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part of the mountain the Spaniards have a small fort, which might be surprised. * Ships may lie at anchor under the protection of this mountain, out of gun-shot of the main land. It appears to me equally as strong by nature as Gibraltar; and when it is considered that a squadron of British ships may leave the road in the evening, and appear off either Rochefort or Ferrol next day, it must be considered as a place of very great importance to Great Britain to be possessed of. It is also in sight of the two principal Spanish ports of St. Andero and Bilboa. The possession of this place would also enable us to supply all the north of Spain with British manufactures through the numerous little ports on the coast, and to make our returns in dollars or wool. The French, at present, monopolise the whole trade of the coast, and make their returns in dollars. It is carried on in small chasse-marées, or boats which never quit the land very far, and in war-time wear Spanish colours.
Towards the latter end of 1804, Captain Wood was ordered to escort a very valuable fleet to the West Indies. Before his arrival at Jamaica, Sir John T. Duckworth, the Commander-in-chief on that station, had heard of his recall, and determined to return to England in the Acasta. With this view he appointed his own captain to supersede Captain Wood, and nominated the latter to the Hercule, a 74 gun ship, then at sea, and in which it was well known his successor intended to hoist his flag; consequently leaving our officer, without any ship, to make his way to England in the best manner that he could. Captain Wood strongly remonstrated with the Vice-Admiral against this measure, which he conceived to be highly unjust and oppressive, as he had been appointed to the Acasta by the Board of Admiralty. Notwithstanding his representations, however, Sir John persevered,
* At the time Captain Wood drew up his remarks relative to Mount St. Antonio, the fort was garrisoned by a serjeant's party only.
and Captain Wood was therefore obliged to return to England as a passenger on board of his own ship. Immediately that the Lords of the Admiralty were apprised of this proceeding, they re-appointed Captain Wood to the Acasta; and, at the same time, adopted a regulation to prevent, in future, any admiral upon a foreign station from exercising his authority so much to the detriment of the public service. Subsequent events prevented Captain Wood from resuming the command of the Acasta; but he was soon after appointed in succession to the Uranie and Latona frigates; and in the latter, after serving for some time in the Channel, again ordered to convoy a fleet to the West Indies. Previous to his departure from England, he took the liberty of calling the attention of the first Lord of the Admiralty to the state and position of the enemy's squadron in the roads of Isle d'Aix, it being his opinion that the whole of the ships there might be brought out by a coup-demain. After some correspondence on the subject, Mr. Grey named a day and hour for the discussion of this affair at the Admiralty, where the Admirals Pole and Markham, and also Mr. Tucker, the Secretary, were present. The following appears to have been Captain Wood's proposal: That an equal number of line-of-battle ships to those of the enemy, at that time moored off Isle d'Aix, in a line abreast, nearly N. E. and S. W., should be selected. That each of those ships should have an addition to her complement of 200 seamen and 100 marines. Each captain to be made acquainted with the ship of the enemy he was to lay on board on the weather bow, the weathermost ship of the enemy to be called number one, according to the state of the wind. The general bearing of the enemy's squadron from the usual anchorage of the British in Basque Roads was S. E., and consequently a S.W. or N. E. wind, a leading one in or out of d'Aix Roads, and the attacking ships might have varied their position so as to bring the enemy's squadron nearly two points more to leeward, according to the wind. The time proposed for the attack was about two hours before day-light, and after the enemy's ships had tended to the ebb-tide, boats properly protected being previously placed on the edge of the Boyart shoal and Isle d'Aix with lights darkened towards the enemy. Launches with carpenters and axes ready to cut the enemy's cables, and every man being fully acquainted with what he was to do. A sufficient number of small craft ready to proceed with anchors and cables. The attacking squadron to be led in by the Latona, and to pass to windward of the enemy's weathermost ship; and when she had passed, to burn a false fire, or to shew two lights, at which time each attacking ship was to bear up and lay her opponent on board on the weather bow. The vessels to be immediately lashed together. After cutting the cables, their sails to be loosed; by which, and the assistance of the ebb tide, they might have been brought out to Basque Roads in half an hour, or less. Frigates and small craft to have kept up a fire to amuse the battery on Isle d'Aix, and to assist as otherwise directed. Any number of ships might have been ready in Basque Roads to secure the prizes. Notwithstanding the apparent practicability of this plan, it was considered by those who had to deliberate on the propriety of attempting its execution, that there was more to be risked than gained. Captain Wood's opinion was therefore over-ruled. The Latona formed part of the squadron under the orders of the present Sir Charles Brisbane at the capture of Curaçoa, Jan. 1. 1807; and together with the Arethusa, commanded by that distinguished officer, bore the principal part in the transactions of that memorable day. Those ships entered the harbour in close order of battle, some time before the rest of the squadron; and whilst the latter engaged Fort République, Captain Wood, who had taken up a most excellent position, soon silenced the fire of all that part of the enemy's force opposed to him; namely, Fort Amsterdam, the opposite batteries, a frigate and other armed vessels. He was afterwards ordered to warp his ship against Fort République; but before
the others which lay in his way could be got afloat, the capitulation for the surrender of the island was agreed to.
Upon this honourable and glorious service, Captain Wood was second in command; and to the credit of all concerned, it is but fair to remark, that an enterprise more wisely planned, or more gallantly executed, is not to be found in our naval annals. The commodore, in his official despatches, bore ample testimony to the merits of all employed in the undertaking; and as a testimony of the king's high approbation of their conduct, the respective commanders were each presented with a gold medal on the occasion.*
Subsequent to the conquest of Curaçoa, Captain Wood was entrusted by Sir Alexander Cochrane, who had succeeded to the chief command on that station, with the blockade of the Danish islands, which terminated in their surrender, at the latter end of 1807. He afterwards removed to the Captain, of 74 guns, and in her was present at the reduction of Martinique. His next appointment was to the Neptune, a second rate, in which he continued to be actively employed till the summer of 1810, when he joined the Pompée, of 74 guns; and after serving for some time on the Lisbon and Channel stations, proceeded to the Mediterranean, where he remained till the conclusion of the war. He received the honour of knighthood on his return from the West Indies, as a reward for his general services; was nominated a C. B. June 4, 1815; and advanced to the rank of Rear-Admiral, July 19, 1821.
Sir James's death took place at Hampstead, in the month of July, 1829.
We have derived the preceding Memoir from Marshall's Royal Naval Biography. * The Committee of the Patriotic Fund at Lloyd's voted a sword or vase (at
his option) of the value of 200l. to Captain Brisbane, and swords or vases value 100l. each, to Captains Wood, Lydiard, and Bolton.
ARCHIBALD FLETCHER, Esq.
MR. Fletcher was born at the farm of Pooble, in Glenlyon,