Sir Charles Dashwood

1765-1847. He was born on 1 September 1765, the second son of Robert Dashwood of Vallon Wood in Somerset, and of his wife, Hon. Mary Sweeting.

Dashwood entered the Navy on 9 January 1779, serving in home waters aboard the Courageux 74, Captain Lord Mulgrave, and later with the Southampton 32, Captain William Garnier. He was present when this frigate was part of the escort of a convoy under the command of Captain John Moutray, which was attacked by an allied fleet on 9 August 1780 with significant losses of merchantmen. He thereafter removed with Garnier to the Grafton 74, serving on the Jamaican station prior to returning home in the summer of 1781. He next joined the Formidable 98, Captain John Symons, the flagship of Admiral Sir George Brydges Rodney, under whom he served as an aide-de-camp at the Battle of the Saintes on 14 April 1782.

After returning to England, he was subsequently employed from June 1783 aboard the sloop Cygnet 14, Commander William Taylor, which sailed for the East Indies in December 1784, and he returned to England in July 1786 aboard the Bristol 50, Commodore Charles Hughes. Unable to secure any further peace-time naval employment, he joined the packet service in 1787 and operated out of Falmouth for two years, following which he ran his own merchant vessel between Jamaica and London.

Dashwood earned his lieutenant’s commission after distinguished conduct at the Battle of the Glorious First of June.

It is not clear whether Dashwood returned to naval duty once war commenced against Revolutionary France in February 1793, but by March 1794 he was serving as a midshipman aboard the Impregnable 98, Captain George Blagden Westcott, the flagship of Rear-Admiral Benjamin Caldwell, and as a reward for assisting Lieutenant Robert Waller Otway secure her foretopsail-yard under fire at the Battle of the Glorious First of June, he was commissioned lieutenant on 20 June. He remained with the Impregnable in the Channel Fleet under Captains Charles Cotton, Andrew Mitchell, and John Thomas, although under the latter officer the ship did attempt to sail twice with Rear-Admiral Hugh Cloberry Christian’s expedition to the Leeward Islands in the winter of 1795/6.

After the Impregnable had been paid off, Dashwood joined the Channel-based Defiance 74, Captain Theophilus Jones, on 13 August 1796, and on 27 May 1797 he moved to the Magnanime 44, Captain Hon. Michael De Courcy. During this period it is said that he distinguished himself in his implacable opposition to the mutineers who had initially rebelled at the Nore on 12 May. Continuing with the Magnanime, he was present at the capture of the French frigate Décade 36 off Cape Finisterre on 24 August 1798, and participated in Commodore Sir John Borlase Warren’s defeat of a French squadron off Ireland on 12 October, following which action he received Commodore Jean-Baptiste-François Bompart’s sword when taking possession of the Hoche 74. He was later ordered to command the prize crew of the captured frigate Coquille 36, and he eventually managed to reach Plymouth on 12 November via Carrickfergus Bay, which given the Coquille’s leaky condition and the tumultuous weather had proved to be a most difficult task, and had required the assistance of the French prisoners to ensure their mutual safety. Unfortunately, after going around to Portsmouth the Coquille was destroyed by a fire on 14 December.

On 2 August 1799 Dashwood was promoted to the command of the Sylph 18, in which sloop he patrolled the approaches to Brest with the Channel Fleet, and with which he was to do well in prizemoney from both captures of enemy vessels and the recapture of British merchantmen. One of his first duties was to return to Plymouth with dispatches on 8 September announcing that a Spanish squadron, long detained at Rochefort, had broken out. In early October he recaptured a merchantman off La Rochelle, and his vigilance saw him rescue the entire crew of the frigate Ethalion 38, Captain John Clarke Searle, after she was lost on the Saintes on Christmas Day 1799. The Sylph was back at Plymouth by 17 January 1800, and during March she was cruising off the Islands of Bas and Oleron. In May she came to the rescue of the Alcmene 32, Captain Henry Digby, when that frigate grounded in a fog on the Black Rocks and was attacked by a force of French gun-boats, and she returned to Plymouth from her cruise shortly afterwards. By June she had joined the fleet off Brest, and thereafter she continued to cruise successfully whilst making frequent visits to Plymouth.

On 18 April 1801 the Sylph was forced into Falmouth having lost her fore-topmast, but after being repaired she was rushed out a few days later in quest of a privateer. By the end of June she was cruising off Cape Finisterre, and on 2 July, in company with the Oiseau 36, Captain Lord Augustus Fitzroy, she detained an American ship loaded with Spanish property from Manila, which she escorted to Plymouth six days later. Shortly afterwards, she went out with several victuallers for the Channel fleet, but almost immediately had to put back because of rough weather before eventually completing this assignment.

