The Falmouth letters

Charles Adam’s letters from Falmouth are all stored in the National Archives ADM 1/1452 ‘Letters from Captain’s 1808/1809’. They start with a report of his arrival. He was engaged in transporting French troops back to France. (see Historical Background).

In these transcriptions, we have slightly amended the layout, punctuation and spelling to make them easier on modern eyes, only leaving in ‘errors’ which appear to have been common parlance for him, or his secretary.

Resistance off Rochelle, 30 October 1808

The Honble W.W. Pole, Admiralty Office

Sir, I beg leave to inform you, for the information of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, that I sailed from the Tagus on the 21st September, in His Majesty’s Ship Resistance under my Command, having the Trompeuse Sloop under my Orders,1 in charge of the Transports containing the Second Division of the French Army 51 in Number. 

The General of Division Loison, and his staff, were embarked in the Resistance and three Officers in the Trompeuse.

On the 24th September a gale came on from the Northw. Which continued with little intermission till the 28th, during which the convoy were very much dispersed, and the Renown Transport dismasted. I ordered the […] to return to Lisbon having assisted him to rig jury masts. After the gale I succeeded in locating 25 sail, and on the 11th October, was joined by the Champeuse with another of the Convoy and one of the Third Division.

On the 15th October2 when close in with the Isle of Rhe, I received orders from Capt Rodd of the Indefatigable3 to proceed to Quiberon Bay, and stood off to Sea for that purpose, the wind being at N.W. Unfortunately it came to blow so hard from that quarter, that we were driven deep into the Bay, and on the night of the 17th, the Convoy were all dispersed; and I found it necessary to make sail on the Resistance to keep off the Land.

I continued to cruize with heavy gales from the N.W. for seven days; without meeting with any of the convoy but the Trompeuse and one Transport, and the wind still continuing to the N.W. I bore up for this place where I anchored on the 23rd instant to enquire for and collect the Transports, as I thought it probable that several of them must have put in here.

I found Captain Anderton, Agent for Transports (who sailed with the first Division) laying here, and from him I learnt that thirty one sail of the Three Divisions had gone to sea that day having arrived at different times and landed their troops at Rochelle.

Five Transports were laying here, and four4 have arrived since I came. From the report of some of the Masters, I am not without great apprehension for the safety of Several of the Transports, which were most to leeward during the gale; but I have not as yet ascertained if any of them were lost on the Coast to the South of this place. I hear several have arrived at Bourdeaux and two at Bayonne, and have written to General Loison to request he will give me every information on the Subject, but I have not yet heard from him; nor from the French Admiral L’Hermitte5 whose Flag is on board one of the line of Battle Ships off L’Isle d’aix to whom I also wrote. 

The Mars Transport Brig was wrecked on the Isle d’Rhe on the 15th inst but all the people saved.

Captain Anderson with all the other Transports weighed this morning; it has blown so hard from the Westward, since my arrival that it was impossible to put to Sea before. Indeed those that sailed on the 23rd were obliged to take Shelter under the Isle of Rhe and I presume have not yet got clear the land.

As all the Transports have papers from the Commandant of Rochelle, a convoy may not be requisite for them. But as it does now appear necessary to keep the Transports with me I have directed Captain Dolling to put to Sea, and give any assistance in his power to the Transports, which have sailed, and eventually to repair to Spithead, in pursuance of Admiral Sir Chas Cotton’s orders.6

I intend to proceed to Quiberon Bay, in the Resistance, and shall weigh the instant I receive an answer from Genl Loison to join the Transports which may have repaired to that rendezvous

I am Sir Your most Obt. Humble Servant, Chas Adam

PS I hear there are […] Transports arrived at Bourdeaux and I hope none are lost, but by some mistake, I have not received an answer […] General Loison

ADM 1/1452/11

There is a duplicate version which includes a postcript:

PS From some mistake I have not received an answer to the letter I wrote General Loison, but as there is no report of any vessel having been driven on shore to the Southward I am inclined to hope none have suffered 

ADM 1/1452/11

Perhaps General Loison did not reply as he was still suffering the indignity of being transported home by a British Naval Officer.

Arrival in Falmouth

Resistance Falmouth Harbour, 6 Nov 1808

The Honble W.W. Pole

Sir, I have to inform you for the information of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, that owing to the strong SE wind I anchored here this morning with twelve sail of Transports named in the margin from Quiberon Bay.

Margin list: Pill Head JN, Whitley 323, Walpole PH, Grafton EY, Eagle CD, Selina EP, Eliza AP, Grace AY, Eliza EG, Demon P, Oak JP, Medea HE 

I arrived in that Bay on the 31st ult; & sailed next day, with the Transports which were ready; by direction of Captain Lord A Beauclerc of the Saturn;7, leaving the Zebra Sloop,8 & three Transports in the Bay. 

