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This article was written by John Knox Laughton and was published in 1887
Thomas Cochrane, tenth Earl of Dundonald, admiral, son of Archibald Cochrane, ninth earl of Dundonald and of Anne, daughter of Captain James Gilchrist, was born at Annsfield in Lanarkshire on 14 December 1775. He was destined for the army by his father, who when he was still a mere child obtained for him a commission in the 104th regiment, while his uncle, Captain Alexander Forrester Inglis Cochrane, placed his name on the books of the several ships he commanded; so that some years later, when his father yielded to his wish to go to sea, he had already nominally served in the navy for nearly five years.
In reality he joined his first ship, the Hind, commanded by his uncle, on 27 June 1793, at the comparatively mature age of seventeen years and a half. His introduction to the service was a rude one, but he entered into it with a peculiar zest, and under the able teaching of ‘Jack’ Larmour, the first lieutenant of the Hind and afterwards of the Thetis, he rapidly learned the practical mysteries of the profession, and was on 14 January 1795 appointed acting lieutenant of the Thetis, though he was not confirmed in the rank till 24 May 1796; the required six years of sea service being satisfactorily accounted for by the books of the various ships his uncle had commanded. The Thetis was then on the North American station, and continued there till the autumn of 1798, when, on her return to England, Cochrane was appointed to the Foudroyant, carrying the flag of Lord Keith, who was going out to the Mediterranean. On arriving at Gibraltar Lord Keith moved into the Barfleur, to which ship Cochrane accompanied him, rather to the dissatisfaction, he believed, of older officers.
A rugged self-sufficiency had already shown itself in his temper, and, now that he was freed from his uncle's control, was not long in getting him into a difficulty with the first lieutenant, Philip Beaver, who brought him to a court-martial for disrespect. Lord Keith, who was anxious to get to sea, hurried the trial over with a gentle admonition to Cochrane to ‘avoid flippancy.’ He continued in the Barfleur during the blockade of Cadiz and the voyage up the Mediterranean; followed Lord Keith to the Queen Charlotte, in which he served during the fruitless pursuit of the French fleet out of the Mediterranean, to Brest, returning also in her when Keith resumed the command of the station.
On the capture of the Généreux, 18 February 1800, Cochrane was appointed prize-master, to take her to Port Mahon; and was thus happily absent from the Queen Charlotte when she was burnt off Leghorn on 17 March. He was shortly afterwards, 28 March, promoted to command the Speedy, a brig of 158 tons, armed with fourteen 4-pounders, and ‘crowded rather than manned’ with ninety officers and men. In this burlesque on a ship of war Cochrane was ordered to cruise off the Spanish coast, which he did with signal activity and success, capturing in the course of the summer and autumn several merchant ships and small privateers, and rendering the Speedy a marked object of the Spanish authorities. On 21 December he ran close up to a large frigate specially fitted out, in the disguise of a merchantman, to put a stop to his cruise. He had painted the Speedy in imitation of a well-known Danish brig, had shipped a Danish quartermaster, and now dressed him in Danish uniform to personate the Danish captain. The Spaniard sent a boat to board her, the Speedy ran up the quarantine flag, which effectually kept it at a satisfactory distance, and so the two vessels parted. After cruising with singular good fortune for another month, on 1 February 1801 he put into Valetta, and the same evening attended a subscription fancy-ball, in the dress of an English seaman. Some of the French royalist officers — under whose patronage the ball was given — supposing that he really was a seaman, ordered him out. Cochrane, refusing to go, was collared by a Frenchman, whom he promptly knocked down. He was then carried off to the guardroom. A duel followed, in which the Frenchman was shot through the leg, and a ball passing through Cochrane's clothes bruised his side.
On the following day the Speedy again put to sea, and, with occasional intermissions, continued cruising along the Spanish coast, with the now customary good fortune and success, till 6 May, when, off Barcelona, she fell in with a large Spanish frigate, which had put to sea in search of the Speedy. As some dissatisfaction had been expressed at his not attacking the frigate on 21 December, Cochrane gave the order to prepare for action, though his ship's company was reduced to fifty-four, all told. The result is without a parallel in naval history. Without any surprise, in broad daylight, this little brig ran alongside the frigate, and after a few broadsides, in which every gun from the Speedy told, while the Spaniard's shot passed harmlessly overhead, Cochrane, at the head of his men, boarded and carried her, a frigate named El Gamo, of upwards of 600 tons, of thirty-two heavy guns and 319 men, with a loss of four killed and seventeen wounded. The Spaniards had lost fourteen killed and forty-one wounded. To convey the prize to Port Mahon was a work of serious difficulty, for the prisoners were more than eight times as numerous as the prize crew, and were only kept from rescuing themselves by their own main-deck guns, loaded with canister, being pointed down the hatchway, while men with lighted matches stood ready beside them.
