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On returning from Norway, young Cochrane was transferred from the Hind to the Thetis, a more powerful frigate, which was placed under his uncle's command. The Thetis was ordered to join the squadron of Admiral Murray, sent out in 1794 to capture some of the French settlements in North America. When about nine. teen years of age, our hero was promoted by Admiral Murray to the rank of junior lieutenant; and soon afterwards he became actinglieutenant of the Africa, under Captain Home. Cochrane, in his Autobiography, speaks of the dreary five years that the squadron spent near the North American coast, capturing few prizes, and being engaged in few exciting adventures ; cruising among the fogs of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, instead of joining in the brilliant achievements that marked the maritime wars of Europe.
CRUISE IN THE MEDITERRANEAN: 1798-1801. Towards the close of 1798, Cochrane received the appointment of junior lieutenant of the Barfleur, the flag-ship of a fleet with which Lord Keith was blockading the Mediterranean ports of Spain. This was a kind of service that at first gave slender hope for activity, seeing that the Spanish feet shewed little tendency to quit the defensive batteries of Cadiz, and hazard a naval battle. On the 6th of May 1799, however, there was a formidable assemblage of hostile ships. A French fleet, which came quietly round to Cadiz, consisted of thirty-three sail of the line; and a Spanish fleet of twenty-two sail, in the harbour, swelled the number to fifty-five sail of the line, besides several frigates belonging to the enemy. Lord Keith had under him at the time fifteen sail of the line and one frigate. The Spaniards, however, did not come out of the harbour, and the French did not want to fight; for their purpose was to liberate the Spanish fleet from Cadiz, and accompany it to Toulon. Young Cochrane and other officers of the Barfleur burned with impatience to be 'up and doing,' to connect their names with some achievement that would bring them honour or prize-money, or both. On one occasion, when Lord Keith knew, but Earl St Vincent (his superior in the Mediterranean command) did not know, the ‘whereabouts of the French, St Vincent sent peremptory orders which Keith felt compelled to obey, although they carried him away from the very direction in which he knew the French were sailing. In June, Keith succeeded St Vincent as commander-in-chief in the Mediterranean; and Cochrane shifted with him from the Barfleur to the Queen Charlotte, a larger and finer ship. Again and again was the search for the two hostile fleets renewed : a weaker force running up and down the Mediterranean to intercept, fight, and capture two fleets of much greater strength. Now at Toulon, now at Minorca, now at Gibraltar; then at Cadiz, at Tetuan, at Carthagena-the 'big ones' were always running away from the little ones. At last
it became certain that they had emerged from the Mediterranean altogether, and were proceeding northward along the Portuguese coast to the Bay of Biscay. Lord Keith pursued, but had the mortification of seeing them enter safely at Brest, where he could not get at them. The whole affair was most distasteful to young officers like Cochrane, affording not the smallest opening for a brush with the enemy. Keith, foiled in his chase, went to Torbay; and while he was there, the French and Spanish fleets, stealing quietly out of Brest, sailed down again towards the Mediterranean!
Cochrane's first experience in the Mediterranean was thus anything but gratifying to him. While Keith was at Torbay, Nelson was achieving brilliant things off the Sicilian coast, and was making himself the idol of the navy. Cochrane never served under Nelson, but they conversed once at Palermo ; and the former treasured up a maxim which Nelson impressed upon him in regard to naval warfare : Never mind maneuvres ; always go at them! This was just after Cochrane's own heart; he did 'go at them' all his life, whenever he had an opportunity.
A more busy scene was now in store for the energetic young Scotchman, Early in 1800, Cochrane was placed in command of the Speedy sloop. If ever a man owed success to himself and his crew, and not to his vessel, such was now the case. The Speedy was a sloop of 158 tons, armed with fourteen 4-pounders, and manned, or rather crowded,' as he expressed it, with fifty-four officers and men.
