Hon. Samuel Barrington

1729-1800. Born on 15 February 1729, he was the fourth son of John Shute, the lawyer and first Viscount Barrington in the Irish peerage and of his wife Anne Daines, daughter of Sir William Daines M.P, the Mayor of Bristol. He was the younger brother of William Wildman Barrington-Shute, the second viscount and member of Lord North’s government, of Major-General Hon. John Barrington, and of Daines Barrington, a famed lawyer, naturalist and antiquary. His family had strong royal connections.

Barrington entered the service aboard the Lark 44, Captain John Durell, at the age of eleven, and having seen further service in the Mediterranean aboard the Leopard 50, Captain Lord Alexander Colvill, he passed his examination for lieutenant on 25 September 1745 at the age of sixteen, although his certificate stated that he was twenty.

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Admiral Hon. Samuel Barrington

In November 1746 he was promoted commander of the sloop Weasel 6, and in company with the Lys 24, Captain Thomas Knowler, he took the Dutch privateers Gorgonne and Charlotte off the Dutch coast on 24 April. As a reward he was posted captain on 29 May of the ex-French frigate Bellone 30, renamed the Bellona. On 18 August that year he captured the French East Indiaman Duc de Chartres 30 off Ushant, and he transferred in November to the Romney 50. This latter vessel being in company with the Amazon 24, Captain Michael Everitt, and Rainbow 44, Captain Patrick Baird, took the privateer Comte de Noailles 16 on the ensuing 23 January, and two days later, again with the Amazon, captured another large French Indiaman, the Gerardius.

Barrington commissioned the brand new frigate Seahorse 24 in November 1748 and during the peace following the Austrian War of Succession commanded her in the Mediterranean where he negotiated the release of British slaves from the North African Barbary States. The Seahorse returned to Channel waters in 1752. Further employment came in the Crown 44, which he recommissioned in April 1753, serving off Guinea and making a return voyage to the West Indies. From the summer of 1754 he had the Norwich 50, sailing out in company and serving under the orders of Commodore Hon. Augustus Keppel in North America during the following year where she remained through to 1756. In command of this vessel he assisted the Lichfield 50, Captain Matthew Barton, in the capture of the Arc-en-Ciel 50 on 12 July 1756.

In February 1757 he commissioned the new Achilles 60, serving under the orders of Vice-Admiral Sir Edward Hawke in the Basque Roads expedition, and on 29 May 1758 assisted in the capture of the Raisonnable 64. On 4 April 1759 he captured the French privateer Comte de St Florentine 60 in a two hour duel off Cape Finisterre, inflicting one hundred and sixteen casualties on the enemy and taking a large amount of booty out of a ship which had been returning home following a profitable cruise. He afterwards served as flag-captain to Rear-Admiral George Rodney aboard the Achilles 60 during the destruction of the flat-bottomed invasion flotilla at Le Havre in early July. Whilst returning to the fleet his ship was driven on to the Gourvais Rock on 11 October, and she was sent home for repairs under the escort of two frigates and in imminent danger of foundering. As a result Barrington was absent from the Battle of Quiberon Bay.

In the spring of 1760 he served under the orders of Commodore Hon. John Byron in the destruction of the Louisbourg fortifications, and in quick succession was present at the destruction of the Machault 32 in the Saguenay River, and assisted the Fame 74, commanded by Byron, in the capture of the Pallas 14, Bienfaisant 22 and Marquis de Malauze 16 in Chaleur Bay on 8 July. In the summer of 1761 the Achilles was at the reduction of Belle Isle with Commodore Hon. Augustus Keppel, and Barrington returned to England with Keppel’s despatches to receive the princely sum of five hundred guineas from the King. In June of the following year he removed to the Hero 74, and after serving once more under Hawke he flew the flag of Rear-Admiral Sir Charles Hardy in the Channel prior to the vessel being paid off in December.

When peace was declared in 1763 Barrington endured five years without employment before being appointed to the crack frigate Venus 36 in June 1768, with the Duke of Cumberland serving aboard as a midshipman. A few months later, and following the prince’s rapid elevation to the rank of rear-admiral, Barrington became the young royal’s flag-captain and voyaged with him to Lisbon. In May 1770 he commissioned the new Albion 74, which following the resolution of the Falkland Islands dispute served as a Portsmouth guardship and was thereafter employed in home waters until 1773. In the interim, during 1771, he had been appointed a colonel of marines in succession to Rear-Admiral Lord Howe. Upon going on half-pay he journeyed to the Baltic and St. Petersburg with his good friend, Captain John Jervis, and in 1775 they cruised off France in a yacht in order to study the harbours at Brest, Lorient, Rochefort and Bordeaux.

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The Battle of St. Lucia 1778

In October 1776 Barrington commissioned the Prince of Wales 74, serving in the Channel before going out to Barbados in May 1778 as commander-in-chief of the Leeward Islands following his elevation to flag rank on 23 January. Initially his sail-of-the-line consisted only of the Boyne 70, Captain Herbert Sawyer, and his flagship the Prince of Wales, Captain Benjamin Hill, hence when the French took Dominica without warning in September following the inception of hostilities he could do little more than parade off the island to reassure the inhabitants of other islands that he would attempt to defend them. However, on 10 December Commodore William Hotham joined him from New York with five small sail-of-the-line, two frigates and five thousand soldiers, and displaying an admirable clarity of purpose the united force captured St. Lucia four days later.

