Sir Andrew Snape Douglas

1761-97. He was born on 8 October 1761 in Edinburgh, the son of a doctor of medicine, William Douglas, and his wife Lydia Hamond, the eldest sister of Captain Sir Andrew Snape Hamond.

Following the death of his father in 1770, and after a rudimentary education in Edinburgh, Douglas went to sea under the patronage and immediate care of his uncle aboard the Arethusa 32, serving on the North American station from October 1771 until paid off in 1773. During 1774-5 he was employed on the Jamaican station aboard the Maidstone 28, Captain Alan Gardner, and further duty was seen on the Roebuck 44 from 1775, which under Hamond took part in the Philadelphia campaign from August to November 1777. He was commissioned lieutenant of the Roebuck on 23 April 1778.

Douglas was promoted commander of the sloop Germain on 16 February 1780, but instead of joining her he commanded the floating battery Sandwich 20 during the siege of Charleston prior to its capitulation on 11 May. On 15 May he was posted captain of the prize rebel frigate Providence 32, but on the same day his uncle was sent home to England with despatches and Douglas replaced him, initially temporarily, as captain of Roebuck, carrying the flag of Vice-Admiral Marriot Arbuthnot back to New York. Having received a commission from the Admiralty he thereafter retained the Roebuck until July 1781 in which vessel he made several captures including the American frigates Confederacy 36 in company with the Orpheus 32, Captain John Colpoys, on 14 April 1781, and the Protecter 28 on 5 May.


Sir Andrew Snape Douglas

In July 1781 the Roebuck was ordered home with Arbuthnot’s flag, so preferring to remain on the coast of North America he exchanged with Captain John Orde into the Chatham 50. Shortly afterwards Douglas piloted the fleet under Rear-Admiral Thomas Graves to Boston, and on 2 September he fell in with the French frigate Magicienne 32, Captain de La Bouchetière, off that city By forcing her surrender within thirty minutes he not only made an excellent capture, the Magicienne being bought into the service, but he also prevented a French attempt to intercept a number of British storeships in the Bay of Fundy. For the last two years of the war he commanded a frigate squadron on the North American coast which made upwards of fifty captures, with other prizes to the Chatham being the General Starke on 5 October 1781 and Hyder Ali on 31 October. then. After returning to England at the peace the Chatham was paid off in July 1783.

During the early years of the peace Douglas undertook the study of naval architecture at Chatham before travelling to the Continent where he took the opportunity to learn the French and Italian languages. Returning to England he recommissioned the Southampton 32 in July 1786, and he commanded her in the Mediterranean until the following year when he came home during the Dutch armament with intelligence of the French and Spanish strength. Once that crisis had passed he went out to the Mediterranean once more, prior to returning to command the Southampton in the Channel with occasional visits to observe French improvements at the port of Cherbourg. In 1789 the Southampton was ordered to act as the guardship at Weymouth, and she not only gave King George his first voyage aboard a man of war but also hosted him and the lords of the Admiralty during the Plymouth Naval Review of 18 August, earning Douglas a knighthood on 13 September 1789 for that honour. The Southampton was paid off at Portsmouth shortly afterwards.

Douglas did not remain unemployed for more than twenty-four hours before being appointed the next day to the Goliath 74, which he retained for six months before she was found to be un-seaworthy. After transferring with all his officers and men to the Alcide 74 he commanded her in the Spanish Armament of 1790, and then served under the orders of Vice-Admiral Lord Hood during the Russian Armament of 1791. Thereafter she was employed as a guardship at Portsmouth until the later months of 1792, and during the same year Douglas sat on the court-martial of several mutineers from the Bounty.

In December 1792, shortly before the commencement of the French Revolutionary War , he commissioned the Phaeton 38, and serving with the Channel fleet he made an early capture in 1793 with that of the lugger Aimable Libertè in March. The Phaeton was then with the squadron that took the French privateer, General Dumourier 22 on 14 April, together with her prize, the Spanish galleon St. Jago, carrying merchandise to the value of nearly £1,000,000. The booty from these captures was taken from Portsmouth to the Bank of England in twenty-one wagons under heavy guard, and although the authorities endeavoured to return the treasure to Spain this decision was overturned on appeal. Douglas’ own share of the prize was reported as £56,000, or £8m at the current rate. Further captures were the Prompte 28 in the Bay of Biscay on 28 May, this vessel being bought into the navy, the Blanche 22, and the privateer Domen 16. Douglas was present in the Channel fleet cruise of July – August, and with the temporary rank of commodore, was placed in command of the Channel fleet frigates which was a post without precedent. On 27 November he took the Blonde 20 off Ushant in company with the Latona 38, Captain Edward Thornbrough.

On 8 April 1794 he became flag captain aboard the Queen Charlotte 100 to the commander-in-chief of the Channel Fleet, Admiral Lord Howe. At the Battle of the Glorious First of June in 1794 he was badly wounded above the right eye by a stray grape shot from the Gibraltar 74, Captain Thomas Mackenzie, but he returned to the deck with a tourniquet held over the embedded shot. He was subsequently one of the officers awarded a gold medal for their part in the victory.

Retaining the Queen Charlotte as a private ship, he fought with great skill and resolution at the Battle of Groix on 23 June 1795, forcing the surrender of the Alexandre 74 even though his own command was badly damaged and had suffered casualties of four men killed and thirty-two wounded. Douglas was appointed a colonel of marines on 1 June 1795 but he did not reap any further reward for his brilliance off Lorient, bar the plaudits of his peers.

He never fully recovered from the head wound received at the Battle of the Glorious First of June, and after being obliged to resign his command at the beginning of 1797 he died at his uncle’s house in Fulham of a brain tumour on 4 June.

On 14 November 1781 Douglas married Anne Burgess in New York, and they had issue a son and two daughters.

Douglas was held in great esteem for his abilities, and was regarded as gallant and dashing, although he had a hasty temper, it being noted that he had broken a speaking trumpet over a recalcitrant’ s head on one occasion. Many officers of repute committed their children to his care as midshipmen.