« AnteriorContinuar »
ing officer. He did not, however, receive his commander's commission till the first of August, 1780, when it rewarded his gallantry as First Lieutenant of the Flora, on her capturing the Nymphe, a fine French frigate, after a desperate action, in which the latter had 63 killed and 73 wounded ; including her First and Second Captains, First Lieutenant, and three other officers among the former. Though Captain Peere Williams, the commander of the Flora, did not, in his official letter, report that Mr. Thornborough boarded the enemy sword in hand, that circumstance was so well known, that the Commander was promoted to post-rank in the following year, and appointed to the Blonde frigate of 32 guns.
In this ship he served under Admiral Digby, in North America, and cruised in company with Nelson, who then commanded the Albemarle, of 28 guns. The frigate was tolerably successful; and Captain Thornborough became popular along the coast for the generous and humane treatment which he displayed towards such Americans as fell into his hands.
In May, 1782, the Blonde being ordered to cruise off Boston, in hopes of intercepting a frigate of the same name, and the only ship of war then belonging to the Americans, fell in with and took a large ship of theirs mounting 22 guns, laden with choice spars and stores for the French fleet. While she was towing her prize into port, she unfortunately struck on the Nantucket shoals, bilged, and was entirely lost. The prize, to avoid sharing the same fate, pursued her course, and reached Halifax in safety. The crew of the frigate constructed a large raft, by means of which they succeeded in getting ashore, with about seventy prisoners, upon a desert islet, which afforded nothing eatable but vetches. Here they remained two days in the utmost distress, exposed to incessant rain. At the end of that time two American cruisers providentially hove in sight, and observing the signals of distress made to them, bore down, and relieved them from their imminent danger of starvation in its most hideous form. singular trait of generosity marked the sequel. No sooner did the Americans identify the distressed Captain, than they
took him and his people off, treated them with the kindest attention, and landed them near New York, then in possession of the English, as a grateful return for Thornborough's behaviour to his prisoners. That unhappy war was not remarkable for many occurrences of such noble character; and we regret that we are not able to record the names of these good Samaritans.
According to established custom, Captain Thornborough was tried by a court-martial for the loss of the Blonde; and after an honourable acquittal from blame, his merits were rewarded by an appointment to the Hebe, of 38 guns, one of the most beautiful frigates in the service.
In June, 1785, bis Royal Highness Prince William Henry (his present Majesty), having regularly served the whole time required as a midshipman, and undergone the usual examination before the Comptroller of the Navy and two senior Post Captains, was appointed Third Lieutenant of the Hebe. In the same month, Commodore the Honourable J. L. Gower hoisted his broad-pendant on board the frigate, and she proceeded on a cruise round Great Britain and the Orkney islands. On her return she touched at Belfast, in Ireland, from thence down St. George's Channel, and arrived at Spithead by the end of August., The Commodore then struck his pendant, and the Prince continued to serve with Captain Thornborough till February, 1786, when he was appointed First Lieutenant of the Pegasus, of 28 guns. His Royal Highness always performed the duties of his station with the most becoming alacrity; and it is not a little honourable to the memory of George III., that his son not only served his full time in the cockpit, but also took the chances of service as to climate, — a point which is well known at the Admiralty to be often a subject of debate among minor families.
Captain Thornborough retained the command of his fine frigate upwards of six years, which was considered an extraordinary mark of favour during a peace. In August, 1789, the royal family visited Plymouth, and were received by the fleet in that port with every possible demonstration of joy. Among other ceremonies, a squadron was detached into the Sound, for the purpose of exhibiting some naval evolutions before George III., who had embarked on board the Southampton to inspect them. On this occasion, while the ships were forming into two separate lines of battle, his Majesty expressed much satisfaction with the elegance of the Hebe's movements; and in the engagement which followed was observed to turn frequently from the line-of-battle ships towards the frigate.
* In 1790, the Spaniards having sent an armed force to dispossess the British traders and settlers of their possessions at Nootka Sound, our government ordered a powerful fleet to be equipped, and to rendezvous under Lord Howe at Spithead, to await the effect of their remonstrance. This period is known to seamen under the name of the “ Spanish disturbance;" and there can be little doubt that the celerity with which the fleet was manned and fitted brought the Spaniards to ternis. On this occasion Captain Thornborough was appointed to the Scipio, of 64 guns, which ship was paid off, after the amicable adjustment of the dispute, and our officer retired to private life.
