1902 Encyclopedia > John Benbow

John Benbow
British sailor

JOHN BENBOW, English admiral, the son of a Shropshire gentleman, was born at Shrewsbury about 1650. He went to sea when very young, and at the age of thirty became master of a merchantman. When trading to the Mediterranean in 1686, he beat off a Sallee pirate with such bravery that James II., who took a keen interest in ships and seamen, made him captain of a man-of-war. On the accession of William III. he was employed to protect English commerce in the Channel, a duty which he vigilantly discharged. After taking part with great intrepidity in the bombardment of St Malo (1693), and superintending the blockade of Dunkirk (1696), he sailed in 1698 for the West Indies, where he compelled the Spaniards to restore several English vessels which they had seized. On his return he was appointed vice-admiral, and was frequently consulted by the king. In 1701 he was sent again to the West Indies, a station declined by his seniors from fear of the French strength in these waters. In August 1702 his ship, the "Breda," gave chase off Santa Martha to a French squadron under Du Casse; and although unsupported by his consorts, he kept up a running fight for five days with the most stubborn courage. While boarding the sternmost French vessel he received two severe wounds ; and shortly afterwards his right leg was shattered by a chain-shot, despite which he remained on the quarterdeck till morning, when the flagrant disobedience of the captains under him, and the disabled condition of his ship, forced him reluctantly to abandon the chase. After his return to Jamaica, where his subordinates were tried by court-martial, he died of his wounds on November 4, 1702. He possessed inflexible resolution and great naval skill, and secured his high rank through his unaided merits. (Cf. Yonge's Hist, of ths British Navy, vol. L; Campbell's British Admirals, voL iii)

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