페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

by its violence, that the Captain was obliged to put into Rio de Janeiro, for the purpose of refitment, whence, unable to rejoin his commodore, he was fain to return to England. Four years after the date of this first service, he was appointed to the Burford, which was placed under the orders of Admiral Sir Charles Ogle, and employed under many emergent circumstances to coast along the shores of Curaçoa and the Caraccas. On the 23 February, 1745, the Burford came into action, during which the damage done was so severe, that her destruction became inevitable. At the Court Martial, which ensued after this loss, the evidence of young Howe was beard with much interest and approbation; he detailed the circumstances of the engagement with a collected perspicuity and modest proof of knowledge, and described the death of his Captain, who had toth his thighs shot off, with an overflow of honourable grief, which fully deserved the compliments that were paid to him upon the occasion. While attached to the same squadron, he gave another proof of judgment and intrepidity, which is well entitled to the merit of a specific record. Sailing before the Dutch settlement of Eustatia, with the rank of acting lieutenant on board a sloop of war, he volunteered his services to claim an English merchantman, which had been captured and carried into the port by a French frigate. Disappointed of success in his efforts at negociation, he devised a scheme for cutting the merchantman out of the harbour, and solicited leave to execute the plan himself. The Captain strongly represented the dangers of such an attempt ; but his ardour was not to be subdued, and he was at length permitted to execute his project. The event was fully equal to the energy of the conception; he performed the task with signal care and prudence, and had the honour of restoring the captured vessel to her owners without loss or damage.

In the momentous events of the year 1745, he rose alike in rank and merit. Appointed to the command of the Baltimore sloop of war, which was one of the vessels serving under Admiral Smith, on the coast of Scotland, he had the fortune, in company with another sloop, of falling in with two French frigates, which were loaded with arms and ammunition for the Pretender. No sooner were the hostile colours recognised, than he ran his vessel between the Frenchmen, and at a first tack was almost close enough to board. A desperate conflict arose : ill content with the mere superiority of command, the young Captain displayed the most active courage; and amidst the confusion of personal contest, issued his orders with marked precision and coolness. Thus doubly occupied, in directing others, and fighting himself, a musket-ball struck his brow, and he was carried from the deck apparently lifeless. Animation, however, soon returned, and though the surgeons were performing the most painful operations, first in probing, and then in dressing and closing the wound; the first use he made of his returning strength was to hail on his men above boards with cheers; and no remonstrance could prevail upon him to control his excitement, and economise the chances he had of recovery. On the contrary, his head was no sooner bound, than he rushed upon deck, amidst the shouts of his crew, and supported the action with redoubled eagerness and determination. The merited effect of this gallantry soon became apparent: the French sheered off disabled, but the state of the Baltimore was so shattered that a pursuit was evidently vain. The Admiralty, however, fully appreciated the conduct of the victor, and his promotion to a Post Captaincy, and the command of the Triton frigate, serving on the same station, followed the public account of the action without delay.

In March, 1750, we find him again as actively and as successfully employed on board the La Gloire, of 44 guns, with the command of his Majesty's ships along the coast of Africa. Upon his arrival, he was met with loud complaints from the settlers along Cape Coast, against the ill treatment of the governor of the Dutch, who held an adjoining fort. After a vain exertion to obtain satisfaction by inoffensive means, he soon disposed himself so as to dictate the terms of accommodation, and adjust every difficulty before him. From this quarter he is to be traced in the command of several ships of the line, and through a varied succession of difficult services in the Mediterranean, until the year 1758, when he obtained the Dunkirk, a new ship of 60 guns, and was dispatched under Admiral Boscawen, to cope with the French fleet, which at the same period set sail for North America. Arrived on the coast of Newfoundland, it was there determined to prevent the enemy from entering the gulf of St. Lawrence, and though many obstacles were opposed to the execution of the

plan by a succession of fogs, under which the English fleet were scattered, and the French concealed, still the first clear day that came, showed two frigates in sight—the one the Alcide, of 64, and the other the Lys, of 22 guns. For these Howe immediately made sail, and first coming up with the Alcide, ordered her to the stern of the British Admiral. The Frenchman asked whether this was for peace or war, and was answered that the orders to fire were expected every moment, upon which he coolly answered, the English may begin when they pleased. To this Howe replied with equal indifference, that he would yield the advantage of beginning; and, in consequence, buth ships came into action almost at the same time. They fought on for an hour, when, though superior in tonnage, guns, and men, the Frenchman struck, with a capital of 80,0001., and nine hundred land forces on board. A night or two after this happy distinction, Howe was roused from sleep by the lieutenant of the watch, with notice that the magazine was on fire. If such be the case, observed the Captain, we shall soon have convincing assurance of it, and proceeded very deliberately to dress himself, while the Lieutenant flew back to his post in evident agitation. Returning again in a few moments, he found Howe still going on slowly with his toilet, and told him that he need not be afraid for the flames were extinguished. “Afraid, Sir ! retorted the Captain, looking him full in the face, “pray how does a man feel when he is afraid, for I need not ask how he looks ?

