James Sanders

Died 1834. He was the nephew of Rear-Admiral Samuel Thompson and the cousin of Vice-Admiral Norborne Thompson.

Sanders joined the service on 5 April 1780 aboard the America 64, commanded by his uncle, Captain Samuel Thompson, and he fought in the Battles of Cape Henry on 16 March 1781, Chesapeake Bay on 5 September, St. Kitts on 25 January 1782, and the Saintes on 12 April. The America eventually returned home in June 1783.

During the peace he remained in continuous employment aboard a variety of vessels, and he was a midshipman aboard the Edgar 74 sometime between 1787-9, and the Barfleur in 1790-1.

In 1792 he was given command of the tender Jackal 10 attached to the Lion 64, Captain Sir Erasmus Gower, which departed Spithead for China with an East Indiaman carrying Lord Macartney’s embassy in September. The Jackal parted company in a gale off Portland two days later, but much to his credit Sanders tracked the Lion into the Indian Ocean and six months later, on 23 March 1793, joined company in the Sunda Straits. Shortly after his return to England Sanders was commissioned lieutenant on 25 October 1794 at Lord Macartney’s recommendation.

His next posting was to the Prince George 98, Captain William Edge, serving in the Channel fleet and fighting at the Battle of Lorient on 23 June 1795. During the autumn Captain James Bowen assumed command of the Prince George and raised the flag of Rear-Admiral Hugh Cloberry Christian, the commander-in-chief designate of the Leeward Islands. The admiral attempted to sail for his post with a huge convoy on 16 November only to be forced back by storms, and when all three officers subsequently shifted to the Glory 98 they were again forced back to port by the weather.

Having returned to the Prince George, Sanders was aboard this vessel which was commanded by Captain John Irwin and flew the flag of Rear-Admiral William Parker in the Battle of St. Vincent on 14 February 1797. A month later Sanders moved to the newly ennobled Earl of St. Vincent’s flagship Victory 100, Captain Hon. George Grey, and he followed both officers to the Ville de Paris 110, serving on which vessel he was severely wounded in one boat action.

He was promoted commander on 26 September 1798 and in 1799 commanded the Espoir 14 off Lisbon, this being a vessel that was in desperate need of a refit. Even so, he managed to take the major part in the capture of the Spanish xebec Africa 14 guns on 22 February after an action lasting almost two hours, losing two men killed and two wounded. The Espoir was subsequently damaged by the frigate Emerald 36, Captain Thomas Moutray Waller, in a night-time accident but was able to join the Mediterranean fleet in its pursuit of the Brest fleet that had left port on 25 April. There followed a number of successful actions in the Straits of Gibraltar where the Espoir was responsible for rescuing British merchantmen from Spanish attacks, as well as achieving the destruction of various Spanish privateers. She eventually returned to England and not before time was paid off in December at Sheerness where the removal of her copper sheathing saw several feet of her counter fall away.

In September 1800 Sanders commissioned the French-built sloop Raven 18 for service in the Channel, and he was later with Rear-Admiral Sir John Thomas Duckworth’s fleet in the West Indies during January – September 1802. In the meantime he was one of the many officers posted captain on 29 April 1802.

In the spring of 1805 he temporarily commanded the Ariadne 20 on the Downs station for Captain Hon. Edward King, being placed in command of a small squadron operating inshore and monitoring the enemy flotilla between Calais and Dunkirk. He subsequently flew the flag of Rear-Admiral John Child Purvis aboard the Atlas 98 off Cadiz from the end of 1807 but came home in ill health aboard the Thalia 36, Captain Thomas Manby, on 15 December 1808. Once restored to health he returned to command the Atlas off Cadiz, and during the unyielding French defence of that port his ship suffered many casualties. On 2 October 1810 he led a force comprising howitzers, mortars and gunboats that destroyed Fort Catalina after a two hour bombardment, and he returned home when the Atlas was paid off at Plymouth in December.

In the spring of 1812 Sanders joined the Junon 38, which as the Bellone had been taken from the French in the Mauritius campaign of 1810. Departing St. Helens with the East India convoy at the beginning of June, he later took her out to Halifax in the autumn before participating in Rear-Admiral Sir George Cockburn’s activities and the blockade of the Chesapeake and Delaware rivers. On 20 June 1813 the Junon held a long range cannonade with fifteen American gunboats whilst becalmed in the Hampton Roads, suffering little damage but being thankful for a breeze that allowed the Barossa 36 , Captain William Henry Shirreff to get under way and drive the Americans off. This action was at a cost of two men killed and three wounded aboard the Junon. Six weeks later, on 29 July, the Junon had another encounter with ten gunboats which attacked her grounded consort Martin 18, Commander Humphrey Senhouse, in Delaware Bay. On this occasion, although she lost three men killed and four wounded, her first lieutenant, Philip Westphal brought away the sternmost gun-boat to the chagrin of hundreds of spectators ashore, and in spite of a five mile chase by the enemy. When news of the encounter reached Britain it was suggested that the Junon had been cut to pieces with one hundred and forty of her crew being casualties, but this false report was soon corrected.

Unfortunately ill health forced Sanders to invalid from the Junon in September 1813, and exchanging into the Sybille 38 with Captain Clotworthy Upton at Newfoundland he returned to England, leaving the latter vessel and active service on 15 March 1814.

He was nominated a CB after attending the King at a levee in September 1831 and died on 23 November 1834.

Sanders married Anne M’Adam of Ayrshire in May 1801 and had at least a son and daughter. His wife died at Bath on 27 April 1841 aged 61.

Known as ‘Black Sambo’ in his early years, it was claimed that he was a harsh and tyrannical officer.