Sir Philip Carteret (Silvester)

1777-1828. Born in 1777, he was the second son of Rear-Admiral Philip Carteret of Trinity Manor, Jersey, who discovered Pitcairn Island during his voyage of discovery from 1769-9, and of his wife Mary Rachel Silvester, sister to the recorder of the City of London.

Carteret’s name was first entered to the books of the Medea 28, commanded by Captain Sir Erasmus Gower, who had served as his father’s first lieutenant, and he first went to sea in 1792 with the same officer aboard the Lion 64, taking Lord Macartney’s embassy to China. Upon returning to England in October 1794 he followed Gower to the Triumph 74, and on 17 June 1795 participated in Cornwallis’ Retreat off Belle Isle, receiving a slight wound.

Promoted lieutenant on 8 October 1795, Carteret joined the Imperieuse 38, Captain Lord Augustus Fitzroy, serving in the Channel and North Sea, and he saw further duty on the home and Irish stations aboard the Greyhound 32, Captains James Young, Israel Pellew, and Richard Lee, the Britannia 100, Captain Edward Marsh, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Thompson, and from March 1798 the Cambrian 40, Captain Hon. Arthur Kaye Legge and George Henry Towry. Whilst in the latter vessel he saw service in the Channel fleet and on convoy duty to St. Helena.

Promoted commander of the Bonne Citoyenne 20 on 29 April 1802, he was employed in the Mediterranean until paid off in August.

After a period on half-pay Carteret joined the Scorpion 18 in April 1804, serving in the North Sea where he captured the Dutch schooner Honneur 12 off Schelling on 11 April 1805, this vessel having on board military stores for Curacao. The Scorpion went out to the Leeward Islands in the following winter, and although posted captain on 22 January 1806 Carteret continued to command her. When Rear-Admiral Jean Baptiste Philibert Willaumez’s squadron arrived at Martinique in June Carteret shadowed him off Fort Royal, Montserrat, Nevis and St. Kitts, whilst also warning off two separate fleets of up to two hundred and eighty merchantmen, only a handful of which were captured by the French. The Scorpion then joined Vice-Admiral Sir John Borlase Warren’s squadron that had been sent in pursuit of Willaumez, but had only one frigate and no sloops, and she sailed with it to North America where the French were eventually dispersed in a storm on 18 August.

In the meantime Carteret’s successor, Commander Francis Stanfell, had appeared in the West Indies to claim his new command, but as Warren had by now sent the Scorpion back to England with a captured French brig the exchange could not take place. Finding himself under the orders of Admiral William Young at Plymouth but serving out of Falmouth, Carteret cruised for a brief period in the Channel and off Cornwall and the Scilly Isles, capturing the St. Malo-based privateer brig Bougainville 16 on 17 February 1807. Once Stanfell returned to Europe in the spring Carteret gave up the command of the Scorpion and was obliged to go on half-pay for two years.

Napoleon at Boulogne. Famously Carteret captured a French praam from under the Emperor’s nose in 1811

From July to 30 December 1809, having originally volunteered aboard Rear-Admiral Sir Richard Keats’ flagship Superb 74, Captain Samuel Jackson, Carteret was employed in the Schelde Expedition commanding the gunboats, and he earned much praise for his efforts in securing a safe evacuation from Walcheren. In February 1810 he had the honour of being presented to the King at a levee following his return from the continent.

Having been appointed to the frigate Naiad 38 in June 1811, initially as a temporary replacement for the unpopular Captain Henry Hill who was eventually eased out of the command, Carteret saw service in the Downs. Famously his vessel and three gun-brigs interrupted a Boulogne fête held in Napoleon’s honour on 20 /21 September, during which he captured the praam Ville de Lyon 12. On 6 October he took the privateer lugger Milan 16 off Treport after she had come out from Dieppe that morning, and on the 23rd his frigate was one of those visited by the Duke of Clarence at Deal, whilst a further privateer capture on 6 November was the lugger Requin 16 off Dieppe. In April 1812 Carteret’s gig overset off Cowes on the Isle of Wight, and although he was pulled unconscious from the sea three of his oarsmen drowned. That autumn the Naiad was paid off.

In December 1812 Carteret was appointed to the Pomone 38, which as the Astrée 36 had been captured by Vice-Admiral Albemarle Bertie’s force during the Mauritius campaign from July to October 1810. After sailing from Plymouth for the Cherbourg station in January 1813 he went out to Lisbon and Gibraltar in April with half a dozen generals and a detachment of guards under convoy.

There followed for Carteret a most unfortunate episode when on 21 October 1813, being in the process of effecting repairs to her foreyard, the Pomone fell in with the disabled French frigate Trave 46. Whilst preparing to attack, the Pomone discovered another vessel which was surmised to be a frigate, together with a brig and three further vessels that could not be identified in the fog. Having worked to windward by the afternoon Carteret identified the three strangers as merchantmen, and upon endeavouring to attack the second ‘frigate’, it was discovered that she was in fact a captured Portuguese East Indiaman. By now the Trave had disappeared to be captured by the Andromache 36, Captain George Tobin, and such was Pomone crew’s outrage as missing out on the prize that they wrote an unsigned letter to the admiral at Lisbon, claiming that their captain had run from a French frigate. Upon learning of this accusation Carteret requested a court martial, which being held on the Salvador del Mundo 112 before Rear-Admiral Thomas Byam Martin at Plymouth on 31 December, acquitted him of blame for failing to force an action.

On 4 March 1814 the Pomone in company with the Cydnus 38, Captain Frederick Langford, captured the American privateer Bunker’s Hill 14, which had been operating out of Morlaix. This vessel had been the British cutter Linnet 14 until captured by the French frigate Loire 40 on 11 September 1813. Shortly afterwards the command of the Pomone passed to Captain John Richard Lumley, and on 3 May Carteret was appointed to the Désirée 36, joining her at Sheerness.

He was nominated a C.B. on 4 June 1815 and moved with his crew to the Active 38 in November, sailing for the West Indies from Portsmouth in June 1816, returning to Portsmouth to be paid off at the end of September 1817, and bringing with him a young tiger cat, presented to him by the Spanish captain-general of Yucatan, and which he had apparently domesticated during the voyage home. Carteret then retired from the service in the following month.

He adopted his mother’s maiden surname Silvester on 19 January 1822, and succeeded his maternal uncle as a baronet on 30 March.

Having complained of sickness for several years Carteret died of apoplexy at Leamington, Warwickshire on 24 August 1828 after falling ill the previous day at the Royal Assembly Room in Bath Street whilst attending a lecture.

He was unmarried.