He asked for and obtained two 12-pounders, but found that his little craft was too weak to carry them. When, in his old age, the Earl of Dundonald wrote his Autobiography, he dwelt with a sort of comic affection on the little vessel which, as the young Lord Cochrane, had formed his first command nearly sixty years before. . 'Despite her unformidable character,' he says, "and the personal discomfort to which all on board were subjected, I was very proud of my little vessel, caring nothing for her want of accommodation, though in this respect her cabin merits passing notice. It had not so much as room for a chair, the floor being entirely occupied by a small table surrounded with lockers, answering the double purpose of store chests and seats. The difficulty was to get seated, the ceiling being only five feet high ; so that the object could only be accomplished by rolling on the locker, a movement sometimes attended with unpleasant failure. The most singular discomfort, however, was that my only practicable mode of shaving consisted in removing the skylight, and putting my head through, to make a toilet-table of the quarter-deck.'
Nevertheless, in this little tub of a vessel, Cochrane did that which made the French and Spaniards very uneasy, and proportiona ably won for him a reputation at home. Besides boarding and searching innumerable neutral vessels, he had much fighting and some capturing. On the 10th of May he captured the Intrépide, a
French privateer of six guns and forty-eight men-his first prize. On the 14th he recaptured two merchant-ships which had been seized by armed boats of the enemy. On the 16th of June he captured a small vessel off Elba; and on the 22d recaptured a prize from a French privateer. On the 25th he followed a Spanish privateer, the Assunçion, of ten guns and thirty-three men, right under a fort near Bastia, attacked and captured her, and carried her off though pursued by five gun-boats. On the 9th July his boats 'cut out'a Spanish ship lying actually within the range of the guns of Cape Sebastian, and brought it away; on the 19th and 31st he captured two French privateers; and on the 3d of August he took his long train of prizes safely into Leghorn Roads.
Far into the year 1801 did this cruise extend, and numerous were the adventures to which it led. The Speedy sailed hither and thither, capturing French and Spanish merchant-ships, privateers, and regular vessels of war, not only off the Spanish coast, but throughout the whole of the western half of the Mediterranean. Cochrane was seldom dismayed by disparity of numbers or strength. His tactics sometimes bore a laughable resemblance to those of a little man when fighting another a head taller than himself; there is a chance, in such a case, that the giant will hit over instead of at the dwarf. An instance of this kind presented itself on the 6th of May. He fell in with a large Spanish xebec frigate, the Gamo. Cochrane ran up close to it without firing a shot, although receiving two broadsides while so doing. 'To have fired our pop-gun 4-pounders at a distance,' he says, 'would have been to throw away the ammunition; but the guns being doubly, and, as I afterwards learned, trebly shotted, and being elevated, they told admirably upon her main-deck. .... My reason for locking our small craft in the enemy's rigging was one upon which I mainly relied for victory-namely, that, from the height of the frigate out of the water, the whole of her shot must necessarily go over our heads; while our guns, being elevated, could blow up her main-deck.' The Spaniards, not liking
this state of things, made arrangements for boarding the Speedy; but Cochrane deemed it much more suitable that he should board the Spanish vessel instead. Consequently, the surgeon taking the helm, all the rest of the crew, officers and men, clambered up into the big ship. Some of the English sailors, at Cochrane's suggestion, blackened their faces, and came upon the Spaniards up the bows of the ship in such guise as to startle them by a diabolical appearance. Cochrane was particularly fond of queer devices of this kind. 'In difficult or doubtful attacks by sea,' he observes, 'and the odds of 50 men to 320 come within this description, no device can be too minute, even if apparently absurd, provided it have the effect of diverting the enemy's attention whilst you are concentrating your own.
In this and other successes against odds, I have no hesitation in saying that success in no slight degree depended on out-of-the-way devices, which the
enemy not suspecting, were in some measure thrown off their guard.' The big ship was captured by the little one. Cochrane drew up the following curious balance-sheet concerning the Gamo and the Speedy:
14 4-pounders. Quarter-deck guns
Number of crew, 54.
Tonnage, 600 and upwards. Tonnage, 158. The killed and wounded in the Gamo actually exceeded in number the whole crew of the Speedy; and Cochrane found it no easy matter to convoy his prize, with 263 unhurt Spanish prisoners, safely to Minorca. This he did, however, and received the warm thanks of Lord Keith for his gallantry.
