Royal Naval Biography/Vincent, Richard Budd
RICHARD BUDD VINCENT, Esq.
A Companion of the Most Honorable Military Order of the Bath.
[Post-Captain of 1805.]
This officer is a native of Newbury, in Berkshire, where his father resided for many years, as a banker. He commenced his naval career under the auspices of Vice-Admiral Barrington, and accompanied that officer to the relief of Gibraltar, in 1782. The Britannia, a first-rate, bearing his patron’s flag, appears to have been one of the ships particularly engaged in the subsequent skirmish between Lord Howe’s fleet and the enemies’ combined forces, off Cape Spartel; her loss on that occasion consisting of 8 men killed and 13 wounded, and the grand total being only 72 slain and 193 wounded.
From the peace of 1783, until his promotion to a Lieutenancy, Nov. 3, 1790, we find Mr. Vincent serving successively in the Salisbury 50, Trimmer sloop of war, Pegase and Carnatic third rates, and Prince of 98 guns: the former ship bearing the flag of Vice-Admiral I. Campbell, commander-in-Chief at Newfoundland; the latter, that of Sir John Jervis, in the grand fleet, during the Spanish armament.
Mr. Vincent’s first appointment as a Lieutenant, was to the Wasp sloop of war, employed in the Channel, for the suppression of smuggling. He subsequently joined, in succession, the Terrible 74, commanded by Captain Skeffington Lutwidge; Victory, a first rate, bearing the flag of Lord Hood, commander-in-chief on the Mediterranean station; and Triumph 74, commanded by the late Sir Erasmus Gower.
In 1793 and the two following years, Mr. Vincent saw much active service, the Terrible forming part of Lord Hood’s fleet at the occupation, defence, and evacuation of Toulon; as also during the siege of Corsica; and the Triumph being one of the small squadron under Vice-Admiral Cornwallis, when that officer effected his masterly retreat in the face of a powerful French armament, off Belleisle, June 16, 1795, on which trying occasion her conduct was so highly meritorious as to draw the following encomium from the gallant chief: “the Triumph and Mars,” says he, “being the sternmost ships, were, of course, more exposed to the enemy’s fire; * * * *. The Triumph has shifted and repaired some of her sails, but any damage she has received is so trifling, at least in her Captain’s eye, that Sir Erasmus Gower has not thought it worth reporting; indeed, the cool and firm conduct of that ship was such, that it appeared to me the enemy dared not come near her.”
In April 1797, we find the Triumph cruising off the Western Islands, in company with a squadron under Lord Hugh Seymour, for the purpose of intercepting some Spanish ships of war then expected from the Havannah, with the late Governor of Mexico, and treasure to the amount of more than a million sterling. It appears, however, that only two frigates, freighted with a very considerable sum, hazarded the voyage at that period; and they succeeded in eluding his Lordship’s vigilance. The manner in which they were afterwards disposed of will be seen by reference to vol. i. p. 280.
About three weeks after her return from this cruise, the Triumph was ordered to reinforce the North Sea fleet; and during the mutiny at the Nore, she was for some time under the charge of her first Lieutenant, the subject of this memoir, who, by his firm and judicious conduct, considerably repressed the spirit of insubordination that prevailed amongst her crew.
A few days previous to the memorable battle off Camperdown, Lieutenant Vincent was removed to the Zealand 64, at the particular request of his friend, the late Admiral Lutwidge, under whose flag he served in the different ships to which it was removed between that period and the peace of Amiens, when he obtained the rank of Commander, by commission dated April 29, 1802. We should here remark that few officers have ever experienced greater disappointments with regard to advancement than he himself had since the close of 1794, when he left the Terrible, of which ship he had become first Lieutenant, to join the Victory on promotion:– this first prospect was frustrated by Lord Hood’s sudden secession from active service, in May, 1795. Mr. Vincent’s removal from the Triumph was productive of a still greater mortification, as in addition to the loss of promotion, it prevented him from sharing in the glorious victory achieved by those very men whom he had been instrumental in restoring to a proper state of discipline. His hopes were again excited on hearing that the late King had embarked at Greenwich for the purpose of honoring Lord Duncan’s fleet with a visit; in which case, being senior Lieutenant of the Port-Admiral’s flag ship, he flattered himself with the expectation of preferment, according to the usual custom on such occasions: unfortunately a gale of wind, and state business of importance, compelled his Majesty to return without carrying into effect the gracious object for which he had left his capital. The fourth and last instance occurred in Aug. 1799, when a Dutch squadron in the Texel surrendered to the late Sir Andrew Mitchell, at the very moment an action was confidently expected to take place by every officer and man under his orders. – Lieutenant Vincent was then on board the Overyssel 64, from which ship Admiral Lutwidge’s flag had been removed pro tempore, his presence being required to conduct the port duties at Deal.