I enclose a list of the Transports which sailed with me from Lisbon and the duplicate of a letter I addressed to you by the Trompeuse Sloop on the 30th ult. 

I shall take the earliest opportunity of proceeding to Spithead with the Transports at this Port in company with L’Aimable,9 whose arrival Lord George Stuart has reported to you. 

I have the honor to be Sir, Your very Obd Servnt, Chas Adam, Captain

ADM 1/1452/11A

Duplicate of letter of 30th October off La Rochelle

Resistance, Falmouth Harbour, 7 November 1808

The Honble W.W. Pole, Admiralty Office

Sir, I have to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the the 5th inst together with the accompanying letter & a Bag of dispatches to the Address of Admiral Sir C Cotton, Lt Genl Sir H Burrard10 & the Commanding Officers of HMajesty’s Troops at Lisbon which I have delivered to Lieut A Green of His Maj’s […] Ketch Gleaner11 who will put to Sea at daylight tomorrow morning.

The Gleaner arrived here about two hours ago from Plymouth

I am Sir, Your very Obdet Serv, Chas Adam, Senior Officer

ADM 1/1452/12

Resistance, Falmouth Harbour, 8 November 1808

Sir, I send you on the other side a list of the Transports at this place, which have been employed in carrying the French Army from Portugal. Only seven of those which sailed with the Resistance from Quiberon Bay are of the number; which the state of the weather did not permit me to ascertain where I addressed you before on the subject.

Admiral Sir Chas Cotton directed that all the Vessels filled [with] horses should be ordered to rendezvous here, but from your letter of the 27th August which I have received from Lieut Fagan of the Experiment.12 I presume it is their Lordships intention that they are to proceed to Portsmouth and I shall accordingly take them with me, unless I receive orders to the contrary.

I am Sir, Your very obednt Serv., Chas Adam, Captain

ADM 1/1452/13

On the reverse side, there is a table:

A Return of Transports at Falmouth 8 Nov 1808

NoVessels nameMasters nameTonsHow filled
303ChiltonRob Walker
Lieut J Thomas
276For troops
47Lady ShoreJohn Boys326Troopship not filled
HEHebeN Branslove211For Troops
RUnionJ.S. Clarke288Do
JPOakJohn Mobton193Do
KVLord NelsonThos [Giversard]144Do
PA HarveyWm Atkinson
Lieut Wilbraham
260For Horses
JNPillheadThos Moore117Do
EYGraceJohn Bartlett164For Troops
CDEagleC Dunny316Do
GASistersJohn Scott253For Horses
PH HolcombeWm Person118Do
EGElizaGeo Watford174For Troops

Signed Ian Thomas A.J.

358PhoenixWm Scott234For Troops

The late-comer just got under the wire for there is a manuscript note:

Arrived since the above return was made out.

C Adam

ADM 1/1452/13

Having arrived in Falmouth, and counted his flock, he now needed to send them on to new homes.

Resistance, Falmouth, 14 Nov 1808

To the Honble W.W. Pole, Admiralty Office


In compliance with your letter of the 11th inst which I received this morning; I enclose your letter of the 27th August; addressed to the Senior Office of His Majesty’s Ships at this place. 

Lieutenant Wilbraham, Agent for the Cavalry Transports here, having received orders to fit all the Infantry Ships for Horses, that are capable of receiving them; there are only five Transports to go to Portsmouth. I have directed Captain England of the Humber Armed Ship13 bound to the Eastward with the trade from this Port, to take the said Transports under his protection and I shall proceed to Spithead in the Resistance as soon as possible as will L’Aimable.

I am Sir, your very obedt. serv, Chas Adam, Captain

ADM 1/1452/14

A gap in the correspondence

There follows a brief gap in the correspondence, from 14 November to 20 December. The letter of 14 November suggests Charles and the Resistance set off for Spithead shortly afterwards.

Transports continued to arrive in Falmouth. Peacock SW arrived from Corunna on the 14th, Britannia, William & Mary, Union, Good Intent and Isabella Transports from Lisbon and Quiberon on the 15th; 14 the London and Zebra Transports from Lisbon on the 22nd15. All of these were presumably remnants of the original convoy.

On December 9th a fleet of about 30 Transports turned up from Plymouth and don’t seem to have sailed until the 20th, only to be replaced on 23rd by yet another fleet.

He arrived back in Falmouth on the 19th at the same time as a fleet of Transports.16 Curiously, there is no record of her arriving in, or leaving, Portsmouth.

He did not hang about as the Goshawk had gone missing.

