto Ferrajo, Colonel Campbell, and Lieutenant Hastings, then first of the Undaunted, with the foreign ministers, went on shore as commissioners to take possession of the island, and make the proper arrangements for receiving its future sovereign.
“On the 30th April, ahout eight o’clock in the evening, the frigate anchored at the harbour’s mouth. A deputation of the inhabitants waited on their Emperor; he was on deck, at his usual hour, and indefatigably inquisitive. At seven A.M. the Undaunted weighed, and ran into the harbour, anchoring abreast of the town. After breakfast, Napoleon requested Captain Ussher to cause two flags to he made by the ship’s tailors; they were to he white, with a” diagonal “red stripe – on the stripe three bees, as the arms of the Emperor. One of the flags was hoisted at one 1 P.M., and saluted by the Undaunted, and a French corvette lying in the harbour. At two, on the 3d of May, Napoleon landed, and took upon himself the government of the island. * * * * * *
“Having completed his arrangements, Captain Ussher demanded an audience of leave. The Emperor was grieved at the thoughts of losing the Undaunted and her captain, and used every argument to induce him to prolong his stay, but in vain. When he took leave the Emperor was visibly affected; the attentions and kindness which he had received from that excellent officer, had evidently wrought a change in the sentiments of Napoleon in favor of England. Captain Ussher rightly conceived that the duties of hospitality demanded of him every soothing act which could tend to alleviate the afflictions of a conquered enemy, and of fallen grandeur.”
Captain Ussher remained at Elba until the English transports which conveyed Napoleon’s troops, horses, carriages, baggage, &c. were cleared and sent back to Genos, when he sailed for the same place, and on his arrival found himself appointed to the Duncan 74, in which ship he returned to England at the breaking up of the war establishment on the Mediterranean station.
The high sense his late commander-in-chief entertained of Captain Ussher’s conduct whilst employed on the above delicate aud important service will be seen by the subjoined copy of a letter which he received from Lord Exmouth, when applying to be remunerated for the extraordinary expenses to which he was thereby subjected, but which reimbursement he did not for some time obtain.
“Exeter, 3d October, 1814.
“My dear Ussher,– Your letter reached Teignmouth in my absence, for a short visit, or it should, as it deserves, have met earlier attention from me. I am sorry to hear from you, that their lordships have hitherto been unpropitious to your just demand for remuneration for your expense and trouble in receiving the ci-devant Emperor Buonaparte on the coast of France, and landing him on the island of Elba; it is, I am sure, owing to some defect in your representation, or to some miscomprehension on the subject, that their lordships hold back what is established by their own regulations in the like cases; and it is the more severe on you, who in the execution of your duty, and in strict compliance with Lord Castlereagh’s letter, paid all the attention that was due to such a requisition, presented by an officer of rank and consequence, having distinctly the charge of Buonaparte’s person, under the sanction of all the allied powers, as well as that of his Majesty’s minister on the spot. Nothing short of the promptitude of your own active mind, prevented your having from me a regular order to embark that personage, in consequence of Colonel Campbell’s requisition to me for that purpose by Lord Castlereagh’s authority, which would have entitled you to the usual allowance; and I have no hesitation in giving my opinion that you are fully entitled to expect remuneration for that delicate service, in the conducting of which no officer could have succeeded better, or have observed more rigid propriety. It appears to me you have not only a claim on your own government, but that you ought to be remunerated by the allied sovereigns, and all Europe, for so promptly and readily getting the vile usurper of legitimate thrones out of France, where any change of public opinion might have brought him back in a moment. I know that you were put to considerable expence, and much greater trouble; and I was glad to hear you contradict a report very prevalent on my landing, that Buonaparte had made you great returns in wines and other articles of value. I am very ready to give my sentiments to their lordships if desired, or you are at liberty to make use of those I send you. Your merit as an officer stands highly distinguished; but no where can it be more highly valued and respected than by, my dear Ussher, your very faithfully attached, and most sincere friend,
Captain Ussher was nominated a C.B. in June, 1815.
Agent.– Sir Francis M. Ommanney.
- The Usshers are related to the houses of Leinster, Wellesley, and Downshire; two of the family, John and James Ussher, were colonels in the King’s army, and lost their lives in the reign of Charles I.
- Earl Howe, observing the disabled state of the Invincible, May 29, sent the Venus and Aquilon, frigates, to tow her out of the line; Captain Pakenham, however, told their commanders that he wanted no assistance. except as many wads and shot-plugs as they could spare; and then desired them to “go and tow Captain Molloy into the line!”
- See Vol. I., Part II., p. 643. N.B. Le Juste was saved from destruction by the presence of mind and promptitude of Lieutenant Blackwood, whose first measure was to secure the magazine, towards which he discovered the French captain crawling, although desperately wounded, with a lighted match in his hand, determined to involve all on board in one general ruin. This circumstance was not made known to us until after the publication of our first volume.
