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 Thomas Cochrane Biographies list - simultaneous reading 
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Post Re: Update
timoneer wrote:
Simultaneous readings of Thomas Cochrane biographies – Update
...
Therefore, my short list of biographies to read includes David Cordingly’s , Brian Vale’s "The Audacious Admiral Cochrane," and Robert Harvey’s. All three of these have been published since 2000.

Any comments?

Don


The Robert Harvey bio is not worth the effort. Just a rehash of previous accounts, with misinformation thrown in.

One howler that I recall is describing the 28 gun frigate Hind, the first ship in Cochrane's career, as a schooner-rigged vessel.

Don Seltzer


Sun Mar 02, 2008 1:31 am
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Post Re: Update
Don Seltzer wrote:
The Robert Harvey bio is not worth the effort. Just a rehash of previous accounts, with misinformation thrown in. One howler that I recall is describing the 28 gun frigate Hind, the first ship in Cochrane's career, as a schooner-rigged vessel.

Thanks, consider Harvey gone.

Maybe the Donald Thomas biography, which got decent comments here, even through it was originally published in 1978, would be a worthy substitute. Maybe it would allow me to recognize the newer material appearing in Vale's and Cordingly's books.

Don Campbell

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Sun Mar 02, 2008 1:54 am
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Post Cochrane and the Real Story
One thing that piques my interest about Cochrane and the accounts of his life is a strange inconsistency in his explanation of how he came to be captured by Admiral Linois in 1801.

Standard naval histories by Clowes and James report that Linois left
Toulon in June 1801 with a squadron bound to Cadiz, to join up with
the Spanish ships stationed there. On July 1, he was within sight of
the heights of Gibraltar, but impeded by westerly winds. On July 2 he
captured a packet vessel, and on July 3 he captured Cochrane and the
Speedy. James adds the information that he had traversed 2/3 of the
Strait at that time, and then received information that Cadiz was
blockaded by Admiral Sarmarez. Linois then decided to put into
Algeciras on July 4, across the bay from Gibraltar.

In his Autobiography, Cochrane gives the same dates, but claims that
he was in a bay off Alicante, where he had just burned several small
merchant vessels (the smoke supposedly attracting Linois). The modern
Alicante, however, is hundreds of miles to the NE of Gibraltar. It is
clearly impossible for the capture to take place on July 3, and for
the Linois to anchor at Algericas the next day.

If the account in James is accurate, we have Cochrane, assigned to
escort a packet vessel from Minorca to Gibraltar, abandoning his
charge to cruise well west of Gibraltar (2/3 through the Strait).

I wonder if any of this came up in the court-martial.

From The Naval History of Great Britain, by William James

'On the 1st of July the French ships, then working against a
strong west-north-west wind, were seen from Gibraltar; where
the only British vessel of war at anchor was the 14-gun polacre-
sloop Calpe, Captain the Honourable George Heneage Lawrence
Dundas. On the 2nd M. Linois captured a small British brig
employed as a packet to Minorca ; and on the 3rd, when more
than two thirds through the Straits, the French admiral was so
fortunate as to capture, but not until she had resorted to every
manoeuvre to escape which her skilful commander could devise,
the 14-gun brig-sloop Speedy, Captain Lord Cochrane. Learning
now that Cadiz was blockaded by a superior force, Bear-
admiral Linois, with his squadron and prizes, bore up for Alge-
ziras. On the 4th, at about 10A.M., he rounded Cabrita point in
sight of the Calpe at her anchorage, and at 5 P.M. came to with
his ships in front of the town of Algeziras, still in full view of the
British at the rock.'

Don Seltzer


Sun Mar 02, 2008 3:42 am
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Post Re: Cochrane and the Real Story
Don Seltzer wrote:
One thing that piques my interest about Cochrane and the accounts of his life is a strange inconsistency in his explanation of how he came to be captured by Admiral Linois in 1801.

I wonder if any of this came up in the court-martial.

DonS, I took a look at a Spanish map and, as you say, Alicante appears to be a long way from the Gut.

