Boscawen, Right Hon. Edward

, a brave English admiral, the second son of Hugh, lord viscount Falmouth, was born in 1711, and having early embraced the naval service, arose, through the usual gradations, to be captain of the Shoreham of 20 guns, in 1740, and distinguished himself as a volunteer under admiral Vernon, in November, at the taking and destroying the fortifications of Porto Bello. At the siege of Carthagena in March 1741, he had the command of a party of seamen, who resolutely attacked and took a fascine battery of fifteen twenty-four pounders, though exposed to the fire of another fort of five guns, which they knew nothing of. Lord Aubrey Beauclerk being killed March 24, at the attack of Bocachica, capt. Boscawen succeeded him in the command of the Prince Frederic of 70 guns; and on the surrender of that castle, was entrusted with the care of its demolition.

In December following, after his return home, he married Frances, daughter of William Glanville, esq. of St Clere in Kent; and the same year was elected member of parliament for Truro in Cornwall. In 1744, he was made captain of the Dreadnought of sixty guns, and on the 29th of April, soon after war had been declared against France, he took the Medea, a French man of war of 26 guns and 240 men, commanded by M. Hoquart, being the first king’s ship taken that war. In January 1745, he was one of the court-martial appointed to inquire into the conduct of capt. Mostyn: and, during the rebellion, an invasion being apprehended, he commanded as commodore on board the Royal Sovereign at the Nore, whence he sent | away several of the new-pressed men that were brought to him, in company with some experienced seamen, in frigates and small vessels, to the mouths of many of the creeks and rivers on the coasts of Kent and Sussex, to guard in those parts.

In November 1746, being then captain of the Namur, of seventy-four guns, he chased into admiral Anson’s fleet the Mercury, formerly a French ship of war, of fifty-eight guns, but then serving as an hospital ship to M. d’Anvilie’s squadron. On May 3, 1747, he signalized himself under the admirals Anson and Warren, in an engagement with a French fleet off Cape Finisterre, and was wounded in the shoulder by a musquet-ball. Here M. Hoquart, then commanding the Diamant of fifty-six guns, again became his prisoner, and all the French ships of war, ten in number, were taken. In July of the same year, he was appointed rear-admiral of the blue, and commander in chief of the land and sea-forces employed on an expedition to the East Indies. Nov. 4, he sailed from St. Helen’s, with six ships of the line, five frigates, and two thousand soldiers: and though the wind soon proved contrary, the admiral was so anxious of clearing the channel, that he rather chose to turn to the windward than put back. After refreshing his men some weeks at the Cape of Good Hope, where he arrived March 29, 1748, he made the island of Mauritius, belonging to the French, on June 23. But on reconnoitering the landing place, and finding it impracticable, without great loss, it was determined by a council of war, to proceed on the voyage, that not being the principal design of the expedition. July 29, he arrived at Fort St. David’s, where the siege of Pondicherry being immediately resolved on, the admiral took the command of the army, and marched with them, August 8th, and on the 27th opened trenches before the town: but the men growing sickly, the monsoons being expected, the chief engineer killed, and the enemy being stronger in garrison than the besiegers, the siege was raised Oct. 6th, and in two days the army reached for St. David’s, Mr. Boscawen shewing himself in the retreat as much the general as the admiral. Soon after the peace was concluded, and Madras delivered up to him by the French.

In April 1749, he lost in a violent storm his own ship the Namur, and two more, but was himself providentially on shore. In April 1750 he arrived at St. Helen’s, in the | Exeter, having, in his absence, been appointed rear-admiral of the white. In June 1751, he was appointed one of the lords commissioners of the admiralty, and in July was chosen an elder brother of the Trinity -house. In May 1754, he was re-elected for the borough of Truro. In February 1755 he was appointed vice-admiral of the blue, and on April 19, he sailed from Spithead with a strong fleet, in order to intercept the French squadron bound to North America. June 10th, he fell in, off Newfoundland, with the Alcide and Lys, of sixty-four guns each, which were both taken by the Dunkirk and Defiance, being the first action of that war. On this occasion, it was very extraordinary, that M. Hoquart became a third time his prisoner. In November, the admiral arrived at Spithead with his prizes, and fifteen hundred prisoners. In 1756 he commanded the squadron in the Bay; and in December was appointed vice-admiral of the white. In 1757 he again commanded in the Bay; and in 1758 was appointed admiral of the blue, and commander in chief of the expedition to Cape Breton. Feb. 15, he sailed from St. Helen’s, and in conjunction with general (afterwards lord) Amherst, took the important fortress of Louisburgh, July 27th, with the islands of Cape Breton and St. John. On Nov. 1st. the admiral arrived at St. Helen’s with four ships, having fallen in, off Scilly, with six French ships from Quebec, which escaped him in the night; but in chacing one of them, the Belliqueux of sixty-four guns, having carried away her fore top-mast, was forced up Bristol Channel, where she was taken by the Antelope. December 12th, on his coming to the house of commons, the thanks of that august assembly, the greatest honour that can be conferred on any subject, were given him by the speaker.

