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Royal Naval Biography/Winthrop, Robert

Rear-Admiral of the White.

This officer was a Lieutenant in 1790; and commanded the Albicore sloop at the reduction of St. Lucia, in the spring of 1796, by the forces under the orders of Sir Hugh C. Christian and Sir Ralph Abercromby[1]. About the same time he captured l’Athenienne French corvette, of 14 guns, near Barbadoes. He was afterwards appointed to the Undaunted frigate, and in that ship had the misfortune to be wrecked on the Morant Keys, during a heavy gale of wind, Aug. 27, 1796. His post commission bears date Dec. 16th, in the same year.

Captain Winthrop’s next appointment was to the Circe, of 28 guns, stationed in the North Sea; and in the month of May, 1798, we find him serving in the expedition sent against Ostend, an account of which has been already given in our memoir of Rear-Admiral Raper[2]. Major-General Coote, who commanded the army employed on that occasion, in his despatches, spoke most highly of “the indefatigable exertions and good conduct of Captain Winthrop, who superintended the landing of the troops, and assisted in getting up the artillery, and other materials; and for some time commanded a detachment of seamen on shore.”

In the summer of 1799, our officer was entrusted with the command of a small squadron, employed on the coast of Holland; the boats of which, in the night of the 27th June, very gallantly cut out twelve sail of merchantmen from the Wadde, without having a man hurt; notwithstanding they were much annoyed by the fire from the enemy’s batteries and gun-boats. On the 10th July, the boats, with equal resolution and bravery, cut out three more valuable vessels from the same river, and burnt another laden with ordnance stores.

In the following month the Circe assisted at the capture of the Helder, on which occasion all the Dutch ships lying in the Nieuve Diep, together with the naval magazine at the Nieuve Werk, containing a large quantity of stores, were taken possession of by Captain Winthrop. This event led to the surrender of the enemy’s fleet in the Texel[3]. On the 8th Oct. in the same year, our officer being in the river Ems, proceeded to reconnoitre the port of Delfzel, where he discovered a sloop of war and a schooner lying within musket shot of the batteries, and conceiving it practicable to carry them by a coup-de-main, he gave the necessary orders for that purpose. Delfzel being distant 20 miles from the Circe, the boats proceeded with the first of the tide, and arrived there just as the moon went down, at which time Captain Winthrop ordered the attack to be made by Lieutenant Maughan upon the ship, and Lieutenant Pawle upon the schooner, who boarded and carried them in a most gallant manner, and without any loss, notwithstanding the enemy’s guns were primed, and the matches lighted. The prizes proved to be the Lynx, of 12 guns and 75 men; and the Perseus, of 8 guns and 40 men. Lieutenant Matthew Buckle, of the Hawke cutter, very handsomely volunteered his services with Captain Winthrop on this occasion.

We next find the subject of this memoir commanding the Stag frigate, in the expedition against Ferrol, under the orders of Sir John Borlase Warren, in the autumn of 1800[4]. On the 6th Sept., the Stag parted her cables in Vigo Bay; and the wind blowing furiously at the time, laid her on her beam-ends, and prevented her from wearing clear of the other ships. Captain Winthrop then made sail upon her, and endeavoured to weather Point Subudo; but the gale increasing almost to a hurricane, she was driven on shore, and in a very few minutes a rock broke through her bottom, when she filled almost immediately. After saving all the officers and ship’s company, and some of the stores, she was set fire to, in pursuance of orders from the Rear-Admiral.

On the renewal of hostilities after the peace of Amiens, Captain Winthrop obtained the command of the Ardent, a 64-gun ship, stationed on the coast of Spain, where he drove on shore la Bayonnaise French frigate, of 32 guns and 200 men, from the Havannah bound to Ferrol. The crew, to prevent her being taken possession of, set her on fire, by which she was totally destroyed. The Ardent was subsequently employed off Boulogne, under the orders of Lord Keith.

From this ship, Captain Winthrop was removed into the Sybille frigate, about the month of July 1805; and on the 3d May, 1807, he captured l’Oiseau French letter of marque. In the ensuing summer, he was appointed to the command of the Dover district of Sea Fencibles. His promotion to the rank of Rear-Admiral took place Aug. 12, 1819. He married, Dec. 23, 1804, Miss Farbrace, of Dover.


REAR-ADMIRAL WINTHROP, (p. 759.) Was a Midshipman on board the Formidable, bearing the flag of Sir George B. Rodney, in the memorable battle of April 12, 1782; an account of which will be found at p. 35, et seq. Commanded a battalion of seamen, attached to Prince Edward’s brigade, at the conquest of Martinique, in 1794.

P. 760. The boats engaged in the capture of the enemy’s vessels, at Delfzel, were under his immediate directions.