On 31 July 1801, whilst off Santander, the Sylph came under attack at pistol-range by an unknown vessel, apparently boasting 44 guns, which inflicted serious damage during an eighty minute action, resulting in the loss of one man killed and nine wounded aboard Dashwood’s command. The Sylph attempted to renew the action on the next day, but the enemy made off for the land and the sloop was too damaged to follow. Subsequent newspaper reports speculated that the enemy vessel was either of the French frigates Artémise or ‘Guerson’, that she had recently escaped from Rochefort, and that following the engagement she had sought sanctuary in Coruna; however, it does not appear that there was a French vessel of either name serving in her Navy at that time, and sceptical historians have since suggested that the enemy vessel’s apparent retreat indicated that she might have been a privateer. To add to the confusion, following the Sylph’s arrival at Plymouth on 13 August to undergo repairs, it was reported that she had become becalmed in range of a French battery whilst cruising off the coast near Ushant, and that she had suffered much damage to her hull and rigging, not to mention several men wounded, before she could be towed to safety.

No sooner had the Sylph returned to her patrol ground off Spain than she was again attacked by an unknown vessel off Cape Penas on 28 September, with the enemy retiring after a two hour engagement, during which one man had been wounded aboard the Sylph. Having attempted several times to demand his enemy’s name but not received a response, Dashwood spoke a neutral who identified the opponent once more as the French frigate Artémise 44, but again this supposition was highly unlikely. By 31 October the Sylph was back at Plymouth where Dashwood read a letter of praise from the Admiralty to his crew, and despite some early reticence to promote him because of the lack of a confirmation of the enemy’s identity, he was deservedly posted captain on 2 November with a personal letter from the Earl of St. Vincent announcing his advancement. Concurrently, Dashwood apparently learned that the captain of the vessel he had engaged on 31 July had been court-martialled and sentenced to be shot, but again this fact was never verified.

Dashwood had to leave the Sylph as a consequence of his posting to captain, and he does not appear to have been re-employed during the remaining months of the French Revolutionary War. Instead, in March 1802, he took passage for Cork from Plymouth in the company of his wife’s uncle, Captain Hon. Michael de Courcy.

Following the resumption of hostilities in May 1803, he remained out of employment until 28 November when he was appointed to the newly captured Bacchante 20, which was fitting out at Plymouth. Before he could take her to sea he received orders in December to temporarily take command of the Boadicea 38 for the sickly Captain John Maitland, and on 19 January 1804 this frigate dropped down to Plymouth Sound where Maitland appears to have rejoined her. Meanwhile, by the beginning of January 1804, the Bacchante was ready for sea bar want of men, and in February she sailed for Falmouth under Dashwood’s command to take under her escort the Lisbon and Oporto convoys. After departing the Cornish port on 19 February in the company of the Orpheus 32, Captain Henry Hill, together with the convoy of forty sail, she remained cruising off Cape Finisterre before coming home to Plymouth with a convoy from the Portuguese ports at the end of May. She was then due to sail out with four Indiaman, but a wind described as ‘scanty’ kept them in port. By the early days of June she was off Deal to collect a large convoy of coasters and colliers which she delivered to Portsmouth on the 4th of that month.

In June 1804 the Bacchante was appointed convoy to the West Indies merchant fleet, and she sailed with those vessels from Portsmouth on 22 June in the company of the Beaulieu 28, Captain Charles Ekins. They reached Cork on 12 July before departing two weeks later, and they arrived at Barbados via Madeira on 21 August, prior to going on to Jamaica. By January 1805 the Bacchante was off the Bahamas, having creditably not lost a single man to sickness during her tour of duty, and on 3 April she captured the Spanish schooner Elizabeth 10 off Havana. Two days later, Dashwood’s boats went in to attack three French privateers in the harbour of Mariel on the north coast of Cuba, but after capturing a Martello tower at the entrance they found that the privateers had already departed. His men were nevertheless able to compensate themselves with the capture of two well-laden schooners, and on the 14th of the following month the Bacchante took the Spanish letter-of-marque Felix 6.

Upon returning to Jamaica from his successful cruise off Cuba and Hispaniola, Dashwood was appointed to the Franchise 36 on 21 October in place of the late Captain Randall M’Donnell. Three of the frigate’s boats cut the Spanish brig Raposa 16 out from Campeche in the Gulf of Mexico on 7 January 1806, an escapade in which they had to row some fifteen miles in shallow water before enduring the fire of a second brig of twenty guns, another of twelve and a schooner of nine. When the Franchise returned to Jamaica at the end of March it was with the sad news that a lieutenant by the name of Pechell, together with twenty-three men, had been lost when the small vessel in which they had delivered the Ramposa’s crew to Vera Cruz had been wrecked on a reef.