Resistance, Falmouth, 20 December 1808

The Honble W.W. Pole

Sir, On my arrival here yesterday evening in His Majesty’s Ship under my command I received information from Lieut Bray of the Weazle Schooner that he had communicated with the Goshawke off the Lizard having been sent with orders for the Venus & Goshawke17 by Admiral [Going]. As the Goshawke is not in sight this morning I am now getting under weigh to endeavour to fall in with her & take out the Specie destined for Lisbon, according to their Lordships orders which I received through Admiral Montague.

I am Sir your obedt Serv, Chas Adam, Captain

ADM 1/1452/17

There was also a small administrative problem to be resolved. This involved John Barrow (later Sir John) who served at the Admiralty for forty years and was effectively the senior civil servant (Permanent Secretary) there. He is said to have been the first person to suggest St Helena as a possible location for Napoleon’s detention. Does Charles speak with a slightly different tone in this exchange?

Resistance, off Falmouth, 20 December 1808

John Barrow Esqre, Admiralty Office

Sir, This day received your letter of the 17th ult; (which was directed to me at Falmouth) desiring me to state the case of James Paine, said to be an American Seaman on board the Resistance; & enclosing his certificate of being an American Citizen.

I beg leave to refer you to the statement of this man’s case made by the first Lieut of the Resistance (in my absence) on the 15th instant. By which it appears that Paine is an American.

I return his protection herewith.

I am Sir, your obedet Servant, Chas Adam

ADM 1/1452

Resistance, Falmouth, 23 December 1808

John Barrow Esqre, Admiralty Office

Sir, In compliance with your letter of the 19th instant I have discharged James Paine from the Resistance as he is an American.

I enclose you the order for receiving Mr Geo Buchanan on board the Resistance as you desire.

I am Sir your very obedt Serv, Chas Adam

ADM 1/1452

The search was not successful and he briefly returned to Falmouth, only to set out again on the 23rd, heading for Scilly:

Resistance, Falmouth, 23 December 1808

The Honble W.W. Pole

Sir, I put to Sea on the 20th instant as I informed you it was my intention to do by my letter of that date. But the wind coming strong from the Westward the next day, & as I had received no further intelligence of the Goshawke I thought it best to return to this Harbour, for fear of being driven to leeward & missing her.

Yesterday the weather was so unsettled that it was advisable to remain here. In the evening the wind came to NE and blew hard, but as it is moderate from that quarter to-day I am getting under weigh & shall look for the Goshawke in Mounts Bay & Scilly. And if I do not fall in with her I shall return to this anchorage.

I am Sir, Your very Obedt Servant, Chas Adam

PS There are three Transports named in the margin (Boyne, Diana, Hebe) which have Artillery Horses & Drivers on board; and [Twenty] one light Transports in this Harbour which sailed from Spithead with the Venus & Goshawke.

There are also three Transports (as per margin here Belbue, Enterprize, Elizabeth), which sailed from Cork under Convoy of the Phipps,18 to take Oats for the Cavalry in Spain … put in here having parted with their Sloop on Saturday night.


ADM 1/1452/20

There was still no sign of the Goshawk and he arrived back in Falmouth on the 28th.

Resistance Falmouth, 29 December 1808

The Honble W.W. Pole

Sir, I returned here yesterday evening in HMShip under my command (having been delayed two days at Scilly by the SE gale) without meeting with or gaining any intelligence of the Goshawke.

I have received their Lordships order of the 22nd instant to proceed with the Alert & convoy as far as Cape Finisterre. The Alert19 will not be ready for Sea till the day after to-morrow and as the wind is to the SW it is not impossible that the Goshawke may arrive before the Convoy can proceed to Sea. If that Sloop does arrive I shall take the Specie out of her, and proceed with it to Lisbon; leaving the Arethusa to go with the Alert and Convoy. But if the Goshawke does not arrive, I shall sail with the Convoy as the wind permits.

From Mr Barrow’s letter to Capt Mends of the Arethusa20 of the 24th instant, I presume their Lordships will approve of the above arrangement.

I beg you will inform me what I shall do with the [letter] on Service to Sir C Cotton & the Senior Officer of HMajesty’s Ship at Lisbon, in case I sail with the Convoy. I take for granted it will be best to leave them with Captain Mends.

I am Sir, Your very obedient Serv, Chas Adam

ADM 1/1452/21

Resistance Falmouth, 1 January 1809

The Honble W.W. Pole

Sir, Since your letter of the 26th ult directing Capt Williams of the Alert to give protection to three Transports with Artillery Horses & Drivers on board as far as the Rock of Lisbon. The two Transports named in the Margin (unreadable) (part of the Venus’s Convoy) have arrived here, which have also Artillery Horses on board. I have therefore desired Captain Williams to take them under his protection likewise.

