Samuel Hood 1st Viscount
1724-1816. Born at Thorncombe, near Axminster on 12 December 1724, he was the eldest son of a humble clergyman, Samuel Hood of Butleigh in Somerset, and of his wife, Mary Hoskins. He was the elder brother of Admiral Alexander Hood, Viscount Bridport, and the first cousin of the father of Vice-Admiral Sir Samuel and Captain Alexander Hood.
Hood’s father was initially wary of entering his sons into the naval service, and it was not until 6 May 1741 that Samuel first went to sea as a midshipman with Captain Thomas Smith aboard the Romney 50, on which ship his younger brother Alexander was already serving. He was rated a seaman under Captain Thomas Grenville, whom he followed to the Garland 20 in April 1743, and he saw further service from November under Captain George Rodney in the Channel aboard the new Sheerness 20. From September 1744 he was in the newly commissioned Ludlow Castle 44 under Rodney as a midshipman before leaving that ship on 23 January 1746 to rejoin Captain Smith aboard the Exeter 60. Later that year, when serving as an acting lieutenant aboard the frigate Winchelsea 50, Captain Henry Dyve, he was wounded in the hand during the capture of the French frigate Subtile 26.
He was commissioned lieutenant on 17 June 1746, and in March 1748 was appointed to the newly commissioned Greenwich 50, Captain John Montagu. Several months later he sailed for Newfoundland aboard the Princess Louisa 60, the flagship of Rear-Admiral Charles Watson, prior to returning home in November. There followed a period of unemployment before he was appointed to the guard ship Invincible 74, Captain Robert Pett, at Portsmouth in January 1753, leaving her for the Terrible 74 with the same officer in May.
Hood was promoted commander of the sloop Jamaica 10 on 10 May 1754, which vessel he took out to North America to arrive in the Hampton Roads on 23 March 1755, and in which he also visited the Bahamas. On 27 July 1756, having come north from South Carolina, he was serving under Commodore Charles Holmes’s off Louisbourg when four French frigates and an 80-gun ship came out to engage the pennant ship Grafton 70 and her consort, the Nottingham 60, Captain Samuel Marshall. Hood’s sloop received a full broadside from a 36-gun French frigate which caused much damage aloft, and she was then pursued by two frigates by signal from the French commodore. Meanwhile the Grafton and the French ship of the line endured a six-hour duel which the Nottingham was unable to join, before the enemy broke off both that engagement and the pursuit of the Jamaica and retreated into Louisbourg. On 25 August Hood reported to Holmes that he had seized a boat off Louisbourg in order to ascertain the French casualties in the action of the 27th July.
In the meantime, unbeknown to Hood, the Admiralty had posted him captain with seniority from 22 July 1756 to the Lively 20, which vessel was about to be launched at Burlesdon in Hampshire. Continuing to serve on the North American station, he became Holmes’s flag captain aboard the Grafton 70, in which ship he returned to Portsmouth from Halifax on 13 December having lost her mizzen mast and fore and main topmasts in a gale off the Newfoundland Banks, and then spent eight days beating up the Channel.
In January 1757, reasoning that the absence of their captains at Vice-Admiral Hon. John Byng’s court-martial would result in many ships requiring an acting commander, Hood applied for employment and was rewarded with a temporary appointment to the Torbay 74 for Captain Hon. Augustus Keppel, which vessel sailed from Spithead with Vice-Admiral Temple West’s fleet at the beginning of February before returning a month later. On 1 April he joined the Tartar 28 for the sickly Captain John Lockhart, but this was but a brief appointment as that officer returned to duty days later.