On 25 July 1806 the Franchise departed Jamaica with a convoy of over one hundred sail in company with the Magicienne 36, Captain Adam Mackenzie, but unfortunately the fleet was caught in a hurricane in the Gulf of Florida which caused twenty of the merchantmen to founder. The Magicienne was forced to put into Bermuda for repairs but the Franchise, despite losing her foremast and springing her bowsprit, brought the remainder of the convoy home to Plymouth on 25 October, with Dashwood earning praise for the assistance he had provided to the many disabled vessels. After going around to Portsmouth, the Franchise arrived at Sheerness on 9 November, and she was off Chatham Dockyard at the end of the year. Clearly she must have undergone a thorough refit, as it was not until 19 June 1807 that she went down the Thames to Blackstakes, presumably to take on her ordnance, and she then dropped down to Sheerness from where she departed for Yarmouth on 22 July.

Continuing with the Franchise, Dashwood served in the expedition which forced the surrender of Copenhagen on 7 September 1807, in the course of which campaign he assisted Commodore Richard Keats in occupying the passage of the Great Belt. His command remained cruising in the Baltic under the orders of Captain Hon. Robert Stopford of the Spencer 74 for the protection of the trade, but in November she was driven by ice away from Helsingborg where she had been waiting to embark Lord Pembroke, who had undertaken a diplomatic mission to Vienna. After returning home, she underwent a complete refit at Sheerness upon arriving at that port on 11 December, and once released she sailed on 7 February 1808 for Portsmouth.

Dashwood joined the expedition to Copenhagen in 1807

Embarking the new lieutenant-governor of Jamaica, Lieutenant-General William Villettes and his suite, the Franchise sailed from Portsmouth on 27 February 1808 to return to Jamaica with a convoy, and she had the good fortune to capture the Granville-based privateer schooner Hazard 4 some forty miles south of the Scilly Islands when that vessel threatened her charges. The Franchise was at Barbados by the 1st March and on 16 April she arrived at Kingston, Jamaica.

In December 1808. a small squadron under Dashwood’s orders attacked the French privateer base at Samana on the eastern coast of Saint-Domingue, with the boats under the command of Lieutenant Benedictus Kelly of the Daedalus 32, Captain Samuel Hood Inglefield, spending four nights under tropical rainstorms whilst tracking down the privateer crews. During the operation, the squadron captured three privateer schooners and two prizes in the harbour. A further capture after a chase of thirty hours on 16 January 1809 was the newly built Guadeloupe-bound letter-of-marque Iphigénie 18, but carrying only six guns as she was laden with naval stores and other goods. In the early summer, the Franchise proceeded to Vera Cruz to embark bullion, and she arrived at Portsmouth on 16 December after a voyage of thirty-seven days from that Spanish port and twenty-three days from Havana.

Dashwood was next appointed to the new frigate Belvidera 36 in January 1810, prior to Captain Richard Byron taking her over in March, whereupon he joined the Pyramus 38, which had been launched in Portsmouth at the end of January and was fitting out at that port prior to going out of harbour at the beginning of May. A fortnight later she sailed for the Baltic, and here she captured the Danish privateer Norsk Mod 6 towards the end of September after that vessel had threatened the England-bound Gothenburg convoy. On 21 December the Pyramus reached Yarmouth from where she proceeded to the Nore in January 1811.

In February 1811 the Pyramus sailed from Portsmouth for Malta with government money, and she made the passage to Gibraltar in eight days before proceeding on to the former island. She departed Malta on 19 April, Gibraltar on 18 May, and by June she was off Lisbon, from where she rushed back to Spithead with news of Lieutenant-General Lord Wellington’s campaign in Portugal. During July and August she cruised for six weeks in the Atlantic with a squadron under the command of Rear-Admiral Sir Joseph Sidney Yorke of the Vengeur 74 which had been sent out to rendezvous with the homeward-bound China and India trade, although by the time the squadron returned to Plymouth on 28 August it was some three weeks after those merchantmen had already arrived safely.

At the end of 1811 Dashwood was charged with the command of a squadron of ten frigates and smaller vessels to collect the convoy which had previously been under the protection of the unfortunate St. George 98, the flagship of Rear-Admiral Robert Carthew Reynolds, which vessel had been wrecked near the Nissum Fjord on the west coast of Jutland on 24 December. By taking the convoy through the Malmo Channel in preference to the Great Belt, Dashwood saved the convoy from the fate of the St. George. Remaining on the North Sea station, he commanded a small squadron off Anholt from the beginning of 1812 for the protection of that island from Danish attack, but this was an inactive posting with the main difficulties arising from the North Sea weather. Thereafter, he served in the Baltic under the orders of Vice-Admiral Sir James Saumarez, on which station he passed the command of the Pyramus to Captain James Alexander Gordon on 15 August upon transferring to the Cressy 74 in succession to Captain Charles Dudley Pater, who had accepted the command of a royal yacht.