I think you are correct in that the court-martial of TC (for the loss of the "Speedy") might clear this up. However, if I had to take a side, I believe James' version over the one that TC wrote so many, many years after the event. Especially of a failure!

I took a peek into both Vale's and Cordingly's books for this one event and both seem to think that Cochrane was within sight of Gibraltar when Linois first spotted the "Speedy." I think they are relying on James version also.

It's also possible that he burned the three merchantman after dark on the preceding night (sounds like TC) since 3 July started at noon the preceding daylight period. If he was spotted by Linois at 4 AM on the morning of 3 July he may have already traveled toward Gibraltar for some time in order to catch up with the packet he was "supposed" to be escorting and then met Linois closer to Gibraltar. Harvey's book (I know, I know, I heard you) seems to indicate this.

Christopher Lloyd's book says that TC encountered the merchantmen off the coast of Malaga, which is a lot closer to Gibraltar than Alicante. I wonder where Lloyd got that information? Court martial, perhaps?

I think this project is going to be a challenge due to reading all of these secondary sources.

Where is Mr. Peabody and his Wayback machine when I need it? :D

Don C

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Sun Mar 02, 2008 4:58 am
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With respect to the capture of the SPEEDY, David Hepper's "British Warship Losses in the Age of Sail" states that "at daybreak, when about four miles to the east of Gibraltar, three large ships were sighted which bore up in chase...."

It is possible that this comes from the Court Martial records as Hepper made much use of these in compiling his book.

It is also possible that Cochrane or his writers made a genuine mistake as to the name of the place. I do not know of any town or village along the Costa del Sol with a name resembling "Alicant". Brian Vale does not make a point of this apparent error and simply says that Gibraltar was in sight to the west.


Sun Mar 02, 2008 10:44 am
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Post Re: Update
timoneer wrote:
Both "The Fighting Cochranes" and the ODNB list Thomas Cochrane "without" a middle name. I have a tendency to believe that he had none but many of the other articles show "Alexander" as his middle name. I wonder what the truth is?

I am still working on the outline -- re-reading the short biographical information to add dates, etc. to the basic info, before starting to read the actual biographies.

With reference to the quote above from my previous post, I have edited the Wikipedia article about TC to delete "Alexander" as his middle name. If you wish to see why I did this, go to the article (CLICK HERE) and then click on the DISCUSSION tab at the top. Scroll down to see my reasoning under the section titled MIDDLE NAME (at the bottom).

If you have never looked at the DISCUSSION section of any Wikipedia article, then you may find it interesting to read everything posted. Be forewarned that there is one pretty offensive comment there (complaining about the original poster of some racist remarks, look under COCHRANE).

Due to the nature of Wiki, someone could just as easily add the middle name back to the article. There are a few other things that might need cleaning up in the article, but I will wait to finish my project before attempting to modify them. This first edit in TC's article is more a test than anything else, to see what happens, since I have only made a very few minor edits elsewhere in the past. Should be interesting.

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Wed Mar 05, 2008 11:02 am
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If you are contemplating doing a simultaneous reading of multi-biographies of TC or anyone else, think twice before you start. Seriously!

I have not abandoned this project but I am certainly disillusioned at this point and am taking a few deep breaths before soldering (sailoring?) on.

The worse part of a biography for me is the stuff in the beginning. Born, family, education, etc., is usually a total snore and I normally race through it to get to the meat of the person's life. Maybe that is exactly what I should have done on this project.

After finishing my brief outline of TC's life, I decided to tackle the period from birth on 14 December 1775 to TC arriving on the "Hind" on 27 June 1793.

I figured every author would concentrate on some items and ignore others and that every book would be different. That is certainly true. Lloyd pretty much ignores TC's early life and starts with "Speedy." Maybe some of the others should have followed suit. Thomas throws in Talleyrand who happened to live near the military school that TC attended. Any other connection between TC and Talleyrand? Nope. Father and earlier family history is larger or smaller in size depending on each author’s preference. If some of this material has errors, that is beyond my knowledge as I only researched TC’s life, not these other family members. I assume that this variation is just the author's attempt to make their book different. Can't argue with that, certainly.