The unsettled state of the weather has not permitted me to put to Sea today, with the Alert and Convoy, and from the appearance of the Weather [doubt I] shall be able to sail tomorrow.

I am Sir, your very humble Servant, Chas Adam, Captain

ADM 1/1452/121

It seems that he did leave Falmouth with the Alert and her 18-strong convoy but was soon back again.

Resistance Falmouth, 10 January 1809

The Honble W.W. Pole, Admiralty Office

Sir, I have to acquaint for the information of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty that I arrived here this morning, in HM Ship under my Command, having unfortunately carried away the Main Yard in a very severe squall from the West on the Morning of Sunday last the 8th inst it afterwards encreased (sic) to a mere hurricane and in the Evening on its becoming more Moderate, I bore up for this place to repair our damage. 

Their Lordships are already acquainted that I sailed with the Alert & Convoy on the 2nd inst on the Morning of the 4th Inst it came to blow very hard from the South with very thick Weather. When it cleared up only 10 of the Convoy were in sight & I did not see anything of the Alert or the rest of the Convoy afterwards.

The severe Gale of Sunday … the part of the Convoy that remained with me, there were only two Brigs in sight when we bore up.

The Pendennis John Maiston Master, a ship belonging to this Port which sprang a leak on the Morning of the 4th, bore up in the last Gale and arrived here this Morning.

I enclose a Log of my proceeding and the defects of the Resistance which shall have made good with all dispatch.

If the Wind continues to the West it may be proper that I should again proceed to Sea for the protection of the Convoy in case they do not return here, if the Wind becomes fair for them. I shall remain here until I receive their Lordships further Orders.

I am Sir, your most Obedt humbler Servant, Chas Adam, Captain

ADM 1/1452/122

An annotation in the corner of this letter says:

Direct him to make good the defects and remain at Falmouth till further orders, holding himself in momentary readiness for Sea.

ADM 1/1452/122

Attached is a sheet setting out the damage:

Defects of His Majesty’s Ship Resistance Chas Adam Esq Captain, Falmouth Jan 10th 180821

The Main Yard carried away.

The head rails started, several of the ledges carried away, and the whole wants securing.

The ends of the Planks Abaft of the Main and lower decks are very open owing to the ship Working.

The Hammock boards in the Waist carried away or shattered and rendered unserviceable.

The Cabin Windows stove in by the Sea, many Panes of Glass wanting. Many parts of the Main Deck want Caulking

Chas Adam, Captain; David Lloyd, Carpenter

ADM 1452/122

Charles was not one to await approval from London which might have taken a week. By the 13th (see below), he was reporting Resistance was ready for sea. All that work in three days! Did the Falmouth ship-builders drop everything to help out one of His Majesty’s finest?

While the work progressed there was the day-job as ‘Senior Officer in Falmouth’ to get on with, making sure no one forgot his existence. And it was Groundhog Day as he tried to sort out the remnants of a scattered convoy.

Resistance, Falmouth, 11th January 1809

The Honble W.W. Pole

Sir, The two Transports named in the Margin (Hebe, CJ, Diana HA) which parted with this ship in the Gale of the 8th Instant arrived here last night the first having damaged her rudder and the last sprung her Bowsprit and sprung a leak. They have both Artillery Horses on board, five of which died on board the Hebe and one on board the Diana.

I am Sir, Your Obed Servt, Chas Adam, Captian

ADM 1/1452/123

Resistance, Falmouth, 13 January 180922

The Honble W.W. Pole

Sir, The Ann Transport with Artillery Horses & Drivers arrived here this morning. She left Corunna on the 5th instant for Vigo, under Convoy of HMShip Champion23 with 25 other Transports: parted from the Convoy soon after they got out, & owing to the strong Westerly gales bore up for this place, having sprung a leak. The Master is not an intelligent man & gives no information worth reporting.[efn_noote]Ouch![/efn_note]

The Kennedy Alex or Starling Master also arrived here this day, she is one of the Ships of the Alert’s convoy that parted from the Resistance in the Gale of the 8th instant.

The Resistance is ready for Sea but as the wind has been generally to the NW or North & the weather moderate, I think it best to remain here as by Sunday Night’s Post24 I may receive their Lordships orders in consequence of my letter of the 10th instant.

I request their Lordships may be pleased to direct whether the Maria Transport, laden with Salt Fish on Government account and ordered by the Victualling […] to Cadiz, shall proceed with the first convoy for Spain or Portugal, as I have declined ordering the Master to proceed under convoy of the Swallow25 as he states it is likely he will not be able to keep company with them as all the other ships are light Transports, and it is doubtful that he would afterwards be able to get protection to the place of his destination.