On the 17th May, 1802, Captain Vincent was appointed to the Arrow, a curiously constructed sloop of war, mounting 28 32-pounders, with a complement of 121 men. In this vessel he cruised for some time against the smugglers on the coast of Devonshire, and to the eastward thereof; but owing to her peculiar appearance, she soon became well-known to those illicit traders, who easily recognized her at a distance, and were thereby enabled to elude the vigilance of her commander. She was paid off at Portsmouth, in Feb. 1803.
A contemporary writer, speaking of the Arrow and another experimental vessel, both designed by General Samuel Bentham, Inspector-General of his Majesty’s naval works, says:
“They were in shape much sharper than vessels of war in general, and projected, or raked forward at each end, like a wherry. Their breadth increased from the water-line upwards; whereby it was considered that they would be stiffer, and less liable to overset than ordinary vessels. The decks were strait fore and aft, and the frames or ribs of less curvature than usual. They were constructed to carry twenty-four 32-pounders upon the main-deck, and were afterwards fitted to receive two more carronades of the same nature on each of their two short-decks, which we may call the quarter-deck and fore-castle. All these carronades were fitted upon the non-recoil principle. It is believed that both the Arrow and Dart subsequently took on board, for their quarter-decks, two additional 32’s. They proved to be stiff vessels and swift sailers, but it was found necessary to add some dead wood to their bottoms, in order to make them stay better.”
Captain Vincent was re-appointed to the Arrow, Mar. 1, 1803; and every effort was immediately made by himself and his officers to complete her complement, but without effect. Finding that, from her novel appearance, she was not likely to attract volunteers, and as very few men were to be picked up along shore, or from the coasting traders and other small craft, Captain Vincent obtained permission from Lord Gardner, the Port-Admiral, to send a Custom House cutter into the offing, under the command of one of his Lieutenants, for the purpose of impressing from vessels passing up Channel. This being repeated several times, the Arrow was nearly completed with a choice crew of effective seamen, when the exigency of the service obliged his Lordship to cause the greatest part of them to be suddenly drafted into a troop-ship, under orders for the West Indies. In consequence of this mortifying event, the Arrow was obliged to sail for a foreign station nearly one-third short of complement, notwithstanding Captain Vincent had procured a few volunteer landsmen from his native town, at a considerable expense to himself.
From July 1803, till the end of that year, we find the Arrow escorting the trade to Portugal, Gibraltar, Malta, &c.; and in 1804, employed on various important services, affording Captain Vincent an opportunity of visiting the capitals of Sicily, Naples, Sardinia, and Turkey; Corfu, Zante, and the neighbouring islands; Venice, Trieste, Fiume, and Smyrna; together with many other places of inferior note, in Sicily, the Adriatic, Archipelago, and Sea of Marmora.
On entering the Dardanelles with some merchant vessels under her protection, in Mar. 1804, the Arrow was fired at by the castle on the European shore. It blowing very hard at the time, Captain Vincent found it impossible to demand satisfaction on the spot for an insult thus offered to our flag; but on his arrival at Constantinople he reported the circumstance to Mr. Stratton, the British Minister, who laid his representation before the Divan, by whom the Turkish Governor was mulcted in a very considerable sum for his misconduct.
During Captain Vincent’s stay at Constantinople, he received much flattering attention from the Capitan Pacha, who allowed him to inspect the arsenal and ships of war y presented him with an elegant sabre; and accepted in return a pair of pistols, the workmanship of which attracted his admiration, whilst visiting the Arrow in company with numerous other officers belonging to the Ottoman marine.
The destruction of l’Actif French privateer, under the island of Fano, June 3, 1304, will be noticed in our memoir of Captain C. F. Daly, the officer to whom Captain Vincent entrusted the command of the boats employed on that service.
On the 18th Oct. following, the Arrow, while cruising off Cape Spartivento, was struck by lightning, which shivered her main-mast; but fortunately the sails, being clewed up, and thoroughly drenched with rain, did not take fire; neither was there a single person hurt, although the main-top-mast went instantly by the board.