I thought that one thing I could easily evaluate would be the accuracy of certain basic facts. Other than Lloyd (who doesn't address the early life), every biographer made a number of errors. Some huge, some minor but every "paper" should have been returned to the student by the teacher with a notation to "Check The Facts"!

Note: Since I do not have access to original source materials, in some cases I cannot tell which authors have made errors as I can only tell that the "facts" differ between books, not which is correct.

I wasn't sure how many biographies I would be reading at the end of my project, but I started off by reading all of the biographies I own, seven in total. I figured that some would fall by the wayside as they proved to be just repeats of the others, or too opinionated, etc. My method was to read each section in the order that the books were published, with the most recent last. I figured that the most recent had the most access to previous research and should be the most accurate. And… as long as a Cochrane didn’t write it, it should be pretty balanced.

By the time I picked up Vale (published in 2005), I was expecting I was getting close to a decent book as the others had been jammed with misinformation that would have been relatively easy to verify. Vale begins his book with "Our hero was born on 1 December 1775..." Wrong. TC’s age at the time of his mother's death is wrong. His new step-mother's name is wrong. The date that his Uncle Alexander first puts TC's name on a false muster is wrong. The date TC reports to the "Hind" is wrong. All this in the first 8 pages. Yipes!

The last book published (Cordingly, in 2007) seems to have the fewest errors so far. Not perfect but...

My next step (unless I get a better suggestion here) is to compare the "Speedy" cruise across the seven books. But I am cringing at the thought of what I might find. I wonder if "El Gamo" defeats "Speedy" in any of them! :D

If I were planning on writing a biography about someone with a life as interesting as the one TC had, I would do the early life with the minimum of detail. And, I would triple check that information. In TC's case, some info about his father would have to be included because TC's life was so impacted by him. Otherwise, it would be something like "he was born in Scotland in 1775, the oldest son of the 9th Earl...." Whether his mother's name was Anna, Ann, Anne, Annie or whatever, would not be needed. BTW, her name was Anna and her dad called her Annie.

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Tue Mar 11, 2008 12:43 pm
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Of the seven general biographies of Thomas Cochrane that I read, I would have to admit that every single one of them would give readers the essence of the person that TC was. They certainly were all different in some manner or other and one or more may appeal to certain readers more than others. I don’t think any were bad or unreadable.

Surely, accuracy in names, places, dates, etc. appeals to me, but should the fact that a particular author got TC’s step-mother’s name wrong, or TC’s birthday wrong, ruin the author’s goal. I don’t think it should.

If someone only reads one of these, and enjoys it, and learns about Thomas Cochrane, the author has succeeded.

The evolution of accuracy in TC’s biographies is probably similar to others, I suspect. Aside from TC’s attempt to give his own self-serving version in his autobiography, his memory in basic facts was faulty since he wrote his book so much later than when the events happened. Does the order of his captures with the "Speedy" really matter? Fifty captures is the more important part of that story. As more and more of the Cochrane family papers are accessed over the years, the details change slightly, but the core remains the same.

Every biographer covered the most important events. Some of the "lesser" events, like the 1799 court-martial due to his flippant attitude to Philip Beaver, are not covered by every book but TC’s manner with superiors is well documented in all.

I assume that every biographer had read the earlier biographies of TC and attempted to be better or different. Imagine the difficulty of writing a "new": biography about Nelson? Very difficult. In the case of TC, some just concentrated on the major events. Lloyd’s work is a good example of this.

Some added historical background material or personal material. Does a description of the Cochrane family estate, Culross, add to the reader's knowledge of TC? Maybe not, but it does add something different to the book. Cordingly certainly has done this. He discusses the earlier commanders of "Speedy," evidently to let the reader know that the men that TC inherited with this ship were already trained and efficient. Some of the other biographers mentioned that also. Cordingly goes even farther and discusses the fate of the "Speedy" after her capture by Linois. Stuff like this makes his book "different" but is it better? Individual readers would have to make that judgment for themselves. I can imagine two people reading any of these biographies and having diametrically opposed opinions.

