Augustus Hervey at the Battle of Minorca

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jon_ystrad
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Augustus Hervey at the Battle of Minorca

Post by jon_ystrad »

According to:

The trial of the Honourable Admiral John Byng, at a court martial
as taken by Mr Charles Fearne
Judge-Advocate of His Majesty's Fleet
Published by
The Right Honourable the Lord Commissioners of the Admiralty
at the Desire of the Court Martial

Captain Augustus Hervey when summoned to give evidence is referred to as "The Hon. Captain Augustus John Hervey, late Commander of the Phoenix"

However, his page indicates that he was transferred to command the Hampton Court on the 15th May 1756, which would be prior to the Battle of Minorca. It then lists him as transferred to the command of the Defiance, in the immediate aftermath of the battle.

Given that Byng's ships were in transit from the 9th May 1756, did the Admiralty issue a transfer to the Hampton Court that was never acted upon, and he in fact remained Captain of the Phoenix for the Battle of Minorca?

Thanks
Jon Davies
jon_ystrad
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Re: Augustus Hervey at the Battle of Minorca

Post by jon_ystrad »

Admiral Byng by Chris Ware certainly describes Hervey as commanding the Phoenix at Minorca, and that after the battle Byng gave him the Defiance, whose state rather shocked him.

He was certainly given command of the Hampton Court after Byng's trial
Navclio
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Re: Augustus Hervey at the Battle of Minorca

Post by Navclio »

It's not just Chris Ware. Dudley Pope, At Twelve Mr. Byng Was Shot (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1962) has numerous references to Hervey, too many to check out, but on p. 159 he writes, "He was not particularly pleased when Byng told him … [he] could take over command of the Defiance. This was, of course, promotion, since the Defiance was a 60-gun ship while the Phoenix was only a 20-gun frigate."
Robert Beatson, Naval and Military Memoirs of Great Britain (6 vols.; London: Longman, Hurst, Rees and Orme, 1804), III, 116, and Isaac Schomberg, Naval Chronology (6 vols.; London: T. Egerton, 1802), IV, 239, both have Hervey in Phœnix; they got their order of battle information from earlier publications at the time of the battle. Hervey's entry by William Prideaux Courtney in the Dictionary of National Biography also describes him as in command of Phœnix. (I don't have access to Ruddock Mackay's article in the more recent Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.) Contemporaries also thought that Hervey was commanding Phoœnix at the time of the Battle of Minorca. He is found in the order of battle in The Genuine Tryal of Admiral Byng . . . (London: Growder and Woodgate, 1757), p. 88. I have a lot of other contemporary publications, including other versions of the trial transcript, but they're PDFs that I don't want to open and go through. I don't think there is any question about it. Herbert Richmond edited a volume for the Navy Records Society, Papers Relating to the Loss of Minorca, that probably transcribes a contemporary list of Byng's order of battle with the name of the captain of each ship.
Navclio
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Re: Augustus Hervey at the Battle of Minorca

Post by Navclio »

Hervey's journal was published in 1953; that ought to settle the matter: David Erskine, ed., Augustus Hervey's journal : being the intimate account of the life of a captain in the Royal Navy ashore and afloat, 1746-1759 ( London : W. Kimber, 1953). Hervey is also described as captain of Phoenix by Desmond Gregory, Minorca, the Illusory Prize (London: Associated University Presses, 1990), 170.
Cy
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Re: Augustus Hervey at the Battle of Minorca

Post by Cy »

OK, You win.

I've changed Hervey's commission for the Hampton court dated 15th May 1756 to show as never enacted upon, and changed the display of actions so it takes into account the date the officer went on board, if available, so it ignores John Knight's commission to the Phoenix dated 8th May 1756. He was in Plymouth when issued and clearly didn't make it in time for the Battle of Minorca. Actually it seems quite likely he never actually command the Phoenix at all. See the Hornet's nest you've stir up?

Minorca now shows Hervey in command of the Phoenix.
OK, it was me, probably!
Navclio
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Re: Augustus Hervey at the Battle of Minorca

Post by Navclio »

