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Royal Naval Biography/Vaughan, Henry

[Post-Captain of 1806.]

This officer, a descendant of the late Earl of Carberry, was born in 1757. He entered the naval service as a Midshipman on board the Boyne of 70 guns, commanded by Captain Broderick Hartwell, in 1774; and afterwards joined in succession, the Foudroyant 80, Captain John Jervis; Galatea 20, Captain J. Jordan[1]; Ardent 64, Captain James Gambier; and Sandwich, a second-rate, bearing the flag of Sir George B. Rodney; by whom he was appointed first Lieutenant of the Panther 60, Captain John Harvey, immediately after the defeat of Don Juan de Langara, in Jan. 1780. His commission was confirmed by the Admiralty, Oct. 3d, in the same year.

Soon after Mr. Vaughan’s promotion, the chief command of the naval force employed in the defence of Gibraltar, devolved on Captain Harvey; and never perhaps was cool judgment and firm resolution more necessary, than in the dangerous situation he was soon placed in. During the night of June 6, 1780, a bold and well-concerted effort was made by the Spaniards to destroy the British squadron; several fire-ships were sent over for that purpose, attended by a large number of boats. Don Barcello’s squadron lay at the entrance of the bay to intercept the British, if they should cut their cables and endeavour to escape. Many favorable circumstances seemed almost to ensure success: the wind was moderate from the N.W., the night cloudy, and, considering the season of the year, uncommonly dark: the foremost of the fire-ships was within hail of the Enterprise frigate before they were discovered – not a moment was to be lost, the danger was instant and alarming: to endeavour to avoid it by putting to sea, was to fall into the hands of the enemy.

Captain Harvey, with great coolness and presence of mind, ordered all his boats out to grapple the fire-ships, and tow them on shore – the largest, equal in size to a 50-gun ship, drove past the New Mole head within the distance of 150 yards! Not only the size of the ship, but the violence of the heat, rendered it impracticable for the boats to grapple her: had she got within the mole, every vessel lying there, together with the storehouses in the naval yard, must have been destroyed. Three others were secured together with chains and cables; yet with uncommon resolution and activity, the British seamen separated, and towed them ashore. The Panther was in the utmost danger: three of the enemy’s ships were directed towards her: one, notwithstanding the exertions of the boats, came so near as to melt the pitch on her side; and as some of the sails were set for canting her, part of the crew were constantly employed in wetting them. By the strong light of these seven ships, all blazing at one time, two other vessels of the same description were seen on the larboard bow of the Panther; but so heavy and well-directed a fire did she keep up, that their crews were obliged to abandon them before they could be placed in a situation to produce any mischievous effects. Thus was the attempt of the enemy rendered ineffectual by the valour of British seamen, under the guidance of Captain Harvey, Lieutenant Vaughan, and other resolute and skilful officers.

Orders having been sent from England, about this period, for the Panther to take the first opportunity that offered for returning home, she slipped out of the bay, with an easterly wind, during the night of July 2d, succeeded in eluding the vigilance of Don Barcello, captured a Spanish packet in her passage, and arrived at Spithead on the 25th of the same month.

Lieutenant Vaughan subsequently accompanied Captain Harvey to Barbadoes, and was present at the reduction of St. Eustatius, Feb. 3, 1781. A few hours after that event, the Panther assisted at the capture of a Dutch convoy, richly laden, as will be seen by the following letter from Captain Francis Reynolds (afterwards Lord Ducie) to Sir George B. Rodney:–

Monarch, off Saba, Feb. 5, 1781.

“Sir,– I have the pleasure to inform you, that yesterday morning I fell in with the convoy you did me the honor to send me in pursuit of. About ten o’clock I ordered the Mars, a Dutch ship of 60 guns, to strike her colours; which she refusing to do, occasioned some shot to be exchanged. The Monarch received no damage, excepting 3 men wounded: I am not informed of the number the Dutch had killed and wounded; but among the former is their Admiral, though his flag was not hoisted at the time of the action. From some shot in her masts, I have ordered the Panther to take her in tow.

“By the activity of Captain Harvey, and Lord Charles Fitzgerald[2], we were enabled to take possession of the whole, and to make sail with them by four o’clock in the afternoon.”

From this period to the 1st Aug. 1781, the Panther continued cruising among the different islands: when, as she was an old ship, considerably weakened by being constantly at sea, Sir George B. Rodney sent her home with the Triumph 74, as convoy to a large fleet of merchantmen. In Jan. 1782, she was ordered into dock at Portsmouth; and we find no farther mention of Mr. Vaughan until the commencement of the French revolutionary war, when he was appointed first Lieutenant of the Russell 74, commanded by Captain John Willet Payne, with whom he continued until his promotion to the rank of Commander, which took place immediately after the glorious battle of June 1, 1794.

In 1801, Captain Vaughan was appointed to the Imogene of 18 guns, then employed cruising against the smugglers; but subsequently sent with important despatches to the Cape of Good Hope, where she arrived after a passage of only 58 days. He was afterwards employed on the coast of Guinea, and at the Leeward Islands, from which latter station he sailed for England with the homeward-bound fleet at the commencement of 1805. His post-commission bears date Jan. 22, 1806; since which date he has not been afloat. In 1807 he was appointed to the Sea Fencible service in Ireland, where he continued until the dissolution of that corps, in 1810.

Captain Vaughan married the eldest sister of Captain Jamey Katon,R.N.[3]

Agent.– John Chippendale, Esq.

  1. The Galatea assisted at the reduction of New York in Sept. 1776.
  2. His Lordship commanded the Sybil of 28 guns.
  3. See p. 450.