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Sir Henry Blackwood, Bt

Sir Henry Blackwood
Born 28 December 1770(1770-12-28)
Ballyliddy, County Down
Died 17 December 1832 (aged 61)
Ballyliddy, County Down
Occupation Royal Navy Officer

Vice-Admiral Sir Henry Blackwood, 1st Baronet, GCH, KCB (28 December 1770 – 17 December 1832), whose memorial is in the St. John's Church, Killyleagh, was a British sailor.

Blackwood was the fourth son of Sir John Blackwood, 2nd Baronet, of Ballyleidy, Co. Down, and of Dorcas Blackwood, 1st Baroness Dufferin and Claneboye. In April 1781 he entered the Royal Navy as a volunteer on board the frigate HMS Artois, with Captain John MacBride, and in her was present at the battle on the Dogger Bank.

Contents

With the frigates

He was promoted Lieutenant,[1] Commander,[2] and to the rank of Post captain[3] then appointed to the frigate HMS Brilliant, of 28 guns. Early in 1798 the Brilliant was sent out to join Admiral Waldegrave on the Newfoundland station; and on 26 July, whilst standing close in to the bay of Santa Cruz in quest of a French privateer, she was sighted and chased by two French frigates of the largest size. By admirable seamanship, promptitude, and courage, Blackwood succeeded in checking the pursuit and in escaping. His conduct at this critical time was deservedly commended.

Early in 1799 the Brilliant returned to England, and Blackwood was appointed to the frigate HMS Penelope, of 36 guns, in which, after a few months of Channel service, he was sent out to the Mediterranean, and employed during the winter and following spring in the close blockade of Malta.

On the night of 30 March 1800 the Guillaume Tell, of 80 guns, taking advantage of a southerly gale and intense darkness, weighed and ran out of the harbour. As she passed the Penelope, Blackwood immediately followed, and, having the advantage of sailing, quickly came up with her: then — in the words of the log —

'luffed under her stern, and gave him the larboard broadside, bore up under the larboard quarter and gave him the starboard broadside, receiving from him only his stern-chase guns. From this hour till daylight, finding that we could place ourselves on either quarter, the action continued in the foregoing manner, and with such success on our side that, when day broke, the Guillaume Tell was found in a most dismantled state.

At five o'clock the Lion, of 64 guns, and some little time afterwards the Foudroyant, of 80 guns, came up, and after a determined and gallant resistance the Guillaume Tell surrendered; but that she was brought to action at all was entirely due to the unparalleled brilliancy of the Penelope's action. Nelson wrote from Palermo (5 April 1800) to Blackwood himself: 'Is there a sympathy which ties men together in the bonds of friendship without having a personal knowledge of each other? If so (and I believe it was so to you), I was your friend and acquaintance before I saw you. Your conduct and character on the late glorious occasion stamps your fame beyond the reach of envy. It was like yourself; it was like the Penelope. Thanks; and say everything kind for me to your brave officers and men'.

HMS Euryalus

In April 1803 Blackwood was appointed to the Euryalus, of 36 guns. During the next two years he was employed on the coast of Ireland or in the Channel, and in July 1805 was sent to watch the movements of the allied fleet under Villeneuve after its defeat by Sir Robert Calder. On his return with the news that Villeneuve had gone to Cadiz, he stopped on his way to London to see Nelson, who went with him to the Admiralty, and received his final instructions to resume the command of the fleet without delay. Blackwood, in the Euryalus, accompanied him to Cadiz, and was appointed to the command of the inshore squadron, with the duty of keeping the admiral informed of every movement of the enemy. He was offered a line-of-battle ship, but preferred to remain in the Euryalus, believing that he would have more opportunity of distinction; for Villeneuve, he was convinced, would not venture out in the presence of Nelson. When he saw the combined fleets outside, Blackwood could not but regret his decision. On the morning of Trafalgar, 21 Oct., in writing to his wife, he added: 'My signal just made on board the Victory — I hope to order me into a vacant line-of-battle ship.' This signal was made at six o'clock, and from that time till after noon, when the shot were already flying thickly over the Victory, Blackwood remained on board, receiving the admiral's last instructions, and, together with Captain Hardy, witnessing the so shamefully disregarded codicil to the admiral's will. He was then ordered to return to his ship. 'God bless you, Blackwood,' said Nelson, shaking him by the hand; 'I shall never speak to you again.' 'He' (and it was Blackwood himself that wrote it) 'not only gave me the command of all the frigates, for the purpose of assisting disabled ships, but he also gave me a latitude seldom or ever given, that of making any use I pleased of his name in ordering any of the stern most line-of-battle ships to do what struck me as best'. Immediately after the battle Collingwood hoisted his flag on board the Euryalus, but after ten days removed it to the Queen, and the Euryalus was sent home with despatches and with the captured French admiral, Pierre-Charles de Villeneuve. Blackwood landed at Falmouth and was one of the first messengers to use the Trafalgar Way to deliver his dispatches to the Admiralty in London. He was thus in England at the time of Lord Nelson's funeral (8 January 1806), on which occasion he acted as train-bearer of the chief mourner, Sir Peter Parker, the aged admiral of the fleet.

Loss of HMS Ajax

Duckworth's squadron forcing the Dardanelles

In 1807, while captain of HMS Ajax in the Dardanelles under the command of Admiral Sir John Duckworth, his vessel accidentally caught fire, with the loss of 252 lives. This still counts as one of the greatest tragedies in British naval history. Blackwood survived by clutching an oar for an hour in the water before being rescued by HMS Canopus.

Rear Admiral

On 4 June 1814 Blackwood attained the rank of rear-admiral, and in September he was created a Baronet, "of the Navy". In August 1819 he was made a Knight Companion of the Order of the Bath, and appointed commander-in-chief in the East Indies, from which station he returned in December 1822. He became vice-admiral in May 1825, and from 1827 to 1830 he commanded in chief at the Nore; and still in the full vigour of life he died after a short illness, differently stated as typhus or scarlet fever, on 17 December 1832, at Ballyleidy, the seat of his eldest brother, Lord Dufferin and Clanboye.

Blackwood was married three times, and left a large family.

Blackwood River, Western Australia, is named in his honour; it was named by Captain (later Admiral Sir) James Stirling, who served under Blackwood as a youth from 1808 to 1810.

Baronetage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
New Creation
Baronet
of the Navy
1814–1832
Succeeded by
Henry Martin Blackwood

Further reading

  • The Trafalgar Captains, Colin White and the 1805 Club, Chatham Publishing, London, 2005, ISBN 1-86176-247-X

References

  1. ^ 3 November 1790
  2. ^ 6 July 1794
  3. ^ 2 June 1795

</references/>

External links

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