It would almost seem that the extreme brilliance of this action prevented its being properly rewarded. The senior officer at Port Mahon did not forward Cochrane's official letter for more than a month, and the impression everywhere gained ground that the Gamo was taken by surprise. After a very unusual delay, Cochrane was advanced to post rank on 8 August 1801; but his request for the promotion of Mr. Parker, the lieutenant of the Speedy, was met with the reply from Lord St. Vincent, then first lord of the admiralty, that ‘the small number of men killed on board the Speedy did not warrant the application.’ Cochrane had the imprudence to answer that there were more casualties on board the Speedy in this action than there were on board the Victory at St. Vincent, for which his lordship had been made an earl and his first captain a knight. He was afterwards surprised at his want of favour with the admiralty. But meantime the Speedy, having been ordered to convoy a dull sailing packet from Port Mahon to Gibraltar, fell in, on 3 July, among a squadron of three French line-of-battle ships, and, after a very remarkable display of ingenious seamanship, was compelled to haul down her flag to the Dessaix. When Cochrane went on board, the French captain declined his sword with the complimentary remark that ‘he would not accept the sword of an officer who had, for so many hours, struggled against impossibility,’ and requested him to continue to wear it, though a prisoner. During the thirteen months of his command the Speedy had ‘taken or retaken upwards of fifty vessels, 122 guns, and 534 prisoners.’ The three French ships proceeded to the Bay of Gibraltar, and anchored off Algeciras, where, on 6 July, they were unsuccessfully attacked by the squadron under Sir James Saumarez, afterwards Lord de Saumarez, Cochrane being a witness of the engagement from the Dessaix. The next day he, as well as the officers of the Hannibal, which had been captured, was permitted to go to Gibraltar on parole; and after the more fortunate engagement in the Straits on the night of 12 July, was exchanged for the second captain of the San Antonio.
After the peace he was not immediately appointed to another ship; and towards the end of 1802 he entered himself as a student in the university of Edinburgh. He pursued his studies earnestly, living in secluded lodgings. In 1803, when the war again broke out, he was ordered to go to Plymouth, and there found himself appointed to command the Arab, an old collier which had been bought into the service and was being fitted as a ship of war. When ready for sea she was sent to the Downs, and ordered to keep watch on the enemy in Boulogne. Cochrane soon found that for such a service the Arab was useless. He represented this to the admiral in command; his letter was forwarded to the admiralty, and he was ordered to cruise to the N.E. of the Orkneys to protect the fisheries. There appeared to be no fisheries to protect, and he believed that the service was invented as a mark of the board's displeasure. It lasted for fifteen months; nor was he permitted to return to England till Lord Melville had succeeded Lord St. Vincent at the admiralty, when he was appointed to the Pallas, a new 32-gun frigate, and, as some compensation for past sufferings, ordered to cruise for a month off the Azores. The cruise, which extended from February to April 1805, proved remarkably fortunate; and having made several rich prizes, and on the homeward voyage escaping from a squadron of French line-of-battle ships by a ruse as clever as it was daring, the Pallas sailed into Plymouth Sound with a large gold candlestick, about five feet high, on each masthead. These, which had been made in Mexico for presentation to some church in Spain, Cochrane was desirous of possessing, and had made an arrangement to that effect with his officers and ship's company. Unfortunately the custom-house authorities would not let them pass without the full duty, which was prohibitive; and, though of exquisite workmanship, they were broken up and passed as old gold.
In the end of May the Pallas was sent to North America in charge of convoy for the St. Lawrence, and on her return in December was ordered to join Vice-admiral Thornbrough in the Downs, as part of a squadron destined to act in the Bay of Biscay. The cruise lasted from the beginning of February to the end of May 1806, during which time the Pallas, for the most part detached from the squadron, captured or drove on shore and burnt a very large number of the enemy's merchant ships, as well as the Tapageuse sloop, cut out of the Garonne by the ship's boats, while the Pallas herself, left with only forty men on board, chased, drove ashore and destroyed three corvettes, each singly more than her match at the moment. The affair was reported by Thornbrough with very warm commendation, but was passed over by the admiralty without notice; the Tapageuse was not bought into the service, and neither prize-money nor head-money was allotted for this capture and destruction of four ships of war. On 14 May, as the Pallas was engaged in reconnoitring the French fleet in the roadstead of Aix, the Minerve frigate of 40 guns stood out to meet her, accompanied by three brigs. She was very roughly handled, and would probably have been captured had not two other frigates weighed to support her. As the Pallas had lost her foretopmast and maintopsail-yard, she was now in a position of some danger, when the Kingfisher sloop ran in and took her in tow. This was virtually the end of her cruise, for four days afterwards she was ordered to Plymouth with a convoy, and arrived there on the 27th. In the following June there was a vacancy in the representation of Honiton, and Cochrane offered himself as a candidate. He soon found that it was a mere question of bribery, but refused to sanction any on his own account, and was consequently rejected (June 1806). On this he sent the bellman round the town to announce that his agent would pay ten guineas to every one who had voted for him. The ten guineas was accordingly paid, with an explanation that it was a reward for having withstood the influence of bribery. In October 1806 there was a general election, when Cochrane again stood for Honiton, and was returned without any opposition. The new member positively refused to entertain the electors' demand for another ten guineas apiece, though he finally agreed to give his constituents a public supper, which was converted into a general treat to the town, at a cost of some £1,200.
