This research is part of an ongoing wider project to investigate the lives and careers of the young gentlemen of the 1797 muster of HMS Indefatigable who served under Captain Sir Edward Pellew, later Admiral Lord Exmouth.
George Cadogan was born on Monday the 5 th of May 1783 in Westminster a 2 nd son for the 1 st Earl Cadogan by his second wife the former Mary Churchill. George was in fact the Earl’s eighth son, as he had six sons with his first wife Frances Bromley.
On the 25 th of September 1795 Lord Spencer, First Lord of the Admiralty, wrote to Captain Sir Edward Pellew requesting that he accept 12 year old George as a volunteer aboard HMS Indefatigable. Spencer to Pellew: “ A son of Lord Cadogan a very old friend of mine is destined to the sea service…I have undertaken to recommend him to you. He is, I understand, between 12 and 13 years of age….I have told his father that he can be no better placed for this purpose than with you. ”
Captain Sir Edward Pellew has been described as one of the greatest sea officers of his age. Pellew quickly made a name for himself as an audacious frigate commander, who was known for the patronage of his men. He had a long and distinguished naval career, serving as Commander in Chief of the East Indies Station and the Mediterranean Fleet, he was feted as the hero of the Bombardment of Algiers and retired from full time service as Lord Exmouth, Admiral of the White in 1821. Pellew was also immortalised by C.S. Forester in his Hornblower novel series.
HMS Indefatigable was probably Pellew’s most successful individual command. She was launched as a 64 gun ship in 1784 but she was not commissioned by the Royal Navy until 1794 when she was razeed to become a 44 gun heavy frigate. Pellew had considerable success with the Indefatigable as did her subsequent captains, all of whom captured numerous prizes.
Three of the Indefatigable’s actions were commemorated by clasps on the Naval General Service Medal in 1847. One of which was for her most famous action, the ferocious engagement, along with the Amazon frigate, of the French 74 gun ship of the line Les Droits de L’Homme .
Following this engagement Captain Pellew’s report to the First Lord of the Admiralty, Lord Spencer included commendation of 13 year old Cadogan’s conduct. Pellew to Spencer, Jan 17 th 1797 “ Little Cadogan is a most delightful boy, I think he promises to be everything the heart can wish. He is stationed on the quarterdeck, where I assure you my Lord, he was my friend. He stood the night out in his shirt and kept himself warm by his exertions. I can not say too much in his praise. ”
In 1799 Cadogan followed Captain Pellew to his new command, the 74 gun ship of the line HMS Impetueux , where he remained for three years before transferring to the 38 gun frigate Leda where, at 18, he passed his examination for lieutenant. George’s lieutenancy was short in comparison to his Indefatigable contemporaries and in 1804 he transferred to the West Indies Station where he was awarded his first command, the 22 gun sloop Cyane , one day short of his 21 st birthday.
The Cyane was a successful command and under Cadogan’s captaincy took four rich prizes before she was herself captured by the vastly superior 40 gun frigates L’Hortense and L’Hermione . The captain and his crew were imprisoned on Martinique for less than eight weeks however Cadogan wrote to Vice Admiral Cochrane, Commander in Chief of the Leewards Island station, complaining about their treatment at the hands of the L‘Hortense crew.
Cadogan to Cochrane 9 th July 1805 “ On my coming on board there was not even an officer of any sort to receive me and after my staying some minutes on deck the captain Le Melliere past me without acknowledging me and went below into his cabin where I was desired by and officer to follow him. I now proceed to the infamous conduct shown to my officers and ships company who were treated as well as myself in a manner that would disgrace the most barbarous. ”
After the release of Cadogan and his crew they faced a court martial, as was standard naval practice when any ship was lost. The court martial concluded that Cyane Court Martial, Barbados, 11 th July 1805 “ This court is of the opinion that the Hon George Cadogan commander of His Majesty ’ s late sloop Cyane, the officers and seamen, used every endeavour to prevent His Majesty ’ s said vessel falling into the enemy ’ s hands, and Captain Cadogan did not strike his colours until it was impossible to escape from the enemy. Also being in such state, was in no condition to defend the ship against two large frigates of such force as they were. The court do therefore unanimously adjudge the Hon George Cadogan commander, the officers and company of His Majesty ’ s late sloop Cyane, to be honourably acquitted and they are hereby unanimously acquitted accordingly. ”
Cadogan was appointed to his second command His Majesties sloop Ferret in May 1806. The Ferret was a new ship and her crew had been assembled from the Portsmouth receiving ship Salvador del Mundo . Cadogan struggled to command his new crew, as is evident from the punishment record, which shows numerous floggings. And it is on the basis of this evidence that some authors have compared him to Captain Hugh Pigot of the Hermione, a man with a long record of dishonesty and brutality, who was eventually murdered by his mutinous crew in 1797.
