Royal Naval Biography/Westphal, George Augustus
Sir GEORGE AUGUSTUS WESTPHAL, Knt.
[Post-Captain of 1819.]
Was a midshipman of Nelson’s flag-ship, and wounded, at Trafalgar: his first commission bears date Aug. 15, 1806. We next find him serving as senior lieutenant of the Belleisle 74, Captain (now Sir George) Cockburn, and commanding a subdivision of gun-boats during the attack on Flushing, between the 8th and 15th August, 1809. Early in the following year he was appointed, with the same officer, to the Implacable of similar force, and selected by him to land the Baron de Kolli in Quiberon bay, from whence that personage had undertaken to proceed to Valençay, in order to arrange the escape of Ferdinand VII, whose subjects were invoking the aid of Heaven and of England, for the restoration of their then beloved monarch, at whose presence discord, war, and famine, were fondly expected to cease.
The Implacable was next ordered to Cadiz, from whence Lieutenant Westphal accompanied his captain in an expedition sent against the French at Moguer, a town on the Huebla, over a branch of which river the Spanish troops commanded by General Lascy, were transported by eleven flat boats under his directions; thereby greatly facilitating the object in view. The result of this enterprise was the expulsion of the enemy from Moguer and the adjacent coast, with considerable loss in killed, wounded, and prisoners. Captain Cockburn, in his official report to Rear-Admiral Sir Richard G. Keats, dated on board the Jasper sloop, Aug. 25, 1810, after detailing the proceedings of the allied forces, says:
“It is now. Sir, a pleasant duty incumbent on me, to assure you, that nothing can exceed the good conduct of the officers and men you have placed under my orders; and I must beg leave particularly to mention to you the unremitted assistance I have received from Captain Daniel of this sloop, and from Lieutenant Westphal, first of the Implacable, who, by his conduct on this service, has added to the many claims he already had to my particular notice and recommendation.”
From this time we find no particular mention of Lieutenant Westphal until the period when Rear-admiral Cockburn, whose fortunes he constantly followed, arrived on the North American station, mid commenced a series of active and important operations in the rivers at the head of the Chesapeake bay The first service performed is thus described by the Rear-Admiral, in an official letter to Sir John B. Warren, commander-in-chief, dated on board the Fantome sloop, in the Elk River, April 29, 1813:–
“Sir,– I have the honor to acquaint you, that having yesterday gained information of the dépôt of flour (alluded to in your note of the 23rd instant) being with some military and other stores, situated at a place called French Town, a considerable distance up the river Elk, I caused H.M. brigs Fantome and Mohawk, and the Dolphin, Racer, and Highflyer, tenders, to he moored, yesterday evening, as far within the entrance of this river as could be prudently effected after dark; and at eleven o’clock last night, the detachment of marines now in the advanced squadron, consisting of about 150 men, under Captains Wyborn and Carter, of that corps, with five artillerymen, under first Lieutenant Robertson, R.A. (who eagerly volunteered his valuable assistance on this occasion), proceeded in the boats of the squadron, the whole being under the direction of Lieutenant G. A. Westphal, first of the Marlborough, to take and destroy the aforesaid stores, the Highflyer, under the command of Lieutenant T. Lewis, being directed to follow, for the support and protection of the boats, as far and as closely as lie might find it practicable.
“Being ignorant of the way, the boats were unfortunately led up the Bohemia river, instead of keeping in the Elk, and it being day-light before this error was rectified, they therefore did not reach the destined place till between eight and nine o’clock this morning, which occasioned the enemy to have full warning of their approach, and gave him time to collect his force and make his arrangements for the defence of his stores and town, for the security of which a six-gun battery had lately been erected, and from whence a heavy fire was opened on our boats the moment they approached within its reach; but the launches, with their carronades, under the orders of Lieutenant Nicholas Alexander, first of the Dragon, pulling resolutely up to the work, keeping up at the same time a constant and well directed fire on it, and the marines being in the act of disembarking on the right, the Americans judged it prudent to quit their battery, and to retreat precipitately into the country, abandoning to their fate French Town and its dépôts of stores: the whole of the latter, therefore, consisting of much flour, a large quantity of army clothing, of saddles, bridles, and other equipments for cavalry, &c. &c. &c. together with various articles of merchandize, were immediately set fire to, and entirely consumed, as were five vessels lying near the place; and the guns of the battery, being too heavy to bring away, were disabled as effectually as possible, by Lieutenant Robertson and his artillerymen; after which, my orders being completely fulfilled, the boats returned down the river without molestation, and I am happy to add, that one seaman, of the Maidstone, wounded in the arm by a grape-shot, is the only casualty we have sustained.
“To Lieutenant G. A Westphal, who has so gallantly conducted, and so ably executed this service, my highest encomium and best acknowledgments are due; and I trust, Sir, you will deem him to have also thereby merited your favorable consideration and notice. It is likewise my pleasing duty to acquaint you, that he speaks in the highest terms of the zeal and good conduct of every officer and man employed with him on this occasion; but particularly of the very great assistance he derived from Lieutenant Robertson of the artillery. Lieutenant Alexander of the Dragon, Lieutenant Lewis, of the Highflyer, and Captains Wyborn and Carter, of the royal marines.