Towards the latter end of December, in the same year, Captain Vincent received directions to take charge of the homeward bound trade, collected at Malta; and to sail for England as soon as possible after the arrival of some merchant vessels, then on their way from Smyrna: also to take under his orders the Acheron bomb, commanded by Captain Arthur Farquhar, whose services will form the subject of our next memoir. He, at the same time, had the satisfaction of learning that his conduct on all occasions had been fully approved by the illustrious Nelson, as will be seen by the following extract from his Lordship’s last letter to him [many others of an equally gratifying nature, are given at full length in the Naval Chronicle for Oct. 1807]:–
“I take this opportunity to convey to you my full approbation of your zealous activity in the various services performed by his Majesty’s sloop under your command, and I am sorry that the state of that vessel deprives the station for the present of your further services.”
We cannot do better than by describing Captain Vincent’s subsequent proceedings in his own words, and illustrating his narrative by extracts from that of Captain Farquhar.
“The first part of our passage,” says Captain Vincent, “was favorable until we reached the westward of the island of Ivica, when we met with strong westerly winds, and a series of bad weather, by which the convoy suffered some damage; one vessel was supposed to have foundered, and two others separated; but as the damage sustained was not of sufficiently serious consequence to delay the convoy, I was urged to pursue the voyage, with the anxious hope of soon having an easterly wind to carry us through the Straits of Gibraltar.
“Early in the morning of the 3d Feb. (1805), per log, the Duchess of Rutland transport, which had been missing some days, joined. The weather was then quite moderate, with light breezes from the N.E. At 8 A.M. I made the signal for the convoy to steer W. by N., Cape Caxine (near Algiers) bearing south; the Acheron and thirty-two sail in company. At 8-30, altered course to W.N.W., being well to the southward, and made the signal for the sternmost ships to make more sail. Two sail had been observed drawing up a-stern, bearing E.S.E.; I had hopes they were the missing vessels, but soon perceived they were large. At half-past ten I asked, the Acheron (then in the rear of the convoy), per telegraph, ‘what they were?’ On answering my signal, she immediately wore, stood towards them, and made the private signal; which not being answered, she told me ‘they were suspicious.’ At 11-15, I made the signal for the vessels of the convoy on each quarter to close; the Arrow then leading the convoy with the brig Adventure in tow. This vessel was leaky and her rudder shaken almost to pieces; we were heaving part of her cargo overboard in the hope of stopping her leaks, and if possible, by lightening her, to unship the rudder, and repair it on board the Arrow. At 11-50, the Acheron made the signal ‘they were frigates’ At noon, Cape Albatel bore S. by W. ½ W. 10 or 11 leagues.
“On the 4th, at two minutes past noon, I slipped the Adventure, wore, and hauled to the wind on the larboard tack, for the purpose of joining the Acheron, which ship had wore, and was returning to the convoy under all sail with light winds. At 10 minutes past, made the Duchess of Rutland’s signal ‘to lead the convoy, steering the same course, &c.’ and directed the convoy ‘to follow her motions, though the men of war acted otherwise.’ At a quarter past, made the signal ‘for the convoy to make all sail possible.’ About one, I tacked to the northward, and shortened sail for the Acheron to close me. At 1-15 she made the signal, ‘the strange ships were enemies;’ ditto, made the signal to the convoy ‘that an enemy was in sight, to make all possible sail, and proceed to the appointed rendezvous;’ which was enforced by several guns at different times, and repeated by the Acheron in the same manner; also by Lieutenant Coggan, agent of transports, in the Trial brig bomb tender, who remained with the convoy. At 2, the Acheron closing but slowly, brought to for her, the frigates continuing their course about W.N.W. under all sail with light winds. About 4, the Acheron joined me, and Captain Farquhar came on board the Arrow. I consulted with him the best means to protect the convoy, and we determined to keep between them and the enemy (who had not shown any colours, nor altered their course to chase the Acheron when reconnoitring them,) for the purpose of collecting the vessels of the convoy, having guns on board, and to form a line of battle as soon as possible, agreeably to an order and form previously given out to the armed vessels of the convoy. At this time the enemy were about five miles from us. At 5, the convoy all becalmed, bearing N.W. by W. 3 miles: the land between Cape Albatel and Cape Tennis S.S.W. ½ W. 11 leagues. From this time until 10, light airs and calms; ship’s head round the compass; when it sprung up a light breeze from the S.W., the body of the convoy W.N.W. 4 miles, the frigates N.N.E, 3 miles. Steered for the convoy, but the Acheron having increased her distance to the southward, I tacked again to close her, hailed Captain Farquhar to keep close to the Arrow, and shortened sail to her rate of sailing. At midnight, light breezes from the S.W. laying up W.N.W. but broke off gradually to north. About 3 A.M. passed the two sternmost