Two authors have compared Cadogan to Captain Hugh Pigot. Leonard Gutteridge author of Mutiny: A History of Naval Insurrection , describes Cadogan as a “ carbon copy ” of Pigot. And Lawrence James in Mutiny in the British and Commonwealth Forces, 1797-1956 , describes Cadogan as “ a pitiless officer whose remorseless use of the lash made Pigot appear gentle. ”
The captain’s log of the Ferret is lost, but the master’s log does indeed reveal a serious discipline problem with 42 separate punishment incidents recorded over a four month period, mostly for insolence, drunkenness, disobedience of orders and neglect of duty. However, on comparison with the evidence presented John Bryn, in his comprehensive study Crime and Punishment in the Royal Navy: Discipline in the Leeward Islands Station 1784 – 1812 , this rate of punishment was far from unusual, and was in fact average for this station at this time.
The discipline problems on Ferret came to a head on the 26 th of September 1806 when the crew mutinied. Seaman Edward Jones appeared armed at the head of a group of men and challenged Cadogan on the quarterdeck and with the accusation of flogging and starting. Cadogan confronted the mutineers who quickly backed down, he then roused the officers and secured the ring leaders. Cadogan described the mutiny in his own words as follows: Cadogan to Ferret Court Martial “ A great majority of the ship ’ s company belonging to His Majesty ’ s Sloop Ferret under my command, having on the night of the 26th September, when off Porto Cabello, at or about 12 o ’ clock, just as the Watch was relieved, Armed themselves, and in the highest state of Mutiny, rushed aft, and took possession of the Quarter deck, guarding the Hatches etc with the intent of carrying her into Porto Cabello or La Guaira, which event I was fortune enough to prevent, and secured the eleven ringleaders, named in the Margin, at the head of whom was Mr Thomas Simpson Boatswain of the said Sloop which had been some time under confinement for a Court martial. ”
On the 8 th of October 1806 the ring leaders of the Ferret mutiny were tried by a court martial aboard HMS Elephant in Port Royal, Jamaica. All the evidence presented pointed overwhelmingly to Boatswain Thomas Simpson as instigator and leader of the mutiny. The court found 11 men guilty of mutiny, condemned them to hang, and ordered the bodies of 4 of the instigators, including Boatswain Simpson, to be hung in chains. Curiously Edward Jones, the seaman who was seen to have confronted Captain Cadogan on the quarterdeck, testified at the trail and admitted to his participation in the mutiny, but was neither accused or convicted. Prior to the court martial George Cadogan had been investigated by a private Court of Inquiry which found him innocent of the charges of tyranny and brutality and handed him a “flattering acquittal”. It is unusual to have any evidence of the personal aftermath of a capital court martial however an extraordinary series of letters from Cadogan and his father have survived and are held in the Grenville Archive in the Huntington Library, California.
On the 13 th of October 1806, the day before the Ferret mutineers were executed Cadogan wrote to his father the 1 st Earl as follows. Cadogan to 1 st Earl Have since tried 11 unfortunate deluded wretches whoa re all doomed to suffer here tomorrow morning. I have not the words to express my feelings upon the occasion and am only upheld by the conscious rectitude of the cause for which they suffer and having done justice to my country and having acquitted myself I trust with personal credit…..I am very low and unwell and only hope somebody will say something for me for I really have neither health or strength to go through much more here….God send this may find you in better spirits and health than it leaves your unfortunate and wretched son.
Cadogan’s father forwarded his son’s letter to Earl Spencer, by then the Home Secretary, with the following covering letter: 1 st Earl Cadgoan to Earl Spencer “ I here enclose you a most melancholy letter form poor George I receive this day, and shall make no other observations on it. Except that I flatter myself, as he has been honourably acquitted of the charges brought against him, and his brought his ships crew to condign punishment, that no obstacle can now be brought forward to his preferment on that score. What I most fear for is his health in that cursed climate. ”
Earl Spencer acted almost immediately and sent both letters to Thomas Grenville, First Lord of the Admiralty, on the 29 th of November 1806 Earl Spencer to Thomas Grenville “ I send you a letter I have received from poor old Lord Cadogan enclosing one from his son, and I really hope that it may melt your hard heart, and that you will send him out a commission for the Pomone, or some other frigate on the station, though from the tenor of his letter, I really should not be surprised to hear he had died of the yellow fever, which always seizes people when they are in low spirits. ” Cadogan confounded Spencer’s expectations, and did not succumb to yellow fever, though he was eventually discharged as invalided from the Ferret on 10 th June 1807.