“I have now anchored the above mentioned brigs and tenders near a farm, on the right bank of this river, where there appears to be a considerable quantity of cattle, which I intend embarking for the use of the fleet under your command, and if I meet with no resistance or impediment in so doing, I shall give the owner bills on the Victualling Office for the fair value of whatsoever is taken; but should resistance be made, I shall consider them as prize of war, which I trust will meet your approbation; and I purpose taking on board a further supply for the fleet to morrow, on similar terms, from Spesuçie Island, which lies a little below Havre de Grace, and which I have been informed is also well stocked. I have the honor to be, &c.
The Rear-admiral’s subsequent proceedings have been officially described in our memoirs of Captains John Lawrence, C.B. and the Hon. Henry Dilkes Byng, then commanders of the Fantome and Mohawk. By reference to p. 124, it will be seen that Lieutenant Westphal received a shot through his hand whilst leading a party in pursuit of some American troops at Havre de Grace, on the 3rd May; and that, with his remaining hand, he made prisoner, and brought in, a captain of their militia. “From a thorough conviction of his merits,” says Rear-admiral Cookburn, “he having served many years with me as first lieutenant, I always, on similar occasions, expect much from him; but this day he even outstripped those expectations, and though in considerable pain from his wound, he insisted on continuing to assist me to the last moment with his able exertions: I therefore, Sir, cannot but entertain a confident hope that his services of to day, and the wound he has received, added to what he so successfully executed at French Town, will obtain for him your favorable consideration and notice, and that of my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty.”
On the 11th July following, Rear-admiral Cockburn, in the Sceptre 74, Captain Charles Bayne Hodgson Ross, took up the anchorage off Ocracoke bar, with the Romulus, Fox, and Nemesis, troop-ships, the Conflict brig, and the Highflyer and Cockchafer, tenders, having on board a body of troops under Lieutenant-Colonel Napier, of the 102nd regiment. Conceiving that much advantage was likely to be derived by carrying into immediate execution the orders he had received, for putting an end to the commerce carried on from the port of Ocracoke, by means of the inland navigation, and for destroying any vessels that might be there, he directed preparations to be instantly commenced for the debarkation of the troops, and for making the intended attack.
An advanced division of the best pulling boats, with armed seamen, and some marines of the Sceptre, were directed to precede the others, for the purpose of attacking the enemy’s shipping, and of occupying and diverting the fire of any armed vessels stationed at the place; Lieutenant Westphal, then first of the Sceptre, was entrusted with this division, supported by Captain Ross, with the rocket-boats.
Captain David Paterson, of the Fox, commanded the division of flat and heavier boats, with as many soldiers as they could carry, destined to attack and occupy such positions on the surrounding lands as circumstances and the enemy’s means of defence might point out the propriety of, after day-light. The third and last division was composed of the Conflict, Captain Henry Loraine Baker, the armed tenders, and several other small vessels, which were directed to take the remainder of the troops on board, and to follow the boats into the harbour, as fast and as far as might be found practicable: Captain Ross was charged with the general superintendence of the whole arrangement; and Captains George William Henry Knight and the Hon. James Ashley Maude, “with much laudable zeal” also attended to render Rear-admiral Cockburn their personal assistance wherever circumstances might require it.
The whole moved from the ships towards the shore about 2 a.m. on the 12th; but owing to the great distance from the bar to the harbour, and the heavy swell which was running, it was considerably after day-light before the advanced division turned a projecting shoal point, behind which the vessels lay, and round which is the only possible way by which the shore can be approached with safety; the enemy, therefore, had some little time to prepare for defence, which he did not fail to avail himself of, and immediately the boats doubled the point, a heavy fire was opened on them from a brig and schooner, which hoisted American colours, and were soon discovered to be the only armed vessels there: Lieutenant Westphal, therefore, with his division, “pulled directly and resolutely for these,” under cover of some rockets, which were thrown by Captain Russel, R.A. with admirable precision.
The fire of the brig now began to slacken; and on Lieutenant Westphal’s approaching her bow with the advanced boats, the enemy cut her cable and abandoned her; the schooner’s colours were then hauled down. The troops in the meantime having effected a landing, without further opposition, took possession of Portsmouth and Ocracoke island, where all surrendered to their mercy. The brig proved to be the Anaconda, mounting 18 long 9-pounders, a most beautiful vessel, coppered, and fit for his Majesty’s service; as was also the schooner, a letter of marque of 240 tons, mounting 10 guns.