On 30 April 1757 Hood joined the Antelope 50 at Portsmouth in an acting capacity for Captain Thomas Saumarez who was visiting London, and after putting to sea he fell in with the Aquilon 50 and two other enemy vessels off the Brittany coast on 13 May. Luring them towards him by hoisting French colours, he then raised British colours in the expectation of an engagement but instead saw the Aquilon haul up and took flight. Ignoring the other two vessels, Hood chased the Aquilon into the northern part of Audierne Bay over the next two hours until he was within pistol-shot. The two ships were soon exchanging broadsides in close action, and this continued for about another hour until breakers were seen under the Antelope’s lee. Unable to wear ship, Hood was nevertheless able to steer clear of the enemy, and whilst his own ship eased to safety the Aquilon struck the rocks whilst she was in her stays and her mizzen mast tumbled overboard. After spending an hour effecting repairs to the Antelope Hood stood in to finish the Frenchman off, only to find that the rocks had done the work for him. The Antelope lost three men killed and thirteen wounded in this action, as opposed to thirty men killed and twenty-five wounded aboard the enemy. On 25 May Hood followed up this success by taking the privateer Heureuse Union 6, whose commander was able to confirm the identity of his erstwhile opponent, the Aquilon, and the Antelope was back at Spithead by 1 June.
In recognition of his feat in destroying the Aquilon, Hood was given the command of the tiny frigate Biddeford 20 on 14 June 1757, which at the time was equipping for sea at Portsmouth. Sailing under sealed orders on 11 July in the company of the Harwich 50, Captain Joshua Rowley, the two vessels soon took two French prizes which were carried into Falmouth by the Biddeford on 10 August. A week later she was at Plymouth awaiting completion of a convoy for the Grand Fleet at Spithead, and at the end of October she sailed out of the Devonshire port to join Admiral Sir Edward Hawke’s fleet. On 10 January 1758, being in company with the Dolphin 24, Captain Benjamin Marlow, Hood took a well-laden French ship from Saint-Domingue into Waterford, but unfortunately their prize ran across the Biddeford’s anchor and rapidly sank.
In early February 1758 Hood was appointed to the frigate Vestal 32, and in May he was attached to Admiral Lord Anson’s Channel fleet. On 10 September, being in company with the Tamar 16, Commander John Hughes, he brought a Dutch vessel from St. Eustatius into Plymouth, and he sent two more Dutchmen into the Devonshire port at the end of October. In November, the Vestal spent some time in dock at Plymouth before coming out at the end of the month, and she was still at that port in January 1759.
On the afternoon of 21 February 1759, having put out of Spithead a week earlier with Rear-Admiral Charles Holmes’ squadron, the Vestal captured the French Bellone 32, commanded by the Comte de Beauhonoir, in a hard-fought action lasting nearly four hours off Cape Finisterre, at the conclusion of which the enemy’s only remaining mast, the foremast, went by the board. French losses could not be immediately established but were thought to number at least forty dead, whilst Hood’s frigate suffered casualties of five men killed and twenty-two wounded, and his frigate lost all her topmasts once the enemy had struck. The Trent 28, Captain John Lindsay, had also been in the chase of the Bellone but not engaged, and she took aboard a number of prisoners whilst Hood escorted his prize back to Spithead on 2 March. Upon immediately going up to London he was presented to the King by Lord Anson.
On 23 April 1759 the Vestal sailed from Portsmouth with the escort of the West India convoy which she saw to a safe position before returning to Portsmouth on 5 June. She was immediately attached to Rear-Admiral George Rodney’s squadron which in July destroyed the invasion flotilla at Le Hâvre, and for his part in this expedition Hood earned the respect of this difficult but highly valued officer. At the turn of the new year his command was still to be found off Le Havre from where she returned at the end of January 1760.
In May 1760 the Vestal was sent out to the Mediterranean at Hood’s own request for the benefit of his health, and by the end of June she was at Gibraltar. She then sailed for Villa Franca to collect a handful of vessels for convoy to the Rock, and she also cruised at sea with Vice-Admiral Charles Saunders fleet of seven sail of the line, being allocated to the Spanish shore as the fleet went up the Mediterranean. During July she was detached to sail further up the Mediterranean, and in the autumn was with a small squadron commanded by Captain Hugh Palliser which blockaded a French division of the Toulon fleet at Zuda in Candia, the modern-day Crete. She captured the letters of marque Marquise de Pilles on 21 December, and Saint-Antoine on 18 January 1761, and that winter reportedly sent two vessels valued at twenty thousand guineas into Leghorn. By April she was back at Gibraltar with Saunders’ fleet, whilst at home newspaper reports claimed that she had sent another four French ships from Accra into Leghorn. She continued to make further captures during her remaining time in the Mediterranean before returning to Portsmouth from Gibraltar with the fleet on 12 April 1763. After performing quarantine she entered port towards the end of the month and was paid off some weeks later.
