Hon. Sir Thomas Pakenham

1757-1836. He was born on 29 September 1757, the fourth and youngest son of Thomas, the first Lord Longford, and of his wife, Elizabeth Cuffe. He was the younger brother of Captain Lord Longford who commanded the America 74 at the Battle of Ushant on 27 July 1778, and was the uncle of Major-General Sir Edward Pakenham who died at the Battle of New Orleans in 1814.

In 1771 Pakenham entered the service aboard the frigate Southampton 32, Captain John MacBride, being one of many young gentlemen who attached his star to this officer. He then removed with MacBride to the Orpheus 32 in 1773 before joining the Pallas 36, Captain Hon. William Cornwallis, voyaging to the coast of Guinea. In 1775 he was appointed acting-lieutenant of the Sphinx 20, Captain Anthony Hunt, in North America.

He was commissioned lieutenant of the frigate Greyhound 28, Captain Archibald Dickson, by Rear-Admiral Lord Shuldham at Halifax on 16 May 1776, having brought Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Clinton’s despatches announcing the retreat from Boston at great peril aboard the armed sloop General Gage. During a boat action he was severely wounded, but he was soon back on duty and after returning to Europe and joining the Courageux 74, Captain Lord Mulgrave, as her second lieutenant he fought at the Battle of Ushant on 27 July 1778.

During the spring of 1779 Pakenham went back to North America with Rear-Admiral Marriot Arbuthnot aboard the Europe 50, Captain William Swiney, and on 21 September 1779 was promoted commander in order to commission the sloop Victor 14, a recent capture from the Americans.

Removing to the Jamaican station with despatches warning of the Comte d’Estaing’s imminent arrival, he was appointed acting-captain of the Ruby 64 after Captain Michael Everitt had lost his life in action, and then held a similar position aboard the Bristol 50, flagship of Vice-Admiral Sir Peter Parker, when Captain Tobias Caulfield took sick. He commanded the latter vessel under Captain Hon. William Cornwallis in his encounters with the French in the Windward Passage on 20-21 March 1780 and off Bermuda on 20 June. Pakenham had meanwhile been posted into the ex-Spanish San Carlos 22 by Vice-Admiral Sir Peter Parker on 2 March, which ship was commissioned at Jamaica, but in the autumn he was invalided home to England when the wound previously suffered in the Greyhound re-opened.

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A dutch view of the capture of Pakenham’s frigate Crescent in 1781

In December 1780 he was fit enough to resume duty, and he was appointed to the Crescent 28, participating in Vice-Admiral George Darby’s relief of Gibraltar on 12 April 1781, and being detached with the Flora 36, Captain William Williams-Freeman, and thirteen supply ships to replenish the island of Minorca. Whilst returning from that duty the two frigates were obliged to flee from a Spanish squadron on 23 May, but a week later they fell in with the Dutch frigates Castor 36 and Briel 36. With his masts over the side, most of his guns out of action, and having suffered casualties of twenty-six men killed and sixty-seven wounded, Pakenham was forced to surrender to the Briel, but his command was then recaptured by the Flora which had successfully defeated the Castor. On 19 June the three ships fell in with two French frigates which in turn easily captured the disabled Crescent and Castor. Pakenham was not on board his ship at the time, having refused to retake command on the basis that he had struck his colours to the Briel, and that in re-taking her the Crescent had therefore become a Dutch prize of the Flora. At his subsequent court martial Pakenham was honourably acquitted for the loss of his ship.

He was immediately appointed to the frigate Minerva 38 and served with the Channel fleet in the autumn of 1781 before sailing with Vice-Admiral Lord Howe’s fleet to relieve Gibraltar on 18 October 1782. Thereafter Pakenham cruised in a small squadron commanded by Captain John Harvey before going on half pay at the peace, his frigate being paid off in February 1783.

In May 1793 he recommissioned the veteran Invincible 74 with Hon. Henry Blackwood as his specially selected first lieutenant, participating in the Channel fleet’s autumn cruise of October-December. During the Battle of the Glorious First of June in 1794 he lost fourteen men killed and thirty-one wounded, and although he was named in the official despatch as having distinguished himself he noted that Captain John Duckworth was not, so by threatening to insist on the withdrawal of his own name he earned that officer’s inclusion. He later performed excellent service in bringing the mutineers aboard Captain Thomas Troubridge’s Culloden 74 back to their duty on 3 December, although despite his pledges to the contrary five of the ringleaders were hung. During the year he also briefly flew the flag of Rear-Admiral John Macbride.

In October 1795, having been offered the command of any French ship taken at the Battle of the Glorious First of June by the then first lord of the Admiralty, the Earl of Chatham, Pakenham chose to remove to the Juste 84. Unfortunately he was sent ashore by her crew during the Spithead mutiny from 16 April 1797, and he soon retired from the service to become master-general of the ordnance in Ireland.

Having been nominated a colonel of marines in 1795 Pakenham became a rear-admiral on 14 February 1799, a vice-admiral on 23 April 1804, and an admiral on 31 July 1810. On 20 May 1820 he was nominated a G.C.B., and he died in Dublin on 2 February 1836.

On 24 January 1785 Pakenham married Louisa, daughter of the Rt. Hon. John Staples, and they had issue a large family of eight sons and seven daughters. His eldest son, Edward, became an M.P, his second son joined the East India Company, and his fourth son, John Pakenham, born in October 1790, entered the navy in 1804 aboard the Repulse 74, Captain Arthur Kaye Legge, was posted captain in 1826, and married the daughter of Rear-Admiral Sir Home Riggs Popham. His fifth son, Richard, was an eminent diplomat, and his seventh son, Lieutenant Henry Pakenham of the navy, died in April 1839.

Pakenham was the M.P for Longford in the Irish Parliament from 1783-90, Kells until 1798, and Longford until 1801. His home was at Pakenham Hall, Castle Pollard, Westmeath.

He was described as eccentric and dashing, a typical Irishman, witty and popular, who heckled the pious Captain James Gambier at the Battle of the Glorious First of June with ‘Well Jimmy, I see you pretty much mauled, but never mind Jimmy, whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth’. During the battle he shouted at an opponent ‘F*** you! Have you surrendered?’, and upon receiving a negative reply cried, ‘Well why the f*** don’t you go on firing!’ When asked by another captain how many of his crew had been killed he responded ‘they won’t tell me in case I stop their grog.’ Following his experience of striking his colours to the Briel in 1782 he would proclaim ever after in church ‘From battle and murder, and from a Dutchman, God deliver us’.

His crew were all Irish, as were his officers who dressed in a uniform but curious rig, were known for being uncouth, and for maintaining a discipline at odds with the rest of the service. Prior to the mutiny on the Culloden he had written to the first lord of the Admiralty, Earl Spencer, asking that the grievances of the seamen be recognised. He was a protégé of Lord Mulgrave, who in his younger years had pestered Lord Sandwich, the first lord of the admiralty, to advance Pakenham’s career.