Lieutenant Westphal was promoted by the Admiralty, July 8th, 1813; just four days previous to the capture of the Anaconda, which vessel was commissioned and placed under his command. We next find him serving in the expedition against New Orleans, where he was employed on shore with the naval brigade under Captain Sir E. Thomas Troubridge, Bart, who, in his official report to Vice-admiral Sir Alexander I. Cochrane, stated, that the conduct of all the officers and seamen had met very general approbation, and that he felt it his duty “to particularize the exertions of Captains Money, Rogers, and Westphal.”
Captain Westphal obtained post rank, Aug. 12th, 1819; and was appointed to the Jupiter 60, fitting for the conveyance of Lord Amherst and suite to Bengal, May 27th, 1822. He returned to England, Dec. 20th, 1823; and had the honor of knighthood conferred upon him shortly after his arrival.
Agent.– Sir F. M. Ommanney.
SIR GEORGE AUGUSTUS WESTPHAL, Knt.
[Post-Captain of 1819.]
Is brother to Captain Philip Westphal, R.N., whose descent from a very ancient German noble family we have noticed in p. 139; and, like him, he commenced his naval career under the auspices of the late Duke of Kent. He first went to sea in the Porcupine 24, Captain Andrew Fitzherbert Evans; but very shortly afterwards joined Lord Nelson, with whom he continued until the battle of Trafalgar; on which glorious occasion he was severely wounded in the head by a langrage shot, and laid in the cockpit by the side of the dying hero.
Immediately after this memorable event, Mr. George A. Westphal was rated master’s-mate of the Victory; and on the 15th Aug. following, promoted to the rank of lieutenant, in the Demerara sloop. Captain William Patterson, employed at the Leeward Islands. In 1807, he was obliged to invalid, owing to the effects of the climate; and on his passage home he was again badly wounded, whilst most gallantly defending a merchant vessel in which he had embarked, against the persevering and at length successful attacks of l’Alert French ship privateer, of 20 guns and 140 men, afterwards captured by the Blonde frigate. Captain Volant Vashon Ballard.
The merchantman to which we allude was the Highlander, a large ship mounting 12 carronades, with a crew of 35 fine young men, whom Lieutenant Westphal had daily exercised at their guns, and rendered tolerably expert in the use of them. On seeing the enemy approach, they unanimously requested him to take charge of the Highlander during the conflict which they were determined to maintain, and which continued from 10 a.m. until 1-20 p.m. During this period, l’Alert made three ineffectual attempts to board, and sustained great loss in killed and wounded; but unfortunately the fourth assault proved more effectual, and the British were obliged to submit, with the loss of five slain and eight, including Lieutenant Westphal and the gallant mate of the Highlander, wounded. The prize was then carried to Point-á-Pitre, in the island of Guadaloupe; and it having been represented to the French Governor, that little or no resistance would have been offered to the captors had not their principal prisoner taken so active a part, he was instantly ordered into close confinement on board a prison-ship, and there kept on bread and water. Fortunately, however, the commander of a privateer, to whom he had formerly rendered some service at Barbadoes, happened to hear of his situation, and, after vainly interceding in his behalf, informed him that, unless he escaped in the prison-ship’s boat, he would certainly be sent to France, “as a punishment for his refractory conduct,” in assuming the command of the Highlander. Not relishing the idea of being kept a prisoner until the end of the war, he immediately came to the determination of attempting his escape, and a favorable opportunity soon presented itself. Taking advantage of a dark night, and being joined in the attempt by the mate and two other men of the Highlander, he lowered himself down into a small boat, sixteen feet long, provided with only two oars, a blanket, two bottles of water, and a few biscuits; started for the narrows of the harbour, and when hailed by the fort, answered “bateau pêcheur,” which lulled all suspicion and enabled him to gain an offing unmolested; it being the custom at Guadaloupe for fishing boats to pursue their occupations by night as well as by day.
After suffering much from fatigue, hunger, and thirst. Lieutenant Westphal was picked up by an American merchant schooner from Guadaloupe bound to New York; which vessel was detained on the following day by an English privateer, and carried to Antigua. He shortly afterwards returned home in the Venus frigate, and was subsequently appointed to the Foudroyant 80, bearing the flag of Rear-Admiral Albemarle Bertie; and Neptune 98, commanded by Captain Sir Thomas Williams. The latter ship formed part of the force with which Sir John T. Duckworth pursued a French squadron to the West Indies, in 1808; and in the following year she again proceeded to the same quarter, for the purpose of assisting in the meditated attack upon Martinique.