In September 1763 Hood recommissioned the guardship Thunderer 74 at Portsmouth, and in September 1764 it was reported that she had been sheathed and was preparing for sea. At the end of the month a party of marines went aboard, and she then dropped down to Spithead to await orders to sail; however, her crew remained unpaid and in December she was ordered to strike her sails and was ordered back into harbour to continue her duties as a guardship. On 2 May 1765 her over-manned longboat tragically overset shortly after leaving the ship at Spithead whilst carrying men from different vessels who had assisted in working her out of the harbour, and thirty-eight men, five women and a child were lost with just sixteen men being saved. Later that month she sailed for Cork where she embarked a regiment of foot for North America, and she returned to the Irish port from Halifax with another regiment on 15 September following a passage of twenty-four days. After returning to her duties as a guardship at Portsmouth she was paid off in July 1766.
In February 1767 it was reported that Hood had been appointed the commander-in-chief of the North American station, and at the end of April he arrived at Portsmouth to sail for Halifax with his broad pennant aboard the Romney 50, Captain John Corner. After reaching Nova Scotia in July he transferred his headquarters to Boston in November 1768, taking his wife and family with him, and he was thus able to dispatch men and a fire engine from the Romney to help extinguish a fire which broke out in the new County Gaol near Boston in the following February. He was at New York in May 1769 when Captain Hyde Parker replaced Captain Corner aboard the Romney, and he left for England at the end of October 1770 with Captain Robert Linzee in command of his pennant ship.
In January 1771 Hood kissed the King’s hand upon being appointed to the Royal William 80 at Portsmouth, by April she was rigged and apparently ready for foreign service, but she remained with the fleet at Spithead until she was paid off at the end of May. In November 1773 he was appointed to the Marlborough 74, which went out of Portsmouth to Spithead on 23 February 1774, and he commanded her until 5 July 1776 whilst latterly flying the flag of Vice-Admiral Sir James Douglas at Portsmouth. Sadly, this commission ended in tragedy when the ship was badly damaged with the loss of eighteen men women and children following an accidental explosion in the fore magazine in Portsmouth Harbour shortly after she had come out of dock.
Following the loss of the Marlborough, Hood immediately commissioned the Courageux 74 for guardship duties at Portsmouth, and the crew of the Marlborough transferred with him to this vessel. In March 1777 he was at St. Helens awaiting a fair wind to go out and cruise against the American privateers before returning to port on 11 April, and his command also undertook the same duties in the summer. From the middle of October she was docked at Portsmouth, and after sailing out on 27 December Hood cruised for about three weeks in command of a small squadron of five sail of the line in the Channel and Bay of Biscay with orders to search any vessels bound for North America, an operation which was subsequently applauded for its success. During the latter part of this cruise his squadron sailed for several days in a mutually suspicious company with a French squadron until they were separated by a storm.
With French war clouds gathering once more he resigned his command of the Courageux in January 1778 in favour of Captain Lord Mulgrave and accepted the vital position of commissioner of Portsmouth dockyard and governor of the Naval Academy, even though this was a role normally reserved for those officers who were unlikely to be recalled to an active role. On 20 May he was created a baronet following the King’s review of the fleet at Spithead, and with the monarch taking an instant liking to Hood he facilitated the latter’s elevation from his civil position to flag rank on 26 September 1780.
