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Captain James Wallace RN (or maybe not)

Posted: Fri Nov 03, 2017 8:57 pm
by Tarbaby
I am trying to find out more about James Wallace/Wallis.
The inscription on his tomb in Teignmouth, Devon states:

SACRED / To the memory of / Capt. James Wallace Royal Navy / Who departed this life, 28th Janry 1832, aged 76 years. / This venerable Officer served under the Gallant Nelson / at the Battle of Copenhagen, and having bravely Fought / under the Banners of his Royal Masters, and the Cross / of his Glorious Redeemer, he has finished his Course, / and now rests in peace and Joy.

There were several Captain James Wallace/Wallis's in the Royal Navy, but none of them fit my man. I have searched through the seamen who were in the Battle of Copenhagen, but he does not seem to be there.

Was he telling a fib?

The inscription does not make the claim that he was an officer at the time of the Battle of Copenhagen. He retired to Teignmouth, which was full of retired naval officers, so I do not see that he could have made the claim to have been there, without some basis.

I have put in the spelling variation, as the records I have for him and his family spell the surname either way.

Can anyone help?

Re: Captain James Wallace RN (or maybe not)

Posted: Tue Aug 21, 2018 5:28 pm
by Jondik
The United Service Journal and Naval and Military Magazine records his death but gives his rank as Commander.

Re: Captain James Wallace RN (or maybe not)

Posted: Tue Aug 21, 2018 5:56 pm
by Cy
Anyone who commanded a ship would be refered to as a captain irrespective of their actual rank.

There are two possible James Wallace candidates, but not much known about either, yet. ... n&id=14692 This one was already a Lieutenant, commissioned 1798, at the time of Copenhagen in 1801 ... Lieutenant in 1807

and two possible James Wallis candiates ... n&id=11237 a captain in 1817, not him if he was only a commander ... n&id=14710 a lieutenant in 1815 unlikely as he would have had to be in his 60's in 1815 to be your man

Re: Captain James Wallace RN (or maybe not)

Posted: Wed Aug 22, 2018 5:03 am
by Navclio
If he really was a Captain, R.N., he certainly should be in Syrett and DiNardo, Commissioned Sea Officers of the Royal Navy. If he died in January 1832 at the age of 76, he would probably have been born in 1755. He would have been 46 years old at the time of the Battle of Copenhagen, old enough to be a captain, but possibly only a commander. He might even have been a lieutenant who was promoted to commander after the battle or at the end of the wars, to reward long service and increase his half-pay pension, without any intention that he ever be the commanding officer of a commissioned but non-rated warship.

It's a pity that jondik did not provide a more detailed citation or any more information. I found a PDF of the United Service Journal and Naval and Military Magazine, 1832, Part I (vol. 8), in Google Books, but could not find a reference to the death of a "James Wallace" or "James Wallis" using the "Find" function. The death pages listed in the table of contents seemed to have only army officers. One would think that a domestic death in 1832 would appear in "Part I," which reasonably had some 1831 overseas deaths. I found a much clumsier version of Part II (vol. 9) in the American "HathiTrust" site but could not get any applicable "Wallace" or "Wallis" search results there either.

If it's really, really important, and it could be confirmed that a James Wallace or Wallis who died in January 1832 at the age of 76 was indeed a commissioned officer in the British navy, there are other ways to find out whether he really served at the Battle of Copenhagen, but they would require a lot of work in unpublished documents at the British National Archives in Kew, London. In the 18th century, lists of ships in sea pay included the names of the lieutenants; I don't know whether that is the case for 1801. The muster books of the ships in Admiral Parker's fleet, starting with those in Nelson's detachment for the attack on the Danish fleet, could be examined, but that would be a very extensive task.

Re: Captain James Wallace RN (or maybe not)

Posted: Wed Aug 22, 2018 7:21 am
by Cy
Hi Navclio

Certainly not a Captain at Copenhagen, and none of the potential candidates were a captain until 1817. Being born c.1755 means he would have been 43 in 1798 when the first possible lieutenant was commissioned, old but not unheard of.

If he's in Syrett and DiNardo he's also on Three Decks.

Re: Captain James Wallace RN (or maybe not)

Posted: Thu Aug 23, 2018 4:04 am
by Navclio
It sounds like he was a lieutenant at Copenhagen and promoted to commander later, but never actually to the rank of captain, the monument being in error. In his old age, he might have told people he had been a "captain" in the navy, and perhaps he actually was the "captain" (= commanding officer) of an unrated warship like one of the numerous gun brigs of Napoleonic Wars. Rif Winfield, British Warships in the Age of Sail, 1793–1817 does include commanding officers of unrated vessels, but going through all of them for the whole period from 1801 (when we think our subject was not yet a commander) to 1815 would be a very tedious task, and it's always possible that Commander Wallace's appointment was a brief one that was not recorded in the records Winfield used. Syrett and DiNardo include dates of promotion to commander but Three Decks seems to omit them. All of the James Wallaces would be listed on the same page or consecutive pages.

I think it would be odd for a man to be a "midshipman" into his 40s and get his commission as a lieutenant at that age, especially only after 5 years of war, but he might have been a veteran petty or warrant officer who received a lieutenancy for some outstanding feat of either seamanship or combat gallantry James Cook was commissioned as a lieutenant after very efficient service as a master, although not yet in his 40s.

It's quite possible that the James Wallace of the monument was never a captain, R.N., and never served at Copenhagen either, but told some tall tales that were believed by descendants who had the monument erected.

Re: Captain James Wallace RN (or maybe not)

Posted: Thu Aug 30, 2018 5:00 pm
by Tarbaby
Thanks very much for your replies. They have been very helpful. I will let you know if I discover anything further.

Re: Captain James Wallace RN (or maybe not)

Posted: Thu Aug 30, 2018 8:22 pm
by Grammont
The tomb in St James' Churchyard, Teignmouth also has this below the inscription for Captain James Wallace:

Thomas Luny Esq., Marine Artist
of West Teignmouth, half Brother of the above
Who departed this life Sept 29th 1837, Aged 79 years

This tomb is erected by his grateful niece, Daughter
of Capt James Wallace

Boast not thyself of tomorrow
For thou knowest not what a day may bring forth"

Now Thomas Luny in his PCC will ... r/D7861904 makes as his first bequest

'unto Elizabeth Wallace the widow of my half Brother Captain James Wallace of the Royal Navy the sum of four hundred pounds'

With James Wallace having been born 1755/6 and his half brother Thomas Luny in probably 1758 it is a small time window for their mother to have widowed and remarried and had another child.

Now there is a further Thomas Luny will, that of Thomas Luny, Master of the Merchant Ship Retrieve of Saint George, Middlesex, probated 2 December 1780. He splits his estate with 2/3rds going to his wife Frances Luny and 1/3rd to his son Thomas Luny. However he specifies

'upon the decease of the said Frances Luny all her wearing apparel Watch Rings Jewels and household Furniture to be given to my daughter law Betsey Wallis and Fifty pounds cash'

I suspect 'daughter law' actually means 'stepdaughter' and although James Wallis/Wallace doesn't get a mention he will be over 21 and have already made his own way in the world (in the Royal Navy).

Re: Captain James Wallace RN (or maybe not)

Posted: Sun Sep 02, 2018 1:03 am
by Jondik
Google "commander James Wallace rn" and you will find the journal reference, 1832, p.451, deaths, "Teignmouth, retired, Commander James Wallace R.N." that's all there is