During the operations against this colony. Lieutenant Westphal, who had previously exchanged into, and become first of, the Belleisle 74, was most actively employed on shore, first in erecting, and afterwards in fighting the batteries, under the superintendence of acting Commodore (now Sir George) Cockburn, whose fortunes he ever afterwards followed until his promotion to the rank of commander. The manner in which the Belleisle was employed immediately subsequent to the reduction of Martinique will be seen by reference to p. 424 et seq. of Suppl. Part I. In p. 208 of Suppl. Part IV. we have stated that Lieutenant Westphal commanded a sub-division of gun-boats at the attack and capture of Flushing, in Aug. 1809; but we should have added, that he was then upwards of fifty hours under the enemy’s fire. We are indebted to Brenton’s Naval History for the following account of the service in Quiberon Bay, to which we before only partially alluded:–
“The Marquis Wellesley had, in Nov. 1809, returned from Spain, thoroughly acquainted with the disposition of the Spaniards. On one point, alone, he was ignorant. Ferdinand VII. having long before the arrival of the British ambassador at Cadiz, thrown himself a willing victim into the arms of Napoleon and his treacherous generals, was hurried away captive to Valançay, Upon the character and talents of this prince, therefore, the Marquis had not the means of exercising his own judgment; but trusting to the ‘vox populi,’ he very naturally concluded that no event would be more acceptable to them, than the arrival of their king. The national songs composed at this period were burdened in every couplet with the name of Fernando, frequently associated with that of his gracious Majesty King George III., and they invoked the aid of Heaven, and England, for the restoration of their beloved monarch, at whose presence discord, war, and famine, were fondly expected to cease.
“Lord Wellesley having imparted his sentiments to his Majesty and the cabinet, the release of Ferdinand was determined on. The Baron de Kolli, an intrepid and enterprising foreigner, being honored with the confidence of the British Government, was furnished with a letter from the King of England, written in Latin, and addressed to the King of Spain, signed by George III., and counter-signed by the Marquis of Wellesley. To this letter was added another, written in the same language, and addressed by Charles IV. in 1802, to his Britannic Majesty.
“Early in Feb. 1810, Captain Cockburn was appointed to the command of the Implacable 74, with a frigate and two small vessels under his orders. He was directed to receive the Baron de Kolli and his friend on board, and to proceed in the execution of his orders, which were to land him in Quiberon bay, and to await his return, and that of Ferdinand, to the sea-shore. Jewellery to the amount of £10,000 was placed in the hands of Captain Cockburn, who, with the assistance of Mr. Westphal, (his first lieutenant,) and the Baron himself, sewed them up in the dresses of the latter. The Implacable sailed from Spithead early in March, and reaching Quiberon bay on the 6th, the Baron was landed on the night of the 7th, by Mr. Westphal, who left the Implacable, after dark, in a gale of wind blowing on the shore, and a considerable sea running, so that the boat had great difficulty in returning to the ship. The spot chosen to disembark at was under the convent of St. Gildas, celebrated for the seclusion of Abelard. It was most particularly enjoined upon the Baron, by Captain Cockburn, that he should not go to Paris: there could be no reason why he should have gone; and his disobedience of this injunction was the most probable cause of his failure. His friend Albert, who accompanied him, whose nerves were none of the strongest, has been accused of betraying him. A Monsieur Ferriet was also most incautiously admitted by the Baron to his confidence: a secret intrusted to three people is seldom a secret long. The Baron, whose papers were admirably well executed, might have reached Valançay in safety; but he chose to take a lodging at the village, or wood of Vincennes, and in the castle of that name he was very shortly a state prisoner, and his papers and jewels confided to the minister of police, the acute Fouche.
“Captain Cockburn having continued in Quiberon bay until he learnt the detection of Kolli, and the abortion of the scheme, returned to Spithead, where, on his arrival, the officers of the ship learnt what had been the object of their mission; a proof, certainly, that the Baron had not been betrayed by any one on board the Implacable."”
Had Lieutenant Westphal been taken by the enemy whilst thus employed, there can be no doubt that he would have met with the same fate which befel the lamented Captain Wright. His subsequent conduct in an expedition from Cadiz, the result of which was the expulsion of the enemy from Moguer (a town on the Huebla river), and the adjacent coast, procured him honorable mention in the London Gazette, as will be seen by reference to p. 209 of Suppl. Part IV. He also commanded the boats of the Implacable in frequent actions with the French batteries between Rota and Puerto-Santa-Maria, both previous to and after this expedition.
Between Sept. 6th, 1810, and Feb. 18th, 1811, the Implacable was employed in conducting two Spanish first-rates from Cadiz to the Havannah, and in bringing back dollars to a large amount, shipped at Vera Cruz. On the day after the glorious battle of Barrosa, Lieutenant Westphal assisted at the attack and capture of the enemy’s works between Catalina and Santa Maria, whilst at the same time his captain was employed in securing and bringing off the prisoners taken by the British army.