brigs of the convoy, to leeward of which the enemy had passed without firing at, or taking any notice of them. At 3-45, perceived that one of the frigates had tacked, and was nearing us on the starboard tack. About 4-15, one of them hailed me in English, when I asked ‘what ship it was?’ and was answered by desiring me to hoist my boat out, and come on board. A few minutes after she was nailed by the Acheron, when the frigate opened her fire, which was immediately returned by the Arrow and Acheron, until she passed: the other frigate, by the light baffling winds, had been somewhat separated, but soon closed, passed under our lee, and went a-head of us: however, the Acheron fired several guns at one of them with effect. As the night had been very dark, I was anxious for day-light, to ascertain the general position of the convoy, that I might act in the best manner for its defence; seeing an action was inevitable, without being able to get to my assistance the armed vessels as intended. The frigates stood from us to the westward, and at dawn of day, the wind being light and variable, their heads to the southward, I observed the headmost with French colours up, and she soon after hoisted a broad pendant at the main. At 6, I made the Duchess of Rutland’s signal ‘for action;’ and the Acheron’s ‘to close.’ The former, being the most effective ship of the convoy, probably would have been of service, had she immediately obeyed the signal and bore up, by the very appearance only of coming to my assistance; but she did not even answer it. I then made sail on the starboard tack, to get between the enemy and protect the rear of the convoy; the former wore to the eastward, and hauled on the larboard tack, apparently with the intention of engaging us to leeward. Set the spanker, to keep the ship to, the wind being very light, to prevent their passing a-head and raking us. About 7, the headmost in passing to leeward gave us her broadside, when the action commenced: at this time the Acheron was close on our starboard quarter, and the body of the convoy to windward, bearing N.W. 4 miles, mostly on the larboard tack, much scattered, and making all sail to the westward. As the enemy passed, the action was kept up on both sides at the distance of half a cable’s length, when they wore and gave me an opportunity of raking them; but the wind became so light, the Arrow would not steer, which left me much exposed in different positions to their joint fire. About this time the Acheron passed under our stern, and Captain Farquhar hailed me, but it was impossible to make out what he said. Soon after she had passed, the largest frigate hauled after her, but not until we had received much of the enemy’s fire in our starboard quarter. We were then left to the other frigate, which I continued to engage closely for some time: but outrunning rigging being cut to pieces; the impossibility of managing the ship the lower masts being badly wounded; the standing rigging, yards, and sails much cut; many shot between wind and water; four guns dismounted on the starboard side; the rudder machinery disabled; 13 men killed, and 27 wounded; induced me to cause the colours to be struck about half-past 8, after an action of an hour and twenty minutes, to the French national frigate l’Incorruptible, Mons. Billiet, Capitaine de fregate, commander, of 42 guns and 650 men, including troops: conceiving from the above disabled state of the Arrow, that further resistance would only increase the loss of lives, without the hope of saving his Majesty’s sloop from such superior force; particularly as she was making considerable water, and the surviving officers and crew could scarcely be removed from her, before she settled on her beam ends and sunk.
“When I was under the painful necessity of thus yielding to l’Incorruptible, the Acheron was standing to the southward towards the land under all sail, the large frigate l’Hortense in chase; and I cherished the hope that if the breeze had freshened, she would be able to outsail the enemy and draw him to a considerable distance, or get in with the land so as to prevent her falling into his hands: but she was obliged to submit to the same fate as the Arrow, and was afterwards burnt. At this time the convoy were considerably to the westward, and to windward, effecting their escape on different tacks.
“I cannot conclude this narrative without rendering Captain Farquhar my fullest approbation for his able and steady support; and particularly for his leading away l’Hortense in a direction from the convoy. Nor can I ornit this opportunity to give my public testimony of the good conduct and bravery displayed by the officers, crew, and passengers, on board the Arrow; who by their exertions on this occasion surprised the enemy by a resistance which I apprehend was but little expected: and though his Majesty’s ships fell a sacrifice to superior force, I have no hesitation in believing the damage and delay caused to the enemy by this event, afforded the greater part of my charge time to effect their escape; and when I reflect that three vessels only were captured by them out of 32 sail, I cannot but express my admiration and thanks to the officers, crews, and passengers, of hia Majesty’s ships Arrow and Acheron, for their zeal and courage in so unequal a contest; and attribute the preservation of the convoy to their manly and united efforts, by which the ultimate object of my wishes has been fulfilled.”