On 2 September Cochrane and the crew of the Pallas were turned over to the Impérieuse frigate, which put to sea on 17 November and on the 29th joined the blockading squadron in Basque Roads. In February 1807 she returned to Plymouth, and at the general election in May, Cochrane and his Honiton constituents being mutually sick of each other, he offered himself as a candidate for Westminster, and was returned along with Sir Francis Burdett, although he obtained 1,400 fewer votes. He had scarcely taken his seat before he brought forward, on 10 July, a motion on naval abuses. The abuses complained of were real, but Cochrane's attack was injudicious in its form and was negatived without a division. The admiralty ordered him out to the Mediterranean, on account of which his constituents gave him unlimited leave of absence. The Impérieuse sailed from Portsmouth on 12 September 1807, and, having captured a Maltese pirate on 14 November, joined the fleet under Lord Collingwood off Toulon on the 19th. Cochrane was then directed to go to Corfu to relieve the senior officer there; but having interfered to put a stop to the iniquitous system of granting passes, which his predecessor had sanctioned, he was speedily recalled as ‘wanting in discretion.’ It does not appear that Collingwood made any inquiries into the merits of the charge, but accepted the report of the officer who had granted and presumably profited by the illegal passes.
Cochrane rejoined the fleet on 2 January 1808, and in the end of the month was sent on a roving commission, with general instructions ‘to harass the Spanish and French coast as opportunity served.’ It is impossible here to relate in detail the extraordinary events of the next four months, or even to enumerate the vessels that were captured or burnt, the batteries, towers, signal stations and lighthouses that were blown up. In the beginning of June came the change in the relations between France and Spain, and after three weeks of uncertainty, Cochrane received orders, on 21 June, to ‘cruise in the Mediterranean and render every possible assistance to the Spaniards against the French.’ The Impérieuse immediately passed up the coast, fraternising with the Spaniards at the ports, till at Barcelona she found the French in possession. Her work in Catalonia consisted chiefly in breaking down the roads and bridges, seriously interfering with the march and transport service of the French armies. Then, stretching along the south coast of France, destroying whatever could be destroyed, this one frigate brought a pressure on the French armies which largely modified their plans of aggression. Cochrane wrote to Collingwood from the Gulf of Lyons, 28 Sept. 1808: ‘With varying opposition, but with unvaried success, the newly constructed semaphoric telegraphs, which are of the utmost consequence to the safety of the numerous convoys that pass along the coast of France, at Bourdique, La Pinède, St. Maguire, Frontignan, Canet, and Fay, have been blown up and completely demolished, together with their telegraph houses, fourteen barracks of gens d'armes, one battery, and the strong tower on the lake of Frontignan.’ Upon this Collingwood commented thus: ‘Nothing can exceed the zeal and activity with which his lordship pursues the enemy. The success which attends his enterprises clearly indicates with what skill and ability they are conducted, besides keeping the coast in constant alarm, causing a general suspension of the trade and harassing a body of troops employed in opposing him.’
Perhaps the most extraordinary of Cochrane's exploits in the Impérieuse was the defence of the castle of Trinidad, which commanded the town of Rosas, then besieged by the French. On 22 November the castle was judged to be no longer tenable; Captain Bennett of the Fame had withdrawn the marines with which he had strengthened the garrison, and the governor had made up his mind to capitulate. It was at this juncture that the Impérieuse arrived. Cochrane was of opinion that the place might still hold out; and — having discretionary orders, with which Bennett, though his senior, would not interfere — he landed a party of seamen and marines from the Impérieuse; and there, for the next fortnight, he maintained himself against the thousands of assailants, supported by a heavy battering train. It was not till the town had been occupied by the French, and the citadel was capitulating, that Cochrane thought it necessary to evacuate the castle, which he did on 5 December, embarking the whole of the little garrison without loss, and blowing up the shattered fortifications by a carefully laid train.
Early in February 1809 Cochrane received permission to return to England. His health was beginning to suffer; he wished to call attention in parliament to the iniquitous jobbery of the Maltese prize court; and hoped to carry on a war of harassing attacks on the west coast of France. He was always of opinion that had he been entrusted with the command of a small squadron for this purpose, ‘neither the Peninsular war nor its enormous cost to the nation from 1809 onwards would ever have been heard of. It would have been easy ... so to harass the French coast as to find full employment for their troops at home, and thus to render any operations in western Spain, or even in foreign countries, next to impossible.’ Towards the end of March the Impérieuse arrived at Plymouth, and Cochrane was immediately summoned to attend at the admiralty. The French had been permitted to collect the whole of their western fleet in Aix roads; it was now contemplated to attempt an attack on it there, and Cochrane was led to hope for an important command in the projected expedition. At the admiralty, however, he found that this was not quite the case. Lord Gambier, who commanded in the Bay of Biscay, had written that though ‘the enemy's ships lie much exposed to the operation of fireships, it is a horrible mode of warfare, and the attempt hazardous if not desperate.’ Cochrane was pressed to give his opinion on this matter. He was told by Lord Mulgrave, then first lord of the admiralty, that ‘the present was no time for professional etiquette,’ and that ‘the board was bent on striking some decisive blow before the French squadron had an opportunity of slipping out.’ Thus urged, Cochrane submitted the outline of a plan for such an attack ‘which, if seconded by the fleet, must certainly result in the total destruction of the French squadron.’ Lord Mulgrave expressed his own satisfaction and that of the board, and asked him ‘if he would undertake to put it in execution.’ Cochrane naturally demurred; he represented that, being a junior officer, his doing so would excite a great deal of jealousy; that Lord Gambier might consider it presumptuous, and might not impossibly deem the plan still more desperate and horrible than that to which he had already objected. It was only after repeated and urgent solicitation that he consented to undertake the service, Lord Mulgrave saying, ‘Make yourself easy about the jealous feeling of senior officers; I will so manage it with Lord Gambier that the amour-propre of the fleet shall be satisfied.’ But no attempt to allay this jealousy was made, and Cochrane on his arrival in the fleet found himself exposed to the indignation of every officer senior to himself.
