William Cornwallis bigraphy, stories - Royal Navy admiral

William Cornwallis : biography

10 February 1744 - 5 July 1819

Admiral the Honourable Sir William Cornwallis GCB (10 February 1744 – 5 July 1819) was a Royal Navy officer who fought in the Napoleonic Wars. He was the brother of Charles Cornwallis, the 1st Marquess Cornwallis, British commander at the siege of Yorktown. Cornwallis took part in a number of decisive battles including the Siege of Louisbourg in 1758 and the Battle of the Saintes but is best known as a friend to Nelson and as the Commander-in-chief of the Channel Fleet during the Napoleonic war. He is depicted in the Horatio Hornblower novel, Hornblower and the Hotspur.

Third Anglo-Mysore War

In November 1791 Cornwallis ordered that French shipping be intercepted and searched for contraband. The British and French were not at war but the French were openly aiding the Tipu Sultan in his war against the British. Cornwallis detached Captain Richard Strachan in to intercept the French frigate Résolue and two French merchant ships that were heading for the French held port of Mangalore. The subsequent Battle of Tellicherry

saw Phoenix capture and search all of the vessels. The local French commander was outraged and sent word back to France, but the French authorities were too busy with internal upheaval to pay the incident much notice. 

Seven Years' War

The young William entered the navy in 1755 aboard the 80-gun bound for North America in the fleet of Admiral Edward Boscawen. Cornwallis was shortly after exchanged into and was present in her at the Siege of Louisbourg in 1758. The siege itself was one of the pivotal battles of the war. Louisbourg, was the only deep water harbour that the French controlled in North America and with its capture it enabled the British to launch an attack on Quebec City. General James Wolfe's attack on Quebec City at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham saw the beginning of the end of French colonisation in North America.

When the Kingston returned to England in 1759, Cornwallis was taken aboard the 60-gun by Captain Robert Digby. During the planned French invasion of Britain in 1759 the Dunkirk was with Admiral Edward Hawke's squadron and took part in the Battle of Quiberon Bay against the French fleet under Admiral Conflans. The victory was part of what became known as Annus Mirabilis of 1759 and in concert with the other victories of that year gave the Royal Navy almost complete dominance over the oceans for over a century. The succession of victories led Horace Walpole to remark "our bells are worn threadbare ringing for victories".

Cornwallis remained in the Dunkirk when she was assigned to the Mediterranean fleet then commanded by Admiral Charles Saunders. Dunkirk was detached on blockade duty, ensuring the French fleet remained in the city of Heraklion, Crete. Cornwallis moved to Saunders' flagship where he remained for little over a year. On 5 April 1761 Cornwallis passed his examination for lieutenant and was promoted into the newly commissioned third-rate . In July 1761 Cornwallis was with Thunderer and two other line-of-battle ships blockading Cadiz. Two French ships escaped the blockade and the British squadron set off in pursuit. Thunderer caught up with the 64-gun Achille and captured her in a single-ship action that lasted about half an hour. The British lost seventeen killed and one hundred and thirteen wounded.

In July 1762 Cornwallis received his first command in the 8-gun sloop-of-war . In 1763 he was given command of the more powerful and newly launched 14-gun . He continued in her into the peace with France after the Treaty of Paris had ended the war in 1763. During the peace in 1765 he was promoted post-captain and given command of the 44-gun . He commanded her until she was paid off and the ship was sold in 1766. In September of the same year he was given command of and was variously employed throughout the peace between the Seven Years' War and the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War.

American Revolutionary War

Living octopus

Living octopus

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