The Arrow spreading aloft, and the muzzles of her guns not projecting beyond the port-sills, caused her to be set on fire two or three times during the action; in addition to which she was greatly annoyed by the enemy’s small arms, the state of the weather enabling the French troops to take a part in the combat. Her boats being totally destroyed, those of l’Incorruptible were sent to take out the prisoners, who lost every article of property except the clothes then on their backs. Notwithstanding the haste with which Captain Vincent was obliged to quit the ship he had so bravely defended, he did not forget the sabre that had been presented to him by the Capitan Pacha, at Constantinople; but a French officer managed to obtain it from one of the Arrow’s crew, under a feigned pretence, and every endeavour to recover it proved unavailing; redress was not to be had of people who respected no principles of honor.
The frigates proved to be part of the Toulon fleet, commanded by Mons. Villeneuve, from whom they had separated during the tempestuous weather which prevailed previous to their falling in with the British convoy. Captain Vincent could never ascertain the actual loss they sustained, but many circumstances concurred to convince him it was very great. L’Incorruptible’s dead were thrown overboard before he reached that ship, and her wounded were carefully concealed from his view. One of the three vessels captured by the enemy was the Duchess of Rutland; and in addition to her commander’s former misconduct, Captain Vincent had to complain of his unpardonable neglect in not destroying the Convoy Signals and Instructions; fortunately, however, the Frenchmen were too much mauled to think of profiting by such excellent means of decoy, and obliged to push for the nearest port in order to repair their damages.
L’Incorruptible anchored off Carthagena on the 8th Feb., and the Arrow’s late commander, officers, crew, and passengers, were detained as prisoners in that town and a neighbouring village, until the early part of May, when they were allowed to embark for Gibraltar in a cartel brig sent by Lord Nelson expressly to receive them. On his arrival at the rock, Captain Vincent had the gratification to find that his exertions in their defence had been duly appreciated by the masters of the vessels which had escaped thither, who previous to their departure for England drew up, and caused the following address to be published in the garrison gazette:
“Gibraltar, March 17, 1805.
“We, the undersigned Masters, who departed from Malta under convoy of H.M. sloop Arrow, Captain Vincent, and Acheron bomb, Captain Farquhar, prompted by the truest sense of gratitude, offer them our sincere thanks for their unremitting and assiduous care of our ships, during a passage of perpetual and tremendous gales; and for their exertions, uniting with their abilities, by which they constantly kept the fleet in order, until the unfortunate morning of the 4th February, when two heavy French frigates attacked the convoy.
“The annals of history never yet produced, we conceive, a contest more unequal, skill and activity more exerted, nor magnanimity more displayed, than in that event. Captains Vincent and Farquhar’s manner of attack, and drawing the enemy to leeward of the fleet, merit great praise, as the only possible means of saving us. The well-directed fire from both the Arrow and Acheron must have done considerable execution to the enemy; whose superior force, after a long and severe battle, compelled Captains Vincent and Farquhar to yield a victory, by the enemy as dearly bought, as by them unwillingly resigned. An engagement thus commenced, and supported for the honor of our country, for the protection and interest of its commeree, cannot fail to obtain the enthusiastic admiration of their fellow subjects, and become a memorial of their bravery, enrolling their names in the list of British Heroes.”
Captain Vincent and his officers sailed from Gibraltar for England, in the Camel store-ship, on the 28th May, and arrived at St. Helen’s after a passage of only seven days. On the 17th June, a Court-Martial assembled in Portsmouth harbour to try them for the loss of their sloop, after a minute enquiry into all the circumstances, pronounced the following sentence:
“The Court is of opinion, that the loss of his Majesty’s sloop Arrow was occasioned by her falling in with a very superior force of the enemy, and being under the necessity of surrendering her, after a brave, determined, and well-fought action of nearly an hour and a half, soon after which she sunk from the injuries she received in the action. And that the conduct of Captain Richard Budd Vincent, his officers and ship’s company, as well as of the passengers, was highly meritorious and praise-worthy; and particularly that of Captain Vincent, by the judicious arrangements he made for the preservation of the convoy under his charge, both previous to, and during the action; by which nearly the whole of them were prevented from falling into the hands of a superior force: and doth adjudge them to be most honorably acquitted; and the said Captain Richard Budd Vincent, his officers and ship’s company, are hereby most honorably acquitted accordingly.”
