Rum, Sodomy and the Lash - A Devon Lad’s Life in Nelson’s Navy
By Anthony Blackmore. Pub. E.A. Blackmore, Covey House, Upper Dunsforth, York, YO26 9RU at a cost of £9.99 plus p&p £2.50. Pbk. A5 size, 154 pages 17b/w, 3 coloured illustrations and a map. ISBN: 0 95436740 5.
The author has suffered from bowel cancer and this book is being sold exclusively for charities, the principal beneficiary being Lynn’s Bowel Cancer Charity. I found this book when looking at links to the SWMHS website [Author's website]where the author details the discovery and happily the successful outcome of the operation. I was happy to purchase a copy to assist his charity.
This book tracks the career of the author’s ancestor, Samuel Blackmore who hailed from Littleham, Exmouth and was a sailor aboard the Honourable East India Company’s ship Imperial when, in June 1793, homeward bound he was impressed into the Navy at Cork aboard HMS Diadem, where he decided to volunteer to gain the King’s Bounty of £5 - a considerable sum of money to a young Able Seaman at that time. Anthony Blackmore skilfully weaves the story of Samuel and his service in the Revolutionary War with the capitulation and subsequent French recapture of Toulon assisted by a youthful Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1794 Samuel was transferred to the 74-gun Berwick which was later to become dismasted and in this crippled condition was taken by a French squadron, owing primarily to lack of action on the part of Admiral Hotham.
Samuel was incarcerated in Toulon until under a flag of truce he was released back to the Royal Navy about October 1795. Appointed to the recently captured La Minerve, he was in that vessel when she briefly served as Nelson’s flagship, and was involved in the capture of the Spanish warship Santa Sabina
in December 1796. As part of the prize crew, Samuel was captured by a Spanish squadron when the vessel had to be abandoned by Nelson and again found himself a prisoner. Released back to the La Minerve in February 1797 he fought in the Battle of St. Vincent and after a cutting out expedition at Santa Cruz was appointed coxswain of the 5th-rate Minerve under Captain George Cockburn. He did not return home until arriving off the river Dart in April 1798. Samuel was then allowed leave to visit his family from May to 19 June.
When he rejoined his ship it was to see service in the Mediterranean off Naples.
He was captured again by the French for the third time on 3 May 1799, crewing a prize, and held for 12 weeks until the vessel was re-captured and he returned to his ship in July. Thereafter the vessel was engaged in convoy and blockade duties, and watching out for the occasional merchant vessel before sailing to Alexandria and Malta. She then captured an ex-British ship, the Success¸ and drove two further French vessels ashore. On her return to England in 1802 the
Minerve was paid off and Samuel transferred to the Zealand, but with the coming of the short-lived peace he never served aboard her, being taken by the
Dispatch to Yarmouth. He never served in the navy subsequently but seems to have joined the Royal Mail packet service at Dover as "mailman", and was injured in attempting to get the SS Crusader salvaged from a stranding in October 1833. His son, two daughters and his wife died before him and he was buried with his wife in October 1854 at Cowgate Cemetery, Dover. Interestingly his brother John Blackmore the parish clerk at Littleham, Exmouth officiated at the funeral of Francis, Lady Nelson in 1831. The Blackmore family were also involved with the locally well-known smuggling family, the Mutters.
This is a well-written volume placing Samuel Blackmore in the midst of the actions surrounding him from official logs, letters etc., and deserves a place in the bookshelves of maritime historians of that period.
Reviewed by D. B. Clement
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