Cadogan returned to England and had to wait only four months to be appointed to his next command, the sixth rate HMS Crocodile , this time as post captain. It proved to be another troublesome command. The Crocodile was ordered to the Cape of Good Hope with dispatches for this former Captain Sir Edward Pellew, who at this time was Commander in Chief of the East Indies Station. On the return journey from the Cape trouble flared, centering around one Midshipman William Richard Badcock. Badcock was cautioned, reprimanded and punished repeatedly but to little effect. By the time they returned to Portsmouth, Badcock had been disrated to landsman and was discharged in June 1808 without the usual certificate of good conduct.
Following his discharge Badcock was taken into HMS Stately by his uncle Captain William Cumberland and re-rated midshipman. In October 1808 Badcock issued a formal complaint to the Admiralty about the conduct of Captain Cadogan and his First Lieutenant Barnet Devon. There was then a Court of Inquiry which agreed there was a case to answer and which subsequently ordered a court martial of Captain Cadogon. Badcock was commanded to got to the Baltic, where the Crocodile was stationed, to give evidence to the court martial. Ironically the Crocodile’s cruise to the Baltic was Cadogan’s most successful command since the Cyane . In a five month period the ship took a large number of prizes, including three in one day and the number of punishments decreased dramatically to only four during the entire cruise.
However before he could leave the Nore, Badcock fell ill. He was transferred to the hospital ship HMS Sussex, but his condition deteriorated and he was removed to the house of his grandfather and guardian Richard Cumberland. Badcock died there of fever and disease of the bowel in the “17 th year of his age and the 6 th of his service in the Navy”.
Badcock’s grandfather Richard Cumberland was a well known critic and dramatist who also happened to be famously litigious and protective of the family name. Cumberland had assumed guardianship of his grandchildren following the death of their father who, in Cumberland’s own words, “died a victim to excess in the prime of life”. The kind of family life Badcock must have experienced with such a father is also illustrated by no less a witness than the sharp-eyed Jane Austen. In a letter to her sister Cassandra she makes passing mention of encountering them at the Assembly Rooms in Bath. Jane Austen to Cassandra Austen 1801: Mrs Badcock and two young women were of the same party, except when Mrs Badcock thought herself obliged to leave them and run round the room after her drunken Husband. His avoidance and her pursuit, with the probable intoxication of both, was an amusing scene.
Barely a fortnight after Badcock’s death, Cumberland submitted a memorial to the Admiralty accusing Captain Cadogan and Lieutenant Devon of illegal, arbitrary, tyrannical and unjust punishment of Badcock which very materially contributed to his death. The Admiralty responded by summoning Cadogan for court martial on the charges brought by Cumberland and placed him under arrest in March 1809.
Cadogan’s court martial took place on HMS Gladiator in Portsmouth Harbour on the 11 th and 12 th of April 1809. The trial was unusual owing to the fact that the prosecutor, Richard Cumberland, was a civilian. Cadogan was charged with cruelty, tyranny and oppression exercised on Midshipman Badcock. The trial opened with Cumberland’s memorial and the original statement written by Badcock before his death. However all the evidence presented for both the prosecution and defense, by the first and second lieutenants, the master, the gunner, the purser, the cook and the captain's clerk suggested that Badcock was insolent, insubordinate and ungovernable.
The witnesses testified how Badcock continually left the deck during his watch, quit a boat he had been ordered to take charge of, was repeatedly contemptuous to the master and the 1 st and 2 nd lieutenants and behaved improperly and indecorously on the quarterdeck. The Crocodile’s clerk also revealed that Badcock had been disrated by the ships previous Captain George Edmund Byron Bettesworth.
In the face of overwhelming evidence of Badcock’s continually unruly and insubordinate conduct, the court martial found the charges had not been proved against Captain Cadogan, that many of the observations of Cumberland’s memorial were unfounded and that the death of Badcock could not in the most remote degree be ascribed to the punishment he received on board the Crocodile. Consequently George Cadogan was acquitted of all charges.
Unsurprisingly Cadogan was not unaffected by the events of the trial. In his closing statement to the court martial he said: Cadogan to Court Martial 12 th April 1809 “ The death of this boy before the present period must naturally be a source of the greatest regret to me as it confers on me the unpleasant task of bringing to mind all those traits of his character that would otherwise have been buried in oblivion, God knows he never gave me personal cause for offence, as I trust will appear by this narrative, but my conduct to him was governed by the purest motives, and what I conceived was due from me to his Majesty’s service, in the support of the officers under my command, against the repeated transgressions of this incorrigible boy whose mind seemed bent upon insubordination and desire of opposing himself to the just authority and inclinations of his superiors.”