In October 1780 Hood kissed the King’s hand upon his promotion, and on the 23rd he set off for Portsmouth from London to assume the command of a squadron bound for the Leeward Islands to supplement the fleet under Admiral Sir George Rodney. This appointment was largely a consequence of more senior officers refusing to serve the existing government following the political fall-out from the Battle of Ushant, and even Hood had initially rejected the first lord of the Admiralty’s overtures by claiming poor health before accepting, to the surprise of many, Lord Sandwich’s request that he reconsider.
Flying his flag aboard the Barfleur 90, Captain John Inglefield, Hood sailed in December with eight sail of the line and a convoy, and after rendezvousing with Rodney at St. Lucia in January 1781 he was sent to patrol between Montserratt and Nevis so as to prevent any interference with the invasion of the rich Dutch island of St. Eustatius on 3 February. Subsequent to this highly controversial operation, he criticised Rodney both indirectly and directly for putting his avaricious intentions above the war effort, describing the commander-in-chief’s actions as ‘Flemish accounting’.
With Captain John Knight joining him as his flag captain, Hood afterwards led the blockade of four French sail of the line at Martinique with his own seventeen sail of the line, although he plagued Rodney with letters suggesting that his position to leeward of the island would render him useless should a French fleet arrive. Sure enough, when Vice-Admiral Comte de Grasse’s twenty sail of the line did effect a junction with the four ships in Fort Royal on 28 April 1781 Hood’ s fleet was stranded to leeward of the island, just as he had envisaged. After a small and unhappy engagement known as the Battle of Fort Royal on 29 April, one that saw four of Hood’s van ships damaged, the French withdrew into Fort Royal and Hood retired to rejoin Rodney at Antigua.
When Rodney returned home through illness shortly afterwards Hood took command of the Leeward Islands fleet, and with the hurricane season approaching he sailed for North America in the hope of finding de Grasse there. His flag-captain during this period was his cousin, Captain Alexander Hood. On 28 August he joined Rear-Admiral Thomas Graves at New York with fourteen sail of the line, and he was second-in-command to this officer, although not engaged, at the Battle of Chesapeake Bay on 5 September. It was later suggested that his conduct in support of an officer who was clearly inferior to him in abilities was hardly adequate, indeed some commentators accused him of a lack of bravery in failing to support the battered ships of the van with his unscathed rear division. In effect though, he was hamstrung by the rigid Fighting Instructions and thereafter would do all he could to see them altered.
Once a further attempt to rescue Lord Cornwallis’s army in the Chesapeake had failed, Hood returned to New York on 2 November and nine days later, believing that the Marquis de Vaudreuil was heading south with twelve sail of the line and troops, and fearing that the thirteen Spanish sail of the line at Cuba would attack Jamaica, he sailed back to the West Indies. On this return voyage he was joined by an additional four sail of the line which had been transferred to his command by the new commander-in-chief at New York, Rear-Admiral Hon. Robert Digby. Hood now had seventeen sail of the line at his disposal as the badly damaged Terrible 74 had been consigned to the deep off the Capes of Virginia. Not all his dealings with Digby had been so amicable however, for the two men had engaged in a war of correspondence over prizemoney and the loan of seamen to bolster Hood’s scurvy-affected ships.
After arriving at Barbados on 5 December, Hood learned a month later that de Grasse had sailed for St. Kitts, and at the Battle of St. Kitts on 25/26 January he brilliantly outfoxed the French admiral in an action off the Basseterre Roads by drawing the enemy out of his anchorage as if to give battle and then slipping into it himself. The performance of his twenty-two ships against the enemy’s twenty-four sail of the line and two 50-gun ships was the naval highlight of the war, but in the end it proved to be of no value as the British garrison was unable to defend its position ashore. Having repulsed several attacks by de Grasse, and facing a strengthened opposition of thirty-two sail of the line, Hood ordered his ships to slip their cables and escape to sea on the night of 14 February, and this was a feat they executed magnificently.
