Sir James Brisbane

1774-1826. He was the fifth son of Admiral John Brisbane, and of his wife, Mary Young. His elder brother was Rear-Admiral Sir Charles Brisbane, and of his other brothers, Captain John Brisbane drowned in 1782, Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Brisbane was killed on San Domingo in 1795, and Commander William Brisbane died on 29 November 1795 whilst commanding the prison ship Aurore at Gibraltar.

Having been entered in February 1784 onto the books of the Powerful 74, Captain Thomas Fitzherbert, Brisbane first saw service from March 1787 aboard the Plymouth-based guard-ship Culloden 74, Captain Thomas Rich. On 13 March 1788 he joined the Andromeda 32, Captain H.R.H. Prince William, seeing service on the Halifax and West Indian stations, and on 3 July 1789 he transferred to the Southampton 32, Captain Sir Andrew Snape Douglas, with whom he then moved to the Goliath 74 in October, only to be beached three weeks later. During the Spanish Armament of 1790 he was aboard the Valiant 74, commanded by Prince William, who was by then known as the Duke of Clarence. In January 1791 he rejoined the Southampton under Captain Richard Goodwin Keats, moving in March to the Shark 14, Captain Sir Arthur Kaye Legge, and seeing service in the Channel.

Upon the outbreak of hostilities with France in February 1793 he was serving aboard the London 90, which Captain Keats was fitting out for Prince William’s flagship, although a decision was soon taken not to let the young royal put to sea. In April 1794 Brisbane became the signal-midshipman to Admiral Lord Howe aboard the Queen Charlotte 100, Captain Sir Andrew Snape Douglas, in which capacity he was present at the Battle of the Glorious First of June.

On 23 September 1794 he was commissioned lieutenant and appointed to the sloop Espiegle 16, Captain Bartholomew Roberts, serving in home waters and moving in March 1795 to the Sphinx 20, Captain George Brisac, which vessel sailed with Vice-Admiral George Keith Elphinstone’s squadron for the Cape on 3 April. He subsequently served in the operations which resulted in the Dutch colony’s capitulation on 16 September, and he joined the flagship Monarch 74, Captain John Elphinstone, in which he was present at the capture of the Dutch ships in Saldanha Bay on 17 August 1796.

Brisbane was promoted to command one of the Dutch vessels captured in Saldanha Bay, the sloop Sireene 18, which was renamed the Daphne 24, and after departing the Cape with the Monarch, his command reached Crookhaven on the southern tip of Ireland during the Christmas period of 1796. The threat of a French invasion in support of the United Irishman temporarily saw Elphinstone retain the Monarch and Daphne on that station, during which period the Daphne retook a captured merchant vessel at the end of the year. Brisbane’s promotion to the rank of commander was confirmed on 27 May 1797, and continuing with the Daphne, he was at Spithead by early July, prior to his command being paid off in September.The Battle of Copenhagen, 1801.

He spent the next three and a half years on the beach before he was appointed to the sloop Cruizer 18 in January 1801, in which he sailed for Yarmouth to join Admiral Sir Hyde Parker’s Baltic expedition. On the nights of 30 and 31 March he sounded and buoyed the approaches to Copenhagen on the instruction of Vice-Admiral Lord Nelson in preparation for the Battle of Copenhagen on 2 April. When Captain Robert Waller Otway was sent home with despatches, Brisbane became the flagship London’s acting-captain for a month, and as a further reward for his conduct prior to the battle he was posted captain on the recommendation of Lord Nelson, his advancement being backdated to 2 April. Shortly afterwards, he was appointed the acting-captain of the Alcmene 32 for Captain Sam Sutton, and he then commanded the Ganges 74 in an acting capacity when Captain Thomas Fremantle was sent to St. Petersburg.

After returning from the Baltic to the Channel, Brisbane was appointed the flag-captain to Rear-Admiral John Totty aboard the Saturn 74 in August 1801, which after completing a refit that month at Portsmouth, sailed on the 23rd to join the Channel Fleet before returning to the Hampshire base on 7 November. Three weeks later she sailed for the Leeward Islands station, but upon Totty contracting yellow fever the Saturn departed for England on 24 May 1802. Sadly, the admiral died nine days after leaving Martinique, and following the Saturn’s arrival with the rear-admiral’s flag at half-mast on 29 June, Brisbane went up to report to the Admiralty in London and his command was paid off.

From 1803-5 he commanded the Kent Sea Fencibles from the North Foreland to the East Swale, being based at Margate, and in September of the latter year he resumed active service when ordered to rejoin the frigate Alcmene 32 at Cork. After hitching a lift to Ireland aboard the Arethusa 38, commanded by his brother, Captain Sir Charles Brisbane, his new command was off Cape Ortegal on 16 December when she sighted the French Rochefort squadron, which had been at sea for some months preying on British trade. At the end of December the Alcmene arrived at Plymouth, and after going out to Gibraltar and Cadiz with the trade, she returned to the Devonshire port on 26 January 1806. A week later she departed for the Irish station, from where she left on 3 March as part of a strong escort to the outgoing West India convoy, which she saw to a safe position before returning to Cork.