Lord Gambier virtually refused to have anything to do with the undertaking, while Admiral Harvey told Cochrane that as he himself had volunteered for that service, he could only consider his being specially sent out as an insult to the fleet. The work which Cochrane had immediately before him was the conduct of the fireships. He urged Gambier not to wait the arrival of those which were to be sent from England, but to fit up some transports actually with the fleet. To this Gambier consented, and several ships were accordingly got ready, Cochrane personally superintending the preparation of some as ‘explosion vessels,’ each of which was charged with fifteen hundred barrels of powder closely confined by heavy logs, hundreds of shell, and wedges. In Cochrane's own words, they ‘were simply naval mines, the effect of which depended quite as much on their novelty as engines of war, as upon their destructiveness. It was calculated that, independently of any mischief they might do, they would cause such an amount of terror as to induce the enemy to run their ships ashore as the only way to avoid them. This expectation was fully answered, but no adequate attack on the part of the British force following up the effect of the explosion vessels, the stranded ships were permitted to heave off and thus escaped, for the most part.’
The attack was made on the night of 11 April, but with the exception of one explosion vessel, commanded by Cochrane in person, which shattered the boom in front of the French ships, explosion vessels and fireships alike, timidly, nervously, and ignorantly conducted, were burnt or blown up without doing any damage to the enemy. But the terror of the one had produced the effect which Cochrane anticipated. The French ships cut their cables and attempted to escape, but the water behind was of insufficient depth. At daylight on the morning of the 12th, all but two of them were helplessly aground. But the fireships had all been uselessly expended, and the fleet, which, according to Cochrane's plan, was to have supported the explosion and fire ships, and completed the destruction, was fourteen miles off; nor could Cochrane's signals induce Gambier to make the attempt. In vain did Cochrane signal ‘All the enemy's ships except two are on shore;’ ‘The enemy's ships can be destroyed;’ ‘Half the fleet can destroy the enemy;’ ‘The frigates alone can destroy the enemy;’ ‘The enemy is preparing to heave off.’ Gambier tacitly but practically refused to take any measures whatever; he did indeed get the fleet under way, and approach to within about three miles, when he anchored; and in all probability nothing further would have been done had not Cochrane, indignant at seeing the great opportunity wholly lost, let the Impérieuse drift in till she could engage the nearest of the enemy's ships, some of which were still aground, and others had thrown their guns overboard. For very shame, the commander-in-chief was obliged to send in some assistance, and thus four of the enemy's ships were destroyed. Several more might have been, even then; but Lord Gambier peremptorily commanded the assailants to return. The Impérieuse was ordered to England with despatches, and sailed the following morning.
On arriving in England, Cochrane was honoured with the order of the Bath, but he felt deeply how much what had been done fell short of what might and should have been done; and when he was told by Lord Mulgrave that a vote of thanks to Lord Gambier would be proposed in the House of Commons, he replied that in his capacity of member for Westminster he would oppose the motion ‘on the ground that the commander-in-chief had not only done nothing to merit a vote of thanks, but had neglected to destroy the French fleet in Aix roads when it was clearly in his power to do so.’ To this determination he adhered, despite the entreaties of Lord Mulgrave; and Lord Gambier applied for a court-martial. Cochrane was thereupon, on 29 May, ordered to prefer his charges, which he declined doing, answering that ‘the logs and signal log-books of the fleet contained all particulars and furnished premises whence accurate conclusions might be drawn.’ He thus had to bear all the odium of having accused his commander-in-chief, without the compensating advantage of being in a position to prove his accusation. Tried by a friendly court, and supported by the whole influence of the admiralty, Lord Gambier was ‘most honourably acquitted,’ and was thanked by parliament for what, under the most favourable aspect, was a gross error of judgment. The admiralty virtually adjudged Cochrane guilty of falsely libelling his commanding officer on a matter of service. From a naval point of view he was ruined. He submitted a plan for the destruction of the French ships and forts in the Scheldt; the admiralty refused to entertain it. He applied for permission to rejoin his ship, then with the fleet in the North Sea; that also was curtly refused; but several months afterwards, when his speeches in parliament had proved offensive to the admiralty, he was directed to join the Impérieuse without delay and proceed to the Mediterranean. Cochrane declined the service, was therefore placed on half-pay, and for the next three years devoted himself to the exposure of gross abuses in the admiralty. Cochrane's well-justified attack, though it indirectly led to great reforms, created in the first instance much ill-feeling. There were many officials with vested interests eager to do Cochrane an ill turn, and many members of the government, irritated by Cochrane's persistency, who would witness his disgrace without compunction.