In some French memoirs, admiral Boscawen is represented as having, at the siege of Louisburgh, wholly given himself up to the direction of a particular captain in that arduous and enterprising business. This, however, was not the case. Whoever knew Mr. Boscawen’s knowledge in his profession, with his powers of resource upon every occasion, his intrepidity of mind, his manliness and independence of conduct and of character, can never give the least degree of credit to such an assertion. The admiral, however, upon other occasions, and in other circumstances, deferred to the opinions of those with whom he was | professionally connected. When once sent to intercept a St. Domingo fleet of merchantmen, and while waiting near the track which it was supposed they would take, one of his seamen came to tell him that the fleet was now in sight. The admiral took his glass, and from his superior power of eye, or perhaps from previous information, said, that the sailor was mistaken, and that what he saw was the grand French fleet. The seaman, however, persisted. The admiral desired some others of his crew to look through the glass; who all, with their brains heated with the prospect of a prize, declared, that what they saw was the St. Domingo fleet. He nobly replied, “Gentlemen, you shall never say that I have stood in the way of your enriching yourselves: I submit to you; but, remember, when you find your mistake, you must stand by me.” The mistake was soon discovered; and the admiral, by such an exertion of manffiuvres as the service has not often seen, saved his ship.

In 1759, being appointed to command in the Mediterranean, he sailed from St. Helen’s April 14th. The Toulon fleet, under M. de la Clue, having passed the Streights, with an intent to join that at Brest, the admiral, then at Gibraltar, being informed of it by his frigates, immediately got under sail, and on Aug. 18th, discovered, pursued, and engaged the enemy. His ship, the Namur, of ninety guns, having lost her mainmast, he instantly shifted his flag to the Newark, and, after a sharp engagement, took three large ships, and burnt two, in Lagos-bay. On Sept. 15th he arrived at Spithead with his prizes, and two thousand prisoners. In December of the following year, he was appointed general of the marines, with a salary of Sooo/. per annum, and was also sworn of his majesty’s most honourable privy-council. In the same year he commanded in the Bay, till relieved by admiral Hawke: and, returning home, died at his seat at Hatchland park, near Guildford, of a bilious fever, Jan. 10, 1761. A monument was afterwards erected to him in the church of St. Michael Penkevel in Cornwall, where he was buried, with an elegant inscription said to have been written by his widow.

This excellent officer was so anxious for the honour of the sea-service, and his own, that when lord Anson, then first lord of the admiralty, refused to confirm his promotion of two naval officers to the rank of post-captains, in consequence of their having distinguished themselves at | the siege of Louisburgh (Laforey and Balfotir, if we mistake not), he threatened to give up his seat at the board of admiralty, and lord Anson, rather than lose the advice and experience of this great seaman, thought fit to retract his opposition. Admiral Boscawen was so little infected with the spirit of party, that when, on his return from one of his expeditions, he found his friends out of place, and another administration appointed, and was asked whether he would continue as a lord of the admiralty with them, he replied, “the country has a right to the services of its professional men: should I be sent again upon any expedition, my situation at the admiralty will facilitate the equipment of the fleet I am to command.” He probably thought, with his great predecessor, Blake, “It is not for us to mind state affairs, but to prevent foreigners from fooling us.” No stronger testimony of the merit of admiral Boscawen can be given, than that afforded by the late lord Chatham, when prime minister: “When I apply,” said he, “to other officers respecting any expedition I may chance to project, they always raise difficulties; you always find expedients.1


Gent. Mag. vol. XXXI.—Seward’s Anecdotes, vol. II.—Smollett’s History. —Annual Register, vol. I. II. Ill, IV.