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Written by Margaret C
(6/27/2013 11:10 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, His naval rank?, penned by Stephen VI
His brother-in-law was an Admiral of the fleet, and he made post the same year. And not merely made post, he got his ship - so he could make money. The battle of Trafalgar had made a lot of Captains, as well as a few Admirals, and there were more captains made post than ships to command in 1806. "Lucky fellow to get her! He knows there must have been twenty better men than himself applying for her at the same time. Lucky fellow to get any thing so soon, with no more interest than his."
His own talents show in that he successfully took a Frigate (no less than 30 heavy guns, over 1000 ton, 160 feet long, up to 300 men, three masts) with a sloop (no more than 18 light guns, 200 ton, 75 feet long, up to 100 men, two masts unless a ship-sloop, then three), without blowing the timbers of his own vessel apart, and getting back to safe harbour with his sloop and his prize before his manifestly inadequate sloop sank.
In many ways, Captain Wentworth's history echos that of Captain Cochrane, who had been deliberately sent to sea in an unworthy vessel (smaller than a sloop) in the hope that he would drown (he made himself unpopular with the admiralty - long story) then denied post many times in spite of evident worth, (he is just above Francis Austen on the naval list, making post in the same day for the same feat - capturing three enemy vessels in the same part of the Mediterranean. I suspect that he got made because they were unable to make Frank and not him, especially as, when you look at the specifics, Cochrane's captures were more strategically significant, Austen's more commercial.
In 1805, Cochrane took command of a frigate, HMS Pallas, and came back from a cruise off the coast of Spain and the Azores with £150,000 in prize money - the largest prize ever.
As soon as he reached Britain he printed up recruiting posters (being, as always, undermanned) the text of which promised:
"My LADS, The rest of the GALLEONS with the TREASURE from LA PLATA, are waiting half loaded at CARTAGENA, for the arrival of those from PERU at PANAMA, as soon as that takes place, they are to sail for PORTOVELO, to take in the rest of their Cargo, with Provisions and Water for the Voyage to EUROPE. They stay at PORTOVELO a few days only. Such a Chance perhaps will never occur again.
None need apply, but SEAMEN, or Stout Hands, able to rouse about the Field Pieces, and carry an hundred weight of PEWTER, without stopping, at least three Miles."
This was by no means forgotten by 1818 (By which time Cochrane was an MP, holding the seat of Westminster. He was also an advocate of parliamentary reform,but that is another story.)
I think Captain Wentworth needs all the glamour he can borrow from Cochrane. Apart from his letter-writing and his Irish air, Wentworth doesn't show much of his brilliance in Persuasion. And Admiral Croft might also have been a brilliant commander, but he comes across as a bit of a buffoon, and not as well judging as his wife.
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