The naval history of Great Britain, from ... 1783

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Published on
Dec 31, 1825
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Pages
598
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Language
English
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Earl St. Vincent was not only an excellent administrator, a fine sailor and undaunted defender of the Royal Navy. He was also eclipsed in the tomes of history by his more famous protégé, Lord Nelson. Sir John Jervis had served for many years with distinction before Nelson’s birth; defending Jamaica from privateers and pirates, distinguishing himself during the Seven Years war and War of American Independence. This two-volume biography by Captain Brenton, a contemporary (albeit junior) of both naval heroes, goes some way to fixing the void in the record of Earl St Vincent.
The biography includes much of the original documentation and letters of the period when the invasion of the British isles was a real possibility as the French and Spanish turned from enemies to allies and joined their naval might together. At that time Sir John Jervis was in command of squadrons in the Channel, as he had been beforehand in the Mediterrean, enforcing a blockade that strangled the commerce of Spain and France. During those times that ships escaped port, Jervis and his subordinates hunted them without mercy, the most striking example being the battle of St. Vincent. Although outnumbered by his Spanish opponents, Sir John led fifteen of his ships on. The following anecdote is told of the initial contact before the battle:
"There are eight sail of the line, Sir John"
"Very well, sir"
"There are twenty sail of the line, Sir John"
"Very well, sir"
"There are twenty five sail of the line, Sir John"
"Very well, sir"
"There are twenty seven sail of the line, Sir John"
"Enough, sir, no more of that; the die is cast, and if there are fifty sail I will go through them"
His entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography states that — "His importance lies in his being the organizer of victories; the creator of well-equipped, highly efficient fleets; and in training a school of officers as professional, energetic, and devoted to the service as himself."
An excellent and detailed read.
Author — Captain Edward Pelham Brenton R.N. (1770-1844)
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