John Henry

1731-1829. He was born at Holyhead, Anglesey, on 28 September 1731.

Henry joined the service in 1744 and his early career was barely retarded by suffering a break to his thigh after an accident involving a hawser. He was commissioned lieutenant on 27 April 1757, and was senior lieutenant of the Hampton Court 64, Captain Alexander Innes, at the reduction of Havana in 1762.

During 1777, initially with the rank of lieutenant and then after being promoted commander on 16 April, he had the acing captaincy of the hired armed ship Vigilant 20 at New York, and thereafter off Baltimore. Whilst serving in the Philadelphia campaign from 25 August he excelled in destroying the enemy works on Mud Island, having risked a channel behind the fort to bombard it at short range. He was highly praised by General Sir William Howe for his part in the action and as a result was posted captain on 22 November 1777, being appointed to the Fowey 24 . On 6 May 1778, acting in co-operation with Major Hon. John Maitland, he commanded the galley Hussar and several boats escorting a battalion of infantrymen in eighteen flatboats up the Delaware from Philadelphia to deal with the enemy fortifications at Bordentown. Without suffering a single casualty the combined force successfully destroyed a battery and nearly fifty American vessels, amongst which were the Washington 32, Effingham 28, three ships of sixteen guns, and three of ten.

By the following year Henry was the senior naval officer in a small squadron anchored off Savannah when the French fleet under the Comte d’Estaing with twenty ships of the line and four thousand troops arrived to summon the town. The crews joined the Army ashore in defending Savannah during September-October and with the French prevaricating over an attack the defences were sufficient to see off a final French assault, causing heavy casualties.

640px-Capture_of_Fort_Louis,_Martinique,_1794

Captain Henry’s last action before retiring on achieving flag rank was the capture of Martinique in 1794

In May 1780 he commissioned the captured rebel frigate Providence 32, bringing her into Plymouth on the first day of December where she entered the Ordinary, and towards the end of 1781 he was appointed to the Renown 50. On 12 December 1781 this ship formed part of Rear-Admiral Richard Kempenfelt’s squadron that brilliantly took a number of prizes out of a French convoy protected by a larger fleet. Henry remained with the Renown, capturing the rebel privateer Grace on 28 October and continuing to take prizes in North American waters until the peace of 1783.

At the beginning of the French Revolutionary War in 1793 he commissioned the Irresistible 74, and he took her out to the West Indies with a convoy in November. During the capture of Martinique in Vice-Admiral Sir John Jervis’ January-December campaign of 1794 he commanded the Irresistible, and he later served with Commodore John Ford at the capture of Port au Prince on 4 June of the same year. He left this vessel on his elevation to flag rank on 23 October.

Henry was further promoted a vice-admiral on 14 February 1799 and an admiral on 23 April 1808. He died aged 98, a childless widower, on 6 August 1829 at his house at Rolvenden, Kent. At the time of his death he was considered to be the father of the Navy.

An 1816 pamphlet published by Henry claimed a cure for a number of ailments, including eye cataracts, rheumatism, gout and cramp.