It looks like Hervey's patrons in London designated him for a promotion from a sixth to a third rate. Knight was only a commander; his promotion to post rank depended on the appointment to Phœnix. Charnock says he shortly removed to Arundel, presumably to secure his promotion while not overriding Byng's appointment of a successor to Hervey in Phœnix. Since the captain of Defiance had been killed, there was a definite vacancy to which Hervey could be removed, thus creating a vacancy, not an acting appointment, in Phœnix. Winfield (1714, p. 254) follows the Admiralty records in saying for Phœnix, "Under Capt. John Knight for passage home," but whoever actually commanded her would have been entitled to the rank of captain. Byng's only unrated ship, entitled only to a commander, was sloop Fortune, 14, commanding officer James Maplesden, and Byng would have by then been more or less required to advance him to Phœnix. Charnock, VI, 189, says that on May 21, 1756, Maplesden was appointed to command of Portland, 50, which would have required her captain, Patrick Baird, to move into Phœnix. I think there was a practice or custom, if not a regulation, that captains appointed to lower-rated ships kept the pay of the highest-rated ship they had ever commanded, so Baird would have kept a fourth-rate's pay, while Maplesden would have started with a fourth-rate's pay without having to get by on the pay of a captain of a sixth rate. Maplesden seems to have been doubly unfortunate in his patrons; he had been promoted from lieutenant to commander by Thomas Mathews, who had been cashiered, and then to captain by Byng, who was shot! His career does not seem to have suffered for it, since he continued in command of Portland until he was taken prisoner during a rear-guard action on the coast of France in 1758. After exchange he commanded Intrepid at the Battle of Quiberon Bay and later Prince Frederick, 64. After the Seven Years War he seems not to have been employed, a common experience for navy officers in peacetime. He was not employed either in the navy's expansion to suppress the American rebellion but was given the sinecure of lieutenant-governor of Greenwich Hospital in 1778, dying in that position in 1781.
Although Charnock says that Baird gave testimony favorable to Byng at the latter's trial, he also continued his career, also commanding a ship at Quiberon Bay. He died in 1761 returning home after an appointment in the West Indies.
jon_ystrad
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Re: Augustus Hervey at the Battle of Minorca

Post by jon_ystrad »

Thank you for the explanations!

And the changes now enacted make perfect sense to me.

Baird was my last remaining uncertainty in terms of the captains shuffled around.

Does anyone know who commanded the Chesterfield? Byng in his defence says he set Ramillies 1st Lieutenant William Gough in command, without a commission (so effectively lieutenant commander?) but Gough was given command of the Fortune on 6th June

Thanks!
Jon
Navclio
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Re: Augustus Hervey at the Battle of Minorca

Post by Navclio »

You should be able to find the commanders of Chesterfield in the "Ships" section of this site. Winfield says that she was commanded by Captain William Lloyd from July 1755 and by Captain Challoner Ogle from 1757. You can look those two officers up in the "People" section.

Note that there was no rank of "lieutenant commander" in the British navy until the middle or later part of the 19th century. If Gough was temporary commanding officer of Chesterfield, he would have been a "lieutenant commanding." A British navy officer in the 18th century could not be promoted to the rank of lieutenant, commander, or captain except by appointment to a specific position on a commissioned warship. Each rated ship (1st rate to 6th rate) was entitled to 1 captain and a number of lieutenants, from 1 for 6th rates up to 4 and later 6 or 7 for three-deckers; ships rated as "sloops" (which had nothing to do with their rig), "bombs" (mortar vessels), and some non-combatants like hospital ships were entitled only to a "commander," plus 1 lieutenant. When a ship was first placed in commission, these specific roles and others all had to be filled. If an officer who had previously been a lieutenant or a commander was appointed to be the commanding officer, he filled the "captain" position and took rank from the date of his appointment; his pay depended on the rate of the ship. The lieutenancies could be filled by officers who had filled those positions on other ships previously, or by officers who had passed the lieutenants' examination but had not previously served in that role on any warship in the navy. Lieutenants could be appointed to command of a rated ship and thus pass over the "commander" rank, although that had become rare by the 1750s. Falcon was a 14-gun sloop, and so Gough became a commander on June 6, but Charnock says that on June 26, at Gibraltar, Byng appointed him to command of Fortune, a 24 and thus a 6th rate, so he spent less than three weeks as a commander. A vacancy in the captain or commander (or lieutenant) position did not mean an automatic promotion for the senior remaining officer; if the captain was detached for some reason, including testimony at a court-martial or some duty ashore, the 1st (or only) lieutenant commanded the ship but did not gain the rank of captain. A vacancy by death, resignation, or appointment to command of a different ship--precluding the captain's return--provided an opportunity but not a requirement for a commander-in-chief to advance a junior officer. If he did not make a permanent appointment (pending Admiralty approval, but if the Admiralty had so little confidence in admiral that they would not ratify his appointments, they should have relieved him, and systematic failure of a commander-in-chief to secure approval of his appointments undermined his authority) immediately, he might be saving the position for another officer who was not immediately at hand, such as the commander of a sloop that was away cruising or carrying dispatches but expected to return.
jon_ystrad
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Re: Augustus Hervey at the Battle of Minorca

Post by jon_ystrad »

Sorry, when I said "effectively lieutenant commander" I was using what Cy Harrison says in his book, "To aid clarity, lieutenants commanding ships are shown as lieutenant-commanders, even though the rank is anachronistic."

I will now use "lieutenant commanding" if I find any other source than Byng's defence, referencing William Gough aboard the Chesterfield.

Regarding the ships he was placed in command of by Byng, I have:-

William Gough achieved the rank of Commander in June 1756, at the age of 32. The Ynyscedwyn estate papers record him appointed to the Fortune, between the dates of 6th to the 26th June 1756.

William Gough was then appointed Captain and commanding officer of the Experiment, a 24-gun sixth rate, although this was only for the period the 26th June 1756 to 4th July 1756 (Gough was recalled with Byng by orders sent out on the Antelope, arriving Gibraltar 3rd July)

Best Regards
Jon
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