I am Sir Your very Obedient Servant, Chas Adam, Captain

ADM 1/1452/124

Resistance, Falmouth, 13 January 1809

The Honble W.W. Pole

Sir, Upon my arrival here on the 10th instant, Captain Mends of the Arethusa informed me that he had been in correspondence with Adml Young26 as to the state of the Transports at this place; and on that day he received a letter from the Admiral directing him to have all the empty Transports in readiness to sail with the Swallow Sloop for the place of their destination, the Swallow being ordered here to Convoy them. Admiral Young’s letter was dated the 9th. The day before that letter came, Captain Mends had received from their Lordships orders of the 7th instant, to Convoy the Transports from hence to Corunna, as soon as a Regiment of Cavalry was embarked in them. Captain Mends enclosed a copy of this order to Admiral Young. I agreed with Captain Mends as to the propriety of his acting on their Lordships order, in preference to Admiral Young’s; and several of the Transports were got into the Pier, ready to embark the Horses when they should arrive.

This morning the Swallow [arrived] and upon perusing Captain Milner’s orders from Admiral Young, the last of which is dated on the 10th instant, and learning from Captain Mends that the Admiral desired him, even to disembark the Cavalry that might be on board the Transports; and that he believed that the Admiral’s orders were given in consequence of intelligence he had received from the Army in Spain.

I have thought it right to order the Agent of Transports to get the Vessels [out] of the Pier; and all the light Transports to be ready to sail with the Swallow tomorrow if the Wind and Weather permit.

Thirteen of them are fitted and provisioned for Horses. Three were under orders for Cork to load Oats, Water and provisions for Troops, will be put on board the latter if time allows.

I hope their Lordships will approve of this arrangement, but I trust this Night’s Post will bring some farther directions Concerning the Transports.

I enclose a general list of the Transports at this place. You will observe that the three last in that list have Artillery Horses and Drivers on board. They have not yet repaired the damages they met with at Sea.

I am Sir, Your very Obedt Serv, Chas Adam, Captain

ADM 1/1452/125

Attached to this was a return of Transports.

Resistance, Falmouth, 14 January 1809

The Honble W.W. Pole

Sir, The Rowena Brig arrived here this morning with orders from Admiral Young to take the three Transports named in the margin to Cork. (Bellona, [Calyope], Elizabeth). I have therefore desired the Agent of Transports to put them under Convoy of the Rowena instead of the Swallow as mentioned in my letter of yesterday.

It has blown so hard from the SE since daylight27 that the Transports cannot get to Sea.

They will sail the instant it moderates.

I am Sir, Your very obedient Servant, Chas Adam, Captain

ADM 1/1452/127

The Sunday post may have brought ‘Mr Barrow’s letter’ but it also brought worsening weather and some champing at the bit now took place.

Resistance, Falmouth, 17 January 1809

The Honble W.W. Pole

Sir, The Non Pareil Schooner28 arrived here today. She left Cadiz on the 5th instant, with a dispatch from Admiral Purvis, which Lieut Dickenson forwards by today’s Post. He brings no intelligence. A Spanish line of Battle Ship was going into Cadiz as the Non Pareil came out.

I received Mr Barrow’s letter of the 13th instant yesterday directing me to remain in momentary readiness for Sea.

I am sorry to say the wind has been at SSE both yesterday & today which has prevented the Swallow & Transports from putting to Sea. The Rowena & the Transports for Cork […] to get out but were obliged to give it up.

The Cadmus29 arrived here last night owing to SSE wind having two Victuallers under Convoy for the L’Orient Squadron.

I am Sir your Obedt Serv, Chas Adam, Captain

ADM 1/1452/126

Resistance, Falmouth, 19 January 1809

The Honble W.W. Pole

Sir, The wind has been so strong from the SE and the Sea so great outside the Harbour as to make it impossible for the Swallow & Rowena, with their respective Convoys to sail. And today the wind is come to the Westward.

I have received your letter directing that the Maria Transport laden with Salt Fish for Cadiz should go with the first Mediterranean Convoy.

A Transport, one of the Fishguard’s convoy, put in here yesterday having parted from here. Capt Milner of the Swallow has given her Convoy Instructions.

I am Sir Your obedient Serv, Chas Adam

ADM 1/1452/128

Resistance, Falmouth, 21 January 1809

The Honble W.W. Pole

Sir, In consequence of the information which Captain Digby of the [Copsack] brings from Corunna I have thought it right to prevent the Swallow, with the Horse Transports, from sailing for Vigo and I have informed Admiral Young by express that I have done so & acquainted him with the substance of the intelligence Captain Digby brings.

The Rowena and Convoy for Cork sailed this morning.