I first read "Autobiography of a Seaman" a number of years ago. Four or five years after that, I read Lloyd’s biography. Recently, I started Cordingly’s work. For me that seems the best way to read these types of books. Reading multiple biographies at the same time is not something I will ever try again. Very time consuming. The only thing that a project like this will point out is the effort by a particular biographer to get the "structure" right, the dates, names, places, etc. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you will enjoy that author’s treatment of the subject’s life story. That’s an individual thing.

Aside from the general biographies, authors who concentrate on narrow topics like Stephenson’s book about TC’s "secret plan" are worthwhile for those, like me, who have a specific interest in such topics.

Did I learn anything new about TC? Yes. A lot of little details. For example, he joined the "Hind" in 1793 as an "able seaman," not a "midshipman" as most early biographers said. Both Vale and Cordingly caught that by studying the ship’s muster. He was middle-aged and his wife was a teenager when they first eloped. I learned why one of his sons was named Arthur Auckland Leopold Pedro Cochrane (born while TC and his family were in South America).

I even learned some things aside from the books, just by asking questions. I must thank Don Seltzer for finding proof that TC still had his army commission after he had become a member of the Hind’s crew. Don actually found an article in the London Gazette dated 14 December 1793 where TC exchanged from the 78th Foot to Captain Wood’s Independent Company of Foot. TC’s army commission was eventually canceled but I never did find a specific date for that.

Did I learn anything new in general? Yes. For example, I learned a bit about the history of the Order of the Bath, like the name coming from the ritual bath of cleansing prior to the ceremony. Because of the restructuring of the Order by the Prince Regent, TC was expelled as a KC and reinstated as a GCB since the KC no longer existed. Some biographers missed this.

If someone asked me to recommend a biography to read, I would say start with TC’s autobiography. It’s flawed certainly, but you learn about the man, his attitudes, his strong opinions, his dislikes. Then read David Cordingly who is a bit wordy on the background stuff but accurate about the details.

If you want to know the man: the superior mariner, the prickly subordinate, the charismatic leader, the efficient planner, the reformer, the commando expert in littoral warfare, the loving husband who adored his wife enough to marry her "a thousand times," any biography might fill the bill.

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Mon Mar 17, 2008 7:14 pm
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Post 
timoneer wrote:
..., I learned a bit about the history of the Order of the Bath, like the name coming from the ritual bath of cleansing prior to the ceremony. Because of the restructuring of the Order by the Prince Regent, TC was expelled as a KC and reinstated as a GCB since the KC no longer existed. Some biographers missed this.


Cochrane was restored to the Order of the Bath in 1847, but for some reason, his banner was never replaced in the chapel. Apparently, this was a bit of an embarrassment when Cochrane died in 1860. Within a few weeks, the banner was officially restored (one story has it being found in a curiosity shop).

Four years ago, I noticed that the original Royal Warrant restoring Cochrane's banner to the chapel, signed by Victoria and Albert, was up for sale on ebay from a dealer in Binghamton, NY.