On the second day after his trial, Captain Vincent received a post commission dated April 8, 1805; and on the ensuing 3d July, the following resolution of the committee for managing the Patriotic Fund at Lloyd’s, was communicated to him by the Secretary:–
“Resolved,– That a sword, of the value of 100l. and a piece of plate of the same value, with an appropriate inscription, or that sum of money at his option, be presented to Captain Richard Budd Vincent, acting as Commodore on the occasion, for so nobly supporting the honor of the British flag, and successfully protecting the convoy under his care.”
The following letter was also transmitted to John Turnbull, Esq. Chairman of the Merchants trading to the South of Europe:–
“Lloyd’s Coffee House, July 3, 1805.
“Sir,– The very gallant conduct of Captains Vincent and Farquhar, and the officers and crews of his Majesty’s sloop Arrow, and bomb Acheron, entitles them to every possible testimony of gratitude from their countrymen at large j but more particularly from the merchants and underwriters interested in the convoy under their care; which was so nobly and successfully protected, by the unequal conflict they maintained with the French frigates l’Hortense and l’Incorruptible.
“The Committee of the Patriotic Fund have voted honorary rewards to the commanding officers; given donations to the wounded; and made provision for the families of those who fell in thus supporting the honor of the British flag. But the rules of that Institution extend no further; and it is a tribute still due to those brave men who have lost their own property in so resolutely defending that of others, to provide, that on their return from imprisonment, they should at least be furnished with necessaries to equip them for his Majesty’s service.
“With this view we address ourselves to you, Sir, as Chairman of the merchants trading to the Mediterranean, that you may recommend the subject to their consideration. We shall be happy to learn that it meets their concurrence, and to join them in such measures as shall appear best calculated to carry it into effect. We have the honor to be, &c.
In consequence of this letter the following communication was made to Captain Vincent, on the 26th Aug.:–
“Mr. Turnbull presents his compliments to Captain Vincent, and ha the pleasure to enclose him a statement of the proportioned donations which the Committee have been enabled to raise, in order to replace the loss of clothes and necessaries which the officers and crew of his Majesty’s sloop Arrow may have sustained in consequence of their gallant action in the Mediterranean. The amount in all being 477l. 10s., Captain Vincent will be pleased to draw for it, at ten days sight, on Joseph Marriot, Esq. and distribute it according to the list sent herewith. Exactly the same donations have been made to the officers and crew of the Acheron: and it gives Mr. Turnbull much pleasure to have had the opportunity on this occasion of contributing to establish a precedent, for indemnifying those brave men, who may have lost their little property in the service of their country.
In May 1806, Captain Vincent was appointed to succeed Captain Robert Barrie in the Brilliant of 28 guns, on the Irish station; and directed to assume the temporary command of the Pomoiie 38, then waiting at Spithead for that officer to join her. After exchanging ships with Captain Barrie, he proceeded to Cork, and was sent from thence by his commander-in-chief, Lord Gardner, on a cruise to the westward of Ireland, where he fell in with and took charge of several West India traders, stragglers from the homeward bound convoy; the whole of which he escorted safely into the British Channel.
Towards the close of the same year, Captain Vincent was obliged to resign the Brilliant, through ill health; and it was not till 1808, that he found himself sufficiently convalescent to go again afloat. He then applied for active employment, and was immediately appointed to the Hind 28; but as that ship was then stationed in the Mediterranean, he received, with his commission to her, an order to act as Captain of the Cambrian, a frigate of the largest class, fitting at Plymouth, to convoy a fleet of merchantmen to that quarter, and on his arrival to exchange with Captain Francis W. Fane, then commanding the Hind.
On his arrival off Cadiz, Captain Vincent fell in with the squadrbn under Vice-Admiral Purvis, who was then paving the way for an amicable intercourse between his Majesty’s forces and the patriots of Andalusia. After a detention of several days, during which her charge was confided to the protection of a smaller ship, the Cambrian proceeded to Gibraltar, and from thence, after communicating with Lord Collingwood, to join Rear-Admiral George Martin at Minorca. By that officer Captain Vincent was sent to the coast of Catalonia, where he joined the Hind, and continued to cruise under the orders of Captain (now Rear-Admiral) Otway, until recalled for the purpose of being despatched on a mission to Algiers.