I am Sir, Your very Obdent Serv, Chas Adam

ADM 1/1452/129

Anxious times

These were anxious times. Charles does not say what the ‘news’ is. General Moore was killed on 17th January and so it is premature to think that Captain Digby had brought that news. It was more likely the news that the army was in full-scale retreat to Corunna. Charles sensibly diverts the troops from being sent to a lost cause.

Over the next few days, Lloyd’s List tells us that Falmouth filled up with transports returning from Corunna: five ‘and several others’ on the 22nd; 18 more on the 23rd as well as seven arriving from Portsmouth. Where did they put them all? How did Falmouth cope with this sudden influx?

Other ports were filling up too. On the 21st a ‘large fleet of 20 Transports from Corunna’ arrived in Portsmouth as well as some of the stragglers from Quiberon. On the 25th some 54 more with a frigate, and on the 26th another 16. On the 23rd some 12 warships and a ‘large fleet of Transports with troops’ arrived in Plymouth, followed by another 15 on the 27th.

This was a full-stage retreat.

As a footnote to all this, the Admiralty must have been in the middle of another major project for a fleet of 140 ships (without any warships) sailed from Cork to Jamaica and the W Indies on 1st February. The administrative burden must have been simply unreal in the days before instant communication.

The loss of the Primrose

Resistance, Falmouth, 23 January 1809

The Hon W.W. Pole

Sir, I am much concerned to acquaint you that His Majesty’s Sloop Primrose30 was wrecked upon the Manacle Rocks early upon Sunday morning.31

I heard yesterday afternoon that a Man of War was on shore there and this morning by daylight Captain Ryder of the impress Service wrote to me a letter stating it was the Primrose and that only one Boy was saved. 

I sent an Excise Cutter out, last night as soon as I heard of the accident and this morning at daylight the Swallow & Sparrow have weighed to proceed off the Manacles to give assistance or gain information as to the wreck.

The former got within a mile of the Rocks, but owing to a Southerly wind having sett in though Captain Milner could not send a Boat, but a shore boat that had been at the wreck came on board him. The Primrose must have ran on shore about 3 AM as guns were heard at that time & again as 5 o’clock. The boy was taken off the Rigging (for her Masts are I understand still above water) where his Shipmates had put him, but all the others were washed off, he himself was nearly exhausted and he is now at St Kevern.

The Naval Officer is gone to endeavour to save anything which may be thrown on shore from her.

Many Transports from Corunna have put in here yesterday & today. I hear one is lost on the other side of the Manacles & only seven out of an hundred Dragoons, which were on board of her are saved.

The Sparrow hired Sloop put in here a few days ago in the SE gale & would have sailed today to resume her station off Cherbourg, but as the Transports will require Convoy to Portsmouth I have detained her to protect them. They will put to Sea as soon as the wind permits. I have not been able to obtain an exact account of them, but presume the Transport Board are furnished with one from the Agent here.

I am Sir your very Obedt Serv, Chas Adam, Captain 

ADM 1/1452/129

‘I need a new Purser’ 

Then, another stumbling block appears, preventing Resistance from leaving harbour: a crime had been committed (allegedly):

Resistance, Falmouth, 23 January 1809

Honble W.W. Pole

Sir, As you have not acknowledged my letter of the 12th instant requesting that the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty will be pleased to order a Court Martial to try Mr Joseph Mumford Purser of the Resistance for misconduct as set forth in the said letter.

I am apprehensive you may not have received it.

[I have] therefore taken the liberty of enclosing a duplicate thereof.

I am Sir your very Obed Serv, Chas Adam

ADM 1/1452/130


Resistance, Falmouth, 12 January 1809

The Hon W.W. Pole, Admiralty Office

Sir, Mr Joseph Mumford Purser of His Majesty’s Ship Resistance under my command, having at different (but more particularly in the month of February 1808) supplied several of the Ships Company of the Resistance with Spirits, and charged the Men, or caused them to be charged, with Slops; in order to reimburse himself, for the value of the said Spirits.

And having charged or caused several of the Crew of the Resistance to be charged, with Slops; who never received the articles said to have been issued to them, or any other equivalence.

By which conduct he has not only been guilty of a great offence against the discipline of the Navy, but actually committed a fraud, by overcharging or causing several persons to be overcharged with Slops.

I have therefore to request you will move the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, to direct that the said Mr Joseph Mumford may be tried by a Court Martial, for his conduct as above set forth, as soon as the opportunity may occur.

I am sir, Your most obedt Serv, Chas Adam, Captain

ADM 1/1452

Resistance, Falmouth, 26 January 1809

Hon W.W. Pole

Sir, I beg leave to remind you for their Lordships information that I still hold three letters which I received at Portsmouth from Admiral Montagu, directed to Sir Charles Cotton or Senior Officer at Lisbon.