"Victoria, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and
Ireland, Queen, Defender of the Faith, and Sovereign of the Most Honorable
Order of the Bath. To our trusty and well-beloved Algernon Frederick
Greville, Esquire, Our Bath King of Arms of Our most honorable Order of the
Bath, Greeting.
Whereas, after the installation of the then Knights of the Most
Honorable Order of the Bath, in the year 1812, the Banner and other
achievements of Sir Thomas Cochrane, then commonly called Lord Cochrane, a
Knight of the said Order, were placed up in King Henry the Seventh's Chapel
within Our Collegiate Church of St. Peter at Westminster, and, Whereas the
said Sir Thomas Cochrane, commonly called Lord Cochrane, was by Our Royal
Grand-father, King George, the Third, under, and by virtue of, a Warrant
bearing date the Fifteenth day of July 1814, removed and degraded from the
Order, and, Whereas, in pursuance of another Warrant, bearing even date
therewith, the said Banner and other achievements were taken down from the
Stall in the said Chapel there-to-fore occupied by him, the said Sir
Thomas Cochrane, commonly called Lord Cochrane, as a Knight Companion of
the said Order: and, whereas, by a Warrant under Our Royal Sign manual, and
sealed with the seal of Our said Most Honorable Order of the Bath, bearing
date, the Twenty-fourth day of May, 1847, in the Tenth year of Our Reign,
We were graciously pleased to nominate and appoint the said Sir Thomas
Cochrane, commonly called Lord Cochrane, at that time Earl of Dundonald, to
be a member of the Military Division of the First Class of Our said Most
Honorable Order of the Bath, and, Whereas it hath been represented unto Us
that the Banner and other achievements of the said Thomas, Earl of
Dundonald, formerly Sir Thomas Cochrane, commonly called Lord Cochrane,
have not been replaced in King Henry the Seventh Chapel, within Our said
Collegiate Church of St. Peter at Westminster. We taking the especial
circumstances of the case into Our Royal consideration do hereby authorize
, and require you, Our said Bath King of Arms, to replace or cause to be
replaced the said Banner and other achievements in the same Stall which was
occupied by the said Thomas, Earl of Dundonald, formerly Sir Thomas
Cochrane, commonly called Lord Cochrane, as a Knight Companion of the
Order, previous to his removal and degradation from the said Order. Any
Stature, decree, rule or usage, to the contrary notwithstanding. Given
under our Royal Sign manual, and the seal of Our said Most Honorable Order
this Thirteenth day of November, 1860, in the twenty-fourth year of Our
Reign. By The Sovereign's Command. Albert, Great Master."

Don Seltzer


Mon Mar 17, 2008 11:54 pm
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Post Re: Thomas Cochrane and the capture of Speedy
Don!
It is always desirable to go back to the original sources and not to rely on any secondary account - even one from such a distinguished writter as James. Indeed, The story of the capture of Speedy by Linois is described clearly in the Court Martial Report on TC and his officers (Adm1/5357 in the National Archives). Briefly, on 3 July 1801, at dawn with Gibraltar in sight to the west, Speedy found Linois's squadron unexpectedly between her and her destination (the mail packet she was escorting having already been captured). TC turned east - against the wind - but could not escape the French whose greater bulk enabled them to overtake her on every tack. TC resisted but had no option but to surrender. He was acquitted and commended for his action.

So far, so good! The problem is that in his memoirs, TC (typically) chose to produce an elaborate and basically incorrect account. His claim that Linois was attracted to Speedy by the smoke from vessels TC had burnt off Alicante (700 miles away and the other side of the Spanish naval base of Cartagena for heaven's sake!) is, frankly, ridiculous. So is the fact that his story has been believed and repeated for so long without the slightest check by biographers like Lloyd, Grimble and Harvey. Lloyd to his credit smells a rat and says the burning must have taken place off Malaga not Alicante. But that is not true either!

In years of work involving TC in one way or another, I have learnt one lesson which I would pass on to other readers of Sailing Navies - NEVER accept anything TC says without independent verification. This is a good example of why! You can rely on TC's sword but not, alas, his pen.

Brian Vale


Mon Apr 28, 2008 8:58 pm
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Post Re: Thomas Cochrane and the capture of Speedy
Brian Vale wrote:
It is always desirable to go back to the original sources and not to rely on any secondary account - even one from such a distinguished writter as James. Indeed, The story of the capture of Speedy by Linois is described clearly in the Court Martial Report on TC and his officers (Adm1/5357 in the National Archives). Briefly, on 3 July 1801, at dawn with Gibraltar in sight to the west, Speedy found Linois's squadron unexpectedly between her and her destination (the mail packet she was escorting having already been captured). TC turned east - against the wind - but could not escape the French whose greater bulk enabled them to overtake her on every tack. TC resisted but had no option but to surrender. He was acquitted and commended for his action.


Brian, thanks for the input from the court martial. Is it clear from the testimony that the 3 July events took place to the east of Gibraltar? I'm trying to reconcile that with the account in James and the order of events.

Scenario 1 has Linois and his squadron struggling for several days to exit the Mediterranean. On 1 July, they are sighted to the east of Gibraltar, battling NW winds. The mail packet from Mahon to Gibraltar is also sailing west, escorted by Cochrane and the Speedy. On 2 July, the packet overtakes(?) Linois and is captured. The Speedy, trailing by at least half a day, falls into the same trap the following morning, all happening to the east of Gibraltar. On 4 July, Linois decides not to head for Cadiz, but instead bears up for Algiceras.

