Falmouth Packet Archives 1688-1850
Captain Edward 'Ned' PELLEW
Edward Pellew was born at Dover on April 19th, 1757.
He was the second son of Samuel Pellew, who commanded a Post Office packet
on the Dover Station
Samuel Pellew died in 1765, when Edward was about 8-years old.
He [Samuel Pellew] was ' a man of determination', had married Constance Langford, of a Hertfordshire family, settled at or near Penzance, a woman of great spirit, and well fitted, as was said, as indeed was her husband, to be the parent of heroes. [Tregellas, 'Cornish Worthies', Vol.1.]
The widow with her six children, including Edward's older brother, Samuel, moved to Penzance.
The Pellews were an old established West Cornwall family, of Norman extraction, whose descendants had settled in the neighbourhood of Falmouth; Humphrey Pellew, Edward's grandfather, an American merchant, being part builder of the town
, over against Falmouth. [see Autobiography of James Silk Buckingham
Edward went to school in Penzance, and Truro Grammar School, where his pugnacity and combative spirit found little sympathy from the headmaster. He ran away to sea, then aged about 14. His first ship was the Juno, and his first voyage to the Falkland Islands. He next served in the Alarm, and deserted at Marseilles in consequence of the harsh treatment a fellow midshipman had received from its commander. His next ship was the Blonde, Captain Pownoll, a fine seaman who had been trained under 'Dreadnought' Boscawan, and who quickly perceived that the young Cornishman possessed the qualities which Mr. Secretary Pepys, of the Admiralty, had defined - downright diligence, sobriety and seamanship.
The Independence of the United States was recognised in November 1782, and a definitive treaty of peace was concluded in 1783.
This peace left Pellew unemployed for about four years. He settled in Truro and became a member of its Corporation. He subsequently moved to Flushing, where his elder brother Samuel was Collector of Customs.
In 1786 he was appointed to the Winchelsea and afterwards to the Salisbury, both ships on the Newfoundland station. It was a hard school for five years, but furnished him with that remarkable skill in handling sluggish unhandy vessels, the readiness of resources, promptitude and self-reliance which characterised him as a commander.
On the outbreak of the war of 1793, he was assigned to command La Nymphe, a 36gun frigate captured from the French by the Flora in August 1780. In sail of the line we were at this period almost twice as well off as the French; 147 vessels as against 77. During 20 years of George III's reign, it was calculated the number of ships taken from the enemy, or destroyed, was close on 600, of which 90 were of the line, including 50-gun ships, and upwards of 200 were frigates. The English loss during the same period was about 60, of which 6 were of the line and 12 were frigates.
Pellew, having got his ship, proceeded to fit her out at Spithead. Anticipating difficulty in manning her, he had enlisted some 80 Cornish miners. With these and about a dozen seamen, together with his officers (who were required to work aloft) he put to sea, and by raiding merchant vessels in the Channel as he patrolled the coast towards the West, he got together about 240 men. Very few were men-of-war's men, for the most part wholly unacquainted with cutlass drill, and had never fired a pistol, or a musket, or worked a cannon. They must have been a rough, unkempt, ill-dressed nondescript crowd. At that period the crew of a man-of-war, other than officers, had no special uniform. Admiral Kempenfelt, as far back as 1779, complained to the Admiralty that the appearance of the men was a disgrace to the service.
La Nymphe took Cleopatre 40-guns, on 19th June 1793. Her commander, Captain Jean Mullon, died from being struck on the back with a cannon shot, which carried away part of his hip. Three Lieutenants were wounded and "about 60" men killed.
Citoyen Mullen, aged 42 years, was interred at Portsmouth churchyard on Sunday 23 June, 1793. Madame Mullen wrote Pellew from Rochefort-sur-Mer on 31 July, thanking him for his consideration. He had sent her and her 5 children, her husband's effects and "such assistance as his own limited means enabled him to offer."
"Lieutenant Israel Pellew was ordered to drop an anchor in order to get the ships apart " La Nymphe had 23 killed and 27 wounded.
Pellew wrote; ['off Portland', 19 June 1793, to Philip Stevens]" I am particularly indebted to my First Lieutenant, Mr. Amherst Morris, and no less to Lieutenants George Luke, and Richard Pellowe (sic), .... and I should do injustice to my brother, Captain Israel Pellew, who was accidentally on board, if I could possibly omit saying how much I owe him for his very distinguished firmness, and the encouraging example he held forth to a young ship's company by taking upon him the directions of some guns on the main deck."
Pellew returned to Portsmouth with his crippled ships. It was the first sea fight of the war, the Cleopatre, (28 guns on her main deck, 12 on the quarter-deck, some of 36-lbs, and 320 men), being the first vessel to be captured. Captain Pellew sent the flag under which she fought, and the cap of Liberty, to his brother [Samuel] at Flushing. [together with a letter, stating; "I owe much to Israel, who undertook with the after-gun to cut off her rudder and wheel. The tiller was shot away, and 4 men were killed at her wheel, which I verily believe was owing to him.... poor dear Pearce* is numbered with the slain - old Nicholls safe. Be kind to Susan [his wife] - go over and comfort her, I cannot write to poor Pearce's mother for my life - do send her a note - I really cannot. I loved him poor fellow, and he deserved it." June 20, 1793.)
On June 29th Captain Pellew was presented to the King by the Earl of Chatham, and was knighted, and subsequently presented to the Queen. His brother Israel being made a post-captain.
He never lost a ship or an action.
He was successively made a baronet, and a baron, with the title of Exmouth of Canonteign.
Following his bombardment of Algiers, the stronghold of the Algerine pirates who never again infested the seas, on August 27th, 1816, he was made a Viscount, received the thanks of Parliament and the Freedom of the City of London.
On his retirement from the service, he spent the rest of his days on his estate at Canonteign, near Teignmouth, until his death on January 23rd, 1833. He was buried at Christow.
[qf. The Battle of Prawle Point, by Sir Edward Thorpe.[c.1913?] (pp346-352)]