Towards the end of 1813 Cochrane's uncle, Sir Alexander Forrester Inglis Cochrane, was appointed to the command-in-chief on the North American station, and went out in a frigate, leaving his flagship, the Tonnant, to be equipped and brought out by his nephew, who was nominated his flag captain. While engaged in fitting out the Tonnant, Cochrane became acquainted with a Captain de Berenger, a French refugee and officer in one of the foreign regiments, who was recommended to him as a skilled rifle instructor and pyrotechnist, in which capacities he was anxious to secure his services for the Tonnant. There is no reason to doubt that De Berenger was fully qualified for this post; but he was also gifted with an unscrupulous impudence. On 20 February 1814, while at Dover, he sent word to the admiral at Deal (whence the news was brought to London) that he was Lord Cathcart's aide-de-camp, and was the bearer of intelligence from Paris to the effect that Bonaparte had been killed, that the allies were in full march on Paris, and that immediate peace was certain. The funds rose suddenly, and then fell heavily; out of the fluctuation one of Cochrane's uncles, who had taken the name of Johnstone, netted, it was said, a very large sum. De Berenger meanwhile posted up to London, took a hackney coach and drove to Cochrane's house in Green Street, changing his dress on the way from the scarlet coat of a staff officer to his own green coat of a rifleman, and in Green Street again changing into plain clothes which he borrowed from Cochrane. He was traced to Green Street, and Cochrane thus learning that he was the perpetrator of the swindle, gave information that led to his arrest. De Berenger, Johnstone, and with them Cochrane were thus all apprehended and brought to trial. The case of Cochrane, who knew absolutely nothing of the affair, was mixed up with that of the others who were undoubtedly guilty; all were convicted, and Cochrane was sentenced to pay a fine of £1,000, to stand in the pillory for an hour, and to be imprisoned in the king's bench prison for a year. The standing in the pillory was remitted, probably because Sir Francis Burdett, his fellow-member for Westminster, avowed his intention of standing with him, and the government feared a riot; but his name was struck off the list of the navy (25 June); he was expelled from the House of Commons (5 July); and, with every possible indignity, from the number of knights of the Bath.
Within a few days of his being expelled from the House of Commons he was enthusiastically returned again by Westminster, the electors in a mass meeting passing a unanimous resolution that he ‘was perfectly innocent of the Stock Exchange fraud, that he was a fit and proper person to represent their city in parliament, and that his re-election should be secured without any expense to him.’ He, however, had to undergo his term of imprisonment, which, after he had escaped and been recaptured, was made cruelly severe. On 20 June 1815 he was told that, the term being expired, he would be set at liberty on paying the fine of £1,000. On 3 July he reluctantly accepted his liberty, paying the fine with a bank note, on the back of which he wrote: ‘My health having suffered by long and close confinement, and my oppressors being resolved to deprive me of property or life, I submit to robbery to protect myself from murder, in the hope that I shall live to bring the delinquents to justice.’ This note is still preserved at the Bank of England. Cochrane always suspected Croker, the secretary of the admiralty, of having helped to contrive his disgrace. But there is no proof beyond the personal and political enmity which subsisted between the two men.
On the day of his release Cochrane appeared in the House of Commons, just in time to give a casting vote against the proposal to increase the Duke of Cumberland's pension, and for the next two years he devoted himself both in and out of parliament to an active and energetic opposition to the government; an opposition which, though honest in principle, was embittered by his keen sense of the injustice to which he had been subjected. In August 1816, immediately after a stormy meeting at the London Tavern, and, as Cochrane maintained, in order to punish him for the very prominent part he had taken, he was brought to trial on a charge of breaking out of the king's bench prison seventeen months before. As he rested his defence entirely on the alleged illegality of imprisoning him, a member of parliament, he freely admitted having made his escape, and was on his own admission found guilty. Sentence was deferred, but three months afterwards, having again taken part in a large political meeting, he was condemned to pay a fine of £100. This he refused to pay, and was taken into custody; the sentence, he said, amounted to one of perpetual imprisonment, as he would never pay a fine imposed for escaping from an illegal detention. The fine was, however, speedily raised by a penny subscription, and Cochrane was released after a confinement of sixteen days. The subscription once started was continued, and the £1,000 previously paid was raised, actually in coppers, together with some further contribution towards his law expenses.
In May 1817 Cochrane accepted the invitation of the Chilian government to undertake the organisation and command of their navy, though in consequence of various delays he did not leave England till August 1818, when, crossing over to Boulogne, accompanied by his wife and two children, he sailed in the Rose merchantman. He reached Valparaiso on 28 November, and proceeded at once to Santiago, where he was received with the utmost enthusiasm. The Spaniards had a formidable squadron, and were preparing for an attack on Valparaiso, while the whole navy of Chili numbered only seven vessels, one of which, a 50-gun frigate captured from the Spaniards, and rechristened the O'Higgins, was an efficient man-of-war; the others were worn-out merchant ships or English ships of war that had been sold out of the service. Cochrane, who was appointed ‘admiral and commander-in-chief of the naval forces of the republic,’ determined to forestall the threatened attack, and, having hoisted his flag on board the O'Higgins, sailed from Valparaiso on 16 Jan. 1819, accompanied by three other ships of his little navy. His force was too small to achieve any great success; but in a five months' absence from Valparaiso he blockaded the Spanish ships under the shelter of their forts, scattered their soldiers in several skirmishes, and captured both stores and a considerable amount of treasure. In a correspondence with the viceroy at Lima relative to the exchange of prisoners, the viceroy expressed his surprise ‘that a British nobleman should come to fight for a rebel community unacknowledged by all the powers of the globe.’ Cochrane replied that ‘a British nobleman had a right to assist any country which was endeavouring to re-establish the rights of aggrieved humanity, and that he had adopted the cause of Chili with the same freedom of judgment that he had exercised in refusing the offer of an admiral's rank in Spain, which had been made to him not long before by the Spanish ambassador in London.’