A Scenerio 2 is suggested by the account in James which places the 3 July capture 2/3 of the way through the Straits. Suppose a few days before, Speedy and the packet are approaching Gibraltar. Cochrane, thinking his charge is safe, heads west on a short cruise looking for prizes. Linois overtakes the packet on 2 July within sight of Gibraltar, and continues westward through the Straits. The next morning, Cochrane and is caught with Linois between him and safe haven in Gibraltar.

If the second scenerio were correct, it would imply that Cochrane was negligent and had disregarded his orders to escort the packet to Gibraltar. He would have a good reason to muddle the circumstances of his capture.

A question that arises from the first scenerio is why Linois, who had apparently been struggling westward for several days against contrary winds, would turn his entire squadron around and chase a lowly brig to the east? Would such a small prize be worth the lost time when the danger of Saumarez's squadron was near?

The answers might be in the master's or captain's journals of the Speedy, but I suppose that they have been lost with its capture.

Don Seltzer


Tue Apr 29, 2008 12:36 pm
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Post Re: Thomas Cochrane and the capture of Speedy
Don!
You are right. The loss of Speedy means that there is no log to give us info. on winds, weather conditons, track etc.

My feeling (like yours) is that
a. TC neglected his duty of Packet protection and went off in-shore on a prize hunting exploit of his own. TC had a hgh opinion of his own abilities (perhaps justified) and bridled when given jobs which he thought were beneath him. Hence his hostility when told to guard Britain's vital Greenland Whaling Fleet in Arab, and hence his disregard of the Packet.
As you say, he typically ignored the circumstances to avoid criticism.
b. I think your scenario 2 is probably right - except that TC goes north looking for prizes which are hugging the security of the coast.
c. I think L pursued TC because a. if you see an enemy ship you take it (particularly if you are French with few victories to your credit), and b. he knew the identity of Speedy from the packet and wanted to get rid of a notorious nuisance.

The irony (speculation here) is that from the dating of the letters, it is likely that the despatch reporting TC's capture of El Gamo was on board the packet! If TC had been more zealous and avoided Linois the letter would have reached London and he would have been promoted quicker!

FYI, TC's evidence at the CM says
"About 4 o'clock in the morning of 3rd July 1801 to the Eastwards and in sight of Gibraltar, we saw 3 large ships apparently French who soon after gave Chace to the Speedy, the Speedy was between the Shore and the Ships that chaced her and to windward of the French vessels, we endeavoured by making all sail and were pulling with the sweeps, (as the wind was very light) to keep to windward of the enemy but having found notwithstanding all our endeavours to keep the wind, that the French Ships gained fast, and having separated on different tacks, one or other gained on us upon each shift of wind, and finding it impractical to escape by the wind, about 9 o'clock the Guns and other things on Deck were thrown overboard.....but we again found the French ships outsailed us...and the nearest French ship approached to within musket shot. I ordered the colours to be hauled down about 10 o'clock am - the wind being to the Eastwards and having received several broadsides from the enemy which carried away the Main Boom and several of the Ropes." (End). Spelling and punctuation authentic. This is taken from Adm/1/5357 of the National Archives of England and Wales at Kew, whose help I acknowledge and with whose permission I reproduce these words.

Regards

Brian Vale


Wed Apr 30, 2008 12:38 pm
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Post Re: Thomas Cochrane and the capture of Speedy
Brian Vale wrote:
FYI, TC's evidence at the CM says
"About 4 o'clock in the morning of 3rd July 1801 to the Eastwards and in sight of Gibraltar, we saw 3 large ships apparently French who soon after gave Chace to the Speedy, the Speedy was between the Shore and the Ships that chaced her and to windward of the French vessels, we endeavoured by making all sail and were pulling with the sweeps, (as the wind was very light) to keep to windward of the enemy but having found notwithstanding all our endeavours to keep the wind, that the French Ships gained fast, and having separated on different tacks, one or other gained on us upon each shift of wind, and finding it impractical to escape by the wind, about 9 o'clock the Guns and other things on Deck were thrown overboard.....but we again found the French ships outsailed us...and the nearest French ship approached to within musket shot. I ordered the colours to be hauled down about 10 o'clock am - the wind being to the Eastwards and having received several broadsides from the enemy which carried away the Main Boom and several of the Ropes." (End). Spelling and punctuation authentic. This is taken from Adm/1/5357 of the National Archives of England and Wales at Kew, whose help I acknowledge and with whose permission I reproduce these words.


