Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (6 July 2004)

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Date of Auction: 6th July 2004

Sold for £2,100

Estimate: £900 - £1,200

Naval General Service 1793-1840, 1 clasp, Algiers (Robt. Henry, 2nd Lieut., R.M.) good very fine £900-1200


Robert Henry was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Marine Artillery in 1811. He commanded the R.M.A. detachment aboard the bomb-vessel Aetna, which joined the bomb-vessels Meteor and Devastation in September 1813, in aiding the Prussians and Russians in the siege of the fortress of Danzig - held by the French in the wake of their disastrous retreat from Russia. Danzig surrendered to the allied forces in November 1813 after eleven months blockade and siege. Henry then served with the R.M.A. forces in Holland, landing in South Beveland in December 1813 and participating in actions with the French garrison at Bathz.

Lieutenant Henry next saw action in the final stages of the ‘War of 1812’. In preparation for the New Orleans Campaign, Henry, as second in command to Major Nicolls (“Fighting Nicholls”), was sent with a party of R.M.A. and Creek and Choctaw Indians on a special operation to Pensacola, Florida. The aim was to draw off American strength from the New Orleans area to the west by arming local Indians and escaped slaves who were believed to be eager to join the British. However, because the Creeks and Choctaws had recently been heavily defeated by the Americans, the expected support was not forthcoming. In conjunction with the navy, Nicholls and his force then took part in the bombardment of Fort Bowyer, west of Pensacola, on the eastern point of Mobile Bay; the Navy hoping to use the bay as a base of operations for the attack on New Orleans. Landing on 15 September 1814, Lieutenant Henry commanded two howitzers together with their R.M.A. gun crew. In the ensuing action one of the ships, the
Hermes, ran aground, was severely damaged and had to be destroyed. As a result, the attempt upon the fort was abandoned; the Navy withdrew and Nicholls, Henry and their men made for the old and disused Spanish fort of Barancas. Three weeks later a strong American force appeared. Nicholls held the fort as long as possible before blowing it up; then evading the Americans, made off and rejoined the naval force of Vice-Admiral Cochrane.

In the New Orleans campaign Lieutenant Henry commanded the R.M.A. detachment aboard the bomb-vessel
Volcano. The bomb-vessels Volcano and Aetna, together with the Herald, Pigmy and Thistle attempted to sail up the Mississippi to New Orleans in support of the Army under Major-General Pakenham. Difficulty in navigating the river, with its shifting sandbanks and tortuous channels, so delayed progress that it was not until 9 January 1815, a day after the battle of New Orleans had been fought, that the ships made it to Fort St. Philip, the major American defensive position on the river. Action was joined between the ships and the fort and continued until 17 January when word was received of the earlier land battle and as a consequence the ships were withdrawn. The Volcano with Henry aboard then rejoined Admiral Cochrane’s squadron off Mobile Bay, in time to witness the surrender of Fort Bowyer on 12 February. Soon after, news of the Peace of Ghent was received and the squadron withdrew.

In 1816, Lieutenant Henry commanded the R.M.A. contingent aboard the bomb-vessel
Beelzebub and was present at the bombardment of Algiers. Out of the nine R.M.A. officers present at the action, he was one of the three to receive the Algiers clasp to the Naval General Service Medal. Lord Exmouth, commanding at Algiers, in a letter to Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Richard Williams wrote of the officers and men of the R.M.A., ‘I should be very ungrateful, My Dear Friend, if I neglected to thank you for the care you took in selecting for the service I was ordered upon the best Officers and Men I ever saw during my service. Indeed, My Dear Sir Richard, you proved yourself a real and sincere friend to me. Captain Burton, poor fellow, has been wounded, he has been a treasure to me in every respect. One fine fellow (Lieut. Bissett, R.M.A.) has been killed. I can assure you that all the officers did you full justice - they all knew their duty and performed it well.’

Henry was promoted Lieutenant in 1824. A year later he was ordered to the Eastern Mediterranean at the time of the war with Turkey in Greece. He attained the rank of Captain in 1837 and died in 1850. Sold with copied research.