The Alcmene remained cruising on the Irish station for the remainder of 1806 and into the early part of 1807, capturing the St. Malo based privateer Courier 14 after a chase of some hundred miles to the south of Cape Clear on 4 January of the latter year. The prize, which as the cutter Alert had previously been captured from the Navy by the French, was taken into Cork. At the end of March, the Alcmene sailed for the Downs via the Scilly Isles and Falmouth with an East Indiaman and a homeward-bound vessel from Surinam, and on 12 April she arrived off Deal. Two days later she departed with another small convoy for Portsmouth to arrive on the 15th. After briefly diverting to the Channel Fleet, she returned to Portsmouth to collect a convoy of victuallers with which she sailed for Cork on 20 June. She was back at Plymouth on 25 July, and a week later she put out for the Channel Fleet. During August she was detached with the Colossus 74, Captain James Nicoll Morris, to seek out a French sail of the line and frigate which were reported to be cruising off the south-west coast of Ireland, a mission that proved fruitless, and on 5 November she reached Torbay to put out again two days later and go around to Plymouth Harbour. At the end of the month, she was sent out with urgent dispatches for Rear-Admiral Sir Richard Strachan off Rochefort, and she remained on that station over the winter before she arrived at Plymouth from off Ferrol on 21 March 1808.

Towards the end of March 1808 Brisbane was ordered to commission the new 18-pounder frigate Belle Poule 38 at Portsmouth, and taking aboard men from the recently paid-off Inconstant 36, Captain Edward Stirling Dickson, his new command went out of harbour in the middle of May. On 12 June she departed with a large convoy for the Mediterranean, although it was some days before she was able to clear the coast due to foul winds, and she eventually reached Gibraltar on 16 July and Malta on 5 August.

Once in the Mediterranean, Brisbane was charged with commanding the squadron blockading Corfu. On 15 February 1809, his men cut the French frigate Var 26 out from her moorings under the batteries of Valona in what is now Albania without suffering any casualties. The prize, which had been carrying corn to the beleaguered French garrison at Corfu, was taken by the Belle Poule to Malta, from where she was sent to Portsmouth with a convoy in the autumn to be bought into the Navy as the Chichester 26.

In October 1809 he served under the orders of Captain John Spranger of the Warrior 74 at the reduction of the Ionian islands of Zante and Cephalonia, and after a visit to Malta in early 1810 he returned with the Belle Poule to the Adriatic. During March he served under Captain George Eyre of the Magnificent 74 at the attack on the island of Santa Maura, the modern-day Lefkada, and when his superior was wounded, Brisbane assumed control of the naval force, although Eyre was able to resume his command by the time that the French surrendered the island on 16 April. Thereafter, Brisbane enjoyed further success serving under Eyre with the destruction of coastal batteries and the capture of enemy shipping, including the Italian brig Carlotta 10 on 11 December. After returning to Malta over the new year period, the Belle Poule, being in company with the Alceste 38, Captain Murray Maxwell, chased an 18-gun brig into the harbour of Parenzo in Istria on 3 May 1811, and suspecting that she might be ferrying supplies to the French frigates at Ragusa, they forced her to beach under the town. Rather than launch a cutting-out expedition Brisbane captured the island instead, and he then sunk the brig from a battery which his men had erected ashore. During this enterprise four men were killed and four wounded.

In July 1811 the Belle Poule arrived at Gibraltar with the Malta convoy of sixty-four vessels, and upon returning home she reached Portsmouth on 29 August. After performing quarantine, she dropped around to Plymouth to be docked, prior to undertaking a cruise in the Channel in the early part of 1812, in the course of which she captured several American vessels. On 7 March she returned to Plymouth and proceeded up the harbour to refit, and four weeks later she put out on a cruise, during which she was part of a small squadron which captured the richly laden General Gates, bound from Bordeaux to New York.

In August 1812 it was announced that Brisbane had been appointed to the Vengeur 74, but within the month he transferred to the newly launched Pembroke 74, which spent the rest of the year fitting out at Northfleet for service in the Channel. On 22 December she arrived at the Downs from the Nore before going around to Spithead. Unfortunately, she was soon required to return to port for repairs, for whilst sailing for Cherbourg on Boxing Day, she surprisingly grounded on the Dunnose, a cape on the south-east coast of the Isle of Wight, and she had to cut away her main and mizzen masts to get off.