In September, 1757, he served in the expedition against the Isle of Aix, and led the van on board the Magnamine, of 74 guns. Though the fort began to fire on him as soon as he came within gun-shot, still he continued his course without returning a single cannon, until he had urged his pilot to drop the ship under the very walls. His anchor there thrown out, he commenced so brisk a cannonade that the colours of the enemy were drawn down in less than an hour. The year 1758 now drew on, and Howe removed into the Essex, of 64 guns, in which vessel he was nominated Commodore of the squadron which was destined to cover the debarkation of an offensive body of troops on the French coast. On the 1st of June he weighed his anchor, and on the morrow, found himself before Cape La Hogue . Hence, passing by St. Maloes, he stood into the bay of Cancalle, and destroyed above a hundred sail of shipping, togetner with several magazines ; but though it was intended to effect a landing, the idea was abandoned, and Howe proceeded to reconnoitre for a less dangerous spot. With this view he arrived before Cherbourg, and was actively engaged in his designs, when the weather changed so unfavourably, that his operations were interrupted, and he was soon after compelled to return home for want of provisions.

Such, however, was the satisfaction excited by the manner in which this expedition was conducted, that a second one was immediately fitted out, and Howe again sailed with the command of it from St. Helens, on the 1st of August, in the same year. On the evening of the 6th, he once more came into anchor in the bay of Cherbourg, and upon the next day brought the fleet up into the harbour of Maris, about two leagues from the town. There the troops were safely landed, and the fortifications carried with comparative ease. Twenty pieces of brass cannon were removed on board the fleet; upwards of two hundred iron bombs and mortar pieces were effectually destroyed; twenty-seven sail of shipping found in the harbour were shattered or sunk, and after levying a small contribution upon the town, the soldiers reembarked, and the fleet weighed anchor. The month had not concluded, when Howe again appeared successful on his native shores; and was, without delay, ordered back to sea, and directed to keep the French coast in a continued state of alarm by making descents wherever, and whenever, place and time favoured his views. St. Maloes immediately became the main object of his attack ; and, accordingly, the squadron anchored two leagues westward of the town, in the bay of St. Lunaire, where the troops were landed. A deliberation which ought to have taken place before, was then held by the military commanders, in which the practicability of an assault was discussed, and almost immediately decided to be a measure hopeless of fortune. To add to the distress of this precipitancy, it was found that the troops could not regain the ships without considerable difficulty, as well as danger, and they were in consequence marched over land to the bay of St. Cas, whither Lord Howe repaired with the squadron. But the French poured after the retiring infantry in numbers, and the preparations for gaining the fleet no sooner began, than a

desperate fire was opened upon the defenceless boats as they advanced to the shore, while a violent attack was made upon the soldiery, then only intent upon escaping. The carnage was dreadful, and the greatest resolution was necessary to support the sailors in their attempts to reach the land, and preserve the troops in order upon it. In the midst of this scene Howe ordered his own barge, in which he stood erect, to be rowed through the thickest of the cannonade ; and, thus conspicuous, exhorted the men, by his voice and attitude. Time after time his barge was seen to touch the land, at the greatest peril and risk, and receive as many as could possibly be contained in it, while the havoc continued with a power so fata), that of the little crews, twenty in number, appointed to man each boat, no less than ten, twelve, and in some cases sixteen, fell dead, at a venture, from their oars. In this undertaking the fleet suffered most; the military were conveyed on board with a loss comparatively trifling, after which the season of the year compelled a return to England.

The gallant death of his brother, whose fate supplied the matter of the preceding note, left the subject of this sketch heir to the family title of Lord Viscount Howe, with which he was appointed Colonel of the Chatham Division of Marines, in 1760. Thus fully possessed of the confidence of the ministry, and the approbation of the public, employment on board the feet, and official engagements at home, fully show that as his merit was appreciated, so was it rewarded. For some succeeding years the opportunities of brilliant or active enterprise were, therefore, scanty in the extreme, and a detail of Lord Howe’s naval career during the interval, can only be dry and valueless. His appointments on shore, however, were of greater importance at this period, for we find him elevated to a seat at the board of the Admiralty, in August, 1763, and only removed from it after a lapse of two years, in order to fill the more advantageous post of Treasurer to the Navy. His promotion to the Rear-admiralship of the Blue, in 1770, compelled him to resign this situation, as well as his colonelcy of Marines, after which he sailed into the Mediterranean with the rank of Commander-in-chief of that station. But the peaceful circumstances of the time made the service merely honorary. Returning to England, in 1775, his Lordship was advanced to the rank of Rear-admiral of the White,

« 이전계속 »