Royal Naval Biography/le Hunte, Francis
FRANCIS LE HUNTE, Esq.
Passed his examination for lieutenant in July 1809; and subsequently served in the Milford 74, bearing the flag of Rear-Admiral Fremantle, on the Mediterranean station. In Feb. 1813, he commanded a division of the Sicilian flotilla, under the orders of Brigadier (afterwards Sir Robert) Hall, and behaved with distinguished bravery at the storming of some batteries on the coast of Calabria, a service thus officially reported to Lieutenant-General Lord William Bentinck:
“Messina, Feb. 16th, 1813.
“My Lord, – I have the honour to inform your lordship, that since the attack of the 21st July, the enemy had thrown up new works at Pietra Nera, and felt such confidence in their protection, that a convoy of fifty sail of armed vessels had assembled within a few days past, to transport to Naples timber and other government property. Conceiving it necessary to destroy this confidence, and having gained your lordship’s sanction, I proceeded on the night of the 14th, with two divisions of the flotilla, and four companies of the 95th regiment, under the command of Major Stewart. Light and contrary winds prevented the boats arriving until nearly daylight, when about 150 men, with an auxiliary party of seamen, under the command of Lieutenant Le Hunte, were landed; and Major Stewart, without waiting the arrival of the rest, pushed up immediately to the height, which we had previously concerted to occupy, and which a complete battalion, with two troops of cavalry, and two pieces of artillery, were prepared to dispute. Aware of the enemy having cavalry, I landed a detachment of the rocket corps, under the direction of Corporal Barenbach, the fire of which threw them into confusion, and facilitated the approach of our troops, who charged the height in a most determined way. The enemy, however, did not abandon it until the colonel-commandant, Roche, and most of his officers, were killed or made prisoners, and the height was literally covered with their dead. The division of the flotilla under Captain Imbert had now commenced a most destructive cannonade on the batteries, which held out with such obstinacy, that I was obliged to order them to be successively stormed. This service was performed by Lieutenant Le Hunte, with a party of seamen, in a very gallant style. At eight o’clock every thing was in our possession, the most valuable of the enemy’s vessels and timber launched, and the rest on fire. Upwards of 150 of the enemy killed and wounded, and 163 prisoners, among whom are the colonel of the regiment, three captains of infantry, two captains of cavalry, and one captain of artillery, with his two guns, six-pounders, afford the best proofs of the manner in which both services did their work: very few of the enemy’s cavalry escaped.
“The determined manner in which Major Stewart led his men, to the attack of the enemy’s position, did him infinite honour, and the army will share my regret at the loss of this brave officer, who fell by a musket shot, while with me pushing off from the shore, after the troops were re-embarked. Lieutenant Campbell, of the 75th, who commanded the advance, was particularly and generally noticed: I cannot sufficiently express my admiration of the very exemplary conduct of Lieutenant Le Hunte, who was the observation of sailors and soldiers. * * * * * I have the honor to annex a list of our killed and wounded on this occasion, which your lordship will observe is very trifling, compared with the enormous loss of the enemy.
(Signed)“R. Hall, Capt. and Brig.”
The loss sustained by the flotilla amounted to no more than two men slain and seven wounded.
Lieutenant Le Hunte was afterwards sent with a division of gun-boats to guard the island of Ponza. In March and April, 1814, he was attached to the expedition against Genoa and its dependencies; and particularly distinguished himself by his gallant and able conduct at the reduction of the enemy’s forts in the Gulf of Spezzia. His promotion to the rank of commander took place on the 15th June following. During the short war in 1815, he was selected to serve in the river Scheldt, with a brigade of seamen, under the orders of Captain Charles Napier; and after the final overthrow of Napoleon Buonaparte, we find him, for a short time, commanding the Erebus sloop, of 16 guns.