I am Sir your very Obedt Serv, Chas Adam

I received them on the 17th December.

ADM 1/1452/131

Resistance, Falmouth, Noon 28 January 1809

Honble W.W. Pole, Admiralty Office

Sir, I have just received your letter of the 23rd instant, directing me to order the Commander of the Swallow to take on board the bearer of your letter, and convoy him as expeditiously as possible to Cadiz (he being charged with dispatches) and return without loss of time to Plymouth.

I have given Captain Milner orders accordingly. He will put to Sea as soon as the tide turns. The wind is fresh from SWly.

I this morning received your letter of the 24th instant, directing me to order all the Ships of War, & Transports from Corunna & Vigo which might put into Falmouth, to proceed to Spithead and to cause the Sick & Wounded to be landed here.32

My letter of the 23rd instant have informed you that I detained the Sparrowhawk Sloop, to convoy the Transports. She sailed last night with twenty four Sail of them; and I shall direct the Commander of the Scorpion Sloop to convoy those which were left behind (being in want of anchors and cables) four in number, to Spithead, and sail as they are ready to proceed.

The Sick & Wounded Officers and Soldiers were loaded, the day after they arrived.

I am Sir your very Obedient Serv, Chas Adam

ADM 1/1452/132

Resistance, Falmouth, February 1 1809

The Honble W.W. Pole, London

Sir, I received their Lordships Orders on the 29th ult to take the Arethusa under my command & proceed off Cape Penas.

The Weather has been so extremely bad ever since that it has been quite impossible to put to Sea. I shall Sail as soon as it is sufficiently moderate.

I have this day received instructions from Admiral Lord Gambon as to my farther proceeding in execution of their lordships orders.

The weather has likewise prevented the Swallow from sailing with the dispatches for Cadiz.

I am Sir Your obed Serv, Chas Adam

ADM 1/1452/133

And then another letter to John Barrow, once again brief and with just a hint of gritted teeth:

Resistance, Falmouth, 2 February 1809

John Barrow Esq, Admiralty Office

Sir, I send herewith the letters for Sir C Cotton or the Senior Officer in the Tagus in compliance with your letter of the 31st ult.

I am Sir your very humble etc, Chas Adam, Captain

I [have] taken the liberty to send […] private letter which was entrusted to my care.

ADM 1/1452/134

The pace has been hotting up and he is desperate to get to sea. There has been no apparent answer to his request for a Court Martial for his miscreant and so he rolls out the Medics and grabs the first Purser he can find: Joseph Humphries of HMS Experiment, the storeship in Falmouth who is about to have the experience of a lifetime.

Resistance, Falmouth, February 3 1809

Hon W.W. Pole, Admiralty Office 

Sir, The Surgeon of His Majesty’s Ship under my command having represented to me by letter that the state of Mr Joseph Mumford the Pursers’ health was so bad that he conceived it necessary he should be sent to Sick Quarters.

I directed the Surgeon of the Tromp Hospital Ship, and two other surgeons, to examine into the nature of the said Mr Joseph Mumfords complaints & report to me their opinion of the necessity of sending him to Sick Quarters.

I enclose my Order for the Survey, and the Surgeons report. In consequence of which I shall send the Purser to the Tromp Hospital Ship and inform the Commander of that Ship that he is to be considered in […] to take his trial for the Offences [charged] against him in my letter of [logged] of the 12th ultimo.

If the Purser should resign or be otherwise discharged from the Hospital before the Resistance leaves Port and the Court Martial has taken place Lt McCarthy of the Tromp will apply to you for their Lordships commands. How to deal with Mr Mumford.

As it is absolutely necessary to have a competent person to take charge of the Provisions & Stores; and there is no Purser’s Steward belonging to the Resistance, I have thought it right to appoint Mr Joseph Humphries Purser of the Experiment Store Ship in this Harbour to Act as Purser of the Resistance, till further order, of which I hope their Lordships will be pleased to approve.

I am Sir your very humble Serv, Chas Adam

ADM 1/1452/135

Accompanying this is a piece of paper signed by as many Surgeons as he can find:

To Mr James Gillies Surgeon, H.M.Hospital Ship Tromp, and the Surgeons of H.M. Ships Arethusa & Medusa

Bt Chas Adam Esquire, Captain of H.M.Ship Resistance, & Senior Officer at Falmouth

Whereas the Surgeon of H.M. Ship under my Command has represented to me by letter of yesterdays date that Mr Joseph Mumford Purser of the said Ship has been long afflicted by Strictures in the Urethra, which have lately become still more troublesome – that he is likewise very subject to Gout and Chronic Rheumatism; that he is much Emaciated; and his general health so bad, that it might be attended with serious consequences if he went to Sea in the Ship and therefore recommending he should go to Sick Quarters.

