Bartholomew Samuel Rowley

1764-1811. He was born on 10 June 1764, the second son of Vice-Admiral Sir Joshua Rowley and his wife, Sarah Burton. He was the grandson of Admiral of the Fleet Sir William Rowley, nephew of Major-General William Rowley, elder brother of Admiral Sir Charles Rowley, and brother-in-law of Admiral Sir Charles Cotton. He was also the uncle of Rear-Admiral Sir Joshua Ricketts Rowley, and the first cousin of Admiral Sir Josias Rowley, Rear-Admiral Samuel Campbell Rowley, and Admiral of the Fleet Sir George Martin.

Following an education at Harrow, Rowley joined the Navy after 1775 and was commissioned lieutenant on 1 September 1779. By 1780 he was serving in that rank aboard his father’s flagship Conqueror 74 in the West Indies, and on 1 November 1780 he was promoted commander of the sloop Tobago 16.

Shortly after his father had joined the Jamaican station as subordinate to the commander-in-chief, Vice-Admiral Sir Peter Parker, Rowley benefitted from one of the most extreme cases of nepotism in the history of the Navy when he was posted captain of the frigate Resource 28 on 31 January 1781, being apparently just 16 years and 7 months old. This elevation even surpassed that of Parker’s own son Christopher, who had been posted captain by his father at the age of 17 years and five months.

Bartholomew Rowley was the son of Vice-Admiral Sir Joshua Rowley – here portrayed – whose influence greatly accelerated his son’s early career.

On 20 April 1781, having embarked a number of loyal American Rangers to reinforce the garrison at Pensacola in Florida, and after escaping capture from a Spanish fleet four days earlier off Cape San. Blas, the Resource fell in with the French corvette Licorne 20, Captain de St. True, and following a ninety minute engagement captured her, although the British frigate’s losses of fifteen men killed and thirty wounded were heavier in comparison to French losses of eight men killed and thirty wounded. The captured vessel had been the British Unicorn 20, which had been taken by the French off Tortuga on 4 September 1780 when under the command of Captain Thomas Lenox Frederick. Continuing on the Jamaican station, and having assisted in the escort of the homeward-bound trade to safe waters, the Resource entered Port Royal on 12 October with a prize sloop.

In October 1782, whilst serving under his father who had become the commander-in-chief of the Jamaican station three months earlier, Rowley exchanged with Captain John Thomas into the Diamond 32, and he sent another two American sloops into Port Royal at the beginning of January 1783. At the end of the war he was despatched to Havana to exchange prisoners, and he returned to Portsmouth prior to going around to Plymouth at the beginning of August 1783 to be paid off.

Rowley remained out of employment for the best part of the next ten years until the beginning of August 1792 when he kissed the King’s hand on being appointed to recommission the frigate Penelope 32. Sailing for Jamaica in October, he took one of the first prizes of the French Revolutionary War, the Poisson Volant 14 on 16 April 1793, as well as two other vessels in the Bight of Leogane off Saint-Domingue. From 19-21 September he served at the occupation of Jeremie, Saint-Domingue, and on 25 November, being in the same waters with the Iphigenia 32, Captain Patrick Sinclair, they took the French frigate Inconstante 36, Captain Josep-Alexandre Riouffe. Further captures before the end of the year off Saint-Domingue included the American vessel Samson and the French ship Rapporteur 14. On 2 January 1794 Rowley was despatched to demand the surrender of Port-au-Prince, and after this summons was rejected he participated in the operations which took the territory on 4 June before returning to England with despatches aboard the sloop Fly, Captain Richard Hussey Moubray.

During August 1794 he was appointed to commission the Cumberland 74 at Chatham, and having taken on ordnance at Blackstakes he sailed for Spithead to join the Channel Fleet in January 1795. In early April it was announced that his command would be going out to the Mediterranean with the flag of Rear-Admiral Robert Man, and after a brief visit to the Downs to collect hundreds of volunteer seamen she sailed in May. On 13 July Rowley commanded the Cumberland as a private ship at the disappointing Battle of Hyères, forcing the surrender of the Alcide 74 but refraining from taking possession in order to move up and attack the remainder of the French rear. When the general signal of recall was thrown out by Admiral William Hotham he initially refused to acknowledge it, and only took in sail when specifically ordered to do so.

In October 1796 Rowley had the misfortune to be attached to Rear-Admiral Man’s squadron when it fled the Mediterranean station, leaving the Spanish fleet to vastly outnumber the remainder of the British fleet under Admiral Sir John Jervis. Arriving at Portsmouth on 30 December, seventy-three days after departing Gibraltar, and having lost contact with Man, the Cumberland was put in quarantine as over one hundred and fifty men were suffering from typhus and dysentery. She then went into dock at Portsmouth in March 1797 for a refit. During the mutiny at Spithead which broke out on 16 April Rowley, who was reportedly disliked by his men, left the Cumberland and lodged ashore with a tradesman at apparently no cost other than that his host should have exclusivity in providing the Cumberland’s seamen with slops. Accordingly, when the tradesman tried to collect his payment from the Cumberland’s rebellious hands he was pelted with red-hot water from the fire-engine and chased off by an armed boat.