The situation of Spain and her colonies at this period presented a singular spectacle to the world: – the mother country was contending with a powerful and vindictive enemy, for her existence as a nation; whilst her subjects abroad, taking advantage of her weakness and difficulties, thought it a favorable opportunity to throw off her yoke, and assert their own independence. In this extremity the conduct of England formed a striking contrast to that of Spain in 1778, "when she was similarly situated: she not only sent armies and fleets to fight against the invader, but commissioners were appointed to endeavour to effect a reconciliation between Old Spain and her trans-atlantic provinces. This measure originated with the British ambassador and naval commander-in-chief at Cadiz (Sir Henry Wellesley and Sir Richard G. Keats), who considering it most essential to Great to secure their valuable resources for prosecuting the war against France ; and it being considered that Captain Cockburn was particularly acquainted with the actual state of those provinces, and the mutual interests of the two countries, it was decided that he should proceed to England, and lay the necessary information upon those subjects before His Majesty’s Government. He consequently left Cadiz in the Druid frigate, April 21st, 1811; at which period he was nominally captain of the Alfred 74, the Implacable having been sent to reinforce the fleet off Toulon., as well as Spain, and indeed to the cause of Europe in general, that some measures should be taken to stop, if possible, the progress of revolt in South America, and to reconcile the colonies to the mother country, so as
In June following, we find the Alfred cruising between Capes Trafalgar and Spartel, commanded, pro tempore, by Lieutenant Westphal, who was afterwards charged with the equipment of the Spanish ships of war at Cadiz, preparatory to their being sent for security to Minorca. On the completion of this service, he was appointed by Rear-Admiral the Hon. A. K. Legge, to act as commander of the Columbine sloop, in which vessel he conveyed part of the Spanish royal family from Cadiz to Portugal. On the 8th of the ensuing month, the Princess of Peace, then at Tavira, in the latter kingdom, addressed a letter to acting Commander Westphal, of which the following is a true translation:–
“I have received with great estimation the attentive letter you have been good enough to direct me, dated the 2d instant, in which you explain to me your having requested the commandant of the British naval forces stationed at the Guadiana, to give me information of any danger that may offer from the vicinity of the enemy; and in such case to arrange that one of the brigs of war under his orders should transport me, with my family, to a secure point. I cannot sufficiently express my gratitude, for a politeness so singular, and so worthy of estimation.
“I have much felt not seeing the gentleman, commandant of the Guadiana forces, who introduced himself to my beloved brother, and to whom he delivered the letter, which he sent, upon finding it was for me, at which time the commandant had departed.
“I repeat to you my most expressive thanks for your repeated politeness, and, with my beloved brothers, remain full of acknowledgments for the benefits and attention you treated us with.
(Signed)“La Condesa de Chincon, Princesa de Paz.”
“To the Commandant of the Colombine, brig of war.”
“Revenge, Cadiz Bay, 2d Oct. 1811.
“Sir,– I have to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 1st instant, informing me of the capture of two French privateers by the boats of the Columbine, and I beg to express my satisfaction at the gallantry displayed by those employed, as well as your zeal and activity in the service upon which you have been employed, and which I have represented, with your letter, to the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, by the packet that sailed last night.
(Signed)“A. K. Legge.”
In Nov. 1811, Captain Cockburn hoisted a broad pendant on board the Grampus 50, preparatory to his proceeding as one of three commissioners, with the diplomatic rank of envoys extraordinary and ministers plenipotentiary, nominated by the Prince Regent to mediate between Spain and her colonies, and to guarantee whatever might be adjusted on proper and equitable terms. On this occasion, he was rejoined by Lieutenant Westphal, whose late appointment as acting commander the Admiralty would not confirm.
On the 2d April, 1812, Commodore Cockburn and his colleagues, Messrs. Sydenham and Morier, received final instructions for their guidance; on the 21st of the same month they arrived at Cadiz; and on the 4th August following, returned from thence to England, the existing Government of Spain, and the majority of the Cortes, having pertinaciously insisted upon confining the mediation to particular parts of South America, instead of taking an enlarged and liberal view, with the intention of adjusting the whole of the differences, and entering into a hearty and permanent reconciliation, as was intended and proposed by the British cabinet.
A few days after his return home from this unsuccessful mission, Commodore Cockburn was advanced to the rank of Rear-Admiral, and ordered to assume the command of the squadron at Cadiz. He accordingly once more proceeded thither, in the Marlborough 74, taking with him Mr. Westphal, as his first lieutenant. In Nov. following, he was appointed second in command on the Halifax station, where a fresh field for exertion had recently been opened; and on the 3d Mar. 1813, we find him arriving in the Chesapeake with a detached squadron under his orders.
Although the war between Great Britain and the United States of North America had existed since June 1812, the enemy’s extensive navigable rivers had hitherto remained unmolested; but Rear-Admiral Cockburn was determined, so far as rested with himself, that this supineness should no longer continue. Immediately on his arrival in Lynhaven bay, he caused the necessary surveys of the channels to be commenced, and then with part of his force penetrated into Hampton roads. From thence, with armed boats, he entered James river, cleared it of vessels, and carried consternation into the heart of Virginia. An American frigate which had been lying at the mouth of Elizabeth river, watching a favorable opportunity to put to sea, was obliged to return up to Norfolk: and to prevent the possibility of her being followed, the enemy sunk a line of ships across the channel of the river between their forts. Rear-Admiral Cockburn then proceeded up the northern branch of the Chesapeake, capturing on his way several armed and other vessels. On the 22d March, he was joined by his commander-in-chief. Sir John B. Warren, with whom he penetrated nearly up to Annapolis. He subsequently proceeded, first in the Maidstone frigate, and next in the Fantome brig, until he entered the Elk river, at the very head of the Chesapeake waters. The boats and a detachment of marines were then sent away under Lieutenant Westphal, who drove the enemy out of French Town, destroyed its depots of flour, military stores, &c. disabled six heavy guns, burnt five merchant vessels, and returned to the advanced squadron without the loss of a man killed or missing, and with only one wounded. The value of the property destroyed on this occasion was estimated at no less a sum than £500,000. In his official letter to Sir John B. Warren, the Rear-Admiral says:–
“To Lieutenant G. A. Westphal, who has so gallantly conducted, and so ably executed this service, my highest encomiums and best acknowledgments are due; and I trust. Sir, you will deem him to have also thereby merited your favorable consideration and notice.”