In February, 1793, the National Convention of France declared war against Great Britain and Holland, a step which was,
of course, reciprocated; and a numerous fleet was consequently fitted out for sea with the utmost expedition. Capt. Thornborough was called into commission, and appointed to the Latona, a choice 38-gun frigate, on the home station. In the course of the summer he captured several French merchant-vessels, besides three mischievous privateers, called L'Amerique, Le Franklin, and L’Ambitieux, of 10 guns each. On the 18th of November, in the same year, being attached to Lord Howe's fleet, he descried a strange squadron to windward, which proved to be French, and consisted of six sail of the line, two frigates, a brig, and a schooner, under the command of Citoyen Vanstabel. This being communicated to the Admiral, the signal for chase was instantly abroad; the enemy in the mean time bearing down in hopes of snatching up a convoy. When the hostile fleets had neared sufficiently to raise the hulls of each other, Vanstabel perceived his mistake, and made all the sail his ships could stagger under to a fresh gale, followed by the advance of the British fleet till at eleven A. M., the Russell having sprung her foretop-mast, and the Defence having carried away her fore and main topmasts, the frigates were ordered to lead the fleet and keep sight of the enemy. At noon a shift of wind enabled the
a chasing ships to tack with advantage; and the Latona, ahead of her companions, soon found herself so near the French frigates, that Captain Thornborough boldly resolved to cut off one of them, the afterwards well-known Sémillante. After firing for some time on both these ships, the Latona could have weathered the Sémillante at about four; but Vanstabel, seeing her danger, bore down in the Tigre, of 80 guns, with his second, to prevent the manoeuvre from being effective. The two French line-of-battle ships saved their frigate by this timely intervention, passing so near to the Latona as to discharge their broadsides at her, but without other damage than two shots lodging in her hụll. On receiving the fire of these heavy antagonists, their pigmy foe gallantly luffed up and returned it, evidently striking the hull of the Tigre, and cutting away her fore-stay and main-tack, and also (as was afterwards related by some prisoners taken on board a recaptured vessel) killing and wounding several of her crew, besides the damage she did to the frigates. No other British ship was able to approach : the squalls became furious, and the advance was under more sail than they could well carry, whence the maintop-masts of the Vanguard and Montague went over the side. At night Lord Howe kept on a wind, to anticipate the probable motions of the French; in consequence of which Capt. Pasley, in the Bellerophon, 74, with the Latona and Phoenix, lost sight of the fleet, and found themselves on the following dawn well up with four of the enemy, all of the line : these being of such superior force compelled the reluctant Pasley to recall the chasers; and Commodore Vanstabel ultimately escaped.
The activity, spirit, and address of Captain Thornborough in this pursuit gave pleasure to the whole fleet; and the Admiralty complimented him with their special thanks.
The Latona and Phæton were now ordered off Ushant, where, on the 27th of November, they captured the national ship Blonde, of 28 guns. A severe winter's work followed, in the necessary attendance upon Lord Howe; and the duty was of a nature to try both officers and men. Nothing, however, very important happened till the spring of 1794, when Lord Howe left Portsmouth, and on the morning of the 5th of May arrived off Ushant. The Latona and Phæton were then ordered to reconnoitre Brest harbour, covered by the Orion, of 74 guns, which they promptly performed, and reported the French grand fleet to be at anchor in the outer roads. This induced his Lordship to imagine their object was to be in readiness to protect the homeward-bound convoy from America ; he, therefore, stood to the westward, and for a fortnight kept crossing the Bay of Biscay in all directions, without seeing the expected vessels. On the 19th, having returned off Ushant, the Latona and Phæton, covered this time by the Cæsar and Leviathan, were again ordered to look into Brest Water, when they found the port vacant. This was important intelligence : after strenuous endeavours to fall in with them, the enemy was met on the 28th, and the glorious battles which followed are too well known to need repetition. It is sufficient to say, that the Latona did important service in the conflict, and, with the Phæton, was attached to the centre of the line. About noon she was signalised by the Bellerophon for assistance, that ship having been dreadfully cút up, and at the moment receiving the broadsides of two opponents. Captain Thornborough was not slow in answering the summons, and as he passed the two French line-of-battle ships gave them the contents of his guns.
This was Captain Thornborough's last achievement as a frigate captain, for he was shortly afterwards appointed to the Robust, of 74 guns, in which ship he still remained with