On another occasion during this cruise, plot and counterplot were exhibited in an amusing way. The Speedy had become known to the Spanish authorities as a mischievous and audacious little vessel, and a plan was laid to capture it. When off Plane Island, we were very near
catching a Tartar.” Seeing a large ship inshore, having all the appearance of a well-laden merchantman, we forthwith gave chase. On nearing her, she raised her ports, which had been closed to deceive us, the act discovering a heavy broadside; a clear demonstration that we had fallen into the jaws of a formidable Spanish frigate, now crowded with men, who had before remained concealed below. That the frigate was in search of us there could be no doubt, from the deception practised. To have encountered her with our insignificant armament would have been exceedingly imprudent, while escape was out of the question; for she would have outsailed us, and could have run us down by her mere weight. There was therefore nothing left but to try the effect of a ruse, prepared beforehand for such an emergency. After receiving at Mahon (Minorca) information that unusual measures were about to be taken by the Spaniards for our capture, I had the Speedy painted in imitation of the Danish brig Clomer—the appearance of this vessel being well known on the Spanish coast. We also shipped a Danish quartermaster, taking the further precaution of providing him with the uniform of an officer of that nation. On discovering the real character of our neighbour, the Speedy hoisted Danish colours, and spoke her. At first this failed to satisfy the Spaniard, who sent a boat to board us. It was now time to bring the Danish quarter-master into play in his officer's uniform ; and to add force to his explanations, we ran the quarantine flag up to the fore, calculating on the Spanish horror of the plague, then prevalent along the Barbary coast. On the boat
coming within hail—for the yellow flag effectually repressed the enemy's desire to board us-our mock-officer informed the Spaniards that we were two days from Algiers, where at the time the plague was violently raging. This was enough. The boat returned to the frigate, which, wishing us a good voyage, filled and made sail; and we did the same. Such are the moralities of war!
During this cruise in the Mediterranean, Cochrane, sojourning at Malta for a few days, went to a fancy-ball in the dress of a common boatswain, with marline-spike and lump of grease all complete ; was refused admittance ; fought a duel next day in consequence ; and sent a ball through the thigh of the unfortunate official whose punctilio had led to the quarrel. On another occasion he had an interview with the terrible Dey of Algiers, to expostulate with him on a matter of piracy, and had a narrow escape from losing his head for his trouble.
MADE PRISONER-QUARRELS WITH THE ADMIRALTY
GOES TO COLLEGE. At length, after thirteen months' cruise in the Speedy, the daring young officer and his little craft came to trouble. While on the way from Minorca to Gibraltar, diving into all the nooks and corners in search of adventures, he fell in with three large men-of-war. Resistance was useless, and the throwing overboard of guns and heavy stores did not lighten the Speedy sufficiently to enable her to escape. Cochrane surrendered to Captain Pallière of the Dessaix, on the 3d of July 1801. The French had long been in search of him as a most dangerous and daring man; and they were so glad at catching him, that they treated him with the greatest possible courtesy and respect. The detention was not of long duration, for an exchange of prisoners shortly afterwards took place.
Cochrane's exploits had certainly been remarkable. In thirteen months he had captured 50 vessels, 122 guns, and 534 prisoners. Commendation had of course been awarded to him more than once; but it is worthy of remark that, throughout his Autobiography, he complains of official persons as always doing something or other injurious or unfair towards him. Earl St Vincent, after commanding in the Mediterranean, was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty ; thus exchanging professional for political or governmental service. St Vincent and Keith had not been on cordial terms; Keith had been the friend of Cochrane; and the latter seems to have arrived by a sort of logic at the conclusion that the earl was unfavourable to him. Sir Alexander Cochrane, on behalf of his nephew, wrote to the earl, narrating the remarkable adventures of the Speedy, and soliciting the promotion of the young officer to the rank of captain-on the ground both of personal merit, and of the entire absence of fortune in the family. The solicited