John Linzee

1743-98. He was born on 25 March 1743, the son of Captain John Linzee and his wife, Rose Guisage of Kingston, Portsea, Hampshire. His cousin Susannah Linzee married the future Admiral Lord Hood in 1749.

304px-Gaspee_Affair (1)

The burning of the Gaspee

As a young man Linzee served with his kinsman Captain Samuel Hood aboard the Romney 50, flying that officer’s broad pennant in command of the North American station, and being commissioned lieutenant on 13 October 1768. He immediately assumed the temporary command of the schooner Halifax 6 which was based at Portsmouth until the end of the year. In March 1769 he rejoined Hood aboard the Romney 50, serving in North American waters, and by May 1770 he had become her first lieutenant.

In October 1770 he was appointed to the temporary command of the Beaver 14 off Rhode Island, being engaged in anti-smuggling operations, and his promotion to commander was confirmed on 19 January 1771. He was in Antigua with the Beaver in the spring of 1771, sailing back to Boston shortly afterwards where he spent the rest of the year. On 9 June 1772 his tender Gaspee commanded by Lieutenant William Dudingston, an officer the locals found despotic in terms of stopping and searching their trade, grounded near Providence, Rhode Island. She was then boarded and set afire by over one hundred and fifty townspeople after Dudingston had been shot and ordered over the side with his crew. Linzee was arrested by the civil authorities in the aftermath of this incident for refusing to hand over a Negro witness who he had threatened with a whipping and hanging, and an Admiralty Commission of Inquiry subsequently criticised him for his ‘callous behaviour’. He left the Beaver at the end of October 1772, having returned to England with his new American loyalist wife.

Linzee was appointed to the sloop Falcon 14 at Portsmouth in October 1774, and after going out to Boston in the following February was present with the naval support in the Battle of Bunker Hill on 17 June 1775. In early August the Falcon was off Cape Ann, and having pressed some local men she took a schooner off Gloucester whilst chasing another into the harbour where it was run aground. When he sent his boats in to investigate they were fired upon by the local militia and although some thirty men got aboard the schooner they were soon trapped. In an attempt to create a diversion Linzee ordered a party ashore to fire the town and also sent the prize schooner in to recover his men, but in the end he was forced to withdraw. His gunner and thirteen men were taken prisoner to Dartmouth after the captured schooner was retaken by the rebels.

On 16 February 1777 he was posted captain of the Camilla 20 by Vice-Admiral James Young at Antigua in the re-organisation brought about by the death of Captain Thomas Wilkinson of the Pearl 32. He was then displaced from that command in early May by Vice-Admiral Lord Howe on the vessel regaining her proper station in North America, as the latter considered the appointment should only have been made by him. Any disappointment he may have suffered was but temporary, for he was removed from the Falcon and appointed to command the Pearl 32 on 21 May, serving in the Philadelphia campaign from August-November 1777, the defence of New York in July 1778, and operations off Rhode Island in August 1778. In December he arrived at Barbados with information that Vice-Admiral Hon John Byron’s fleet was sailing to reinforce the Leeward Islands station, and shortly afterwards he exchanged with Captain Alexander Graeme of the Diamond 32 before returning home in the following year.

Having joined the recently commissioned and poorly manned Spanish prize Santa Monica 36 at Portsmouth, Linzee sailed in December 1780 with Rear-Admiral Sir Samuel Hood’s reinforcements for the Leeward Islands. Following Hood’s withdrawal from the waters around Martinique as a result of his action with the French on 29 April 1781, Linzee played an active part in the defence of St. Lucia by a small force and the batteries at Pigeon Island against elements of the French fleet. On 16 July he put down a mutiny aboard the Santa Monica at English Harbour, Antigua, with the assistance of Captain John Stanhope of the Pegasus 28, one man being shot by the marines after Linzee had attempted to resolve the issue by persuasion. He was then attached to Hood’s fleet when it sailed to North America in August before returning to the Leeward Islands at the end of the year. His commissioned ended when the Santa Monica was run aground on the island of St. Johns off Tortola on 1 April 1782 to prevent her from sinking. The sloop Pacahunter 14, Commander Isaac Coffin, was on hand to take off the crew and convey them to Jamaica.

In December 1788 Linzee commissioned the Penelope 32, going out to the Leeward Islands in February 1789 and later serving at Halifax, but he removed from this vessel in November 1790. He subsequently resigned from the Navy on the death of his wife in October 1792 and retired to North America where he died on 8 October 1798 at his residence in the Milton County of Norfolk, Massachusetts.

Linzee married Susannah Inman, the daughter of a loyalist from Cambridge, Massachusetts, on 1 September 1772 and was the father of Vice-Admiral Samuel Hood Linzee and eight other children. His wife was often present wherever he served.

Linzee was thorough to a point of fussiness, and was known to interfere in his officers’ duties. He often failed to carry out his regular threats of punishment, preferring to dish out instantaneous justice through anxious kicks and blows which in themselves were not seen as ‘barbarous’, but were something his men found confusing, unbecoming of a commanding officer, and inconsistent with the discipline they expected.