James Cumming

1738-1808. He was born on 16 April 1738 at Sandwich, Kent, one of four sons and an elder daughter of James Cumming, a lieutenant of Greenwich Hospital, and of his wife Anne Hills. He was the brother of Captain William Cumming.

Having been commissioned lieutenant on 14 July 1760, Cumming served as first lieutenant to Captain Hon. John Byron aboard the Dolphin 20 on a secret voyage to the South Seas in 1764-6. After visiting the Falkland Islands they sailed through the Straits of Magellan, and thereafter discovered the Isles of Disappointment. They made little attempt to explore the Pacific however, instead maintaining a direct route to Batavia and from there to the Cape of Good Hope. The Dolphin returned to England on May 9 1766, causing some disquiet as to the short time taken on such a voyage of discovery. During the voyage Cumming had been promoted commander of the Dolphin’s consort, the Tamar 16, in succession to Commander Patrick Mouat who had removed to the Dolphin on 20 April 1765.

From 1767-9 Cumming commanded the brig Wasp 8 in home and Irish waters, and from 1771 until he was posted captain on 30 July 1772 he had the similarly rated Cruizer off the Kent coast. His new command, the Deal Castle 20, went out to the Leeward Islands in April 1773 where she remained until returning in 1775.

640px-Bataille_de_Sainte_Lucie_entre_d_Estaing_et_Barrington_1778 (1)

The Battle of St. Lucia 1778

In July 1777 Cumming commissioned the Aurora 28, being sent from the Downs to cruise off the Iberian Peninsula in search of American privateers in October. He continued to the Leeward Islands in the following month with a convoy in company with the Niger 32, Captain Robert Lambert, Deal Castle 20, Captain William Parker, and sloops Hound 14, Commander Joseph Nunn, and Sylph 14, Commander John Fergusson. The Aurora was later present at the Battle of St. Lucia on 15 December 1778, having in the same year captured the privateer St. Peter armed with eighteen 6-pounders, but she had returned home by the end of 1779.

In the spring of 1780 he commissioned the new Assurance 44, going out to North America in October and capturing the privateer Duke of Leinster on 23 May 1781. He later recaptured the Atalanta 16 on 7 June off Boston, and took the privateer Rattlesnake 10 ten days later. He left this vessel in the same year to take command of the captured American frigate Confederancy 36, re-named the Confederate, but once this defective vessel was examined at Woolwich in the following spring she was broken up.

Cumming was not re-employed until he recommissioned the Resolution 74 in July 1793, and he remained with her until he was advanced to the rank of rear admiral on 12 April 1794. He was further promoted vice-admiral on 1 June 1795 and admiral on 1 January 1801.

Admiral Cumming died at his residence in Wilmington, near Dartford, Kent, on 19 August 1808.

Famously he was six feet two inches tall, being the template for Captain Byron’s estimate of a giant Patagonian chief’s height.