After a stay of nearly three months at Valparaiso Cochrane sailed on a second cruise on 12 September. He had now with him the whole force of the Chilian navy, including two fireships. He was also provided with a quantity of rockets and other explosives, from which great results were hoped. But in an attack on Callao the rockets proved to be worthless; one of the fireships was uselessly expended, and after watching the port for some weeks sickness and want of provisions compelled him to withdraw. Having sent some of the ships to Valparaiso, and leaving others on the coast of Peru, he sailed towards the middle of December with only the flagship for Valdivia, then strongly fortified, and held by the Spaniards as a base of operations against the Chilians from the south. Having reconnoitred the place he went to Concepcion to get a reinforcement of two hundred and fifty soldiers. He was there joined also by a small schooner and a Brazilian brig, which volunteered for the expedition; and thus strengthened returned to Valdivia, where, in the most extraordinary manner, having landed about three hundred men, he stormed the outermost fort of a long chain of works which defended the harbour, and a panic having spread among the Spaniards he chased them from fort to fort in wild confusion. The whole fell into his hands with a loss of not more than seven killed and nineteen wounded. Of the garrisons, upwards of one hundred were found dead, as many more were made prisoners, and the rest escaped, some into the woods, some up the river to Valdivia, which they sacked and abandoned, flying to Chiloe. Cochrane thus obtained undisputed possession of the town, and with it of a very large quantity of military stores. He returned to Valparaiso on 27 February 1820, and was enthusiastically welcomed by General O'Higgins, the supreme director, and the people generally; but he soon found that among the ministry the prevailing feeling was one of jealousy. He was thus subjected to such indignities and attempted persecutions that, on 14 May, he tendered his resignation. It was refused, but he received a promise of better treatment; the seamen's wages were paid, and the prize-money for Valdivia was awarded. Cochrane's share amounted to sixty-seven thousand dollars, and to this was added a grant of land; but the money was never paid, and the estate was forcibly seized a few years later.
When this dispute had been arranged it was determined to undertake an expedition against Peru with the whole force of the republic. An army of upwards of four thousand men under the command of General San Martin was embarked on board the ships of war, which sailed from Valparaiso towards the end of August 1820. In spite of Cochrane's remonstrances San Martin insisted on the troops being landed at Pisco, where they remained in idleness for nearly two months. On 28 October they were re-embarked, and, again on St. Martin's demand, landed at Ancon. Cochrane had in vain urged the advisability of an immediate attack on Callao and Lima; and now, understanding that his second landing would be as fruitless as the former, he determined with a detachment of his own force to cut out the Esmeralda frigate at Callao. Acting entirely on his own responsibility and without consulting San Martin, he made the attempt with complete success. On the night of 5 November the boats pulled into the harbour; about midnight they were alongside the Esmeralda, and the Chilians boarded from several points at once. The Spaniards, though surprised, fought obstinately, but were beaten below with great slaughter. Cochrane himself was severely wounded, and the total loss of the victors was eleven killed and thirty wounded. As soon as the uproar on board announced to the garrison that an attack was being made, the batteries at once opened fire on the Esmeralda, thus killing or wounding many of their own men. The fire, however, did less damage than might have been expected, being neutralised by one of those simple but ingenious expedients, in which Cochrane's mind was particularly fertile, and which, more than even the brilliant dash, mark his achievements. There were present in the harbour an English and an American ship of war. Cochrane noticed that as soon as the firing began these hoisted position lights. He at once saw that this was by pre-arrangement with the authorities on shore, and immediately hoisted exactly similar lights on board the Esmeralda. The garrison were perplexed; in the darkness they were unable to distinguish, and fired by preference on the two neutrals, which were struck several times, the Esmeralda escaping comparatively untouched. Cochrane intended to go on from the Esmeralda and capture or set fire to every ship in the harbour. Unfortunately he was incapacitated by his wounds, and the officer on whom the command devolved, less venturesome and less ingenious than his chief, cut the Esmeralda's cables. There was then nothing for it but to loose her topsails and get out of range. The exploit, however, though not complete in itself, was so in its results. Not only was the Spanish navy reduced to inaction, but Cochrane, after a short time, finding that there was no further work for him afloat, induced San Martin to lend him some six hundred soldiers, with which and the ships of the squadron he so harassed the coast from Callao to Arica that he virtually compelled Lima to capitulate on 6 July 1821. San Martin, though he had taken little or no part in the work, now appeared to receive the honours and reward. On 3 August he proclaimed himself Protector of Peru, and on the 4th refused to advance a single real for the payment of the seamen unless they, and Cochrane especially, transferred their allegiance to the new-founded republic. Cochrane declined the offers of the protector, sailed to Ancon, and took possession of a large quantity of captured treasure which San Martin had deposited there. With this he paid off the arrears of his officers and men, reserving the surplus for the re-equipment of the squadron. After an absence of more than twenty months Cochrane returned to Valparaiso in June 1822; but though received with popular enthusiasm he found that ministerial jealousy and corruption rendered further service in Chili impossible. San Martin, having been expelled from Peru by a popular insurrection, came back to Valparaiso in October, and, though denounced by Cochrane as a traitor, was loaded with honours and rewards, while Cochrane was unable to obtain payment of the sums due to himself or of the wages due to his men. Had he chosen to enter into the struggle of parties, he might possibly have reaped pecuniary advantage; but declining to do that the only course open to him was to resign his command in the Chilian navy, which he virtually did on 29 November by requesting leave of absence for an indefinite time.
