Tag Archives: Admiral Sir Samuel Hood

Captain Conway Shipley

shipley(photo located here)
We briefly mention Commander Conway Shipley in the story below, Capture of l’Egyptienne. In that story he is the 21 year old commander of HMS Hippomenes who gave chase to, and captured, the 36-gun privateer l’Egyptienne in the Windward Islands. But sometimes these marginal notes become interesting stories in their own right.

Shipley was the son of William Davies Shipley, the dean of St. Asaph, who had achieved some degree of notoriety in his own right as the subject of a libel prosecution by the Crown.

We don’t know much about Shipley. We can presume that he went to sea in his early teens and had probably been carried on the muster roll of one or more ships since age five or so because he was already a commander at age 21. Based on his encounter with l’Egyptienne he seems to have been an energetic officer and after that adventure he remained in command of Hippomenes until November when he was posted captain. Continue reading

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The Alan Lewrie Novels: A Perspective

I’ve recently finished working my way through Dewey Lambdin’s series of novels following the career of his character Alan Lewrie. I stumbled onto the first by accident, was captured in the first paragraph, back in November and to a certain extent that novel, The King’s Coat, crystallized some ideas that had been floating around in my head about providing a researched resource covering life at sea, particularly life in the British navy, in the 18th and early 19th centuries.

It seems that I have nearly a year to wait until the next installment arrives, so I’ll close this chapter with my perspective on the novel and the character.

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Admiral Alexander Hood, 1st Viscount Bridport

lord-bridport
We’re slowly but surely working our way through the mutiny of the Channel Fleet at Spithead and the the North Sea Fleet at The Nore with the help of Mainwaring’s Floating Republic.

We’ll take a time out from the action to introduce characters who are central to the story. One of these is Admiral Lord Bridport, commander of the Channel Fleet.

Alexander Hood, brother of Samuel Hood, was born in 1726 and entered the navy at age 15. He was appointed a lieutenant in 1746 and served in that rank for ten years before being promoted to commander. He caught the eye of Rear Admiral Sir Charles Saunders and served as his flag captain before commanding a frigate with some distinction at the Battle of Quiberon Bay and in single ship actions.

He was promoted to rear admiral in 1780. At the end of the American Revolution he went on half pay and served in the House of Commons. He was recalled to the colors when war broke out with Revolutionary France and fought under Lord Howe at the Glorious First of June. For his heroism he was created Lord Bridport.

On 23 June 1795, with his flag in HMS Queen Charlotte, he fought the inconclusive Battle of Groix against the French off the Île de Groix and captured three ships. Wikipedia says he was criticized within the navy for failing to win a more decisive victory, though that seems hard to credit as it doesn’t seem much less decisive than most of the other sea battles of the era.

In that same year he succeeded to command of the Channel Fleet and held that command until his retirement in 1800.

Some accounts of the Spithead mutiny paint Bridport as somewhat feckless and indecisive during this crisis. I’m not certain that assessment bears up under analysis.

He died in 1814.

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Admiral Sir George Cockburn

As I’ve noted in the past, an astonishing number of historical characters have roles in Dewey Lambdin’s Alan Lewrie novels. One of those who makes an appearance in A King’s Commander is Captain, later Admiral, George Cockburn.

Cockburn, pronounced “Coe-burn”, is most famous to American readers for burning Washington, DC and on his way through the area confiscating the letter “C” from print shops so his name could not be spelled.

He was a real character, a protégé and favorite of Horatio Nelson, a devoted, resourceful, and audacious naval officer, and First Lord of the Admiralty when steam and the screw propeller ended the era of fighting sail.
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A King’s Commander

A King’s Commander covers the year 1794 in the life and career of Dewey Lambdin’s naval hero, Alan Lewrie.

Lewrie finishes commissioning his new command, HMS Jester, the former French corvette Sans Culotte captured by Lewrie in HMS Cockerel, in Portsmouth in preparation for assignment to the Mediterranean under his patron Admiral Lord Samuel Hood. Enroute they run afoul of a small French squadron and are pursued, saved only by stumbling onto Admiral Howe’s fleet engaged in the Glorious First of June.

Major spoilers follow.

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The King’s Commission

The King’s Commission continues the story of Lewrie’s first term of service in the Royal Navy. It begins in January 1782 and takes Lewrie’s career through September 1783. In this novel we see more of Lewrie’s development into a skilled naval officer and a gradual maturing of his character.

The novel opens with the Battle of St. Kitts.

Major spoilers follow.

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Grand Turk Island

What does this have to do with the Age of Sail?

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Admiral Sir Samuel Hood

As this site has an interest in the Alan Lewrie novels by Dewey Lambdin, I’m going to take a moment to profile the historical character who becomes Lewrie’s patron and the source of his “interest” which leads to his continuous employment as naval officer and subsequent advancement, Admiral Sir Samuel Hood.

Hood was the son of an Anglican churchman and entered the Royal Navy in 1741 at the rather advanced age of 17. He didn’t have the meteoric rise in ranks that marked other famous admirals. He spent the obligatory 6 years at sea before receiving his promotion to lieutenant at a time when it was common for children’s names to be entered on the books of a man-o-war while still toddlers in order to ensure they could be promoted to lieutenant as soon as they reached age 20. He received his first command 8 years later and was made post captain in 1757 at age 33.

He enters our picture in 1781 when he commanded a squadron under Admiral Thomas Graves at the Battle of the Capes. Graves was probably one of most significant mediocrities produced by the Royal Navy and his inept handling of his fleet led to he defeat of the British fleet and the surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown:

At 3:45 P.M., with the two fleets on nearly parallel courses a mile or two apart, Graves hoisted the signal “line ahead,” meaning that his ships were to remain in single file, bow to stern, as they approached the enemy. As the forward end, or “van,” of the British line approached the French at a slight angle, forming a “V,” Graves signaled for his fleet to “bear down and engage,” meaning that each ship was to engage its opposite in battle. However, Graves continued to fly the signal for “line ahead.” Hood, knowing that the requirement to follow the “line ahead” signal superceded all other signals, remained doggedly in line in the rear, positioned too far back to be actively engaged. For nearly an hour and a half, only the van of the British fleet engaged de Grasse’s ships. Finally, at 5:20 P.M., Graves lowered all signals and hoisted the sign for “close action.” Hood’s squadron joined the fight. However, by this time, three British ships had been disabled.

As the afternoon wore on, de Grasse ordered his ships to break contact and bear away. The battle ended by 6:30 P.M., as daylight failed.

This remains a source of controversy among naval historians and causes our hero, Alan Lewrie, to brand Hood a poltroon for not joining the melee. In The French Admiral, Hood expresses his admiration for Lewrie and appears again in The King’s Privateer as his patron.

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