The Story Of Lord Exmouth


Edward Pellew, afterwards Viscount Exmouth, was born at Dover in 1757.

At thirteen years of age he went to sea on board the Juno frigate as

midshipman, and later served in the Blonde frigate on Lake Champlain

during the American War. While here, in command of the Pelican in

1782, he defeated three French privateers. Attracting the attention of

his superiors by his cool a
d intrepid daring, he was sent home with

despatches and strongly recommended for promotion.

On the outbreak of war with France in 1793 he was made captain of the

Nymph, a thirty-six gun frigate, which he manned chiefly with Cornish

miners, signalising his appointment by capturing the Cleopatra of

forty guns--"a crack ship of France"--after a brief and brilliant

encounter on the morning of June 18th. The captain of the French frigate

was killed and three lieutenants wounded, besides which she lost sixty

of her men, one hundred and fifty being taken prisoners. Captain Pellew

lost twenty-three men killed and twenty-seven wounded. This being the

first capture after the outbreak of the war, Captain Pellew received the

honour of knighthood. His next appointment was to the Arethusa, of

forty-four guns, in which he distinguished himself on many occasions

while serving in the Channel with Sir J. B. Warren's squadron. Sir

Edward Pellew was, however, distinguished not only for his military

skill and prowess but for his heroic humanity. The story of the

shipwreck of the Dutton and of Sir Edward Pellew's gallant rescue of

her crew and passengers has been often told, and we are glad to be able

to quote the description given by his biographer.

In January, 1796, Sir Edward's ship the Indefatigable was refitting in

Plymouth Harbour, and on the 26th Sir Edward and Lady Pellew were

driving to a dinner party when they learned that there was a wreck off

the shore, upon which Sir Edward left the carriage and proceeded to the


"Arrived at the beach, he saw at once that the loss of nearly all on

board, between five hundred and six hundred, was inevitable, without

some one to direct them. The principal officers of the ship had

abandoned their charge and got on shore just as he arrived on the beach.

Having urged them, but without success, to return to their duty, and

vainly offered rewards to pilots and others belonging to the port to

board the wreck--for all thought it too hazardous to be attempted--he

exclaimed, 'Then I will go myself!' A single rope, by which the

officers and a few others had landed, formed the only communication

with the ship, and by this he was hauled on board through the surf. The

danger was greatly increased by the wreck of the masts which had fallen

towards the shore, and he received an injury in the back which confined

him to his bed for a week, in consequence of being dragged under the

main mast. But, disregarding this at the time, he reached the deck,

declared himself and assumed the command. He assured the people that

every one would be saved if they quietly obeyed his orders; that he

himself would be the last to quit the wreck, but that he would run any

one through who disobeyed him. His well-known name, with the calmness

and energy he displayed, gave confidence to the despairing multitude. He

was received with three hearty cheers, which were echoed by the

multitude on shore, and his promptitude and resource soon enabled him to

find and apply the means by which all might be safely landed. His

officers, in the meantime, though not knowing that he was on board, were

exerting themselves to bring assistance from the Indefatigable. Mr.

