Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (16 April 2020)

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Date of Auction: 16th April 2020

Sold for £6,000

Estimate: £5,000 - £7,000

Naval General Service 1793-1840, 1 clasp, 17 Sep Boat Service 1812 (James Nicholson.) small edge bruise, otherwise extremely fine £5,000-£7,000

Footnote

Provenance: Fergus Gowans Collection; Christie’s, November 1985.

James Nicholson is confirmed as a Quarter Master in H.M.S. Eagle during the boat action against twenty-five vessels in the mouth of the river Po, northern Italy. One other man of this name received a medal with two clasps for Copenhagen 1801 and Syria. Eleven clasps were issued for this Boat Service action.

H.M.S. Eagle, off Ancona, Sept. 23rd, 1812

‘Sir, I have to acquaint you, that having anchored this ship on the 16th instant, in consequence of calms, off Cape Maistro, I directed the first lieutenant, during the night, to lie off the Cape with three barges, to intercept the enemy’s coasting trade; and that on the following day I weighed and anchored off the Po, where I was joined by the barges, with two gun-boats, and fifteen vessels laden with oil, each vessel carrying from a six to an eight pounder, which had been captured by the boats that day: the particulars of this gallant affair reflect the greatest honour on the officers and men employed in it.

In the morning, a convoy of twenty-three sail, with two gun-boats, were perceived standing towards Goro, which, on the barges approaching, drew up in line of battle, under cover of a four-gun battery, and the beach lined with armed people, with the two gun-boats advanced in their front.

Lieutenant Cannon, with the whole of his small force, instantly attacked, and carried the largest gun-boat, and turned her guns upon the convoy, whilst he performed the same manoeuvre, with equal success, on the second, and then directed his attention to the convoy, which, after some resistance, struck their colours, excepting two who made their escape. Not being able to man all of them, six were burnt, to prevent their falling into the hands of the enemy.

When I consider, Sir, the strong position the enemy were in, each vessel carrying a heavy gun, besides musketry, under the protection of two gun-boats, flanked by a fort, and that the shallowness of the channel occasioned our boats to be frequently aground, while towing up to make the attack, I feel I should neither be doing my duty or justice to my own feeling, were I not to recommend most strongly to your notice the officers employed on this service; and sorry am I that this recommendation can no longer benefit Lieut. Cannon, who died of his wounds on the 22nd.

In the death of this gallant young man the country has lost one of its most promising officers, and I have deeply to regret the loss of a most valuable, and tried first Lieutenant.

He has left two brothers, midshipmen on board the ship, one of whom has served his time, and passed his examination for a Lieutenant, and has also frequently distinguished himself in action.

A list of the killed and wounded I have the honour of enclosing.

Lieutenant Festing, on whom the command devolved, on Lieutenant Cannon’s being wounded, deserves much credit in continuing the attack, and conducting the captured vessels out.

I have the honour to be &c.
C. Rowley, Captain.’


Sold with further research including an eye-witness account of this remarkable action by one George Watson, who was wounded and later a Greenwich Pensioner, taken from ‘From the Lower Deck - The Navy 1780-1840’ by Henry Batnham.