He had received invitations to enter the service of Brazil, of Mexico, and of Greece; and though intending ultimately to lend his aid to the Greeks he accepted provisionally the offers of Brazil, and sailed from Valparaiso on 18 January 1823. He arrived at Rio de Janeiro on 13 March, and on the 21st was appointed by the newly proclaimed emperor ‘first admiral of the national and imperial navy.’ The spirit of faction, however, ran exceedingly high, and though during the next eighteen months Cochrane succeeded in quelling the efforts of the Portuguese and completely establishing the naval supremacy of Brazil, he was so embarrassed by the powerful opposition at court that the most serious part of his work was the maintenance of his authority, and at times even of his liberty. Notwithstanding the generally successful results of his operations, they lacked the extreme brilliancy of his exploits under the Chilian flag; much of his work was administrative rather than naval, and he repeatedly expressed his wish to retire from the service, in which he continued at the urgent request of the emperor. In the beginning of 1825 he was at Maranham, and having restored order and finding his ship's company sickly he resolved to go for a cruise into the temperate latitudes of the North Atlantic. He put to sea on 18 May, and in about three weeks was off the Azores, when, in some strong gales, the frigate's masts and rigging were found to be rotten and no longer serviceable. The provisions, too, ran short. It was therefore necessary to make the nearest friendly port, and he anchored at Spithead on 26 June. He at once reported his arrival to the Brazilian minister in London, and requested to be provided with the means of refitting the ship. None were given him; he was ordered to return at once; he was accused of deserting, of attempting to carry off his ship, and the officers and crew were ordered to repudiate his authority and return without him. Some months thus passed away, and on 3 November peace was declared between Brazil and Portugal. Cochrane seized on this as his opportunity, and on 10 November wrote to the emperor, formally resigning his commission.
He had already received repeated invitations to take the command of the Greek navy. Burdett, Hobhouse, Hume, Bowring, and other leading members of the Greek committee, all agreed that he was the only man capable of achieving the liberation of Greece, though some reminded him of the jealousies and the want of hearty co-operation to be expected. Cochrane had suffered too much annoyance, both in Chili and Brazil, to think lightly of these objections; but he accepted the invitation, stipulating that out of the loan of £2,000,000 which had just been contracted in London, £150,000 should be devoted to the construction of six steamers in England, and the same amount to the building and fitting out of two large frigates in the United States; they were to be manned by English or American seamen, and he was to have sole, independent, uncontrolled command of the entire Greek fleet. All this was readily agreed to, but for nearly eighteen months Cochrane was fully occupied in endeavouring to forward the building and equipment of the steamers which were unaccountably delayed. It was the dawn of naval warfare under steam, and Cochrane was quick to perceive the enormous advantage they would give him in the narrow confined waters of the Archipelago. ‘Steam vessels,’ he wrote, ‘whenever they shall be brought into war for hostile purposes, will prove the most formidable means that ever has been employed in naval warfare. It is my opinion that twenty-four vessels moved by steam (such as the largest constructed for the Greek service) could commence at St. Petersburg and finish at Constantinople the destruction of every ship of war in the European ports.’
It was not till March 1827 that Cochrane arrived at Hydra, and then only in a small yacht; the steamers and frigates were not ready, and, as a whole, never were ready. The money allotted for them had been lavishly expended; one of the frigates was eventually finished at a cost of £200,000, and of the steamers only one appears ever to have reached Greece. There was no money to pay the seamen, and the patriotism of the Greek sailors did not extend to trusting their country for payment in the future. In May the new admiral held a review of the fleet at Poros. The men demanded a month's wages in advance, and as this demand could not be complied with they weighed anchor and took their vessels, mostly small brigs, out of the fleet, to swell the ranks of the pirates, which at that time infested the Levant. ‘It was impossible,’ Cochrane wrote some months later, ‘to induce the Greek seamen to submit to the slightest restraint on their inclinations, or to render the most trifling service without being paid in advance, or to perform such service after being so paid, if it suited their interest or convenience to evade the fulfilment of their engagement. More than six crews have passed under my review on board the Hellas in the course of as many months, exclusive of those in other vessels, and notwithstanding all that has been written to praise the courage of the Greek seamen they are collectively the greatest cowards I have ever met with.’ It was thus that Cochrane was able to accomplish little or nothing in the Greek war, which came virtually to an end in the following October with the battle of Navarino. The business was unfortunate in every way. It had been agreed that he was to receive £57,000 as payment for his services; of this sum £20,000 was never paid, and the other £37,000, invested in Greek stock at par, was so depreciated as to prove insufficient to meet his expenses. It thus appears that he really derived no pecuniary advantage from his appointment, though scandal made free with his name, for it was patent that he was associated with men beneath whose financial skill the loan of £2,000,000 wasted away without benefit to the Greek cause.
In February 1828 Cochrane returned to England for a few months. He hoped to advance the cause of Greek independence by pushing forward the armaments that had been contracted for. By September he was back again in Greece, not having been able to accomplish any satisfactory end; but in Greece he was received with scant civility, and returned in December.