A fortnight after the court martial George Cadogan wrote to William Wellesley Pole, Secretary to the Admiralty, requesting two months leave. Cadogan to William Wellesley Pole 25 th April 1809 “ The state of my health being so bad as to render me incapable to carry on my duty for the present, I request you will be pleased to move my lords commissioners of the Admiralty to appoint a captain to execute my duty in HMS Crocodile for two months. ” The Admiralty agreed to a shorter period of leave and an acting captain was appointed to the Crocodile . George Cadogan was finally discharged from command of HMS Crocodile on 15 th June 1809. [Appointed as captain of HMS Pallas 15 th September 1809]
Cadogan continued in active naval service until 1813 when he retired with honours following the capture of Zara on the Dalmatian coast, an action for which he was decorated. Cadogan was thirty and had been at sea for sixteen years since joining HMS Indefatigable in 1795. Over the course of his naval career George Cadogan experience the best and the worst of the sea service and his few surviving letters provide a glimpse of the personal cost of these events. Cadogan may never have ascended to the heights of his early mentor Captain Sir Edward Pellew but neither did he sink to the depths of the brutal Captain Hugh Pigot. His letters suggest a man of some sensibility who was moved and affected by the events that he experienced and who is ultimately revealed as a deeply human individual.
George Cadogan: A career in courts martial, 1804 - 1809
The Honorable George Cadogan A career in courts martial 1804 - 1809 By Heather Noel-Smith and Lorna M. CampbellNew Researchers in Maritime History Conference, Glasgow, 9th &10th March 2012
HMS Indefatigable 1797HMS Indefatigable Joining the Squadron by J.T. Serres, 1800, www.christies.com.
Midshipman to Commander• Midshipman Impetueux, 74, Captain Sir Edward Pellew, 1799 – 1802.• Lieutenant Leda, 38, Captain Kingman, 1802 – 1804.• Transferred to West Indies Station.• Commander, Cyane, 18, 1804 – 1805.
HMS Cyane, 18, 1804 - 1805• Successful command.• Took four prizes.• Captured by French frigates L’Hortense, 40 and L’Hermione, 40.• Cadogan writes to Vice Admiral Cochrane complaining of treatment of prisoners on L’Hortense.• Imprisoned on Martinique.
Cyane Court Martial, Barbados, 11th July 1805A View of Bridgetown in the Island of Barbadoes, www.pennymead.com.
HMS Ferret, 18, 1806 - 1807• Appointed commander May 1806.• Ferret was a new ship with a crew assembled from the Salvador del Mundo receiving ship.• Cadogan struggled to assert command.• Punishment record shows numerous floggings.
Ferret Mutiny, 26th September 1806• Crew accused Cadogan of flogging and starting.• Seaman Edward Jones armed and was seen to confront Commander Cadogan on the quarterdeck.• Cadogan confronted the mutineers, roused the officers, and secured ring leaders.
William Badcock’s death• Badcock falls ill at the Nore.• Transferred to hospital ship Sussex.• Removed to house of his grandfather and guardian Richard Cumberland.• Badcock dies on 7th December 1808 of fever and disease of the bowel.• “in the 17th year of his age and the 6th of his service in the Navy.”
Cumberland’s Memorial, 22nd Dec 1808• Cumberland submits memorial to Admiralty accusing Cadogan and Devon of bringing about Badcock’s death.• Accuses them of illegal, arbitrary, tyrannical and unjust punishment of Badcock.• Admiralty summon Cadogan for court martial and place him under arrest, March 1809.
Court Martial testimony of Badcock’s character• Continually leaving the deck during his watch.• Quitting a boat he had been ordered to take charge of.• Contemptuous behavior to the master and the 1st and 2nd lieutenants.• Improper conduct on the quarterdeck.• Badcock had been disrated by the previous captain of the Crocodile.
Court Martial Verdict“The court is of the opinion that the charges havenot been proved against the said George Cadoganbut that many of the observations stated in thememorial of the prosecutor were unfounded andthat the death of the said William Richard Badcockcan not in the most remote degree be ascribed tothe punishment he received on board HM saidship Crocodile and doth adjudge the said HonGeorge Cadogan to be acquitted and he is hearbyacquitted accordingly.”
Court Martial Aftermath“The death of this boy …. must naturally be a sourceof the greatest regret to me as it confers on me theunpleasant task of bringing to mind all those traits ofhis character that would otherwise have been buriedin oblivion….my conduct to him was governed by ….what I conceived was due from me to his Majesty’sservice in the support of the officers under mycommand against the repeated transgressions of thisincorrigible boy whose mind seemed bent uponinsubordination and desire of opposing himself to thejust authority and inclinations of his superiors.”
George Cadogan to William Wellesley Pole, 25th April 1809William Wellesley Pole by Thomas Lawrence, www.thepeerage.com.