It was not until 4 March 1813 that the Pembroke sailed from Portsmouth to Plymouth to join the Channel Fleet, being detached thereafter to the Bordeaux station. She was back at Plymouth to re-victual on 5 June, and she later arrived at Portsmouth from Brest on 4 August. Here she remained for several weeks whilst awaiting clearance to sail with the Portuguese, Spanish, and Mediterranean convoys, and she finally got away on 18 September to pick up further vessels at Falmouth. Remaining in the Mediterranean, Brisbane commanded the Pembroke under the orders of Captain Henry Heathcote of the Scipion 74 in a minor action against the Toulon Fleet on 5 November, and he was then sent to conduct operations on the coast of Catalonia. On 12 April 1814 he led a squadron including the Alcmene 38, Captain Jeremiah Coghlan, and the Aigle 36, Captain Sir John Louis, in the chase of a twenty-strong French convoy into Porto Maurizio in the Gulf of Genoa, bombarding the town until the French surrendered, and then removing four of the vessels. With the Napoleonic War drawing to a close, the Pembroke left Genoa on 24 June and returned to Portsmouth towards the end of July to be laid up in September.

The Bombardment of Algiers, 1815.

Brisbane was presented to the Prince Regent at a levee on 10 November 1814, and in early 1815 he was nominated a C.B. Following Napoleon’s return in March and the commencement of the Hundred Days of the French emperor’s resumption of power, he was appointed to the Boyne 98 with the flag of Admiral Lord Exmouth. Sailing for the Mediterranean on 14 April, they reached Gibraltar on the 23rd and from there proceeded to Naples in May. In July they were at Genoa, and they then spent some time in the Marseilles Roads before returning to Genoa, for although Napoleon had been defeated, it had been decided that Exmouth should act to bring an end to the Barbary States piracy and enslavement of European Christians. In the spring of 1816 Exmouth undertook negotiations with the Deys of Tripoli, Tunis, and Algiers, but having returned to England with the Mediterranean fleet in June, a further massacre perpetrated by the Algerians saw the government order the fleet back to the Mediterranean.

Hoisting Exmouth’s flag aboard the Queen Charlotte 104, to which all the officers and men from the Boyne had transferred, Brisbane sailed out of Portsmouth Harbour on 11 July. He subsequently commanded the Queen Charlotte at the brutal Battle of Algiers on 27 August, where she suffered casualties of eight men killed and one hundred and thirty-two wounded. Sent ashore two days later to demand that the Dey provide satisfaction for insults to the British flag and consul, he was honoured with carrying home Exmouth’s despatches announcing the success of the operation, for which service he was presented to the Prince Regent on 23 September and knighted. He returned to Portsmouth and re-assumed the command of the Queen Charlotte on 6 October, but shortly afterwards the flagship was taken into the harbour, whereupon he left her.

Remaining ashore for the best part of ten years, Brisbane was chosen as a burgess of the Corporation of Chichester in November 1817, and in June 1819 he was presented to the Prince Regent at Court. During the spring of 1821 he visited the Continent before departing on his return for his seat in Yorkshire.

Returning to duty, he was appointed the commodore and commander-in-chief of the East Indies station in October 1824, and after hoisting his broad pennant at Plymouth in late January aboard the Boadicea 46, he went around to Portsmouth to receive final instructions before departing on 18 February 1825 to arrive at Madras on 16 June. Further to consultations with the governor-general, Lord Amherst, he sailed aboard the Boadicea for Burma on 27 August to conduct naval operations in the First Anglo-Burmese War, which at the time had been underway for over a year. Taking shortly afterwards to the East India Company steamship Diana, he arrived on 25 September at Prome, the modern-day Pyay, and landed to confer with the Army. A week later, on 2 October, the British met with the Burmese authorities at Nemben-ziek, twenty-five miles above Prome, where an armistice was agreed until 3 November, but upon the re-opening of hostilities, Brisbane led the British flotilla in the successful operations against Prome which saw the Burmese capitulation in December.

In January 1826 Brisbane’s health failed as a result of his exertions at Burma, and taking passage in the Boadicea, he proceeded to Penang to aid his recovery. By the spring the Boadicea was back at Madras with his health having apparently recovered, and at Trincomale he removed into the Warspite 74, which had come out from England with the flag of his replacement, Rear-Admiral William Hall Gage. Ordered to sail for Valparaiso to relieve the Cambridge 80, Captain Thomas James Maling, there followed a seven-week voyage to Port Jackson, five of which Brisbane spent in bed, and although he was in better health by the time of his arrival in New South Wales on 19 October, he soon relapsed.

Commodore Brisbane died in Macquarie Place, Sydney, on 19 December. He was buried with full military honours two days later, and on 6 January 1827 his widow and two unmarried daughters sailed aboard the Warspite, Captain Hon. Richard Saunders Dundas, for Valparaiso

Brisbane was married at Chichester on 17 June 1800 to Jemima Ann, the only daughter of John Ventham of Havant, and the stepdaughter of Vice-Admiral Henry Frankland. The marriage had issue one son and two daughters.