John Stott

Died 1778. He was of Cornish extraction.

Stott entered the Navy on 28 December 1747 as an able seaman aboard the Folkestone 44, Captain Samuel Scott, in which vessel he was rated midshipman on 19 February 1748. With the War of Austrian Succession drawing to a close, he found employment in the merchant service, where he remained until appointed sailing master of the Jamaica 10, Commander Samuel Hood, in April 1755, seeing service in North America. On 13 April 1756 he was appointed the sailing master of the Grafton 70, Captain Alexander Hood, flying the broad pennant of Commodore Charles Holmes on the same station. Later reports that he had seen duty as a boatswain to the famous Admiral Hon. Edward Boscawen do not appear to be borne out by this service record, although his fellow Cornishman does appear to have been instrumental in advancing Stott’s career.

Stott’s second wife, the somewhat flighty Jane Lessingham.

Stott was commissioned lieutenant on 17 February 1757 and appointed the commanding officer of a captured French privateer, renamed the Gibraltar’s Prize 14, which sailed for North America from Cork on 27 May with the fleet commanded by Vice-Admiral Francis Holburne. He was promoted commander of the same vessel on 15 June, remaining with the fleet when attempts to capture Louisbourg were thwarted firstly by the strength of the French defences, and secondly by a hurricane on 24 September. Dispatched back to England, the Gibraltar’s Prize arrived at Portsmouth from Halifax on 10 November after a three-week passage.

Admiral Hon. Edward Boscawen did much to influence Stott’s career, but allegedly fathered two children with Stott’s wife.

In January 1758 he was appointed to another captured privateer, the Gramont 18, sailing out of Portsmouth Harbour for Spithead on 2 February, and departing for North America with Admiral Boscawen’s fleet later that month. In this capacity he served at the siege and capture of Louisbourg in June-July 1758.

Continuing in North American waters, Stott was posted captain of the Scarborough 20 on 3 August 1758 by Admiral Boscawen, in which vessel it was reported that he was sent in October to collect the stranded crew of a French man-of-war which had been wrecked whilst sailing through the Straits of Belleisle. His command was present at the capture of Quebec in September 1759, whilst in the following month reports surfaced in the home newspapers that she had been condemned as unfit to take a convoy to London. She nevertheless continued to see service in North America, and on 8 July 1760 she was with the Fame 74, Commodore Hon. John Byron, and the Repulse 32, Captain John Carter Allen, when they destroyed a French squadron consisting of the frigates Machault 32, Bienfaisant 22, and a sloop, the Marquis de Malauze, in addition to a score of other vessels in Chaleur Bay in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. In May 1761 she was at Charleston when a tornado swept the anchorage and sunk half a dozen vessels out of a convoy waiting to sail for England. The Scarborough escorted home the remains of the convoy, and on 27 July she sailed from the Downs for Sheerness where she underwent a dockyard survey before being recommissioned.

Meanwhile, a more personal survey undertaken by Stott at Dean Street, Westminster on his return home in July 1761 revealed that despite his three-and-a-half-year absence, his actress wife was not only pregnant, but was also the mother to a two-year-old daughter. One of her countless lovers proved to be Admiral Boscawen, the man who had allegedly instigated Stott’s rise from the lower deck to the rank of post-captain and was possibly the father of both children. In due course, Stott would be granted a divorce on 26 June 1765.

Remaining with the Scarborough, Stott saw further service out of Leith in the autumn and winter of 1761-2, and in May of the latter year he earned great praise for his urgency in getting a convoy for the Baltic out of Newcastle, even resorting to towing the transports out to sea when the wind changed. The Scarborough sailed for North America and the Leeward Islands in August, and upon her return two years later, she was taken into Chatham for repairs and paid off in November 1764.

In October 1770 he was ordered to fit out the frigate Juno 32 at Portsmouth, and after taking on men at the Downs, he managed to complete his crew with many Cornish volunteers, in particular from Penzance, who joined out of a regard for his reputation. On 17 March 1771 he departed London for Portsmouth to join his command, and on 2 April he set sail with the sloop Hound, Commander John Burr, and storeship Florida, to receive the surrender of Port Egmont in the Falkland Islands from Spain. He also took with him a couple of Cornish miners to determine whether the islands had any mineral wealth. On 13 September the Juno arrived off the islands, and on the next day Stott met with the Spanish representatives and the transfer of power was arranged. During the voyage out his men had been much debilitated by scurvy, and he found that the Spanish were suffering from much the same condition at Port Egmont. After returning to at Plymouth on 9 December following a swift passage of seventy days, Stott had an audience with the King amongst much appreciation for the success of his mission. The Juno was paid off in February 1772 and he retired ashore for a few months.

On 29 June 1772 he was appointed to the frigate Alarm 32, sailing out of Portsmouth Harbour for Spithead on 2 October, and being sent to Lisbon with dispatches before continuing on to the Mediterranean. In October 1773 he incurred the wrath of the Dey of Algiers for refusing to undertake to return any slaves who might make their escape, a commitment that led to the dismissal of the British consul. His command arrived back at Portsmouth from Gibraltar on 24 December, but in February 1774 she was fitted out at Sheerness and ordered once more to the Mediterranean with instructions to deliver the British consul to Algiers, on which task she sailed on 21 April.

The Alarm was still in the Mediterranean during the early part of 1775, but by June she was at Boston, where from her anchorage in the bay she provided the initial warning that the Americans were erecting batteries prior to the Battle of Bunker Hill. She continued to serve off North America until the spring of 1776, and she returned to Plymouth on 13 April via Gibraltar with a large quantity of money, whereupon Stott vacated the command.

In October 1777 he recommissioned the frigate Minerva 32 at Deptford, and on 11 December he was sent from Portsmouth to Nantes with the Thetis 32, Captain John Gell, to demand two merchant vessels that had been captured by an American privateer. His command returned to Plymouth on 6 January 1778, and in February she sailed for Senegal with a convoy, from where she proceeded onto Jamaica.

On 22 August 1778, being unaware that war with France had commenced, the Minerva was intercepted by the frigate Concorde 32 off Hispaniola and hit by two broadsides before she could respond. An explosion caused more mayhem, some of her undermanned crew fled below, and Stott was carried from the deck with two head wounds. After an engagement of two and a half hours she was obliged to strike, and the unfortunate Stott was taken ashore where he died of his wounds.

Stott was already a widower when he married the teenage Jane Hamett on 28 December 1755 at St. Paul’s, Covent Garden. At the time of his marriage, he was living in Twickenham. His wife later took to the stage as Jane Lessingham. Five years after their divorce, Stott married Elizabeth Graham in Soho on 18 October 1770. The address given in his will was Torr, Devon.

Stott famously threw Edward Pellew off his ship in 1774 at Port Mahon for making a joke about his mistress. Even so, he was regarded as a fair commander who liked to keep his men active, was a fine seaman, and could turn his hand to cartography.