Evelyn Sutton

Died 1817. He was the natural son of Lord Robert Manners-Sutton, the second son of the 3rd Duke of Rutland, who died unmarried in 1762.

Sutton was commissioned lieutenant on 17 November 1765, promoted commander on 26 May 1768, and after commissioning the new Kingfisher 14 at the Nore he was posted captain on 10 January 1771.

Battle_of_Porto_Praya

Sutton’s career came to a controversial end following the Battle of Porto Praya in 1781

He commissioned the new Proserpine 28 for service in home waters in July 1777, and in the following year was ordered to the Straits of Gibraltar from where he shadowed Vice-Admiral Charles, Comte d’Estaing’s Toulon fleet following its departure from that port. By concluding that the French were heading across the Atlantic he played a major part in the despatch of Vice-Admiral Hon. John Byron’s fleet to North America on 9 June 1778. He was later present at the Battle of Ushant on 27 July but left the Proserpine shortly afterwards.

After recommissioning the Isis 50 in November 1780, Sutton ran the Dutch man-of-war Rotterdam 50 down in the Channel on 31 December and apparently obliged her to strike. As his crew were very raw however, he was unable to complete the task of possessing the enemy vessel which, in his official despatch, he erroneously described as a 60 or 64-gun ship. When Captain Hon. George Keith Elphinstone of the Warwick 50 easily took the Dutch vessel in similar circumstances a week later Sutton was brought to a court-martial on 19 January. As a result he was reprimanded for his ‘highly reprehensible’ conduct in not doing his utmost to take or destroy the enemy, although the members of the court agreed that the Isis had been rushed to sea with an untrained crew.

Being ordered out to the Cape with Commodore George Johnstone’s squadron, Sutton commanded the Isis 50 at the action off Porto Praya on 16 April 1781 where she was damaged aloft and retarded any possible pursuit of the French. The next day Johnstone charged him with failing to get into action and had him removed him from his command, placing him under arrest. He was succeeded in command of the Isis by Captain Hon. Thomas Charles Lumley. With it being impractical to immediately arrange a court-martial Sutton was eventually carried out to the East Indies under a relaxed confinement, and was only court-martialled and acquitted at Portsmouth in December 1783 upon his return home. He later brought a civil action against Johnstone and was awarded £6,000 damages, although this award was subsequently overturned by the House of Lords on Admiral Lord Howe’s advice that it was against the interests of the Service. He did however win a case allowing him the proceeds of prize money earned by the Isis whilst he was in custody. Sutton’s case was viewed with great sympathy by many of his contemporaries including the young Captain Horatio Nelson, not least because Johnstone was regarded as an incompetent bully who looked to divert blame for his failures elsewhere.

Sutton did not see any further service but became a superannuated admiral in 1794 and died in 1817.

He married his cousin, Roosilia Thoroton and had issue five other children. His residence was Screveton Hall, Nottinghamshire.