After twice visiting that regency in a diplomatic character, Captain Vincent was ordered to refit his ship at Malta, where he found Captain Robert Bell Campbell, of the flag-ship, at the point of dissolution; and Sir Alexander J. Ball, the Governor and Port-Admiral, greatly distressed for want of an experienced officer to assist him in the discharge of his naval functions. Yielding to the urgent entreaties of Sir Alexander, Captain Vincent reluctantly consented to quit the Hind and assume the command of the Trident 64, thereby abandoning every prospect of adding to his well-earned fame, and sacrificing every personal consideration to a sense of public duty.
Soon after his removal to the Trident, the merchants of Malta presented Captain Vincent with a valuable service of plate, commemorative of his gallant action with the French frigates, in 1805, and at the same time wrote him a handsome letter, the counterpart of which will be found at p. 932.
About the same period, a commission arrived from England, appointing him to the Topaze of 32 guns; but as he had now embarked with Sir Alexander Ball, he conceived himself bound to adhere to his engagement with that officer; who, on his part, undertook to explain in the fullest manner, to the Admiralty, how he was situated. The Governor, accordingly, informed their Lordships, that in the execution of his multifarious and arduous duties he felt it an object of importance to attach to himself the services of an officer in whom he could repose the greatest confidence, and that he had been induced, for the good of his Majesty’s service, to urge Captain Vincent, not only to quit the Hind, but to abstain from making use of the commission with which they had more recently honored him, until their Lordships’ pleasure should be known. This explanation proved perfectly satisfactory to the Board, and Captain Vincent continued to serve under Sir Alexander Ball, till that officer’s lamented demise, in Oct. 1809.
Released by this melancholy event from an engagement so detrimental to his personal interests, Captain Vincent used every endeavour to obtain the command of a cruising ship, but without success; and he was therefore obliged to remain stationary at Malta, under the respective flags of Rear Admirals Charles Boyles, John Laugharne, and Charles V. Penrose, till the termination of hostilities in 1814. From that period he conducted the various duties of the port, as senior officer, until the commencement of 1816; when we find him removing into the Aquilon of 32 guns, and proceeding to Naples and Leghorn, for the purpose of joining the squadron under Lord Exmouth, by whom he was sent to Mahon, Gibraltar, and England, with despatches, about the month of March in the same year.
We should not do justice to the subject of this memoir, were we to omit stating, that during a period of nearly eight years spent at Malta (in the course of which many thousands of the inhabitants fell victims to a dreadful malady) he invariably obtained the approbation, not only of the different Governors, with whom, in his official intercourse, he preserved the greatest unanimity, but also of every superior officer whom he had occasion to co-operate with for the furtherance of the public service.
The Aquilon was paid off at Deptford, in April 1816; and Captain Vincent has not since been employed. He was nominated a C.B. at the first establishment of that order in June, 1815.
Agents.– Messrs. Goode and Clarke.
- The British had 34 sail of the line. N.B. The Hon. Samuel Barrington, Senior Admiral of the White, and General of Marines, died at Bath, Aug. 16, 1800, in the 71st year of his age. A portrait and memoir of that highly distinguished officer will be found in the Naval Chronicle, vol. iv. p. 169 et seq.
- See memoirs of Viscount Keith, Lord Radstock, Admiral Purvis, Sir W. Sidney Smith, Admiral Wolseley, &c. &c. in our first volume.
- Vol. I. note *, at p. 354
- Captain William Essington had previously succeeded Sir Erasmus Gower, in the command of the Triumph.
- The cause of Lord Hood’s resignation is stated to have been a dispute with the Admiralty, as to the force necessary to be employed at that juncture in the Mediterranean. – See Brenton’s Naval History, vol. ii. p. 177.
- See Vol. I. p. 152, and note at p. 414 et seq.
- See note * at p. 291 of this volume.
- See James’s Nav. Hist. vol. i. note Q * at p. 439.
- The Arrow had suffered much through tempestuous weather since her arrival on the Mediterranean station; and Lord Nelson was under the necessity of sending her home to be docked, in consequence of the Master Shipwright at Malta declaring that she was too weak to undergo the process of heaving down. The wooden tanks fitted in her hold for the better stowage of water, and many interior parts of her hull, were quite rotten; and the carpenters appointed to survey her reported that she was generally defective.
- Captain Farquhar had by this time approached the strangers sufficiently near to discover that they were large frigates, with their spare anchors stowed in the main chains, which led him to suppose they were French.