The object to which Cochrane now devoted himself was his reinstatement in the English navy. He had already during his visit to England in the summer of 1828 presented a memorial to the Duke of Clarence, then lord high admiral; but the duke having submitted it to the cabinet it was decided that nothing should be done. Other memorials were presented after the accession of the duke as William IV; but it was not till 2 May 1832 that he received, not the annulling of the condemnation nor the investigations for which he had prayed, but a ‘free pardon.’ He was at the same time restored to his rank in the navy, on 8 May he was gazetted as a rear-admiral, and on the following day was presented at the levée. He had meantime, by the death of his father on 1 July 1831, become in succession Earl of Dundonald. Released from the cares and annoyances of the peculiar service in which he had been so long engaged, he devoted his leisure to mechanical inventions, and especially to improvements of the steam engine in its adaptation to marine purposes, and as early as 1843 he was urging on the admiralty the necessity of adapting steam-power and screw-propellers to ships of the line. ‘During the last twelve years,’ he wrote, ‘I have actually disbursed, to the great inconvenience of my family, upwards of £16,000 to promote nautical objects which appeared to me of importance.’ Some of these, in addition to numerous experiments on the steam engine, were in connection with the problems of naval architecture, and from 1843 to 1848 he was chiefly occupied in the building and equipment of the Janus frigate, the lines, the engines, and the boilers of which were all designed by him. In this he had many difficulties to contend with. From the practical men he received none of the assistance on which he must necessarily have depended; and some of them thwarted his plans by such measures as plugging the suction-pipe of the pumps. The ship's weights proved to have been miscalculated or exceeded, and she lay so low in the water as to be unseaworthy. Still, though the Janus herself was a failure, the improvement in her lines was acknowledged and adopted, and the screw-propeller rapidly came into general use.
But perhaps the invention which is most commonly associated with the name of Dundonald is the ‘secret war plan,’ the nature of which was never made public, though he repeatedly declared that it was capable of destroying any fleet or fortress in the world. He first proposed it as early as 1811, when it was referred to a secret committee, consisting of the Duke of York, Lord Keith, Lord Exmouth, and the two Congreves, who pronounced it to be infallible, irresistible, but inhuman. On this ground it was not adopted; but when the inventor entered the service of Chili he was pledged by the prince regent not to use it for any other country than his own. After his readmission to the English navy this secret plan was several times urged on the admiralty and the government, and was brought prominently into notice during the Russian war of 1854-6; but on every occasion it was put on one side as too terrible and inhuman, though always with the clear admission that it was capable of producing the results which Dundonald claimed for it.
In 1848 Dundonald was appointed commander-in-chief on the West Indian and North American station, a command which he held for three years, during which time he submitted to the government several valuable reports on the condition and capabilities of the various colonies which he officially visited. He had no further employment, for it was decided not to use his ‘secret plan’ against Cronstadt or Sebastopol, which he offered to reduce to ruins. He had become in course of seniority vice-admiral on 23 November 1841, and admiral on 21 March 1851; on 23 October 1854 he was nominated rear-admiral of the United Kingdom. On 22 May 1847 he had been reinstated in the order of the Bath, being gazetted on the 25th as a knight grand cross; but notwithstanding his repeated applications his banner was not replaced in Henry VIII's chapel, out of which it had been ignominiously kicked in 1814, till after his death, which took place on 31 October 1860. The reparation was tardily completed on 19 March 1878, when, in accordance with the report of a parliamentary committee, £5,000 was voted to his grandson, Lord Cochrane, ‘in respect of the distinguished services of his grandfather, the late Earl of Dundonald,’ but really as an equivalent for Dundonald's half-pay during the period of his exclusion from the British navy. During the last years of his life he had been occupied in preparing his ‘Narrative of Services in the Liberation of Chili, Peru, and Brazil, from Spanish and Portuguese Domination’ (1859), and ‘Autobiography of a Seaman’ (1860-1), which was brought to an abrupt termination by his death.
In 1812 he married Miss Katherine Corbett Barnes. Finding that his uncle Basil, a rich East India merchant, was bent on his marrying an heiress, he prevailed on Miss Barnes to accompany him over the border, and they were secretly married at Annan. He seems never to have regretted the loss of his uncle's friendship or fortune, considering his wife ‘a rich equivalent.’ She survived him a few years, and died in 1865. Besides his eldest son, who succeeded him in the title, he left three other sons, one of whom, Arthur Auckland Leopold Pedro, admiral, was in 1873-6 commander-in-chief in the Pacific.
Dundonald's very remarkable career, distinguished above all others by the attainment of great results with small means, has deservedly won for him a very high place in the roll of naval commanders. What he might have done has been argued from what he did, and he has thus been estimated as one of the greatest of our admirals, whose name must be ranked with those of Nelson, Hawke, Rodney, or Blake. It will, however, be noticed that his exploits, brilliant as they were, were those of a captain or partisan leader, not of an admiral. It is impossible to speak too highly of his daring yet cool courage, or of the quaint inventive genius which directed it; but it is equally impossible to assign him any place among the great masters of naval tactics, for the display of which he never had any opportunity. It is indeed noteworthy that during the whole course of his particularly active service he had no share in any general engagement. The terrible blow which fell on him in 1814 must be considered as having really raised his reputation by giving his career the peculiarly romantic and adventurous turn which it afterwards assumed. But for that, his life would probably have been passed in parliamentary contests, for which, alike by temper and genius, he was unfitted. The exile which was almost forced on him removed him to a more favourable field, and the renown of such feats as the capture of Valdivia or of the Esmeralda was increased by the results to which they immediately conduced. Without him Chili might have achieved her independence and that of Peru, but probably she would have succumbed to the better discipline of Spain.
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