Arriving back at Barbados, and with Captain John Knight having reassumed the duties of flag-captain from Alexander Hood, he was shortly rejoined by Rodney with reinforcements from England. On 9 December his division fought the opening moves of the Battle of the Saintes against huge odds, the Barfleur engaging seven Frenchmen alone, and on 12 April he led the rear squadron in the main battle. De Grasse’s flagship Ville de Paris struck to him, the only three-decked French ship to be taken, and a week later he led the force which attacked the French stragglers in the Mona Passage. Hood subsequently criticised Rodney bitterly for failing to continue the battle, and of putting his own pocket before the service, but he was somewhat compensated by being created Baron Hood of Catherington in the Irish peerage on 12 September and being awarded the freedom of the City of London. Meanwhile he rejoined Rodney off Cape Tiburon on 25 April, and having monitored the remnants of the French fleet at Cape François until the end of May with twenty sail of the line he sailed for Jamaica.
Following Rodney’s controversial recall to England, Hood served as the second-in-command to Admiral Hugh Pigot until the peace, sailing with the fleet when it went north to America, and being detached with a dozen sail of the line to cruise off Boston in an attempt to intercept part of the French fleet under du Vaudreuil. Having received intelligence that a French and Spanish force was planning to unite near Cap Francois, Hood left for the Caribbean once more on 22 November, arriving on 4 December to learn that the expedition was daily expected. In the event peace discussions delayed its despatch, and the union between the allies never took place. Hood eventually arrived back at Spithead with his squadron on 26 June 1783, and going up to London he waited on the King at the Queen’s Palace.
On 21 August 1783 Hood, by now feted as a national hero, arrived at Exeter where a number of seamen removed the horses from his carriage and towed him to Parish Street, attended by flags, cathedral bells and music. Before a throng of spectators, he made a short speech, and later that evening he was given the freedom of the city prior to the seamen taking his carriage in tow again. The next day he visited Plymouth where he was accorded similar honours, and in September he was given the freedom of Bristol and feted at a dinner in the Assembly Rooms at Bath.
In 1784 he stood in the cause of prime minister William Pitt against the formidable Whig Charles James Fox at the parliamentary election to the Westminster constituency, and on 17 May was returned at the head of the poll. He was extremely popular with the electors, but his seamen intimidated the Foxites in a vitriolic campaign that saw a great deal of mob violence and the death of a constable from Wapping who had been shouting ‘No Fox!’.
In October 1785 Hood received Prince William Henry at his seat at Catherington in Hampshire, and in December he accompanied the prince to Portsmouth after a ball at Fareham. At the end of April 1786 he raised his flag at Portsmouth as the commander-in-chief aboard the guardship Triumph 74, Captain John Knight, and whilst undertaking ceremonial duties such as hosting the Duke and Duchess of Austria in September he continued to attend parliament. He struck his flag at the beginning of February 1787 to return to London where he conspicuously supported Warren Hastings during his impeachment in the House of Commons on various charges relating to his governorship of India, charges of which Hastings was eventually acquitted. Hood was back at Portsmouth on 6 April to briefly hoist his flag on the Triumph before returning to parliament once more. On 24 September 1787 he was promoted vice-admiral, and having spent most of October preparing the fleet for sea in accordance with the Dutch Armament he removed his flag to the Barfleur 98, Captain Knight, in early November. At the end of the month, with the dispute having been settled, he struck his flag and returned to his parliamentary duties in London.
After another brief stint at Portsmouth Hood struck his flag to attend parliament at the beginning of February 1788, and in May he travelled down to Portsmouth to inspect the ships that were fitting for sea. In early June he raised his flag aboard the Barfleur once more, but days later he was one of several officers summoned by express to London from various parts of the country as rumours surfaced of a crisis in the administration of the Navy caused by the future of the first lord of the Admiralty, Lord Howe, who was being relentlessly attacked over his ‘yellowing’ of admirals. When Howe resigned over the matter on 16 July Hood, who had supported the controversial policy, was summoned by express from Bath, and after kissing the King’s hand he joined Lord Chatham’s Board of Admiralty, on which he was to serve for the next five years.