Rear-Admiral Cockburn afterwards anchored off Spesuçie Island, from whence a supply of cattle was obtained for the fleet in Chesapeake Bay. Whilst in the act of anchoring, he observed guns fired, and American colours hoisted at a battery lately erected at Havre-de-Grace, at the entrance of the Susquehanna river. This immediately gave to the place an importance which he had not before attached to it; and he therefore determined on attacking it. On the 2d May, the boats of the advanced squadron were placed under the command of Lieutenant Westphal, and ordered to assemble, at midnight, alongside the Fantome; a detachment of marines, consisting of about 150 men, embarked in them; and the whole proceeded towards Havre, under the direction of Captain John Lawrence, of the above sloop. Lieutenant Westphal led the van, in a rocket-boat, and took his station close to the battery, whilst those in the rear occupied the necessary positions for commencing the attack at dawn of day. Before that time arrived, however, he was discovered and fired upon; to which the advanced launches and rocket-boats gave so warm a return that the enemy soon fled to the furthest extremity of the town. Lieutenant Westphal then landed with his boat’s crew, turned their own runs on the fugitives, and, having dismounted and seized an American officer, set out on the captured horse in pursuit of them, forgetting, in the ardour of the moment, that his friends on foot could not possibly keep pace with him. In a few minutes he found himself surrounded by armed men, who, on discovering that he was an English officer, which he gallantly declared himself to be, demanded his immediate surrender. To this he made no reply, but resolutely dashed through them, firing his pistols right and left, and slashing away with his sword in all directions. Not only did he succeed in extricating himself from so critical a situation, but he also, after receiving a shot through one hand, actually took prisoner, and galloped off with, a captain of the American militia. In the mean time the marines landed to the left of the battery, and the enemy were soon driven from all their lurking places into tine neighbouring woods. The houses of those persons who had taken up arms against the British were then burnt, the guns of the battery embarked, and, in the course of the same day, a most valuable cannon foundry, about three or four miles to the northward of Havre-de-Grace, a large store of flour, and five vessels lying in the Susquehanna, destroyed. In concluding his official report of this day’s occurrences, Rear-Admiral Cockburn expresses himself to Sir John B. Warren as follows:–
“Of Lieutenant G. A. Westphal, whose exemplary and gallant conduct it has been necessary for me already to notice in detailing to you the operations of the day, I shall now only add, that from a thorough knowledge of his merits (he having served many years with me as first lieutenant) I always, on similar occasions, expect much from him; but this day he even outstripped those expectations, and though in considerable pain from his wound, he insisted on continuing to assist me to the last moment with his able exertions; I therefore, Sir, cannot but entertain a confident hope that his services of to-day, and the wound he has received, added to what he so successfully executed at French Town, will obtain for him your favorable consideration and notice, and that of my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty.”
The successful result of an expedition immediately afterwards undertaken against Georgetown and Frederickstown, situated up the Sasafras river, has been officially stated in p. 244 et seq. of Suppl. Part III. From May 7th until June 19th, 1813, Rear-Admiral Cockburn, with his flag again on board the Marlborough, was employed in keeping up a general blockade of the enemy’s coast. On the latter day, the commander-in-chief again joined company from Bermuda, bringing with him a small land-force under Colonel Sir Sidney Beckwith, consisting of the 102d regiment, two small battalions of royal marines, a party of the rocket artillery, and two companies of Canadian chasseurs. With this force, and detachments of seamen and marines from the ships, Sir John B. Warren resolved to make an attack upon Norfolk, a well-fortified naval arsenal and depôt, on Elizabeth river; but after an unsuccessful attempt to obtain possession of Crany Island, June 22d, this design was altogether abandoned: the loss sustained by the British afloat and on shore, amounted to three killed, sixteen wounded, and no less than fifty-eight missing; of which latter number, however, forty-one were Canadian chasseurs, or more properly speaking, Frenchmen who had been taken prisoners and enlisted into the English service, purposely to be employed in America. On the 26th of the same month. Lieutenant Westphal assisted at the attack and capture of Hampton, a fortified town, opposite to Elizabeth river: the naval operations this day were directed by Rear-Admiral Cockburn; and the total loss sustained appears to have been five killed, thirty-three wounded, and ten, including four marines, missing.