Rowley next commanded the Ramillies 74 in the Channel fleet from July 1797 in succession to Captain Sir Richard Bickerton. On 21 April 1798 his ship was forced out of the chase of the Hercule 74 during the opening stages of the action that saw Captain Alexander Hood of the Mars 74 meet his death. In September she arrived off Dublin after Rowley had been detached in command of a small squadron to prevent any French support to the Irish rebels, and during the ensuing winter Captain Henry Inman deputised for him in command of the vessel.

Rowley was promoted rear-admiral on 14 February 1799, and returning to employment at Chatham in the spring of 1801 he flew his flag aboard various vessels including the Irresistible 74, Captain William Bligh, and from the end of May the Theseus 74, Captain John Bligh. In June he sailed for Yarmouth aboard the Aeolus 32, Captain John William Spranger, but by July was back in the Thames at Sheerness. In the same month it was announced that he would superintend the payment of ships at Sheerness and Chatham, and thereafter he also presided over a number of court-martials. He eventually struck his flag at Chatham on 6 May 1802 aboard the Argonaut 64, Lieutenant John Stevens.

Upon the resumption of hostilities with France in May 1803 Rowley was called to the Admiralty, and days later he raised his flag at Sheerness aboard the guardship Zealand 64, Captain William Mitchell, as commander-in-chief at the Nore. On 13 July 1804 he was praised for his activity in managing the extinguishing of a fire in the dockyard, and at the end of the month he and several other officers, including her then favourite, Captain Thomas Manby of the Africaine 38, dined the Princess of Wales. Towards the end of August Captain Adrian Renou assumed the duties of Rowley’s flag captain, and in November he was temporarily replaced as commander-in-chief at the Nore by Vice-Admiral Billy Douglas, although he was back at his post in the following month. In January 1805 Captain Renou died suddenly whilst dining with Captain Manby, and Rowley attended his funeral on 6 February as the chief mourner. His flag-captain then became Henry Lidgbird Ball. He was promoted vice-admiral on 9 November 1805, and in March 1807 was a member of the court-martial that sat on Commodore Sir Home Riggs Popham at Portsmouth to consider that officer’s unilateral decision to attack Buenos Aires.

In April 1807 Rowley was succeeded at Sheerness by Rear-Admiral Thomas Wells, and he shifted his flag into the Excellent 74, Captain John West, in order to assume the position of commander-in-chief in the Downs. Here his flag was raised aboard the Princess of Orange 74, Captain Joshua Sydney Horton. On 4 May a telegraph summoned him to London, and arriving back at Deal two weeks later he began preparing transports for the Baltic expedition which resulted in the Bombardment of Copenhagen by Admiral James Gambier on 7 September.

In February 1808 it was announced that he had been appointed the commander-in-chief at Jamaica in the room of Vice-Admiral James Richard Dacres, and he was presented to the King shortly afterwards. After attending the Board of Admiralty in the last week of March he went down to Portsmouth to embark on the Melpomene 38, Captain Peter Parker, but after sailing with the West India convoy he was forced back to St. Helens in a snow storm before putting out again and arriving on his new station in July.

Over the next three years Rowley generally resided ashore at the ‘Admiral’s Pen’ in Kingston whilst flying his flag aboard the Polyphemus 64, Captain William Pryce Cumby, who was succeeded in 1811 by Captain Thomas Graves. Occasionally his flag flew aboard the hulked sloop Shark, His nephew, Joshua Ricketts Rowley, served as his flag-lieutenant. In April 1810 he entertained the Duke of Manchester on a cruise around the island aboard the sloop Brazen 18, Commander Lewis Shepheard, and in January 1811 he was taken to task in the home newspapers for reportedly removing a black sailor from the sloop Sappho 16 to serve as a servant at the Admiral’s Pen – it being contended that as a black man would be a free man once he set foot in England he should never be a slave after serving aboard a man-of-war.

Rowley was advanced to the rank of admiral on 31 July 1810, and although it was planned that he would leave Jamaica in July 1811 aboard the Thalia 36, Captain James Giles Vashon, he died at Kingston on 7 October following a virulent two-week fever, being interred in the churchyard the next afternoon after a full military procession.

In November 1798 at Stoke in Suffolk he married a cousin, Arabella Martin, the daughter of Captain William Martin and widow of Benjamin Wade of New Grange, Yorkshire, who had died in 1792, having had issue five children. A daughter was born to Rowley and his wife at Great Bealings, Suffolk in November 1799.