As a consequence of his appointment to the Admiralty he stood for re-election at Westminster in July, and the campaign was again characterised by violent scenes and outrageous caricatures, including one that suggested he should not be elected because of his large nose. Somewhat surprisingly, he lost his seat, and when an appeal to the House of Commons over voter irregularities failed following a long investigation in 1789 he was obliged to take up the position of M.P for Reigate in August. Meanwhile, in September 1788 he had been accorded the honour of naming the Royal George 100 at her launch in Chatham, and having relinquished the position of port admiral at Portsmouth in May 1789 he was present on the occasion of the Royal Family’s review of the fleet at Plymouth on 18 August.
During June 1790 Hood commenced another campaign to win the seat of Westminster, whilst concurrently, as the Spanish Armament gathered pace, he was touted for various commands at sea. When the Westminster poll closed in early July the votes cast in favour of the candidates were Fox 3,516, Hood 3,217, and Tooke 1,697, and thus he and Fox were elected to parliament. On 9 July he took leave of the King to travel down to Portsmouth where he was expected to raise his flag aboard the Victory 100, Captain Knight, to serve with the Grand Fleet under Admiral Lord Howe, but in late August he was recalled to London and following another meeting with the King he departed for the Downs on 3 September to assemble a squadron of eighteen sail of the line for the Baltic. Having raised his flag aboard the Royal Sovereign 110, he returned to London on 7 September leaving Rear-Admiral John Elliot in command, and with the Baltic expedition on hold it was soon being reported that he would take a fleet out to the West Indies. In the event he remained in London attending meetings at the Admiralty and with the prime minister, William Pitt, and the diplomatic dispute was settled before he could put to sea.
Throughout the first few months of 1791, and as the Russian Armament gathered pace, a squadron of a dozen or so men-of-war began preparing for sea at Portsmouth with rumours that Hood was to lead a fleet to the Baltic or the Mediterranean in support of the Turks, and then in March orders were received to victual a much larger fleet for four months foreign service. Notwithstanding these arrangements, there was a great degree of opposition in the country and parliament to a war with Russia and the fleet remained at Spithead throughout April. Hood did eventually leave town for Portsmouth at the beginning of May, but he was soon back in the capital, and the national prevarication continued until the third week of June when he took leave of the King to hoist his flag aboard the Victory 100, Captain Knight. Yet again however, the fleet remained at Spithead, and with the dispute being resolved in August he returned to London and the fleet was paid off in September.
Towards the end of June 1792 Hood set off from his house at the Admiralty to take command of a squadron of observation at Portsmouth, and by 7 July he was raising his flag aboard the Duke 98, Captain Knight, with six-sail of the line and a similar number of post-ships under his orders. Days later he put out on a cruise, on the 15th he was off Torbay, and by the next day his squadron lay off Ushant prior to sailing for the Scilly Isles. By the middle of August his ships were back at Spithead, and a brief visit to his house at the Admiralty followed before he headed back to Spithead at the end of the month. During September he presided at the court-martial of the Bounty mutineers who had risen against Captain William Bligh in the Pacific Ocean on 28 April 1789, and as a war with France became increasingly inevitable, he was again at Portsmouth at the year end with expectations that his squadron of observation would soon be at sea.
In February 1793, with war against Revolutionary France confirmed, and having failed to secure the Channel command due to the King’s favour of Admiral Lord Howe, he was appointed the commander-in-chief of the Mediterranean Fleet. Making full use of his position as the first sea lord at the Admiralty, he was able to obtain the cream of the Navy over the Channel command, and he secured the services of Rear-Admiral Sir Hyde Parker as his captain of the fleet prior to his replacement in the spring of 1794 by Captain John Inglefield. Raising his flag at Portsmouth on 6 May aboard the Victory 100, Captain Knight, Hood sailed on 22 May with eight under-manned sail of the line, and after cruising near Ushant he was in the Mediterranean by 20 June.