What continues to nag at me is the account in James that this encounter took place 2/3 through the Straits. I wonder why he had this notion.

In Cochrane's testimony at his courtmartial, his choice of phrasing is a bit odd and ambiguous. Perhaps as deliberately chosen as the description of a green collar visible above a great coat in another trial a decade later.

"About 4 o'clock in the morning of 3rd July 1801 to the Eastwards and in sight of Gibraltar, we saw 3 large ships apparently French..."

On first reading, it suggests that the Speedy was to the eastward of Gibraltar. But this is an odd way for a naval captain to report his position. I would expect him to instead state something along the lines of:

"About 4 o'clock in the morning of 3rd July 1801, with Gibraltar bearing West x leagues, we saw 3 large ships apparently French to leeward..."

Cochrane's testimony is worded such that an alternative interpretation is that the French ships were seen to the Eastwards. His description of the wind is similarly vague, mentioning that it was light and shifting. Only at the end of the chase does he state a specific direction, that it was from the East at that moment. Is Cochrane cleverly hiding the fact that he was captured west of Gibraltar, in gross negligence of his escort duty?

Don Seltzer


Wed Apr 30, 2008 1:44 pm
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Post Re: Thomas Cochrane and the capture of Speedy
My own interpretation is that TC was approaching Gibraltar from the east with the wind behind him when at dawn he discovered the French to the west!!

It is of course a verbatim transcript by a clerk of what TC said verbally at the CM. Writing at speed and with TC's acquittal a certainty he may not have tried very hard to get it right.

I have checked my retype of the transcript to make sure it is correct. It is!

Brian Vale


Wed Apr 30, 2008 2:36 pm
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Posts: 389
Location: Australia
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David Hepper in his “British Warship Losses in the Age of Sail” states that the SPEEDY was 4 miles to the east of Gibraltar at daybreak when the French were sighted and the latter bore up in chase. I had assumed that this statement was based on the Court Martial records but this does not agree with Brian’s transcript. Perhaps there were witnesses other than Cochrane?

William James’ version:

“On 1st of July the French ships, working against a strong west-north-west wind, were seen from Gibraltar……..On the 2nd M. Linois captured a small British brig employed as a packet to Minorca; and on the 3rd, when more than two-thirds through the Straits, the French admiral was so fortunate as to capture….the 14gun brig-sloop SPEEDY……Learning now that Cadiz was blockaded by a superior force, Rear Admiral Linois, with his squadron and prizes, bore up for Algeziras. On the 4th at about 10 am, he rounded Cabrita Point…and at 5 pm came to with his ships in front of the town of Algeziras, still in full view of the British at the Rock.”

The Straits of Gibraltar were usually considered to lie between Cape Trafalgar/Cape Spartel to the west and Europa Pt./Ceuta to the east. Two-thirds of the way through the strait would, therefore, place the SPEEDY at least 10 nm west of Tarifa. James’ version is consistent – in order to "round" Cabrita Point Linois must have been to the west of this cape (which marks the western limit of Algesiras Bay), about 5 nm west of Gibraltar. It would be interesting to know the source of James’ information.

One possible scenario is that the Speedy was taken when east of Gibraltar and, as a prize, accompanied Linois’ squadron past Gibraltar to a position west of Tarifa before Linois decided to make for Algesiras but the timing is doubtful given the light winds and prevailing easterly current. It is all speculative – note that it seems to have taken Linois 7 hours to traverse the 5 nm from Cabrita Point to the anchorage off Algesiras.


Thu May 01, 2008 5:23 am
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