Having introduced the Pellew manuscript collection in my last post, I thought it would be good to examine some of the gems unearthed so far.
The collection spans Pellew’s entire career, though unfortunately there is little before he was made an Admiral in 1804. Most of the material dates from his time as Commander in Chief of the Mediterranean, between 1810 and 1814. Many of his letters begin 'Caledonia off Toulon...', written from his flagship as he kept watch on the French. There are vast amounts of correspondence to and from the Admiralty and to the captains under his command.
There is also a good deal of correspondence relating to the fighting and supplying of Lord Wellington’s troops on the Spanish Peninsula, including letters in Wellington’s own hand. Later material concerns relations and treaties with the Barbary States and the bombardment of Algiers in 1816. The following are some of the highlights so far:
Pellew’s action. Pellew’s Action, 1813- : Despite the setback of Trafalgar in 1805, the French navy continued to build and arm, and on 5 November 1813, part of the Toulon fleet ventured out and was very nearly brought to battle by Pellew’s blockading squadron. There are several letters concerning this 'partial action', and their Lordships consequent 'satisfaction at the gallant conduct shown on this occasion by the officers and ships company of the Caledonia and Boyne...' in this 'partial action with the rear of the Enemy's squadron from Toulon'. There is no sign yet of Pellew's own report on the incident. This was as close as Pellew and his squadron ever got to getting at the French fleet and it is easy to imagine how wearing this must have been after years of blockading these same ships.
•The collection demonstrates how much French naval activity continued to worry the Admiralty right up till the end of the Napoleonic wars. This is evident in the number of ‘statement[s] of the Enemy’s naval force and preparations’, throughout the Mediterranean dating from 1811 to 1813. There are 95 of these statements! According to my maths, this means that nearly once a week, Pellew was being sent intelligence on French naval activity from somewhere in the Mediterranean…
Martin (Manuscripts Cataloguer)