One of Hood’s first actions on his new station was to dispatch Captain George Lumsdaine of the Iris 32 on a devious mission to Tripoli and Tunis in July, in the expectation that a French squadron would capture Lumsdaine’s consort, the Tisiphone 18, Commander Thomas Byam Martin, thereby giving Hood the excuse to seize all the French shipping on that coast. Unfortunately, Lumsdaine was not fully cognisant of the commander-in-chief’s intentions and withdrew from the French presence; however, upon facing a court martial for failing to obey Hood’s orders he was happily acquitted.
Co-operating with French Royalists and the Spanish, Hood occupied Toulon on 27 August 1793 after overcoming a feeble attempt by republican officers within the French fleet to dispute his entrance to the harbour. By now his own Mediterranean Fleet had increased to twenty-one sail-of-the-line. Attempting to hold Toulon with the co-operation of his fractious allies was a thankless task, not least because of a ham-fisted attempt by the Spanish to promote Admiral Don Francisco Gravina to a rank senior to Hood in order that he could assume the chief command. By the end of September Toulon had been surrounded by revolutionary troops, and on 17 December it was decided to evacuate. Fifteen thousand civilians were taken aboard the allied ships whilst the Spanish Admiral Don Juan de Langara and the British volunteer Captain Sir William Sidney Smith were left to destroy those French ships that could not be carried away. Unfortunately, their efforts were only partially successful, and notwithstanding the political and logistic confusion he had been subjected to, Hood would later be blamed for what the public perceived to be a disappointing failure in not destroying the French fleet and for not evacuating all the royal supporters; indeed, discontent would rumble on amongst the Whigs for many years and some would remain persistent in their demands for an inquiry into his conduct.
Hood was also initially unsuccessful in his efforts to assist the Corsican patriots under Pasquale Paoli in their endeavours to liberate their island from the French republicans, for when he sent a small squadron under his brother-in-law, Commodore Robert Linzee, to launch an attack on Forneilli, San Fiorenzo, it ended in failure on 1 October. Still seeking a forward Mediterranean base following the evacuation of Toulon, he instigated an invasion of Corsica in February 1794, and on 4 April, having failed to gain support from the army commanders for whom he had little respect, he authorised an attack on Bastia by twelve hundred soldiers and marines under Lieutenant-Colonel William Villettes, and two hundred and fifty seamen under Captain Horatio Nelson, resulting in the town’s eventual surrender on 21 May. Three weeks later news came that the Toulon fleet was at sea, all be it under a reluctant admiral, Pierre Martin, who understood that his ships were no match for the Spanish, let alone the British. Due to unfavourable winds Hood was unable to carry out an attack on Martin’s fleet in the Golfe Jouan on 12 June, and his well-laid battle plans were nullified over the next windless days as the French fortified their position on shore. Throwing up the opportunity of battle in favour of returning to the siege of Calvi, the last French stronghold on Corsica, he left Vice-Admiral William Hotham to blockade the French fleet.
On 11 October 1794, and having been promoted admiral on 12 April, Hood departed the Mediterranean for England aboard the Victory on account of his poor state of health. For several days his flagship lay becalmed off Brest, which given that the Alexander 74, Captain Richard Rodney Bligh, had been captured by a flying French squadron on 6 November might have been a cause for concern, but he anchored at Spithead on 21 November and went ashore that day to the acclamation of an admiring crowd. In early December he departed his house at the Admiralty for Bath where he was joined by the commander-in-chief of the Channel Fleet, Admiral Earl Howe, and nothing appeared out of the ordinary when he was re-appointed to the Board of Admiralty on 20 December. Yet at the beginning of March 1795 it was announced that Hood and two other lords had resigned their position at the Admiralty, and although he arrived at Portsmouth on 13 April to rejoin the Victory and sail for the Mediterranean, and indeed although less than three weeks later it was reported that his flagship with several other men-of-war were lying off St. Helens awaiting a fair wind, he was back in London days later having been ordered to strike his flag by the new First Lord, Earl Spencer, because of his remonstrations about the inadequacy of the reinforcements he was taking out to the Mediterranean. Some compensation for his removal came during this period with the revelation that as the commander-in-chief of the Mediterranean Fleet at the time of the capture on 14 April 1793 of the French privateer General Dumourier and her prize, the Spanish register ship St. Jago, he would receive at least £50,000 in prizemoney, this being equivalent to over £6m in today’s money.