On the 1st July, 1813, Lieutenant Westphal followed Rear-Admiral Cockburn into the Sceptre 74; on the 8th of the same month, he was promoted by the Admiralty to the rank of commander; and four days afterwards he again distinguished himself as the leader of an advanced division of boats, at the capture of Portsmouth and Ocracoke Island, in North Carolina. On this occasion, he “pulled directly and resolutely” for a large brig, the Anaconda, mounting eighteen long 9-pounders, the crew of which vessel abandoned her on his near approach, although supported by a schooner, the Atlas, of ten guns.
The Anaconda was immediately purchased into the service, and commissioned by Captain Westphal, whose crew at first consisted of only sixty men, and those chiefly the bad characters of the fleet, who had been drafted from different ships by order of Sir John B. Warren. When ready for sea, he was directed to escort twelve valuable merchant vessels from Halifax to the West Indies; and while performing this service, he appears to have had a rencontre with two large American privateers, one of which struck after losing her jib-boom and fore-top-mast, but escaped in consequence of his passing on in pursuit of the largest, by whose fire his own fore-top-mast was unfortunately brought down just at the close of day, when to have continued the chase any longer would have subjected his important charge to great danger. On the 10th May, 1814, Rear-Admiral Cockburn, then in the Chesapeake, addressed him as follows:
“Dear Westphal, – I have just received your letter of the 4th March, and assure you I was very sincerely disappointed when I learnt some time ago from Sir John Warren, that he had transferred Anaconda to the Jamaica station, for I had expected, and indeed had received a kind of promise, that you were to come to me, and it is such as you that I want in these waters to keep up Jonathan’s kind disposition towards me, as he is beginning to change his note, to write civilly, and to talk of peace: I am nevertheless as anxiously as ever working him annoyance. * * * *. I learn with satisfaction that the Admiralty have approved of the purchase of the Anaconda, and of your appointment; you are therefore so far secure in employment. * * * * * *. Adieu. Accept my best wishes for your health and success, and believe me always most faithfully and truly yours.
On the same day, the Rear-Admiral wrote to his protégé’s new commander-in-chief, in the following terms:–
“Dear Brown, – This note will be delivered to you by Captain Westphal, of the Anaconda, who was several years my first lieutenant, and whose zeal and gallantry on many occasions enabled me at Inst to obtain for him his promotion, and makes me anxious to introduce him to your notice, and to request for him your protection and favor; as in the late redivision of these stations I understand he has been fixed under your command. From a thorough knowledge of his merits as an officer, I am confident you will be pleased with him, and I therefore only add, that I shall consider as a personal favor to myself any attention or kindness which you may be enabled to shew him. * * * * * *. Believe me always, dear Brown, with the sincerest regard, most faithfully and truly yours,
“To Rear-Admiral William Brown,
&c. &c. &c. Jamaica.”
In Mar. 1814, Captain Westphal was sent to cruise off the river Mississippi, under the orders of Captain Clement Milward, of the Herald 20 and he appears to have continued on that station until the arrival of Sir Alexander I. Cochrane, with the expedition against New Orleans. The manner in which he was subsequently employed will be seen by the following testimonials:
“This is to certify to the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, that Captain George Augustus Westphal commanded H.M. sloop Anaconda, under my orders, upon the late expedition against New Orleans, and throughout that service his conduct was highly creditable to himself and entirely to my satisfaction.
“In the endeavours, during those operations, to place the small vessels of war as near as possible to the point of landing. Captain Westphal was particularly conspicuous in his zeal and success towards the effecting of this important object; he having, by the utmost perseverance, skill, and exertion, hove the Anaconda over a bank, nearly five miles in extent (upon which there were only eight feet of water, into Lac Borgne, and there occupied a situation that enabled that sloop to render the most essential aid and protection to the open boats conveying troops and supplies from the fleet to the army; which were frequently rescued by her assistance from the imminent danger to which they were reduced by the severity of the weather.
“Captain Westphal, after stationing his vessel, was landed with a division of her seamen, and served in the naval brigade under the command of Captain Sir E. Thomas Troubridge, who made honorable mention of his exertions. Given under my hand this 26th day of April, 1818.
(Signed)“Alex. Inglis Cochrane.”
“These are to certify the Right Honorable the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, that having been witness to the meritorious and indefatigable exertions of Captain George Augustus Westphal, when in the command of H.M. sloop Anaconda, at the time the attack was made on New Orleans, in Dec. 1814, I feel it my duty to lay the following statement before their lordships.