No sooner were the British established ashore on St. Lucia than the Comte d’Estaing’s Toulon fleet, which was far superior in number and brimming with the confident expectancy of an easy victory, arrived off the island. On 15 December Barrington formed a line of defence across the bay and supplemented his position with batteries on the surrounding hills. His brilliant dispositions and two failed attacks were enough to dissuade d’Estaing from forcing a general action, and although the French subsequently made a landing on another part of the island they were easily repulsed with over one thousand casualties. Upon hearing of the imminent arrival of Vice-Admiral Hon. John Byron the French departed, although in the event Barrington’s senior was delayed by storms until 6 January 1779.

After his arrival Byron sent a letter to the Admiralty praising Barrington’s actions and expressing his regret at superseding him, whilst Barrington in turn announced that he was content to remain with Byron’s fleet rather than to return to his command at Barbados. As second in command, and having been promoted vice-admiral on 29 March, he was conspicuous for his excellent performance in Byron’s poorly directed action off Grenada on 6 July, where he was one of the Prince of Wales’ seventy-two casualties, being wounded in the arm. Sadly Barrington’s successes were tarnished by a disagreement with Lord Sandwich, the first lord of the Admiralty, who Barrington felt had given him insufficient credit for his efforts at St. Lucia. Still suffering from his wound he asked to return to England.

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Admiral Barrington presided over the court martial into the loss of the Royal George in 1782

After recuperating, Barrington was offered the command of the Channel Fleet when Admiral Sir Charles Hardy died on 18 May 1780, as he was considered the obvious replacement. Unfortunately the political situation at this time was most delicate as a result of the dispute between Admiral Hon. Augustus Keppel and Vice-Admiral Sir Hugh Palliser over their conduct at the Battle of Ushant. Still resentful at his own perceived slighting, and sharing the sentiments of the Keppel faction against the government of which his brother was a member, Barrington refused the offer. He did however agree to become the second-in-command to Admiral Francis Geary during the Channel Fleet campaign from June 1780 with his flag aboard the Barfleur 98, Captain Benjamin Hill, and he took part in the initial cruises between June and December. In the autumn he refused the command again upon Geary’s retirement, stating that he would serve under anyone with the exception, bar implication, of Palliser. Upon Geary’s departure, and with the matter remaining unresolved, Barrington asked the commander-in-chief at Portsmouth, Admiral Sir Thomas Pye, to take command of the fleet. Under such circumstances it was impossible for the authorities to allow Barrington to continue in employment, and he was replaced on the insistence of the King.

Barrington remained unemployed for the next three years until April 1782 when on the fall of Lord North’s government he became second in command to Admiral Lord Howe in the Channel with his flag aboard the Britannia 100, Captain Benjamin Hill, taking an active part in the fleet’s April to August campaign. On 20 April, having been despatched to the Bay of Biscay with twelve sail of the line to intercept allied shipping, Barrington engineered the capture of the Pégase 74 by Captain John Jervis’ Foudroyant 80, together with that of the Actionnaire 64 armed en-flute, and ten merchant vessels. He thereafter blockaded the Texel with Lord Howe’s fleet, and in September presided over the court martial on the officers of the Royal George in to her loss on 29 August. He subsequently assisted Howe at the relief of Gibraltar on 18 October 1782 and in the resultant action with the combined fleets off Cape Spartel, before striking his flag on 20 February 1783.

During the peace Barrington sat on a commission with, amongst others, Rear-Admiral Sir John Jervis and Captain John Macbride, to investigate the state of the fortifications at Portsmouth and Plymouth. In 1785 he became lieutenant-general of marines in succession to Admiral Sir Thomas Pye and his promotion to admiral followed on 24 September 1787.

The Nookta Sound dispute of 1790 saw him undertake the commissioning of the fleet at Spithead in June, and he then became second-in-command to Howe when that officer arrived to assume the chief command. Initially Barrington flew his flag aboard the Barfleur 98, Captain Robert Calder, with Rear-Admiral Sir John Jervis as captain of the fleet, and thereafter the Royal George 100, Captain Thomas Pringle. In the event the fleet did not spend long at sea, and after striking his flag he did not serve again.

Barrington succeeded Lord Howe as general of marines in 1799, and he died at Bath on 16 August of the following year having never married.

A courageous, enterprising and sound officer, he was renowned for his kindness and easy-going, cheerful manner, although he also had a tendency to moan, being described as ‘dark, troublesome and impracticable’. Even his brother made reference to this failing, claiming that although Barrington loved his friends he argued relentlessly with them. In looks he was somewhat the image of a ruddy-cheeked farmer, and in general appearance he was inelegant. Beloved by both superiors and subordinates, he fought to earn his men such concessions as remission from postage in the West Indies. A man of great talents he was unfortunate that he did not obtain an independent command with which to prove them. Admiral Sir Roger Curtis was his protégé as was Vice-Admiral Thomas Pringle.