- See Vol. I. p. 728 et seq. N.B. Mr. James has since admitted that the Médée was armed and manned as above stated – also that she had 33 men killed and wounded. See his first vol., 2d edit., pp. 511 and 512.
- A carronade pointed by Mr. Ussher, at the muzzle of one of le Trompeur’s guns, blew the latter from its carriage, and capsized it down the main-hatchway.
- Mr. James haa been misinformed as to the force of le Trompeur: he describes her as a brig “of 12 long French 6-pounders, and 78 men and boys.” See Nav. Hist. 2d edit. Vol. II. p. 129.
- The bodies of the slain were brought off and buried in the deep.
- Captain Christopher Laroche.
- See Captain Hamstead’s letter to the Admiralty, at p. 329.
- See Brenton’s Nav. Hist. Vol. II. pp.435–437.
- See Vol. I. Part II. p. 697.
- Two of the prizes were laden with flax and steel, and each of them mounted two guns: the third was in ballast.
- The Haughty was commanded by Lieutenant John Mitchell.
- Those of the Malta 80, Niger frigate, and Eclair brig; also a gun-boat, manned by the former ship.
- Captain Ussher had previously been recalled by the senior officer; but he did not obey the signal until the gun-boats got under the batteries, and their prize into Algeziras.
- 3 killed, 4 wounded.
- 1 killed, 9, including Mr. Sharp, master’s-mate, wounded.
- The largest privateer had great part of her stern torn away by one of the Redwing’s broadsides.
- La Preciosa, laden with sundry merchandise. Her yard-arms were nearly touching the castle when she was boarded by Lieutenant Ferguson.
- Posted Sept. 16, 1809; died in Feb. 1816.
- Redwing, 16 thirty-two pounder carronades, 2 long sixes, 98 officers, men, and boys – the remainder of her complement absent.
- When the Boreas sunk, Captain Ussher despatched his only boat to try and save as many of the Spaniards as possible; but, to the eternal disgrace of those on board the other gun-vessels, they disregarded the flag of truce, which humanity alone induced him to hoist, and, continuing their fire, compelled him to recall the gallant fellows whom he had sent to rescue his unfortunate antagonists.
- James’s Nav. Hist. Vol. V. p. 69 et seq.
- See Nav. Chron. Vol. XXVI. p. 387 et seq.
- The Braave appears to have been attacked by the Hyacinth’s cutter, under the command of Mr. Pierce, midshipman, Captain Lilburne having passed her and pushed in amongst the main body of the privateers. Barbastro and most of his crew escaped by jumping overboard; but 33 prisoners were secured by only 13 English.
- Of 149 officers and men, 15 were killed and 53 including Lieutenant Spilsbury, wounded. The gun-boat sustained so much damage that she sunk when on her return to Gibraltar.
- The above officer was made a Commander for his gallantry as first Lieutenant of the Swiftsure 74, at the glorious battle of Trafalgar. He was, we believe, the son of a Master in the royal navy.
- Termagant, a post-sloop, Captain Gawen William Hamilton; aud Basilisk gun-brig, Lieutenant George French.
- Which were made Droits of Admiralty.
- Previous to the attack of April 29, 1812, Captain Ussher fitted a fire-boat for the purpose of burning the whole of the shipping; but on considering how much the unfortunate Spaniards had already suffered by the forcible occupation of their town, he humanely resolved not to bring down any fresh suffering upon them.
- See note at p. 194.
- When the Undaunted visited Marseilles, after the abdication of Buonaparte, Captain Ussher requested the Governor to inform him why the butteries so suddenly ceased firing; and was told that, as he had dared to carry off a vessel lying under the muzzles of their guns, he was considered deserving of a better reward than being blown out of the water, and was therefore allowed to depart quietly with his well-earned trophy!
- Two heavy gun-boats, and twenty-four settees and tartans, taken; one gun-boat, and one tartan, destroyed.
- The re-embarkation of the marines was covered by a party under Captain Spencer, posted at a windmill in the rear of the town; a position chosen by him, and admirably adapted for keeping in check any troops that might have been sent either from Toulon or Marseilles.
- The Redwing and Espoir were placed one at each side of the molehead, within 50 yards of the town, in order to cover the marines, had any unforeseen circumstance rendered retreat necessary.
- The total loss sustained was 4 killed and 16 wounded.
- The scaling ladder broke before any other person could reach the parapet, and Lieutenant Hunt was consequently left alone to defend himself against the whole of the French soldiers in that battery, until some marines could ascend to his assistance by means of another ladder.
- A 16-gun-brig, commanded by Captain Arthur Stow.
- See Captain Charles Napier, C.B.
- See Nav. Hist. Vol. V. p. 154 et seq.