With his sea-going career at an end, Hood continued to sit in the House of Commons, and in March 1796 he became the governor of Greenwich Hospital in succession to the late Admiral Sir Hugh Palliser. Eventually deciding not to offer himself up for re-election at Westminster, he entered the House of Lords as Viscount Hood of Catherington on 1 June. Thereafter living in Wimpole Street and as a regular visitor to Bath, he remained a leading member of society and a frequent attendee on the King and in the House of Lords. A typical period was the latter months of 1797 when he joined the prime minister William Pitt and several other prominent politicians at the Assembly Rooms in Dover on 19 October to celebrate Admiral Adam Duncan’s recent victory over the Dutch at the Battle of Camperdown, he hosted the King at Greenwich at the end of the month, and he had the honour of introducing the ennobled Lord Duncan to the House of Lords in early November. One of his last major official acts was to receive the body of Vice-Admiral Lord Nelson at Greenwich in preparation for that officer’s funeral on 9 January 1806.
Hood was created a G.C.B in 1815 and on 27 January 1816 he died in Queen’s Square, Bath, being buried in the old hospital cemetery at Greenwich. To the end of his life, he had retained his sagacity, the position of governor of Greenwich and a positive outlook towards the next life.
On 25 August 1749 Hood married Susannah Linzee, the daughter of the mayor of Portsmouth and sister of the future Admiral Robert Linzee. She died in 1806 having been created Baroness Hood of Catherington on 7 March 1794, leaving a son, Henry, who left the Navy shortly after seeing duty as his father’s servant aboard the Romney. Henry became a chamberlain to Queen Caroline, his wife became a lady in waiting, and both attempted to facilitate the queen’s entry to the coronation of her estranged husband, King George IV, in July 1821. Henry was also reputedly a lover of the Queen. Hood’s granddaughter married Vice-Admiral Sir Francis Mason.
Respected for his ability, Hood did not let difficulties overcome him, and was as courageous and zealous in battle as he was with his tongue. Haughty and imperious, Hotham said ‘he has something about him that puts inferior officers in much awe, and he is a stranger to nervous diffidence.’ Certainly, he was never afraid to talk himself up, and he could be intolerant, arrogant, and charmless. He was a poor subordinate and an autocratic character who thought he was better than anyone else and did not have time for anyone who failed to share his views. Being an officer of the old school, he did little to maintain the discipline of the Mediterranean fleet during his period of command, as was no doubt gleefully highlighted by his eventual successor and implacable enemy, Admiral Sir John Jervis. Nevertheless, he kept his fleet in order at sea, and his instructions were always clear and precise. During, and because of, his experiences in the American Revolutionary War, he became a great innovator of tactics.
Hood was a Portland Whig and Pittite, and a friend of the second Lord Chatham, Lord Howe, and Sir William Hotham. He seldom attended Parliament and seldom spoke, but when he did it was with a grace and eloquence that belied his profession. The King admired him greatly, and Hood reciprocated with an intensity and devotion that could almost be termed ‘toadying’. Admired by most, Nelson was furious at his dismissal by the Admiralty in 1795. Although he had shared a mutual respect with Rodney in his early years, they were not so close when they reached flag rank, and Rodney preferred to call him an ‘old apple woman’.
Religious but poor for most of his life, unlike his brother Admiral Lord Bridport, Hood’s London address was 12 Wimpole Street, his Bath address was 5 Queen Square, and he also owned an estate at Catherington in Hampshire. His secretary in the French Revolutionary War was John M’Arthur. During the 1780’s he suffered ill-health with his liver.