Passages of War: Two Manuscript Track Charts of the Napoleonic Period

Two charts from the National Maritime Museum's chart and map collections.

A Chart containing the Traverse of His Majesty's Ship 'Goliath' on the Jamaican Station

A Chart containing the Traverse of His Majesty's Ship Goliath on the Jamaican Station, by John Engledue, 1802. Ref. DUC 245;3/5, Repro no: F0027
The first of the two attractive coloured manuscript charts featured here shows the track of HMS Goliath (Third Rate, 74-guns) in the Caribbean Sea, during the time of the Revolutionary Wars (1792–1802), a conflict in which Britain became involved following the fall of the French monachy in 1793. The French armies led by general Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821) enjoyed success in campaigns and battles on land, but on the water, the Royal Navy conducted an effective blockade of French ports, and defeated the French fleet and those of her allies in several decisive maritime actions. 

Victories over the French at The Glorious First of June (or Ushant) in 1794 and Aboukir Bay (or The Nile) in 1798; over the Spanish at Cape St Vincent, in 1797; over the Dutch at Camperdown in 1797 and over the Danish at Copenhagen, 1801, gave the British command of the sea by the first years of the 19th century. In France, Napoleon deposed the government of the Directory in 1799 and seized power with the position of First Consul. Fighting was suspended very briefly in 1802, when the British and French arranged a truce called the Peace of Amiens.

Late in the 18th century while the Revolutionary Wars were still in progress, the French experienced problems in the West Indian colony of Haiti (or San Domingo). Touissant L'Overture (1743–1803) headed a slave rebellion which gave him control of the island. Napoleon sent a large force led by General Charles Leclerc (1722–1802), to put down the insurrection and recover Haiti. Although the French captured Touissant L'Overture, they experienced fiece resistance, and the troops were ravaged by yellow fever (of which Leclerc himself succumbed), and were forced to capitulate and withdraw in 1803. As a result of this, Haiti managed to gain independence in 1804.

HMS Goliath was part of a naval squadron sent out to the region by the British government to observe the situation on Haiti. The ship was commanded by captain Charles Brisbane (1769?–1829). The chart, drawn by John Engledue, who was master on HMS Goliath at the time, records the course of the vessel on patrol in the Jamica Channel in 1802. Her extensive movements between the islands of Jamaica and Haiti and also in the surrounding area can be followed. Although HMS Goliath does not appear to have seen much action during her time in the Caribbean, she did seize the small French warship La Mignonne (18-guns) off Haiti in 1803. Shortly afterwards, while on passage home, the ship was almost lost in a hurricane, an incident which is shown on the chart in a watercolour illustration. The work also contains a number of coastlines. 

Charles Brisbane again served in the West Indies a few years later, when as captain of HMS Arethusa, he assisted in the capture of the Spanish warship Pomona in 1806 and  also took the Dutch island of Curacao in 1807. He attained the rank of rear-admiral in 1819 and was appointed governor of St Vincent from 1808 until his death in 1829.

Chart Shewing the Track of His Majesty's Ship 'Centaur', Rear Admiral Hood K.B., from England to Madeira and Back

A Chart containing the Traverse of His Majesty's Ship Goliath on the Jamaican Station, by John Engledue, 1802. Ref. DUC 245;3/5, Repro no: F0027
The second coloured manuscript chart presented here dates from the Napoleonic Wars period (1803–1815). It was constructed by an anonymous maker and shows the track of HMS Centaur(Third Rate, 74-guns) in the Atlantic Ocean, on a voyage from Britain to the Portugese island of Madeira, and her return home. After the restoration of hostilities in 1803, the British fleet resumed its blockade of French ports and Nelson's triumph at the Battle of Trafalgar ended Napoleon's ambitious plans to invade England. 

An attempt to prevent trade with Britain by the Continental System (1806–1812) eventually failed, but the French invasion of Spain under General Andoche Junot in 1807, who then later moved on neutral Portugal with his armies, posed a threat. France demanded that the Portugese close all their ports to British ships, but as Junot's forces approached Lisbon, the Portugese regent Don Joao agreed a deal with the British, before escaping with the royal family to Brazil. Although conceding to the French ultimatum to deny Portugese havens to British vessels, the Portugese government granted the British permission to occupy Madeira.

Rear Admiral Samuel Hood (1762–1814) was appointed to command a small naval force of eight warships, assigned to escort a convoy of 15 transport vessels, carrying an army of over 3000 men under Major General William Carr Beresford (1768–1854), from Britain to Madeira to seize the island. 

The naval expedition sailed from Plymouth in December 1807, with Hood flying his flag in HMS Centaur, which was commanded by Captain William Henry Webly (later William Henry Webly Parry). After calling at Cork, the convoy left Ireland on 7 December 1807 and finally reached Porto Santo, Madeira, on 23 December 1807. Beresford and his troops landed on the island without opposition. He remained as governor of Madeira for four months (24 December 1707–24 April 1808), after which time the place was returned to Portugese Sovereignty. Hood's ships departed from Madeira once the British occupation of Madeira was completed and they arrived home in Britain, off the Ramhead on 18 February 1808. The chart which was produced in 1808, highlights the course taken by HMS Centaur to and from her destination, and also contains beautifully drawn watercolour views.

Sir Samuel Hood, K.B. K.S.F. 1762–1814

Rear-Admiral Samuel Hood, was a member of a famous family of British naval officers. These included his brother, Captain Alexander Hood (1758–1798) and cousins, Admiral Samuel Hood, Viscount Hood (1724–1816) and Admiral Alexander Hood, Viscount Bridport (1726–1814). Hood served under Nelson at Santa Cruz in 1797 and also at Aboukir Bay in 1798. As governor of the Leeward Islands, he captured St Lucia and Tobago from the French in 1803 and occupied Diamond Rock, off Fort Royal Harbour in 1804. 

Hood, like Nelson, lost an arm in a ship action against the French off Rochefort in 1806. He was knighted in 1808 for his contribution to the occupation of Madeira, and created a baronet a year later in 1809 after Corunna. Hood also saw further fighting in the Napoleonic Wars, at the bombardment of Copenhagen in 1807, and in the Baltic in 1808. Hood was appointed Commander-in-Chief in the East Indies in 1811, a post that he held until his death at Madras in 1814 from the effects of malaria, at which time he was occupying the rank of Vice-Admiral.

Brian Thynne, Curator of Hydrography

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