You are hereby required & directed to examine into the nature of the said Mr Joseph Mumford’s complaints and report to me from under your hands if you consider him an Object for Sick Quarters.

Given on board the Resistance, Falmouth Harbour Feby 3rd 1809

Chas Adam. Captain

On the reverse:

Pursuant to an Order on the other side from Chas Adam Esq Captain of H.M Ship Resistance & Senior Officer at Falmouth of this date & to us directed

We whose names are hereunto subscribed have been on board H.M.Ship Resistance and have carefully examined into the state of health of Mr Joseph Mumford Purser of the said Ship and do find him labouring under bad strictures of the Urethra with which he has been troubled many Years attended with Gout & Chronic Rheumatism which have induced a considerable degree of Exhaustion and debility which together from Old [Ages] we consider him as a fit Object for the Hospital.

And we declare that we have examined the said Mr Joseph Mumford with such care and Equity that if required we are ready to swear Oath to the impartiality of our process.

Given on board the Resistance at Falmouth February 3rd 1809

Ja Gillies Surgeon of H.M.Ship Tromp

[…] Surgeon of H.M.Ship Arethusa

Surgeon of H.M Ship Medusa

[…] Surgeon of H.M Ship Scorpion

ADM 1/1452/135

And that, dear Reader, is how Joseph Humphries, Purser of the Experiment, found himself leaving Falmouth on board HMS Resistance on Friday 10 February 180933, commanded by a -very pro-active Captain Charles Adam, heading for the coast of Northern France. They would return to Plymouth briefly at the end of May34 but leave again in mid-June.35 It seems his secondment was to continue. He finally returned home to Falmouth in April 1810, after a fourteen month adventure.

  1. The Trompeuse was an 18-gun ship-sloop which had been captured from the French, possibly under Captain Dolling
  2. The 25th in the duplicate letter
  3. 38-gun frigate operating off the French/Spanish coasts
  4. He said ‘three’ in the original note and ‘four’ in the duplicate
  5. A French Admiral with an enviable reputation for taking British ships off Brazil and the W Indies. He survived to the end of the war
  6. Admiral Sir Charles Cotton commanded the fleet off Portugal and Western Spain, supporting the British land armies
  7. Amelius Beaclerc was captain of HMS Saturn 74, blockading L’Orient
  8. 16-gun Ship-sloop possibly under Thomas Toker
  9. 32-gun frigate, Captain Lord George Stuart
  10. Lt General Robert Burrard was one of the two generals who had superceded Wellesley immediately after Vimiero in August 1808 – see Historical Background
  11. 2-gun hired survey ketch
  12. A former 44-gun two decker, converted to storeship at Falmouth, under Lt James Fegen. The purser of the Experiment was one James Humphries, but this is to get ahead of ourselves …
  13. Hired vessel of 16 guns
  14. Lloyd’s List November 18th
  15. Lloyd’s List November 22nd
  16. Lloyd’s List December 23rd
  17. A 16-gun brig, usually spelled without the ‘e’, Commander Alexander Innes
  18. 14-gun brig captured from the Dutch the previous year and heading for Portsmouth to be converted into a schooner. Commander Christopher Bell
  19. An ex-collier converted to a 16-gun sloop. Commander Robert Williams
  20. 38-gun frigate, Captain Robert Mends
  21. Not for the last time, Charles mistakes the year. We’ve all done it!
  22. The year is hand-corrected from 1808
  23. 24-gun 6th rate, Captain Robert Henderson
  24. This letter was written on Friday 13th, so he is buying himself 48 hours
  25. Brig-sloop under Cmdr Alexander Milner
  26. Commander-in-Chief in Plymouth
  27. Lloyd’s List reports that on 13th ‘The sloop Duke of York from Ireland drove from her moorings at Falmouth on Sunday morning during a Gale at WNW and received much damage, by driving foul a Galliot that the soon afterwards sunk. Crew saved. Cargo previously landed.’
  28. A 12-gun schooner captured from the Americans
  29. A brig-sloop under Cmdr Dealmore Wynter
  30. Brig-sloop, Captain James Mein who was drowned
  31. The 22nd January. Lloyd’s List records ‘The Primrose Sloop of War, from Portsmouth, was lost near Falmouth on Sunday. Only a Boy was saved.’
  32. Presumably the remnants of General Moore’s army
  33. Lloyd’s List 10 February
  34. Lloyd’s List – arrived 29 May
  35. Lloyd’s List – sailed 23 June