- The Duchess of Rutland was the only transport belonging to the convoy: twenty-nine sail were British merchant vessels; and one a Spanish prize which had recently joined the fleet and received instructions from Captain Vincent.
- The Acheron hoisted her colours and fired a gun at 12-30, but the strangers paid no attention thereto.
- Captain Farquhar, speaking of this brush, says, “I hailed, asking ‘what ship is that?’ she answered, ‘what ship are you?’ and immediately gave us her broadside of round and grape, which did very considerable damage to our rigging, sails, &c. but did not kill or wound any one. We. returned her fire, then hove about, gave her the guns from the other side, and kept firing as long as our shot would reach her. The second frigate passed the Arrow without firing – a little afterwards she appeared were her intention to wear, and having her stern towards us, we gave her two rounds from the larboard guns; she then hauled her wind and stood towards the other frigate.
- “About 7-25,” adds Captain F., “the headmost frigate being abreast of the Arrow, discharged her broadside, which was immediately returned by Captain Vincent. At 7-30, she was abreast of, and gave us a broadside we then commenced firing upon her, and continued to do so until the second frigate came alongside and fired into us, having already engaged the Arrow in passing. Our fire was now turned upon this ship, and continued till we came close up with the Arrow, which had just put her helm a-weather to rake the French Commodore. We hauled our wind to keep clear of her, as she appeared to be wearing; and I asked Captain Vincent if he meant to again come to the wind upon the starboard tack, but I could not understand what he said in reply. As soon as we cleared the Arrow, our fire was again directed against the Commodore’s frigate.”
- Lieutenant Edward Elers, second of the Arrow, and several men, jumped overboard to avoid going down in her; and were picked up by l’Incorruptible’s boats, all those belonging to the British sloop having be destroyed by the enemy’s shot.
- The gallant commander of the Acheron concludes his account following terms: ”We continued to engage the French Commodore until with the greatest grief, I saw the Arrow obliged to strike, being no longer able to contend with the great superiority of force opposed to her. She had I conceive received much damage in the act of wearing, as she lay a considerable time with her head to the enemy. The Acheron being now very much disabled in yards, masts, sails, and rigging; part of her sternpost being also carried away; I considered further resistance on my part could answer no good end, and unwilling to sacrifice the lives of men who had given me the highest proof of their courage, I determined to make what sail I could, with little hopes of saving the ship, but with a view to procrastinate my capture, in order to give the convoy a greater chance of escaping: the superiority of sailing on the part of the enemy’s frigate rendered the chase but short; about 8-45, having already received one broadside and part of another during the pursuit, and the enemy being now very near, with the greatest concern we were obliged to surrender to l’Hortense of 44 guns, commanded by Mons. de la Marre de la Mellerie. We were then taken possession of, and as soon as the officers and crew of the Acheron were removed, the enemy finding her much disabled, thought fit to burn her.”
- The total number of officers, men, and boys, on board the Arrow at the commencement of the action was 132. The Acheron mounted only eight 24-pounders, and had no more than 67 persons at quarters. L’Hortense, the Commodore’s frigate, mounted 48 guns, and was crowded with troops, like her consort. The enemy’s joint force was consequently 90 guns and at least 1300 men: that of the British 36 guns (all carronades) and 199 men.
- See Vol. I note at p. 589.
- The sums were thus proportioned:– to Captain Vincent, 50l.; to the Lieutenants, Master, and a passenger of similar rank, 20l. each; to the warrant officers, l0l. each; to the Midshipmen and other petty officers, 5l. each; and to the seamen, &c, 2l. 10s. each.
- Sir Alexander John Ball, Bart. K.F.M. was one of Nelson’s supporters in the glorious battle of Aug. 1, 1798, as will be seen by reference to p. 472 of our first volume. His commission as a Rear-Admiral of the Red was dated on the very day of his decease, Oct. 25, 1809. He was most exemplary in virtue, honor, and friendship. In him the public lost a zealous and faithful servant– Captain Vincent, and many other officers, a sincere and estimable friend. His memory will ever be respected by all who had the honor of his acquaintance. A letter from Malta, dated Nov. 6, says, “He was rather devoted to the Maltese interest; but he was certainly in the right. We British are too apt to despise foreigners: he found it necessary to protect them as he did. We buried him yesterday in a fort close to that in which the regains of Sir Ralph Abercroinby are interred.”