Letters from the Past

“Charles Fox and Son, London
from Lt. Richard Sargent, Plymouth”
(onboard ship at Plymouth Sound)


Eunice Shanahan

This is a really interesting letter which posed more questions, and set me off on internet searches, about which I had not much previous knowledge, with amazing results.

It is addressed to Charles Fox and Son Esqrs 44 Hatton Garden Holborn London, and was written by Lt Richard Sargent on board a vessel, HMS and what looked like Endanes or Endanus

I was unable to trace any vessel with this name, and so was not able to trace any record of a Lt Richard Sargent, who was obviously on board.

What I could trace are the postal details and the actual contents of the letter. It has three postal markings a poorly applied Plymouth date stamp in red ink, on which the date is not visible, a morning duty date stamp applied in red ink in London 16 FE 16 1814, and the charge mark of 11 for a distance between 170 and 230 miles (Plymouth was listed as 215 miles from London).

It has a notation on the outside Lieut R. Sargent 14 Feb 1814 (11) ansd. Possibly the 11 in brackets is the cost they would have had to pay for the letter, so that would be added to their account for Lt Sargent.

The transcription :

H.M.S. Endanes Plymouth Sound Feby 13th 1814


Yesterday we all Received our Prize money for the Recapture we took off the Isle of Wight I thought you would have received it I wrote twice to you about it, and never got answers concerning it. We are getting under way now, going off the Coast of Spain.

I expect money from Home, and as I am going to sea, I wrote Home to tell my Father to Remit you, which if he has not sent it by Post ear (ere?) this comes to hand he will inclose you a bill on Hammonds &: Co, which place to my account. I cannot say how much it will be at all events more than the Prize money. If he has not sent it by Post you will hear from him in about three Weeks time.

I received your letters and accts(accounts) on the 10th inst which I suppose to be correct.

I had a letter from Major Bamford in which he mentions that he had his acct from you and you never mentioned anything about the £5 odd you were to pay him, he supposed it to be a mistake.

Your most obed humbl Serv (obedient, humble Servant)
Rd. Sargent

Notes: 1) The main interest for me in this letter was the that this was written onboard a ship and I was really bothered that I could not find out about the Royal Navy ship, the handwriting of which which looked like H.M.S. Endanes or Endanus. I had trouble finding anything about it at all, but I posted a query on the Stampboards.com forum, and received immediate responses. I had mis–read or mis–interpreted the name, and it is actually H.M.S. ERIDANUS, which has an interesting story. The first response gave me this information which showed that it had had a change of name:-

From the United States Naval Academy collection

History of H.M.S. Eridanus (Frigate)
H.M.S. Eridanus, a fifth–rate frigate, was ordered as H.M.S. Liffey on May 4, 1812, laid down in August 1812, launched on May 1, 1813, and fitted out at Chatham between May 1 and July 13, 1813. She was first commissioned in June 1813, under the command of Captain Henry Prescott, and put to sea in home waters following completion. (It was still there when Lieut Richard Sargent wrote this letter).

Command transferred to Captain William Paterson in April 1815, and to Captain William King in February 1816. Eridanus was sold on January 29, 1818.

Note 2: The reference in the first sentence to the vessel concerned for the Prize Money. It seemed possible to me that because the word ‘Recapture’ has been capitalised, that it was the name of the vessel taken, for which the Prize Money was claimed, but this was just the term used for a ship which had been captured and then re-captured.

We posted a query on the GBPS forum about this recaptured ship and Winston Williams kindly supplied us with information he had found about this recapture, showing that the vessel recaptured was in fact the Riga packet. The information was in the London Star 15th October 1813.

Portsmouth October 14
Arrived his Majesty’s ship Dictator from Passage with dispatches, and the Tyrian with a recaptured ship. Also arrived the Riga packet, from Buenos Ayres, GEORGE WHITE master – captured about six leagues off Portland by a French privateer, and re–captured by his Majesty’s ship ERIDANUS.

However the next one relates to the prize money, and appeared in the London Gazette.

Portsmouth, December 18,1813
Notice is hereby given, that the officers and company of His Majesty’s sloop Tyrian, Augustus Baldwin Esq.,Commander, who were actually on board at the recapture of the ship Riga packet by His Majesty’s ship Eridanus, on the 13th day of October 1813 (the Tyrian being in sight), may receive their respective shares of the salvage arising from the said recapture, on the arrival of the Tyrian at Spithead; and the unclaimed shares will be recalled for the time being required by Act of Parliament, at No.42 St. Mary–Street, Portsmouth.
James Sykes, of London and J.S. Hulbert, of Portsmouth, Agents.

As a matter of interest, frther information from the Stamp Board community members showing that Eridanus was also involved in another recapture was this:–

HMS Eridanus recaptured Coromandel on 12th August 1814 shortly after she was captured by an American privateer on 2nd August 1814.

Coromandel started life as the French ship Modeste There is more information about this ship, but this is the connection with the Eridanus.

The next notable event occurred on 2 August 1814. The American privateer schooner York (or Yorktown), captured Coromandel, a “country ship” of 500 tons (bm), as she was sailing from Batavia to London.

Lloyd’s List reported that Coromandel, Cameron, master, from St Helena, was missing from “the Fleet” on 13th August.

HMS Eridanus recaptured Coromandel on the 12th.

Coromandel arrived at Plymouth on 16 August 1814.

Note 3: Prize Money

This information about Prize Money was from a Wikipedia website, listing ships captured in the 19th century.It is an amazing source of information giving the names of the vessels, the Masters, where the event happened, which vessel made the capture etc, and I was unable to find the HMS Endanes on it, because I had the wrong name!

Throughout naval history during times of war battles, blockades, and other patrol missions would often result in the capture of enemy ships or those of a neutral country. If a ship proved to be a valuable prize, efforts would sometimes be made to capture the vessel while inflicting the least amount of damage as was practically possible. Both military and merchant ships were captured, often renamed, and then used in the service of the capturing country's navy, or in many cases sold to private individuals who would break them up for salvage, or use them as merchant vessels, whaling ships, slave ships, or the like. As an incentive to search far and wide for enemy ships, the proceeds of the sale of the vessels and their cargoes were divided up as prize money among the officers and crew of capturing crew members with the distribution governed by regulations the captor vessel's government had established. Throughout the 1800s war prize laws were established to help opposing countries settle claims amicably.

Note 4:
I was now able to identify the ship, and thanks to Winston Williams, I could also identify the writer of the letter. Winston advised :–
you say that you have been unable to trace any record of a Lt Richard Sargent. From the Navy List to December 1814, I suggest he was 2nd Lt appointed to that rank on 6 April 1813, reduced on the Peace Establishment, 1st September, 1814.

So that was another question answered, however, I cannot track down what this ship was doing sailing off from Plymouth Sound to the Coast of Spain in February 1814. It should be something to do with the Napoleonic wars, perhaps taking more troops, or stores to fight the war in the Iberian Peninsula. The record shows that the command was transferred in 1815, but not where the ship was based at that time.

If any reader has any ideas about this I would be delighted to know, as my internet searches have revealed nothing relevant.

Reference : Alan Robertsonís book Great Britain Post Roads Post Towns and Postal Rates 1635-1839

Link for the Coromandel vessel https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coromandel_(1793_ship)

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