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Schanck, John (DNB00)


SCHANCK, JOHN (1740–1823), admiral, born in 1740, son of Alexander Schanck of Castlereg, Fifeshire, first went to sea in the merchant service, and entered the navy in 1758 on board the Duke, from which after a few weeks he was transferred to the Shrewsbury, and served in her for nearly four years as an able seaman. He was then rated by Captain (afterwards Sir) Hugh Palliser [q. v.] as a midshipman for six months. Afterwards he was a midshipman and master's mate in the Tweed, and on 10 Jan. 1766 passed his examination, being then ‘more than 25.’ After spending some time in the Emerald with Captain Charles Douglas [q. v.], in the Princess Amelia, flagship of Sir George Rodney in the West Indies in 1771, and in the Asia, with Captain George Vandeput [q. v.], on the North American station, he was promoted in June 1776 to be lieutenant, and put in command of the Canso, a small vessel employed in the St. Lawrence. He was already known as a man of considerable mechanical ingenuity, and especially as the constructor of a cot fitted with pulleys so that it could be raised or lowered by the person lying in it, which had obtained for him the nickname of ‘Old Purchase.’ He was now recommended by Vandeput as a proper person to superintend the fitting out of a flotilla on the lakes, and he was accordingly placed in charge of the naval establishment at St. John in Canada. He brought thither the frame of a ship of 300 tons, previously put together at Quebec, and in less than a month had this vessel afloat on Lake Champlain, where she largely contributed to the defeat of the American flotilla on 11 and 13 Oct. During the following months he fitted out several vessels on the other lakes, and had the control of the establishments at Quebec and Detroit, as well as of that at St. John. In the autumn of 1777 he was attached to the army with General Burgoyne, and constructed several floating bridges, some of which were brought from a distance of seventy miles. When the army was compelled to surrender, these bridges fell into the hands of the enemy. On 15 Aug. 1783 he was promoted to the rank of captain. As early as 1774 he had built a private boat at Boston with a sliding keel. He now took up the idea again, and brought it before the admiralty, who, on a favourable report from the navy board, ordered two vessels of 13 tons to be built on the same lines, one with, the other without, a sliding keel. On the complete success of the vessel on Schanck's plan, other larger vessels were built, including the Cynthia, sloop of war; but the most celebrated of them was the Lady Nelson, in which many of the earlier surveys of Southern Australia were carried out (James Grant, Voyage of Discovery in the Lady Nelson). In 1791 Schanck served with the expedition against Martinique and Guadeloupe as transport agent, and again with the army in Flanders. He was afterwards appointed superintendent of the coast defence, for which he built and fitted a number of rafts and boats carrying guns. In 1799 he was again employed on transport service with the army in Holland, and was one of the commissioners of the transport board. In 1802 his failing sight compelled him to retire. He became a rear-admiral on 9 Nov. 1805, vice-admiral on 31 July 1810, admiral on 19 July 1821. He died in the early summer of 1823. He married a sister of Sir William Grant [q. v.], master of the rolls.

[Marshall's Roy. Nav. Biogr. i. 324; Gent. Mag. 1823, ii. 81; Charnock's Marine Architecture, iii. 338–62.]

J. K. L.