Pellowe, first lieutenant, left the ship in the barge, and Mr. Thomson,

acting master, in the launch; but the boats could not be brought

alongside the wreck and were obliged to run for the Barbican. A small

boat belonging to a merchant vessel was more fortunate. Mr. Esdell,

signal midshipman to the port admiral, and Mr. Coghlan, mate of the

(merchant) vessel, succeeded, at the risk of their lives, in bringing

her alongside. The ends of two additional hawsers were got on shore, and

Sir Edward contrived cradles, to be slung upon them, with travelling

ropes to pass forward and backward between the ship and the beach. Each

hawser was held on shore by a number of men, who watched the rolling of

the wreck, and kept the ropes tight and steady. Meantime a cutter had

with great difficulty worked out of Plymouth Pool, and two large boats

arrived from the dockyard, under the directions of Mr. Hemmings, the

master-attendant, by whose caution and judgment they were enabled to

approach the wreck, and received the more helpless of the passengers who

were carried to the cutter. Sir Edward, with his sword drawn, directed

the proceedings and preserved order, a task the more difficult as the

soldiers had got at the spirits before he came on board and many were

drunk. The children, the women and the sick were the first landed. One

of them was only three weeks old, and nothing in the whole transaction

impressed Sir Edward more strongly than the struggle of the mother's

feelings before she would entrust her infant to his care, or afforded

him more pleasure than the success of his attempt to save it. Next, the

soldiers were got on shore, then the ship's company, and finally Sir

Edward himself, who was one of the last to leave her. Every one was

saved, and presently afterwards the wreck went to pieces."

"Nothing," says Mr. Giffard in his "Deeds of Naval Daring," "could equal

the lustre of such an action, except the modesty of him who was the hero

of it. Indeed, upon all occasions, forward as he was to eulogise the

merits of his followers, Sir Edward was reserved, almost to a fault,

upon everything connected with his own services. The only notice taken

of the Dutton in the journal of the Indefatigable, is the short

sentence, 'Sent two boats to the assistance of a ship on shore in the

Sound;' and in his letter to Vice-admiral Onslow, who had hoisted his

flag at Plymouth a day or two before, he throws himself almost out of

sight and ascribes the chief merit to the officer who directed the


"'DEAR SIR,--I hope it happened to me this afternoon to be

serviceable to the unhappy sufferers on board the Dutton; and

I have much satisfaction in saying that every soul in her was

taken out before I left her, except the first mate, boatswain

and third mate, who attended the hauling of ropes to the shore,

and they eased me on shore by the hawsers. It is not possible to

refrain speaking in raptures of the handsome conduct of Mr.

Hemmings, the master-attendant, who, at the imminent risk of his

life, saved hundreds. If I had not hurt my leg and been

otherwise much bruised, I would have waited on you; but hope

this will be a passable excuse.--I am, with respect, sir, your

most obedient humble servant,


Services performed in the sight of thousands could not thus be

concealed. Praise was lavished upon him from every quarter. The

corporation of Plymouth voted him the freedom of the town. The merchants

of Liverpool presented him with a valuable service of plate. On the 5th

of March following he was created a baronet as Sir Edward Pellew, of

Ireverry, and received for an honourable augmentation of his arms a

civic wreath, a stranded ship for a crest, and the motto "Deo adjuvante

Fortuna sequatur." This motto, so modest, and not less expressive of his

own habitual feeling, was chosen by himself, in preference to one

proposed which was more personally complimentary.

In 1799 he removed into L'Impetueux, of seventy-four guns, and later

to Le Tonnant, of eighty guns, soon after being raised to the rank of

rear-admiral and placed in command of the fleet in the East Indies,

where he exterminated the French cruisers and remained until 1809. After

this he served in the North Sea and then in the Mediterranean. His

services were rewarded with a peerage, to which he was raised as Baron

Exmouth, and a pension of L2,000 a year. In 1816 he proceeded to the

Barbary States on a mission to liberate the Christian slaves; but

finding on his return that his treaties were disregarded, he returned to

Algiers and bombarded the town, reducing the enemy to submission, for

which service he was made a viscount. In 1817 he was appointed to the

chief command at Plymouth, and in 1821 he returned from active service,

but was made Vice-admiral of England in 1832. "Few men," says a

biographer, "in the naval service of this country--eminently

distinguished as many have been--ever bore so prominent a part, or

evinced more determined courage and coolness in the discharge of their

arduous duties than did this gallant, humane and active officer. He

seemed to be a very beau ideal of a British sailor; his undaunted

courage and enterprise was strikingly shown in his manly aspect, and

though a perfect disciplinarian, his hearty and encouraging words

produced a magic effect on his officers and men, while they always felt

the fullest confidence in his skill and intrepidity. He died in January