Continuing in the Baltic, the Cressy captured eight American vessels within the first month of Dashwood’s command before she arrived at Portsmouth from the Downs in December for a refit. She next went around to Cork on 21 January 1813, from where she sailed with a convoy of one hundred and two ships for the West Indies, reaching Carlisle Bay, Barbados, on 30 March. After serving on the Leeward Islands station for the next few months, she departed St. Thomas on 3 July with a convoy of some two hundred sail and three sloops of war, and giving passage to the governor of Guadeloupe, Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane. Arriving safely at Portsmouth, she was taken into dock on 20 August and Dashwood was presented with a chronometer by the merchant masters for his attentive stewardship of the convoy.

On 22 November 1813, after being released from dock, the Cressy sailed from Portsmouth to reinforce the Admiral William Young’s North Sea fleet, and during December she was with that officer off the Netherlands, She arrived back in the Downs on 22 February 1814, from where she went around to Portsmouth, and at the end of March she sailed from that port to cruise off the Isle Bas before being paid off at Portsmouth in mid-May.

Dashwood was given the honour of steering the royal barge at the fleet review at Spithead on 25 June 1814 to celebrate the Treaty of Paris, which event was attended by both the Russian Tsar and the Prussian King, and on 12 August he was appointed to the Norge 74, in which he arrived at Plymouth from Portsmouth with troops and transports on 8 September. Later that month, he sailed for North America via Cork with a strong squadron escorting four thousand troops, and he served in the unsuccessful campaign against New Orleans which commenced in December. On 25 February 1815 the Norge arrived at Vera Cruz from Mobile to collect specie for the payment of the troops, and on 2 June her main-topmast was struck by lightning at Port Royal, Jamaica, although happily without loss of life. Departing for home with a convoy two days later, she was paid off after arriving at Portsmouth on 7 August.

Dashwood remained unemployed during the first six years of peace until he was appointed the flag-captain to Admiral Hon. Sir Alexander Cochrane on board the Impregnable 104 in February 1821, prior to relinquishing this position upon transferring to the Plymouth guardship Windsor Castle in July. This vessel was paid off and recommissioned on 4 January 1822, and on 19 November 1823 she sailed for Lisbon with sealed orders, a revolution having broken out in Portugal. The Windsor Castle was still in the Tagus during January 1824 where Dashwood was the senior officer, and in May he took aboard the beleaguered King John VI and his family, being honoured with the Portuguese Grand Cross of the Tower and Sword by that monarch. The Windsor Castle eventually arrived home in early November to be paid off.

Dashwood was knighted on 20 April 1825 when presented to King George IV at a levee by Lord Melville, and concurrently he was granted permission to wear his Portuguese decoration. He did not undertake any further naval employment and in his retirement he became a leading member of society at Torquay, as well as attending the occasional event in London and joining Lady Dashwood in frequent visits to Cheltenham and to Bath. He returned to national notice in July 1829 when he penned a letter to the newspapers re-affirming that Captain Sir Charles Douglas, not Admiral Sir George Rodney, should be given the credit for the decision to break the line at the Battle of the Saintes in 1782, there having been a general assumption that Rodney had developed the idea with a Scottish academic until this was challenged by Douglas’ sons. Even so, the controversy rumbled on, with Dashwood’s memory being called into question despite supporting evidence that was also presented at this time by Admiral Sir Joseph Yorke.

Dashwood was promoted rear-admiral on 22 July 1830, being presented to King William IV at a levee a few weeks later, and in May 1833 he also presented his son, a lieutenant, to the King. In January 1835 he again became involved in a controversy, when after attending a meeting held in the interests of the Liberal reformer, Lord John Russell, his claim that he was a mere spectator were rubbished by various letters to the newspapers which maintained that he had retreated from a liberal position as he wished to remain on good terms with the Tories in the hope of obtaining employment at sea. Thereafter, he was often reported as attending Conservative events.

Dashwood was created a KCB on 4 July 1840, advanced to the rank of vice-admiral on 23 November 1841, and died in Torquay on 21 September 1847.

He married Hon. Elizabeth De Courcy, the second daughter of Lord Kinsale and the niece of Admiral Hon. Michael De Courcy, on 7 November 1799 at the Church of St. Andrew, Plymouth. She was described as one of the most attractive women of her time. Their two elder sons, Charles Robert Dashwood and John De Courcy Dashwood, both joined the Navy without apparently reaching the rank of captain, whilst a younger son, Francis Dashwood, died on 21 December 1845 of wounds incurred at the Battle of Moodkee when serving as a captain in the Bengal Royal Artillery. His only daughter died at North Fareham in October 1813. The address in his will was given as Torquay, Devon.

Lord Sandwich was Dashwood’s early patron. In later years he was described as ‘not tall’, and even as ‘dumpy’.