“The Anaconda was ordered by the commander-in-chief, Sir Alexander Cochrane, alongside the Ramillies to be lightened, for the purpose of getting her as near to New Orleans as possible; and by the exertions of Captain Westphal, she was prepared for that service in a very few hours, when she proceeded up Lake Borgne, with the view of co-operating with, and protecting the boats of the squadron destined for the attack of the enemy’s gun-vessels. The Anaconda was of the greatest service in receiving on board the wounded men after the capture of the flotilla. By his indefatigable exertions. Captain Westphal forced the brig he commanded over a bank, which extended five miles, with only eight feet water on it, which enabled him to proceed nearly twenty miles more in advance than any other of H.M. armed brigs, and which was of the greatest service to the expedition, as it enabled her to guard the passage of the boats, from the ships to their destination, with supplies for the troops; and I have every reason to believe that many of the boats would have fallen into the hands of the enemy, had it not been for the protection they received from the Anaconda. As I was ordered up the lake, I was many days on board the Anaconda. I have great pleasure in bearing testimony to the above statement, and cannot too strongly recommend Captain Westphal to their Lordships’ protection. He then volunteered his services, with the greater part of his crew, to assist in the batteries before New Orleans. Given under my hand this 20th day of April, 1818.
(Signed)“T. M. Handy.”
“Having been requested by Captain G. A. Westphal, late of H.M. sloop Anaconda, to state my opinion of the situation in which that sloop was placed at the time the attack was made on New Orleans, in Dec. 1814, I feel it my duty to lay the following observations before the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty.
“Several of the senior captains of the fleet were directed by the commander-in-chief to occupy various stations on Lake Borgne, for the purpose of forwarding and hastening up troops, provisions, and stores for the army, the whole under the orders of Captain Sir Thomas Hardy. I was directed to take that nearest to the point of debarkation. I found the Anaconda about twenty miles farther advanced than any other of H.M. sloops, and placed in such an admirable position as enabled her most effectually to guard the passage of the boats of the squadron, from the ships to their destination against the enemy; as well as to afford them relief when, from the excessive fatigue of their crews, they were obliged to take refuge and protection on board. I therefore deemed it necessary to take up my residence on board that sloop, for the more effectually carrying on the duty entrusted to me. Captain Westphal was then serving on shore with the army, with the greater part of his officers and crew.
“A month’s continuance on that service gave me ample conviction of the great utility afforded the public service by the protection thus given which I attribute solely to the judgment and exertion of Captain Westphal in placing his vessel, and which cannot be better exemplified than by stating, that no accident or capture occurred during that period; but when the Anaconda was ordered on another service, and before a suitable force could be sent to occupy her place, several boats were captured on the re-embarkation of the troops, thereby occasioning the loss of many men and stores.
“During the many visits Sir Thomas Hardy paid the Anaconda, he constantly expressed to me his satisfaction of her excellent position, and the protection she thus afforded: my opinion is therefore greatly strengthened by the superior judgment of an officer of such merit as Sir Thomas Hardy; and I must take the liberty of adding, that I consider Captain Westphal most highly meriting the protection of their Lordships, for his able conduct on the occasion above alluded to.
“2d May, 1818.”
In Feb. 1815, Captain Westphal was sent in the Anaconda, from Mobile, with the Shelburne schooner under his orders, to cruise off that part of the coast of Florida lying north of the Havannah; on which station he continued until the final cessation of hostilities. He then returned to Jamaica, where his fine brig was surveyed and condemned, in consequence of the injury she had sustained during the operations against New Orleans. In the ensuing summer, we find him coming home as a passenger on board the Moselle sloop, Captain John Moberly. He obtained post rank in Aug. 1819.
Captain Westphal’s next appointment was, May 27th, 1822, to the Jupiter 60, in which ship he conveyed Lord Amherst and suite to Bengal. Soon after his return to England, in Dec. 1823, he received the honor of knighthood; for which, as the Right Hon. (now Sir) Robert Peel informed him, “he had been recommended, more in consideration of his gallant and distinguished services against the enemy, than of his having taken out the Governor-General of India.” To this the Secretary of State added, “that other officers, who might hereafter be similarly employed, were not to consider his being knighted as establishing a precedent in their favor.” We have now only to remark, that from his first entry into the service, until the conclusion of the war with America, a period of more than sixteen years, Sir George Augustus Westphal was not on shore altogether six weeks. He has been under the enemy’s fire, in engagements of various kinds, upwards of one hundred times; he has been thrice wounded; and his gallant conduct in battle has been eight times noticed in gazetted despatches.
Agents.– Sir F. M. Ommanney & Son.
- Brenton, Vol. IV. p. 422.
- Captain Paterson, of the Fox, died Sept. 9th following, on his passage from the Chesapeake to Halifax. His activity during the time that lie was employed in America had been very great, and his exertions contributed to bring on that sickness which terminated so fatally.
- See Part I. 188.
- Imperieuse, see p. 99.
- Brenton’s Nav. Hist. Vol. IV. 421–424.
- See Vol. III, Part I. p. 127.
- See id. p. 139.
- See Suppl. Part IV. p. 213.
- The highest vessel of her class on the expedition.
- See Suppl. Part IV. pp. 4–7.